Poultry

Flatten the curve (bird)

”  In this climate where any certainty is elusive at best, I can promise you this…  “

I’ve always been an avid campaigner in the flattening of a bird, a process of turning this hopelessly 3-dimensional animal that insists on uneven heat distribution, into a 2-dimensional disk that crisp up indiscriminately across the plane.  Without the technicality of deboning the entire chicken and armed with only a single kitchen shears and a flat skillet, I’m going to show you how to easily de-joint and de-scaffold a bird so that it can achieve an unequivocally crispy and blistered skin-cap on one side, and slow-cooked therefore succulent and unbelievably juicy meat (even the breasts!) on the other.  In this climate where any certainty is elusive at best, I can at the very least, promise you that you’ll never want to roast another bird after this.

STEP 1:  You’ll be able to finish this entire process with a kitchen shears.  Remove the wing tips and place the bird with the backbone/spine facing the counter.  Then cut through the breast bone to open the bird up.

STEP 2:  Flip the bird over with the skin-side up, then bend and snap/dislocate the joints that connects the thighs to the backbone/spine by bending the thighs 90 degrees upward.  Flip the bird back now with the skin-side down.  With a kitchen shear, completely cut through the joints that connects the wings to the breast (but have them still attached), then remove the triangular breast-bone as seen in this photo.

STEP 3:  To further flatten the bird, cut along the rib cage to separate it from the backbone/spine, then cut through it again somewhere around the mid-point to flatten the natural curvature of the rib cage.  Also cut through the wishbones that connects the shoulder and breast to the rib cage.  Don’t worry, there’s no strict technicality here.  The rule of thumb is disconnect every single joints that holds the bird in shape so that it can be completely opened up and flattened.

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Chicken in hot and sour coconut broth

I made this dish randomly and without aim a couple weeks ago and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d share it.

Despite its gentle-mannered appearance, this soup will slap you out of your winter slumber if you so underestimate it.  Marinated and crispy-browned chickens in an aromatic Thai-style coconut broth that is almost too sour, almost too spicy, almost too salty that the corners of my jaws received it just as much as my tongue.  But only almost almost almost, because in the end I realized I couldn’t stop drinking it, this warming dish that sits right at the spearhead of all the sensations that our tastebuds could withstand and lingers there.

I know you’d love it, too.  That’s all.

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Broken rice crispy crust and chicken cutlets

”  A crust that is both crispy and airy, with a exceptionally craggy surface that foretells that a multi-textural experience awaits.  “

Amongst fried foods enthusiasts, the quest to find the perfect breading, never ends.  Often times either thin but un-impactful, or substantial but too heavy, the delicate balance in a perfect breading, or shall we say “crust”, is elusive and ever-changing.

But today, I feel as if I had come to a near conclusion that seems to suggest that the search is over.  A breading that leads to a crust that is both crispy and airy, but more importantly, stays crispy and airy, where its exceptionally craggy surface foretells that a multi-textural experience awaits.  Large and small puffy crunches that are light, spontaneous, and almost lacelike.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, the broken rice crispy crust.

Yes, rice crispy, the juvenile cereal, the cereal that nobody actually eats on its own, the cereal that only finds life’s meanings in a tightly compressed square jammed with marshmallow and butter, the cereal that, even then, is promptly rejected by the first sign of puberty and any desire to get laid in the years that follow.  Yes, that rice crispy.  That rice crispy has been dying to reinvent itself and think outside its sad box.  And now reinvent itself, without a doubt, it has.  It’s almost as if it was born to do this, to fill in the gaps between the inadequacies of flours and breadcrumbs, to become the unsung hero.  The new it-crust.

Now it would be a crime to confine its new found purpose on not just chicken cutlets.  Think chicken popcorns, pork cutlets, chicken fried steak, fried fish, shrimps, or anything that welcomes a good deep fry and a glass of beer.

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Book Bait: The Hulk, Dry-fried Green Hot Wings

WHAT:  In a shameless campaign to drum up anticipation for our upcoming cookbook, The Art of Escapism Cooking – A Survival Story, today I am launching a new recipe series with a very self-serving, absolutely no-good intent.  Lady and gentlemen, may I present to you, The Book BaitWhat are book baits you ask.  Well, they are brand new recipes that are not in the cookbook but however, in order to make them, you will need an essential component from the book to complete which, yes, is not yet published until October 15, 2019.  And yes, I am willing to do that to you to sell books.

