Levantine Roast Chicken

I wanted to make Chicken Shawarma sandwiches but, first, I had to roast the chicken. I made a kicked up spice mixture for the marinade with cumin, paprika, turmeric, garlic and then added Aleppo peppers for an almost fruity heat. The flavor profile owes a lot to the mom of a Lebanese friend of mine who used to feed us when I lived in Oakland, California.

After roasting the chicken, we made a meal of it. I set it over a bed of rice pilaf and served it with the onions that I used to elevate the chicken during cooking. The meat was juicy and had a lovely flavor from the overnight marinade. The onion was tender and melt in your mouth good.

After we ate our fill, Mom and I picked the leftover chicken and tossed it in the pan juices before putting it in the fridge overnight with the leftover onion. I then made a delicious Greek yogurt sauce. For lunch the next day, we enjoyed Chicken Shawarma on pita with chopped tomatoes, rewarmed hunks of the roasted chicken and onion, topped with healthy dollops of the tzatziki sauce.

Just fold and enjoy. So very delicious with an awesome mix of textures and flavors with the spiced chicken and garliky, cucumber yogurt sauce. The best of street food and you didn’t have to leave home for it.

Levantine Roast Chicken

1 – 5lb whole chicken
2 lemons, juiced
½ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (can substitute red pepper flakes)
2 large white onions

Use kitchen shears to cut the backbone off the chicken and then slice into the breastbone and crack the bird open. Remove the breast bone and cartilage. Place chicken in a zip top bag. The backbone and breast bone can be reserved in the freezer until ready to make stock.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, turmeric and Aleppo pepper together and stir well. Pour over chicken and seal bag. Massage to coat the chicken and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a large cast iron skillet in the oven. Carefully remove the skillet and place the onions (each cut horizontally into three thick rounds) on the bottom of the pan and set the chicken on top. Pour over the marinade.

Roast for about an hour or until the meat registers 165 on a meat thermometer. For the last 15 minutes, cover the top with aluminum foil if the wings or skin is getting too dark.

Remove from oven and serve over rice pilaf with each person getting a large round of onion and a ladle or two of sauce.

Here is my quick and easy tzatziki recipe:

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 cup Greek yogurt (I use FAGE Total Plain)
4 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon oilive oil

Grate cucumber into a clean dish towel and squeeze out the moisture. Place the cucumber in a bowl with all the other ingredients and mix well. Taste for seasoning.

I recommend you make 24 hours in advance so that the flavors really come together.

Shrimp Gazpacho

As we get into late May, I begin to long for gazpacho. I’ve posted other recipes here and here but my current dilemma is that tomatoes haven’t come in locally yet. The ones available in the grocery store are from Florida and are varieties designed for transport. They just don’t have the juice or the flavor of those coming from the local U-Pick farm or farmer’s market.

Sometimes you have to improvise. In my case, that means a can of V8 juice, fresh squeezed limes and some ketchup.

When boiling shrimp, I recommend using the liquid Zatarain’s Crab and Shrimp boil but a tablespoon of plain kosher salt works just fine.

You’ll notice there is no salt added to the dish – the many flavors mean it isn’t necessary for taste but I put some on the table, in case the other diners wanted it (they didn’t).

This dish is amazing with the crunchy veggies, tender shrimp, creamy avocado and the lovely tomato based sauce. I could feel myself getting healthier after eating a bowl but, more importantly, the way the flavors complement each other made all of us go for seconds.

Shrimp Gazpacho

1 small head of garlic
1 small onion (red, white, yellow – any works)
1 ½ lbs small to medium shrimp, deheaded with shells on
1 tablespoon Zatarain’s® Concentrated Shrimp & Crab Boil
1 hothouse tomato
1 cucumber
1 green bell pepper
2 avocados
1 – 11.5 ounce can V8 juice, cold
Juice of 2 limes (¼ cup lime juice)
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the top off the head of garlic. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle generously with olive oil and seal the foil around the bulb. Put garlic package on a baking sheet. Quarter the onion and separate the layers. Toss generously with olive oil and place on the baking sheet with the garlic. Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender, flipping the onions layers over midway through cooking. The onion may finish roasting before the garlic so be prepared to remove it early. Transfer onion to chopping board and chop roughly. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the softened garlic and place in a large mixing bowl with the onion to cool completely while the shrimp boils.

