Category Archives: Recipes

A Special Midweek Recipe: Ad-Libbed Cranberry Chutney

It’s not saturday, but I’ve got a recipe that I needed to write down before I forget it, so you’re getting an extra bonus.

I usually make a simple cranberry relish for thanksgiving. But it needs to be made a couple of days in advance. This year, I completely forgot about the cranberries until this morning. So I figured I needed to do something else. A good chutney sounded nice. I went hunting online, but couldn’t find anything that sounded good, so I went ahead and ad-libbed. And the results were amazing – this is definitely the new cranberry tradition in the Chu-Carroll household. Sweet, tart, and spicy – it’s a perfect compliment for the turkey.

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Saturday Recipe: Chicken Mole Enchiladas

I forgot to take a picture of this dish – so Physioprof, shut up 🙂

I don’t even pretend that this is an authentic mexican mole. It’s
something that I whipped together because I felt like a mole, and
I worked from very vague memories of a mole recipe I read years ago,
and ad-libbed this. So it’s absolutely not authentic – but it is


  • 2 pounds chicken breasts, bone in.
  • One large onion, diced.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinammon powder.
  • 1 teaspoon mexican oregano.
  • 1/2 teaspoon epazote.
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely minced.
  • 1 large dried ancho chili pepper.
  • 1 dried serrano chile pepper.
  • One can diced tomatoes.
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped.
  • 1/4 cup tequila.
  • 1 dozen corn tortillas, lightly toasted.
  • 1 tablespoon whole almonds.
  • chicken stock.
  • Cheese. (I use cheddar; you should use a mexican queso blanco,
    but I don’t have access to a decent one.)


  1. Put a pan on high heat. When it’s good and hot, start
    adding chicken thighs, skin side down, to the dry
    pan. (You’re going to get fat from the chicken skin.)
    Brown them well on both sides, then remove.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onions to the pan with
    the chicken fat. Stir, and let them cook for several minutes until
    they’re translucent.
  3. Take the dried peppers, remove the seeds, and crush/chop them
    finely. (Depending on the peppers, they may be brittle, in which case
    you’ll need to just crush them in a mortar and pestle; or they may be
    leathery, in which case you’ll need to mince them.)
  4. Add the garlic, chipotle, and dried chilis to the onions, and
    let them cook for about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the tequila, and let it cook until most of the
    liquid has evaporated.
  6. Add the can of tomatoes, the cumin, the cinammon, and the coriander.
    Stir it to mix, and then re-add the chicken. Add chicken stock until
    the the chicken is covered.
  7. Let it simmer on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
  8. Turn off the heat, and remove the chicken from the sauce. Set it
    aside and let it cool.
  9. In small portions, move the sauce to a blender, and puree it to
    a smooth sauce.
  10. Put the pureed sauce back into the pan, and turn the heat on low. Let
    it simmer for another 10 minutes.
  11. Pull the chicken meat from the thighs, and shred it. Move it into
    another pan. Add a couple of tablespoons of the sauce, a cup
    of chicken stock, and simmer it for half an hour.
  12. Shred one half of a corn tortilla, and the almonds into
    the blender. Add just enough chicken stock to cover them,
    and puree until smooth.
  13. Add the pureed tortilla and almonds into the sauce, and stir
    them in. Let it cook until the sauce starts to thicken.
  14. Lower the heat on the sauce to low. Add the chocolate to the sauce, and
    stir until it’s melted and well-blended in.
  15. Taste the sauce, and add salt, black pepper, and sugar to taste.
  16. Toast the tortillas lightly until they’re softened.
  17. Into each tortilla, spoon a couple of teaspoons of the shredded
    chicken, roll it, and then put it into a baking dish.
  18. Spoon the sauce over the fill tortillas. Don’t overdo it – you want
    them nicely coated, but not drowned.
  19. Shred cheese over the top of the sauce.
  20. Bake the casserole with the tortillas for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve it with a nice mexican rice and beans.

