Tag Archive: Poultry

Get your kare on

Chicken Katsu Curry

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

When most of us think about curry, we think India and southeast Asia, we don’t immediately think, Japan. And when we think Japan, we think sushi and tempura, we don’t immediately think, curry. But interestingly enough, curry has a history in Japan albeit not a long and involved one – dating back just to the late 1800s when it was introduced by the British during their Indian administration years.

Since that time it has developed into a uniquely Japanese style, definitely milder than the more typical southern continental styles, and making use of different ingredients. At the same time, Indian style curry has become popular, and the original “Western style” curry continues apace. It’s reached the point where many Japanese consider curry, or karē to be a national dish.

Like many curries it’s typically served over rice, though ladling it over thick udon noodles is also popular. The meat and vegetable are typically cooked separately either breadcrumb coated and fried or tempura style, while the curry is cooked as a sauce that is then added to the dish after cooking the other elements separately.

One of our home favorites is katsu curry, one of the most traditional of the Japanese styled versions, and it’s a dish that I’ve not seen on Japanese menus here in town, so it’s a treat to whip it up and enjoy. After all, one of the biggest complaints among the expat community here is the lack of range in Asian dishes available here. Let’s add one to your repertoire!

Although I’m going to give you the recipe for our usual version, with chicken, the exact same recipe can be used substituting in another meat – thick slices of pork or beef, fish fillets, or just vegetables, particularly eggplant slices, all work really well.

Chicken Katsu Curry

4 chicken breasts, cut in 2 cm wide strips
flour
1 egg
breadcrumbs (panko if you have them available)
100 ml olive oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 red onion
3 carrots
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon curry powder (as hot as you like)
1 teaspoon garam masala (spice mixture available in many dieteticas)
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
500 ml chicken stock (or vegetable, fish, etc. – match the main ingredient!)
1 bay leaf
salt to taste

2 green onions

Grate the onion, garlic and two of the carrots. Thinly slice the remaining carrot and set it aside. Over low heat, cook the grated vegetables in the oil until they’re very soft. Add the flour and continue to cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes to cook out the “raw” flavor of the flour. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and raise the heat. Bring it up to a simmer, turn the heat back down and cook until thick, stirring regularly. Add salt to taste – probably, given the soy sauce, it will need no more than about a half teaspoon. At this point, you can either leave it as is or puree it completely in a blender – either works – remove the bay leaf if you’re going to puree it.

Separately, cook the thinly sliced carrot that you set aside in boiling salted water until the carrots are just softened. Drain and add to the sauce.

Set-up three bowls, one with some flour, one with the egg, beaten with a splash of water, and one with the breadcrumbs. Dip the chicken pieces first in the flour to lightly coat them, then into the egg, let the excess drip off back into the bowl, and then toss in the breadcrumbs to coat well. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil until quite hot and then fry the coated chicken pieces until golden brown on all sides.

Serve over white rice (or noodles, or whatever strikes your fancy) with a ladleful of the sauce atop. Sprinkle with chopped green onions.

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.

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Getting all medieval on your chicken

Spicy Green Olive Chicken

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

While fried chicken is, in many people’s minds, automatically associated with the southern United States, it’s certainly not the origin. There’s enough archaeological evidence to trace deep-frying chicken back to the medieval era and likely before. Throughout that time period and throughout both Eastern and Western Europe, folk were frying up chickens and other birds with abandon. Recipes were already codified, which would indicate that they had long histories by that time period.

In the U.S., the dish was introduced by the Scots, many of whom settled throughout the south. Being the epoch of slavery, it’s not surprising that the serving class, mostly black, were the ones tasked with making the dish. And, as with many dishes, they put their own spin, based on the spices and flavor combinations they brought with them from the African repertoire, on it. The close association with the community was furthered by the fact that chickens were often the only animal they were allowed to keep and cook for themselves, lending to more and more innovation.

But back to Europe and, perhaps, the origins. Even that is in doubt – after all, the domestic chicken is a crossbred animal imported from southeast Asia, and there are certainly fried version of fowl in the various canons of cooking from that region of the world. One of the most popular dishes in Indonesia is ayam goreng, which is, well, fried chicken. So who fried that first chicken? We’ll never know, and in truth, we’ll probably never really care. We just like to eat it.

In this week’s column we’re headed to a traditional pollo fritto from Italy, and in particular a version from the south central regions – probably originating somewhere around Umbria, back in time. It’s not a common dish these days because it’s fairly picante, and over the last century or so many of those old spicy dishes have been left by the wayside. I mean, try to find a good spaghetti all’assassino anywhere outside of some small villages in Basilicata. Much like here in Argentina where over time, many of those older, more fuerte dishes, seem to have been dropped from the repertoire. Hmm, there’s an idea for some future columns, bringing back some of those older, more “puta pario” dishes that local friends tell me their grandparents used to make.

So, let’s, to quote a TV chef of note, kick it up a notch, and “bam”, put out a spread of some spicy fried chicken.

