Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chicken With Cardamom Rice

Drum roll please…my first ever meat meal that I’ve cooked from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem!! And I made it in Italia!! Why am I in Italy you ask? Well, being a PhD student does have some perks. I traveled to Zurich for a scientific conference on Mycorrhizal Symbiosis, yes it was the most esoteric conference ever, and yes, that’s what I study :) For those of you who don’t already know, mycorrhizal symbiosis is the symbiosis between a fungus and plant root, and ~80% of plants have them.  They are responsible for delicious mushrooms such as porcinis and chanterelles :) While the conference was super interesting and my talk went well, the food in Zurich was not super exciting.  After a few days of eating heavy Germanic potato, bread, and cream based foods, I was ready to head to Italia to visit my cousin Aaron and his wife Kate, who live in Napoli AKA Naples.  Aaron is a lawyer for the Navy, and is stationed in Naples for 2 years.  After several days of eating my heart out of pizza and gelato (don’t worry I took pictures of all the food I ate in southern Italy and will be blogging about it shortly) I was ready to eat some home cooked food again.  I bought Jerusalem for Aaron and Kate and luckily it arrived yesterday right in time for me to get to cook for them before we leave for Cinque terre tomorrow.  I made the chicken with cardamom rice from Jerusalem, which I had been eyeing for a while.  You can find the recipe online here. My cousin Aaron and his wife Kate loved it – this was indeed a delicious one pot wonder:


Chicken with cardamom rice garnished with cilantro, parsley, and dill.

The first step is to caramelize the onions. Slice them up thinly then saute them in olive oil for a while. The recipe calls for 10-15 minutes but I left them in there for at least 25. It took a while for them to get properly browned, but luckily they don’t require much attention so you can do other things while the onions are browning.


Slices onions about to be caramelized

While they are browning prepare the barberries or equivalent. I could not find either barberries or currants, which Ottolenghi suggests as an alternative, so I used dried cherries. I soaked them in fresh squeezed lemon juice while the onions were caramelizing. I’m not quite sure what a currant or barberry tastes like, but the dried cherry was really tasty in the dish!


Caramelized onions

While the onions were caramelizing I rubbed down the chicken thighs with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and pepper. I could not find whole clove pods but I found online that 1.5 tsp of ground cardamon can be substituted for 10 pods and it tasted really great so I recommend going with that since the dried spice is so much easier to find. Once the onions are caramelized remove them from the pan and replace them with the chicken.  Sear the chicken thighs on each side for 5 minutes. You really want to make sure you get the bone in skin on thighs for this. The thighs came out super juicy and also even if you don’t end up eating the skin (we didn’t because I couldn’t get it to properly crisp) I think cooking the meat with the skin on adds a lot of flavor and helps keep the meat super juicy.


Chicken smothered in salt, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves searing in the cast iron skillet

Remove the chicken thigh for a minute, then add the rice and caramelized onions back in the pan with salt and pepper and the dried cherries. Kate and I could not find basmati rice at the Navy commissary so we used long grain white rice instead.


Basmatic rice with caramelized onions, dried cherries rehydrated in lemon juice, salt and pepper

Getting into the navy commissary was a bit of a trick. The sales clerk at the front needed to look at my passport and was not happy with it and almost did not let me in since I’m not a part of the Navy, but Kate assured him that she was the one shopping and I was just accompanying.  He didn’t seem quite convinced but he begrudgingly eventually let us enter! Once the rice, caramelized onions, dried cherries/currants/barberries are in the pan, nestle the chicken back in and cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes. Since we had some free time we opened up a bottle of wine to drink while waiting for the meat to cook and I made some antipasti. Here is a fresh baguette we found at the grocery store and toasted with some olive oil in the oven:


Baguette toasted in the oven

Then I sauteed some green peppers with garlic and Aaron added a balsamic vinegar paste thing on top of the bread that was really tasty.


Antipasti of toasted baguette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar paste, sauteed green peppers, and garlic

The chicken ended up taking quite a bit longer than 30 minutes to cook. We had a really large cast iron pan and the flame was not that large, so I guess you just have to check and make sure the chicken is properly cooked.  Unfortunately the skin never quite got crispy but after about 50 minutes the chicken was cooked properly and tasted really delicious and juicy.  I chopped up fresh cilantro and parsley but since I could not find fresh dill just added some dried dill for the garnish. Here is the final dish with the cilantro and parsley and dill garnish:


Chicken with cardamom rice, caramelized onions, cherries, and cilantro, parsley, and dish garnish

Here I am in Kate and Aaron’s super cute Italian kitchen:


Me cooking in Aaron and Kate’s cute Napoli kitchen

It’s way cuter than mine, I know. I’m also super jealous of their giant cast iron skillet. Did I mention that they also have an awesome view of the Mediterranean right outside their window?


View of the Mediterranean from Aaron and Kate’s living room window


View of via Napoli from Aaron and Kate’s apartment

Yeah, I think I might have to move to Italy. Damn it is beautiful here. Kate made a light salad to accompany the chicken and cardamom rice. Ottolenghi suggests adding some olive oil to Greek yogurt and mixing it up and using it as a garnish. I highly recommend it – the yogurt really sets off the dish! It is so creamy and yummy mixed in with the flavorful cardamom rice with caramelized onions. Here is the final meal:


Chicken with cardamom rice accompanied by salad and Greek yogurt

The meal was a big hit! Kate and Aaron loved it and I have to say it was quite tasty. My first meat meal cooked from Jerusalem went off without much of a hitch even though I had to make a few substitutions to make it work in Italia. It’s also a pretty low key dish since it’s just one pot and you get to do other stuff while the onions are caramelizing and while the chicken is cooking, so it’s not that high maintenance. I’m having such a fun time visiting Italy perhaps I should move in with my cousin and his wife and Aaron suggested that I could earn my keep by cooking for them as their personal chef – seems like they liked my cooking :)

Barbecued maitake and mee goreng

Maitake frondosa, known to some as ‘hen of the woods’ is a saprotropic fungus that makes a living by eating decaying wood.   While that may not sound incredibly appetizing, this ecology makes them fairly easy to cultivate and to produce reliably for consumption. This is lucky for me since they are not native to California and I can’t easily forage for them!  Since they are not native California mushrooms, I had never cooked these beautiful and intriguing mushrooms before, and I did not quite know what to do with them. Luckily, Justin Reyes from Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc suggested a delicious marinade inspired by this youtube video from chef Louisa Safia of LucidFood, which turned out to be quite the crowd pleaser. It was so popular in fact, that my friends Meera and Judy asked me for the recipe immediately after the dinner, and Meera went home and tried it out the next day!

Maitake Frondosa

Maitake Frondosa or ‘hen of the woods’

The first step is to make the marinade the night before you want to cook the mushrooms and let them soak it up overnight in the fridge.  Unfortunately, I only realized this last minute and found myself mixing up the marinade at midnight the evening before I cooked these mushrooms, but hopefully you can be smarter and plan ahead – trust me, this marinade is worth it!

Marinated maitake

Marinated maitake

Here are the ingredients for the marinade:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 scallions, green and white parts
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp white wine
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 3 lbs Maitake Frondosa

Blend the olive oil, whole pieces of scallion whites, whole garlic cloves, honey, 2 Tbsp wine, salt and fresh ground black pepper in blender. My handy dandy immersion blender worked great for this :) Then you either need to find a giant zip lock bag or a bowl and pour the sauce over the mushrooms and let them soak it up in the fridge over night. Save half a cup of the marinade for the reduction sauce the next day. While this recipe suggest barbecuing the mushrooms or using a cast iron skillet, I unfortunately had neither so I just used a big pan to saute them up. Don’t worry -they still tasted great! Just make sure to leave them alone and let them cook for a really long time until they start to get brown and crispy. While they are cooking, you can make the reduction sauce by adding 3 Tbsp of white wine to the reserved 1/2 cup of marinade and reducing it to a simmer after you’ve brought it to a boil. When the mushrooms are nice and crispy you can spread the reduction sauce on them and it tastes so good!

Barbecued maitake

Barbequed maitake

I decided that this meaty mushroom  would make a great accompaniment to the vegetarian mee goreng from Plenty, which I featured in this post.  Mee goreng is a Malaysian street food that is super healthy and super simple, and takes only a few minutes to stir fry up after all the vegetables have been chopped and prepared.

Mee goreng

Mee goreng

Ottolenghi suggests serving the mee goreng with shredded lettuce, fried shallots, lemon wedges, and a Malaysian spicy chili sauce called sambal oelek. Fortunately I was able to find sambal oelek  at Berkeley bowl, but it looks like it is super easy to buy online!

Mee goreng with lettuce, lemon wedges, sambal oelek, and fried shallots

Mee goreng with lettuce, lemon wedges, Sambal oelek, and fried shallots

Here is my plate all loaded up with mee goreng:


Here is the mee goreng served as suggested with the shredded lettuce, lemon wedges, fried shallots, and sambal oelek on top:


It went really well with the maitake mushrooms and my friends Judy and Meera gratefully gobbled it up. They were both super fun to cook for and claimed that these dishes induced euphoria and it was hands down one of the best meals they’d eaten that year.  This meal was probably the easiest and simplest of my three Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. feasts. It was also probably the most delectable! Don’t you just love when that happens?

Mee goreng with bbqed maitake

Mee goreng with BBQed maitake