Category Archives: Spices

Indian Butter Chicken

 

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Butter chicken – two simple words to describe one of the richest of Indian and most popular dishes where succulent pieces of chicken are cooked and then simmered in a sauce that is utterly a buttery combination of cream, tomatoes and aromatic spices. Known as murgh makhani in Hindi,this dish is a culinary star that tickles palates across the world. While this iconic dish remains a much-loved favorite on menus across the country, few people know about the humble and practical origins of the butter chicken.

The genesis of the original butter chicken is inextricably tied to the evolution of another gastronomical hero, the tandoori chicken. The origins of the latter lie in Gora Bazaar in Peshawar, British India, where nearly 100 years ago, a man named Mokha Singh Lamba started a small restaurant called Moti Sweets.

In the 1920s, in Peshawar in undivided India, a  young boy aged 12, named Kundan Lal Gujral,  started working as a kitchen helper in at  Moti Sweets. Having lost his father at a very young age, he had to start earning early in life. When the eatery’s owner died a few years later, the boy took over the chain, as the owner was very fond of him. He renamed the place Moti Mahal.

Moti Mahal was the first resturant to dig up a tandoor right in the middle of the eatery. and as a young chef, Kundan Lal Gujral decided to experiment by skewering yogurt marinated pieces of chicken and sticking them into the tandoor oven, which was previously used only for breads. Thus, Peshawar cuisine was introduced to the culinary art of tandoori chicken and the incredibly popular, ubiquitous tandoori chicken was born.

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 A view of the tandoor at the earliest Moti Mahal restaurant in 1948 where a cook is seen putting bread inside the tandoor to cook it . Photo Credit:Monish Gujral

Cooked in the radiant heat of the clay tandoor, fragrant and flavored by the smoke rising from the hot coals, the version Gujral made—with crispy skin and a recognizably bright red exterior—became an enormous success until Gujral was forced to flee Pakistan during the 1947 Partition of India.

flash5 (1)    Photo Credit: http://www.motimahalindia.com

The tragedy of partition forced Gujral to flee to Delhi with nothing but his skills as an innovation and creative user of Tandoor, an oven used by the people of North India.

Moti Mahal had already established itself among the British elite in Peshawar but the challenge came with Partition, when Gujral had to move to India and start a new life as a refugee.

Because he came from a more privileged background than most other refugees,  starting afresh was less of a struggle. Gujral  was among the few rich people who flew to India rather than taking the train. He stayed in a refugee camp initially and thought of setting up a dhaba (roadside eatery) to introduce Delhiites to the tandoori chicken.

In his new home in Delhi, Gujral co-founded a new restaurant and also called it, Moti Mahal, in Daryaganj, with Kundan Lal Jaggi and Thakur Dass.  It was one of the first restaurants to introduce the Punjabi cuisine to the rest of the world and many famous dishes include tandoori chicken, butter chicken and dal makhani.The place quickly proved popular and within a year Gujral turned Moti Mahal into  into a 400-seat restaurant.  Gujral also tried to make Moti Mahal a different experience by introducing live “qawwali” (a form of sufi devotional music) and a see-through kitchen.

Because of the lack of refrigeration facilities during this era, necessity led Gujral to having to innovate once again to avoid wastage, especially that of the unsold tandoori tikkas. He cleverly reasoned that a tomato gravy, lushly made with butter and cream, would soften his leftover chicken. He took the leftover pieces of tandoori chicken and cooked them over a low flame and served it as such. The combination proved to be a masterstroke and thus, by an act of genius, the butter chicken was born, a dish that is now a staple of Indian restaurants around the world. And by the same token, the very same gravy recipe was then used to make dal makhani.

709457284Kundal Lal Gujral (Center) with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Left)
                    Photo Credit:Moti Mahal Delux Resturant

Moti Mahal enjoyed the patronage of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who used to get catering done from here. So fond was he of the Peshawari cuisine that the owners had even set up a tandoor at Teen Murti House to serve piping hot naans and rotis to state guests at this august venue. In a rare gesture, the then Prime Minister had allotted an adjacent area to the owners — Kundan Lal Gujral, Kundan Lal Jaggi and Thakur Dass — to expand their business. The restaurant menu at the time as well as the placard outside used to make it clear that it had no branches anywhere and it was the sole restaurant to ensure that no one would misuse the name to start business elsewhere.

In its 1950s heyday, Gujral’s Moti Mahal resturant was extremely popular with celebrities and world leaders, including former Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and actors Raj Kapur and Nargis were among the famous patrons.

