FESENJAN, FAST-FOOD STYLE

When you buy a container with fresh pomegranate seeds from the store, you need to put it to use before the husband hits said container and inhales them all while watching Broadchurch late at night. I managed to salvage enough seeds to showcase them over a favorite of mine, Fesenjan. Yes, I’ve blogged about it in the past (click here), but this time I used the pressure cooker and really enjoyed the added lusciousness-factor the method provided. If you have a pressure cooker,  or the fashionable instant pot, you can turn this classic into fast-food. Can you imagine so much joy on a weeknight dinner?

FESENJAN
(slightly adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

6 ounces walnut halves, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup pomegranate seeds, for serving
chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Place the toasted walnuts in a food processor and grind them to a coarse powder. Reserve.

On a large skillet or in the pressure cooker (on the instant pot), heat the olive oil and add the chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown them lightly, if necessary in two batches. Reserve.  Add the shallots, saute’ for a couple of minutes, then add the turmeric, cinnamon and cardamon. Stir until fragrant. Pour in the chicken stock. If using a skillet, transfer the mixture to the pressure cooker now.

Add the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses and honey. Stir to combine, Close the pressure cooker and once full pressure is achieved, cook for 15 minutes. Release the pressure, if the sauce is too thin, cook for a few minutes with the lid open to reduce it.
Serve the chicken with fresh pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves scattered on top.
 
 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: If you don’t have a pressure cooker (or an Instant Pot) you can obviously adapt it for a regular pan, just cook it on a very low simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. I like the chicken to be super tender.  Pomegranate molasses is a great ingredient to have in your pantry. You can cook down pomegranate juice with sugar to the point of a syrup, and use that instead, but the convenience of opening a bottle is hard to beat. If you’d like to make it from scratch, here is a good method.

Fesenjan goes well over white rice, over Persian rice (see my version here), or cauliflower rice for those who prefer to follow a low-carb route. Leftovers enjoyed inside a corn tortilla are a no-no. If you know a food blogger who admits in public to doing that, stop following her (or him) immediately.

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LUSCIOUS CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

Perhaps you would think that the time for blogging about soup is pretty much over. But two facts conspired to bring it to our table. First, Phil got a little cold, and second, the weather turned pretty nasty. Forecast for Saturday and Sunday: chilly and full-time rain. Great combination for a rotten weekend. I will disclose to you that we do resort to Campbell’s canned soup sometimes. Yes, it’s not that great, but whenever we feel like we might be getting a bit sick, we buy a couple of cans and call them dinner. I squirt a little lemon juice over my bowl, freshly ground black pepper, and it does a reasonably ok job. But, this time I decided to take this classic soup medicine into my own hands. I would start by making my own chicken broth and use that to cook chicken thighs until  fork-tender. I won’t be humble. This was one spectacular chicken noodle soup. Even if for my bowl I used zoodles instead.

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

A pressure cooker is preferred, but not mandatory

for the chicken stock:
2 pounds of chicken wings
2 carrots, cut in chunks
1 celery rib, cub in chunks
1/2 large onion
10 whole peppercorns
1 piece of ginger, about 1/2 inch
1 piece of kombu, about 3 inches long
1 bay leaf
7 cups of water

for the soup:
6 chicken thighs, skinless, with bone-in
4 medium carrots, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
chicken broth, as much as needed
salt and pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice to taste
cooked noodles or zoodles

Start by making the chicken broth. Mix all ingredients in a large stockpot or pressure cooker. If using a pressure cooker, cook for 40 minutes under pressure, release steam, open the pan, strain the stock. If using a regular pan, simmer for at least one hour, preferable an hour and a half.

Return about 2 cups of broth and 1 cup of water to the pressure cooker, add the chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook under pressure for 20 minutes. Alternatively, simmer in a regular pan until the meat is very tender. Remove the pieces of chicken to a bowl, allow it to cool until you can handle it.

As the chicken cools, return the pressure cooker to the stove, add the carrots, celery, cook under pressure for 5 minutes, or in a regular pan until the veggies are tender. The base of the soup is now ready.  Shred the chicken with a fork or your fingers. Reserve.

When it’s time to enjoy the soup, cook some noodles (or zoodles) in boiling salted water.  Re-warm the soup by mixing the soup base, the reserved chicken meat, and any reserved stock until the consistency is the way you like. Squirt fresh lemon juice, adjust seasoning if needed with salt and pepper. Place some cooked noodles in your serving bowl, ladle the soup over, and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I got the inspiration for this soup from a couple of sources. For instance, the use of kombu in the chicken stock came from the book The Longevity Kitchen. It is an interesting ingredient, one that I advise you to use just like you would fish sauce. Don’t sniff it. Big turn off. But it does a great job, not only nutritionally speaking, but in terms of flavor. The stock made with chicken wings has been my method of choice for years now, after a basic recipe found in one of my favorite cookbooks  Simple to Spectacular. I pumped it up by using the pressure cooker, and it does a great job extracting all flavors and goodies from the wings. In the composite photo you can see the color of the stock (upper left), no photoshopping was involved.

