Chicken Satay Salad

A Labor Day celebration, like no other.

Today’s recipe is a shout out to the many hard working people who continue to persevere as we face the Covid-19 pandemic.  Two people in particular are on my mind tonight.  My colleagues and I are not only putting ourselves at risk every day as we work during the pandemic but we have the added challenge of dealing with a poorly developed and prematurely deployed warehouse management system.  We are flying without a net as we attempt to train employees on a system we barely know and yet, we somehow find a way to maintain our “game faces” as we strive to maintain our sanity during this absurd circus.

Happy Labor Day, guys…thanks for your strength, wisdom and humor.  I’m honored and humbled to be on your team.

Okay, let’s get busy… Chicken Satay Salad

I don’t remember the first time I had chicken satay but I do remember how quickly I took to it!  Grilled chicken on a skewer smothered in a sweet, peanut buttery, soy sauce…wow!  I don’t know how or why Indonesians got their hands on peanut butter but they won me over with this!

I’ve made chicken satay several times and I have received mixed reviews, which is a polite way of saying that it wasn’t received well.  Maybe it’s the peanut butter flavor that people don’t get, I don’t know.  This recipe expands on the traditional satay by adding fresh vegetables and rice noodles.  The satay sauce takes a backseat to the textures and flavors that the salad and noodles bring.

For the Marinade:

1/3 cup dark soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

2 Tbs peanut butter

1 tsp Maggi sauce (it’s like soy sauce on steroids!)

1 Tbs chopped fresh ginger

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (stems included)

2 small, fresh red chilies, chopped (jalapeño, cayenne or Thai chilis) – optional

1 clove garlic, smashed

Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mash with a spoon.  Crushing the ingredients is an important step because it releases the oils and flavors and produces a very potent marinade!

Marinate the chicken breasts for one hour.

While the chicken marinates, make the sauce for the noodles and prep the rice noodles.

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/3 cup dark soy sauce

2 Tbs honey

½ cup warm water

3 Tbs peanut butter

Juice of two limes

3 Tbs cooking oil (I used olive oil)

1 clove garlic, mashed and minced

Add the dark soy sauce and honey to a mixing bowl.  Add warm water and mix thoroughly.  Add the peanut butter and mix to combine.  Drizzle the oil into the mixture and whisk.  Add lime juice and minced garlic and mix.  Set aside.

Prepare the rice noodles:

Ingredients:

8 oz rice noodles (Vietnamese-style rice Vermicelli noodles)

Soak the rice noodles in warm water for about 30 minutes.  Strain the water and set the noodles aside.  Start a large pot of water to boil on the stove.  Boil the noodles for about 1 minute, or until the noodles are soft (al dente).  Remove the noodles and strain.  Rinse with cool water.  Set the noodles aside.

Start the grill.  Allow the coals to reach their peak before putting the chicken on the grill.  The goal is succulent, smoked chicken, without charring the chicken.  Pile the hot coals in the center of the grill and lay the chicken on the edges of the grill.  Cook time will be about 40 minutes and the chicken should be turned every 10 minutes.  Be patient.  All good things happen in due time!

Grill the chicken until the internal temperature is at least 165°.  To be honest, I rarely use a thermometer to check for doneness.  I press my thumb on the chicken and when it feels firm, it’s done but, checking the temperature is a sure way to make sure the chicken is fully cooked.

While the chicken is on the grill, go back to the kitchen to chop some vegetables.

Ingredients for the salad:

1 cup fresh spinach, sliced thin

3/4 cup carrots, cut in thin strips

3 green onions, sliced in long strips

½ cup cilantro, chopped

Combine the vegetables in a bowl and set aside.  While you’re at it, measure out the peanuts and set them aside.

Pull the chicken from the grill and let it rest for several minutes before slicing.  Slice the chicken in ¼” slices and set aside.

Add the prepared noodles to a large mixing bowl.  Heat the sauce in a pan until it begins to bubble and boil.  Turn the heat off and add the sauce to the noodles.  Mix until the noodles are coated.

Prepare the finished dish by adding some noodles to individual serving bowls.  Top with sliced chicken and then top that with the vegetables and peanuts.

