Wednesday, April 20, 2011

j-cat's balls

Wow, you have a dirty mind, I was just talking about matzo balls. I made the soup, J-Cat made the balls, we ended up eating it on Sunday instead of waiting until Passover actually began because I wound up sick. Good timing.

The key to great chicken soup is a great chicken stock, and there's really nothing to it. I had roasted a chicken earlier in the week, so the carcass made the stock, and stock made from a previously roasted chicken just always seems to have a deeper flavor than one made of a boiled whole chicken. If you plan ahead, I also recommend making the stock a day ahead, straining and refrigerating, then skimming off the fat that rises to the top the next morning. Use this fat to make the matzo balls and you will discover a whole new world of amazing balls. Recipe after the jump:


For the chicken stock:
1 small whole chicken, 3-3.5 pounds, or the leftover carcass and meat of a larger roasted chicken (I had the carcass and about half the meat of a 4.5 lb chicken)
2 medium carrots, cut in large chunks
2 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
10 black pepper corns

Place the chicken in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. If using a previously roasted chicken, remove majority of the cooked meat and set aside to add to the completed soup, adding just the carcass to the pot. Set heat on high and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, add the remaining ingredients, and cover. If using a raw chicken, cook 45 minutes until the meat is cooked and easily comes off the bone. Remove the chicken, pull off majority of the meat and set aside to add to the completed soup. Return the carcass to the pot and continue to simmer for another hour. Strain the stock and discard the solids. At this stage you can let the stock cool completely, then refrigerate for later use. When the stock is fully cold, skim off the fat and use in the matzo balls.

For the matzo balls:
3 eggs
2 tbsp chicken fat
1/2 cup water
1 cup matzo meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large stockpot. Mix the eggs, fat, and water together. Add the matzo meal, baking powder, salt and pepper, and mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes. Form small balls with your hands (easiest if they're wet) and drop into the boiling stock. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot, and cook for 30 minutes.

For the soup:
2 medium carrots, cut into rounds
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
leftover cooked chicken, shredded into bite-sized pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

About 10 minutes into cooking the matzo balls, add the carrots, celery, and onion and continue cooking. About 5 minutes before the matzo balls are ready, add the chicken, fresh dill, and salt and pepper.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

insisting on spring

Weather, what a tease. We had the briefest glimpse of warmth and sun, followed by a plunge back into the depths of a winter than just won't end. Did you know that one year ago today it broke 90 degrees in NYC? Yeah.

Anyway, enough with the winter, I refuse to acknowledge its death grip on the city. I will eat spring foods and I will not wear my winter coat or boots. I will make risotto with fresh peas and leeks and bright happy lemon, and that's that. Recipe after the jump:


1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, thoroughly washed and sliced into half-rings
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups fresh shelled peas
zest of one lemon
1 cup freshly grated parmiggiano-reggiano
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped fresh mint, optional

Heat the stock in a small saucepot and keep at a low simmer at a burner adjacent to where you will cook the risotto.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the dry rice and saute to coat the grains with the fat. Add the wine and stir until fully absorbed. Add 1 cup of the hot stock and stir until absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1 ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until absorbed before adding the next ladle.

When the rice is almost al dente, about 30 minutes, add the peas. Continue to cook until peas are tender, about 5 minutes. Take off the heat, add the lemon zest and cheese and stir to incorporate. Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm topped with chopped mint.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

it's not burned

It's balsamic. Four ingredients, 20 minutes, really tasty. I use chicken thighs because they are better. Really, they are tastier. Chicken breasts are boring. If you MUST use breasts, at least get bone-in skin on. And yes, in this case, eat the skin, otherwise it will not taste like the sauce. Skin is delicious, and after a couple minutes under the broiler this skin gets delightfully crispy and sticky from the balsamic. This cannot be easier nor tastier. One tip: when the balsamic is on the stove simmering away and reducing down, don't stick your face right over the pot. Recipe after the jump:


1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pound)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450. Combine the vinegar and garlic in a small saucepot and set over medium high heat. Bring to a light boil and allow to bubble until reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and set aside.

While the balsamic is reducing, set a heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the hot skillet skin side down and sear until browned, 3-5 minutes. Remove the chicken, pour off excess fat, then return the chicken skin side up. Place the skillet in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

Remove skillet from oven. Turn the oven to broil. Brush the chicken thighs with the balsamic, then set under the broiler until bubbly, about 2-3 minutes.

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