Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#1 Buckwheat, Brown Rice and Wood Ear Pottage

Let's start off with the first jar of chicken broth. I seem to have plenty more where that came from, and I can't wait to get started!! 
It's still a little chilly, and a good, hearty pottage is just the thing. Besides, it started to rain and wild mushrooms are starting to come out! A few months late, but it's much better late then never. Nooo, I haven't actually picked the mushrooms. YET. I went to a local Vietnamese grocery and got a huge tray of wood ear mushrooms and fresh plump Shiitakes. I wrangled some stray vegetables from the fridge, and some buckwheat and brown rice which I always keep around. The mushrooms, roasted buckwheat and a few spices made this dish taste earthy, slightly smoky with a delicate dash of spice.

4 large wood ear mushrooms
4 large shiitakes
1/2 cup roasted buckwheat
1/3 cup of brown rice
3 sliced Brussels sprouts
a hand full of chopped green beans*
chicken broth
1 tsp smoked paprika
cayenne pepper to taste

*you know those abandoned veggies in the refrigerator you've been feeling guilty about. Now is the time. 

Bring chicken stock to a boil and add vegetables, spices, rice and buckwheat. I add the mushrooms too, except for the wood ears. I like them a bit crunchy and wait till the very end - about 4 minutes before serving.  It takes about 10 minutes for the rice and buckwheat to be ready and soft. The broth makes this taste incredible, slow cooked and homey. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

#3 Mushroom, Potato, Barley and Vegetable Soup

The weather here in San Jose turned foggy and rainy. It's a far cry from yesterday's balmy spring day, but I'm not complaining - it's February after all.

In weather like this, I like something hearty and slightly spicy. Something that will warm me up and hug me.
What better than a mix of mushrooms, barley, potatoes and a few vegetables that are still waiting in the fridge? Upon close examination of my pantry and refrigerator I decided that there is no need to go to the store - no need to leave the house before I have to. This soup is so simple that I can make it anytime I have the basics at home - potatoes, mushrooms and a few odds and ends. Even if I don't have fresh mushrooms available I always try to keep dried Porchinis at hand. The Starving Artist has a budget to keep, and getting dry goods in bulk is something that helps out in the kitchen immeasurably.

My secret to this soup is adding half a teaspoon of chili flakes to the broth at the beginning - it gives it a hot kick that warms me up on a foggy day like this. I take a huge spoonful and look out the window at the damp fog and bare trees and I feel better all over.

1 jar (about 4 cups) chicken broth
1/2 cup reserved chicken meat
4 shiitake mushrooms chopped
2 small potatoes diced
4 tbsp corn
2 carrots reserved from the original broth
(if you have any canned vegetables like carrots or peas, they will work wonderfully)
1 tsp pepper flakes
6 tbsp barley
sage leaves for garnish

Put potatoes, pepper flakes, barley and broth into a pot and simmer for about 20 minutes until barley and potatoes are soft. Add mushrooms and simmer for 5 more minutes. At the end, add the chicken and cooked carrots. A good addition would be some grated Parmesan, alas, the Starving Artist has no Parmesan today. 

The collection of chicken broth in the fridge looks untouched. We're going to have to get creative...   

#2 Chicken Pozole Verde

Aaah, new things... I love trying new things but at the same time they make me apprehensive. Especially when cooking something that comes from another culture. I think it's because sometimes, I feel like I'm intruding on the ingredients if they are unfamiliar to me: coming in with my ignorance, abusing them and making a fool of myself. Ever feel that? I have repeated various pozole recipes in my head until they felt like second nature. I have also tasted many pozoles - the pork, the chicken and pork, the vegetarian and the mixed - the verde and the more common versions. I did all of this until I felt like it was becoming "homey" in my head. And here in San Jose, it has become a much loved comfort food for me and after years and years (24 years!) I feel comfortable calling it my own and would love to share that love.

I decided on a pozole verde because it's the most flavorful pozole. I LOVE it with pork, but this time, this is part of the chicken only challenge.

