Friday, March 28, 2014

In Praise Of My I Don't Give A Sheet Pan

Day 5 of my two week-ish commitment to Write Something, Anything.

This is my I Don't Give A Sheet Pan and my Sheet Scraping Spatula.

In a kitchen full of fairly well seasoned and reasonably carefully maintained enamel coated cast iron, stainless, and some non-stick cookware, this might be the cooking vessel I love the most, and treat the sheettiest.


It is the vessel on which I roast fatty meats, often with sticky glazes and marinades on them, or crusty potatoes in chicken fat, with really high temps for really long periods, without so much as a lining of parchment or foil, so all those fats and sugars can stick, burn, crust and seemingly permanently attach themselves to it, leaving a well worn patina of delicious memories, some of which gets rigorously scraped off from time to time so the exposed patch can start to accumulate anew.


There isn't one other piece of equipment in my kitchen that remotely takes this kind of abuse, and yet it never fails to produce deliciousness.

And as a woman who really does not get all that sentimental or attached about things, I don't ever see myself giving this sheet up.


I can see my kids fighting over who gets this sheet when I die.

sheet. :)

Hopefully one of them loves the yellow Le Creuset that makes all the stews, braises and spaghetti sauces as much.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tandoori-Inspired Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Ever since I learned how to make Tandoori Chicken, I've been a big fan of using yogurt in chicken marinades. In certain proportions and within certain marinating periods, it subtly tenderizes the meat and enhances its natural flavor, texture and juiciness without imparting any yogurt flavor.

The acid and cultures also help the marinade to penetrate more quickly and effectively, seasoning the flesh to the bone without creating that brined-like cured texture that often occurs when meat is left to sit in a salty solution for an extended period of time.

It's similar to the result you get with buttermilk, but in some ways more efficient because of the lower liquid content that not only reduces the amount of seasoning needed to achieve the desired flavor but also lessens the amount of liquid uptake into the protein that can, counterintuitively, cause an internal steaming effect during cooking that can actually ultimately result in a drier and/or spongier texture to the meat.

I used this method with my Viet-Inspired Tandoori Chicken, and it worked beautifully, so I tried it with my Jamaican Jerk Chicken for this month's Cookalong, and it did not disappoint.

You can grill this chicken low and slow as you would any other Jerk Chicken preparation, but I like the reliability and predictability of oven heat, so I added some liquid smoke to the marinade and did a high heat roast (450F) instead. Not tandoor-level heat by any stretch - they can get up to about 900F if I recall correctly - but it's a totally workable solution that produces a pretty tasty and consistent result.

My recipe is adapted from this Saveur Jerk Chicken recipe, but you can modify your favorite Jerk recipe by adding 1/2 a cup of yogurt, a teaspoon of kosher salt, and a teaspoon of sugar.

Tandoori-Inspired Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 15 minutes prep, 6 to 24 hours to marinate, and about 60 minutes to cook

- 10 to 12 bone-in, skin-on chicken drums and/or thighs, scored twice on the skin side, about 1/4" deep, 2 inches long, and about an inch apart

For the marinade:

- 1/4 cup oil
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice
- 5 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons dried thyme
- 4 teaspoons ground allspice
- 8 cloves garlic
- up to 8 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chilies
- 5 green onions, cut into 2-inch segments
- 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
- 1 one-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1) Place all the marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. If you want to make extra dipping sauce, reserve 2/3 cup of marinade and set aside.

2) Put chicken in a large mixing bowl or other container and pour the remainder of the marinade over it, mixing it gently but thoroughly to evenly season each piece.

A gallon capacity Ziploc type bag is great for even marinating - specially if you lay all the meat in a single layer, suction all the air out of it, and lay it on its side in the fridge. Even then, you may wish to flip the bag halfway through the marinating time just to make sure.

If you're marinating in a more solid container like I do, you'll want to redistribute the chicken 3 or 4 times during the marinating period to ensure even seasoning.

If you're going to mix the chicken by hand, I recommend wearing gloves, and particularly if you've used all 8 chilies. If you're lucky enough to get away with bare-handed mixing without resulting capsaicin burn on your fingers and under your nails, you might be unlucky later and realize that the trace amounts left on your fingers that your fingers didn't feel are enough to burn, shall we say, more sensitive tissue. That's why I like to put everything in a large mixing bowl and toss/stir it with a big cooking spoon or spatula.