Serve at room temperature or chilled, for a refreshing summertime meal.

Power Outage Pizza

Yes, it’s another pizza post.  I swear I’m not making pizza every day…really!  The last post, Shrimp Pizza, was actually from last May.  I just now got around to posting it.

This post is from Sunday, August 9.  I had no intention of submitting a post because there was nothing novel about my approach to the pizzas – – until the power went out.

I have been dubbed an “essential worker” during this pandemic and I’m not entirely convinced that my work is essential but apparently, others do.  Many of my fellow employees have either contracted the virus or have been exposed to people who have tested positive which has resulted in several employees being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.  On top of that hardship, we recently replaced our old operating system with a new one and we’ve spent the last several weeks learning how to operate the new system.  Needless to say, It’s been a stressful time. 

I’ve been working long hours and six day work weeks for the last few months and I don’t foresee that changing in the foreseeable future.

I say all of this to illustrate how important Sundays have become.  Some of my Sundays are spent decompressing, as I try to forget about all of the craziness and other Sundays are filled with lots of domestic chores that I have ignored because of previous decompression Sundays.  This last Sunday was a mixture of work and relaxation.  Yard work filled the first part of the day, before the temperature crested 95° and became too hot to work outdoors, and that was followed by making pizza dough, followed by a short nap, while the dough was rising. 

There was a beautiful balance to the day, until the power went off.  An electrical power transformer in our neighborhood failed and several houses lost power for about six hours.  Of course, I didn’t know how long the power would be out so I decided to finish the pizza-making process on the outdoor grill.  I prepared the grill while there was still some sunlight.  I prepped the ingredients for the pizza and made my tools handy, a la mise en place. 

By the time the coals were hot, I had about 30 minutes of sunlight remaining.  I rolled out the dough and took them to the grill to bake. 

Back in the house, the last shafts of sunlight faded and candles were lit.  Baked pizzas were carried inside, one by one, to be sliced on a dimly lit cutting board.  And, just as we all settled down to eat, the power came back on. 

We turned the lights off and ate by candlelight.

Now that’s a great Sunday! 

Bon appétit!

Ingredients:

5 cups flour

2 cups water

1 Tbs olive oil

¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives

¼ cup pitted black olives

¼ cup julienne sliced onions

2 oz sliced capocollo

2 oz sliced hot calabrese

2 oz can of anchovies, packed in oil

12 oz mozzarella, horridly crumbled by hand

6 slices of sun dried tomatoes, probably less than 1 oz

¾ cup marinara (I used a thin, homemade marinara sauce)

I made three pizzas.  Each pizza started with a base of marinara and Mozzarella.

Pizza Uno:  Anchovy, onion and olives

Pizza Due:  capocollo, onion, olives and sun dried tomatoes

Pizza Tre:  hot calabrese

Directions:

Prepare the pizza dough, using the flour, water an olive oil.  If you want to see one of my pizza dough recipes, check it out here.

Let the dough rest and rise for at least one hour.

Sprinkle an ample amount of cornmeal on three baking sheets.

Separate the dough into three equally sized balls.  Roll them out with a rolling pin and transfer them to the baking sheets.

Bake one pizza at a time by sliding the pizza dough onto the hot grill.  Add tomato sauce (marinara) and add cheese and toppings of your choice.

Close the cover of the grill and bake for about 10 minutes.  Lift the cover of the grill and inspect the quality of the pizza by carefully prying up a portion of the pizza and checking the crispness of the bottom.  You’ll know when the pizza is done.  Pull it off and place the next pizza dough on the grill.  Repeat until all of the pizzas are done.

I used a very thin homemade marinara, made with just a hint of anchovy… Shhh!…don’t tell anyone!

As I mentioned above, in the Ingredients section, I crumbled the mozzarella, rather than grating or slicing it.  The sun was setting and I needed to get the pizzas on the grill, pronto!  But, there’s more to it than that.  Random chunks of mozzarella are perfect for grilled pizza.  The pizza has a marvelous haphazard, spontaneous look, texture and taste.  I suppose I could say that it is “rustic”.  Yeah, that’s it.

