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halibut en papillote

8 May

20130508-224013.jpgWhen J and I moved into our new place, we bought this big awesome dining table that seats 10 people. Rather ridiculous considering it takes up nearly half of our living room space, but we were determined to entertain!

It’s now been 6 months and we’ve had one dinner party…

It was a glorious meal, sans the fruit flies that decided to hatch in my mushroom growing box and terrorize us by dive-bombing our wine glasses. Though I must say, that’s a great way to go. Drowning in a juicy zin.

We started with this incredibly easy roasted feta with thyme honey, Castelvetrano olives, and a nutty, oily manchego smuggled in from M’s Spain trip. Heaven.

For our salad course, we did a super easy romaine with April Bloomfield’s lemon caper dressing featuring whole segments of lemons, capers, shallots, and mustard. I loved the idea of the dressing, but in practice it was just too darn mustardy to the point where it reminded me of the stanky smell of a Burger King whopper where the yellow mustard had been warmed by meat. Okay, I’m being a little extreme. Everyone really liked this salad except me.

For our main course, I decided on halibut en papillote. I prepared 8 individual packets ahead of time and popped them into the oven, while we enjoyed our cheese. It couldn’t have been easier and I could tell everyone was pleased to have a toasted parchment gift to tear open at their place setting. The halibut itself was perfectly cooked and delicate in flavor, since J and I trekked over to Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley for the best of the best.

halibut en papillote
an aquatic surprise

6-8 oz individual portions of halibut
handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
thin slices of fennel bulb
thin slices of lemon
splash of dry white wine
1/2 T butter, cut into pieces
parchment paper

Place a thin layer of fennel slices in the center of a foot-long piece of parchment paper. Lay one piece of halibut on your fennel pile. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a layer of cherry tomatoes cut-size down. Top with 2-3 slices of lemon. Place pieces of butter on top of the lemon and finish with a splash of white wine.

Begin sealing your packet by folding your parchment paper in half, from left to right, over your fish like a book cover. Start at the fold on at the bottom left and folder the corner over to form a small triangle. Continue folding over 1-inch sections of the paper at a slight angle, like the folds of a fan. As you work your way around the rectangle, you’ll notice you’ll begin to form a half-moon shape. When you come to the end, twist it like a butterscotch candy wrapper until your package is sealed airtight. Bake at 425 F for around 12 minutes depending on the thickness of your halibut.

Serve your parchment packages unopened and let guests tear open their own portions. Bon appetit!

salt roasted branzini

13 Mar

I’d love it if someone would describe me as “salt of the earth.” In an alternate universe where I am a farmer or a coffee plantation owner with a shacky chic house and rattan furniture, it would be so.

The reality is that I am writing this post in the midst of a packed bus, wrapping my thumbs aggressively on my iPhone. There’s a large man to my left flubbing several inches over the seat demarcation and an old Asian lady to my right yelling on her phone so loudly that I can hear it through my earbuds (I’m blasting the hipster cool soundtrack from Drive).

Back to my salt of the earth fantasies… I’m slicing open my beautiful silver-skinned, clear-eyed branzini. I’m stuffing her belly full of thinly sliced leeks and lemons. I’m cracking an egg open daintily with one hand and stirring my whites into a bowl of powdery salt. In a few minutes I’ll delicately mound salt around my branzini like the sand sculptures made when I was a kid.

And when I crack into the hardened salt dome after baking, the scent of the sweet sea and citrus steams from within. In that instant, I can think of nothing more perfect.

salt roasted branzini
savoring the salt of the earth

* 1 tablespoons coriander seeds
* 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
* 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1 1.5-pound cleaned scaled branzini
* 1/2 cup thinly sliced leek (white and pale green parts only)
* 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
* 1 large egg whites
* 3 tablespoons water
* 3 cups coarse sea salt
* Extra-virgin olive oil
* Lemon wedges

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 450°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil, leaving generous overhang. Combine first 3 ingredients in small skillet. Toast spices over medium heat until beginning to pop, stirring frequently, about 9 minutes. Cool spices. Coarsely crush in mortar with pestle or in heavy resealable plastic bag with mallet.