Bring a quart of water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Stir in shrimp and Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp & Crab Boil. Cover and return to boil. Turn off heat and let stand 2 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and done. Pour off the water and place shrimp in an ice bath for up to 5 minutes. Drain and peel. Cut the peeled shrimp into bite size pieces – cut small shrimp in half and medium into three pieces.

Cut an X into the base of the tomato. Place in boiling water for 30 seconds and remove to a water bath for a minute. Take from the water and peel off the skin. Dice the tomato and place in the bowl with onion and garlic. Peel cucumber. Scrape the seeds out with a spoon and cut the cucumber into small chunks. Core and seed the bell pepper and dice. Take out the pits from the avocados and make slices into the flesh both length and widthwise. Peel the pieces from the skin. Place all the vegetables in the bowl and stir to combine. Add in the shrimp and stir well.

Whisk together the V8, lime juice, ketchup and olive oil. Pour over the veggies and turn to coat. If not eating immediately, place in the refrigerator to stay cold. Stir well before ladeling into bowls.

Serve with crusty bread – I had garlic bread on hand that worked well, too.

Salsa Verde Chicken Chalupas

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Pueblo, Mexico as a victory over France in the battle over Puebla and what better way to join the celebration than to eat a traditional street food of the region.

Chalupas (also known as sopes or tostadas) consist of a fried tortilla base topped with meat, salsa and cheese. They are a quick and easy meal to put together, especially if you cheat with a grocery store rotisserie chicken. Picked from the bone and mixed with some mild salsa verde (I use a can from Herdez), means you really elevate the chicken to the next level.

With a slathering of refried beans, a generous amount of shredded chicken and topped with cheese and avocados – this is super flavorful and delicious meal.

Sala Verde Chicken Chalupas

10 corn tortillas 
2 cups shredded chicken
1 – 7 oz can of Herdez salsa verde 
1 can refried beans
8 ounce block of pepper jack cheese, grated
sour cream or Mexican crema
2-3 sliced avocados

Fry the corn tortillas in a little vegetable oil. Turn over as they start to brown and remove from the oil when crispy. Drain on a wire rack over a paper bag or paper towels.

In a mixing bowl, combine shredded chicken and Herdez Salsa Verde. Stir to coat chicken well and microwave until warm, stirring after 30 seconds to a minute.

Warm refried beans in a saucepan.

To serve, spoon refried beans onto each of the fried tortilla shells. Top with the salsa verde chicken. Sprinkle on cheese, add some sour cream and top with avocado slices.

 

Leftover Brisket Beef Stroganoff

As a kid, I took a lot of comfort in the ground beef, can of cream of mushroom soup beef stroganoff that mom would make a few times a year. As good as that was, I’m going to kick it up a notch with some of the leftover beef brisket I smoked on the grill.

I use a Dalmatian rub on my brisket (equal parts salt and pepper) so I didn’t need to add either to the finished dish. Here is my method for preparing the brisket.

If you don’t have any leftover brisket, use ground beef or any stir fry type meat like flank steak or sirloin, sliced thin and pan fried in the skillet you’ll then use to sauté the mushrooms.

If you’re using egg noodles, cook them in the sauce as the added cook time deepens the flavors. However, as I’m trying to make do with what I have in the house, I’m using rice. 

The sauce is luscious and so very tasty. The brisket and stock give a big, beefy flavor to my new, favorite comfort food. We were all members of the clean plate club.

Leftover Brisket Beef Stroganoff

1 lb leftover beef brisket, cooked and roughly chopped (or a 1 lb browned ground beef)
4 tablespoons butter
8 ounces baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef or mushroom stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces egg noodles or 2 cups cooked rice
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter in a large cast iron skillet. Remove from pan and set aside.

Melt remaining butter and then sprinkle on the flour and whisk together. Cook the roux for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Keep the heat low to just cook away the floor taste, not to add color. Slowly whisk in the stock. Keep stirring to remove any lumps. Add in the Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add in mushrooms and noodles and cook until noodles are cooked, about ten minutes. Add in beef and stir to coat. Stir in sour cream and cook about 10 minutes more. Taste for seasoning. Spoon onto plates (if using rice, use it as a base layer) and sprinkle with a little paprika, if desired.

Chili Con Carne

One of the most comforting scents of winter is the smell of chili cooking on the stove – you just know your very soul is about to get warmed up.

I usually use a food processor to speed up the prep work – chop the onions and garlic, chop the meat, chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Unfortunately, the food processor was one of things destroyed when my parent’s house flooded in Hurricane Sally, so I went the old fashioned way with a large knife and murder in my heart.

This is a good, hearty meal without much heat. The sun dried tomatoes add a lovely brightness and using the oil they were packed in to sauté the onions and meat adds another flavorful layer.

I eat mine with saltine crackers and my folks like eating theirs with flour tortillas and grated cheddar cheese. Other options include Fritos corn chips, sliced jalapeño, sliced green onions, sour cream, guacamole, diced white onion, French fried onions, etc, etc. The sky’s the limit!

Chili Con Carne

1 large white onion
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1.5 lbs chuck roast, cut into hunks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
7 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
2 (14 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
1 can Ro-tel diced tomatoes and green chilies
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 cup water or beer
2 (14 ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained

Drain the olive oil from the tomatoes.

Chop up the onions and garlic into a small dice and sauté in the tomato olive oil until softened and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the chili powder and cumin and a little pepper.

Roughly chop the meat into bite sized pieces and sprinkle with salt. Add to the pan, cooking until slightly browned on all sides.

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Add to the beef with the tomatoes, Ro-tel, cinnamon stick and the water or beer.

Bring to the boil, cover, then turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon stick and add the kidney beans and cook for 30 minutes more with the lid off.

Serve with your favorite sides/toppings.

Shrimp Étouffée

A very good friend of mine just got out from a week in the hospital after getting a heart bypass, so I decided to make him something delicious and comforting. Shrimp Étouffée fits the bill perfectly – I mean, c’mon smothered is IN the name. This classic dish was my gateway to Cajun/Creole cooking. It is much easier than gumbo as you only need to cook the roux to blonde plus it is ready in under an hour.

While this is already a full flavor/lower fat dish, I did want it to be a little more heart healthy for him so I made up a batch of my Creole Seasoning with no salt (original recipe here), used low sodium chicken stock and no salt added tomato sauce, and am serving it with brown rice.

To up the shrimp flavor, make your own shrimp stock. Peel the shrimp and place the shells in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until shells start to turn pink, stirring regularly to prevent burning. Add 6 cups of water, a celery stalk broken in half, a carrot similarly broken and a bay leaf and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain to remove solids. Use 1 cup in the recipe and freeze the rest in 1 cup measures for later uses.

It tastes like you spent all day over a hot stove – the natural heat from the Ro-tel plus the Creole seasoning gently warms you from the tongue to your tummy making this a lovely meal on a cold night. For those who want less heat, double the tomato sauce and eat more rice with each bite. For those who need more, add a dash or two of hot sauce at the table.

Shrimp Étouffée

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
1 small green bell pepper, chopped fine
2 stalks of celery, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 can RoTel tomatoes and green chilies
1 -5 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until the onions have turned golden, at least 10 minutes. Add bell pepper, celery and garlic. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and sauté until tender and garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Stir in butter and flour and cook until the roux is golden brown, up to 10 minutes. Be sure to stir constantly and don’t let it darken too much.

Reduce heat to low; add RoTel, tomato sauce and stock. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or so until thickened. Toss shrimp with Creole seasonings and put into the saucepan. Simmer until shrimp are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and taste for seasonings.

Serve over rice. Have hot sauce on the table for those who need more heat.

Alabama Hot Brown

From the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky comes their 1920’s creation of an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon, tomato slices and a cheese sauce (their recipe here) called a Kentucky Hot Brown.

My version is a little different. I’m using Thanksgiving leftovers so we’re ladling on gravy instead of cheese sauce because gravy goes well on everything. As tomatoes are out of season, we are using some tomato jam.

Mom had me spread leftover cranberry sauce on hers instead of the tomato jam and it paired really well, especially with the Muenster cheese I put on hers and which shows the versatility of this sandwiches’ construction.

The sandwich is a delicious change from the usual leftover, post-Turkey day fare and will fill up those Black Friday shoppers’ bellies.

This recipe is for 4 people but it scales up if you’re serving a larger crowd.

Alabama Hot Brown

4 slices of thick sandwich bread
1 cup gravy
½ cup of tomato jam or one large, vine ripened tomato, sliced thinly
8 thick slices roast turkey breast
8 slices bacon, cooked to crispy
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Lightly toast the sandwich bread and set on a rimmed baking sheet.

Warm the gravy in a double boiler so it doesn’t thicken too much.

Set the broiler on low and put the rack in the middle of the oven.

