My favorite quarantine recipes Part II

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Easter (birthday) chocolate cake with cream-cheese frosting

Still in isolation. Still hungry. Still cooking up a storm!

While I do love collecting and perfecting new recipes, it does push some of my old “go-to faves” further and further into the background. But every now and then I make it a point to scroll back and re-discover some of them. It’s a bit like re-connecting with an old school friend on Facebook. You reminisce, you catch up, you wonder why you lost touch…and then you move on to the next new shiny thing. Here are a few new and old hits that made last week especially delicious.

 

SUNDAY

If you love meatballs and middle-eastern flavors, this recipe for Kofta is an absolute knock-out. Aromatic, nutty, spicy and the bed of lemon-flavored tahini is pure sublimity.

KOFTA MEATBALLS

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Kofta

INGREDIENTS

For the Kofta:

  • 1 lb minced lamb
  • 1 lb minced veal or beef
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves crushed
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts roughly chopped plus extra whole ones to garnish
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsely plus extra to garnish
  • 1 large medium-hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tspn ground allspice
  • 3/4 tspn grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tspn ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tspn salt
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp melted ghee

For the Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup light tahini paste
  • 3 Tblspn lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 medium garlic clove crushed
  • Sweet paprika to garnish

DIRECTIONS

Put all the kofta ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with your hands. Shape into long torpedo-like fingers. Arrange on a tray and chill until ready to cook for up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (400 degrees with convection). In a medium bowl whisk together tahini paste, lemon juice, water, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt. The sauce should be a bit runnier than honey. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of extra water if needed.

Heat sunflower oil in a large frying pan and sear the kofta over high heat. Do this in batches so they aren’t cramped together. Sear until golden brown on all sides – about 6 minutes for each batch.
At this point they should be medium-rare. Lift out of the pan and arrange on a cookie sheet. Finish cooking in the oven on the tray for 5 minutes. Drizzle with melted ghee once you remove them from the oven.
Spoon 3/4 of the tahini sauce on a serving plate and arrange the kofta on top. Drizzle the remaining tahini over the kofta in long, thin streaks.
Garnish with pine nuts, parsely and paprika. Serve immediately.
Serve with pita and cucumber and tomato salad.

 

MONDAY

For me, eating shrimp is like eating jewelry. And the one thing that shrimp tends to be paired up with most often is garlic. The Portuguese do it a lot. So do the Spanish, and the Italians, and the Greeks and even the Cubans. But here is a Mexican shrimp dish that uses 26 cloves of garlic that get salted, roasted and caramelized with smoked Chipotle peppers.

MEXICO CITY SHRIMP WITH CHIPOTLE MOJO

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Mexico City Shrimp with Chipotle Mojo

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 heads of garlic (about 26 cloves) peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeded and minced, plus 2 tsp adobo sauce
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp—shelled and deveined
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Grated Mexican cheese
  • Avocado slices
  • Soft shell tortillas

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325°. In a small ceramic baking dish, combine the crushed garlic and olive oil with a pinch of salt. Put the dish on a cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until the garlic is tender and just starting to brown. Stir in the lime juice and bake for about 15 minutes more, until the garlic is golden and very soft. Let the mixture cool slightly.

Using a fork, mash the garlic against the side of the dish and stir to incorporate the oil; the sauce may look like it has separated. Add the chipotle and adobo, season with salt and keep warm.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the garlicky oil from the mojo until shimmering. Add half of the shrimp and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a platter. Repeat with 2 more tablespoons of the garlicky oil and the remaining shrimp. Top the shrimp with more garlic and serve with the excess garlic, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, grated Mexican cheese, sliced avocados and warmed tortillas all on the side.

 

TUESDAY

Just because you can’t go outside shouldn’t mean that you have to divorce yourself from anything barbecued. This pulled chicken slider is a yummy, smoky, vinegary, tomatoey (slightly messy) work of genius that brings the outside inside.

BARBECUE CHICKEN SLIDERS

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Barbecued Chicken Sliders

INGREDIENTS

For the Sauce

  • 1 ½ cups ketchup
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

For the Chicken

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke (separated)
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, halved crosswise
  • Hot sauce

DIRECTIONS

FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.

FOR THE CHICKEN: Bring broth, molasses, sugar, 2 teaspoons liquid smoke, gelatin, and 1 teaspoon salt to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add chicken and return to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is easily shredded with fork, about 30 minutes.

