Asian Grilled Chicken Thighs

asian thighs

 

Today is a beautiful Sunday! Fall is in the air with high temps in the South running in the upper 60’s and I have stumbled upon newly found energy to do things around the house. Grass has been cut hopefully for the last time, cars washed, clothes are washing, I just finished vacuuming and I’m about to fire up the grill for dinner and make some tasty Asian grilled chicken thighs.

You could use any cut of chicken, but we’ve been buying a lot of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Not only are they reasonably priced, darker meat seems to have more flavor (along with more fat, but then again, fat IS flavor). The recipe for this dinner is all in the marinade and the longer it marinates, the better the flavor. I’m going to skip cooking instructions because the way you cook chicken is entirely up to you. I’ve roasted chicken this way and it’s been delicious, but today I want to take advantage of the weather, so I’m using the grill.

Soak any chicken you prefer in the following, then simply cook and enjoy! It’s also a great way to make “Teriyaki” wings for a tailgate!

Marinade:

  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • the juice from 2 Navel oranges
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 4 Keffir lime leaves or you can substitute the juice of 2 fresh limes
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger or 1 tbsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients. Add chicken to big Ziploc bag, cover with marinade and put in the frig. The longer it marinates, the better, but at least 1 hour if you can’t let it go overnight.

Discard the marinade and cook the way you’d like!

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Spicy Southern Collard Greens

collards

 

Lately I’ve been asked by several people, how to cook fresh greens, specifically kale and collards. I’ve already posted some kale recipes, so today I’ll share how I cook collard greens. One of the advantages of a grandmother that was raised in the country was learning how to cook all the vegetables that grew in the family garden. This recipe for collards is a little spicy, but that’s how I like mine, so if you want something with less kick, just let me know and I’ll share another recipe. This serves approximately 10 servings out of 1 pound of collards.

  • 2 qts chicken stock (can be canned, homemade or made from bouillon cube)
  • 1# collards, washed, stems removed and leaves chopped (you can eat the stems, however I tend to only eat the stem that’s near the leafy part as the stalk can be quite woody)
  • 1/4# (4oz) Applewood smoked bacon, diced
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

In a dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp over medium heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve. In the bacon grease over medium/low heat, sweat the onions until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrent, 2-3 minutes. Add the collard greens and saute for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock, seasonings, tomatoes, sugar and the cooked bacon. Cook the collard greens over medium heat at a slow boil for 45 minutes to 1 hour and enjoy. Country folk call the liquid in the pot, pot liquor, and they crumble their cornbread up in it. I realize cooking the greens this long really cooks out a lot of the nutrients, so if you’re shooting for the vitamin factor, you can eat the greens after 20-30 minutes, but for a true Southern style pot of greens, you want to cook them to death. That’s when the flavors blend for the real deal.

Apple Vinaigrette

SONY DSC

 

As many of you know, I’m the executive chef for a liberal arts university here in Alabama, and we do a fare share of catered events each year, so I have a lot of “trade tricks” that make my life easier on a daily basis when I’m balancing a full day of meals for our students (about 1500 covers a day) and a few catered events tossed into the mix. At the university, our signature salad has become a mixture of spring mix lettuces with fresh fruit (usually fresh segmented oranges and strawberries) some toasted pecans, a sprinkle of bleu cheese crumbles and apple vinaigrette. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of requests to share the recipe for apple vinaigrette and while I’ve always been the type to gladly share all of my recipes with my customers, deciding to share this one took some thought. Not because it’s some special recipe of secret ingredients, but because it’s NOT some special recipe! It’s just something I whipped up in the food processor one day and now it is the most requested dressing for salads. It’s so simple, I’m ashamed to put it in print, but it’s quite tasty so give it a try. You won’t be disappointed by the flavor, or the ease in putting it together.

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 can (soup can size) natural applesauce
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Toss the garlic into a food processor and run until almost a paste. Add the applesauce, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. With the motor running, add the vinegar, then add the olive oil in a thin stream through the top. Once all the oil is added, let the machine run for another full minute. Pour into a bottle and store in the fridge, using as needed.

This vinaigrette will have a thick consistency, but it’s great tossed into salad greens, and it will keep for a week under refrigeration.

