Indian Make-In

A sore throat and persistent headache sent me home early today. I had a hunch I might not be leaving my house for a day or so. On my way home I swung by the grocer to grab ginger, chicken broth, chicken thighs, escarole and milk for tomorrow’s coffee.

For lunch I whipped up a quick soup by simmering the chicken in broth along with some chopped ginger. When the chicken was cooked through, I pulled it out and added soba noodles. Just before serving, I added the meat (now shredded) along with escarole, soy sauce, scallions, cayenne pepper, cilantro and a few drops of sesame oil.

Chicken Soba Soup

For a brief moment I could breathe clearly and my throat did not ache.

I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on email and dialing in to various meetings. At some point I managed to knock a nearly full bottle of red wine from the kitchen counter while attempting to make myself a cup of tea.

Red WIne Carnage

Naturally, I did not have any paper towels in the house. Cleanup was quite a chore, as was extracting the glass shard that lodged itself under my pinky nail.

By the time I finished, my stomach was growling. I was craving something spicy that would again offer temporary relief from what I am praying is just a cold. I debated making another bowl of soup, but then I flashed on Friday’s late night Indian takeout, which was truly awful. I swear one of the dishes was a can of chickpeas with some curry powder and vegetable oil stirred in and then heated in the microwave.

Surely I could do better with whatever ingredients I had on hand.

Indian Make-In

  • 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 knob ginger (about the size of your thumb, unless you have monster hands), chopped
  • juice of 1 lime (or a Meyer lemon if that’s what you happen to have on hand)
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (or butter or vegetable oil of some sort)
  • 1 bunch kale, large stems stripped, roughly chopped
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced pole to pole
  • cilantro (if you got it)
  1. Toast the cumin and coriander in a dry cast iron skillet, shaking frequently, until they give off an earthy aroma and darken a bit. Add these along with the yogurt, cayenne, garam masala, turmeric, garlic, ginger, lime juice, a healthy pinch of salt and some black pepper to the small work bowl of your food processor and let run for several minutes. Stir this in with the chicken thighs in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until you decide that you really need to eat. (Overnight would be awesome, but mine sat for about an hour and it was still damn tasty.)
  2. Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium-high heat with the ghee. Fish the chicken thighs out with a fork, allowing the excess marinade to fall back into the bowl before you place them in the skillet. When the thighs begin to brown, flip them over and baste with the pan juices. Flip back and forth a couple of times continuing to baste. Don’t worry too much about the crust that’s forming (provided your pan is well seasoned). 
  3. Meanwhile, scrape the leftover marinade into a small saucepan and bring up to medium-high heat. Add the kale in batches, along with a cup or so of water and a pinch of sugar. Let this continue to boil, adding water if needed. (You’re aiming for something approximating spicy creamed spinach.) You may opt to add additional salt, pepper or cayenne as indicated.
  4. When the chicken thighs are done, set them aside and give the pan a good scrape, transferring the crusty bits to your simmering kale. Add the red onion to your skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until limp and nicely charred in spots. Cilantro would be awesome to finish the dish. Alas, I tossed it all into my chicken soup.

Indian Make-In

If I were serving this for company, I would have made a pot of Basmati rice. Instead, I packed half away for tomorrow and added a dollop of mango chutney.

You know what would have been good with this meal? A nice glass of red wine. Sigh.

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

I am suffering from my third stomach ailment this year. After two days of being laid up, my fever had broken and my energy was back. But a ten-hour workday, punctuated by kale salad, farro, beets and Brussels sprouts put me in my place. I woke out of a dead sleep at 4am and went to retrieve the recycling bin that had been my constant companion earlier in the week.

Somehow I managed to dress for work and get as far as my subway stop before giving up and returning home. On the way I stopped off at the grocery store for an array of easily digestible (mainly white) foods. Breakfast was plain white toast. For lunch, I moved on to a small banana and a can of Coke (a concession to my caffeine addiction). By 7:00pm, I was actually experiencing something that resembled hunger, but suspected I still needed to tread lightly.

I’ve made this soup before in various forms. The ginger is great for stomach ailments and clearing the sinuses. It cooks up in under half an hour and, if you’re feeling a little less peaked than I am at the moment, you can doctor it in all kinds of ways. Even the most basic version is a welcome flavor boost after white bread and bananas.