You will notice that I used the pressure cooker three times in a row, but you can do it all in a regular pan. Make sure to allow the wings to simmer for one full hour at least, and the chicken thighs until very tender. I’ve seen recipes recommending a 10 minute simmer, and I have no idea what those people are talking about. You would have to pretty much wrestle the meat off the bone with such a quick cooking.

All in all, this was so good that I had to blog right away. Contrary to what normally happens, you are reading on Wednesday a recipe we enjoyed only three days earlier. Also contrary to my principles, with this post I line two articles in a row involving chicken. Oh, well. That shows you how much I enjoyed this recipe, I simply could not wait to share.  I hope you’ll give it a try if you are headed to winter where you live, or if someone is feeling lousy with a cold. Heck, try it if you simply love chicken noodle soup. No other reason needed!

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INDIAN SPICED CHICKEN WITH CHICKPEAS AND SPINACH

Another great recipe using my beloved pressure cooker, but no need to run away if you don’t own one, the original method (found here)  uses a regular pan.  We’ve been so busy lately (by lately I guess I mean a few years in a row…)  that shortcuts to get dinner at the table faster are more than welcome. As long as they don’t compromise flavor. No need to worry about it in this recipe, flavorful is one adjective that comes to mind to describe it.

Chicken Curry Spinach

 

INDIAN SPICED CHICKEN WITH CHICKPEAS AND SPINACH
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used grape seed oil)
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 + 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1 cups chicken broth
5 ounces baby spinach
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat or in your pressure cooker. Season chicken with salt. Working in batches, cook chicken, reducing heat as needed to prevent over-browning, until golden brown on all side.Transfer to a plate.

Add butter and shallot to drippings in pot; season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until soft and fragrant. Stir in ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook, stirring constantly, until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in chickpeas and chicken broth. Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover pot and either braise it in a 325 F oven for about 50 minutes, or cook under pressure for 15 minutes.

Quickly release the steam (or place the closed pan under running cold water in the sink), and when the pressure equalizes open the pan. Return the pan to the stove, add the spinach and simmer for a couple of minutes until wilted. Stir yogurt into cooking liquid, mix gently and serve right away, sprinkled with fresh cilantro, if you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served

Comments:  I absolutely love the way pressure cooking intensifies the flavors of a sauce, and this one with all the warm spices and the chickpeas turned out quite spectacular indeed. The recipe made so much sauce that even after leftovers were enjoyed at lunch, a little sauce remained. I went at it with a spoon on day 3. Yeah, that good.  And, of course the time-saving aspect is hard to be neglected…

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.02.19 PM

This recipe could be served quite simply with a slice of naan bread, but I opted for cauli-rice and some snow peas sautéed in olive oil and a little mint. We ate like the King and the Queen… except for the fact that we did the dishes afterwards. I doubt royalty deals with such mundane issues. Their loss. Doing dishes can be a lot of fun. All you need is the right music in the background…

😉

 

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BLACK PEPPER CHICKEN CURRY

This recipe was published in Food and Wine magazine back in February 1999. Yes, you read that right, over 16 years ago, when I was only a teenager (in my heart, that is). But someone recently raved so much about it in a cooking forum that other members decided to make it, and next thing I knew, they were raving about it too. I had to join the party and try the recipe myself. However, I modified it a bit, incorporating some tips from our graduate student Aritri (born and raised in India so she knows a thing or two about curries). I also opted by making it in a pressure cooker. No need to run away screaming. If you don’t have one, I’ll share instructions to make it in a regular pan. I am nothing if not accommodating. You are very welcome.

Black Pepper Chicken Curry1
BLACK PEPPER CHICKEN CURRY
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely crushed black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 shallot, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced Serrano chile
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup raw cashews, divided
juice from 1/2 lemon
fresh parsley, minced

In a bowl, combine the coriander with the cumin, peppercorns, turmeric and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Add the chicken and rub with the spices to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place 1/4 cup of cashews in a small food processor and process, not too fine. Reserve.

In a large deep nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil. Add the shallots and saute’ for a few minutes until translucent.  Add the chicken, ginger, Serrano chile and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is golden, about 8 minutes. No need to cook through.

