Tag Archives: chicken

Summer, Meet Autumn: Squash-Pumpkin-Chicken Curry with Cilantro-Poblano Rice

20 Aug

Along with chipotle peppers, curry has become a staple flavor profile in ever-expanding repertoire.  From curried French toast to curried fried chicken and waffles, I’ve yet to meet a favorite dish that didn’t take well to my curry-fication.

Us Wisconsinites were spoiled this past week with a couple days of marvelous early-Autumn-like weather with just the tiniest chill in the air.  After the swampy, oppressively hot couple of weeks prior, it was a welcome respite and preview of my favorite but far-t00-short season in Wisconsin.  It also reminded me that I had a bunch of acorn squash and white pumpkin in my freezer, CSA leftovers that I used to make a delicious curried soup with crispy kale this past winter.  Longing for those comforting flavors, but not quite ready for a steaming bowl of soup, I decided to make a simple chicken curry incorporating my leftover winter bounty.  A refreshingly zippy pairing of cilantro and poblano pepper-infused rice helps this dish bridge the late-August gap between sweltering Summer and fair-weather Fall.

Sqush, Pumpkin, and Chicken Curry with Cilantro-Poblano Rice

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 3-4 Chicken thighs, deboned and cut into 1in x 1in pieces
  • 1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • Squash and/or pumpkin, roasted and mashed (I used leftover acorn squash and white pumpkin from a soup I made this winter, which I had frozen in some zip-top bags)
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, julienned
  • 1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp tandoori seasoning
  • dash of ground chipotle powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I do it:

  • Prepare cilantro-poblano rice liquid by combining water, cilantro, half of the poblano pepper, pinch each of salt and curry powder and blend until smooth.
  • Prepare base sauce for curry by combining chicken stock, ~1 cup of squash/pumpkin mash, tomato, half of the onion, Indian spices, salt and pepper and blending until smooth.
  • Rub chicken thighs with mix of curry, garam masala, tandoori, pinch of salt and pepper.
  • In large saute pan (or your trusty cast iron skillet), heat olive oil over medium heat and saute the other half of the minced onion, poblano pepper and garlic for a minute or two until softened.
  • Add chicken and saute until browned, 5-8 minutes.
  • Add curried squash puree along with another half cup or so of the mashed squash/pumpkin to pan and cook, uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
  • Now would be a good time to start the rice – heat cilantro-poblano water until boiling, reduce heat, add rice and cook as directed.  For my jasmine rice, 20 minutes is about right.
  • Fluff rice with a fork and serve  aside squash-pumpkin-chicken curry.  Bask in the cross-seasonal glory.

Check out this post and other great foodie content from my friends at Forkful of News.


Obsession: Chicken with Tomatillo-Poblano-Cilantro Sauce

1 Jun

Chicken with tomatillo-poblano-cilantro sauce

Some foods have a way of slipping under your radar, despite rocking your world every time you revisit them.  Tomatillos are firmly in that category for me.  Tart, tangy and refreshing as they are, tomatillos can be tough to wrangle up in Madison outside of their main growing season (May-October) and are often tucked away in ethnic or specialty sections of the produce department.  As such, they’re regretfully out-of-sight, out-of-mind on many of my grocery runs.  Thankfully, warm weather means my fridge has a steady supply of fresh salsa for snacking and salsa verde is one of my favorites so this illusive green-husked fruit is back in my life again.

Mexican food is so great because of the fresh, bold flavors and often simple preparations.  If you know my style in the kitchen, you know that’s precisely how I operate.  While this isn’t the quickest dish to whip up with the roasting and simmering involved, the crisp waves of flavor from the tangy tomatillos, spicy peppers and fresh cilantro make the effort well worth it.

Tomatillo-Poblano-Cilantro Sauce

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 8-12 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper
  • 1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock (or water)
  • generous pinches of dried Mexican oregano and epazote
  • juice of 1 large or several key limes
  • salt to taste.

