Pulled Jerk Chicken

I cook often, but my actual taste preferences are limited. I like what I like and because of that, I don’t tend to try a lot of new things. There are few things that can kill my mood than a meal that I didn’t like. So I don’t take the risk. However, if someone I trust recommends something new to me, I’ll give it a shot, which is what happened for my birthday back in 2016. My sister took me to a Caribbean spot downtown and I had jerk chicken for the first time. There were greens and plantains on the side. It was delicious.

We try not to eat out too often to save money, but recently I found myself still really wanting some jerk chicken. I did a quick internet search to see what goes into making it and found out it’s really not that complicated. And as chicken itself is one of the cheaper proteins, I decided to give it my best shot. This is what ended up happening and I thought it turned out well enough to share with y’all.

I really believe in letting my meats sit in marinades overnight, even if it’s mainly just a spice rub. It gives the spices plenty of time to permeate the meat and maximizes the amount of flavor you’ll get the next day–and also minimizes the amount of extra seasoning you’ll have to add the next day of cooking. For this spice rub, I used a combination of cinnamon, cumin and allspice, along with soy sauce that I rubbed into the meat to help it stick (it also gives a great ‘rich’ salty flavor).

After the chicken gets seared, you’re gonna put together the sauce–and I really do love this sauce. I did some tweaking from other jerk recipes I’ve seen, swapping out lemon juice for lime, cutting out the vinegar (as I think the lime juice makes it plenty acidic enough) and adding some brown sugar and chicken broth just to round things out. Altogether, along with those Scotch bonnets, it makes a sweet and spicy sauce for the seared chicken to braise in the oven with until it’s fork tender and falling off the bone. This is also another one of those braises that tastes even better the next day as the flavors have even more time to develop and deepen. For a perfect Caribbean meal, make it with these Maple Curry Plantains alongside rice and crusty bread.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #225, co-hosted this week by Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Pulled Jerk Chicken

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 4 lbs chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce, plus more for spice rub, divided
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, sliced into wedges
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 medium scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups cilantro (about 1 bunch), coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, sliced into rounds
  • 2 cups chicken broth

Directions

Combine the cinnamon, cumin and allspice together in a bowl with a fork. Massage a few dashes of soy sauce into the surface of the chicken (not the 1/3 cup, that’s for later), then rub the spice mixture into the meat. Place the meat into sealable gallon size bag, seal it, then toss the meat around in the bag to make sure the seasoning is evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of  Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the chicken on both sides about 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove from pot once browned and keep covered with foil. Deglaze the pan with about 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up the brown bits. Allow to simmer until liquid is mostly cooked off, then place the onions in the pot. Allow to cook until they’re translucent and softened, 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes more.

Add the lime juice, molasses, orange juice, the 1/3 cup of soy sauce, peppercorns, brown sugar, scallions, cilantro, thyme, ginger, remaining 1 cup of broth and peppers. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and bring to a simmer, allowing to cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Add the chicken back to the pot. Cover tightly and place in the oven, bake until meat is fork tender and pulling off the bone, about 1 1/2-2 hours. When the chicken is ready, remove it to a cutting board.  Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer, and pour it back into the pot. Pull the meat off the bones and discard them along with the fatty parts and skin. Place the meat back into the pot and toss in the sauce.

Serve with rice or on crusty sandwich bread.

Orange Sage Glazed Ham

We don’t eat ham very often, but every time we do I wonder why and how I always seem to forget how much I love it. I don’t understand why ham catches the flack that it does–people either seem to love it or hate and the majority of people I know are inclined to the latter. Crazies.

Debate among yourselves about the whys–we like and eat ham ’round here and in case some of y’all will be too, I thought that Easter weekend would be a good time to share the most recent way that I made it.

I really don’t think that much needs to be done to a ham if it’s pre-smoked. So long as you have a good spice rub and glaze, the oven should be doing most of the work. That’s certainly the case here. It may take some time to cook, but this recipe couldn’t be easier to put together.

