Saturday, May 26, 2018

GILDING THE POTATO



My potato harvest this spring is pretty puny. The biggest spuds are golf-ball sized. Most are more like marbles. I’m glad they are not the only thing that keeps me from famine! Still, they deserve some celebration.


I have a recipe for a very old-fashioned potato dish called “ajopollo.” Ajopollo literally means “garlic-chicken.” But there is absolutely no chicken in the preparation! Garlic, yes. The name possibly derives from el tiempo de hambre, the times of hunger, when an ama de casa had to feed a family on subsistence foods.

Ajopollo is a sauce made with crushed almonds and bread, garlic, olive oil and “saffron.” Saffron, in poorer homes, does not mean the pricey golden spice, but yellow coloring. 

The simple potato dish with its sauce is served as a starter, in place of soup, with or without a poached or fried egg. With the addition of fish or clams it becomes a main dish.

In honor of my home-grown potatoes, I’m using real saffron and only almonds to thicken the sauce, instead of almonds plus bread. In the humble original, water is the cooking liquid. I’m using a good chicken stock. Gilding the potatoes and putting the pollo into ajopollo. It makes a delightful dish.

A saffron-almond sauce naps the tender potatoes.

Ajopollo can be served as a tapa.

Add a poached egg. Starter or lunch?

Clams and a few fava beans turn potatoes into a more substantial dish.

Potatoes in Garlicky (Not)Chicken Sauce
Patatas en Ajopollo

Mealy brown/gold/russet potatoes are best for this dish, because they absorb so much flavor. However, they do easily overcook and disintegrate. Firm red potatoes keep their shape. Whichever you use, cut them into pieces of equal size (about 1 ½ inches). Peel or don’t peel, as you prefer.

Depending on what type of potato you use, cooking time will vary. You may need additional cooking liquid. Add stock or water so that the almond-thickened sauce is the consistency of a light cream sauce. It should nap the potatoes. If you are using water rather than seasoned stock, be sure to add salt generously.

Serves 6.

2 pounds small potatoes
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup blanched and skinned almonds
5 cloves garlic, peeled
½ teaspoon saffron threads
3 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon chopped parsley + more to garnish
2 cups chicken stock or water
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Scrub potatoes. Peel them if you wish. Cut them in halves or quarters so that all are more or less the same size. (If prepping in advance, cover the potatoes with water until ready to cook.)

Heat the oil in a pan or skillet and fry the almonds and cloves of garlic, turning them until golden. Skim the almonds and garlic out of the oil and reserve.

Crush the saffron threads and put them in a small bowl. Add the hot water and allow to infuse 5 minutes.

Place the almonds, cloves of garlic, saffron water and parsley in a blender with ½ cup of the stock. Blend to make a smooth paste.

Add the potatoes (drained if they have been covered with water) to the remaining oil in the pan. Cook them on medium heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Do not let them brown. Add remaining 1 ½ cups of stock to the pan with bay leaf, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat so the liquid just bubbles. Cover the pan and cook the potatoes 5 minutes.

Stir the almond paste from the blender into the potatoes. Continue cooking, shaking the pan frequently so the potatoes and sauce do not stick, until potatoes are tender when probed with a skewer, about 10 minutes longer.

Serve potatoes and sauce garnished with additional chopped parsley.



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Saturday, May 19, 2018

ME AND A ROAST CHICKEN

Mornings when I go into town for aerobics and shopping, I often park on the edge of the village in front of a strip of restaurants. At one end is a take-away roast-chicken joint. By the time I return to the car, the rotisseries are all fired up and the smell of herb-roasted fowl wafts up and down the street. It’s the most mouth-watering aroma imaginable. Roast chicken is irresistible, inevitable. 


The pleasure of a whole roast chicken! There will be leftovers! The chicken is stuffed with herbs and rubbed with garlic and pimentón before roasting. (The crispy bits are browned garlic.)

I tell myself that for the same price as la Gallega’s rotisserie chicken (a Galician woman is the roast-master)--€8.00 or about $9.45—I could buy a much larger free-range bird and roast it myself. Not the instant gratification, but a better deal in the long run.

The problem is that this week my family is away. It’s just me and a five-pound roast chicken. Will I be bored with chicken before the leftovers are gone?

Here’s how it’s going.


Roast chicken dinner for one--juicy thigh, pan-roasted carrots and potatoes. I'm not big on gravy, so I'm serving the chicken with mango chutney.

Leftovers! How many meals?


The chicken dismantled. I'll pick all the meat off the bones and use the carcass to make roast chicken broth, a base for soups.
The rewards! Chunks of chicken to add to my lunch salad.