WHY:  Aside from the main motive to get you to pre-order the book (and you can do it here, here and here!), the inspiration for creating this recipe series – if there is still room for this argument – is not entirely corrupt.  There is a chapter inside the book called Condiments, consisting of sauces and spice-mixtures that are used more than once throughout the book.  But since the wrapping-up of the book, I continued to unearth new and exciting ways to utilize them that are too good to be left unbothered.  Which brings us to today’s subject, Fried Chili Verde Sauce.

HOW:  If I could put this green chili sauce in every recipe in the book, I would.  It’s a smooth, creamy almost, and fiercely fragrant puree made from green cayenne peppers that are cooked down, intensified, consummated.  It packs such a pronounced profile of that savory, mouthwatering pepperiness that so many other chili sauces strive for but fall miserably short on, with just enough heat to break a mist of sweat on your forehead without burning your hair off.  It sparkles as a supporting role in a small dollop but ultimately, can and should carry a dish as the main storyteller in a recipe such as this.

I call it, The Hulk, semi-butterflied dry-fried wings lathered in a fiery green hot puree with fried chili verde sauce as the base, and several varieties of green herbs to bring a grassy, fragrant, complex flavor profile to the overall, painfully pleasurable experience.  The butter that is traditionally mixed into other hot wing recipes, is replaced by my extra-brown browned butter that is poured on ruthlessly at the end, humming its respective tune in this crispy, spicy, creamy and finger-licking chorus.

You probably want this immediately.  I mean I certainly want it again since yesterday.  But if someone is making you wait five weeks… well, that’s just mean.

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Japanese fried chicken (karaage) w/ salmon caviar (ikura)

”  Ikura’s intensity lies in its sticky and viscous brininess that liquifies and oozes around the tongue after each pops.  When you think about it, a sauce, almost.  “

We came home from a long weekend in Kyoto and, if I may, I want to talk about me and karaage for a bit.

For those who aren’t familiar, karaage, aka Japanese fried chicken, is and should be regarded as a league of its own, standing far apart from the classic American fried chickens or the recently popularized Korea-style fried chickens.  It is none of those.  Karaage is boneless, cut into medium to large-size chunks, without sauce, and almost always, as gods intended, uses dark meats only.  Flavor-wise, due to its mildly sweetened brine, its juice runs almost nectar-like, secreting from its firm and bouncy muscles following the crunch of karaage’s trademark white-speckled crusts.  Served simply with lemon wedges and Japanese-style mayonnaise called Kewpie — also a distinction from American/European mayonnaise but that’s another story — such formula has become an establishment in the Japanese diet, celebrated everywhere from restaurants, department stores, convenience stores and even train stations.  Clearly as popular opinions suggest, there’s nothing wrong with it for sure.

I used to adore karaage.  I still do, I guess, but in a different way now.  Our relationship, which used to demand an intimate reunion whenever opportunity presents itself, had taken a shift since last weekend.

During this trip in Kyoto, strangely stalled in front of the frequent offerings of impeccably fried karaage behind spotless glass windows, I was feeling a general lagging enthusiasm which, unregrettingly, led to zero purchases.  What’s wrong with me?  I used to love karaage!  I should want this stuff, right?  I should not be able to get enough of it, no?  It’s a great piece of fried chicken for god’s sake so how do I explain myself?  I bit into an onigiri over-filled with mentaiko on my returning flight, aching over my betrayal.

I came home plunged into an intense couple-therapy session between me and karaage.  We shut the door, we shouted, we whispered, we cried, we left nothing unsaid and nothing unfelt we even skyped Kewpie.  After boxes of Kleenex tissues, we walked slowly out of the room, hand in hand, and are ready to make a public statement.  It isn’t easy.  Possibly appalling.  But we’ve both decided that at this specific juncture, what is best for our relationship to move forward with is — a threesome.

Look, karaage, on its own, is good.  But over time, I find karaage’s sweetness and garlicky undertone somewhat binding and tiresome.  It needs a sharp piercing beyond the general zing of lemon or mustard.  It needs a spanking.  Somewhere between reasons and insanity and Momofuku, ikura comes to mind.

