Chicken Enchiladas w/ Salsa Verde

When we lived in Texas, we didn’t cook enchiladas at home very often because there were so many readily available restaurant options, most of which were far superior to anything homemade. But since moving to the Midwest, where Tex-Mex is neither abundant nor appetizing (except for this place, which we were thrilled to discover just opened about two weeks ago), we’re on our own when we crave our favorite Texas fare. So when Dan noticed tomatillos at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, we decided it would be a good time to attempt enchiladas verdes at home. If you’ve never had them (I feel bad for you), enchiladas verdes are basically enchiladas (cheese and whatever other filling you like—onion, chicken, pork, beef, etc—rolled in corn tortillas and baked) with a green sauce on top. Done well, the sauce is anything but basic, with a bit of tang from the tomatillos, heat from a jalapeno, and complexity from onion and garlic. When researching Tex-Mex recipes, one of our go-to resources is Homesick Texan, whose recipes are equally authentic and delicious. Her salsa verde recipe is no exception and provides just the right flavor combination to scratch that Tex-Mex itch. Since we didn’t have any leftover cooked chicken or pork to use in the enchiladas, we adapted this recipe to season and cook the chicken for the filling. There’s still nothing quite like the real thing (especially from here), but these enchiladas are the perfect homemade substitute until our next trip back to the Lone Star state.

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Three Cup Chicken

We love Asian food and eat it at least 3 to 4 times per month. In addition to favorites at local restaurants (the sole fish fillet in chili bean sauce from Lao Sze Chuan, wasabi shumai from Coast Sushi, and pretty much anything with kimchi in it from Joy Yee’s Noodles, to name a few), we have several go-to homemade Asian dishes that we often crave: Korean chicken, ponzu sea bassbeef & broccoli stir-fry, and Thai coconut curry soup. When we saw Ching-He Huang make her “Three Cup Chicken” on an episode of her show “Easy Chinese,” we had to try it as a potential addition to our homemade Asian recipe repertoire. It’s easy to make with ingredients we typically have on hand (since we cook Asian food at home fairly often): cooking oil; garlic; ginger; chicken thighs; soy sauce; rice wine (also called mirin); toasted sesame oil; brown sugar; and basil. The recipe needs a bit of tweaking to achieve the thickened, slightly sticky sauce that characterizes this dish, but it has just the right mix of Asian flavors we enjoy, and we’ll definitely make it again.

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Slow-Cooker Lentil Soup

When we think lentil soup, we usually think Christmas. Not only because its delicious-ness is a gift, but also because this soup is the perfect way to use up every bit of the Greenberg smoked turkey that Dan’s East Texas colleagues generously sent us for the holidays. My parents make their own holiday version of lentil soup most years too, using a ham bone and ham, which is what I grew up eating for Christmas dinner every year. The smoked turkey version (with homemade turkey stock) will probably always be our favorite, but this recipe from the cookbook “Slow Cooker Revolution” is also really good, takes less time and effort to prepare, and does not require the use of a smoked turkey or a ham bone. So realistically, we can (and will!) make it more often than once per year.  Although the list of ingredients is rather long (onion, garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, dried porcini mushrooms, thyme, chicken and vegetable broths, bacon, carrots, portobello mushroom caps, lentils, bay leaves and Swiss chard), the slow-cooker does most of the work, and the nearly vegetarian result (the bacon is just for flavor) is a lighter, yet still robust and earthy take on our old holiday favorite. Merry Christmas Eating!

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Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken

Martha Stewart’s got nothing on our sister-in-law in Brooklyn. When we recently visited her, Dan’s brother and their adorable boys, she made her own version of Martha’s slow-cooker buffalo chicken recipe, and we were most impressed. After just a few bites, we knew it was a crave-worthy dish that would be added to our regular meal rotation. And we were excited to share it with pretty much anyone we know who cooks and happens to like the spicy, tangy goodness that is buffalo sauce. Our first attempt turned out a little more BBQ than buffalo (I think because I went off-recipe and used chicken stock instead of water to de-glaze), but we loved the classic, low & slow cooking that resulted in tender, juicy, flavorful “pulled” chicken without the use of a smoker or grill. After minimal prep steps of browning the chicken, sauteing the onions and mixing up the sauce ingredients (which can be adapted to the spice and tang levels of your liking), the slow-cooker does all the work, making this dish as easy as it is delicious. We envision ourselves making buffalo chicken often this summer—setting it up in the morning to cook for hours while we read/relax/play at the (lakeside) beach, then strolling home to a mouthwatering dinner that requires no more effort than shredding fork-tender chicken, spooning it onto buns and opening a chilled bottle of Rose wine. As Martha herself would say, “It’s a good thing.” Indeed.

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Thai Coconut Curry Soup

With ingredients including coconut milk, curry paste, lemongrass and kaffir (dried lime leaves), this recipe sounds a lot more intimidating than it actually is. Not only is it easy to make, but it tastes so good that you’ll want to stock your pantry with these items to keep this soup in your regular meal rotation. When we cook new dishes, we often make notes on changes we made to the original recipe or comment on how the dish turned out. The first time we made this soup, my notes on the printed recipe included the statement “holy sh*t GOOD” because we loved it that much! We adapted the original recipe a bit and followed some of the suggestions from this version, and now we have a crave-worthy soup recipe that we look forward to making at least once a month. Whenever I see a can of coconut milk (surprisingly, readily available at the grocery store), I think of this soup in the best, most mouth-watering way.

