Saturday, November 28, 2015

Yucatan Turkey Soup (Sopa de Lima)

Okay, I've done two nights in a row with "heavy" turkey meals. The traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday that always leads to a coma. Then last night was turkey leftovers.....turkey sandwiches on English muffins and Torta rolls. More stuffing....because you really cannot get enough bread calories. And then you wake up on Saturday morning feeling like the Angry Bird blimp from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

In Yucatan, they do not celebrate Thanksgiving. But they still love their turkey every bit as much as we do. Ok, maybe not quite as much as we do as they usually make it with chicken. But if you are like me, I still have a lot of turkey left over. What better way to use that turkey than in a light and incredibly delicious bowl of Sopa de Lima? This David Tanis recipe serves 4 to 6.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
½ teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 cinnamon stick, 2 inches long
 A pinch of Cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
8 cups unsalted turkey or chicken broth
Vegetable oil for frying (about 1 cup)*
4 corn tortillas, at least a day old, cut in 1/2-inch strips**
4 to 6 cups cooked turkey meat, shredded
1 or 2 firm-ripe avocados
6 scallions, chopped
2 jalapeƱos, thinly sliced
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
Lime wedges

*Skip if you use Fritos. See directly below.
**If you are lazy like me and sure as hell do not want to do more cooking this weekend, screw the tortillas and frying...just throw in a couple of handfuls of Frito original corn chips.


  1. Heat vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and let soften, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  2. Toast the cumin, coriander and peppercorns in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute, then grind in a spice mill or mortar. Add the ground spices to the pot, along with the garlic, cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne and salt.
  3. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then reduce to a brisk simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, then taste for salt and adjust. Keep hot, covered, over very low heat.
  4. Pour vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2 inch into a wide skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and looks wavy, add the tortilla strips and fry until barely colored, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
  5. n a medium saucepan, heat the shredded turkey meat with a little of the hot soup. Divide the meat among 4 to 6 soup bowls and add a few slices of avocado to each. Ladle about 1 cup soup into each bowl, then garnish with tortilla strips, scallions, jalapeƱo slices, chopped cilantro and a generous squeeze of lime juice.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. You could also switch to Pacifica Mexican beer if you are feeling carb deprived from this healthy meal.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Slow Cooker Rotisserie Chicken

It does not get any easier than this. Less than 5 minutes of prep. Plop it in the slow cooker and your meal is ready when you are set to eat dinner. While I love oven-roasted chicken, that takes a lot more prep and timing and tending. This is an absolute no-brainer. When you remove the chicken from the slow cooker, it will have a soft, seasoned shin. If you want crisp skin, put it under your broiler for 3-5 minutes.

1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
aluminum foil


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder until combined.  Rub the seasoning mix all over chicken.
  2. Roll up a few small balls of aluminum foil and place them on the bottom of your slow cooker bowl to serve as a "rack" for the chicken, so that it doesn't have to cook in the juices that will accumulate in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place the chicken on top of the aluminum foil, pressing it down a bit if need be for the lid to fit.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  3. Carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Carve and serve.

Wine pairing: Merlot

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Three-Cup Chicken

In December of 1949, the Chinese civil war tipped in favor of the Communists when Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalists, fled to the island of Taiwan. A series of Communist offensives led to the defeat of the Nationalists. Mao Zedong took rule of China and Chiang Kai-shek took rule of Taiwan.

Taiwan became a democracy in 1986. It is still technically at war with China and China refuses to recognize Taiwan as an independent nation. The war rages in the culinary halls of the two countries as well. Chinese Fried Rice is considered a staple of all eight cuisine regions in China. Taiwan considers Three-Cup Chicken as their staple dish.

I'm more than happy to recognize both. In America, everyone knows about and has eaten Chinese Fried Rice. But very few people have heard of Three-Cup Chicken. So I'm going to introduce it to you here. It's ridiculously simple to make. It's delicious. And all you need to achieve perfection is to pair it with white rice.

3 tablespoons sesame oil
1, 2-to-3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into coins (approximately 12)
12 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 whole scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 pounds chicken thighs, boneless or bone-in, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ cup rice wine
¼ cup light soy sauce
2 cups fresh Thai basil leaves or regular basil leaves

  1. Heat a wok over high heat, and add 2 tablespoons sesame oil. When the oil shimmers, add the ginger, garlic, scallions and peppers, and cook until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes.
  2. Scrape the aromatics to the sides of the wok, add remaining oil and allow to heat through. Add the chicken, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned and crisping at the edges, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add sugar, and stir to combine, then add the rice wine and soy sauce, and bring just to a boil. Lower the heat, then simmer until the sauce has reduced and started to thicken, approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Turn off heat, add basil and stir to combine. Serve.

Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Weapon of Choice: Wine Aerator

I'm a huge fan of letting wine breathe. Introducing oxygen to wine dramatically improves the flavor.  If you head out to any decent restaurant and order a good bottle of wine, the server will decant the wine before you drink it as it will enhance your enjoyment of the wine.

Don't let someone tell you they are going to open a bottle of wine and let it breathe before serving. That is no way to get oxygen into the wine because, at best, you'll only expose a small amount of surface area (about the size of a nickel) to the air.

I would always decant my wine to get air into it. The problem with that methodology is that there was always a decanter to wash after every meal. That gets old quick. So I started looking around for an easy to clean decanter and discovered this little gem.

This is the Vinopourer Wine Aerator. It costs a mere $13.95 and I'm here to tell you it puts the old decanter to shame when it comes to pumping oxygen into your wine. You simply open the bottle and slide the device into the bottle....then pour. The aeration that takes place is a double-action process. It aerates the wine as it exits the bottle while simultaneously pumping the wine in the bottle full of air.

It's a marvel of engineering. I've been using it for a week and it makes a world of difference in how your wine tastes. A freshly corked bottle usually yields wine that is tight and it takes awhile for the wine to open up. Use the Vinopourer and you'll be enjoying rich, smooth wine right from the get-go. Check it out here:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Simple Gravy from Scratch

I started this blog a little over five years ago. I had just retired then and thought it might be an interesting way to spend my time. I would try out recipes that look interesting to me and if they were good, I would write them up in my blog.

So 5 years later and with 385 separate blogs under my belt, I find that I am the fortunate victim of unintended consequences. While I had simply set out to write about good recipes I had found, something much more spectacular happened.

Let me digress. People who love to cook typically keep a folder or card file of their favorite recipes. Back in 2005, I attempted to build an electronic catalog of my faves. I bought a program for my Mac and started to create my own database.

I made it through 3 recipes. The software was so user unfriendly and clunky, it took me 3 hours to create the 3 recipes. Patience is not one of my finer virtues, so I discarded that software with all due haste. Back to file folders and recipe cards for me.

I started this blog in 2010 to pass the time and share good recipes. But the unintended consequence was that I created an electronic catalog of all my favorite recipes. Now when I want to call up a favorite recipe, I just go to my blog and use the search box to pull the recipe up.

And while I'm elated that I have my database of recipes at my fingertips, it's interesting to note that nearly 150,000 other people have taken advantage of the database. As of November of 2015, I'm averaging 61 page views a day. That makes me happy.

Less than 1% of the recipes in my blog are original. I like to cook, but dislike the pedantry of trial and error. So my blog is a compilation of great chefs, writers and simple home cooks like me. I can look at a printed recipe and tell right away if it will work and what it will taste like. If I like it, I make it and if it's really good, it goes in my blog.

As a cook, I prefer simple recipes. I can do elaborate but the patience issue always rears it's ugly head. So here's a spectacular gravy recipe I stumbled across. It could not be any simpler. Butter, flour, onion powder and stock.

Now a word about stock. If you're serving a beef dish, use beef stock. For chicken dishes, use chicken stock. And actually, you can experiment, as long as you keep to the two cups of stock rule. Last Sunday I made pot roast and I simply used two cups of the braising liquid run through a strainer as the stock for my gravy.

If you are going to make turkey gravy, add some of the pan drippings to the chicken stock. Just make sure you have a total of two cups of hot liquid. This is such a simple recipe to prepare and it absolutely crushes the gravy mix you get in a packet.

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup flour 
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups very hot stock (beef or chicken)

  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add flour and onion powder. Whisk together and cook for 30 seconds, whisking as needed.
  3. Slowly add stock to flour mixture while whisking. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 minute.
  4. Pour into gravy boat and serve.