Chicken Karaage

How can chicken so crunchy be this tender? Try it and see.

One of our favourites to order in a Japanese restaurant, this is just as good as restaurant quality. Don’t get me wrong, whenever we can go out to restaurants again (post Covid) I will still be delighted to sit in a booth and order ….. but for now I can at least satisfy my cravings. It is also one of Sloan and Stella’s favourites to order and I just know when we can gather around the Sunday dinner table again this will be requested.

  • 1 lb chicken thighs cut 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup corn starch or potato starch
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups canola oil
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp mirin (sub Sake if you have it)
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger

Reserve the starch and flour for just prior to frying up. Combine soy sauce, miring, garlic and ginger in either a sealable plastic bag or bowl with lid. Stir in the chicken pieces and set aside. You can either do this earlier in the day or at late as 20 minutes before dinner – I find it very flexible.

Heat your oil to 350, if you don’t have a thermometer, just stick a chopstick in – if it sizzles happily, then it is time to add your chicken.

Toss the starch and flour together, then toss with chicken. It doesn’t matter if the coating is uneven, it just means more texture.

Add about 1/3 of the chicken at a time to wok – do not overcrowd. Any time you overcrowd when you are frying it reduces the temperature of the oil and that leads to greasy fried food! Keep the chicken moving while in the wok, and remove when golden brown. Sprinkle immediately with salt. Keeping the cooked pieces in a 200 degree oven allows them to retain their crispness while you do the remaining 2 batches.

DIPPING SAUCES – I’ve given two options because that’s the way I like it!

CREAMY

  • 1/2 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sriracha
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweet chili sauce

SOY

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • chili oil to taste
This well used wok is perfect. Of course, you can use a deep fryer if you have it handy, but I like the wok just fine for this, and it encourages me to fry only small amounts at a time. Be sure to strain and reserve your oil for use another day!
Love having the option of two sauces – everybody gets their own little sauce dipping bowl and dip away!
Definitely not as many vegetables as we normally get onto our plates, but this Japanese dinner was so tasty! I even made my own gyoza wrappers and that’s a story for another day…..

The BEST Miso Soup

I gotta say ….. hard to make a bowl of miso soup look exciting … but here it is, the best ever! I didn’t have any seaweed at home so added a few spinach leaves. Delicious!
  • 2 teaspoons dashi granules 
  • 4 cups water 
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste 
  • 1 (8 ounce) package silken tofu, diced 
  • 2 green onions, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch piece

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine dashi granules and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the miso paste. Stir in tofu. Separate the layers of the green onions, and add them to the soup. Simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

I think the key to this is the dashi. You can easily make your own dashi at home – just look up a few YouTube videos, but for the amount I use, keep some granules in the freezer and it is ready whenever I need it.

We followed the miso sop with these tasty Japanese dishes ….. chicken karaage with 2 dipping sauces, pork and cabbage gyoza and garlic soy snap peas. Goes without saying that a Japanese inspired dinner needs a serving of rice!

I often serve Miso soup to accompany a few other dishes, and this makes it very easy to prep a bit earlier and just leave it simmering – don’t add the tofu or green onions until closer to serving time.

Coconut Shrimp

Couldn’t wait to dive into these. Every time I make them it surprises me how easy and how incredibly delicious they are.

Just like you get in the tropics….. minus the palm trees and ocean breeze. That dang Covid thing is still keeping us at home, during a time of the year when we’d so much rather be in the land of palm trees & sunshine, ocean bobbing and munching coconut shrimp. Never mind the beach, I’d happily settle for just being able to cuddle my granddaughters!!! Enough whining, here is the perfect recipe to make you feel like you’ve escaped to the beach.

  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten well (can just use egg white if you like)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat (350-360 degrees)

Set up 3 dredging bowls:

  1. flour
  2. egg
  3. panko/coconut mixture

Season shrimp with salt and pepper, then working with one shrimp at a time, dredge through flour, then egg, then panko/coconut. Press into the panko mixture to make sure the shrimp are well coated. Set aside until you have them all coated.

Working in batches, add shrimp to hot oil and fry until golden brown, turning as necessary until they are crunchy and looking irresistible – around 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix well to combine. If you think of it, mix this ahead of time and set in fridge to allow flavours to meld beautifully.

I can’t promise you will smell the ocean when you make these, but it might make you feel a little better about staying home!

You can get these prepped ahead of time and just keep in the fridge until ready to fry.
Served tonight with rice and curried vegetables. This would disappear in a hurry if served as an appetizer also.

