Roast Chicken – My Take

My favorite pastured chicken these days comes from Camp’s Road Farm, New Milford, Connecticut.  I just got a five pound bird a couple  past weekends ago, liver, gizzard and neck included.  (Somehow the heart seems to have slipped out, but usually there’s one of those in there, too.)  Just like in my youth — ah, comfort food!

Roast chicken

I did mean to photograph this breast-side-up, which was also crispy, but, well, I didn’t.  And no, at five pounds, it lasted for several meals.

My main adaptation to roasting a chicken — and yes, there are thousands of recipes out there in the blogosphere — is to roast it breast side down.  This keeps the white meat moist and reasonably flavorful.  (If you detect a bias towards the dark meat in my personal taste buds, you’d be correct.)  One thing about cooking the whole chicken — you get to satisfy a lot of different taste preferences!  And, there are so many things to be done with any leftovers!

If you want to serve a pretty presentation, that standard breast side up, simply rotate the bird about 20-30 minutes before it is done, so that the breast skin crisps up.  and at that point I put it on a roasting rack, so that excess fat may drain away.  (And the back side remains rather crispy, too.)

The variety of seasonings for your roasted chicken is endless!  Actually, I usually use a fresh lemon juice base, with whatever spices and herbs strike my fancy at the moment.  I find that adding leafy herbs later on in the cooking keeps them flavorful, but hardier spices can be added at the onset.  (Which is what I did here.)

Roast chicken

Seasoned and ready to go!

When I feast on a quality bird, I always save and freeze the bones, cartilage, and a little of the meat, for future bone broth. Also, the drippings, unless I’ve made a truly spicy roast chicken — I do like to make my bone broth flavorings somewhat “generic”, to keep my options open for recipes when I eat it later!  (I learned this the hard way…)

For this reason, I also don’t brine truly quality birds. I don’t want to concentrate down the bones, cartilage and extra meat into a very salty bone broth.  Sometime later, I’ll discuss my Thanksgiving 2013 brined heirloom Whole Foods turkey — which was wonderful, but as I couldn’t use the leftovers for bone broth, so I didn’t post about it — and, while I was planning a 2014 non-brined heirloom bird, I don’t think it will happen this year.  Possibly December.

In this dish, I reserved the gizzard and liver (and the heart, where it available), for other options.  I removed the skin from the neck and used the neck, although this does make a wonderful addition as-is to bone broth, if desired instead.

If you don’t have the Penzey’s seasoning, note that it contains the following (and that you can adapt to whatever hits your fancy from your kitchen herb and spice rack):  This one contains salt, paprika, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne, various ground peppers, cinnamon, thyme, ginger.

Roast Chicken

First, and most major, stage of roasting away, just before I flip it.


NOTE:  Special equipment recommended:  a roasting rack.

  • 1 large chicken – this one was 5 pounds (with the offal still inside), remove all offal except the neck and reserve, and the neck  should be skinned.  Remove all fat pads and discard.
  • 1 teaspoon oil.  I use either olive or avocado oil.
  • 1 rather  small onion, peeled, and ends cut off, but otherwise left whole. 
  • Approximately 1.5 teaspoon of Penzey’s BBQ of the Americas rub, divided.
  • Approximately 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper, divided.
  • Optional:  Juice from one half lemon (didn’t have this time so didn’t use).

Pre-heat oven to 325 F.  (350 F for a supermarket bird.)

Wipe the chicken with the oil on a paper towel.

Put the chicken into your roasting pan breast side down.  Tuck in the onion and the neck (the onion for sure, the neck is optional) into the body cavity.  These items should loosely rattle around in there — no tight stuffing!  Sprinkle/spread half of the BBQ of the America’s seasoning, and half of the black pepper over the exposed surface.  Use the lemon juice if at hand.

The cooking rule of thumb is (for unstuffed or minorly-stuffed birds is:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Roast whole (thawed) chickens for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.

Note that pastured birds work best about 15-20 degrees F less than published for supermarket birds.  Note that I didn’t say “organic” birds — I would cook them the same amount of temperature as supermarket birds.  They really don’t get out and play, either.

When you have only about 20-30 minutes left of cooking time, pull the chicken out of the oven and flip it onto that cooking rack (which you will place over your roasting pan, to avoid mess). Add the rest of the seasonings above, on top,then slide back into your oven for another 20-30 minutes.

Pull out of the oven, and rest for 5-10 minutes, and then enjoy, reserving leftover bones and any (de-fatted) juices for bone broth, which you certainly can freeze until you accumulate enough of them, and have the time to make the bone broth.  Yes, you will be cooking them for a long time, so it is sanitary!

