Miss Ginsu: About/Bio


Chicken Soup 5 Ways

Through an error in calculation, I robbed ya'll of a soup post last week. Mea culpa. I make good today.

So we're aware there's more than one way to pluck a chicken... or make a chicken soup, for that matter.

In addition to making a supremely simple homemade chicken soup from a rotisserie bird, I'm offering up five inspirations from points across the globe on ways to make that satisfying bowl of chicken-soup comfort entirely different. One for each day of the work-week.

Chicken Soup Five Ways
Around the World with a Rotisserie Bird

1. Go Italian: Rotisserie Tortellini Soup (Serves 4)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1 cup tomatoes, diced
6 cups chicken broth
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 lb spinach, chopped
1 15oz can kidney beans or cannellini, drained & rinsed
8 oz mushroom or cheese tortellini
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1-2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken

Grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, for serving

1. In a heavy stockpot over a medium-high flame, heat the oil. Add the onions and peppers and cook 8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, fennel and red pepper flakes and cook 2 minutes more.
3. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 20 minutes.
4. Add the zucchini, spinach, beans and tortellini. Simmer 10 minutes.
5. Add the basil and chicken and cook another 5 minutes to heat through. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with a little salt and ground pepper, if necessary. Serve hot, with cheese to garnish.


2. Go Greek: Rotisserie Avgolemono Soup (Serves 4)

6 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup orzo
3 eggs
3 lemons, juiced
1 cup rotisserie chicken, torn in thin strips
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a heavy stockpot over a medium-high flame, bring the the chicken stock to a boil.
2. Add the orzo and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs 1 minute before beating the lemon juice into the eggs.
4. Carefully scoop out 2 cups of the hot stock and pour it into the egg mixture in a slow stream, whisking vigorously to prevent curdling.
5. Add the the egg-lemon mixture and the chicken strips to the stockpot. Stir well, season to taste with salt and ground black pepper, and serve.


3. Go Mexican: Rotisserie Tortilla Soup (Serves 4)

2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
3 fat cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1 lime, juiced
1-2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
Salt & pepper, to taste

Ripe avocado and tortilla chips, for garnish

1. In a heavy stockpot over a medium-high flame, heat the oil. Add the onions, celery and peppers and garlic and cook 8 minutes.
2. Add the beans, tomatoes and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 20 minutes.
3. Add the lime juice and chicken and cook another 5 minutes to heat through.
4. Stir in the cilantro, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with a little salt and ground pepper, if necessary. Serve hot, with tortilla chips and sliced avocado atop each portion.

4. Go Thai: Rotisserie Tom Kha Gai (Serves 4)

1 dried chili pepper
1/2 small green chili, sliced thin
1 medium shallot, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1" piece ginger, peeled & minced
1" piece galangal, peeled & minced
6 cups chicken stock
3 limes, juiced
2 Tbsp Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup sliced bamboo shoots
2 stalks lemongrass
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1-2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken

Rice, for serving (optional)

1. Give the lemongrass stalks 2 to 3 good, hard whacks with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin.
2. Heat a heavy stockpot (or a wok) and toast the dried chili in it for 3 minutes. Crumble the chili
3. Add a little oil to the pot and saute the green chili, shallot, garlic, ginger and galangal for 3 minutes.
4. Add the chicken stock to the pot along with the lime juice, fish sauce, bamboo shoots, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
5. Cook 20 minutes before adding the chopped chicken. Cook for 5 more minutes to heat the chicken. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with a little more lime or some salt, if necessary. Discard the lemongrass and serve hot, with rice, if desired.


5. Go Indian: Rotisserie Mulligatawny Soup (Serves 4)

2 Tbsp cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 fat garlic cloves, chopped
1" piece ginger, peeled & minced
2 Tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tart apple, peeled and diced
2 cups red lentils
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 lime, juiced
1-2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken

Basmati rice, for serving (optional)

1. In a heavy stockpot over a medium-high flame, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook 12 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
3. Add the garam masala, coriander, tumeric and cayenne. Blend the spices into the onion mixture and cook 1 minute.
4. Add the apple pieces, the lentils and the chicken broth. Bring the soup to boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes.
5. Stir in the coconut milk, lime juice and the chicken. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with a little some salt and ground pepper, if necessary. Serve hot, with basmati rice, if desired.

