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Not Just Take Out » spicy

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::spicy nights:: Chicken Paprikash


I’m starting to get back in the kitchen finally. My first attempt at cooking resulted in PTB learning how to make Gumbo. My second official attempt was much more successful. The little man is settling down a little bit and I am learning to take shortcuts a little more.

I made Chicken Paprikash once before and my only complaint was that it was too incredibly hot (it has officially taken me 6 months to write this post). It was so spicy that I couldn’t eat any of the leftovers. Which made me so sad since it tasted so good. This time around, I had to make it faster and I learned to adjust the spice a bit to be more reasonable. And, sadly, you don’t get too many photos when I am rushing through making dinner.

What You Need
400F oven
Step One
1-1.5 lbs chicken, cut into 1″ chunks
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Step Two
medium yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbsp double concentrate tomato paste
Step Three
1 cup chicken broth
Step Four
Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic
3 Tbsp Hungarian Paprika
1 Tsp Smoked Spanish Paprika (more if you want it spicy)
Step Five
8oz sour cream (room temp)
1lb egg noodles

I typically use chicken tenderloins to make this dish. When I trim my chicken breasts to freeze, I package the tenderloins in 1-2lb batches so that I can quickly make dishes that require any chopped up chicken.

Cut the chicken into 1″ pieces, pat dry and salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof skillet or a dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium high heat until smoking. Add the chicken, cooking until browned on all sides. Remove form the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

If necessary, add a bit more oil to the pan and add the onions cooking 5-7 minutes until they begin to brown. Once they are browning, stir in tomato paste and cook for approx. 1 minute.

Using the chicken broth, deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Add step four ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Add the chicken (and any juices accumulated in the bowl) back to the pan and transfer the entire thing to the hot oven. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. When your timer has about 5 minutes left, start your egg noodles.

Once you remove the pan from the oven, allow it to sit for about 3 minutes, then stir in the sour cream. Serve hot over the egg noodles.

Mmmm…now that I have typed this up I want to make it again  🙂

::spicy nights:: Chana Masala


In an attempt to cleanse myself of the cookie madness I have been involved in the past few weeks, a recent trip to the grocery store resulted in a TON of fruits and veggies, and supplies for vegetarian dinners. It is no joke that I went through more than one 5lb bag of flour, an entire 5lb bad of sugar, 32oz of molasses, and who knows how many pounds of butter in the past month. And while you would think, most of those cookies were eaten by others… they simply weren’t. I would make far too many and end up eating all the remaining goodies. Thank goodness for pregnancy. It has made a decent excuse.

But now I need to get back on track! Since we moved out of the city we don’t have the easy access to our favorite Indian restaurant, Tiffin, anymore. While this gives us good reason to go visit our friends and Chuffin (NBC’s Chuck and Tiffin nights) buddies Dave & Karyn, it also gives me a good reason to expand on my Indian recipe collection here on the site.

The other part of the grocery trip that the holidays inspired was saving a bit of money, so a few extra vegetarian meals seemed like a good plan. So we started with Chana Masala. I just ordered this the last time we got Tiffin, and my how they are different. Their version is smoky and stewy and very homey. This version inspired from a Food.com recipe was fiery and kicked your butt a bit. Nothing like clearing the sinuses on a snowy day. 🙂 I cannot wait to have it as leftovers. Curry is one of those things that just keeps getting better.

What You Need
Step One

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 medium onions, minced
~1 Tbsp ginger (about 1.5″ piece), minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
Step Two
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Step Three
15oz can whole tomatoes, chopped small
Step Four
2/3 cup water
2-15oz  cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Step Five
1 lemon, juiced

In a large skillet or saute pan heat oil over medium heat. Add all step one ingredients and cook about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium low and stir in all the spices. Allow to cook for a minute or two.

Stir in tomatoes, returning to medium heat and using the juices to scrape up any bits that may have stuck to the pan.

Add step four ingredients, and reduce heat to medium low, simmering uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and serve over hot rice.

Serves: 4-6   Cost: >$2/serving (for 4 servings, all organic ingredients!)

::cajun cooking:: Chicken & Sausage Gumbo


adminDespite the fact that I don’t like seafood, I am still a huge fan of cajun cooking. There is something in Jambalaya that gives me hives.  I have no idea what.  Every time I have eaten it, my arms break out in hives.  It is so weird.  I’ll have to make it at some point.  Maybe breaking it down will help me figure out the problem.  Anyway, I am already going off topic.

We went to Reading Terminal Market a few times this weekend.  I never knew there was a Cajun place there!  Yum!  They offered us tiny samples.  We tried the Crawfish Etouffe and the Chicken & Sausage Gumbo.  The Etouffe was decent.  It had corn in it, so by default I think mine is better.  It also seemed a bit thinner than mine.  The Gumbo was great.  Nice and tomato-y.

So after trying these delights, and inspired by the season premiere of True Blood, I decided to take on gumbo for dinner on Sunday night.  This was my first time cooking gumbo, but it seemed fairly similar to etouffe, so I figured I could handle it.  Turns out it is actually a bit simpler than the etouffe, only taking me about an hour and a half.  Even with picture taking breaks.  Not too shabby (and I am a slow chopper/slicer).  After burning my mouth with excitement over the first couple bites, once I was really able to taste it, I realized it wasn’t very different from the etouffe.  Yes, it was a bit simpler in ingredients, but the preparation was almost identical.  The flavors were definitely different, but definitely in the same family.  Does that even make sense?  So I had to look it up.  If you already know all this, good for you, but I am still learning.