Roast Chicken

Belly Up, Man!!! Crisp away!












Posted in Commentary, Offal, Poultry | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Oatmeal Apple Mini-Muffins

Hmm, this is the first time I’ve baked (as in the dessert category) anything since at least June 3, 2011, which was when I posted that last endeavor, a squash and blueberry muffin, made with almond meal instead of grains. I bake things in the dessert category that they all seem to get onto the blog!  (I usually don’t get around to posting the day I make a recipe.)  I know I have not cooked a standard dessert/baked pastry snack since then until now.  Well, actually three weeks ago — lag time!

Oatmeal Apple Mini Muffins

This recipe is made with grains (oatmeal), but I was careful to source gluten-free oatmeal since at least one of the potential consumers has a definite gluten problem — via Bob’s Red Mill brand (they carry both gluten-free and regular, so if this is important, read the label).  I am currently having problems digesting tree nuts, so almond meal is out for now.  Besides, there’s something satisfying about the texture of oatmeal flakes.

At a certain point after starting this blog, I decided everything I cooked and posted would at the very least, be with the option of gluten-free.  (This does not hold true with the initial posts!)  But even before this blog went gluten-free, I personally went nearly dessert-free except for a few scattered occasions when served by others, or, yes, confronted by my true weakness, ice cream.  I simply lack a fully developed sweet-tooth, and this has NOT been a hardship in my home life.  I don’t miss it, if I have satiating other food to eat.  In the winter, about every third week, I eat a bowl of rolled or steel-cut oats as cereal (NEVER THAT NASTY INSTANT STUFF!)  with a little milk and maybe a pat of butter on top.  (Grandmother used to put a bit of pastured milk on top.)  Okay, yes, a small splash of real maple syrup simply for the flavor, not the rather nasty Aunt Jemima that you frequently find.

But then, yes, there are bake sales, and occasions where I might be requested to make a “sweet”.  And I do have a batch of that leftover coconut palm sugar from that Pad Thai excursion a few weeks ago —  I don’t know what else I will do with it, other than another Pad Thai, but in the interim…  there’s this birthday party for someone who will really appreciate home baking!

Anyhow, here I present you with…

apple oatmeal mini muffins recipe

Ready for the oven

Apple Oatmeal Mini-Muffins!

•2 cups rolled oats.  Gluten-free is available with no taste difference.
•1/4 organic coconut palm sugar, preferably sustainably-raised without displacing orangutans, packed  (I like orangutans!)
•1 tsp baking powder
•1 tsp cinnamon, or a tad more ;)
•1 tsp allspice
•1/4 tsp salt

•2 cups whole milk.  I used pasteurized whole creamline milk – not homogenized – from Kimberly Farm, New Milford, CT.  There was just enough of a taste left, for me to know this is awesome milk!  (Seriously, though, whichever milk you wish!  I like that you can buy this one in pint sized containers.)
•1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (I used my home-canned Gravenstein applesauce from 2013)
•2 large chicken eggs (pastured and procured from a reliable farmer’s market source was my option).
•2 apples, cored and cut into very small pieces.  (These were Cortlands, but your preference or availability may vary.  Skin may stay on.)
•If you prefer, use one apple and 1/4-1/2 cup of raisins, but personally, I don’t prefer.  It’s that lack of a true sweet-tooth thang on my part.  Put bluntly:  raisins are way too sweet for me.  (Grapes are better reserved for wine…)

apple oatmeal mini muffins recipe

Ingredients taking a bow

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Mix all the dry stuff together in a large bowl.

Mix all the wet stuff together.

Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff, and blend using a large spoon.   The result looks very watery and you’ll wonder how this will turn out.  It will…

Oatmeal Apple Mini muffin recipe

Looks rather liquid before cooking

Add to lightly oiled mini-muffin pans, you can fill nearly to the top, as they don’t rise much.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Check that they are turning brown and not burning.  (Unfortunately, ovens vary.)  Remove from oven, place on a rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing them.  Otherwise they are likely to crumble.

Makes 35-40 mini-muffins.  They got great reviews at the party, although for some folks they weren’t “sweet” enough!

Oatmeal, Apple, Mini Muffins, Recipe










Posted in Baked Goods, Cooking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pan Fried Blackfish (Tautog)

pan fried blackfish, tautog, recipe

I’d heard tell of blackfish being an excellent eating fish, of superb but mild flavor.  So, when I saw it being offered for sale at my favorite roadside fish stand, I had to buy a pound of fillet.  Try (nearly) everything once, I often say!  (This you can probably guess from a few others of my posts….) Despite the price…  It is mostly a fish line-caught by sportsmen rather than for the commercial market, and these fish live along the northern Atlantic seaboard, down to the Carolinas.