Stir in 1/4 cup of the coconut milk, the water, and the processed cashews, then transfer to a pressure cooker and cook under pressure for 15 minutes. Quickly release the steam (or place the closed pan under running cold water in the sink), and when the pressure equalizes open the pan.  If using a normal pan, simply cover the pan and simmer until cooked to your liking (at least 30 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of cashews and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of coconut milk, the lemon juice and the fresh parsley to the chicken and simmer, stirring. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with the cashews; serve immediately. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ingredients

Seems familiar? The same photo was in my previous post…  

Comments: After so many years of blogging, it’s hard not to repeat statements from previous posts. For those who follow my blog for a while it will be old news that I like to cook chicken thighs longer than most recipes specify. Super tender is what I shoot for. Exactly the same goes for pork ribs. Some people prefer to have a firmer texture in both types of meat, so if you are part of that team, reduce the cooking time.  For instance, in a pressure cooker, you could get by with 10 minutes, in a regular pan, 20 minutes (which is what Food and Wine magazine recommends in the original recipe).

Pressure cooking is fantastic for recipes such as curries, stews, soups, and chili (made one recently in 20 minutes that was absolutely spectacular). Until a couple of  months ago I made the mistake of keeping my pressure cooker in the basement, bringing it to the kitchen only when I needed to make a batch of black beans, or maybe cook some artichokes in a hurry (pressure cooker works wonders on artichokes).  Out of sight, out of mind. Not anymore. It is now sitting in our appliance rack and I am always finding ways to use it. It makes life so much easier, many recipes that are not feasible on a weeknight because they would take too long become a breeze to prepare.

Served2

This curry turned out wonderful! It is interesting how the humble black pepper offers a heat different from any other type.  Aritri also suggested that we add ground chili to the curry, but I was afraid it would be too hot for our taste, so I went without it. Keep her suggestion in mind if you make it, I think a little extra heat would not hurt the outcome. I hope you try this recipe, make sure to have some rice to fully enjoy the delicious sauce, or if you prefer to keep the carb content low, a cauli-rice  or a cauli-mash will work just fine…

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PULLING UNDER PRESSURE

Are you afraid of the pressure cooker? Are you so terrified that you don’t even own one and the thought of that thing in your kitchen gives you nightmares? I am here to help you out. As 99.99% of Brazilians, I grew up used to its noise a couple of times per week, making sure we never ran out of black beans, a staple in any Brazilian kitchen. Looking back, I am forced to admit that my Mom’s pressure cooker was scary. That thing had zero safety features and relied on the experience (and perhaps a little luck) of the user not to blow up. A wimpy-looking closing mechanism, a gasket that would definitely be worn out in a few months, and a tiny valve that danced the dance of the steam on top, but seemed ready to fly off any second. Basically, Mom’s pressure cooker was like a bomb in waiting. But, apart from one incident in which black beans tainted the kitchen’s ceiling, nothing serious ever happened.  Having said all that, today’s pressure cookers have absolutely nothing to do with the ones from my past. They have safety mechanisms in place that prevent building excessive pressure, and the lid simply will not open unless the pressure in versus out is equalized.  I don’t even hesitate to grab mine whenever I want to make black beans, but truth is, they are incredibly useful to cook many types of food, from soups to sauces, from meat to grains, veggies, and even desserts! But, let’s start with a favorite recipe of mine, Pulled Pork. An American classic made in a classic Brazilian cooking vessel, the one and only pressure cooker!

Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork22

PRESSURE COOKER PULLED PORK
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

5 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into large chunks
water
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup apple cider

Place the chunks of meat in the pressure cooker, add water to just barely cover them, then add the bay leaves, and all other ingredients. Mix gently to dissolve the salt and incorporate the apple cider.

Close the pressure cooker and turn the heat on high until it builds pressure, then lower the heat and cook it for 45 minutes.  When the time is up, turn the heat off and allow the pressure cooker to come down naturally, it should take about 15 minutes, maybe a little less.

Open the pan once the pressure is equalized, and transfer the meat carefully to a baking dish. It will be very tender. You can save the cooking liquid, put it in the fridge to make it easier to remove the layer of fat that will form, using it as a base for sauce.

Shred the meat with two forks, discarding any fatty pieces or gristle. You can use the meat right away or save it for several days in the fridge.  When ready to use, you can saute it in olive or coconut oil to crisp up the edges, or warm it up gently in a pan and then spread the pulled meat on a layer and run it under the broiler (my favorite method).   Serve with tortillas, or over steamed rice and black beans, incorporate in sauces, improvise a Tex-Mex lasagna with it…  and…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositepulled

A word about pressure levels:  these days you can find regular pressure cookers and also electric ones. Many models will have two levels of pressure, the lowest around 6 psi (pounds per square inch), the highest from 13 to 15 psi. My pressure cooker delivers a single, powerful level of pressure of 15 psi. If yours doesn’t reach this level simply cook the meat 5 minutes longer. I have no experience with electric pressure cookers, but from what I see around they require longer times in general, perhaps 30% or even longer cooking times.  Use the specifications provided in the instruction booklet you have somewhere, or let google do the research for you…

