RSS

Tag Archives: tomatoes

Simplified Chicken Cassoulet


(serves 2)
Cassoulet is a hearty meal-in-one dish of poultry, pork and beans in a tomato sauce from Languedoc, in the south of France. This is my simplified method for making a Cassoulet using everyday ingredients like chicken legs and baked beans. It’s not exactly the same as what you’d find in Toulouse but I think you’ll find its a close enough imitation as long as you’re not French. More importantly my recipe only takes 1 hour to prepare and cook instead of a whole day if you were to do it ‘properly’.       
 

Ingredients

  1. Chicken Leg with Thigh (2)
  2. Pork Sausages (2)
  3. Pancetta (100g)
  4. Onion (1/2)
  5. Shallot (4)
  6. White Wine (1/2 cup)
  7. Baked Beans (1 can, small)
  8. Oxo Beef Cube (1)
  9. Tarragon
  10. Thyme
  11. Coriander Seed Powder

Preparation 

  1. Peel the shallots but keep them whole. The half onion should be cut into 3 wedges.
  2. Trim (and retain) any excess skin and visible fat from the chicken. Season the chicken legs with a dusting of pepper, but no salt.
  3. Fry 100g of diced pancetta in a pan on low heat with 1T oil (goose fat if you have any) together with the chicken trimmings and the two pork sausages.
  4. When the fat from the pancetta begins to render, add the shallots and onions to the pan. Move the contents of the pan around to prevent them from getting burnt until the onion breaks up into soft pieces.
  5. Pour everything from the pan into a casserole. The Casserole should be tall enough to prevent boiling over. Drain the oil back into the pan and turn up the heat.
  6. When the pan is hot, brown the chicken in it. The chicken shouldn’t be in the pan so long that it gets cooked completely.
  7. Place the browned chicken in the casserole as well and arrange all the contents snugly as shown. Sprinkle some black pepper over everything.
  8. Preheat your oven to 180oC (350oF).
  9. Melt 1 Oxo Beef cube in 3/4 cup of hot water and use this stock to deglaze the pan. Turn on the heat again and add 1/2 cup of white wine and the can of baked beans. While the mixture is being brought to a boil, add 1T Tarragon, 1T thyme, 1t coriander seed powder.
  10. After the sauce has been boiling for half a minute, pour it into the casserole. Place the casserole in the oven for 25 minutes, uncovered. The cooking time may vary slightly, you’ll know its time when enough of the liquid has evaporated and the chicken is partially exposed.
  11. You may serve your cassoulet immediately but it can also be put aside and reheated later, it will taste just as good. It is traditional to serve the whole casserole (as per below), with the individual plating done at the table. The dish has a lot of sauce, so it goes well with baguette or some other kind of bread.

Notes

  • If you haven’t cooked an authentic cassoulet before, here is a summary: Cassoulet is usually served with Duck Leg Confit instead of chicken and this is to be roasted separately. You’ll also need Toulouse Sausages which are hard to find, plus you also have to soak beans ahead of time and cook them for a really long time to get them soft. Other typical cassoulet ingredients that I left out include tomatoes, celery, carrots and laminated pork.
  • The nice thing about canned baked beans is they come pressure-cooked and their sauce has the same effect as the gelatin you would normally get from cooking pork skin in the Cassoulet for a long time. Baked beans are thus the secret to the greatly reduced cooking time.
  • Speaking of pork skin, if you’d like you could try adding pieces of smoked ham hock if you so desire; treat them the same as the sausages.
  •  Some recipes sprinkle breadcrumbs on the cassoulet to form a crust, but I don’t belong to the crust camp.     
  • You can use a pot or pan instead of glass or ceramic ware as long as they come with an all metal handle. Be warned – if you use an oversized sized container the liquid level will be too low to cover the chicken initially and it will get burnt. A solution is to bake the casserole covered and then again uncovered at the end. 
Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , ,

Japanese Rice Paella in a Frying Pan


(serves 4)
Paella is a culinary gift from the Valencia region of Spain to the rest of the world. In this version we have a combination of meats from land, sea and air, simmered to perfection with saffron-infused rice in the pan.  Not that many people cook Paella because they believe it requires a special variety of rice from Spain and a special cast iron Paella pan. It does not, everybody can cook a reasonably authentic Spanish Paella even if they are not from Spain. My recipe uses Japanese Rice, the ideal substitute rice for Paella.       
 

