Category Archives: Meat

Quick and Easy Meal: Sriracha Sloppy Joes

Sriracha Sloppy joes

The idea of making sloppy joes intrigued me, because the last time I had sloppy joes, I was nibbling them off a lunch tray in the multipurpose room at school. At elementary school. And we never ate them. Or at least, I never did. And neither did my friends. They were gloppy and disgusting.

But you can’t judge a dish when you only know it in the context of the school cafeteria.

And I thought I’d give it another try as an adult, especially since I figured I could whip this up pretty quickly as a new mom. Now I know one of the rules is “no chopping,” but you could skip the onions if you hate them–or you can pick up a package of pre-chopped onions from trader joes. Or you can put your kid in a high chair for about 5 minutes while you chop the onions and put garlic through a garlic press. (Or if you were really desperate like me–yes you can reach for the garlic powder–because when you’ve got a small baby, you can’t sweat the little things like fresh garlic versus powder. You’ve gotta figure out how to make food and EAT).

I looked up a few sloppy joe recipes, with the intention of finding one that was simple and quick. And then I decided to give it an extra kick with not the more traditional tabasco, but Sriracha. It was tremendous. Hope you enjoy. Recipe after the jump!

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Easy Meal: Chicken Marbella

Chicken marbella

This is an amazing recipe out of the Silver Palate Cookbook–it’s one of those dishes that I can’t believe I waited so long to try. If dishes could be icons, this would be an icon–there are no imitations, it has stood the test of time, and everyone who’s tasted it, loves it.

I made it for the first time last year, wondering how on earth the ingredients would meld together. I mean really–capers, olives, prunes? But I was game; so many people rave about this recipe, I didn’t dare balk.

And it was amazing–such an easy to dish to make, with results that belie its simplicity. It immediately went into my meal rotation.

So when I had a baby, chicken marbella was one of the first meals I got together. It does take some time, as you need to marinate the ingredients overnight or at least 8 hours, but prep and cooking are straightforward and easy: throw everything into a ziploc bag with a bunch of chicken thighs, kind of shake/mash the bag so all the ingredients are mixed up together, and then stick the bag of chicken in the fridge overnight. The next day/evening, empty out the bag into a baking pan, top with brown sugar and add white wine, and pop into an oven.

No chopping. No open flames. And if you’ve got a rice cooker, you’ve got an easy mechanism with which to serve the chicken. It tastes great atop basmati rice.

Great also to send over to a new mom, too. 😉

Recipe after the jump…

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Stretching a Chicken: do chua and banh mi

banh mi

The economy’s faltering and my doctor just told me to lower my sodium intake–bleah. The two situations sum up to more home cooking: save money, avoid sodium. Very pragmatic. Hrm. Prag.mat.ic. Prac.tic.al. I met the decision with a sigh. No more chip snacks, no more ramen, no more going out to eat on a whim, and no more avoiding cooking dinner by going out to eat…! The point being that I can’t monitor my sodium intake if I eat out regularly.

I don’t know about you, but even though I LOVE to cook, I hate to do it when it becomes a mandate. And here I am, facing a mandate of eating in. I say bleah!

But having no choice in the matter, I decided to find a way to motivate myself. I could…make this a fun culinary adventure. I could…maybe…take a chicken and see how much I can stretch it over meals! Make it a “how to eat more cheaply in the new economy” project. Making this mandate into a challenge has made the experience a bit more fun. And I imagine it will expand my cooking repertoire (and increase the blog posts on Muffin Top to boost).

Earlier this week, I made chicken soup with a whole chicken. In my case, I made a North Korean chicken soup. But you could just as easily make a consomme, your family chicken soup or Jewish chicken soup (one of our household favorites). Whatever involves poaching a chicken. (Phase 1…and I guess you could also roast a chicken just as easily as Phase 1)

When you make the soup, just be sure to set aside some of the chicken to save for later. In the case of the North Korean chicken soup, I only shredded half the chicken, and set aside the other side (not shredded) for future meals.

Enjoy the soup! And eye the saved meat and dream of future meals.

My point here is that you can still eat gourmet and stretch that chicken. An organic whole chicken (3-5 pounds) from Rosie’s is about $14 (cheaper if you’re eating a Foster Farms chicken).

Phase 2–how to use that cooked chicken (whether it’s poached or roasted). You can put it on top of a salad..you can make it into a regular sandwich…but my point is that you can still eat adventurously with leftovers…

I was on the brink of making chicken enchiladas with the leftover chicken, but then I saw Tea’s post on do chua, and I became determined to make a banh mi at home.

Banh Mi is an extraordinarily delicious Vietnamese sandwich, made from spiced pork, or liverwurst or chicken. It is the ultimate fusion food (French-Vietnamese) blending the two culinary traditions: French bread and the concept of a sandwich and Vietnamese flavor and spices. But despite what filling you choose to eat (pork, chicken, liverwurst)…every sandwich has some jalapeno peppers, cilantro, and the awesome do chua.

Tea has a great post on do chua–and in short it is a sweet and vinegary pickled mixture that is the signature of banh mi sandwiches.

