Paella is one of my favorite dishes to prepare at home – like fried rice or risotto, it’s an excellent way to clean out the vegetable bin. Moreover, it’s one of my favorite examples how the judicious use of white rice can in fact be very health-promoting; while rice gets a bum rap for being fairly devoid of nutrients, I think it’s just fine in the context of the broth, seafood, and vegetables used in this recipe.

This dish was a standout recipe in my first cookbook, The Ancestral Table, and here’s what I wrote about it:

Paella is a dish from Valencia, along Spain’s eastern coast. Rice was a product of Moorish influence and was a staple in Spain by the 15th century. Paella developed over the years as people began to add combinations of meats and vegetables. While water vole was one of the first meats used in paella, today’s Valencian paella includes rabbit, chicken, snails, and beans; seafood paella is equally popular and is considered a traditional dish along the Valencian coast.

Using an appropriate type of rice is important, as many varieties were specially bred to absorb liquid without losing texture. Calasparra and bomba rices are preferred and are available from gourmet food suppliers and online. Arborio, a common risotto rice, fares pretty well. In a pinch, plain calrose rice will get the job done. Paella is best made over an open flame and is traditionally prepared outdoors.

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It’s been a while since I shared a recipe from one of my cookbooks, and now seems like a perfect time to share one of my favorites from Paleo Takeout: Gyudon! It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m super busy with work stuff right now, promise.

Gyudon, a donburi (rice bowl) dish, first became popular in the 1800s as Japan westernized and started eating more beef. Today, this dish is associated with quick meals. Nearly every Gyudon shop in Japan serves this dish with complimentary Miso Soup.

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September is here, Labor Day has come and passed; it’s time to get autumnal.

Ratatouille is a Provençal vegetable stew, first originating in the city of Nice (near the Southeast tip of France). Its base ingredients, namely tomatoes and eggplant, are indicative of its Mediterranean influence; there are similar dishes in other countries that border the Mediterranean, like Pisto (Spain), Camponata (Sicily), and Briám (Greece).

But who am I fooling – you are probably already aware of this dish. If you’re like me, you were pretty inspired by the 2007 film; to me, it captured the beauty of cooking in a way that few films have. Truth be told, few animated films have stuck with me as long as Ratatouille (but I think Pinocchio will always be my all-time favorite).

For today’s preparation, I kept things simple. Just the right ingredients, done in an hour, and mostly hands off – it’s the perfect accompaniment to a more labor-intensive main dish. In fact, it’d be the perfect time to try out that Chicken in Champagne Sauce recipe you’ve been eyeing for the past few months!

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Arroz con Pollo is a chicken and rice dish popular in Spain and Latin America. While its origin is difficult to trace, it is likely an adaptation of the Paella, a staple Spanish (Valencian) rice dish dating as far back as the 15th century. As with many dishes stemming from Spain’s exploration and colonization, Arroz con Pollo deliciously marries both worlds; Spanish rice and technique combine with ingredients native to the Americas (namely tomatoes and peppers).

There are dozens of variations on Arroz con Pollo, and I fully expect a few comments below lamenting the fact that my version is not exactly like abuelita’s recipe. It’s understandable that this dish evokes some fairly raw emotion, as it is closely aligned with what I’d consider comfort food. I find that there is beauty in creating a personal version of an oft-tweaked recipe; I think that personalization is part of being human, and the many variations of this dish stand as a testament to this concept.

Some common extra add-ins for Arroz con Pollo include pimento-stuffed green olives, beer, and/or ham. Its flavoring paste, known as sofrito, is also the subject of some debate; some call for tomatoes, others eschew them, and still others use an added fat like lard or olive oil.

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Summer’s heat is finally, lazily, starting to wane here in NW Florida; but it’s nowhere near stew season yet. And judging from recent reports, the rest of the US is experiencing some pretty hot weather, so you’re likely not ready to crank on the oven right now, either. So I think it’s the perfect time to share my Gỏi Gà (Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad) recipe.

Gỏi is the common salad dish in Southern Vietnam (called Nộm in Northern Vietnam), with Gỏi Gà, its chicken variety, being the most popular. While many shredded chicken salad recipes call for boiled chicken, I just can’t stomach the idea of boiling chicken – it seems like such an impersonal way to prepare meat, and it runs the risk of creating a dry, mealy texture.

I respect the reason why boiled chicken is used for shredding, as the water-saturated chicken is easy to break apart. But today, we’ll employ a technique I first learned in a restaurant job, nearly 20 years ago, to get the best of both worlds: we’ll grill the chicken to give it a nice crust and flavor, then dunk it in an ice water bath to cool. This has a secondary effect of preventing the grilled chicken from shrinking, making it a breeze to shred.

One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is that nothing goes to waste. For example, we’ll fry up some shallots and garlic as a salad topping, then cool and use the oil to create the salad dressing – infused with toasted shallot and garlic flavor.

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We’re in the thick of tomato season (June to September in the US), which means it’s time to share one of my favorite simple soups.

Tomato soup is a common comfort food here in the US, and has a similar association in many western countries; Poland, I’ve found, is particularly fond of the soup, as it is the first thing young chefs learn to make (a quick Google search of “Zupa Pomidorowa” yields 1.5 million results).