How I do it:

  1. Place prepared tomatillos and poblano pepper on a baking sheet and roast under your broiler for 6-8 minutes or until the skin begins to blacken in spots.  Flip and repeat.
  2. Place roasted tomatillos and poblano pepper in a blender or food processor along with chipotle pepper, cilantro, garlic, stock or water, lime juice and seasoning.  Blend until well-incorporated into a smooth sauce.

Veg rainbow

Chicken and Peppers

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 3-4 chicken thighs, de-boned and rubbed with salt and Penzeys Northwoods Fire or other spicy blend
  • 1/2  each of poblano, green, yellow, orange and red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Chicken simmering

How I do it:

  1. Add vegetable oil to cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Sear chicken thighs for 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp. Set aside.
  2. Sauté peppers and onion in reserved oil and chicken drippings for 6-8 minutes, or until softened yet still firm.
  3. Add prepared tomatillo-poblano-cilantro sauce to pan along with seared chicken thighs.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-25 minutes until sauce has thickened and chicken in tender.

Serve on a warm tortilla, preferably with some delicious accoutrement like sour cream, guacamole, and fresh salsa.  I happened to have some pineapple-roasted corn salsa and fresh guac on hand, which added cool, refreshing counterpoints to the warm, tangy sauce.  If you’re not on the tomatillo bandwagon yet, you should be.  This platypus of the tomato family has a lot going for it if you can track it down.

Obsession: Three Cup Chicken

5 May

As I mentioned in my early piece on Natt Spil, their Three Cup Chicken (or San bei ji) is one of those dishes that worms its way into your head and demands being sated several times a year.  There’s nothing shy about this traditional South China/Taiwanese dish – obscene amounts of minced garlic and ginger, sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce with a heavy-handed dose of fresh basil, paired with a spicy-sour salad of sliced cucumber and tomato.  Too much of a good thing means nothing in my book, so this dish is right in my wheelhouse.  And should be in yours.

Three Cup Chicken (San bei ji)

Ingredient Rundown:


  • Chicken thighs, de-boned and roughly chopped (3 healthy-sized thighs yielded 2 healthy-sized servings)
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
  • 1/3 cup rice wine (I’ve used Dry White Sherry to fine results)
  • 1 large thumb-sized lobe of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Fresh basil chiffonade, to taste
  • 1 heaping tsp corn starch
  • 1 cup dry Jasmine rice

Pickled Cucumber/Tomato Salad

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into sticks
  • 2 roma tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • basil chiffonade, to taste
  • dash of garlic powder, powdered ginger
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime (or several small key limes in my case)
  • squirt of Sriracha
  • splash of soy sauce
  • pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

How I do it:

  1. Prepare pickled salad by marinating sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in rice vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, basil, and spices.  Gets better with time, but give it at least an hour or two.
  2. Add sesame oil to large skillet or cast iron frying pan and saute minced garlic and ginger over medium heat for 5-8 minutes
  3. Add chopped chicken thighs, seasoned with kosher salt and saute with garlic and ginger for about 10 minutes until lightly browned
  4. Prepare 1 cup of jasmine rice, as directed on package (in general the rice should take 20-25 minutes to cook, so now would be a good time to start it so it finishes with the chicken)
  5. Add rice wine, soy sauce, most of the basil and corn starch (I made a slurry by mixing corn starch with an equal amount of soy sauce – this prevents lumps and allows it to incorporate better to thicken sauce) and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by 80-90% and a thick sauce remains.
  6. Serve with jasmine rice and pickled salad.  Garnish liberally with more fresh basil.  Bask in its effervescence.  Life is good.

I enjoyed this batch of three cup chicken with some delicious La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2009 that I just picked up at Barriques Wine and Spirits. I really enjoyed the previous vintage this fall and the fresh stuff really went well with this dish.  Heavily acidic with the first glass I sampled the night before, the wine really opened up with a night under its belt and the fresh notes of lime and ginger shined through, highlighting those aspects of the food nicely.  A pretty nice way to spend an 70 degree evening in early May, I must say.

