Thursday, April 7, 2011

East African Braised Chicken With Roasted Citrus Asparagus

This meal is delicious and the aromatic spices will make your home smell amazing.

East African Braised Chicken 
From Cooking Light Magazine, can be found at this link.

2 chicken breast halves, skinned
2 chicken thighs, skinned
2 chicken drumsticks, skinned
1/2 ts salt, 1/2 ts pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups vertically sliced onion
1 tbsp chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
2 lge garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbsp chopped pitted dates
3 tbsp golden raisins

Method: to make this recipe, check out this link.

A few changes I had to make
I've been making this dish for years so I was comfortable making a few changes tonight, although I truly love the original recipe and recommend making it.

I only had skinless chicken thighs, so I used those. I didn't feel like using my heavy Dutch oven, so I browned the chicken for a few minutes on each side in a pan in olive oil after seasoning with salt and pepper, careful not to cook through. Removed chicken and placed in a roasting pan.

I didn't have white wine so I used red wine to deglaze the pan (I could have just used the chicken broth through now that I think of it). Then I reduced it a little and poured it over the chicken.

Then, in same pan, I sauteed onions, garlic, and ginger in a little olive oil until onions were soft, being careful not to burn the garlic. I added chicken stock instead of adding more olive oil while sauteing because the pan got dry.

Once onions were soft I added the rest of the ingredients. I was also out of golden raisins and dates so I used regular raisins and dried cranberries.

The mixture was poured over the chicken thighs and baked at 350 degrees for one hour in the roasting pan covered with aluminum foil to keep moist, I didn't want the liquid to evaporate.

Roasted Citrus Asparagus
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash asparagus, trim off about 1 to 2 inches of the ends (the woody part), sprinkle baking sheet with a little olive oil and lay asparagus out, squeeze a whole lemon over them, a pinch of salt and pepper and layer with orange slices, sprinkle with a little more olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until tender.

The chicken and asparagus were served with long grain wild rice.

Tonight the family was too busy to set the table and eat together so everything we served buffet style.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Andy's Maple-Basil Mojito And An Unforgettable Meal

"When you've eaten a perfect meal,
you know it,
you don't feel it"
~ Curnonsky  
I've been wanting to write about one of the best meals I've ever had but struggled to find the words to best describe my experience. Then, I saw this quote.  It's perfect!
* * *
Early one morning, I came downstairs and began my daily ritual of turning on the coffee machine, sitting at the counter, slipping on my readers, flipping up my laptop, scanning my e-mails, and yawning. While waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, I noticed an unfamiliar address so I decided to open that email first.
Cool! I perked up when I read a dinner invitation from Erin and Andy whom I'd just met in a food writing class. I started reading the menu. My mouth dropped. I moved in closer to get a better look. As I read on about the four course "maple-centric" menu with selective micro-brew pairings, I leaned in even closer, as if in disbelief . . . was I reading this correctly? The menu sounded so amazing, I could have fallen off my chair! I yelled to my husband to come quickly and read the menu to him.  I excitedly asked, do you want to go? I knew I did and wanted to respond immediately before seats filled up. He said, "yes"!
By the end of that day, my reservation was confirmed and I looked forward to this meal for two weeks. It sounded like an amazing meal and quite ambitious. But I knew, after meeting Erin and Andy in our writing class, that they could do it. I sensed their passion and love for food from our conversations in class. 
The Meal
The day of the highly anticipated dinner arrived. It started at four in the afternoon and began with Andy's Maple-Basil Mojito. Andy is the cocktail and beer aficionado of the team. He greeted the guests and made these fresh mojitos as we arrived. I sipped this refreshing beverage and enjoyed meeting other guests before dinner was served.

While the guests mingled, Erin was chopping and cutting and was very social, far more relaxed than I would have been under the circumstances . . . a four course dinner for eleven! She was enjoying herself and was very prepared. Everything was fresh and local, purchased the day before at the winter farmers' market. 

