Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fun with Bivalves

Mussels are a great weeknight go-to meal for the family. Kids love them because of the "eww" factor, and they are one of your less-expensive seafood options. Make sure that the grocer packs them on ice but leaves the bag open to the air so that they don't suffocate on the way home. (My bagger at Whole Foods tried to tie the plastic bag containing my mussels shut.) When you get home, decant your mussels to a colander set in a large bowl and store in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. Here's one of my favorite ways to prepare them.

Weeknight Mussels for Four

1 stick butter
6-8 cloves garlic or a couple of shallots, minced
1/2 bottle decent white wine
2 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 lb spaghetti

Clean the mussels under fresh water and pull any "beards" off of them. (Fun fact: Saavy fishermen have historically knit gloves from the fibers that comprise mussels' beards.) Make sure that the mussels are all closed; enlist children to help you bang the open ones gently on the counter; if they don't close within a couple of minutes, throw them away (they are dead). Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the garlic or shallots (or both) and saute until fragrant. Add the wine and the mussels. Cover the pot and cook over medium high heat until the mussels open and are cooked through (about 8-10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti. Add the spaghetti and the chopped parsley to the pot and stir to combine. Serve immediately. Teach kids how to use an empty mussel shell as a tool extract mussels from their shells and eat them. If you are feeling really decadent, heat up a baguette and serve with the mussels and pasta (good for soaking up the yummy sauce).

Frugal Chicken Dinner

Here's something I threw together tonight with some chicken from the freezer and pantry staples. Pretty easy to cook, and family pronounced it yummy.

Glazed Chicken Thighs

8 chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon siracha
2 oranges
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, sliced

Salt and pepper the chicken. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Brown the chicken in batches. Meanwhile, supreme the orange segments and squeeze the juice into a medium bowl. Add the soy sauce, stock, honey, and siracha; stir to combine.. Remove the chicken to a plate. Pour off most of the rendered fat from the pan and return to the heat. Add the onions to the pot and saute, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook the onions until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Return the chicken to the pot; layer on top o f the onions. Pour any reserved juices from the chicken into the pot. Add the orange/sauce mix and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the lid, and cook until the sauce thickens and begins to glaze the chicken, another 10 minute or so. Serve with rice.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Pad Thai

Last time I was on Devon Ave., I picked up some tamarind paste, thinking it would be the magic bullet for some homemade pad thai. I was right. This is a pretty simple dish, suitable for a weeknight. It's also pretty inexpensive if you use tofu for the protein. Of course, when I mentioned at breakfast that we were having tofu for dinner, I got moans of disapproval, so I supplemented the pad thai with a quick chicken satay on the side.

Pad Thai

1 package rice noodles

1 package extra-firm tofu
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp corn starch

1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp siracha

3 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup snow peas
1 package bean sprouts
1 bunch coriander, chopped

lime wedges

In a large bowl, soak the rice noodles in very hot tap water. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the tamarind paste, soy sauce, brown sugar and siracha. Set aside. Combine the soy sauce and corn starch. Cube the tofu and marinate in this sauce. Heat a wok over a high flame. Mix the eggs in a small bowl. Add a little vegetable oil to the wok and pour the eggs down the sides of the pan. Scramble. Remove from pan and reserve. Add a little more oil to the pan, and saute the garlic and the tofu until lightly toasted. Drain the rice noodles and add to the pan along with the sauce. Stir fry until the noodles are well coated. Add the green onions and the snow peas and continue cooking until the noodles become sticky and the vegetables are crisp-tender. Turn off the heat. Add the bean sprouts and the coriander. Serve with lime wedges.