Peruvian Baked Chicken

Peruvian Baked Chicken

More properly, this could be called Peruvian-inspired Baked Chicken; not being a Peruvian and without access to native ingredients, this is a rough approximation that I prepared for myself and friends (4-5 servings).  My closest Peruvian friend was out of town, so the authenticity remains untested. :)

A second inspiration for this dish is my love the taste of habanero pepper, in spite of its sometimes overwhelming heat.

This recipe uses two very hot peppers; in fact, these two are the hottest peppers that I know to be used regularly in cooking recipes (100,000-350,000 scoville units). I chose one habanero and one scotch bonnet, a related and similarly hot pepper.

Habanero and Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Be extremely careful when handling these peppers, once cut; if mishandled, you may find yourself in pain for hours. If you start to feel the tingling heat in your fingers from touching the pepper, you can dip your fingers in milk to sooth them, and/or use a toothbrush to clean them if you get the oils under your fingernails. Some people like to wear latex (or similar) gloves, however, I manage to handle these by just being careful to only touch the waxy outside of the pepper, and use only utensils to touch the insides when cutting, seeding, removing the veins and, mincing.

For this dish you could either use one whole chicken, cut up, or 4 leg quarters, as shown here.
The first step (a day or two in advance) is to prepare a marinade and to marinate the chicken (e.g., in a large, strong Zip Loc bag) for 8 to 40 hours.

Marinade ingredients:

  • olive oil (3 T.)
  • mint leaves (1/3 cup)
  • smoked paprika (2 t.)
  • cumin powder (1 T.)
  • garlic (6 large cloves, minced)
  • scotch bonnet pepper (1, seeded and veins removed, minced)
  • habanero pepper (1, seeded and veins removed, minced)
  • salt (1 T.)
  • ground pepper (1 T.)
  • brown sugar (1 T.)
  • crushed dried oregano with buds (2 t.)
  • fresh lime juice (1/4 cup)
  • lime zest ( 2 t.)

Combine marinade ingredients and thoroughly blend in blender or food processor.

Use a spoon or bowl scraper to apply the marinade to the chicken.  Loosen, but do not remove, the skin, and be sure to put the marinade both between the chicken meat and the skin in addition to on the outside of the skin and pieces.  (If you use less hot pepper, you could certainly apply the marinade by hand.)

To bake the chicken, place it on a broiler pan, with water in the bottom (to keep rendered fat from burning and smoking), and bake for approximately 1 hour at 375°F.  If necessary to crisp the skin, rub or spray chicken with oil and finish under the broiler.

Given that I meant the chicken to be somewhat spicy, while it was baking, I prepared a soothing cream sauce with cilantro, lime and ripe avocado.

Sauce ingredients:

  • sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • mayonnaise (3 T.)
  • milk (~1/3 cup, to desired consistency)
  • cilantro leaves (1/2 cup)
  • balsamic vinegar (1 t.)
  • avocado (1, ripe)
  • juice of fresh limes (~3, to taste)
  • salt (to taste)

Cilantro Lime Avocado Sauce Ingredients

Combine sauce ingredients in a blender and puree.  (Adjust amount of milk to achieve desired consistency.)

Abstract #1: Sauce Ingredients in Blender

Once baked, I cut each leg quarter into 3 pieces: a leg, and two thigh pieces.  Use a chef’s knife or cleaver so that you can cut through the bone.

Peruvian Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

I served the chicken pieces, two per guest, topped with the sauce and accompanied by a Twice Baked Sweet Potato.

Overall, this dish was pretty good and fairly mild or just approaching what many Americans might call “medium” in heat.  Next time I’ll vary the pepper (perhaps adding a bit more) and limit the amount of mint so that it doesn’t dominate the flavor.  I used 1/2 cup of mint leaves (before chopping); the amount (1/3 cup) in the marinade ingredients above is my revised suggestion.

Here are the recipes that I used as bases for this dish:

UPDATE (June, 2015):

I wanted to spice it up even more so this time also added the following to the marinade:

  • An additional habanero pepper (2 total, seeded and finely minced)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • apple cider vinegar and water until desired consistency

This worked well, and still wasn’t too much spice for 8 chicken thighs.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Here’s a delicious side item that I made them to accompany Peruvian Baked Chicken.
It is said that Peru is an incubator of vegetable genetic diversity, with some 8000 varieties of potato alone (although not so many are sold as produce) and the Sweet Potato being one variety found to have been there for thousands of years.

Ingredients (to serve 4):

  • sweet potatoes (4, medium to large, well-shaped)
  • scallions (2, whites minced, greens chopped coarsely for topping)
  • butter (1/2 stick)
  • egg yolk (1)
  • queso fresco (6 oz., crumbled, with some reserved for topping)
  • paprika
  • ground pepper (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)

Wash the potatos and scour, but do not remove skin, except were blemished; also remove and root fragments.