Rinse fish inside and out; pat dry. Sprinkle all of spice mixture in fish cavity. Stuff with leek and lemon slices.

Whisk egg white and water in large bowl to blend. Add salt. Stir until salt is evenly moistened. Spread 2 cups salt mixture in 3-inch-wide, 10-inch-long strip (or use more to equal length of fish) on prepared sheet. Place fish on salt. Cover fish completely with remaining salt mixture, pressing to seal.

Bake fish 15 minutes. Let stand in crust 10 minutes.

Using large knife, rap crust sharply to crack. Brush salt from fish. Cut into portions and serve, passing extra-virgin olive oil and lemon wedges alongside. Serves 2.

red, red meat: harissa tri-tip roast

20 Feb

Red meat. It’s arguably the most controversial of all meats, second only to foie gras, of course. There’s just something about tearing into a huge slab of bloody steak that makes a lady really feel like a lady.

Submitting to my carnivore cravings, an affordable yet hearty tri-tip roast made its way into the shopping cart. With a quick tap through the Epicurious app, I found an intriguing recipe for Harissa-Crusted Tri-Tip Roast.

Normally, I’m not much for African food. I always think of  blobs of mashed meats you have to eat with your hands shaped like a cup–no thanks! Harissa, however, is a spicy chili condiment that comes from Tunisa, which borders the Mediterranean and has a cuisine more akin to the Middle East than the Ethiopian African cuisine I tend to think of.

Making harissa appealed to my pseudo ethnically diverse culinary explorations–and doubly interesting because this particular recipe utilizes one of my very favorite Asian chili pastes, sambal oelek, cousin of more famous sriracha. Oddly enough, when my harissa was all blended it up, it tasted reminiscent of Taco Bell mild sauce. This is a truly international recipe, indeed!

As for how the harissa tasted on my tri-tip roast… it was hot, garlicky, tomatoey meatliciousness! Loved it. And, it added an appealing red slather atop my beautiful slab of red meat.

harissa-crusted tri-tip roast
red, red meat

* 1 3/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 6 garlic cloves
* 1/4 cup sambal oelek
* 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 1 3/4- to 2-pound tri-tip beef roast, most of fat layer trimmed

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toast caraway seeds in small nonstick skillet over medium heat until seeds darken and begin to smoke, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add olive oil and garlic cloves to caraway seeds in skillet. Cover; remove from heat. Let stand 1 minute. Pour caraway mixture into processor. Add chili paste, tomato sauce, cumin, and chili powder and blend until garlic cloves are pureed. Season harissa to taste with salt.

Sprinkle beef all over with salt and pepper; place beef, fat side down, on rack on rimmed baking sheet. Spread with half of harissa. Turn beef over; spread remaining harissa over top and sides. Roast beef until thermometer inserted into center registers 125°F to 130°F for medium-rare, about 35 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Serves 4 to 6.

portugese bean soup

25 Dec

I woke up with the sun today — I always forget how brightly it shines here in Hawaii. It’s Christmas day and it will be no less than 85 degees with golden sunshine and breezy tradewinds that will keep me from sweating too much.

For the rest of the nation, it’s probably a soup day. You know what I mean, after tearing open your pile of presents, it’s time to cosy up next to the fire and play with your new Kindle Fire (anyone actually buy that sh*t?). For lunch or dinner, nothing sounds better than a hearty bowl of soup made by mom or grandma.

While Christmas shopping, I spotted this cookbook at Williams Sonoma. 365 soup recipes?! Ridiculous and yet a mental note was filed under “must-haves.” It’d be even more ridiculous if I still lived here in Hawaii because no one eats soup here. That is, except for Portugese Bean Soup!