Beef Medallions with Cherry Port Reduction

medallions_port

 

One of my favorite duties in my current role at UM is cooking upscale dinners for the board every time graduation roles around. It gives me a chance to dust off some of the higher end recipes that have collected dust over the years. We feed the students some really tasty food, and some of our catered events have some pretty good recipes, but board dinners allow unlimited creativity and they usually expect to see something a step above our daily offerings. Plus I personally handle all the food preparations for meals where we serve our president or members of the board, so it’s one of the few times I get to actually do some cooking anymore.

I’ve been making variations of this recipe for years. The sauce I just dreamed up one night and it’s sinful! It goes great with so many meats, not just beef. It’s great with pork, venison, chicken or turkey, and it’s extremely easy like most everything else I prepare, but if you’ve never tried grilling a beef tenderloin before, splurge one night and pick one up. Piggly Wiggly stores run some really good deals on whole beef tenders (usually $8.99 a pound during one of their sales) and their meat department will trim it, cut in into steaks if you desire and then make some incredible hamburger meat out of the trimmings.

  • 1-1 1/2 pound beef tenderloin, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 bottle of Port wine (something inexpensive is fine.. I look for Taylor at about $8 a bottle when I’m making this sauce)
  • 1 package dried cherries
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, stem and all
  • 1 tsp rich beef base mixed with 1/2 cup water
  • 1 stick unsalted, sweet cream butter, cubed

Heat your grill to medium heat, about 400F if using a gas grill. Rub oil all over the beef tenderloin, then salt and pepper. Grill the tenderloin, turning often but not piercing it (don’t want those juices to run out) to the desired doneness. For medium rare, the way I prefer mine, about 22 minutes total cooking time. Remove the tenderloin from the grill, wrap in aluminum foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Slice into 1/3″ thick pieces, arrange 3-4 on a plate and drizzle with the cherry-port reduction (directions below).

To make cherry-port reduction, in a saucepan over medium high heat, add the whole bottle of Port wine, the cherries, garlic, rosemary, and beef base/water mixture. Cook the mixture at a slow boil for 20-30 minutes, until it has reduced down to a velvety syrupy sauce. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the rosemary stems from the sauce. Drop in a few cubes of butter at a time, swirling the pan around in the air (off the stove) until all butter is incorporated. Spoon over the beef (or other meat).

Pairs nicely with horseradish mashed potatoes, which are made like regular mashed potatoes but with a few tbsp of prepared horseradish added!

Orange-Fig Glazed Chicken

honeyorange

 

For the past few months, my blog has taken a back seat with catered events rolling in one after another at work, so I apologize to my loyal followers and will do a better job over the coming months of posting a weekly blog entry. About a month ago we ran across a sweet deal at Costco when we found boneless, skinless chicken thighs at a really good price. It had 6 packs containing 5 boneless thighs bundled into one pack (so you can freeze the whole pack and tear off and thaw meals as needed). I believe Costco does most all their chicken this way, but lately I’ve been buying a lot of dark meat chicken. I grew up eating white meat chicken so I’m a late follower to the moistness and deliciousness of dark meat.

Since we’ve had this big pack of thighs in the freezer, I’m constantly trying new things to cook them. Normally I make a glaze of cranberry sauce and wine cooked down to a syrup, with some garlic added, but being out of cranberry sauce forced me to try something new and that’s how this recipe came about. This is what I could make with what I had in the pantry (and bar), but the point here is to play around with what you’ve got on hand. To make a good glaze you need some sort of fruit item (preserves, cranberry sauce, jam, etc) and some sort of acid (in this case some wine). Boiling contents down to a syrup will marry all the flavors and make an incredible glaze for meat. Boiling it down also releases the alcohol and leaves only the rich flavors.

  • 5-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or use breasts if you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning blend (I look for Badia brand which is cheap and tasty)
  • 1 tbsp fig preserves
  • zest from 1 orange and juice from same orange
  • 1 tbsp Drambuie liqueur (made from scotch whiskey and honey)
  • 1 tbsp Cabinet Sauvignon wine
  • 1 tbsp mined garlic

Arrange thighs on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the Cajun seasoning. Roast in a 400F oven for 15 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, in a small saucepan, combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until the glaze is thick and will cover the back of a spoon.