Hoping you stay warm, dry and full of goodness,
Miss Ginsu

Labels: , , ,


FoodLink Roundup: 07.07.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, as surmised, Cupcake was enjoying the Day of the Dead festival in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Pizza Loses Favor as Italians Turn to Pasta
I'm in Italy right now and have seen no evidence of this trend. But maybe National Geographic knows something I don't.

A bottle of Coke tracks change in Africa
An interesting illustration of change. Too bad there's no infographic.

The 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating
Beets, cabbage, sardines, turmeric, cinnamon? I'm all over that.

The original Kentucky fried chicken
Might not be on the Healthiest Foods list, but it's sure worth a try...

Labels: , , ,


FoodLink Roundup: 06.09.08

Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was at the Columbus Circle corner of Central Park, as guessed by Mr. Hazard. Where's that wily cupcake now? This week is anyone's guess. Think you know? Post in the comments.

Real Thought for Food for Long Workouts
"neither researcher regularly uses energy drinks or energy bars. They just drink water, and eat real food." Hallelujah.

Promising Red Wine/Longevity Research
Great news for the hedonists: research indicates you might be able to say "to hell with calorie-restricted diets" and just drink a bottle of wine every day.

How to Butcher a Chicken
Hey... you never know.

NYC Food Film Fest 2008
Harry's Water Taxi Beach + food + films about food. Ahhh. Bliss.

Labels: , , , ,


A (Much Tastier) Chicken in Every Pot

Though Herbert Hoover is often (and falsely) credited with a campaign promise to give the nation "a chicken in every pot," the phrase never sounded terribly enticing to me. Chicken was usually pretty disappointing in the flavor department.

Truthfully, when I was growing up, there wasn't much chicken around the house. After we moved off the farm, Dad thought the grocery store chickens lacked the appropriate oomph, so we ate lots more turkey than chicken.

Girl embracing chicken
Girl embracing chicken at the Red Hook Farm

But when I went to Paris last fall, I had a kind of chicken revelation. It seemed like every chicken dish we ate was made of magic. Every morsel was rich and robust. They tasted somehow twice as chicken-y as the chickens I'd known.

Discovering that, I ordered chicken at every opportunity. I mourned lost meals spent dining on tripe or crêpe when there could've been chicken Yes, indeed. Those were the chickens worthy of campaign promises.

After returning to the states, I considered the chicken. Why were French birds so much tastier? Not even our free-range, organic birds had the flavor of the average French chicken. On the internet, I learned that the answer could be in the breed. One internet source here in the U.S. promised to ship rich, delicious chickens just like the ones in France. I was quite tempted, but the price was dear.

So rather than ordering straight away, I procrastinated. Maybe it's for the best that I did, because last week, we were given a poultry miracle.

Crowing cock, Paris
Crowing cock, Paris

J's butcher, Jeffrey, gave us a rooster for our pot. A full-on, head-on, feet and spurs and all rooster. It was cleaned and plucked, thank goodness, and recently. One or two tiny feathers still clinging to his flesh told us he was a black-feathered fellow.

Our dinner rooster had been killed and chilled so recently, he had a fresh scent and his skin was dry and taut, with none of the sliminess I expect from standard store-bought chickens. After a 40-minute simmer with garlic, onion, bay leaf, salt and halved tomatillos? Juicy. Rich. Delicious. Best chicken either J or I have had since Paris.

From whence this miracle bird? Well, it turns out that Jeffrey scored some kind of exclusive distributorship for the heritage chickens from Bo Bo Poultry Market a Chinese outfit that raises the birds upstate and brings them down to Brooklyn for killing, plucking and local distribution.

