Barbecued Chicken Kebabs

May 28, 2011

With weeks of constant rain seeming to transform overnight into instant summer, my party for 30 of my closest friends could have been nothing other than a barbecue.  For the kids, I cheated, and simply grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. But for the adults I tried a new recipe (from May 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated); Barbecued Chicken Kebabs. Of course, I tripled the recipe and cooked 6 pounds of boneless chicken thighs, which was the upper limit of the 22″ Weber grill.  The result was perhaps the best BBQ chicken I’ve ever had, though the chicken ran out before two or three of my guests ate  (a serious faux pas; I know). Overall, 4-1/2 stars, with a promise to make it again for those who only ate Arroz con Pollo.

Maybe the best BBQ chicken I've ever had.


  1. I only had one type of Paprika, so used 2-2/3 tablespoon of regular paprika. I’m not sure if it was smoked paprika or sweet paprika.
  2. While I tripled the chicken, I only doubled the BBQ sauce recipe. I still had a little left over, so it was the right choice.
  3. I am having issues with the new formulation of Kingsford charcoal. They claim that it “starts even faster, and burns even longer”. Using my chimney starter, I am finding takes 50% longer to start. (30 minutes instead of 20 minutes), and that the coals usually go out (self extinguish) when I cook any meat that is even slightly juicy. Whereas, the prior formulation worked perfectly.

Rating: 4-1/2-stars.
Cost: $12 for 6 pounds of chicken.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below (except that I cut the measurements back down to the original 2-lbs of chicken):

Homemade BBQ Sauce:

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 teaspoons sugar
2 slices bacon
4 skewers

  1. To make the sauce: Cook all the sauce ingredients in small saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sauce has reduced to 1 cup; about 7 minutes. Add 1/2-cup sauce to small bowl (to be used during barbecuing), setting the remaining sauce aside to serve at the table.
  2. Trim any excess fat from chicken and cut into 1-inch cubes. Put chicken cubes in a large bowl, add 2 teaspoons kosher salt and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Light a large chimney starter three-quarters filled, about 75-coals.
  4. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Combine paprika and sugar in small bowl.
  5. Cut the bacon slices into 1/2-inch pieces, and process in food processor until it forms a smooth paste; about 45 seconds. Scrape the sides of the food processor twice during processing to ensure an even paste. Sprinkle spice mixture over chicken, then add the bacon paste. Using your hands, mix until spices and evenly blended and chicken is completely coated with paste.
  6. Thread the chicken cubes onto skewers. Chris Kimball recommends metal skewers, but I used wood skewers without problem. Some oddly shaped chicken cubes required rolling or folding meat to maintain even thickness of the skewers.
  7. Once charcoal is fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash (takes about 30 minutes with new Kingsford formulation), dump all charcoal over half of grill bottom, leaving other half empty. Replace the cooking grate and scrape clean with grill brush.
  8. Place chicken kebabs directly over the coals. Grill, turning a quarter turn every 2-1/2 minutes (for a total of 10 minutes for thighs). They should be well browned and slightly charred. Brush the tops of the kebabs with 1/4-cup of BBQ sauce. Flip the kebobs (sauce side down) and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Brush the second side with another 1/4-cup sauce. Flip and cook until a thermometer registers 175 degrees (for thighs)
  9. Remove kebabs from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve, passing reserved barbecue sauce separately.

Wheat Sandwich Bread

May 25, 2011

Could Chris Kimball overcome the two biggest problem plaguing most whole-wheat breads: bitterness and dense texture? His new (March 2011 recipe) claims to have solved both. The trick: soak the wheat flour in milk for up-to 24 hours. Not only does this soften the wheat-flour’s hard bran (which inhibits gluten development), but it also converts some of the starch into sugar (resulting in a less-bitter loaf). The result: the texture was perfect; not too dense and not Wonder-like. Unfortunately, my goal of making a better, kid-friendly, whole-wheat sandwich bread was undone my the inclusion of wheat-germ.

