Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recreating restaurant food - Yummy Chicken Sandwich with Sweet Potato fries

I love recreating food that I like at a restaurant. I have tried grilled vegetable skewers , calamari and chicken fajitas. A few months back I tried a farm style chicken sandwich at a neighborhood breakfast place and loved it. I tried to recreate it at home and it was fun making it from scratch. Though I had to get the bread twice as the first one was a baguette and one was not wide enough for a sandwich. So we made some bruschetta instead. I decided to go with some home style bread for the sandwich. Sweet potato fries is one of the sides available at most restaurants. They are more sweet than savory. So I decided to add my own twist to it. We usually have them with baked salmon or any other fish dish. It was a great accompaniment to a farm style sandwich.


Ingredients for the chicken sandwich
Ciabatta Bread- 2 big long ones cut into half
Boneless chicken - 4 pieces
Rosemary - 1 tbsp
Spinach (from a washed bag)- 2cups
White Mushrooms- 1 cup
Provolone cheese-4 slices
Butter- 4 tsp
Salt and pepper - to taste
Oil - to shallow fry

Ingredients for sweet potato fries
Sweet potato- 1 large
Chilli powder- 1tsp
Ground cumin- 1 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil - to deep fry

For the sandwich
  • Wash the chicken pieces and marinate with salt, pepper and rosemary for 30 minutes.
  • Wash the mushrooms and slice them.
  • Slice the ciabatta bread length wise and apply the butter.
  • Heat a griddle and toast the insides of the bread till they are golden brown.
  • Heat some oil in the griddle and saute the mushrooms with salt and pepper,
  • Heat some more oil in the griddle and brown the marinated chicken on both sides. Make sure they are fully cooked inside.
  • Add a slice of provolone on top of the chicken breasts and shut the griddle and let the cheese melt on its own.
  • On a bottom slice of the bread, arrange a bed of fresh green spinach and place the chicken with cheese on it. Top it with the sauted mushrooms and the top of the bread.
For the sweet potato fries
  • Peel the sweet potato  and slice it in fry size pieces.
  • Add salt, pepper , chilli powder and cumin and mix it with your hands.
  • Heat oil in a wok and fry the sweet potato till they turn a little brown and crunchy.
If you want to go the healthy way, add some olive oil to the sweet potato and bake it in the oven on a baking sheet for 30 minutes at 400 Degrees F. The sandwich is delicious and is a quick meal on a week night.
PS: It has been a while that I have updated this blog. This is not a new year resolution but I will be posting a bit more frequently. I am hoping to become a regular here if I can get away from chauffeuring and number crunching.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Fried Squash Blossoms- Doesn't that sound sophisticated and exotic?

Bangalis have been called great gourmet critics. They are supposed to know the subtle differences in flavor and can tell what spices you have tempered your dish with. I personally am of the opinion that Bangalis love finding faults in every experience, the main one being hospitality. We love visiting our relatives and finding fault in how they have taken care of us. We are invited to someone’s home for dinner and we surely will come back and have opinions on whether the chicken was spicy or the dal was sweet or the nalen gurer payesh (rice pudding made with date molasses) did not really contain the flavor of khejur gur but was just substituted by brown sugar. We may pride ourselves to be great cooks, but we get apprehensive when we are asked to bring a dish to a Bangali potluck party lest someone finds fault with the dish that we have painstakingly spend hours to make.
This brings me to a legendary story my Baba happens to tell all the time. Once there was a rich man in a village who had to organize his daughter’s wedding. He wanted to prove all his critics wrong and made every arrangement so that his guests would not find fault in anything. The food catered to every type of diet, the hospitality was impressive and every ceremony and meal was on time. When the guests left, they did not have anything to criticize. Addicted to their habit of criticizing, someone said “Oto bhalo o bhalo noi (So much good is not good either)” and everyone seemed to agree. At the end of the day, it’s very difficult to keep them from finding faults when there is fine dining involved.


Bhaja (fried food) is one thing that everyone loves and it is not very easy to ruin a bhaja. You put oil in the kadai (wok), mix some batter (or not), dip (take) whatever you want to in it and fry it crispy brown. No, we can even find faults in our bhajas, if it was brown or raw or burnt, if it was crunchy or soggy or if it was salty or spicy. Last summer, the husband decided to plant some kumro (pumpkin squash) seeds in the garden. Based on the short summers that we have, we did not get any kumros but we enjoyed a bunch of squash blossoms (kumro phool) and the leaves and branches ( kumro sag). The easiest thing to make with dal and rice was batter Fried Squash Blossoms(Kumro Phool Bhaja) . Since the mater was in town, the choicest fluffy ones always went to the dear son-in-law. So when she left, I made them one day and had the lion’s share :). Even my picky eater daughter took a few bites and enjoyed them.