Saturday Recipe: Home-Made Roasted Tomato Salsa

Lately, friday’s have just been too busy for me to get around to posting a recipe. So I decided to switch my recipe posts to saturday. I’ll try to be reliable about posting a recipe every saturday.

I tried making homemade salsa for the first time about about two months ago. Once I’d made a batch of homemade, that was pretty much the end of buying salsa. It’s really easy to make, and fresh is just so much better than anything out of a jar. When it takes just five minutes of cooking to make, there’s just no reason to pay someone else for a jar of something that’s not nearly as good.

This recipe isn’t much to look at. It’s a tomato salsa – it looks pretty much like a salsa you’d buy in a store, except that it’s a paler pink, because the tomatoes weren’t cooked down. But in terms of taste, it’s an absolute knockout.

The original version of this recipe came from Mark Miller’s Salsa cookbook., which is a fantastic little book. But since I first made it, I’ve made enough changes that it’s really a very different salsa. Obviously, I like mine better :-).

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Friday Recipe: Chinese Potstickers (aka Jiao Zi)


My wife is chinese. So in our house, comfort food is often something chinese. For her, one of her very favorite things is dumplings, also known as pot-stickers. They’re time consuming to make, but not difficult. They’re really delicious, well worth the effort. They’re best with a homemade wrapper, but that’s not easy. If you go to a chinese grocery store, they sell pre-made dumpling wrappers with are pretty good. Not as good as homemade, but more than adequate. The wrappers are circular, and about 2 or 3 inches in diameter.

These are traditionally made with ground pork. But I don’t eat pork, so I use chicken thighs. Definitely make sure you use thighs – to come out right, the meat inside can’t be too lean – it needs to have some fat in it. Thighs work really nicely; breasts, not so much.

When my wife stuffs them, this recipe makes around 30 dumplings. If I’m stuffing them, it’s more like twice that – she somehow manages to stuff an amazing amount of filling into each dumpling. If I try that, I can’t close ’em.


  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
  • 1/2 medium sized head of napa cabbage (about 1lb).
  • Thinly sliced green parts of two scallions.
  • 1 tablespoon Oyster sauce.
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil.
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce (to taste)
  • A small dish of cold water.
  • Dumpling wrappers.


  1. Put the chicken thighs and the oyster sauce into a food processor. Pulse until you’ve got what looks like coarsely ground meat.
  2. Finely mince the cabbage. Don’t do it in a food processor – that’ll just pulp it. You want it minced into little pieces.
  3. Fold the cabbage, soy sauce, and sesame oil into the ground meat.
  4. Now you’ve got the finished filling. Take a wrapper, put a dollop of filling into the center of the wrapper. Lightly brush the edges with water, and then fold the wrapper in half, sealing the edges. (The really correct way of doing it crimps it so that it actually looks like a crescent moon, and stands up by itself. But I have no idea how to explain that! And it tastes good even with the lazy fold.)
  5. Keep doing that until you run out of either wrappers or filling.
  6. Heat up a shallow frying pan on medium to medium-high heat. Cover the bottom with oil. You want enough oil to fry the bottom of the wrappers, but not enough that they’re swimming in it. And you only want the bottom to fry. (Don’t use a wok for this. This is one of the only times that I’ll ever say that about chinese cooking – but you really want a flat bottomed pan.)
  7. Put the dumplings into the pan in shifts. You don’t want them too close together, or they’ll stick to one another. Let them cook for one or two minutes, until the bottom is a nice dark brown.
  8. Take about 1/2 cup of chicken stock, dump it into the pan, and immediately cover the pan tightly. Let it cook like that until almost all of the stock evaporates. Then take the dumplings out, and put them in a serving bowl. They’ll stick to the bottom a bit; pry them up gently with either a spatula or tongs. (There’s a reason that they’re called pot-stickers!)
  9. Keep going in batches until they’re all cooked.
  10. Serve them with a dipping sauce. Spoon a bit of sauce over each dumpling right before you eat it.

