cooking

Memorial Day is right around the corner. It’s often considered the first grilling weekend of the season across the United States, although it might feel a bit different this year without friends coming over. Either way, this recipe is tasty enough that it will hopefully compensate for the lack of Memorial Day parties we’ll all be attending in 2020.

While Tandoori Chicken recipes are found in my first two books, this beloved dish is making its blog debut today. It gets its name from the traditional clay oven found in South Asia, known as a tandoor in Hindi/Urdu. This dish as we know it today was likely developed in the 19th century, but evidence of similar grilled poultry dishes can be traced back to the Harappan Civilization, which existed in the Indus River Valley over 5,000 years ago. Given that most of these spices are native to the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia, it’s no stretch to believe that these flavors have existed for thousands of years.

For this recipe, we’re going to go as economical as possible – we’ll break down a whole chicken and grill its individual parts. If that doesn’t seem to be up your alley, no worries, you can use any combination of chicken parts on their own (more details below the recipe). Bear in mind that bone-in chicken imparts the most flavor, and you’ll want to remove the skin so that you can get as much flavor into the meat as possible.

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Like many others, I’ve found myself with a lot of time on my hands for the past month or so. Initially, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to catch up (and get ahead) on the many blog/social media items I’ve had on pause for the past few years, a remnant of when I was finishing up The Heritage Cookbook. That didn’t turn out to be the case.

Social distancing, or as I have grown to call it, physical distancing, has been relatively drama-free for our household, but our daily habits have evolved. We are taking the concept seriously, because I am on immunosuppressant medication, as well as the fact that we live with my in-laws, who are of a high-risk age (or kupuna, as they say here in Hawaii). My wife makes a weekly grocery trip to replenish our pantry and fridge, and we dedicate two dinners each week to ordering takeout to boost the local economy. I have adjusted to a work-from-home environment, and the military has relaxed its grooming standards; I’m getting used to long hair. I developed a homeschooling curriculum for our fifth-grade son, to supplement the schoolwork his teachers are giving him, and we’re teaching our youngest to read.

Admittedly, even with six people in the house, it’s easy to feel a sense of isolation from time to time. I never thought I’d be so happy to take a call from work, just to speak to someone new and satisfy my inherent human desire for a sense of belonging. My mother-in-law has been hardest hit from this isolation, as she has built a very strong circle of friends in our local area, whom she now cannot visit.

But as I’ve been looking through our pantry to devise our weekly meals, I’ve been making a habit of cooking with all of those back-of-the-shelf ingredients that have stacked up over the years. We had quite a collection of flours from my recipe testing during The Heritage Cookbook: multiple variations of einkorn, rye, and whole wheat. Rather than let them endure further neglect, I decided to start experimenting with these flours to perfect the beginner’s sourdough recipe I wrote for the book. So like a lot of other folks, I eventually fell into a rhythm of daily breadmaking — making way more than we could ever conceivable eat. Once the results were shareable, we started giving them out to extended family and my in-laws’ friends around our neighborhood, via mailbox delivery. Now, our neighbors have a reason to call my mother-in-law to chat, and it’s been easing her stay-at-home experience.

And yeah, this recipe isn’t “Paleo”, or gluten-free for that matter. It’s not an ideal food staple, nor is it high in nutrients. But it is fermented, so maybe it’s better for you than yeast-leavened bread. I eat a slice every few days, mostly to test its flavor but also to just enjoy my work. Rather than focus on what it isn’t, I’d rather look at what this Community Sourdough Bread has become in our household: a tool to share a little love to those around us, at a time when we’re all re-writing the rules.

I hope you and your loved ones are doing well, and staying safe and healthy. More soon.

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You probably don’t have any reindeer sitting around at your house (unless you do – hello, Canadians and Scandinavians, thanks for visiting my site!). Luckily, this simple recipe can also be used with venison if you or a loved one had an eventful hunting trip this year, or even with bison or beef steaks if you didn’t have a good hunting trip.