Pulled pork is definitely one of our favorite meals, I’ve made it many, many times, as Phil’s kids also used to love it. My default recipe is in the blog and it is fantastic. However, I must say this one pleased me even more!  Something about the moisture retained by the meat cooked under pressure, and the way the seasoning is more uniformly present instead of concentrated on the charred surface made this dish a complete winner in my book…  The meat won’t look gorgeous as it comes out of the pressure cooker, so don’t be discouraged when you open the pan. Trust me on this. Get the meat out very gently, pull it and try a little piece… even without browning on a pan or under a broiler you will be amazed by how wonderful it is.

I like to serve mine over Romaine lettuce leaves, a bit of guacamole, shredded Queso fresco…

servedSally


But, of course, you can opt for a more authentic presentation that will include corn tortillas, and a serving of refried beans on the side…  It’s all good!

servedPEK


And you know what I love the most? Leftovers for lunch, so easy to put together… a quick saute of the meat, some tomatillo salsa, half an avocado, Queso fresco for good measure, and a nice sprinkle of the world’s best hot sauce, Sriracha!  Tell me, isn’t this a great lunch?

leftovers

I hope I convinced you to lose your fear of pressure cooking.  Pork shoulder is very forgiving and probably one of the best types of meat to inaugurate your pressure cooking adventures.  Second best type? My vote goes for chicken thighs.  Stay tuned, I’ve got a nice curry coming up sometime soon. Well, you know… soon enough.

😉

before I leave you, a little picture of me and Mom, who doesn’t cook anymore, but I am sure remembers fondly the days in which she prepared the best black beans in the known universe for her family! As this post is published, I’ll be almost leaving Brazil to fly back home…

IMG_1537

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MING TSAI UNDER PRESSURE

A few years ago, when Ming Tsai was a contestant on Iron Chef, he prepared his family recipe for pork shoulder in a Chinese style known as “red cooking.”   Red cooking usually refers to a braise that’s intensely flavored with soy sauce, sugar, peppers and spices.   The snag is that pork shoulder requires hours of cooking – a luxury he didn’t have in the hour-long show. Ming adapted the recipe to use a pressure cooker, with great success. If you like pork that’s fork-tender, with a delicious oriental flavor, then this recipe will knock your socks off.   Even without a pressure cooker you can still prepare it on the stove or in the oven, but make sure to cook the meat long enough (with gentle heat) to tenderize it.


ASIAN-GLAZED PORK SHOULDER

(from Ming Tsai, recipe published in Food and Wine magazine)

3 cups soy sauce
1 + 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 + 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 pound dark brown sugar
6 scallions, white and light green parts cut into 2-inch lengths
3 small, dried red Thai chiles
One 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise (I used 4 cloves only)
1 medium orange, quartered
One 4-inch cinnamon stick
One 4-pound piece of boneless pork shoulder, cut in large chunks
Freshly ground pepper

In an 8-quart pressure cooker, combine the soy sauce, wine, water, vinegar, sugar, scallions, pepper, ginger, garlic, orange and cinnamon stick. Cook over high heat, stirring, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Season the pork with pepper and add it to the pressure cooker. Close and lock the cooker and bring to full pressure over high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain pressure and cook for 1 hour or until the pork is very tender. Slowly release the pressure and open the cooker. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and cover with foil.

Strain 1 cup of the cooking liquid into a small saucepan; discard the remaining liquid. Boil over high heat until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds and thick, about 5 minutes. Brush a light coating of the sauce over each piece of pork to glaze it. Thinly slice the pork and serve.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve made this dish several times and it’s a favorite,  because we use the meat in different types of meals: over white rice, as a fajita filling (with a shameless, Tex-Mex-Chinese twist), and over mashed potatoes or pasta.  It freezes so well that when I make it for the two of us I save small portions that go straight into storage for easy dinners later.   My pressure cooker is a little smaller than 8 quarts, so I proportionally reduce the amount of liquid to leave enough empty space in the pan.  Sometimes I also reduce the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, but the sauce remains  flavorful.  Depending on the quality of the meat, 1 hour of cooking may not be enough.  In that case simply close the pressure cooker and bring it to full pressure for 15 minutes more.

This was a perfect recipe for us last week when we were back home in Oklahoma. Our poor pressure cooker was feeling neglected, left behind with the crockpot, the mixer, the juicer, and a few other appliances that couldn’t make the trip.   When your ride is a pickup truck and your destination is the nano-kitchen, difficult choices must be made!  😉

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