Aug 26 2010

Hot and Sweet Beef Jerky Recipes

August 26th, 2010 at 4:52 am (AST) by Jake Richter

A couple of weeks ago or so, I wrote about experimenting with a food dehydrator. Since then, we made a few more batches of beef jerky as well as dehydrated lime zest.

Home made Hot & Spicy Indonesian beef jerky

Home made Hot & Spicy Indonesian beef jerky

I came up with two marinades that produced a rather tasty set of jerky, and wanted to share them here.

Both of the marinades below cover 2-3 lbs of lean beef (I used a top round), sliced relatively thin. To give you an idea of what thin means to me in this context, the average slice of beef was about 1/8″ thick, 3″ long, and about 1″ high.

I found that with our dehydrator, it was sufficient to dry the jerky for 3-4 hours at 155°F.

Directions that came with the food dehydrator suggested using paper towels to blot any fat left on the jerky after dehydration to cut down on the chance that the fat would turn rancid after a few days, and then storing the jerky in the refrigerator after it had cooled down. They also suggested using sodium nitrate (saltpeter) to preserve the jerky longer, but we didn’t have any available, and the jerky was great without it.

Here are the two recipes I came up with.

Sweet Chipotle Beef Jerky Marinade

Ingredients
  • 2 canned chipotle peppers with a bit of the sauce from the can (1-2 Tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or regular brown sugar if you wish)
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
Place all of the above ingredients in a blender and puree. Then cover sliced beef with contents of blender and let marinade for 3-6 hours (or even overnight) before dehydrating.

Sweet Chipotle marinated beef for jerky

Sweet Chipotle marinated beef for jerky

Hot & Sweet Indonesian Beef Jerky Marinade

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ketjap manis (soy sauce with molasses and sugar)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp sambal oelek (an Indonesian-style chili paste)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • (optional if you want it sweeter) 1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or regular brown sugar if you wish)

Place all of the above ingredients in a bowl, mix with a spoon or fork until all ingredients are well mixed and distributed. Then cover sliced beef with contents of bowl and let marinade for 3-6 hours (or even overnight) before dehydrating.


Jun 8 2010

Recipe: Indonesian Bami (Fried Noodles)

June 8th, 2010 at 9:50 am (AST) by Jake Richter

One of the benefits of living on a small Dutch island is the rich culinary history of past Dutch possessions that has become part of modern day culture. In particular, the Dutch once controlled large swaths of Indonesia, and people from Indonesia emigrated to Holland and to Dutch Guyana, which, about 50 years ago, became Suriname. And here on Bonaire, the Surinamese have a thriving local community, bringing with them Indonesian cuisine, modified by the availability of local ingredients.

On the menus of most of the snacks (small eateries) you’ll find dishes like Nasi Goreng or Bami Goreng, for example, and the super markets always carry Indonesian-style dried spices, sambal, and Ketsap (also known as Ketjap or Kecap).

One of our favorite localized Indonesian dishes before we moved more towards a low-carb life style was “Bami”, which are seasoned fried noodles, similar to lo mein, but with a distinctly Indonesian style.

Without further ado, below is my localized recipe for Indonesian-style Bami, in honor of our friend Dara who is visiting with us at the moment, and who also requested this dish for dinner tonight. Special thanks go to Rudolph from Suriname, who pointed me in the right direction for this recipe.

Indonesian-style Bami

(Ingredient measurement are approximate – experiment to find the right flavor for your taste)

Ingredients:

  • Mie noodles or spaghetti (2 lbs for the size portion I made)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of vegetable or peanut oil
  • 5-10 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large white onion, finely sliced
  • 4-8 Chicken bouillon cubes (can use vegetable bouillon cubes too) this adds salt to the recipe
  • 1-2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of Ketsap Manis (a very sweet soy sauce – can use regular soy sauce and increase amount of brown sugar instead)
  • 1 cup of finely chopped Selderie leaf (leaves look a bit like cilantro but taste and odor is very much like celery, since it’s a leafy version of celery – means you can also just use regular celery leaf if that’s all you can find)
  • (optional) 1 cup of thinly sliced scallions
  • (optional) Peanut sauce (as used with Satay)

Directions:

  1. Cook 2lbs of mie or spaghetti al dente, rinse with cold water to stop it from cooking and to remove excess starch. Set aside.
  2. In a wok, add oil, cook the garlic and onion until the onion turns glassy but before the garlic starts to get really brown
  3. After the garlic & onions start cooking, but before they reach the end phase in the above paragraph, add the bouillon cubes, mash them down to help them dissolve in the oil
  4. Add brown sugar, stir
  5. As soon as the resulting mixture starts to bubble brown (means that caramelization is imminent), add the Ketsap Manis, stir
  6. Immediately add the spaghetti, and use two long forks (BBQ forks work well for this) to start stirring/tossing the spaghetti to both heat it up as well as distribute the mixture thoroughly throughout the noodles, which should become evenly colored – a nice brown color.
  7. Continue this mixing/tossing until the noodles are nice and hot and then add the scallions if you want them. Stir some more and then add the selderie leaf.
  8. Remove from heat and serve with optional peanut sauce and grilled oriental style (soy-based marinade or teriyaki) chicken, and perhaps some sambal (spicy pepper relish, also Indonesian).