First Course
We took a seat at the table and the first course was served, Winter Squash Bisque with Housemade Maple Creme Fraiche, Chives and Fuller's Extra Special Bitter - Best Bitter. Andy shared his thoughts about his choice of drink and I think the pairing was perfect. The soup was silky and flavorful. As I looked around at the smiles and listened to pleasant remarks, I knew I was going to experience something special that night.

Second Course
The next course was Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Maple Caramelized Shallots and Parmesan. It was served with Brewed on the Premises Porteree - Porter with Nutmeg. The textures, flavors, and aromas of the meal were now starting to affect my senses. The brussels sprouts had a creamy tenderness. Just wonderful!

Third Course
The sun was starting to set and the conversation was picking up. We were all beginning to relax and learn more about each other. Before long, conversation returned to the food and, forgetting what was to be served next, I glanced down at the elegantly printed menu laying to the side of my setting . . . Short Ribs with Maple Bourbon Sauce, Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes paired with Left Hand Fade to Black 2 - Smoked Baltic Porter. This dish was rich, delicious, and satisfying!

Fourth Course
This course, Maple Infused Pot De Creme,  Almond Praline with North Coast Brewing Brother Thelorious - Belgian Style Abbey Alecame after a pleasant break where we searched further into each others' pasts, passions, and futures. We were writers, students, professors, artists, restauranteurs, artisans . . . . and we were there because we all love food. Fresh food. I started to smell the praline cooking. We all started to notice the aroma and exchanged expressions of delight. Once again, the table was cleared and with daylight quickly fading candles were lit, the perfect time to enjoy this fragrant dessert. The Pot De Creme's delicate creamy custard was topped with chunky pieces of sweet almond praline.

The night ended with a very nice dessert drink, Maple Macchiato with Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey. I loved the layers of this drink and how the rich flavors slowly and individually revealed themselves. It was completely dark out now and I was satisfied by this magnificent meal and evening. We toasted the meal, the chefs, the night. 

Andy's Maple-Basil Mojito
0.5 tsp maple syrup
1.5 oz 10 Cane Rum
4 large basil leaves, ripped
1/2 lime, juiced
Ice cubes
Soda water
Lime wedge, garnish
Basil sprig, garnish
Muddle syrup, rum, lime juice. Cover with ice 3/4 full. Top with soda water. Garnish.

Permission was granted to publish this post and recipe.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University

A few weeks ago I visited the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University for the first time with my food writing class. We were given a wonderful private tour by the director and curator, Richard Gutman. Here are some photos. Enjoy!

Upon entering, I was greeted by this Mr. Potato Head chef statue. Hasbro toy company is headquartered in Rhode Island and about 11 years ago they placed about 47 various themed Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head statues around the state to promote tourism. Most have since been removed but the museum has two.

Foods unique to Rhode Island:
Munroe Dairy's popular cow truck. Milk still gets delivered to your door today in glass containers if you want, along with food from other local businesses and farmers. Munroe delivers to our home once a week and I just love it! This mini version was made for the owner's children which they could actually drive.

The recipe for Rhode Island's famous Del's Lemonade originated in Italy in the 1840s.

Autocrat coffee syrup has been made by a family owned business since 1895. Coffee Milk, like chocolate milk but made with coffee syrup, is typically made with Autocrat's coffee syrup and is so popular that it became Rhode Island's official State Drink in 1993.

Ahhh, Rhode Island's Coffee Cabinet. No, it's not a cabinet painted in a mocha shade of brown. It's a coffee flavored milkshake made with ice cream and, in Rhode Island, many prefer to make it with Autocrat coffee syrup. I'm not sure where the name originated from because I found two different stories: 1) Coffee Cabinet is a name made popular by creative diner and drugstore operators, and 2) it's called a cabinet because the originator kept the blender in a cabinet.

Kenyon's Grist Mill, in Usquepaugh, Rhode Island, still grinds the finest corn meal, meals, and flours from an 1886 building and from the same location where they started back in 1696.