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Dr. Zakir Hussain (Left) and K.L. Gujral (first from the Right).

Photo Credit: Moti Mahal Delux

In its 1950s heyday, Gujral’s Moti Mahal resturant was extremely popular with celebrities and world leaders, including former Indian President Dr. Zakir Hussain, Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and actors Raj Kapur and Nargis were among the famous patrons.

It  was also the favorite restaurant of former Soviet and Pakistan Prime Ministers Nikita Khrushchev and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, respectively. So impressed was Bhutto with the culinary skills of the chefs during an earlier visit that Indira Gandhi decided to get food served from here during the famous Simla pact meeting. Khrushchev would get handpicked dishes on the menu flown to Moscow for his official banquets.

Freedom fighter and independent India’s first education minister, Maulana Azad reportedly even told the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, that while in India he must make two visits – to the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Moti Mahal in Delhi. And the Shah followed his advice, adding his name to some of the most renowned patrons of Moti Mahal.

In its more recent times,the resturant now called Moti Mahal Delux with its global chain of restaurants with over 120 franchises in India and around the world, the Dehli location was visited by master chef Gordon Ramsay, who even went behind the counter in the kitchen of this iconic restaurant.

With time, Moti Mahal changed, too. While it retained the signature dishes of dal makhani, butter chicken, tandoori chicken, chicken pakora (fritters), the restaurant reinvented itself to suit the changing palate of the Indian customer. They introduced tandoori dishes made with broccoli, trout and lobster.

In this version of the famous dish, I found that marinating the chicken in yogurt and a seasoned tikka masala curry paste makes the chicken extra tender before finishing it in the oven and adding it to a creamy, rich, fragrant, mildly spiced tomato sauce. Served on the side, there’s ginger-spiced sautéed spinach, rice, and of course, plenty of warm, toasted naan for scooping up the extra sauce.

Definitely a favorite dish that is perfect for adding to your meal rotation.

Enjoy!

Serves 6 to 9

Ingredients:
For the Chicken:
½ cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon tikki marsala curry paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

For the Sauce:
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 serrano chile, split lengthwise and seeded
Kosher salt, to taste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes

For the Spinach:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
10 ounces, baby spinach
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh coriander chopped, for garnish
Thinly sliced serrano peppers, for garnish
Fresh cream, for garnish

Directions:
For the Chicken:
Preheat oven to 475°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, curry paste, lemon juice, salt and pepper to combine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, cut into 1-inch pieces, and add to bowl with marinade. Turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate in the refigerator for 1 to 3 hours.

For the Sauce:
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add cinnamon atick and clove, stirring, until slightly darker and fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Add onion and chile season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden and beginning to caramelize, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until very fragrant and ginger starts to turn golden, 2–3 minutes. Add garam masala, fenugreek, paprika, and turmeric and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up into pieces with a spoon, and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until sauce is the consistency of a thick ragù, 40–50 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the sauce to to cool. Discard cinnamon stick and the bay leaf, but allow the whole clove to remain.

Transfer the sauce to a blender and purée until smooth. Cut remaining the 4 tablespoons of butter into pieces. Add butter and cream to blender and purée until creamy; season with salt. Return sauce to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, prepare a wire rack set inside a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.

After marinating, remove the chicken from the marinade and arrange the chicken in a single layer on the baking sheet. Broil until chicken starts to brown in spots , 7–8 minutes per side. Add chicken to simmering sauce, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 8–10 minutes.

For the Spinach:
Heat  1 tablespoon butter in a large pan over medium heat. When butter is just melted, add shallot and ginger and cook until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Season with  salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, transfer the chicken and sautéed spinach to serving bowls, spooning over remaining sauce and garnish with cilantro. Tear naan into pieces and serve alongside with rice.

Cook’s Note:
Butter chicken can be made three days ahead of time.

Sources:
Gujral, Monish. (2013).  The Moti Mahal Cookbook. India: Penguin Books , Publisher.

Pal, Sanchari (2016). “The Better India (TBI) Food Secrets: The Humble Origins of the Hugely Popular Butter Chicken”. Retrieved 21 April 2018. https://www.thebetterindia.com/75100/butter-chicken-history-kundan-lal-gujral/

Retrieved 21 April 2018. https://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2011/12/22/moti-mahal-delhis-gastronomic-pearl/

Vohra, Pankaj (2015).”Partition brought Moti Mahal, a landmark in India’s culinary history, to central Delhi”. The Sunday Guardian.New Dehli. Retrieved 21 April 2018.http://www.sunday-guardian.com/investigation/partition-brought-moti-mahal-a-landmark-in-indias-culinary-history-to-central-delhi

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Roasted Chicken with Grilled Nectarines

 

Today, I was inspired by my Grand’s recipe , “Fried Chicken Smothered in Peaches”. Grand would serve  this on Sundays after morning Church services and there  wouldn’t be any leftovers.