To prepare for baking, poke holes in the potatoes with a fork and place them on a foil on baking sheet or jelly roll pan; the foil will prevent burning and mess from the sugary syrup that may drip from them while baking.

Bake the potatoes until tender, 1 hour or perhaps slightly more at 400°F.

Sweet Potatoes, prepared for baking

Once baked, allow the potatoes to cool somewhat, and carefully cut a slit in the top of each potato and use a spoon to scoop out the potato, being careful not to tear the potato skin.

In a bowl or pot (such that you might prepare mashed potato in), combine potato, butter, egg yolk, most of the queso fresco, pepper, and salt, and mash until smooth and well combined.  (Queso fresco is crumbly by nature, so it will not completely mix in with potato.)

Carefully refill the potato skins with the potato filling.  Top the potatoes with a sprinkle of paprika and a bit of crumbled queso fresco, and return to the oven to melt the cheese, and perhaps just slightly brown the potato tops.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, preparing to return to the oven

Remove from oven and top with scallion greens to serve these sweet and delicious potatoes, perhaps as I did with Peruvian Baked Chicken!

Twice Baked Sweet Potato accompanying Peruvian Baked Chicken

Here’s a similar recipe that I used as a reference (I prefer using queso fresco or feta rather than cream cheese): Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Coconut, Peanut, & Pea Shoot Salad

Coconut, Peanut, and Pea Shoot Salad

Here’s a delicious salad that I arrived at by accident… and, despite having two nuts in its name, it contains no nuts, since coconut is not a proper nut and peanut is a legume or bean!

I was planning to make Tom Kha Talay, but when I opened the can of what I thought was coconut milk, I found that I had bought a can of young coconut meat instead. No problem, right?

If you’ve ever bought a young coconut, often served in China-towns as a coconut water beverage, then you’re probably familiar with the tender, sweet meat that lines the young coconut cavity.  The canned version I bought is the same, but in a sweet sugar-based syrup.

So, what to do?  I still had a pile of pea shoots for a salad to accompany the soup… how about adding the sweet coconut meat to a soup and a salad?

Here are the salad ingredients: pea shoots, mung bean sprouts, sliced young coconut meat, chopped roasted, unsalted peanut, tossed with a modest amount of Trader Joes’ Goddess dressing and a dash of fresh lime juice, and topped with more chopped peanut and lime zest.

As a fairly quick lunch, a number of the ingredients are off-the-shelf from the store.
If you haven’t had Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing, it is an oil and vinegar-based dressing with a delicious flavor dominated by soy, tahini (sesame), and garlic.

Prepared ingredients

For my  lunch, the salad was accompanied by Tom Yum Goong, made from store-bought Tom Yum Paste, homemade fish stock, diced potato, sliced carrot, sliced scallion, chopped green cabbage, quartered baby bella mushroom, chopped fresh cilantro, peeled shrimp (from frozen, raw), and chopped young coconut meat.

Tom Yum Goong with Coconut, Peanut, and Pea Shoot Salad

Next time you’re in an asian grocery, pick up some young coconut, and give this great salad and/or soup a try!

Asian Fish Tacos

I imagine you’re thinking, “Wow, Dave hasn’t made any asian dishes in a while…”
Not true.

Well, following my visit to no less than four grocery stores today, I am prepared to soon embark on new culinarily adventures, so I’m using up some of these fresh ingredients.

Asian Fish Tacos

I absolutely love fish tacos, thus made up these asian-fused-with-Tex-Mex fish tacos for lunch.
Typically fish tacos consist of three components atop corn tortillas: fish, a cabbage slaw, and a sauce.

For one serving (3 tacos), I first prepared a slaw from the following ingredients (approximately equal parts of the first 3 vegetables):

  • napa cabbage (3 leaves, green separated from white – see photos below, greens finely sliced/shredded)
  • carrot (1 medium, julienned)
  • bean sprouts (a small handful)
  • scallion greens
  • garlic (1 clove, minced)
  • rice vinegar (~2 T.)
  • hoisin sauce (~2 t.)
  • sesame oil (just a splash)
  • toasted sesame seeds or chopped toasted pine nuts (I used the latter)
  • lime zest (~1 t.)

Dissolve the hoisin sauce in the rice vinegar and toss with the rest of the slaw ingredients and let sit until needed.

For the sauce, simply mix equal parts of mayonnaise and chili garlic sauce.

I used about 2 t. each, per serving (i.e., 3 tacos) and taste-tested it… I think I decided to add half again as much chili sauce.  OK, that’s easy!