Recipe Re(redux): Chicken and Waffles – Indian Style

31 Mar

If you didn’t get the memo yet – I love me some chicken and waffles.  After sampling straight from the source at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in Hollywood (verdict: good, in that traditional way that is well-executed but lacks a certain panache.  The fried chicken was very tasty but the waffle was somewhat reminiscent of a soggy scouring sponge – I prefer a little crispness) and experimenting a little at home, I consider my chops pretty solid.  Loyal reader will also be aware of my affinity for all things curried.  Combine those with a hungry Travis at midnight and you have yourself a recipe for a comfort food classic with a twist.

I stuck with the same base waffle recipe from my first crack at the dish (minus the pecans and brown sugar), but added about 3/4 of a teaspoon of Penzeys Sweet Curry Powder and a dash of Garam Masala. They turned out lightly crisped on the outside and wonderfully steamed and fluffy on the inside in a way that mimicked grilled naan bread in a serendipitously appropriate way.

For the chicken (this time boneless, skinless thighs), I went with a simple double dredging method (egg wash – flour – egg wash – flour) with the flour seasoned with salt, pepper, curry, garam masala, and garlic powder and pan fried them for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy.

I couldn’t quite decide on salty or sweet for a syrup/sauce/gravy and ended up fudging a sweet and savory gravy from chicken stock thickened with roux, apricot preserves, sweet curry, cracked pepper and a dash of salt.  I managed meld the best of syrup and gravy to find a great balance that satisfied both ends of the flavor and texture spectra.

For a chicken and waffles and curry-head like myself – a pretty damn tasty meal thrown together in about 45 minutes on a whim.  A tasty second act awaits for lunch tomorrow as well.

Still cooking after all these beers: Salsa, Flour Tortillas, Chicken Tacos and Quesadillas

24 Feb

I realize it has been quite some time since I’ve done a cooking post.  A busy schedule, empty pantry, and lack of motivation of late have largely kept me out of the kitchen recently.  A trip to the grocery store this morning changed all that, and thankfully gave me the culinary kick in the pants I needed to get my lazy butt back in the kitchen.  A crisper full of fresh produce almost always leads to salsa.  Salsa goes great with tacos.  A little more cheese and a soft taco becomes a quesadilla.  This is how my brain works.  Let’s dive into some simple Mexican staples that can be thrown together in a matter of minutes from a modest set of ingredients.


Fresh salsa is so easy to make and endlessly tweakable – I honestly don’t remember the last time I bought a jar of salsa (and quite frankly can’t help but think it tastes like spaghetti sauce).  Simple restaurante-style salsa takes less than 10 minutes to make and $5 worth of ingredients will net you about a quart.  No joke.

Ingredient rundown:

  • canned diced tomatoes
  • small to medium-sized onion, diced
  • bell peppers (any color, fresh or quickly roasted and diced)
  • jalepeño, minced
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • fresh garlic, minced
  • fresh lime juice
  • Seasonings – salt, cumin, garlic powder, dried Mexican oregano, epazote, dried chipotle, chipotle in adobo

How I do it:

  1. Mince 1 small onion, 1 small bell pepper, 1 large clove of garlic, cilantro (more the better), 1 jalepeno, 1 chipotle in adobo (optional).
  2. Throw that stuff in a blender
  3. Add one 1 14oz-ish can of diced tomatoes.
  4. Add a dash of salt, cumin and garlic powder, juice of one lime (I like to throw a pinch each of dried epazote and Mexican oregano for depth of flavor)
  5. Blend until nearly liquefied.
  6. That’s it.

I go this stuff faster than water.  Luckily it’s just as affordable.  A great cheap, healthy and quick snack and condiment to have around.

Flour Tortillas

I’ve actually never made tortillas from scratch, though I had a neighbor in California that would make them for me after school as a child.  A pat of butter and dash of salt made for a simple but decadent snack.  My lack of soft taco-sized tortillas at home and a little curiosity led to a quick search and a simple recipe, courtesy of texascooking.com

Ingredient rundown:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (they warn against bread flour, but that’s what I had on-hand for pizza dough and it worked just fine for me)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk (2% is fine)

I ended up making a half recipe, which made enough dough for 4 6-8 inch thick and chewy tortillas.  I also added a dash of garlic powder and a splash of the adobe sauce from the canned chipotles for a little character.

