Archive for May, 2009

Smoked chicken, caramelized pears and camembert white pizza

Smoked chicken, caramelized pears and camembert white pizza

So whenever I visit the parents for the weekend, my mom always tries to pawn off her groceries on me. Like I’m a just-out-of-the-nest, starving college student or something. Never mind that I’m in my 30’s and fully able to grocery shop for myself. On a recent visit, I arrived back at my condo toting a wedge of Camembert, a bundle of asparagus, shredded Parmesan, mango salsa, and cut-up fruit salad. All courtesy of my mom. Not that I’m complaining, but sometimes I have to come up with ways to use things that I might not otherwise have sitting around. Case in point – the Camembert. I tend towards super-duper aged cheeses myself. Fresh, double cream cheeses are not really my thing.

When in doubt, throw it on a pizza

At least that’s my motto. A google search on camembert told me pears go well – so I figured Camembert, caramelized pears and the smoked chicken from the previous day’s indoor smoking debacle would go nicely. I thought a white sauce would be too heavy, and olive oil alone too boring. So another Google search unearthed a versatile garlic herb pizza sauce that I also used on pasta later in the week. Finally, I threw a little arugula on top – just cause I always wanted to do that.  The result was damn tasty if I do say so myself!


Pizza crust – my standard Mario Batali
Smoked chicken – maybe 1/4 lb (see Smoked Chicken Indoors for more info. Otherwise, leftover rotisserie or roast chicken would be great)
White pizza sauce (see below – I used maybe half that recipe)
Caramelized pears (see below)
Camembert – maybe like 4 oz sliced thin (this is pizza people – use your best judgement!)
Arugula or some sort of lettuce – a small handful – this goes on AFTER the pizza comes out of the oven

I put it all together and baked at 450 degrees for 13 minutes or so on a pizza stone.  Throw your arugula on top and serve!

White pizza sauce

(really – garlic herb infused oil – great as a pasta sauce too)

3 T butter
3 T olive oil
1 T white wine
1/2 t rosemary (I used fresh)
1/2 t basil (I used fresh)
1 garlic clove, minced

1. Sauté garlic in butter and olive oil.
2. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside. Can be refrigerated maybe for a week – bring to room temp to use.

Caramelized Pears

1 pear – cored, seeded and sliced
1 T butter
1 T brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in saute or cast iron pan over medium heat.
2. Saute pears for a few minutes on medium heat
3. Add brown sugar and continue sauteeing to caramelize the pears till your desired doneness (I did maybe 10 minutes total).
4. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper (very important! don’t forget the pepper! freshly ground please!) to taste.

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Smoked Chicken Indoors

Can you smoke meat indoors?

Can you smoke meat indoors?

So the husband was out of town. Usually when he goes away, I go on a massive cooking binge, making all the things I know he hates. Dishes usually involve lots and lots of olives or mac and cheese with all kinds of pungent cheeses. I also make things that I know stink up the house – which are verboten when he’s around. Which is exactly what I did this past week.

We live in the city. For those of you suburban or country folks, I’m sure we can both trade pluses and minuses regarding our living environs. Living in the city certainly means foregoing space, so a large back patio is not in the cards for us. Therefore, we do not have a Big Green Egg or any kind of super cool smoker or grill. Nope. A mini Weber Q is it for us. 

Enter the Indoor Smoker

A couple of years ago, I came across the solution to our problems – the Indoor Smoker. I read numerous cooking forum posts on the subject and saw the success others had. I knew I had to have one for myself. It came with a few small tubs of wood chips, but I even ordered extra wood chips – envisioning smoking everything I could get my hands on. I bought Hickory, Oak, Alder and Cherry – not knowing anything about the different flavors or what they were specifically good for. I just knew that smoking food sounded like something I needed to be a part of.



When the package arrived, I got to work right away. I followed the directions to a T. Put the wood chips in, put the grate on, added the meat, covered the top most of the way, turned the stove burner on, waited for a whisp of smoke, closed the container and hoped for the best. Within 2 minutes, campfire smoked filled the kitchen. I was waiting for the cue from my husband – which came quickly – a glance, an ahem, and an “uh, I think you better turn it off” and my indoor smoking days were abruptly cut short. 


In the years that followed, I tried it at least one more time. Again. Fail. It just released too much smoke into the tiny condo that has no kitchen ventilation (save for a cross breeze if I open all the windows in the house). I even tried it on the Weber Q – alas, the smoker was just too big for our puny grill. 


So this past weekend…when the husband was out of town…THIS was my shot.  And this time I was ready. Once again, I put the wood chips in, put the grate on, added the chicken thighs, closed the top entirely this time, covered every opening in a double layer of foil AND placed a cast iron skillet on top for good measure. I fired up the burner and again, within a few minutes, smoke whisped out the sides. I added more foil and at least I couldn’t see any more smoked. But…the smell. 