There are a ton of dipping sauces you can use. My own favorite is:

  1. about 1/4 cup of clear rice vinegar
  2. About 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  3. 1 teaspoon of sugar
  4. one clove of crushed garlic, finely minced.
  5. One slice of ginger, crushed and finely minced.
  6. Greens of one scallion finely minced.
  7. One drop of sesame oil.
  8. One half teaspoon of sambal or sriracha chili sauce.

These little suckers are seriously good eating. They’re sort of like potato chips, in that once you start eating them, you can’t stop. So make a lot!

If you really want to make homemade wrappers (which is a lot of work, but which makes these wonderful little things so much better that you’ll never go back to store-made wrappers), there’s a great recipe for them in Ming Tsai’s “Blue Ginger” cookbook.

Friday Recipe: Duck with Port Wine and Mushrooms

About a month ago, I decided to make a nice special meal for my wife for mothers’ day. I asked her what she wanted, and she said duck. This made me happy, since I consider duck to be one of the most wonderful foods in the entire universe.

I decided that instead of making one of my regular duck dishes, I’d try something new. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do: I just went to the store, and looked around to find something that appealed to me. I ended up creating a dish that’s a real winner: duck breast in a port wine and mushroom sauce.


  • 2 large duck breasts
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tablespoons butter.
  • 2 cups red wine.
  • 1/2 cup port wine.
  • 1 pound wild mushrooms, sliced.
  • 4 or 5 dried morels, rehydrated in water, then drained and sliced thinly.


  1. Prepare the duck breasts: Take your duck breasts, trim off any excess fat or gristle, and cut a cross-hatch pattern into the skin on the breasts. (This will both help the marinade penetrate, and make the fat in the skins render more cleanly.)
  2. Make the marinade: Put 2 shallots into a food processor, and mince them. Then add the red wine, and a generous dose of salt.
  3. Put the duck in the marinade, and let it sit for an hour or two.
  4. Sear the duck breasts:
    • Heat an unoiled pan till it’s good and hot.
    • Take the duck breasts from the marinade, and pat them dry, ten sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
    • Put the duck breasts into the pan, skin side down. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook them skin side down for 3 minutes. Then turn them over, and cook for another three minutes on the other side.
    • Then remove them from the pan, and let them rest for five minutes. (You can go ahead and start the sauce while they rest.)
    • Slice the breasts into medium-thick slices. You want them sliced a bit more thickly than is typical for a seared duck breast, because they’re going to cook a little bit in the sauce, and you still want the centers to be nice and rare.
  5. Make the sauce:
    • Slice the second two shallots as thinly as possible.
    • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan. Add sliced shallots and the minced garlic, and cook until the shallots are transparent.
    • Add the mushrooms, and some salt. Cook until the mushrooms are done. (How long that’ll take will depend on the mushrooms you picked; fresh chanterelles will cook in seconds; portobellos will take a few minutes.)
    • Add the port wine, and let the sauce reduce until most of the liquid from the wine is gone. Taste it now, and add salt and pepper.
    • Remove from the heat, and add another pat of butter, and stir it around until it melts.
  6. Put it all together:
    • Add the sliced duck breast to the hot sauce, and toss it so that the duck is well coated.
    • Serve – arrange the duck slices on the plate, and cover with a generous helping of the mushrooms.

I served this with some slow-cooked collard greens, and a nice bottle of 1997 Australian Shiraz.

Friday Recipe: Pasticcio

I do all of the cooking in my house; my wife amazing at baking, but she’s just totally lost when it comes to cooking. But given my commute, it’s hard to start making a nice dinner when I get home, and have it done in time to be able to eat, and have some time with my kids before they go to bed. So I like to make large dishes on the weekend, so that we’ve got a couple of days during the week when we just need to heat something up. So casseroles are a great thing.

Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot of casseroles. So a few weekends ago, I tried something new: pasticcio. Pasticcio is sort of like greek lasagna; it’s layers of pasta alternated with a meat sauce, and topped with béchamel sauce. I’ve had pasticcio in lots of Greek restaurants, but I never tried making it myself. It turned out really good.

