How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Roasted Chicken Cutlets

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By Alaina Sullivan

Baked chicken wrapped in breadcrumbs immediately conjures up memories of the dry, bland versions I used to endure as a kid. (The kind where a vat of dipping mustard was essential and you needed a glass of milk to wash down each chalky bite.) This recipe is anything but dry or bland. Part of it is because the breadcrumbs are limited to a topping – they maintain a strong textural presence without sealing the chicken in a dusty coat. Using thinner cutlets instead of full breasts ensures that the ratio of crust to meat is just right. The other part of the equation is using fresh breadcrumbs – homemade crumbs from a decent loaf of bread will take your dredge to a whole new level. Add some fresh parsley and grated Parmesan to the mix and you’ve got yourself an easy and flavorful crust that makes the store-bought version all-but useless. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Continue reading

Posted in Recipes

How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Brownies

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By Alaina Sullivan

Despite its simple seven-ingredient roster, this recipe is rich, complex and sinfully delicious. I bolstered the classic version with some nutty additions: ground almonds were substituted for part of the flour, chopped almonds were folded into the batter, and I even sprinkled more on top before it went into the oven, just for good measure.

When it comes to baking, brownies live outside the “toothpick test” rule that signals the doneness of other baked goods (like cakes and quickbreads). Once a brownie releases a clean toothpick, it’s gone too far. The trick is to time the baking so that the top firms up just enough to seal the molten middle. A good brownie is fudgy and moist; a bad brownie is cakey and dry. When my batch emerged, still slightly gooey and studded with nuts, it was hard not to indulge straight from the pan. But if you have the patience to plate, you can’t go wrong with a slice a la mode. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.

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Posted in Baking, Recipes

How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Curried Chickpea Salad

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By Alaina Sullivan

Chickpeas – aka garbanzo beans –  have a distinct flavor and a meaty bite that make them exceptionally versatile for mashing, roasting, frying and serving in a variety of ways. Here they are used as the foundation for a substantial salad—one that is dressed in classic Indian flavors (curry, coconut milk and cilantro), and bulked up with red bell pepper and peas. There’s a ton of room for flexibility with this recipe—you could serve the salad with grains or greens, or change up the supporting vegetables as you like. But regardless of any creative tweaks, I highly recommend cooking your own chickpeas rather than using canned ones—it takes a bit more time, but the difference in flavor and texture is worth it. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics. 

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Posted in Indian, Recipes

How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Chicken and Rice

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By Alaina Sullivan

The simple combination of chicken and rice is a one-pot dish that’s made all over the world. Despite the countless variations on the theme, this version is stripped down to the bare essentials: chicken, rice and onion (with peas added at the very end). Short-grain white rice is what the classic recipe calls for, but since I already had brown jasmine rice on hand, I went with long-grain (less sticky, more fragrant).

The ingredients initially take turns in the pan (the chicken browns, then the onion sautés, then the rice gets a glossy coat), until finally all three come together to simmer, covered and undisturbed. The rice will slowly absorb the cooking liquid (water, or stock, if you want a more intense flavor), and become tender at about the same time that the chicken is cooked through. With saffron laced throughout, peas adding little bursts of sweetness, and fresh lime juice to brighten the entire plate, this one-pot wonder deserves a spot on your roster of go-to recipes. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.

Chicken and Rice

Time: About 1 hour

Makes: 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 whole cut-up chicken or about 3 pounds parts

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 medium onions, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 1/2 cups short-grain white rice

Pinch saffron threads, optional

3 1/2 cups water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock, or more as needed

1 cup peas (frozen are fine; no need to thaw them)

2 limes, quartered, for serving

1. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken, skin side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, undisturbed but adjusting the heat so the chicken sizzles but doesn’t burn, until the pieces release easily from the pan, 5 to 10 minutes. Then turn and rotate them every few minutes to brown them evenly. As the chicken pieces brown, after another 5 to 10 minutes, remove them from the pan.

2. Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium and pour or spoon off most of the oil so that only 2 tablespoons remain. Add the onions to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until they soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rice; cook, stirring, until the rice is glossy and coated with oil. Crumble in the saffron threads if you’re using them.

3. Return the chicken to the pan, add the water, and stir gently to combine everything. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so it bubbles gently but steadily. Cover the skillet and cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes, then check the rice and chicken. The goal is to have the liquid absorbed, the rice tender, and the chicken cooked through. If the rice is dry but nothing is ready, add another 1/4 cup water and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. The meat is done when a quick-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155–165°F.

4. Remove the skillet from the heat. Taste the rice and adjust the seasoning. Add the peas, then cover the pan again and let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes. Fish the chicken out of the pan and transfer it to a serving platter. Fluff the rice with a fork, spoon it around the chicken, add the lime wedges, and serve.

Tips:

-Saffron (as you probably know if you’re using it) is not cheap. Fortunately a little goes a long way.