Great adult-friendly nutty flavor. My kids didn't like the complex flavors.

Unfortunately, I discovered that the boys don’t like the wheat germ’s nutty flavor. But for an adult, it is better than most store-bought wheat bread, and without all the preservatives.

Rating: 3-1/2-stars.
Cost: $1 each loaf.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 10:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I baked it over the past 2 days are given below:

Prepare the Biga (8 hours to 24 hours before baking):

2 cups bread flour (11 ounces)
1 cup warm water (100-110 degrees) (8 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

  1. Heat 1 cup of water in microwave for 35 seconds to 100-110 degrees. Add yeast and let hydrate for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the 2 cups of flour to a large bowl, add water/yeast, and stir for about 1 minutes with wooden spoon until no dry flour remains. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let stand at room temperature overnight.

Prepare the Soaker (8 hours to 24 hours before baking):

3 cups whole-wheat flour (16 1/2 ounces)
1/2-cup wheat germ
2-cups whole milk (16 ounces)

  1. Add whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and milk into a large bowl. Stir with wooden spoon for about 1 minute.
  2. Place dough on a lightly floured counter and knead for 3 minutes.
  3. Return the soaker to same bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the Dough:

1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Additional flour for dusting work surface

  1. Rip soaker into 1″-pieces and put in bowl of stand mixer. Add biga, honey, salt, yeast, butter, and vegetable oil. Using a dough hook, mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium and knead for 10 minutes.
  2. Put dough on lightly floured counter and knead by hand for 1 additional minute. Shape into a ball and place in lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise for 45 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Gently deflate the dough by pressing down on center.
  4. Use an oiled spatula to fold dough over itself; lift and fold edge of dough toward middle. Turn the bowl 90 degrees; and fold again. Keep turning and folding the dough for a total of 8 folds.
  5. Cover again and let rise until it has doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
  6. Adjust two oven racks to the middle and lowest positions. Put a baking stone on the middle rack. Pre-heat to 400-degrees. Spray two 8-1/2″ by 4-1/2″ loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.
  7. Turn dough out onto a well-floured counter and divide dough into 2 pieces.
  8. Working with one ball at a time, pat into an 8″ x 17″ rectangle. Roll the dough into firm 8″-long cylinder. Pinch the seam closed, and put into prepared loaf pan seam-side down. Lightly press into corners. Repeat with second dough ball. Cover both loaves with plastic wrap; let rise for between 60 and 90 minutes until doubled in size. The top of loaves should have risen 1″ over the lip of he pan.
  9. Place an empty heat-proof pan on the bottom oven rack. Boil 2 cups of on stovetop.
  10. Use a serrated knife to make a 1/4″-deep slash down center of each loaf. Pour the boiling water into empty pan and put loaves on baking stone. Reduce oven to 350-degrees. Bake for 45 minutes until internal temperature registers 200 degrees; rotating the loaves halfway through baking for an even crust.
  11. Transfer loaf pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Turn loafs out of pans and return to wire racks; allowing to cool for 2 hours to room temperature.

Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime

May 20, 2011

Just about every restaurant in Latin America offers a “daily special”; usually a two-course meal, heavy of the rice and beans, light in the meat department.  Usually it includes soup or salad and is about half-price when compared to ordering al la carte. For two years, that was all I ate. I’d go into a restaurant, ask for the “daily special” and they would serve me maximum calories for minimum price. Until finally, when in Arequipa in Southern Peru, my digestive system could eat no more rice, no more beans, no more fried plantains. Thus began my month of eating Peruvian Roast Chicken. It was simple, delicious and ubiquitous.

Easy as beer-can chicken, but with a nice twist.

