CLAY POT MASALA CHICKEN THIGHS

No clay pot? No problem, the recipe works in a regular oven, so stick around. We loved the flavors so much I’ve used this marinade in whole chicken, and also Cornish hens. The unusual twist is the incorporation of ground almonds in the mix. If you are intrigued, I totally understand because I was also. It adds a little texture and more “staying power” on the meat. I hope you’ll try it, I think it might become a favorite in your home.

CLAY POT MASALA CHICKEN THIGHS
(adapted from Made in India)

6 chicken thighs, bone-in, with skin
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
5 cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ cup ground almonds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup whole-milk yogurt
1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt

Put the cumin seeds and coriander seeds into a dry non-stick frying pan over high heat until they get fragrant, don’t let them burn. Put the toasted seeds into a spice grinder, along with the cloves and peppercorns, and grind together. Put them into a big bowl and add the ground almonds, cinnamon, turmeric, yogurt, and salt. Rub this marinade all over the chicken thighs, making sure to stick some underneath the skin. Cover and let marinating int the fridge for 1 to 12 hours, the longer the better.

If cooking in a regular oven, heat it to 400F, place the chicken thighs in a baking dish, cover with aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes, remove the foil and roast until the skin is golden brosn.

If using the clay pot, soak it in cold water for a couple of hours. Drain the water, place the chicken pieces inside, close the lid and place the pot in a cold oven, turn it to 450F. Cook for 1 hour, remove the lid and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is nicely brown.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You can use almonds that you grind yourself, but I opted for almond meal, as I always have it around due to my macaron-baking addiction. It gives a subtle nutty flavor the the meat, and definitely allows the marinade to speak louder in the final dish. Originally I saw this marinade used in a whole chicken. The recipe called for cutting some slits on the skin over the breast to rub the marinade underneath. However, during roasting the skin teared apart too much and although it was still delicious, I did not care for the way it looked. So I will stick to using it for chicken thighs. Full disclosure: I already made it three times…

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CHICKEN MEATBALLS, POTSTICKER STYLE

Potstickers are perhaps my favorite food in the universe. You would think that because I bake a lot of sweets, savory things are secondary in my world, but in fact it is the opposite. I am satisfied with one cookie or even just a bite. But potstickers? Self-control becomes a serious issue. Inspiration came from a must-have cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game. But I used ground chicken instead of pork, which reduces the fat content a bit, and adapted it to hold its shape better. Turned out excellent, and contrary to what usually happens in our dinners, there were no leftovers. Because… self-control….

POTSTICKER-STYLE CHICKEN MEATBALLS
(inspired by Dinner: Changing the Game)

1 pound ground chicken (white meat is fine)
⅓ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup almond meal or almond flour
for finishing sauce:
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Sriracha or to taste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon light brown sugar

Heat the oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, cilantro, Serrano pepper, ginger, lime zest and juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, almond flour and salt. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.

Arrange the meatballs in a single layer over aluminum foil (I like to use non-stick foil). Bake until cooked through, around 20 minutes, turning them over mid-way through baking. As they bake, prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients.

After they are cooked, brush them lightly with the sauce and keep in the oven for a couple more minutes, then serve with your favorite side dish. They also work well as appetizers, with a side of napkins…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I love Melissa Clark and own several of her cookbooks, Dinner: Changing the Game is perhaps my favorite. Recipes are simple but interesting, they always have some kind of a nice twist that makes me want to try them. I like using ground chicken and turkey in our cooking, but that poses problems, because they can turn out bland and dry very easily. Not the case here, I am sure these will be in our rotation regularly. The combination of ginger, fish sauce, and sesame oil is a true winner. I also like the texture given by the almond flour. I know, totally non-authentic, but when you change the protein, some adjustment is needed. I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try.

We enjoyed them with stir-fried zucchini and white rice. I crave this meal already.

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KUNG PAO CHICKEN

George likes his chicken spicy!

We like ours spicy too, but the beautiful thing about Kung Pao is that you can tame it to your favorite degree of heat by playing with the type of peppers you add, or reducing the amount of its most important ingredient: Szechuan peppercorns. Daredevils out there, pair Szechuan with Habaneros! Just make sure to have the firemen on speed dial…

KUNG PAO CHICKEN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

to marinate the chicken:
3 boneless/skinless chicken breast cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cornstarch

for the sauce:
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon dry sherry
3 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

for the stir-fry:
4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 red bell pepper seeded and diced
1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper seeded and diced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and finely minced (or another hot pepper of your choice)
1 tablespoon (or to taste) Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground
1/2 cup roasted/unsalted peanuts
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Combine all ingredients for the chicken in a shallow bowl; cover and marinate for 30 minutes.
Whisk sauce ingredients together and set aside. Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil, allow to heat up, then add marinated chicken. Stir-fry chicken for a few minutes, until edges are browned, which will happen reasonably quickly because of the baking soda. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add remaining cooking oil to the pan, stir in ginger, bell peppers, and Sichuan peppercorns and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Pour the reserved sauce into the pan and bring it to a boil. Add the chicken pieces, and heat everything together for a couple more minutes. Add the peanuts, sesame oil, and serve over rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Szechuan peppers are quite special. They have a numbing effect, quite different from any other pepper and they are pretty much mandatory in a Kung Pao. I used a mortar and pestle to grind it, some recipes tell you to toast them lightly before grinding, but I used them fresh from the bag.