Let chicken marinate for at least 6 and up to 24 hours before cooking.

3) An hour before cooking, take the chicken out of the fridge and lay it in a single layer on either a sturdy sheet pan (not cookie sheet) with a grill rack over it (my preferred method) or on a broiler pan with slats, skin side up, and let it come up to room temp. I mention this often, but bringing your protein up to room temp results in a better outer sear, which results in more internal juiciness.

5) 20 minutes before cooking, preheat your oven to 450F. Put the chicken on the center rack of the oven and roast for 40 to 55 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces. The chickens I use are usually about 4 pounds, and their drums and thighs aren't all that big, so 40 minutes was plenty for me.

If you buy drums and thighs in your typical supermarket pre-pack, it's more than likely that your chicken is bigger than my chicken, and will require somewhere between 50 to 55 minutes. But another great thing about the yogurt marinade is that it is quite forgiving, and you don't have to worry that the extra 5 minutes of roasting time just to be safe is going to dry out your bird.

If you're making the dipping sauce...

Preheat a small sauce pan to medium with a half Tablespoon of oil in it, pour in the reserved marinade, bring to a gentle boil for about a minute, then turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for another 3 or 4 minutes. Because that marinade hasn't touched chicken, technically you don't have to cook it for food safety purposes, but the caramelization and concentration of flavors that happens when you do this quick boil and simmer has the effect of deepening and rounding out all the flavors, giving you a side sauce that's almost as yummy as the sauce that's cooked on to the chicken.

This was about 7 hours of marinating time, and you can
see how the chicken retains its natural texture
and juices with the yogurt marinade.

And that's it! If you don't already have a favorite Rice and Peas recipe to serve with, here's mine.

Enjoy. :)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Simple Yellow Jasmine Rice & Peas

This month's Cookalong menu is assorted Caribbean dishes, and though late to the game due to a combination of busy-ness and fatigue, I did actually manage to get around to making some Jerk Chicken last night with the hope that I'll be able to make at least another main dish from the selections before the month is out.

Rice and Peas was a natural choice for a starch accompaniment, and since Jasmine is the default rice in our kitchen, Jasmine Rice and Peas it was. And though it's often made with some kind of red bean or pigeon peas, we had black beans in the cupboard, so I used those.

Also, though turmeric is not a typical ingredient as far as I know, it adds an appealing natural yellow color, a barely detectable flavor in small quantities, and has great health benefits, so I often add turmeric to flavored rice dishes.

Many Rice and Peas recipes include thyme, a Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chili, and sometimes even a little bit of allspice. Which makes for a delicious standalone rice dish.

But while I adapt and meld all kinds of food concepts, flavor profiles, techniques and processes from all over in my cooking, when rice accompanies spicy, complex flavors, I default to the generally Asian thinking that rice should be a simple canvas to foil and complement those flavors.

And that's not because I'm Asian. I've permanently adapted lots of non-Asian techniques and food ideas into my Asian cooking simply because I think they produce a better result.

In the case of something as hot, spicy and complex in flavor as Jamaican Jerk Chicken, for me, the overall experience of the meal is enhanced by a simpler version of Rice and Peas with a mild savory note from a little onion and garlic, and the creamy offset to all that heat from a little bit of coconut milk.

If you disagree, it's easy enough to add those ingredients to this basic recipe.

As to the beans... Yes. I used canned. I've soaked beans many times in the past, mostly successfully. But beans are more occasional than staple in my kitchen, and as much as I cook from scratch, having to soak dry beans just isn't my thing at the moment. (I only mention that because I'm tired and touchy, and I know I won't react well to someone telling me I can soak dry beans like that's never occurred to me in 25 years of cooking. #iamthatbitch today. ;) )

Simple Jasmine Rice & Peas
Serves 6
Time: About 45 minutes

- 1 Tablespoon butter + 1 Tablespoon oil
- 1/2 a medium onion, minced
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
- 2 cups Jasmine rice
- 1 cup coconut milk (remember to shake it well in the can so all the solids incorporate with the liquid)
- 2.5 to 2+2/3 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable stock (depending on how dry/wet you like your rice)
- 1 to 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 (15 oz.) can beans of choice rinsed and well drained (don't get the unsalted for this recipe)

- optional: 2 sprigs thyme, 1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chili (pierced in several spots if you like heat), 1/2 teaspoon allspice

1) In a pot or large saucepan, melt the butter with the oil over a medium heat then add onion and garlic and sweat until the onions are translucent - maybe 3 to 4 minutes. Add the turmeric to the onions and garlic and stir to combine. (If you're going to add the optional flavorings, this would be the time.)