For years, Bo Bo sold exclusively to the Chinese market. Later on, Latino buyers got in on the action. The mainstream buyer just wasn't interested in whole, fresh-killed chickens, and most shops and distributors found it cumbersome and costly to deal with them. But these days, there's steadily building demand for local, heritage birds from chefs, locavores and food lovers, so the market for Jeffrey's tasty chickens might be ready.

Jeffrey's planning to package and sell the birds to restaurants and shops, but if you happen to be a New Yorker, you can get them directly from him. I'm convinced he's one of the friendliest people on the planet. I hope this whole thing works out for him. With chicken soup as tasty as this, a chicken in every pot seems like a mighty fine idea.

Chicken in a Pot

I used a recipe based on a Caldo de Pollo recipe from Rosa's New Mexican Table. Muy delicioso.
Mi Sopa de Gallo (Serves 4-6)
For the soup stock
1 chicken
3 quarts water
1 large onion, quartered
1-2 tomatillos, washed and halved
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeño, halved
1 Tbsp salt
1 bunch cilantro stems (bound with twine)
1-2 sprigs thyme

Tasty add-ins
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked rice (optional)
1-2 chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
1 lime, cut in wedges (to garnish)

1. Rinse the chicken well and put it in a large stockpot with the water, onion, tomatillos, garlic, bay, jalapeno, salt, cilantro stems and thyme.
2. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and let the pot gently simmer, partially covered, for about 40 minutes. (Check for doneness by cutting into the thigh and peering in at the joint that connects it to the back. It should be free from any pinkness.) Skim the soup surface of any foam that may rise to the top.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and cool the chicken in the broth.
4. When cool enough to handle, move the chicken from the broth to a platter. Strain off the broth and set it aside while you strip the meat away from the bones. Chop any large pieces into manageable bites.
5. Return the meat to the broth, add in the tomatoes and cooked rice, and bring the soup back to a boil. Turn off the heat and season the soup to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
6. To serve, spoon the soup into serving bowls, and garnish with green onions, cilantro, mint and lime wedges.


Labels: , , , ,


FoodLink Roundup: 05.19.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was hiding out at historic Rye Playland in Westchester County, NY. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

A chicken in every pot belly
"it is I think one of the very best of the ancient, rustic slow-cooked standards, and everybody should have it at least once or go to the grave wondering why they hadn't"

Sneaky restaurant tricks
I know this article is supposed to be spun as a consumer rights piece, but I kind of view it as "How restaurants stay in business during tough times." It ain't easy, folks.

Liberians drop rice for spaghetti
High rice prices drive a new interest in spaghetti... with lots of chili sauce, of course.

The cost of food: Facts and figures
It's dismal data... but oh how I love an infographic!

Ideas We Love: The Donut Cake
Wedding? We don't need no stinkin' wedding... Let there be donut cakes for everyone!

Labels: , , , ,


Recession-Proof Recipes: A Manageable Mole

The skinless, boneless chicken breast may be the monarch of the meat world these days, but thighs hold so much more flavor and are at least half the price of breasts.

Plus, legs and thighs are terrific stewed. Cook 'em long (braising or stewing is as good as roasting for making the most of cheaper cuts) season 'em well and serve 'em up over rice or noodles for some super-thrifty extender action.

I must admit, the disappointing part about stewing/braising is having to smell the wonderful stuff simmering away and knowing that it'll be hours before that pot of goodness is ready to eat.

The upside? Making your neighbors jealous. Oh, yes. They'll smell it. They'll ask about it. You might even receive sudden party invitations. The adorable Czech lass on the fourth floor recently wailed, "Are you the apartment that's cooking the curries? It's torture. You're making us all so hungry!"

Chicken thighs are terrific in curries. But today, we're going to Mexico. Just in time for next week's Cinco de Mayo, I'm in the mood for molé.

Pepper roasting on the stove
Avocado garnish: tasty, but not recession-proof

Now, I've cooked a lot of molés. With all due respect to the generations of dedicated mamas and abuelas who labored and sweated over the cookstove, those ladies who ground countless hours in their mortars, those solid individuals who gathered up 37 different ingredients and processed each separately...