IngredientsPaella

  1. Prawns (4 large)
  2. Chicken Leg with Thigh (1)
  3. Black Mussels (8)
  4. Smoked Pancetta (80g)
  5. Spicy Chorizo Sausage (80g)
  6. Onion (1)
  7. Tomatoes (1)
  8. Raw Japanese Rice (1 cup)
  9. Lemon (2 wedges)
  10. Saffron Threads
  11. Garlic
  12. Parsley
  13. Paprika
  14. Oregano

Cooking paella is a bit more tricky than other rice dishes and the proportions need to be just right. For this recipe you’ll need a large frying pan that is 11 inches in diameter (top) and 2 inches deep. It can be a slightly bigger but definitely no smaller.

Preparation

  1. Debone the chicken leg and cut the meat into bite sized chunks. Cut the heads off your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Shell and devein the prawn bodies and slice lengthwise down the middle to bisect each prawn.
  2. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot. Add the chicken bones and prawn heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
  3. In the meanwhile marinate the chicken and prawn meat in a mixture of 2T oil, 1t oregano, 1t chopped parsley, 1t paprika and flat 0.5t of salt.
  4. Julienne the onion into small bits, press enough garlic to get roughly  1T of minced garlic and dice 1 tomato. Furthermore cut the Chorizo into thin slices and the pancetta into small pieces.
  5. Soak and agitate the mussels in some cold water. Strain, then clean and de-beard the mussels.
  6. Drizzle some oil onto your frying pan. Stir fry the chorizo and pancetta on low heat until the fat has been rendered from the meat. Set aside 4 slices of Chorizo and put the remaining slices of Chorizo into the simmering stock pot.
  7. Add the onion to the pan. Continue stir frying on low heat until they begin to brown. Next add one cup of Japanese rice and continue to stir fry for a minute more to coat the rice grains. Stop at this stage until you are almost ready to serve the Paella.
  8. Pour the stock through a strainer into the pan. Add the garlic, tomatoes and the mussels together with 1t paprika, 1t oregano, 1t of saffron threads, 0.5t sugar and the juice from 2 lemon wedges . Top off with enough hot water to bring the water level halfway to the top and bring to a low simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 35 min for the rice to be done.
  9. Arrange the prawns, chicken and the 4 reserved slices of Chorizo in a casserole (or baking tray) and place in a preheated oven. Grill till the prawns twirl up. Remove from the oven and spoon the drippings onto the cooking rice evenly. Mix gently. Return the casserole dish to the oven (now turned off) to keep your meat warm.
  10. When the pan begins to dry, check the rice for texture and decide if you need to add additional hot water – drizzle only a little each time. Too much water will result in mushy paella. Once you are satisfied that the rice is properly fluffed up and at its maximum size, turn up the heat a bit, arrange the meat on the rice.
  11. When there is no more liquid visible and the ‘socarrat’ or crust has formed at the bottom of the pan, turn off the fire and allow the paella to rest for a few minutes on the stove and then serve your paella in the pan itself.