The big secret to it is spices: in my experience, the difference between a really good pasticcio, and a bland boring one is the spices in the meat. The flavor of the good ones comes largely from a very nice middle-eastern spice blend called “ras el hanout”. Ras el hanout can be a bit hard to find, but it’s worth the trouble of searching for. It’s got a lot of ingredients, and the exact combination is very individual. So you want to either find a recipe and make your own blend, or else find someplace that makes a good one. It’s typically got things like cloves, cinammon, cardamom, mace, paprica, black pepper, and dried rosebuds(!). I’ve found a ras that I really like from the spice house.


  • Meat Sauce:
    • 2 lbs ground beef.
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ras el hanout.
    • 1 minced onion.
    • 2 large cloves garlic, minced.
    • 2 teaspoons salt.
    • 1 can diced tomatoes.
    • 1/2 teaspoon oregano.
    • 1/4 cup dry sherry.
    • 2 egg whites.
  • Bechamel:
    • 1/4 cup butter.
    • 1/3 cup flour.
    • 2 cups milk.
    • 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks.
    • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.
    • 1 teaspoon salt.
  • Pasta:
    • 1 1/2 lbs pasta.
    • 1 tablespoon butter.
    • 1 pinch salt.


  1. Cook the pasta. (to be authentic, it should be long hollow noodles – like uncut penne; I just used penne). When its done, toss it with just enough butter to stop it from sticking together, and a pinch of salt.
  2. On high heat, brown the meat. While it’s cooking, add most of the salt, and half the ras el hanout.
  3. Remove the meat from the pan. Deglaze with the sherry, and dump the liquid into the meat.
  4. Add some olive oil to the pan on medium heat.
  5. Add the onions and the garlic, and sautee them until they’re translucent.
  6. Add the meat back to the pan.
  7. Add the can of tomatoes, any remaining sherry, the remaining ras el hanout, and the oregano. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.
  8. When it’s cooled a little bit, mix in the egg whites. It should be cooled enough that the eggs don’t just cook when they hit the meat. They’re there to act as a binder, to get the meat to hold together in the casserole, so you don’t want them to bind until the casserole is cooked.
  9. Melt the butter on medium heat. When it’s all melted, add the flour, and cook until the flour starts to turn golden. Then add the milk and salt. Cook it until it thickens – it should turn very thick.
  10. Once it’s thickened, remove it from the heat, and add in the grated cheese and the eggs, and mix thoroughly.
  11. In a rectangular casserole, put half of the pasta on the bottom of the pan. Cover it with half of the meat. Then add the other half of the pasta, and the remaining meat.
  12. Spoon the bechamel sauce over the top of the casserole, to form an even layer.
  13. Cover lightly with foil, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
  14. Remove the foil cover, and bake for another 20 minutes, until the bechamel on top starts to brown.

Friday Recipe: Chinese-Style Roasted Beef Shortribs

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, and last week, I came up
with a real winner, so I thought I’d share it.

I absolutely love beef short ribs. They’re one of the nicest cuts
of beef – they’ve got lots of meat, but they’re well marbled with fat, and they’re up against the bone, which gives them extra flavor. When cooked well, they’ve got an amazing flavor and a wonderful texture.

This recipe produces the best short ribs I’ve ever had. It’s based,
loosely, on a chinese recipe, but it’s cooked more in a western style.
There’s one unusual ingredient, which is a chinese sauce that I’ve mentioned before on the blog, called sha cha sauce. It’s made from brill shrimp,
garlic, and chili peppers. You can get it in a chinese grocery store. The english label is, unfortunately, “barbeque sauce”, but you can identify it
by the ingredients, and by the picture of the jar over to the side.
xia cha.