-Don’t be intimidated by cooking chicken and rice in the same pan. It’s no harder than cooking either ingredient on its own. You may need to monitor the moisture in the pan toward the end of cooking, but as long as you resist the urge to uncover the skillet and stir, it will come out great.

-Short-grain rice is classic here, but if you like rice less sticky and more fluffy, use long-grain rice. You’ll probably need to add the extra liquid in Step 3.

Variations:

Chicken and Lentils: Skip the peas and use lemon instead of lime. Replace the rice with 1 cup dried brown or green lentils (rinsed and picked over) and continue with the recipe.

 

Posted in Recipes

Dal with Rhubarb

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By Alaina Sullivan

Rhubarb, with its stringy stalk and rouge skin, is often paired with fruits, though it is actually a vegetable. Its tart flavor is typically tempered by sugar (think pie, compotes, etc.), but here it is incorporated into a savory dish that preserves its natural zing.

The rhubarb stalks join a pot of red lentils (prepared as a traditional Indian dal with ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cloves, cardamom, and dried chile for heat). As the dish simmers, the rhubarb practically dissolves, leaving behind molten flesh and its tangy trademark flavor. The dal is delicious sprinkled with fresh cilantro and served over rice or another grain, or spread on toasted pita. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Simplest Dal

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes, largely unattended

1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 cardamom pods

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 cloves

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 dried ancho or other mild dried chile (optional)

salt

2 tablespoons cold butter or peanut oil (optional)

chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Combine all the ingredients except the salt, butter or oil, and cilantro in a saucepan, add water to cover by about 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep cooking to the desired tenderness. The lentils should be saucy but not soupy.

2. Remove the cloves and, if you like, the cardamom pods (they’re kind of fun to eat, though). Stir in the butter or oil if you’re using it. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve.

Dal with Rhubarb. The rhubarb almost dissolves into this, leaving behind its trademark flavor: To the pot along with the other ingredients, add 3 or 4 stalks rhubarb, strings removed and chopped.

Posted in Indian, Recipes

Carrots and Cumin: 2 Ways

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By Alaina Sullivan

Carrot and cumin is a flavor pairing worth tattooing into your brain. Here, dressed simply in olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper, the carrots are roasted at high heat until they become tender, caramelized, and smoky. You can eat them straight from the baking sheet, or turn them into soup as I did (see below.) Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Roasted Carrots with Cumin*

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 35 minutes

1 to 1 ½ pounds baby carrots, green tops tripped, or full-sized carrots, cut into sticks

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons cumin seeds (you can also use ground cumin)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil; sprinkle with the cumin and salt and pepper. Roast until the carrots are tender and browning, about 25 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds

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By Alaina Sullivan

Impatient bakers love a good quick bread – the no-yeast, no-hassle loaf that teeters between bread and dessert. Typically a touch sweet, with a crumb more cakelike than its yeast-risen breads, quick bread is an easy solution for bakers who don’t feel like waiting.

This version is a variation on the master recipe for Fruit (or Vegetable)-and-Nut Bread from How to Cook Everything. Of the endless possibilities (think Banana-Walnut, Cranberry-Pecan, Zucchini-Sunflower, Pumpkin Ginger with Hazelnuts…) the one that struck me was a Brown Sugar Carrot Bread with Almonds. The shredded carrots ensure moisture, while the slivered almonds lend a consistent crunch. A combination of grains (all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran) yields a denser, heartier loaf, and brown sugar brings the right touch of molasses sweetness, while orange zest brightens the whole thing.

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Posted in Baking, Recipes

Barley Risotto

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By Alaina Sullivan

Traditional risotto calls for Arborio rice or one of its short-grained cousins; I decided to try it with barley. Risotto-style barley has a more toothsome bite than the rice-based versions, but the process is the same—a ritual of stirring, adding liquid, more stirring, adding more liquid until the consistency turns rich and creamy. The cooking process requires a bit of a watchful eye – a few too many minutes on the stovetop and the grain might get overcooked (you want it to retain a slight crunch). I prepared the barley according to the directions for “Simple Risotto” How to Cook Everything. I folded in a trio of cooked mushrooms (cremini, shitake and portabella), added fresh thyme to complement their earthiness, and finished off the dish with grated manchego to give it that classic creaminess.

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Posted in Italian

Chicken with Yogurt and Indian Spices

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 45 minutes

Sweet, saucy, and warming. Wonderful over rice pilaf, or white or brown basmati rice. For extra flavor, start with whole cumin, coriander, cardamom, and cinnamon and toast and grind them yourself.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Indian, Recipes

Bulgur with Spinach

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

A good use for leftover spinach if you have it. Other grains you can use: couscous; quinoa, cracked wheat, or millet, cooked until tender in Step 3; precookedwheat berries or hominy.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

About 8 ounces (1 pound before trimming) spinach or chard leaves, well washed

2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

Pinch ground cloves

1 cup medium- or coarse-grind bulgur

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 3/4 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable or water, heated

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Posted in Recipes, Vegan