Feb 5 2010

Making Broccoli Cheese Chicken Casserole

February 5th, 2010 at 8:16 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Ever have a salty gooey cheesy craving? I woke up one morning about two weeks ago and had one of those cravings, and the first thing that popped into my mind was a melted aged hard cheese. Aged hard cheeses tend to accumulate these flavorful salt crystals and can be excellent in natural or melted form.

Think of an aged pecorino, Parmesan, Padona, Mimolette, or Gouda. Or even an extra sharp cheddar (impossible to find on Bonaire, I should add)!

The next thought was that I had a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in my freezer and broccoli in my fridge. I prefer using dark, fattier chicken meat when cooking dishes with chicken pieces in them. Chicken breasts chunks are boring lumps of threaded protein as far as I’m concerned.

The only thing I was missing was the cheese. A rather important component, and I did not have it readily available.

I set forth on an expedition in search of aged cheese, and in particular aged, or “oude” (old) Gouda, which on Bonaire, as a Dutch island, shouldn’t be too hard to find, right? Well, it wasn’t easy – oh what I’d give for a Whole Foods with a real fromagerie! I had to hit four markets before I found anything other than the ever common young Gouda or shredded mild cheddar. For those who know Bonaire, I went to Warehouse Bonaire, Cash & Carry, and Cultimara. I finally found my aged Gouda at More For Less, a small market tucked away in the local neighborhood of Nikoboko.

Two of the stronger flavored cheeses I found here on Bonaire - a Vincent and an aged Gouda

Two of the stronger flavored cheeses I found here on Bonaire - a Vincent and an aged Gouda (prices in Antillean Guilders/Florins - Exchange rate is Naf. 1,75 = $1.00)

I also found some nice Vincent cheese, which is another aged Gouda-style cow’s milk cheese which is not quite as crumbly as a really aged Gouda, but still firm and very flavorful. I purchased a couple of pounds of each cheese, thrilled that I could make my culinary desires for the day come true, especially after the first three markets and their lack of the right cheeses were making my prospects look very dim indeed.

Back home, after thawing out the chicken, I cut it into small pieces and then marinated it for half a day in a blend of white wine (a 2007 Bel Echo Sauvignon Blanc), rosemary, sea salt, white pepper, sage, lots of garlic, and olive oil.

I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs for my broccoli cheese chicken casserole

I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs for my broccoli cheese chicken casserole

Marinating the chicken in white wine, rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt, and sage

Marinating the chicken in white wine, rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt, and sage

In the evening, Krystyana shredded all the cheese for me, and to add a little more gooeyness, I added a bag of pre-shredded cheddar and Monterey jack blend.

After all the cheese was shredded, and blended with cheddar and Monterey Jack as well

After all the cheese was shredded, and blended with cheddar and Monterey Jack as well

The next trick was making a good cheese sauce. My only prior experience with large amounts of melted cheese has been fondues, so I adapted my fondue knowledge to the task at hand.

In advance I prepared a small cup with lemon juice and another with a bit of water into which I dissolved a few tablespoons of arrowroot flour (although tapioca flour or cornstarch will do as well). The reason for dissolving the starch into cool or cold water is that if you add the starch directly to hot dishes it clumps, and there are few things worse than having an enjoyable meal interrupted by biting into a lump of starch. Ick.

I also had the bottle of Bel Echo wine nearby.

I heated up a can of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup (along with the obligatory can of water to thin it out) and a teaspoon of white pepper in a sauce pan to use as my base, and at low heat slowly added the cheese, a clump at a time. Once the clump dissolved, I would add more, occasionally interspersing with a bit of the starch water or acid (lemon juice or white wine) until all my cheese was dissolved.