  • 4 lbs shortribs, bone in, cut flanken style. (That means
    cut perpendicular to the bone, in chunks about 2 inches long.)
  • One large onion.
  • 4 cloves garlic. (more if you really like garlic)
  • 1 cup soy sauce.
  • 1 cup beef stock.
  • 1 cup dry gin.
  • 4 tablespoons sugar.
  • One teaspoon xia cha sauce.
  • <



    1. Put the garlic and onion into a food processor, and
      run it until they’re nicely chopped. Then add the liquids to
      the processor, and run it until the garlic and onions are a puree
      mixed into the liquids.
    2. Put the short ribs into an oven-safe deep dish, and cover them with
      the liquid. Put this into the fridge for a few hours to marinate.
    3. Heat the oven to 350, and put the marinated shortribs into the
      oven – marinade and all. Cook for 3 hours, taking it out and basting it every 30 minutes.
    4. By now, you’ve got some very well-cooked shortribs, sitting in the marinade, along with a huge amount of fat that cooked out of them. Take them out of the liquid, and set them aside. Good thing I have my source here of proper dieting practises, without them I would feel quite guilty about this recipe.
    5. Strain the liquid, and skim the fat. What’s left is a very strong, but very flavorful sauce.
    6. Put the shortribs back into the now empty pan. Give them a light baste
      with the sauce. Heat the oven up to broil, and when it’s hot, put the
      short ribs back in, just long enough to brown and crisp the outside.

    And they’re ready to eat. Serve it with the sauce on the side, along
    with rice and some stir-fried vegetables.

    Friday Recipe: Shanghai Xu Chao Mien

    (Note: I’ve changed the transliteration of the name of the dish since the original version of the post. I think it’s now the correct pinyin transliteration. Please correct me in the comments if you know, and it’s still wrong.)

    Today you get the recipe for one of my very favorite dishes. Since I
    married a Chinese woman 14 years ago, I’ve learned a lot of chinese
    cooking, and of all of the things I’ve learned to make, this is probably
    my favorite. It’s called Shanghai Xu Chao Mien. It’s a variant of
    what’s called Lo Mein in the US, except that it’s actually authentic.
    And as is typical of authentic dishes, it’s much better that
    the crap you get at a typical chinese takeout in the US. (Chow mien is a
    traditional chinese dish, but it’s got nothing to do with what we call
    Chow Mien in the US; “Chao” means “stir fried”, and “mien” is noodles –
    chow mien is stir-fried noodles.)

    This is the shanghai variant of the dish. It uses a different kind
    of noodle, and a very different sauce. You’ll have to go to a chinese grocery store for the two key ingredients. Finding them can
    be a bit of a problem, because they’re typically not well-labelled in english, but they’re well worth the trouble.


    First, you need a kind of shrimp paste which is the base of the sauce. It’s called sha-cha, and it’s made from a mixture of chilis,
    garlic, fermented brill-shrimp, and oil. It’s usually sold in small glass jars, labelled “barbeque sauce” in english. It’s a dark paste, which has red chili oil floating on top of it. Thanks to a commentor, a picture of a jar of the brand I use appears to the right.


    The other is the noodles. The typical lo-mein noodle is a sort-of square-profile yellow egg noodle. Shanghai Shu Chow Mien uses a plain flour noodle, which is thicker and wider – the noodles are between 1/4 and 1/2 an inch wide, and they’re a sort of pale-tan white. They’re sold fresh in the refrigerator case, not dried. They’re usually labelled “shanghai noodles”. Thanks to Google, you can see a picture of the kind of noodles I use to the right.

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    Friday Recipe: Stuffed Flank Steak

    This is a recipe I created just a couple of weeks ago. I saw a beautiful Angus beef flank steak on sale, and wanted to find something to do with it. I came up with this idea of stuffing it. Amusingly, the day after it, a recipe appeared in the New York Times food section for a stuffed flank steak. But there’s really nothing common between the two except the name.