This dish hails from Finland, but is enjoyed in Sweden, Norway and Russia as well. What I like about this recipe is that it makes no assumptions – the key to this delicious meal is slicing it thinly, seasoning it sparingly, and nudging it gently towards tenderness with a combination of light braising and some crisping at the end. The whole process takes about two hours from start to finish, but it’s totally worth it.

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Yesterday was my 40th birthday. I’ve spent many years thinking about this specific trip around the sun, and this milestone is important to me for several reasons. But perhaps most meaningfully, I clearly remember when my parents reached 40, and I felt that it was a significant time for each of them: a time to reflect on that transition from young-ish adult to middle age. It feels like by 40, most of your life’s decisions have lined up in a way that is relatively hard to break away from. And in that sense, I’m proud of the direction my life has taken, and those who have shared this journey with me.

So to celebrate, I’m sharing one of my most celebratory recipes. This is the recipe I usually take to potlucks, parties, and other gatherings. I shared a down-and-dirty version of this dish about five years ago (which you can find here, along with some history of the dish). I’ve made some fundamental changes over the years, and I’m positive that this is the definitive version. To give you some context: for Christmas this past year, I vaccuum-sealed, froze, and gifted this dish to my close friends and co-workers. If I was to ever open a restaurant, this dish would not only be on the menu, but it’d have an asterix by its title to indicate that it’s something special, something worth pausing and enjoying.

The dish requires a good amount of preparation up front: the day before you make it, you’ll want to make your stock, prep the meats, and chop the vegetables. That way, you can whip up the rest in the morning with minimal effort. Don’t let the planning intimidate you–it’s worth the effort.

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The signature flavor of Aji de Gallina (“hen chili”) comes from aji amarillo peppers (Capsicum baccatum), which are prevalent in Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine. Fiercely spicy and naturally yellow, this pepper is eaten fresh (or in paste form) in Peru, like in today’s recipe, but they are often dried in Bolivia. Aji amarillo pastes can be found online or in your local Latin grocery, but can also be (somewhat) replicated using more conventional ingredients (more on that in the notes below).

This dish uses a unique mixture of New World and Old World ingredients. The aji amarillo paste and potatoes are native to the Americas, while the others — chicken, walnuts (to thicken the sauce), olives, milk, and parmesan cheese are all Old World staples introduced after the 15th century.

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Does butter really make everything better? I think so. Julia Child also once said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” This week’s recipe proves her right.

Often, I will buy a small head of cabbage at the grocery store, with no concrete plans for it. They’re just so dang cheap, and they keep in the vegetable bin for a long time. Typically I will just sauté the cabbage in some butter, seasoned plainly with salt and pepper (a splash of apple cider vinegar also adds a bit of depth). But when I’m feeling very fancy, I’ll throw in some complementary flavors, like in this recipe, which includes radish and woodsy mushrooms. The trick is to pull the cabbage from the heat right as it starts to soften, or maybe a bit before — it’s always better to be undercooked than overcooked.

Other uses for cabbage:
Fårikål (Norwegian Lamb and Cabbage Stew)
Roasted Cabbage Steaks
Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad
Lazy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Pressure-Cooked Corned Beef and Cabbage

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When most people think of cured pork, they think of the two champions of the cured-pork world: bacon and ham. But the Cajun dish Tasso (sometimes referred to as Tasso Ham) beats these two famous counterparts in another way — you can’t beat its affordability and ease. Because Tasso is made with shoulder or loin, it’s much cheaper to prepare than bacon (pork belly) or ham (pork leg), because the former is much more expensive, and the latter is hard to find in its unprocessed state.

This is a two-step process: first, you cure the pork to remove its moisture and to impart its characteristic pink hue. Next, you smoke it at a low heat (under 180F if possible). The process is a little involved, but the end product is super versatile; I use it in my gumbo, jambalaya, or any dish that calls for bacon or salt pork.

You’ll want to cut the shoulder into smaller pieces — my rule of thumb is that each piece should be the size of a baseball. This gives you more surface area to work with, so that you can imbue it with all of that cajuny goodness.