So what I learned…. is that I wasn’t very wrong.  They are almost identical.  Etouffe is more traditionally a main dish that is thicker and heartier.  It is normally made with shrimp or crawfish, but is sometimes made with chicken (like mine)!  Gumbo is actually a soup.  It can be served as a main dish, but it is still a soup.  Traditionally, gumbo has chicken and andouille sausage as the meats (just like mine!).  Ok, so far, I am making both dishes correctly.  The other main difference though is the roux.  From what I read, the etouffe is made with a blonde roux, which is made with butter and flour and is a light caramel color.  Mine is close to this.  I do use butter and flour.  But I prefer a near peanut butter shade.  Gumbo is made with a dark roux that is made with oil and flour.  Mine had a little but of oil, but was primarily butter.  All the recipes I saw differed with this step, so I stuck with butter, knowing what I was doing.  I think this led to a bit of a thicker gumbo, which I am A.O.K. with.  Oh!  And Okra!  There isn’t okra in etouffe.  It was my first time using it and I have to say I am quite pleased.

I couldn’t find a recipe I was happy with in terms of preparation and ingredients combined.  So I had to make my own.  On a scale of 1-10, PTB ranked it an 8 (and the Etouffe a 9.5).  Butter Chicken is his 10 rating.  Back on topic!  Time for the recipe!

What I Used
Step One

1.5 Tbsp Canola oil
3/4 lb chicken breast
3/4 lb andouille sausage
Step Two
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
Step Three
medium yellow onion, chopped
green bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
6 fresh okra, sliced
Step Four
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Step Five
2 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves

Really, I should like the vegetables as step one.  Make sure you have them all chopped and ready to through into the pan before you start.  Then cut all the meat into bite size pieces.  Salt and pepper the chicken.  In a large pan, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides (~5 min).  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil behind for the sausage.  Add the sausage in, browning completely.

Once the sausage is browned and set aside, add the butter to the hot pan and melt.  Once melted, whisk in the flour, and start to remove any brown bits on the pan.  The butter and flour will blend to create your roux.  It should become a perfect golden brown.  Once it is, you can add all step three veggies and cook them until they begin to soften (~3 min).

Slowly stir in your broth.  I did this in tiny increments using it to scrape up any remaining bits from the bottom of my pan (deglaze).  Once the broth is combined, add your chicken back in, and then the sausage and step five ingredients.

Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve over hot rice.

Serves: 6-8 Cost: ~$2/serving

::make ahead madness:: Garlic Pepper Sauce

Dear Martha Stewart, When it comes to baked goods, you have never steered me wrong.  When we start cooking though, we haven’t always seen eye to eye.  I have never given too many of your dinner recipes a chance.  There has always been something holding me back.  I’m not sure what.  It could just be that my options seem better elsewhere.

In an added effort to organize a tiny bit of my life, I sorted through my cookbook shelf.  In the stack of tiny recipe magazines I used to be suckered into as last minute grocery purchase, I found and Everyday Food.  Garlic Pepper Sauce.  Make ahead, and have it for many used.  This sounded great.  I love garlic.  I love peppers.  How could it be wrong?  I’m not saying this recipe is bad necessarily.  I’m just saying it wasn’t what I expected.  Maybe it needs a different name.  Maybe I needed to not trust Martha and follow my rule to always add extra garlic.

I’m posting it because other people will still like it.  It’s probably perfect for my mom (no!  That isn’t meant as an insult!).  I’m posting it because maybe someone will try it and suggest something to make it better.  Tangier.  More in your face.  Something.  Anything.  I’m posting it as a reminder to myself.  Next time I stumble across this recipe, I will remember to change SOMETHING.  I wasn’t disappointed per say, but I didn’t get the same reaction from dinner that I often get from my audience (aka. PTB).

What You Need
Step One
2 large onions
Step Two
2 green bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
Step Three
1 large tomato
Step Four
3 cups mixed cilantro leaves and tender stems
salt and pepper

Coarsely chop onions and peppers.  Core and coarsely chop the tomato.  In a large pan, heat about 2-3 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened (~5min).  Add all step two ingredients and continue to cook over medium heat until peppers are tender.  Lastly, add tomato and cook for another 5 minutes.

Transfer pot contents to large food processor.

Add step four ingredients and puree until it is still slightly chunky.

Since most of Martha’s recipes use this in 1-cup portions like the chicken with garlic-pepper sauce (below), separate it into 1 cup portions.  Freeze some for later, and keep one out to use for a meal.

And now that you have made the sauce, post some suggestions for what to do with it or how to make it better!

::nice spice:: Skillet Cornbread


With Memorial Day right around the corner, the picnic season is about to officially kick off.  I have never been crazy about the typical picnic sides.  Potato salad, cole slaw, bleh.  Really, mayo in general.  I tend to stay near the dessert tables.  Brownies, cookies, easy, can’t be messed up.  This year, I think I will be once again bake a dish for any picnic we go to, but rather than the dessert table, I’ll stick with the sides.  I love food that can go year round.  In the Winter, this cornbread is perfect next to chili.  In the Summer, it is going to be perfect with barbeque. Mmmmmm.  Can’t wait.  A basic cornbread recipe can be changed up pretty easily.  What would you change?

• finely zest 1-2 limes
• juice lime into 1 cup measuring cup
• fill to 1 cup line with milk
375F oven
greased baking dish

What You Need
Step One

1 stick of butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Step Two
lime/milk mixture
1/2 tsp baking soda
Step Three
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
Step Four
2 jalepenos, finely chopped
lime zest

Prep work is self explanatory right?  I used a large cast iron skillet greased with bacon drippings (perfect flavor for the crispy cornbread edges).

In a large bowl, melt the butter, and then mix in each ingredient in order.  Pour into greased baking dish.  Bake in 375F oven until golden brown on top.  In a cast iron skillet, it took about 30-35 minutes.