2) Add the rice to the mixture and stir to combine. Toast the rice for 4 or 5 minutes in the pot, stirring occasionally to redistribute the grains on the top to the surface of the pan. You'll see the grains begin to turn opaque from the toasting. This process not only gives the rice a toastier flavor, but it also helps the individual grains retain their shape and texture.

3) Add the coconut milk and stock and stir to incorporate the liquid throughout the rice. Bring the heat up to medium high and bring to a gentle boil for about 2 minutes.

Gently boiling...

4) At that point, bring the heat down to just slightly higher than low and cover, lid slightly askew, until almost all the liquid is absorbed by the rice, and only the slightest bit of moisture is showing on the top.

5) Pour the beans in an even layer over the top, put the lid back on slightly askew, and continue to steam the rice until 5 minutes after all of the liquid has been absorbed.

6) Turn off the heat and let the rice sit for 5 to 10 minutes (and not much more) before fluffing the rice with a broad spoon or spatula while incorporating the beans as evenly as you can into it.

And enjoy alongside some finger lickin' Jerk Chicken or some hearty and delicious oxtail stew.

Back (hopefully) tomorrow with my Tandoori-Inspired Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe!


Update: My Tandoori-Inspired Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe HERE.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Someone commented on this post on the old blog today, and re-reading it reminded me in my work-related fatigue just how much fun I have with food and food writing when I'm not letting other life-related stressors dampen my enthusiasm, so I thought I'd transfer the post over here.

Now that LAM reads my blog regularly, I debated for 2.5 seconds whether to use the word PENIS, but I figure since I'm talking about FOOD and not my sex life, she'll get over it.

geoduck sashimi

Ain't that right, Mama? :P

Moving right along...

So the name geoduck is derived from a Pacific Northwestern Native American word and is pronounced GOOEYduck or GWEEduck - essentially nothing like it's spelled. And one can only assume that the guy in charge of that transliteration had an iffy grasp on English phonemes.

If we just called it Giant Penis Clam, we wouldn't have that whole pronunciation issue and people wouldn't ever have to wrack their brains trying to remember what it's called, but I guess that might cause marketing issues and people would want to eat them less than they already do.

Unless of course we're talking about the exports to China (most of our geoduck crop is exported to China, BTW), where they'd probably sell doubly well if they were called Giant Penis Clams because superstitious Asian people in Asia seem to have an affinity for eating anything that remotely suggests that its consumption would result in penis or potency enhancement. (I never said I wasn't going to talk about other peoples' sex lives...)

And if you think I'm making a big penis-pumped phallic to-do about this clam, when you see the pics, you'll know why it's near impossible not to.

So the flesh of geoduck, if you've never had it, tastes like a cross between your average fan-shape shelled clam - say, a Littleneck - and the sweetest scallop you've ever tasted, with texture ranging from a cross between firm jello and oyster on the shell end becoming progressively firmer toward the *ahem* protruding end, otherwise known as its siphon or neck, to where it's downright crunchy at the tip. (The Man says that was so wrong, but WHAT - IT'S TRUE.)

The one I photographed here has a rather short neck and I think he had a pretty bad attitude about it as a result, making it extra challenging to pry him from his shell.

Before you get started have a pot of hot tap water or boiled water ready for purposes you'll see in a bit. Then cut through the tough ligament thingies attaching the clam to the shell on both sides.

Then pry the shells apart, and !Voila! Dumbo.

At this point, give the geoduck a good and thorough rinse in cold water. If it smells like anything but fresh ocean water, it's probably not so fresh, and you might not make yourself sick, but you'll most likely turn your palate away from geoduck for a very, VERY long time if you eat it.

If it smells murky or rotten at all, you should get your not small amount of money back. (This stuff ain't cheap.)

When you pull the body of the clam away from the shell, you're going to find this thing that looks like bwalls, and well, it is a gonad, so it's basically bwalls.

People tend to discard this part, but it tastes sweetly of the ocean and makes a wonderful stock for seafood based soups and stews.

