gluten free

Like I mentioned last week, I’m on travel for work – right now I’m enjoying sunny (but a little chilly) Naples, Italy. And just like last week, I’m using today’s post as an opportunity to share a favorite recipe from one of my cookbooks; this time I’m sharing one from my debut, The Ancestral Table. From the book:

Borscht (Борщ) is a hearty soup most commonly associated with Russia, Poland, and Ukraine. Its name likely comes from the Slavic name for hogweed (Borschevik), which was often used to flavor soups. Although potatoes were a later addition, the foundation of borscht as we know it today dates back at least to the 9th century. This recipe is the popular Russian version, which is served hot and with meat. To cut down on the cooking time, you could make this soup with premade broth, or even make it vegetarian by using just water. Instructions for each variation are provided below.

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It’s been a couple months since my last soup post, so this one is long overdue. Soups are a vital part of my diet; they are versatile, easy to prepare, and a seamless way to integrate more homemade broth into my eating routine. Today’s lettuce soup is a nice change of pace, and a unique way to avoid the incessant crunching and chewing that comes from eating a plateful of lettuce.

There are two main cuisines with a history of enjoying lettuce in their soup. In Chinese cuisine, it is added as a finishing vegetable, much in the same way you’d add herbs like cilantro or scallions; for example, our local Vietnamese restaurant serves its Chinese-inspired Hu Tieu soup with lettuce on top. Today’s recipe favors the French preparation of lettuce soup, which is often blended (or run through a sieve) and flavored with cream.

Any lettuce will do for this recipe, with the exception of iceberg, because it probably won’t add much flavor. This dish is served both cold and hot, and we prefered the hot version. Lettuce soup has a flavor that’s hard to describe – earthy but not dirty, sharp but not biting. I’ve found that cooking down a leek in the chicken broth enriches and balances the soup; adding a few sprigs of parsley and some lemon zest help brighten its top notes as well.

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Nearly every time we’re out grocery shopping, I pick up a whole chicken. It seems like at least once a week we end up roasting or grilling a whole bird, and using its carcass for chicken stock and its leftover meat for soup. The flexibility that comes with buying a whole chicken just can’t be beat, plus everyone gets to fight over their favorite pieces (luckily, we have varying preferences). Furthermore, it is often more economical than buying individual parts, and when buying quality chicken, every penny counts; there is probably no bigger price disparity than between industrially-raised and well-raised chicken (eggs are a close second).

A few years ago, I posted a smoked turkey recipe that continues to be popular today; we’ve smoked a turkey for every Thanksgiving since first developing this method. Similarly, I’ve come to enjoy using a similar approach for smoking chickens, which has much lower stakes since it’s not the centerpiece of a holiday meal.

While this preparation is very simple, I’ve tagged it as “moderate” difficulty in the recipe box below, if only because there are quite a few tools and techniques involved. You’ll need a grill (gas or charcoal) or smoker, smoking wood, aluminum pans to hold the wood, and a thermometer. We’re going to smoke the chicken at 300F, which might initially seem high when compared to other smoked meats, but a higher heat produces a well-flavored chicken without rubbery skin. To keep the chicken moist, I recommend brining it beforehand, and have provided instructions below.

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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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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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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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I’m often asked what is my favorite dish to prepare; it basically comes with the territory in this line of work. While it’s hard to choose a favorite, Beef Rendang often comes to mind – there’s truly no taste like it.

Rendang is a dry curry that originated among the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra and later spread throughout Indonesia and Malaysia. Its age is unknown, but historians have traced its origin as far back as 500 years. There are three recognized forms of rendang in Minangkabau culture, each depending on the cooking time: a pale, lightly cooked curry known as gulai; a browned but still liquid curry called kalio; and a rich, dry, dark brown dish called rendang, the version prepared in this recipe. In other countries, most notably Malaysia and the Netherlands, the rendang most often served is closer to kalio. While its extended cooking time can be a test of patience, it’s well worth the wait; the aroma and overwhelming richness of rendang are unforgettable.

I first published a rendang recipe nearly four years ago, and it’s made some slight but significant changes since then. Earlier this year I made a batch, and took the photo you see above – it quickly became one of my favorite photos of the year, and so I figured it was a good excuse to share the updated recipe. For the past year or two, this has been the version we’ve been making at home, as it has fewer steps and comes together very quickly.

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I’ll admit it – sometimes it’s hard to get excited about cabbage. I think this recipe will change your mind a little bit. Roasting the cabbage provides for a subtly sweet flavor, and slicing it into thick steaks gives them an unexpected heft.

That’s not to say that cabbage is without merit. For starters, it’s very affordable, and mildly-flavored. Next, it’s easy to prepare: this dish literally takes seconds to prepare, and then you toss it in the oven until it’s ready to be devoured.

Cabbage has a long history in Europe, traced back at least 3,000 years as a cultivated vegetable. Its English name is derived from the Latin word caput (“head”); ironically, the actual Latin word for cabbage is brassica, derived from the Celtic word bresic. Quite a journey for one word to make!

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