Tag Archives: Vij’s At Home

Southern Bog and an Indian Salmon and Pan-Roasted Chickpea Mash-up

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Scarlett’s Chicken and Rice from Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard.

Chicken bog is a kind of congee from the American South, specifically the low or coastal country of the Carolinas and Georgia.  It consists of a rich broth and shredded, stewed chicken and rice. It’s easy, economical, and delicious. The chicken is cooked in water for a really long time, removed and shredded, and added back to the broth with salt and pepper, maybe lemon juice and maybe butter, and sometimes sausage. It looks and sounds bland, but I’m here to tell you that once you start eating, you can’t get enough.Bog is one of those traditional  regional dishes for which every family seems to have its own tradition or variation.  Vivian Howard’s recipe, Scarlett’s Chicken and Rice, for example, is named after her mother Scarlett. Because it’s her mother’s recipe, duh.  It’s as plain as the proverbial pair of white cotton panties, and it is out of this world.

One recipe netted 5 quarts of chicken broth, two of which I used for the bog. Another two quarts I used for chicken soup, adding diced carrots, turnip, garlic, and leeks. That left me two quarts of broth for the freezer. That’s a lot of food from one little chickadee!

By accident, I made the ghahstly mistake of preparing cauliflower as a side dish.  An all-white dinner from the kitchen of a Betty Crocker Future Homemaker of Tomorrow Award winner? Horrors! Quick! Grab some cheddar to shred over the veg and pop in the microwave for a quick fix.

And for my next number, a mash-up of two recipes from Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking .  

salmon

Salmon, chickpeas and garlic naan.

For some time, I’d been eyeing those huge salmon filets with the skin on at Costco, thinking I should really pick one up and cut it up for the freezer.  However, I was deterred by the skin, which I would want to remove before freezing. I like to prepare salmon by baking it in parchment bags, and wouldn’t want soggy, unappetizing skin on my plate.  So, I watched a few video tutorials on the web and figured it didn’t look so hard. I can skin chickens, after all, why not a big piece of fish?  Well, I’ll tell you why not. Because it’s bigger and slipperier than a chicken. And it’s gross. And the skin is really, really stuck to the flesh. Uch. What a mess. I managed to get a few intact portions out of it, but then I had a whole bunch of salmon bits about the size of prawns left over. I dumped them in a plastic container and stuck them in the freezer. And forgot about them.

Then, one day, I’m reading through Vij’s At Home, just minding my own business, when I come across a recipe for Prawns in Pomegranate Curry that makes my mouth water. I have to have it. I have all the ingredients, more or less, except the prawns.  Then the proverbial light bulb goes on as I remember the salmon bits.  Well, they are both pink, right?

I marinated the salmon bits in the refrigerator in marinade leftover from Vij’s Grilled Marinated Wild Salmon, which I had made a few days earlier. While the salmon was marinating, I prepared the chickpeas, also vaguely from the same cookbook.

chickpeas

Ingredients for Pan-Roasted Chickpeas

1 can chickpeas a/k/a garbanzo beans, drained but not rinsed
1 small red onion, sliced thin or diced
2 small carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin or smashed and left whole
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup diced apples and grapes (I used some of my Savory Red Grapes with its juice)
4 dried dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground star anise

Ingredients for Salmon

3/4 pound salmon, cut up into bite-size pieces, if you like, or leave it whole
1 tablespoon canola
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped or grated
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions for Chickpeas

  • Heat canola oil to medium heat in a medium frying pan;
  • Add spices and stir around to toast or cook off the raw odor;
  • Add onion and garlic until soft;
  • Add the diced carrots;
  • Add chick peas and let everything caramelize;
  • When chickpeas start to blacken, add the fruit, and lower the heat;
  • Cook the fruit through without letting it get soggy;
  • If you start to get a “sauce,” raise the heat.

Instructions for Salmon

  • Remove the chickpea mixture from the pan, don’t wipe out the pan;
  • Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil;
  • When oil is heated add the spices and let toast to cook off the raw odor;
  • Add pomegranate molasses, the garlic and the salmon (in pieces or whole), together with its marinade;
  • Cook on one side for 4 to 5 minutes, and flip the salmon  over;
  • Cook until the outside is dark and crispy looking, probably another 4 minutes;
  • Add chickpea mixture back to pan, adjust for salt and pepper.

Serve with garlic naan, or rice.

*Note:  Substitute pomegranate juice for the tamarind juice in the original recipe.

Meanwhile, I am preparing a post on restaurants, and would love to hear about what you like and dislike most when you go out to eat. How about it?

Relax, Honey — Butter Chicken Schnitzel from Vij’s Restaurant Vancouver

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Knowing how I swoon at the merest whiff of Indian spices, my mostest bestest dearest friend sent me a cookbook I’d never heard of from a restaurant I’d never heard of. Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey: The Warmth and Ease of Indian Cooking, written by husband and wife team, Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij, who together run two notable restaurants in Vancouver. (Their third cookbook was published earlier this month.)  “Relax, Honey”: How irresistible is that sub-title, anyway?

After examining the  beautifully designed and gorgeously hued front cover, I flipped to the back flap photograph, and saw a familiar cherubic face:  “Dude!  I know you! You were on Chopped Canada, eh?” I Googled Vikram Vij and sure enough, he was one of the first judges on that show. The warmly beautiful yet unpretentious-looking woman snuggled in his arms in the same photo is Meeru Dhalwala.

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I had other plans for this post, but I was so enticed by the beauty of the book, so intrigued by the innovative recipes, and so drawn in by its generous spirit that I immediately looked for something to cook right now.  I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I would at long last find a recipe for the wonderful buttery tomato sauce that comes with Indian butter chicken or murgh makhani in every Indian restaurant (except, as it turns out, at Vij’s). This is a sauce that is often so delicious that I want to lick my plate. At home I have no compunction, but Indian restaurants maintain such high standards in the dignity and formality departments that I fear my naturally indecorous behavior would find me banned for life.  A risk not worth taking. When it comes to food, I am not civilized. No, I will eat bacon with my fingers; I will tuck my napkin into my shirt; I will lick my fingers; I will use a hunk of bread to sop up gravy; I will stick my nose right up and into a dish to better identify a mystery ingredient; and I absolutely refuse to leave a little tid-bit on the side of my plate as so many people do out of “politeness.” Frankly, any guest who offends me with such faux-politesse will never be invited back. Yeah, and I don’t do those dainty little dabs with a napkin at the corners of my mouth either:  Life is too short!

butterytomatosauce

Homestyle butter sauce.

In looking for that buttery tomato sauce, I hit upon Butter Chicken Schnitzel, and did a double-take:  Was I having a Ruth Prawer Jhabvala moment?  It reminded me of my fabulous Mittel-European mother’s fabulous Mittel-European Wiener schnitzel.  Of course, in those days, we ate veal, because who knew? Although not normally a fan of “fusion,”  I read the recipe and was so charmed by the back story (and the prospect of schnitzel) that I had to try it. Spoiler alert:  the back story has to do with chicken nuggets, which resonated with me, because when Popeye was a little boy, all he would eat was chicken McNuggets.  No matter what I did, he would  swallow food only from McDonald’s. There was much Sturm und Drang — his and mine. There were many desperate calls to the pediatrician  who finally convinced me that Popeye would live and thrive, and to let him eat at McDonald’s. I did. He did. But my feelings are still hurt.

As for the Butter Chicken Schnitzel recipe,  I was bewildered by the fact that there was no butter in the butter sauce’s list of ingredients.  What am I missing?  I checked my  Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, and she uses butter. I sniffed high and low all over the internet like a pig hunting for truffles. I found recipes that smugly boasted of no butter or no cream, no butter and no cream, but I could find no explanation of a butter sauce recipe that doesn’t even mention the fact that it doesn’t contain butter. So, I Googled the restaurant, and sent an e-mail cry for help:  “Is this an editing failure or am I just an ignoramus?”

And that, dear reader, is why God invented cyberspace. Help came from none other than Meeru Dhalwala herself:

Butter Chicken refers to a traditional name of a type of chicken curry that is very rich and creamy. .  . . The “butter” in the title really refers to cream.

AND NOW WE KNOW. 

Butter Chicken Schnitzel
(adapted from Vij’s At Home; click this link for original version)

Ingredients

Buttery Tomato  Sauce

¼ cup canola oil
6 to 9 medium garlic cloves, pushed through a press or minced
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 tbsp. sweet paprika
2 tsp. garam masala
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 ½ cups water
2 cups non-fat Half & Half

Chicken Schnitzel
(Note: In order to spare our arteries, I baked the schnitzel instead of frying it.)

2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally, and pounded lightly to uniform thickness with a meat mallet
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp.  salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
Canola oil spray

Instructions

Chicken

  • Heat oven to 350°;
  • Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and spray well with canola oil;
  • LIne up three dinner plates in FEB order:  Flour, Eggs, Bread crumbs;
  • Take the chicken slices, one at a time, and dip into the Flour, then the Eggs, and then the Bread crumbs, shaking off any excess after each dip;
  • Lay each slice on the prepared sheet pan;
  • Holding the can of canola oil spray a good two feet above the cutlets, spray the cutlets lightly but thoroughly;
  • Bake on middle oven rack for 30 to 45 minutes or until golden;
  • Turn the cutlets and bake another 15 minutes or until golden;
  • Remove and let rest;
  • When ready to serve, slice each breast piece crosswise in one-inch slices, or leave whole.

schnitzel2

While the chicken is baking, prepare the Buttery Tomato Sauce:

  • Heat the canola oil and cook on medium heat for 1 minute;
  • Add the garlic and cook until golden, but do not allow the garlic to brown or it will make the sauce harsh and bitter;
  • Add the tomato paste, stir and lower the heat;
  • Stir in the salt and the spices, keep stirring and cook for 4 minutes;
  • Add water and Half & Half, and remove from heat.
butterchickenschnitzel

Basmati rice, chicken schnitzel, and buttery tomato sauce. Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Confession:  Mr. Darcy liked the sauce but found the spices a little too strong for his palate, so I added a little margarine to his serving to smooth it out. And this time it was he who licked the plate! No doubt had I used the whipping cream called for in the original recipe instead of Half & Half, the “butter” would never have been necessary, but heavy cream has 50 calories a tablespoon as opposed to the 10 calories in non-fat Half & Half. It’s hard to unring that bell!

chickpeas1

Chickpeas in Star Anise and Date Masala called to me next. While I am not a big fan of chickpeas, they are healthy, so I eat them. However, I am a very big fan of dates and star anise, and this is an amazing dish.  It’s fast and simple to make with subtle and complex sweet and savory flavors. It’s almost a dessert and I imagine it would be delicious over ice cream.  It goes well with rice, with lettuce, or just out of the pot.  Serve it hot, serve it cold.

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Delicious as an appetizer, a side dish, a main dish, or a snack, it’s simply impossible to stop eating these chickpeas. Just ask me; I’ve tried!

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Dinner of Butter Chicken Schnitzel with basmati rice and Chickpeas in Star Anise on a bed of lettuce dressed with just olive oil and salt. So happy that there is more in the freezer!

There are many restaurant cookbooks that promise restaurant recipes for quality home cooking. Vij’s At Home, or as I like to call it, Relax, Honey, actually lives up to the promise without condescension, without having to buy restaurant equipment, without long lists of recherché ingredients, and without having to hire either a sous-chef, a line-cook, or a dishwasher for mountains of pots and pans. Be warned, though: once you start cooking from Relax Honey, you will not be able to stop. Just ask me; I’ve tried!

Beet Greens Sautéed in Ginger, Lemon and Cumin, anyone?

Yes, please!