Friday, July 24, 2009

Supertastic Chicken

The Vegas crew have been gone a few days and I think the dust is finally settling. Good Lord, entertaining 3 kids with very different personalities is exhausting! In addition to the kids, there was Mom, Auntie and my not-so-baby baby brother. They were actually very good guests, always cleaning up after themselves. As an added bonus, Mom and Auntie did all the cooking during their visit. It was like I was the guest in my own home, which I’m not at all complaining about. Problem is, now that they are gone, I can’t seem to find anything in my kitchen and I have to get back into the habit of shopping and cooking. Quite honestly, I'm not in the mood.

As you can imagine, we ate a lot of Thai food, and I hope to share some recipes in the (nearish) future. However, this time, I’m going to share a chicken dish taught to me by my auntie. It’s an Italian-style breaded chicken recipe she learned from her Polish MIL. I realize to most, breaded chicken doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but the beauty is in its simplicity, versatility and supertastic deliciousness. Throw in the fact that I’ve never seen my auntie cook or eat anything besides Thai food, so this was a really nice surprise!

Italian-style breaded chicken (aka chicken parmesan)
Feeds 3 to 4
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • ½ grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1.5 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 to 2 eggs, beaten
  • oil for pan-frying
  • 2 cups of your favorite marinara, warmed
  • a handful of shredded mozzarella (or shredded Parmesan)to top
In a deep plate or pie dish, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan, garlic and onion powders. Mix thoroughly and set aside.

Butterfly the chicken breasts to get 4 pieces. Pound each piece thin (think scaloppini or paillard).

In a large bowl, mix the chicken, eggs and a pinch of salt.

Warm enough oil (about 1 inch or so) in a frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, dredge the chicken pieces in the bread crumb mix, make sure they are coated well and add them to the frying pan. Don’t crowd the frying pan otherwise the chicken will end up extra greasy (NOT yummy!). Flip over once, and when they are done remove to a paper towel or rack above a cook sheet (my preference).

Serve Olive Garden-style (hey, don’t laugh! That was THE Italian restaurant in Vegas until about 1999…no kidding) ladled with warmed marinara and mozzarella sprinkled on top and a big bowl of spaghetti. Or eat it like my Auntie does, sans marinara, with rice and chili dipping sauce. For realz.

Now that you've read so far, you get to see cool pics of the Vegas crew!

Baby brother. I freely admit he got the looks and I got the brains :-)

The Three Stooges, better known as Moody, Tweeny and Whiny (from left to right). Whiny's mine; the other two are his cousins.

Mom and Auntie acting like tourists. Oh, right! They are tourists.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Weekend Wokking Cilantro Round-up (Finally!)

Cilantro. My favorite herb/garnish/breath freshner.

It is without a doubt the best herb on the planet. Think I’m joking? I’m not. And neither are these guys. But rather than go on about how wonderful cilantro is, I’m just going to get to the submissions so you can experience the awesomeness for yourselves.

Aguadito de Pollo (Peruvian Chicken Soup) submitted by Wandering Chopsticks. Most soups are cold-weather food to me, but cilantro adds so much bright, fresh flavor, I bet this soup is perfect even on the warmest days. The vibrant green color even reminds me of warm weather!

Cilantro-coconut milk pasta submitted by Yasmeen of Health Nut. A twist on the typical creamy pasta sauce, using instead coconut milk and a generous dose of cilantro.

Thai prawn toasts with coriander submitted by Erbe in Cucina. This is one of my favorite snacks due to the taste and texture. Nothing beats the flavor of prawns and cilantro in a crispy yet chewy package.

Cilantro Horchata from the [eatingclub]vancouver. Okay, I find this intriguing. Horchata made with a cilantro infused simple syrup. Sounds different enough that I want to try it.

Strawberry cilantro salsa on grilled flank steak also submitted by [eatingclub]vancouver. First the cilantro horchata, now strawberries and cilantro. Is there nothing cilantro doesn’t go with?

Vietnamese Tofu Sandwich submitted by Pink Bites. Like Vietnamese summer rolls, but on a bun with a peanut butter-hoisin-mayo spread, fresh vegetables and a healthy sprinkling of cilantro leaves. Sounds like perfect summer food!