Citrus works really well with pork, especially orange.  You’ll be using both the zest and the juice; nothing wasted. For the rub, fresh sage gets mashed together with oil and the zest to form a thick paste that you’re going to schmear all over the ham. Let it do its thing in the oven while you put together the orange glaze that’s spiced with cloves and cinnamon. By the time it finishes cooking it’ll be thick, syrupy and spicy-sweet, which is exactly where you want it to be.

I know it takes a little bit, but your patience in letting the ham bake low and slow will allow the oven to render out the fat across the top. Once it’s cooked through and the glaze gets poured over it, the sugars in the glaze caramelize to form a thick, dark crust; it’s such a beautiful thing. The smells alone are gonna get you. The sweet tartness of the glaze balances out the saltiness of the ham. The spice of the cloves is also a nice flavor to balance out them both.

Also, let’s be honest: half of the reason I love making ham so much is that the leftovers make the BEST sandwiches or protein for salads. Or, if you really wanted to get creative you could use some of your leftovers on this bread pudding I made a few weeks ago.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate, and a Happy Fiesta Friday#217, co-hosted this week by Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl and Angie@ Fiesta Friday.

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Orange Sage Glazed Ham

Recipe Adapted from Tyler Florence

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Ingredients

  • 1 8-10 pound bone in, skin on spiral ham
  • Seasoned salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cubed
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Place ham in a large roasting pan, fat side up. Using a sharp knife, score the ham with cuts across the skin, about 2-inches apart and 1/2-inch deep. Cut diagonally down the slashes to form a diamond pattern; season the meat generously with the seasoned salt and pepper.

Roughly chop the sage leaves and place in a small bowl with the orange zest. Drizzle in the oil to form a thick paste. Rub the paste all over the ham, making sure you get down into some of the slits. Bake uncovered for about 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in the orange juice, the butter, brown sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Slowly cook down until it form a syrupy glaze—this will take 45-50 minutes.

At the end of the 90 minutes, pour all of the glaze over the ham, cinnamon sticks and all. Continue to bake and baste with the pan juices every 15 minutes for an additional 35-45 minutes. Crank the heat up to 400 to allow a dark sugary crust to form across the top of the ham, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow the ham to rest before carving for about 15 minutes.

Spinach Ham Bread Pudding with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Hey y’all.

Sorry about missing last week. I don’t have a good excuse–I was just in an off mood and for some reason couldn’t get enough focus. I kept pushing back and procrastinating in writing the post until I finally just decided that it wasn’t going to happen. I have been doing quite a bit of both cooking and baking to try and perk myself up though, so you’ll get to see the product of that in the coming weeks.

When I cook and bake, I usually have a habit of making quite a bit of food at one time. This is mostly so that I don’t have to do very much heavy cooking throughout the week. I know it’s not for everyone, but we’re staunch believers in meal prep and leftovers round here. As such, I try and re-purpose the leftovers into new dishes, just to mix things up and not get bored.

Last week’s post were these English scones that I flavored with orange. Because I doubled the recipe we actually had quite a few left over and although it would’ve been fine to just eat them on their own, I got an idea for another way to use them.

We usually have breakfast for dinner once a week and I wanted to do something a bit different than biscuits or pancakes (either one is what I’ll usually make). When I saw that I also had some leftover ham in the fridge, I knew that there was one of two ways we could go with it: scone breakfast sandwiches, or I could go ahead and try to make a bread pudding-strata…thingy to share on the blog.

As you can see, the bread pudding-strata thingy won out.

First of all, I know that most strata and bread pudding recipes call for a French bread or a sturdy type of bread like challah or brioche to be used as the base. If you are in a hurry then you can of course go ahead and buy some in a store for this–it’ll still turn out great. However. If you’ve got the time, I really do recommend making and using the scones as the bread base. I know it may seem like an odd choice, as the scones are on the sweet side and this is a savory dish.