Made with smoky ham hocks, Portugese sausage (like a spicy linguica with a bit of stink, made locally in Hawaii), vegetables, beans, and macaroni, it’s a classic peasant food–hearty, filling and economical. It’s the best soup you could eat on Christmas day, or any day for that matter.

portugese bean soup
hawaiian style

1 smoked ham hock
1 (10 ounce) portugese sausage (or spicy cajun-flavored pork sausage, or even better, kimchi portugese sausage)
1 onion, chopped
2.5 quarts water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 celery rib, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can white kidney beans
1 cup macaroni

Place ham hock, half of the chopped onion, and water in pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Meanwhile, slice sausage into bite-sized pieces (I like cubes) and saute until browned. Add half of the sausage into boiling mixture.

Remove meat from ham hock, chop, and return to soup (I toss the skin back in for flavor). Add two bouillon cubes, potatoes, celery, carrots, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, boil macaroni according to instructions on package. Drain and set aside.

Stir in cabbage and kidney beans, cook until the cabbage has softened, about 10 minutes. Spoon soup into bowls and stir in a scoop or two of the macaroni. You can also add the macaroni directly into the soup pot, but it will get soggy after awhile.

ottolenghi’s soba noodles with eggplant and mango

10 Oct


Lately I’ve noticed more and more of my friends and their kids have grown allergies to certain kinds of food: dairy, gluten, nuts, fruit, chocolate (sad!), etc. I don’t know if science has improved allowing us to identify specific allergies, or if it’s a result of over processing our food to the point where our bodies begin to reject everything. Thankfully, the only thing I’m sure my body doesn’t agree with is Indian food, but that’s another story.

So when it comes to potluck parties, I always try to bring a dish everyone can enjoy sans epipen. With a vegetarian on the guest list, I turned to my newest cookbook acquisition, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, famous in the UK for his gourmet food-to-go shops and vegetarian column in The Guardian.

I’m a huge eggplant fan. Any Asian variety will do–I just cannot stand the standard American-Italian fatties that are chock-full of hard seeds. I scooped up a giant bag of six Chinese eggplants on the discount shelf of the Chinese grocery store. 3-bucks…SCORE! I also found ripe mangos (you definitely need ripe ones for the sweetness) in the discount bin for a buck. Old school Chinese!

I let this baby sit and marinate in its juices for the 2 hours as directed and wow, did the flavor intensify! The noodles got a little mushy too, so I’d say an hour max.

soba noodles with eggplant and mango
vegetarian brits make great asian food? yes.

* 1/2 cup rice vinegar
* 3 T sugar
* 1/2 t salt
* 2 garlic cloves
* 1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped
* 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
* grated zest and juice of 1 lime
* 1 cup sunflower oil
* 2 eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch dice
* 8 to 9 oz soba noodles
* 1 large ripe mango, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
* 1 and 2/3 cups basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some use Thai basil, but much less of it)
* 2 and 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
* 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chili and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

let’s go fishing: 3 fish recipes

13 Sep

The older I get, the more nostalgic I tend to be about days gone by. Especially when it comes to TV.

I’m finding myself a little misty-eyed as I watch this old episode of Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto, a super local Hawaiian fishing show and favorite of my grandpa’s in the ’80s. Grandpa would whistle happily along to the “Let’s Go Fishing” theme song as he was in the kitchen cooking dinner–at times preparing fish that he had caught himself fishing that day.

I don’t pretend to be as talented of a fish cook as my grandpa, but I do like to experiment with a “fresh catch” from the Berkeley Bowl now and then. Here are three of my latest endeavors: 1) Classic Misoyaki Butterfish, 2) Baked Sockeye Salmon with Capers, 3) Lazy Ono (wahoo) with Scorched Tomatoes.