Chili Garlic Mayonnaise

For the fish, I chose a tilapia fillet (from frozen, thawed in water), and poached it in a salmon-and-vegetable-based fish stock along with a couple teaspoons of soy sauce.  Here, I had just separated some pieces to test for doneness (i.e., if it will flake apart.)  Concurrently, I warmed corn tortillas in a skillet, and then wrapped them in a towel; this keeps them from getting wet underneath, e.g., if set on a plate when they’re very warm.

Poaching tilapia in fish stock

Warming tortillas

Lastly, I assembled the tacos, topped with a dab more of chili garlic sauce and, as you can see, placed “points” of the white portion of a napa cabbage leaf under each taco.  While intended for presentation, this worked out nicely to support the taco in hand; otherwise, one often must resorts to using two tortillas per taco so that they don’t break when the moist ingredients are placed on top.

Napa cabbage "point."

These tacos were easy and delicious.  They’d probably be nice with mu shu pancakes or flour tortillas as well.

Egg Foo Young

Egg Foo Young

Here’s a simple Chinese classic for breakfast, or anytime, and a welcome alternative to an omelet or the same old scrambled egg.

Egg foo young always reminds me of my father, long passed-away.
When I was a child, my parents weren’t adventurous with food, but once in a while we’d get take-out Chinese food and I recall them always getting a box with egg foo young in gravy.  My dad didn’t believe in delivery, so it was always a treat to ride with him to pick up the food.  (This was probably also a welcome respite for my mom waiting at home.)  My dad had developed a rapport with the restaurant owner, and they would joke and laugh.  This often resulted in something extra for free and I was intrigued by their friendship and tiny bit of human color and cultural diversity in the midst of our whiter-than-white part of the midwest.

Anyway, I never order egg foo young when I’m eating out now, so it’s possible that I haven’t had it in decades – until this afternoon.

For this dish I made two servings of the following ingredients: eggs (4, beaten, with a touch of salt and pepper), whole bean sprouts, finely chopped scallion, chopped baby bella mushroom, and finely shredded napa cabbage.

Mix those ingredients in a bowl, measure out a half cup per patty, and poor slowly into a generous amount of hot canola oil, between 1/8″ and 1/4″ deep, in a fry pan over medium-high heat.  Immediately use a fork to pull the egg at the edges toward the center, so that the patty doesn’t spread too thin.  Cook perhaps 2 minutes, then carefully flip the patty over and cook the other side likewise, until the egg and ingredients are cooked in the center.  Remove patties and drain on paper towels.  I made 2 patties at a time, for a total of 4 patties.

Meanwhile, prepare a sauce or gravy in a separate pan;  combine a stock (1/2 cup, e.g., from water and chicken bouillon granules), brown sugar (1 t.), soy sauce (~1 T.) hoisin sauce (~1 T.).   Heat this mixture, stirring to dissolve ingredients, then add corn starch slurry; to thicken sauce, heat just to a boil while stirring then remove from heat.

I served each patty atop a bed of pea shoots, then topped it with sauce and scallion greens.

Leftovers?  No problem – make a St. Paul Sandwich!

Here are some recipes I consulted:

Sesame Shrimp with Bean Thread Noodle

Sesame Shrimp with Bean Thread Noodle

Here’s a delicious stir-fried noodle dish with shrimp, inspired by similar dishes at a local Thai restaurant.

Ingredients (for 2):

  • bean thread noodle (2 servings prepared, i.e., soaked in warm water or lightly boiled)
  • raw shrimp, peeled and tails removed (from frozen, perhaps 8 per serving for 18-24 count-sized shrimp)
  • baby bella mushroom, quartered (perhaps 6 mushrooms)
  • bean sprouts  (~1 cup)
  • scallion (one per serving, white portion: finely chopped, greens: large diagonal pieces)
  • minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • canola oil (~1 T.)
  • sesame oil
  • toasted sesame seed (~ 1 T.)

For sauce:

  • fish sauce (~2 T.)
  • oyster sauce (~1 1/2 T.)
  • lemon juice (~1 1/2 T.)
  • honey (~1 t.)
  • chili garlic sauce (~1/2 t.)
  • water (add to prepare ~1/2 cup sauce in total, stir to dissolve honey)

In a pan on medium-high heat, begin stir-frying shrimp in oil, then add white scallion and garlic, and then mushroom.  When shrimp are nearly cooked (perhaps 2-3 minutes), add 1/2 of the sauce (or earlier to prevent garlic from browning), stir, and add bean thread noodles and stir.  Add remaining sauce, bean sprouts and scallion greens.  Stir thoroughly and remove from heat when bean sprouts are only slightly tender but not limp.  Sprinkle sparingly with sesame oil and top with sesame seed.

Plate and garnish with a spoonful of chili garlic sauce and fresh pea shoots!

Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp

Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp

Tonight I celebrated our ridiculously early spring with these tasty fresh spring rolls for friends!

This is another common restaurant treat that can be easily reproduced in your own kitchen.