Tautog Recipes, Blackfish Recipes

Public Domain image taken from Wikipedia. The very first image in this blog that I didn’t photograph.

It’s a wild-caught fish, sometimes known as tautog (its Narragansett Native American name), and while the flesh is white, the skin is mostly black.  I found its taste to be mild but not remotely bland.  Much better than cod, in my opinion, although you can cook it in recipes that you’d use cod in.  It has a firm texture which flakes into large flakes when cut.  If I had to lay down a comparison, if you like sea or black bass or red snapper, you’ll probably enjoy this.

blackfish, tautog, recipes

Blackfish fillet, nice firm white flesh

blackfish, tautog, recipes

The skin side of the blackfish fillet.

For more information on the tautog/blackfish check out the New York’s Seafood Council website:   For completists out there, the scientific name of this fish is Tautoga onitis, and it is a type of fish known as a wrasse.

I cut the fish in half, pan fried the more slender half, and baked the other half.  On purpose, I kept the seasonings minimal, so as to understand and appreciate the flavor of this unique species better.  Since I turned out to be more impressed by pan-fried, I’ve kept this recipe posted here this way, without the other alternative. Which was serviceable, but I really recommend pan-fried!  (If I find this fish again, I WILL try charcoal grilled, with a little Jamaican seasonings!  — which is how my blackfish-loving friend ate it.)

Tautog recipes, blackfish recipes

Still Life with Cooked Tautog and Small Apple

Pan Fried Blackfish

* 1/3 – 1/2 pound blackfish fillet (per person)
* teaspoon cooking oil (I used avocado oil, which is mild)
* 2 lime slices
* Cracked lemon pepper to taste

Heat up your skillet (I used my cast iron skillet) to medium/medium low, add the oil.  Allow the oil time to heat up.

Add your fish fillet, skin down.  Squeeze lime juice over the exposed side, and add some cracked pepper.

Cook for about four minutes per side (more if the fish is thicker than 3/4 inch), adding the rest of the lime and pepper to the skin side when you flip it.  (On wild-caught cold-water ocean-going fish I tend to eat the skin, especially if I get the chance to make it cook up crispy.)  Flip back onto the skin side for a last minute, and plate.

Let it rest for 4-5 minutes while you take photos, cut up apples, or whatever else you want for a simple quick side…

blackfish, tautog, recipes

Blackfish being enticing!

Posted in Cooking, Seafood | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Chicken Hearts and Palm / Chicken Gizzards, Tomato, Mushroom and Okra

chicken hearts, gizzards, okra

We grew up with my parents buying whole chickens from the grocery, and these birds would come with livers, hearts and gizzards.  My favorite little morsel was the heart.  It was a treat to find it in whatever dish Mom cooked — especially in that chicken in mushroom soup sauce that I re-invented in an earlier post.  The gizzard was fine; slightly tough, but I’ll eat that too.  Even then, I ate them.  (A major reason I think the concept of “kid’s food” is waaaay overrated. Yeah, kids like things sweeter, but beyond that… I think ideas get programmed in that are not really Real, and if you just give kids the alleged “kid’s food”, that’s what they come to expect.  Self-fulfilling prophecy.)  Regards to sweets — my parents claimed that Easter was time to throw out the leftover Halloween candy we hadn’t eaten, and that Halloween was the time to throw out the leftover Easter candy we’d not eaten.  Granted, we still liked sweets but we were mighty selective.

Nowadays you almost can’t find hearts or gizzards anywhere…  the whole chickens no longer seem to come with.  Or often even with the neck, so good in adding to soup stock or bone broth.  We’re lucky they still sell whole chickens!  I guess they’re grinding up the offal into hot dogs and pet food, along with sawdust and gristle, and grains that especially cats (obligate carnivores) cannot remotely process.  It’s not that great for dogs, either.

At any rate, when I picked up a 2.5 pound bag of chicken innards (hearts, livers, gizzards) at a recent farmer’s market, I was ecstatic.  Price was excellent, too.  Yeah, yeah, I know… small pleasures!

I got the parts home, separated them, freezing the livers for a future paté —  it’s going to be a LOT of paté, I fear.  Maybe I’ll check out, or invent some other recipes, too.  I’m not real fond of chicken liver straight up.  We will see — I’m thinking of trying a few things at once, when I get around to them.  Paté can indeed be frozen.

