My First Serious Attempt at a Vegetable Garden

Pardon the brief diversion from the usual format, but since I have a bully pulpit…plus, its ultimately food related, so this isn’t too tangential.

So now that I live in North Carolina, a state known for agriculture (long days, long growing season, large variety of things that can be grown here, etc), I thought it was about time that I get serious about that vegetable garden I’ve been talking about for a few years now. I’ve made some pitiful attempts in the past (a patio with about 20 different potted plants all crammed next to one another in pots that were way too small), but I thought I’d try to do things right this year. Its still early, but we shall see–I have high hopes for eating something from my backyard this year…hopefully its one of the plants I put in the ground and not a rabbit trying to get to them before I do.

Early in March, I… click to read more…

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Sriracha Chicken Wings

Wings are the kind of comfort food I don’t eat often enough, but when I crave them, I can pack them away. They don’t require much of an introduction–all the wing lovers out there know just what I mean. This is the kind of food where you want to plop yourself down for awhile, make a sloppy mess of yourself, and just indulge. They’re (to use a terrible cliche) finger-licking good and incredibly easy to make.

While the traditional tabasco (or Frank’s red hot)-based buffalo sauce is good, I prefer what I consider a more interesting sauce. For this recipe, I opted for a tangy, sweet heat in the sauce with one of my favorite ingredients: sriracha. Combined with some other Asian flavors (ponzu–a citric soy sauce–and a dab of hoisin), you’ve got something just as easy to make and far more interesting than straight tabasco/cayenne pepper and vinegar (my… click to read more…

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Chicken in Tarragon Mustard Cream Sauce

I don’t use mustard very often, but absolutely love it in sauces. Something about a well done mustard sauce is intriguing to me as it can take on many forms–sharp and tangy, rich and hearty, or just downright elegant. This was another such delightful experience for me: a simple chicken breast sauté, coated with a light, sumptuous mustard cream sauce with tarragon.

Don’t let the simplicity in preparing this dish fool you–the flavor is fantastic and it would fare well if you’re cooking for guests. The chicken is simple–nicely browned, tender on the inside–and the sauce has a rich tang, accentuated by the anisey, spicy notes you get from tarragon (a great foil to completing this sauce). Heck, I could enjoy the sauce straight and could definitely see using it in pasta dishes (if thinned out with… click to read more…

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Fried Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

When Mardi Gras rolls around, I think of three dishes: King Cake, Jambalaya, and today’s meal: gumbo. If you’ve never had a good gumbo, you’re missing out–it is one of those quintessential Cajun/Creole stews that every chef can put their own personal touch on. The one commonality across them all is that it will keep you going during the winter months being so rich and hearty.

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

In this particular rendition, I chose a classic combo: chicken and andouille sausage (compared to a lighter, butternut squash-centric version I did in the past).

A whole chicken is poached to make a fresh batch of stock, then shredded, strongly spiced, fried, and combined with fried, smoky andouille sausage. The stew is thickened with both okra and a nutty, smoky, milk chocolate colored roux. Simmered with a mix of some classic… click to read more…

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Dal Makhani (Indian Butter Lentils)

If you like Indian food and you haven’t heard of this dish before, you may not have been paying attention. You’re likely to see this on the menu at many Indian restaurants and you also might recognize a close cousin (also very popular)–murgh makhani, a.k.a. butter chicken. This a vegetarian take on the same general dish–slowly simmered lentils (a.k.a. dal) and beans in a spiced, tomato curry enriched with a generous helping of cream and butter.

While this Punjab curry is strongly spiced, like its chicken counterpart, the richness of the dish counteracts the heat a good bit, making it a good candidate even for those who might be timid around Indian cuisine. There’s a classically spiced backbone with notes of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, and yet the slowly simmered lentils combined with the generous cream/butter combo yields a final product that has an almost contradictory sumptuous, smooth,… click to read more…

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Coq au Vin (French Fricassee of Rooster)

I think its safe to say that we’ve all heard of coq au vin. This is a classic French dish with two big players: chicken and red wine. Well, a correction to that: not just any kind of chicken, but when properly translated, rooster and red wine.

Coq au Vin

This dish isn’t a quicky–like any other stew, it requires slow cooking and a tough protein that will stand up well to slow cooking. Just like how you wouldn’t make a beef stew from filet mignon (and if you do, please don’t tell me), coq au vin should not be made from an everyday, tender chicken. You want a tough bird that will release a ton of flavor (which is what will give the sauce an incredible flavor) and maintain its form after long periods of cooking, so this is why you would opt for something like a rooster or stewing hen if you have the option (plus, they’re typically cheaper–bonus!). Is… click to read more…

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