So, here is my version of her dish,”Roasted Chicken with Grilled Nectarines and Spiced Brown Sugar Bourbon Sauce”.

 

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TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Beef and Broccoli

 

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Ever once in awhile, I have a craving for   beef and broccoli, and lately most restaurants are not delivering the high quality food they use too and I have been disappointed that many  restaurants dishes do not live up to my expectations.

The secret to home made beef and broccoli is thinly sliced beef and flavor. In this recipe, the tender, thin slices of beef are so juicy, so flavorful as they soak up every savory essence of the marinade, and then the sauce; which is rich, slightly sweet, mostly savory, and just so right!  Are you ready for the  two secret ingredients that makes such a scrumptious sauce?

Oyster sauce and pomegranate juice. Surprised?

If you have done a lot of Asian style cooking,  then you probably know that it  is a staple in Asian cooking.  It is a thick, brown sauce with a balance between sweet and salty with an earthy undertone, due to the oyster extracts.  You can find oyster sauce in the Asian aisle of any supermarket for only a few dollars. But like with any commercial preparation,  not all bottled  oyster sauce is created equal.  The quality of oyster sauce will affect the flavor, so if you want the extra something something to your dish, purchase a good quality good quality sauce for a few dollars more and keep it on hand in your pantry.

Pomegranate juice adds a little musky citrus taste with a depth of flavor you  usually associate with red wine or concentrated beef drippings.This makes the flavor of pomegranates invaluable anywhere you want to add a little depth or complexity.

 And be warned, guard the leftovers, if there are any,  this recipe for Beef and Broccoli will leave you craving more!

Serves 4
Ingredients:
For the Beef Marinade:
1 pound flank steak, cut across the grain into 1/8 thin slices, then cut into 2” length pieces
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon black bean sauce
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sweet Thai chili sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
For the Sauce:
½ cup 100% pomegranate juice
1/4 cup Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Japanese rice wine or dry sherry
2 Tablespoons chicken broth
5 Tablespoons oyster sauce
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon peanut oil
For the Vegetables:
3 1/2 – 4 cups broccoli florets, cut into bit size pieces
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1/4 cup water
3 medium scallions, sliced

Directions:
Pour marinade ingredients directly into freezer bag and mix well. Add beef and massage in marinade until well covered. Refrigerate for 2-8 hours. For best results, allow to set overnight.

When ready to cook the beef, whisk the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.In another medium  bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients together. Set aside.

Drain excess marinade off of beef (if there is any).

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot and sizzling. Add beef to the skillet and break up any clumps; cook without stirring for 1 minute, then stir and cook until beef is browned and almost cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. Note:  Do not overcook or the beef. for it will not  be as tender.The beef will cook more in the sauce. Transfer beef to a large plate and cover.If your skillet is small, then cook in 2 batches.

Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the now-empty skillet; heat until very hot and sizzling. Add the broccoli  and carrots and saute for 30 seconds. Add water, cover pan, and lower heat to medium. Steam vegetables  until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

Push the broccoli  and carrots to the sides of the skillet and add the sauce mixture to the center of the pan, mashing the garlic mixture with a spoon, until fragrant, about 15 to 20 seconds, then stir the mixture into the broccoli and carrots.

Return the beef to the skillet and toss to combine. Whisk the sauce to recombine then add to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and beef is cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with the scallions, and serve.

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TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Drunken Sticky Pomegranate Chicken

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February 18 has been designated as “National  Drink Wine Day” and there is no better way to celebrate than this red wine marinated chicken braised to tender perfection, and then glazed in a sweet, spicy and tart pomegranate sauce. You can tailor this recipe to use any kind of sweet wine that you like the best, ,which may include Port, Merlot, Chianti or Shiraz. Who needs a fork? This chicken is  so sticky, icky, finger lickin’ good!