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 knob ginger about the size of your last thumb joint, peeled and sliced into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • freshly ground black and white pepper
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup Jasmine or other long-grain white rice
  • Optional additional ingredients: rice noodles, egg noodles, spinach, egg, scallions, chives, Sriracha, sesame oil, cilantro
  1. Add the first four ingredients to a small pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a very low simmer. Add the chicken and simmer gently until just cooked through (7-10 minutes). Remove chicken.
  2. Add the rice and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, shred your chicken using two forks. When the rice is cooked, slide the chicken back in and simmer another minute or two.
  3. The above makes a lovely, restorative soup. If you want to take it a step or two further, at this point you could do any or all of the following 1) swap rice noodles or egg noodles for the rice (and adjust the cooking time accordingly), 2) add spinach leaves and simmer until just wilted, 3) stir in a lightly mixed egg, 4) garnish with thinly sliced scallions or chives, 5) stir in a shot of Sriracha, 6) drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil, 7) sprinkle with cilantro leaves before serving. 

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

UPDATE: The chicken breasts came three to a pack, so I continued the theme throughout the week. Here’s a version with daikon radish, turnip, parsley and sesame oil that I made the next day, once my stomach had started to recover. The parsley was a sorry substitute for cilantro, but this iteration was otherwise delicious.

Daikon Turnip Chicken Soup

A few days later, when the craving for fiber and complex carbohydrates had kicked in, I swapped the rice for a thinly sliced sweet potato and stirred a bunch of baby spinach and a lightly whisked egg in at the last minute. This was a very nice reentry into my normal food patterns.

Chicken Sweet Potato Spinach Soup

Red Wine-Braised Chicken Thighs with Dukkah

It is beyond cold here in New York City and across most of the nation. As I type this, it’s nine degrees in Brooklyn–and that’s without factoring in the wind chill. I made the morning commute in no less than 18 articles of clothing.

Arctic ChicHad I to do it over, I would have added leg warmers and a second scarf.

It was the (please, oh please, let this be true) coldest day of the year and the heat was out in our office due to a leaking valve. Adding insult to injury, the building is in the final stages of a multi-year facelift; concrete bricks and plaster are currently all that separate us from the elements. The staff toughed it out in knit caps, scarves and sweaters until 3:00 when I sent everyone home. I stuck around for another hour in the hopes of guilting the building staff into figuring something out before heading home myself. The temperature was holding steady in the single digits, but the wind had picked up. For some reason my knees–buried under silk long underwear, jeans and a down coat–suffered the most.

I had a hankering for something warm and comforting. I also had a hankering to take my brand new Global knives for a spin.

The fridge held chicken thighs, potatoes, carrots, red cabbage, and some sorry-looking cilantro. On the counter I had onions and some red wine left by my cat sitter. I also had a baggie labeled Dukkah, which the internet tells me is an Egyptian blend of crushed spices and nuts. This particular mix, which I received as a gift from an old friend, is from My Spice Sage and contains coriander, cumin, fennel, thyme, marjoram, black pepper and sesame seeds.

Red Wine-Braised Chicken Thighs with Dukkah

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Dukkah or a spice blend of your choosing (I’m willing to bet this would be nice with a curry of some sort.)
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (You could use bone-in. Just be sure to cook them a bit longer.)
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 tablespoons harissa
  • 7 small carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 8 small potatoes, quartered
  •  1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, minced
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat oil in a large dutch over medium-low heat. Rinse the chicken thighs, pat them dry and dust with 1 tablespoon of Dukkah plus salt and pepper. Pan fry the chicken in two batches, approximately five minutes per side.
  2. Set the seared chicken aside, add the onions, and cook until nicely browned. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of Dukkah and the harissa, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Then add the red wine and use your spoon to scrape the fond (browned tasty bits) from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock, carrots and potatoes. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper as you see fit. Stir in the cabbage, cilantro and chicken. (It’s OK if the liquid doesn’t completely cover the vegetables and chicken.) Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are cooked through but still firm.

Braised Chicken with DukkahThe resulting dish was comforting in the extreme, with a rich broth and warm spices.

The knives were even more satisfying.

Global KnivesThese supremely sexy pieces of cutlery feel light but powerful in the hand and cut through an onion like it’s butter that’s been left on the counter. They may just be the best gift I have ever received.

