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Yassa Poulet (Senegalese Grilled Chicken)

5 Aug


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Yassa Poulet (sometimes called Chicken Yassa) is a West African dish originally from Senegal, characterized by its spicy marinade of peppers, lemon, and onions. I was initially drawn to this dish because the marinade uses a crazy amount of onions, and they’re not wasted; instead, they are recombined with the chicken during cooking.

Many traditional recipes call for the chicken to be browned in a skillet and then braised with the marinade until tender. That sounds good, but our nice summer weather always compels me to grill, which left me with a conundrum; how do I reincorporate the onions into this dish after grilling? The answer turned out to be simple – caramelize the onions while the chicken is on the grill. Combining the sweet, delicate flavor of the caramelized onions and the bright, crispy grilled chicken was a pretty awesome move.

I’ve also found that this makes a perfect weeknight dinner – throw together the marinade before work (or the night before), then finish the dish in less than an hour when you get home. Since both the chicken and onions are relatively hands-off, it gives you plenty of time to prepare other accompaniments along the way. Sure, it’s a bit more work than something like my Simple Grilled Chicken Drumsticks recipe, but it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor.

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Chicken Kiev

24 Jun


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Chicken Kiev is a Ukrainian dish, possibly influenced by the French roulade (I’m a big fan of roulades – check out my German Rouladen recipe). This dish is characterized by rolling herbed butter into chicken cutlets. To me, this is an ideal meal; chicken breasts tend to be bland without some added fat or spices, and Chicken Kiev has both in spades. To make the butter easier to roll, my recipe calls for freezing the butter for 30 minutes before rolling – it makes a huge difference.

As a Russian linguist and teacher in my day job, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the spelling of the word “Kiev” in my recipe. The Ukrainian government officially changed the romanized spelling of their capital city’s name to Kyiv in 1995, mostly due to the fact that Kiev is the Russian pronunciation of the word. But in truth, Kiev is the original, Old East Slavic pronunciation of the city (technically it’d be spelled Kyev today). I think it’ll be interesting to see how the world spells and pronounces the word for this important city in the future – especially given the amount of attention this corner of the world has received recently. Personally, I like Kiev, but not as a slight to the Ukrainian people or government; I’m just a fan of Old East Slavic.

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Easy Roasted Chicken (Recipe from The Ancestral Table)

3 Jun


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

It’s hard to believe, but my cookbook, The Ancestral Table, has been out for nearly four months. I keep finding myself surprised whenever someone tells me they have and enjoy my book; for some reason I keep assuming that only our little family regularly uses it as a reference. So I thought it would be fun to take a week off from my regular recipes and share one from The Ancestral Table, as a gentle reminder to myself that there are other people out there who could use these recipes.

Deciding on a dish to share was really easy; we make this roasted chicken recipe at least once every two weeks. Simply put, it’s one of the easiest chicken recipes you’ll find, and it’s deliciously crispy and juicy. Cooking the bird directly in a skillet also makes it a cinch to whip the drippings into a flavorful gravy. Finally, we like to throw the bones and carcass into our electric pressure cooker for a couple hours to make some tasty and calcium-rich broth.

I’m also giving away a copy of my book this week, signed by me and Paul Jaminet (who wrote the foreword of my book). There are only a few copies like this one, so be sure to enter to win (instructions at the bottom of this post).

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Sweet and Sour Chicken (Paleo, Gluten Free)

24 Apr


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Let’s talk about Sweet and Sour Chicken for a second. It is probably not surprising to read that while this dish is served in Chinese restaurants in many Western countries, it doesn’t really exist in China. There are several sauces in China that incorporate both sweet and sour tastes, the most common being from the Hunan province, but they’re still a far cry from what you can get at your local Chinese-American restaurant. The reality is that this dish is now nearly more of an American dish than Chinese. On the flip side, the Chinese have their own interpretation of Western tastes – like flying fish roe and salmon cream cheese stuffed crust pizza (Hong Kong Pizza Hut).

