7.31.2015

Honey Mustard Chicken Wings and Legs, Of Parts and Self

Wednesday night I got home from a therapy session around 9:45 PM and got to work making this recipe.  Seeing a therapist has been helpful for many reasons, one of which includes attempting to corral the neuroses that compel a person to start a chicken project at an ungodly hour in a ninety-degree heat wave.

Last week the same scenario played out, but the task was a sour cherry pie.  I believe in the power of pie.  Yet, as I age, I also believe in the power of sleep. And—rationally speaking—staying up until 1 AM is just not worth it. 

I also view pie making to be like childbirth.  There is a lot of swearing and sweating involved, sometimes tears. The whole time all you can think about is how you are never making one of these ever again (pie or kid, take your pick).  But then you are done and the thing is beautiful and you develop instant amnesia about the whole goddamned process.  The pastry holds a special place in the crevices of my generalized anxiety-driven parts and given the choice today I would probably do it again.

All that aside, I have no business basting anything after 10 PM, let alone poultry.  That should be a rule.  Though I am pretty sure therapy is against ‘rules,’ and also should-ing, so I might suggest if you try this recipe, attempt it at an hour you deem reasonable. Perhaps a time that might even allow for seven whole hours of sleep.

The problem the other night was I knew how good the chicken is.  Because I am a professional at extreme future thinking, I also knew I was not going to have time to make it for another two days.  Which made me catastrophize Pseudomonas spoilage. And also ruminate about what I was going to have to substitute for lunch the following day.

So there I was keeping chicken thighs company instead of sleeping.

The thing is, the recipe is worth it.  It takes on a nice pleasing char in small spots and walks a tightrope between sweet and tangy.  The bone-in pieces make for a much more forgiving process than cooking breasts. Plus, at the end of the day, I find baking and basting chicken in this manner to be a near therapeutic endeavor. 

It also really only takes about ten minutes of active time.  The rest is spent in the oven.  Plan for an hour, give or take, overall.  While it will not solve all your problems, it should may help solve what’s for dinner.

Honey Mustard Chicken Wings and Legs
Inspired by Food52

Ingredients:

2 whole wings (wing mid-section tips and drummettes connected)
2 drumsticks
2 thighs
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup dijon mustard
1½ tsp chili garlic sauce
½ to 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ to 1 tbsp ponzu sauce
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Set the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the chicken parts with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and top with a wire metal cooling rack. Set the chicken on the metal rack skin side up and place in the oven once it reaches temperature.

While the chicken is cooking, combine the honey, mustard, chili sauce, Worcestershire, ponzu, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Set aside 1/3 of the mixture in another small bowl to baste when the chicken is almost finished cooking.

After the chicken has been cooking for about 20 to 25 minutes, remove it from the oven and brush on 2/3 of the honey mustard, covering both sides liberally.  Place back in the oven and cook another 20 to 25 minutes and then brush with the remaining mixture.  Cook for about 10 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Makes 6 pieces

Notes:
-If you cannot find whole chicken wings substitute two mid-section wings and two drummettes, or just four wings of your choice.


-The chili garlic sauce and ponzu should be available in the Asian section of many grocery stores.

6.30.2015

Listen to Your Pancakes.

Last Tuesday I finished my career as a part-time graduate student.  I sat around my professor’s dining room table for six with nine other people in sticky, humid air and listened to ethnobotanical presentations and ate wild green pie, filled with lamb’s-quarters and wood sorrel from the lawn outback.

At one point someone’s homemade kombucha exploded and my professor used white linen napkins that were once Julia Child’s to clean up the fermented tea.  Then we ate peanut cake with salted chocolate icing made using a family heirloom recipe born from life on a Mississippi legume farm.  I talked about the cultural thorniness of the black raspberry and of Dr. Oz and scientific hubris.

It was a very odd, very appropriate, ending to the past five years.  A time that has deeply tested the limits of my sanity, has limited my social capacities and back account, and has forever broadened my view of food and society.

I am grateful to have this perspective and am looking forward to reacquainting with my kitchen.  Most recently this has included pancakes.  The past few years have left me perpetually searching for recipes that incorporate spent sourdough starter and also for pancakes that puff up like the kind served by someone who calls everyone honey. 

My Life in Sourdough has that version.  The ingredient list is admittedly a bit limiting, as it requires you know someone who regularly maintains a starter.  My brother has killed at least three.  And I’m hoping these pancakes might motivate him to put an end to his microbial massacres once and for all.

If you regularly feed a starter, you are in luck.  This will aid in creating thick, fluffy saucer-sized shapes that take to maple syrup far better than any other breakfast food.  (Even better than the waffles of insane greatness.) I have made the recipe at least three times in the past month.  That alone should come through loud and clear.

Because if I have learned anything over the past five years, it’s that it is sometimes better to let the food do the talking.  As Mel Brooks once joked, listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.  Something tells me that pancakes can speak even louder.

Sourdough Blueberry Brown Butter Pancakes
Adapted from My Life in Sourdough

Ingredients:

½ to ¾ cup sourdough starter (not fed)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter
1 scant cup frozen or fresh blueberries
zest of one lemon (optional)

Instructions:

The night before

In a large bowl, mix the starter, flours, milk, and sugar until well combined; cover and place in the fridge overnight (ideally 10 to 20 hours ahead, see note below).

The day of

In a medium or large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat; continue to cook until it turns a light caramel and starts to smell nutty; set aside to cool slightly.  To the starter mixture, add the egg, salt, baking soda, and vanilla extract.  Slowly add in the melted butter and then fold in the blueberries and lemon zest (if using).