The cheese sauce for the casserole - cream of chicken soup, cheese, wine, and a bit of starch and lemon juice and white pepper

The cheese sauce for the casserole - cream of chicken soup, cheese, wine, and a bit of starch and lemon juice and white pepper

The acids, in the form of lemon juice and wine, as well as the starch, are needed to prevent the cheese sauce from clumping, although with the amount of cheese involved, a small bit of clumping seemed unavoidable. Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking” has a nice section on cooking with cheese (see pages 64-66), and describes how starches coat the protein patches and fat pockets of the cheese and keep them apart in order to stabilize cheese sauces and molten cheese. The lemon and wine also as a bit of tartness to complement the saltiness and fat of the molten aged cheese.

Cooking the chicken, a bit of it at a time

Cooking the chicken, a bit of it at a time

At the same time as I was making the cheese sauce, Linda was cooking the marinated chicken, which we had first drained in a colander to remove all the marinating liquid. And Krystyana had cut up and lightly steamed the broccoli in the microwave so it was barely cooked and still crisp.

We also preheated the oven to 375°F.

The idea was that all the ingredients would already be mostly cooked before being blended in the casserole dish. The baking of the casserole was intended only to finish the dish off and infuse the broccoli and chicken with some of the richness of the cheese

Once the sauce, broccoli, and chicken were all separately ready, we combined them into two casserole dishes (keep in mind that small portions appear to be something I have yet to master – and anyhow, I have a vacuum sealer and freezer, and I love leftovers), pouring the last bits of the cheese sauce over the top of the mixture.

On left, the broccoli, chicken and cheese sauce mixed, and on right after being topped with more cheese sauce

On left, the broccoli, chicken and cheese sauce mixed, and on right after being topped with more cheese sauce

Both dishes were then covered and put in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. After those 20 minutes we removed the lids and baked for another 15 minutes or so until we had a nice golden brown cheese crust on the surface.

The finished broccoli cheese chicken casserole

The finished broccoli cheese chicken casserole

And thus the broccoli cheese chicken casserole was fully cooked. And, I should add, hungrily devoured. The blend of cheeses, the seasoned chicken, and the texture and flavor of the broccoli was excellent, especially with the glass of Sauvignon Blanc still left in the wine bottle.

The gastronomic craving I had awoken with had been fully sated. And I had ample left over to satisfy future salty gooey cheesy cravings.


Jan 26 2010

For the Love of Garlic

January 26th, 2010 at 8:42 am (AST) by Jake Richter

Fresh garlic is a wonderful thing. Did you know that if you rub a garlic clove over the bottom of your feet you will soon have garlic breath? But I prefer my garlic to not have touched feet, and instead cook with it frequently. However, we can’t always find fresh garlic, and frankly, even when we can, we’re admittedly a bit lazy when it comes to peeling garlic and mincing it each time we want to use some.

The solution we’ve come up with is to make our own jars of minced garlic, which requires extensive effort only once every six months or so.

We start with a big bag of fresh garlic – typically 5-8 pounts (2.5 to 3.5 kilograms), and then park ourselves in front of the TV with a movie while we remove all the “paper” from the garlic and separate all the cloves from each other. For our most recent “garlic night”, we rented a download of “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” from iTunes, based on a comment that due to all my gadgets I was becoming more like Steve Zissou every day. We collectively agreed that the movie was a dud. But we were still peeling garlic, now removing the skin from the cloves, so we watched the latest episode of Fringe, also courtesy of iTunes.

After peeling the garlic we trimmed out the hard ends of the cloves

After peeling the garlic we trimmed out the hard ends of the cloves

After we had naked cloves, the next step was to remove the hard little nubs at the end of the cloves as well as any noticeable blemishes.

Once that was complete it was time to mince the garlic. Doing it all by hand would take forever, so we use mechanical processes to mince our garlic. We have used food processors in the past, but find that they puree the garlic too much, plus with the amount we typically make during our “garlic nights” we have to keep emptying the machine too often. The solution we have settled on is the grinder option of our KitchenAid – the same thing you would use to grind meat, for example.

Our tools - a KitchenAid with grinder attachment, salt, canola oil, and garlic

Our tools - a KitchenAid with grinder attachment, salt, canola oil, and garlic

It’s still time consuming, since you can only feed a few cloves of garlic at a time into the opening of the grinder accessory, but it produces a constant flow of minced garlic.

The KitchenAid grinding garlic

The KitchenAid grinding garlic

Once all the garlic has been ground, we liberally mix it with a neutral tasting oil, such as canola oil, and sea salt. The oil and salt act as preservatives to prevent a deterioration of flavor due to oxidation. You can use olive oil as well, but that tends to impart a strong flavor to the garlic, and could affect the flavor of foods you cook with the garlic unless those foods already include the use of olives or olive oil.