Remove chicken from the oven and spoon the glaze over the chicken. Return to the oven and cook for 5 more minutes then check the temperature. Chicken needs to be 165F to be done and kill all salmonella or other harmful bacteria. If yours if 165F, it’s done. If not, continue cooking until internal temperature is reached.

Crawfish Corn Chowder

crawfish

 

The weather here in Alabama has been unusually cold lately, with temps in the low teens and snow and ice. You may have experienced it, or seen on the national news, how the people in the south can’t deal with the winter weather, because we usually have temps in the 60’s on Christmas day. I’ve also been working a lot lately, especially with catered events, so it was extremely welcoming to come home after a long weekend of catering, on a cold night and find a pot of this delicious chowder cooking on the stove. If you love crawfish you should give this a try. Crawfish tails can be purchased at most supermarkets in the South. Around here, Publix carries them in the freezer section of their seafood department for about $12 a pound. It’s also a little spicy with the poblano pepper, so if you prefer your food a little less “warm” you may want to substitute a jalapeno for the poblano. The recipe has a list of ingredients, but it’s extremely easy to put together.

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups diced onion, preferably a sweet onion like a Vidalia
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped poblano pepper, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or sherry
  • 1 quart seafood stock (can be bought at your grocery store)
  • 1-16oz bag of frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 small potatoes, diced into small cubes
  • 1-15oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1-8oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 pound crawfish tails, thawed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning (a blend sold on the spice aisle)
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the oil and the butter, letting the butter melt. Add the onion, celery, pepper and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions and celery are tender. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the wine and stock, whisking to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the corn, potatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, crawfish, bay leaves, thyme, salt, Cajun seasoning and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; discard the bay leaves and add the fresh chopped parsley.

Serve with a good crusty bread and a nice glass of wine. Makes about 10 servings.

 

Chicken Pad Thai

padthai

It’s a new year, and I’ve decided to try and cut back on my beef and pork intake. I’m trying to be a flexitarian and eat mostly vegetables with limited fish and chicken, but it’s not always easy to be strict, especially when I’m in charge of feeding 1500 college students every day at work. Because so many kids that age are more health conscience than their parents were, I get to experiment with new recipes from time to time and this one was a major hit with the students and the staff, AND it falls into my new dietary plans. If you’re not brave enough to try tofu, use some shrimp with the chicken. It’s really quite easy and extremely tasty, and some have asked that I share the recipe, so here it is.

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 pound firm Tofu, cut into 1/4″ dice, or 1/2 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 tbsp Asian fish sauce, or 2 1/2 tbsp each of low sodium soy sauce and Asian Oyster sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red curry paste
  • 3/4# cooked linguine pasta
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped rough
  • 2/3 cup salted peanuts, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (optional), can be added at the final stage in the pan

In a small bowl, toss 1 tsp fish sauce with the chicken. In another small bowl, toss 1 tsp fish sauce with the tofu. Set aside.

In a medium sized glass bowl, combine the remaining fish sauce, water, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, cilantro and curry paste and mix well using a whisk.

Using a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes per side until chicken is done. Remove chicken from the pan. Next add another tbsp oil and cook the tofu (or shrimp) for 2-3 minutes per side, until heated through and starting to take on color. Remove the tofu from the pan. Add the remaining tbsp of oil and the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown. Add back to the pan the cooked chicken and tofu (shrimp). Toss in the cooked linguine pasta, then pour in the liquid sauce and cook until mixture starts to boil. Pour pan contents back into your glass bowl and mix well, then serve immediately.

Serves 6

Beef Medallions Marsala

Today was the first day of the next chapter of my career. After several years in corporate dining, I’m making a move to campus dining and will be starting my new position as executive chef for a local university next week. This week I’m going to relax and clear my head. So what did I do on my first day of this head-clearing vacation? I vacuumed the house, cut the grass and vacuumed and washed the RV for a little camping trip with my Mom I’m heading out on tomorrow.