Out of a 2.5 pound bag, there was alas only 5 ounces of chicken heart.  Never mind; we will do that up right!

Chicken Hearts Pan Fried with Hearts of Palm and Garlic

Scale the below up, in case you luck out into more hearts than the below:

* 5 ounces chicken hearts
* 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon oil for marinating, another half teaspoon for sauteing.  (I used olive oil to marinate; after I started cooking it occurred to me that sesame oil would be great for flavor — so I used that for sauteing.  Probably a good mixture balance.)
* 1/2 teaspoon of unflavored, unsweetened rice vinegar (NOT the sushi rice vinegar.  I was all out of pure rice vinegar, so I used coconut vinegar — both are milder than regular vinegars, and work well with this dish.)
* 1.5 teaspoons of your favorite tamari — mine is San J’s gluten-free low sodium tamari.  It’s not heavy-tasting like some of the highly fermented brands, nor is is too, too mild, as I often find coconut aminos to be.  But choose what you need or desire.
* Pinch of turmeric
* 1/3 teaspoon dried savory
(if you can’t find savory, just increase the thyme or use tarragon.)
* 1/3 teaspoon dried thyme
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste
* 1 stalk green onion, chopped
* 1 ~6 inch stalk of hearts of palm.  They come in tall jars at your friendly neighborhood Costco or BJ’s.  Slice into approximately quarter-inch thick rounds.  (I originally planned to use a small can of those bamboo shoots in water, but my home pantry was all out.)

If you need to clean off any excess fat from the top of the hearts, remove with a sharp paring knife.  I was lucky — only one heart in this batch was in need of trimming.  This isn’t usual, alas.  With fatty hearts, you can lose up to 1/3 the weight.  Anyhow, the 14 hearts depicted below, essentially all but one clean, yielded 5 ounces.  Let that guide you!

Chicken hearts, Chicken offal

Marinate everything together but the green onion and the heart of palm (although if you wish to, go for it, but I don’t think doing that is optimal…)  in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Chicken hearts, Chicken offal, Hearts of palm

Marinating. In the future I’ll add the green onions and the hearts of palm about halfway through cooking. This will keep them both more “solid”, although the taste was great, anyway.

Heat up the second portion of oil in a skillet on medium high (sesame oil, as noted in my case, but choose what you will.)  Toss everything into this skillet — you can still hold off on the green onion and hearts of palm for a couple more minutes, if you so chose — mix around the ingredients as they cook about every minute, and add in the green onion and hearts of palm somewhere early on.  When you think you are done, cut open one of the larger hearts — if still pink, cook another couple minutes, and then check another heart.

Serve.  And no, when I made this dish and selected hearts of palm, I wasn’t thinking:  “chicken hearts of palm”…  it really was serendipitous that the two main items in this dish have overlapping names!

Chicken hearts, Chicken offal

Done deal, with cuke and heirloom tomato on the side (drizzled with EVOO and a little vinegar)  Made for a nice nutritious lunch.

The above serves one.  Scale up if you luck into more hearts.

Gizzards sautéed with Okra, Mushrooms and Tomato

One can of course cook the gizzards with the hearts, or the hearts with the gizzards, but since the gizzards are so much bigger, I find that I lose the hearts in the mix. So if I have enough of them, they cook separately.  (I do so hate losing heart… sorry, couldn’t resist.)

In this dish, I combine two ingredients a lot of people shy away from:  the gizzard, and okra.  Yes, okra has some slime, and there are ways of cutting that, but I like okra, slimy or otherwise.   (For a food texture I run from, I’d have to list cottage cheese.  Those curds.)

gizzards, okra mushroom, tomato

Raw items getting ready for the pot. Note the background of heirloom tomatoes – I used field tomatoes in this recipe.  And someday I will have a gas range!

* 1 pound chicken gizzards, cut into thirds
* okra, stems removed, and if the tips are brown, remove those, too,  Cut okra into halves or thirds, depending on size.   (You want pieces to be an inch or so long).
* 4-6 ounces button mushrooms, halved if small – if larger, chop further
* 1 large tomato (or two small), chopped (remove the skin — best done by quickly blanching then plunging into cold water).  Roughly chop.  Do not use a paste tomato such as the Roma; you want the full liquid content of the tomato.
* 1/2 small onion, chopped
* Butter, ghee, or avocado oil, 2 teaspoons
* Salt and pepper to taste, grind fresh if possible.

* Optional, cilantro as garnish

In a large skillet suitable to holding the above, heat up the cooking oil or butter medium high, until it just begins to think about smoking.  Add the onions.

gizzards, okra, mushrooms, tomato

All in the pot!

