Weeknight Cooking: Down-and-Dirty Chicken Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

A few weeks ago, my parents went on a weekend jaunt to Pennsylvania.  They had a grand time and brought back some neat swag, while my sister and I minded the house and the animals like the good offspring we are.

Or something similar.

When they got back, as is tradition, we got the rundown of the trip’s events.  Last year, when they went to Chicago, my mom opened up the map of the L and pointed out all the stations they’d stopped at; no luck this time, since PA’s not so big into mass transit.

(Damn.)

It’s all really interesting, really.  Case in point, I learned that the Yuengling brewery has always been family-run, and rather than just passing the company from generation to generation, anyone who wants to take over has to buy it at full market value.

Also that their current brewmaster is a lady; props to ladybrewers.  (Soon, I will join your ranks.  Soon.)

Also that during Prohibition, they kind of just said “fuck it” and made ice cream.

(See!  You just learned three things about Yuengling that you didn’t know when you started reading this post.  How do you feel?)

But for all that their stories are interesting, and that I like hearing about the things they ate and the places they went and the things they did, every time they get home I’m just sitting there, trying to be excited about all of these things, and thinking “goddamn it, why don’t I get to go anywhere fun?”  They’ve been taking these little weekend trips since like my sophomore year of college, with increasing frequency in the past few years, and goddamn it I’m jealous.  I want to take time off and go do fun things just because I can.

My dad said “so…do it?  Just go somewhere for the day.  Nobody’s saying you can’t.”

Fine.  Touché, papabear.

There’s an interesting downturn to the trip; when my mom got back to work on Monday, she learned that Stephen King had flown out of the airport on one of the days she took off.  And she tried the leftovers of this stir fry; taste-bud-lust ensued.

Down-and-Dirty Stir Fry and (Leftover) Fried Rice

Ooh! A recipe two-fer!

Quick Chicken Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pound thawed frozen vegetables (plus whatever you have leftover in the crisper)

Cooking Directions

  1. Thaw your chicken and cut it into 3/4″ chunks. Toss it in a large bowl with the flour, ginger, garlic, salt, and sesame seeds.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, sriracha, hoisin, sesame and chili oils, lemon juice, and remaining salt and ginger.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken for just under thirty seconds, then add about two tablespoons of the sauce mixture. Toss to coat, then cook two to three minutes more.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and add the vegetables plus another tablespoon of the sauce. Let cook until the vegetables have heated through and gotten a good sauce coating. The remaining sauce can be served on the side for anyone who wants a little extra.

Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover cooked white rice
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • cooking oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots; cook until just softened, about four minutes.
  2. Push the vegetables to the side and add another teaspoon of oil to the center of the pan, then add the rice and ginger. Stir to combine.
  3. As the rice browns, keep stirring and adding oil as necessary to keep it from sticking or going soft. When the rice has just started to brown, kick the heat up to high and add the soy sauce; stir, and once the sizzling has gone down reduce the heat to medium. Cook until crisp.  (Note: you’ll need way more oil than you ever thought you would, so be prepared.)


Eating around the Web This Week:

What’s cookin’ in all y’all’s kitchens this week?

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Weeknight Dinners: Pasta Carbonara

WARNING: this post contains both food AND a recipe!

Pasta alla Carbonara

Mom’s dinner, again. Sigh.

After a brush with what I’m now terming the three headed monster of my life (insomnia, stress, and grrr which I’m also terming as an actual emotion now) I’ve decided to plan ahead a little and write this blog post in the predawn hours and add pictures later.

Which is, surprise, what was working out so well for me last week.  Why I didn’t just keep on that track, I may never know.

Today was another looong day; work, gym, back home to die on my bed for forty minutes and then work calls.

(Aside: I never thought I’d say this but I have so much empathy for those people who call your house asking if you want to buy new windows and crap.  It sucks.  It is the worst of jobs and trust me, these people want nothing less than to interrupt your dinner.  Be polite when you usher them off the phone, because they’re just doing what they’re getting paid a crappy hourly wage to do.)

The dinner slated for tonight was easy enough, though: nice gooey pasta carbonara (starring the half pound– half pound!– of prosciutto everyone’s been drooling over for the past three days).

Fact: I didn't use two eggs.  I changed my mind at the last minute, as I am prone to do.

Fact: I didn’t use two eggs. I changed my mind at the last minute, as I am prone to do.

Super easy.  As long as you have a hand to whisk with, there is nothing at all difficult about this pasta.

(Sorry, amputees.)

It’s also super gooey and makes you feel cozier.  Perfect for this stupid snow?  Yes.

Tired of me talking about the snow?  Good, so am I.  I’ll try to curb it.

Bonus, it’s super quick.  So the fact that I kind of lost track of time for a little while was totally okay!