Well anyway, I figured I could air the place out before he got home. So I let the meat smoke for the full 20 minutes.

The moment of truth

After 20 minutes or so of smoking, I turned off the burner, took the smoker outside for the big unveiling. I pulled the cover off and…totally completely RAW chicken that STANK like cigarrettes. 

Well, that’s just great. Screw this.

Totally dejected and not wanting to risk stinking the house up anymore, I turned on the broiler and shoved the chicken under it for 10 minutes. Totally irriated, I threw it in a tupperware and let my visions of indoor smoking go. 

The next day, I pulled the chicken out of the fridge as I thought maybe I could use it in a salad or on a pizza. Well lo and behold, it actually tasted pretty good! Definitely smoky, but not totally overpowering and horrid like the previous day. 

My verdict?

Ok, next time (and there will be a next time) I think smoking for maybe 5 minutes will do the trick. Then cook like normal cause God knows, it ain’t gonna get cooked in the smoker.

So, uh, are you gonna get one for yourself? 🙂

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Mango, curry and chocolate. Why not?

Mango, curry and chocolate. Why not?




5 Weeks. 9 Pounds to lose. Starting…after the mango bread is gone.

Since I started posting with Tuesdays With Dorie, I’ve gained some weight. Ok, let’s be honest here – a LOT of weight. So I took a couple of weeks off from TWD – thinking that would cut it. Well, it hasn’t. So the “official diet” starts right after the mango bread is gone.  And anyway, I had a mango sitting in the fruit bowl that was starting to shrivel so I couldn’t  have NOT made this week’s recipe, right?


A couple of substitutions…

I know many of you make changes to the TWD recipes and I wanted to prove I could play with the big girls this week, so I looked over the recipe and thought of what I would do differently. Hmmm…what goes with mangoes… Curry!  Since my ground ginger is smelling especially rank (I noticed that it came from Wild Oats – the last time I visited a Wild Oats was when I lived in Cincinnati… eight years ago…), the curry powder went into the bowl in place of the ginger. This turned out really well, but I think maybe upping the amount to 2t would make it even better. 

Next up – in honor of National Chocolate Chip Day (May 15), I replaced the raisins with chocolate chips. Ok, that is not really the reason for the substitution – I found out about the holiday after the fact. Truth is, I don’t like raisins in my bread. Or cookies. I just don’t. Put them in a savory dish and I’m THERE. But I don’t like them in my desserts. I believe we have covered this in previous posts. So chocolate chips go in for the raisins . I don’t know how much – I didn’t measure. Another aside – I know I could never be a cookbook author since I belong to the  “oh just throw a little of this and that in the bowl and kinda do this and voila!” camp of cooking.

Alright. Mango and curry and chocolate – now we are talking! If you’ve ever had the Vosges Naga bar, you’ll know I’m not totally off my rocker here. Alright, if you are gonna call me out, I am well aware that the Naga uses coconut, not mango, but I figure it’s similar. And I’m trying to pull off soft of an Indian flavor here. Are you feeling it?


The result? Day one it was good. Not outstanding, but a damn fine bread. Day two? Yep. This is good stuff people! I toasted it and slathered on some homemade butter and it became instant dessert. Yum!

So thanks to Kelly over at Baking with the Boys for selecting this recipe! The recipe will be posted over there. My only subs were curry for the ginger and chocolate chips for the raisins.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Trust me, this dish is fabulous. I just have really shoddy camera skills. 

Trust me, this dish is fabulous. I just have really shoddy camera skills.

I love reading cookbooks written by chefs. Interesting ingredients and techniques enthrall me. More often than not though, these books aren’t translated for the home cook. Take the Alinea cookbook – I know there is probably just ONE recipe in the entire book I could make at home without expending major effort.  And trust me, it’s not that lavender smoke pillow thingy.

Restaurant recipes dumbed down (well…sorta)

So what’s a home cook to do? I’ve come across a couple of books which help translate restaurant recipes for the home – Chef Interrupted by Melissa Clark and Restaurant Favorites at Home by the Editors at Cook’s Illustrated (aka America’s Test Kitchen, aka ATK). Trust me though, the recipes in each of these books are still quite time consuming – but always worth it. 

Oh yeah, did I ever mention Nuevo Latino cuisine is my absolute favorite? Do we use that term anymore? Latin fusion? Was that totally random and seemingly off-topic? Whatever. Maybe you’ve forgotten the title of this post. I’m just saying I love food with Latin and Caribbean flavors more than just about anything else. Give me a fried plantain any day of the week and I will be one happy girl (I feel a craving coming on!).

One of the most stellar recipes of all-time

The one recipe that I make over and over again that is based on Latin flavors is the Grilled Lime Chicken out of the Restaurant Favorites book. There are a bunch of accompaniments listed in the book, but I never bother with them any more. It’s the cilantro lime sauce that I covet. It’s a perfect blend of spicy, sweet and tangy. The chicken is bathed in this superb sauce post cooking so it retains all its fresh flavors. It is, without a doubt, the best chicken grilling sauce there is. And it’s the freaking easiest thing you’ll ever make.  Oh yeah, and it makes a fantastic salad dressing too.