By the way, this tubey thing isn't a clam penis, nor is it some kind of parasite. It's something called a crystalline style and is part of their digestive system. Tastes like a mildly salty chap chae noodle, actually. :P

Ok. Once the gonad is removed, you have the mantle (the fleshy part that was covered by the shell) and the siphon (the fleshy part outside the shell), and it is all covered by an outer rubbery *sheath* called a periostracum. To remove that sheath, dunk the clam in that hot water for 15 to 20 seconds. Doing this will not only facilitate the removal, but it'll firm up the flesh and make it easier to slice. 

Start from any edge and *rub* the periostracum away. Once you've got about an inch pulled away with which to pull, slowly and gently pull on the periostracum toward the end of the neck. It should pull away with ease. You may have to do this a few times to get all of the stuff off the clam. (Bwahahahahaaaa...)

Pile o' RubberIMeanPeriostracum

In the front, the siphon, in the back the mantle, both completely edible.

I like to separate them into a mantle piece and siphon piece, then cut the siphon piece in half so I can wash away any sand or dirt that's accumulated there.

On the day I took these pics, we ate the entire clam as sashimi, so I cut them thusly. (That's an Alton-ism.)

mantle pieces
siphon pieces

And served them with choh gochoojahng (Korean style), wasabi and shoyu (Japanese style), and paper thin slices of lemon.

This is geoduck sushi from another day from Nozomi in CarlsbadMirugai (MEErooguy) is the Japanese word for geoduck, so you'll likely find it presented on the menu as such. And they for the most part only serve you siphon pieces.

But the stuff also makes delicious soups and ceviche among other things as well.

The fact that this is a Strange Grub post does however indicate my awareness that geoduck is not for everyone. You have to have an open mind and adventurous palate to allow yourself to get past the obscene appearance and uncommon texture. But if you, like I, are a sucker for superfresh raw things that smell and taste of the ocean, you may want to give The Giant Penis Clam a blow go.

Mama, you may pick your jaw up off the floor now. <Turns off phone.> :P


Monday, March 24, 2014

On Stillness & Cucumber Kimchi

Ever have one of those days when you think you want to pick up and move your whole life somewhere else, assume a new identity, and start all over, when all you really need to do is move some furniture around?

That's the kind of day I'm having with work.

The white veg is just some turnip I had handy
on the day I made this kimchi. :)

But thank Goddess I've been through enough useless upheaval to know it's the fatigue talking. So instead of scrapping everything, I changed a font, and a color, and I'm just going to sit with that until the little muted voice of reason in the back of my mind stops telling me not to make any moves or decisions of consequence.

And I'm going to share this Cucumber Kimchi recipe. Because people have asked me to, and I can't think of any negative consequences to it. ;)

The process is quite similar to making Napa Cabbage (baechu) kimchi, but you do need a little more salt in the beginning to extrude excess water from the cucumber because of its higher water content.

And because I'm so fried today, I'll also count this as Day 4 of my 2-week commitment to Write Something, Anything.

Cucumber Kimchi
Makes about 1.5 quarts. 
Time: About 30 minutes active time. 120 minutes inactive time.

- 4 pounds pickling cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into roughly 1-inch pieces

- 1 bunch green onions, washed, roots trimmed, and cut into 2 inch segments (it's not pictured here because I forgot them when I took these pics, but you can just add them with the cabbage at the beginning)

- 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon kosher salt (about 10% less if you're using regular table salt)

Paste Ingredients

- 1/4 cup minced garlic (about 5 or 6 large cloves)

- 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger root (about a 2" segment)

- 1/3 cup crushed red chili flakes (like the kind you get with your pizza - you can find 13 to 16 oz. pouches of this in the Mexican spice section at most any grocery store) 1/4 cup for mild, 1/2 cup for extra spicy - I used 1/2 cup.

If you have gochugaru and would like to use it, I'd start with about 1/3 cup, give it a taste and add more before packing if you'd like. The kimchi pictured up top is using a blend of crushed red chili flakes and gochugaru - about 1/4 cup of each.

- 1/4 cup steamed white rice, lightly packed. Short or long grain is fine - I used jasmine because it was handy. If your rice is stale at all, microwave it in a bowl with 2 Tablespoons of water for 60 seconds first)

- 1/4 cup fish sauce (like Tiparos or Three Crabs)

- 1/4 cup sugar

- 1/4 cup water for blending

- 1/3 cup of water for getting the remaining seasoning off the bowl and making additional brine

1) In a large stainless steel or mixing bowl, toss the cucumbers, green onion and salt together. Make sure to thoroughly incorporate the salt throughout the cucumber. In 20 to 30 minutes, you should start to see the cucumber release water.