Ingredients:
Squash blossoms (Kumro phool) - 8-10
Chick pea flour (besan) - 1 cup
Oil- 1tsp to mix and rest to fry
Salt – to taste
Chilli powder - 1tsp
Turmeric -1/2 tsp
Baking soda- ½ tsp
Water- as needed

• Wash the blossoms and flatten them so that you can dip it in the batter.
• Mix chick pea flour, salt, oil, chilli powder, turmeric, nigella seeds and baking soda.
• Add water and use a whisk to mix it as it adds air to the batter for a fluffy and crunchy fry.
• Heat oil in a wok till you see fumes rising ( buying a thermometer for frying is a waste of money)
• Dip the flattened blossom in the batter and coat it well on both sides.
• Carefully drop a few blossoms in the oil. (Do not drop too many as it brings down the temperature of the oil.)
• Turn the stove to a low setting. Otherwise the batter will burn and the blossoms will remain raw.
• Flip the blossoms half way through so that that they are light brown on both sides.
• When they are cooked, place them in a dish covered with paper towel so that it soaks up the extra oil.
• Enjoy it with rice or dal or as a snack with your evening tea.
This is like any other pakoda you would make so it’s not rocket science. Make sure they are warm and crunchy when you serve them .Remember when you are reheating them, DO NOT USE the microwave. Microwave makes any fry soggy. Heat it in a convection oven or stove top on a flat pan. I am hoping to be regular on this blog with the other million things I have on my to do list. My target is one recipe per week which seems to be a piece of cake or in this case a bit of a crunchy fry. Bon Appetit!

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Baby's Day out- A food fiction featuring Doi Macch



Doi Macch
Rishi loved my cooking. He never could find fault in any food his Mamma cooked. I enjoyed feeding my son every evening when he was young. When he was growing up, I looked forward to packing his lunch every morning. I loved making pastas for him and packing it with a hot pack. “You make the best pasta, Mamma”, he used to say when he came back from school. I still have his Mother’s Day card that said,” My Mom is a great cook.” 20 years later, I still liked looking at it once in a while.

This morning, I was busy making all his favorite food- dimer jhol, palak paneer, luchi and of course his favorite gulab jamun. He was bringing home Sudeshna, the special person in his life, to meet his parents. He has been talking about her over the phone for the past few months- how kind she was, how she loved animals, how well she cooked and how she made the most awesome Doi Maach( fish curry with yogurt). I had spoken to her over the phone a couple of times, “Mashi, I would like to make some doi maach for you when I come next week. Would you like that?” I had reluctantly said “Yes, of course.” To tell the truth, I was not looking forward to someone else cooking in my kitchen for my son. “Aami ki doi maach banate janina? Aar, tacchara Rishi oto maachh bhalobashe na. (Didn’t I know how to cook Doi Maachh? Rishi does not like fish that much anyway)”, I had told Snehomoy. My husband joked,” Are you jealous Chandra, now that someone else is cooking for your son?” “Why should I be jealous? I am not like those other mothers who still molly cuddle their son.” I walked out to the balcony of our Delhi flat and started contemplating. “Am I not happy for my son? My Rishi is not a Mamma’s boy. I have taught him how to cook and keep a house so that he doesn’t think its just a woman’s chore.” I picked up the tholi and sent Snehomoy off to get some fresh fish from the local market.
As noon approached, I asked the maid to clean the fish and apply some salt and turmeric to it. The bell rang, and Rishi walked in with Sudeshna. She was wearing beautiful green chiffon with such ease. ”Is it to impress me?” I wondered. She felt so much at home right on the first day. “Let’s go Mashi.We have got a Doi Maachh to cook.” she chirped. “Where is the doi (yogurt) Mashi? Have you whisked it yet?” I hadn’t as I did not like the doi to get watery before I poured it in the pan. I took a deep breath, handed her all she needed and decided to walk out of the kitchen.
I looked from the dining table as she expertly fried the fish and cooked the curry with such an ease. She felt so much at home that I felt like she was part of the family. She walked to the table and help me lay the table. The Doi Maachh really looked delicious. We all sat down for lunch. She complimented my palak paneer and called it the best she had ever eaten. I mixed the doi maaach gravy with the rice and tasted it. It was delicious. I started eating with gusto and realized that I was starving. I loved it. It was just like Ma’s Doi Maach. I looked up as Snehamoy shared a joke with Sudeshna. I saw Rishi finishing the Palak Paneer and taking a bite of the fish. He smiled at me. I felt the tension leaving my body as a bliss descended upon me. I guess this was time to let my son go. He was going out in the world, and was going to be a part of another’s woman life. He was going to love her food and was going to share a home with her. I guess it was the day for my baby’s day out.

