As the inevitability of an extended isolation drags on and on, I find that no matter how I try to vary my habits around the house (spending time in different rooms, sitting on different chairs, looking out of different windows etc.) eventually it all starts to look and feel like more and more and more of the same. But the kitchen is the one place I can truly change things up with each passing meal. I made a promise at the start of the virus outbreak that no matter how long social distancing lasts, I will never cook the same meal twice. And so here are a few of my favorites so far.
Chinese-style barbecued spareribs
- 1 (6-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup honey
- ¾ cup hoisin sauce
- ¾ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 5 – 6 pounds pork spareribs (2 racks, 2 1/2- to 3-pounds each), preferably St. Louis-style, cut into individual ribs
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- Pulse ginger and garlic in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer ginger-garlic mixture to Dutch oven. Add honey; hoisin; soy sauce; ½ cup water; rice wine; five-spice powder; food coloring, if using; and pepper and whisk until combined. Add ribs and stir to coat (ribs will not be fully submerged). Bring to simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 1¼ hours, stirring occasionally.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Using tongs, transfer ribs to large bowl. Strain braising liquid through fine-mesh strainer set over large container, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Let cooking liquid settle for 10 minutes. Using wide, shallow spoon, skim fat from surface and discard.
- Return braising liquid to pot and add sesame oil. Bring to boil over high heat and cook until syrupy and reduced to 2½ cups, 16 to 20 minutes.
- Set wire rack in aluminum foil–lined rimmed baking sheet and pour ½ cup water into sheet. (This prevents the ribs from drying out) Transfer half of ribs to pot with braising liquid and toss to coat. Arrange ribs, bone sides up, on prepared rack, letting excess glaze drip off. Roast until edges of ribs start to caramelize, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip ribs and continue to roast until second side starts to caramelize, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer ribs to serving platter; repeat process with remaining ribs. Serve.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pound, 680g), cut in half crosswise
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8 to 10 ounces (230-280g) button mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced
- 3 tablespoons (total) olive oil
- 4 tablespoons (total) unsalted butter
- 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- about 1/3 cup (50g) flour
- 1/3 cup (80ml) chicken stock or water 80ml
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 2/3 cup (160ml) Marsala wine preferably dry
- 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Put the chicken pieces between two sheets of plastic wrap, or in a sturdy zip-top freezer bag, and pound them with a rolling pin until they’re 1/2-inch, (1,5cm) thick. Put the pieces in a bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a wide skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over high heat until the butter starts to sizzle. Add the sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook – stirring occasionally – until the mushrooms are seared and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic to the mushrooms during the last-minute of cooking.
- Scrape the mushrooms onto a plate and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel to remove any bits of garlic. (If not, those bits will burn when frying the chicken.)
- To sauté the chicken, spread the flour onto a plate and dredge half of the chicken pieces in the flour, shaking off most of the excess. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan. Add chicken pieces so they are in a single layer; don’t crowd them in the pan. (If you have a very large pan, you can sauté them all in one batch. But I use a 10-inch/23cm skillet, and do them in two batches.) Sauté the breasts, turning them over midway during cooking, until they are browned on each side. (They don’t need to be completely cooked through at this point.) When browned, remove the chicken pieces to a separate plate and heat another 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan, and sauté the rest of the chicken.
- While the chicken is cooking. Stir the corn starch into the stock or water until it’s completely dissolved, then mix it with the Marsala.
- When the second batch of chicken is done and removed from the pan, pour about one-third of the Marsala mixture into the pan, scraping the pan with a wooden or silicone spatula to scrape up the browned bits, then add the rest of the Marsala mixture, as well as the mushrooms and chicken pieces.
- Cook the chicken and mushrooms with the sauce over medium heat, turning the chicken pieces over occasionally, to make sure they’re well-basted in the sauce, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in another 1 tablespoons of butter, the balsamic vinegar, and chopped parsley. Taste the sauce and season with more salt, if necessary.
Serving: Chicken Marsala is best served with warm, with wide noodles or another pasta. Mashed potatoes would work well, too.
Garlic-Ginger-Tomato Cauliflower (or chicken) stir-fry
- 1 head roasted cauliflower floretsor 1 ½ pounds boneless chicken, preferably dark meat, in 1/2- to 1-inch chunks
- ½ cup flour to dredge the chicken
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil, like corn or canola
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons slivered garlic
- 2 tablespoons slivered ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1 cup ketchup
Toss chicken with flour so that it is lightly dusted. Put 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and turn heat to high. When oil smokes, add chicken in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
When chicken browns on one side, toss it and cook until just about done: smaller pieces will take 5 minutes total, larger pieces about 10. Remove to a plate. Turn off heat and let pan cool for a moment.
Add remaining oil to pan and turn heat to medium high. Add garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add ketchup and stir; cook until ketchup bubbles, then darkens slightly. Add chicken (or roasted cauliflower) to pan and stir to coat with sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.
Penne or Farfalla with Pistachio cream and Shrimp
- 8 ounces Farfalla or Penne pasta
- 1/2 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup ground pistachios (unsalted, ground in a food processor)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus a little extra)
- 1lb shelled shrimp
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- crushed red pepper, to taste
- salt, to taste
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil.
2. In the meantime, chop onion and grind the pistachios in a food processor until the pieces are very small but not completely uniform. Add pasta to water and boil according to package directions.
3. While pasta is cooking, begin sauce: heat olive oil in a medium saute pan, add onion and cook until translucent but not browned.
4. Add pistachios and enough oil to moisten them (if needed). It should be a paste-like consistency. Cook, stirring, over medium heat for about one minute (do not let the pistachios take on any color). Add the shrimp and cook on both sides until just done.
5. Add cream, stir until heated through, then remove from heat. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper, black pepper and plenty of salt to taste.
6. When pasta is al dente, drain well then add to the saute pan with the sauce. Toss well to coat and serve immediately with lots of fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- ¼ cup white miso paste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons sake
- 1 ½ tablespoons mirin
- 2 (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
- Lemon wedges
1. Whisk miso, sugar, sake, and mirin together in medium bowl until sugar and miso are dissolved (mixture will be thick). Dip each fillet into miso mixture to evenly coat all flesh sides. Place fish skin side down in baking dish and pour any remaining miso mixture over fillets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
2. Adjust oven rack 8 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and cover with aluminum foil. Using your fingers, scrape miso mixture from fillets (do not rinse) and place fish skin side down on foil, leaving 1 inch between fillets.
3. Broil salmon until deeply browned and centers of fillets register 125 degrees, 8 to 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through cooking and shielding edges of fillets with foil if necessary. Transfer to platter and serve with lemon wedges.