Tomatoes are relatively new to the Western palate; first imported from Mexico to Europe by Spanish explorers, they were initially considered poisonous and used as ornamentals. In 1789, Thomas Jefferson introduced them to the United States – he was Secretary of State at the time, which leads one to wish all Secretaries of State were judged by the deliciousness of foods imported during their tenure. In the US, tomatoes were not commonly eaten until the 1830s, and the first record of tomato soup was written by famous American author Maria Parloa in 1872. Joseph Campbell’s condensed tomato soup cemented its comfort-food status in 1897.

The English word tomato is on loan from the Spanish tomate, which was lifted from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word tomatl. The first tomatoes were probably yellow, which makes sense when considering the other common word for the savory fruit, derived from the Italian pomodoro – a pairing of pomo ‎(“apple”) +‎ d’oro ‎(“golden”).

This soup takes about an hour to make with fresh tomatoes, slightly faster when using canned tomatoes, and significantly quicker with the help of my favorite kitchen appliance, the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker (instructions for each method below).

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When first drafting my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table, I was hesitant to add my recipe for Sole Meunière. After all, it contains only a few ingredients – fish, butter, and lemon, mostly – not exactly a huge culinary journey. But as time marched on, I’ve come to realize that this is one of my most treasured recipes from the book, in part because it’s so simple and satisfying. A couple weeks back, as we made it again for dinner, I decided to share my recipe on this blog.

Because flounder is easy to find here in the South, we’ve been using it instead of the traditional sole. Other flatfish, like plaice or turbot, will also work fine. Fun fact: flatfish have four fillets!

From the book:

Sole meunière is a classic French dish and an easy inclusion in this cookbook; Julia Child, best known for introducing gourmet French cuisine to the United States, had what she considered to be a “culinary revelation” when she first tasted this dish. It’s easy to see why, as the combination of mild white fish, browned butter, and lemon is basic but striking and never gets old.

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Pulehu is a Hawaiian cooking method, which translates to “roast over hot embers”. This method was traditionally used for items like breadfruit, but today it’s most associated with steak, typically seasoned simply with ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read my short history on beef in Hawaii, at the start of my recent Pipikaula recipe post. If you’ve already read it, cool, let’s pulehu some steaks.

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Nakji Jeongol (낙지전골) is a Korean octopus stew that deserves a bit of primer, since the world of Korean soups and stews can be pretty intimidating. In Korea, most meals are accompanied with some form of soup, categorized into two main categories: soups like guk or tang, and stews like jjigae or jeongol.

Soups are typically thin, simple, and simmered for extended periods. In general, guk are meatless, and a little watery; last year I posted a recipe for the popular Gul Guk (Oyster Soup). Tang are, you guess it, made with meat (a favorite of mine, Gamjatang, is made with pork neck and potatoes – it appears in my first cookbook, The Ancestral Table).

Stews are more ornate, adorned with fresh vegetables, and served in large, family-style dishes. Jjigae are typically made with a single defining ingredient; Kimchi Jjigae and Sundubu Jjigae, the latter made with curdled tofu, are the most popular. Jeongol contain a variety of ingredients, and are a little more elaborate; historically, jeongol were served for members of the royal court, while jjigae were for commoners.

Today’s Nakji Jeongol has a fair amount of add-ins, but the basic recipe is very simple: marinate the octopus, prepare the soup base, throw it all together. There is no single set of add-ins, so feel free to throw in whatever you have available to you (for example, I used cilantro because the more traditional herb, perilla, is hard to find where I live). Frozen packages of pre-cleaned octopus can be found in most Asian markets, or you can get some fresh (and likely cleaned, but here’s a quick video if needed) from your local fishmonger.

One fairly uncommon ingredient in the soup base is doenjang, which is the Korean version of miso paste; if you’re not able to find it locally, it is sold online, or red miso paste will work in a pinch. If you’re curious as to my thoughts on fermented soy, here is something I wrote earlier this year (spoiler alert: I think fermented soy is fine).

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About four years ago, I posted a recipe for Southern Fried Chicken, which quickly became one of the more popular recipes on this site. I liked the recipe so much that I ended up adding it to my first cookbook, The Ancestral Table, and then improving it for my second cookbook, Paleo Takeout, to incorporate seasonings similar to those you’d find at a certain famous fried chicken chain restaurant (you know, the kind that comes in a bucket).

As I mentioned in that first fried chicken post, this dish is the convergence of three different events. First, the West African practice of frying chicken was brought to the US as a result of the slave trade. Second, the mass production of pork in the South resulted in an excess of lard for cooking. And finally, cast-iron cookware became a staple of every kitchen during the 19th century. It’s only natural that these elements came together as they did, to create one of the tastiest ways to prepare chicken.

Colonel Harland Sanders first started selling fried chicken during the Great Depression, in Kentucky, and opened his first franchise restaurant in 1952; his success challenged the assumption that “fast food” was limited to hamburgers. His original recipe of “11 herbs and spices” was finalized in 1940, and has been a closely guarded secret ever since. In honor of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe, I also used 11 herbs and spices (although, to be fair, the pinch of thyme used in my recipe was added mostly to reach 11!).

The original preparation for KFC chicken was through traditional pan-frying, but it would take upwards of 30 minutes to prepare one batch of chicken. Ultimately, Colonel Sanders modified a pressure cooker to make the first pressure fryer, which is the method they use today. For my recipe, we’ll be returning to KFC’s roots and pan-frying the chicken – no modified pressure cooker needed.

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