Transfer chicken to medium bowl and set aside. Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl (do not wash pot). Let liquid settle for 5 minutes; skim fat from surface. Set aside fat and defatted liquid.

Shred into bite-size pieces with 2 forks. Transfer chicken, 1 cup sauce, ½ cup reserved defatted liquid, 3 tablespoons reserved fat, and remaining 1 teaspoon liquid smoke to now-empty pot. Cook mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until liquid has been absorbed and exterior of meat appears dry, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Serve, passing remaining sauce.

Serve the pulled chicken on white bread or hamburger buns with pickles and coleslaw.

 

WEDNESDAY

If it isn’t obvious yet, I tend to lean towards more flavor-forward dishes. I can’t even spell suttel!? For me, the spicier the better – even on vegetarian night. This crispy potato dish is a relative newbie that rose to “keeper” status after just one bite.

CRISPY POTATOES WITH SPICY AVOCADO SALSA

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Crispy potatoes with spicy Avocado salsa

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/3 cup cold water, plus more as needed
  • 1 medium serrano chile, stemmed, seeded (if desired), and roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 small avocado, pitted
  • 1/2 cup pickled hot jalapeño slices (such as Mezzetta) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons pickling liquid
  • 2 ounces Cotija cheese, grated on smallest holes of a box grater (about 1/2 cup)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss together potatoes, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1 teaspoon salt on a rimmed baking sheet, and spread in a single layer. Bake in preheated oven until fork-tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven.

Increase oven temperature to 500°F. Using the bottom of a 1-cup dry measuring cup, smash potatoes to about 1/2-inch thickness. (Make sure smashed potatoes are still in a single layer.) Drizzle with 3 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Bake at 500°F until bottoms of potatoes are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Flip potatoes, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake until edges of potatoes are crispy and golden, 8 to 12 minutes.

While potatoes bake, process onion, 1/3 cup water, serrano, 3 tablespoons cilantro, lime juice, and remaining 11/4 teaspoons salt in a blender until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add avocado, and process until smooth, about 10 seconds. If needed, pulse in additional cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to reach a thick but pourable consistency.

Transfer warm potatoes to a large bowl; add pickled jalapeño slices and pickling liquid, Cotija, and 1/2 cup cilantro; toss to coat. Spoon avocado salsa into 4 small bowls; top evenly with potato mixture, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro. Serve immediately.

 

FRIDAY

Nothing can take your mind off of a virus like a good, strong, creamy and umami curry and rice. Even though there are a few extra steps to this restaurant-quality Chicken Tikka Masala, they are so worth it. Come on. You can do it.

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA

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Chicken Tikka Masala

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (separated)
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 cup yogurt (plain, whole-milk)
  • 2 pounds chicken breast, cut into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 5 tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 can coconut milk (separated)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Sambals: sliced bananas, peanuts, toasted coconut, cashews, chutney, atchar

DIRECTIONS

Combine the turmeric, garam masala, coriander, cumin, salt and red chile powder to make a spice blend; divide the blend in half. Combine half of the spice blend with 4 minced cloves of garlic, ginger, yogurt and chicken; mix together by hand in a mixing bowl. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag and marinate for at least 6 hours (overnight preferred).

Warm the ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic, another minute. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, cardamom pods, white pepper and the other half of the spice blend. Stir to combine, then reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer until dark and thick, about 40 minutes.

While the sauce is darkening, prepare the chicken. Skewer the chicken pieces and grill over direct high heat until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side, flipping once. Alternatively, broil in the oven, about 6 to 8 minutes per side. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the skewers and set aside.

Once the sauce is dark, transfer to a blender and add 1 cup of the coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Return to the skillet, straining through a mesh strainer to catch the cardamom shells and tomato skins. Stir in the rest if the coconut milk; return to a simmer and cook until slightly darkened, about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.

Stir in the cilantro and chicken pieces and allow to simmer for another minute before serving.
Serve with Basmati rice and as many sambals as you like on the side.

 

ANY DAY

If the first sign of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, then why, oh why do we eat store-bought Lemon curd? If something so pure has a shelf-life longer than a bad mood, then don’t be surprised if all you can taste are the preservatives, stabilizers, thickeners, artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors. I dollop my home-made Lemon curd on just about everything. Toast, yogurt, oatmeal, banana bread, heck I’d even put it on the lid of an Amazon delivery box, if I there was nothing else to eat.