Grilled corn with spicy cilantro butter submitted by TastyCurryLeaf. Speaks for itself; simple but delicious.

Cilantro shrimp Chinese dumplings submitted by Javaholic. These dumplings were made from scratch, including the wrappers! FROM. SCRATCH. And there’s cilantro. Awesomeness.

Garlicky Pork Stir-fry submitted by me. Easy and family-friendly stir-fry flavored with a paste made of cilantro roots, white peppercorns, and garlic in a soy-based sauce.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the cilantro challenge! The next theme ingredient will be cheese! Wonderful, glorious cheese! Any kind of cheese you want! The host will be Yasmeen of Health Nut. Please send submissions to yasmeenhealthnut(at)gmail(dot)com by 11:59 PM, Sunday, August 2nd.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I'm back!

Oh hi! I’m finally back. Seems like I’ve been on one long vacation. First Mexico, then after only a few days home, our neighbors invited us to join them at the beach. As if we’d say no to extending our vacation! So we re-packed our bags (they weren’t really unpacked) and headed to the Oregon Coast for the long Independence Day weekend. I guess it’s not surprising that I’m finding it hard to come out of the vacation stupor. I'm sorry if I've been slow at responding to emails and comments. Suppose I better come to quick, though. Mom and the whole Vegas crew are arriving on Friday. Lord, save me!

I also need to get my butt in gear seeing as how I’m hosting Weekend Wokking and wouldn’t it be just shameful if I didn’t have an entry? (Good thing I’m the host and Wandering Chopsticks is such an understanding gal because the deadline’s already past. The round-up goes up tomorrow or the day after :-) Anyhow, cilantro is the theme ingredient, and luckily for me I’ve got some growing in the garden. Or rather, I had. It bolted while I was away, and there’s not quite enough to take from the younger plants. No problem since I use the roots.

I’m not going to launch into the awesomeness of cilantro roots because I’ve already done that and you can read about it here. I’ll just go straight to the dish, a pork stir-fry flavored with a paste made of garlic, white peppercorns and cilantro roots. Don’t forget the dipping sauce! Enjoy!

Pretty simple, but tastes great! Spruce it up with tomato and cucumber slices and serve with the dipping sauce.

Garlicky Pork Stir-Fry
Serves 3 to 4
  • ½ oz cilantro roots, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp white peppercorns (black is okay too)
  • 1 pound pork, sliced for stir-frying
  • 1 to 2 tbs oyster sauce
  • 1 to 2 tbs light soy sauce (regular is fine too, but use less)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • fish sauce to taste

For the dipping sauce:
  • Juice of 1 juicy lime
  • fish sauce, to taste (about 1 tbs)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • chopped chilies, to taste
  • white sugar, to taste (about 1 to 2 tsp)
Using a mortar, pound the cilantro roots, garlic and peppercorns until you get a uniform paste. You want to make sure to thoroughly break down the cilantro roots because they can be tough and fibrous otherwise. Mix the paste with the pork and allow to marinate for about ½ hour.

Meanwhile make the sauce by combining the oyster sauce, soy sauce and sugar.

Make the dipping sauce by combining all the ingredients and adjust flavor to taste.

When you’re ready to stir-fry, get your wok good and hot. Proper heat is the trick to this dish. If your wok is not hot enough, the meat is not going to sear. Instead it’s going to release juices. The wok also has to be hot enough to caramelize the sauce once it hits the wok. Otherwise you will have a watery, boring dish. This dish should be fairly dry and the flavors concentrated.

Use about 3 tbs oil. Grapeseed or another vegetable oil is good; olive oil is bad for stir-frying. Once the meat is seared and just about done (approx 2 to 3 minutes), add the soy sauce mix down the side of the wok and toss the meat to coat. It’s done when the sauce is caramelized and the meat is cooked through. Adjust flavor with fish sauce, if necessary. Total cooking time is about 4 or 5 minutes. Serve with the dipping sauce and steamed jasmine rice. I like to serve sliced tomato and cucumber on the side as well.