Sweet + Spicy Candied Pecans

I might never eat a plain pecan again.  Seriously, these are that good.  They were for a salad but never made it.  Consider doubling (or tripling!) the recipe.  

Makes 1 cup. 

Sweet + Spicy Candied Pecans

1 cup pecan halves

1 tablespoon neutral oil (canola, grape seed...)

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a bowl, toss pecans in oil.  Add sugar, salt and chile powder, toss to coat evening.  Transfer to a parchment or silpat lined baking tray.  Roast 20 minutes - careful not to let nuts burn.

Spicy Blackened Tomato Sauce

This recipe makes about 4 pints of spicy, flavorful tomato sauce.  I had a grab bag of fresh-from- the-garden tomatoes (Thanks, Mom!) like plum, cherry and regular so feel free to use whatever you have.  I kept out one pint for dinner and the rest are labelled and headed for the freezer.  If  you do not like it SPICY, halve or omit the chile flakes.  

Spicy Blackened Tomato Sauce

small splash high heat oil

8 garlic cloves, peeled

1 yellow onion, peeled, quartered

4 pounds tomatoes, cored as needed

1 teaspoon chile flakes

1 handful fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss garlic cloves and onion in a small splash of oil.  Arrange on large baking sheet.  Place in oven.  

Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over high heat.  Once HOT, add tomatoes, starting with your larger ones if using different types.  Turn tomatoes as needed, letting them blacken on each side. Transfer them to the sheet tray in the oven as the are ready.  (They are ready when the have black spots on each side, the skin starts to peel or they start to cook down.)  Once all the tomatoes are seared and in the oven, let it all roast 30 minutes.  Everything, including the garlic cloves should be very soft and blend-able.  

Remove tray from oven and transfer contents to a heat proof bowl.  Add chile flakes, basil and olive oil.  Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.  Serve while hot or let cool completely, portion, label and freeze. 

 

Lemongrass Beef Stew + Cabbage "Noodles"

Want to spend 3 hours making dinner?  Who doesn't!  Don't worry, this recipe has easy and minimal prep, otherwise simmering on the stove unattended.  This stew is full of south east asian flavors, rich and spicy.  

When browning the meat, start with a hot pan that is not too full.  If there are too many pieces of meat in the pan they will end up steaming without color.  We are looking for a deep brown, crust to form.  This adds a ton of flavor to the meat.  

We used cabbage instead of my usual preference of rice or noodles to keep the recipe healthier and gluten free.  A quick dip in boiling water milds the flavor and creates a chewy, tender texture making it perfect as a noodle substitute.  

I used a fresno chile but you could use a long green chile, hot cherry or jalapeno.   If you use anything spicier, think about decreasing the sambal oelek which is a popular spicy chile paste, found in grocery stores near the siracha.  

Serves 4.

Lemongrass Beef Stew + Cabbage Noodles

3 tablespoons high heat oil

2 lbs stew beef chunks, 2 " pieces

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4 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves removed, chopped

2" ginger root, peeled, chopped

1 fresno chile, seeded, chopped

5 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped, divided

2 star anise pods

2 cinnamon sticks

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons sambal oelek

3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce

32 oz beef stock

1 lb daikon radish, peeled, halved lengthwise, 1/2" slices

8oz carrots, peeled, 1 1/2" slices

lime juice, to taste

1/2 head cabbage, cored, thinly sliced

Heat a heavy pot, like a dutch oven, over medium high heat.  Add oil.  Season beef with salt and pepper.  Add to pot in 3 or 4 batches, careful not to over crowd the pan or the meat will not brown, only steam.  Brown meat well on all sides.  Transfer to plate, set aside.  

Add a splash more oil to the pot, if needed.  Add lemongrass, ginger, chile, garlic, 1/4 of the onion, star anise and cinnamon.  Cook until lightly browned, stirring often to avoid burning.  Add browned beef and all juices, tomato paste, sambal oelek, tamari, fish sauce and beef stock plus 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer.  Let simmer, covered, 2 1/2 hours.  

Remove beef.  Strain cooking liquid.  Discard solids.  Return beef and stained liquid to pot.  Add daikon, carrots and remaining 3/4 of onion.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  Simmer partially covered until daikon is tender, about 45 minutes.  

While stew is simmering, blanche cabbage:  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add cabbage.  Cook about 1 minute or until cabbage is crisp tender.  Strain.  When stew is done, ladle over portions of cabbage.  