If you’ve already got chicken, the do chua is the only other thing you’ll have to prepare in order to make this sandwich. Carrot and daikon radish are very inexpensive ingredients and the other sandwich ingredients include cilantro, jalapeno pepper, and mayonaise. Oh, and the bread: a french bread.

I was excited about assembling the sandwich and I couldn’t BELIEVE HOW EASY IT COULD BE. WHO KNEW IT COULD BE SO EASY?! I mean, my banh mi did not beat the magnificence of a banh mi sandwich from Saigon Sandwiches in San Francisco (on Turk and Larkin–and btw, they price the sandwiches super cheap! Way cheaper than Subway $5 sandwiches–the sandwiches at Saigon Sandwiches hover at a cost of about $3.50/each) but I love that I can now make one at home.

Annnd…I found a way to stretch that chicken.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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The great Kubba experiment

kubba in process

I loooove kubba, at least, the way my mother-in-law made it, Iraqi-style with an incredible thin shell and flavorful and juicy meat stuffing. She was a fantastic cook, someone who (along with a good friend in college) instilled my foodie tendencies and gave me the base for my cooking fervor. They say that in the Middle East, you can judge a cook by his/her (more likely her) kubba, just as in Korea you judge a cook by his/her (more likely her) kimchi.

By Middle Eastern standards then, I am a horrible cook, because I have never made a decent kubba. I’ve made some great tasting filling, but my kubba or kibbe or kibbeh or kobeba, once constructed, has a dry, thick shell that overwhelms any juicy meat stuffing. I guess that’s an improvement from my first kubba attempt–I couldn’t even get the filling around the meat, I just had lumps of disaster.

And yet, every few years, I try to make kubba on my own. Each time, the results are a little closer to the real thing, though I’ve never been able to replicate my mother-in-law’s kubba (some day, some day). The traditional recipe calls for a bulgur cracked wheat based shell, but I am beginning to think that that is not what she used (the cream of wheat below is for a different kind of kubba, the kind that goes into stews).

ingredients for kubba

The ingredients are above–spices, pine nuts, parsley, an onion, ground beef…and bulgur for the shell (the cream of wheat again, is for a different kind of kubba, described later on below).

This website that I and my friends share with you–one of the purposes of it is to serve as an archive for my own recipes. And these days, I’m trying to compile family recipes, and in this case, re-create a family recipe.

Visually, the kubba were a success. And they do beat kubba I’ve had in some restaurants.

kubba

But my husband and I, we’re still dreaming of his mother’s kubba. Next time, I’ll work on making a thinner shell, and maybe using something other than bulgur for the shell base. He and I are now in agreement that his mother did not use bulgur for the shell. Maybe matzo? Who knows. We’ll keep experimenting. It’s how I ended up making many of her other dishes, guessing secret ingredients and other components until the dishes tasted just like hers.

Still, there’s something you can do with leftover kubba filling–it’s easy and not as complicated as making kubba, but it’s just as delicious. And if all your kubba fails, you will still be left with something savory and delicious to eat, something I call “kubba meat omelettes” that my mother-in-law also used to make. And I think it might actually be an authentic dish, though I can’t verify that.  It is also called “Uk.”

kubba filling

Eat it in a pita with some hot sauce (sriracha, or sambal oelek…or just some hummus), or eat them on their own. It’s a good reward, successful kubba or no. They’re great for brunch, served room temperature or cold. In sum, they’re versatile and yummy.

And they’re good for my cooking self-esteem. For, of all else fails, at least there are these tasty omelettes to fall back on. I wonder, sometimes, if these came about from the failed kubba of other cooks.

But onward to other kinds of kubba!

There are several different kinds of kubba–in addition to the kubba above, there is kubba made with semolina, cooked in a stew like dumplings.

kubba for the kubba bamia

The above kubba look different, yes, because the shell is made of semolina (or cream of wheat). The stuffing is also different–less spicy than the kubba above, and void of pine nuts.

The cream of wheat kubba is not to be fried…they’re included as dumplings in a stew…

Cooked in an okra stew, the “kubba bamia” is wonderful…

kubba bamia

The stew by itself is great–a favorite in our household, but with kubba the stew takes on an extra flair.

Recipes follow after the jump…

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Korean braised chicken: dak jjim

Korean braised chicken for lunch

I love braised meats, even though it can tax one’s patience, especially when it comes to briaising short ribs, which takes a few hours over low heat as it perfumes the house with the savory delicious and unmistakably magnificent odor of beef stew. Braising is an inherently slow cooking process (as that’s pretty much the definition of “braising”): the meat cooks over a low heat with a small amount of liquid under a heavy (or tight fitting) lid. But the result is so fantastic: tender meat, infused with flavor, falling off the bone…and if you include them, a cadre of tender vegetables to boot.

But if you’re looking for something a little faster than Korean braised short ribs, thank goodness there’s a poultry category for braising. Still slow, but a bit faster, and oh so delicious too. Yes, there is a Korean braised chicken (“dak jjim”) dish.

