Mint and Citrus Smoked Chicken

Mint and Citrus Smoked ChickenI love smoked chicken.  It isn’t the flavor that is added from the smoking process, it isn’t the succulent, moist flesh from slow cooking in the smoker.  It’s the quality of the fat and skin chunks.  I know that it is not popular to be a fan of succulent, tasty, greasy fat; but I really don’t care…it’s good!  As it turns out, the fat doesn’t cook away during the smoking process, but it fully cooks, and it sort of crisps up.  Gobbling it down is a sublime experience.  I don’t get much fat in my typical diet, so I love this stuff.  The only thing better than well-cooked fat is flavored fat, and that is exactly where this recipe fits in.

In order to build this beauty, the chicken is marinaded in a blend of cilantro, mint and garlic and then basted in a mop of orange juice, lime, garlic, chili, cumin, and oregano while it smokes.  After a couple hours in the smoker, your bird is both beautiful and tasty.  The mint comes through as a mild to moderate accent to the pronounced citrus and spiciness from the blend of cumin, chili, and garlic.  It’s pretty much wonderful and the best version of smoked chicken that I have cooked.  This recipe finds its roots in a similar dish presented in the very good book Smoke & Spice: Cooking With Smoke by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  It is a great study of the techniques behind smoking and barbecue.  Highly recommended if you like this type of food.

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Shrimp with Lemongrass and Chili

Shrimp with Lemongrass and ChiliIf you are looking for an easy main dish, the sort of thing that you would serve for a light lunch, you can’t go astray with this one.  In our case, we served this with Cream of Jalapeno Soup, Mushroom and Burdock Rice, and Smoked Citrus-Peanut Chicken Wings.  Sounds complicated, but hell, my Dad dropped by and we felt like cooking something a little nicer than usual.  In reality, this dish will stand alone with either rice or noodles; although if I was going to serve it with noodles, I would dress the noodles with Hot Chile Oil first to balance them a bit.

There is not much to say in the way of guidance regarding this dish.  The main thing you need to make sure you do is properly devein your shrimps.  Shrimp are filthy animals. They spend their day grubbing around on the sea bottom and they are not picky eaters.  … 

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Sateh Pork Steamed with Vegetables and Tofu

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I really, really like this dish.  Stylistically, it falls in the category of marinaded meat steamed together with other stuff; in this case, vegetables and tofu.  It is, essentially, a steamed hot-pot.  Steaming the ingredients together allows the lemongrass and coriander flavors of the sateh pork marinade to subtly flavor the rest of the ingredients.  A drizzle of lime right before serving adds a clean fresh accent to both the pork and the vegetables.  The result is a light, fresh-tasting lunch that is satisfying but not heavy.  One of the things that I love about this dish is that it appears to come together out of thin air; what little prep work there is to do can be done by whoever gets up first to make coffee for the day.  Cleanup is similarly easy.  Just wash whatever bowl you eat out of and rinse the steamer.

It is also very much a social dish and fun to eat.  With each diner armed with a small bowl of rice, an eating bowl, and a pair of chopsticks, there is definitely a competitive element to “sharing” this sort of lunch with someone, as everyone scrabbles to grab the best stuff out of the steamer.  I think that the light, aromatic flavors of the marinade meat and the steamed vegetables, combined with the way you serve it (as a free-for all) conspire to create a relaxed, open and sort of care-free lunch experience that is just plain fun…. 

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Fish and Shrimp Green Curry

Hard to beat a nice fish curry on a cool and rainy day.  I was delighted to find some cheap cod at the local store and some leeks still growing in the garden.  In the Northwest, it is common for some vegetables to survive the winters, but these guys were doing great.  Thai-style curries, such as this one, are much easier to make than many people think, and fish curries, since they have short cooking times and simple ingredients, are a great place to start if you have not cooked Thai food before.

I tend to like my fish curries with green curry paste and an abundance of fish.  The cod in this version develops an amazing buttery flavor despite being only briefly simmered in the coconut milk.  The green curry is aromatic and spicy, without being overwhelmingly hot.  Fresh basil and chilis punch up the first impression of the dish and leeks give a rich background for the remaining flavors.  Rich and comforting…and surprisingly easy to make…. 

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Pomegranate Chicken Tagine

Pomegranate ChickenThis dish is one of my favorites among the many, many utterly tasty things that Brinn has formulated over the years.  It is an outgrowth of her long fascination with Moroccan food and tagine cooking in particular.  She typically serves these succulent, slow-cooked, chili and pomegranate coated chicken thighs with savory, oven roasted root vegetables and loaves of fresh street bread for dipping.  The photo to the left shows the chicken alongside another favorite; eggplant with charmoula.  Garnishing with some olives and feta never hurts.

TagineIf you are unfamiliar with tagine cooking, you might want to consider changing that.  Tagines are two-part clay pots made famous by the Berbers in North Africa.  These clay pots were designed to be used over charcoal or open flame and function as something between a steam roaster and a portable oven.  They regulate the moisture of a dish and allow for long cooking times while managing to preserve really clean flavors. Around the house, we use the side burner of our barbecue or single burner butane stoves as a heat source.  More details on tagine suppliers and how to use these really amazing pots next week, as it is a subject worthy of some detail, especially since there will be a lot of tagine recipes posted here in the future…. 

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