Spatchcock Chicken

January 27, 2018 – Spatchcock.  There’s no denying it’s a strange word.  It’s a method of cooking a chicken that produces an amazingly delicious result.  Still a strange word.

The word came into use in Ireland in the 18th century.  Then, as now, it meant to remove the backbone of a chicken and flatten it.  One theory has it that spatchcock is a combination of two words:  dispatch, meaning to kill quickly, and cock, meaning a chicken.  However, another theory suggests it comes from a 15th century word, spitchcock, which was a way of splitting and cooking eels.

I don’t find eels particularly appealing.  I think I’ll go with the 18th century version.

Spatchcock chicken reached the height of its popularity in the mid 19th century.  It had largely fallen out of favor by the mid 20th century.  The 21st century, however, has seen a resurgence of the method.

Whatever the origin of the word there’s no debate that spatchcocking a chicken is a great way to cook a bird.  By flattening the chicken the cooking time is lowered.  Even better, more skin is exposed to heat resulting in a beautifully browned and crispy final product.

You can remove the backbone and flatten the chicken yourself.  But it’s a lot easier to ask your local butcher to do it for you.  I’m into easy these days.

As for seasoning, there are many recipes, most of which are very similar.  I decided to use the “seasoning under the skin” approach.  Done well, it makes for a juicier bird.

I use Creole mustard in my recipe because I prefer it.  Most any dark, spicy mustard will work.

I also used a Meyer lemon.  I’ve come to prefer them because they’re juicier.  Other varieties of lemon will be fine.

For the last ten minutes in the oven, I placed broccoli rabe, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, around the chicken.

So here we go.

Spatchcock Chicken

1 whole chicken, flattened with the backbone removed

3 tablespoons butter, softened

2 tablespoons Creole mustard

1 Meyer lemon, cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick

Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475.

Mix the butter and mustard thoroughly.

Gently slide your fingers under the skin covering the breast, thighs, and drumsticks to loosen it.  Be careful not to tear the skin.

Spread the butter and mustard mixture under the loosened skin.

Place one lemon slice under the skin on each breast.  Scatter the remaining lemon slices on a rack set over a jelly roll pan or something similar.  Place the flattened chicken on the lemon slices.

Salt and pepper the bird to taste.

Bake the chicken for about 30 minutes.  If the juices run clear when the meat is pierced, it’s done.  Its internal temperature should be 165.  Let the bird rest for five or ten minutes before carving it.

Bon temps!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Louisiana Style

January 22, 2018 – We had some boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I’m not fond of them.  I find them to be also tasteless.  But I had to do something with them.  I thought I’d marinate them in olive oil, soy sauce, and Tabasco.  I thought the oil and soy sauce might coax a little flavor from them and everybody knows Tabasco makes anything taste better.

Then we had a better idea.

We cut a slit in each breast, stuffing them with thin slices of ham and cheese.  Classic Chicken Cordon Bleu, a dish originated in Switzerland in the 1940s.

But no!  Though it looked as if we were going for the classic dish, we took a turn south.  We had some collard greens left over from the night before.  In they went along with the ham and cheese.

Tabasco and collards.  Clearly we had left Europe far behind.  We were doing some Louisiana cooking.

As a Louisiana born man, I love collard greens.  Can’t explain it.  I just love’em.  The truth is you can use your own favorite greens to make this dish.

I am also a big fan of Tabasco.  But if you prefer another hot pepper sauce, it will work just as well.

Most any kind of cheese will work as long as it can hold its shape when it’s thinly sliced and melts evenly.

We seasoned the breasts with crushed red pepper, onion powder, and freshly ground black pepper.  The soy sauce took the place of salt for us.  Season with salt according to your own taste.

We also decided against rolling the breasts in bread crumbs and we opted for baking rather than frying.

So here we go.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Louisiana Style

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco

2 slices ham, cut thin

2 slices cheese, cut thin

1 cup left over collard greens

Crushed red pepper, onion powder, salt, & pepper to taste

Marinate the chicken in the olive oil, soy sauce, and Tabasco for an hour or two.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cut slits in each breast, forming a pocket.

Stuff each breast with a slice of ham, a slice of cheese, and about half a cup of collard greens.

Season with crushed red pepper, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink and a meat thermometer registers 165 F.

Bon temps!

 

 

 

 

 

Cioppino

January 9, 1018 – Cioppino is one of San Francisco’s great contributions to American cuisine.  Even so, it’s as much old country Italian as it is New World.

Cioppino, one might say, is a cousin of the beloved bouillabaisse of the Provence region of France.  Additionally, it is related to ciuppin, the seafood stew found in Liguria, the northwestern Mediterranean coast of Italy in which Genoa is located.   Other regions of Italy also have their versions of a similar dish, as do Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

In the late 19th century, there was a migration of Italian immigrants into San Francisco.  Many of them were fishermen.  As the story goes, when a boat came in without a catch, luckier (or more skilled) fishermen would chip in a bit of their day’s harvest so families didn’t go hungry.

There’s no particular rule on what kind of seafood makes a cioppino.  Fish, shrimp, crab, mussels, clams, squid.  It’s another of those “What do we have for the pot?” kind of dishes.

