recipe

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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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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I’m relatively new to the sous vide world, but it’s something that has always intrigued me. Sous-vide cooking involves placing food items in a sealed plastic bag and immersing the bag in a water bath for an extended time, set at a specific temperature, to evenly cook the food. This method was first popularized in the 1960s, as a method of cooking foie gras (fattened goose liver) to the desired temperature without losing any liquid in the process. It’s become very popular over the past 10 years; in fact, the barbacoa, steak, and carnitas served at Chipotle are all prepared using the sous vide method in a central location before being shipped to their restaurants.

It sounds daunting to dive into a new cooking method, especially one that has precise temperature and time requirements, but more tools are coming to market to make sous vide a breeze. Case in point is the Oliso Induction Smart Hub, which the company recently sent me to try. This device comes in two parts: an induction cooktop, which heats food efficiently (and super quickly) using magnetic induction, and the sous vide Smart Top, which sets atop the induction cooktop. I like this concept since the induction cooktop can be used in a variety of ways, independent of the sous vide oven; I use it to rapidly boil water without heating up the whole house, or to fry up a couple eggs in just a few seconds.

There’s a whole world to sous vide, with all sorts of charts and graphs (or as one of my favorite bands–Grandaddy–would say, “Chartsengrafs“), but I wanted to present a simple recipe to help folks dip their toes into this new adventure. Salmon is an ideal choice, since it’s very easy to tell when fish has been improperly cooked, and this method guarantees perfect texture every time.

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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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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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