Tag Archives: chicken

Mitigate the Damage: Kale Salad with Fried Chicken

I’m horrible with diets. Tell me I can’t eat something and I’ll crave it ferociously. Earlier this year my husband and I decided we would give up meat for Lent. I lasted five days.

I dieted seriously only once before. It was after a six-month stint in Mexico, where I ate tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner and made monthly pilgrimages to Texas to devour the delights of Whataburger. So upon returning home to Taiwan I ate only fruit for breakfast, half a whole-wheat tuna sandwich and raw vegetables for lunch—followed by the exact same thing for dinner. It took a month of that diet combined with daily weighted runs up the eleven flights of stairs to our apartment to erase the damage. But that was when I was 18, intensely motivated by my severe lack of self-confidence and the desire to quiet the snarky comments about my ass.

Now that I’m just a smidge older (ahem) my priorities have changed. I don’t care what bitchy women think of my size, or whether or not a guy finds me attractive (my hubby is locked into thinking it… or at least lying about it FOREVER) but now I’ve got new issues to deal with, namely my health.

Sadly, what our parents threatened is in fact true: as you get older you can’t eat like you did as a teenager without negative consequences. But the other side of the spectrum—only eating turkey breast, brown rice & steamed vegetables is no way to live either. So I’m attempting to mitigate the damage my favorite foods might be doing by throwing them together with “super foods”.

This autumn I’ve been particularly enamored with kale. Raw, sautéed, or added to soup—I love it all. On a recent Sunday after yet another afternoon spent at FedEx field watching disappointing Redskins football we returned home heads hung low & arms cradling a bucket of leftover Popeyes fried chicken. Ten years ago I would’ve devoured the leftover chicken while watching the late night game (who am I kidding, two years ago I would’ve done that) but my newly accepted reality inspired me to throw together this healthy salad which turned out to be a surprisingly delicious compromise.

I am hopeful that the combined vitamin power from a kale, almonds, flax and chia seeds turn this dinner into a super meal capable of undoing (almost) any damage from the fried chicken.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
5 kale leaves (any variety)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 Tbs. champagne vinegar
1 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. honey
4 Tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 pieces leftover fried chicken
1 Tbs. almond slivers
2 tsp. flax seeds*
2 tsp. chia seeds*
½ Fuji apple (a handful of dried cranberries would also work beautifully)

  • Remove the thick stem from the kale leaves. You can cut it out or simply tear it out. Stack the stem-free leaves and cut into thin strips.
  • Mix the garlic, vinegar, mustard and honey in a bowl. Add the oil and mix to incorporate. Taste and adjust the vinaigrette to your liking. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper.
  • Dress the kale, mixing the salad with your hands so that it is evenly dressed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
  • If you are using cold leftover chicken reheat it in an oven set to 350° until warmed through. Remove and tear the meat and skin up into bite size chunks.
  • Put the almonds, chia and flax seeds in a skillet over medium heat. Toast gently, tossing frequently until the almonds are fragrant and golden. Set aside
  • Cut the apple half into 4 pieces. Remove the core and peel (if desired). Slice thinly.
  • Assemble the salad by tossing all the ingredients together in a large salad bowl.

*Flax and chia seeds can be found in the bulk section of Whole Foods grocery stores.

Advertisements

The Palettes of TCKs: Sibling #4 Requests Chicken Wings

Sibling number four is my very beautiful sister Janai. In addition to the usual identity crises associated with TCKs Janai has had the added complication of having a foreign name. In Chinese her name (pronounced jen-ai or ren-ai) means “true love” but unfortunately, in Japanese ja-nai means “am not” or “is not”. Thus Janai spent many years of her life reluctantly being called by her second name, Clare. Guess what my darling husband jokingly said to her when they met in Taiwan? “Clare? That’s a fat girl’s name.” Thank you John Hughes and The Breakfast Club!

However the shy girl grew up into a sassy lady who often renders men speechless when she extends a manicured hand and introduces herself, often repeating her exotic name several times for the bumbling gentlemen that can’t seem to get it right.