The rolls were prepared in moistened rice paper (e.g., 22cm diameter, see video below for wrapping demonstration) with the following ingredients: napa cabbage greens, bean thread noodle (prepared in advance and cooled), cucumber (peeled, seed portion removed, and cut into roll-length spears), pea shoots (yay, pea shoots!), julienne carrot, scallion greens, and shrimp (from frozen, sautéed with a bit of garlic salt, then cooled).

The rolls were served topped with pea shoots, chopped peanut, and accompanied by a sauce of water, palm sugar (dissolved in the water over low heat), fish sauce, fresh lime juice, fresh minced garlic, and a chili garlic sauce to taste.

I served these rolls (one per person) as an appetizer accompanying Rice Stick Noodle and Beef Sauté, however, this time I used more ginger, added strips of red onion, skipped the scrambled egg, and used palm sugar rather than honey.

If you were to do make completely vegetarian rolls, I’d suggest replacing the shrimp with shelled edamame.

Here are the recipes I consulted for ingredient and preparation ideas:
Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls
Fresh Spring Rolls With Thai Dipping Sauce
How to make Asian Spring Rolls (video)
Matchstick Carrots (video)

Shrimp & Mushroom Fried Rice

Shrimp & Mushroom Fried Rice

Ingredients (to serve 2), in order of use: sesame oil (~2 t.), eggs (2), canola oil, (~2 T.),  scallion (2 large, white portion finely sliced, greens separated), sliced garlic (2 cloves), green bell pepper (1/4 pepper, coarsely diced), carrot (1, sliced), green cabbage (1/4 small head, thinly sliced/shredded), fresh black mushrooms (~6, sliced), sticky rice (2 servings, leftover), ground black pepper, soy sauce (~2 T.), fish sauce (1 t.), rice vinegar (1-2 t.), honey (~1 t., disolved in sauce and vinegar), shrimp (for two servings, e.g., eight 31-40 count), scallion greens (coarsely sliced).

Scramble the egg first, in sesame oil, remove it and return near the end.

Stir fry these ingredients (e.g., in a 12 in. cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat, added in the order above, adding the next ingredients as the prior cook to the desired tenderness, e.g., bell pepper and carrot at same time, musrooms and cabbage at same time.

With leftover sticy rice, return it to approximately room temperature (microwaving is fine), wet hands with water and break it up in a bowl, and sprinkle it with black pepper, prior to adding to the strir fry.

For the shrimp (thawed in water, from frozen), chop or leave them whole (as shown here), peeled but left with the tails intact for color.  To cook, place shrimp under the fried rice in contact with the pan, turning shrimp to cook evenly, and remove fried rice from heat when the shrimp is just cooked through after just a few minutes.

Pasta with Salmon & Cabbage


Pasta with Salmon & Cabbage

Here’s an easy and healthy pasta dish!

Ingredients: 1/3 pound pasta (dry), canola oil and rice vinegar (equal parts, 2-3 T. each), 1/4 medium head of green cabbage (shredded), 1 1/2 t. fennel seeds, ~1/2 pound boneless salmon pieces (fresh), salt and black pepper, splash of Pastis or some other anise-flavored liquor (optional).

I used Mrs. Miller’s brand Old Fashioned Extra Wide Homemade Noodles and fresh salmon pieces painstakingly trimmed from fin and bone pieces ($1.49/lb.) that I bought to (simultaneously) make fish stock for soup.

Prepare the pasta as directed.  When the pasta has perhaps 5 minutes left, lightly sauté cabbage in vinegar and oil (and Pastis) in pan over medium high heat, i.e., tender but not completely limp.  Add fennel and stir in raw salmon so it cooks slightly.  Add black pepper and salt; mix in drained hot pasta, stir lightly and remove from heat when salmon is cooked to your liking.  I served this topped this with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of dried dill.

Adapted from this recipe: Salmon Fettuccine Cabbage

Chipotle Steak Tacos

Chipotle Steak Tacos

Tonight’s late-night dinner was these awesome tacos!

I started with choice Black Angus stew meat (1.25 pounds for $5), sliced against the grain and trimmed of fat and sinew.  I marinated the slices for 8 hours in a mix of olive oil, cumin powder, garlic powder, crushed mexican oregano (with buds), thyme, coarse black pepper, salt, and Worcestershire sauce.

Blackened Jalapenos

Next, I blackened/smoked some fresh jalapeno peppers (that were a little past their prime, but I didn’t want to discard) over the burner on a gas stove.

While sautéing the marinated beef slices (in the marinade) with a mexican hot sauce (Valentina brand Salsa Picante) added, I warmed some corn tortillas in a pan.

The tacos were assembled on the tortillas and topped with fire-roasted tomato (Hunt’s, canned), sour cream, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, black beans, and slices of the jalapeno peppers.