Friday, February 22, 2019

Creamy Cashew Chicken Curry – Moooove Over Real Cream

This creamy cashew chicken recipe is completely dairy-free (expect for the butter), but that’s not why you should make it. You should make this simple curry because it’s so rich and satisfying that you won’t even care that it’s better for you, and possibly the cows.

It really is pretty remarkable how similar the cashew cream is to regular heavy cream in appearance, taste, and in-sauce behavior. In fact, cashew cream actually thickens up faster than cream, which usually has to be reduced a bit before it will coat the meat.

As far as the rest of the ingredients go, there’s nothing too exotic, except maybe for the garam masala, which in case you’re wondering, translates to “hot spice.” There are many variations, but if you can’t find one, the most common ingredients are cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, mace, dried chilies, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaves, and turmeric; just in case you want to whip up a batch of your own.

Speaking of spices, how much you should use in this is a very personal thing. Below you’ll see what I went with, which I thought was on the fairly mild side, so feel free to add more. Also, the salt in our dry marinade does a pretty good job of seasoning the chicken, but you’ll probably need more as it cooks in the sauce, so be sure to check. Of course, the hardest thing about this recipe is deciding whether to serve it with rice, garlic naan, or both, but I'm sure you'll figure that out when you give this a try, which will hopefully be very soon. Enjoy! 


Ingredients for 4 large portions Creamy Cashew Chicken:
For the Spice Mix:
(use a little more than half to marinade the chicken, and the rest to add to the sauce)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2  teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons paprika (hot and/or smoked would also work well)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 generous teaspoons garam masala, or other prepared “curry powder” blends

For the Cashew Cream:
3/4 cup whole roasted cashews
2 cups cold water

For the rest:
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (mixed with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and spice blend, and marinated for 4 to 12 hours)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 yellow onion, chopped or sliced
rest of the reserved spice blend
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 finely minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 cup chicken broth
all the prepared cashew cream
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/3 cup freshly chopped cilantro
freshly squeezed juice of one lime, plus extra wedges for service
-->

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Garlic Naan – Now, 100% Tandoor-Free

Naan bread, especially this easy to make garlic naan, is the real reason Indian restaurants give you so much extra sauce when you order a curry. I mean, sure, the basmati rice helps, but good luck getting all that goodness off your plate using a fork.

Besides being near lots of great curries, the other advantage the restaurant naan enjoys is being cooked in the intense heat of the tandoor oven. However, we can pull off a pretty good version at home by using a smoking hot cast iron skillet. By the way, it shouldn’t literally be smoking, since we cook these without any oil in the skillet, but the key to this whole operation is waiting for the pan to get up to the proper temperature.

In fact, done correctly, the blistered bubbles will be charred to a lovely golden-black, so be brave. I’m working on the creamy cashew chicken curry seen herein, and hope to post that next, but in the meantime, I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 Garlic Naan:
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package dry active yeast
1/4 cup plain yogurt
about 2 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp fine salt)
1 tablespoon garlic butter
- Cook in a very hot, dry cast iron skillet for 2 to 3 minutes per side

For the Garlic Butter:
1/2 cup melted butter
4 cloves finely minced garlic
-->

Friday, February 15, 2019

Garlic Noodles – Roasted Garlic Crab Sold Separately

These deceptively simple, yet devastatingly delicious garlic noodles were invented in San Francisco, at a restaurant called, Thanh Long, back in the 70’s. Usually served with roasted Dungeness crab, the actual recipe is a very closely guarded family secret, but after lots of investigation, and even more experimentation, I think this is very close, at least for a non-MSG laced version.

Apparently, one of their “secret” ingredients is something called, Maggi Seasoning Sauce, which I decided not to use, since I’m not sure how easy it is for the average person to find. Besides, I think my assortment of savory, umami-rich substitutes did the job quite nicely, and everything in the ingredient list can be found at any large grocery store.

The most exotic thing here would be the oyster sauce, which is sort of a very savory, slightly sweet, thick, soy sauce-like condiment. And yes, it does have oyster extracts in it, in case that matters. If you can’t find it, just add a touch more fish sauce, soy, and Worcestershire, as well as little brown sugar.

Most garlic noodles actually call for sugar in the recipe, but I think that makes it too sweet for my taste, since the oyster sauce is fairly sweet, as is all that sautéed garlic. Regardless, whether you enjoy this with some roasted garlic crab, or as is, I really do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 small portions Garlic Noodles:
PLEASE NOTE: The saltiness of the following ingredients can vary, as can how sensitive people are to the taste of salt, so you may need to increase or decrease the amounts below. 
For the secret sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
For the rest:
6 ounces dry egg noodles
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 cloves finely minced garlic
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
thinly sliced green onion to garnish
red chili flakes to taste
-->

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

“Burnt” Basque Cheesecake - Yes, On Purpose

This “burnt” Basque cheesecake is one of the rare trendy recipes that I’m actually posting while it’s still trendy. I usually wait like three or four years, and by that time people have lost interest, and it seems like I’m doing it to be ironic. Well, this time the hype got to me, and now I understand why all the fuss.

By cooking the cheesecake in a very hot oven, we get a beautiful, dark exterior, which not only looks great, but the bittersweet notes it provides makes the light, creamy cheesecake inside seem even more rich, and flavorful. Besides the taste and texture, this method is just plain easier, as long as you can find some parchment paper.

Depending on the size of the roll or sheet you buy, you may have to overlap it, but as long as the pan is covered, and it comes up a few inches past the top, you’re fine. I assumed this technique was adapted from some ancient Basque recipes, but as it turns out, it was actually developed at a café in San Sebastian, called La Vina in the 70’s. That probably explains the Philly cream cheese.

