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chicken

book review, recipe

All Grown Up + Grown-Up Ramen

There was a time before my blog, and before I became obsessed with Goodreads, that I kept track of what I read with a Google spreadsheet. It was pretty simple – title, author, notes, date finished and a Y/N column for whether or not I’d recommend it. That spreadsheet is my only memory of the last time I read a Jami Attenberg novel and my succinct reaction was “the ending was predictable; I cared about exactly zero of the characters.” Four years later, with her novel All Grown Up, I found myself having deja vu.

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Andrea is a thirty-nine-year-old single woman without children. She wanted to be an artist, but instead finds herself in an unfulfilling career so she can pay the rent. In New York City, that’s not remarkably unusual. What is remarkably unusual about Andrea is that she refuses to grow up, and the people around her think that’s perfectly alright.  

I didn’t find it predictable, though perhaps I should have – a 40-year-old woman who still acts like someone fresh out of college can’t be expected to grow up at that late stage – but I didn’t care about any of the characters. In the end, I found Andrea’s life and the novel on the whole quite sad, but on the plus side, Attenberg’s writing was lovely and made the less than 200 pages easy to get through.

In a transformation like the one I hoped Andrea would have, I turned a college classic into something a bit more put-together, a posh NYC favorite – Grown-up Ramen Noodles. I found a recipe from Fork Knife Swoon to go off of and set to work.  

To start, I began cooking a chicken breast seasoned with salt and pepper in a skillet with olive oil. Once the rounded side was browned – about 7 minutes – I flipped it over and cooked the other side for another 5 minutes or so. I transferred it to a small foil-lined baking sheet and placed it in my preheated 375-degree oven to finish cooking.

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While the chicken was cooking, I began my broth and set the water for my eggs to boil. In a medium saucepan, I heated some toasted sesame oil before adding minced garlic and ginger. I allowed those to cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Then, I added the soy sauce and rice cooking wine, stirring to combine. After another minute, I added the chicken broth, covered the pan and brought it all to a boil.

Once boiling, I turned down the heat and allowed it to simmer for 5 minutes. I added the dried mushrooms and let the broth continue to simmer. Meanwhile, I removed the chicken from the oven and set it aside. I also added the two eggs to the separate pan of boiling water and set a timer for 7 minutes.

I used this time to prep my scallions and seaweed, and once the chicken had rested, I cut it into slices.

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After 10 minutes, I removed the mushrooms and placed them in the waiting bowls. (If I had sliced them, I would’ve done so here. If I was making this again, I would slice the mushrooms into more bite-size pieces, as noted in the recipe below.) I also placed the eggs into an ice bath so they could cool before peeling.

I added the dried ramen noodles into the prepared ramen broth, discarding the flavoring packets that come with the noodles. (College memories!) You could cook the noodles in plain boiling water instead, but I have always preferred to make them in the broth/flavoring to impart some of that flavor on the noodles.

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Once the noodles are ready, carefully place them in each bowl and top with the broth. Carefully peel each egg, slice in half and place in the bowls on top of the noodles and mushrooms. Add the sliced chicken, scallions and seaweed. Serve and enjoy!

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Grown-Up Chicken Ramen

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to season
  • 1 TBS unsalted butter, or olive oil
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 tsp fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 TBS low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 TBS rice cooking wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • ½ – 1 oz dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup scallions, sliced
  • 2 (3 oz) packs dried ramen noodles
  • optional: roasted seaweed snacks, in ribbons, for serving

Directions

  1. Cook the chicken: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Melt the butter (or heat olive oil) in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken breast, round side down, and cook until golden brown and it releases easily from the pan, about 5-7 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until golden.
  2. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. (If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you may transfer the chicken to a small baking sheet lined with foil.) Remove from the oven, transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with foil until ready to serve.

  3. Make the ramen broth: Heat the sesame oil in a large pot over medium heat, until shimmering. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the soy sauce and rice wine, and stir to combine. Cook for another minute. Add the stock, cover, and bring to boil. Remove the lid, and let simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, then add the dried mushrooms. Simmer gently for another 10 minutes, and season with salt, to taste.
  4. Otherwise, take the mushrooms out of the broth using tongs, and carefully, slice them into thick bite-size slices on a cutting board. (For particularly large mushrooms, you may cut them in half before slicing.) Place in bowls for serving.

  5. Make the soft-boiled eggs: Fill a pot with enough water to cover the eggs, and bring to a boil. Gently lower the eggs (still cold from the fridge) into the boiling water, and let simmer for 7 minutes (for a slightly-runny yoke) or 8 minutes (for a soft, but set-up yoke).
  6. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. When the timer finishes, transfer the eggs to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Wait at least 5 minutes, or until cool enough to handle, then carefully peel away the shell and slice in half, lengthwise. Set aside until ready to serve.

  7. Assemble the ramen bowls: Meanwhile, chop the scallions and slice the seaweed snacks into ribbons (if using). Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Set aside. When the eggs are in the ice bath, add the ramen noodles to the broth. Cook for approximately 3 minutes, until soft, then divide the noodles into two large bowls, next to the mushrooms. Add the ramen broth, dividing evenly. Top each bowl with half of the sliced chicken breast, a soft boiled egg each, fresh scallions and the seaweed. Serve immediately.

Adapted from: Fork Knife Swoon

To save some time, or if you’re making this on a warm day like I was, substitute pre-made rotisserie chicken.


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book review, recipe

The Boston Girl + Fried Rice

Anita Diamant’s novel The Boston Girl had been on my to-read list for a while and when it finally got selected for one of my book clubs, I was excited. I didn’t know much about it beyond the description; it was about a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston with her immigrant family.

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Though this had quite a different story to tell, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the lovely Lillian Boxfish (which I had just finished a few weeks before). Both stories follow strong females making their own way in big cities during a time when most women were supposed to be making families instead. This one is also narrated by an 85-year-old woman, this time Addie, as she tells her granddaughter how she got to be the woman she is today.

Our book club’s consensus was that the story was “so light” but as we dove in, we realized it actually wasn’t. Perhaps it was the narration style or the benefit of knowing it all turned out okay (after all, Addie was here telling us what happened so long ago), but Diamant tackles quite a few tough issues and Addie certainly has her share of hardships throughout the novel.

Despite the fact that she ate “pie for breakfast every day [one] summer,” food isn’t a key player in the story. It does make an appearance in the few dinner dates that Addie shares with us, and on one such evening she is introduced to Chinese food for the first time. In the retelling, she asks her granddaughter, “Did you know there was a time before all Jews loved Chinese food?” I had recently read an article around Christmas that tackled this very question, which I had found quite interesting. Chinese food has since become so interwoven with Jewish culture and there is such joy in the experience that Addie describes, I knew what I had to make.

I found an unintimidating recipe for fried rice and got to work. (After actually making it, however, I don’t know why I was ever intimidated – it’s quite easy.) I began by prepping all of my vegetables. I finely diced my onions and carrots and chopped my chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I was using leftover white rice, so thankfully that was already set to go. I put my egg into a small bowl, added 3 drops each of soy sauce and sesame oil and beat it until well-combined.

I let one tablespoon of oil heat up in my wok, then added the chopped onion. Once they were cooked through and starting to turn light brown, I removed them and set aside.

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With another small amount of oil heated in the wok, I added the mixture of egg, soy sauce and sesame oil. Once it was cooked, I transferred it to a cutting board and chopped it up.

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Again, I heated another tablespoon of oil and added the chicken, carrots, peas and cooked onion. (I would recommend adding the carrots in a few minutes earlier – perhaps even up to 5 minutes before the rest of the ingredients – to ensure that it gets cooked well enough to be a bit soft. My carrots ended up slightly crunchy, on the underdone side; my only complaint about the dish.)

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Once the chicken was mostly cooked, about 3 or 4 minutes, I added the rice and green onions (I didn’t use bean sprouts this time) and cooked for another 2 to 3 minutes. I was a little wary of undercooked chicken, which is why I cooked each stage a little longer than recommended in the recipe. Cook as long as feels/looks right to you, making sure to note that it will keep cooking throughout the process.

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For the last step, I added 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (plus a little extra) and the chopped egg, allowing the entire mixture to cook through for another minute and a half. The finished dish was quite tasty, one I would definitely make – and not be intimidated by! – again.

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Chinese Fried Rice

  • Servings: 4, 1 cup each
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From: Sue Lau on Food.com

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2½ tablespoons oil
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (or more eggs if you like)
  • 3 drops soy sauce
  • 3 drops sesame oil
  • 8 ounces cooked lean boneless pork or 8 ounces chicken, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrot (very small)
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 4 cups cold cooked rice, grains separated (preferably medium grain)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (add more if you like)

Directions

  1. Heat 1 TBS oil in wok; add chopped onions and stir-fry until onions turn a nice brown color, about 8-10 minutes; remove from wok.
  2. Allow wok to cool slightly.
  3. Mix egg with 3 drops of soy and 3 drops of sesame oil; set aside.
  4. Add 1/2 TBS oil to wok, swirling to coat surfaces; add egg mixture; working quickly, swirl egg until egg sets against wok; when egg puffs, flip egg and cook other side briefly; remove from wok, and chop into small pieces.
  5. Heat 1 TBS oil in wok; add selected meat to wok, along with carrots, peas, and cooked onion; stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  6. Add rice, green onions, and bean sprouts, tossing to mix well; stir-fry for 3 minutes.
  7. Add 2 TBS of light soy sauce and chopped egg to rice mixture and fold in; stir-fry for 1 minute more; serve.
  8. Set out additional soy sauce on the table, if desired.

book review, recipe

One Thousand White Women + Cornish Hens

When given the choice to remain in an eternity of solitary monotony or to move into the dangerous unknown to marry a “savage” stranger, what would you do? Having been committed to an asylum for her promiscuity, May Dodd is seemingly stuck without recourse. When President Grant agrees to provide a Cheyenne chief with 1000 white brides in a peace deal, May doesn’t hesitate to join the ranks.

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In his novel based on a proposed scenario in history, Jim Fergus explores what would’ve happened if President Grant had made a different choice. One Thousand White Women follows May Dodd and her fellow brides – nearly all of them some kind of outcast in society – as they head west on a long journey by train, each of them promised to a member of the Cheyenne tribe.  

Told primarily through the journals May Dodd kept, the experience is unlike what anyone expected – Cheyennes and brides alike. All of the women are thoroughly changed in the end. May, a rich society girl turned working class mother turned asylum inmate, marries the chief of her tribe. She is looked to as much for her bravery as for her knowledge on how to please a man. Like her husband Little Wolf, she becomes a leader among the other women.

While still trying to find her footing in the beginning, her husband takes her on a so-called honeymoon to a remote part of the prairie. Unable to communicate effectively, May does her best to get her points across and makes herself useful by cooking meals for herself and Little Wolf, using his kill of the day. For one such meal, May finds some wild onions and herbs and uses them to stuff some grouse the Chief has caught.

In an attempt to recreate that meal, I got some Cornish hens (a modern-day city substitute) and, using other more ingredient-heavy recipes like this one as a guide, put together something a bit simpler that I hoped better aligned with what May might have made. I served them with simply roasted carrots (salt, pepper and oil) and corn.     

I was only able to find frozen Cornish hens at my grocery stores, so if that’s the case for you as well, make sure they’re thoroughly thawed. Then, I trimmed off some excess skin, removed anything left in the cavity, rinsed them off and patted them dry. Next I stuffed each hen with half of an onion, chopped into 3 large chunks, and 2 garlic cloves.

I rubbed the outside of them with some olive oil (you could also use melted butter) and covered then generously in fresh chopped sage and tarragon. I placed them on a foil-covered baking sheet and placed them in a 375-degree preheated oven for an hour.

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Once I checked the temperature to ensure they were cooked through, I removed them from the oven, loosely covered with foil and allowed them to rest for 10 minutes. They tasted just as good as they smelled!

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Cornish Hens

  • Servings: 2
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Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish hens
  • 1 sprig of tarragon, leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs of sage, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, halved and cut into 3 smaller pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • olive oil or melted butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Ensure your hens are fully thawed. Remove any access skin, particularly around the opening, and anything that may be in the open cavity. Rinse them with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.
  3. Stuff each hen with a half of the onion and 2 garlic cloves.
  4. Rub each hen with olive oil and cover with the fresh herbs, making sure to cover both sides of each hen.
  5. Place seasoned and stuffed hens on a foil lined baking sheet with edges, breast side up.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer shows the hens are cooked to 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh or breast.
  7. Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with vegetables.

book review, recipe

Behold the Dreamers + Chicken Suya

Jende and Neni Jonga have come to New York City (Harlem) from Cameroon to achieve the American Dream. After struggling to make ends meet for a few years in the States, Jende secures a meeting with Clark Edwards, a high-level executive at Lehman Brothers. In 2007, this seems like another step closer to Jende’s dream.

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In Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue examines the American Dream from both sides – the Jengas’ desperate pursuit of it serves as a stark contrast to the Edwards’ comfortable lifestyle and achievements. Jende is overjoyed at the opportunity to chauffeur the entire Edwards family around the city so that Neni can complete pharmacy school and take care of their son.

In the driver’s seat, Jende is privy to many of Clark’s important conversations in the car but never lets the sensitive information slip. Even when tensions arise between the Jongas and the Edwards, Jende remains ever-loyal, not wanting to upset the careful balance that is keeping him in America. Mbue’s novel is a reminder that even those comfortably at the top should never get too comfortable, and sometimes it’s important to take a step back to determine what will truly make you happy.

Even though Jende and Neni are all too happy to be in the U.S., their kitchen table is filled with foods that remind them of home. One of the first meals we see Jende eat in the novel is African pepper chicken. I found a recipe online for Chicken Suya, commonly found in Cameroon, served with an African Pepper Sauce. Neni also serves fried ripe plantains throughout the novel, so I added those to the menu. Together, I thought it would make the perfect meal to accompany their story.

I started with the sauce and tried to remain unintimidated by the number of hot peppers it required. After cleaning and chopping them, I also roughly chopped the onions and tomatoes. Everything went into the food processor.

It came together pretty easily (as most blended sauces do), and while it simmered on the stovetop, I began prepping the chicken. I trimmed and cut the chicken thighs, dividing the pieces onto the skewers.

For the rub, I combined all of the spices, peanut butter and bouillon, working it into a paste of sorts. It ended up being extremely thick – to the point that it was nearly impossible to “brush” on the chicken as directed. I thinned it out a bit with water and ended up forcefully painting it onto the chicken with a rubber scraper.

It’s up to you, but it might be worthwhile to thin it out a bit more (either with oil or water) so that you can cover your chicken more thoroughly – mine ended up rather blotchy.

While the chicken baked, I let my oil get up to temperature for the plantains. The sauce was done by this time, so I removed it from the heat, allowing it to cool off a bit before we ate.

For the fried ripe plantains, I tried to find as a ripe a plantain as I could at the store. Thinking it would be similar to peeling a banana, I ended up having a difficult time. I would’ve benefitted from a handy guide, like this one. (Hopefully your peeling experience will be much easier than mine!) Once the pesky peel was off, I sliced it on the diagonal into large oblong coins.

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Frying them proved to be much easier than peeling them, thanks in part to my adventures in frying the johnnycakes the week before.

After a few minutes, they were a nice golden brown. I scooped them out onto a paper towel and sprinkled with salt. They proved to be not only a nice complement to the seasoning of the chicken and the spiciness of the sauce but a break from the heat as well!

I was happy to be able to make a dish that paired so well with such an enjoyable book, but truth be told, this wasn’t something I would make again. Not one for super spicy foods anyway, I could only use about a tablespoon of the pepper sauce over two skewers of chicken. My boyfriend (who loves spicy food) thought the sauce went well alongside the chicken but probably not something he’d eat without it. And, heads up, the recipe makes a decent amount of sauce – at least 4 cups.      

Chicken Suya with African Pepper Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
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From: African Bites [Annotations from me]

Ingredients

    Suya Chicken

  • 3 pounds skinless chicken thigh
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter or groundnut paste
  • ½ – 1 tablespoon cayenne (depending on heat preference)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 – 8 wooden skewers
  • African Pepper Sauce

  • 10 peppers (habenero or scotch bonnet)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoon bouillon powder [I used chicken]
  • 2 basil leaves [I used 1 teaspoon dried basil]
  • 2 tablespoon parsley [I used 2 teaspoons dried parsley]
  • 1 – 3 roma tomatoes (adjust for spiciness)
  • ½ – 1 cup vegetable oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, onions, and discard stems of the peppers. Put the tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, parsley, basil, bouillon in the food processor along with as much oil as desired. [I used ½ cup, which seemed to be enough for my sauce.]
  2. Pour the pepper mixture into a small sauce pan bring to a boil and slowly simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burns. Add salt and adjust as needed.
  3. While the sauce is simmering, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Soak the skewers for at least 20 minutes totally submerged in water before using it to prevent burns.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, white pepper, cayenne pepper, peanut butter and bouillon. [Mine formed a pretty thick paste, making it difficult to brush/spread on the chicken. I would suggest adding some water or oil as needed to thin it out a bit.]
  5. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. You want to have a completely dry chicken before cooking. Trim and slice the chicken into thin slices or bite size cuts (suggest cutting on a diagonal).
  6. Lightly spray or oil baking sheet or roasting pan to prevent the suya from sticking to the pan. [I covered mine with foil to make cleanup easier.]
  7. Thread the chicken onto the skewers (about 4 per skewer), making sure the skewer is fully covered with slices of chicken.
  8. Brush the chicken skewer with spice mixture on both sides. Place skewers on the sprayed/oiled roasting pan or baking sheet.
  9. Drizzle with oil and bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through baking until chicken is fully cooked through. Towards the last 3 minutes of baking, switch to broil to get a nice crisp brown on the outside.
  10. When the pepper sauce is finished, let it cool. Pour in a mason jar or a container with a lid and store in a fridge for about a week. In order for your pepper sauce to last longer, make sure it is fully covered in oil.
  11. Serve chicken suya warm with a side of African pepper sauce [and fried plantains, if desired].