Rhode Island Johnnycakes have a long history in Rhode Island, dating back to the pilgrims. The recipe is basic, but when eaten with butter and maple syrup, it's oh so good. If you're looking for a recipe, check out Kenyon's Grist Mill or my Rhode Island Johnnycake post.

And, of course, Rhode Island being the ocean state, we love our seafood and have our unique seafood dishes like stuffies (quahogs with bread stuffing), clams casino (a popular Rhode Island appetizer), clam cakes (similar to fritters) and clam bakes.

Aunt Carrie's, www.auntcarriesri, is still in Narragansett today
A thing of the past. Large shore dinner halls were popular family style
seafood restaurants at Crescent Park and Rocky Point amusement parks.
George's Of Galilee,,
overlooks Block Island Sound and
serves fresh seafood right from the docks.
I remember The Castle Luncheonette and their famous fries! It's still there today, but was updated after a fire. Growing up, I used to sneak around to the back to get a peek at the employees hand-peeling potatoes by the baskets full.

A very popular Woonsocket food is the dynamite. A dynamite is a sandwich like a Sloppy Joe except it's a spicy meat sauce with tomatoes, onions and peppers and served in a "torpedo" roll. Dynamites were always made in big batches to feed large crowds at family events, outings, and festivals and still are today. 

"I'll have mine all the way" is what I'd say when I ordered a New York System Weiner. The dogs are boiled and the buns are steamed. Dressing these weiners starts with a generous amount of a spicy meat sauce, laying a long squirt of mustard over the top, loading on chopped onions and several shakes of celery salt. Ordering "all the way" means add all these toppings. If you're hungry for a weiner, check out Fork In The Rhode's NY System Weiner restaurant review for a place to eat.

After the Rhode Island section, we viewed many interesting culinary items. There's a vast assortment of culinary tools, photos, biographies, and much more that I didn't photograph.

Here are installations of actual bars. The first one is the Tap Room, c. 1833, from Stoddard, New Hampshire, and the second is a beautiful art deco bar. Both are used by Johnston & Wales University students for events.

Here are photos of some of the museum's collections.

This exhibit is called Food On The Move. It's about the development of food as the travel industry grew in the United States. And, again, the collection is much larger than what I'm showing.

Food service on a train
Food delivered to your car

A ship's stove

Pasta making machines. This sign is for the famous historic Italian Camille's restaurant located in Providence, Rhode Island.

Food competitions
This is the Country Fair to Culinary Olympics area. There are so many food competitions today and I never thought about the connection to country fairs. 

I'll have a "mug of murk, some elephant dandruff and two dots and a dash".  That's diner slang from the museum's brochure. The museum has a big section about diners and I enjoyed hearing the curator's stories. Richard started his very impressive and varied culinary career as a diner architecture consultant and through his large collection he provided the musuem with many diner artifacts.

Children can come and act out in this mini diner
Historical diner installation

Vintage books and ancient vessels
We got a sneak peek of the library. We tried to search for the oldest book. This wasn't it, but it's pretty old dating back to 1803! Speaking of old stuff, there's a room full of ancient food vessels. Because the items are on loan from private collectors, photography was restricted. And there's a very interesting food time line, photos and stories of archeological digs. What intrigued me about the archeological digs is how techniques are being used today to extract ingredients of foods that were stored in those vessels in order to recreate ancient recipes. 

At the movies!
This beautiful vintage steam table was manufactured in Providence, Rhode Island, in the 1920's and was in the First Universalist Church of Woonsocket. It was recently used in the filming of "Mildred Pierce" an HBO mini-series starring Kate Winslet.

Hope you enjoyed your "visit"
I didn't want to reveal too much as to spoil the surprise if you get a chance to visit the museum.

An Upcoming Event
On May 5, Mark Bittman is visiting the musuem with proceeds to benefit the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and he'll be signing his book "Food Matters".  Auction items are available to purchase even if you're not going.  Visit RI Community Food Bank for more information.

Culinary Arts Museum Blog:

Photography was permitted and content of this post was approved.