The garlic/oil/salt blend is then used to fill jars that we have collected. I will oil the jar a little bit first, then add garlic up to the last half-inch, and then pour more oil on top to create a better seal against air.

Note that over time the jarred garlic will turn brown, but that does not impact its flavor negatively at all.

The end result - jars of minced garlic

The end result - jars of minced garlic

The amount of garlic pictured above will last us about 6-9 months of regular cooking.

One additional tip – take a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic and blend it with a cup of mayonnaise to create a quick and dirty garlic aioli.


Jan 21 2010

In Search of The Perfectly Cooked Egg – Sous Vide Style

January 21st, 2010 at 9:27 am (AST) by Jake Richter

As mentioned in my previous postings about sous vide cooking, my own adventures and exploration of sous vide started with the noble egg. Eggs are a wonderful natural food, and for those of you interested in the specifics of an egg’s composition, characteristics, and cooking, I again have to recommend Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking, 2nd Edition“, pages 68-117.

I still recall my first encounter with a sous vide cooked egged in a restaurant a couple of years ago, and after trying it I was in gastronomic heaven – the whites were like a soft, delicate custard, while the yolk was thick, rich, and gooey. I could not believe that I had simply settled for chewy, poorly textured, and mediocre eggs all my life. But if you don’t know about alternatives, you never know what you might be missing.

I personally am a huge fan of liquid yolks, and prefer my traditional eggs over easy or poached, and so my first sous vide cooking foray was to make the perfect soft-boiled egg.

McGee explains that egg whites and the yolk are composed of a variety of different proteins, all of which coagulate (solidify) at different temperatures, with the proteins in the egg whites thickening at higher temperatures than the egg yolks. He indicates that egg yolks tend to thicken at around 150°F / 65°C, and the various proteins in egg whites thicken at temperatures ranging from 145°F / 63°C to 180°F / 80°C.

Experiment #1 – Eggs au Naturel @ 64°C – Failed

My first attempt involved just putting the eggs in a water-bath at 64°C to get still runny but nearly solid yolks. Turns out it was a bad idea to put the eggs in the water directly, as they cracked slightly from both the temperature and from bouncing around as a result of the current caused by the immersion circulator, gumming the immersion circulator up with wisps of egg white as a result. I managed to get it clean, but it provided a great first lesson about cooking in a water bath – make sure that your ingredients are sealed away from the water to ensure the water remains clean and pure.

Experiment #2 – Eggs Sous Vide @ 64°C – Better

For the next experiment in cooking eggs sous vide, I actually used sous vide – I vacuum sealed the eggs to prevent them from cracking into the water bath and gumming up the works.

A Multivac vacuum sealer with a pouch with two raw chicken eggs

A Multivac vacuum sealer with a pouch with two raw chicken eggs

Here too I learned something. Normal sized eggs are less likely to crack when you vacuum seal them into a bag than bigger eggs. I assume that’s because big eggs are likelier to have thinner shells. I learned my lesson quickly, and only cracked one egg out of the dozen or so I used during my experiments.

Two vacuum sealed raw eggs in a Multivac vacuum sealer

Two vacuum sealed raw eggs in a Multivac vacuum sealer

One of the interesting things about cooking in a low-temperature water bath is that for most things, as long as your temperature is within a proper range for the thing you’re cooking and you have reached the point where the food has reached the target temperature throughout, you can cook the item for a wide range of time and still achieve the same result. Thus, the result of cooking an egg at 64°C for an hour is not hugely different from cooking it for three hours or five hours. The same applies to many meats in my experience.

Putting the vacuum sealed eggs in the water bath

Putting the vacuum sealed eggs in the water bath

With that in mind, I cooked my sous vide eggs at 64°C for around two hours. When I took them out of the bath and cracked them open, I found the yolks were unfortunately a bit more solid than I would like, but the whites had that wonderful light custard texture. The rest of the family agreed the yolk was too firm, and found the whites a bit runny.

A Sous Vide cooked egg at 64°C with a barely solid yolk and creamy whites

A Sous Vide cooked egg at 64°C with a barely solid yolk and creamy whites

Experiment #3 – Eggs Sous Vide @ 63°C – Perfect Yolks

Undeterred, I sealed up some more eggs and cooked them for a couple of hours at a slightly lower temperature – 63°C. The result was the whites were a wee bit runnier, but still like a delicate custard, and the egg yolks were perfectly cooked – gooey and rich but fully cooked. However, the rest of the family was still not wild about the consistency of the egg whites.

