Today I want to talk about what might be the THE quintessential food of my childhood. The one that reminds me of home more than any other. It was featured at more birthday dinners than anything else. (It was also featured at a very recent Christmas Eve.) Everyone loved it, even the picky ones. Behold Special Chicken. It’s really called that in the cookbook, we did not make it up.
Special Chicken is soy-marinated, batter-fried chicken wings. They are delicious, and fairly easy to make. The recipe came from this little flip top Chinese food cookbook my parents have, and this page is particularly well used.
As I have mentioned before, when we were very little, my mom did a lot of the cooking, but sometime during my ‘tween years (I think) the role shifted to my dad and stayed there. But not these. These are firmly entrenched in Mom’s camp, forever to remain. Many have tried to duplicate, none have succeeded. Truly. My attempt is close, and good enough for those who don’t know, but they are sub par by comparison. The littlest tried them for Christmas and says they were enjoyable, but not right. As far as I know, my mom has always followed the recipe exactly – she’s never told me otherwise – but maybe that’s her trick. If we can’t replicate, she can always lure us home with the original.
There are two things I have adjusted a little from the recipe. The first is the temperature. At 375 the oil is way too hot. The wings get too dark and the batter gets unpleasant. 325 is the way to go. (I am not sure what temp Mom uses, since she doesn’t use a deep fry thermometer. She just knows when it’s right.) The recipe also suggests marinating the chicken wings for an hour, but I recommend longer. All day, if you’ve got it. Marinate overnight! It makes this a delightful option for a weekday. These usually meant a special occasion for us, or at the very least a Sunday dinner, but they don’t have to be. Get wild! Make them on a Tuesday! I most recently made them on a Wednesday at the behest of a delightful house guest. (The word is spreading!) They involve deep frying, but don’t let that scare you. It doesn’t require much oil, especially if you have a wok. (Do you have a wok? They are great, get a wok.) Make sure you make extra, because the joy of eating them hot just ever so slightly trumps the joy of eating them out of a sandwich bag the next day – lunch or even breakfast. Doesn’t matter which.
And now, just because I feel like it, and it’s fun, a rundown of some of the best things I’ve eaten in Boston recently and some of my favorite Boston dishes, in general –
A cold corn and coconut milk soup from East By Northeast – revelatory
The whipped goat’s milk feta snack at Tavern Road is one of my favorite snacks OF ALL TIME. So simple and so so good. (They also make an amazing risotto over there. Every preparation has been great.)
The breakfast sandwich at Clover is way better than it has any right to be.
The corn dog at Trina’s Starlite Lounge is a delight.
The johnnycake at Neptune is just nonsense it’s so good. Seriously, mind-blowingly, crazy crazy good.
The classic Chinese BBQ pork sandwich from Bon Me is my favorite lunch.
The Baloney Pony sandwich at the Biggie Brunch at Alden & Harlow still haunts me, and alas, I am afraid I will never get to enjoy it again. I’ll have to settle for the chicken fried rabbit over there. Poor me.
The burger at JM Curley’s. Always and forever.
The corn at Toro, but everyone knows this.
The tuna crudo at Row 34.
There are others, so many others, but that is what I am thinking about right now.
Special Chicken (serves 4-6)
For the chicken:
2.5 – 3 lbs chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
oil for frying
For the marinade:
2 tbl soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbl sherry
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp salt
For the batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken wing pieces, stir to coat, and marinate in the fridge for at least one hour or preferably overnight.
Heat the oil in a wok or another high sided pan or pot to 325 degrees.
Mix the batter ingredients together in a small bowl. It will form a thick sticky dough, and won’t come together cohesively, but that’s ok, just mix a bit until the ingredients are starting to combine. Add the batter to the bowl with the chicken and stir until the marinade and the batter come together to coat the chicken. This will be kind of a sticky mess, and will take some time to come together, but keep stirring until it does. The batter will thin when mixed with the marinade, and all the chicken pieces will be coated.
Deep fry the chicken in batches, without overcrowding, until the pieces are brown and crispy and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate lined with a paper towel and let cool slightly before serving. Let the oil come back to temperature between batches, and continue to fry until all the chicken is finished. Enjoy!!
Good LORD these things take me a long time to write. I made this on August 11th, and started blogging about it the next day…pfthffttttttttt.