Marinating the chicken with the baking soda for 30 minutes is a quicker version of velveting, and worked pretty nicely, the meat developed that texture we all love in Chinese cooking. A little white rice, some green beans and all of a sudden we realized that Kung Pao is a nice antidote for the Polar Vortex.

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KUNG PAO CHICKEN
(adapted from

CLAY POT CORNISH HENS WITH RICE-PECAN STUFFING

No clay pot? No problem, I will tell you how to make the exact same recipe without it. What I love about the clay pot is how user-friendly it is. A little longer cooking never hurts, no risk of drying the meat or making it tough. Cornish Hens are perfect for a romantic meal, they bring a touch of elegance and cuteness at the same time. Often they are stuffed with wild rice, but I wanted to see if the humble white rice would work. I am here to tell you, it does! Aren’t you thrilled?

CLAY POT CORNISH HENS WITH RICE-PECAN STUFFING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 cornish hens
kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion (I used fennel instead)
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup dried cranberries
]flat-leaf parsley, chopped (amount to taste)
kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper

for glaze:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
splash of lemon juice

Make the stuffing: Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add onions (or fennel) and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add pecans, sage, and 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper. Cook until pecans are fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in cooked rice, cranberries, and parsley. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the glaze: mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

If using the clay pot, soak it for a couple of hours. If roasting in a regular pan, heat the oven to 425F. Remove hens from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to roasting. Rinse hens, and pat dry with a paper towel. Lightly season the cavities of the hens with salt and pepper. Spoon about 1/2 cup of stuffing into each cavity. Tie the legs closed with kitchen twine and tuck the wings under the birds. If using the clay pot, improvise a little “rack” using aluminum foil so that they don’t sit directly on the pot. Place the hens in the clay pot and place in a cold oven. Turn it to 450F. Roast for 1 hour, then open the clay pot and roast for 15 minutes longer, brushing with the glaze a couple of times.

If roasting in a regular pan, brush the skin with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes at 425F, then reduce the temperature to 375F and roast for about 50 minutes longer, brushing with the glaze a few times during roasting (if possible, check temperature at thigh, it should read 180F).

Let the hens rest for 15 minutes, then cut the kitchen twine and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I pretty much gave up trying to make nice pictures of roast chicken and its relatives. So I hope you can surf beyond the photos and trust that it was truly very good. I used bland, nothing-to-it leftover white rice for the stuffing and it got totally transformed during roasting. The juices of the hen gave it a very deep flavor, and the pecans, cranberries and sage closed the deal beautifully. As the husband said, “this must go into our rotation.” Agreed. 100%.

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SLOW-ROASTED SWEET POTATOES IN TOMATO, LIME AND CARDAMON SAUCE

Once again I turn to Joanne’s blog for inspiration. Like me, she also loves Ottolenghi and adapted this recipe from his new cookbook, Flavor. His method calls for high-temperature roasting of sweet potato slices coated in maple syrup and spices. I changed things around a bit, as I am absolutely set on roasting them low and slow (after trying the method described in this post of my recent past). You can conceivably make the sauce and the potatoes days in advance to finalize the dish quickly before meal time. I served it alongside grilled chicken breasts. They worked so well together that I decided to feature both recipes in a single post.

SLOW-ROASTED SWEET POTATOES IN TOMATO, LIME & CARDAMON SAUCE
(adapted from Joanne’s blog)

for potatoes:
3 large sweet potatoes, cut crosswise into 1-inch thick rounds
olive oil to rub potatoes
salt and pepper to taste

for the sauce:
5 tbsp olive oil
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
14 oz whole peeled tomatoes, blended until smooth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground cumin
zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp lime juice
1 cup water
2 tsp finely chopped dill

For the sweet potatoes. Heat the oven to 300F. Rub them with oil, season lightly with salt and pepper, and slow roast for 60 to 90 minutes until tender. Set aside to cool, peel the skin off and slice it into 1 inch thick rounds to proceed with the recipe (can be made a couple of days in advance).

Make the sauce. Combine the olive oil, jalapenos, shallots, and a pinch of salt in a large saute pan over medium heat, cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, cardamom, cumin, lime zest, and 1 tsp salt. Cook for 5 minutes so the flavors can combine, stirring frequently. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 425F. Add the sauce to a shallow baking dish that can hold all the potato slices in a single layer, if possible. Place the slow-roasted potatoes on top of the sauce and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Close to the end of roasting time, sprinkle dill on top. If you like a little more color development, use the broiler.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was absolutely delicious, and if you spread the preparation by roasting the potatoes the day before, it is a breeze to put together. I actually find myself slow-roasting sweet potatoes and saving them, still with the skin, for all sorts of uses later. Cardamon and lime in the tomato sauce? Winner combination. I intend to make a roasted tomato soup pretty soon with those basic flavors. Stay tuned. And now, as I promised, the main dish we had with these wonderful potatoes.

BONUS RECIPE

GRILLED CHICKEN BREASTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt

In a bowl, stir together all ingredients, except chicken (of course). Whisk well until brown sugar is dissolved. Place chicken breasts in a ziplock bag and add the marinade. Leave it in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes, but if you have time allow it to sit for 4 hours or even longer.

Heat grill, and cook around 6 minutes per side. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then slice on the bias, and serve, preferably with those amazing sweet potatoes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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