I haven’t done any weekly shopping in two weeks, except for trips to the local farmer’s market the past two weekends, so dinner tonight is a real “chopped” mystery basket of ingredients on hand in the frig, pantry or freezer and since I’m overdo for a blog post I decided to share tonight’s dinner recipe with you. Although I’m using up ingredients already on hand, you could easily pick these items up at Publix. The medallions can be served over a number of starches, or with a potato on the side. I’ve got some leftover white rice from seafood gumbo I made last weekend, so that’s what we are having with ours.

beefmarsala

  • 2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes about 1-1/2″ square
  • 2 tbsp flour seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of heirloom mixed color baby carrots (or you can just get a bunch of carrots at Publix with the tops attached, although you trim off the tops)
  • 1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock (I made mine from “better than bouillion” beef base)
  • 3 bay leaves

In a large dutch oven (one that has a lid), heat the oil. Dredge the beef medallions in flour and brown in dutch oven over medium high heat. Turn to brown all sides, then add the onion, carrots and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes. Add the garlic. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala wine, then add the tomato paste, beef stock and bay leaves. Cover with the lid and pop into a 400F oven for 30-40 minutes. Serve over pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, etc or serve with starch on the side.

Zero Points Cabbage Soup

cabbagesoup

 

Lately I’ve been watching my “middle age spread” get further and further out of control, so when a few customers at work asked that I prepare a light selection each day I decided to dust off some of the recipes I’ve cooked in the past. When I was the chef at The Birmingham News, I would offer a regular entree each day and a Weight Watchers entree because so many of the staff were following the plan. That’s where I first tried this delicious soup. I’ll admit the name doesn’t conjure up images in my head of a tasty dish, but this soup is pure delicious. Now my current customers are asking for the recipe so here’s my version of the famous Cabbage Soup (from the Cabbage Soup diet). This is also the same recipe for the ZERO POINTS soup promoted in Weight Watchers. Yes, you can eat all of this soup you want for any meal and have no points added to your daily total.

  • 3 cups non-fat beef stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Tomato paste
  • 2 cups cooked cabbage
  • 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded or diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup green beans
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the easiest part. Combine all ingredients in a pot and simmer on the stove 15 minutes.

Luck & Money Soup

luck_money soup

 

A new year is fast approaching and with every new year I’m reminded of my grandmother requiring us to eat peas (for luck in the new year) and greens (for money). She served her peas and greens as sides to a big country meal. Lately, I’ve been incorporating mine into a one-dish meal so I don’t start the new year off with a dinner loaded with butter, buttermilk, starchy creamed corn, fried pork chops, etc.

So as this day before New Year’s Eve draws to a close, I’m about to drag out my faithful Le Creuset covered dutch oven (mine’s not fancy, I bought it at the thrift store) and soak the peas overnight. If you don’t have time to soak the peas, use the trick I use at work. Bring water to a boil on the stove over high heat. Pour in the peas and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes. Pour through a colander and rinse peas well. Then add back to the pot and proceed with the recipe. This works for any type of dried bean or pea but you may have to cook the dish a little longer than the recipe says to get your peas nice and tender.

  • 2 cups dry black eyed peas, picked and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large rib celery minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 leftover ham bone from Christmas dinner, or 1 smoked ham hock (available in the meat department of any grocery store)
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and discarded, leaves chopped fine
  • 1/2# ham, diced (I usually use leftover from Christmas if any is still left)
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar

If time allows, put rinsed peas in a stock pot and cover with water (allow about 2″ above the peas). Cover pot and refrigerate overnight. If you don’t have time, look at my hint above, or you can use canned peas.

In a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, heat canola oil to medium high temperature. Add the onions and saute until tender and translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery, garlic and carrot and saute for 2-3 minutes more, until garlic is fragrant but not browned.

To the vegetables, add the peas, chicken broth, ham bone or hock, thyme, bay leaves, collards and the diced ham. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the peas are tender. Once the peas are tender, remove the ham bone or hock and the bay leaves. Get any meat left on the bone or hock and return it to the pot of soup. With a large spoon, mash some of the peas against the side of the pot (I usually mash about 1/3 of them) and this will develop a creamy texture to your soup and thicken it slightly.

Just prior to serving, stir in the cider vinegar. Serve in bowls with a piece of cornbread. If desired, you can serve over cooked white rice for a more filling meal.

Serves about 8, or plenty for dinner with leftovers for lunch!