How they do it:

  1. Stir together the flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and vegetable oil to the lukewarm milk and whisk briefly to incorporate. Gradually add the milk to the flour, and work the mixture into a dough. It will be sticky.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with flour and knead vigorously for about 2 minutes (fold and press, fold and press). The kneading will take care of the stickiness. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rest for 15 minutes. (This dough will not rise, but it needs a rest.)
  3. Divide your dough into 8 balls of equal size, cover them, and let them rest again for about 20 minutes. Avoid letting them touch, if you don’t want them to stick together.
  4. Dust your work surface with flour. Working one at a time, remove each piece of dough and pat it into a 5-inch circle. With a rolling pin, roll out the tortilla, working from the center out, until you have a 7- or 8-inch tortilla a little less than 1/4 inch thick.
  5. Transfer the tortilla to a hot, dry skillet or griddle (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet with great results). It will begin to blister. Let it cook for 30 seconds, turn it, and let the other side cook for 30 seconds. Remove the tortilla, place it in a napkin-lined basket and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat for the remaining tortillas.

Chicken Tacos

With the salsa and tortillas knocked out, we’re a few fillings away from some pretty gnarly tacos.  I just bought a boatload of chicken thighs so my protein was settled.  I always like a little contrast from the usual salty-spicy core of tacos so in this case I though some lightly pickled onion and jalepeño would work well.

Ingredient rundown

  • tortillas (see above)
  • boneless chicken (I’m partial to dark meat, breasts will work fine, too)
  • strip of bacon, thinly sliced
  • onion and jalepeño, sliced into thin slivers
  • sweet bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • white vinegar
  • cilantro, chopped
  • salt, pepper, spicy rub (I always have plenty of Penzeys Northwoods Fire on hand)
  • salt and pepper

How I do it:

  1. Thinly slice half a small onion and jalepeño, add chopped cilantro and a healthy splash of vinegar and let soak, stirring often, while you prepare the chicken
  2. Rub chicken with salt, pepper and spicy seasoning blend.
  3. Add sliced bacon to hot skillet to render some fat out before adding seasoned chicken.
  4. Brown chicken for4-5 minutes on each side until lightly crispy and caramelized.
  5. Add sweet peppers during last few minutes to lightly saute.
  6. Remove chicken and slice into bite-sized strips.
  7. Assemble tacos with salsa and optionally, lettuce, sour cream and shredded cheese.


As I said before, a soft taco is some extra cheese and a hot pan away from being a quesadilla.  (I also make a not-so-secret sauce out of ranch dressing and chili powder that I spread thinly on the tortilla before topping with cheese and other fillings – thanks college roomie Kate for that gem).  I add a scant teaspoon of vegetable oil to a skillet over medium heat and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and flaky-crispy.  The thick homemade tortillas really crisped up nicely into borderline gordita territory.  It’s good to be back.

Recipe Redux: Fried Chicken and Waffles

4 Jan

My first experience with fried chicken and waffles left me smitten.  In the interim, a beer-fueled Packers Sunday at a friend’s house has me on the home deep-frying train.  I decided to tweak my technique slightly this time and make a beer batter for the fried chicken thighs instead of breading them.  Batter-frying always seemed like something that necessitated a deep-fryer but it really is as simple as a saucepan and some hot oil.  And beer batter is as simple as a cup of flour, a 12oz beer and an egg (salt and pepper don’t hurt) whisked together.  I made my batter with Summit Brewing’s Unchained Series Batch 02 Scotch Ale with Heather which gave the batter a nice deep tan color.

I battered each thigh and fried on each side for a minute or two in vegetable oil over medium heat before I removed them, re-battered and finished for another 3-4 minutes on each side.  The waffle recipe was largely the same as before, this time with a little egg nog and French four spice (white pepper, ginger, clove and nutmeg).  I topped it all with a syrup of apricot preserves, orange juice and brown sugar.  The light crispness of the beer batter was a much better match for the waffles than the previous breading method.  We have another winner here, folks.