Janai sent me the following response to my comfort food inquiry, “Remember how we used to bake all those chicken wings?? Made our own marinade with soy sauce, mustard, ketchup, and any spice we could find? That’s what I crave…basic yet delicious…it’s what I remember as ‘home’.”

Ah, I remember those chicken wings well. They were the frequent stars of our dinner table because wings were cheap and the sauce was composed of just about every spice in the cupboard, and every condiment in the refrigerator door.

We’ve been making chicken wings in my family for years, but my relationship with them wasn’t always amicable. In Japan we would cook the wings in a skillet on the stove since we only had a very small oven (most Asian kitchens aren’t outfitted with large ovens; toaster ovens are usually used for baking at home instead). Just about everything in our kitchen was stainless steel and our cooking utensils were metal, which was great for cleaning. But when the pilot light in the stove shorted (and it did, ALL THE TIME), you got a free lesson in electrostatics. Question: What happens when you happen to touch the stove with metal tongs while your other hand is resting on the metal counter? Answer: The electrical currents have a play date in your body! To this day my body tenses in preparation for a jolt whenever I smell soy sauce and sugar caramelizing.

But we left that house, and eventually Japan. Somewhere along the way we found ourselves in a bigger kitchen, and we transferred the wings from the skillet to the oven. Nowadays I bake the wings first with just a little salt, pepper, lime juice and oil, (you could add other spices like Chinese five spice or chili powder) and then glaze the wings with the sauce right before I throw them under the broiler. With this method the meat is nicely seasoned and the sweet-salty sauce gets deliciously charred and sticky under the intense broiler heat.

Hopefully your kitchen is in compliance with safety codes, so making these simple Asian wings won’t leave you permanently traumatized.

Ingredients:
1 lb. chicken wings
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. white pepper
½ tsp. lime juice
1 Tbs. neutral oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
1 half medium sized onion, diced
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
1 Tbs. ketchup
1 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. Sriracha

  • Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside to allow the chicken to marinate and temper (come up to room temperature)
  • Preheat the oven to 400°. When oven reaches desired temperature place the chicken wings on a sheet pan and into the oven for 10 minutes
  • While the wings are baking sweat the onions, garlic and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Combine the soy sauce, water, ketchup, mustard, sugar and Sriracha together in a bowl. Mix well.
  • Once the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes) add the liquid mixture to the saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain. Pour the strained liquid into a large bowl.
  • Add the semi cooked chicken wings to the sauce and toss to coat. Return the chicken wings to the sheet pan and place them under the broiler (turned to high) for a couple of minutes. Remove and flip the wings. Return to the broiler and sear the other side of the wings (1-2 minutes).
  • Remove when you have the color and caramelization you want.

Can be served as is….

Or with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro…

Cilantro and extra Sriracha…

Or with a dusting of shiso furikake—shiso, the popular Japanese herb (also called beefsteak plant), flavored rice seasoning… salty, tart and slightly floral.

Kara-age: Japanese Fried Chicken

I have an insatiable appetite for fried chicken. If I spot it on a menu, at a street fair, or night market it’s just a matter of time before it ends up in my mouth. I’m not overly finicky about how it’s prepared, but I do have one rule: don’t strip it of its skin and fat. I want a brown crackling exterior and juicy meat that tastes like it spent some time soaking in good brine or marinade. In order to accomplish this you essentially need two things—skin and fat.

Japanese enjoy this simple fried chicken with their after-work beers, alongside a bowl of ramen, or tucked inside a bento box. Traditionally potato starch is used for coating the chicken but I find that when used alone it can be a bit powdery on the tongue. Rather, try using a mixture of flour and potato starch; you’ll get a crisp exterior without the dusty flakes.

 

Once I debone the chicken thighs I like to pound each piece until it’s an even inch across. I do this so that each slice has a good skin-fat-meat ratio. You can cook the thigh as one uniform piece, or cut it into strips before dredging and frying.

