chicken fingers Look, I’m all for haute cuisine. In fact, I’m tempted to lie and tell you that the picture to the right is pan-fried Fijiian oysters with julienned pommes de terre and saffron aioli. But it’s not. It’s chicken fingers and cheese fries. Sometimes you just want comfort food.

Makes: you forget you’ve ever been to Denny’s
Total kitchen time: 45 mins

Shopping list:

  • 1-1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 box Corn Flakes (plain, no raisin or strawberry BS)
  • 1 tbsp rosemary (I used dried for this recipe, but fresh works too)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  1. Trim the chicken thighs, removing any excess fat. Cut into 1″ strips and place in a baking dish. Lightly salt and pepper the chicken and add the paprika and buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate 30 mins.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 and adjust the top rack so it is 6-8″ from the top heating element.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients (Corn Flakes -pepper) in a food processor. Pulse a few times, but not too many that you end up with dust. Keep the mixture coarse for crispiness.
  4. Spread 1/2 of the Corn Flake mixture on a plate. One by one, shake the chicken pieces dry and roll in the breading, coating thoroughly. Arrange on a greased or non-stick baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping once. When 15 minutes is up, if they don’t look crispy, set your oven to broil and watch them closely (about 2-3 minutes).

Serve with french fries (tossed with crumbled blue cheese and sea salt) and home-made BBQ sauce (sorry blog readers, I’ll never tell!).

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swordfish Nothing signifies the start of summer like fish on the grill. If you’re ever going to be picky about your ingredients (which I recommend), now’s the time. Make a special trip to the best fish market you can find. You want a place that’s very busy (fast turnover = fresh products) and doesn’t smell like fish at all. Ask the fish monger to let you smell a piece of fish. If he refuses, shout profanities at him and storm off – you didn’t want his fish anyway.

Serves: 2 old men and the sea
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes (plus marinating time)

Shopping list:

  • 2 swordfish steaks (about 1/2 lb each)
  • greens (choose one you like: watercress, escarole or endive all work well)

Marinade:

  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger (finely grated)
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp red curry powder

Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/4 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 2 tbsp coarse mustard (creole mustard works great)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp red curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine marinade ingredients in a large, shallow baking dish. Add the swordfish steaks, turning to coat. Cover with foil and refrigerate 30 mins.
  2. Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in your food processor and blend until smooth. Taste it now and then and adjust as necessary. Salad dressings, in my humble opinion, are the last bastion of organic alchemy.
  3. Preheat your grill (or grill pan) over medium heat. Make sure the grates are as clean as possible. Rub the grates with peanut oil.
  4. Place the swordfish steaks on the grill DON’T move them. They’ll stick. Be patient. After 5 minutes, they’ll release on their own (or with a little coaxing). Give them a 1/4 turn to get pretty grill marks. Cook 5 minutes more (depending on your grill) then flip and repeat.
  5. Plate the swordfish on your lettuce and drizzle the vinaigrette over both.

As a side dish, I might recommend a steamed artichoke. Mix together 2 tbsp of mayonnaise with 1 tsp of red curry powder as a dipping sauce. Now, go ride a bike, work on your tan – hell, go fishing! Most of all, enjoy the summer season.

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cuban chicken This is a meal befitting a communist dictator – or you! Now that the weather is warming up, I can’t help but crave the tangy, refreshing flavors of lime, mint and cilantro. This is an easy, rewarding meal that makes you want to forfeit your civil rights and float on a door to paradise.

Serves: 2 baseball loving Yanks
Total Kitchen Time: 40 mins

Shopping List:

  • 1 whole organic, free-range, hormone-free, sustainably-farmed, middle-class, democratic chicken
  • *Special equipment: cast iron skillet or oven-proof skillet

Marinade:

  • 1 small onion
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp cilantro
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh black pepper
  1. Combine all the marinade ingredients in your food processor or blender. If you don’t have either, I hope you have a sharp knife and patience.
  2. Butterfly the chicken by removing the spine with kitchen shears and cracking the sternum with your hands. For more information, get Jacques Pepin’s book. I know you won’t.
  3. Marinate the chicken from 0-8 hours (really, you can just brush this stuff on) making sure both sides of the bird are nicely coated.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 and set the rack to the middle-top position. Get your skillet nice and hot and give it a minute to retain the heat.
  5. Place the bird, breast side down, in the skillet and cook about 3 minutes. Transfer the whole skillet to the oven and cook until the thickest part of the meat reads 145 on your thermometer (about 20 minutes).
  6. Flip the bird over and crank your oven up to broil. Broil 5-7 minutes, or until the skin is crispy and brown. Let stand 5-10 minutes before carving.

Candied Jalapeno

  • 5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  1. Pour the sugar and water into a small sauce pan over high heat.
  2. When the water starts to boil, add the sliced jalapeno. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook about 15 minutes. Don’t let the sugar reach the soft boil stage – it should stay slightly watery even at the end.
  3. Transfer jalapeno slaw to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Fried Plantains:

  • 4 plantains, cut into 1/2 in sections (you can substitute bananas if you want)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the sliced plantains, brown sugar and cinnamon. Saute, flipping to coat with butter, about 15 minutes.
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