Don’t forget to thank the service crew members that come out to replace your transformer in the unrelenting August heat.  Sure, they are getting paid for their work, but take a moment to realize that while you are sweating over a hot grill, they are sweating twice as much.  And don’t forget, they are the real essential workers!

20 Minute Sandwich with a Tiny Coat Hanger

One evening, about a month and a half ago, when this whole Covid-19 pandemic thing was just beginning to bear down on us, I spoke with my son on the phone for about 20 minutes while he made a sandwich for his girlfriend, who was coming home from work.

He switched to speaker phone, after his girlfriend came home, so that he could finish making the sandwich.  We all joked and talked about how strange things had become and we finally got down to serious business.

You see, my son’s girlfriend manages a pizzeria and of course, I had to ask her what she likes on her pizza.  At first, she said that she didn’t really like pizza but I couldn’t accept the fact that someone in the pizza biz wouldn’t like pizza.  I finally got her to nail down some of the toppings she likes. 

Beef, but not too much Italian spice, cheese…lots of different kinds, including feta, thinly sliced onion and bell pepper.

I got feisty and mentioned anchovy and I could feel the anxiety coming through the phone line, yes I was speaking on a land line! 

Why is it that so many people say they don’t like anchovies yet they have never tried them? 

I told her that I would make a big pizza for her, just the way she likes it and I would put anchovies on half of it, just to give her an opportunity to try them.  I even told her that I would drop it off at her door, so that we wouldn’t run the risk spreading the virus. 

Did I do that?  No.  But, that doesn’t mean I won’t. 

So, with that, I present a photo of the sandwich that my son made. 

Here’s my guess at the ingredients:

Large, soft bread loaf, 6”cut

Deli turkey, sliced

Roma tomato, sliced

Iceberg lettuce, rough chopped

Onion, sliced

While we were going on about pizza and pizza toppings my son kept talking about a tiny coat hanger that he found on the ground earlier that day.  OK.  Good for you, I thought.  You found a tiny coat hanger. 

I should have realized that this was just one of the many infinitesimally small things that my son sees every day that the rest of us are oblivious to. 

I asked him to send me a picture…and he did.

All I could think after seeing this was, now some poor mouse can’t hang up his jacket!

Easter – Mac and Cheese

Well, our first major holiday during the pandemic is nearly over and I hope everyone is safe and well.  I thought that maybe this was our second holiday, considering the pandemic was on the rise during Valentine’s Day but, I believe we were still in “discovery mode” during that time.  The virus was mostly abroad and we only had a few cases reported in the United States.  It’s amazing how quickly our perception changed.

Churches are not having services, which is very odd, especially during a religious holiday.  Many families are separated from each other and there are unfilled seats at our dinner tables.  I’m thankful for our phones and the internet because we still have the ability to reach out to those we love.

But, enough of all that.  This is a food blog.  Let’s dig in.

I am fortunate that my daughter was available to help make this dish.  She’s a mac and cheese aficionado and I was thrilled to have her on my team!

This is a variation of the recipe I posted several months ago.  If you want to see the original post, click here.  The original recipe calls for 2 cups of dry macaroni noodles and I only had 1 ¾ cups this time, so I scaled some of the other ingredients down accordingly and made a few substations.

Easter Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

3 strips thinly sliced bacon

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 ¾ cups elbow macaroni

¼ cup butter

2 tsp bacon fat

¼ cup flour

3 ½ cups whole milk

½ tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Tabasco sauce

8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

8 oz queso Chihuahua (white Mexican cheese), grated

Directions:

Cut the 3 slices of raw bacon into 2” pieces with a sharp knife.  Add the bacon pieces to a small frying pan.  Crowding the pan is recommended because the bacon needs to be cooked at the lowest heat setting and the resulting bacon fat will help regulate the temperature.  Frying the bacon at low heat will  help ensure that the bacon and the bacon fat does not burn.

Add freshly ground black pepper to the bacon.  I probably used between ¼ and ½ teaspoons.  The pepper will flavor the bacon and the fat that it produces.

Remove the bacon once it has become firm.  Set aside.  Reserve the fat for later.

Reserve the bacon fat.

Boil the elbow macaroni in a large pot of water. 