So don’t delay. Make this today. Unless…you don’t like cilantro. And if that is the case, I feel for you. I really and truly do.

Still not enticing you? Yeah... I can understand that. Just make the dish already!

Still not enticing you? Yeah... I can understand that. Quit picking apart my crappy photos and just make the dish already!

I mean, this is what I had to work with people. Do they even TRAIN butchers anymore?

I mean, this is what I had to work with people. Do they even TRAIN butchers anymore?

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Rewritten from Restaurant Favorites at Home
Makes about a cup of sauce

1/4 cup sugar
4 chiles de arbol (or 1.5 t red pepper flakes)
3 medium garlic cloves
1 small shallot roughly chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1 bunch fresh cilantro – leaves and some stems – roughly chopped (about 1.5 cups)
3/4 cup vegetable (or other mild flavored) oil

Whatever the heck you want to grill. The book recommends 6 8-10 oz bone in, skin on chicken breasts.

1. This couldn’t be easier – take all the ingredients (minus the thing you are grilling) and stick in mini food processor, blender, whatever. Pulse till combined. OR, if you insist on doing things the hard way, chop them up. Put in a large bowl and set aside. That’s it!

2. Grill your meat (or veg! I suppose you could do that too). If you were going to do bone in skin on chicken, my method in the Pomegranate Chicken recipe works well – basicallly, 10 minutes skin down, 15 minutes skin up. Set aside to rest.

3. Dip your grilled whatever into the big bowl of sauce – make sure it is well coated. Remove and…

4. Serve!


Ms. Pantry Raid

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Hot stuff! Shrimp Piri Piri served with diced mango over jasmine rice.

Hot stuff! Shrimp Piri Piri served with diced mango over jasmine rice.

Note to all: No matter how pretty and inviting habaneros look, eating them raw may not be in your best interest. Unless you have a pint of whole milk standing by. AND EVEN THEN. Think twice.

I’m just saying…

I couldn’t help myself. Really, it was calling my name. Teasing me. Whispering “Don’t be such a wuss! Just a little bite! It won’t hurt! I swear I’m not hotter than a jalapeno”. So I popped a hunk into my mouth. Immediately on contact bad, bad things happened. Blisters formed. I swear to god (ok, I’m exaggerating a little). I paced up and down the kitchen repeating the same words over and over “bad. pepper. hot. oh god. bad”. My husband merely laughed at my misfortune. I recall something like “serves you right!” escaping his lips but the memory of the pepper might be playing tricks with my brain.  I finally gave in and took a swig of milk. It cooled the fire in my mouth, but my lips were still ablaze. A good 20 minutes later, the heat finally died down. 

All for the cause my friends, all for the cause.

So yeah. Shrimp Piri Piri is hot stuff.  We are talking numerous habaneros, jalapenos, hot paprika, cayenne all mixed togther and slathered over shrimp. The dish is African and Portuguese in nature, apparently came about during the time of the colonialization of Mozambique.

It is supposed to be served with lemon and butter, but I got the bright idea of serving it with a mango dipping sauce.   Alright, I admit I was scared that the shrimp was going to be so spicy I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Hence why I tried to tame it with the mango. In reality, after grilling, the shrimp wasn’t as hot as I thought it was going to be. Next time, I’ll serve it the traditional way cause I feel like the sweet of the dipping sauce competed with the heat of the shrimp. I might even boil up the marinade and serve that over top too. Just in case I need more heat!

Grilled Shrimp with Piri Piri Sauce

From Some Like It Hot
Serves 4

2 habanero chiles
7 red jalapenos (I could only find green) or 4 red cherry or cascabel chiles
2 T cayenne pepper
1 T Hot paprika
4 garlic cloves
3/4 cup peanut oil
3 T fresh lemon juice
2 t salt
2 lb shrimp – peeled and deveined (I used medium sized shrimp cause I find them easier to cook – but use at least medium size shrimp since you are grilling them)

To finish the dish, mix together (but don’t do this till you are ready to serve):
6 T unsalted butter, melted
3 T fresh lemon juice

You’ll also need skewers for the shrimp


1. Place habaneros, jalapenos, paprika, garlic, peanut oil, lemon juice and salt in blender or small food processor. Process till smooth. 

2. Transfer to a bowl, add in the shrimp and marinate for 4-6 hours.

3. Prepare your grill. Skewer shrimp leaving space between each. Grill shrimp a few minutes on each side to your desired doneness (I err on the undercooked side myself – it will keep cooking after you take it off the grill).

4. Remove from the grill and serve drizzled with the 6 T of unsalted butter and 3 T of lemon juice.


Ms. Pantry Raid

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