A Sous Vide cooked egg with a thick and gooey yolk and creamy whites - cooked at 63 degrees Celsius

A Sous Vide cooked egg with a thick and gooey yolk and creamy whites - cooked at 63 degrees Celsius

The yolk of the 63 degree Sous Vide cooked egg - rich and thick

The yolk of the 63 degree Sous Vide cooked egg - rich and thick

Experiment #4 – Long-cooked Eggs @ 70°C

As I was curious about the effect of long cooking of eggs to see whether time really doesn’t make a difference, I also cooked some eggs at 70°C for about 10 hours while I was experimenting with cooking pork ribs in the water bath at the same time.

The yolk was firm, but creamy, and the whites less runny but still delicate. This inspired the next and final (for now) experiment.

Experiment #5 – Separately cooking the whites and yolks

For the final egg sous vide experiment, I took eight eggs and separated the whites and yolks into two cooking-safe bowls. While I am certainly capable of separating whites and yolks using just the egg shell itself, I find I am more productive with a dedicated separating device as pictured below. Plus, it’s cute. Trick to using it properly is to slide the egg innards into the device instead of dropping the egg insides onto the device, as the drop creates enough force that the egg yolk membrane might burst.

Jake's way to separate egg yolks and whites

Jake's way to separate egg yolks and whites

Eight eggs - separated into whites and yolks

Eight eggs - separated into whites and yolks

Once I was done with separating the eggs, I vacuum sealed each bowl. Another two lessons learned here: First, use bowls or jars that leave about one-third of the top empty – do not fill them to the rim; and second, don’t seal to maximum vacuum – 85-90% vacuum (or 150-100 millibar or so) should be sufficient. Not having known these things, I found my whites and yolks sucked a bit out of the containers during the vacuum sealing process, which in turn burst a couple of the yolks. Fortunately burst yolks still taste good.

The whites and yolks after being vacuum sealed - note that a couple of yolks burst

The whites and yolks after being vacuum sealed - note that a couple of yolks burst

Both were cooked for about an hour at 63°C (to cook the yolks just right). The yolks were then removed along with enough water to keep them warm while the whites got cooked for another hour at 70°C.

Starting the eggs in a water bath - both at 63C, and then the whites for a while longer at 70C

Starting the eggs in a water bath - both at 63C, and then the whites for a while longer at 70C

Result? The yolks were great, of course, and the whites far less runny – just like when I long-cooked the whole eggs, but still custard-like, and most importantly, more to my family’s liking.

Meanwhile, the eggs have been unbagged - creamy rich yolks, and custardy whites

Meanwhile, the eggs have been unbagged - creamy rich yolks, and custardy whites

However, when we are next up for another egg sous vide experiment, we may try the whites at somewhat higher temperatures to see if that makes a difference, since coagulation of some of the egg white proteins is not complete until around 80°C.


Jan 19 2010

The Making of Low Carb Chili Rellenos

January 19th, 2010 at 10:09 pm (AST) by Krystyana Richter

After a year of making chili rellenos with jalapeño peppers instead of the poblanos required in the original recipe, we finally found poblano peppers here on Bonaire! Even making the recipe for the last year, it is far from perfected, but we have discovered ways to make it easier on my mom and myself.

Krystyana and Linda's low carb Chili Relleno

Krystyana and Linda's low carb Chili Relleno

What makes our recipe low carb is that regular chili rellenos recipes require a corn flour batter to coat the peppers with. Flour is obviously not low carb. So we use beaten eggs instead.

The first thing to do when looking for the perfect pepper for this recipe is an unblemished jalapeño or preferably poblano pepper.

– 6 poblanos (or 10 jalapeños)
– 3 x 8 oz. packs of full fat cream cheese
– 1 x 8 oz. Four Cheese Mexican blend pack
– 4 eggs
– 3 paper bags

First of all, set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then wash the poblanos and dry them off well. On a gas stovetop, lay a flat grill rack on the burner area. You need an open flame for roasting the peppers. Strategically place the peppers so that they are directly over the flame. Turn the pepper when the side facing the flame is entirely black with bubbling skin. When the pepper is black on all sides, stuff the pepper into a paper bag and roll up the opening to keep the steam in. After about 5 minutes, the peppers should be cool enough to pick up.

At this point, and when using jalapeños, I would search for gloves or a victim. The burn in a jalapeños can vary but I would not ever take a chance with getting a hot one while barehanded. This is due to a previous accident when making chili rellenos with jalapeños. After gutting about 10 of them, my fingers started hurting like crazy. My mom and I tried everything to make it stop, from sour cream to aloe. It did not work…. And that is why I suggest gloves.