Reduce heat to medium; allow the onions to become translucent.  Then, add everything except the optional cilantro.

Stir around on and off until the gizzards and okra become fully cooked, 20-25 minutes.  Serve in bowls — this made about three meals.  Top with cilantro, if you have any.  (I didn’t, alas.)  While gizzards aren’t my favorite (they are a little tough), the flavor is good and they can be packed with nutrition.

gizzards, okra, mushroom, tomato

Ready to serve!



Posted in Cooking, Offal, Poultry | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adventures in Crustless Quiche

I’ve never made Quiche before these two recent experiments in quiche-dom.  This is definitely a weekend morning endeavor (or, they are pretty quick for an evening after work)!  But, you definitely can make them ahead and refrigerate for later — they’ll be best served warm or hot, of course.  I made one batch (two Quiche per batch) using duck eggs, and the other batch using chicken eggs.


Crustless Quiche

Chicken Egg Quiche with Gruyère, Smoked Gouda, Oyster Mushrooms and Shallot. PS, I think that cheese grater is as old as I am.


I use those six-inch pie pans — these are not dedicated Quiche dishes with steeper / taller sides, but recycled aluminum pie pans from the Quiches I’ve been purchasing at the farmer’s market.  (I just knew not throwing these things out would come in handy!)

Quiche with duck eggs or with chicken eggs:  (makes two six-inch Quiches, each Quiche could typically serve two people at breakfast, and one person at dinner.  If you have a side.)

* 2 small (for a duck) duck eggs; or two large chicken eggs.
* 2/3 cup half and half with duck eggs; if using chicken eggs, use 1/2 cup instead.  
* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
* 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

* 1/4 heaping teaspoon allspice or ground nutmeg


* 2-3 ounces grated cheese — I am partial to a near equal mixture of Gruyère  and smoked Gouda.  You do want something that will melt, and that preferably has character.  Other cheese suggestions:  cheddar, Swiss, Fontina – or perhaps if you are feeling particularly spicy – pepperjack.
* 4-5 ounces fresh mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced (shiitake, oyster or button).  Four ounces for oyster and button; five for shiitake since there’s that stem waste.
* About 2 inches of thin sliced leek, the white end, being careful that no grit remains.  Worthy substitutions would be one whole peeled sliced large shallot, or chopped green onions (perhaps two, the entire green onion sans root)
* Cooking oil (perhaps avocado or olive) — about 1 teaspoon to cook the mushrooms/leeks, and a little more to coat the pie pans.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Combine the first set of five ingredients together, mix with a whisk or a fork, and set aside.  (In retrospect, I think an immersion blender would have been best for the duck eggs!  The duck yolks separated out, which is not ideal.  This did not happen with the chicken eggs.)

In  a skillet with the oil, heat to medium/medium high, and add the mushrooms/leeks.  If using green onions add them when the mushrooms are nearly done.  You want to cook out all the water from the veggies, to keep the Quiche from being watery.

Drain on a paper towel.

Oil your pie pans, then add the cheese/veggies on the bottom of each pan, insuring a good mix.  Pour the egg mix over the top of each.  It is helpful to have these pans seated in a larger baking dish, to avoid spillage problems.

Bake 20-25 minutes, checking for browning but not burning.

Crustless Quiche

Quiche in 6 inch pie tin

These will come out of the pans without breaking up, if you wait at least five or ten minutes for them to cool.  I used a standard serving spoon, assisted by a regular table-setting knife, to remove them gently.

I am left to wonder why over all these years, I have not tried my hand at Quiche until now!  And now I feel almost guilty walking past the Quiche stand at the market, but I’m saving money…

Crustless Quiche

Duck Egg Quiche, with Gruyère, Shiitake and Leek, and a side of sliced Cortland apple.  Of course, I ended up forgetting to take more pictures once I removed this Quiche from its pan…  Hey, I was hungry!

The recipe I adapted, mostly by eliminating the crust, using allspice instead of nutmeg, and by making two rather than one Quiche in my pie tins — and thus since they are shallower, they will cook a little quicker:

Posted in Breakfast, Cooking, Mushrooms, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Foodie News: Food for Thought, Take One

Foodie News is going to be a once-a-month (sometimes less if there’s nothing out there that strikes my fancy to point you at or talk about) feature here.  It won’t show up more often than that.   Is “bitter” in our genes?

Kale, bitter vegetables

Kale and wild raspberries (which may possibly be wild red blackberries) were my only star food producers in my garden this year. Sigh.