(See my post about the America’s Test Kitchen episode here)

This is a new recipe from March 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. The recipe calls for a vertical poultry roasted, but really that’s just a polite way of saying “beer can chicken”.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $7.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:30 PM. Ready at 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original version is here. He also suggest this spicy homemade mayonnaise, which I didn’t make  My descriptions of how I cooked it it today are given below:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4-cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 medium garlic cloves
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest and 1/4 cup juice from 2 limes
1 teaspoon minced habanero chile (If habanero chiles are not available you can use 1 tablespoon of serrano chile)
1 whole chicken

  1. Add all ingredients (except the chicken) into food processor and pulse until forms a smooth paste, about 20 seconds.
  2. Use your fingers to loosen the skin from the thighs and breasts, and trim away any excess fat as necessary. Rub half of paste beneath skin of chicken, and then apply the remaining paste over the chicken’s exterior. Tuck the wingtips under chicken.
  3. Place your chicken in a 1-gallon zip-lock bag (or a bigger bag depending upon the size of your chicken). Refrigerate overnight (for up to 24 hours).
  4. The next day, adjust your oven rack to the lowest position. Pre-heat to 325-degrees. Drink about half of a 12-ounce can of beer, use a church key to open two additional holes, spray the can with non-stick spray, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Put chicken onto “vertical roaster” so that your chicken is standing upright. Roast about 50 minutes, until the skin begins to turn brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into breast registers 140 degrees.
  6. Remove the chicken and baking sheet from the oven, while you increase the oven temperature to 500-degrees.
  7. Reinsert into oven, then and add 1-cup of water to your pan. Roast about 20-minutes more, until the skin is well browned and crisp, and your thermometer registers 160-to-165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, and registers 175-degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. To ensure even cooking, rotate the chicken 180-degrees halfway through these final 20 minutes. Chris Kimball suggest that if the top of your chicken is becoming too dark, to place a 7-inch-square piece of foil over the neck and wingtips. I had to add more water to keep the pan from smoking.
  8. When your chicken is fully cooked, remove chicken and let rest on “vertical roaster” for 20 minutes. Carefully lift chicken off beer can (using 1 or 2 clean kitchen towels) , place on cutting board, and carve.

Pan Seared Scallops

May 16, 2011

I have never eaten scallops before, and the new “Seafood in a Skillet” episode from season 11 of America’s Test Kitchen made me wonder why I hadn’t. Plus scallops happened to be on sale this for $7/lb. Chris Kimball made a big deal about the dry verses wet distinction, and the scallops on sale were dry (the preferred, chemical-free version). So it seemed like destiny. But after I brought them home and was ready to cook them, I realized that I bought super-mini scallops (40-to-50 per pound). They looked nothing like beauties I had seen on my TV screen. Never-the-less, I continued and they came out fine, despite their lilliputian dimensions.  3-1/2 stars.

Very good with a strong flavor of the sea, but tiny.


  1. The wrong size made for tiny meal. I bought 40-to-50 per pound, when the recipe called for 10-to-20 per pound. Not only did their size make them difficult to flip (small size made them more delicate and prone to ripping). But there were also 3 times as many Scallops to flip. Plus their small size meant I had to flip them faster.
  2. The base scallop recipe is available for free on ATK’s website (latest 2 seasons are free; you have to give an e-mail address, but no credit card). However, the sauce is “premium content” (and I don’t have a paid subscription to ATK’s website. Fortunately, the sauce recipe is also available on the Cook’s Illustrated website, to which I do subscribe.
  3. Also I see that my non-stick pan is almost ready to be replaced. These scallops prompted me to go on-line and buy a new one after just 1-1/2 years (I look to replace my non-stick skillet every 2 year). I think what ruined my pan early was this 2003 re-heating pizza trick. Heating scratchy pizza for 5 minutes in a dry non-stick skillet is a bad idea! Fortunately, I found this 2006 re-heating pizza tip which bakes pizza in a preheated 400-degree oven on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet for six minutes. Hopefully this will save my new pan.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 6:00 PM. Ready at 6:45 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original version is here and the sauce recipe is here.  My descriptions of how I cooked it it today are given below:

Scallop Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds dry sea scallop, 10 to 20 per pound
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. If your scallops have a small side muscles, then remove it. Mine did not.
  2. Place the scallops on of a clean kitchen towel or paper towels on a baking sheet. Using another clean kitchen towel, place on top and blot away the moisture using only slight downward pressure. Let them sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  3. While the scallops dry, prepare the sauce (see below).
  4. Sprinkle both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Working in two batches, add scallops with the flat-side down to the hot skillet. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes without moving.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet (with the scallops still cooking). Use tongs to flip the scallops . Immediately begin using large spoon to continually baste the scallops with melted butter. It is best to tilt skillet so that the butter is easier to scoop. Continue cook and basting for up to 90 seconds; the sides of scallops will be firm and the centers will be opaque. If any smaller scallops finish first, remove them as they are ready. Place cooked scallops on large plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil.
  6. Wipe out skillet the hot skillet with paper towels and repeat from step 4.

Lemon Brown Butter Sauce Ingredients:

1/2 stick  unsalted butter.
1 small shallot
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
Table salt and ground black pepper

  1. Mince shallot, parsley and thyme, and juice 1 lemon.
  2. Place a separate, small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Cut butter into 4 piece and cook until turns dark golden brown for about 4 to 5 minutes, swirling constantly.
  4. Add minced shallot and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Remove pan from heat, then add parsley, thyme, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cover sauce pan to keep warm while you finish cooking the scallops.

Bread in 5-minutes per day

May 10, 2011

Before starting this blog, I had never in my life baked a loaf of bread. Now, a little over a year later, I feel as though I have become somewhat of an accomplished junior baker. Here are a few of my highlights: rosemary focaccia, rustic Italian bread, and ciabatta. I have found bread-making to be quite soothing compared to other types of cooking. Partly because there are so few ingredients, but mostly because there is so much patience involved; waiting for the yeast to hydrate, and the dough to rise, then bake, then cool.

But for all the different types of loaves I’ve made, I have never been able to find a recipe that would allow me to bake bread mid-week. The problem is that all Chis Kimball’s recipes require at least four hours for the dough to rise, bake and cool. Even though I am home by 4pm, I still cannot have bread ready until 8pm. I even asked him during one of his ATK Q&A’s, but Chris’ only advise to me was for me to make non-yeasted biscuits. As if the two were even remotely similar.

Second attempt at base recipe. Better interior texture.

So finally I checked Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes Per Day out from the library. (another article from author) In a nutshell, the book’s premise is: Once a week you mix up the dough (not counted in the 5 minutes), then throughout the week you use the pre-mixed dough to have bread ready in “just” 2 hours per day. The 5-minutes counts only active preparation; in all honesty, kind of an overly optimistic way to count the time. But the bottom-line is that this is the only way (so far) that I can accomplish my goal of having weekday bread ready by 6-pm.

At first I tried the basic recipe (described here). The recipe is good and simple. However, after eight or so loaves I wanted to move onto something a little more interesting. The past few batches I’ve been making the European Peasant Bread; the basic techniques are the same, and the recipe is below.


  1. The book says to measure the flour using the dip-and-sweep method, one cup at a time, for the greatest accuracy. However, my preferred measurement method is by weight. Not only is weighing more accurate, I also just dump straight from the bag into the mixing bowl bypassing the whole scooping thing.
  2. The book recommends using a 5-liter container, based upon the recipes as they are written. But my kitchen supply store made me choose between 4 and 6-liters. I chose 4-liters because I have a smallish refrigerator, so I generally reduce the recipes by 20%.
  3. The overall recipe says to use corn meal so that the bread does not stick to baking stone. In general, I am using parchment paper because it is easier to clean up.
  4. First time I made the recipe the bread had too dense a crumb (see photo at bottom of post). Here is a FAQ on what can cause a dense crumb.  In my case the dough was too dry, so next time I added more water. The kitchen was also too cool, so I increase the resting time to 60 minutes.
  5. When I make a baguette-style loaf, I spray the loaf with my spray bottle in lieu if flouring the top. It results in a less-thick, but still crackly, crust.
  6. Finally, the “secret” of this recipe is autolyse. By using a very wet dough, there is no need to knead the bread. But because the dough is so wet, it is easier to shape after the dough has been refrigerated.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: 22-cents per 1-pound loaf.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