Guest Post: Boiled (Yes, Boiled) Chicken

Alex and I met during our junior year of college when we were both studying in Jerusalem. Inspired by the local bounty, we were just starting to hone our cooking skills and we delighted in exploring food together. In particular, I recall a dinner party in Alex’s dorm room that centered around a canister of Kraft Grated Parmesan that his parents had smuggled into the country. (What can I say? We were young and it tasted like home.)

When We Were Young

At the end of the semester, we headed back to the States to finish school. Alex returned to Northern California and I to Upstate New York, but we kept in touch. I would visit him in Berkeley, where we would host lavish (by broke twenty something standards) dinner parties and tool around the Marin Hills. Alex would come to New York City for long walks and down and dirty Chinese food. For a few glorious years, Alex moved to Brooklyn, but the Bay Area called him back for a PhD in Urban Planning.

After a stint in Paris, Alex recently began working as a Lecturer in Geography at Leeds University. Somewhere in the eighteen years since we first met, it seems that we became adults. Fretting over the health of his students, Alex asked whether he might contribute a post or two. The recipes that he offers below are as suitable for starving college students in England as they are for an overworked New Yorker who finds herself suddenly pushing 40.

The Boiled-Chicken Method – Courtesy of Dr. Alex Schafran

Now that the Drunken Fig is required reading for my first year tutees (the Jewish grandmother in me worries that they aren’t eating well), it seems time to contribute some of my favorite tricks for brilliant eating on the simple. This is a super technique for the harried life, very friendly for finicky children/housemates/lovers. It also makes multiple meals at once or a classy two-course.
  1. Remove your hard-as-a-rock frozen chicken parts from freezer. Works with all types of frozen bits–light, dark and turkey too.
  2. Place in decent size pot – big enough that you can cover with water thoroughly and boil the hell out of it. I like to add a little salt at this stage, and sometimes a of bay leaf or some oregano, depending on what I am doing with it (see below).
  3. Boil. Yes, get over your fear of boiled meat and just do it. As it begins to soften up, you can start inserting a sharp knife to make the process quicker, but don’t cut it up too much. This should take about 30 minutes for deeply frozen breasts, longer if they are frozen together into an Übermass of poultry. (If you want to poke at your chicken, press down on it with a spatula rather than cutting into it. If it gives in easily, chances are it is cooked.)
  4. When your chicken is fully cooked, turn off the heat, and use tongs to remove the chicken pieces. Place them on a wooden cutting board or something that can take the heat. 
  5. When the chicken is cool enough to work with, take a fork in one hand and the tongs in another. Hold the chicken bits with the tongs, and press down and to one side with the fork to shred the chicken. The longer you cook it, the easier it will shred. But the meat will also be a little drier and less flavorful. This takes a bit of getting used to, but you will get the hang of it.
  6. Place your shredded chicken in a bowl. Now you have two awesome ingredients: a ton of shredded chicken and some fresh chicken broth.

So what do I do with my poultry bonanza?

  1. Tacos now, soup later option: Mix some olive oil, a touch of salt and pepper, plenty of oregano and a bit of chili powder into the chicken. You can do garlic instead of chili, or both if you like. Heat up tortillas, sprinkle on some cheese (or not, if you want to be traditional), a touch of cilantro and onions and voilà. Freeze broth.
  2. Dinner tonight, tomorrow’s dinner cooking while you eat: Use the chicken how you will. (Last night it was with garlic spinach over brown basmati rice.) Before you sit down, chop up a bunch of veggies. If you can stand waiting a bit for dinner, a light sauté is generally recommended for the veggies, but it’s not essential. Let the soup simmer while you eat. By the time you are finished, the soup will be ready for pureeing – if that is your way of doing things. Now tomorrow’s dinner is done, save for the hard-crusted bread.
  3. Soup and chicken together option: Take a can of black beans, and purée it in the chicken broth with some garlic, a touch of cumin and some oregano. Serve with heaping amounts of chicken, a dollop of sour cream for sluttiness and a touch of cilantro, unless you hate it. Works with other beans and pretty much any leftover veggies you have.
  4. The simple two-course option: Shredded chicken takes almost any sauce and any cuisine well. I have done Japanese style over noodles and then added a touch of miso into the broth for a new take on miso soup. Sautéed vegetables and chicken over couscous with a vegetable soup is also excellent. Quinoa and chicken with a broccoli soup. Ad nauseam.
  5. The top class Mexican meal: Since this method is inspired by Mexican and Salvadoran cuisine, they get the top class version: Chicken enchiladas with a roasted corn and tomato soup. Actually pretty easy, especially if you cheat and buy enchilada sauce.