And from the article, it appears that veggie-haters are super sensitive, genetically, to bitter, and while they will definitely shy away from brussels sprouts, they also tend to avoid veggies all together.  My own taste buds appear to be in the moderate area — I hated brussels sprouts as a child, but that may be because the only way I ever saw them then was boiled, and probably not fresh.  Now that I’ve experienced roasted brussels sprouts — I’m quite happy dining on them!  The article mentions that roasting them cuts a lot of the bitterness.

I wonder once more of the genetics of taste are explored — they’ll find the gene that predispositions one towards savory over sugary, which if it does exist, I certainly own.  Or the gene that enables the inability to perceive stevia as anything remotely resembling “sweet”, or even edible.  If there’s a gene for that, I’ve got that, unfortunately.   Room temp eggs, or chilled?

Eggs,pastured eggs

Turkey Eggs, pastured

Two major power outages a few years ago (Hurricane Irene and the Halloween Snowmaggedeon) made me happy that the eggs I had on hand had been purchased at farmer’s markets and had not been refrigerated.  One less item to triage!  Of course, by the time the Snowmaggedeon power outage event was over, the house temperature was about 40 F.  Having camping as a hobby helped me out tremendously.  And actually, we already KNEW about this.  The Thai government wants to standardize Pad Thai and other traditional Thai foods… Hmm.

Pad Thai

Most of my Pad Thai mis en place

The Thai government wants to ensure that Thai recipes served in restaurants are authentic. So, you see, they invented this tasting robot that can tell them, yes or no.   Pad Thai, no doubt because the item contains the country’s name, was one of the first things entered into the database.  Never mind that in Thailand there is not just ONE single recipe for Pad Thai.  I don’t know if or how they get around that hurdle.   I’m pretty sure my posted Pad Thai recipe would pass muster if I ditched the pork in favor of chicken or shrimp — but then again, maybe they’d want more palm sugar than I was wanting to use!  No, I am NOT sorry.   Civets. Coffee.  Is there a link?  SHOULD there be a link?

civets, coffee beans

CeeCee guards the trash she can no longer access…And no, she still has no interest in coffee beans!

Nope, I don’t really want to  believe people will pay big bucks for coffee beans that have traversed the digestive tract of an Asian variety of civet, to be collected for grinding from the poop.  Supposedly, this “mellows” the coffee beans.  At any rate, I will try nearly any food once, barring for certain those food sources on endangered species lists, or TVP-laden garbage — but I certainly balk at civet-processed coffee.

The intrepid researchers in this article have created a coffee that is similar enough (they say) to civet-processed coffee, without the use of civets.  A good thing, as currently there are nasty CAFO civet farms in parts of southeast Asian, where the poor animals are tightly-caged and force-fed something they’d not want to eat naturally.  (Who’d have thunk this was such a prime idea that you’d need to CAFO the animals??)  Plus, with the new coffee you also get the benefit of beans that have not been intimately associated with fecal material.  Naturally, I don’t know who they bribed to do the taste-test comparisons!

Since civets are said to be cat-like, and are definitely obligate carnivores, I exposed my own housebound and domesticated cats to some of my coffee beans (admittedly already processed before being purchased from Trader Joe’s — the current container is TJ’s Fair Trade French Roast).  They were not remotely interested, and removed themselves rather rapidly from the aroma, or from what they would probably tell me is a stench if their vocabulary was up to the interest or effort…

At any rate, the best way to get a cat or a civet to eat a coffee bean would be to embed it into hamburger or wet cat-food (this actually works for pilling cats with medicine…)  The best way to get this particular human to eat the old-fashioned civet-processed coffee, once only, is a payment in advance of around half a million bucks.

(PS – no, cats and civets are not related, they are both in different Families of mammals.  But both are obligate carnivores. Which makes me wonder how someone in some previous generation discovered that civet-processed coffee beans was an idea to pursue?)     Overall, Asian cuisine prefers the dark meat of chicken, and overall, Americans claim to prefer the breast. What gives?  (Yes, I am an outlier…)

Chicken legs

Two pairs of pastured chicken legs, still thawing. Thigh and leg.  They will be grilled.

Wow, Americans are finally beginning to appreciate the virtues of dark meat chicken!  Gimme that ole-time chicken thigh!  Skin on, skin off — it all depends on the recipe.  And, frankly, on how the chicken was raised.  Interesting insights on how we in this country might be beginning to consider different perspectives.  Ummm… although now that the word is spreading, the price for delicious nutritious dark meat will surely rise…

Yes, everyone, stick with chicken breast, you love it, you do!

(PS, the clovegarden site also has an amazing breakdown of cuts of pork.  I’ve not had the chance to explore more there yet.)