Let the cucumber sit for about 2 hours, tossing and redistributing every 30 minutes to ensure even brining. 

2) After 2 hours of pre-brining, rinse the cucumber with enough water to cover by 4 inches and swishing the cucumber in the water 7 or 8 times. Remove the cucumber into a strainer and let the excess water drain while you prepare the paste.

3) Make the paste by putting all the paste ingredients into a blender and blend until you can't see the individual grains of rice. Pour the paste over the cucumber.

4) Get into the bowl with your hands and mix that paste into the cucumber until all the pieces are evenly and thoroughly coated. 

5) Pack your kimchi into a bottle or other tight-lidded container (This time I repurposed a half gallon kimchi jar) and use the last 1/3 cup of water to swish around the mixing bowl, pick up all the remaining paste, and pour that liquid on top of your kimchi. Remember to leave 1 to 2 inches of headspace at the top to allow for expansion as fermentation takes place.

Your batch of cucumber kimchi is now ready for fermentation in a dark but not cold place like the inside of your cupboard. Or, if you can find a warmish spot in your garage, you can put it there. (I know that's not always possible for cold climate people in the middle of winter.)

A common question: 


You can eat the kimchi whenever you want. Fresh, just after it's been made, all the way up to when it's so incredibly old, ripe and stinky you could choke out a subway system by placing an open jar in one of the vents. It remains safe for human consumption for A VERY LONG TIME.

But as to when to refrigerate, just go out once a day every day to taste a piece, and when it gets to the ripeness you like, stick it in the fridge. It'll continue to ripen, but slowly.

I think this was taken after I'd ripened the kimchi 
for about 3 days.

Generally speaking, however, cucumber kimchi does not hold up texturally as well as Napa cabbage kimchi, and you'll find that it begins to go soggy more quickly. Best to make a smaller batch (you can halve this recipe) if you don't think you can eat it within 2 to 3 weeks because there just aren't as many good uses for overripe cucumber kimchi as with the Napa cabbage kind.

Enjoy. :)


Friday, March 21, 2014

In Defense Of The Fabulous Filtered Selfie

Day 3 of my 2-week commitment to Write Something, Anything.

This is me, today, in all my no-makeup, unfiltered, graying glory. Compare that to my made-up, filtered profile pic right below it taken about a month ago. If that were my match(dot)com pic, and you got this instead, you might feel baited and switched. And this is in superforgiving natural daylight with one of my good angles and my signature right brow lift to compensate for my hereditary right lid droop.

And who knows how you'd feel when you see the rest of my 5'4" frame that is probably far more squishy and pudgy in places these days than you're expecting because I'm one of those people whose face doesn't really show the extra 20 to 30 pounds I could shed before anyone starts worrying about whether I'm eating and drinking well enough...

Well it's a good thing that I've already met my husband on match, he's long since gotten over being baited and switched, and we both know the fact that he's a fantastic homebrewer is responsible for those 20 pounds. :P

Seriously though. I'm not fishing for compliments. I'm ok with my looks, and as many women who have finally come to embrace their looks know, that has nothing to do with how others perceive you and everything to do with what is usually a hard-won kind of grace and self-acceptance.

But I make no cheekbones about it - I am a woman who knows my angles and my filters, and I work the shit out of them.

And I think every woman should - at least once in a while (which is far less often than I do, as you might already know).


Because there's nothing wrong with taking some time out of your life to learn how to prepare and position yourself for a flattering photo when the circumstances allow.

Because Goddess knows there will be plenty of moments when people who either don't know or care whether they're taking a flattering picture of you will proceed to snap and disseminate without your approval, and you want better records for proof and posterity. (Mine are out there. I'm just not pointing you to them because WhyTF would I...)

Because learning a little about makeup and filters and angles gives us a better idea of just how much smoke and mirrors is involved in making the women who are held up as our ideals of beauty appear to be near flawless. (Are they naturally more beautiful and photogenic by the industry's standards than most of us are? Most likely. Are many of them far less flawless and occasionally as downright unremarkable as we are in person? Totally.)

And because, if you're anything like me, it's just fun to get dolled up and fabulous with yourself once you get over caring how others feel about your vanity.

I'm not talking about deluding ourselves or deceiving others. I'm just talking about putting our best aesthetic foot forward whenever we want to, but certainly without feeling like we have to.

