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every dish has a story

Crisp-Skin Herb Roasted ChickenMay 19, 2011

Nothing's simpler, easier, or more perfect than a dinner of a whole chicken, roasted in your oven. So they say.

I have to say, it took me years to figure out how to roast a chicken. I followed every no-fail recipe out there — from Martha to Ina to Alton to Jacques — and they all failed me, time and time again. I followed their instructions on temperature, trussing, stuffing, basting, and roasting time, and yet I always ended up with a sad little chicken with an assortment of over- and underdone parts. Profanity, flying objects, sulking, hair-pulling (my own, thankfully), and oaths to never again touch a frickin' chicken usually ensued. That is, until I discovered butterflying.

I'm not sure what possessed me to try this one Cook's Illustrated recipe (oh yeah, must have been the word "crisp-skin"), but by the time it found its way to my counter, I was definitely questioning my abilities as a cook. So I sighed resignedly, just knowing that defeat rested on the other side of my oven door. And then the shock of my life (OK, perhaps the third greatest behind my husband's marriage proposal and finding out I was being joined by my first and only sibling when I was 12): it was P-E-R-F-E-C-T.

Aside from needing to hack the backbone out of the poor bird and break its little birdie breastbone, it was quite simple, provided I gave myself enough time for the brining and the roasting. It's also much easier to break down into parts for serving when it's flattened out like an open book. So now I pass my no-fail roast chicken recipe on to you, in the hope that it can save you from a patchy scalp and mouthful of soap. For the recipe, read on.

Chicken Tortilla SoupFeb 24, 2011

They are talking about snow on Twin Peaks this weekend. I know they get a dusting here and there on Mt. Diablo and Mt. Tam, but Walnut Creek and Marin are practically in another country. I can see the top of Twin Peaks from my living room window, so the idea of it being that cold is really hitting close to home, and that means that all I can think of is soup.

Soup is the bubble bath of food. It's inviting, comforting, and luxurious on nights when even the dog would rather hold it than go outside for her whiz. But it's SO cold, you might need jacuzzi jets in that bathtub. And that's where jalapeños come in.

Most recipes for tortilla soup that I have tried are the Amercanized, kind of dumbed-down versions of sopa de lima, a chicken- and lime-based soup that one could do the hard way (I have...it's delicious, but I was exhausted by the time we sat down to eat), but it's actually quite easy to do a simplified version that involves the help of some store-bought chicken broth, canned diced tomatoes, and tortilla chips. Oh, and a nice punch of diced jalapeños. Because those jacuzzi jets are starting to sound really great right about now. For the recipe, read on.

Tori No KaraageJan 08, 2011

I love fried chicken. I love fried chicken more than shoes or handbags. I may even love fried chicken more than I love bacon <GASP>. It all stems from very early memories of my grandma's secret fried chicken recipe (she created it herself, and no one in the family will share it publicly) that she makes for every family get-together and that my mom made every year for my special birthday dinners. Hers isn't the crispy-crusted buttermilk recipe that southern grannies make (my grandma is Japanese American, born and raised in California) but more like a breadcrumb-based crust. Again, this involves a secret ingredient that -- sorry to say -- I will not divulge.

But I suppose if I had to compare it to another form of deep fried poultry, I would say it's quite close to tori no karaage, Japanese fried chicken (how appropriate). There are a few major differences such as the marinade and breading ingredients, but the overall effect is quite reminiscent of her recipe. Nijiya had some good-looking Rocky chicken parts today, and it inspired me to fry up a batch of karaage. And I'll tell you MY secret ingredient if you just read the recipe. To see it, just read on.

Nabeyaki UdonOct 05, 2010

Today was one of those days where inspiration took a long time to strike. The weather was gorgeous, so Lily and I went for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood before I headed to the Richmond for lunch with one of my best high school friends. By the time I got home and looked in the fridge, I had no ideas for dinner except the pangs of guilt that I had tons of fresh produce in the vegetable bin. So nabeyaki-ish udon was born! As I don't have single-serving iron pots such as the ones traditionally used for nabeyaki, I had to make do by cooking my noodles separately and carefully poaching each egg in the broth, but it was tasty all the same. For the recipe, read on.

Salted Fish and Chicken Fried RiceOct 03, 2010

My first job out of college, I got paid $28K a year to be an assistant media planner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. They had been hiring like mad that year, so by the time I started, they had run out of cubicles, and my desk was relegated to the hallway just outside the fire exit. Within a few days, I had found this awesome Chinese restaurant that did a killer salted fish and chicken fried rice, so crunched for time one afternoon, I got it to go and eagerly sat down at my sad little desk in the hallway to chow down on one of the only delicacies that $28K a year could buy me. Within minutes, the occupants of the offices around me began sticking their heads out of their doors with looks of disgust scrawled across their faces. "What IS that??!!" one Account Director gasped. "It smells like FEET!" I knew at once that my career in advertising was coming to an abrupt and bitter end. Luckily, the lady next door to him was Chinese, and she ran to my aid, exclaiming "Salted fish? That's my favorite!" My thoughts exactly. So for this recipe, I pay homage to her for saving my career. Read on for the recipe.

ChilaquilesAug 26, 2010

I love breakfast for dinner. And I love Mexican food. So Mexican breakfasts for dinner? Simply heaven. Chilaquiles aren't always eaten at breakfast, but top it with an egg, and it makes for a really luxurious way to wake up on a Sunday ... and perhaps the perfect way to top off a busy day.

Read on for the recipe.


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