You never forget your first: Fried Chicken and Pecan Waffles with Apricot Syrup

13 Oct

Chicken and Waffles

The first time I heard about a culinary phenomenon called fried chicken and waffles, I must admit to being a little perplexed by the combination.  Sure, both things are great in their own right, but I wouldn’t think to pair them in a single meal.  This confusion is largely tied to my region of birth.  Chicken and waffles traces its roots to the soul food traditions of The South though its specific origin is somewhat murky.  One account has Thomas Jefferson bringing a waffle iron back to America from France in the 1790’s with the combination becoming commonplace shortly thereafter.  Others describe the dish as a delicacy stemming from mid-Nineteenth Century slave culture where both poultry and waffles would have been rare treats reserved for special occasions – a tradition commonly maintained by modern African American food culture as a special Sunday family meal.

The beauty of the dish lies in its versatility.  Another legend from the Wells Supper Club in Harlem spells its origins as a dish served to late night patrons who were too late for dinner but too early for breakfast.  I’ve always been a fan of breakfast for dinner as I love heart breakfast food, but rarely have the time or appetite to make or eat it in the morning.  As I mentioned in my earlier post on Curried French toast, my tolerance for sweet, bready breakfast foods is low, so the savoriness of the fried chicken plays a great foil for the sweeter waffle.  This was my first time making waffles from scratch and I must say they turned out amazing.  The pecans and apricot syrup proved to be a great match for the savoriness of the fried chicken.  This really is a meal that hits all the right spots, any time of day.

Dish: Fried Chicken and Pecan Waffles with Apricot Syrup

Ingredient Roll Call (Serves 4):

Fried Chicken –

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • 1 egg, beaten with a splash of water
  • ~1/2 cup all purpose flour, seasoned, for dredging
  • ~1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • enough vegetable/canola oil to coat a medium/large fry pan with ~.5cm layer

Waffles –

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal (optional)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp granulated or brown sugar (I used 1 tsp of each)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • ~1/3 cup chopped pecans

Apricot Syrup

  • 4 tbsp apricot preserves
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ~1/3 cup water
  • dash of cinnamon

How I do it:

  1. Prepare chicken for frying by dipping in egg wash, then seasoned flour, again in the egg wash, and finally in the breadcrumbs, coating evenly
  2. Prepare waffle batter by combining flour, cornstarch, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl.  In another bowl whisk together egg yolks, milk and vanilla until combined.  In yet another bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks, add sugar, then whisk again to stiff peaks.  Slowly add milk/egg yolk mixture to the flour mixture, whisking lightly until most big clumps have been eliminated, then stirring in melted butter.  Finally, carefully fold in egg whites making sure not to over-stir.
  3. Prepare syrup by combining preserves, honey, sugar, water, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over high heat.  Mix together and boil for a couple of minutes until sugar is dissolved and liquid reduces to a syrup like consistency.  Set aside to cool.
  4. To make waffles, preheat waffle iron per its directions.  Lightly grease both surfaces with oil or spray and sprinkle a light coating of pecans over lower surface.  Add enough batter to fill lower mold (obviously, this will vary depending on your machine, but is likely between 3/4 cup and 1 1/2 cups per waffle as pictured above).  Cook waffles to preferred doneness, againm per the directions that come with your waffle iron.  I prefer mine dark golden brown with a healthy crisp outside and soft interior.
  5. While waffles are being made, heat oil in large frying pan over medium/medium-high heat.  Fry breaded chicken thighs until golden brown, approximately 4-5 minutes on each side.
  6. Waffles and chicken can be kept warm on a wire rack in a 250 degree oven depending on how quickly they are made.
  7. To serve, butter a waffle, cover in syrup, then fried chicken, and more syrup.  Chow down.
  8. Extra waffles can easily be frozen for later consumption and keep and reheat really well. Just pop them in the toaster like you would a store-bought frozen waffle, except these are, you know, like way better.
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