Chefs who kind of scare me: this man.  Also Julia Child.

Chefs who kind of scare me: this man. Also Julia Child.

Pasta carbonara (or as Nick Stellino was kind enough to inform me in the info blurb in his cookbook, coal miner’s pasta) starts the same way most pastas do: you start boiling water for pasta, and then you fry stuff.

In my case a small mountain of prosciutto, bacon's super classy cousin.

In my case a small mountain of prosciutto, bacon’s super classy Italian cousin.

Then when you’re done, you put it all together.  But carbonara has to be a little bit of a snob (because why not) and give you an extra step.

That’s the one with the whisking.

Egg, cheese, pepper, and parsley get whisked together with a quarter cup of pasta water so that you’re coating the pasta with something thick instead of something watery and sad; constant whisking is required so that you get something tasty instead of scrambled eggs.

Which are also good, but not on spaghetti.  Probably.

Which are also good, but not on spaghetti. Probably.

And that’s pasta carbonara!  Dinner in a snap (for those of us with hands with which to whisk, for which I am eternally grateful).

Pasta alla Carbonara
adapted from Nick Stellino’s Glorious Italian Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • 1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 5-6 slices Italian prosciutto, chopped (swappable with pancetta or just plain old bacon)
  • 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 egg
  • 5 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
  • olive oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Set your pasta a-cookin’.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium-high, heat a little olive oil and saute the mushrooms for about 3-4 minutes. Add the prosciutto and garlic and saute two minutes more before adding in the red pepper and about half of the parsley. Saute until fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken broth and let the mixture reduce.
  4. Strain your pasta and get ready for the crazy part.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg, parmesan, black pepper, and remaining parsley. Slowly add the water, whisking constantly, until combined.
  6. Keeping the pasta over low heat, toss with the mushrooms and prosciutto. Remove from heat and stir in the egg and cheese mixture, adding a little olive oil as necessary to keep the pasta from seizing too much.

Ready to be done with this weather yet?  What’s your favorite weather-blues-fighting food?

Weeknight Dinners: Sirloin and Mushroom-Orzo Pilaf

YUM. BEEF.

Bless this beef.

Bless this beef.

Fact about my life that I haven’t mentioned yet and will make anyone who likes meat (probably) a little jealous: my family raises pigs and cows for the purposes of having the best beef and pork ever and hoarding it in our freezers.  Result: I am a complete meat snob.

Other result: steak night in my house is everyone’s favorite night.

Tonight it’s even better, since we’re having like Real Style steakhouse steak, with the pilaf and the greens and beef that’s just going to melt and I am so excited for my beef can you tell yet?

Okay so start with a steak.  If you happen to be us, it’s a nice sirloin off of Chuck Norris; if you’re not us, I am so, so sorry.

RAW BEEF-- I may not be able to control my salivation

RAW BEEF– I may not be able to control my salivation

Liberally salt and peppah.  Set aside; it’s ready for grilling.

Next, move on to the pilaf prep.  This means lots of mushroom slicing, onion chopping, and garlic mincing.

You don’t need a picture of that, right?

Then you can work on getting things ready for your green of choice; in our case, brussels cooked up with a little bit of bacon.

Thick-cut, obviously.  Dinner tonight is a carnivore's dream.

Thick-cut, obviously. Dinner tonight is a carnivore’s dream.

With about twenty minutes to go, get your steak on the grill.  Also, you should be minding your sprouts; the leafy bits that inevitably fall off will burn quick.

Sprooouts

Sprooouts

Right about now your pilaf should be getting some broth, also.  Unless you’re us, again, and don’t have broth in the house.

Pro-tip: in a pinch, mix 1 tablespoon of soy sauce for every 1 cup of water the recipe calls for.

Pro-tip: in a pinch, mix 1 tablespoon of soy sauce for every 1 cup of water the recipe calls for.

And then you just let that bad boy cook.

In news of missing out on a lot of photo ops on the pilaf...

In news of missing out on a lot of photo ops on the pilaf…

Steakhouse dinner is served!  Enjoy with your beer of choice.  In my case, it was the (non-photographed, sorry!) last of the Hooker Brewery Nor’Easter; I’m pretty sure it’s been jinxing us on the snow front by lurking in the fridge, so I figured I’d take one for the team and take care of it.

Yum.  Tasted even better than it looked.

Yum. Tasted even better than it looked.