Anyway, if you haven’t had the best luck with traditional cheesecake methods, you should stop trying, and just make this exclusively. Just make sure you tell you’re guests it’s supposed to be “burnt,” although if they’re on social media, they probably already know. Either way, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for one 9-inch cake pan (8-10 Portions):
24 ounces soft cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine salt (or 3/4 to 1 teaspoon Kosher salt)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 extra large eggs (you can use 5 large eggs)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream

- Bake at 400 F. for 50 to 55 minutes, or until puffed and well browned. For a little more color, you can crank the oven up to 425 or 450 F. for the last 10 minutes or so.
-->

Friday, February 8, 2019

Pork Agrodolce – Treat Your Meat to Some Sour and Sweet

"Agrodolce” is a very generic Italian term for any type of sweet and sour condiment, and while it’s used on all sorts of things, it really shines, both literally and figuratively, when used for braising chunks of succulent pork shoulder. This really was a thoroughly enjoyable, soul-warming dish of comfort food, which is why I was so amused by how much it made me think of summer cooking.

I’m not sure if Italians “barbecue,” like we do here in the States, but this sauce very much reminded me of something we’d brush on a rack of ribs while sipping a cold beer. So, don’t be surprised if you see something like that happen once the weather warms up. In fact, a little touch of smokiness was maybe the only thing this dish was lacking, and we could have taken care of that with a little smoked paprika. Next time.

As I mention in the clip, once the meat is tender, and ready to serve, you’re going to have to decide whether to skim the fat. I’ll leave that decision to you and your medical team, but if you do, here are a few tips. It’s hard to skim rendered fat while it’s still in the baking dish, so I usually remove the meat, and pour the sauce into a measuring cup, or small saucepan. That way, we have much less surface area, and it’ll be way easier to spoon off the top. Also, if you make this ahead of time, and chill it overnight, the fat will harden, and you can easily remove it from the surface.

Either way, this pork agrodolce is amazing served on rice, pasta, polenta, or as I teased in the video, a big pile of ricotta mashed potatoes. In fact, I enjoyed those so much that if, and when, I adapt this sauce to the summer grill, I’m still going to use that as a side. But, no matter how you serve it, I really hope you give this it a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 large portions Pork Agrodolce:
3 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3-inch chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1 or 2 anchovy fillets mashed
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup green onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

- Roast at 325 F. for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until very tender.

Note: While roasting, you can add a splash of water to the baking dish if things are drying out, and/or you can cook this covered after the meat has had time to brown. As long as the pork gets tender, and you’re left with enough agrodolce sauce to coat the meat, you did it right.
-->

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Cheesecake Flan – False Advertising Has Never Tasted So Good

I tried to create a flan that tastes like cheesecake, but ended up with a cheesecake that tastes like flan, and yet I wasn’t disappointed in the least. While this may not have lived up to its enticing name, it was still one of the most delicious flans I’ve ever had.

Based on a cream cheese flan, I thought the addition of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and some graham cracker crumbs, would create the perfect hybrid, but our caramelized sugar had other ideas. It’s amazing how such a thin layer of caramel can dominate the other flavors, but that’s exactly what happened here, and if we really wanted a “cheesecake flan,” we’d need to omit that from the recipe.

Except if we did that it wouldn’t be a flan, and we’d have to call it “cheesecake custard.” So, let’s move past the name, and simply focus on what a great dessert this really was. I’ll probably skip the crumbs next time, since they didn’t add much, and annoyingly soaked up the pool of caramel on the plate. But, regardless of whether you include the crust, or what you decide to call it, I really do hope you give this gorgeous recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Makes 4 Cheesecake Flans:
Please Note: I used four 5.5 ounce ramekins, and had a little custard mixture leftover, so you can probably get 5 out of this recipe if you use a slightly smaller ramekin, or fill them with less batter.

For the ramekins:
1 teaspoon melted butter or vegetable oil to grease ramekins
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar, caramelized to an amber color over medium heat

For the custard:
1/2 cup room temp cream cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

For the crumb crust:
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons melted butter
-->

Friday, February 1, 2019

Beer Floats – Fizzy Insult or Carbonated Classic?

Depending on whom you talk to, making ice cream floats with beer is either a genius idea, or a horrible mistake. In fact, I remember hearing one food writer describe a local beer float tasting as “fizzy insults,” which is a clever phrase, but not necessarily true, if the pairing is done properly.

The key is to choose a beer that’s on the toasty, malty, sweeter side, and stay away from beers that are too hoppy, dry, and bitter. But fair warning, even using a sweet, mellow brew, this is quite a different experience, which is why I suggested having some regular root beer around, just in case.

As far as the ice cream goes, there are as many flavors as there are choices of beers, but the safest, and probably most effective option would be plain, old vanilla, especially if using a fruit-infused brew. The exception to that would be if you were pouring a dark beer that features chocolate and coffee notes. In that case, a chocolate or coffee ice cream might be just the thing.

But no matter what beer you decide to pair with which ice cream, I’d make a small test glass first, to make sure it works for you and your palette. And if it doesn’t, don’t feel bad, since you’re still going to be eating ice cream and drinking beer, just not together. Either way, I really do hope you give these beer floats a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for an Ice Cream Beer Float:
1 cup of appropriate beer (something sweet and/or fruity, but not too bitter, dry, or sour)
1/3 cup vanilla ice cream
-->