I have the greatest respect for that kind of manual labor, but I have to say that the molés I've worked hardest and longest for did not taste markedly different from the ones I've thrown together and let simmer.

Or rather, there's a flavor difference, but it's not different enough. I don't know about you, but I've got a day job, and if I ever want to eat molé, it's going to be a supremely pared down version.

I initially wanted to make a Pasilla-Prune Molé, but the Key Food did not provide anything resembling a pasilla pepper. What did they have? Well, aside from the standard bell peppers, they had fresh jalapeños and I happened to find a jar of organic roasted piquillo peppers. (Woo hoo!)

I'd recommend you try to score at least three pepper varieties if you can manage to find 'em. Different peppers bring different personalities to the party, and since molé is essentially a flavor party, we want personality.

If you find dried peppers, you'll need to soak them for a few hours (or overnight) to soften them, so just plan that into your schedule.

Pepper roasting on the stove

If you're using bell peppers or jalapeños, you might want to char them. It's not essential, but it's extra flavor (yay, flavor!) and a nice char can be accomplished pretty easily if you have a gas grill. Just blacken them on all sides (use tongs to turn them) and toss them in a paper sack to steam for a half-hour or so. Then wipe off all the blackened skin (it should pull away easily) and use the peppers.

Those poor souls who only have electric ranges at hand can char their peppers in a skillet kept at high heat.

Those who are intimidated by even thinking about charring a pepper can probably find roasted peppers somewhere. But it's cheaper to roast 'em yourself.

If you're sensitive, remove the seeds and mind how many of the really spicy peppers you use. I found that a ratio of 8 oz piquillos to 4 oz roasted bell pepper and 4 oz roasted jalapeños worked well, (though I still wish I could've gotten my hands on some nice dried chilis.) Just remember, you can always pump up the heat before you serve it, but you can't really undo a too-spicy dish.
Three-Pepper Prune Molé (Serves 4, with extra sauce)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 lb bone-in chicken thighs
1 large onion (halved, then sliced thin)
2 cups roasted peppers (3-4 roasted jalapeños, 1 roasted bell pepper, 8oz roasted piquillo peppers, for example)
14oz diced tomatoes (try to find fire-roasted tomatoes, if you can)
1 cup pitted prunes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 Tbsp nut butter (almond butter or sesame butter work well)
1 tsp salt, or to taste

Nice options for serving
Steamed rice
Warmed corn tortillas
Wedges of lime
Cilantro leaves
Toasted sesame seeds or pepitas
Créme fraîche or sour cream

1. Heat large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and coat the bottom of the pan. Brown the chicken thighs on all sides.
2. Hold the browned thighs on a plate while you brown the sliced onion in the same pan. Keep the slices moving to avoid uneven browning or sticking.
3. When the onions are soft and have some color, add the chicken back into the pan along with the peppers, tomatoes, prunes, cinnamon, cumin, chocolate and nut butter. Bring the mixture to a boil before turning the heat to low.
4. Let simmer, covered, for an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
5. After an hour, the chicken should be falling off the bone. Carefully move the thighs from the pan to a clean plate and turn off the heat.
6. Taste the sauce, and add salt to taste. If it's not spicy enough at this point, add a pinch of cayenne.
7. Allow the sauce and chicken to cool a bit, and remove the bones and skin from the thighs.
8. You could serve the sauce chunky, but a smooth molé is more traditional. Cool the sauce to a safe handling temperature and pour it in a blender or food processor. Blend smooth before transferring back to the pan to re-warm for serving.
9. Serve the chicken with warm corn tortillas and steamed rice and the warm molé sauce.

Because molé is such a monochrome brown color, I usually like to garnish the dish with lime wedges, sesame seeds or pepitas, cilantro and/or créme fraîche or sour cream. They all add good flavor and visual contrast. The sauce is even better the next day and it freezes very well. In fact, molé sauce is fantastic with leftover turkey, so remember that next Thanksgiving.

Salud, amigos!