Posted in Commentary | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Pork Pad Thai

Pork isn’t the most traditional meat item to put in a pad Thai — that would be chicken or shrimp.  Sometimes it is just left at the tofu, and no chicken nor seafood — but be forewarned that even if you request vegetarian pad Thai at a restaurant, if you are vegetarian (and not just wanting to eat direct chicken, seafood or pork, and just wanting the tofu) — you may well get the fish sauce included in the dish, because that’s how they do it, culturally.  They’re not trying to get something “past” you – it’s just a different cultural vibe when they talk about “vegetarian”.

But pork is no true stranger to Thai cooking, so here we are with a recipe I adapted from a couple of sources for a recent Thai-themed pot luck, which I made with pork.  (Others were doing things with chicken or shrimp…)

Pad Thai

Pork Pad Thai, topped with peanuts, scallion greens and cilantro.  This dish was cooked on-site as a demo at the pot luck.

Pork Pad Thai

My sources:  (I’ve done some adaptations)

* Simple Thai Food, by Leela Punyaratabandhu

This dish takes about 10 – 12 minutes to cook; the devil is in the prepping. Get your mis en place in place ahead of turning on the heat, or you’ll have a real miss…  Give yourself about 45-60 minutes of prep time — there’s always something you have to hunt down!

Pad Thai

Mise almost in place. Note, clockwise, eggs, peanuts, ginger, shallots/garlic, dried shrimp, fish sauce/palm sugar/tamarind, a topping bowl of cilantro and green onion

Pad Thai

The eggs have been mixed, and the soaked rice sticks have been cut into edible portions. You can hardly see the dried shrimp in this shot.  They’re behind that empty Mai Tai cup…

Ingredients: (Serves about six to maybe  eight people as the main course.)

* 12 ounces dried rice sticks.  I am going by Leela’s recommendation and using the 1/8th inch wide ones, Often, what you only find the ¼ inch ones (whatever works!).  They may be sold as Pad Thai noodles or Banh Pho.  (“Pho” means “noodle”; it may even be a more specific word meaning “rice noodle”.)
* 3 tablespoons packed grated palm sugar or 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar.  I will be using less (one half of what the recipe calls for), as I really don’t care for this particular seasoning.  If you make this at home, and you like sweet, double the amount posted here.   Try it without the additional, first — no one seemed to miss it.  (As far as I can tell…)
* 6 tablespoons tamarind pulp.  Tamarind is sweet/tart – I bought a brand with no added sugar, AND no seeds to get (painfully) rid of.  That’s a process in itself — don’t set yourself up for that!
* 6 tablespoons fish sauce.  If going vegetarian, sub in your favorite soy or tamari sauce or coconut aminos.  You’ll also want to pass on the meat/seafood aspects below — perhaps add mushrooms or bok choy or something…)
* 1/4 cup oil. I use refined sesame oil.  Toasted sesame oil would be way too heavy.  Unlike the above ingredients, this was NOT measured, and I think the total amount of oil used was well under the 1/4 cup.  I would recommend going with minimal at the two stages where oil is called for.
* 3 large shallots, approx. 6 ounce total, fine sliced.  Sub in onion or leek if shallots are unavailable.
* 4 large cloves garlic, minced/coarsely chopped, your preference.
* 1 package extra firm tofu, find the firmest possible, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
 You are more likely to find a seriously firm tofu at an Asian market.  For the potluck I used 1 inch by 1/4 inch matchstick cuts, as recommended in the book, but they fell apart more than they needed to.  Cube them.
* 4 tablespoons small dried shrimp, OPTIONAL.  (they are in the refrigerated section at the Asian market.  Who-da thunk?  I had to ask…)  If using, do NOT add salt to this dish!
* 12-16 ounces pork, shrimp, or chicken.  In this case, we are using pork, which I froze about a month ago (on sale), and sliced as thin as possible as it thawed.  If you are using the pork fresh, freeze it for 30-40 minutes, then slice it as thin as possible with a good chef’s knife.  Remove fat before weighing.  If using shrimp, de-shell in advance; and personally I prefer to remove the tail portion of the shell, too.
* 5 large eggs, lightly beaten – just enough to combine whites and yellow.
* About 3-4 cups mung bean sprouts, go heavy if you wish.

