Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Smoked Paprika Chicken Thighs with Tomatillo Salsa Verde and Jicama Salad

Combining ingredients for world's easiest, all-purpose tomatillo sauce. Please use it with and on everything.

Soul-saving meal of chicken thighs, roasted veggies, salad, rice, toasted tortillas, jicama salad and tomatillo salsa.

Do you believe how easy this is? Place in a saucepan the following and bring to a boil over high heat: 1 lb. tomatillos (husked and cut in halves), 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1-2 t. minced garlic, 1-2 serrano or jalapeno peppers (roughly chopped), 2-3 T. chopped cilantro, 1 T. fresh oregano ( about half the amount if using dried), 1/2 t. ground cumin, 1 1/2 t. (minimum) salt, a grinding of black pepper and 2 cups water. When boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until tomatillos have softened completely. Allow to cool for a few minutes before blending to a smooth texture. Good to go now but flavors only improve overnight in the fridge.

Jicama salads at Cafe Drake HRV are constantly morphing, sometimes sweeter, sometimes fiery hot, often salty, never boring. This is fool-proof: peel 1 jicama and then cut into matchstick pieces. Toss with lime juice and salt to taste. Sprinkle bravely with chile powder and dried red pepper flakes. taste for seasoning and if too sour and/or hot sweeten the mix with up to 2 tablespoons of honey. Sliced green apples and scallions are welcome anytime.

No brainer and stress free: preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs on large cooking sheet and season aggressively with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle over the skin equal parts smoked and sweet paprikas. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until skin is dark and crispy. The meat should be cooked through but still very moist and juicy.

Whenever the ovens at Cafe Drake HRV get as hot as 450 degrees F. we make them perform double duty, i.e. roasting a load of carrots and onions along with the chicken thighs. Placing vegetables directly underneath poultry pieces allows them to absorb rendered chicken fat and mind-blowing flavors.

We couldn't wait for leftovers the following afternoon!

The Children Don't Really Like Playing in the Snow

Lloyd much prefers hanging out inside Cafe Drake HRV during the cold months. We're sure the end of April however will find him patrolling the yard and gardens once again.
Arabella is wild over these Valentine treats from her grandmother but has been placed on a strict one-a-day ration.

Lloyd also got plenty of Valentine gifts from his grandmother including packs of his favorite, special treat meal.
"Blizzard conditions? Where??" Arabella asks as she cuddles with Matt.
Lack of outdoor exercise combined with Lloyd's nasty soda habit may be cause for alarm.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Anglo-Indian Cuisine: Chicken Curry for Beginners

The building blocks of authentic, regional Indian curries - and this Anglo-Indian version popularized throughout England by the late 19th-century - are similar. Onions, garlic, ginger and chilies provide the base flavors while we'll use the Anglicized spice blend known as Madras curry powder instead of a plethora of the usual East Asian seasonings like black mustard seeds, coriander and cumin et. al.

above two photos: When thickening and concentrating any curry sauce via boiling, always remove any meats or vegetables BEFORE proceeding with this final step to avoid overcooking.

Cafe Drake HRV's Anglo-Indian Chicken Curry is milder on the palette than most and full of friendly, familiar spices for those less accustomed to subcontinental fare. Make no mistake it's still delicious and best served with simple, traditional accompaniments like sweet mango chutney, boiled rice and yogurt. Victorians would have also included toasted coconut and sliced bananas as optional garnishes.

Perfect for beginning chefs and anyone daunted by the complexity of Indian spicing, Let's begin making our curry. Preheat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet (or wok or, in an emergency, a regular non-stick skillet) over a medium-high flame for a couple of minutes. Drizzle down the sides 2 T. vegetable oil (grape seed has a higher smoking point but canola etc. will suffice) and immediately add: 1 small red onion (sliced), 4 cloves of garlic (minced finely), 1 green chili (diced) and 2-3 T. ginger (minced or grated). Stir until light brown but not burned and then add 1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces. Sprinkle everything with 2 t. Madras curry powder and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to sear the meat on all sides. Season with 1 1/2 t. (or more to taste) salt and pour in 1/4 cup coconut milk (canned). Everything should come to a boil instantly. Now turn the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until chicken is just cooked. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Return the heat to medium-high and boil the sauce until thickened, stirring now and then as needed. This should take less than 5 minutes total. Remove the pan from heat and toss in the cooked chicken. Stir in 1 cup chopped tomatoes (any kind) and about 3 T. minced cilantro. Serve hot but may also be reheated over a few days without flavor loss.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Return of Those Perfect Pork Chops

One of our most popular posts in the history of Cafe Drake shared our all of our knowledge and experience, learned and earned, in the art of cooking a perfect pork chop. A meat thermometer - as above - is an invaluable tool, enabling you to NOT cook the meat to an internal temperature beyond 160 degrees F.