Braised chicken was a staple dish of my childhood–my mom made several variations, one of which was a hybrid dish of Korean and Filipino (“chicken adobo”) chicken dishes. The one she made least was this spicy version, which I have come to love as an adult. It was, I guess, too spicy for us as children and so she crossed it off her food rotation, long after we had grown up and embraced hot and spicy flavors. (I don’t know why she didn’t just reduce the amount of hot pepper in the recipe–you can too, if you don’t like things too spicy).

Still, I wanted to bring this dish into my own home and into my rotation of family foods today. I have too many happy memories of plowing into chicken atop sticky rice for dinner on school nights and the voice of my mother ringing, “Yummy chicken!” as she would inevitably bring out a cookpot of steaming braised chicken.

Korean braised chicken done!

When I spotted a picture of it on a friend’s flickstream, I immediately asked her “How did you make that?” Her answer was a casual, “Ack, like for all Korean food, there is no recipe,” and proceeded to give me the rundown of the ingredients she combined. And so I proceeded forth, armed with that list of ingredients, and the memory of flavors intact in my tastebuds. You too, can vary the dish (especially the vegetables) if you please, because as you now know, there is no exact recipe for Korean food.

The result was marvelous–a bit different from that of my friend’s dish (I added to her ingredient list, as well as substituted several items), but one that sent my tastebuds ringing with good childhood memories.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Brunch

...and schnitzel

For years now, my vision of a great brunch has included chicken schnitzel, pita, hummus, and some great Israeli salad. It originated in my weekend visits to family–the sound (and oh so wonderful smell) of schnitzel (or catfish) frying would ease the entire family out of a preternatural slumber until we all gravitated towards the kitchen and eagerly set the table and sat down, often still in our pajamas, to a brunch that would then be systematically devoured.

Some of us preferred the fried catfish, opening the pita (the thick kind that you can get at specialty stores, not the silly thin kind you get at the grocery stores) and slathering hummus, and spooning the cucumber and tomato salad inside before plopping a thick and crisp piece of fish inside. There. A catfish pita sandwich. Eat. Chew. Swallow. Smile. Repeat.

fried catfish

Others preferred the chicken schnitzel, pounded and breaded and fried and oh so tasty. This, some family members would initially eat with their fingers, plain without bread until their savage desire was satisfied. Then yes, open up the pita bread, slather hummus, spoon salad inside, and then plop a piece of crisp chicken inside. And devour.

chicken schnitzel

I have made my own adjustments to a family recipe–I leave onions out of the salad because well, I am not fond of raw onions…and I add a squirt of spicy Sriracha sauce to the sandwich, which we have come to love in our household. In this way, the recipe has continued to evolve–and in this way, I’ve added my own Asian flavor to a traditional meal.

This is a comfort food in our family, a dish that children are taught before being sent off to college, so simple it is to make, and so satisfactory to the soul.

We have eaten this dish to celebrate homecomings and family gatherings–and we have eaten this dish as a way to nurse hangovers. As with all comfort food, chicken schnitzel, pita and hummus serve so many functions.

I hope it is satisfactory to your soul, too.

brunch

Recipes for chicken schnitzel and Israeli-style salad follow after the jump…

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Come gather for comfort: “galbi jjim” (aka Korean braised short ribs)

Korean short rib stew (galbi jjim)

Maybe I am craving comfort in my life–but these days, my mind has been filled with comfort foods, and my tastebuds are craving them as well, whether they be a bowl of North Korean style chicken soup or a piece of toast with plugra butter or some raw sapporo ichiban ramen (yes, this foodie likes to eat raw ramen in guilty splurges).

There are very few dishes that spell “comfort,” at least in my mind, than a bowl of galbi jjim, otherwise known as braised Korean short ribs. Short ribs are a favorite cut of beef of mine and I love them grilled and in soup, as well as braised in a stew; braised short ribs exist in other cuisines such as Italian cuisine, but my favorite form of this food happens in Korean cuisine. The dish is called “galbi jjim,” and it is incomparable.

(disclosure: I’m Korean–so I may be biased. But then again, this is a fantastic dish and you may probably agree with me in my assessment).

So incomparable is galbi jjim that it is known to be served to special guests of honor on special occasions, though I hardly wait for such occasions. But any dinner with galbi jjim becomes a special occasion as I watch the guests eat the short ribs with great delight, first timers and those familiar with galbi jjim alike.

Through the years, I’ve made my adjustments to a time-old recipe. I’ve found that pre-boiling the short rib pieces makes for very tender pieces of meat, and decreases the amount of fat in the end product. I know that pre-boiling meat is a “no-no” in cooking, but in this case the result (tender short ribs) is so wonderful (and I use the broth so that the flavors do not go to waste) that I can’t refrain from pre-boiling. Plus, it makes for a faster result–otherwise you’ll be braising the short ribs for MUCH longer.

I also like to add various vegetables, depending on my mood. In the past, I’ve added brussel sprouts to the dish to great success and delight. Brussel sprouts, needless to say, are not a traditional ingredient in this dish. Most recently, I added turnips, and they were equally delicious. Carrots and onions and potatoes are the mainstay vegetables, however.

I encourage you to experiment, and enjoy one of my favorite dishes!

Galbi jjim

Recipe follows after the jump…

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