As most of you faithful readers know, I love cooking with booze. Using beer, wine or spirits is a great way to infuse flavor and amp up a dish. Whether it’s used for deglazing in a simple pan sauce or for a low and slow braise, alcohol can add a myraid of flavors to a dish (as long as you’re not using bottom shelf swill).
It’s funny how the autumnal equinox can make an almost immediate change in the weather — with the overnight switch from summer to fall you can start to smell the faint hint of autumn in the air almost overnight. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I swear the slightest breeze feels just a tad cooler the day after the calendar date of this change of seasons. And with this real or imagined cooler weather comes the itch to crank up my oven and start using the warm and comforting flavors of this time of year. Hearty herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme are hallmarks of fall tastes; citrus, apples and pears are in season, and baking and roasting are the cooking methods that prevail.
For my first recipe of the season, I’m giving plain old chicken an injection of fall flavors with the addition of rosemary, orange and smoked sausage in a one-pan roast. Pan-seared chicken legs and thighs are nestled in a bed of onion, apple, smoked sausage, seasoned with orange zest and fresh rosemary, and then roasted to golden-brown perfection in the oven.
On its own or paired with a few sides, this dish is a savory and flavorsome addition to your autumn recipe repertoire. It’s also very versatile: use lemon in place of the orange, sage or thyme to replace the rosemary, and you can even switch up the smoked sausage and use cured Spanish chorizo in its place.
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Back in March, my fiance and took our pre-wedding honeymoon trip to the UK and Ireland. What excited me most about the trip (besides visiting the Doctor Who museum in Cardiff) was the prospect of sampling the many global cuisines that these countries have to offer. They have become a melting pot of cultures over the past few centuries due to English colonization, immigration, etc., and this in turn now characterizes their food and the way people eat.
While perusing the travel book I brought along, I learned of Balti curry, a now renowned English dish that was created in Birmingham (known as “Brum” by the locals) by North Indian and Pakistani immigrants in the 1970s.
This Punjabi-influenced curry is very aromatic, filled with warming spices, tomatoes, onions and cilantro, and can be made with meat, vegetables or paneer (an Indian fresh cheese). It’s a one-pot dish traditionally served in a metal or copper, two-handled dish called a “Balti”, which means “bucket” in Hindi. Instead of eating it with rice (or even silverware), the diner will scoop it up with naan or chapati flatbread. The best thing about Balti is that it cooks up quickly, like a stir fry, and can be completed in about half an hour — no need to watch over a simmering pot for hours.
Don’t be intimidated by the myriad of spices used in Balti: most of them can be found in specialty grocery stores that have a bulk spice section and the rest can be obtained from an Indian grocer (which is a culinary adventure in itself to visit). I’ve even seen a Balti spice blend sold at Whole Foods under their own brand. As for the protein, beef, lamb, pork or even vegetables can easily be substituted for the chicken.
No need for a passport here as you can take your tastebuds for a trip to jolly old Brum with this easy to prepare, savory Balti dish.
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Here’s a twist on the classic chicken/veal/beef “saltimbocca” that replaces the Italian prosciutto with bacon. I also added an extra kick of flavor using Stubb’s Texas Butter Injectable Marinade before wrapping and cooking the chicken. It’s as easy as inject, wrap, sear in a pan and finish baking in the oven. The marinade is optional, but I recommend giving it a try as it adds flavor to the inside of the chicken breasts and help ensure that they don’t dry out when cooked.
What’s the first word that comes to mind when I think about the food of Northern Africa and the Middle East? Colorful! The array of fragrant, exotic spices found in their open-air markets are used in abundance in native dishes and have become a trademark of their cuisines. Warming spices of turmeric, saffron, paprika, cinnamon, coriander and cumin are widely used in the aforementioned regions, and they create a harmonious experience for the eyes, nose and palate. Poultry, lamb, beef and goat are also staple proteins to the Arab diet and are often accompanied by rice and sometimes couscous. Replicating the cuisine from this part of the globe isn’t difficult at all and doesn’t require a trip to an exotic grocer — most ingredients can be easily found in the spice and World Flavors aisles at your local grocery store.
Now I’m sure a “tagine” (or “tajin”) may sound fancy and complicated to some, but it is simply a type of dish from North Africa. It gets its name from the cone-shaped clay pot with detachable base in which it is traditionally cooked and served in. For this recipe, a proper tagine pot isn’t required — a cast iron or heavy-bottomed pot with a lid will do just fine.
The following recipe for chicken tagine hails from Morocco, but the ingredients are commonly found in most cuisines from North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula. It gets its bright yellow color from the addition of turmeric. Substituting beef or lamb for the chicken will work just fine, and feel free to play with different spices if you so choose — add a dash of cumin or coriander to the braising liquid, or even a pinch of saffron.
Traditionally, tagines are served with couscous: tiny pellets made from semolina flour (the same ingredient in traditional pasta) that are cooked by pouring boiling water over them and then allowed to steam for about 15 minutes. The couscous soaks up the lemony olive sauce, making it an ideal base for serving.
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