Ingredients Rui Fish -8-10 pieces
Plain Yogurt -1 cup
Onion puree – 1 cup
Ginger paste – 1 tsp
Garlic paste- 1 tsp
Tomatao puree- ¼ cup
Chilli powder-1/2 tsp
Turmeric – 1tsp
Sugar- 1 tsp
Salt –to taste
Garam Masala Powder -1 tsp
Bay Leave -1 or 2
Whole cardamoms- 2-3
Oil – ¾ cup

• Clean the fish pieces and coat them with 1 tsp of salt and half the turmeric.
• In a shallow pan, pour ½ cup of oil. When the oil is hot, shallow fry the fish until its lightly browned on both sides. Don’t fry it too much as the fish turns too tough.
• Discard the oil and heat up the rest of the oil and add the cardamoms and bay leaves in the hot oil.
• When they splutter, add the onion puree and cook it on medium heat. When the onion turns light brown, add the garlic paste and cook for a minute.
• Add the ginger paste, salt, chili powder, turmeric and sugar and a few tablespoons of water and cook for 2 minutes.
• Add the tomato puree and cook till the oil seems to be leaving the sides of the pan.
• Meanwhile, whisk the yogurt with ½ cup of water.
• Add this to the pan and turn the heat to simmer.
• Cook for 5 minutes and then add the fish and let the curry come to a boil.
• Add the garam masala powder just before you turn off the stove.
• Serve it with plain rice.
Probably every Bangali who knows basic cooking knows how to cook a Doi Maach. My daughter loves it because of its tangy and sweet taste. The fish pieces mainly used are the softer part of the fish known as the peti.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Shukto- Just like Picasso ,a simplistic dish with many interpretations

In the olden days, when the grooms’ families were choosing a bride for their son, they would test her culinary and housekeeping skills by asking weird questions like “If you have rice cooking on the stove , you son is wailing at the top of his lungs and someone is knocking at the door, what will you take care of first?” or “If you had three potatoes and a cup of rice at home, how would you feed two unexpected guests?” You see, the Bengali household always revolves around food- what are we making for breakfast, how will we cook the fish today, should I make a cooked or raw chutney with lunch, what should I serve my guests with tea etc etc. We will also criticize every wedding dinner we have been to- be it a five course or twenty course meal. There is a famous story that goes around -Once a man decided that he would not let his guests complain about his daughter’s wedding reception. He had made every arrangement for their comfort and the food was fabulous. He had made many dishes both for his vegetarian and non-vegetarian guests. When the reception ended, he asked few of his close friends their opinion about the wedding. One of his friends complained “Oto bhalo o bhalo noi.( Too much good is not good either.” See, you can never make Bangalis happy about the food. A typical Bengali meal starts off with something bitter, followed by greens, then some hearty vegetables, followed by a bowl of lentils, accompanied by fritters. Then comes the non vegetarian course followed by sweet or sour chutney and ends with dessert. The variety gets more outlandish as we move away from a daily meal towards a big party.

When it comes to the beginning of the meal, its either a fry of bitter gourd with other vegetables or it’s a mixed vegetable dish called Shukto. Shukto is cooked in many ways – with or without turmeric, with different blend of spices. But it will always contain bitter gourd. The traditional way is to use a paste of mustard, poppy seed and ginger to thicken the gravy. People use sun dried lentil fritters called bodi with the vegetables to add texture. I learnt Shukto from my mom and she learnt it from both my Grandmas. I prefer the spices that my Dad’s Ma used and I like the way Ma incorporated it in her recipe, My MIL’s recipe contains a garnishing of grated coconut. Shukto is an acquired taste and I have not acquired the taste of my MIL’s Shukto yet. So here is a lowdown on my Dida’s recipe.


Ingredients:
Vegetables:
Radish ½
Chinese eggplant (long ones) 1
Green Plantain 2
Potatoes -1
Bitter ground (korola) -1

Bodi( sun dried lentil fritters) -7-8
Bay leaf -1
Ghee( clarified butter) -1 tsp
Panch Phoran- 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Canola Oil- to cook

To be ground into paste:
Mustard 2 tsp
Poppy seeds( Posto) 2tsp
Ginger 1 inch piece
Fennel seeds( Mouri) 1 tsp


• Soak the paste ingredients in a bowl and grind it into a smooth paste.
• Chop the bitter gourd into small pieces.
• Peel and chop the remaining vegetables lengthwise.
• In a pan add a little oil and fry the bitter gourd with a little bit of salt till it is cooked.
• In a separate wok add a little oil and fry the lentils fritters till they are brown and set aside.
• Add a little more oil and add the panch phoran and bay leaf for tempering.
• Add all the raw vegetables in the tempered oil and stir fry for 2 minutes.
• Add water to cover all the vegetables and salt to taste.
• Bring the vegetables to a boil and cook them covered till they are half cooked.
• Add the fried fritters and bitter gourd.
• Once the vegetables are almost cooked, add the paste and stir it till it forms a thick gravy.
• Just before it comes down from the stove , add the ghee and mix.
• Serve it with hot rice at the beginning of a meal.

The distinct flavor in my Shukto comes from the fennel seeds and I still love it that way. I also like that it is not overly bitter as I add the fried bitter gourd at the end. The slight addition of ghee at the end gives it a special smell. It might be one of the oldest Bangali dishes, but the one above is what I called distinctly mine which I have inherited from generations. I hope you enjoy the flavor and cook it in your kitchen.

Continue reading: Shukto- Just like Picasso ,a simplistic dish with many interpretations...