Labels: , , , ,


The Million Method March

My first Moroccan Stew recipe, out of Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, was essentially a tomato-rich vegetable stew with a handful of black olives and a squeeze of lemon. It was full of potato cubes, artichoke hearts and green beans, with no real spice to speak of.

Later on, I discovered that lamb was a fairly traditional component of Moroccan Stew, though lots of cooks used chicken. Cinnamon, apricots and cured olives seemed to be common ingredients. Some ingredient lists included orange sections or apricot pieces, while some suggested only strips of orange zest or squeeze of fresh lemon at the end. Some cooks insisted on a couscous accompaniment. Some only mentioned couscous in passing.

The majority of Moroccan Stew recipes seemed to bear about as much resemblance to each other as individual members in a fleet of Elvis impersonators. I mean, you know they're all striving for basically the same thing, but...

I'm convinced there must be hundreds of variations, and I used to be intimidated by that breadth of options. Which one was the right one? Which was most authentic?

Lately I've come to see all those variants as empowering rather than confounding. Why? A million methods means you can't really mess it up. Your ideal Moroccan Stew is for you to determine. Don't eat meat? Don't use it. Fresh out of olives or apricots? Skip 'em. Love chickpeas? Go crazy.

Moroccan Stew with Chicken

As for me, I use Moroccan Stew recipes as more like suggestions than prescriptions. Just use some good ingredients and cook 'em gentle and slow. It'll come out nice-like.

When everything's tender, taste it and season to taste with salt, pepper and some lemon and fresh herbs. Dish it up with couscous or some toasted pita or maybe just a day-old hunk of baguette.

It'll be fine. I'm betting it'll even be tasty. Maybe it'll be a work of art your guests will remember with fondness for the rest of their lives.

That's why there's a million recipes for Moroccan Stew. No matter how you do it, you're almost guaranteed to get it right.

Moroccan Stew for a Cold Winter's Night

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 skin-on chicken thighs OR 1 1/2 lb lamb cubes (optional)
1-2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
1-2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained
2 cups cubed tomatoes, chopped (or 1 14oz can diced tomatoes)
3-4 cups stock, (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 cup flavorful olives, pitted
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro and/or chopped mint
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy-bottomed stockpot or a dutch oven, heat olive oil until it shimmers. Add the meat of your choice (if using) and sear until it acquires some color. Remove the meat and sauté the onions, bell pepper and garlic in the same pan until the onions are translucent.

Add thyme, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, Aleppo pepper, tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, apricot pieces and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 60 to 90 minutes, or until meat and vegetables are fork-tender.

Stir in lemon juice and fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with couscous or toasted pita, or store overnight and reheat the next day, when the flavor will be all the better.

Labels: , , , , ,


Day 23: Five Hot Little Gift Ideas

This post marks Day 23 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Where has the month gone? It's late in the gift-giving game, so if you haven't already gotten your act together, I've got five quick picks (in a wide range of price points) for presents that'll thaw the icebox.

1. We've seen how an increasingly hotter planet has made Earth-friendly choices all the rage in high society this year.

Habana Outpost, New York’s first "eco-eatery," (complete with indoor/outdoor flea market, biodegradable cups, solar power, rainwater-flushing toilets and a bike-powered blender to mix smoothies and margaritas) has been doing the Earth-hugging thing for two years. And though they might not be selling a lot of their signature limed-up cheesy corn during the off season, I bet they're doing a brisk business in this hot little slice of cheesecake... the 2008 Habana Girls Pin-Up Calendar (made with recycled paper with vegetable ink, por supuesto).

All the models are cafe waitstaff who volunteered for the project, and proceeds are donated to Habana Works, Inc., a nonprofit that aims to better the local community through free programs that educate, unite and engage, such as Habana Labs. Generosity is hot.

Cute Apron 2. Etsy has all kinds of zippy little things, and I especially love their Shop by Color function. (I'm not sure how useful it is, but it's all kinds of fun.)

Everything is made by regular people (as opposed to transglobal mega-corps), so there's some schlock, of course, but Etsy also features a lot of gems.