 

 

 

Jerk Chicken Burgers + Simple Crunchy Slaw

It's the end of summer and you might as well spend it grilling these spicy little chicken burgers. I'm pretty excited about these.  Spicy and complex.  We served these with a super simple slaw and lime buttered corn.  These should probably be grilled but they can also be cooked in a pan or grill pan.  

Scotch bonnets are hot, hot peppers with a fruity, almost sweet notes that range in colors from green to yellow to orange to bright red.  They can be swapped out for habaneros if needed.  As with all chile peppers, wear gloves when working with these and wash your tools and cutting board when done.  We keep a box of disposable gloves on top of the fridge for chile pepper chopping.  And don't touch your eyes or nose if you've been touching the peppers.  

Makes 4.

Jerk Chicken Burgers 

1 lb ground chicken thighs

1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeded, minced

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

2 scallions, white + light green parts, minced

s + white pepper

10 allspice berries, ground

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

zest of 1 lime

1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon vinegar (white, red wine or apple)

Fold all ingredients together to evenly combine.  Be careful not to over mix, it can alter the texture of the ground meat.  Let mixture marinate in fridge 30 minutes (longer is ok too, up to 8 hours)  

Form 4 patties and grill until done, flipping once.  For proper grill marks, heat part of the grill to high heat, once hot, place burger on grates.  Cook a few minutes until grill marks are present and turn 1/4 way.  Cook about 2 more minutes more, flip, cook and then 1/4 turn.  

Serve with a simple slaw: Whisk 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar with 1 teaspoon mayo until there are no lumps.  Toss with 1 1/2 cup shredded savoy cabbage, 1 1/2 cup shredded iceberg lettuce, 1 shredded carrot and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds.  Salt and pepper, to taste.  Use immediately.

 

 

 

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken + Quick Gravy

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Frying chicken, or anything, is kind of a big deal around our house, mostly because it's a little messy and we don't eat a lot of deep fried foods.  But sometimes I have a hard time saying no to the idea of fried chicken.  Of course steamed corn, mashed potatoes and gravy are part of the package, too.  (I stopped myself at biscuits.)

The buttermilk soak adds moisture and tangy flavor to the chicken.  Adding the hot sauce to the buttermilk and cayenne powder makes it spicy.  If you're not into spice, omit these two ingredients.  Also, I dislike meat on the bone, so I used 1 1/2 lbs white skinless, boneless chicken breast but traditionally, one would use a whole 3 lb chicken cut into 8 pieces.  Ingredients will need to be increased by 50%.  

Since we are frying and have no drippings to make a proper gravy, stock, butter and flour can be used to make a quick, basic gravy.   

Serves 4, or 2 with leftovers

Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

1 1/5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thirds

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons hot sauce

1 cup self rising flour

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon chile powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1-2 liters frying oil (canola, veggie...)  amount depends on pot size

 

Quick Gravy

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup chicken stock

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For the Chicken:

Place chicken in a bowl with buttermilk and hot sauce.  Cover and place in fridge for 6 to 12 hours.  Mix all dry ingredients together and set aside for later.  

When you're ready to fry, place a large cast iron skillet on the stove and fill with about 2 inches of oil and heat to 350 degrees. Remove chicken from fridge and buttermilk soak.  Working in batches if needed, toss chicken pieces in prepared flour seasoning mixture, until coated and carefully place in skillet.   Fry 6 minutes, flip and fry 4 minutes more.  (Dark meat will take a couple minutes longer.)   Transfer to towel to drain and serve hot.  

For the Gravy: 

While your last pieces of chicken are frying, melt butter in small pan over medium high heat and add flour.  Stir continuously until mixture becomes golden.  Add stock, stir until thickened.  

Spicy Oven Fries

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I love french fries, but can't eat them everyday.  So sad.  These potato wedges or oven fries are just as good as any seasoned fry but are baked.  (yay!)  

Spicy Oven Fries / Potato Wedges

4 idaho potatoes

drizzle olive oil

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 to 2 teaspoons chile powder

2 teaspoons salt

several turns of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon mustard

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Scrub potatoes and dry.  Cut into wedges.  Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and toss in a drizzle of olive oil.   

In a small bowl, mix onion powder, garlic powder, chile powder, salt, pepper and mustard.  Sprinkle over oiled potatoes and toss until evenly coated.  

Bake about 30 minutes.