Spicy Green Olive Chicken

4 chicken breasts, butterflied or pounded flat
60 grams flour
1 egg, beaten with 25 ml milk
100 grams breadcrumbs (panko are best)
25 grams grated hard cheese
1 standard can plum tomatoes (roughly 240 grams) – peeled and crushed
4 garlic cloves, sliced
12 green olives, pitted and sliced
4 hot chilies, sliced
50 ml balsamic vinegar
good handful of mixed herbs, chopped (parsley, oregano, basil are good choices)
50 ml olive oil

Make a mixture of the breadcrumbs and cheese. Dip the chicken pieces in flour, then in beaten egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry in oil until lightly browned. Add the garlic, olives and chiles to the pan and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and cook, turning the chicken over every minute or two, until you’re sure it’s cooked through – about another 5-6 minutes. Add the herbs and serve – our favorite accompaniment to this is either a simple pasta, or better yet, some baked macaroni and cheese.

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.

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A chicken in every pot

Roast chicken, fondant potatoes, broccoli

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

As winter slowly crawls towards its finale, replete with a constant assault of water falling from the skies, our thoughts here at home turn towards warming, comfort food. I’ve covered one-pot sort of meals here in this column with a look at lighter takes on classic local stews like locro and lentejas, but what about a non-stew sort of meal?

One of our favorite dishes, and when it comes down to it, not just for colder weather, is roast chicken. Whether we leave it whole and roast it in its glory, or spatchcock it, “mariposa” style, as it were, and broil or grill it, or, simply pan roast it, already cut into serving pieces, it forms the centerpiece of a tasty and simple meal to prepare, and one that we repeat time and again throughout the year, with variations only as to its accompaniments.

For this week’s column I’m going the route of the “fondant” method – classically used for root vegetables like potatoes, it’s an extraordinarily simple and completely satisfying way of achieving delicious results with minimal effort. At its simplest, you brown the potatoes or whatever you’re cooking, add some stock and throw the whole thing in the oven and cook until done. And, given that we’re using a very small amount of stock, using a “cube” is perfectly acceptable here. As friends from the other side of one or the other of the oceans might say – this is the perfect “chicken and two veg”.

Pan-Roast Chicken, Potatoes & Broccoli

4 serving pieces of chicken (or more, as you like)
4 small to medium potatoes
1 large head of broccoli
100 ml olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 sprigs of rosemary or other aromatic herb
3 garlic cloves flattened (skin and all)
200 ml chicken or vegetable stock (from a cube is fine)
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to medium high heat, 200°C. Get a large skillet, preferably cast iron (it just works better), heated up over a medium flame. Peel the potatoes and cut in half, or slices, or whatever shape makes you happy. Separate the broccoli into florets.

When the skillet is good and hot, add the olive oil – this is a place to use a more basic olive oil, not your fancy and expensive extra virgin sort – and, yes, other vegetable oils are fine if you don’t have the olive. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, place them skin side down into the hot oil – make sure it’s good and hot, that will help prevent the chicken from sticking. Now season your pieces of potato and place them around the chicken, with one surface flat on the pan.

Add the butter, garlic and the herb sprigs and just let them much about in there. The butter will help the chicken and potato brown, but won’t burn over the higher heat because of the oil. Cook until the chicken and potatoes are nicely browned on the underside, then flip them over. Here’s where it gets really easy. Pour in the stock, toss the broccoli into the skillet as well, just letting it nestle in around the chicken and potatoes. Stick the whole skillet into the oven.

Walk away. Really, walk away I tell you. Leave it for 15 minutes. Go set the table, watch the news, check your Facebook page, send a tweet “roast chicken and two veg for dinner – what are you having?” Come back, remove the skillet, serve as is, or move all the various components to a big platter or plates. Pour a glass of wine. Enjoy!

We often like to top this with a nice salsa verde, which is basically a pesto (we’ve covered that in past columns) without the cheese and nuts – into the blender with some fresh herbs like parsley, mint, rosemary, a couple of garlic cloves, a couple of anchovies (don’t worry, they’ll disappear and just provide some salt), a spoonful of capers, a dried chili, the juice and zest of a lemon, and about 100 ml of olive oil. Blend, or pulse, for just long enough to thoroughly chop everything without turning it into a smooth puree (or do, it’ll still taste as good).

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.

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Spag bol, no spag

Pici with chicken bolognese

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

Let’s start with the simple part. Spaghetti alla bolognese isn’t an Italian dish. It’s a British dish that’s been imitated in various other parts of the world, kind of like the American dish of spaghetti and meatballs. It isn’t that spaghetti doesn’t exist in Italy, it does. It isn’t that bolognese sauce doesn’t exist in Italy, it does. But the two together, just not happening. You see, spaghetti is a southern pasta, virtually always a dry pasta that’s then boiled up to an al dente texture. And Bologna, the city to which alla bolognese refers, is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, in the north. Keep in mind that Italy didn’t exist as a unified nation until just a century and a half ago.

Let’s stay with the sauce for a moment. Bolognese is a type of ragú (note the reversed accent from the way most people spell it – spell it ragú and it needs to be capitalized as it’s a commercial sauce brand) which more or less means “sauce”, specifically a meat-based sauce. But, it’s a relatively recent term, as, prior to Napoleon’s invasion in 1796, and the introduction and influence of the French term ragoût, which means “to stimulate the appetite”, there are no historical references to the local meat based sauces under that term. What we think of these days as sauces were not served with pasta, rice, or over any other starches, but were offered up as simple stews.