 

 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
For the marinade:
2 cups sweet red wine (like a Shiraz)
1/4 cup  brandy
1 carrot, grated
1 red onion, grated
2 bay leaves

For the Chicken:
3 1/2 pounds chicken thigh and legs
¼teaspoon ginger powder
¼teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil

For the Glaze:
½ cup 100%  pomegranate juice
1/4 cup  Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 lime, juiced
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

Pomegranate arils, for garnish
Freshly chopped cilantro, for garnish

Directions:
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large heavy-duty plastic bag set over a bowl. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.Add the chicken and seal the bag with as little air as possible, leaving it in the bowl. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for a day, turning it from time to time; the bag ensures that all of the chicken is kept moist with marinade.

Preheat oven to 375°F

Remove the wings from the marinade.Thoroughly pat dry the wings using paper towel. Add the chicken to a large bowl and coat with b, spices, salt and pepper.

In another large bowl, whisk together pomegranate juice, honey,chili sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, lime juice, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat a large oven-safe Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add olive oil.Place the marinated, seasoned chicken in the Dutch oven and sear on each side until deeply golden and brown, about 5 minutes per side. Remove chicken and place on a plate. Pour off the oil and lower the heat to medium-low. Deglaze the Dutch oven by pouring the glaze mixture into the pot. Whisk, allowing the sauce to bubble and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Place chicken back in the skillet and turn and toss to coat. Bake covered for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the chicken,  place on a rack and set aside.

Return the Dutch oven to the  stovetop and cook the glaze, stirring occasionally until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Taste the glaze and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed. Return the chicken to the Dutch oven and toss until well coated.

To serve, remove chicken and  arrange on a large platter. Garnish with chopped cilantro and pomegranate arils.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Persian Fried Chicken Smothered in Peaches with Curry CousCous

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So what happens when I didn’t make it to the grocery store before the arctic polar vortex hits,  the East Coast region? Well, I was left to forage in the nether regions of my  refrigerator, freezer and pantry with such a diverse mix of ingredients.

And what happened was the creation of dish inspired by my Grand’s kitchen; the Sunday Chicken Smothered in Peaches.

So, my version of my Grands’s beloved chicken dish  is the perfect  marriage of multicultural cuisines from the Deep American South, North Africa, The Middle East and India:Persian Fried Chicken Smothered in Peaches and Almonds on a bed of Minted Curry Couscous. I think I out did myself with  this global fusion dish!

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Enjoy!

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

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Photo Credit:  Chris Granger, 2014

According to my Grand, “The secret to a great gumbo is that it takes as long as it takes—It’s  time that makes it good.”

And just in time, here is a chicken gumbo recipe you can  prepare for Mardi Gras!

The real star of this dish is the Sauternes wine used to braise the chicken in this classic gumbo dish.  I used a 2011 Le Tertre du Bosquest Sauternes for this recipe. This barrel-aged Sauternes features a beautiful, brilliant, golden-yellow color and an attractively fresh bouquet with delightful hints of vanilla, peach, citrus fruit, and honey. Smooth and powerful on the palate, this delicious Sauternes has mandarin orange and quince flavors, and a slightly botrytised aftertaste. When using a good quality Sauternes, what you will get is a get a rich, balanced liquid for the gumbo, and plenty of tender poached chicken meat.

If you cannot find a good quality Sauternes in your neck of woods, your favorite white zinfandel or a riesling are excellent substitutes.

Serves 6

Ingredients:
One 3 pound chicken, cut up into 8 pieces.
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground Black Pepper, to taste
3 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 Tablespoons Lea & Perrin Worcestershire sauce
1 1 pounds andouille sausage (or smoked sausage or kielbasa)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups water
4 cups Sauternes wine (or a white zinfandel or a riesling)
1 12 teaspoon  filé powder
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Cooked white rice, for serving

Directions:
Season chicken lightly with salt and black pepper, cover and set aside in the refrigerator. For best results, let the chicken stand over night to get seasoned. Slice the sausage into 1/4 to  1/2-inch rounds; cover and set aside.

To make the roux, heat oil in a Dutch oven that is very clean over high heat until the the oil should  begins to shimmer – and gradually begin to stir in flour, using a long-handled wooden spoon. The roux will take about 3 to 4 minutes to cook and must be stirred constantly so that it does not burn. If you see black specks in the roux, it has burned and you must start over again.

As you make the roux, it will change in color from cream to blonde, from tan to brown and then to dark chocolate red-brown. Remove from heat. Stir in the garlic, onions, green peppers, celery and Worcestershire sauce, stirring constantly until roux stops getting darker. Bring to stove once more, and cook over low heat about five to seven minutes, stirring constantly until the onions are transparent.