Mushroom and Orzo Pilaf
adapted from Spicie Foodie

Ingredients

  • 1 lb orzo pasta
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, cut into eigths
  • 3 1/2 cups beef broth

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute onions until translucent; add in your steak blood (anything that’s sitting in the bottom of the dish you’re holding it in; don’t fret if it’s not that much) and stir.
  2. Add in the mushrooms and cook until all liquid has evaporated; toss with the garlic and cook until fragrant. Push vegetables to the side and add the orzo; cook 2-3 minutes until just toasted, mixing as necessary.
  3. Add the broth and bring the pilaf up to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and let cook at medium heat until all liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Stir in grated parmesan; garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with your (obviously) beautifully cooked steak, and enjoy!

Important Question of the Day: how do you take your steak?  Mooing (aka rare and bleeding) or dead and buried (aka on the well side)?

 

Weeknight Dinners: Chicken Cacciatore

I think I’m getting lazy with weeknight dinners this past week.  They’ve all been so low-maintenance, it’s killing me a tiny, tiny bit.

Alternate explanation is that I’ve been incredibly tired and work has been a raging pile of grr, but that would be rational.  We don’t do that here.

I got home super late yesterday (between sweating all of my stress out at the gym, not being able to buy stamps again because my boss is the male equivalent of a bimbo, and talking to my old coworkers at the library (and maybe getting my old job back part time!)) it was like quarter to 4 by the time I got home.  Which obviously meant my mom was freaking out about how long dinner would take.

(By freaking, I really mean ‘inquiring insistently’.   Pardon my hyperbole, mama.)

The greens just want to assert their awesome presence, don't mind them.

The greens just want to assert their awesome presence, don’t mind them.

Dinner was really, really cooperative in that, at least: chicken cacciatore, with last week’s leftover polenta and pan-roasted broccoli rabe.  Yum.

Notice a trend with the meals-that-stick-to-your-ribs thing?  It’s something I do until I can walk comfortably outside without a coat.  Every day of winter before that is fair game for hot, hearty dinners that could feed starving families, as far as I’m concerned.

First order of business was to get my shit together.  Yeah, this stuff cooks for an hour and it’s fine, but the original recipe says ‘cook for an hour preferrably more‘.  That’s a real deadline, right there.  I only had barely over an hour.

Preparation is the key to success, or something.

Preparation is the key to success, or something.

Which included minor butchering.

Using the big girl knives!

Using the big girl knives!

The rest of it fell together pretty easy, and smelled deeeelicious.

Crispy skin, all day.

Crispy skin, all day.

Best tasting mushrooms, ever.  Arguably also the best looking, but I won't fight you as hard on that one.

Best tasting mushrooms, ever. Arguably also the best looking, but I won’t fight you as hard on that one.

And I swear to you, this sauce was the single easiest thing to assemble.  Ever.

Tomato paste in a tube is your absolute best friend.  Forever.  Forget your real friends and just get this.

Tomato paste in a tube is your absolute best friend. Forever. Forget your real friends and just get this.

..and into the oven it went.  Which gave me time to work on my sides: that nice rabe (with a little bit of leftover spinach) and crispy fried polenta.

Pre-fried.  Really weirdly Jell-o like on the bottom, too.

Pre-fried. Really weirdly Jell-o like on the bottom, too.

Once the chicken was out of the oven (an hour and fifteen, take THAT, recipe!) it was time to nom.  About damn time.

Be still, my watering taste buds..

Be still, my watering taste buds..

Mine!  Mine mine mine!

Mine! Mine mine mine!  This plate is actually mine, and I’m so proud.

My only regret: I didn’t thicken the tomato sauce after it had a chance to bake with the chicken, so it wound up a lot more brothy than I might have liked.  A quick slurry would have fixed it, but it was one of those “I am getting hangry I do not care at this point” kind of deals, since daddy and sister were punching holes in my neatly constructed dinner schedule.

As they do.

Chicken Cacciatore
adapted from Food 52

Ingredients

  • chicken breasts, skin on and halved widthwise
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 medium carrots chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cups tomatoes, chopped fresh or canned
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 teaspoon each thmye and sage

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add enough oil to sear the chicken and brown in batches, skin-side down, until all sides have been crisped. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until all sides have browned. Add the 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and cook until all liquid has evaporated. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add the chopped onions, a pinch of salt, and about another half-teaspoon of oil. Cook until soft, then add the carrots and cook briefly. Add the tomato paste, black pepper, and red pepper and saute briefly, then add the tomatoes and remaining 1 cup red wine vinegar. Mix and bring to a simmer.
  5. Toss the spices with the mushrooms and return them to the pan, then add the chicken– nestle them down into the tomato and vegetable mixture, but don’t submerge them. Cover and transfer into the oven.
  6. Let cook at least one hour or until sauce has begun to reduce. If sauce is still thin, remove chicken and whisk in a slurry of 2 tablespoons of cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water.

What’s your biggest cooking regret from the week (so far)?

