Saturday, March 30, 2013

Chicken Tagine

I couldn't wait to use the preserve lemons I  made in the January 20th post and what better way to use them than in a dish from North African.
Now, I am willing to bet that if I ask 100 people how to make chicken tagine, I would get 100 different answers.  This wonderfully aromatic dish is the hallmark of Moroccan cooking.  When most people refer to tagine, they are talking about the dish that can consist of meat, chicken, fish or vegetables.  However, the word "tagine" also refers to the method of preparing, which is slow-cooked inside this cooking vessel. 

You can also make the dish in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven depending on how much you’re preparing.

Like the many people who prepare tagine, I've added my own twist with the addition of green chilies; here is my version. 

Chicken Tagine

1 Chicken skinned and cut into bite size pieces (16th)
1 onion sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper
½ teaspoon thin sliced green chili
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon saffron, toasted and crushed
3 cups chicken stock (approximately)
¾ cups olives
½ preserved lemon peel - julienne
¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley


Place chicken in a medium bowl 
Add 1/2 tablespoon garlic, salt, pepper, chili, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon saffron to chicken and let marinade for at least 1 hour

In a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan heat olive oil
Add onions and allow cooking until soft and golden brown, adding remaining garlic, ginger, cinnamon and saffron

Add marinated chicken
Now add enough chicken stock to cover the chicken
Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, and then lower the flame to a simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is tender

Add olives preserved, lemons, parsley and cilantro

Remove from flame


Sunday, March 24, 2013

General Tsao’s Vegetables

I learned how to make most Chinese take-out sauces from my Asian purveyor Kathy.  Whenever I wanted to make any Asian dish, she always had insight on how it should be done.  What’s more, one of my cooks was Chinese and had worked previously  in Hong Kong resulting in a firm grasp of how to make many Cantonese specialties.  There are many recipes on preparing General Tsao Sauce but I will give you my version based on what I’ve learned.  In an effort to cut back on the fat  often associated with stir fry, I recommend seasoning the vegetables with a small amount of oil, salt and pepper then roasting them in the oven until they are firm to the bight or simply steaming them.  Once your sauce is complete all you have to do is toss the vegetables in the desired amount of sauce.   I needed to clear out my refrigerator so these are the vegetables I used.  You are free to use what ever vegetables you like.

General Tsao’s Sauce


1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/3 cup slices shallots
¼ chopped ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
½ sherry or Chinese rice wine
½ cup sherry vinegar
1 cup hoisin sauce
1 cup oyster sauce
¼ cup mushroom soy
½ cup orange juice
1 cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
¼  cup cornstarch slurry
2 tablespoons sambal
2 teaspoons orange zest


Heat sesame oil in a medium sauce pot; add shallots and ginger; when shallot start to brown add garlic and simmer until garlic starts to brown.
Add vinegar and wine; reduce by half
Add hoisin, oyster, soy sauce, orange juice and water
Simmer for about 15 minutes
Whisk in slurry until sauce reaches desired consistency
Simmer for 5 minutes more
Strain; stir in sambal and zest.
Store in a jar; keep in the refrigerator.  Sauce will keep for at least two weeks

This is what I had in my refrigerator
I added a little tofu seasoned with five spice.  I recommend that you make your own five spice, if you have the time. You will never use the powdered stuff once your try this. Equal part of the five spices--Szechwan pepper corns, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks--toasted and ground
Toss prepared vegetables in the desired amount of sauce 
Gently heat and serve

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cornish Hens with a Coconut Curried Sauce

Today was a day that I would rather forget.  I took part in a competition and completely bombed.  What makes this experience so frustration is that I know that perfect practice makes perfect performance and my practices were never perfect.  I also find it very disconcerting that I clearing am not the cook that I was in my 30's.  Having not worked in the daily grind of a kitchen for a few years’ now- my sense of timing and coordination are clearly lacking.  I've never felt the inconvenience of getting old in my 40’s but this morning as I pulled my burned vegetables out of the oven, I couldn't help but long for, "the good old days" of my younger years when a hand full of practice dry runs would have been more than enough.  Although cooking is the last thing I want to do right now, I thought I’d share a modified version of the dish I attempted.    Cornish Hens with a Coconut Curried Sauce-- you can use chicken if you like; it will work just as well.  Just remember to cook the chicken breast a bit longer.
The way you cut your chicken is purely up to you.  I removed the backs and winglets for stock and cut the meat off the legs and thighs for the braised part of the dish.