In a another large pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil remove from the heat  and add  to the roux in the Dutch oven, stirring to dissolve the roux thoroughly. Add the Sauterne wine. Add the cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Carefully add chicken and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook about 35 to 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken, and set aside to cool.

De-bone the chicken, and cut into bite-size pieces. Add sausage, to the Dutch oven, and simmer for another 35 to 45 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently. Taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt, as needed.

Stir in the chicken, and remove the gumbo from the heat. Skim the surface to remove the fat that the sausage renders during cooking.

For best results, cover and store the gumbo in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day,  remove the gumbo from the refrigerator and stir in the filé powder. Bring the gumbo to a boil and then reduce and simmer the stew for 25 to 30 minutes.

Garnish with parsley and serve over rice with French bread.

Laissez le bon temps rouler , ché!

 

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Photo Credit: The 99 Cent Chef, 2011

 

Cook’s Notes:
Considered to be one of the finest white wines in the world, Sauternes is a French sweet wine from the Sauternes is region of the Graves section in Bordeaux.

sauternes.jpgAs in most of France, viticulture is believed to have been introduced into Aquitania by the Romans. The earliest evidence of sweet wine production, however, dates only to the 17th century. While the English were Bordeaux’s main consumer since the Middle Ages, their primary tastes were for red claret. It was the Dutch traders of the 17th century who first developed an interest in white wine. For years they were active in the trade of German wines but production in Germany began to wane in the 17th century as the popularity of beer increased. The Dutch saw an opportunity for a new production source in Bordeaux and began investing in the planting of white grape varieties.

Sauternes is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have beensautern.jpg affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. This causes the grapes to become partially raisined, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wines. Due to its climate, Sauternes is one of the few wine regions where infection with noble rot is a frequent occurrence. Even so, production is a hit-or-miss proposition, with widely varying harvests from vintage to vintage.

220px-Yquem99.jpgWines from Sauternes, especially the Premier Cru Supérieur estate Château d’Yquem, can be very expensive, due largely to the very high cost of production. Barsac lies within Sauternes, and is entitled to use either name. Somewhat similar but less expensive and typically less-distinguished wines are produced in the neighboring regions of Monbazillac, Cérons, Loupiac and Cadillac.

In the United States, there is a semi-generic label for sweet white dessert wines known as sauterne without the “s” at the end and uncapitalized.

On the other hand, cooking wines like sauternes date to the days when wine wasn’t something the average home cook kept on hand in the pantry.  Wines that we find on the supermarket shelves labeled “cooking wine” usually contained preservatives, particularly salt, to make them shelf-stable after opening.

Basically, the standard advice for cooking with wine is “never to cook with something you wouldn’t drink”.  Think about it, since most of us would not  want to drink salty wine, the old cooking wines are slowly  disappearing.

But for people who do not  commonly drink wine with meals, that leaves the problem of what to use in recipes that call for a small amount of wine. One handy solution is the miniature four-pack. Since a bottle is only 187ml, or about 3/4 cup, you will not waste much, and the packs usually cost $7 or less.

Since Sauternes is a sweeter wine, something like a white zinfandel or a riesling should be a good replacement, if you cannot find it at your local wine and liquor stores.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Persian Fried Chicken

 

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This is an absolutely wonderful dish that is very easy to prepare and requires some advance planning. A yogurt marinade helps tenderize the boneless, skinless chicken thighs, infusing them with saffron and paprika, and a quick frying lends the meat a crispy, minty coating. The chicken must marinate for several hours, or overnight for the best results,  before it can be cooked and the marinade contains that costliest of spices, saffron but the wait and splurge are worth it.

Enjoy!

Serves 8

Ingredients:

½ teaspoon saffron or turmeric*
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon dried mint
1 Tablespoon salt, more for sprinkling
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup walnut clusters, for garnish
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine saffron with 1 tablespoon water and let soak 10 minutes. Place in food processor with yogurt and garlic and purée until smooth and  pale yellow. Place chicken in ziploc plastic bag; pour yogurt mixture on top, seal the plastic bag and turn to coat; place the ziploc bag in a bowl and and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight, for the best results.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, paprika, garlic powder, mint, salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour mixture, dip the chicken in the yogurt batter once again and dredge in the flour a second time. Place the chicken on a wire rack and allow the breaded chicken to sit for  about 1o to 15 minutes before frying.

Heat a generous half-inch oil in a  deep cast iron skillet over medium heat. Drop in a bit of bread to test temperature; oil should bubble vigorously. Working in batches to avoid crowding, fry the chicken until it is golden brown on both sides, about 7 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle with salt and top with walnuts and lemon wedges. Serve with basmati or jasmine rice, family style.

