Tag Archives: chicken

Thai Cuisine

Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has not been colonized by Europeans. Thus, its cuisine is authentic and has only been slightly influenced by bordering countries or traders.

Thai cuisine is very spicy and focuses on dishes which are well balanced in four areas – sweet (usually palm sugar or coconut milk), salty (fish sauce and salt), sour (lime in several forms and tamarind) and spicy (chilies). Meals served in restaurants are accompanied by a quartet of sauces brought to the table – fish sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, dried chili flakes, and palm sugar. Rice is served at most meals, (usually jasmine rice, but also sticky or glutinous rice) and sometimes noodles. Cucumbers are often served to cool the palate. I was told recently that additional ways to counter the spiciness is to add more rice, add sugar, or drink more beer!

Thai food was traditionally eaten by the right hand while seated on cushions on the floor, but today most Thais eat with a fork and large spoon. The fork is held in the left hand and is used to scoop or push into the spoon which is held in the right hand. Chopsticks are reserved only for noodle dishes.

The Thai pantry can be stocked from items available in the international aisle at a grocery store or a local Asian market. Lo’s Seafood in Portsmouth, NH carries Thai canned goods (coconut milk, fish sauce, tamarind paste), kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, fresh chilies (bird’s eye chilies or very tiny chilies are hotter than larger chilies), Thai basil and cilantro. Green, yellow and red curry pastes (hottest to mildest, respectively) can be made from scratch or purchased already prepared.

The following recipe for Chicken Coconut Milk Soup is one which we prepared at the Thai Farm Cooking School while I was in Thailand recently.

Tom Kaa Gai (Chicken Coconut Milk Soup)

Ingredients:

½ c. water

¼ cup of peeled, thinly sliced galangal or ginger

1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced into one-inch pieces

½ cup halved grape tomatoes

½ cup sliced mushrooms

1-5 bird eye’s chili peppers

1 chicken breast, sliced thinly and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 can coconut milk

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1 stem of cilantro, finely diced

3 sliced scallions

1 T. fish sauce or soy sauce

½ teaspoon light brown sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons of lime juice

Directions:

Combine water, galangal, lemongrass, tomatoes and mushrooms in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to boil. Remove stems from chili peppers and crush open by banging down with your palm on the flat side of a heavy knife. Add chili peppers, coconut milk and chicken pieces to broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until chicken is milky white all the way through. Fold kaffir lime leaves in half along spine and remove spine of each leaf to release flavor. Add to soup with cilantro, scallions, fish sauce, sugar and salt to taste. Continue to cook over medium heat for 5 more minutes to intensify flavor. Finally add lime juice (soup will be too bitter if lime juice is added too early.) Lemongrass pieces, kaffir lime leaves, chilies and  galangal or ginger root should be removed prior to serving as they are all too tough to chew. Serves 2.

 

 

 

 

 

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Week 44: Birds of a Feather

Poultry

Poultry is an excellent source of lean, low fat protein. Whether you’re barbecuing chicken on the grill, preparing that holiday turkey, or preparing fried chicken for a picnic there are a lot of choices for adding more poultry to your diet. The USDA identifies six categories of poultry (Rock Cornish game hens are a form of chicken).  Here they are:

Chicken – The domestication of poultry took place between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago. This may have originally been as a result of people hatching and rearing young birds from eggs collected from the wild, but later involved keeping the birds permanently in captivity. Domesticated chickens may have been used for cockfighting at first and quail kept for their songs, but soon it was realized how useful it was having a captive-bred source of food.

Today, chicken is the most popular poultry in the world. It is available fresh or frozen in many forms. Although the sex of the bird doesn’t matter, older male birds are generally tough and stringy and are not as flavorful as female birds. The French poulet de Bresse is considered the world’s finest, and is a blue-legged variety raised on a diet of milk products plus sweet corn and other grains near the village of Bresse in southeastern Burgundy. They are only available in the US from specialty food importers at a premium price.

Rock Cornish Game Hen – The Rock Cornish game hen is a cross between the Cornish Game and White Plymouth Rock chicken breeds and is described by the USDA as a “young immature chicken (less than five weeks of age), weighing not more than two pounds ready-to-cook weight.” Thus, it is not a true game bird. A Cornish hen typically commands a higher price per pound than typically sold chickens, despite a shorter growing span of 28 to 30 days, as opposed to 42 or more for regular chicken.

Duck – Duck contains only dark meat and is available whole or as duck breasts, usually frozen. Duck has a high percentage of fat and it is important to render as much fat as possible. Ducks were not mentioned in agricultural texts in Western Europe until about 810 AD, when they began to be mentioned alongside geese and chickens as being used for rental payments made by tenants to landowners. Ducks are farmed mainly for their meat, eggs, and down.