1. Misoyaki Butterfish is a no-brainer. You’ll see this served at many restaurants these days as Miso Black Cod. I can’t say I really care which fish it is, I just love any fatty oily white fish marinated overnight in miso, sake and sugar, broiled until lusciously caramelized. Your chopsticks will slide elegantly between each flaky layer of fish, right into your mouth. The secret is to wipe off all of the marinate before you cook it, otherwise caramelization will not occur!

2. I found this recipe for Baked Sockeye Salmon with Capers on Epicurious–it was all an elaborate excuse to utilize my new iPad in the kitchen. I had purchased two lovely vibrant pink filets of wild sockeye salmon from Berkeley Bowl and dug through my pantry to cobble together a recipe. While not the most gourmet recipe, you can’t really mess up impeccably fresh salmon with a bit of garlic, evoo, and capers.

3. I was tired and hungry after work one evening, when I happened upon Trader Joe’s frozen Hawaiian Ono (wahoo) steaks. I improvised a quick pan sear, then scorched some grape tomatoes in the crusty pan. I buttered up the pan juices and poured the lot of buttery brine over my pasta. Happiness!

1. misoyaki butterfish
japanese comfort food at its best

* 1-2 lbs filets of butterfish (makes enough marinade for 2 lbs, but I made just 1 lb for 2 people and really slathered it on)
* 3/4 cup white shiro miso
* 2 T red miso (optional or use more white)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup sake
* 1/4 cup mirin
* 1 tsp soy sauce

Combine miring, sake, and sugar in a small pot. Bring to a simmer stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, until all the alcohol burns off. Remove from heat, and add soy sauce to stop boiling. Slowly add the miso and mix until sauce is creamy. Do not ever boil miso. Once the sauce is cool, coat all sides of your fish and place into a glass baking dish or ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 24 hours for thin filets, or 2-3 days for thicker black cod steaks.

Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Wipe the marinate completely off of the fish (this is important to achieve caramelization, and bake 5-8 minutes. When fish seems almost cooked, broil for an additional 2-3 minutes until well caramelized. Serves 2-4.

2. baked sockeye salmon with capers
salty, briny, garlicy
* 2 lbs wild sockeye salmon filets
* 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons capers
* 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
* salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°.

Wash the fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Coat a baking dish with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Lay the salmon down in the pan, skin side facing down. Distribute the capers and garlic slices between the filets. Sprinkle with a liberal quantity of salt and black pepper. Pour the remaining olive oil over the fish. Put the dish in the preheated oven and cook for 16 minutes. Let it stand for a few minutes before serving. Serves 4.

3. lazy ono with scorched tomatoes
simple evening din din from trader joes into your belly

* 1 or 2 ono (wahoo) steaks about 1/2 inch thick
* large handful of grape tomatoes
* olive oil
* knob of butter
* salt and pepper
* cooked pasta

Drizzle olive oil all over the ono steak, then sprinkle on salt and fresh cracked pepper on both sides.

Preheat a pan on med-high and cook the steaks 4 to 5 minutes each side. Ono is a quick cooking fish, so be sure not to over cook it! Once the ono is cooked, remove and plate it with the cooked pasta.

Add grape tomatoes to the pan you cooked the fish in, and roll the tomatoes around until they’re scorched on all sides. I like to squish a few of them to create a juice that deglazes the fish crusties in the pan–rub the brown fond with a spatula until mixed with the tomato juices. When the tomatoes are soft, add a knob of butter. Once melted, pour everything over your fish and pasta. Serves 1.

not so healthy turkey spinach meatloaf (hint: bacon)

8 Sep

I had all the best intentions. I was going to make a healthy version of meatloaf. J and I had watched this Chow video on Roku with the recipe for what promised to be the most delicious meatloaf, ever. A meatloaf infused with spinach and swathed in bacon for the moistest log of meat you’d ever seen.

I took a risk. Instead of using the prescribed combination of ground beef, pork, and veal, I selected turkey (*gasp*). Meatloaf, no. Foulloaf, maybe? J was bugging me to cook more healthy meat, so this was our compromise: turkey wrapped in bacon.