But they work. They really do. The orange flavor gives the dish a special taste that we agreed it wouldn’t have if I had just used regular bread. The next time I make this, you can bet I’ll be putting in the extra effort to and baking the scones to use as the base.

If ham is not your favorite protein, then you can definitely substitute it for another protein–sausage, turkey sausage, chicken-sausage. You could leave the meat out entirely if you’d like to make it vegetarian and just use mushrooms. Don’t sweat it too much. This bread pudding-strata thingy is very forgiving in terms of swapping out ingredients.

I know I could’ve left it plain and still had a tasty dish, but I’m a huge condiment lover. Plus, as most bread puddings DO have sauces on the side I decided I would make a sauce for this one.

This is what I like to call a little ‘recipe recycling’. You guys remember the spiced meatballs I made earlier last August? Well I decided on a whim to try and see if the sauce that I made to go along with the meatballs would also pair nicely with the bread pudding-strata thingy. The sauce looks like it’s a tomato base, but it’s actually roasted red peppers, roasted onions and roasted garlic that I pureed together in the blender, then simmered over the stove with smoked paprika and a few other spices. I really love it all on its own and I thought that it would be worth a try to see what else I could ‘recycle’ it with.

I was once again, pleasantly surprised. The sauce was a perfect smoky compliment to the bread pudding/strata, that in and of itself has a very nice balance of sweetness from the scones, and saltiness from the ham and cheese. Even with the meat and carbs, it filled me up without making me feel too full. I’m not really sure what the proper term for this thing would be considering that I think it somehow manages to check all the boxes of bread pudding, strata, casserole, and breakfast bake at the same time. I’m not sure the name of it really matters considering that we really liked this, and I think you would too. So why not give it a try?

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #214, co-hosted this week by Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl and Antonia @ Zoale.com.

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Spinach Ham Bread Pudding with Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

Recipe Adapted from The Kitchn

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 4 cups 1-inch cubes of bread (I used these leftover English scones, but you’re free to use any kind of bread you like)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • Seasoned salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups diced ham
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese

Smoky Red Pepper Sauce

  • 6-7 red bell peppers, de-stemmed, seeded and cut into halves or quarters
  • 3 sweet yellow onions, cut in halves
  • 1 whole head of garlic, outer loose skin removed, but still whole
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout spice mix (optional, if you can’t find it you can always use cumin)
  • 2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2- dashes Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Place the bread cubes in a medium size bowl and stir together with 1 cup of the milk. Allow to sit for 10 minutes, until bread has absorbed most of the liquid.

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, the remaining 3/4 cup of milk, garlic, sage, thyme and seasoned salt and pepper. Beat together with a fork.

Grease a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Spread half of the bread cubes in the dish. Scatter half of the ham, spinach and cheeses on top of the cubes in an even layer. Drizzle half of the egg-milk mixture over that. Repeat, layering the rest of the bread, then the ham/spinach and cheese, then pour the rest of the egg-milk on top.

Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350°F. Uncover the dish then bake on the middle rack until the top is golden brown and the pudding is firm in the middle, 55-60 minutes. Serve warm with the sauce.

For the Sauce: Rub about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil on top of garlic head. Sprinkle the top with salt & pepper and place in the middle of a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a package. Place on a half sheet pan and bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes. Remove and allow to cool until warm enough to handle.

Meanwhile, crank oven up to 450°. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Drizzle the peppers with oil, salt & pepper, then arrange with the cut sides down on the pans. Roast in the oven until the skins have started to char & separate from the inner flesh and the peppers have started to collapse, about 25-30 minutes (you may need to rotate pans halfway to ensure even roasting).

