Sunday, January 24, 2021

ChezCindy: Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry


I love this recipe!  It is versatile, easy, and comes together very quickly.  No need to order take-out when you can customize this stir fry dish to your preference.  

I first made this using chicken breasts for the main protein.  It was delicious.  Even the leftovers were great.  This time I wanted to use some shrimp I had in the freezer.  We loved it.  Just look at the color achieved on the cooked shrimp.   

The shrimp is only partially cooked here which is amazing to gain this much color and not over-cooking it.  The chicken was the same result, partially cooked and gorgeous browning.  The chicken and shrimp are tossed in a bit of corn starch and a few other ingredients before cooking.  This is key to getting the great color.  Browning equals flavor.  

The success of this recipe is prepping all the ingredients before you start cooking.  That is the nature of cooking a stir fry dish.  It is quick, hot cooking done in minutes once you have the prep work done.  

There are a few ingredients that are the backbone of Asian cooking to gain great stir fry flavor, such as fresh ginger and garlic.  Fresh ginger is found in the produce department of any grocery store.  I buy a knob of it and keep it in the freezer.  It stores well and I have it fresh any time I need it for cooking.  Most people keep ginger in the refrigerator but doing so will yield a shorter shelf life.

The versatility of this recipe comes with your choice of protein and vegetables.  I used broccoli.  Other vegetables could be snow peas, carrots, mushrooms or a mix of any of these.  The protein could be sliced beef, chicken, shrimp or even tofu.  

Here's how to make this recipe.  

Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry
For the shrimp or chicken:
1-pound peeled shrimp or chicken breast, boneless skinless (cut chicken into 1-inch pieces)
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon coconut aminos* or low-sodium soy sauce

For the sauce:
6 tablespoons coconut aminos* or low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
5 tablespoons chicken broth
2 teaspoons corn starch

For the vegetables:
1 large head of broccoli cut into florets (or other vegetables of choice)
4 green onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons neutral oil such as canola

First, blanch the broccoli in the microwave.  To do this, place 2-3 tablespoons of water into a large microwave safe bowl.  Add the broccoli florets to the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 2 minutes.  The bowl will be hot, so using hot pads, remove the bowl from the microwave and set aside leaving the plastic wrap in place.  

Combine all of the ingredients listed for the shrimp/chicken into a small bowl, stirring to coat well.

In a small bowl or a liquid measuring cup, add the ingredients for the sauce, whisking to combine.  

Chop the remaining vegetable ingredients, green onions, garlic and ginger.  Have these ready and waiting on the cutting board.  

Using a large non-stick pan or wok, setting the pan over medium-high heat, add in the 2 tablespoons of oil.  Once the oil is hot, add in the shrimp or chicken, carefully as it will splatter a bit.  Using a wooden spoon or tongs, move the shrimp/chicken into a single layer in the pan.  Do not move it again for 2-3 minutes, until you begin to see browning on this first side of cooking.  If it is not yet brown, leave it for another minute.  When nicely brown, flip over each piece or simple stir it for 1 more minute of cooking.  Remove the shrimp/chicken from the pan to a plate, leaving the pan juices in the pan.  The protein will not be fully cooked at this point.

Working with the same pan, add in the green onion, garlic and ginger, stirring for 30 seconds.  Next, stir the sauce ingredients as they may have settled, adding the sauce to the hot pan.  Stir to combine for 1-2 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.  Remove the broccoli from the bowl, dabbing with paper towels to dry off the water.  Add the broccoli and the shrimp/chicken to the pan, stirring to coat well with the sauce, cooking for 2-3 minutes until the protein is cooked through.  It won't take long as the shrimp/chicken had "carry-over" cooking while resting on the plate and the broccoli is already pre-cooked.   

Remove the pan from heat and serve immediately.  Enjoy!! 

* coconut aminos are a wheat-free replacement for soy sauce made from coconut sap from coconut trees.  You will find it on the shelf next to the other soy sauces.  It tastes great!  

Saturday, January 16, 2021

ChezCindy: Halibut with Leeks & Potatoes in Broth


This recipe is comfort in a bowl.  Inspired by chef Joanne Weir, who has been hosting cooking shows on public television for 20 years.  She is a successful chef living in California, a food writer and cookbook author.  Her recipes often bring an international flair as she hosts culinary travels for her students to eat and cook the local recipes from Spain to Italy to Morocco.  This recipe inspires me more from an American perspective.  No exotics spices or ingredients.  The ingredients here remind me of a common supper perhaps stemming from New England.  