In some countries, geese and ducks are force-fed to produce livers with an exceptionally high fat content for the production of foie gras. Over 75% of world production of this product occurs in France, with lesser industries in Hungary and Bulgaria and a growing production in China. Foie gras is considered a luxury in many parts of the world, but the process of feeding the birds in this way is banned in many countries on animal welfare grounds

Goose – Geese also contains only dark meat and has very fatty skin. It is usually roasted at high temperatures to render or burn off the fat. Domestic geese are larger than their wild counterparts.

Guinea Hen – the domesticated descendant of a game bird with both light and dark meat and a flavor similar to that of a pheasant, it contains very little fat. It must be “barded” or have fat added to it (inserted in cuts in the skin or overlapped with bacon) to make it juicy and tender. Guinea hens eat mainly insects, but also consume grasses and seeds. They will even eat the ticks that carry Lyme disease. They happily roost in trees and give a loud vocal warning of the approach of predators.

Squab (Pigeon) – No, this isn’t the same pigeon you see in the park! Commercially raised, the pigeon has dark, tender meat and very little fat. It is best broiled, sautéed or roasted and also benefits from barding.

Turkey – Pre-Aztec tribes in south-central Mexico first domesticated the turkey around 800 BC. It is the second most popular bird eating in the US and has both light and dark meat. It is generally available year round as frozen whole birds, or fresh as turkey parts, ground or as sausage and bacon. Turkeys are reasonably priced and yield a lot of meat. However, fresh organic, free-range turkeys available during the Thanksgiving season can cost up to $300.

Ratites (Ostrich, Emu and Rhea) – these are flightless birds with small wings and flat breastbones. Their meat is red, even though they are classified as poultry. They generally contain very little fat and are best prepared by broiling, grilling, roasting and pan frying and are served medium rare to medium.

Game Birds

Partridge, pheasant and quail are widely raised on game preserves and farms. Partridge has a stronger flavor than pheasant and the meat tends to be tougher. Pheasant is the most popular game gird and has a mild flavor and tender meat. Quail are very small and are often served whole and stuffed. Quail were depicted in hieroglyphs from 2575 BC.

Commercial Production

Chickens are raised indoors in huge windowless chicken houses that may contain as many as 20,000 birds. They are primarily fed corn and soybean meal, but animal protein, vitamins, minerals and antibiotics are often added to produce quick-growing birds. Consumers are becoming concerned about the residual effects of the added nutrients and chemicals and are opting for organic, free-range chickens which are allowed outside the chicken houses, without antibiotics and fed only a vegetarian diet. Free-range chickens are superior in flavor and quality.

Grading

Poultry is graded by the USDA according to overall quality with the grade (USDA A, B or C) on a shield on the product packaging. Nearly all poultry sold in retail outlets is Grade A. Grade B and C are used primarily for processed poultry products.

Cooking

With the exception of duck breasts and squab, which are often left pink, poultry is always cooked well done. To determine doneness:

  1. When the bird is done, it will have a firm texture, resist pressure and spring back when pressed with a finger.
  2. Temperature – Use an instant-read thermometer. It should read 165o-170oF at the coolest point.
  3. Looseness of joints – When bone-in poultry is done, the leg will begin to move freely in its socket.
  4. Color of the juices – Poultry is done when its juices run clear.

Health Concerns

Poultry is highly perishable and susceptible to contamination by salmonella. Fresh chickens and other small birds should be stored on ice or at 32o-34oF for up to two days. Larger birds can be refrigerated at these temperatures for up to four days. Rinse it under cold running water and then try and clean with disposable paper towels to remove any collected juices prior to cooking.

Resources

Labensky, Sarah R., and Hause, Alan M. On Cooking.

www.Ochef.com

www.thepoultrysite.com

www.uspoultry.org

Curried Coconut Chicken

Curried coconut chicken2

Curried Coconut Chicken

Fragrant and packed with a hint of spiciness, this chicken recipe will satisfy on a cool evening. Serve over jasmine or Basmati rice and garnish with plain, nonfat yogurt or chutney.

Spice paste:

1 T. finely minced hot peppers or chilies

6 shallots, peeled and quartered

1 c. unsweetened flaked coconut

1/2  t. ground cloves

1 t. cinnamon

2 t. ground coriander

1/2 t. ground cardamom

2 t. fennel seeds

1 t. dried mustard

1 t. cumin seeds

1 t. turmeric

Chicken:

1/4 c. canola oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 T. peeled and minced fresh ginger root

1 large red onion, diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 t. salt

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1 c. water

Directions:

Spice paste:  To toast coconut, place coconut flakes in a skillet over medium heat and stir until golden on the edges. Combine coconut and all other ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Add 4-5 T. of water and blend until a smooth paste forms.  Set aside.

