Friday, May 24, 2019

Peruvian Potato & Chicken Salad (Causa Rellena) – Behold the “Giver of Life”

There’s nothing very unusual, or interesting about serving a chicken or potato salad at a cookout, which is why this truly unique, Peruvian potato and chicken salad will cause such a stir. Or should I say, “causa” a stir, since in Peru that’s what this gorgeous dish is called. I’m told the name comes from the Inca word for “giver of life,” which is exactly what this will do to your summer picnic table.

Above and beyond the bold, vibrant flavors, this is unlike any other potato-based salad, in that we’re using mashed potatoes instead of cubes, or chunks, but it really does work beautifully, and the smooth, silky texture makes this even more refreshing to eat. Keep all that in mind the next time a heat wave rolls through your area.

I went very minimal with the cherry tomato garnish, but my Peruvian friends are letting me know that olives are a very traditional garnish, as are hardboiled eggs. If you do an image search, you’ll see all kinds of elaborate presentations, and that’s half the fun of making something like this, so go nuts. Regardless of how you dress yours up, or what ends up in your salad, I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Appetizer-Sized Portions (in 6-oz ramekins):

For the potato mixture:
1 1/4 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, or russet
2 tablespoons Aji Amarillo chili paste, or to taste (see note below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 or 2 limes, juiced, or to taste
salt and cayenne to taste

For the chicken salad:
1 large cooked chicken breast, diced or shredded
1/4 cup green peas
1/4 cup cooked diced carrots
2 tablespoons finely diced roasted red pepper
1 teaspoon minced shallot, or red onion
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup mayo, or as needed
salt and cayenne to taste

For the sauce:
1/3 cup mayo
1 tablespoon sour cream, optional
1 small crushed garlic clove
2 teaspoons Aji Amarillo chili paste, or to taste
a splash of water to adjust the thickness

Please Note: If you can’t find Aji Amarillo, you can make a paste from some fire-roasted and peeled orange or red bell peppers, and red Fresno chilies for some heat. While this does get you close, you should definitely try to find a jar of the real stuff, since it does have such a unique flavor.
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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Skewers with Miso Ranch – A Combo Made in Heaven, and Sebastopol

I’ve wanted to film a skewered version of our chicken teriyaki recipe for a while, but it was actually a karaage I recently enjoyed that pushed me into action. Michele and I were at Ramen Gaijin in Sebastopol, where they serve an amazing chicken karaage that comes with a miso ranch dipping sauce. The cool, tangy sauce is just perfect with the fried nuggets of chicken, and I assumed (correctly so, as it turns out) that it would be just as effective with these skewers.

None of the ingredients below are very hard to find, and any large grocery store should have Sake, and Mirin, as well as probably several kinds of miso. I used a “white miso,” which is actually gold in color, but apparently the “white” refers to the rice content, which is the other main ingredient besides soybeans. Feel free to make the dressing without it, but its fermented savoriness is such a great addition, I’d at least make some effort to track it down.

As far as the chicken goes, there’s not a lot that can go wrong, but I’d caution against an extra long marination. Especially if you’re skewering small chunks like we did here. The meat will “cure” in the sweet, salty mixture, which can make for an odd texture once cooked, as well as the meat is more likely to start falling apart. Personally, I think about four hours is ideal, which is perfect, since you can marinade in the morning, and then grill in the afternoon. Regardless of these variables, I really do hope you give both these incredible recipes a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients to make about 12 small skewers:
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3 or 4 chunks each
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1/3 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
2 tablespoons finely minced green onions
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the Miso Ranch:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
1 generous tablespoon white miso paste, or to taste
1 tablespoon minced green onion
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste
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Friday, May 17, 2019

Crispy “Everything” Flatbread – “Everything” and Everything

These crispy “everything” flatbread crackers aren’t just called “everything” because they’re inspired by the “everything bagel,” but also because they’re everything you’d want in a flatbread. They’re savory, and interesting enough to eat by themselves, but also pair perfectly with countless dips, any cheese plate, and of course, anything you’d schmear on a bagel.

I played it safe with the powders, but I’m tempted to try this with freshly minced garlic and onions, which would get us even closer to their round inspiration. I’ll tweet a photo if it works, but even with the dried stuff, it was really close. By the way, garlic/onion powder, and granulated garlic/onion is the same thing, just ground to a different fineness, and they’re interchangeable. Just make sure they’re made with pure garlic and onion, and not a bunch of salt.

This easy technique will work with pretty much any seeds and flavorings, so I encourage you to go nuts customizing the recipe. Just don’t forget to flip your dough over before baking, so that your flatbread edges curl up the right way. For a more rustic look, you can bake these uncut, and then once cooled, snap them into irregular shards, which is also a great look. Either way, I really hope you give these crispy “everything” flatbreads a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 48 Crispy “Everything” Flatbreads:
3/4 cup spouted spelt or whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon fine salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon onion powder, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup hot water, or more as needed
poppy seeds and sesame seeds as needed

- Bake at 375F. for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown and crispy.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sweet Potato “Hummus” – So Close

One of my all-time favorite things to do is take an iconic recipe, and somehow tweak it to maybe make it easier, healthier, or tastier; which was definitely not what happened here. This was simply a case of me wanting hummus, not having garbanzo beans, and making it anyway with sweet potatoes, which, much to my amazement, came out remarkably well.

I don’t blame you if you're skeptical, but this stuff really does have almost the same taste and texture as hummus. It has a little bit of a sweeter finish, which reminded me of a red pepper hummus, but all in all, it’s very close. In fact, my wife Michele, who has a much more discerning palate than I do, said that if she were blindfolded, she’d have trouble identifying this as not being actual hummus.

However, to get this close to what you think hummus tastes like, please be prepared to adjust the ingredient amounts to your liking. Some folks like just a hint of garlic and lemon, while others like to be crushed by it. Same goes for the tahini, and other seasonings, so taste, and adjust accordingly.

Of course, since the name, “hummus” comes from the Arabic word for chickpeas, one can make a strong argument that this isn’t hummus, and therefore shouldn’t be called hummus. But those people don’t have to worry about search engine results, which is why I just worked the word “hummus” into this paragraph four times. Actually, let’s make it five, as I say I really do hope you give this easy, and delicious alternative hummus a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 2 cups of Sweet Potato Hummus:
2 cups mashed, roasted sweet potatoes
1/3 cup tahini
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chipotle
pinch cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons cold fresh water whipped in to lighten texture, optional
freshly chopped parsley to garnish
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