But at the end of the day, it’s still a unique and comforting meal, and I thought it would be fun to try and replicate it using Paleo-friendly ingredients. My first order of business was figuring out how to make the sauce without resorting to ketchup as a base; instead, I used a combination of chicken stock, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, tamari, honey, and spices. For the chicken, I used my new breading technique highlighted in Tuesday’s chicken nugget recipe. Lastly, I found that gently simmering the sauce while I cooked the chicken helped the sauce ingredients to perfectly marry, resulting in a balanced, delicious flavor.

For this recipe in particular, I teamed up with the folks at Vitacost; they offered to have me experiment with their online store and see what I could come up with. I had been thinking of trying out this Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe for a while now so it seemed like a good fit. I was surprised at how easy and cost-effective it was to use their shop; many of the items in their store were comparable or even cheaper than what I can find locally. Not only that, they had many of the brands we already buy. It was a lot of fun to conceive an entire meal using only their store items (minus the produce and meat). I think Vitacost would be a great resource for three types of people: (1) those who don’t live near a gourmet or international market, (2) those who have a high cost of living (big cities, for example), and (3) those who don’t have time to rummage through the aisles of several stores to find the right ingredients.

Okay, let’s get cooking.

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Building a Better Chicken Nugget (Gluten Free, Paleo Recipe)

22 Apr


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

I have always been proud of my Paleo “Chick-fil-A” nugget recipe from a couple years back, and it has definitely been a hit with readers. If fact, I’m sure a few of you stumbled upon my little blog because of them. But to be honest, I’ve never been satisfied with the texture of the nuggets themselves; while they are very similar to the thin coating that you’ll find at Chick-fil-A, I personally prefer a spongier breading around my chicken nuggets. So while experimenting with breading techniques for a different recipe (I’ll post the results of that one on Thursday), I happened upon my eureka moment – something I like to call “reverse battering.”

You see, I’ve always been taught to bread meats using a liquid-then-flour (or flour-liquid-flour/breading) method. Sounds logical, right? It’d be just crazy to not put flour or breading on nuggets before frying them. But after some YouTube surfing for Chinese recipes, I noticed that sometimes people would bread their food with starch and then egg before throwing it in the oil. Turns out it’s a genius idea for getting a light, crunchy, and satisfying texture for nuggets without having to deal with that whole pesky “wheat flour” or “breadcrumbs” stuff. The trick is in not heating the oil too hot, so as to keep the egg from burning; medium heat works perfectly.

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Thai Green Chicken Curry

21 Jan


I’m a big fan of Thai curries, and Green Curry is one of my favorites. It’s been a couple years since I tackled my last Thai curry (Panang Curry), so I thought it was time to share another recipe. Like in my Panang Curry recipe, this recipe is a template for you to adjust as you see fit; directions on how to change the protein or add vegetables are provided below the recipe.

The Thai word for Green Curry (แกงเขียวหวาน) actually translates to “Sweet Green Curry”, but that doesn’t imply that this dish is sweet. Instead, “sweet green” means “light green” in Thai.

While the idea of making curry from scratch may be initially daunting, nothing could be further from the truth. My curry paste has quite a few ingredients, but all you do is basically throw them all together and purée; the paste will keep for a month in the fridge and there’s enough paste to make three curries. Making the actual curry is even easier – it’s a 20-minute meal, if not less.

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Salt and Pepper Fried Duck Tongues

24 Dec


WAIT!! Don’t turn away just yet. If the idea of duck tongues is too much for you, know that you can make this exact recipe with shrimp instead and it’s equally tasty; in fact, this recipe is based on Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒盐虾), a common Chinese dish that’s one of our favorites. I’ll probably do up the shrimp version of the recipe in the future.

Okay, now that I’ve coaxed you into staying, let’s talk about duck tongues. They’re very different from what you may be expecting from tongue – usually considered dense, muscled, and tough – and are instead tender and succulent. They carry an inherent richness which reminds me of escargot. They have a tender bone in the center of the tongue, that’s mostly cartilage; many people come to relish the slight crunch of eating the whole tongue, bone and all. They’re also very affordable considering their status as a delicacy: US Wellness Meats offers a pack of 50-60 tongues (which I used in making this recipe) for well under $10.