I'm a big fan of the coy Betsy Johnson-inspired apron (at right), EnfinLaVoila's Funky Chicken cards and these Personalized Artichoke cards

FrancisFrancis Espresso Machine3. Strangely, I'm not a huge fan of Italian food (I'm thinking that's because it's often so poorly executed stateside. Those wishing to re-educate me with a trip to Puglia are more than welcome to offer.) but Italian design... mama mia!

J has a big red FrancisFrancis! espresso machine, and while it's clearly excessive, it's just such a wonderful object. Sleek lines, sexy curves, glorious finish, reminiscent of classic sp With one of these, my gorgeous KitchenAid stand mixer, a long silk scarf and a sweet little Vespa, I'm sure I could be living La Dolce Vida.

Penzeys' Spice Box 4. If you've never cooked with fresh spices, you're in for a revelation. The lowly peppercorn, toasted gently, releases high notes that sing in citrus melodies. The cinnamon stick is more nuanced and powerful than you ever knew it could be. It's like seeing strange new passions burning in your oldest friends.

Penzeys Spices are varied, fresh and easily accessible, thanks to stores across the nation and a web presence. They use bay leaves as packing material in some of their gift boxes, and the bay they use for packing was fresher and more delightful than any I'd previously encountered. Their gift boxes make great spice introductions for newbies and seasoned (ha!) chefs alike.


5. Apparently, Roast Chicken & Other Stories is the hot cookbook of the season, so there's no way you're going to get your hands on it anytime soon. (I guess being dubbed the "Most Useful Cookbook of All Time," really couldn't hurt sales...)

Take a raincheck on the "must-have" gift and give, instead, a gift of Moroccan flavors, including a hot-hot-hot jar of harissa (homemade or store-bought) alongside an ultra-easy recipe for Harissa-Roasted Chicken (below). If you're feeling generous, make it a Moroccan feast and throw in a nice unglazed clay tagine.

Classic Harissa
You can use whatever chilies you like, or use a blend. Ancho chilies make a milder harissa, New Mexico and Guajillo chilies are medium-spicy. Cayenne, Scotch Bonnet and Chipotle make a searing harissa.

10-12 dried red chili peppers
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground fennel (or caraway)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Soak the chilies in hot water for 60 minutes or overnight.

2. Remove stems and seeds (you may wish to use latex gloves for this task), reserving about 1 cup of the chili water. Place the chilies in a food processor or blender with the tomatoes, coriander, fennel, cumin, paprika, salt, olive oil and lemon juice.

3. In a blender, purée smooth with 1/2 cup chili water. Add more chili water, as needed, into the mix to make a smooth blend.

4. Season to taste and store in airtight container, drizzled with a small amount of olive oil on top. Should keep for about a month in the refrigerator.

Harissa is divine on grilled meats, roasted vegetables, couscous, chickpea curries, tagines and this tasty (and stunningly simple) chicken dish...

Harissa-Roasted Chicken
1 Roaster chicken (about 3 1/2 to 4 lb)
1/2 cup harissa
1/4 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Mix harissa, yogurt and lemon juice and massage the mixture all over the chicken. (You may wish to use latex gloves for this task.) Let the chicken marinate, chilled, for 1 hour.

2. Heat oven to 450°F. In a roasting pan placed in the center of the oven, roast the marinated chicken for 20 minutes. Add 1 cup of water to the pan and roast until the juices run clear and the thigh registers 165°F on a meat thermometer, about 30-40 minutes more.

3. Carefully transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Serve with couscous, roasted vegetables or a cucumber-tomato salad.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Day 2: Soup for a Rainy (or Snowy) Day

This post marks Day 2 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Chicken soup is now scientifically proven to alleviate symptoms of the common cold (and even if it wasn't... it's so warm and soothing we probably shouldn't care about the scientific studies that much anyway). I think it makes sense to keep a few pints of it in the freezer.

Why? Well, what if you should happen to catch a cold? It is, after all, cold season.