The first recorded instance of combining the two was in the late 1700s, when Alberto Alvisi, chef to the cardinal of Imola, served a local meat stew over maccheroni (which in the vernacular is simply a generic term for pasta, not the little elbows we’re familiar with as macaroni). By the 1830s meat sauces as pasta toppings were becoming all the rage in Emilia-Romagna, and by the late 1800s, with Italy newly unified, the concept spread to other parts of the country.

In Bologna, to make a point, bolognese is simply referred to as ragú, because why refer to it as the sauce made in the style of the Bolognese in its home town. The sauce is classically served with only two pastas, over tagliatelle or layered with lasagna noodles in that classic baked dish. And in both cases, always fresh pasta, never dried. But spaghetti? Dried spaghetti? A southern staple? Not a chance.

Personally, I like bolognese over an even heartier or thicker pasta, something like pici or strozzapreti, the priest stranglers of Tuscany, and that’s the way I tend to serve it. But the sauce is delicious over virtually any decent pasta, even if you resort to espaguettis. To lighten it up a bit I use ground chicken in place of ground beef and pork, at least when I have requests to lighten it up… (if you want to stick with the original, replace the chicken in this recipe with 200 gm each of ground beef and pork, plus 100 gm of chopped bacon).

Bolognese Sauce

1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
500 gm ground chicken
250 gm mushrooms, sliced
100 gm tomato paste
2 crushed fresh tomatoes
100 ml whole milk
100 ml dry white wine
100 ml water
½ teaspoon thyme leaves
¾ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Cook onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in oil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add ground chicken and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook another 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, tomatoes, milk, wine, water, and thyme and gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, roughly an hour. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat. Makes enough for four servings over fresh made pasta.

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.

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In the Merry-land of chicken

Chicken Maryland

Buenos Aires Herald
On Sunday supplement
Food and Wine

Anyone who spends anytime here discovers quickly that the milanesa, essentially a weiner schnitzel with a touch of Italian heritage, is a staple of both lunch and dinner. There are restaurants devoted just to variations of the dish, from beef to veal to chicken to fish to, now and again, amazingly enough, a vegetable of some sort – soy, squash, eggplant. At its most basic, the clasico, is simply a thin slice of veal or beef that’s been rolled in breadcrumbs and fried until crisp, the center often as tough as shoe leather, and served up on a plate with a wedge or two of lemon.

But there are elaborate versions as well, and one of the ones that caught my eye early on was the suprema maryland – a pounded thin breast of chicken that has likewise been breaded and fried, and served up with some combination of corn and/or peas, cream or bechamel, or not, peppers, ham, bacon, fried egg, and, generally, a fried banana. One has to wonder just where such a concoction came from. There is a history of Chicken Maryland – the two most classic versions are from the state of the same name in the U.S., where it is a dish of fried chicken with a white cream gravy; and, a British version of fried chicken served with a corn fritter and, there, a fried banana.

But there are other versions as well – battered chicken served with ham and hush puppies, the batter generally including sweetcorn mixed in, other versions with fried pineapple rings, and still others with pieces of friend chicken sauteed with sliced bananas. In southeast Asia it’s served with fried tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and yes, bananas. One thing that all have in common, with the exception of the Argentine version, they are invariably made with chicken thighs and legs.

So what can we do to lighten this dish up and make it a tad healthier? The biggest thing is eliminating all the frying; and the second is taking out the ham or bacon and putting in a lean roast pork loin. I also recommend using panko crumbs rather than regular breadcrumbs – they absorb less oil. And plantains bake up better than bananas. This dish looks potentially complicated, but it’s actually quite easy to put together.

Chicken Maryland

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin and cut in 2-3 cm strips
flour
1 egg
panko crumbs

2 plantains
100 gm melting cheese – mozzarella, danbo, or something similar
1 tablespoon olive oil

100 gm red bell pepper, diced
100 gm corn kernels
100 gm fresh peas
100 gm roasted pork loin, diced
salt, pepper, chili flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil

Turn on your oven to 180°. In a large saute or frying pan warm a tablespoon of oil over low heat. Add the corn, peas, bell pepper and pork. Season lightly with salt, pepper and chili flakes and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are cooking peel the plantains. Oil them with the other tablespoon of olive oil and place on a large baking sheet. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, dust the chicken strips with salt, pepper and flour. Beat the egg with an equal amount of water. Dip each chicken strip into this and then the panko crumbs (or breadcrumbs). Set aside to dry slightly.

After the 30 minutes, remove the baking sheet. Flip the plantains over onto their other side. Place the chicken strips around the rest of the baking sheet and replace in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove again, slit open the plantains lengthwise, and fill with cheese. Once again into the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and browned (you can use the broiler if you like).

By now the vegetable mixture will be just perfect. Serve all the components together for our updated version of Chicken Maryland.

A series of recipes and articles that I started writing for the Buenos Aires Herald Sunday supplement, Food & Wine section, at the beginning of 2012. My original proposal to them was to take local favorite dishes and classics and lighten them up for modern day sensibilities. We’re not talking spa or diet recipes, but at the very least, making them healthier in content, particularly salt, fat and portion size. As time went by, that morphed into a recipe column that, while emphasizing food that is relatively “good for you”, wasn’t necessarily focused on local cuisine. At the beginning of 2013 I decided to stop writing for them over some administrative issues, but it was fun while it lasted.

