Tag Archives: Homemade

Asian Chicken Meatballs in Butter Lettuce Wraps

Asian Chicken Meatballs

This dish came out of nowhere. In an attempt to stave off high cholesterol medication I’ve been eating a lot of lean proteins and greens. For a couple weeks I found it fun to revisit the humble chicken breast. It brought me back to my early days of cooking, back when a bag of frozen chicken breasts was always in my freezer and I would dream up new ways to enjoy the staple item. Yesterday however, I was bored. I wanted something bright and light, something fun and new to make and eat. My mind wandered and landed on the classic flavor profile from Asia.

Soy sauce, ginger and green onion.

The game was afoot. The race was on. Off to the store.

Servings 4, Cook time 30 minutes 

Asian Chicken Meatballs in Butter Lettuce Wraps

  • 1 1/2 pounds of ground chicken. (white meat is fine, dark meat is better)
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Soy Sauce (Low sodium if you have it)
  • 1 egg
  • Bread crumbs (I used panko)
  • 1 head of butter lettuce
  • sesame seeds (optional)
  • Fresh Ginger, a piece about half the size of a man’s thumb
  • 1 ripe Avocado

Dipping Sauce 

  • Soy Sauce
  • Rice Vinegar (Or White Wine Vinegar)
  • Sriracha (or Chili Oil)
  • Sugar (Or honey)
  • Sesame Oil (or Olive Oil)
  • Sliced green onion

Method

Preheat the oven to 400F / 200C. Finely slice and chop your garlic and onions, rinse off your lettuce and toss the chicken in a large mixing bowl. Add the onions, garlic, cracked egg and soy sauce to the bowl. Grate the ginger down using a zester or the fine side of cheese grater. Use enough soy sauce to create a puddle around the chicken. Don a pair of gloves or using your freshly washed hands, dig in and start to mix by hand. It will be very soupy. Mix just enough so that your ingredients are together and add a layer of breadcrumbs. This is when using the buddy system really helps, have them pour some in the bowl so you can keep your hands on the mix.

Asian Meatball Mix, pre Breadcrumbs

Mix in the bread crumbs a little at a time. You want the mixture to be able to stick to itself and form into balls without using so much that you dry it all out.

Find a baking sheet and start to make balls of the meat. Place the meatballs on the sheet with a little space between them. Pop in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and use a flat spatula to peel them off of the pan without losing the crusty bits. Take some tongs and turn them over, back in the oven for another ten minutes. It was too hot for me to turn on an oven in my house. I used a cast iron skillet outside on my propane grill. The principle remains the same. I’ll keep my instructions to the oven for word counts sake.

Asian Chicken Meatballs Post, Flip

While in the oven, mix the Soy Sauce, Oil and Vinegar in a 3:1:1 ratio in a bowl. Add as much Sriracha as you want and toss in a spoonful of sugar. Taste. If the soy sauce is to powerful add more vinegar. If it’s too vinegary add oil. Once happy add the green onion.

Sacrifice one meatball to check for doneness. You want the center to be a little moist but cooked through. Look for the textural difference between cooked meat and raw.

Serve in butter lettuce leafs with sauce spooned over the top. Garnish with avocado and sesame seeds. I seasoned and spun some leftover brown rice into balls using plastic wrap for a little extra heft.

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Minestrone Soup in Under an Hour

Minestrone Soup

Oh Minestrone… How I love thee. It, like so many food memories, takes me back to childhood, to memories that are so old and faded that they’re best described by colors. A whiff of a maturing minestrone soup on the stovetop will transport me to a time when chairs were something I had to climb to sit on. It’s bright and savory, steeped in herbs and hearty with cannellini beans and pasta.

I spent a few days last week working with a fellow food lover. We spent hours talking about this spot and that, our favorite dishes and preparations. We swapped tips and techniques and sat down to two exceptional working lunches. At one point minestrone came up (he uses swiss chard, brilliant) and it got it stuck in my craw, the craving sat in the top of my stomach from the moment it was breached. By hour 40 I had broken. It had to be done.

