May 25, 2008

Ward's Thai Chicken Kabobs

When I first revealed my idea of combining chicken kabobs with rice and curry to make a Thai dish, I was told, "Kabobs aren't Thai." No, the method of cooking meat skewered with vegetables is not particularly Asian, but that's exactly why I think it's interesting. Coating the chicken in an Asian marinade and then serving atop rice smothered in curry struck me as a great hybrid. What better way to celebrate this Memorial Day weekend than importing some Southeast Asian food and globalizing some American chicken? So I present to you now: Ward's Thai Chicken Kabobs (complete with terrible Photoshop art).

The marinade is created thusly: stir together two tablespoons of sesame oil, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground red pepper. Thoroughly coat the chicken cut in 1-inch squares and leave them covered until ready to skewer and cook (which we'll do last). For vegetables, I cut up half a red and half a yellow bell pepper and added some sliced pineapple. Another idea to try instead of this marinade is the one from the Thai chicken pizza of a few months back. Be creative!

Prepare the rice with your favorite method. I used two cups of rice (a lot of rice!) with four cups of water. Cook covered and over low heat for fifteen minutes. Feel free to buy another bag of rice and just throw it away. That's how America rolls: screw food shortages in other countries! I wanted to make a yellow curry, but it's damn hard finding curry paste where I live. If you happen to have access to a Southeast Asian friend to help you, please make something authentic! Otherwise, combine 7 ounces of coconut milk with a tablespoon of curry paste and half a teaspoon of curry powder. Feel free to double this quantity if serving more than two. Simmer the curry over low heat for five minutes.

Once the rice and curry are good to go, put the kabobs over a grill of some sort and cook for four or five minutes per side. It can be tough to get the heat into the center of the chicken if the pieces are resting up above the grill, so you may need a few more minutes of rotation. On a plate, pile up a big ol' mess of rice, top with your grilled chicken and vegetables, and cover in the curry. Eat it! If you try this recipe, please let me know how it was and what I can do to improve it. Most of the ingredients listed are pulled from previous/other meals as well as my own (limited) intuition. It can be hard, but try and get all the parts finished at the same time; cold rice and curry do not a great addition make.

May 12, 2008

Peppercorn Sauce Over Steak

I must admit, it has been a pleasantly busy weekend - a brief calm before the storm of the coming week. I've had little time to prepare an elaborate dish, so I hope you'll forgive another steak recipe. This time the emphasis is on making a peppercorn sauce to go over your cut of choice. Since this meal is relatively straight-forward, I thought I'd experiment with some cropping and Photoshop touch-ups of my pictures.

What am I trying to hide? Perhaps if I leave the cooking up to the imagination, the results will turn out better. ;-) I jest. The work here is in preparing the sauce. I had to journey to that distant land known as Hannaford to find a shallot; Price Chopper is failing me more and more regularly. Finely chop a tablespoon of shallot, cook in some olive oil, and then add a clove of garlic and two-thirds of a teaspoon of peppercorn. I couldn't find fresh, brine-packed peppercorn, so I simply used McCormick's instead. I've got quite a collection of McCormick seasonings at this point - maybe it's time to invest in a spice rack (or a spice weasel? "BAM!").

Attention span: gone. Now would be the time to add a cup of red wine and (shockingly!) I had none handy. But a cup of chicken stock and half a cup of water will do the trick. Boil ten to fifteen minutes until the sauce has reduced. Strain into a smaller saucepan and melt in two tablespoons of butter along with another two-thirds teaspoon of peppercorn. Keep this warm while grilling your steak. Your sauce will look creamy as above, but too much time over heat will result in the chicken stock thickening out and that's gross (see the final pictures below).

Grill your steak as you would normally. And, when finished, slice thin and cover with the peppercorn sauce. As you can see, mine ended up separating before the steak was finished. Alas, my cooking skills have much improvement to make. But the steak was delicious and the peppercorn quite good nonetheless. Did my cropped photos work? No? Can you tell they're Photoshopped? Here's a hint: the last photo had a fork in it. ;-) God speed and eat well, friends. Ooops, I totally forgot - I won't be around this coming weekend. Cook something for me... and then devour it yourself!

May 5, 2008

Lindsey's London Broil

I know not who the eponymous Lindsey is, but I must thank her for an excellent steak. Target has a nice selection of Calphalon cookware, and this past weekend I picked up a rather stylish grill pan. I realize, of course, that a grill pan bought at the start of the warm season is like a snow blower in Georgia. But if it's rainy (or snowy or you suck at grilling), a grill pan is an easy way to fix a steak or burger or seven hot dogs at once.

But you know all this. "Ward, you're just grilling a steak?" you ask. Let me draw you an analogy. If you are at all familiar with Fighting Games, then you are aware of the U-shaped learning curve. When one picks up a Fighter for the first time, it is instinct to "button-mash". That is, to press all the keys at random, hoping for a favorable outcome. Unfortunately (a sign of bad game design?), a new player can go a long way with haphazard technique. Once you decide to learn the game's core mechanics, your win percentage drops considerably. You embark on a longer journey then, to master the simple before mastering the complex. To the naïve, this can seem a step backward. To the cognoscenti, you show dedication.

And here I thought I could get through this whole post without mentioning the meal at all. A London Broil is a top round steak, not dissimilar to a flank steak (and you can safely replace a London Broil with a flank steak, if you so choose). This steak tends to have a distinct grain, but is quite thick. Lindsey's contribution consists of a marinade of olive oil, red wine vinegar, crushed garlic, and soy sauce. Delicious! Thoroughly cover the steak(s) and refrigerate them for at least six hours (or overnight, as I did). Thaw well before tossing onto a very hot grill. Cook for five or so minutes on each side. Expect a pink interior, but remember that to a gourmand (why would we care about them?), medium-rare is preferable to medium-well. I like mine medium-well.

Special thanks to Peter for his guest photography! Serve alongside a minimalist salad of baby spinach (I chose an Asiatic Sesame dressing to match the soy sauce in the marinade). This Franciscan Merlot (2004, Napa Valley) was just brilliant: hints of black cherry and not strong enough to overpower the steak. Excellent! 'Til next time, faithful reader. Eat well and enjoy good company!