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Hot & Spicy

Q San Francisco
January 2001
Pages 56-57

Hot & Spicy

In the town that I grew up in there were two Chinese restaurants. Both served what I’ve since come to regard as watered down Cantonese-American cuisine; sweet and sour shrimp, chicken with snowpeas, pressed duck, chow mein – you know the drill.

I remember in high school when a third restaurant opened serving Szechuan and Hunan food. All of the sudden there were hot peppers, ginger, garlic and onions. This was a brave new world for those of us who thought extreme heat was drinking the red sauce that came with a Taco Bell taco.

chiliesThe first time I tried some, I instantly fell in love with spicy foods – and thus began a long and exciting journey of exploration into foods that have some zip. Bottles of hot sauce were consumed, and no pepper was left unturned; but somewhere along the line it became clear that this was all just about heat and pain – what was needed was balance.

In the past few years I’ve returned to exploring the world of Chinese and other Asian cuisines. A few millennia of kitchen time suggested that there had to be something more to these foods than just a chance to sweat. Sure enough, there’s lots to eat, lots of spice, and, most importantly, lots of flavor!

The provinces of Szechuan (Sichuan) and Hunan are located in west-central China. They comprise an area that is at the core of the most ancient parts of Chinese culture. Hunan is a well-cultivated area that provides a huge range of vegetables for use in cooking. Szechuan is a mountainous region with a more limited selection of vegetable foodstuffs, but a larger selection of wild game.

Much of what is used in the cooking of these regions is medicinal in origin. The use of chilies is, historically, a way of inducing perspiration to stave off excess “dampness” in the body. In areas where humidity is high, this can help promote better health. In addition, chilies are a natural antiseptic.

What is most distinctive about these cuisines over other Chinese regional cooking is the emphasis on freshness and flavor over color and presentation. It is a more pragmatic, home-cooking style of food preparation. Dishes commonly open with a pungent, up-front “assault” on the palate that quickly subsides and opens up the taste buds to a wide range of flavors.

It is very common in the food of this region to make use of the traditional Chinese medicinal theory of tastes – sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter – in combination in each meal. Potent, stimulating meals are common: the theory being that they are best suited for promoting active, energetic lives in response to a hot, humid climate.

One of the first dishes from this region I ever had, and still one of my favorites is the ubiquitous “Kung Pao Chicken”.

Kung Pao Chicken

1 pound boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 scallion, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

Cut chicken in bite size pieces, mix with the other ingredients and set aside for half an hour.

5 fresh hot chilies
1/4 cup raw peanuts
1/4 cup peanut oil

Heat oil and fry the chilies until they turn dark brown. Remove and set aside. Add the peanuts to the oil and fry until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

3 scallions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon red wine or brown vinegar

Pour off all but three tablespoons of the oil and stir-fry the chicken for 2 minutes. Add the scallions and garlic and continue to stir-fry for another minute. Add the chili peppers back in along with the chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine, salt, sugar and cornstarch (mixed together to dissolve the solids). Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 3-4 minutes. Add the vinegar and the peanuts, toss together and serve.

What Wine Do I Serve?

My current “fave” in the wine world to accompany spicy food is the Viognier grape. This white varietal originates in the northern Rhone valley in France where it is the constituent of such famous wines as Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet, and an aromatic addition to the red wines of Cote-Rotie. In recent years, it has become the darling of the California “Rhone Rangers”, and more and more, deliciously dry, aromatic and richly flavored wines are being turned out domestically.

Some producers I’m particularly fond of from the home front are Arrowood and Kunde from Sonoma, Alban from San Luis Obispo, and Rosenblum from Napa. In the Rhone world, keep an eye out for Gangloff, Andre Perret, and Pichon. If you want to try something truly esoteric, and in truth, a bit odd, give a shot at a bottle of Chateau-Grillet.


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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The Key to a Successful Picnic

Q San Francisco
May 1998
Pages 48-49

The Key to a Successful Picnic
(and what to wear!)
illustrations by F.J. Rocca

picnic1I love the ocean but remain firmly convinced that if any creationary deity had ever felt sand in his shorts, he’d never have created the beach. Besides, not only does sand get into body crevices that you never knew you had, it also gets into the sandwiches you packed for lunch. I’m all for texture in food, but I leave the true grit to the movies.

This is not to say that I don’t picnic. On the contrary, I grew up in the midwest where we had rivers and lakes lined with small boulders, and I am of the opinion that there is no better place to have a picnic than laying out on a sun-warmed rock. As far as I’m concerned, the only alternative to one of those elegant movie scenarios with imported cold-cuts, cheeses and champagne in cute little flutes, is cold fried chicken and a good bottle of wine. Of course, I have what in my humble opinion is the best recipe around for cold fried chicken.

picnic2Picnic Fried Chicken

2 lbs. chicken, cut in pieces
1 cup flour
1 cup corn oil
6 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon marjoram leaves

Melt butter in a pan and mix with seasonings. Dip chicken pieces in spiced butter and then roll in flour. Heat oil in large skillet till very hot. Add chicken pieces and fry till browned on all sides and juices run clear when poked with a fork. Remove from pan and let drain on paper towel. When cooled, place in refrigerator overnight. (Don’t forget to take it with you when you load the picnic basket.)