This dish aims to please.  The Cornish hen is prepared two ways—roasted and braised.

Cornish Hens with a Coconut Curried     
2 Cornish Hens
2 tablespoons curry paste plus 1 teaspoon
¼ cup light coconut milk plus ½ cup more
1 cup chicken stock
½-teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup peeled pearl onions
1/4 cup red pepper medium diced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
1 stick lemongrass
2 kefir leaves
 1/4 cup cut carrots
1/4 cup cut parsnips
1/4 cup fresh water chestnuts
2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
¼ cup scallions greens

 In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons curry paste and ¼ cup coconut milk for marinade.  Marinade the chicken for at least 4 hours.  For best results let it sit overnight

Preheat a medium saute pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil

Remove breast from marinade and sear on skin side. 
When the skin is brown, flip over and finish cooking it in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the juices run clear.

Season parsnips and water chestnuts with a little olive oil and salt.  Place in a small pan a roast until tender

While the breasts are cooking, heat another skillet add olive oil, onions, garlic, ginger, red pepper, lemongrass, and kefir leaves.

Saute for about 2 minutes then add marinated thigh meat. 

Add chicken stock; bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. 
Simmer for about 20 minutes
Add ½ cup coconut milk, parsnips and water chestnuts; simmer for about five minutes more

Finish with cilantro and scallions
If you roasted the breast whole like I did, cut them down the center once you have removed them from the oven and they have cooled.  

Serve and present as desired. 
I find that I don’t need rice with this because the variety of vegetables are enough.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


For the past month or so, I’ve eaten quinoa every day as either a cereal for breakfast, a salad for lunch or a warm grain for dinner.  Yesterday I went out in search of another grain that would give Quinoa a break.  I am having okra and tomatoes tonight for dinner and I don’t want brown rice or the ubiquitous Mother of Grains.  Growing up my Mom would prepare okra and tomatoes with a piece of smoked pork.  Since I have gotten older and more health conscience, I leave out the pork.    As I walked through the Middle Eastern section of the supermarket, I came across a grain called Freekeh.

Freekeh is a green wheat.  An ancient grain used in the Middle East, it is harvested while still young resulting in a highly nutritious alternative to rice.  Freekeh is high in  protein and fiber which  can make you feel more satiated.  What ’s more, this grain is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin both of which have been positively associated with prevention of age-related macular degeneration. Since freeheh is slightly roasted, it takes on a smoky nutty flavor and the texture similar to bulgur wheat.

It is very easy to prepare and cooks in about 20 minutes.  One of the things I really like about freekeh is that it has great flavor on its own.  I didn’t have to add carrots, celery, onions and herbs the way that I do to many of the other grains I prepare.  I simple added scallions and garnished it with young celery leaves and that nutty smoky flavor really held its own.


1 cup freekeh
1 cups chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
¼ cup chopped scallions
1 teaspoon olive oil
Young celery leaves garnish

In a small pot heat olive oil, add scallion; saute for 1 minute
Add freekeh, chicken stock, bay leaf and salt
Simmer for 20 minutes or until all liquid has evaporated. 
Enjoy this grain as you would a rice. I was having okra and black beans tonight. 

Since the freeheh had a smoky flavor, I didn't miss the smoked pork in the okra. 

The black beans were the perfect addition.  It all came together very nicely.