I’m going to make a bold statement. If you don’t like stew, then you basically don’t like food. Because stew is the quintessential comfort food. It’s a slow cooked melding of vegetables, a little liquid (and some sort of protein if you’re lucky) that combine into a thick, rich, flavorful – well, stew (for lack of a better word) that fills you up with savory goodness and warms you from the inside. Every country and every culture has it’s version of stew and it is my ambition in this life, to taste. Every. Single. One. Some people want to cure cancer. I want to eat stew.
Recently, I took step one step closer to realizing my dream when I filmed Adesha preparing her version of Nigerian Chicken Stew. As a native of Oakland, California she would be the first to tell you that her version of this stew might not be the most traditional or “authentic”, but like all great recipes, it’s got a great story. And Adesha is a great storyteller. As you’ll see, she’s a complete natural (way more than that dork who appears in most of the videos on this site – um, that would be me) in front of the camera. Oh yeah, maybe it’s because she’s a professional singer (www.adeshmusic.com) and so she has what many of us non professionals don’t: stage presence. In any case, she makes an easy and delicious chicken stew and has a good time making it. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did filming it.
Here are the ingredients to make the chicken stew (serves about 4)
3 roma (plum) tomatoes
2 medium sized onions
1/2 bell pepper (green, red or yello)
sea salt (to taste)
Nigerian pepper (to taste) – can also use cayenne or any other hot chili powder
powdered iyan (pounded yam) – 1 cup = approx 4 servings.
As some of you may or may not know, since moving back to the Bay Area, I’ve been talking to my good friend Matt about starting up a dumpling company. Now, as of yet, our plans a still in the, well planning stages, but one thing we have made forward progress on is our recipe. Flavor-wise, we’re pretty close. We’re focusing on a pretty basic pork dumpling – pork, cabbage, garlic chives, ginger, garlic, soy and sugar. The thing that we’re doing differently than other times we’ve made dumplings, is grinding our own meat. So we’ve been experimenting with the different sizes of the grind trying to figure out what grind will give us the meaty and firm texture we want in a dumpling. Given Matt’s book learning, he’s taken to salting the pork before we grind it which not only adds flavor, but changes the texture of the meat. I think it dries it out and firms it up a little bit. In our first or second trial, we thought we’d figured it out: going with a large grind in order to maximize the chunky meat bits in the dumpling. However we found that while the individual chunks of meat were satisfying, the filling as a whole just wasn’t holding together very well after cooking (boiling). Perhaps too much cabbage? Perhaps the cabbage was not dry enough? Not enough mixing? Too much mixing? Did we need to add cornstarch? In taking a scientific approach we realized that there were so many variables. How could this be? It’s not rocket brain science surgery! I remembered that in my (vast) dumpling making experience, I would get my ground pork from a butcher in Chinatown and it was rather small grind, but the filling held together quite well even when I added a whole host of other ingredients and hand mixed it like crazy. So, keeping all the other ingredients proportionally consistent we decided to change course and try the small grind to see if that would impact the way the filling would hold together. This is what we discovered…
Okay I think I’ve done it. At seven months since my last post, I’ve broken the record of the longest time between blog entries in the history of blogging! It seems rather appropriate since personal blogs seem to be becoming historical relics in and of themselves. No matter. I’m back. And I come bearing excuses for my absence. First of all I’m lazy. Second of all, I’ve been working pretty much straight for the last 8 months which is kind of an anomaly for me and has left me with little free time to blog (I’m lazy, remember?) And third of all, the main reason why I’ve been lacking in time is Shefali and I went and had ourselves a little dumpling! That is, we had a baby girl almost three months ago. Her name is Kaya. And to judge by her size at birth and and her prodigious growth these past few months, my girl is an eater! Ok, it’s been all breast milk thus far, but we’ve been eating the same variety of delicious food so hopefully it’s all filtering through mom’s boobs and into Kaya’s stomach so that when she does start eating solid food, she’ll be well primed to eat good tings! I must say, it’s true all those clichés about the life altering aspects of having a child. I have never loved anyone like I love my daughter. She is the best thing I’ve ever had a hand in creating (and I really didn’t have to do that much). But one of the things I’m most excited about is introducing her to the world of food, cooking for her and of course eating with her. For now, please enjoy a few photos of our dumpling. As a new dad, I can’t resist.
Kaya dumpling. One day old and all wrapped up and ready to go home.
Kaya dumpling does her best impression of a burrito.
A week old and Kaya dumpling is already getting big
Kaya does her best impression of the Pope flashing a “westside” gang sign while also summoning the waiter, “Eh, garcon!”