Though a bit tedious (you gotta get out a blender), this recipe produced a luscious loaf even with my substitution of turkey. I also like that you pat the mixture into a loaf pan instead free forming it.

The turkey oozed a layer of fatty scum that enveloped the beautiful slices of bacon preventing them from becoming golden brown–that was pretty much the only downside. The bacon flavor still penetrated as I hoped it would. I also opted for a pre-made Trader Joe’s organic pomodoro sauce and it blended right in as if I had made it be scratch, too. Definitely delicious, but it’ll be real meat next time.

spinach meatloaf
from the new new york times cookbook, via chow + foul

* 1 (10-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
* 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (or a combination of veal, beef, and pork if you prefer)
* 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
* 1 medium garlic clove, minced
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
* 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/2 cup small-dice celery
* 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
* 1/4 cup whole milk
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 3 bacon slices
* Tomato sauce, warmed, for serving

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Rinse the spinach well in cold water and drain. Place in a large frying pan, cover, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. (It is not necessary to add liquid; the spinach will cook in the water clinging to the leaves.)

Transfer the spinach to a colander and douse with cold water to chill. Drain and press with your hands to extract most of the moisture. Coarsely chop the spinach.

Place the meat in a large bowl, followed by the chopped spinach, breadcrumbs, garlic, measured salt and pepper, and nutmeg (no need to mix yet); set aside.

Place the celery, parsley, and milk in a blender and blend until puréed. Add to the meat mixture.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add to the meat mixture.

Add the eggs to the meat mixture and, using clean hands, mix everything until evenly combined (don’t squeeze or overwork the mixture). If desired, test for seasoning by forming a small patty and cooking it in the small skillet over medium heat until no longer pink inside. Taste the patty and add more salt and pepper to the meat mixture as needed. Repeat the seasoning test as needed.

Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, spread to the edges, and smooth out the top. Cover the meatloaf with the bacon slices, laying them lengthwise and side by side.

Bake in the oven until just cooked through, turning the pan 180 degrees halfway through, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Pour off the excess fat and let the meatloaf stand for 20 minutes before slicing. If you choose, serve with tomato sauce.

more of that other white meat: pork loin and pomegranate

10 Aug

If you know me, you’re probably familiar with my disdain for chicken. The only white meat I’ll eat is oinkin’ delicious swine — so there.

Pork loin is pretty much the leanest, healthiest cut that can come from a pig, and therefore it’s often cooked to dry chewy oblivion. In case that happens (as it often happens to me), nothing masks your booboo better than a delightfully complex sauce. It must be the Frenchwomen in me.

pork loin and pomegranate sauce
from the pages of gourmet magazine, cause i’m fancy sometimes

* 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
* 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
* 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 pork tenderloins (each about 3/4 pound)
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 cup plain pomegranate juice
* 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
* 1 tablespoon water
* 1 to 2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Stir together cumin, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, and salt in a shallow bowl. Pat tenderloins dry and dredge in spice mixture until evenly coated.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to moderate and cook pork, turning occasionally, until meat is browned on all sides and thermometer inserted diagonally into center of each tenderloin registers 145°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pork with tongs to a cutting board (reserve skillet) and let stand 10 minutes.

While pork stands, pour off and discard any fat from skillet, then add pomegranate juice to skillet and boil over moderately high heat until reduced to about 2/3 cup, about 3 minutes (if side of skillet begins to scorch, reduce heat to moderate). Stir together cornstarch and water and whisk into juice, then boil sauce until thickened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add Sherry vinegar to taste, then swirl in butter until incorporated. Pour sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and skim off any fat. Season with salt. Slice pork and serve with sauce.

i want my baby back ribs

15 Mar

Growing up, dinner at Tony Roma’s was reserved for only very special occasions. Nothing says “Happy Birthday” quite like saddling up to a sticky vinyl booth for a rack of baby backs drenched in tangy bbq sauce. Toss in a loaded baked potato, bib, and wet nap, and you’ve got a 5-star dining experience.