My hubby believes that food is simply a vessel for sauces, so I serve this chicken with Japanese mustard and a spicy mayo (a mix of sriracha and Kewpie mayonnaise). But the traditionalist in me is satisfied with a simple squeeze of lemon and a cold Kirin beer.

 

Ingredients
6 chicken thighs, deboned with skin on
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. mirin (or sake)
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 cup potato starch
1 cup flour  
1 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. salt
White pepper for dusting
Lemon wedges

  • Place the boneless chicken thighs between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound till about one inch across. Cut into one-inch strips.
  • Mix the soy sauce, mirin and grated ginger together in a bowl. Add the chicken. Toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but no longer than 45min.
  • Place a pan (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat and fill two inches deep with neutral (sunflower, peanut, canola) oil.
  • Mix the potato starch, flour, curry powder and salt together in a shallow dish. Coat the chicken in the mixture. Shake off any excess.
  • When the oil has reached 325° gently lay the chicken into the pan, taking care not to overcrowd. (If you don’t have a thermometer test the temperature with a little piece of chicken. You want to see tiny bubbles quickly rising with the meat. The oil should not be smoking)
  • Cook for approximately 5 minutes per batch. If you’re frying the thigh as a whole piece rather than strips cook each side for about 4 minutes.
  • When the chicken is a deep golden brown remove and drain on paper towels.
  • Dust with finely ground white pepper and serve with wedges of lemon.

Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts with Scallion, Ginger and Cilantro Sauce

I was seventeen when I first started teaching English in Taiwan. I began with the preschool-kindergarten age group. Work started at 8am and consisted of me jumping around the room singing songs like The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. There were the occasional wet pants, (always the kids’) and the daily tears (not always the kids’).

By noon I was ready for a large meal and a quiet corner. One of my favorite workday lunches was the local staple, duck rice. I’d bike over to this little roadside stall where 50 NT dollars (a little less than two bucks) would get you half a roasted duck chopped up and set on a mound of rice. It came with a couple little containers of gingery, scallion goodness to be slathered over the moist meat and crispy skin. I’d regularly scarf this down and gather my wits before heading back to school to do my best rendition of Little Bunny Foo Foo.

It wasn’t too long before I moved on to teaching high school and business level English. Thanks in part to make-up and the ability to skillfully dodge questions about my age. The job and pay may have improved but duck rice remained a lunch favorite.

Below is my version of the dish, with a couple tweaks. First, I add cilantro to the ginger and scallion sauce. The fresh herbal punch brings another layer of flavor and brightens the sauce. Second, I use chicken breast instead of duck. This is simply because I don’t have the time or the necessary tools (air compressor, fan, wok) to properly roast a whole duck. It’s also friendlier to those (…let’s call them Westerners) who don’t enjoy picking around the bones.

The scallion, ginger and cilantro sauce is great with just about anything—roasts, noodles and stir-fry dishes. If covered well it’ll keep in the fridge for a couple days. Although, it tastes best 15-20 minutes after you make it.

Sometimes I’ll throw this together for my husband’s lunch since it’s simple to make and reheats fairly well. Occasionally I fret that I’m setting the feminist movement back a couple decades by sending my hubby off in the morning with a packed lunch. So in an effort to quell my ridiculous guilt I even out the score by making him sing a verse from Little Bunny Foo Foo in exchange.

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts (skin on)
salt
white pepper
¾ cup scallion, minced
1 Tbs. ginger, minced
¼ cup cilantro, minced
2 tsp. rice vinegar
½ tsp. soy sauce
2½ tsp. neutral oil such as vegetable or grapeseed oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
¼ tsp. salt 

  • Heat the oven to 400°
  • Generously season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and a little white pepper. Set aside and allow the meat to temper (come relatively close to room temperature).
  • Cut the scallions down the middle, halving them lengthwise. Slice in half again so that you end up with four long strips. Finely slice the scallion, both white and green parts.
  • Finely mince the peeled ginger. If you have a microplane you can use it instead of stressing about perfect knife work.
  • Mix the scallions, ginger & the last 6 ingredients together in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  • Heat a skillet and about 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat. Once you begin to see little wisps of white smoke add the chicken breasts, skin side down. Sear for 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium high. Continue to cook for another minute. Flip the breasts and sear the other side for 2 minutes.
  • Place the skillet and chicken into the oven and finish cooking through, about 8 minutes. Remove when breasts feel firm to the touch or internal temperature reads 165°.
  • Allow chicken to rest a few minutes before slicing. Serve chicken over rice and top with scallion, ginger and cilantro sauce.