If you've prepared in advance, a welcoming bowl of home-cooked soup is sitting right there waiting for you to warm it up. And if a friend or loved one gets the flu... you get to be Jenny on the Spot... there, soup in hand, to rescue the poor dear with a lightning-fast delivery of love. The well-stocked domestic goddess is a good friend to have.

Neon Matzo
Matzo on the run in Berkeley, CA

If you happen to be one of the many who enjoy the convenience of the rotisserie chicken, you're already halfway there.

Step 1: Rotisserie Chicken Stock

Eat most of the rotisserie chicken, saving aside all the bones and excess skin. In a separate container, save out about 1 cup chopped chicken for the soup. You can use white meat, dark meat or a combination of the two.

Put the bones in a large stock pot and cover with water (about 2 quarts).

1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 medium onions (quartered)
2 carrots (roughly chopped)
2 celery stalks (roughly chopped)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
A handful of parsley stems

Simmer, covered, for an hour to an hour and a half.

When the bones are boiled bare and the vegetables are soft, place a colander (or a sieve) over a suitably-sized pot or bowl and carefully pour the hot liquid through, catching the solid materials in the colander. Discard all the bones, herbs and veggies. You can cool the stock and store it in convenient pint-size containers in the freezer or move right on to...

Step 2: Comforting Chicken Soup

4 cups chicken stock (the rotisserie version or otherwise made/purchased)
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots or parsnips, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chicken meat, chopped (reserved from the rotisserie chicken)
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley, dill or tarragon
Salt & pepper, to taste

Optional fanciness for serving:
lime or lemon wedges
matzo balls, cooked egg noodles or rice

Over high heat, bring stock to a boil in a large stockpot with lid on. Add onion, celery, carrot/parsnip and garlic. Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Add chicken and simmer 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, add herbs and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add in cooked noodles, rice or matzo balls (if using).* Finish with a squeeze of citrus, if desired.

Serve immediately, or cool and ladle into pint or quart containers to freeze for future tastiness and/or rescue missions.

* If you're planning to freeze this soup, I'd recommend leaving out the starch.

Labels: , , , ,


Spiedie Delivery

Down the road apiece, folks might go in for the steak rolls or the hero buns, but in Susquehanna, PA, there's only one bread to use for spiedies.

"You got the Felix Roma?"

The round-faced butcher gestures to a sliced white loaf that — to my eye — is virtually indistinguishable from every other sliced white loaf of other every other packaged brand.

"You gotta have the Felix Roma if you're making spiedies."

Spiedie Ingredients

Spiedie Grill

Spiedie Sandwich

Best known in the area around Binghamton, NY, and the far northeast corner of Pennsylvania (Binghamton even hosts an annual Spiedie Fest and Balloon Rally!), the spiedie is regional identity. The spiedie is folk art. The spiedie is culinary history.

Composed of lemony, marinated, grilled meat chunks (most often chicken or pork these days, but historically the meat of choice was lamb) mounted inside a buttered bun or two slices of sandwich bread (with or without hot sauce... your choice), the spiedie is said to have traveled with Italian immigrants.

Curiously, the sandwich seems to have migrated all the way from Italy to Broome County... and stopped. Web searches indicate that the most passionate spiedie fans now exist within the spiedie's petite home turf and in pockets of those warm-climate areas (Florida, Texas, Arizona) to which native spiediphiles relocate.

From all reports, it would seem as though these transplants order spiedie marinade by the case and convert neighbors with missionary zeal. (Makes me wonder why they don't save some time and money by printing out a recipe from here or here.)

Does the sandwich live up to the hype? Check the Roadfood Forum on spiedies for everything from frothing fanatical praise to lukewarm "eh, they're okay" reviews.

Personally, I don't think they really approach food ecstasy, so I'd probably fall in with the latter camp.

Maybe enthusiasm would run hotter if I had something closer to the lamb-based Italian originals... or if I'd gone with the Binghamton-style steak roll over the Susquehanna-mandated Felix Roma.

Labels: , , , ,