Berkshire heritage pork chops with Yukon Gold mash, pan-fried snow peas and parsley-oregano gastrique. The plating is our cheeky homage to 80's hotel/cruise ship cuisine.

Matt can't stop smiling at this plate of pork and potatoes!

Dinner for Ruth, Thai Vegetarian Style

A few of the prepped ingredients for Sour Orange Curry Soup - cabbage, string beans, red onions and tomatoes.

Ruth Kopelman is an adventurous vegetarian, open to all new flavors and tolerant of the escalated heat levels characteristic of Thai cuisine.

Roasted eggplant, onions and red bell peppers, dressed with a zippy and sweet almond sauce, helped balance the soup's fieriness. Much like revenge, a dish people of taste prefer served cold.

Our own house made kimchi.


Strict vegetarians may substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce used here but sour curry paste generally includes some form of dried seafood. Further information re: substitutions might be found at this Thai Vegetarian site.

Add a scoop of rice or a fistful of noodles to soup bowls for a complete meal and consider embellishing with tofu or shrimp when appetites are hardier. Such as Winter. Such as now.

Heat a large pot or saucepan over medium-high heat and add 2 T. vegetable oil. Toss in 5 T. sour curry paste (available in cans at all Asian grocery stores and many supermarkets - substitute red curry paste if sour is unavailable) and 1/2 t. turmeric powder. Fry, stirring constantly, for one full minute.

Immediately pour in 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, 2 cups water, 2 T. sugar, 1 cup chopped onions (red or shallots preferred), 1 cup chopped green beans, 1 cup chopped cabbage and 1 cup chopped tomatoes. bring to a boil for 3 minutes.

Now stir in: 3 T. tamarind paste or concentrate, 2 T. fish sauce and 2 T. lime juice. Check for seasoning and adjust to your tastes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups chopped watercress, spinach or arugula. Serve piping hot.

A Cheater's Version of Naan Bread

THIS is what your dough should look like!

Allowing dough to rest, covered, in a warm place. But just for a few minutes. This is Cheater's Naan Bread, remember.

Dough rolled out, shaped and topped with seasonings.

Fresh from the oven. We've since discovered a minute under a hot broiler helps to authenticate the naan via scorched spots.

above 4 photos: naan enjoyed with Madras potatoes, sambar, mustard greens and raita.

Combine in a large bowl 3 cups self-rising flour with 2 t. sugar. Stir and then mix in 3 T. vegetable oil or melted ghee. Add 1 cup lukewarm water to make a smooth dough, more as less as required. Lightly coat the dough with oil to prevent drying, cover and let rise for 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and roll each between your palms to make smooth balls. Cover again with a clean dish towel and let rise for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Once the oven has reached 450, turn the oven to broil, using the "High" setting if you have one.

Dip each ball of dough into a bowl of sesame seeds (you'll need 3 T. total) and then, on a lightly-oiled surface, roll each into a 7" oval shape. Roll each ball out before proceeding.

Place 3 - 4 pieces of dough on an ungreased baking sheet. Scatter nigella/kalonji seeds lightly over each if desired; this is optional. Prick the dough with a fork a few times across the surface. Broil in the middle of the oven for 2-3 minutes or until slightly puffed and brown. Flip and broil for another couple of minutes. Do not overcook or the naan will become dry.

Remove from oven and brush lightly with vegetable oil or melted ghee. If you want a more charred naan, stick the bread back in the oven, directly beneath the broiler for less than a minute. 