Chicken:  Saute garlic, ginger root, onion and bell pepper in oil over medium heat until tender.  Add spice paste, chicken, salt, vinegar and water.  Bring chicken mixture to boil over medium high heat.  Cover and reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 45 minutes until chicken is tender. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary to keep it from sticking.   Serves 4-6.

 

Thai Chicken Curry

Spicy and filling, this chicken curry is great on a cold winter day!

Chicken_curry_rice

Ingredients:

2 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 t. minced fresh ginger

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips

1 1/4 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

2 T. curry powder

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

3 c. boneless chicken breast or thighs, cut into one-inch cubes

Salt

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

2 T. fresh  cilantro, leaves and stems chopped finely

Directions:

Saute garlic, ginger and bell pepper in olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until softened. Add 1/4 cup coconut milk, curry paste and curry powder and bring to boil, whisking constantly. Stir in chicken, remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Cook about 7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring often. Season with salt.  Serve over hot rice. Garnish with scallions and cilantro.  Serves 4-6.

Asian Pot Stickers with Ginger Dipping Sauce

Pot Stickers

Ingredients:

Ginger Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Pot Stickers
2 1/2 cups cabbage, finely chopped
1/3 pound ground chicken or pork
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (from 1/2-inch knob)
1 small carrot, grated
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper
30 gyoza (pot sticker) wrappers
1/4 cup canola oil

Directions:

First, make the Ginger Dipping Sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.
Next make the filling for the pot stickers. In large bowl, combine shredded cabbage, chicken or pork, ginger, carrots, scallions, and garlic. In a separate bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg, then stir into cabbage-meat mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

On dry surface, lay out 1 gyoza wrapper. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cabbage-meat filling into center, then moisten halfway around edge with water. Fold one edge of the gyoza wrapper over and seal, using thumb and forefinger of one hand, forming tiny pleats edge of wrapper. Set pot sticker aside on a baking sheet while you make the remainder of the pot stickers.

In a large non-stick skillet over moderately high heat, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Cook, the pot stickers on each side until golden brown. Add 1/2 cup water to the skillet and cover tightly with lid. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon to serving platter and serve with Ginger Dipping Sauce. Makes 30.

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Basil

Ingredients:

Chicken

4 boneless chicken breast halves

4 oz. fresh goat cheese

2 scallions, thinly sliced

8 basil leaves, shredded or sliced very thinly

¼. t. coarsely ground pepper

½ c. flour

1 egg, beaten with 2 T. water until frothy

1 c. Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

Oil for frying

Mushroom Sauce

4 T. butter

½ pound mushrooms. Sliced

¼ c. dry white wine

2/3 c. chicken stock

4 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into 4 pieces

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Flatten each chicken breast between sheets of plastic wrap to a thickness of ¼ inch using meat mallet.  Combine cheese, green onions, basil and pepper in small bowl.  Divide the cheese mixture lengthwise over half of each chicken piece.  Tuck short ends in.  Roll chicken up, starting and one long side, into tight cylinders.  Dip each rolled chicken breast first in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.  In a large skillet, fry the chicken breasts in oil until golden brown, transfer to baking dish and keep warm at 200 degrees while you make the sauce.

For sauce:  In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter and sauté mushrooms until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add wine and boil 3 minutes.  Add stock and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and swirl in 4 tablespoons cold butter, one piece at a time.  Season sauce with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Cut rolls crosswise into ½ inch thick rounds.  Fan out on plates.  Serve immediately, passing sauce separately.

Chicken and Broccoli Pizza

Pizza Dough

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 c. warm water (110o)

2 ½ c flour

2 T. oil

1 t. sugar

1 t. salt

Topping

1 boneless chicken breast, cut into strips

1 T. extra virgin olive oil

2 c. tomato sauce

1 T. oregano leaves

2 t. thyme

½ t. garlic salt

½ c. sliced red onions

½ c. sliced yellow bell pepper

½ c. sun dried tomatoes

½ c. fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 c. fresh broccoli florets

2 jalapenos, seeded and sliced (optional)

3 c. grated mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450o F. To make the pizza dough, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Stir in flour, oil, sugar and salt.  Beat 25 strokes or until mixture forms a ball.  Cover and let rest five minutes. Grease fingers and spread out dough on baking sheet to form a 14” round.  In a skillet over medium heat, sauté chicken strips in oil until done. Spread tomato sauce on the pizza dough.  Season the sauce with oregano, thyme and garlic salt.  Distribute onions, bell pepper, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken strips on top of sauce.  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake at 450o F. for 10-15 minutes.  (For crispier crust, prebake five minutes before adding ingredients.)