Dinner on day two: chicken curry with coconut milk and mango. I used the meat from the other roasted thigh. The sauce is made with black mustard seed, fresh ginger, garlic, green chilies, curry powder and tomatoes.

Roast-chicken soup for lunch the following day. I added shredded spinach to the broth along with the cut-up roast potatoes and carrots and scrappy bits of chicken picked off the bones.

Dinner, day three. A quarter chicken breast sliced and served with mujammara walnut sauce and taboulleh salad made with bulgur. (Recipe for the walnut sauce is below.)

Day four: spicy Moroccan tagine with chicken legs, salty preserved lemon, olives, carrots and zucchini.

A lunch dish for one or starter for two--orange, chicken, olive and onion salad, an adaptation of a Spanish recipe, remojón. (Recipe below.)

Day five: Asian noodles with chicken and cashews. The last of the chicken breast is added to a stir-fry of vegetables, and served with rice noodles or zucchini noodles, topped with a hot and tangy dressing. (Recipe below.)

Day six. Only some shredded meat from the chicken wings left to go in this spicy Mexican tortilla soup. I wasn’t going to open a packet of corn tortillas for a single serving, so I substituted a few corn chips from a snack pack.With diced avocado, radishes, scallions and sliced jalapeño peppers, the soup makes a fun meal.


Roast Chicken, Home Style
Pollo Asado Casero


1 large roasting chicken (5 pounds)
Salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
Sprigs of thyme and rosemary.
1 bay leaf
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Carrots and potatoes (optional)

Sprinkle the chicken generously with salt and pepper, inside and out. Leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for 3 hours.

Remove chicken from the fridge. Push sprigs of herbs and bay leaf inside the chicken’s cavity. Juice ½ lemon and reserve the juice. Cut remaining half in wedges and place inside the chicken.

Crush the garlic with pimentón, lemon juice and oil. Rub this mixture all over the chicken’s skin. Tie the legs together close to the body. Place in a roasting pan and allow the chicken to come to room temperature, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place chicken in the oven for 10 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350ºF. After 30 minutes, add carrots and potatoes, if using. (Coat them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before adding to the roasting pan.) Roast the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF when tested with an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. (A 5-pound chicken will need approximately 1 ½ hours total roasting time.)

Remove chicken to a cutting board and allow it to set 10 minutes before carving.

Mujammara Walnut Sauce
Salsa de Nueces

Mujammara walnut sauce to serve with chicken or as a dip.

 Mujammara is a Turkish sauce of roasted red peppers and walnuts that reminds me of Catalan romesco. My version is an adaptation easily made in a food processor with canned piquillo peppers. It’s gorgeous with sliced chicken and goes well with kebabs and grilled fish. Use it as a dip with bread sticks or vegetable dippers.

The recipe makes about 1 cup of sauce, more than is needed for one serving of chicken. Keep it tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Piquillo peppers for sauce.
½ cup walnuts
1 (185-gram/ 6 ½ -oz) can piquillo peppers
2 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon hot pimentón or pinch cayenne
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Grind the walnuts in a mini food processor. Add the piquillo peppers, garlic, cumin, pimentón, lemon juice and salt. Blend to make a thick paste. Blend in the oil to make a smooth sauce. 


Chicken and Orange Salad with Olives
Remojón con Pollo y Aceitunas

Chicken instead of cod in this Andalusian salad.

Remojón (also known as salmorejo or ensalada malagueña) is an exotic salad of oranges, olives, onions and salt cod. In this version, I’ve swapped chicken for the cod.

Use any kind of olive for this salad. Brine-cured black or purple ones are the most dramatic looking, but cracked green olives, pitted or not, are traditional with remojón salad.

Serves 2 as a starter or 1 as a main dish.

1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
Red pepper flakes, to taste
2 small cooked potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling on salad
Salad greens
½ large orange, peeled and sliced
½ avocado, sliced
12 olives
Sliced red onion or scallions
Coarse salt
Chopped chives to garnish


Place the diced chicken in a bowl. Add the orange juice, vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes and quartered potatoes. Stir in 2 tablespoons oil. Cover and marinate the chicken, refrigerated, at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

Drizzle with more oil.


Spread salad greens on one or two salad plates. Arrange the orange and avocado slices on the greens. Spoon the marinated chicken on top along with all of the marinade. Scatter olives and sliced onion on top of the chicken. Drizzle more olive oil over the salad. Sprinkle with coarse salt and chopped chives.