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*Cook’s Notes: 

Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece.saffron_thread.jpg
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel. The styles and stigmas, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food.
In terms of flavor, no substitute for saffron exists. It is completely unique.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger fturmeric.jpgamily, Zingiberaceae. It is native to southwest India.

When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for about 30–45 minutes then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in Bangladeshi cuisine, Indian cuisine, Pakistani cuisine and curries, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. One active ingredient is curcumin, which has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.

Turmeric has a very strong, distinctive flavor, and could easily overpower or clash with other flavors in a recipe not written for it. You might be very unhappy with the results in a dish that’s supposed to have the subtlety of saffron. However, it would certainly work in certain dishes, albeit with an entirely different flavor profile.

If the primary interest is coloring, there is the suggestion of annatto, as it imparts a beautiful color with essentially no flavor.

Personally, rather than try to a substitute for the saffron, I would continue to use it in those recipes that call for it, especially if it’s key in the flavor profile. For example, saffron pilaf just won’t work without it.  If your  budget is  tight, just make those dishes less frequently and savor them all the more, when you use saffron.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

Photo Credit: My Baking Addiction, 2011

It is the middle of October and leaves are about to past the peak of  color and pumpkins begin to make their appearance at the local farmer’s  markets, just as Summer seems like a distant memory. And with the autumnal changes pumpkin spice-flavored treats make their appearance just about, everywhere. You can always buy a commercially prepared pumpkin pie spice, but it is just as easy to make at home with the “warm” spices that you already have on hand.This recipe is a blend of “warm” spices such as: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and mace. Pumpkin pie spice adds a nice extra “pumpkin” taste to pumpkin pie or a pumpkin flavored latte.

Makes About 5 Tablespoons

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
1 ½ teaspoons ground mace

Directions:
Measure all of the spices into a small air tight jar, like a Weck jar, and seal the jar up. Shake the jar until the spices are well mixed.
Label the jar and store it in the pantry as you would any other spice, for up to 1 year.

Vadouvan French Masala Curry

Vadouvan French Masala Curry, also known as vadavam, vadagam, or vadakam……

Beauty_20-_20Vadouvan_20Curry-3493_mediumis an Indian spice blend similar to curry powder. Like curry powder, it usually includes turmeric, cumin, coriander and curry leaf. But unlike curry powder, it also includes ground shallots and occasionally several other aromatics. The shallots are definitely a French  contribution—vadouvan comes from the Pondicherry region of Southern India, a former French colony. French culinary influence survives in the region to this day. Basically, it  can be a blend of up to 30 spices, and just as curry powders vary from one cook to the next, so does vadouvan. Sometimes it’s more of a paste, made with cooked onions, that needs to be stored in the refrigerator.  You can also purchase it as a dry spice mix, containing curry, curry leaves, white and toasted onion and garlic powders, brown mustard seeds, shallots and kosher salt. Some blends also include fenugreek and cardamom. Use it as you would a sweet curry powder; the flavor is milder and a bit more fruity, with just a hint of smoke, adding a smoky flavor to vegetables, meats and fish.

Vadouvan can be purchased on-line from the following retailers:
The Spice House 
Kalyustan’s
Amazon.com

There are many versions of vadouvan, but I really liked the one created by Chef Inaki Aizpitarte, of Le Chateaubriand, which is roasted for an exotic meatiness.

You can definitely make one big batch and keep it in the freezer for weeks— And I am pretty sure that will be tossing it into all kinds of dishes. This Spring and beyond the other seasons as well.

Recipe Adapted from Chef Inaki Aizpitarte – Le Chateaubriand
Makes About 3 cups

Ingredients:
2 pounds yellow onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb shallots, halved
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh curry leaves (optional)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350ºF with rack placed in the center of the oven.

Pulse onions in 3 batches in a food processor until very coarsely chopped, transferring to a bowl. Repeat with the shallots, then the garlic.

Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until it shimmers, then sauté onions, shallots, and garlic (stir often) until golden and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes.

Grind fenugreek seeds in grinder or with mortar and pestle. Add to onion mixture along with remaining ingredients, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and stir until combined.

Transfer to a parchment-paper-lined large 4-sided sheet pan and spread as thinly and evenly as possible. Bake, stirring occasionally with a skewer to separate onions, until well browned and barely moist, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cooks’ Note:
Vadouvan keeps in the refrigerator 1 month (cool before covering) or in the freezer 6 months.