On this night, I had shrimp, Alaska king crab, and Alaska cod.  Perfect ingredients for a great cioppino.

I decided to start the stew with what in Louisiana we call the Trinity.  Sauteed onion, celery and sweet pepper.  I have begun using roasted red peppers as part of my Trinity.  They’re easier and I think they add a nice depth of flavor.

To make up for the lack of liquor producing shellfish, I used a bottle of clam juice.  It worked beautifully.

When it comes time to add the seafood, be cautious.  The cod I had would take probably five to six minutes to cook; the shrimp three or four minutes; and, since the king crab will be already cooked (unless you brought it out of Alaska waters yourself), it requires only seconds to warm through.

The perfect accompaniment to cioppino is a crusty bread.  San Francisco sourdough would be just the thing.

So here we go.

Cioppino

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 cup parsley, chopped

1 cup red wine

2 14 1/2 ounce cans diced tomatoes

8 ounces clam juice

1 bay leaf

2 king crab legs, meat removed from the shells

1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 pound cod, cut into roughly two inch squares

Salt & pepper to taste

In a large, heavy pan saute’ the onion, celery, and roasted red peppers over moderate heat until they begin to soften, about three to five minutes.

Add the garlic, tomato paste, and parsley.  Let the mixture cook for another two minutes or so.

Deglaze the pan with the wine and then bring it to a boil.  Add the tomatoes, clam juice, and bay leaf.  Reduce the heat to moderately low and let the broth simmer for about 45 minutes.  Check it occasionally to make sure the liquid doesn’t evaporate.  You want a thin broth.

Add the cod and cook for five to six minutes until the fish begins to flake.

Toss in the shrimp.  Let it simmer until it begins to turn red.  Three to five minutes.

Finally, add the crab just long enough to heat it through.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bon temps!

 

 

 

Garlicky Chard with Ham

January 4, 2017 – We are carnivores.  No doubt about that.  Any time we embark on a jollification for any occasion the meal will center around meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish.

That doesn’t mean we don’t like vegetables.  We love all kinds of vegetables, usually as accompaniments to whatever meat is searing at the time.  On this evening it was another of our favorites.  Wild caught Alaska sockeye salmon to be precise.

I spent some time scanning ideas for vegetable accompaniments and came across chard.  I had never cooked chard.  It seemed to me to be similar to kale, which I’ve cooked many times.  How hard could it be?

The history of chard is somewhat confusing.  The first reference I could find was in the mid 18th century.  There are different varieties of chard, which is surprisingly a cousin to beets.  Both vegetables are descendants of the sea beet, a native of the Mediterranean coast.

The sea beet is also known as wild spinach.  I have eaten pickled wild spinach in the home of Yupik friends in Southwest Alaska.  I wonder if what I ate in Bethel was, in fact, the same as the Mediterranean variety.  But that is research for another day.

There are several varieties of chard with differing names.  One name is Swiss chard.  No one really knows where that came from because chard is not native to that beautiful but land-locked nation.  There is also rainbow chard, which is not a variety of its own but usually just several varieties bunched together.

By the way, for those whose New Year resolutions include eating healthier, chard, like most leafy green vegetables, is high on the list of good-for-you foods.  It’s full of nutrients that serve your body well.

Cooking chard is like cooking kale or spinach or collards or most any leafy green.  Greens cook down from a panful to a handful very quickly.  It takes a lot of greens to make a meal.  I had two large bunches.  They cooked down to just the right amount for two people.

I decided to include some small pieces of ham to add a little body.  Be sure to avoid overcooking.  You want slightly chewy, flavorful bits of ham.  You don’t want crunch.

I also added some thin slices of garlic.  More flavor.  And again, avoid overcooking.  Garlic is a wonderful flavor additive right up to the point where it turns deep brown and hard and bitter.  At that point you’d be better off to toss it and start over.

As usual, we like spicy.  I added a little crushed red pepper.  It provided just the perfect subtle bite.  It was the perfect accompaniment to our baked salmon.

The key word for this dish is “gentle.”  With the ham.  With the garlic.  With everything.  Treat it gently.

So here we go.

Garlicky Chard with Ham

1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup ham, cut into half inch cubes

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 bunches chard (about 2 – 3 pounds), thick stalks removed & leaves cut into roughly 2 inch squares

Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste

Zest of 1 lemon

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet with high sides over moderate heat.  Add more olive oil if needed.

Saute’ the ham until it begins to brown, perhaps 3 to 5 minutes.  Don’t overcook.

Toss in the garlic.  Cook until it begins to soften and turn light brown, probably 1 to 2 minutes.  Again, don’t overcook.

Cook the chard in batches, a couple of large handfuls at a time.  It will cook down fairly quickly while releasing liquid.  Using a spatula turn the greens over to get the ham and garlic off the bottom and mixed in with the greens.

When most of the first batch’s liquid has evaporated, added a couple more large handfuls.  Continue the process until all the chard is cooked down.

Transfer to a serving bowl.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Grate the lemon zest over it.  Toss and serve.

Bon temps!