I originally got this recipe off Damn Delicious website, and she’s right – they are damn delicious! The dipping sauce is my own concoction and it’s yummy!!

Korean Kimchi Fritters

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I am really not certain about how authentically Korean these fritters (Pajeon – pancakes??) are, but anything with kimchi & bound together with some potato starch is a step in the right direction.

We loved the way this entire bunch of vegetables was quickly tied together in a very light batter that puffed up and was still so delicate.  Don’t miss out on the dipping sauce – its the perfect accompaniment.

PANCAKES/FRITTERS

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup potato starch (or 1/4 cup each white rice flour and cornstarch)
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup ice water
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup finely chopped kimchi
  • 4 cups finely chopped or grated mixed vegetables (carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, kale, whatever you’ve got)
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2-inch-long sections and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or peanut oil, plus more as needed

DIPPING SAUCE

(highly recommend doubling it if you like dipping as much as we do)

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger or garlic (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of granulated sugar

PREPARATION

  1. Prepare the pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, potato starch, salt and baking powder.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine water, egg and kimchi. Whisk kimchi mixture into flour mixture, and whisk until smooth. Fold in vegetables and about three-quarters of the scallions. (Save the rest for garnish.)
  3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Scoop 1/4 cup portions of batter into the skillet, as many as will fit while not touching, flatten, and fry until dark golden on the bottom, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to fry until other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with a little more salt. Continue with remaining batter.
  4. Before serving, make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, vinegar, ginger or garlic (if using), sesame oil and sugar. Sprinkle sliced scallion over pancakes, and serve with dipping sauce on the side.

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When you start with a big bowl full of these colourful vegetables you just know it is going to be delicious!  Today I used zucchini, orange bell peppers, red onion and the leafy parts of Gai lan.

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don’t overcrowd your pan – these fritters need some room to crisp up and not steam

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These were so good I can’t wait to make them again!

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I served the fritters with Korean Gojuchang noodles, and while it was all finger licking delicious, the colours and textures just cried for something green and crunchy – maybe lightly stir fried broccoli?  Strange given that this whole meal is so vegetable forward, but I really wanted something light and crunchy to go with it all. Next time.

I found this recipe on NYT cooking, and couldn’t wait to try it.  The fritters are as versatile as the vegetables found in your garden or fridge.  I love the way red onions cook up, so used those in place of scallions in today’s effort.

 

Sourdough Crackers

These crispy, crunchy, tasty crisps are the perfect way to quickly use up some of that sourdough starter discard that is threatening to take over your fridge.  Eaten on their own, or as a vessel for your favourite dip, they are a winner any way you serve them.

Sourdough crackers 8

A little fresh homemade tzatziki sauce was the perfect way to eat up a bunch of these crisps!

  • 200 grams (about 1 cup) mature sourdough starter
  • 60 grams (about 1/2 cup) all purpose flour
  • 60 grams (about 1/2 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 12 grams (about 2 tbsp) rye flour
  • 32 grams (3 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried herbs de Provence (or any herbs you like)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

 

  • flaky sea salt for topping

In mixing bowl combine all ingredients except for the flaky sea salt.  Mix well, kneading until you get it all together in a nice smooth ball.

To get 200 grams of starter, I often use what I have left from the jar I am feeding, then add to it with starter discard that is in the fridge.  If using entirely discard from the fridge you can either wake it up with a feed and use it once you see it has doubled, or just use it straight from the fridge.  With these crackers you are mainly looking for the flavour more than a rise like you expect from a loaf of bread.

Wrap tightly in plastic and put in the fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours.  Sitting helps the sourdough flavours to develop, as well as make the dough easier to work with.

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Cut dough in half, place one half in fridge and roll out the other very thin, as thin as you can get and still work with it.  If you like a hardier crisp, then just roll out to 1/4 inch.  I’ve also used my pasta rolling machine with varied success.  When the dough feels soft and supple it works extremely well, but if your dough ends up a bit on the drier side of things it is easiest to roll out by hand)

You can either cut the dough before putting on the baking  sheet, or bake them as is and then break them into rustic crisps.

Spritz very lightly with water, then sprinkle with flaky sea salt right before baking.

Bake for 12-15 minutes – make sure you rotate your pans half way through for even baking.

Sourdough crackers 4

This dough is with the exact measurements and seasonings listed above.  It made a drier dough, and was much easier to roll out by hand than it was to put through the pasta roller.

Sourdough crackers 3

This dough was made with less whole wheat and rye flour, and it was by far the easiest dough to work with and slid through the pasta rollers with ease..  For seasoning I used my granddaughter Sloan’s magic taco seasoning mix.  They were delicious!