Hominy. For the longest time I had no idea what it was. As a newcomer to California 24 years ago, I didn't know what to think of it because it was a taste so new and so foreign. Now, I don't think I could live without it. Hominy is dried maize which have been nixtamalized, or treated with an alkali. Sound strange? One of the first mentions of it is in the General History of the Things of New Spain, written by Bernardino de Sahagun, a Franciscan Friar.  This was a common way of treating maize in South America. Pozole is a traditional Mexican dish, served on special occasions.

My pozole verde is heavy on the citrusy tomatillos - the combination of their sour and savory flavor combined with the plump and corny hominy makes me want to use the whole five gallons of my chicken stock just for the pozole!

1 jar chicken broth (in this case about 4 cups)
1/2 cup chicken meat reserved from when I made the broth
1 large can hominy
handful of cilantro
half avocado, sliced or diced into squares
two red radishes
tbsp red onion, diced
3 large tomatillos, washed carefully

In a food processor, blend the tomatillos until smooth. Put into a pot with the chicken broth and slowly simmer. Simmer away for about 20 minutes. The color will change from bright raw green, to a calmer more sedate dark green. Open and drain one can of hominy, and add to the pot. Simmer 3 more minutes and add the reserved chicken meat. Serve in a large bowl. To garnish, use the avocado, cilantro, red onion and radishes. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Five Gallon Start

I'm not sure how it happened. We put a 5 gallon stock pot in our wedding registry. We have been generously gifted the said stock pot. It has been used once  for primary fermentation of one gallon of plum wine. Once we put the cat in it to see if he fits. But ever since then, it has been sitting on top of the refrigerator looking useful, but unused.

I finally decided to make proper use of it and cooked a full pot of chicken stock in it and I'm not sure how it happened that I never realized how much liquid 5 gallons really is. It turns out that five gallons is a LOT of liquid. A bit distressed,  I used every available jar in the house to store it, and now I could either feed an army with chicken stock or survive for the rest of winter. 

I got a bit more than I bargained for. I am not only the proud owner of 25 various sized jars of beautiful, honey colored broth, but a beautiful jar of golden shmaltz. 

Now... shmaltz. Where I grew up, shmaltz was something white, made out of pork fat, with a layer of apples and little pieces of crispy bacon. It was unforgettable on bread, almost a religious experience, however bad for you. Shmaltz can mean any type of rendered animal fat, and as is the case now, I have chicken fat. It has been a traditional animal fat used by many cultures, including the Ashkenazi Jews in Europe. I have never had much experience in it, but there was so much of it after this five gallon escapade that I kept it and decided to learn some traditional ways to use it. 

5 Gallons of Broth

5 gallons of water
6 chicken legs, with thighs and skin
1 bunch of parsley
2 large yellow onions
10 large carrots
2 large parsnips 
(let's face it - everything needs to be large)
two tablespoons of salt
tbsp whole black pepper
1 tbsp allspice
5 bay leaves
two leeks (washed carefully)

I added two large beef bones too - it helps to round the flavor a little bit)

Wash the chicken legs thoroughly and put all the other ingredients in the pot. The onion doesn't need to be peeled as the skin helps to add color to the broth. Fill the pot with cold water. Turn the heat on medium low and... wait. For a VERY long time. It is very important to not let it boil. The key is very slow simmering over a long period of time. I simmered my pot for 6 hours, then waited overnight and simmered it for two hours more. It is also important to can it when it's still hot. 

Shmaltz - 
At this point, the chicken fat is melted and floats to the top of the hot broth. It's the easiest to see when you put it in jars. It will be that slick, thick, and you'll be able to take it out no problem with a turkey baster. Put it in a separate jar. It will set overnight!

To jar the broth - 
Carefully wash your jars and lids. Take a large funnel, a sieve and let's get going! I use a sieve to prevent any large particles from getting in the jars. After such a long period of cooking, there will be a lot of vegetable particles floating around. The funnel is not necessary but helpful. After putting the lids on, let the jars sit and cool down before putting them in the fridge. You will hear a loud "pop!" as they cool. That's the lids sealing themselves. 

This will sure last for a long time. Total cost - about 13$. 

Blog Archive