Kaya’s first dim sum with her Mama and Yeye. She slept through it.
Kaya’s first Chinese takeout.
Kaya’s first taste of smell of roasted brussel sprouts in a tahini sauce. Delish!
Kaya’s first (and definitely not last) meal at Tanoreen. She slept thought it.
Kaya’s first hamachi special sushi plate. She slept through it.
Kaya’s first pastrami reuben at Tom’s Diner. She fussed through it.
Kaya’s first hipster food festival with special musical guests, Hall and Oates!!! the food fest? M’eh. Hall and Oates? Awesome. She slept through them.
Kaya’s first amazing wedding reception. Our friend’s James and Christine didn’t mess around for their reception. Tthe appetizers consisted of among other things, a pasta station where they made fresh mussels and pasta to order and passed around whole lamb chops as finger food. Stupendous! Kaya awoke to the smell of lamb.
Kaya’s first filet minon. Again James and Christine did me proud with the food at their wedding. It was top notch. Kaya was awake but let me eat. God, I love her.
Shef and I hosted our third annual July 4th grill fest and I must say it was a success. And by “success” I mean there was a lot of delicious food and nobody left hungry. As has become tradition, I made my famous C’s Pulled Pork ™. And by “famous” I mean it’s known among friends to be pretty damn good. To add to the porkiness, I also made some ribs, because really, pork spare ribs are basically like pulled pork but on the bone – at least the way I make them. Also, we grilled up some jerk chicken using this marinade that Michelle L. brought back for us on her recent trip to Jamaica. This marinade is called Eaton’s and it is the bomb. Our lovely guests brought all sorts of goodies like sausage, steak, corn, watermelon, banana cream pie, homemade coconut ice cream… mmm… Please enjoy some photos.
I pull some pork.
pork anticipation faces
pulled pork – pre sauce
pulled pork ready to go with extra sauce on the side
Niels and his pulled pork sandwich
Niels gets down to business
Niels doesn’t mess around
Niels puts some serious thought into tasting
Niels gets lost in his thoughts and taste.
Little Eva likes pulled pork too. So young, and such good taste.
Beautiful ribeye steaks. Thanks, Wells.
The spices of the jerk marinade blend perfectly with the smoke from the grill to produce some of the best chicken on earth.
Sausage fest! Sausages from a South American butcher shop in Queens. Thanks, Donna and Anthony
kale salad, cole slaw, barley salad with roasted vegetables – because we like to keep things healthy.
the beginning of a beautiful sunset
Palana and Wells
Shef and an Italian beer
an Italian and a Swede: Alesandro and Niels
Irish and Filipina: Niall and Marissa
Jason and Sheila
Kei and Minori
people on the bulding of the Jewish hospital apt building
Waine’s still hungry
one of the best july 4th sunsets on record
Minori gets a nice shot of moi
is that a fire in the distance
Oh the Macy’s July 4th fireworks! At least we can still seen them from our roof.
Summer is here and that means one thing: slow cooked, rich and hearty stew! Kidding. Yeah we all know summer is a time to eat a little lighter what with the warmer weather and increasing abundance of fresh summer vegetables. Also as newbies to the whole CSA (community supported agrigculture) movement we get a weekly supply of vegetables some of which are familiar and some kind of new. Our first week we got three different heads of lettuce and ended up eating big main course salads four nights in a row. Here’s one of them.
Salad with three different lettuces, grape tomatoes, onions and feta cheese. It think I made a simple dressing of olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, pepper and dijon mustard.
And then last week we got rubarb which I’ve never actually cooked. In fact, I know of only one thing that calls for rubarb and that’s strawberry rubarb pie. So, lacking originality and inspiration that’s what I made. I made my own crust (2 and 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 2 sticks of butter, 1 and 1/2 tbspns of sugar, 1 tspn of salt and about 6 tbspns of ice cold water). For the filling I loosely followed this recipe. And here’s the pie fresh out of the oven:
I was pretty pyched to see how well this pie held up through the baking. Nothing overflowed or oozed out the side or over the top.
Oh snap! I guess a combination of the filling still being hot and not using enough thickening agent (I used 1/3 cup of corn starch - more than the recommended 1/4 cup), the filling just kind of came spilling out. I was pissed. But at least it was delicious. Next time though, I'd use less sugar. It was a bit sweet for my taste. Maybe one cup of sugar instead of the 1 and 1/3 cup called for in the recipe.
I figured by tilting the pie, the contents would be forced back into the crust. It kind of worked.