These crackers are only limited by your imagination!  Use any variety of flours or seasonings and get creative.

Sourdough crackers 1

These literally took minutes to make, and they are ready for the fridge.  I rested the dough until the next day (just because that was easiest today), and then rolled them out the next day.

Sourdough crackers

I cut these ones into long triangles prior to baking, but it is just as easy to create a more rustic crisp by baking them first and then breaking them up.

Sourdough crackers 2

These herby little bites were cut into a square (fish) shape prior to baking.

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Aren’t they pretty??  I loved these!  So easy to make, and the extra bonus is that so far I haven’t actually had to “discard” any of my discard.

I found this recipe during one of my many ventures down the internet rabbit hole in search of ways to use sourdough discard – it was on http://www.loveandoliveoil.com

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Pretty hard to go back to buying crackers when you realize how easy these are, and how absolutely delicious.

 

 

Hot Tomato Feta Salad & Crispy Flatbread

Tomato Feta Salad 2
This could just as easily be an appetizer as a side dish ….tonight it was a side dish for our roasted chicken and it was delicious!  Super quick and easy, along with ingredients I love and that made it a total win.

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped, pitted Kalmata olives
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 8- to 10-ounce block feta
Crackers, flatbread*, pita chips, or crostini, for dipping

In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, oregano, olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.

Feel free to substitute the feta with haloumi, or goat cheese, either would be great.

On a grill: Heat your grill to medium-high. Set the feta block in the middle of a piece of foil. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Fold up the edges of the foil so that it will hold in any liquid as it cooks. Place the packet straight on a grill for 15 minutes to warm it through. Remove from grill and transfer to plate or serving dish.

In the oven: Heat oven to 400°F. Check to see that your dish is oven-proof. Place the block of feta in the middle of your dish. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. Bake for 15 minutes.

Both methods: The feta will not melt, just warm and soften. Garnish with parsley and serve with crackers; eat immediately. As it cools, the feta will firm up again.

Flatbread 1

I’m guilty of poaching this recipe right off the Smitten Kitchen website, and if you haven’t visited that site, hop on over.  Deb Perelman has fantastic recipes, but even just her writing style is worth a read.

Flatbread 4

Can’t believe how good these are!  I had to use the herb I had on hand, so these are made with thyme, not rosemary.  Can’t wait to try with fresh rosemary out of my garden.

*Flatbread.  also from http://www.smittenkitchen.com

  • 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil plus more for brushing
  • Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Heat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with olive oil.

Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a large, wide bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Use your hands to gently knead dough inside the bowl 4 or 5 times, until it comes together in a semi-smooth ball.

Divide dough into 3 large or 6 smaller pieces and roll out one piece at a time on an unfloured counter, to about 10-inch (for larger pieces of dough) or 7-inch rounds (smaller pieces) — shape can be rustic; dough should be thin. Lift flatbread onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. I can sometimes squeeze 6 small flatbreads on a half-sheet pan; sometimes I need to bake 1 to 2 in a second batch.

Lightly brush tops with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top (if using), pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating flatbreads if needed on the pan for even color. Let cool then break into pieces.

I cut mine into triangles before baking, and they came out perfectly.  Read the full Smitten Kitchen recipe for more ideas, you will be happy you did.

Korean BBQ wings, sweet & spicy!

These are the quickest, easiest wings that deliver the most amazing flavour – they hit all those sweet, spicy and sticky notes.

Korean BBQ wings

  • 1.5 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Korean BBQ Sauce

  • 6 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp corn starch

Garnish:  

  • sesame seeds
  • thinly sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 400 – use convection if you have it.

Combine flour, salt and pepper in bowl.  Pat wings dry and toss with olive oil, then lightly coat with the flour mixture.  Place on a rack over a baking sheet and put in prepared oven.  Bake for 20 minutes, flipping them at 10 minutes, then turn oven to broil and broil for 3 -4 minutes, then turn over and do another 3 minutes or so – watch carefully so they don’t burn!

In a small sauce pan combine soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, rice vinegar, sriracha, garlic and sweet chili sauce.  Bring to a boil, then mix the water and corn starch together and stir into the sauce mixture.  Return the sauce to a boil, and simmer until it thickens. Set aside.

Toss wings with the BBQ sauce – garnish with sesame seeds & onions,  and get out the napkins!

KFC cauliflower

Perfect served with these KFC cauliflower bites – so yummy.