HOME-MADE LEMON CURD

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Lemon curd

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 lb butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar

DIRECTIONS

Melt the butter slowly in a double boiler. Lightly beat the eggs and add to the butter with the lemon juice and zest. Stir slowly but immediately with a whisk to blend the ingredients.
Add the sugar while continuing to stir until well mixed.
Allow to cook slowly and gently for 30 – 45 minutes or until it coats the back of the spoon. (Do not overheat or the eggs will scramble.) Strain the curd into a jug, and pour into warm jars and cover. Refrigerate and use within a month.

 

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay inspired. But above all, stay at home.

Yunnan Kitchen review

Yunnan Kitchen

Yunnan Kitchen

When chefs leave restaurants, the impact to a kitchen is far greater than say when a captain leaves his ship. Ships aren’t really expected to do much more than shlepp passengers (who prefer to travel in hordes, unpack only once and who are quite comfortable with their first impression of a foreign destination being the port) without fuss, plague or delay. Restaurant kitchens on the other hand have hungry, expectant, impatient, picky and frequently critical diners to feed, a reputation to uphold – all while serving countless renditions of the same dish monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, minutely without a single fluctuation. Chefs can’t cut corners. They aren’t allowed to improvise or compromise because they are ultimately the first and last reason any diner recommends, revisits or pans a restaurant. So when Doron Wong took over the leadership from Travis Post at Yunnan Kitchen in the Lower East Side over a year ago, he created a fresh and affordable menu with sharable dishes offering a spectrum of Yunnan province flavors – from aromatic petals to gasket-blowing peppers that are part of the reason there is still a pervasive line outside the door.

 

Ma La Chiciken Wings - Yunnan Kitchen

Ma La Chicken Wings

If New York has flower, theater, diamond and garment districts, then the Lower East Side is the uncontested eclectic food district. Yunnan Kitchen’s rustic space with Clinton-Street-de-rigueur exposed-brick, pressed-steel ceilings and dim lighting is pretty much the final outpost in a row of distinctive and original establishments, where reservations are seldom offered.

Wong has a few signature cocktails that debut many of the spices and aromas that are about to color and define the rest of the evening. The first appearance (of the seemingly abundant) Sichuan peppercorns is added to a sweat-inducing grapefruit, chili, tequila Rita. The next most reached-for ingredient in the house is Chrysanthemum, which becomes the cornerstone for an aromatic, sweet ‘n sour Daiquiri with splashes of citrus and St. Germain.

The broad measuring-tape-sized Spicy Pulled-pork cold noodles, snake around morsels of barbecued pork and cherry tomatoes, which are dressed in chili oil with a more subtle infusion of Chrysanthemum giving them an unexpectedly fragrant – yet spicy perfume.

Mushroom Rice Cakes - Yunnan Kitchen

Mushroom Rice Cakes

Notwithstanding the addition of flecks of ham and the odd chili, the Stir Fried Mushrooms felt a little rubbery to me, with perhaps too much restraint in the flavor department to warrant a position on the very cautiously selected 16-item menu, but the Mushroom Rice Cakes are fabulous. Diagonal slithers of a dense yet remarkably light rice cake, are warmed with the smokiness of fermented chilies in a thick, rich and hearty brown sauce.

Lamb Meatballs Mao Shao - Yunnan Kitchen

Lamb Meatballs Mao Shao

The addition of Yunnan spices to the soft and perfectly juicy Lamb Meatballs Mao Shao is yet another brilliant example of distinctive simplicity.

The all-time favorite Ma La Chicken Wings (with shoulders attached) are an absolute knockout. As you bite through the dry crunch of the ochre skin, waves of warmth begin to envelope your senses from your lips to your nose to your toes, as the unrelenting heat of the Sichuan peppercorns serves up the first punch, followed by a surprising left hook from the Numbing Spices. I managed two rounds before tapping-out.

Ma La Chcolate Crémeaux - Yunnan Kitchen

Ma La Chcolate Crémeaux

The only real disappointment was the Ma La Chocolate Crémeux. The fact that Asian desserts have never found a fan base in the US is nothing new or surprising, but because there was only one lonely option on the menu I felt compelled to give it a try. The doughy train-wreck of a biscuit that tried to commit suicide on uncooked cumin, flanks a scoop of Sichuan pepper-infused Valrhona Chocolate Mousse with curiously sticky marshmallow triangles, feels out-of-character and heavy-handed to have emerged from this kitchen. (Maybe chef Wong can sneak in something simple from one of his neighbors up the street. Just sayin’.)

http://yunnankitchen.com/reservations.htm