Monday, October 02, 2006


Basil Chicken

Finally things are up and running again! Actually, they have been for a few days now, but my angelheart Eric and I had not really made anything worthy of mention before this weekend.

In retrospect, I should have taken photos of the gorgeous sumac-crusted New York steak that Eric made for dinner on Friday night, served alongside green beans that were steamed in bacon-infused oil and garlic. I really do not know why it didn't cross my mind to take photos, especially since it was the first time we had enough time to make proper use of the kitchen since the plumbers invaded us for a week and a bit.

I did, however, take photos of the quince and pomegranates that we picked up at the Long Beach farmers' market on Friday morning. Truthfully, the quince aren't all golden yet, so I should not have bought them (hopefully Suzanne Goin, LA chef par excellence of Lucques and AOC fame, will not have a hissy-fit at me - I know how impeccable her eye is when selecting produce). I was so excited when I saw that Joe at Culinary in the Desert had come across some for a gorgeous breakfast-for-dinner meal of Orange-Yoghurt Pancakes with Quince topping that I just could not walk away from the stand without at least picking the closest to ripe ones. I am going to consult one of the (too?) many British cookery books I have to see what I might want to try my hand at - my experience is that those in the United Kingdom and in the Middle East know best what to do with these gorgeous tropical-scented fruit.

My angelheart Eric made a lovely, soul-warming lunch today. (I know, I know...I've been whining about not getting into the kitchen, and when I can, it is Eric that cooks. In my defense, last night I experimented slightly with the Hamam Mahshi bul Burghul that I made for Weekend Cookbook Challenege # 8 - you can drool over the round-up of it here - by using just one 1.5 pound young chicken instead of two cornish hens, and we are now considering this for Thanksgiving.) This Basil Chicken recipe is one from his mother's kitchen, a dish that has survived the long trek from the Taipei kitchen of Eric's childhood to our Long Beach home.

Basil Chicken

1 strip bacon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3-4 gloves garlic, finely chopped
1 serrano chili, thinly chopped
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken legs, cut into 2"x2" (5cm squared) pieces
1 cup dry white wine or rice wine
1 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey (we use Pohutakawa honey from New Zealand, which adds a nice salty tang...yes, salty - the Pohutakawa is a tree that typically grows on cliffs, thereby absorbing the sea spray with its concomitant salt)
3/4 cup basil leaves, left whole

1) Brown the bacon in the oil until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon.
2) Sautee the onion, garlic, and chili in the oil until the onion is translucent.
3) Add the chicken pieces and brown them.
4) Add the wine, soy sauce, honey, and water.
5) Braise the chicken pieces over medium heat until the liquid has reduced by one cup or so (approximately half-an-hour) or until the chicken has a beautiful darkish brown hue.
6) Feel free to dispose of any fat that is collecting on the surface of the broth.
7) Add the basil leaves, then cover and let steam for 5 minutes, allowing for the basil to infuse with the liquid and chicken.

For a nutty variation, feel free to add 1/2 cup roasted walnuts or chestnuts as the chicken is braising. Also, if you are at all intolerant of salt for whatever reason, cut down on the soy sauce a bit - perhaps by as much as 1/3 of a cup. Also, for those with weak bowels or with a preference for mild heat, try to remove the membranes from the serrano chili before slicing it thinly.

As to the service of the dish, it was done so simply in bowls with scallion pancakes on the side to soak up the broth. Nothing could be more earthy and satisfying on a day that looks like it is ushering in the fall.


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