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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hatch Chiles and Chicken Tacos

Sticking with this side of the Pacific Rim, it is Hatch chile season, and for many, these are special peppers. Although the actual variety of the pepper is not distinct, the region of Hatch results in a chile that is revered amongst chile eaters. I enjoy the complexity and rich flavor, and will grab a few, fire roast them and freeze them for use throughout the year. But, since I was doing that, I opted to go ahead and prepare one for dinner as well.

I used some Mary's chicken thighs, partially butterflied them and marinated them in a simple citrus based mixture.

Simple Citrus based marinade:
Juice from 1 lemon and 1 lime
2 tablespoons mild vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon Lucky Dog Green Label hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 small onion, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Just mix all of this together, and add in the chicken thighs. Marinade for 4 hours.


I had the kettle fired up with a full load of lump charcoal, it was very hot, and the chiles took no time at all to blister and start to peel. Pulled them and throttled back the kettle to grilling hot. At no time did I do that hand test, it was just hot. In fact, while turning the chiles, the tongs I was using became dropping on the ground hot even though I had BBQ gloves on.

No human flesh was harmed, okay, a little was

From the time the chicken was ready, I had decided to save the chicken skins, and these were placed on the fire. It was still ripping and the chicken skins fried in their own fat, chicken cracklins! The chicken was placed on the edge of the kettle and grilled until done. I was shooting for the minimum for chicken, right around 155°F, as I intended to reheat the chicken prior to eating.

Note pepper and chicken craklin'

Look at those thighs

The chicken was coarsely chopped and reheated along with the cracklin's, this was then placed on the tortillas along with some avocado salsa, the julienned pepper and a little cheese.

Almost there

And finally a little snipped cilantro to freshen the dish and dinner is served. I opted to drink some sake straight from the bottle for this one, all that Fusion cuisine and such...

Ta da!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tsukune with Pirikara and Tomatoes

So, a Facebook group I am in has issued a challenge, to cook a dish with ground chicken, tomatoes, peanut butter and cayenne pepper. Simple, and the obvious choice would be to go Thai with it, or perhaps something more fusion. I decided to stick with something more along the Japanese lines that I am thinking of moving towards. Ground chicken really says Tsukune to me, Tsukune literally means 'to knead', but, in the world of cooking, it most often refers to ground chicken cooked 'yakitori' style on skewers over a Konro. I decided to riff off of that, by cold smoking a chicken breast, then grinding and making the Tsukune, and frying them into an appetizer. I wanted to make sure the texture was light, as opposed to grilling, the frying would be best with a fluffy meatball and a crispy panko texture.

What I ended up with

Once the chicken was cold smoked, I removed it from the smoker, and placed it back into the refrigerator for 4 hours to let the smoke settle. I also smoked the skin and bones, which was simmered to create a stock, along with celery, red pepper and onion trimmings.

Tsukune Chicken:
2/3 pound skinless chicken breast, cold smoked
1 teaspoon each grated ginger
1 teaspoon finely minced Mitsuba
2 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon lemon rind
1 teaspoon sake
1/8 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Cube chicken into 1/2" chunks and combine with all ingredients except for bread crumbs. Process in pulses in food processor until chicken forms a medium textured paste, add bread crumbs and combine. Form into balls about 1" to 1-1/4" in diameter and chill to harden. Note that the mixture ios very soft and will slump if not very cold. Once chilled, coat with egg wash and panko, let sit in refrigerator until cold, while heating oil. Fry at 275°F until golden brown. Much hotter and the center will not cook, and this is chicken, it needs to cook.

 Pirikara Pickles:
 These are nothing more than salt, sugar and cayenne pepper powder tossed with cucumbers, and then allowed to sit in refrigerator overnight. The cucumbers remain crispy, but, take on a sublte sweet-hot flavor along with the cucumber flavor.

Tomato Pickles:
Peeled 6 grape tomatoes, then prepare a vinegar and sugar mixture that consisted of:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar syrup
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)

Soak peeled tomatoes in the vinegar solution overnight. The tomatoes will have a sweet and sour flavor and have a fresh tomato texture. Obviously the fresher the tomato, the better, but, the harder to peel. It's worth it, I actually did 12 of them, so I have a few extra.

Now, if there was one element of this cook that was going to be problematic, it was the peanut butter, and surely, not a typical ingredient, Thai would have been so much easier. In any event...

Peanut Miso Sauce:
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons peanut butter, smooth
1 tablespoon shiro miso
1/2 teaspoon sugar syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon Togarashi oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sudachi juice
sake, not sure how much, a healthy splash

Heat it all over low heat until it starts to combine, raise heat to medium and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened. Remove and use quickly. It will thicken on cooling. You will want to adjust sweetness and heat to reflect the peanut butter and miso flavors.

Pirikara, tomatoes and peanut-miso sauce

And the texture was excellent, I think just the touch of baking powder and lemon juice aided that texture greatly. The cornstarch improves the texture of the chicken as well.

Fluffy Chicken Balls

These totally worked out as a riff on the traditional and the smoke, citrus and even the peanut butter worked well together. The cayenne which would have seemed likely to over-power the other elements worked to create a subtle and somewhat random piquant quality to the dish.