Take a pepper out and start peeling off the skin while attempting not to break apart the flesh of the pepper. My mom used a small knife for this, but finger nails are almost as successful. We peeled the skin into the sink because this is long process.

Take a knife and slit one side of the pepper, from the stem to the very tip of the pepper. The seeds will be just as hard to take out of the pepper as the skin was to remove and just as sticky. The likelihood of making a gaping hole in the opposite side of your slit is high, so be wary of pulling on strings of the flesh. And wear gloves if it’s a jalapeño.

Mix the cream cheese and the four cheese Mexican blend in a bowl until thoroughly mixed.

Take out a large casserole dish and spray with Pam or grease it with butter. Lay the peppers on the bottom of the casserole dish and start stuffing the peppers with the cheese mixture. Don’t overstuff them. The rest of the cheese can rolled up into little balls and placed around peppers. They melt really well and are yummy to eat separate from the peppers as well.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and brush it over the peppers and dump the rest into the dish. Put the peppers into the oven for 30 minutes, or until the egg is cooked.

Bon appetite!


Dec 5 2009

Crispy Fried Chicken Skin

December 5th, 2009 at 11:03 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Our stand-up freezer stopped freezing sometime in the last 20 hours, so we found ourselves performing freezer food triage earlier today. Fortunately we have a couple of refrigerator/freezer units still functioning in the house, so key frozen meats and other frozen products could be kept ice hard.

However, we did find there wasn’t quite enough space for everything, so in addition to feasting on now thawing left-overs tomorrow, we enjoyed a special treat tonight – Crispy Fried Chicken Skin.

We discovered a couple of months ago that our butcher simply throws out the chicken skin from thighs and breasts when packaging meat for retail sale. What a waste. So we kept a stash of chicken skin in vacuum sealed bags in our now malfunctioning freezer.

As long time fans of pork rinds (zero carbohydrates, and only saturated animal fats if prepared right), chicken skin ranks right up there for us. When fried correctly, chicken skin is like great popcorn – a nice crunch, a bit of greasiness, and a lot of satisfaction in both taste and emotion, but none of the carbs. Ignore the misguided advice to have fat-less (and thus bland and dry) chicken, and instead enjoy the skin, if you can find a good source for it.

Frying up chicken skin is incredibly easy. Get out your deep fat fryer, and turn on high (450 degrees Fahrenheit on the model I use). If your frying temperature is too low, the chicken skin ends up very chewy, so fry at a high temperature.

Cut your chicken skins into small pieces (I find one inch squares to be a good size), and once the oil is at full heat, put the skin in the fryer. Stir a bit to make sure your skins cook separately instead of in a large chunk.

After about 4-6 minutes you should see the skins browning and losing their rubbery textures. Remove from the hot oil onto a plate with a paper towel to drain off the excess oil. Lightly salt with your favorite seasoned salt (I use Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning – love that stuff). Let the hot skins sit for a few minutes to allow retained moisture to evaporate, and to let the skins cool down enough to safely eat. Then enjoy.

Crispy Chicken Skin at Kori & Fay in Berlin, Germany

Crispy Chicken Skin at Kori & Fay in Berlin, Germany

I will note that several Asian restaurants I’ve eaten at offer crispy chicken skin on their menus as well. I have had it Yakitori-style (grilled on a skewer) at Japanese restaurants in New York and San Francisco, and most recently in a spicy sauce in Berlin at Kori & Fay (see picture above).


Dec 1 2009

Spicy Green Beans

December 1st, 2009 at 4:18 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

I’ve always had a special place in my heart (or is it my stomach?) for Asian foods, whether it be Korean BBQ, Thai curries, Japanese sashimi and Shabu-Shabu, Taiwanese pork intestines, or most anything from the Hunan or Szechuan provinces of China.

Since moving to Bonaire over 12 years ago, I’ve also discovered foods and ingredients with an Indonesian background. That’s because Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony, and Indonesians have become an integral part of Dutch society, including the Dutch Antilles, which is where Bonaire fits into the Dutch Kingdom.

Among my favorite Indonesian ingredients to cook with are Ketjap Manis and Sambal Oelek.

Ketjap, also known as Kecap or Ketsap, refers to a sauce used for cooking or as a condiment. You may note the similarity to the English word Ketchup (or “Catsup”, as it was originally known). Indonesian Ketjap is soy-based, with Ketjap Asin (Asian Ketchup) being what we know as regular soy sauce, and Ketjap Manis being a sweet, thicker soy sauce. “Manis” means sweet in Indonesian.