While the macaroni boils, heat the milk in a microwave oven for about a minute or two.  The goal is to warm the milk to about 120°, or just a little hotter than bath water.  Set the milk aside.

Strain the macaroni after it has become soft.  Leave the macaroni in a colander and reserve at least 1/3 cup of the starchy water.

In the same large pot, now empty, add the butter and bacon fat.  Set the heat to low and simmer for a minute. 

Add the flour and whisk, to form a roux. 

Slowly add warm milk, while whisking.  Turn the heat to medium high and keep whisking for a few minutes while the sauce thickens.

Add the Tabasco sauce and mustard.  Whisk to incorporate.  Once the sauce has thickened, turn the heat to low.

Slowly add the grated cheese.  Stir slowly, with a spatula, as the cheese is added. 

When the cheese has melted, add the macaroni and fold, to coat the macaroni.

Pour the mac and cheese in an oven-proof backing dish and bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it starts to bubble.

Remove from the oven and top with crumbled bacon.

Serve with love!

Happy Easter.

Po’ Boy Burrito

This whole stay-at-home stuff is really weird.  I’m adjusting to it but I have to admit that it’s really hard to break the habit of trotting down the grocery store every time I want something that I don’t have in the kitchen. 

This time it was fresh baked French bread. 

I wanted a Po’ Boy sandwich and perhaps the single most important ingredient of a Po’ Boy is an excellent loaf of French bread.  I could have jumped in the car and raced down to the store to get a loaf of bread but I decided to resist the urge and improvise.  Thus, the Po’ Boy burrito was born!

What I find interesting is that I had every other ingredient for a Po’ Boy, except the French bread.  Go figure.

This recipe makes 3 Po’ Boy burritos.

Ingredients for the remoulade sauce:

½ cup mayonnaise

2 Tbs dill pickles, chopped

1 Tbs lemon juice (I used lime, since I didn’t have lemon on hand)

1 tsp Louisiana hot sauce

1 tsp capers, mashed and minced

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp Dijon mustard (or creole mustard)

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

1 green onion, chopped

Ingredients for the pickled cabbage:

½ cup cabbage, sliced thin

½ tsp cayenne pepper

¼ cup vinegar

2 tsp sugar

Ingredients for the fried shrimp:

15 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and butterfly cut

1 cup flour

½ cup corn meal

Oil for frying

Additional ingredients:

½ cup lettuce, sliced thin

1 sliced tomato

3 large burrito sized tortillas (9”)

Directions:

Prepare the  remoulade sauce.

In a mixing bowl, add mayonnaise, chopped pickles, lemon or lime juice, hot sauce, capers, paprika, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and green onion.  Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, add the cabbage, lettuce, cayenne pepper, vinegar and sugar.  Swirl to mix.  Set aside.

Prepare the shrimp.

Mix the flour and corn meal in a bowl and set aside.

Lightly beat two eggs in a bowl and set aside.

Dredge the shrimp in the flour/corn meal mixture and tap off excess flour.  Dip the shrimp in the egg wash and then dredge in the flour/corn meal again. 

In a medium sized sauce pan, fry the shrimp in hot oil.  I fried the shrimp in batches of five.

Remove the fried shrimp to a bowl and keep warm.

Once the shrimp are cooked, assemble the burritos.  Add remoulade sauce, lettuce, tomato, shrimp and pickled cabbage.

Serve with hot, crispy French fries.  See, I found a way to have a little French after all!

Stay healthy and eat well!

Crisis Management 101

Live life like a Scout.

Way, way back in my formative years I was a Boy Scout.  I didn’t stay with the program very long.  In fact, I was only in Scouts for less than two years.  But, in that time I learned more about being a good citizen and l learned more valuable knowledge than I ever learned in school.

I learned and practiced teamwork.  I learned about nature, and how to survive in the wild.  But most importantly, I learned how to prepare myself for anything.

The Scout motto is simple and wise: Be prepared.

Being prepared doesn’t mean you have to prepare for a doomsday event and it doesn’t mean that you have to lay your clothes out on the floor each night, like a fireman, waiting for a four-alarm fire.  It means you should prepare your mind to accept and deal with anything that comes your way.

