Tag Archives: chicken

Laili Restaurant Review

On Friday night Andrew and I ventured into downtown Santa Cruz to catch a movie at the Riverfront Twin. We were planning on seeing 50/50 since we’re Joseph Gordon Levitt fans and Seth Rogen is generally amusing. We eschewed the typical pizza, taqueria, or falafel choices that we usually make and decided to check out a restaurant that’s been around for about a year: Laili. It is located on Cooper Street where I believe there used to be an apothecary, but I’m not certain. They have indoor and outdoor space; we chose to sit outdoors since the weather was nice and indoors was fairly noisy and dark. The patio area is beautiful: ivy growing everywhere, tea lights, etc. The only way you were reminded that you were next to Pacific Ave were the drummers outside of O’Neil’s which quieted down about fifteen minutes after being seated.

 

Afghan Chai

The waitress got our drinks ordered quickly: Andrew ordered a beer (typical) and I ordered a chai (also typical). Our drinks came quickly and then we ordered our appetizers and entrees. The chai was an Afghan chai, sweeter and not as spicy as Indian chai. It was also pinkish in color. I really enjoyed it and it had these beautiful bubbles on top that I really wanted to photograph.

While we were enjoying our beverages, a waitress came by and tried to give us someone else’s entrees. Then another waitress came by and dropped off an appetizer that we didn’t order, but we couldn’t exactly remember the names of what we ordered so we started eating it anyway. The Pumpkin Boranee is stewed pumpkin, qurut yogurt, mint, and garlic. It was a very pretty dish that sounded good, but the texture of the stewed pumpkin was slimy and stringy.

Pumpkin Boranee

Next came the appetizers that we did order: the Silk Road Plate and the Pumpkin Bolani. The Silk Road Plate was a selection of hummus, tabbouleh, babaghanoush, and cucumber yogurt dip with “naan”. Their idea of naan was not typical of the naan that I’ve had: it was simply a flour tortilla grilled, completely tasteless and not naan. The hummus was good and the pumpkin bolani was absolutely delicious, crispy on the outside and sweet, spicy pumpkin on the inside. Along with our appetizers, we ordered a prawn salad with arugula, fennel, seasonal fruits, and pomegranate vinaigrette. This was a completely overpriced salad with (18 dollars) with about six prawns, the pomegranate vinaigrette that did not taste of pomegranate at all, and maybe about three strawberries.  Total disappointment.

 

For our entrees, I ordered Chicken Kabob and Andrew ordered Anar Chicken. The chicken kabob was moist and tender unlike a lot of chicken kabobs that I’ve had. It was served with saffron rice, steamed vegetables that were overcooked and undercooked (a definite low point in the meal), and several different chutneys that really helped add flavor to the meat which was slightly bland. The Anar Chicken was a half roasted chicken with pomegranate sauce, roasted potatoes, and mixed vegetables. Andrew said it was very good.
 Anar Chicken with Roasted Potatoes

Chicken Kabob with Saffron Rice

The service was definitely off. They tried to serve us food that wasn’t ours, served us food that wasn’t ours which we ate anyway, and there was nearly forty-five minutes between being served our apps and being served our entrees. The staff were friendly when they did stop by, but they were simultaneously overattentive and not attentive enough. Overall, the food was good, the service mediocre, and definitely overpriced for the amount of food and quality of that food.

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Weddings, Gardens, and Aquaman?

I found these on my computer and realized that I had not shared them yet on my blog. They are on Facebook, but not in my blog. They are not things that I have cooked, so that is probably why they have not made it over here, but they are things that I have eaten so they deserve a place here.

One set of pictures is from the Concord Farmer’s Market. Concord is a city near Walnut Creek in the East Bay (east of Oakland, up the 680). My friends Cindy and Eric live in Clayton which is outside of Concord. We were visiting up there and in between painting a garden shed and attending a fantastic wedding reception in Emeryville, we went to the farmer’s market to enjoy tamales, berries, and gelato.

Strawberries and blackberries. I’m lamenting the end of blackberry season.

Chicken tamale with salsa verde and crema.

Pork tamale with salsa verde and crema

I did not get any gelato pictures. It was tasty, especially on an incredibly hot day.

Later we walked around Cindy’s garden and admired the artwork, such as the sculpture that I have dubbed aquaman.

He’s some sort of mermaid fish dude. My friend Eric made him while he was in art school.

The rest of their backyard is made up of trees, a vegetable garden, a green house, and a number of fruit trees. It’s really impressive for a suburban backyard. I miss having my garden. We have yet to start on our new one here in Santa Cruz. It was the one nice thing about our apartment back in Santa Clara.