Because we're fabulous women. And we can. :)


Lemon Cake Trifle With Berry Compote & Vanilla Mascarpone Whipped Cream

As you might already know, I like using boxed cake mixes for their convenience and consistent results while adding my own touches to make them extra scrummy.

And with the rest of Spring ahead of us, I can't think of a more fitting dessert to celebrate the season than a light and airy trifle made of moist, fluffy lemon cake and deliciously sweettart berries, married with a layer of delicate but luxurious real whipped cream. 

An added bonus of trifles is that you can piecemeal the preparation of the different components starting up to a couple of weeks prior to the occasion so all you have to do is assemble the trifles the day of.

Lemon Cake Trifle with Berry Compote & Vanilla Mascarpone Whipped Cream
Serves 6
Time: About 2 hours total, but as you'll see, some components can be prepared ahead of time

For Garnish: Fresh berries. (I personally like whole blueberries, whole raspberries, and sliced strawberries, in that order, for this dessert.)

For the Cake: (Can be done up to a week ahead. Just bake the cake, wrap, and freeze until the day you're going to assemble the trifle.) :

- 1 box Betty Crocker Lemon Cake Mix
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1.5 Tablespoons mayonnaise or sour cream
- the zest of a small lemon

Make cake according to package instructions, adding the mayonnaise (or sour cream) and lemon zest. Cool completely (at least 2 hours), and cut into 3/4" cubes.

The Compote Recipe (can be made up to 2 weeks ahead - well, actually, you can make it a month ahead, but you run a greater risk of having it eaten up by the time you plan to use it. ;))

For the Vanilla Mascarpone Whipped Cream: (can be done the day before, but best done right before assembly)

- 1 pint heavy whipping cream (you can put the whipping cream in the freezer for about 30 minutes before whipping the cream, which will make the whipping go faster and make it easier for the cream to hold the whipped texture
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup confectioners sugar

Before you begin, a chilled bowl helps the process along, so you may want to place your mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 to 30 minutes before you make your whipped cream.

In a large glass or stainless mixing bowl, start whipping the whipping cream only with a hand mixer on medium setting until the cream begins to thicken to the point that it creates rounded mounds when you life the beaters from the cream.

Add the mascarpone and vanilla, and sift in the confectioner's sugar (to ensure that you don't have clumps), and mix again at medium high speed until the cream is back to creating rounded peaks when you lift the beaters from the cream. This is where I like to stop - where a dollop of cream doesn't retain the dollop shape but slumps gently over the top of the dessert being topped.

You can continue to mix until the cream forms stiff peaks, but I advise stopping right when it does. Continuing too much past that point will result in a mousse-like texture which will then turn into a whipped butter like texture. (It'll still be yummy, but it won't be airy and velvety anymore.)


Trifles are best assembled in clear glass vessels (they actually do sell trifle bowls just for this purpose, and they look like overgrown parfaits). And there's no exact science to it. You might like to make one big truffle, or do individual ones, but however you choose to do it, just mentally portion out the ingredients so you'll have enough for two layers of everything.

Place a layer of cake on the bottom, followed by a moderate spooning of the compote (you don't need to make sure that every square bit of cake area is covered - just enough that each spoonful of trifle will give you just a little bit of that sweettart surprise of the compote), followed by a complete layer of whipped cream, followed by a sparse dotting of fresh berries. Again, you don't want to overwhelm the cake with the cream and the fruit. Repeat.

Cover and refrigerate until it's time to serve.

Enjoy! :)


Full album HERE.

Blackberry Strawberry Compote

This Blackberry Strawberry Compote goes with my Lemon Cake Trifle with Berry Compote & Vanilla Mascarpone Whipped Cream, but it's delicious with yogurt, scones, over ice cream, and with crepes and pancakes, among other things.

Blackberry Strawberry Compote
Makes about 2 cups
Time: About an hour

- 12 oz. blackberries
- about 12 oz. strawberries, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 3/4 cups sugar (the blackberries were sweet)
- a pinch of salt
- 1 Tablespoon water
Stir everything together in a pot and put on medium heat until all the sugar melts. Stir again, lower the heat to just above low and simmer for about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on how large the cooking surface of your cooking vessel. Don't forget to stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks and burns. If the compote starts sticking, your heat's too high, and you should adjust it down.

Once cooled, you can store it in any covered glass or plastic container.

Also, the larger the surface, the less time because your layer is thinner and takes less time to cook. I used a 3.5 quart saucepan today with a roughly 7-inch diameter, and it took 45 minutes.