Now that I think of it, being prepared, is really a state of mind akin to Zen Buddhism…don’t fixate on thoughts or emotions.  Allow yourself to rely on your skills and instincts.  Let the world come to you and embrace it. 

This particular crisis, the one surrounding the covid-19 virus, is serious, to be sure.  But, the decisions we make and the actions we take shouldn’t be any different than any other moments in our lives.  We make decisions every day and we choose actions every day.  Every decision and action we have made in our lives has brought us to the place we are now.  All we have to do is see a clear path, in our mind, to guide us.

If you are wondering what that clear path might look like, take a look at the Scout Law:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

If every decision we make aligns with the tenets of the Scout law, then we should make good decisions.

Weekend Leftovers (and the Daily News)

I hate to say it but, it’s the weekend and I have too many leftovers in the refrigerator.  That’s a great thing for a weekday, when time is precious for us working folks, like us.  Yes, my wife and I have been deemed “essential” by the powers that be, but it drives me nuts when the weekend arrives and I discover that leftovers have overtaken the fridge .  This is my weekend crisis, along with worrying about the ever-expanding, impending virus.

A good weekend, for me, is when I get to play in the kitchen and make some food that can turn into leftovers for the upcoming week. 

But, today, it’s necessary to scoop together a meal from all of the leftovers.

How could I possibly tie all of these leftovers together to make a single, cohesive meal?  There’s shrimp in a garlic butter sauce with noodles, scalloped potatoes with ham and a chicken salad, intended for sandwiches.  Three mish-mash leftovers with only one or two servings each, among them.

I say, tie them together with some fresh bread.  Garlic bread should work.  Half of the bread for a small bread loaf and the other half for garlic knots, or in this case, a braided garlic loaf.  Add some fresh lettuce and we have a brand new meal!  Leftovers can always be boosted by adding a splash of something fresh.

Garlic Bread / Garlic Braid

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water

2 Tbs yeast

1 tsp olive oil

3 cups flour

2 Tbs garlic powder

Pinch of salt

1 quart prepared shrimp with pasta, with garlic butter sauce

1 pint prepared ham and scalloped potatoes

1 pint prepared chicken salad

Fresh lettuce, (any kind will do)

¼ cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves

Directions:

Prepare the bread dough by warming a cup of water and adding yeast and olive oil.  Set in a warm place to allow the yeast to activate for 20 minutes. Add water and yeast to a large mixing bowl and add the flour and salt.

Mix and knead for a minute.  Sprinkle garlic powder over the dough ball, cover with a towel and allow the dough to rise for 15 minutes in a warm place.

Knead dough again to incorporated the garlic powder.  Cover and keep warm for 30 minutes.

Heat an oven to 400°.

Knead the dough and divide in half.  Set one half aside.

Take one half and divide into thirds.  Roll each third into ropes, making one rope slightly larger than the other two.

Lay the ropes of dough on a clean surface, with the longest rope in the middle.  Braid the dough in a French braid. 

Lay the braided dough on a baking sheet and bake in the oven.

Take the remaining dough and form into an oblong loaf.  Place on a baking sheet and place it in the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes.

While the bread bakes, add chopped garlic to the olive oil and heat in the microwave for about 1 minute.  Carefully remove the olive oil and set aside.

Pull the braided loaf out of the oven and leave the other loaf in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Heat the shrimp and pasta in a covered pan, with a little splash of water.

Heat the scalloped potatoes and ham in a microwave oven for a few minutes.

Add the chopped lettuce to individual serving bowls.  Top the lettuce with the chicken salad.

Cut the braided loaf into bite sized portions and put the pieces in a mixing bowl. 

Pour the garlic and olive oil over the bread pieces and toss.

Place the braided garlic bread pieces in a serving bowl.

Slice the bread loaf into 1” slices.

In a large pan, heat about 1/3 of the scalloped potatoes and ham, with a little water.

Add the sliced bread to the pan and let the bread absorb some of the liquid.  Turn the bread over and turn the heat off.

Assemble individual serving plates by adding portions of the shrimp and pasta, along the with the scalloped potatoes and ham on bread slices, and braided garlic bread.  Serve with the a side of chicken salad and a sample of the daily news.