Ingredients for Minestrone Minestrone Soup

Serves 6-8
45-60 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 small yellow summer squash
  • 1 small zucchini squash
  • 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • 6 cups of chicken/ vegetable broth
  • 2-4 cups of uncooked baby spinach
  • A handful of fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup of a small pasta shells
  • A hard italian cheese… Parmesan, Romano… (or, if you’re feeling classy, Pecorino)
  • 1 Baguette

Dried herbs

  • Marjoram (oregano works too)
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper

Preparation

Get everything out and organized. Set up a slop bowl for peels and ends, it keeps you from running back and forth to the trash.

Splash some olive in a pot on medium, break down your onions, carrots and celery into small bits. Salt & pepper, 2 layers of thyme, 1 layer of marjoram(or oregano) and a dash or two of basil and sage.  Stir the mix and put the burner on medium high.

Get to work on those green beans. I’ve never really figured out a perfect method with beans. I just snap off the stalk end with my fingers and work my way through the pile. Snap, next. Snap, next… Then I try to bundle them all like matchsticks and cut them into 1 inch pieces.

Slice the garlic, toss it in.

Quarter your zucchini and summer squash and chop it down. Into the pot it goes. More salt and pepper. Stir.
Add the tomato. Rinse the beans good if they’re out of a can and put them in. Salt, pepper, another coating of herbs. Bay leaves. Stir.

Note the order I did that in. Onions first, almost always. Everything else goes in order of vegetable firmness. Garlic usually in the middle, you don’t want it to burn and get bitter.

Mama Mia!

Mama Mia!

Give this a few minutes. Absentminded? OCD? Set a timer for 4 minutes and twenty three seconds.

Pour in your 6 cups of broth and stir. Turn heat to high and cover.

Do you have any old Parmesan rinds kicking around? Got a great tip this week, save your rinds in the freezer. Pull them out for jobs like this. I happen to have one in the fridge. Toss that in the soup.

Bring to a boil. This is where I clean up my mess. A clean kitchen is a happy cook! Working quickly I had enough time to clean up all the dishes I had just used and wipe down the counters.

Once the soup is boiling give it another stir and turn the heat down to medium high. At this point you can do it a few different ways. If it’s the weekend and you feel like torturing your friends and family, turn down the heat and take your time. Let the smell whip the guests into a frenzy. (A trick I learned from my mother) They’ll be knocking each other over by the time you’re ready to serve. If you’re in a hurry like me, keep whipping that soup into a boil. Ze flavors must marinate! Ze broth must reduce! Work soup work! 

A boiling soup is a reducing and thickening broth. You need some of that to concentrate the flavors but you don’t want it too thick. I like my soups with a lot of broth so I keep the cover on for most of the cook, pulling the lid off at the end for a mad dash 5 minute reduction. It’s a balance. You can always thicken more with uncovered heat. Thinning the broth is a little more complex and I try to avoid it.

Boil some water for your pasta and get that going. Follow the instructions on the box for timing. Drain the water and set your pasta aside.

Why do this? Extra steps and extra dishes? Not usually our style here in the mancookgood kitchen.

I do it because I don’t want to leave the pasta in the soup for leftovers. Same goes with rice. It continues to absorb the liquid and by day two or three my beautiful broth is a solid block of bloated pasta. It’s like a parasite sent to drink up all that goodness. Like Uncle Jack, it never stops drinking.Not today Mr. Cavatelli. Not today.

By this point your soup should be beginning it’s descent into flavorland. Drinking a glass of wine? Red? I was. Splash some in at any point.

Slice your bread and get it ready. (Toasted? I did) I like to put it in the toaster oven pre buttered. It makes for a soft interior and crispy edges. Who doesn’t like crispy edges? Bring them to me.

Add the spinach. Yes, all of it. It reduces, trust me. Stir it in as it shrinks.

Taste the soup. It should almost be there. Check the carrots, make sure they’re soft. Turn up the heat and take off the lid. Please put your tray tables up and in an upright position, the pilot has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. 5 more minutes of an uncovered boil, taste it again. Hot!

Here’s the most important part.

Spoon the soup and some cooked pasta into a bowl and grate your cheese over it. This is nearly non negotiable. Lactose intolerant? How bad? Grate the cheese and take a pill or something.

Sprinkle some chili flakes and a spot of pesto if you have it hanging around. Serve with the bread and a smile. Make the soup. Win the day.

