Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jordan: I couldn't pass up pomegranate-charred tomato sauce

Jordanian cuisine was influenced by the Arabs and Greeks. Small plates, grilled meats, salads, flatbreads, and an abundance of spices and herbs are common.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't go into this like "Let's make Jordanian food!" Actually, I found a recipe for "Palestinian Chicken" in the Barbecue Bible with a charred tomato sauce with pomegranate molasses and went, "I have to make that! But oh crap, Palestine is not a UN member. Oh hey, Jordan is right next to Palestine!" And then I did a whole bunch of research to make sure that the dishes would be valid (or at least not be invalid) for Jordan. So I don't know whether they eat Palestinian Chicken with Charred Tomato sauce in Jordan, but I do know that marinating meat in yogurt is common throughout the region, as is the use of pomegranate molasses in savory dishes. I added some tabbouleh for nutrition, authenticity, and good measure. And then I added some flatbread brushed with olive oil and zatar, thrown on the grill for a couple of minutes, just because I like it.

Apparently I'm not a huge tabbouleh fan, but the chicken and sauce were absolutely delicious! Flavorful, a little spiced, tart, garlicky, and sweet all at the same time. I've been fantasizing about what else I can smother in that sauce. Maybe a riff on mozzarella sticks, but with breaded and fried feta instead...

Note: my companion for this endeavor was Elana, and although I don't have a picture of her doing it, she is a master cilantro-chopper. She also brought some delicious baklava for dessert.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eating Out: the Queen Vic (in which my scones are pwned)

Over the weekend I ended up at the Queen Vic on H St, NE for brunch. Even though it was Father's Day, there luckily wasn't a wait. We ended up eating downstairs, which was cool and dark with the Beatles playing. A great atmosphere for a muggy summer day!

We decided to split a plate of British pastries and a basic breakfast called the Full Monty. The Full Monty came with sausage, bacon, fried eggs, garlic toast, mushrooms, beans, and tomato sauce. Everything was very simple, and except for the bacon being a bit underdone (which is against my personal preference) it was delicious. The pastry plate came with a cheddar-scallion scone, a cinnamon scone, and something that may have been Welsh, which was flat with currants in it and sugar dusted over the top. It was all accompanied by butter and a couple of different jams. And it was all fantastic and immensely satisfying. I thought my scones were good, but I'm definitely going to have to try harder to create something that tender and delicious.

There was nothing fancy in this meal, but there was a lot of solidly excellent British (yeah, I thought that was an oxymoron too) brunch food. I can't wait to try the Queen Vic out for dinner!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Peru: Re-creating El Pollo Rico

Ever since an ex-boyfriend introduced me to Peruvian Chicken a few years ago, I've been in love. Not with the guy, obviously, but with the chicken. I've always loved rotisserie chicken, but the Peruvian version is a thousand times more flavorful. I even make a bastardized version myself on the grill, using boneless thighs. It's good (good enough that I usually pick leftovers out of my salad mid-morning because I can't bring myself to wait for lunch), but a totally different animal. So when I saw that America's Test Kitchen featured a recipe for Peruvian chicken, I had to try it out stat. Since not everyone has a rotisserie, they used a vertical roasting technique. In my case, that meant a beer can on Kenny's grill (mine's not big enough for that kind of operation). Test Kitchen also gave a recipe for spicy mayonnaise, which was good but not as flavorful as I wanted it to be. Still, the technique was sound - sound enough that I used it at my parents' house last weekend when I was making egg salad and found that there was no mayonnaise in the house.

This chicken was good. Really good. But not perfect. Next time I'd double the garlic and lime (and even the hot pepper, maybe), and cut the mint in half. It was a little overpowering. The other minor issue: whole chickens take a long time to roast, even on a grill that gets above 500 degrees. By the time it was finished, I was too sleepy to take more than a few bites, and this was definitely better fresh than as leftovers.

Oh yeah, we didn't just eat chicken. I used some tilapia I had laying around from the South Pacific Adventure to make ceviche (Kenny said good, but the lime flavor was too strong; I was too tired to eat any) and a quinoa salad with grilled asparagus and fresh mozzarella (also good, even as leftovers).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Not Quite Mongolian Barbecue

When I think of Mongolian food, I think of Mongolian barbecue first - meat, veggies, and sauces stirfried on a huge round skillet. I've also heard stories about amazing Mongolian lamb, and the climate doesn't seem particularly suited to vegetables. In the mood for lamb, I came across a recipe for Mongolian lamb with spring onions. It was meant to be boneless chunks of lamb stir-fried with chunks of spring onion, garlic, and chile paste, but I decided to use lamb chops on my charcoal grill and cook outside. I  marinated the lamb as I was supposed to, but added a little chile paste. For the onions, I left them whole and marinated them in olive oil, sesame oil, garlic, salt, and white pepper. None of it was especially strongly flavored, but it was all delicious. I made a rookie mistake with the grill, though: I didn't let it burn long enough before putting food on it, so there were more flames than I would have liked and the lamb was definitely overdone.