WINES

So what wine should you take along on a picnic? First you must decide between sparkling, white, pink or red. Or you could just take one of each and drink yourself into a stupor. After all, we’re laying out on a rock like a lizard in the sun. Just to make it easy on us all, I’ve limited this selection to some of my favorite California wines.

Sparkling:

On the inexpensive side, I recommend the Culbertson Brut from Thornton Winery. This is a bone dry, minerally sparkling wine that is perfect on a hot day. For those who do not mind shelling out a few extra bucks, Thornton also produces the 1985 Blanc de Blanc. Full-bodied and earthy with good fruit and acidity, this is a sparkler that stands on its own as well as with food. Thornton is not one of the better known wineries; but from what I’ve tasted, it deserves to be. Located in the Temecula Valley, they make some wonderful wines, sponsor an annual Champagne Jazz Series, and have an on-site top quality restaurant. I’m also particularly fond of the hard-to-obtain “Diva” from S. Anderson in Napa Valley. This specialty item is only produced in magnums (the perfect size for a picnic), has incredible depth and perfect balance and–given the quality when compared to top champagnes–is a bargain at $80-90 a bottle.

picnic3White:

Among my favorite inexpensive California whites are the wines of Carmenet Winery. A member of the Chalone Wine Group, this Sonoma based winery produces wines that are fun and easy to drink. Of particular note are their Old Vines Colombard and their Reserve Meritage White. The first is made from a grape historically used for little more than blending into bulk wine or distilling into brandy. In the hands of Carmenet’s winemaker, however, something different is achieved–a delicious blend of strawberry and raspberry fruit with a touch of yeast and butter. The Meritage (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon) tastes of a mix of orchard fruits with a touch of honey and beeswax–a can’t miss if you like a fuller-bodied wine. On the high end, I think I would have to go with Chardonnay from Sarah’s Vineyard, another little known winery located in the Hecker’s Pass area of Santa Clara County. Sarah’s exceptional Chardonnay is one of the finest that California produces. Ripe, rich fruit, well balanced with a lighter dose of oak, this wine will keep you happy until the sun goes down.

Pink:

Two of my favorites from California are the Sanford Vin Gris, a rich, fruity rosé made from Pinot Noir and the Phelps Grenache Rosé, a dry, light, easy to drink pink. Neither are particularly expensive–but pink wines rarely are. Well-chilled, there’s nothing quite like good, dry rosé on a hot day in the sun. Sanford, in Santa Barbara, produces some of California’s best Pinot Noirs, and their rosé is no exception. Also, Joseph Phelps, better known for some stunning Cabernets, takes on the challenge of this difficult to control Rhône Valley varietal and comes up with a winner.

Red:

I recently put together a tasting of California Petite Sirahs. This grape, unrelated to the Syrah grape of the Rhône, is a mystery in itself. Lots of speculation and DNA testing (that makes the OJ trial look like a slow drive down the freeway) have resulted in a scholarly paper that attests to the fact that we haven’t a clue what Petite Sirah really is. A group of wine critics (of which I was one) tasted fourteen wines from eleven different wineries. For the most part, the results were surprisingly disappointing. The standouts of the tasting were the Field Stone “Staten Family Reserve,” tasting of dark fruit, cocoa and spice; and the Foppiano “Le Grande Anniversaire,” a smooth blend of dark fruit flavors, spice and sweet oak. Both wines, perhaps, best end our picnic day as the sun goes down and we want something with a little more body to keep us warm as we snuggle up on our rock.


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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Destination: Singapore

Q San Francisco
January 1998
Pages 43-44

Destination: Singapore

destinationsingaporeAt the time when Robert Louis Stevenson (the Treasure Island guy) penned these words, few people could afford either the time or the money to truly travel. Today, it costs more, and takes a bigger investment of time and effort, to meet someone and go on a really nice date than it does to hop on a plane and jet off to somewhere exotic. And besides, a great affair sounds good to me.

A few years back, I had the opportunity to spend a day with food writer Craig Claiborne. I came away admiring his willingness to go in search of the exotic. When he decided to see what white truffles were all about, did he make reservations at his local trattoria? When he read about cassoulet, did he wander in to the closest bistro? When someone told him the local takeout had inauthentic spring rolls, did he go downtown and try the fancy place? No. He grabbed his passport and zoomed off to Piemonte, Gascogne or Saigon.

I like that. As a dyed in the wool food and wine type of guy, I may love to cook, eat and drink at home, and I may enjoy my local eateries, but more than anything else, I love to move – to get on a train, plane or boat and head off to where I can sample “the real thing.”

This, of course, makes it difficult for me now to give you a couple of recipes and some wine suggestions that you can make at home. I know you’re busy “surfing” the web for the latest “kewl” Java applet, you’ve got this week’s episode of Buffy playing on your VCR in the background, and I know that they just opened a great new Ecuadorian-Welsh pasta place down at the corner. But my hope is that you’ll try the recipes, drink some wine, and say, “you know, I think I might be missing something. Maybe I need a flight and a hotel reservation.”