I made this several months back and it was delicious and quick and crowd pleasing. I made my own version recently, and it’s even easier and maybe even more delicious. My version skips the browning for oven roasting, and the pan sauce for a yogurt based marinade. There is still harissa, and there are still chickpeas, and there is even less work. Everyone wins! This is really easy. I combined yogurt and harissa, and marinated the chicken in it overnight. The night I ate it I lightly oiled a baking pan, dumped two cans of chickpeas in the bottom, then laid the chicken pieces on top, with an lemon slice on top of each one, and stuck it in the oven. I sprinkled it with parsley and served it over jasmine rice.
I made the harissa because I felt like it-I used this recipe, but go right ahead a use a store bought one! (If you do make the harissa, it lasts forever and I am finding all sorts of things to do with it – though I suppose the same would go for store bought…) All the recipes are a little different, most have dried chiles, some include roasted red pepper. I’m not going to lie to you, I have an n of 1, but I am quite pleased with the recipe I used. It had depth of flavor and good spiciness and ingredients that I mostly had on hand, and it smells wonderful. It is delightful.
Without further ado…
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. -Yeats
This summer was…heavy. It seems chaos reigns at the moment.
Fall is not typically a season of renewal, but chaos can’t hold either, right?
This one was really hard. Welcome back to Neverland Pan the Man.
Imma just leave this right here: Race/Off
Oh my god, NO. Nopenopenopenope. Who wrote that nonsense and, better question, HOW IN THE WORLD DID AN EDITORIAL TEAM LET THAT BE PUBLISHED. The last couple sentences. This is why we shouldn’t have nice things. I can’t wait for next week’s followup: “Revisiting The Holocaust: Sometimes Hitler Was Nice.”
Yes, Grandpa Joe, Yes.
Slow, sarcastic, five-months-too-late clap for the Ravens and the NFL, I guess? Now please read this (Roxane Gay, who wrote that piece, has two books out this year. Her first, a novel called An Untamed State was…something else. It is amazing and stirring and dark and powerful and hard to read, which makes it hard to recommend, except that it is so beautiful at the same time, that I want to recommend it to everyone. So read it, if you can read such things, but warning, it is visceral and tragic and awful and amazing) and also this, and watch this. Thank you Keith. Update: Everything is awful, light it on fire.
It’s apparently cut-the-bullshit week over here at B&G. I’m ok with that.
But there was good stuff!
Why isn’t she Queen of the World yet?
Serena. LIKE. A. BOSS.
I made these again last week. They hold up.
Did y’all see THIS thing of beauty? It is going to be SO MUCH FUN.
What I am reading: I just finished The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me by Susanna Kingsbury. I also finally finished A Clash of Kings. Mr. Martin, edit thyself, holy hell. I am currently reading The Last Days of California by Mary Miller and next on the list is Code Name Verity.
What I am listening to: Sia and of course and always, Beyonce.
I have another vacation planned! I am going to Key West and Nashville in October AND I CAN NOT WAIT.
Happy fall. May the weather throughout be as perfect as it was today.
Harissa-Yogurt Chicken with Chickpeas and Lemon (serves 6ish)
1 whole 4-5 lb Chicken, cut in 10 pieces (wings, thighs, legs, each breast half cut in half again) or feel free to use chicken pieces of your choice. Remove the skin if you prefer.
1 cup Plain Yogurt (greek or regular is fine)
1/3 cup Harissa
2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained
10 slices Lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Splash of oil for the pan
Jasmine rice and parsley to serve
The night before you are planning on serving this, combine the yogurt, harissa and chicken pieces with a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl or a ziploc bag. Mix together to coat chicken evenly, and refrigerate overnight.
On the day you are serving the chicken, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly rub a baking dish (a 9×13 fit the pieces well) with olive oil, and add the chickpeas to the pan. Place the chicken pieces on top of the chickpeas and place a lemon slice on top of each piece of chicken. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 25-30 minutes until the pieces are cooked through.
Sprinkle the chicken with parsley, more salt and pepper to taste, and serve the chicken and chickpeas over jasmine rice. SO EASY.
These were a bit of a fluke (these were also inordinately difficult to photograph) – sometimes the best things are. I get meat delivered monthly from a company that sources beef, pork and lamb from farms within 250 miles of the city, then delivers it packed in dry ice right to your door. (Every day I become more of a hermit.) I love it. The meat is delicious, they have awesome things like trotters and tails and organ meats and fresh eggs, and it is so convenient! Plus it is reasonably priced AND when they send me things I wouldn’t typically buy, I get to be creative and experimental.
