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Burma, Myanmar, Burmese cooking,

The book:  Burma: Rivers of Flavor, by Naomi Duguid (Artisan, $35 – here’s my complete review)

The recipe:  Shrimp salad

Why I tried itBy the time I got to this recipe, I had discovered the joys of Shallot Oil (see recipe accompanying the shrimp salad recipe). I was willing to try anything dosed with shallot oil, and this was an easy one to try. Also,  I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use shrimp, one of my favorite ingredients.

Why I loved it:  Cool, crisp, and a flash to put together.  The shrimp slices have plenty of exposed surface area to pick up flavors, and I never tire of the endless spectrum of ways fish sauce and lime seem to go together.

Estimated preparation time: 15 minutes if you’ve already got the Shallot Oil or are just using plain oil. The Shallot Oil takes about 20 minutes.
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Burma, Naomi DuguidShrimp salad
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons peanut oil or Shallot Oil (see below)
About 1 pound medium to large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rinsed
3 scallions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 medium English cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
1 green or red cayenne chile, minced, or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon fish sauce
About 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt (optional)

Place a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then toss in the shrimp and stir-fry just until they turn pink, a minute or two.

Transfer the shrimp to a cutting board. Slice on the diagonal and place in a shallow bowl. Add the scallions.

Cut the cucumber into 11/2-inch lengths and slice each length into julienne (you should have a scant cup). Add the cucumber, coriander, and chile to the shrimp and toss lightly. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and toss to mix well.Taste and add a little salt if you wish, then toss and serve immediately.

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Fried Shallots and Shallot Oil
Makes a generous ¾ cup flavored oil and about 1 ¼ cups fried shallots

Here you get two pantry staples in one: crispy fried shallots and delicious shallot oil. Drizzle shallot oil on salads or freshly cooked greens, or onto soups to finish them. You can fry up shallots each time you need them, but I prefer to make a large batch so they’re around when I need a handful to flavor a salad.

1 cup peanut oil
2 cups (about 1/2 pound) thinly sliced Asian or European shallots

Place a wide heavy skillet or a large stable wok over medium-high heat and add the oil. Toss in a slice of shallot. As the oil heats, it will rise to the surface, sizzling lightly. When it’s reached the surface, add the rest of the shallots, carefully, so you don’t splash yourself with the oil, and lower the heat to medium. (The shallots may seem crowded, but they’ll shrink as they cook.) Stir gently and frequently with a long-handled wooden spoon or a spider. The shallots will bubble as they give off their moisture. If they start to brown early, in the first 5 minutes, lower the heat a little more. After about 10 minutes, they should start to color. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan or to each other, until they have turned a golden brown, another 3 minutes or so.

Line a plate with paper towels. Use tongs or a spider to lift a clump of fried shallots out of the oil, pausing for a moment to shake off excess oil into the pan, then place on the paper towel. Turn off the heat, transfer the remaining shallots to the plate, and blot gently with another paper towel. Separate any clumps and toss them a little, then let them air-dry 5 to 10 minutes, so they crisp up and cool. (If your kitchen is very hot and humid, they may not crisp up; don’t worry, the flavor will still be there.)

Transfer the shallots to a clean, dry, widemouthed glass jar. Once they have cooled completely, seal tightly. Transfer the oil to another clean dry jar, using all but the very last of it, which will have some stray pieces of shallot debris. (You can set that oil aside for stir-frying.) Once the oil has cooled completely, cover tightly and store in a cool dark place.

Excerpted from Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid (Artisan Books) Copyright © 2012.

The book:  Cindy’s Supper Club, by Cindy Pawlcyn (10 Speed Books, $35 – here’s my complete review)

The recipe:  Classic Georgian “pressed” chicken with walnut and beet sauces

Why I tried it:  I felt there seemed something so crossroads-y about having to have both walnut and beet sauces – Eastern European and Middle Eastern at the same time.  Also, I felt, there was cause to hope that the “pressing” of the chicken would lead to crisp skin.  And what wouldn’t I do for crisp skin?!

Why I loved it:  The slow, weighted “frying” did lead to crisp skin, and it was simple enough that I’d be able to remember that next time without a recipe.  But it was the sauces that really lit my chandelier.  I kept going back and forth between the two, trying one, and then the other, and then both, in a glorious state of indecision.  Yes, it’s a little bit of a bother to make two sauces.  But it’s so very worth it!  If it’s any consolation, you can skip the tomato wedges.  They’re just there for show, as far as I’m concerned.

Estimated preparation time: 1 hour for the sauces (if you haven’t peeled, roasted and grated the beets ahead of time), 1 hour for the chicken.  You might be able to overlap some of the sauce and chicken preps, if you’re thinking ahead, so it could just about be done in 90 minutes.
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Cindy's Supper Club, Cindy PawlcynClassic Georgian “pressed” chicken with walnut and beet sauces
Serves 6

WALNUT SAUCE
1 cup walnuts
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon hot paprika
2 to 3 teaspoons cider vinegar
Up to 1 cup water
salt

In a blender, combine the walnuts, garlic, coriander, paprika, and 2 teaspoons of the vinegar. With the motor running, slowly add the water, stopping when the sauce is the consistency of thick cream. It should be thinner than mayonnaise but thicker than a rich broth. Taste and season with the remaining teaspoon vinegar and coriander, if needed, and with salt. Set aside.

BEET SAUCE
2 beets, boiled or roasted, peeled and finely grated.
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive or walnut oil
2 tablespoons cider or rice vinegar
3/4 cup sour cream, or 6 tablespoons each plain yogurt and creme fraiche
salt
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Cover and chill before serving.

CHICKEN

6 pounds chicken legs, separated into drumsticks and thighs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
2 or 3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 scant cup water or stock
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced and squeezed dry
3 tomatoes, cut into wedges and lightly salted

1. Place a very large saute pan (big enough to hold all of the chicken with a little space left over) over medium-low heat and add the butter (dividing it if using 2 pans). While the butter melts, season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.

2. When the butter is nice and foamy, place the chicken pieces, bone side down, in the pan(s). Cover just the meat, not the pan, with parchment paper, and place a second pan on top of the parchment. Fill the top pan with water (or a weight to press the chicken down, and then “fry” slowly for 25 minutes. Remove the top pan(s), being careful not to slosh any water into the cooking pan(s), flip the pieces over skin side down, and replace the parchment and the top pan(s) and the weight. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes to crisp the skin and finish cooking the meat.

3. When the chicken pieces are ready, pull them out of the pan(s), put them on a large platter, and keep them warm. Add the garlic and water to the pan juices (dividing them if using 2 pans), increase the heat to high, and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the pan bottom(s), until reduced by two-thirds. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat. Spoon the pan sauce over the chicken and place the tomato wedges here and there around the platter. Serve the walnut and beet sauces on the side.

Reprinted with permission from Cindy’s Supper Club © 2012 by Cindy Pawlcyn, 10 Speed Press.

cindy pawlcyn cookbookSomehow I missed this when it ran in the Globe last week–I think because the online version didn’t have my name tagged on it, so my alerts didn’t catch it.

It’s a fun romp through the cuisines of many nations.  Also one of the fussier cookbooks I’ve reviewed of late.

Read the review of Cindy’s Supper Club here.

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