Remove the peppers and onions to a bowl and cover with foil to allow to cool down, about 30 minutes. Once cool, use your fingers to rub away the outer skins of the red peppers (they should come away easily). Discard skins and place roasted veggies into a blender or food processor. Take the roasted garlic head and break off individual cloves. Use your fingers to press/squeeze out the pulp into the container of the blender/processor with the veggies. (It should come out very easily). Place the lid on, and puree the mixture together on high speed until very smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Pour in the beef broth and add the spices, Soy and Worcestershire sauces, sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and allow sauce to cook for about 20 minutes.

Soy Ginger Chicken Fajitas

I’ve said before on the blog that I’m not a huge fan of most 30 minute or less recipes and with a few exceptions, I’m standing behind that. No shade to Rachael, but I just prefer to take a little bit more time with preparing my food. The longer that the spices have to cook, the more they can infuse into the ingredients and make them taste better. There are certain dishes–like braises or stews that I actually prefer to eat the next day after I’ve cooked them, just to give the flavors time to develop. I could name a few desserts that work the same way.

For the most part, it’s just better to have at least one hour of cooking time available for your dishes–better for the food and also better for your tastebuds. Now, I did say ‘for the most part’. There are exceptions to every rule.

After all, sometimes after a very long day when you come home hungry and dog tired,  the last thing you probably want to do is get out a bunch of dishes and stand over a stove for a prolonged period of time just to whip up a meal. You just want to sit down and be able to eat. I get it.

A perfectly cooked and steak can (and depending on the size, should) certainly be made in thirty minutes or less. With a tasty enough sauce, most stir fries can be whipped up in 30 minutes. I can make myself a delicious egg in the basket in less than 10. I’m certainly not above browning some ground beef, using a taco seasoning packet and taco sauce to make quick tacos. And if I REALLY don’t feel like cooking, yes. I too will pick up a rotisserie chicken, shred that bad boy and mix it into a homemade salad for dinner.

And then there’s fajitas. Chicken fajitas is another one of the ‘quick meals’ we whip up around here when no one feels like doing much labor intensive cooking, but we also don’t want to order out either. I usually make huge batches of it to last a few days and we can use the meat for various types of meals: tacos, salads, sandwiches, whatever. Today’s recipe is the latest version I made for us. Normally I stick to a Latin cuisine flavor profile, but this time I switched it up a bit. Here the chicken is flavored with soy sauce, mirin, ginger and sesame oil so that they have more of an Asian flair to them.

A few things I particularly love about this: first, it doubles as both a 30 minute meal, BUT the spices have also been given plenty of time to permeate the chicken and give them plenty of flavor thanks to a marinade that they sit in overnight. The night before, mix together the marinade and place the chicken inside. The next day when you’re ready to put dinner together, all you gotta do is cook the chicken over high heat so that it cooks quickly, then give a quick saute to some onions and peppers. That’s it. Plenty of flavor to go around for what’s a pretty low effort meal. I know I don’t have to say it but I will anyway: this was really good stuff. Please do help yourself.

Linking this up to Fiesta Friday #209, co-hosted by Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.

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Soy Ginger Chicken Fajitas

Recipe Adapted from Williams Sonoma

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Ingredients

  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 large yellow sweet onion
  • A few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil
  • Tortilla shells, for serving

Directions

Cut the chicken into small strips and place inside a gallon size Ziploc bag.

Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and brown sugar in a bowl. Pour over the chicken in the Ziploc bag and seal. Place the bag in a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Pour the oil into a large skillet and bring to a medium-high heat. Take the chicken out of the marinade and sear it in batches in the skillet until golden brown. Keep cooked chicken in a bowl you cover with foil until all of it is cooked.

Once the meat is finished, saute the peppers with the onions in the skillet until softened and slightly charred, about 5-10 minutes.

Spoon the chicken into tortilla shells with the veggies and serve drizzled with sweet chili sauce and/or sriracha.