Very very optional:  1/2 cup preserved radish, finely chopped (optional) **  (I could only find this mixed with red chili powder, so we played  this one as an add-on condiment when serving!!!)
* Approx two inches peeled, shredded fresh ginger.
* Approx 1 cup / 10 ounces finely chopped or crushed roasted, unsalted peanuts.  
For those of you who do not use peanuts, substitute the same amount of cashews.  Or if you can’t do tree nuts either, leave off, or set them on the side as an option for your guests.
* 6 green onions, one inch lengths, green part only.  
(in the school of waste-not, want-not, I tossed the white parts in with the shallot contingent)
* 2 limes, cut into small wedges, for garnish and flavor
* Optional red chili powder to taste (see above about the preserved radish)
* Fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped.

** Being as this was a pot luck with 16 attendees, I didn’t want to emphasize heat.  The preserved radish in red chili powder sauce actually turned out very interesting and not overly-hot; and I’d recommend in the above recipe, if you cannot find preserved radish alone, adding in 1/8 – 1/4 cup of this, where it says below to add in preserved radish.

Soak noodles in a large bowl of warm water until softened and pliable, 30-40 minutes. Drain well in a colander, and cut into about six inch long pieces with scissors, and cover with a dampened paper towel, or a lid to prevent the rice noodles drying back out again..  Set aside.  While soaking, prep the rest of the ingredients…

Mix the sugar, tamarind and fish sauce in a small bowl until sugar dissolves.  Set aside.

In a skillet or wok, heat about 5 tablespoons of oil, medium high heat.  Add the noodles and stir until coated, about one minute.  Add the sauce from above, stir for another three minutes, remove from pan into a second pan, and set aside, covered.  (Preferably keep it on low heat, but we discovered this is not essential.)

Add a couple more tablespoons of the oil to the first pan, throw in the pork or chicken, and stir for two-three minutes until the pinkness is gone, then add the shallot (including the white part of your scallions), garlic, radish, tofu and dried shrimp, and continue to stir fry.

Move the food to the side, and scramble the eggs on the other side with a spatula in the same pan, about two minutes or until they appear congealed and scrambled. Mix back in at that point with the other food currently in the skillet/wok.

If you are using fresh shrimp, add them here, and stir fry for a minute.  Don’t over cook!

Add back the noodles, and check for noodle done-ness .  If needed add a little water, Add the ginger and at least 3/4 of the sprouts, and mix for another minute or so.  Place in serving bowl

Sprinkle pad Thai on top with green onions/scallions, peanuts and any leftover sprouts, as well as the cilantro.  Serve on the side with lime wedges, red chili powder (or that preserved radish mix in red chili, if you have it), so that people can add these things as they wish.

You are ready to serve!!!

Pad Thai allows a variety of veggies, if you so like.  You can indeed skip the tofu; you can add in mushrooms – straw mushrooms, button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms… etc. Baby corn is good.  Bok choy…  The mung bean sprouts and the tamarind and the peanuts (cashew if you can’t do peanut) seem to be a given.  Personally, I limit the sugar, and if I hadn’t been making this for a Thai-specific pot luck with reasonable authenticity, I would have skipped the sugar entirely, and relied on the tamarind alone for sweetness.  However, I didn’t find the recipe as given above to be too sweet for me.

Pad Thai, Banh Pho

Thai rice sticks, aka Banh Pho.

If you do use pork, you want to find a really  lean cut of pork.  Tenderloin would work, but I ended up with a couple very very lean pieces of thick-cut boneless pork chops from Whole Foods, which being on sale made them about the price of regular supermarket pork chops, with a healthier profile.  That this pork was pastured probably also increased the lean-ness factor in the meat I used.  (There’s a place for pork fat, but this ain’t it…)

For my Paleo readers who don’t want to do peanuts — and for anyone at all remotely allergic or sensitive to peanuts, apparently the most common food allergen around:  Several types of tree nuts rip my gut up.  Peanuts (which are actually legumes) somehow leave me alone.  I don’t like cashews enough to experiment with them in my body.  Use cashews if they work for you, it is supposed to be a one to one substitution, and if you have a problem with peanuts and not tree nuts, think about cashews.

Then again, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the leftover peanuts…

Pad Thai, Tamarind, Fish Sauce

This palm  sugar package is the first sugar package of any sort I’ve bought in at least three years.  (I do pick up small amounts of maple syrup.)  This tamarind paste has had the seeds removed — it will turn your rice sticks dark.  I ended up loving the preserved radish with chilli – not too hot after all!  The fish sauce is good, if you don’t find this one, I understand that Red Boat makes a great one.  Coconut Palm sugar sourced at Whole Foods, the rest at Atlantic Food Market, Main Street, Danbury, CT.    

Note: WordPress spell-check balked at “Thai”, “choy”, and “wok”.





Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cookbooks, Cooking, Meats, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment