Special Chicken – The Sustenance of My Youth

Today I want to talk about what might be the THE quintessential food of my childhood. The one that reminds me of home more than any other. It was featured at more birthday dinners than anything else. (It was also featured at a very recent Christmas Eve.) Everyone loved it, even the picky ones. Behold Special Chicken. It’s really called that in the cookbook, we did not make it up.

chicken wings, Hargraves-kid style

These are the ties that bind

Special Chicken is soy-marinated, batter-fried chicken wings. They are delicious, and fairly easy to make. The recipe came from this little flip top Chinese food cookbook my parents have, and this page is particularly well used.

photographic evidence

photographic evidence

As I have mentioned before, when we were very little, my mom did a lot of the cooking, but sometime during my ‘tween years (I think) the role shifted to my dad and stayed there. But not these. These are firmly entrenched in Mom’s camp, forever to remain. Many have tried to duplicate, none have succeeded. Truly. My attempt is close, and good enough for those who don’t know, but  they are sub par by comparison. The littlest tried them for Christmas and says they were enjoyable, but not right. As far as I know, my mom has always followed the recipe exactly – she’s never told me otherwise – but maybe that’s her trick. If we can’t replicate, she can always lure us home with the original.

There are two things I have adjusted a little from the recipe. The first is the temperature. At 375 the oil is way too hot. The wings get too dark and the batter gets unpleasant. 325 is the way to go. (I am not sure what temp Mom uses, since she doesn’t use a deep fry thermometer. She just knows when it’s right.) The recipe also suggests marinating the chicken wings for an hour, but I recommend longer. All day, if you’ve got it. Marinate overnight! It makes this a delightful option for a weekday. These usually meant a special occasion for us, or at the very least a Sunday dinner, but they don’t have to be. Get wild! Make them on a Tuesday! I most recently made them on a Wednesday at the behest of a delightful house guest. (The word is spreading!) They involve deep frying, but don’t let that scare you. It doesn’t require much oil, especially if you have a wok. (Do you have a wok? They are great, get a wok.) Make sure you make extra, because the joy of eating them hot just ever so slightly trumps the joy of eating them out of a sandwich bag the next day – lunch or even breakfast. Doesn’t matter which.

And now, just because I feel like it, and it’s fun, a rundown of some of the best things I’ve eaten in Boston recently and some of my favorite Boston dishes, in general –

A cold corn and coconut milk soup from East By Northeast – revelatory

The whipped goat’s milk feta snack at Tavern Road is one of my favorite snacks OF ALL TIME. So simple and so so good. (They also make an amazing risotto over there. Every preparation has been great.)

The breakfast sandwich at Clover is way better than it has any right to be.

The corn dog at Trina’s Starlite Lounge is a delight.

The johnnycake at Neptune is just nonsense it’s so good. Seriously, mind-blowingly, crazy crazy good.

The classic Chinese BBQ pork sandwich from Bon Me is my favorite lunch.

The Baloney Pony sandwich at the Biggie Brunch at Alden & Harlow still haunts me, and alas, I am afraid I will never get to enjoy it again. I’ll have to settle for the chicken fried rabbit over there. Poor me.

The burger at JM Curley’s. Always and forever.

The corn at Toro, but everyone knows this.

The tuna crudo at Row 34.

There are others, so many others, but that is what I am thinking about right now.



Special Chicken (serves 4-6)

For the chicken:

2.5 – 3 lbs chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats

oil for frying

For the marinade:

2 tbl soy sauce

1 tsp sugar

1 tbl sherry

1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tsp hoisin sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp salt

For the batter:

2 eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken wing pieces, stir to coat, and marinate in the fridge for at least one hour or preferably overnight.

Heat the oil in a wok or another high sided pan or pot to 325 degrees.

Mix the batter ingredients together in a small bowl. It will form a thick sticky dough, and won’t come together cohesively, but that’s ok, just mix a bit until the ingredients are starting to combine. Add the batter to the bowl with the chicken and stir until the marinade and the batter come together to coat the chicken. This will be kind of a sticky mess, and will take some time to come together, but keep stirring until it does. The batter will thin when mixed with the marinade, and all the chicken pieces will be coated.

Deep fry the chicken in batches, without overcrowding, until the pieces are brown and crispy and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate lined with a paper towel and let cool slightly before serving. Let the oil come back to temperature between batches, and continue to fry until all the chicken is finished. Enjoy!!

Korean Fried Chicken Sliders

Holy Balls, Batman

Korean Fried Chicken Sliders

Oh haaaaaaaaaay!

Anyone there? Have you left me? It would be well deserved – I am a giant slacker and I apologize. This has been, perhaps, the busiest six months of my life, and I am exhausted. Just when I think things are easing up, they absolutely do not do that. Luckily it’s been mostly great, fun, exciting and lovely stuff, but I am tired. I have a list a mile long to tell you about, but it’s been so long since I have made some of the things I want to share, I am going to have to go back and make them again.

BUT, I had to write today, because as it turns out, today B&G turns FIVE. That’s right. Today is Bread & Ginger’s fifth blogiversary. I am currently celebrating with a delicious gimlet and some pork chops that I can’t wait to tell you about, but we are going to celebrate with some fried chicken sliders, which might be how I celebrate everything from now on, because they are good. I first made this a full sized sandwich, which was good but it was a lot. I like the sliders better for their spicy/sweet meat-to-everything-else ratio.

These are good and easy and quick! There is some deep frying but hopefully that doesn’t scare you anymore. The sauce is sweet and spicy and nutty from the sesame, and also has a hint of funk from the fish sauce. (A good thing, I promise…) There are some ingredients in here that you may not have, but if you have an Asian supermarket nearby you will be able to find all of them ( if you don’t  – Amazon!) Gochujang – Korean chile paste – is spicy, but spicy like sriracha, rather than spicy like Frank’s or Texas Pete. There is a great depth of flavor and umami-ness to it. The spice is balanced by the sweetness from the sugar, and the pickles and the Kewpie mayo and the buttery brioche combine with the sauce for crazy goodness.

I miss you all, and B&G. I am still working on making more hours in the day. If anyone has any ideas, I am all ears.

Happy Blogiversary B&G! And thank you all for reading!!

Seriously, you are not gonna want to stop.

Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough

1. It is apparently National Junk Food Day which makes me feel way better about the snacks I had today.

2. I will watch Parks and Recreation any time it is on, notwithstanding how many times I have seen a particular episode.

3. I am currently reading A Clash of Kings. I am currently listening to Beyonce as often as possible. I saw her and Jay in concert a couple weeks back. It was amazing – life changing even. (Too hyperbolic?)

4. I am recovering from an ankle sprain. Apparently walking is a struggle. I wear heels for days, and hike around Denver, and a curb in front of one of my favorite restaurants three blocks from home lays me low while I am wearing top-siders. My high school soccer career is coming back to haunt me. Forever a champion. (This is the most annoying because I was starting to run again, and I have a Jawbone. It counted crutching, which was nice, but I am falling way short of my goal while I have a bum wheel.)

5. MAKE THESE SLIDERS. They are so good. You are going to like them. (And then use whatever sauce you have leftover for chicken wings. I am planning on doing just that this week.)

Korean Fried Chicken Sliders (makes 8 sliders)

For sauce:

4 cloves garlic

1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped

3 tbl gochujang (Korean chile paste, available at Asian markets or online)

3 tbl dark soy sauce (available at Asian markets)

1 tbl fish sauce

1 tbl brown sugar

1 tbl sesame oil

2-3 tbl rice vinegar

Put all ingredients and two tablespoons of the vinegar in a blender and pulse until ingredients are mixed and ginger and garlic are minced. If sauce seems a little thick, add another tablespoon of vinegar and blend to combine. Place in bowl and set aside.

For chicken:

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in two equal pieces each

1 egg

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup masa harina (corn flour)

1 tbl corn starch

Salt and pepper

oil for frying

Heat three inches of oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Meanwhile, in one bowl mix egg with 1 tbl water and whisk until combined. In another bowl, mix both flours, the cornstarch and generous pinches of salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Dredge chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then the flour mixture, and then again in the egg and then the flour. Fry chicken in batches until light brown and crispy, about 6 or 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let the oil come back to temperature and repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces.

For sliders:

8 small brioche rolls

butter for toasting

dill pickle slices

kewpie mayonnaise (Japanese style mayonnaise – can be found in Asian markets and some supermarkets.)

Spread butter on the sliced brioche rolls, and toast until cut sides are golden brown and toasty. Spread each side generously with kewpie mayonnaise and layer pickle slices on the bottom roll. Dredge fried chicken pieces in sauce until well coated, and place on top of the pickles. Cover with the top of the roll and voila!

Fish Tacos, Finally (for Em, because they are her favorite)

crispy and delicious

crispy and delicious

I have been working on this post for quite some time, but I am glad I waited, because it took me a while to get it right. Now I suspect they will be in the regular rotation. There are a couple components, but most of them can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for weeknights, which is very convenient because these are delicious and the perfect antidote for the crappy days that occasionally pop up during the week.

These are fairly basic, in that there aren’t too many components. You could absolutely change this up and add your own twists. Pico de gallo, guacamole instead of just avocado, cotija cheese. Find your bliss! You do you! I will tell you though, the sauce is key. This one is really spicy, but the spice is from sriracha, so it’s flavorful round spice, not the kind that smacks your mouth and makes your eyes water. And it is mellowed by the slaw and the avocado. The slaw is a little bit sweet and adds good crunch, and the fish is fried in beer batter, which makes everything delicious. I usually just use tilapia, because it is easy to find and cheap, but any white fish would be excellent. And I prefer flour to corn tortillas for these, but you can absolutely switch those out. I generally like to have both in the fridge anyway. If you have the slaw and the sauce on hand (and they both keep pretty well) these go together in about 15 minutes. Easy peasy.



All the things:

1. I am still studying for the Series 79. It is miserable. I need it to be over.

2. I’m going back to Cali, Cali, Cali. Another California trip for this girl in April. The ladies are going to Sonoma and San Francisco, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s my favorite place on earth.

3. I am trying to eat healthy lunches, so I decided to make a salad on Sunday to bring with me for the week. The first one was quinoa, edamame, red cabbage and carrots with an orange soy vinaigrette. I ate it with avocado on it. It was delicious.

quinoa, red cabbage, carrots, edamame, orange-soy vinaigrette

quinoa, red cabbage, carrots, edamame, orange-soy vinaigrette

4. I am STILL reading The Goldfinch, but only because I have a job and a non-profit and a test to take so I can’t just read without stopping. It is GREAT.

5. Speaking of non-profits – IGNITE the NITE is February 27th! Get your tickets Bostonians! It is going to be an amazing time again this year!!

6. It’s almost the Superbowl! The most glorious snack filled day of the year. I mean, I could not care less about who wins this one, but I can make snacks, so that’s pretty good.

7. I still couldn’t love anything more than I love my new camera. I can’t wait to be done with this test so I can spend some good quality time with it and learn all the tricks.

8. Make these tacos asap. You are going to like them.

For the Tacos

8 pieces batter fried fish (see recipe below)

8 flour tortillas

One avocado, sliced

2 cups cabbage slaw (see recipe below)

Spicy sauce (see recipe below)

Warm the tortillas (if you have a gas stove, toast them over a burner. It is delightful.) Lay one piece of fish over each tortilla. Top with avocado slices, slaw and sauce.


For the Fish

2 Tilapia filets, each cut in four strips lengthwise

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Salt and black pepper

1 cup beer of your choice (I really like Negra Modelo or something similar, but Bud Light works just fine)

Oil for frying

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cayenne if you are using, a generous pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper.  Add the beer and whisk to combine. Add the fish to the batter and make sure all the pieces are coated well. Heat 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch of oil in a large (10″) high sided frying pan over medium high heat until it shimmers. Test it by dropping in a bit of the batter, if it starts to puff and turn golden right away, the oil is ready. Drop four pieces into the oil and cook until the bottom is golden brown and flip, cooking the other side the same way, about five minutes total. Remove the fish to a plate lined with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the second batch of fish. Voila!

For the Slaw

¼ head red cabbage, shredded

1 carrot, peeled shredded (in a food processor or on a box grater)

Chopped cilantro to taste (this is personal preference, though I don’t love cilantro, and I still like quite a bit in this slaw)

¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tbl neutral oil, like canola

1 tbl honey

2 tsp salt

Combine the shredded cabbage, the carrot and the cilantro in a large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to combine. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and refrigerate. (Let sit for ideally an hour or so before using to allow flavors to meld)

For the Sauce

½ cup mayo

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup whole milk

¼ cup sriracha (this is a lot. Feel free to use less if you are nervous. The final product is really spicy on its own, but meshes really nicely with everything on the taco.)

2 cloves garlic mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt

1 tbl soy sauce

Zest and juice from one lime.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well to combine. This makes a lot, but leftovers obviously keep (and you’ll use more than you think, I suspect)

Buffalo Wings for Football Sunday

It’s really fall. I’m sleeping with blankets, wearing boots to the grocery store, listening the college kids partying into the wee hours and making wings for a football Sunday.

a football classic

…At least the wings were successful.

I’m just going to chalk that Pats performance up to a show of solidarity for that smoking wreckage of a baseball team we have up here right now, and figure we’ll all be moving on next week.


Buffalo wings are delicious. And actually pretty easy to make. Ingredients are minimal: hot sauce, butter or margarine, and chicken. I like to add a little salt, pepper and cayenne also. You can technically bake these, and I have. They are fine, and they still taste like buffalo wings, but I’m not going to lie, deep-frying them is better. A bit more work, but not much, and worth it I think. Yep, they are more unhealthy, but we are talking about a recipe in which one of the primary ingredients is butter or margarine, so let’s go all in, shall we?

I have made these for years with butter, but I was just reading the most recent Saveur, and apparently, the original recipe – like the Anchor Bar in Buffalo original recipe – used margarine. Which makes sense, since these were invented in the 60’s. I used margarine today to see if it made a difference, and I am not sure if it does, and since margarine is pretty much poison, I will probably stick to butter in the future. But I did come up with another trick. I tossed the wings in just a little corn starch before I fried them. It doesn’t really make a huge difference in the crispiness, but it gives the sauce something to stick to, so it’s a win!

crisp fried and delicious

Wings are a crowd pleaser. They are messy as anything, but that is half the fun. Obviously, blue cheese dressing is a requirement, and it’s always nice to add celery and carrots for health. And just like that, you can skip the bars and strangers and have delicious wings at home! (If you are like me, this is a dream come true.)

Sunday Funday

Buffalo Wings (makes two dozen wings)

24 chicken wing pieces (from twelve wings, separated, tips removed)

1/4 cups corn starch

3/4 cups hot sauce, like Franks

3/4 cups (1.5 sticks) butter or margarine

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

salt and pepper

Peanut or canola oil (or a combination) for frying

Blue cheese dressing (recipe below) celery and carrots for serving

Heat several inches of oil in a dutch oven or other heavy pot to 350 degrees. Toss the wings with the corn starch and salt and pepper. When the oil reaches 350 degrees, shake off the extra corn starch and add half the wings and fry until crispy and cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. When finished cooking, remove the first batch from the oil and drain on paper towels. Let the oil come back to 350 degrees and add the second batch of wings.

In the meantime, cook the hot sauce, butter, cayenne, salt and pepper over low heat until the butter melts. Keep mixture warm over low heat until the wings are finished cooking. Toss the wings in the hot sauce mixture and serve with blue cheese dressing and carrots and celery for dipping.

If you want to bake these, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and toss the wings in half the hot sauce mixture. Lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes until the wings the cooked through. Toss with the rest of the hot sauce mixture and serve.

Blue Cheese Dressing (makes about 1 1/4 cups)

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 tbl white wine vinegar

Splash of red wine vinegar

4 oz blue cheese crumbles

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine sour cream, buttermilk, vinegars, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add blue cheese and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Only one week between posts? Woo-hoo! I rule!

And IIIIIIII-ey-IIIIIIIIII will always love you...

Chilaquiles are my new best friend. (To those that currently hold that dubious distinction, I hope you are ready for competition…er, company.) Chilaquiles kind of defy definition, except that they don’t because they are a Mexican staple of stale tortilla chips in a chile sauce that is generally eaten for brunch, and I just defined them, except that they are so much more than that. They can be “plain,” they can be done in a red chile sauce or a green chile sauce, the sauce can be tomato based, you can top them with chicken or make them completely vegetarian, or in my case you can top them with some classic favorites, cotija cheese, diced onion, sour cream and avocado.

This is one of those recipes that shouldn’t have sucked me in, but did. I was reading Matt Bites and he takes such pretty pictures, and there were chips! And cheese! And I was intrigued, so I saved it in my recipes link list that gets longer and longer and longer every day, and I picked up some tortillas last time I was at the grocery store, and let them hang out in the fridge until I found a good time to make these. It happened on Sunday.

Last weekend seemed really long, but not in a good way really…I mean, not bad, exactly, just LONG. I had a long night on Friday, both good and less good, and then Saturday I volunteered in the morning and my volunteering job was making lunch for 35 in three hours. I made enchiladas, and they were very tasty, but I was totally beat afterwards…anyway, by the time Sunday afternoon rolled around, I needed a pick me up, and I thought Chilaquiles, even though it is traditionally a breakfast or brunch dish(?) would do the trick.

Oooh-wee, I was correct.

First things first, I made the chips. You don’t technically HAVE to make the chips, but actually, yes you do, because they are so easy, and I can’t even a little bit imagine this with bagged tortilla chips…yeah, no, don’t do that.

Making tortilla chips really couldn’t be easier. And not easy like “shut up Meghan you’re an idiot -fill in the blank here- is not easy it’s super annoying when you say things like that,” easy, it’s actually easy. Heat oil over medium high until it is good and hot in a frying pan a couple inches deep. Cut corn tortillas (taco sized) in quarters. Fry without over crowding the pan. I did eight at a time in a 12″ cast iron skillet, I’d do six at a time in a 10″ skillet. Fry for two minutes or so until they are starting to look golden, flip once, fry for another minute, remove to paper towels and salt. Dunzo. Cooking enough chips for this dish (I started with an 11 oz bag of tortillas which was 12 of them) took me approximately 15 minutes of not hard work. I even drank wine while I did it. Incidentally, if you are looking to impress guests or just to enjoy the heck out of your next batch of guacamole, I would recommend this as well. I mean, sometimes you just want a delicious chip asap, but if you have a minute and your guests aren’t rolling their eyes at you because you are making them wait and all they want is some stupid guacamole for crying out loud, you should try this. Note though, I wouldn’t do this the day before if I was using them for chips and dip, but I would totally do this the day before if I was using them for chilaquiles. So, to that end, next time you are having non-eye-rolling guests, make some for your dips and then make extra for the next day’s breakfast. If you do know some eye rollers, make Chilaquiles for them, perhaps you will get an apology for the eye roll.

Once the chips are done, You just need 15-20 minutes for the rest and you are good to go.

This version, which is the one Matt picked, wisely because it is a Rick Bayliss recipe and I love him (also though? The Rick Bayliss recipe is pretty much exactly what is on Martha Stewarts’s site with absolutely no credit to Rick, and while for somethings she may reign supreme, I SUSPECT she did not create this recipe nor come up with almost exactly the same thing on her own given that the use of chipotles in adobo is different from most other recipes. Sorry Martha, I am going to give credit to Rick on this one, nice try, get your minions in line, they’re getting too big for their britches…)

Anyhoodle, puree a can of whole tomatoes with two chipotles in adobo. You can find them in a can in the Mexican food section of the grocery store (Also, I am adding them to my pantry list from last post. Stock up on them, they’re great.)

Brown onions in oil and then add garlic, then the tomato mixture and reduce for a minute or two…then chicken stock and reduce for another couple more minutes.



then you add the chips, and that, my friends, is it. Top it with whatever your little heart desires. Cotija cheese, Mexican crema or sour cream, chopped onion and scallions, shredded chicken, poached eggs, the possibilities are endless.


The chipotles in adobo are spicy and smokey and are really well balanced by the tomato. You have to eat these right away, because the best part is that in between time when the chips get soaked in the sauce and aren’t really crispy anymore but aren’t soggy. The soggy part happens pretty quickly though, so there are no leftovers here. Get them while they’re hot. And make them soon, I promise you won’t be sorry. And use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock if you want to go vegetarian. Easy peasy.

And now, as has become the norm, I leave you with some thoughts.

1. I watched The Fighter. Hadn’t seen it. AWESOME. Great movie. Christian Bale was fantastic, of course, but he will always be Jack Kelly to me. (I have not given up my no tv for Lent quest. I had set the ability to watch a pay per view movie now and again as a parameter ahead of time…)

2. In contrast to the prior weekend, this past weekend was one of those times when I realize just how lucky I am. Between my awesome family and my incredible friends, I have some very very awesome people in my life.

3. Five words for you: Lionel Richie station on Pandora. You are welcome. All thanks go to the Swiamse household for that tidbit.

4. My tournament bracket is destroyed. Notre Dame and Louisville killed me.

5. I need this…or maybe two. That and a $700 camera and I’d be in business. I pick expensive hobbies.

6. I have a pet peeve people. I know you are surprised. I hate the idea of vegan “cheese.” I think it is usally made out of ground pressed nuts. I don’t mind the idea of a spread made out of ground pressed nuts. In fact, if you said “I made this delicious vegan spread with nuts!” I would probably say “ooh, that sounds delightful, let me try it!” But if you say, “hey look, I made vegan “cheese” made out of nuts” I am going to say…”does not compute, not cheese.” I am not saying the spread wouldn’t be delicious, but I am fairly confident it would not be similar enough to cheese to make me think I am actually eating cheese, in which case, I will be disappointed. And I know that people say it DOES taste like cheese, but I don’t believe it. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that ground nuts in any form are going to taste like Goat Gouda. I’m just saying, don’t call it cheese.

And now, as I continue to plow through life leaving offence in my wake, It’s probably time to wrap this up…

Chilaquiles (serves 3-4)

(adapted from Matt Bites)

1 can of whole tomatoes (28 oz), drained with 1/4 cup of the liquid reserved

2 whole chipotles in adobo

1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, three-quarters sliced thinly, one-quarter in a fine dice

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

8 ounces tortilla chips

¼ cup Cotija cheese

1/3 cup sour cream or Mexican crema

¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Toppings of your choice (shredded chicken, avocado, eggs, cilantro, chorizo, pickled onions, steak…I could go on and on.)

If you’re making your own tortilla chips, simply fry pieces of corn tortillas in hot oil until golden brown and then drain on paper towel.

In a blender, add the canned tomatoes and the reserved liquid and the two chipotle peppers. Blend until smooth.

In a large deep skillet (I used my high sided saute pan, a cast iron skillet is probably not deep enough,) heat the oil and the sliced onion (not the green) and cook over high heat until browned, 7-8 minutes (since it’s over high heat pay attention here so they don’t burn.) Add the chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato and chipotle puree and simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Add the chicken stock and boil the sauce over moderately high heat until it reduces a bit, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Gently stir the tortilla chips into the chile sauce, making sure they’re totally coated in sauce. Top the chips with the diced onion, the green onions, a sprinkle of cheese, a dollop of sour cream or crema and your chosen toppings. Eat these right away, they are not good once they are too soggy. You are going to like these a whole lot.

In which I attain food nirvana…

Well my pets, a lot has been happening around here, just a few short days ago, this was the status of my kitchen.


If you’ve been paying attention, you know that this isn’t my kitchen, it is in fact, my dining room, playing host to my most treasured possessions.

dry goods

There’s my kitchen table and all of my pantry items. If your dream was to see the contents of my cabinets, I feel sorry for you, but consider me your genie. There they are.


That picture makes me shudder. But it had to be done. You know how sometimes you don’t even know how dirty something was until it has been cleaned? The kitchen needed it bad. I pulled out the stove and did the floor underneath it. Same for the fridge. Did you know you are supposed to be able to see through the window on your oven door? I cleaned that too. It’s glorious. And now, things are back to normal, thank goodness.

aaaaaaand, we're back

Totally back to normal.

I need a dishwasher, still.

This weekend was exhausting. I feel like a puddle. I ate a lot, and I ate very well, and I made almost none of it. There was book club up in Salem, Thai food with one of my favorite fams on Friday, birthday lunch for my Gram on Sunday at Neptune, and dinner with a friend back in town from New York Sunday night. There was some excellent food and lots of wine and not enough sleep. And in between all that eating, I developed some serious soccer fever over here. Soccer is mostly watched an adored by those who have played it, and I sort of get that. There is not a ton of scoring and it can sometimes end in a tie, but it is a beautiful game, and the boys ain’t bad to look at either. I love that the guys exchange banners and all those adorable tiny people who escort the players onto the field. How excited must they be? The Copa Mundial is soccer in its purest form and I am watching as much of it as possible (which at three games a day is really rotten for productivity.) Another thing I like is the accents on so many of the announcers. But those horns that sound like millions of angry bees and stay in your head for hours after the game ends even through the tv? Who’s idea were those? Thanks, but I prefer my soccer without them. Especially since there is often such great chants and music in the stands by groups of fans that we can’t hear. One other thing I don’t like, what is with the particularly tight jerseys on some of these teams? Never a good look. That is all.

Also: Go Celts! Beat LA.

All this to say I am actually writing about a creation from last weekend. I can’t figure out where time has gone.

Soft shell crab season is short but oh so sweet, and I try to take advantage while it lasts. My favorite way to cook them is to fry in tempura batter. It is really quick and easy and you can’t really go wrong. Except just a warning. If you have a fish market close by, you may want to ask them to clean the crabs for you. It is not hard, but involves cutting the face off a live creature and said creature gets mad, so it’s a little creepy. Totally worth it, but you may not think so.

I had brioche in the freezer that I made a couple of weeks ago, and an avocado and a spring onion in the fridge, and a dish was born. I made a quick salad with avocado, very thinly sliced spring onion, which is nice and mild but still has onion flavor, and a couple of tablespoons of ginger miso dressing.

avocado salad

I made a tempura batter with equal parts flour and club soda, and I toasted two pieces of brioche-you could use a crusty white bread like ciabatta or the like instead if you didn’t have brioche, but the brioche was really awesome. Try to get yourself some. Or make it! I fried the soft shells in really hot oil in the wok, it takes no more than five minutes. They should look like this. (Recipe note: a brand new bottle of club soda will bubble furiously and evaporate more for a thicker batter like the one in this photo, a not quite so new bottle will make a thinner batter-you will be able to see the crab through the batter when fried. This photo below is from soft shells I made a couple of weeks ago, and I prefer the result to the batter from this time around.)

fried to delight

Brioche on the plate, softshell on the brioche, salad on the softshell. I ate one stack and it was so good I went back and made a second.


I suspected this would be good, but it was just one of those dishes that was unexpected perfection. I was so excited I called my dad immediately. Sometimes things just work out better than expected.

One of these would have made a perfect appetizer, and though soft shells are a little pricey if you are trying to serve a crowd, they are a nice splurge for the occasional dinner for two. And one softshell is a good appetizer size. If you wanted to forego the bread these would also be great over a slaw I think.

Tempura Soft-shell Crabs with Avocado Salad (serves 2 as an appetizer)

2 thick slices brioche or other crusty bread

For the crabs:

2 soft shell crabs, cleaned

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup club soda or beer (a darker beer with have more flavor in the batter, choose accordingly)

Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper (feel free to add some cayenne as well)

Unflavored oil for deep frying-I used canola, grape seed or peanut would also work well

For the avocado salad:

1 ripe avocado pitted, peeled and diced into half-inch cubes

1/4 cup very thinly sliced spring onion (or substitute scallions or shallots) soaked quickly in cold water to remove the bite, and drained

2 tbl Ginger-Miso dressing

black pepper to taste

Make the avocado salad: combine the diced avocado, spring onion, dressing and black pepper in the small bowl and set aside.

Make the tempura batter: whisk together flour, salt, pepper and cayenne, if using, in a small bowl, and then whisk in club soda or beer, set aside. Heat 3 inches of oil in a heavy deep pot or a wok (a wok will heat up faster and require less oil) over medium-high heat until very hot and shimmering. Submerge crabs in tempura batter to thoroughly coat. Test readiness of oil by adding a small amount of the batter to the oil, if it bubbles furiously and crisps up right away, the oil is ready. Add the crabs to the hot oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until they are just lightly golden, you may need to turn them over once if they are not frying evenly. When cooked, remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels. In the meantime, as the crabs are frying, toast the brioche.

To plate: put the brioche on a plate and lay the crab on top of it. Spoon half the avocado salad over the top, and then garnish with some of the crispy tempura bits from the oil if you would like.


In which I do a week in review…sort of…

I have quite a bit to say about the last couple of weeks, so I shall provide a quick rundown, both in food and life:

First, I have made several things recently, both from the Great Recipe Rescue of Aught Ten and otherwise, which, for whatever reason, don’t really merit their own blog post, but I think I would like to share them with you anyway.

For instance, Sticky Rice with Mango.


This was something I was introduced to at work. During one of my late nights at the office with my comrades in arms, we ordered Thai food, and my friend Mark ordered this for dessert. He let me try it and I swooned. I immediately ran out and bought a giant bag of glutinous rice and a can of coconut milk, but since I thought it was going to be difficult and since the rice requires a significant soaking before it is cooked (24 hours is preferable) I hadn’t gotten around to making this until recently. I am very sorry I waited. It does require a fair amount of soaking time, but other than that, this really couldn’t be easier. So easy, I never bothered posting about it. If you want to make it, search for a recipe online, get yourself some glutinous rice and have at it. Apparently, it is traditionally cooked in a pot and basket like this, but I don’t have one of those (I will someday though, because I am sort of in love with it) so my cooking vessel looked like this:

a large pot, a strainer, and some cheesecloth. Homemade sticky rice basket.

Worked just fine…be creative, you’ll figure something out.

Also? I made this butter cake. This was from the recipe rescue. It was tasty, but I thought it odd that they suggested serving it on its own, since it is essentially one layer of a yellow layer cake, but a bit more delicate, so it would difficult to use as a layer cake. I served it with strawberries and whipped cream and it was really good, but really, just a cake.

butter cake avec fraises

I also made these crackers one night when my family came over for dinner. They are like Cheez-Its for adults, but way better, because I don’t really like Cheez-Its (fake orange cheese in a snack that I don’t like? What?) They are really great, and easy and a crowd pleaser. And consist of ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand. I am quite sure they will be made over and over and over again.

Dignified snack food

And now? For my first life observation? The LOST finale. I can’t help it. I have been a fan since the beginning. It might be the only show I have ever watched every single episode IN ORDER. I was hooked from the start. And the further I get from the finale on Sunday night, the more I actually like it. Here’s why. I wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I have always wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I am a romantic, and they are supposed to be together in my romantic world. I know there are those that disagree, but just because two people (looking at you Kate and Sawyer) hook up one time in a sex cage, it doesn’t mean they are destined to spend eternity together. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence in a forum Grammie reads…blame the LOST writers.) I mean it wasn’t flawless, poor Sayid. I understand that the idea is that the time these people spent on the island was the most important time in their lives, and therefore the throw away relationship between Sayid and Shannon comes to represent that in the finale. Fine. But instead of spending eternity with the love of his life, Sayid has to suffer through infinity with the single most annoying character in the series? No fair. At least she was looking fantastic, I guess. Those are my thoughts. I liked the throw down on the cliffs, I hated the hokey Christian Shephard speech, even though it technically defined the whole final season, and I am curious…the sideways world? It was purgatory for all the characters even though they died at different times? Did they all have to be ready to move forward together before any of them did? Was that just Jack’s sideways world? I don’t think so. Confusing. Also, apparently the MIB’s name in the scripts was Samuel. My research told me that. Word. That is simplistic. I have more thoughts, but I know there are not all that many LOST fans amongst my faithful readership, so I will move on.

Back to the food.

There was a roasted tomato risotto that I made with the slow roasted tomatoes I have been making quite a bit of lately.

Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes

I used the leftovers for more fried stuff with cheese. And it was good.

And there was a chicken curry. First I had to make curry powder:

one of my new favorite things.

And then I made my chicken curry. It is a recipe from Epicurious.com, and I think it is the one that my Florida friend Megan made for me one night when I was down there, when I took a deep breath and steeled myself to eat some curry that I wasn’t entirely sure I would love, and I cleaned my plate.

Curried chicken, with accoutrements

And there were more tarts…and look at the pans I used! Huzzah! I made these for the Kentucky Derby, and three of us did a number on them.

spicy shrimp with leeks, fig jam with gorgonzola and coppa, ricotta and roasted tomato, ricotta and olive with orange zest, sweet onions with gorgonzola, olives and rosemary to name a few

And there were these little guys:

frik and frak

I made ramp MAYONNAISE to go with it. Mayonnaise. All by myself. With a wooden spoon. It was fun. And there WILL be a post about it. Because it was that fun.

ramp mayo. by hand.

Alright, I think that’s that. A little week(s) in review if you will. I still have lots of other fun things to talk about though, so don’t worry, I haven’t totally cleaned out my photo files.

And now, to end on a serious note, because I have some great recent food memories from that part of the world…there are MILLIONS of gallons of oil in Gulf and no one seems to be doing anything about it. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?? I am not sure if I care at this point whose fault it is. There is plenty of time for finger-pointing and punishment after someone fixes it, but it has been over a month, and for some reason, we can not get the oil to stop? And now it is being relegated to second page news. Time to step up. FIX IT.

PS: Umm, this might be awesome, could you imagine if it malfunctioned like the soda machines sometimes do and spit out two?

In which that’s how I feel about that…

hated it!

I must get something off my chest. Please bear with me.


To: Lady Gaga

From: Me

Re: I’m trying, really.

Dear Gags,

May I call you that? Gags? Thank you. We must speak, and quick. I’m trying, really, truly trying. I learned to love you begrudgingly. I had to get past Just Dance, which has never been my favorite, and you burst onto the scene opting to forego pants, which, in my opinion, is mostly unforgivable. But then something shocking happened. I started to pay attention and I realized you actually have talent. And you started reeling me in with Poker Face, and I was hooked. But then there was this. I assure you, I never thought I would be in the position of telling anyone what is right or wrong in the face of royalty, but I promise you, that was wrong. And I was angry, and I decided I had no time for you or your shenanigans. But damn you Gags! You performed with Sir Elton at the Grammies, and it was awesome, and then Bad Romance got me again. So you win. Gaga: 2, Me: 0. So perhaps you are a genius, but still, that doesn’t mean I will sit quietly by and abide by this. It can’t go on. It makes me tired. You have TALENT! Make that your schtick! Stop with the outfits! You look ridiculous! It makes me want to poke myself in the eyes! And use lots of exclamation points! And that is unforgivable!

That is all, please go back to making delightful music, and perhaps invest in some pantsuits, at least when you are not performing.




Many apologies for that brief interlude, it has nothing to do with food aside from the fact I was thinking about Lady Gaga while eating dinner and perusing the interwebs the other night, and I had to use this, my only public forum, to get that off my chest, because that’s how I feel about that.

And now on to better things. I know I have been MIA, but I have an excuse. This happened.

playing with fondant

Because this happened:

congratulations pretty girl...

That is the littlest. She is now a college grad. I think she is having very mixed feelings about it. But it was a lovely day and we had a little shindig for her afterwards and there was a vanilla cake with nutella filling at the graduate’s request. So I got to play with fondant again. And I get a couple more opportunities to play in the next couple of weeks. Fun will abound. I will keep you posted.

But until then, I would like to discuss this amazing ginger fried rice with you. I feel almost as strongly about it as I feel about Lady Gaga, but my emotions are not mixed, they are unequivocally positive. Overwhelmingly positive even.


This is a recipe I discovered on Smitten Kitchen. It is a Mark Bittman adaptation of a Jean-Georges recipe, and it is remarkable in its simplicity and deliciousness. You use leftover rice. I like (and the recipe calls for) jasmine, but it is a great use for any leftover rice you have on hand. Like all fried rice recipes, you need leftover rice for this. Freshly made rice will end up too mushy.

There are only a couple of other steps to this, and the whole thing comes together quickly. It differs from standard fried rice because it is much simpler, has much cleaner flavors, seems lighter, and in this recipe the ginger and garlic are actually garnishes.

ginger bits

They get fried to little brown crispy bits at the beginning (or ahead of time, if you make extra the first time you make this, they last awhile, and you can cut down further on the steps for next time….super quick!) and then sprinkled over the rice studded with leeks and sprinkled with soy sauce and sesame oil, and served with a fried egg. You can even get fancy like I did and mold the rice in a ramekin, which looks very cool and professional. Take a look.


This really couldn’t be easier. You fry the ginger and garlic, remove them from the pan, add a bit more oil and soften the leeks for about 10 minutes. You then add the rice to the pan to warm through and get a little crispy, as you fry and egg (or as many as you need) in a small pan, then voila! You just plate everything and dinner is served. I used one of my larger ramekins and thought there could have been a bit more egg to rice ratio, so I think I will stick with the smaller six-ounce ramekins as molds in the future, but putting it together couldn’t have been easier. I rubbed the inside of the ramekin with just a little bit of oil, and packed the rice/leeks combo in so it was fairly tight quarters in there.


I covered the ramekin with a plate, and turned the rice over onto the plate, it slid right out and kept its shape. Then I sprinkled the rice with the soy sauce and sesame oil, topped with the fried egg, and sprinkled the whole thing with the browned garlic and ginger bits.

quick perfection

This really was so easy and good. And I will be making it again and again and again. And I recommend you do as well. It is an easier, and seemingly lighter, version of more traditional fried rice. Which I also love, but I think I love this one more. (You can see just how much I love this in the very top photo. My plate has looked like that both times I have made this.) It is easy to scale down for one, and makes a really great quick dinner.

Ginger Fried Rice (serves 4, technically, but like I said, I prefer the ratio of a 6-ounce ramekin to one egg, so this might serve six if I was serving it-and then they might want more because that is not enough to fill one person, but adjust at your leisure)

From Mark Bittman in the New York Times, inspired by Deb’s rendition on Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup peanut oil (I used canola and it was just fine, but peanut would be very good.)

2 tbl minced garlic

2 tbl minced ginger


2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried (I use one good-sized leek when I make this for one.)

4 cups day-old cooked rice, preferably jasmine, at room temperature

4 large eggs

2 tsp sesame oil

4 tsp soy sauce

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly. (Can be done ahead, feel free to make extras to cut down on this time for the next time you make this. Just store them in an airtight container or plastic bag.)

Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons oil and leeks. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not browned. Season lightly with salt.

Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through and starting to get crispy. Season to taste with salt.

In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.

Divide rice among four dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and serve.

In which I make some fried stuff with cheese…

fried stuff with cheese

Do you guys remember the Friends episode where they imagine what it would have been like if Monica and Joey had gotten together in London instead of Monica and Chandler? There is a scene where a very heavy Joey sits at the kitchen table, and Monica said she made him his favorite foods and Joey says “fried stuff with cheese” in that way that Joey says everything. That is what goes through my head every time I think about my recent experiment, arancini. Or as my neighbor Mike calls them, rice balls.

Arancini are in fact, rice balls. In this case, risotto chilled, formed into a ball, coated in bread crumbs and fried in oil. The outside is nice and crispy, and the inside is creamy and melty and full of flavor, and for these, stuffed with a little mozzarella surprise. This is a great way to use leftover risotto if you have it. You can add most anything you want too. Prosciutto, peas, various cheeses, lemon, whatever your little heart desires.

I made a standard risotto – onions, wine, chicken stock – but at the end I added a cup of ricotta cheese and the zest of a lemon. I wanted these to be relatively light. Because, when you are making deep fried rice and cheese, lightness should be top on your list of requirements.

Risotto step one. Onions in oil and butter.

Risotto step two, warmed chicken stock and wine.

Risotto step three, add the rice

Risotto step four through tenish. Add the wine and stock and stir stir stir.

For a bit more in-depth discussion of how risotto is made, see here.

After the risotto was finished, I zested one whole lemon over the pot, and stirred that in along with a cup of ricotta cheese. I tasted for seasoning, and then poured the risotto into a baking pan and stuck it in the fridge to cool.