My youngest brother lives in Singapore and I’ve been planning to visit him for, well, awhile. Perhaps these local dishes will inspire one of you to get there first. If so, tell him “hi” for me.

Singapore Chicken

4 dried red chiles
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of cooking oil
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
3 pound chicken, cut in serving pieces
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons sherry or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water

Crumble the chiles and finely chop the onion and garlic. Saute in the oil until the onion softens and turns translucent. Add the sugar and continue cooking, stirring regularly, until the onion browns. Add the chicken and fry until browned. Combine the remaining ingredients, pour over chicken, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, till chicken is tender and cooked through – baste with the sauce regularly. Serves 4-6.

Singapore Noodles

½ lb dry thin rice noodles
4 ounces Chinese mushrooms
4 dried red chile peppers
4 scallions
4 ounces shredded barbecue pork
4 ounces small shrimp
4 ounces fresh peas
4 eggs
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons cooking oil

Combine stock, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, curry power, rice wine, sugar and salt and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for ten minutes. Set aside and keep it warm. Chop mushrooms and scallions. Heat cooking oil till very hot and saute mushrooms till soft, add scallions and cook two minutes more. Add pork, shrimp and peas. Loosely beat eggs and then quickly toss in with sauteed ingredients, keeping the mixture moving so that as the egg cooks it breaks up into shreds. Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling salted water till soft. Drain and toss with saute ingredients. Add curry sauce and toss well. Sprinkle lightly with sesame oil and serve. For garnish, if you wish, top with shredded basil leaves. Serves 4.

Spicy foods like this require wine with just a touch of sweetness for balance. Personally, I would go for a good Gewurztraminer. This grape provides a delicious counterpoint to the spice, some ripe upfront fruit, and a beautiful quality of lychee nuts and roses that works perfectly with many Asian dishes – including this one.

In my opinion, Alsace makes some of the best Gewurztraminer out there, and your choice of Zind-Humbrecht (if you want to splurge), Domaines Schlumberger, Trimbach, or Ernest Burn would all work beautifully. There are also some wonderful domestic choices and you would not be remotely disappointed with a bottle from Bouchaine, Covey Run, DeLoach, or Sakonnet Vineyards.


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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Harvest Fusion

Q San Francisco
November 1997
Pages 44-45

harvestfusionMulticulturalism is the “ism” of the 1990s and food is no exception. I recently returned to my hometown in the Midwest to discover a new “multicultural” restaurant had opened in the midst of the university campus. The menu stated that each selection had been carefully designed to include “elements of the native cuisines of at least five foreign peoples.” The place was packed, the food was clashingly inedible, but everyone seemed to feel they were politically correct for eating there.

Now, mind you, I’m not opposed to so-called “fusion cuisine.” I am, after all, trained as a chef in both classical French and Japanese cooking. My wine experience has been multinational, and I am not one of those who feels that you should serve only French wine with cassoulet or Indian beer with curry. Nor am I one for rules in cooking that restrict you to not trying out new combinations. But for goodness sake, taste the damn dish before you put it on a plate, don’t just mix ingredients selected by opening your world atlas to random pages.

The United States is ostensibly a “melting pot,” a little multicultural haven on our spinning waterball, and we are approaching one of the few holidays that is unique to our country, Thanksgiving (okay, the Canadians do it too, but they’re just copying). Despite popular myth, there was no first pilgrim Thanksgiving in 1621 – they did indeed have a feast day (actually three days), in June, that included “the Indians,” they did indeed eat turkey (also pheasant, partridge, squab, and swan), and who knows, they may have even indulged in a cranberry or two. But for the pilgrims, a devoutly religious caste, a day of thanksgiving would have been a day of prayer and fasting, not revelry and gluttony.

When it comes down to it, Thanksgiving was created by presidential and later congressional decree, basically as a way to take a day off and celebrate America’s prosperity and diversity. Most countries have similar holidays – though, each that I’ve found is related to a particular harvest, such as rice harvest festivals or grape picking festivals or white truffle snuffling festivals. I thought that this year, I’d celebrate the holiday in this column with a little multicultural, multinational fusion of my own (just to prove it can work). Think of the “progressive dinners” where you eat each course at a different person’s house – only we’re going to do it in different countries; and just for the sake of diversity, I’m picking the cuisines and wines by opening my atlas at random.

The classic required dishes for the meal (at least in my view) are turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry relish, and apple pie. Here’s the test of my multicultural sensibilities in the kitchen – the countries picked are: the Netherlands, Afghanistan, Ireland, and Ecuador. I decided on coming up with two white wine recommendations and two red wine recommendations, and the regional winners are (sensibly using a wine atlas). . . St. Emilion, France; Robertson, South Africa; Badacsony, Hungary; and South Australia.

The Netherlands are easy. Let’s face it, the potato is practically the national tree. One of the most classic dishes of Dutch cuisine is hutspot, sometimes called in English, “hotchpotch.” Substituting sweet potatoes for boiling potatoes yields up a delicious sidedish to accompany your Ecuadorian Escabeche de Pavo con Higos or Wild Turkey Escabeche with Figs (a dish based on a recipe from one of the most famous chefs in our community’s history, Felipe Rojas-Lombardi).