Notes

  • The ideal rice for Paella is a short-grained Spanish variety like Bomba, but those are not easy to buy outside of Europe. Many tend to use Italian Arborio as a substitute because it also happens to be short grained but that is entirely the wrong type of rice to use. Rice meant for risotto cannot absorb too much water without becoming mushy because of its high amylopectin content which is why risotto is eaten wet and al dente. Paella must be cooked until it is dry outside but fully hydrated inside which is what makes Japanese rice ideal in this case.
  • A personal secret ingredient when I cook my paella is cod liver oil. I usually add some diced smoked cod liver and use some of the oil that comes in the tin instead of olive oil. This adds tons of rich seafood flavour.
  • You can also use mussels that were pre-cooked in brine and frozen but pour away the brine. It is very easy for Paella to get overly salty. Sometimes I use clams instead of mussels.
  • Try not to disturb the rice too much. These rice grains are delicate and you don’t want to break them; you can move the rice around a bit as the pan begins to dry to keep the part over the fire from sticking but you definitely do not want to keep stirring continuously like you are cooking a risotto.
  • You will notice I boiled some of the Chorizo in the stock. In my opinion this is the best way to extract its flavour to the rice. Do not add the boiled Chorizo back to the rice, only the Chorizo that was grilled with the chicken can be used as a topping.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Japanese, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Insalata Caprese


(serves 4)
Insalata Caprese, literally translated as salad of Capri, comes from the region of Campania in Italy. It’s a tasty salad of tomatoes and mozzarella, suitable as a starter and is also typically found as part of an Italian antipasto buffet.  This paticular version comes with a twist, it uses a reduced balsamic vinegar, sort of like a vinegar syrup, to enhance the natural sweetness of the tomatoes.  

Ingredients

  1. Soft Mozzarella (300g)
  2. Tomatoes (4)
  3. Balsamic Vinegar (1/2 cup)
  4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1/4 cup)
  5. Honey 
  6. Thyme 
  7. Fennel Seeds 
  8. Arugula (optional)

Preparation

  1. As with all raw dishes, quality of the ingredients is extremely important. Make sure you get the right type of soft mozzarella, not the variety you use for pizza. The tomatoes should also be fresh and crisp. Don’t substitute any other kind of inferior vinegar or olive oil.
  2. This dish is best served cold, so refrigerate the tomatoes and cheese until the last minute.
  3. You’ll need to make the vinegar syrup ahead of time. In a small sauce pan, put a 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, together with 1t thyme, 1t fennel seeds, 2t honey on a slow simmer. Simmer with the occasional stir until you have reduced the vinegar to a third of its original volume, about ten minutes. You’ll need good ventilation as some vinegar will boil off.  While still hot, filter through a fine tea strainer to remove the herbs.
  4. Next cut the mozzarella into tomato sized slices each 1/3 to 1/2 an inch thick.  As the cheese is soft and slightly sticky, use a sawing motion with a teethed knife that has been pre-dipped in olive oil or best results.
  5. The tomatoes should be sliced likewise. Cut parallel to the tomato’s ‘equator’, i.e. don’t cut from top to bottom.
  6. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil with 1/2t of salt and 1/2 t of black pepper. If you have coarse steak salt, use that. 
  7. Arrange your tomato and mozzarella slices on your plates (and perhaps some arugula if you fancy having accompanying greens) and spoon on about 1.5T of the seasoned olive oil per serving. You can use single stacks as shown in the photo, or arrange them alternately like fallen dominoes. Finish off with a light drizzle of the vinegar syrup.

Notes

  • If you are not familiar with the ‘fresh’ kind of mozzarella, refer to my Cheese Page for more information.  
  • Some reduced vinear recipes call for low non-boiling heat for hours to prevent burning the vinegar. The secret is to use a small pan (like those for frying single eggs) such that depth of liquid is still maintained even when it is reduced.     
  • If you don’t have fennel seeds, you can try any kind of tuber derived spice. The thyme can also be substituted with other types of chopped herbs. 
  • In more traditional settings, Insalata Caprese is served with whole basil leaves, which conveniently allow the colours of the salad to match those of the Italian flag. In more contemporary restaurants, arugula is used nowadays.
  •  

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 26, 2010 in Appetizers, Italian, Salad

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: