Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gai Dtai Nam (Chicken Under Water)

Here we sit in the last week of December and another year's notch is about to be cut into the belt. Last Tuesday was one of my favorite nights of the year, a ritual known as "Guy's Annual Night Dinner". My group of friends started this tradition back in 1970 and this marked the 44th year of this occasion.

It actually started with just three of us having a Christmas lunch at Lincoln Del out on Highway 12. Then we started doing dinners. We'd have dinner at Jennings on Excelsior Boulevard and then hit the discos afterwards...typically Ichabod's or Rupert's. That was just the thing to do when we were in our 20's. The last few years we've been alternating between Wildfire and Olympic Hills.

Given that we're all in our 60's now, it's cocktails at 5:00, dinner at 6:00 and bed by 8:00.  There are three of us that go back to the third grade together. Sadly, three of our crew have gone on to the great diner in the sky...but they always get remembered and toasted at the dinner. It's just a great group of guys and I so look forward to these dinners every year.

Today's recipe is an Asian gem from P.J. Stoop in Houston. It's called Chicken Under Water because that is exactly how you cook it. You throw the chicken pieces in a pot and then cover the pot with a pan of ice water. This encourages rapid condensation of water and in just 50 minutes you will have incredibly moist pieces of chicken and a fantastic sauce.

The only difficult ingredient here is the kaffir lime leaves. Your closest Asian Food store is a sure bet. But if you are an Internet shopper like me, my go-to place for them is Follow this link to make your purchase: This recipe serves four.

7 cloves garlic
2 large shallots, quartered
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layer removed, sliced
1 (¼-inch) piece ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 whole chicken, cut into 16-20 pieces
1 bunch scallions, cut into 3-inch pieces
6 kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon coarsely ground white peppercorns


  1. Make curry paste: Use a mortar and pestle or a food processor to pulverize garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger and peppercorns until a coarse paste forms. 
  2. In a bowl, combine chicken with curry paste and soy sauce. Let marinate 30 minutes.
  3. Place marinated chicken in a stock pot over medium-low heat, then cover pot with a large metal bowl filled with ice water. Cook until wisps of steam begin to escape from pot, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove bowl of ice water, add scallions and lime leaves to pot, and stir. Cover pot again with bowl of ice water, adding more ice if necessary, and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, 30 minutes more. 
  5. Transfer chicken and sauce to a large bowl or platter. 

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tuscan Beef Stew

This recipe from Florence, Italy is exceptional. While all of the ingredients contribute to the whole, two ingredients are the stars.....Chianti and black pepper. The Chianti is critical as this recipe really needs a medium-bodied wine. Do not use a Cabernet or a will ruin the flavor. If you don't have a Chianti handy, reach for a Cotes du Rhone or Pinot Noir. 

The stew can be served naked, as it is pictured above. It also pairs nicely with polenta or a fresh baguette of crusty bread. My preferred way of serving it is over buttered pappardelle pasta. The tilemakers of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathredal Duomo created this recipe and it was published in the January issue of Cook's Illustrated. The recipe serves six to eight people.

  • 4pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 1tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1(750-ml) bottle Chianti
  • 1cup water
  • 4shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 2carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1garlic head, cloves separated, unpeeled, and crushed
  • 4sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2bay leaves
  • 1tablespoon cracked black peppercorns, plus extra for serving
  • 1tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 2teaspoons ground black pepper
    • 2teaspoons cornstarch


  1. Toss beef and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt together in bowl and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of beef in single layer and cook until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes total, reducing heat if fond begins to burn. Stir in 2 cups wine, water, shallots, carrots, garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, cracked peppercorns, gelatin, tomato paste, anchovy paste, and the remaining uncooked beef. Bring to simmer and cover tightly with sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then lid. Transfer to oven and cook until beef is tender, 2 to 2 1/4 hours, stirring halfway through cooking time.
  3. Using slotted spoon, transfer just the beef to a bowl; cover tightly with foil and set aside. Strain sauce through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Wipe out pot with paper towels. Let liquid settle for 5 minutes, then return defatted liquid to pot.
  4. Add 1 cup wine and ground black pepper and bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened to consistency of heavy cream, 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Combine remaining wine and cornstarch in small bowl. Reduce heat to medium-low, return beef to pot, and stir in cornstarch-wine mixture. Cover and simmer until just heated through, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve, passing extra cracked peppercorns separately. (Stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

Wine pairing: Chianti or Brunello di Montalcino

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kimchi Fried Rice

When I got my flu shot in October, they told me it would protect me from 3 strains of influenza. What they did not tell me is that it would not protect against the H3N2 strain of the flu, which is what took over my body last Wednesday.

Thanks to the fact I'm healthy and I did get a small dose of protection from the vaccine, it's not debilitating. It's just that it's a pain in the butt and I feel like crap. Sore throat, full sinus cavities, bad cough and really achy joints.

I just put a new 40" 4K TV (Ultra High Definition) in my office, so while I've been sick I've simply done an ass-plant and have been video bingeing while I wait for my health to improve. So in case you get sick, I'm going to share with you three of my favorite binge-worthy TV shows.

First up is The Missing.  This 6-part TV series was produced by the BBC and is available there or on Starz on demand. It's the story of an Irish couple that go on holiday to France. When their car breaks down in a small French village, they stay in an inn while they wait for their car to be repaired. The father takes the boy swimming and when he goes to get something to drink, his boy disappears.

The story is riveting as it jumps back and forth from 2006 (the year Ollie went missing) to present day. The acting is great, especially Tchéky Karyo who plays the lead inspector. It's only six episodes and it's binge-worthy (and nominated for 2 Golden Globes).

Next up is Gracepoint. This 10-episode series just ended on Thursday night. It's a compelling mystery about 2 detectives trying to solve the murder of a 12-year old boy. The plot turns are terrific and there's a great acting job done by Nick Nolte. I highly recommend it. It's available on FX On Demand or iTunes.

Next up is Marco Polo. This is a brand new show made just for Netflix. They just posted the entire first season. Now I'm only 3 episodes into it but I am absolutely hooked. Marco's warm, loving father trades his son to Kublai Khan in exchange for a trade route. The story is based on his adventures in Kublai Khan's court in 13th century China. This is the Netflix version of HBO's Game of Thrones. All of the great complex plots, violence and sex you've come to enjoy in GOT are there in Marco Polo. Done by Weinstein Company, the production values are fantastic. Available only on Netflix.

So that will satisfy your viewing pleasure while you have the flu. Remember to drink a massive amount of fluids and you must eat to keep your strength up. For eating, I strongly recommend Andrew Zimmern's recipe for Kimchi Fried Rice. It gives you will completely clear your sinuses...and it's the perfect complement to bingeing on Marco Polo. Serves six.

    1 1/2 cups short-grain Asian rice
    2 cups water
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 cups sliced roast pork
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 dried red chile
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 ounces mung bean sprouts
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups kimchi, coarsly chopped and drained, liquid reserved
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil 

  1. In a medium saucepan, cover the rice with the water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt, cover and cook over low heat until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes. Spread the rice on a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a very large skillet, heat the peanut oil until shimmering. Add the sliced pork and stir-fry over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the ginger, chile and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then push the mixture to one side of the skillet. Add the egg to the other side of the skillet and scramble just until set, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add the cold rice to the skillet and stir-fry over high heat until coated and hot, about 2 minutes. Add the kimchi, scallions, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir-fry until hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon the fried rice into bowls, garnish with thinly sliced scallions and serve. 

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Mulled Wine

This is a favorite Christmas drink of mine. It's best consumed when there's a chill in the air and you are planted in front of a roaring fire built with aged oak and birch. If you want your house to smell like this drink tastes, toss an apple log on that fire.

The earliest recipe of mulled wine is traced to Rome in the second century AD. It was first recorded as spiced and heated wine. As you know, the Romans undertook conquering much of Europe. They brought their recipes with them, which is why mulled wine is ubiquitous all over Europe.

Germany calls it Glühwein (glow wine). The Nordic countries call it glogg. In the Netherlands it's called bisschopswijn (bishop's wine). And leave it to our dear neighbors to the north, the Canadians call it caribou. Amen to that, eh! Apparently the Romans never made it to Canada.

This recipe is from Ashley English's new book, Quench. The book contains over 100 recipes for both soft and hard drinks. I encourage you to buy the book, but more importantly, I encourage you to make this mulled wine recipe. I am certain you will find the the taste and the experience to be both uncommon and unforgettable. The recipe makes five cups.

One 750-ml bottle dry red wine (I like Cabernet Sauvignon)
1/3 cup sugar
Juice and zest from 1 orange
Peel from one lemon
2 teaspoons allspice berries
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Three 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 1/2 cups of brandy


  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the brandy in a medium size sauce pan.
  2. Bring just to the boiling point, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in brandy. Serve warm in individual mugs.

Ashley English