Sunday, April 25, 2010

Orange Sesame Chicken Legs

The past couple of weeks have been challenging. Yes, challenging seems to be a good word to sum it up. Writing new music for an emerging genre is challenging.  Editing video for the band documentary is definitely challenging.  Having children in different schools which are testing at the same time is challenging.  Responding to challenges as affronts to my ability to Take Care Of Business (at least that's what my Guy Manual has to say on the matter) leaves me precious little time for Cookin' With Mister C and other writing projects.  I'm not totally shut down though, as this weekend we'll be heading off to Anachrocon, a Steampunk-themed convention in Atlanta, where I hope to reconnect with many old friends and bounce ideas around for further literary projects. Drop by and see me if you're in Atlanta: Saturday morning I'll be assuming the persona of either James Watt, inventor of the first efficient steam engine or Nikola Tesla, who was... well... Nikola Tesla.

Rest assured, I still feed the family good stuff each night although it may not be the six-step kitchen dance I usually perform. A few days ago dinner disguised itself as one of those "opportunities to improvise" when I was working on several ongoing projects and noticed that I'd not even begun to plan dinner as I headed to the elementary school to pick up my son. Looking in the refrigerator I realized I had no leftovers, no salad makings and nothing thawed from the freezer; just before I slammed the freezer door I spotted a bag of frozen chicken legs. Good enough, I thought and went to work on something experimental, and hopefully edible.

I dumped the frozen chicken legs into the crockpot, turned it on high for 4 hours and began working on a sauce that I could add to the slow cooker later.  It turned out much better that I hoped, but I'm very glad I wrote it on the blackboard because I changed it several times before I was done.

As shown the portions make a lot of broth in the crockpot, so I used my big bulb to suck about two and a half cups to reduce for the couscous. If you have the time (and thawed chicken legs) the mixture can be reduced by half and the legs can be baked in the reduction at 350F until the skin is crispy and the meat is 160F. 

Mister C's Orange Sesame Crockpot Chicken
4 Lbs Chicken Legs, bone in
4 Oranges, juiced. Zest 1 Orange before juicing   
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp Ginger Paste
1 Tsp Coarse Ground Pepper
1 Tsp Salt

Place the chicken legs in the crockpot at 4 hours on high, then begin the sauce. Mix all the ingredients together except the pepper and the orange zest. After the sauce is mixed well add two or three pinches of the orange zest and mix it again, then pour the mix over the chicken legs. After 3 hours remove most of the broth from the crockpot, leaving an inch or so in the bottom of the pot.  Sprinkle the pepper and the rest of the orange zest over the chicken legs and cook for the remaining hour. 

As I made it in the crockpot it was very tender and after I removed the extra broth for the couscous it developed a nice golden brown on the skin.  I browned some nuts in olive oil and reduced the broth by a half cup and used that to make the couscous. It was excellent with that hint of chicken and orange, and the nuts tossed in just before plating finished the meal admirably.  I had an ice cold IPA with my meal and thought it was mighty nice. Share this with your friends and tell them you got it from Cookin' With Mister C-

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Paella Mexicana

While I'm working here at GreenWood I usually have the Food Network droning in the background, and I have my favorite TV chefs but as usual I have a few improvements to add to their recipes for maximum impact. Michael Chiarello of Napa Valley's Bottega has a great way with making meals that are consistently a cut above most "quick fix" menus. Of course, it helps to be a certified master chef living in Napa Valley with a winery and general rich-California-guy estate from which to glean your morsels; here in the not-so-tony North Georgia Mountains I make do with trips to Kroger and Wally World. (I used to patronize the produce stand on the corner but a couple of years ago I bumped into the owner at the local Wally World hauling three carts full of produce, and later that day I rooted through the tomato baskets and found several with the inventory sticker still attached. Hmph, harrumph I say.) With a family of four I make judicious use of the manager's specials at Kroger and Publix for all the meats, and with some forethought we can enjoy decent seafood fairly frequently.

Many years ago I was introduced to paella by a girlfriend from Puerto Rico, and with its combination of saffron and seafood I thought it was sent from heaven above but it  always seemed to be in need of a balancing kick of some kind. A couple of weeks ago I came across Chef Chiarello's recipe for an Italian paella, which substituted a few traditional Italian ingredients in place of the Spanish. Well, I'd been hankering for a different sort of seafood dish and hadn't had a paella in a few years so I decided to take part of Chiarello's recipe and modify it in a more Mexican direction. It turned out great, my kids (who have never had paella before) loved its color and variety of offerings in one dish.

Be warned, this recipe makes a huge amount of paella, so either plan a dinner party or have a way to share. A nice fruity Sangria would be a perfect compliment, as would a crisp ale or iced tea with mint.

Mister C's Mexican Paella  Serves 8-10
You'll need a large skillet or heavy saucepan with a lid and a paella pan or a similar large oven-safe pot, and better go ahead and have a libation on hand because this is one meal that takes a while to prepare. Preheat the oven to 350F.

1 lb Freshwater Mussels or Small Clams
2 Boneless Chicken Breasts, chunked and browned
2-3 Links Chorizo Sausage, cooked and sliced
1 lb Jumbo or Colossal Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb Loligo Squid, tentacles and tubes cut into pieces
2 Sweet Bell Peppers, chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Large Onion, chopped
1 Large Tomatillo, chopped
3 Roma Tomatoes, diced
1 Poblano Pepper, sliced into rings
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tsp Chili Powder
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Chicken Broth
8 Cups Saffron Rice
Salt and Pepper for the broth (to taste)

In a large skillet, I cook the chorizo first so all the good spice and fat will accumulate from the very beginning and serve as a base to which the rest of the meat flavorings will add their own essence. Then I remove the sausage, brown the chicken in the sausage drippings and remove. I then add the olive oil and reduce the heat medium and saute the onion, garlic and green pepper until just soft. Add the chicken broth, add salt and pepper then increase the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp and squid. Cook for 3 minutes and remove from the pan, keeping the liquid and set aside with the sausage and chicken. Add the clams or mussels to the pan, cover and steam in the mixture for 5 minutes. While you're waiting for the clams or mussels to do their thing add the rice and everything else except the poblano to the paella pan and give it a light mix. After about five minutes the shells should be just beginning to open, and there should be a good deal of very savoury liquid in the skillet. Pour the entire contents of the skillet (including the liquid) over the rice mix, lay the poblano rings over the top and put the pot in the oven for 20 minutes or so to finish cooking and allow the ingredients to mingle. Remove the unopened shells from the mix with tongs, give it a good stir to mix everything a final time and serve hot in big bowls or deep plates.