European Peasant Bread Recipe:

2-cups water, preferably non-chlorinated spring water.
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/3 cup rye flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
3-2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Once a Week:

  1. Preheat water to 100-degrees; about 45 seconds in the microwave. Add yeast and salt to water, allowing it to hydrate while you measure out the flours.
  2. Place bowl of standing mixer on kitchen scale, and factor out the weight of the bowl. Add 1/3 cup rye flour
    and 1/3 cup whole wheat flour to the bowl, then add unbleached all-purpose flour until the total weight of all the flours is 22-3/4 ounces.
  3. Using dough hook and standing mixer on lowest setting, slowly add water until it is fully incorporated. Do not knead. If you have any extra dough from the previous batch, add it to the mixer.
  4. Empty the dough into a 4-quart container and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.
  5. Put container in refrigerator until ready to use.

Baking the Bread:

  1. Sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with a little flour, which will make your dough easier to shape.
  2. Pull off a 1-pound chuck of dough and cut with a serrated knife.
  3. Quickly shape the dough into a ball by stretching the floured top around to the bottom. The idea here is to use the leave the floured surface on the exterior of the ball. The un-floured interior will quickly stick to itself, leaving you with a cohesive ball.
  4. Place ball on a piece of parchment paper placed on top of a pizza peel. Let rise for 40 minutes.
  5. 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 45-degrees. Place a baking stone (or a baking sheet) on middle rack, and an empty boiler pan on the bottom rack.
  6. Right before putting into the oven, dust the top of the loaf with flour (or spray/brush with water for baguette style  crust). Use a serrated blade to score the top in any pattern; for example tic-tac-toe, cross or scallop pattern.
  7. Slide the loaf (parchment and all) onto the hot baking stone (or a baking sheet) . Put 1-cup of hot water into the pre-heated boiler tray, and immediately close the oven door to trap the steam.
  8. Let bake for 35 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let cook on wire rack for at least 30-minutes.

First attempt had a dense crumb. The dough was too dry.

Boeuf Bourguignon Maison

May 3, 2011

Last night, my parents and I sought a restaurant that offered traditional French dishes. We have been eating fantastically, but most restaurants aren’t selling traditional dishes like Coq au Vin or Daube Provencal. Just within my parents two block walking limit, I found Chez Pierrot on Rue Amelie. Fortunately we went early (7PM), because the tiny 12-table restaurant filled up quickly and had to turned away many potential clients.

Stew was silky smooth, but beef was only average.

I opted for the Boeuf Bourguignon Maison (Homemade Beef Burgundy). After watching the movie Julie and Julia with my son/junior chef, I made Boeuf Bourguignon about a year ago.  Last night’s stew was much silkier, and smelled heavenly. But some pieces of the beef were tough. Other pieces had too much gristle, which probably would have cooked down has they cooked it for 6 hours. None of the beef was as tender as Chris Kimball’s recipe, which was 10 hours in the making.

12-table restaurant on Rue Amelie in 7th arrondissement.

But Chez Pierrot’s was also much simpler; no boiler onions or mushrooms. Also it was served in a simple bowl, rather than served over buttered egg noodles or mashed or boiled potatoes.The simplicity was delicious, but very different from the Boeuf Bourguignon from Julia Child or Chris Kimball.

I rate this meal 4-stars, mostly because of the issues with the beef. The dish cost 17-euros.

Sightseeing in Paris

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