Asian Noodles with Chicken and Cashews
Fideos Estilo Asiatico con Pollo y Anacardos




This makes more sauce than needed for one serving. Refrigerate the sauce and use for steak, shrimp or tofu.

Serves 1.

3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
1 ½ tablespoons Asian fish sauce, such as nuoc mam
2 teaspoons Asian chile paste, such as sambal oelek
Sugar or stevia
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cashews
1 shallot, sliced
¼ red bell pepper, slivered
½ cup cooked green beans
1 cup diced cooked chicken
½ cup boiling water
Cooked rice noodles or zucchini noodles
Mint leaves
Basil leaves
Cilantro leaves
Grated Carrot


In a heat-proof bowl combine the garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, chile paste and sweetener. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a small skillet. Toss the cashews in the oil until they are golden. Remove them and reserve. Add the shallot and bell pepper to the skillet and stir-fry 3 minutes. Add the green beans and toss them with the shallots. Add the chicken and cook until heated.

Stir the boiling water into the garlic-lime-chile paste. Place the noodles in a bowl. Top with the heated chicken. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the garlic-chile sauce on top. Scatter a few mint, basil and cilantro leaves on top. Add a grating of carrot. Scatter cashews over all. Serve hot, warm or cold.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018

REVUELTO: BREAKFAST, LUNCH, TAPA OR SUPPER

What’s for breakfast? Lunch or dinner? Tapas for a drinks party? Eggs! Eggs are the answer to any meal-planning dilemma. And Spain has you covered when it comes to really good ways to serve eggs. Think tortilla, the famous potato “omelet,” or fried egg atop a mound of vegetable pisto with zucchini and eggplant.


But of all the egg dishes, the one I go back to over and over is revuelto, eggs scrambled with vegetables, seafood or ham. It’s quick to prepare, much easier than the tricky tortilla. It can be scaled up or down—from a single serving to a family-sized brunch. It can be very homey or quite luxurious, depending on which ingredients you choose to incorporate.

All scrambled up--eggs with asparagus, shrimp, mushrooms and garlic shoots.

Fresh vegetables or leftovers, wild mushrooms or cultivated ones, a revuelto incorporates them all.

Last week’s revuelto was leftover cooked broccoli with strips of serrano ham. My revuelto this week is inspired by asparagus in the market and green garlic shoots in my garden. With the addition of mushrooms and small shrimp, it is a fairly substantial meal.



Eggs Scrambled with Asparagus and Shrimp
Revuelto de Espárragos con Gambas

Use any type of mushroom, wild or cultivated. Morels are divine; oyster mushrooms are fine. If green garlic shoots are not available, use 1 small clove of garlic with chopped green scallions. 

To serve revuelto as a tapa, spread it on toasts. 

Revuelto with five eggs makes three, four or five servings.

2 bunches green asparagus (1 ½ pounds)
6 ounces mushrooms
3 green garlic shoots (½ cup, chopped)
¼ cup olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
5 ounces small peeled shrimp
5 eggs
Pimentón (paprika), preferably smoked
Toast or fried bread to serve (optional)

Slice asparagus into small pieces; leave tips whole.

Chop bulb, stem and leaves of green garlic shoots.

Snap off and discard ends of asparagus. Slice the spears into ½ -inch pieces, leaving the tips whole. Clean and slice the mushrooms, discarding any hard stems. Chop the garlic shoots, including the greens.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the sliced asparagus on moderate heat 5 minutes. Add the asparagus tips, mushrooms and chopped garlic shoots. Sauté on moderate heat 5 minutes more, stirring frequently. Do not allow the ingredients to brown. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, if desired.

Taste the asparagus. If it is done to your liking (crisp-tender), proceed to the next step. If you prefer the asparagus well-cooked, continue sautéing it another 4-5 minutes.

The scramble! Break eggs into the sautéed vegetables and stir them around until set.

Push the vegetables to the sides of the skillet. Lower the heat. Break the eggs, one by one, into the pan. Use a wooden paddle to scramble the eggs with the vegetables. Continue stirring until the eggs are set to your liking.

Place the scrambled eggs and vegetables in a serving bowl or onto individual plates. Sprinkle with pimentón. Serve hot accompanied by toast or fried bread, if desired.


Here’s a nice coincidence—as I was writing up my recipe for revuelto, television chef, Enrique Sánchez on CanalSur, was making a similar revuelto, with asparagus, mushrooms and shrimp. His proportions were different—less asparagus and more eggs. And, he beat the eggs in a bowl before incorporating them with the asparagus. You can watch the 30-minute program (in Spanish) here. 

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