Chicken Tagliata with Fennel-White Bean Salad

Chicken Tagliata

I’ve mentioned that I have a competitive cooking streak. You wouldn’t guess that if you met me though; I’m well behaved and you can take me places. I promise I won’t jump on the table at your favorite restaurant and demand an Iron Chef match with the staff.

The National Chicken Cooking Contest, with a grand prize of $100,000, is taking place Friday, May 4 in Birmingham, with 51 contestants – one from each state. I’ll be there, wearing my red satin sash, representing the state of Missouri.

We’re packing up the Odyssey with my pans and potholders. And the two kids. They’ve never seen me compete at a cook-off, but I don’t have any doubt about what they’re most looking forward to: swimming in the hotel pool.

Tune in next week for the full report!

Chicken Tagliata with Warm Fennel and White Bean Salad
Makes 4 servings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1 1/2 teaspooons kosher salt, divided
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
1 fennel bulb, stems trimmed, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
1/3 cup quartered grape tomatoes
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup baby arugula
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese curls

Butterfly each breast: cut 3/4 through center of thicker, long side of each chicken breast and open flat. Pound to an even thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap; place chicken in a large shallow baking dish.

Puree 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, buttermilk, fennel seeds and basil in a blender or mini food processor. Pour over chicken, turning to coat. Cover and marinate at least 15 minutes, and up to 2 hours.

In medium saucepan, mix together remaining lemon juice and olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, garlic, beans, and sliced fennel. Place over medium heat and simmer about 2 minutes, or until fennel is crisp-tender. Remove from heat and gently stir in tomatoes, lemon zest and parsley.

Sprinkle chicken on both sides with the remaining teaspoon salt and pepper. Spray a large non-stick grill pan with cooking spray and place over medium high heat. Cook chicken 3 minutes per side.

Slice chicken into 1/2-inch thick slices. To serve, spread 1/4 cup arugula over each sliced chicken breast. Spoon fennel salad over arugula and top with cheese.

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

General Tso, To Go at Home

General Tso’s Chicken (with peanut garnish)

The new “It” cookbook in the Foodist world seems to be the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. A few weeks ago, the NYT magazine ran Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe for General Tso’s chicken from the book, and today that same paper’s food section published a favorable review by Anne Mendelson.

In addition, one of my favorite new sites, Serious Eats, has a great video clip of the author cooking General Tso’s chicken that made me want to run into the kitchen to cook. And writer Michael Ruhlman’s blog has a nice step-by-step post about it.

I gave in and bought the book. There are lots of appealing recipes in here that I’m very interested to try, like Bowl-Steamed Eggplant with Winter-Sacrifice Beans and Salted Greens (page 223), Chicken with Ginger (page 130) and the intriguing Smacked Cucumbers (page 62) but I felt I had to give the recipe for General Tso’s Chicken a go. Dunlop offers two versions; the more authentically Hunan recipe that I made differs in that it lacks the sugar of the Americanized version.

Maybe it’s because I don’t live in Manhattan or anywhere near the East coast; I don’t have a tendency to order Chinese take-out, and don’t really have a benchmark to measure this by. I know, I know, where have I been?

I have to tell you, I probably won’t make this recipe again unless I change it a tiny bit, and by that I mean eliminating the deep-frying part. That will make this some other kind of recipe – more along the lines of General Mom’s Chicken. Granted, I doubled the recipe to accommodate eight boneless chicken thighs instead of four because we are greedy chicken eaters. But still, it didn’t seem worth the effort.

Maybe I should have done this in two separate batches, because when I added the doubled amount of potato starch to the marinade mixture, things “seized up” a bit, and it became less of a batter and more of a dough.

And, if you haven’t deep-fried anything for a while, I’ll remind you that while it isn’t really difficult, it is rather time consuming and messy.

By the time we sat down to eat this, I was a little cranky. And after mixing that preciously deep fried chicken with the sauce, you couldn’t even tell how it had been cooked. Why not just stir-fry it?

Meantime, I’ll be making further investigations into this cookbook, and I’ll keep you posted.

General Tso’s Chicken

Adapted from “The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook,” by Fuchsia Dunlop; as published in the New York Times Magazine, February 4, 2007

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon double-concentrate tomato paste, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1?2 teaspoon potato flour
1?2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
11?2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons chicken stock or water
For the chicken:
12 ounces (about 4 to 5) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1?2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons potato flour
1 quart peanut oil, more as needed
6 to 10 dried red chilies
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish.

1. Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. To prepare the chicken, unfold the chicken thighs and lay them on a cutting board. Remove as much of the sinew as possible. (If some parts are very thick, cut them in half horizontally.) Slice a few shallow crosshatches into the meat. Cut each thigh into roughly 1?4 -inch slices and place in a large bowl. Add the soy sauces and egg yolk and mix well. Stir in the potato flour and 2 teaspoons peanut oil and set aside. Using scissors, snip the chilies into 3?4 -inch pieces, discarding the seeds. Set aside.

3. Pour 3 1?2 cups peanut oil into a large wok, or enough oil to rise 1 1?2 inches from the bottom. Set over high heat until the oil reaches 350 to 400 degrees. Add half the chicken and fry until crisp and deep gold, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a plate. Repeat with the second batch. Pour the oil into a heatproof container and wipe the wok clean.

4. Place the wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons peanut oil. When hot, add the chilies and stir-fry for a few seconds, until they just start to change color. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds longer, until fragrant. Add the sauce, stirring as it thickens. Return the chicken to the wok and stir vigorously to coat. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and top with scallions. Serve with rice. Serves 2 to 3.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food

Cashew Chicken with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Gathering the Garbanzos

Last week, I noticed a food-blogging phenomenon that I don’t have a name for. It’s probably been described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book about social trends, The Tipping Point, but I can’t recall what term he has for it. It’s that thing where one day, it seems you see the same recipe, idea, color or low-rise jean style right in front of you, everywhere you look.

Since I can’t enlighten you further, I’ll name this particular incidence the Convergence of Chickpeas:

1. Alanna at A Veggie Venture writes about an easy garbanzo supper.
2. Lydia at The Perfect Pantry displays an essential pantry staple.
3. Lisa at Champaign Taste made a beautiful Italian-style soup.
4. Molly at Orangette describes a loving lunch gift.

Because chickpeas are one of my personal “soul” foods, I have a special place for them in my foodie heart.

I love that you can buy them in a can, drain and eat as they are or embellish them in any number of tasty exotic ways. Also, that they can inspire a whole meal, and the simpler the better. I love boldly spiced dishes like this quick cashew chicken.

It’s another convergence of sorts – Bangkok meets Bangalore.

Cashew Chicken with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas
for 4 servings

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews, chopped
3 cups cooked rice

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the chickpeas on a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the oil, salt, curry powder, cumin and cayenne. Roast for 25 minutes.

Heat a non-stick wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until smoking. Toss in the chicken and cook, stirring, until surfaces are seared, but interior is still pink. Stir in the shallots and cook until softened, 1-2 minutes.

Add the sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce to the chicken and stir. Cook a few more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Stir in the chickpeas, spinach and cashews. Serve in bowls with hot cooked rice.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food