Repeat baking process with remaining dough. Serve hot or allow to cool then store in an airtight container - at room temperature - for a couple of days. Reheat quickly in a very hot oven.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Recent Visit to The Manahansion

Ocho Manahan relaxes in style, but like all good watch dogs, sleeps with one eye open. His only eye.

above two photos: Being under the weather during a quick jaunt to Brooklyn was unfortunate. Despite low appetite we managed to pick up a few local favorite take-out meals from old haunts. Top: Cheese Enchiladas Bottom: Korean Vegetable Bento Box

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We Luuuuv Nachos & Pizza

It all starts as basic as this - corn tortilla chips, well-seasoned black beans ( we use cumin, oregano, garlic, cayenne, salt and unsweetened pure cocoa powder) and shredded and melted white cheddar cheese.

Fresh from the broiler our nachos are dressed with yogurt (in place of fatty sour cream), pasilla-guajillo salsa and sprigs of cilantro.

Finely diced jalapenos are the finishing touch that spreads the heat throughout the dish.

This salsa is the one found often on the counters of Mexican food trucks and authentic tacquerias. Above, guajillo and pasilla dried chilies; the combination yields a salsa smokey, deep in flavor and of moderate heat. Please make the entire recipe to follow as it keeps well in the fridge for about two weeks and you'll never stop finding ways to use it. Begin by soaking 3 dried pasilla chiles and 3 dried guajillo chilies in 2 cups very hot water. After 20 minutes the chilies should be soft - remove stems and seeds, the latter left in if you prefer. Add the chilies, 1 clove of chopped garlic and 1 1/2 cups of the water to a blender and process until smooth. Now season with salt and black pepper. Allow to rest for about 30 minutes so the deep, rich flavors develop fully. Great as a dipping salsa, over nachos or as an enchilada sauce. Cafe Drake HRV also employs this as a superb simmering sauce for shrimp and chicken.

Trader Joe's herbed pizza dough rolled out and ready for toppings.

Not much left of our Hawaiian Pizza - tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced Virgina ham, pineapple and  slivered green chilies.

Dos Salsas We Love in 2014

First up (above three photos) is a nut and chile salsa adapted from an original Marcela Valladolid recipe employing pecans. Cafe Drake HRV substituted sunflower seeds supplemented with a teaspoon of sugar to mimic the natural sweetness of pecans and we're thrilled with the results. May we present Sunflower & Chile de Arbol Salsa. Try it with roasted chicken or grilled steaks or just as an all-purpose table condiment. We just tossed it last night with steamed vegetables! Begin by heating a heavy skillet - iron, preferred - over a medium high flame. Add 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds; if you have toasted seeds, skip this step and salt accordingly. Toss the seeds around the skillet almost constantly for 3 minutes or less, just until they begin to brown and release a nutty aroma. Transfer immediately to a plate and cool slightly. Now add 4-6 dried chile de arbols to the hot pan, along with 1 whole and peeled clove of garlic. Toast until golden brown on all sides, about 2 minutes, taking care to not burn. A little char is acceptable but err on the side of caution when judging this. Place all the ingredients in  blender with 1 1/2 cups of water and process until smooth. Pour in a bowl and now season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Roasted Apple Salsa with Tomatilloes Again, from the creative kitchen of Marcela, a sweet and tart salsa full of unexpected and piquant flavors. Divine with pork prepared in any manner, this salsa is also our new "go-to" dipping partner for tortilla chips at Cafe Drake HRV. You'll need a large baking sheet for this or two smaller ones. Begin by preheating your oven to 375 degrees F. Cut 1 lb. of tomatilloes (husked and rinsed) into halves and place on baking sheet along with 1/2 onion (roughly chopped into large pieces), 3 green apples (cored, quartered, unpeeled), 3 cloves of garlic (whole) and 1-2 jalapeno chilies (each sliced in half). Toss well with 2 T. olive oil and salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for at least 20 minutes or until the tomatilloes soften and burst when pressed. Cool for a bit then blend to a smooth consistency in a blender or food processor. Check for salt and if desired, add up to 1 T. sugar to counteract the tomatilloes' acidity. Serve cold or just below room temperature.

Both salsas above, enjoyed with cabbage salad, stewed lentils and warmed tortillas.

Sunflower Seed & Chile de Arbol Salsa

Roasted Apple & Tomatillo Salsa (did we mention it's insane with grilled cheese sandwiches)?

Yep It's Probably Snowing Right Now at Cafe Drake HRV