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To me, cold-smoked salmon (that is, the salmon you often find thinly sliced at your local market) is a relatively recent phenomenon. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and firm, meaty, hot-smoked salmon was the only type of smoked fish I had ever experienced until moving away about 20 years ago. Hot-smoked salmon is typically cooked through, and has a flaky texture compared to the soft cold-smoked salmon that most people know.

Traditionally, the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest would smoke their salmon for an extended period, up to two weeks. This staple food would keep indefinitely at room temperature, and had a texture like jerky. You can still find this salmon around, but thanks to refrigeration, many smokehouses in the PNW have adopted a hot smoke method to save time and create a more delicate (albeit perishable) product. My Dad often makes smoked salmon in his little chimney smoker, modeled after this more modern method, and he also sends it to me most years as a Christmas gift. Today I’m sharing a recipe that is similar to his.

There are a few tricks associated with my recipe. First, we’re going to coat the salmon in a dry, sweet-and-salty cure, which will liquefy as the fish marinates for a couple of hours. We’ll then use the liquefied cure to brush onto the salmon as it finishes smoking. This allows us to cure and glaze the salmon with the same concoction, minimizing waste. Additionally, we’ll dry out the salmon before putting it in the smoker, which will form a pellicle (protein coating) that allows more smoke to stick to the fish, resulting in better flavor.

One note: lox and gravlax are often confused with cold-smoked salmon, but they are cured in salt, sugar, and dill, with no smoke added.

For this recipe, I used salmon from my friends at ButcherBox. Their sockeye salmon (a recent addition to their staple offerings of high quality beef, chicken and pork) is wild-caught and sustainable–you can read more about it here. As a bonus, this week they are offering a sweet “Wings for Life” deal with any new signup (which means you’ll get 3 lbs of chicken wings in every box for free, for the lifetime of your subscription). We took advantage of this offer a few years ago and every time the wings arrive in our box I feel like I’m winning the lottery. Check out the promotion here to sign up, but don’t delay, as the offer expires on 2/3/2020 (or while supplies last).

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This dish is from Liguria, the coastal region in northwest Italy. This area is known for its abundant pine nuts, which make an appearance in this dish (fun fact: pesto, which relies heavily on pine nuts, is also from this region). Liguria also borders with the eastern side of France, and this dish shares French culinary staple — namely slow-braised meat in a wine sauce.

Cooking with rabbit can be intimidating to Westerners, but it’s actually quite simple. Just think of it like an oddly-shaped chicken, that’s made with all white meat. The hardest part is finding a whole rabbit, which you can often find at specialty butchers or Asian markets. They’re also available online, and my friends at US Wellness Meats regularly carry whole rabbits — just throw it in your box the next time you get an order of their incredible 75% lean grass-fed ground beef.

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Everybody loves Pupusas. These corn cakes can be found in most cities across the US today, at locations known as Pupuserías. They’re one of the best street foods around, warming the belly with its signature combination of hearty corn/beans/cheese, tangy Curtido slaw, and spicy tomato salsa.

The story of this dish is surprisingly complex. Pupusas were first developed in El Salvador or Honduras as far back as 2,000 years ago, and traditionally stuffed with squash blossoms or herbs. The introduction of Old World foods (mainly beef, chicken, and dairy) resulted in more elaborate preparations of this humble dish. By the mid 20th century, pupusas had spread throughout El Salvador and neighboring Honduras and Guatemala. When civil war in the 1980s displaced huge portions of the population, many Salvadorans relocated to the US, and pupusas followed.

The type of corn flour used to make this dish is masa harina — ground nixtamalized corn. This is the same process that creates hominy, and masa harina can be used to make tamales, tortillas, and gorditas. Bear in mind that this is not the same as cornmeal, which is ground dried maize (i.e. hasn’t undergone the nixtamalization process) — cornmeal is what you would use to make cornbread or fried fish. Finally, masa harina is often confused with masarepa, which is the pre-cooked cornmeal that is used in making Arepas.

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