Beef Carbonnade

I’m going to piggyback off my last week’s post where I gave some free advice that I’ve picked up along the way of my own cooking journey. I’ve mentioned before on here that I have a not-so-minor addiction to buying/collecting cookware, bakeware and kitchen appliances. The majority of my Amazon wishlist is composed of the above. The shopping spree of my dreams would legit be at Williams Sonoma, where I could literally buy any and everything that I want. The more cooking/baking techniques and different dishes that I learn, the more gadgets and appliances I want in order to make them or take certain dishes to a certain level.

Just as there’s a lot of cooking advice to be taken in, there are just as many pieces of cookware, bakeware, gadgets or appliances out there. It’s perfectly fine to get a collection going once you’ve hit your stride and feel pretty confident in your abilities. However if you’re just starting out and and are just looking to *begin* stocking your cabinets with pots/pans, my advice to you would be similar to the advice I gave last week.

Less is more– at least in the beginning.

If you go to just about any Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s or even Target and Walmart you’re going to be able to find the huge sets of cookware that usually come with a few pots, skillets and spatualas. Those are fine–I’d even say that they’re a worthwhile investment provided it’s from a good company/brand.

The only thing is, the majority of cookware sets aren’t going to have what I personally consider a must-have in the kitchen collection of amateur and expert cooks alike. Any guesses on what it is?

Never mind, I’ll just tell you: it’s a Dutch oven.

One of the best decisions I ever made on my cooking journey was to invest in a good Dutch oven. It was a real game changer. Prior to that I had been using a stock pot. Trust me, there’s a big difference and in my opinion, no comparison between the two. There’s just no beating how many different uses you can get out of a Dutch oven.

You’re going to get more latitude from a Dutch oven which gives more surface area for a more even cook. I learned how to fry chicken while using a Dutch oven (they’re taller and also hold/distribute heat even better than cast iron).Most are pretty big–enough too make big pots of stew, soup and chili. They’re big and also wide enough to fit whole roasts and the vegetables. The Cephalon ones are my favorite; it’s a good non-stick surface that doesn’t wear out and the structure of the pot itself is strong and durable.

A good Dutch oven isn’t the cheapest thing you could buy for your kitchen, but I would still say it’s probably the best thing you could buy whether you’re starting out or not. It’s a *really* good investment. Anything you can make in those chintzy skillets or pots you got in a set, you can (and likely should) be making in a Dutch oven instead. When I was thinking about what I wanted to say for this post, all I could think about was how perfect it turned out BECAUSE of my Dutch oven.

So listen, guys. The advice for the week is: get a Dutch oven.

This recipe is pretty basic, as stick to your ribs food should be. Meat + onions + gravy = Boom. I think the mace and the smoked paprika in the spice rub give the meat a special ‘something’ that really works.  Beef & chicken broth, beer, and apple cider form the base of the gravy. There’s also juuuuust a tad bit of apple cider vinegar that gets added to it–I was nervous about the acidity but it’s actually just right.

Dutch ovens were *made* for meals like this. You want a Dutch oven so that you too can make rich, hearty braises with savory meat that simmers away in rich, hearty broth until it’s fork tender, filling your kitchen with the most glorious of smells. Now theoretically, could you make this in a stockpot if you didn’t have a Dutch oven yet? Eh…yeah. I guess. But the Dutch oven will give you the space and heat distribution that will give you the best results. SO GET ONE.

Sharing this post at Fiesta Friday #207, co-hosted this week by  Lily @ Little Sweet Baker and Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com.

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Beef Carbonnade

Recipe Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds top blade steaks, chuck roast, or tri tip steak, trimmed of gristle and fat cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium sweet yellow onions, halved and cut 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz bottle) dark beer or stout
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • A few dashes of soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Seasoned salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

 

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a small bowl, combine the seasoned salt and pepper, onion powder, mace, smoked paprika, dried thyme, and brown sugar with a fork.

Place the meat into a large bowl and sprinkle about half of the spice mix over it. Stir, then sprinkle the rest on top and stir until evenly coated.

Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil (or butter, or solidified bacon fat) in the bottom of a Dutch oven over high heat. Sear the meat on all sides until browned. (You may have to do this in 2 batches in order to not crowd the pot) Remove the meat to a medium bowl and keep covered with aluminum foil.

Deglaze the pan with the apple cider, allow to simmer until the liquid is mostly dissolved, then add the onions to the pot,  and lower the heat down to medium. Allow the onions to cook until translucent and limpened, around 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic, stir  and allow to cook for about 5-7 more minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the onions, allow to cook until flour is slightly browned, about 2 more minutes.

Add the broths, beer, cider vinegar, bay leaves, soy sauce. Stir to scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat back to medium. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Place the beef back into the pot.

Cover the pot with a lid, or tightly with aluminum foil and place on the bottom rack of the oven. Cook until a fork inserted in the beef meets little resistance; it should be close to pull apart tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

To make gravy: In a small bowl, combine a few tablespoons of flour with about 1/2 cup cool water. Use a whisk to stir until the flour dissolves. Strain several cups of the cooked beef broth into a saucepan, then pour in the flour water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, stirring a few times. Allow to simmer until thickened into a gravy, about 15-20 minutes.

Falafel Patties

How was everyone’s holiday? You get any good presents? Eat any good food?

I hope the answer to both of those questions is yes. You deserve both.

Here we are at the end of 2017, and I feel like this year just flew by. My cooking and baking schedule for December is almost always hectic as I’m busy putting together recipes and posts for the 12 Days of Christmas series I do every year on the blog. Then all at once the holiday comes, the bustle is over and everything is calm and lax.

A lot of us have a tendency to indulge in a whole lot of sweet and not so lean treats during the holidays that after a while may feel like a sugar overload. I certainly love my carbs and sweets and I’ll never give them up–but after a while I too find myself craving leaner foods with fresh ingredients that leave you feeling full but not bloated or lethargic.

Usually when I get those cravings, I go to particular cuisine: Mediterranean.

Apart from soul food, if I had to pick a cuisine to eat for the rest of my life it would definitely be Mediterranean/Lebanese. I’m addicted to so many things about it: the fresh ingredients, the bright, zesty seasoning and spices, the satisfaction it brings to my belly without making me feel guilty if I ate a lot of it. It’s just the best.

I’ve shared a few of my favorite Mediterranean dishes on the blog already, and I highly recommend that you check them out, as they’d make a good accompaniment to the dish I want to share with you guys today.

No, I mean it. Chicken Shawarma and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, stat. They’ll change your life.

My ‘must-haves’ for a Mediterranean meal include a plate of chicken shawarma, hummus and falafel.  It’s the perfect trio. I hope to God that you know what falafel is, but on the most outrageous of off chances that you don’t…it’s a mixture of ground chickpeas, veggies and spices that are mixed together and then usually deep fried until crispy on the outside.

I say ‘usually’ because I’ve recently found that falafel doesn’t always have to be fried to taste good.

The base ingredients for traditional falafel are still here: you’ve still got your chickpeas, parsley, lemon juice, cilantro and garlic. I also added in plenty of cumin and smoked paprika with some other spices that I thought complemented the others well. I do recommend that you allow the mix to sit in the refrigerator overnight for two reasons: first, the colder it is, the more time it has to firm up and be easier to shape into patties. Second, it allows the flavors to marinate and develop into the beans.

The process of cooking the falafels is simple. After shaping them into patties, they get a quick sear on the stove, then a few minutes in the oven.From there, you can do whatever you like with them; eat them as a sandwich on a bun, stuff one into a pita, crumble them up into a salad, or even just eat it all on its own dipped in hummus. All of these are good choices.