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Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

17 Dec


To tell the truth, it’s not often that I get a hankering for a meal-sized salad. There’s a lot of chewing involved. But if I am going to sit down and enjoy a full salad, I prefer to eat something made with a wide variety of hearty ingredients. In that regard, Cobb Salad takes the cake: it’s basically lettuce and a bunch of solid, pleasurable mix-ins. No dainty ingredients like sprouts, no sir! Okay, sometimes Cobb recipes call for chives, but you get my point.

Both the salad and dressing used in today’s recipe come from California in the early 20th century. Bob Cobb, owner of the Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood during the 1930s, whipped up a quick salad for a friend with a toothache using leftovers found in his kitchen. He cut the ingredients up into small pieces so as not to exacerbate his friend’s condition. (Personally, I would have whipped up a pureed soup if my friend had a toothache.) Other stories contend that there was no toothache involved. Either way, the salad was such a hit that Cobb added it to his menu, and it took off from there. Green Goddess Dressing was made by a San Francisco chef in the 1920s, after a popular stage play of the same name. While the salad and dressing don’t traditionally go together (Cobb salad is usually served with red wine vinaigrette), I really like the pairing of the two. Plus, they each call for 1/2 an avocado, so in that sense, they fit together perfectly.

Special thanks to my friends at Pacific Merchants who donated the hand-carved acacia wood salad bowl for the picture you see above. Their 12″ bowl is both beautiful and sturdy; it’s a perfect size for a whopping salad like this one.

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Perfect Smoked Turkey

1 Oct


I know what you’re thinking. “But Russ, it just turned October, and you’re already posting about Thanksgiving turkey!” While that’s true, there’s a simple explanation: if you want to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with a wholesome, happy, and pastured turkey, you’re going to need to contact a local farmer and pre-order it soon. As in, right away. So this recipe serves as both a reminder to pre-order a turkey soon, and a guide on what to do with the bird when you get it. I’ve been smoking chickens and turkeys for a while, but I’ve been lousy at sharing my results. So this is my defnitive guide on how to get a great smoked turkey, using either a gas of charcoal grill. I love smoking turkeys because the flavor is awesome, but also because it frees up valuable oven space on what tends to be a hectic day.

Speaking of pre-ordering, we’re getting ours from Tendergrass Farms this year, which is located in our neighboring state of Virginia. Even better, they’re offering $10 off their 12-15 lb turkeys for my readers this week, using code “GOBBLEMEUP123″ at checkout. The code is only good until October 8th, 2013, or for the first 25 customers; so grab them while they last! If you order two turkeys, shipping (regularly $19) is free. Here is some great info from Founding Farmer and General Manager David Maren about their beyond organic, air-chilled turkeys. Update: They’re sold out.

The common turkey we eat today is a domesticated descendant of the wild turkeys originally found in North America. When Europeans first saw turkeys, they incorrectly thought they were a form of guineafowl, which was sometimes called “turkey fowl” because back in the day they were imported into Europe through Turkey. The name “turkey” stuck with this bird afterwards. Interestingly, many European countries (including France, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, and Russia) call the bird a derivative of “India” or “Indies” because of a similar confusion with guineafowl (which was also imported from India), or possibly because the New World was often thought to be part of Asia during the European Renaissance.

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P.F. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

3 Jun


Last September we met up with our friends Matt and Stacy, the Paleo Parents, for dinner at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, a popular Asian-themed chain restuarant here in the U.S. that sports a gluten-free menu. It was our first time visiting the restaurant, and Stacy strongly recommended (demanded?) that I try to re-create their famous Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Never one to turn a challenge down, I accepted, and then promptly forgot all about it.

But lucky for you, Stacy didn’t forget the promise I made that fateful day. In fact, she did one better, and corralled a bunch of Paleo-friendly bloggers together this week to re-create some favorite dishes from the restaurant chain. Here is a link to the round-up.

For my version I made a few minor adjustments. I used honey instead of what I assume is gobs of sugar (we taste-tested the original dish again last week and I was surprised by how sweet it was), and made fried noodle sticks using sweet potato noodles instead of rice or mung bean noodles, which I assume is what they use in the original recipe.

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