The rest of the day was spent at a friend’s wedding. I had never met the person whose wedding it was. Isn’t that always awkward? Congratulations on one of the biggest moments in your life, it’s so nice to meet you. So I did what any self-respecting, awkward individual does, I drank a lot of wine and ate chicken heads.

Why yes the bride on top of the cake is about beat the groom. And yes this was a beautiful cake, but unfortunately it did not taste as good as it looked. It was like one of those Safeway bakery cakes if you had left it out on the counter for a couple days and then some sort of cake Bunnicula came by and stole its cakey essence.

That didn’t make any sense. I’ve been up since two in the morning, ever since my neighbor woke me up to chanting to the full moon.

The rest of the meal was fairly traditional Chinese wedding food (I think) with the exception of my favorite dish of the night: the lobster thermidor. For once, I actually enjoyed lobster. Plus, the view from this restaurant (located on the Emeryville wharf) was fantastic.

The view of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline from Hong Kong East Ocean restaurant.

An assortment of bbq meats including char siu pork (one of my favorite things on this planet, especially when put into a steamed bun).

Some sort of seafood salad in a crispy noodle bowl.

Some sort of crab croquette claw thing. It’s like a tribble ate a crab and then was deep fried. The batter around the outside (tribble flesh) was disgusting, but crab claw was alright.

The “not” shark fin soup. Fake shark fin soup. I took about one bite of it and couldn’t eat the rest.

Abalone and mushrooms. I’m skeptical that this was real abalone, but whatever it was it was one of the better dishes of the night.

I believe this was lobster thermidor. Whatever it was it was absolutely incredible, especially after three or four glasses of wine. Best dish of the night and the only time I have ever enjoyed lobster. Of course it would be a French dish at a Chinese restaurant.

The chicken head that I hate. Not bad.

 

 

BBQ Chicken

Yesterday I had my second round of interviews with the Monterey Peninsula School District. I got home around eleven in the morning and decided to walk to the Safeway on 41st. We live less than a mile from the store, so it was a nice afternoon walk if I limited the amount of groceries I bought. I kept it to two bags and it wasn’t so bad, except for the bunch of middle-aged motorcyclists who decided to stop and check me out. Weirdness.

I was craving BBQ chicken like mad. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sweet, smoky carbonized sticky chicken skin. Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs were the cheapest cuts of chicken available at Safeway, though I tend to enjoy white meat more than dark. Dark meat does tend to stand up better to the high heat of the grill. Andrew got the grilled started up and then I got the chicken on.

To start with, toss the chicken in olive oil, salt and pepper. Do not put the sauce on the chicken yet. Andrew wanted to put the sauce on straight away and this is a mistake. You will end up with a bullet proof carbon shell around your chicken before the inside is even cooked. Once you put the chicken on the grill put the lid on and cook for about fifteen minutes, turning and flipping occasionally.

After about fifteen to twenty minutes, it is time to add the sauce. You can make your own sauce or you can use store bought. I purchased Baby Sugar Ray’s BBQ Sauce for 99 cents. 99 cents for more than a pound of BBQ sauce. Much lighter and cheaper than carrying all the makings for homemade BBQ sauce. Homemade is always appreciated, but so is a light grocery bag and a small bill. Slather the BBQ sauce on with a brush and continue to baste until the chicken is cooked. It took about twenty more minutes for my chicken to cook mostly because I’m terrified of undercooked poultry.

We served this with asparagus and grilled baby new potatoes.

Six Layer Dip: A Way to Use Leftovers

Andrew and I had much food leftover from our Saturday night shindig. There was still a considerable amount of chili verde, pulled pork and one chicken breast left. What do with it? I contemplated chili verde pork tacos/burritos, but we had no tortillas. Then it came to me: I could make a layered dip for tonight’s BBQ at Peter’s house. Starting at ten in the morning, I started cooking my beans from scratch.

Cooking dried beans either intimidates people or just doesn’t sound very exciting. Okay, I get it. Beans are not a sexy food to cook. Plus it is so easy to buy canned beans. Canned beans however are expensive (much more expensive than buying them dried by the pound) and they often contain a lot of sodium. I also find them a tad mushy. Most of the time I do used canned beans, but I did not have any left and I did have half a pound of dried pink beans in my cupboard.

Cooking beans is a lot easier than people make it out to be. It’s certainly not quick but it is not the long ordeal that it is often made out to be. From cupboard to dip the beans took about an hour and a half. That is not bad considering many recipes say that YOU MUST soak them overnight or they will take forever to cook. Simply not true.

First, I rinsed my beans in cold water. Then I put them in a pot and covered them with water. You want at least two to three inches of water over your beans. Yes, you will need to watch the level of your water and replenish it from time to time. Do some laundry, bring a book into the kitchen, do some knitting, whatever. Bring your beans to a boil then reduce to a simmer so they are gently bubbling. Cover with a lid partway and cook for until they tender. This can take anywhere from an half to four hours. It depends on how much you’re cooking and what kind of bean it is. Mine took about an hour and a half to cook.