As a San Franciscan foodie, I would be scorned for my love of Tony Roma’s non-organic, ketchup-bottle sauced ribs. They will forever remain my dirty little bbq secret.

Hit with a baby back rib craving, I turned to Food Network genius Alton Brown for a suitable stand-in for my prized Tony Roma’s racks. Instead of a wet rub, Alton recommends a brown sugar, salt and chili dry rub, followed by a white wine and vinegar braise.

I opted to infuse my ribs with the dry rub overnight for extra flavor. The 2.5-hour braise in foil resulted in a falling-off-the-bone tender rack — exactly the texture one dreams of. Finally, a reduction of the braising liquid yielded a lovely deep brown bbq sauce, perfect for a finishing glaze.

These ribs have a sweet and tangy flavor, surprisingly reminiscent of Chinese spareribs. As expected, Alton has perfected a flawless technique for succulent baby back ribs… damn good eats!

baby back ribs
ribbed for your pleasure

* 2 whole slabs pork baby back ribs

Dry Rub:
* This recipe makes several batches of dry rub. If more rub is needed, it can be extended by any amount, as long as the ratio of 8:3:1:1 remains the same.
* 8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
* 3 tablespoons kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon chili powder
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno seasoning (I omitted)
* 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (I omitted)
* 1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme (I substituted dried thyme)
* 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Braising Liquid:
* 1 cup white wine
* 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
* 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 2 cloves garlic, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Place each slab of baby back ribs on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side down. Sprinkle each side generously with the dry rub. Pat the dry rub into the meat. Refrigerate the ribs for a minimum of 1 hour. In a microwavable container, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Microwave on high for 1 minute.

Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Open one end of the foil on each slab and pour half of the braising liquid into each foil packet. Tilt the baking sheet in order to equally distribute the braising liquid. Braise the ribs in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer the braising liquid into a medium saucepot. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half or until of a thick syrup consistency. Brush the glaze onto the ribs. Place under the broiler just until the glaze caramelizes lightly. Slice each slab into 2 rib bone portions. Place the remaining hot glaze into a bowl and toss the rib portions in the glaze.

zuni’s roast chicken with bread salad

9 Mar

I’m a chicken hater. Correction — was a chicken hater. It’s been about six years since I last touched a piece of raw chicken. My aversion to fowl began on the job, when I worked for an ad agency making TV commercials for a chicken farm. Let’s just say I was forced to watch one too many PETA videos during a lunch meeting where I was served a lukewarm chicken breast.

Slowly but surely, I’ve been coming around to the idea of cooking my winged friends once again. For my first endeavor, Zuni Cafe’s famous Roast Chicken with Bread Salad. It’s an epic recipe spanning two days and 1,200 words. Go big or go home, right?

I procured a 3.5 lb organic bird, herbs, Acme bread, arugula and zante currants from the new Haight Street Whole Foods store, which by the way, is the most questionably placed location. I won’t lie, Day 1 of the recipe was tough. I gagged a bit while shoving my fingers between skin and breast forming seasoning pockets for the herbs. I also plucked a few unsavory stray feathers.

Day 2 was all about the bread salad. That thing was a pain in the ass, but worth every step in the end. I had to draw myself a chronological checklist to organize the process (see below the recipe). In my opinion, the bread salad upstaged the bird itself, though J assured me the chicken was a succulent masterpiece of its own.

All in all, it was a highly successful reentry. Kudos to Zuni for the epic recipe.

Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad
from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook (via the Today Show)

For the chicken:
* One small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
* 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage, about 1/2 inch long
* Salt
* About 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
* A little water

For the salad:
* Generous 8 ounces slightly stale open-crumbed, chewy, peasant-style bread (not sourdough)
* 6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
* 1-1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
* Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
* 1 tablespoon dried currants
* 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or as needed
* 1 tablespoon warm water
* 2 tablespoons pine nuts
* 2 to 3 garlic cloves, slivered
* 1/4 cup slivered scallions (about 4 scallions), including a little of the green part
* 2 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock or lightly salted water
* A few handfuls of arugula, frisée, or red mustard greens, carefully washed and dried

Seasoning the chicken (Can be done 1 to 3 days before serving; for 3-1/4- to 3-1/2-pound chickens, at least 2 days)

Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Be thorough-a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming before it begins to turn golden brown.

Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove and herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper {we use ¾ teaspoon of sea salt per pound of chicken}. Season the thick sections a little more heavily than the skinny ankles and wings. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

Starting the bread salad (Can be done up to several hours in advance)

Preheat the broiler.

Cut the bread into a couple of large chunks. Carve off all of the bottom crust and most of the top and side crust. Reserve the top and side crusts to use as croutons in salads or soups. Brush the bread all over with olive oil. Broil very briefly, to crisp and lightly color the surface. Turn the bread chunks over and crisp the other side. Trim off any badly charred tips, then tear the chunks into a combination of irregular 2- to 3-inch wads, bite-sized bits, and fat crumbs. You should get about 4 cups.

Combine about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the Champagne or white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss about 1/4 cup of this tart vinaigrette with the torn bread in a wide salad bowl; the bread will be unevenly dressed. Taste one of the more saturated pieces. If it is bland, add a little salt and pepper and toss again.

Place the currants in a small bowl and moisten with the red wine vinegar and warm water. Set aside.

Roasting the chicken and assembling the salad

Preheat the oven to 475. Depending on the size, efficiency and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 or as low as 450 during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If that proves to be the case, begin at that temperature the next time you roast a chicken. If you have a convection function on your oven, use it for the first 30 minutes; it will enhance browning, and may reduce overall cooking by 5 to 10 minutes.

Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. It should sizzle.

Place the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.

While the chicken is roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish and set in the hot oven for a minute or two, just to warm though. Add them to the bowl of bread.

Place a spoonful of the olive oil in a small skillet, add the garlic and scallions, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened. Don’t let them color. Scrape into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold in. Dribble the chicken stock or lightly salted water over the salad and fold again. Taste a few pieces of bread-a fairly saturated one and a dryish one. If it is bland, add salt, pepper, and/or a few drops of vinegar, then toss well. Since the basic character of the bread salad depends on the bread you use, these adjustments can be essential.

Pile the bread salad in a 1-quart baking dish and tent with foil; set the salad bowl aside. Place the salad in the oven after you flip the chicken the final time.

Finishing and serving the chicken and bread salad

Remove the chicken from the oven and turn off the heat. Leave the bread salad to continue warming for another 5 minutes of so.

Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat from the roasting oven, leaving the lean drippings behind. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.

Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.

Set the chicken in a warm spot and leave to rest while you finish the bread salad. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.

Set a platter in the oven to warm for a minute or two.

Tilt the roasting pan and skim the last of the fat. Place over medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape to soften any hard golden drippings. Taste-the juices will be extremely flavorful.

Tip the bread salad into the salad bowl. It will be steamy-hot, a mixture of soft, moist wads, crispy-on-the-outside-but-moist-in-the-middle-wads, and a few downright crispy ones. Drizzle and toss with a spoonful of the pan juices. Add the greens, a drizzle of vinaigrette, and fold well. Taste again.

Cut the chicken into pieces, spread the bread salad on the warm platter, and nestle the chicken in the salad.

Checklist for Day 2:

Broil bread
Mix vinaigrette
Dress salad
Soak currants

Preheat oven
Warm pan
Put in chicken
Warm pine nuts, add to salad

Wash and dry arugula
Saute garlic and onion
Add currants and stock to salad

Flip chicken
Put salad in oven
Flip chicken

Rest chicken
Swirl drippings
Add drippings to salad
Add arugula
Add vinaigrette