You can add spices like cinnamon, cardamom, clove, or even a little ginger to this if you like. Lemon and orange zest are also delicious.

I usually like to make it plain so I can flavor it according to use.

Enjoy. :)


Thursday, March 20, 2014

High Road, Schmigh Road

Day 2 of my 2-week commitment to Write Something, Anything.

I'm going to make this one short because I am so knocked out by today's pollen count that I can hardly stay awake.

I don't have pictures of high road, but pollen, I can do.

What's on my mind today is that taking a certain kind of high road is grossly overrated.

Not because stooping is such a great alternative, and not that we should want to embroil ourselves in petty fights with foolish people.

But because, in my experience and observation, "taking the high road" often really just means suppressing ourselves so others will think us intelligent, admirable, or morally superior rather than reasonably speaking our peace so we can be satisfied in our own handling of the situation.

And the former is never more clear than when we feel the need to declare to ourselves and others that we "took the high road," in order to justify the deep and unsettling dissatisfaction that comes from perpetually passing up opportunities to express ourselves authentically for fear of being thought petty or ineloquent or immature by people who won't have to live with the consequences of our silence when we would rather have spoken.

That is to say, if you have to say you took the high road, you're probably wishing you hadn't.

Of course if you are an actually petty and immature person by habit, you probably couldn't find a high road if ten neon arrows were pointing you to it.

And I'm not saying anyone should perpetuate an argument in which one or both parties is looking to win, because any interpersonal interaction in which someone is looking to win is a losing one from the get-go.

But most of the reasonable among us have experienced moments of fight or flight when we should have fought for a moment longer enough to speak our minds and rather convinced ourselves that to fly was noble when it was actually just cowardly.

And in those moments, the real high road may be to muster the courage of our convictions to say the things we really feel and mean, in a spirit of truth and authenticity, or sometimes even in the spirit of richly deserved response, and to accept what comes after.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Super Easy Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Roasted Chicken

So this chicken was supposed to be a Tandoori-inspired Jerk Chicken (or is that Jerk-inspired Tandoori Chicken???) for this month's Cookalong, but I got laid up with a case of the periods, and this week's chicken was going to go South if I didn't do something quick with it tonight.

And since The Man and I were both feeling that Southeast Asian sweet-salty-tangy-spicy thing, I made this super easy Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Roasted Chicken with it.

You'll want to marinate for about an hour or two. And if it works with your schedule, I find that marinating it and letting sit on the counter for the next hour before roasting results in a good level of seasoning without making the meat feel and taste brined, while bringing the chicken up to room temp, which is optimal for cooking while retaining juices.

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Roasted Chicken
Serves 4 as part of a meal with a starch and a veg accompaniment
Time: 2 hours, mostly inactive marinating time and roasting time

- 3.5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken drums and thighs, scored twice on each side about an inch apart to allow the marinade to penetrate in a short time
- 1/3 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (I used Mae Ploy brand.)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2.5 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 2 Tablespoons sriracha or sambal
- 1 Tablespoon minced or grated ginger (you can use a teaspoon of dried ginger if you don't have fresh)
- 1 Tablespoon minced or grated garlic
- 2 Tablespoons minced shallot (1/4 cup of chopped green onion or 3 Tablespoons of minced onion will work in a pinch)
- 2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice

1) Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and massage gently and thoroughly to ensure even seasoning.

2) Let marinate for at least an hour, up to three hours, before roasting. If you're going to roast in an hour, best to leave the chicken out on the counter and allow it to come up to room temp before roasting. Halfway through the marinade time, redistribute the chicken to ensure even seasoning.

3) 15 minutes before roasting, preheat the oven to 425.

4) Set the chicken on a rack over a roasting pan (or on a broiler pan with slats), keeping the extra marinade to glaze the chicken in the last 15 minutes of roasting.

5) Roast the chicken on the center oven rack for 45 minutes, then spoon the leftover marinade in even portions over the chicken pieces and continue to roast for another 15 minutes to give it a chance to caramelize.

Extra marinade spooned over the chicken before
roasting another 15 minutes.

That's it!

I served it tonight with steamed jasmine rice and a quick and easy cole slaw made with green cabbage, some rau ram from the garden, thinly sliced white onion, and a dressing of some leftover takeout nuoc cham, lemon juice, a little sugar, and some olive oil.

Enjoy. :)