I am most definitely not a vegetarian and it’s very safe to say I will never become one. I love poultry too much to do that. However! I will say that for several days I ate falafel patty sandwiches and found myself uncharacteristically not missing the meat. The garbanzo beans give the patty a ‘meaty’ texture and the fiber in them fills you up in an even better way than meat because your stomach doesn’t feel as heavy. These are really good and I think they’d be a nice way to start the year off if you’re in need of a lighter meal.

Linking this last post of 2017 up to Fiesta Friday #204, co-hosted this week by Sandhya @ Indfused.com.

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Falafel Patties

Recipe Adapted from Chowhound.com

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled (preferably roasted garlic)
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Canola, vegetable or peanut oil for frying

 

 

Directions

Place the chickpeas in a bowl of cold water, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours or at least overnight. Drain well. They’ll expand to about 4 cups.

Place 2 cups of the beans in a food processor (or blender). Pulse a few times, then process until a smooth paste. (If the mixture is too chunky, add about 2 tablespoons of water to the food processor or blender to make it smoother). Remove to a small bowl, then pour in the other half of the beans. Pulse these a few times until they are mostly chunky—they don’t need to be as smooth as the first batch, it’s alright if there are some large bits still in there. Remove the second batch of processed beans with the first to the bowl. Place the herbs, lemon juice, spices and baking powder in the processor and process thoroughly. Pour the chickpeas back into the processor and process mixture all together. (If too thick and ‘dry’ to hold together, add a couple tablespoons more of water. If need be, you can also do this in batches, then mix it all together in a bowl afterwards).

Refrigerate the falafel mix overnight to allow it to firm up and for flavors to fully develop.

Scoop the falafel out with about heaping 1/3 cup measure, then shape into patties. Refrigerate patties for 30 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add three patties to the pan, then cook for about 6 minutes per side. Remove to a wire rack that you place over a sheet pan. Repeat frying process with your remaining patties and oil until finished.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the patties in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes before serving on toasted hamburger buns or inside/alongside pita bread.

(Note: You don’t have to bake the patties in the oven if their initial consistency/taste after frying is okay with you. I like to bake mine to give the chickpeas as ’cooked’ a flavor as possible, but it’s not mandatory. )

Roasted Garlic Pot Roast

As the autumn progresses and the weather begins to cool down, there are certain foods that I start getting crazy cravings for. I’ve already mentioned this with regards to baking which is why for the past few weeks I’ve been sharing a bunch of sweets that have appeased my fall sweet tooth. However my seasonal needs definitely apply to savory foods too. The colder it gets, the more you want ‘stick to your ribs’ kind of food that warms you up on the inside and just makes you want to curl up and take a nap after dinner.

Pot roast is one of those dishes for me and I think it’s pretty safe to say it is for most people. It’s red meat that’s roasted in gravy, usually served with some kind of starch like mashed potatoes and rice. What’s not to love about it? Not only is it delicious, it’s easy to throw together, then allow to cook in the oven or the slow cooker.

With comfort food, there’s usually not a lot of bells and whistles to the preparation, and that’s really how it ought to be. Simple, minimal ingredients. Not too much effort. Maximum taste and satisfaction.

And wouldn’t you know it? I happen to have just the dish for y’all to make for autumn that really does deliver on all three.

Before I’d made this dish, I had never even tried roasted garlic before. I’d certainly never roasted it myself. After having changed both of those circumstances, I’m now resolved to never eat it any other way *but* roasted. You just wouldn’t believe how easy it is to make, and how much of a difference it makes in flavor.

Because the garlic is the main ‘star’ of the dish, this recipe does call for quite a bit to be roasted at one time. Four to six heads, actually. Yes–whole heads. It sounds like overkill, but it isn’t. You’re using it in both the marinade AND in the dish itself, which will result in a gravy you want packed with flavor. Also keep in mind, if you absolutely insist on dialing back the garlic flavor you can always use a smaller amount and stash the leftover in your fridge for another use.