Spread a layer of tomato jam on the toast or place thin slices of tomato on it. Place 2 slices of turkey (or more to cover) on each piece of bread. Place bacon on top. Generously cover with spoonfuls of gravy and sprinkle with cheese.

Place the baking sheet into the broiler and roast until cheese is melty. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Risotto

We boiled up several pounds of shrimp the other day and froze what we didn’t eat in pint bags. My girlfriend had given me some arborio rice last time I saw her and I thought making risotto would be super comforting as the weather is starting to turn colder.

If you’re starting with raw shrimp, just sauté the peeled and deveined shrimp in butter until pink and then set aside until the rice is ready.

My folks aren’t white wine fans, so there wasn’t any in the house. If you are, add a half cup to the shrimp when you sauté them and a cup to the softened onion before adding the rice and serve the rest of the bottle with the meal.

However you do it, make some risotto soon – it is as delicious as it looks.

Shrimp Risotto

5-6 cups unsalted chicken broth
¼ cup butter (half stick), unsalted
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
zest and juice a lemon half
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese

Bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or other heavy saucepan. Sauté the onion until softened and golden, about 5 minutes over medium heat. Toss in the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add in the arborio rice and stir until well coated and begins to smell slightly nutty, about 3 minutes.

Traditionally, you add the warmed chicken broth one cup a time and stir until absorbed before adding the next. I cheat and add all the broth at once. I give it a stir and cover and simmer for 20 minutes, coming back and stirring every five minutes. After 20 minutes, I add in the lemon zest and juice and continue to cook just until the rice tender but still has some bite. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss in the shrimp for them to warm up and serve with some grated parmesan cheese.

Garlic Buttermilk Soaked Grilled Chicken

I modified this one from a recipe on the back of the Morton Kosher Salt box. The first thing I did was move the cooking outside as it has been awfully hot and humid lately and I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen.

I’m over at my folks (I evacuated ahead of Marco and Laura) and so I ended up using dried rosemary and lemon juice. I had left a head of garlic here that was about to sprout, so I went ahead and used all of it in the brine.

The buttermilk soak makes for a tender and juicy chicken, even when portions of the drumsticks got over 185 degrees F on the grill. All the flavorings in the brine just raised the deliciousness!

The grilled sweet potato recipe is HERE.

Garlic

1 quart buttermilk
½ cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons hot sauce, I used Louisiana hot sauce
1 head garlic (about 10 cloves), crushed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
3-4 large sprigs rosemary (about ¼ cup dried leaves)
2 lemons, thinly sliced (or 3 tablespoons lemon juice)
¼ cup honey

10 lbs chicken leg quarters

olive oil
salt and pepper

Whisk together all brine ingredients until well mixed. Add chicken to the brine, cover and refrigerate overnight or for up to two days.

Remove chicken from brine and brush off any garlic, peppercorns or rosemary leaves which may have stuck to it. Place chicken on a rack above a rimmed baking sheet. Pat dry.

Prepare the grill for indirect cooking. I use a chimney starter full of charcoal briquets spread on either side so I will be able to put the chicken down the center of my Weber grill.

Soak some hickory chips or a chunk in water.

When coals are well lit, spread out and toss in the hickory to smoke. Cover the grill and let the grate heat up. When you see smoke, it is ready to start grilling the chicken.

Rub olive oil into the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place skin side down on the grill. After 15 minutes, flip chicken over and cook for 45 minutes to 60 minutes more or until a thermometer registers 175 degrees F. You may need to move chicken around to make sure it all grills evenly.

Rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Lemon Sauce for Chicken

Lunch was leftover schnitzel. I’m treating it more like chicken piccata so I needed a lemon sauce to go over it. I didn’t want something harshly lemon but a more rounded sauce with the addition of garlic and milk that wouldn’t take a lot of time to make.

Had I been cooking the chicken, the flour that would have fallen off during browning would have been enough to thicken the sauce. As I’m just warming the chicken up, I needed to make a slurry of cornstarch and chicken broth as my thickener.

You can make the sauce richer by adding cream instead of milk.

This is light but rich sauce with good lemon flavor.

Lemon Sauce

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
Juice and zest of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk or cream
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add garlic and sauté just until fragrant and slightly golden.

Pour in 1 1/4 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil, while scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan. Allow broth to simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Whisk together remaining chicken broth with cornstarch to form a slurry, then pour mixture into broth in skillet along with lemon juice and zest. Allow to simmer about 5 minutes until it has thickened slightly then remove from heat.

Stir in butter and pour in milk or cream. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve warm.