After admitting that I have yet to get over this past weekend’s head cold, I came home early today with comfort food on the brain. Alex’s recipes had been sitting in my email inbox for a couple of weeks and there was a three-pound chicken in my freezer. It took about five minutes to get to this stage. (I added onions, garlic, some wilted carrots and a couple of bay leaves.)

Boiling ChickenAn hour later (though, in hindsight, 45 minutes would have been sufficient), I was shredding the meat. I threw the bones and skin back in to simmer while I did some work. After another half hour, I strained the broth, put it back on the heat, and added turnips, shredded collard greens, carrots, dried porcini mushrooms, pearled barley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Half an hour later, I mixed in some of the shredded meat and dinner was served.

Thanks, Alex, for taking care of me across the many miles.

Chicken Barley Soup

Leftover Chicken Tikka Salad

After a three and a half hour drive in bumper to bumper traffic followed by a rainy walk home laden with bags, I was in no mood to cook last Thursday. Apparently I was not the only one seeking the comforts of delivery. My chana masala and chicken tikka took well over an hour to arrive. On Saturday I ate the leftover chickpeas, with a liberal helping of goat milk yogurt, for breakfast. By 4:00 I was hungry again. Luckily, I still had a few hunks of chicken and some mango chutney left, along with plenty of fresh vegetables.

Leftover Chicken Tikka Salad

Combine 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon of mango chutney, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, some black pepper, and 4 thinly sliced scallions. Let the dressing sit while you prep the salad. Wash and dry a small head of romaine and slice into ribbons. Peel and slice one very large cucumber. Slice your leftover chicken. Combine all of the ingredients along with any crispy onion bits left in the takeout container in a bowl, tossing to combine.

Chicken Tikka Salad

This hit the same pleasure center as a curried chicken salad sandwich. And the dressing held up well against what were arguably some rather toothsome lettuce leaves. All around a great use of leftovers.

EAT THIS: Leftover BBQ Chicken Salad

Leftover BBQ Chicken SaladSaturday night was an unexpectedly festive one–so much so that I was still recovering by the time I met a friend for dinner on Monday. I found my comfort in some barbecued chicken. Hungry as I was, I still took home a quarter of what must have been a very hefty bird. The leg went to my new feline companion and the breast appeared the next night on a bed of romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, and a homemade ranch dressing–which is a whole different thing from the gelatinous stuff served alongside lackluster crudité.

A Day in the Life of a Food Studies Grad Student

My first year in the Master’s Program in Food Studies at NYU is barreling to a close. Holding down a full-time job–one where I am expected to be both physically and mentally present–while taking two courses is rough. And it gets worse at the end of the semester. This past weekend I swore off social engagements and locked myself in my apartment in a desperate bid to make some headway on the first of my two research papers. When the fog lifted on Monday morning, I had some rather impressive spreadsheets, maps, and charts. I also had a lot of leftovers.

It is a common misconception that Food Studies involves cooking. While most of my classmates love cooking and many hold culinary degrees and/or have made a living working in kitchens, Food Studies is an academic discipline and most of our time is spent slogging through old cookbooks, historical documents, scholarly journals, and online databases.

In my experience, this disjuncture gives rise to a unique form of procrastination. Allow me to present A Day in the Life of a Food Studies Grad Student (as Told through the Medium of Food)…

Saturday, 6:00pm – Having dutifully stayed home on Friday night in order to research the geography and history of New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, and recognizing the importance of quality food to keeping my energy and my spirits up, I allowed myself a foray to the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket earlier in the day. This meant there were Cayuga Pure Organics cannellini to rinse, sort, and soak.

Cannellini

I also bought a chicken and some andouille from Flying Pigs Farms. The sausage went into the freezer for some future use and the bird got rubbed down with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence. I would soon make short work of the leeks, kale, rosemary, chives, and apples that I toted home.

Saturday, 8:00pm – My eyes were starting to go in and out of focus as I struggled through a spreadsheet detailing census data. Assuming it was some combination of fatigue and hunger, I decided it was time for a break. While the oven preheated, I cracked open a beer and set to work making a stuffing of kale, leeks, lemons, fresh rosemary, and toasted almonds. (Shout out to my dear friend Louis for the almond inspiration.)