Ms. Weir's recipe was presented using cod.  I prefer the taste and texture of halibut.  But really, any flakey white fish would work in this recipe.  Most ingredients are pantry staples, perhaps with exception of capers.  Capers are good to have on hand lending a salty briny flavor to dishes.  Perfect for fish recipes and other Mediterranean influenced dishes.  They are inexpensive and will last in the refrigerator for months.  But if you don't have them, you can leave them out and still have a perfect dish for dinner.  You will want to have a hearty toasted bread to sop up the broth.  Enjoy.

Halibut with Leeks & Potatoes in Broth
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons capers
3 sprigs fresh thyme, about 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves*
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes 
2 leeks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 4-ounce pieces halibut or cod, skinless
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

Prepare the potatoes by peeling them and slicing into slices about 1/4-inch thick.  Prepare the leeks by cutting away the dark green stalks, keeping only the pale green and white parts.  Cut each leek in half from the root end to the tip.  Thoroughly rinse the leek under cold water to remove the dirt from the layers.  Place the cut-side down on a cutting board.  Thinly slice each leek half into thin half-rounds. 

Working with a large skillet over medium high heat, add the stock, wine, Dijon, capers, fresh thyme leaves, and salt into the hot skillet.  Stir to combine.  Carefully add the sliced potatoes to the liquid, keeping the potatoes in one layer.  Scatter the cut leeks over the potatoes.  Sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt.  Cover the skillet to cook the potatoes and leeks until tender, about 12 minutes.

Prepare the pieces of fish by sprinkling the lemon zest onto each piece.  Season each piece with a bit of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Carefully place each piece into the pan with the potatoes and leeks, slightly nestling in with the potatoes.  Cover the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  When the fish is cooked, turn off the heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter to the broth, gentle swirling the pan to melt the butter.  

To serve, place 1 piece of fish into a shallow bowl, add a scoop of potatoes and leeks to the bowl, and a ladle of broth to each bowl.  Serve hot with toasted bread.  

* if you use dried thyme, reduce the amount to 1/4 teaspoon

Sunday, January 10, 2021

ChezCindy: Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and Spinach


This Chicken Stew is a welcome comfort to your senses.  Different from a standard stew, using smoked paprika as an interesting back-note to the sauce, pairing nicely with the chickpeas and spinach for a Spanish nuance.  

The stew takes less than an hour to make but can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for the next day or so.  It reheats very well without losing any integrity of ingredients or flavor.  

Serve this with a slice of crusty toasted bread or spooned over steamed rice or egg noodles.  

Chicken Stew with Chickpeas and Spinach
4-5 chicken thighs, bone-in
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups sliced onion, sliced vertically from stem to root
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon mild Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 14-oncue cans diced tomatoes, unsalted
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
8 ounces fresh spinach

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven over a medium-high flame.  Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.  Remove the skin from the chicken thighs, discarding the skin.  Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt seasoning both sides.  Place each piece in the hot pan with the bone-side facing up.  Leave the chicken to brown in the pan for 5-7 minutes without turning.  This will create good browning on this side of the chicken.  Turn the chicken over to cook the bone-side for about 2 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan, setting aside on a plate.  The chicken will not be cooked through at this point.  

Working with the same pan that the chicken was cooked in with the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Transfer the sliced onions to the hot pan, season with 1 teaspoon of salt, stirring occasionally cooking for about 5 minutes.  The onions will begin to soften and lightly brown.  Add in the minced garlic and the smoked paprika, stir to combine, cooking for 30 seconds.  Stir in the chicken stock, cooking the onions and garlic for another 5 minutes until the onions are soft.  

Drain off and discard the liquid from one can of the diced tomatoes, keeping the 2nd can with the juice and the diced tomatoes.  Add the contents of both cans to the pan with the onions.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in the drained chickpeas, stirring to combine.  Continue simmering until the sauce is slightly thickened, 5-7 minutes.  Add in the spinach, stirring to incorporate as the spinach wilts.  Season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and the pepper.

Place the partially cooked chicken thighs into the pan with the vegetables, slightly submerging the chicken under the vegetables.  Place the lid onto the pan.  Transfer the Dutch oven to the preheated oven, cooking for 25 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.  

Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully remove the lid, gently stir the contents to cover the chicken.  Spoon one chicken thigh and a generous portion of the vegetables and sauce into a serving bowl.  Serve with grilled bread if desired.