Ketjap Manis produced by Conimex

Ketjap Manis produced by Conimex

Thus, Ketjap Manis is a sweet soy sauce. You can simulate ketjap manis using regular soy sauce and cooking it with brown sugar and molasses as well, although I find authentic Ketjap Manis to still be better (and easier) to use than concocting something similar out of regular soy sauce. There’s a certain texture and flavor that Ketjap Manis imparts to foods that is tough to match.

Sambal refers to a family of condiments which contain spicy chili peppers. Sambal Manis, for example, is a pepper relish which is sweet and spicy. I have also tried Sambal Badjak, Sambal Brandal, and Sambal Oelek. Some sambals are made with fish paste or vinegar or tomatoes. The one I tend to see in greatest quantity, however, is Sambal Oelek (also spelled Ulek), which is spicier and has a bit of extra saltiness (at least the brand I use).

Sambal Oelek from Conimex

Sambal Oelek from Conimex

I’ve always been a fan of spice, and discovering sambals in all forms and flavors was a real treat.

All this brings me to the fact that if you combine sambal oelek and ketjap manis, you get a great spicy-sweet soy-based sauce which is great as a marinade or even a cooking sauce. (Note: It makes a great rib marinade!)

And that in turn brings me to today’s incredibly easy recipe (providing you have a source for ketjap manis and sambal oelek) – spicy green beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans
  • 1 heaping teaspoon freshly minced garlic
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sambal oelek
  • 1/2 cup of ketjap manis
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup of water

Directions:

  • Nip off the hard end bits of the green beans and put the resulting green beans aside (and throw out the hard end bits, of course).
  • Heat the peanut oil (or use another nut oil like sunflower or canola) in a large sauce pan on medium high heat – the purpose of this oil it merely to lubricate the pan and beans a bit.
  • Add the green beans and let sizzle for a minute or two.
  • Add the water – this will help cook the beans a little more thoroughly via steam. The water should ultimately all boil off.
  • Once the water is mostly gone, add the garlic and sambal oelek and stir them to thoroughly mix them with the green beans.
  • Add the ketjap manis and stir some more.
  • Cook until the ketjap manis starts to bubble and caramelize.
  • At this point your green beans should still be cooked but not mushy. If you like mushy green beans, turn down the heat and cook longer (perhaps adding a bit more water).
  • Remove from heat and serve.

To make more spicy add more sambal oelek. To make less spicy, add less.

Serve hot either as a main dish or as a side dish with other Asian-themed food. If you like the flavor of soy as well as that of spicy peppers you should truly enjoy this dish. The sweetness of the ketjap manis provides a great counterpoint to the salty-spice of the rest of the dish, and slightly crisp green beans enhance the dish further with their texture


Nov 27 2009

Thanksgiving Pie Treat with Whipped Cream

November 27th, 2009 at 2:20 am (AST) by Jake Richter

One of our favorite desserts for Thanksgiving is Peanut Butter Pie. We’ve tried a lot different recipes, some which require actual cooking of the pie filling, and others which have unusual or overly complex preparations. But after much research, we finally found a good, repeatable recipe, which I have replicated below, with additional comments and minor modifications, including a low-carb option.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Based for the most part on a recipe from Cooks.com

Ingredients:

Pie Crust and Pie Filling:

  • A 9″ pie crust (This can be Graham cracker or even a pre-made pie shell, however to make this low-carb if you choose, you could use almond flour or hazelnut flour to make the crust).
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese (regular, don’t use light cream cheese – it’s just wrong to have a “light” cheese of any sort, and you soften it by letting it sit at room temperature for a while, depending on your ambient temperature)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (we use 1 cup of Splenda granulated sugar substitute as a way to cut down on carbohydrates)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (we use organic, no-sugar-added chunky peanut butter, but any peanut butter will do)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (salted butter is fine, but don’t use butter substitute or margarine – you can use your microwave oven to melt the butter, but do it in stages so it doesn’t splatter or get overly hot)
  • 1 cup whipping cream (in liquid form, as you use this to make real whipped cream)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (use the real stuff, not fake vanilla)

Chocolate Topping:

  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (we prefer dark or bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa content (60-72%), or for true low-carb, we also use Godiva’s Sugar Free Dark Chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons oil (we recommend a nut oil like sunflower oil or peanut oil – do not use olive oil due to the flavor)
  • 1/4 (one-quarter) cup of chopped dry roasted, unsalted peanuts

Directions:

Prepare crust according to favorite recipe (which may involve baking the crust), and then let adjust to room temperature.

Whip cream cheese until fluffy, which is easiest to do with a hand mixer or stand mixer.

Slowly add sugar (or Splenda sugar substitute), peanut butter, and butter. The reason to add this slowly is to ensure even distribution and prevent clouds of sugar.