Weeknight Dinners: Grilled Lemon(y) Chicken

I so, so badly wanted to make a Lemony Snicket joke, but I couldn’t think of a way to mesh the words “Snicket” and “chicken” seamlessly enough.  So many regrets.

Know what I don’t have any regrets over, though?  This chicken.  This delicious, very pro-spring chicken.

(See, that’s sort of a half pun.  I’ll take it.)

One of these days, the winning prettiest plate will actually be mine.

One of these days, the winning prettiest plate will actually be mine.

Technically, not a weeknight dinner: it was Saturday’s.  But it’s easy enough to be a weeknight dinner, so I’m cheating and using it as one.

You won’t tell the Blog Police, will you?

We decided on a grilled roaster, which I seasoned with coriander, lemon zest, and pepper.  Butter, quartered lemon slices, and fresh cilantro were all stuffed under the skin– and let me tell you, those lemon pieces were the best idea ever.

Baawk baaawk, says the tasty bird.

Baawk baaawk, says the tasty bird.

I taught my mom what “spatchcocked” means this weekend.  And then I kept saying it, because I like the word.

Spatchcocked.

Spatchcocked.

I’ll stop now.

Vegetables: how do I love thee, let me count the ways...

Vegetables: how do I love thee, let me count the ways…

Sides were standard issue; oven-roasted asparagus and lemon brown rice.

Which got suuuper lemony.  Note to Self: do not put the lemon in quite so early next time.

Crispy skin!  Lemony finish!  Nothing not to love.

Crispy skin! Lemony finish! Nothing not to love.

When the chicken came off the grill, it got a second spice with more fresh cilantro, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Perfection.

Grilled Lemon Chicken

Ingredients

  • whole roaster, backbone removed
  • 1 lemon, zested and halved
  • 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking Directions

  1. First, prepare your chicken: cut the butter into small pats and tuck under the skin. Follow with half of the chopped cilantro. Finish by tucking in quartered lemon slices (cut from one of your lemon halves). Starting with the cut-side, rub the bird with the coriander, black pepper, and lemon zest.
  2. Next, grill: cook the chicken about 20 minutes each side. Keep an eye out for flames licking at the bird.
  3. Then, put together your marinade: whisk together the juice from the second lemon half, the remaining cilantro, and a pinch of kosher salt. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil. Brush over the chicken right off the grill and let rest 2-5 minutes before serving.

What’s your preferred way to prep a bird– or do you have a cooking technique that you just love talking about?  

(Spatchcock.  Really, I’ll stop.)

Weeknight Dinners: Arroz con Pollo

I am not a Wednesday person.  I used to love Wednesdays; Wednesdays meant the week was halfway over, Friday was on the horizon, and the weekend was looming right after that.

Now, Wednesdays mean I have to work late, which means cooking is always a tight squeeze.  Grump grump.

Tonight was made particularly sticky by the fact that my sister’s shifts got screwed up (boo), and my dad was working late (double boo)– but that all added up to something that was wonderful, against all odds.

I’ll be frank: I got extra time to cook.  Which means I could make that most beautifully time-consuming delicious pot of Spanish goodness that is arroz con pollo.

arroz con pollo

This is one of my family’s (and mine!) favorite recipes, snatched shamelessly from an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (because Chris Kimball knows what’s up).  It’s rich, it’s loaded with vegetables, and it’s an excellent go-to one-pot dinner– except for the fact that it takes a lot of time and in my experience an acute awareness of said time, it’s pretty much perfect in every way.

Did I also mention it’s delicious?  Because it is.  We fight over the leftovers.

First, the chicken gets marinaded in vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano.

arroz con pollo: marinade

Next, prep everything else.  This is vital for making arroz con pollo when you’re on a wacky schedule; make sure everything is ready so you’re not running around trying to chop pimientos while your rice is burning away in the oven.

YUM

YUM

Here’s where I got to wait and do work-things.  5-5:30, best half hour of my lifeee–

–okay back to cooking.  Chicken gets seared, and the vegetables sautéed.

IMG_0056IMG_0062

Add liquid and simmer; add rice, and hit the toasty oven.

I love that container now, but it used to scare the pants off me.

I love that container now, but it used to scare the pants off me.

IMG_0084

Once that cooks forever, you get to do my favorite part– pulling apart the chicken!

Forks are your friend.

Forks are your friend.

Toss the chicken with pimientos and more cilantro than your body has room for, and you’re all set to eat your heart out.

IMG_0100No recipe tonight because tired pup is tired.  It might make its way up here if I feel motivated tomorrow, but just google around a little bit for the ATK arroz con pollo recipe.  I added celery tonight and did things a little out of order; the results were awesome, but the base recipe is just as delicious as is.

/shrug

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