A Compromised Roast Chicken

How many times have you heard the words, “Marriage is about compromise”? It’s an over-used statement that’s tossed out by an exasperated marriage counselor trying to solve a bickering couple’s problems, or by a sheepish husband explaining to his buddies why he bought his wife yet another pair of Louboutin pumps instead of season tickets to his favorite team, or even by a tipsy wife gossiping to her girlfriends about how she dons a French maid outfit in exchange for a 15-minute foot rub and a week off from dishwashing duty.

Marital compromise manifests itself differently for every couple. Those in bi-cultural marriages like myself may find much of it taking place in the kitchen.

Asians like rice. That’s not a stereotype. It’s a simple fact. I NEED to eat rice at least 4 times a week, preferably sushi grade: white, round, shiny, and slightly sticky so that it forms light balls on the tip of my chopsticks. In comparison, my husband would hardly notice if blight destroyed all short grain rice. When we met he could correctly identify only one type; it came in an orange box and was ready in minutes.

I like fish. He hates it. So I don’t cook it in the house (at least while he’s home). I love dried squid, but am banished to the balcony to eat my pungent snack in shame, far removed from his olfactory sensitivities.

Over our 11 years together, my husband’s palate has grown accustomed to—even fond of—Asian flavors. He likes soy sauce, rice vinegar and tofu almost as much as I do, but still craves the occasional PB&J, bowl of chicken noodle soup (ramen doesn’t count) and Italian sub.

The roast chicken below started out as a way to sneak a little Asian-ness into a traditional western family dinner. The spiced brine makes the chicken so flavorful that I’m more than content to leave the chopsticks in the drawer for the night. On the other side of the marital divide, my hubby’s so satisfied with his meat and potatoes that I can usually get a 15-minute foot rub from him… sans further compromise.

Ingredients:
2 Tbs. Szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. coriander seeds
5 whole cloves
2 Tbs. salt
2 tsp. sugar
3 cups water: one hot, 2 cold
Rind of 1 lemon
10 sprigs of cilantro
1 shallot, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 whole chicken, halved

  • To make the brine toast the first four ingredients in a small skillet. Toss lightly over medium heat for three minutes or until fragrant and slightly darker.
  • Dissolve salt and sugar in one cup of hot water (I like to put the cup in the microwave for 1½ minutes). Add the toasted spices. Steep (sit and soak) for five minutes.
  • Combine the lemon rind, cilantro, shallot and garlic in a deep pot or baking dish (you can use anything large and deep enough to submerge two chicken halves in).
  • Halve the chicken by cutting down both sides of the breastplate. Once the front is halved, flip the chicken over and press down to flatten. Cut along both sides of the backbone, removing it completely.
  • Place the chicken in the deep dish. Add the water with the spices plus enough cold water to submerge both halves. Cover and refrigerate for at least six hours.
  • After 6-8 hours remove the chicken from the brine. Pat dry and allow chicken to come up to room temperature.
  • Heat a skillet and oil over medium high heat. Sear chicken on all sides, 6-7 minutes total. Transfer to a 400°F oven. Roast for 25 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 160°F (check the temperature in the dense thigh rather than the breast). Flip the chicken skin-side-up for the final 5 minutes.
  • Once cooked, remove the chicken from the oven. If your family isn’t mobbing the kitchen like a pack of hungry zombies I recommend resting the chicken for 5-10 minutes.
  • The beauty of a roast chicken is that it can really be served with anything. I like it with pan roasted potatoes and spinach that’s been quickly tossed in a hot pan with garlic and a squeeze of lemon.