So I had what I thought were boneless pork chops in the freezer – when I typically buy pork chops I buy thick cut bone-in chops, and then I coat them in panko, pan roast them and serve them with apples, sage and brown sugar, which is one of my favorite meals of all time, but is not summery. That is totally what I would have made if I had known they were bone in, but because I thought they were boneless I got creative – divine intervention! I thought they would be great stuffed with the manchego and garlic scape pesto (you can still find scapes out there – get some, make pesto) that I had in the fridge, and they would have been, but they were even better when I found the speck I had forgotten about in the cheese drawer. (Use prosciutto if you want, in this case, they would be totally interchangeable and equally delicious, I just happen to love the speck from the local meat store.) I just made a quick mixture with chopped up speck, grated manchego and the pesto and then I used a thin sharp knife to cut a slit in side of the chop. A thin knife is great here, because it allows you to cut a thin slit in the meat on the edge, so the stuffing doesn’t fall out, but open it up wider in closer to the bone to maximize the stuffing ability (this would be a great place for a video, because I don’t think my description is even remotely helpful.) Basically, just try to get as much stuffing in there as you can.
Because I used a grill pan inside, I preheated the oven to 400 and finished the chops in there so I didn’t smoke myself out of my apartment, but if you are using a real grill because you’re fancy, there’s no need for the oven. These are crazy quick and very flavorful and feel like lots of effort even though they are not. Perfect for a summer dinner party. Of course they would also be lovely using boneless chops. These cook up really quickly, and the filling just requires about five minutes to put together, so these are a great weekday dinner. I served them over a salad of farro, summer squash, pine nuts and parmesan, but they would be great with anything mildly flavored. The filling is rich and salty, so you don’t want anything that would compete. (Also, take it easy on the salt, the meat and cheese in the filling are plenty salty.)
Things about things:
Stuffed Pork Chops with Speck, Manchego and Garlic Scape Pesto (serves 2)
2 thick-cut (at least an inch, an inch and a half would work) pork chops, bone-in or boneless
1 oz (4-5 slices) speck or prosciutto, chopped in small pieces
2 oz manchego, grated
1/4 cup garlic scape pesto (basil pesto will work too!)
salt and pepper to taste
If you are cooking indoors, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Using the thinnest, sharpest knife you have, cut a small (about 1″ wide) slit in the side of each chop, then use the tip of the knife to increase the size of the pocket in the middle of the chop and in closer to the bone (if there is one.) Try not to puncture the outside of the chop anywhere else.
In a small bowl, mix the grated cheese, the chopped speck and the pesto together to combine. Stuff the chops with as much of the stuffing as you can, without tearing the meat, you should be able to use most of it. I like to use a toothpick to close the opening a bit if it needs it. Salt and pepper the outside of the chops.
Heat an oven proof grill pan or grill to medium high. Cook the chops on the first side for eight minutes, and if cooking on the stove top, flip the chops and put the pan in the oven for another eight minutes. If you are grilling outside, flip the chops and cook for eight more minutes with the top of the grill closed to retain the heat.
Remove the chops from the heat and let them rest for at least five minutes. Slice, serve and enjoy.
Anyone there? Have you left me? It would be well deserved – I am a giant slacker and I apologize. This has been, perhaps, the busiest six months of my life, and I am exhausted. Just when I think things are easing up, they absolutely do not do that. Luckily it’s been mostly great, fun, exciting and lovely stuff, but I am tired. I have a list a mile long to tell you about, but it’s been so long since I have made some of the things I want to share, I am going to have to go back and make them again.
BUT, I had to write today, because as it turns out, today B&G turns FIVE. That’s right. Today is Bread & Ginger’s fifth blogiversary. I am currently celebrating with a delicious gimlet and some pork chops that I can’t wait to tell you about, but we are going to celebrate with some fried chicken sliders, which might be how I celebrate everything from now on, because they are good. I first made this a full sized sandwich, which was good but it was a lot. I like the sliders better for their spicy/sweet meat-to-everything-else ratio.