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Roast Chicken Thighs w/ Pancetta and Olives

Are olives a food group? If not, I personally think they should be. I could incorporate olives into just about any dish and be happy (except for Asian food, that would be weird). Their briny flavor complements all kinds of main ingredients, including chicken, fish, beef and vegetables. My love of these little fruits compels me to try pretty much any recipe calling for olives, including this one, which was even more compelling because it also calls for pancetta (Can you tell I’m a fan of all things salty?) The olives and pancetta are enhanced by their Mediterranean food friends olive oil, garlic, thyme and oregano; the red pepper flakes add a nice kick; and all of the components combine to elevate otherwise bland roast chicken to a flavorful new level. The only change I would make is to add more olives. Just kidding. Not really.

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Crawfish Etouffee

Mark Twain probably said it best: “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” For us, one of the foods that most epitomizes The Big Easy is crawfish etouffee. Done right, it’s rich in a subtle yet complex way, with a nice amount of heat and a silky, comfort-food texture. And the fact that this Cajun specialty is made with the small crustacean also known as a “mudbug” gives the dish a gritty undertone evocative of Post-Katrina New Orleans. (“Gritty” in the conceptual sense, as in moxie or determination. If yours is literally gritty, then your crawfish probably weren’t cleaned properly and maybe you shouldn’t eat them.) There are a lot of different etouffee recipes out there, but this version seems to be the most authentic homemade interpretation of one of New Orleans’ most sinfully delicious favorites.

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Lamb Kebabs

We seem to be having a lamb “moment” these days, cooking it much more often than we ever have in the past.  So far, our favorite ways of preparing lamb are Guinness-glazed and Mediterranean-style.  Who could blame us, really, when perfectly grilled lamb is so tender with just the right amount of richness.  We also enjoy kebabs of many kinds (including beef, shrimppork, and more pork), so when we found Ina Garten’s recipe for lamb kebabs, we knew we had a winner.  The lamb marinates in a simple mixture of garlic, thyme, rosemary (or oregano if you don’t prefer rosemary), red wine, red wine vinegar and salt for 8 hours or up to 2 days.  Grill the lamb on skewers with onion and tomatoes, then serve over a bed of couscous with a lemony sauce on the side.  The result is a surprisingly sophisticated meal, considering how easy it is to make.  The marinade imparts complex flavor with minimal effort, and grilling the lamb kebab-style allows for uniform cooking to just the right doneness (the rare side of medium-rare is how we like our lamb.)  The sauce requires all the skill of boiling a pot of water, and grilling skewers of onion and tomatoes with the meat incorporates vegetables without having to come up with a separate side dish.  Couscous (or some other, similar granule-sized pasta or grain) provides nice texture, and the most basic version of it is as easy to make as the sauce (a/k/a bringing liquid to a boil.)  You can fancy up the couscous with sauteed shallots, toasted pine nuts and chopped fresh parsley if you want (as Ina does), but the kebabs and sauce provide enough flavor that plain couscous works just as well.  Looks like we’ve got ourselves another “keeper” lamb recipe.  Too bad I won’t let us eat red meat more often!

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The English translation of this recipe for Braciole di Manza is “Italian beef rolls in tomato sauce.”  Braciole (pronounced “bra-jule,” loosely and inexpertly if you are me) is a dish that Dan orders just about every time we go to one of our all-time favorite Italian restaurants in the town where he grew up.  When researching recipes to attempt to recreate braciole at home, we found that while the cooking method is consistent across nearly all recipes — thinly pounded beef topped with filling ingredients, rolled up and tied, then slowly cooked in a simmering red sauce — the filling components vary widely (other than breadcrumbs and cheese, which are pretty standard), with everything from prosciutto, parsley and rosemary, to spinach and mushrooms, to pine nuts and raisins.  Interestingly, my mom makes a similar style of dish, but with roots in Germany rather than Italy and totally different ingredients.  Her “rollfleisch” as we call it (I found related recipes called “rouladen” online) uses bacon, celery, onion and bell pepper for the filling, then the rolled and tied beef is cooked in gravy (or broth, wine or water.)  For our own, inaugural version of homemade rolled-meat-with-filling-cooked-in-liquid, we went with a basic braciole filled with breadcrumbs, Parmesan, garlic, parsley, oregano and Provolone, cooked in a simple red sauce.  The finished dish was anything but basic or simple, with rich, beefy goodness that complemented and infused the sweetness of the tomato sauce.  We’ll definitely make homemade braciole again, and maybe next time we’ll add prosciutto to the filling for another layer of meaty flavor.  But first, we plan to try our hand at a FoodieLawyer interpretation of rollfleisch.  Even better, we could take this slow-cooked, stuffed and rolled meat thing global, with versions inspired by all different types of cuisine — Mexican, Asian, Greek, Indian, French — so many possibilities!

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