Leek, Kale, Almond and Lemon Stuffing

Saturday, 8:30pm – It had been several hours since my lunchtime salad and the beer had gone straight to my head. There was a light rapping at my door. A neighbor who had spent the day on a silent meditation hike and knew that I was grounded for the weekend wordlessly handed me a very full glass of red wine. That is the only excuse I can come up with for this compromising photo of my beautiful stuffed heritage chicken.

Stuffed Chicken

Saturday, sometime after 10:00pm – I am not sure what I did while the chicken roasted (save for ponder whether my oven temperature was accurate), but at some point the bird was finally, mercifully done. Even better, my makeshift roasting rack had proven a success. I hacked off a leg, scooped out some stuffing, and went to town.

Roasted Chicken

Sunday, 9:30am – After a leisurely hour sipping a latte and catching up on the gossip blogs, it was time to get back to work. Well, first it was time for an omelette made with whatever bits and ends were in the fridge. In this case, it was red onion, red pepper, and feta accompanied by a slice of toasted whole wheat sourdough and arugula and (past their prime) grape seed tomatoes dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Omelette

Sunday, 10:00am – Just one more task before I got to work. I needed to get some vegetable stock going for those cannellini beans. In went the tops from the previous night’s leeks, a large onion, some garlic, a carrot, a few desultory celery stalks, some dried shiitake mushrooms, the grape seed tomatoes that hadn’t made the cut for breakfast, and some whole black peppercorns.

Vegetable Stock

Sunday, 12:00pm – Having put in a couple of solid hours researching mentions of New Orleans and the Bywater in The New York Times, my vegetable stock had achieved a rich caramel hue. I strained it into a bowl, pressing on the solids to squeeze out any additional broth. I was about to discard the dregs when I remembered the chicken carcass I had drunkenly picked before bed. The bones and the leftover vegetables went back into the pot with whatever was left in the fridge – another onion, some garlic, and a bit more celery. This all simmered for a couple of hours before being strained and placed in the fridge.

A couple of days later (tonight, in fact, when I happened to remember it while rooting for the leftover roast chicken), I pulled the bowl of stock out of the fridge. I skimmed off the fat that had congealed on top and added it to the jelly jar labeled “schmaltz” that occupies a place of honor in the freezer. I then spooned the stock into ice cube trays, which I will transfer to a plastic freezer bag once they are set. (If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out my tips for making stock.) The warm color and the Jell-o consistency tell me that this is going to be good stuff.

Chicken Jell-o

Sunday, 2:30pm – Time to get the cannellini going. I very loosely followed an online recipe that someone had adapted from Sara Forte’s The Sprouted Kitchen, a book I had not previously encountered. (If this recipe is any indication, I’d say it’s worth giving a look.) From what I can recall, my alterations included adding a whole lemon sliced into thin pieces, the rind from a hunk of hard cheese (the ham hock of the vegetarian world), some fresh rosemary, and the aforementioned homemade vegetable stock. It’s safe to assume I took some other liberties.Stewed CannelliniSunday, 3:30pm – Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between distractedness and hunger. Better safe than sorry, so I cut up an apple, added a spoonful of peanut butter, and got back to the books.

Peanut Butter, Apple and Books

Sunday, 4:00pm – OK, it really was hunger. Next up: peanut butter and raisins. This is one of my all-time favorite snacks, which I picked up from a friend of my parents who lived with us when I was somewhere under the age of four. He and I were the morning people in the household. (I grew out of it.) One of my earliest memories is hanging out in the icy cold kitchen of our farmhouse taking turns scooping spoonfuls of peanut butter and raisins while my parents slumbered upstairs. (Our roommate preferred to add the raisins to–and eat straight from–the jar.)

Peanut Butter and Raisins

Sunday, 5:30pm – I had an early dinner party with neighbors scheduled, so I scooped about half the beans into a bowl left over from my short-lived ceramics hobby. I mashed them up, folded in shredded parmesan cheese and chives, dusted a bit more cheese on the top, and popped it under the broiler. While the cheese browned, I toasted slices of the whole wheat sourdough in a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil. I garnished the dip with additional chives and headed downstairs for some much-needed human contact.

Leek and Cannellini Dip