These are good and easy and quick! There is some deep frying but hopefully that doesn’t scare you anymore. The sauce is sweet and spicy and nutty from the sesame, and also has a hint of funk from the fish sauce. (A good thing, I promise…) There are some ingredients in here that you may not have, but if you have an Asian supermarket nearby you will be able to find all of them ( if you don’t – Amazon!) Gochujang – Korean chile paste – is spicy, but spicy like sriracha, rather than spicy like Frank’s or Texas Pete. There is a great depth of flavor and umami-ness to it. The spice is balanced by the sweetness from the sugar, and the pickles and the Kewpie mayo and the buttery brioche combine with the sauce for crazy goodness.
I miss you all, and B&G. I am still working on making more hours in the day. If anyone has any ideas, I am all ears.
Happy Blogiversary B&G! And thank you all for reading!!
Korean Fried Chicken Sliders (makes 8 sliders)
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
3 tbl gochujang (Korean chile paste, available at Asian markets or online)
3 tbl dark soy sauce (available at Asian markets)
1 tbl fish sauce
1 tbl brown sugar
1 tbl sesame oil
2-3 tbl rice vinegar
Put all ingredients and two tablespoons of the vinegar in a blender and pulse until ingredients are mixed and ginger and garlic are minced. If sauce seems a little thick, add another tablespoon of vinegar and blend to combine. Place in bowl and set aside.
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in two equal pieces each
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup masa harina (corn flour)
1 tbl corn starch
Salt and pepper
oil for frying
Heat three inches of oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Meanwhile, in one bowl mix egg with 1 tbl water and whisk until combined. In another bowl, mix both flours, the cornstarch and generous pinches of salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Dredge chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then the flour mixture, and then again in the egg and then the flour. Fry chicken in batches until light brown and crispy, about 6 or 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let the oil come back to temperature and repeat with the rest of the chicken pieces.
8 small brioche rolls
butter for toasting
dill pickle slices
kewpie mayonnaise (Japanese style mayonnaise – can be found in Asian markets and some supermarkets.)
Spread butter on the sliced brioche rolls, and toast until cut sides are golden brown and toasty. Spread each side generously with kewpie mayonnaise and layer pickle slices on the bottom roll. Dredge fried chicken pieces in sauce until well coated, and place on top of the pickles. Cover with the top of the roll and voila!
That means I passed my test, in case it wasn’t clear. And I am so so glad. That was easily the most stressful thing I have done in a long time. I felt unprepared and I HATE feeling unprepared. It was hard. I woke up this morning and honestly felt like a year had passed since last Friday. But it is over! And studying did give me the opportunity to procrastinate and make lots of soup, so that is nice. Sorry about the three day hiatus, I was going to blog every day to get all the soup in, but Sunday got a little hairy as the test was getting closer, and Monday was for test taking and then bubbly-drinking and yesterday was for the rest of life. But today is soup day again! Specifically, Chicken Noodle. There are a million ways to make it, but the gist is chicken vegetables and noodles in chicken broth. (I mean, there probably aren’t a MILLION ways to make it, but you know what I mean.) This is a pretty basic, classic version. (This one is classic with a twist and I am DYING to try it. Related: have you guys ever checked out Sweet Paul? It is GORGEOUS.)
This version is perfect for post-chicken dinner leftovers. The key is homemade stock. While I suppose it is not technically necessary, I am saying it’s necessary. You are going to be so happy with yourself if you use homemade stock. It will be infinitely better. Truly. There are plenty of times where homemade stock isn’t that noticeable because of other things that are going into the soup, but this is not one of those times. (STOCK REMINDER: put six lbs of chicken backs in a large pot and cover with water. (Use wings or legs if you don’t collect chicken backs in your freezer/can’t get them from your butcher or grocery store. Pro-tip – ask for them at your butcher or grocery store. Whole Foods often has them packaged with the other chicken for .99 a pound. Way cheaper than you’ll pay for wings.) When the water boils, take the chicken out, dump the water (and the sludge that will come along with it) rinse out the pot, and add the chicken back in with two onions peeled and cut in half, three carrots peeled and cut in large pieces, three celery stalks peeled and cut in pieces, a head of garlic sliced in half width wise, two or three bay leaves, a handful of fresh parsley, some black peppercorns and a good dash of salt. Cover with a ton of water (I use a 12 quart pot and fill it close to the top.) Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, simmer for two to four hours or as long as you are hanging around the house, strain the solids out, and voila! Chicken stock! Let it cool, skim the fat off the top and use what you need and freeze the rest!)