In another bowl, combine the whipping cream and vanilla extract, and whip until firm. We find that if the bowl for the whipped cream is chilled first, we get better results. An easy way to chill a bowl is to put a cup of crushed ice in the bowl along with a half cup (no need to be exact) of water, and then swish it about until the bowl is nice and cold. Then dump out the ice water and dry the inside of the bowl with a towel before pouring in the whipping cream and vanilla extract.

Blend 1/3 of whipped cream into peanut butter mixture – it’s okay to be rough in for that first third.

Fold the peanut butter mixture into remaining whipped cream (or vice versa – the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture) gently until thoroughly incorporated.

Fill the pie crust, smoothing top. Chill. This will result in a rather firm pie filling.

Once the pie filling is nice and firm, get out a double boiler, fill with a bit of water, and heat the double boiler.

Combine the chocolate, butter, and oil in top of the double boiler until chocolate melts. Cool slightly. Spread chocolate on cooled peanut butter filling. Start at center and work out. Sprinkle top with peanuts, chill pie thoroughly.

The Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie described above may serve 10-12 people if they take small slices. For our family of four, we have found that the pie is so rich that it lasts us at least a couple of days of nibbling.

One additional suggestion for serving would be to make up extra whipped cream to eat with the pie, as it helps balance out the rich flavor and density of the peanut butter filling and chocolate topping. To make the whipped cream, use a 16 oz. container of whipping cream, add one packet of vanilla Splenda and one packet of normal Splenda (or, if you’re into sugar, a table spoon of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract), and whip it up in a chilled bowl as described above.


Nov 26 2009

Thanksgiving the Virtual Way

November 26th, 2009 at 11:56 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

In the last 24 hours I have made 40 slow-roasted turkeys after catching just as many wild turkeys. I have also made scores of pumpkin pies, bowls of cranberry chutney, dishes of candied sweet potato, and portions of spice bread stuffing. Further, I have even managed to make 20 bountiful feasts. And all without breaking a sweat.

You see, one of my other pleasures at the present is playing World of Warcraft, also known as WoW to its adherents, all twelve million or so of us. WoW is a massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) with a Dungeons & Dragons-like (DnD) theme. In addition to being a DnD fan from way back, I enjoy that I can be on-line in a group of adventurers with my kids, both when I am traveling thousands of miles from home or when we’re in the same room. In fact, my twelve year old son Bas is the in-house WoW expert and has been teaching me a wide range of things I simply was not aware of previously – a fun thing to share, as someone his age is not usually acting in the role of an expert adviser, especially with respect to adults.

In addition to being able to increase one’s skills as a hunter, mage, priest, warrior, or whatever class one’s character in WoW happens to be, there are also professional skills one’s character can learn, with first aid, fishing, and cooking among those.

This week in the WoW universe happens to be the time of the Pilgrim’s Bounty (the in-game version of the U.S. Thanksgiving celebration). Characters who have an interest in learning how to cook or already have in-game cooking experience can learn a variety of  new recipes for the holidays, including the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

The Slow-Roasted Turkey Recipe in WoW

The Slow-Roasted Turkey Recipe in WoW

Cooking in WoW is not nearly as complicated or intricate as in the real world, as evidenced by the above screen-shot. Basically, once you have all the ingredients, you click on “Create”, and a few seconds later, you have finished cooking that item. Getting some of the ingredients can be a bit (or even extremely) challenging, as evidenced by recipes like “Spiced Mammoth Treat” or “Baked Manta Ray”, and your character needs to build up his or her skill to a level sufficient to practice more complicated recipes. I can proudly state that my Night Elf Hunter, as of yesterday, has the maximum cooking level of 450, not an easy achievement.

So why would one bother cooking in WoW other than for self-aggrandizement? Because the foods you cook have “health” benefits. For example, eating the slow-roasted turkey allows your character to regain 4% of his health and mana (spell power) every second for 30 seconds (25 should be enough though), and if your character remains seated eating this dish for ten or more seconds, you get a “well fed” bonus of attack power and stamina for an hour (see below):

The benefits of slow-roasted turkey in WoW

The benefits of slow-roasted turkey in WoW

The cooking skill in WoW is one of a number of other crafting skills, all of which make the game more interesting (and less boring). Considering WoW has at least twelve million users at present, it appears to be working.

I will note that although I did a lot of virtual cooking for Thanksgiving, my family and I enjoyed a tasty real-world Thanksgiving dinner as well, with turkey and all the trimmings, including a number of pies.

For those of you in the U.S., I hope you had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving as well!