Wipe out the sauté pan to remove any dark bits and butter the pan again; set the heat to medium.  Scoop about 1/3 cup heaping batter into the pan and then cook until it starts to bubble and turn golden on the underside.  Flip and cook about 1 minute more or until cooked throughout.  Repeat with remaining batter, buttering the pan after every pancake.

Makes about six to eight 4 to 5-inch diameter pancakes

Notes:
-The whole wheat adds a nice nuttiness and I’d definitely encourage it.  The milk can be swapped depending on your preference.


-If the starter mixture rests in the fridge about 10 hours, it benefits from being left on the countertop an hour or two to let the microbes warm up; this helps the pancakes rise better.  The longer it is left in the fridge the less time it needs on the countertop.  (But this is a living product and may need some individual tweaking.)

5.17.2015

A Dietitian's Confession and Vanilla Bean Yogurt and Orange Blossom Mango Pops

There is nothing more awkward than explaining to someone you are counseling on weight loss strategies that you make homemade ice cream. I think as a dietitian people assume you subsist on field greens and skinless chicken.  And when hunger hits, you simply pull out your bag of celery sticks and twiggy carrots and quickly reach snack nirvana.

I am not sure who first promoted this tactic as a method of weight loss.  But I propose this person has ruined lives. And I hope he finds himself in some weird purgatory where there is nothing but an endless buffet of celery stalks and baby carrots—the ones that have gone through a nice chlorine rinse—and fat-free French dressing.  Because fat-free French dressing is about as joyless a substance as one can encounter.

Anyway, it seems the perception is dietitians are incapable of experiencing any real pleasure other than that which is brought from baked chicken and infinity celery.  It is one of the reasons why my office computer screensaver is a picture of homemade ice cream. 

To get technical, it is actually frozen yogurt.  But it contains full fat dairy and heavy cream, two items society implies dietitians—and perhaps women more broadly—are not supposed to look at, let alone ingest. 

Unless, of course, we are status post breakup.  Or premenstrual. Or are depicted in advertisement wearing silk and red lipstick, consuming a 100-calorie version to stay sexily deprived.

So even though the picture occasionally gets me into trouble with a few evangelical lactose haters and black-and-white thinking dieters, I keep it up.  For one, it is a humanizer.  I am a real person.  I have needs.  Sometimes those needs include high fat dairy. 

But it is also a symbol of the importance of savoring.  We have become pretty terrible at allowing food enjoyment.  Instead we have guilt, substitutions, and green coffee bean extract to counteract our sins.

I also believe that if you have the opportunity to make ice cream, you gain appreciation of the time it takes to create.  And this might also help slow down consumption so that the whole pint is not sacrificed in a single sitting.  Maybe.

I realize in saying all of this that I come here today with a yogurt pop recipe.  I assure if it is ice cream you desire, there are plenty of catalogued recipes.  In fact, this black raspberry one and this chocolate truffle version, courtesy of the famed chef Fergus Henderson, are two all-time favorites. 

Either way, the concept is the same.  The inclusion of fat is a must.  As is the use of ingredients you can pronounce. 

The difference is really a matter of investment.  I am six weeks away from getting my master’s degree.  I would also wager that you are likely pretty busy and may not have the time (or desire) to make ice cream.  So although the yogurt needs to drain overnight, the actual prep requires all of ten minutes.  And dirties fewer dishes. 

So please accept this very solid substitute for busy souls. 

The popsicles are tangy, and floral, and tart.  I prefer grassiness of sheep’s milk yogurt, but any regular whole milk yogurt will do.  The coconut and mango lend a subtle tropical vibe. And the stripes of bright orange running through white vanilla bean-flecked sections are not the worst thing to look at, visually speaking.

The point is there are numerous ways to enjoy frozen dessert without sacrificing your sense of self.  That and maybe … just maybe … there is more to life than celery.

Vanilla Bean Yogurt and Orange Blossom Mango Pops

Ingredients:

1¾ cup whole milk yogurt (see note)
scant ½ cup coconut milk cream (see note)
1 vanilla bean
2 to 3 tbsp honey
1 Ataulfo mango or small regular mango (see note), skin removed and chopped
juice of ½ large or 1 small lime
½ tsp orange blossom water
pinch salt

Instructions:

The night before, place the yogurt in a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or heavy-duty paper towel. Set over a bowl so the liquid can drain out; refrigerate overnight.

The next day, discard the drained liquid.  In a medium bowl, combine the thickened yogurt and coconut cream. Split the vanilla bean with a knife and scrape the seeds into the yogurt.  Add the honey to taste.

In a food processor, add the mango, lime juice, orange blossom water, and salt. Whirl until pureed.

In the base of each popsicle mold, layer about one-third of the yogurt mixture and then alternate with the mango and yogurt until the molds are filled, ending with yogurt (you will have enough for 2 to 3 layers of each pending preference). Insert popsicle stick or handle.  Freeze until solid (at least 4 hours).

Makes 6

Notes:
-I prefer sheep’s milk yogurt, but no matter the animal I recommend full-fat.  The yogurt should drain to about a 1 cup portion.

-Coconut milk cream is the separated substance found at the top of a can of unshaken coconut milk.  I added it to increase the fat and reduce the water content so the popsicles are not as icy.


-Ataulfo mango is honey-flavored and easy to puree, which makes it a no-brainer for this recipe.  I suspect other versions could be employed in a pinch.