 

Buttermilk Ranch Dip or Dressing

Veg

Vegetables first!  The kids absolutely love a big platter of fresh vegetables, but this ranch dressing really makes it a favourite.  Ready for them to arrive from the ski hill today and this platter will disappear in minutes.

This is the best creamy dressing to have on hand for those hungry moments. .. … or when the kids are arriving home from school or the ski hill.  In general, we prefer vinaigrette’s for salad dressing, but this is so comforting and delicious we love it too.

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (you could use regular milk but I like the tang from buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp each dried basil, oregano & parsley (in the summer of course fresh is best)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice (according to your own taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Give the whole thing a good mix and allow to sit long enough for all the seasonings to fully wake up and join the party.  This is perfect as a dip, for a salad dressing I would thin it out a bit with either a bit more buttermilk or even a touch of water.

 

Ceviche

Step 1

In a 1 1/2-quart glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. Use enough juice to cover the fish and allow it to float freely; too little juice means unevenly “cooked” fish. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours, until a cube of fish no longer looks raw when broken open. Drain in a colander.

Step 2

In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, green chiles, cilantro, olives and optional olive oil. Stir in the fish and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Add the orange juice or sugar. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately. Just before serving, gently stir in the diced avocado.

Make Ahead

Working ahead: The fish may be marinated a day in advance; after about 4 hours, when the fish is “cooked,” drain it so that it won’t become too tangy. For the freshest flavor, add the flavorings to the fish no more than a couple of hours before serving.
This recipe came courtesy of my Food and Wine Magazine – another superb recipe from Rick Bayless.

Empanadas

Most cultures have a pastry/hand pie like this one ….. empanadas are famous in many countries, but I’ve only had the pleasure of eating them in Mexico so that is what I have fashioned these after.  They can be deep fried, but I prefer baking them for fluffy, flaky pastry and creamy filling.  Extra bonus points for the way your house smells while they are baking!

Empanada 1

In today’s version I used chicken, onion & red pepper, topped with a chunk of jalapeño havarti.  The tomatillo salsa was delicious for dipping!

Empanadas are such a treat.  These will give you flaky pastry, and a creamy tasty filling.

Make sure when you roll out your dough that you do it a little thinner than you would for a pie – you want to make sure you have a good ratio of filling to crust.

Empanada 2

Saute onions and garlic until softened, then add red pepper and cook for only a couple more minutes.  Stir in cooked shredded chicken and season to taste.  In this version, I added a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, and then topped with jalapeño havarti cheese for an extra bit of kick and creaminess.

Other suggestions for empanada filling:

  • ground meat seasoned with taco spices, topped with Oaxaca string cheese
  • leftover pulled pork and pickled red onions
  • wilted spinach, sautéed mushrooms and feta cheese
  • go sweet with fruit, cinnamon and a bit of vanilla

I’ve included my pastry recipe here, but if you aren’t into making your own pastry go ahead and use a prepared frozen pie shell.  Just take it out and roll it a bit thinner.

Cut your pastry into rounds, brush beaten egg around the outside and then put about a tablespoon or two of filling in the middle, add some cheese on top.  You will want enough filling so that your ratio of stuffing to pastry is tasty.  Fold edges up together and press to seal.  Set them on a baking sheet and pinch/crimp the top to make sure it is well sealed.

Brush beaten egg over the top of the sealed empanada, and then poke a hole so steam can escape and the pastry doesn’t leak too much of your goods outside the shell.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  You can also freeze them on a cookie sheet at this point and bake later, from frozen.  Just bake a little longer.

Empanada 3

Oh, these were G O O D.  Before baking season the tops with salt and pepper.

Everybody loves flaky pie crust – but people are divided on whether to use shortening, lard or butter.  Through trial and error, I think I have found the best of them all – by combining lard and butter.  Try it ….. so light and flaky – you will love it.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 3/4 cup cold vegetable lard or (if you prefer) shortening
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • 5 tbsp very cold water
  • Lightly beat egg and vinegar

Whisk flour and salt

Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in lard/butter until pea sized.  Add very cold water to egg and vinegar mixture.  Make a hole in the center of the flour blend and stir in the egg/vinegar/water combination.  Work just until pastry comes together – adding slightly more liquid if it doesn’t, and if it is too wet, add a wee bit more flour.  Work together just until it all comes into a solid mass.  Knead very lightly on floured surface.  Wrap tightly and put in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Roll on lightly floured board until just thin enough to use for pie dough.

This recipe makes enough for 1 smaller pie (top and bottom) or a large deep dish pie crust bottom.