Other than the stock and the leftover chicken, I like onion, celery, a little bit of garlic, carrots, egg noodles and dill. And that’s it. Soften the vegetables without browning them. Add the stock, bring to a simmer and cook until the carrots are soft. Add the egg noodles and the chicken, cook until the noodles are done. Add the dill, voila! That’s it. It all happens in about half an hour, which is pretty funny, considering Chicken Soup is the quintessential comfort food. It seems like the quintessential comfort food that cures all ills and is essentially a word that has come to symbolize home itself should be an undertaking of some sort. But it’s not. Go forth. Make soup.
Classic Chicken Noodle Soup (Makes a lot)
2 tbl olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled a chopped in half moons
3 stalks celery, peeled and sliced in half moons
1 large clove garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
4-6 oz egg noodles
1 handful dill, chopped (optional, but I recommend it!)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add all the vegetables and saute until they are soft, without letting them brown. Add the chicken stock, bring the soup to a gentle boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the chicken and the noodles, and cook for another five or six minutes until the noodles are cooked through. Add the dill, taste for salt and pepper and add as needed, and serve! (IF you are planning on freezing or bringing this to someone’s house, or saving it for later, and you are worried about the noodles getting too mushy, leave them out at this point. Or take some of the soup out for freezing or transporting and just add the appropriate amount of noodles to what you are going to eat now, and add the rest to the defrosted/transported/saved part, so they don’t get mushy!)
You guys, January was going to be soup month, and it IS actually soup month. I’ve made a bunch, and it’s been soupier than I even anticipated, due to some client requests. Of course, it hasn’t be post-ier than normal (though this will be the third one this month, so maybe it has) which means there are SO MANY SOUPS to discuss. So I have to post every day between now and next Thursday, because I have so much soup to talk about and I couldn’t POSSIBLY let soup trickle into February, because if these arbitrary monthly themes that I decide at totally random times for absolutely no rhyme or reason and based on no one’s whims but my own don’t mean anything, WHAT DOES?
This particular soup is a bit of a palate cleanser. It’s light and healthy and can easily be made vegetarian or vegan with equally delicious results. (For real! I’ve done it!) It has a ton of flavor, but is not heavy at all. It would be great as part of a multi-course meal, it would work in all kinds of weather, and is kind of perfect if you are using January to detox from the holidays. I made it for the first time in November when I was cooking a dinner that had quite a few dietary restrictions (kosher, vegan, soy and gluten allergies) and had to come up with a soup that would please vegans and meat eaters alike. I made a quick vegetable stock, because a) store bought vegetable stocks can taste real weird, and b) because store bought stocks can have all sorts of surprise soy and gluten in them, and both the vegetable stock (quick trick! Add a potato!) and the soup itself came out pretty damn delicious, if I do say so myself. Toot Toot! When I made it at home for myself, I used chicken stock, because that’s how I roll. It was also delicious.
Basically, this soup should not taste as good as it does, because there are essentially four ingredients and one of them is carrots. But it does! I mean, it tastes like carrots, it’s not like it tastes like steak, but it is delicious. And the ginger gives it a serious kick. It would be really nice if you were sick. The ginger will clear out your sinuses AND settle your stomach! It’s magic! (I’m pretty sure ginger can cure the common cold too. I had a DOOZY coming on one day a while back, and I made this and the next day it was GONE. Not even kidding. It was amazing.) So what I’m saying is, if you get sick soon, make this soup and keep me posted on what happens. If I have unwittingly discovered the cure for the common cold and/or stomach upset, Imma need to know. I’ve always wanted to be rich and famous. I HAVE BIG PLANS.
Alright, back to the studying. Hasta mañana.
Carrot – Ginger Soup (serves 6-8)
4 tbl butter or olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 ½ lbs carrots, peeled and sliced in half moons
2 tbl minced ginger
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt butter, or heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions. Sauté just until soft and add carrots. Cook onions and carrots until the carrots are just beginning to get tender. Don’t let the vegetables brown. Add the ginger, a pinch of salt and pepper, and then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer until the carrots are cooked all the way through and quite soft, 20 – 30 minutes. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes, before pureeing in batches in a blender until very smooth. (An immersion blender is not going to give you the smoothness you want here. Go full bore with the blender for this one.) Reheat if necessary, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Feel healthy and virtuous!