Roasting the garlic is fool-proof. You drizzle the garlic heads with olive oil and wrap them in a foil package. You place that foil package in a baking dish, then throw the baking dish into the oven for about an hour. After letting them cool off, you’ll be able to easily pluck the cloves off the head and give them a good squeeze; they’ll come out of the skins like a smooth pulp. That kids, is roasted garlic. Next to bacon fat it’s pretty much nectar of the Gods.

After letting the meat marinade overnight (something I really must insist that you do), you can get to the business of searing, then roasting. We have to have a discussion about the gravy because apart from the tenderness of the meat, the gravy of a pot roast is the most important thing. It’s just gotta be ‘right’. This one is more than right. It’s friggin fantastic.

Roasted Garlic. Beer. Crushed Ginger Snaps. Tomato Paste. All of that (and a bit more) is included in the gravy that’s made with this roast and it all works together. The taste is (of course) garlicky, but it’s also tangy, sweet and a bit spicy. I didn’t even have to thicken it over the stove after the roast was cooked through–the consistency is perfect straight out of the Dutch oven.

A few things are needless to say, but I’ll say them anyhow: first, we gobbled this up. Second, I’m probably not going to wait until autumn every year to cook this roast. It’s the year-round good eats variety. Third, I now look for excuses to put roasted garlic in *all* of my savory dishes. I’m currently searching for a way to incorporate it into my bread-making routine. Fourth, you all should be planning on trying this for yourselves. Sharing this post at the Fiesta Friday #194, co-hosted this week by  Petra @ Food Eat Love and Vanitha @ Curry and Vanilla.

Have a good weekend, all.

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Roasted Garlic Pot Roast

Recipe Adapted from Laura Frankel

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Ingredients

For Roasted Garlic

  • 4-6 heads of garlic
  • About 1 tablespoon of oil (olive, canola, vegetable are all fine)
  • Salt & pepper

For Marinade

  • 1 head of roasted garlic (see above)
  • 1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • About 1-2 tablespoons Soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Seasoned salt, pepper, onion powder

For Roast/Sauce

  • About 5-6 lb chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat and preferably tied
  • 2 large yellow sweet onions, thickly sliced
  • 3 heads of the roasted garlic (you can use less if you want less garlic flavor)
  • 2 14.5 oz cans of low-sodium beef broth
  • 1-2 cups of Guinness beer (or another stout; just as long as it’s something you’d be fine with drinking)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed ginger snaps (I used Trader Joe’s gingersnaps)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • A few dashes of fish sauce (soy sauce works fine too)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Peel the loose skin away from the garlic and cut the tops off of the heads, but make sure the cloves stay attached to each other. Place them on a long strip of aluminum foil. Drizzle them with the oil and sprinkle evenly with salt & pepper.

Draw up the ends of the foil and tightly seal it into a package. Place the foil package in a shallow dish. Roast in the oven for about 50 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then remove the roasted garlic to a small bowl by pressing the cloves out of the remaining skins and into a small bowl with your fingers (they should come out easily).

Place the beef in a sealable plastic container or a Ziploc bag. Rub the soy sauce over the surface of the meat, then sprinkle evenly with salt/pepper/onion powder. In a small bowl, combine the 1 head of roasted garlic, brown sugar, vinegar and tomato paste. Mash and stir together into a paste with a fork. Pour this over the meat. Seal and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven or pot over high heat.  Sear the meat on both sides until a crust forms, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and cover with foil (don’t wipe out the bottom of the pot). Add the onions and stir together. Add the beer and deglaze the pot, scraping up the bottom bits. Place the onions with the meat. Add the crushed ginger snaps, tomato paste, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, cinnamon, coriander to the pot and stir together. Add salt & pepper to taste. (If the sauce is too thick you can add additional broth, beer or water to thin it out).

Place the beef and onions back into the pot. Cover with lid or tightly with aluminum foil and roast in the oven, about 1 1/2-2 hours, until a fork can pierce through the thickest part of the meat easily. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with the sauce given off in the pot.