Saturday, February 28, 2009


After seeing the bags of clams at various places around town and decided to buy some. They are delicious, tasty as the sea, and are the perfect way to start a meal (as an app), or to be your entire meal.

Here is what the internet told us to do to them: Get your clams out and turn on the cold water. Rinse them thoroughly and toss any that are cracked or open. Be careful not to toss them around as they may crack and it will be your fault you have one fewer clam.

Then take your medium saucepan, in our case, of the 3 qt variety. Add 2 tbsp butter and saute you up some garlic. Add pepper. Probably aren't going to need salt as your chosen protein came from the effing ocean. After the garlic is good and sauteed, add about 1.5 cup white wine. Let that warm up for a couple of minutes.

Next, you carefully place a layer of bivalves down in the bottom of the pan. While it is fine if the clams touch, you cannot stack them. Cover this mess with your lid. Back to the no-stacking rule: You may need to do 2 batches, so when batch one is done, put it in a bowl and cover w/a kitchen towel. How do I know if they are done, you might be asking. Clams remind me of popcorn: they will pop open. They are done when that happens. Sometimes, you have a straggler, so pull out his friends when the majority have popped and let slowy-mcslowerson pop on his own. If he doesn't pop after a few minutes, toss him and start batch two.

After all the clams have opened, you have a delicious broth in the bottom of the pan that, if you have chosen your clams properly, will taste like the ocean. You will want this in a bowl on your table for frequent tasting. I eat it like a soup.

One nice pairing with clams is bruschetta. Obviously, you will want the wine you didn't use in the broth, but of course, you may need an extra bottle. Quite frankly, we have found it pretty damn nice just eating a ton of clams. To each his own, I suppose.

In any event, try some clams. Pleasant surprises await!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Leftover Chicken! Whatever will we do?

One of us got a nice chicken/asparagus lunch yesterday. The other enjoyed a sandwich, so that there would be enough chicken leftover for dinner last night. How, might you ask, would one stretch a chicken breast and a wing into a meal (or two meals) for two? Add vegetables, rice, and chicken stock and turn that into Risotto.

To make a delicious risotto, you need a few things:
2 Cups Arborio, or other short grained rice
1 finely diced onion
3 Zucchini/Yellow Squash -- diced
5-7 dried Shitake mushrooms (you could use Porcini if you're rich)
2 quarts of chicken stock, or a combination of chicken stock and wine/water
your leftover chicken parts
seasonings complementary to said leftover chicken parts

Yep, you could cut this recipe in half, but, then you wouldn't have any leftovers...

First, get a big pot -- taller is better than wider. I like a nice stockpot. Last night I used my chef's pan, and, well, there was too much surface area and it took more time/liquid than it should have. Tall and narrow is the way to go. If you do this right, you can make the whole meal and only dirty two pots.

Sauté your zucchini/squash in butter/olive oil and season with complementary seasonings. I used some garlic and onion powder, celery salt, some soy and sesame oil. Once softened, and beginning to brown. Remove this to a bowl and set aside.

Add a little more butter/oil and begin to sweat your onion in the same pot. A little salt on the onion will go a long way toward the sweating process.

Meanwhile, get another saucepan on the stove and add a good portion of your chicken stock to it. I warmed up a quart and a half at first. Add your dried mushrooms to this and bring it to a simmer with the lid on. When the mushrooms have softened (10 minutes) remove them from the cooking liquid, stem them and dice them.

Back to the onions, when they become translucent, add all two cups of rice to the pan and sauté the rice with the onions. By the time the onions start to color, the sides of the rice should be beginning to become translucent. This is a good thing.

Turn the heat to low and add enough of the simmering broth to just barely cover the rice. Let the rice absorb all the liquid, stirring the rice occasionally (like every minute or two). When the first dose of liquid is absorbed, repeat the above process. As you start to consume your broth, add more to your pot of simmering broth. Last night, I used two quarts, but, you could probably do this with less -- go ahead and heat the whole amount just in case. Please note it should take approximately 45 minutes to use up all your broth. By the time that happens, you should have a creamy, thick delicious risotto. But wait, it's just rice and stock.

I hope, while the rice was busy absorbing all that tasty liquid, you were dicing up your leftover chicken. As the rice absorbs the last little bit of stock, add the chicken, mushrooms and reserved zucchini/squash. This would be an ideal time to check the seasoning. I added salt, pepper and garlic to my risotto. Oh, and a little parmesan cheese. I know, parm isn't the most complementary flavor to Chinese 5 Spice chicken, but, it adds creaminess and saltiness.

Serve with a side salad, and some crusty bread. (Starch on Starch! My favorite!)


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Surprise! I cooked Chicken!

Yeah, I know, I eat a lot of chicken. It's good though, especially when you grill one whole, on the bone.

This isn't so much a recipe post, as it is a technique post -- A technique I learned from Mr. Alton Brown. Yeah, I'll include a rub recipe, just for you.

Since I didn't take any pictures of the process, the good folks over at the San Francisco Chronicle will provide those. How to Spatchcock a Chicken I will give you the step by step instructions though.

Step 1. Cut a hole in the box.
Step 2. Put your... wait, wrong instructional

Ok, for real this time
Step one. Place your chicken on the cutting board breast side down, and cut (using a knife or better yet, kitchen shears) down one side of the backbone.
Step two. Cut down the other side of the backbone. You should know have your shears in one hand, and a chicken backbone in the other -- save this bone for the next time you make stock.
Step three. Use your paring knife to cut the membrane over/around the breast bone (from the inside -- you should have easy access to this, as it's directly opposite the now removed backbone)
Step four. Place both hands on the chicken's shoulders and flex him, similar to the way you'd open a book and stretch the spine. You should hear an audible pop.
Step five. Lever the breastbone (keel bone) out of the chicken. You're now done.

Not only does this method allow for quicker cooking, it makes it real easy to get some good flavors under that skin. Now that your bird is more flexible, you should be able to go under the skin at the former neck hole and spread your rub all around.

I grilled my bird last night, and decreased my cooking time even further by placing two foiled bricks on the bird. Started skin side down, finished skin side up. About 25 minutes per side over LOW heat -- your grill in the 350-375 range. I'm not telling you your bird will be done in 50 minutes -- your bird is done when it reaches the right temperature, which took 50 minutes for me last night.

Last night's bird was rubbed with a Chinese 5-spice blend, and served with some grilled asparagus.

5 Spice Rub
1 tsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Kosher salt
black pepper to taste
enough toasted sesame oil to turn the above mix into a paste -- 1/2 to 1 tsp

Rubbed that all over the bird, both under and on the skin and prepared as directed above.

The asparagus got a bath in sesame oil, black vinegar, a little soy and salt and pepper. It hit the grill about 10 minutes before the bird was done.

Tonight, what to do with the leftovers (other than have them for lunch) the next day.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

First Chinese BBQ -- a review

I think we've established that I'm a big fan of all food. And, occasionally, I get on kicks where I'll crave a certain food, or genre of food for days or weeks on end. Lately that has been all things Chinese/Asian. So, I began doing research on Chinese cuisine close to my abode. Something a little better and more authentic than the take out places around the corner though.

It's well known that there is a mini-Chinatown in Dallas. Richardson, actually. Well, maybe it's not that well known, but, I knew about it, and have tried a couple of restaurants in the area and liked them. Jeng Chi is one of the few places to get Xiao Long Bao in the Dallas area. This place is great. And super cheap too. Check it out next time you're in the mood for soup dumplings, and your happen to be in Richardson near Greenville and Beltline. Most all of the Asian restaurants in that area have been given rave reviews by the folks over at Chowhound.

So, yeah, there's great Chinese in Richardson. But, Richardson isn't exactly close to the house, so I consulted the good folks at guidelive and chowhound for a recommendation. Enter First Chinese BBQ in Carrollton. Not the fanciest place, with its Beltline/Josey strip mall location, but from what I gather, super tasty food.

Joy and I went Monday night for some good Chinese-American foods. Yes. That's all I have to say. We split an order of Hot and Sour soup with pork, and an order of BBQ Pork with soft noodles. The hot and sour soup was some of the best I've ever had, but, more importantly, the pork within said soup was super tender, not the least bit chewy. The BBQ Pork was just right. Bright red and crispy on the outside edges, succulent and tender on the inside. Trust that I'll be figuring out how to make this stuff in the not to distant future. Oh yeah, and the whole meal (which, if I weren't such a glutton, would have made at least a lunch for one of us as well as the dinner) was $14.

We'll be going back to this place in the future, to try more of the incredibly extensive menu options. For those more adventurous types, they do include such options as "Duck Feet in Black Bean Sauce". While I can't guarantee that I'll be trying that one, I'm sure that you'll hear more about the place in the future.

First Chinese BBQ