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Grilled Carne Asada

 

IMG_1279My mother is an exceptional cook. She grew up in a time and a city where families of European immigrants lived clustered together in neighborhoods named after their homelands. It became my stomach’s good fortune that “French Hill” happened to border “Italian Hill”. While the children were off to school and the men off to work, generations of women would cook their family recipes throughout the day in anticipation of their families return. It was the smells of the neighborhood that got my mother most hooked on food. She spent days with other peoples’ grandmothers learning the foods they had learned from generations past.

I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen with my mother growing up, I was too busy taking the fresh and delicious food we ate for granted to do that. It wasn’t until I had grown and moved out that my enthusiasm for food began to take shape. I did, however, learn through osmosis what amounts to a master class in food and family theory that continues to this day. Her excitement about other culture’s foods really stuck with me. I can’t eat or smell something for long without dissecting the flavors and learning to make some version of it. Like many staples in my family’s home, my inspiration for yesterday’s meal began in my neighbor’s kitchen. One whiff of their grill on my way out the door and I knew Mexican would be on the menu. While I won’t pretend to know an Abuela’s version of carne asada I’d like to think she’d enjoy it if she had some. You’re always welcome Abuela!

I’m almost to the point.

So yesterday we had the conference championship games for American football. These days have become informal holidays in the States, the bigger the game, the bigger the group. Friends and casual fans come out of the woodwork while we light our fires, cook our meats and yell at men dressed in stripes. Depending on your rooting interests, they can be the best and the worst days but there is always food to keep us busy.

Yesterday while the Green Bay Packers cruelly teased their fans with early dominance, I was buzzing around a friend’s kitchen preparing some Carne Asada.

What’s that? Don’t live 100 miles from the Mexican border?

Carne Asada is seasoned flap meat, cooked nearly well done and usually served in tacos or burritos. It is best grilled. Serve it with your favorite Mexican condiments. I prepared fresh salsa, chopped avocado and a cheese called queso fresco. Sour cream, shredded cheese and jarred salsa would do just fine. Tortillas too, of course. I now owe you a post on salsas and condiments. Soon. For today we’ll focus on the meat.

Ah yes, the meat. But what is flap meat? So many questions. Flap meat is a cut found in the bottom sirloin. It’s cheap, well marbled (fatty) and very thin. Buy it in hispanic grocers by the pound. The French call it “bavette”, some South Americans call it “vacio”. I call it delicious.  If you can’t find it, use skirt steak or anything you can find that is thin and flat.

Serves 6-8. Takes between 30-60 minutes.

  • 3 pounds flap meat
  • 10 limes
  • Your favorite chili powder (I used a ground New Mexico Chile with medium heat)
  • kosher or sea salt
  • oil

See? Easy as pie. Not that pie is easy. Especially if you’re preparing your own crust.

sprinkle sprinkle

sprinkle sprinkle

Flap meat is often sold in a bag. Keep it in there for a moment and splash some olive oil on it, enough to cover most of the meat with a light layer. Shake it up, then lay it out flat on a platter or a sheet pan if available. I used foil to keep the amount of dishes down. Sprinkle a layer of salt on both sides of the meat and a layer of chili powder on one side. Repeat this on all the steaks.

Set aside. 5 minutes? Half hour? Overnight? Your call. The salt tenderizes the meat while making it delicious so you do have some incentive to wait. If you’re in a hurry, say you want to stop cooking and watch football, rush this part. No biggie.

burn fire burn

burn fire burn

Get your fires hot. Medium high / high on a gas grill, if you’re using charcoal you’re obviously not in a hurry. Get a nice pile of coals going and have a beer. Enjoy your task. Just before you put the steaks on the grill dress with lime juice. Give them a minute. Place the steaks on the grill, add more lime juice and let them cook. You do not want your flap meat cooked to medium rare. You need to cook it so the fat and proteins start to break down. Char that side, flip, add more lime juice.

Chop up your limes into quarters and halves and heat some tortillas wrapped in foil on a less hot part of the grill. It helps to flip the tortillas like pages in a book before you heat them. You don’t want them to heat up and fuse together.

When the steaks are well done and have some burnt edges, pull them off the grill and dice them up good.

Serve with tortillas and bowls of Mexican condiments. Grab a plate. Go sit down and watch the game.

Pay no attention to the carnitas on the right

Pay no attention to the carnitas on the right

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