Given the sweetness and fruitiness of the fig sauce, cranberry relish seemed like fruit overkill, so, from Ireland, I went with traditional scones – substituting cranberries for the usual currants. For dessert, classic Afghani apple turnovers – my only question – do they really have apple trees in Afghanistan?

With the dinner coming together nicely, it’s time to select the wines. Since, with Thanksgiving, dinner is usually buffet style, the white and red can be offered at the same time, leaving the choice up to each person’s preference. For the whites, the Hungarian first – Badacsony is famous for its white wines, especially Pinot Gris. With all the fruit and sweetness of the various dishes, try Hungarovin’s Badacsonyi Szurkebarat, or “Grey Friar of Badacsony,” a medium-dry version. From South Australia, specifically the Clare Vale, one of my favorite white wines, full of tropical fruit flavors and just a touch of sweetness, Tim Adams Semillon.

On the red side, Robertson, South Africa is easy, because there’s one truly world-class producer, Hamilton-Russell, and they make one of the finest Pinot Noir’s you’ll ever have the pleasure to drink. St. Emilion has another fave, Château Clos des Jacobins, a Merlot and Cabernet blend that is soft and rich in fruit.

Good eating and a Happy (and now, no doubt, politically correct) Thanksgiving!


Recipes

Wild Turkey Escabeche with Figs (Serves 6-8)

1 wild turkey (about 7 pounds)
3 quarts of chicken or turkey stock
1 bottle of white wine
1 cup whole blanched almonds
4 large onions, peeled and sliced in
1/8″-1/4″ rings
1 cup port
3 cups sherry vinegar
8 large dried figs (1/2 pound)
20 dried pitted dates (1/4 pound)
12-15 pitted prunes (1/4 pound)
3 sprigs of mint
1/4 cup cooking oil

Spices:
2″ piece of ginger, sliced
2 teaspoons cumin seed
2 teaspoons turmeric
12 whole cloves
12 whole allspice berries
2 dried hot peppers

Combine stock, wine, and all spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1/2 an hour. Pour over turkey in roasting pan and roast for 2-1/2 to 3 hours at 350F, basting regularly. Remove turkey and set aside, strain the stock and reduce by boiling to 4-5 cups. Meanwhile, heat oil in large saute pan, add the nuts and onions and saute, stirring continuously, till onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add port, bring to a boil and cook till liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar and the reduced stock, simmer for 10 minutes. Add the figs, cook for 15 minutes, then the dates and cook for 5 minutes more, then the prunes and cook for 10 minutes more. Carve the turkey, which by now will have cooled somewhat, and ladle the hot fruit sauce over it.


Hutspot

2/3 pounds onions
4 pounds sweet potatoes
2 pounds carrots
milk
4 tablespoons butter

Scrub and mince carrots. Peel, wash, and slice onions and potatoes, and add them to the carrots. Boil until done (about 30 minutes).

Mash all the vegetables and add butter and salt and pepper to taste. If too thick add some milk (but a spoon must stand up in it).


Cranberry Scones

3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
4 ounces butter
2 ounces sugar
3/4 cup of cranberries
(thawed if they were frozen)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
8-10 tablespoons of buttermilk

Sift flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar into a bowl. Rub the butter into the mixture with your fingers till it is light and crumbly. Stir in sugar and cranberries. Add egg and 6 tablespoons of the buttermilk and mix till it comes together as a dough. If it is too dry, add more buttermilk. Don’t overmix or it will become stiff.

Take ping-pong sized balls of dough and press out into 1/2″ thick, 1-1/2″ across rounds.

Bake at 350F on a baking sheet for 10 minutes till lightly browned.


Afghani Apple Turnovers

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups water
2-1/4 pounds slightly tart apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup apple juice

In a bowl, mix together the flours and salt. Add the water and stir vigorously until it is well mixed.

When it becomes too stiff to stir, turn out on a floured board and knead for 5 minutes till smooth and not sticky. Wrap in plastic and let sit for 30 minutes. Cut the apples into small chunks, mix with remaining ingredients.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each out to a 7″ circle. Place 1/2 a cup of apple mixture just off-centered on each round and fold over. Pinch the edges together decoratively.

Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes till golden brown.


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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Seduction Dinner

Q San Francisco
February/March 1996
Pages 42-43

Seduction Dinner

The lights are low. No, the lights are off. Candles lit on a beautiful cloth draped table. Crystal glasses. China plates. Real silver. Your best Peggy Lee album is moaning away in the background. The date of your dreams is already sitting at the table.

This is not the moment to bring out the reheated takeout food from the shop down the street. This is your moment to star, to shine, to seduce. You want to be loved not only for you, but your culinary prowess. You want to be introduced to friends not only as cute, smart, and funny, but as someone who can cook, too.

It should look like you worked at it. And you should use every aphrodisiac known to man. Well, at least a few of them. Oysters, caviar, roses, chocolate. Sounds like a winner. I’m going to make this as painless as possible. A four-course seduction dinner that can be made by anyone, whether frying pan challenged or a whisk master.

