Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Firecracker Chicken

Hard to believe that it's been eight months since my last post. I have made myself so busy with work (well I enjoy it so much it is kind of play), baking cooking, photography and all else in between that I haven't had a chance to post. But then it occurred to me. I started this blog to inspire people to get in their kitchens, push their inhibitions aside and get creative while creating tasty memories to share with loved ones. For me, each time I step into the kitchen, I am reminded of something from my past. Whether it be the pancakes my father makes on Sunday mornings, cookies I baked with my sister as a child, or the kreplach and chopped liver recipes that were passed down to my mother from generations ago. Each memory provides a starting point for me to create something. Sometimes it's not even family oriented. When I moved to Israel, I knew there were going to be things that I was going to miss from America. Tropicana Orange Juice. Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut Iced Latte. Chinese Food. I know what you're thinking "Chinese food? Really??" There really isn't anything here that compares to good old fashioned "American" Chinese food. For me, the cardboard take out container is like a gift of yumminess waiting to be unwrapped. For month, I've been trying to work on a  few recipes to recreate that takeout box of yumminess, I finally have a recipe that is a winner! 

Firecracker Chicken 

I make this with dark meat chicken cut into bite size pieces but it works with white meat or even whole boneless skinless chicken as a great alternative to shabbos lunch schnitzel and it's even gluten free! 
Vegetarian option: cauliflower florets or tofu cut into cubes 

While it doesn't come in its own cardboard takeout container, it definitely is worthy of one. Chopsticks are optional, enjoy!

1 lb./500 grams boneless chicken
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. up to a 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup light cooking oil such as canola

1/3 cup sweet chili sauce 
1/4 cup  brown sugar
2 tsp rice wine or apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1-2 tsp sriracha (depending on how hot you want it)

Cooked rice
sliced scallions
toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C

Cut the chicken into the bite size pieces. Place the chicken pieces in a large mixing bowl. Add cornstarch and spices. Toss to coat. In a separate bowl beat the egg and then pour it over the coated chicken. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. To check if the oil is hot enough, sprinkle a drop of chicken coating into the pan, it it sizzles you're ready to fry. Place the chicken in the pan in a single layer and cook one minute per side. By the time you get to the last piece in the pan you should be ready flip the first piece. Depending on the size of your pan this will have to be done in a few batches. After both sides have cooked, place the chicken on a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

To make the sauce, in a large bowl mix together the sweet chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and sriracha. Add the fried chicken pieces and toss to coat. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and add the chicken. Bake for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened

Serve over rice and top with sliced scallions, cilantro, and sesame seeds. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Grouper En Papillote with Fennel, Lemon, and Thyme

I am not going to lie, sometimes after a long day of work and other responsibilities I am so tempted to just pour myself a big bowl of cereal for dinner and just call it a day. However, healthy and elegant looking food is possible and can sometimes take just as long to get into the oven as it takes to pick out which cereal you want for dinner. 

This fish dish looks beautiful and can easily be done for one person or 10. It's also great because it has built in portion control as all the food is to be eaten is in its own individual pouch. The cooking method is called "En Papillote" French for "in parchment," where the food is baked in a folded parchment pouch. Don't let the French scare you as this method is super easy. You can use parchment paper or even a clean brown paper bag. The parcel holds in the moisture and steams the food. This method of cooking can be used for fish, vegetable, lamb or poultry. 

Like I said earlier, cooking in parchment has many benefits; it makes for a beautiful presentation when the parchment is cut open at the table, easy to make single servings, it's basically foolproof, and clean up is a breeze.

For this "En Papillote," I used grouper and fennel with lemon and thyme. Grouper is very mild, firm flesh, white fish and is extremely versatile. Fennel and citrus are a great combination and thyme has a woodsy bright flavor that works beautifully with lemon. 

So save the cereal for breakfast and sit down for a beautiful and healthy dinner tonight. 

4 Grouper Fillets (6 oz. each skin off) 
1 Fennel Bulb 
1-2 Lemons 
12 Sprigs of Thyme 
1/4 cup White Wine 
1.5 Tbs Olive Oil
4 Sheets of Parchment Paper

Preheat oven to 205°C/400°F

Thinly slice fennel and divide into 4 portions, reserving the fronds for garnish. 

Scrub the lemons and thinly slice into 16 pieces. 
Take one sheet of parchment, fold in half and cut into a half-heart shape. 
Open the paper heart and place a mound of fennel 2 inches from the fold. 
Top with one grouper fillet. 
Drizzle each fillet with 1 tablespoon white wine and 1 teaspoon olive oil. 
Season with salt and pepper. 
Place 3 sprigs of thyme and 4 slices of lemon on each fillet. 
Close the paper heart. 
Starting at the top of the half heart, make overlaying quarter inch folds. Make sure to press as you crimp and to seal the parchment packet well, otherwise the steam will escape. 
Place the parchment packets on a baking sheet.
Bake 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your fillets. 
To serve place each packet on a plate and cut open at the table to release the beautiful aroma and for a gorgeous presentation. Top with reserved fennel fronds.