    The basic idea behind this is that flank steak has a terrific flavor, but it can be a bit tough. So I wanted to do something to it that would
    make it tender, while taking advantage of that terrific flavor. The idea I came up with was to flatten it out by butterflying and pounding with a tenderizer, and to marinate it with some wine. After doing that, I had a very large, very thin piece of steak. So I wanted to roll it up – and if you’re rolling, you’ve got a great chance to put something between the layers of the roll. I used a bit of bacon in the recipe – it’s important not to give in to temptation and use more. Bacon has a very strong flavor, and you want to complement the flavor of the flank steak, not overwhelm it.

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    Friday Random Recipe: Homemade Tonic Water

    This is an interesting recipe, in a very unusual vein for me.
    Homemade tonic water.

    I hate tonic water. I really despise the stuff. But like a lot of
    people, I have some strange twitchy muscle ticks, in my legs and my
    eyelids. A few years ago, I was talking to my opthamologist about the
    eyelid twitch thing, and he said that while there was a prescription
    drug that he could give me for it, he’d found that most people got
    more relief from just drinking tonic water. The quinine that gives it
    its distinctive bitter taste works better than the prescription. So I
    gave it a try. It didn’t actually do a whole lot for my eyelid thing,
    but it did wonders for my twitchy legs at bedtime. So ever since, I’ve
    forced myself to drink the stuff.

    Then a few weeks ago, I saw a link to a recipe for homemade tonic
    . I decided to give it a try. I couldn’t get exactly the
    ingredients that were suggested, so I add libbed a bit. The end result
    was fantastic. It’s got a strong bitter quinine bite, but
    it’s also got a wonderful flavor in addition to the quinine. This
    variation is particularly good mixed with a nice white rum or cachaca.
    If you leave out the cardamom, it’s great with bourbon. (I know gin is
    the traditional addition, but I just don’t like the taste of gin.)

    With this, for the first time, I can easily imagine drinking
    tonic water even if it didn’t have any useful medicinal qualities.

    Here’s my recipe.


    • 1/8 cup powdered chinchona bark.
    • Zest and juice of one orange.
    • Zest and juice of one lemon.
    • Zest and juice of one lime.
    • 1/2 tsp allspice berries.
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom pods.
    • 2 cups water.
    • Pinch salt.
    • Agave syrup; about 1 1/2 cups.
    • Seltzer water.


    1. Put the water in a pot on high heat. Add all of fruit and
    2. When it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it cook
      for about 20 minutes.
    3. Let it cool. Strain it through a paper coffee filter. (This
      takes a long time, but if you don’t use the paper filter, a lot of
      the chinchona powder will stay in, and you don’t want to get a
      mouthful of it; it’s incredibly bitter.)
    4. Add water to bring the volume back up to two cups.

    You’ve now got the basic concentrate for tonic water. You can
    either mix the agave in now, or you can do it when you make a glass
    of tonic. It’s less work to just add the syrup now, but the
    concentrate will keep longer if you don’t. I don’t mix them.

    To make the tonic, mix together two tablespoons of concentrate
    (more if you like it extra bitter), and about 1 1/2 tablespoons of
    agave syrup. Then add one cup of seltzer water.

    You can use a basic sugar syrup instead of the agave; the standard
    bar mix simple syrup substitutes with roughly the same quantity. But I
    think that the agave is better. Agave has a slighly different
    mouthfeel than cane sugar, and I think that it sweetens and smooths
    out the tonic without cutting too much of the bitterness. Cane sugar
    to me either doesn’t taste sweet enough, or kills the edge of the

    To make a killer rum&tonic, take a nice light rum or cachaca
    (Cachaca is a brazilian liquor made from sugar cane juice, rather than
    from molasses; it tastes like a mild rum with a bit of grassiness),
    and mix it, 1 part rum to 3 parts tonic, and serve over ice.

    The one problem with this recipe is that Chinchona bark is kind
    of hard to find. The most common source of it is flaky herbal medicine
    stores. But some of the really large online spice shops have it. I
    bought a bunch from a place called “Tenzing Momo”. They definitely
    qualify as “flaky herbal medicine store”, but they also carry a really
    good selection of cooking herbs and spices. Chinchona is sold by the
    ounce; one ounce is about 1/4 cup.