I should warn you. This is a no expense spared dinner. After all, this is a special night. What’s a couple of weeks’ paychecks in exchange for eternal (or at least a long weekend) happiness? You spent more last month on club entrance fees.

First, the oysters and caviar. Actually, first, the champagne. Pop for a half bottle of Krug Grand Cuvèe. If you want to go domestic, and/or a bit less pricey, and make a subtle (not very) hint, pour out some Iron Horse Vineyards Blanc de Noirs “Wedding Cuvee.” Now just skip dinner and go straight for the bedroom…

Most importantly, have your fishmonger open the oysters for you. There’s nothing worse than struggling to open a dozen fresh oysters in your own kitchen. You probably don’t have an oyster blade and it’s no fun anyway. Just buy them that afternoon.

Now the best thing you could have here would be one of those great cast iron plates on a wood base like you get at the local Sizzler. Otherwise, use a heavy pan. Cover the plate or pan with the salt, about 1/8 inch deep. Set the oysters, each on a half shell, into the salt. Drizzle with champagne. Top with a quick grind of white pepper. Throw it all in a 450 degree oven for five minutes till the oysters just firm up. Top each with a small (demitasse) spoonful of caviar, and serve you and your intended a half dozen apiece.

The next course is the easiest one. It’s taken from an old Italian recipe. I think old Italian women use it to snare husbands for their daughters. It works on non-Italians too.

You have to pluck the rose. That’s all there is to it. It will be a moment to indulge in your Morticia Adams fantasies. Pull those petals right off the flower. Rinse them and dry them.

I prefer serrano ham to prosciutto, but I leave it up to you. Spread the slices out in a fan on your nicest china salad plate. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Coarsely crack the peppercorns and sprinkle over the plate. Casually strew some marjoram leaves and rose petals over the dish. Serve.

To bring out the rose and spice flavors in this dish, I recommend a Gewurztraminer. This grape is often referred to as the “Don Juan of Alsace,” Alsace being its ancestral home. Women (and occasionally men) are said to swoon just from a sip. My favorite from Alsace comes from Marcel Deiss at his Altenberg vineyards. If your aim is a little closer to home try the Martinelli or Sakonnet Vineyards Gewurztraminer, respectively from California and Rhode Island.

The main course is always the hardest, which is why I left the first two easy. Combining the proverbial partridge, an aphrodisiacal bird if ever there was one, and chocolate, which may just be the queen of seduction, this classic Spanish recipe had better turn the trick, as it were…

If you can’t get partridges, well, let’s face it, you’re not the shopper we thought you were. You can, however, substitute one game hen and split it. Rub the birds with one of the tablespoons of oil. Bake in a roasting pan at 375 degrees for half an hour.

Meanwhile, saute the garlic and onion in the remaining two tablespoons of oil till just golden. Add the wine and cook till it pretty much evaporates. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for half an hour. When the birds have baked for thirty minutes, take them out and put them in the pan with the sauce. Continue to simmer, turning the birds, for another 15 minutes. Serve.

This dish calls for something a bit bold to go with the chocolate, garlic and onions in the sauce, but elegant enough for both the partridges and the mood of the evening. Coming from the Bordeaux side of the world, I’d pick Chateau Kirwan from Margaux. From way south of our borders, Bodegas Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon would be high on my list. And for those inclined domestically, I think I’d grab a bottle of William Baccala Estate Merlot.

For dessert, I recommend going light. Remember, you want to have enough energy for after dinner activities. We’ve already filled up with three dishes of food. Poached fruit is the way to go. And what could be more classically seductive than figs and honey?

Melt butter in frying pan over low heat and gently saute the figs for 2 minutes. Mix honey, amaretto and nutmeg together and add to pan. Simmer until amaretto has evaporated and sauce is thickened. Serve warm with a large spoonful of whipped cream. Save the rest of the whipped cream for your after dinner activities.

This is a moment for a small glass of classic sherry. This dish works especially well with E. Lustau Solera Reserva “San Emilio.” In the “also works” category would be a top Vin Santo from Italy, the most prized of which would be Avignonesi Vin Santo Occhio del Pernice. George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” Starting from there, just imagine your second date…

Seduction Dinner – Appetizer
12 fresh oysters
1 small tin of sevruga or oscetra caviar
a dash of white pepper
Coarse grain salt
1/4 cup of champagne

Seduction Dinner – Antipasto

1/4 pound of thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
1 pink rose
Fresh marjoram leaves
Mixed color whole peppercorns
Good balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

Seduction Dinner – Main Course

2 partridges, thoroughly cleaned
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon sherry or balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 small bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate

Seduction Dinner – Dessert

4 ripe figs, quartered
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup amaretto
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups whipped cream


Q San Francisco magazine premiered in late 1995 as a ultra-slick, ultra-hip gay lifestyle magazine targeted primarily for the San Francisco community. It was launched by my friends Don Tuthill and Robert Adams, respectively the publisher and editor-in-chief, who had owned and run Genre magazine for several years prior. They asked me to come along as the food and wine geek, umm, editor, for this venture as well. In order to devote their time to Passport magazine, their newest venture, they ceased publication of QSF in early 2003.

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