After the risotto cools and firms up a bit, the fun part begins. I had mozzarella in the fridge, so I cut it into small cubes (about a 1/2 inch or so.) I scooped a spoonful of risotto into my hands, smooshed it a little bit, and added a mozzarella cube or two to the middle.

smooshed and filled

I formed the risotto into a ball around the mozzarella cubes. They were a bit bigger than a golf ball.

risotto golf balls

Then I dredged the rice balls in flour, then egg, then panko crumbs to make a nice crust.


When they were all coated, I filled my cast iron pan about half way with canola oil and heated it over medium-medium high heat. When the oil was shimmering, I fried the rice balls in two batches.

The oil tester

The first batch

When the arancini were a gorgeous golden brown on all sides, I removed them to a paper towel lined plate, sprinkled some kosher salt over the top, and did the next batch.


When the arancini are cooked, they are crispy on the outside, and dense and melty and rich, without being heavy somehow, on the inside. The melted mozzarella is a bonus.

seriously. bliss.

I used about half the risotto the first night, heated up some red sauce I had in the freezer, and brought them over to neighbors Mike and Amanda to watch LOST. Mike, the resident rice ball expert, approved.

With red sauce

The second half of the rice balls, the next day, went into my tomato soup as a substitute for grilled cheese.

fried islands of bliss

These were such a treat. And really not that difficult to make. And I actually reheated some leftover arancini a couple of times (definitely in the oven or toaster oven on a fairly high heat. Not in the microwave…crispy is still the goal.) In fact, I am not even going to include a recipe, because I imagine most of the time these will be done with some leftover risotto. That is the beauty of arancini. These would have been great with the leftover butternut squash risotto, and they would be great with leftover risotto made with peas or asparagus, and you could fill the middle with prosciutto or ham instead of cheese. Or prosciutto or ham and cheese. Be creative. I bet there is a way to do these with like a rice pudding or a sweet risotto too. I will have to ponder that one for awhile. Just make sure you coat them in flour first, then egg, then breadcrumbs (I like panko, but regular or Italian style would also be just fine.) Make sure the oil is hot so they don’t get greasy, and enjoy! If you don’t include risotto making time, these probably take 20 minutes tops. They are a delightful treat on cold day. You will want to make them again for sure.

You can’t argue with fried stuff with cheese.

My avocado redemption: Guacamole…

a classic

I grew up not liking guacamole, and being pretty indifferent to avocados. I am not actually sure I didn’t like guacamole, it is possible I just avoided eating it because I didn’t think I would like it for some reason, which is funny, because there was not much I didn’t try and like when I was a kid. I know I ate avocados when I was tiny, because my mom has told me I liked them. I also liked canned black olives, as wee babes do. But as far back as I can remember, I avoided avocados and guacamole (and black olives, actually.) Now I can’t believe there was ever a time that I didn’t like them. What a fool I was. Things started to change sometime in 2003. I remember this, because in 2003 I was living in my current apartment with my then roommate Marissa, and it was cinco de mayo, and we were having a couple people over for Margaritas at our house, and I was making guacamole for only the first or second time. And I was pitting an avocado while holding it, and I put the knife right through the pit and into my hand, and had to go to the emergency room. But not before I saved the guacamole in the fridge, so the delicious avocados weren’t wasted. I was kind of dumb, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the guac. So I didn’t.

Since that night, I have learned how to properly pit an avocado without permanently losing feeling in my left pointer finger, which I suppose you can’t do more than once, but I have also learned how to do it without permanently losing feeling in any other fingers so, victory! I have also honed my technique, and come up with a guacamole recipe that I really like, and seems to please others as well.

My one rule when it comes to guacamole is to keep it green.

In the beginning…

Save for a clove of garlic, I only use green ingredients in my guacamole: avocado, green onions, jalapeno pepper and lime juice.

The process is pretty simple, I mash the garlic into a paste with some kosher salt and the side of my big knife. I chop the white and light green parts of three or four scallions, I seed and chop a jalapeno pepper, and then I add those three things to a bowl with the juice of a lime. I mash two or three avocados in the bowl with this mixture and then chunk the last one and stir it in without mashing for a little bit of texture. I squeeze another half lime over the top and done. I serve with (preferably fresh) tortilla chips and that is that.


I don’t like it crazy spicy, but if you do, you can leave some of the jalapeno seeds in the mix. I also do not care for cilantro AT ALL, so I leave it out. Some would say that is sacrilege, and to them I say, go ahead and add it, fine by me, I just choose to do without it, and I have never had any complaints.

If I am feeling particularly plucky, I make tortilla chips instead of buying them. I buy corn tortillas, white or yellow, either works, quarter them, and fry them in oil for three or four minutes until they are golden and crispy.


I drain them on paper towels and sprinkle them with more salt than I think I need to, and they are delicious.

draining and salting

This is a pretty easy extra bonus step, and worth it. Except that you need to make sure you have the time to do it. This isn’t hard, but you can’t fry that many at a time in a regular cast iron skillet, so you have to do quite a few batches if you are feeding a crowd, and that can take some time.


This is great for Sunday football, which is the last time I made it. My brother was up in my neck of the woods working for about a month, and I started getting calls on Sundays at about 11 am to see what I was doing that day, which roughly translated to “there is a Giants game on and are you cooking anything this afternoon?” He and the littlest came over one Sunday and my cousin joined us, and we ate guacamole, ribs (post to follow) and mac and cheese. And it was delightful.

Guacamole (serves quite a few)

3-4 avocados (depending on size)

1 clove of garlic, mashed to a paste (use kosher salt to help it along)

3-4 green onions, white and light green parts, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded (if you would like) and minced

1-2 limes (I find that one is not enough, and two is often too much, use your judgement)

Mix the garlic, scallions, pepper and the juice of one lime in a bowl. Mash all but one of the avocados into the mixture, and then pit and chop the last one, and stir it in for texture. Squeeze juice from the second lime over the top to taste, and serve with tortilla chips.