Thai-Style Chicken Legs

Thai-Style Chicken Legs is a fantastic summer recipe. Flavored with cilantro, garlic and fish sauce, and then cooked on a grill, this is one of the dinners that I look forward to when the weather gets warm and sunny. Cilantro looks great in the grocery store this time of year, too. It can be sort of hit and miss in the fall and winter. Since this recipe only calls for one quarter cup of chopped cilantro, it also works well in a “week of cilantro,” in which I plan multiple recipes in one week that call for cilantro in order to waste less of it. Searching this blog for the term “cilantro” will give you a selection of recipes to consider when menu planning.

If you don’t have a grill, or simply don’t want to go to the trouble of using your grill, you can also bake this in your oven, although I will say the grilled flavor adds something special to the final product. The blogger who wrote this recipe recommends serving the chicken with her mango slaw, which we’ve tried and is tasty, but grilled corn on the cob is nice too, and a bit simpler.

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Classic Cold Soba

Classic Cold Soba makes a great summer dinner as the noodles are served room temperature or even cold. We like to serve the noodles with sliced leftover roast pork, such as leftover Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Maple Chipotle Sauce. Steamed Edamame makes a nice accompaniment as well. To find the soba noodles, the dashi kombu and the bonito flakes that the recipe requires, you will probably have to venture to an Asian grocery. Once you have them though, they last a long time. We now buy these ingredients in fairly large quantities and always have them on hand. For convenience, I am reproducing the recipe we use here. However, this information has been gleaned from two different sources and combined into one. The first source is norecipes.com and the second is seriouseats.com. I quickly tired of paging through multiple page documents every time I wanted to make this, and so here is a more user-friendly version.

Classic Cold Soba

Ingredients:

For the Dashi:

2 C cold water
6 g dashi kombu (a kind of flat seaweed)
15 g bonito flakes

For the Dipping Sauce:

1 1/2 C prepared Dashi
1/2 C Soy Sauce
1/2 C Mirin
1/4 tsp granulated sugar

For the noodles:

1 package soba noodles
Large pot of water, salted liberally

Directions:

In a small saucepan, combine the cold water and the dashi kombu. On medium heat, bring to a near boil. Remove the dashi kombu. Take off the heat, and add in the bonito flakes. Steep for two minutes. Strain in a strainer lined with a coffee liner or a paper towel.

Measure the dashi to 1 1/2 cups. Rinse out the saucepan and return the dashi to the saucepan. Add the soy sauce, mirin and granulated sugar. On medium heat, bring to a gentle boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Bring the large pot of liberally salted water to a rolling boil. Add the soba noodles, stir once, and boil for 5 minutes. Noodles should be tender when done. Remove from the boiling water and put straight into cold water until ready to serve.

Serve noodles with individual bowls of dipping sauce.

Leftover noodles and sauce will keep a few days in the refrigerator, but you should store them in separate containers.

Salisbury Steak with Brown Gravy

Salisbury Steak with Brown Gravy is a dish that you can’t help but serve with mashed potatoes. That way, you can pour the brown gravy over your entire plate. Can you tell that I’m a gravy lover? This recipe is attributed to Sandra Lee. Since we make Semi-Homemade nothing, it is unusual for us to even try one of her recipes. It came via her short-lived budget show, though, and so it calls for more real ingredients than her recipes typically do. I still feel like I should apologize, though. We do this recipe pretty much as-written. The ground beef we use has a bit more fat, and we use Better than Bouillon roasted beef base instead of prepared beef broth. A dinner with a casual feel, it is still delicious enough that I picked it for my latest birthday dinner.

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions is truthfully only my second-favorite way to eat sweet potatoes. My very favorite way is a whole sweet potato, rubbed in olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper and then roasted whole. The skin is so thin that you don’t even have to poke holes in it so steam can escape — eventually the skin will start breaking on its own, but it retains more of its steam this way and results in an unctuous dish that I then slather in butter and more salt and pepper. That’s dinner! The caveat to my favorite way is that it takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the potato. I don’t always have a full hour to wait for dinner. This recipe is much faster, especially if you cut the sweet potato smaller than the 2-inch pieces that the recipe calls for.

In addition, we have a small oven, and can’t easily fit multiple dishes in the oven at once. Cut smaller than the 2-inch pieces, this recipe will cook up in the amount of time that you are waiting for a roasted chicken or some other large long-roasting item to rest and be ready for slicing.

I adore sweet potatoes, both the lighter-colored ones and the darker red ones that, here anyway, are often labeled as “red garnett yams.” I never had real sweet potatoes growing up; you see, my mother doesn’t like sweet potatoes at all. As a result, the only sweet potato I had ever met was the sweet potato casserole my grandmother made at Thanksgiving — yes, that one: whole marshmallows, corn flakes and canned sweet potato. I even liked that. Nothing, however, can hold a candle to a real sweet potato.

I enjoy this dish leftover for lunch the next day, with a bag of corn chips to provide some texture. Yum!

Khao Man Gai

Khao Man Gai is something that I was first exposed to eating at a food cart downtown. The dish is a simple poached chicken with rice but it’s the sauce that makes it. Typical of Thai food, the sauce is a little bit sweet, a little bit salty, with a zing from fresh ginger and bird’s eye chilies. With this recipe, my ability to eat this dish is not limited to my ability to get downtown for lunch during the week, a rare occurence. Even so, this is a weekend dish, but the fact that the sauce really does freeze well makes things a bit easier to accomplish. In addition, after poaching the chicken, a light chicken broth is left behind. We always save this in the freezer as well. While it doesn’t have as much body as our regular homemade chicken stock, it can be used in many recipes in place of water and in turn add much more flavor.

Stovetop Popped Popcorn

I can clearly remember the years before we got our first air-pop popcorn machine. Mom would heat oil in a pot, add the kernels, and then as it popped she would shake the hell out of it over the burner. Sometimes it burned. To this day, I’m not sure why. Over the years, I have managed to perfect my system for stovetop popped popcorn, and I rarely if ever burn it. My best guess is that Mom wasn’t using enough oil. My discovery is that if you use enough oil, then you don’t need butter at all.

Unfortunately, my stovetop popped popcorn recipe isn’t really a recipe. I think maybe that’s ok. Amounts are going to depend on the size of your pot. In my experience, you want a pot that has higher sides, but a smaller bottom area, basically, taller than it is wide. This is because if you have a really wide-bottomed pot, your popcorn will pop out and over the sides before it is fully done popping. So, a pot that is taller than it is wide is optimum, preferably with a glass lid so you can see what is going on, although this isn’t absolutely necessary.

Once you have found your pan, coat the bottom LIBERALLY with vegetable oil. Give it what you think it needs, and then give it an extra glug. Yes, this amounts to an extra hundred calories or so, but it will taste so good that you don’t need butter. Put 3 kernels in the pot with the oil, lid on, and turn heat up to HIGH. Wait until the kernels start to sizzle, and then coat the bottom of the pot with kernels. Put the lid back on. Turn the heat down a few notches; you want the kernels to fry a bit. Give the pot a few shakes. Once it starts to pop, crank the heat back to high, tilt the lid slightly to let out some steam and then shake the pot back and forth over the burner, keeping the kernels moving on the bottom. When the popping slows down, 1 or 2 seconds between pops, turn the heat off, turn popcorn out into a large bowl, and sprinkle liberally with salt, stirring as you go.

In my experience, not all popcorns are created equal. My favorite is Amish Country Popcorn, medium white hulless, but Ovrille Redenbacher’s is a close second, and perhaps more widely available.

I recently used this method, using the Amish Country Popcorn, for a close friend and she came just shy of saying it was the best popcorn she had ever had.

Pad Thai with Shrimp

Pad Thai with Shrimp is an Alton Brown recipe from Food Network. I have re-written his recipe for a couple of reasons. First, his original recipe only makes two servings. I try to have all of my tried-and-true recipes sized appropriately for my family. We like leftovers for weekday lunches, so I quadrupled his recipe. Second, there is a lot going on in his original recipe, perhaps too much definitely more than we are able to manage for a week night dinner. And honestly, more than it needs. For this reason, I have left a few things out, like marinated tofu, salted cabbage and dried shrimp. The remaining ingredients can be purchased in any decent mom-and-pop Asian grocery store. The rice noodles I like to put in a bowl in hot tap water a couple of hours before I want to use them. My 12-year-old gets home at 4:30pm and this is an easy job for her to do.

Pad Thai with Shrimp
adapted from Alton Brown of Food Network

Ingredients:

12 – 16 oz thin rice stick noodles
1/2 C fish sauce
1 block palm sugar
1/4 C rice wine vinegar
4 oz tamarind paste
Canola oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped
8 tsp minced garlic (1/8 C + 2 tsp)
3 whole eggs, beaten slightly
12 oz shrimp, shells removed and deveined
Bean sprouts
Roasted salted peanuts, chopped

Directions

One to two hours ahead of time, place the rice stick noodles in a mixing bowl and cover with hot tap water. Let sit until ready to start cooking. Drain.

Combine the fish sauce, palm sugar, rice wine vinegar and tamarind paste in a small bowl and set aside.

Place wok over high heat. Once hot, add enough oil to coat. Heat until the oil shimmers. Add about 2/3 of the scallions and then the garlic, and cook for 10 to 15 seconds. Add the eggs to the pan; once the eggs begin to set up, about 15 to 20 seconds, stir to scramble. Add the remaining ingredients in the following order and toss after each addition: noodles, sauce, shrimp, a couple of handfuls of bean sprouts, and a handful of peanuts. Toss until shrimp are pink and everything is heated through.

Garnish with remaining scallions, and more bean sprouts and peanuts.