Ikura is Japanese cured salmon roe, much like Russian caviar, but seasoned with soy sauce, sweet rice wine and dashi.  Its intensity lies in its sticky and viscous brininess that liquifies and oozes around the tongue after each jewel-like pops.  When you think about it, a sauce, almost.  If you think that the idea of pairing a vehemently briny fish eggs with fried chicken is strange, you’r not wrong, but in a way that feels very right, if that makes sense.  The faintly fishy saltiness does not protrude and speaks over everyone else, as it only flows through the ambience like strings of vividly played jazz, infusing vitality into the conversation, especially with its edge smoothed around by the creaminess of Kewpie mayonnaise.  It doesn’t change karaage.  It just makes it fun.

Sometimes a relationship needs a third party.

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Boneless “turkey purse” w/ stuffings and peppercorn gravy

”  An completely boneless, flabby, perfect roasting pouch engineered by nature that is 360 degrees encased in skins, ripe for any stuffings and cooks in one hour only  “

Be hold, the answer is here.

If you are one who is unreasonably attached to the grunt and unpredictability of the Thanksgiving turkey tradition, look away.  For this post could and will impose onto you, the liberation from the struggle.

For this point on, you will no longer look at turkey in the same light; you will no longer see it as a rigid object that takes an enormous space in the fridge to brine, a conductor of anxiety that takes forever to cook in the oven, a pending obstacle course that requires professional skills to carve.  No you will no longer.

From this point on, you will witness the way of turning turkey into an utterly boneless, malleable, flabby sack of skin and meat; deflated, deconstructed, a perfect roasting pouch engineered by nature that is 360 degrees encased in skins; a floppy blob that takes up little space in the fridge; a miraculous poultry-pocket ripe for any stuffings of your choosing and cook gloriously and evenly in the oven, if you can believe it, in one hour only; an epic center piece that is as easy to carve — for it has no bones! — as a loaf of sourdough bread.  And if you have chosen to honor it with my pick of the trade, it will open up to a wild rice stuffing that is diabolically jam-packed with fried garlics and whole soft-boiled eggs, paired with an incredibly floral and peppery gravy tinged with Sichuan peppercorns.  Best of all, mostly done the day before.

I call it, the turkey purse.  And it will put your next talk-of-the-town Thanksgiving in the bag.

But no thanks needed.  You’re very welcome.

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How to make perfectly butterflied and crispy skillet chicken

While I try to concentrate on cookbook post-editing…

Let’s talk simple geometry here.

A bird is a three-dimensional object.  The surface of a skillet is a two-dimensional plane.

How do we warp a three-dimensional object for it to make perfectly parallel contact with a two-dimensional plane, in the explicit interest of a chicken, creating that impeccably even, blistered and crispy skin?  Aside from the fact that it’s super fun, of course (it is).

Here’s how.

Plus a five-minutes pan sauce too delicious for its simplicity.

Ate this two days in a row and counting.

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KHAO SOI NEUA/BEEF

KHAO SOI HAPPENS TO HAVE THE RIGHT BALANCE OF BOTH EXOTICISM AND SAFETY IN THE EYE OF A CAUTIOUSLY CURIOUS BACKPACKER.

Scad has been said about khao soi on the internet — some well-informed and some, not so much — so I think I will not bother.  It’s possibly the most famous dish from Northern Thailand, a somehow debatable status in my view.  Being back from a quick trip in Chiangmai Thailand, the capital of khao soi, I’m attempted to assume that its popularity among foreigners is contributed to its relatively benign characteristics if compared to the other more “adventurous” yet far more stunning dishes the region has to offer.  Khao soi, being chicken or beef in coconut curry with egg noodles, happens to have the right balance of both exoticism and safety in the eye of a cautiously curious backpacker.  It certainly isn’t, by far, the best thing we’ve tasted on this trip.  But I’ve always wanted to formulate a khao soi recipe after I’ve actually tried it at its source, so here it is.

Pushing it further on its muslim Chinese origin, I’m replacing dried chilis with Sichuan douban chili paste for a more complexed flavor, as well as inviting the mild tinge of numbness and floral quality from Sichuan peppercorns.  Another trick is to dial down on the amount of coconut milk in the broth itself so it can be reintroduced again right before serving, increasing depth and layers of flavors as how it is done in some of the better khao soi restaurants we’ve encountered.  In a bit of a disagreement with the blunt, under-processed pickled mustard greens that are often mindlessly chopped and scattered in the noodle as a failing contrasting agent, I’m replacing it with pan-fried pickled caperberries that provides sharp pops of sourness and complexity.  Then last but not least, a reminder of Sichuan peppercorns in the topical chili paste to bring it all together.

Enjoy.

 

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