Cover beans with at least two inches of water. 

Bring beans to a boil, then reduce heat so they bubble gently.

Partially cover and cook until beans are tender. 

Drain the beans, rinse, and let sit until room temperature. 

When the beans are tender, take off the heat and drain in a colander. You may want to save some of your bean cooking liquid for the next part of the recipe. I did not save mine and I had to use water. Rinse the beans and let them come down to room temperature.

Mash the beans with a fork. I also added spices. 

Now is the fun part. You get to mash your beans to whatever texture you like. I wanted mine chunky so I tried a fork. That was not getting me ANYWHERE. So I used my fist instead. Yes, I fisted my beans. Yes, my hands were perfectly clean and this was totally sanitary. It was also fun. You should never doubt your hands as tools. You may need to add a little water, broth, or bean liquid to get a smoother texture. You can also go a whiz in the food processor depending on how smooth you would like your beans.

Smooth out the beans with a spatula. 

The beans serve as the base for your dip. They are the heaviest and need to be smoothed out. Pour into a large bowl and smooth until level. Then I topped it with the pulled pork which I also smoothed out with a rubber spatula.

Add pulled pork. 

Next I made some rice. I took half a cup of white rice and put it in a small pot. I covered it with vegetable broth with at least an inch covering the rice. This is the correct amount and  you don’t need to measure this exactly. From there bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for about fifteen minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and your rice is cooked.

Top the pulled pork with rice. 

Chopped chicken breast marinated in Frank’s Red Hot. 

Add chicken and more Frank’s Red Hot sauce. 

Cover the pulled pork with the rice layer. I topped the rice layer with chopped chicken breast marinated in Frank’s Red Hot sauce (my friend Ian’s contribution to our Saturday night shindig) then topped with more Frank’s Red Hot. Next came chopped avocado. Then this was finally topped with some of the leftover manzana chili verde (see previous post).

The final product

Chicken and Biscuits

I had two chicken breasts to use up that were sitting in the fridge. I was thinking all day about what I wanted to make. I really wanted to make fried chicken and waffles, but I prefer not to fry foods and delicious waffles elude me. I wanted to work on my waffle making, but I also didn’t want to mess them up again. Instead, I decided to make chicken and buttermilk biscuits.

The chicken I made was chicken nuggets from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. His are fried and I decided I wanted to bake mine instead. Mine turned out dry and definitely needed BBQ sauce.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Korean Glass Noodles

Today after work I started planting in the backyard. I’ve planted two rows of parsnips, a row of Walla Walla onions, and a row of spinach. It’s probably too early for the Walla Walla onions, but its California and we’ve got pretty mild winters here.

After planting, I made a chicken stir-fry with Korean glass noodles. Korean glass noodles are made of sweet potato and they’re a chewy, slightly sweet, slightly sticky noodle that goes well with stir fries. I based my recipe off of one from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. The result was spicy, salty, crunchy, and chewy. A nice warming dinner after a cold day at work.

40 Cloves of Garlic…and Chicken!

I have seen this recipe floating around the interwebs for ages now. I have seen it posted on food blogs all around the web and have been interested in trying it since I first started getting into “food porn”. I love garlic and chicken is definitely my favorite animal protein. I finally decided to try Mark Bitman’s version of it from How To Cook Everything.

I’ve got to be honest here. I found the chicken a little dry in this recipe. Maybe I let it cook too long, though I did stop cooking it before the time was up. I would add more braising liquid next time. The skin on the chicken turned out super delicious and crispy. The garlic was sweet and creamy. It was a pain in the butt to clean up the cast iron skillet, but I definitely think it was worth it.

I served it with SooFoo, which is a mixture of different grains and pulses  including brown rice, lentils, wheat berries, and rye. I tried it in Whole Foods the other day at a sample table and they totally won me over. Delicious and a ton of non-animal protein and fiber.

Cast iron is such a great surface to cook on even if it is a terrible, annoying surface to clean. I really love the way that it colors food and the nice, even heating surface that you get. I also love photographing food in cast iron. It creates such a nice, clean contrasted backdrop for the food.

40 Cloves of Garlic and Chicken

Adapted from Mark Bitman’s How To Cook Everything

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 skin-on chicken breast
  • 1 bone in, skin-on chicken leg
  • 2 heads of garlic, at least (I used three small ones)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth

1. Put the oil in a deep skillet with a lid or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot add the chicken, skin side down, and brown it well, rotating and turning the pieces as necessary; the process will take ten to fifteen minutes.

2. Add the garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pour the liquid over all. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily.

3. Cover and cook, undisturbed, for about an hour, until the chicken and garlic are very tender.