Peruvian Grill-Roasted Chicken

As we were eating this fantastic meal, The Hubs declared “If this is how they eat in Peru, I’m moving there.” Needless to say, we didn’t up and sell the house, but we swore we were going to make this riff on beer can chicken again—real soon. If you are feeding a crowd, it’s easy enough to fit two birds on the grill.

Cooks Illustrated tells us “In Peru, maestros polleros, or poultry masters, make the wildly popular chickens known as Pollo a la Brasa by grill-roasting chickens on rotisseries that spin lazily over crackling wood fires to produce meat that’s encased in tawny, paper-thin skin and dripping with juices.”

This version of Pollo a la Brasa calls for marinating the bird in a beer-based marinade that also includes ingredients commonly used in pollerías today: soy sauce for salinity; lime juice and mustard for brightness; and garlic, dried thyme, black pepper, and cumin for earthy, savory depth. Make sure to plan ahead, because the chicken needs to marinate for 24 hours.

Aji Amarillo (yellow chile) and huacatay (an herb that’s often called black mint) add spark and depth to many of the sauces that accompany Pollo a la Brasa. Vibrant Aji Amarillo gives off fruity, habanero-like vibes with moderate heat. Huacatay, on the other hand, is evocative of vegetables and freshly cut grass with menthol undertones. Both multi-use sauces are easily sourced online.

Instead of a rotisserie to rotate the bird horizontally, a half-empty beer can is used to prop it up vertically. Then position the propped-up bird in the center of a kettle grill outfitted with a split fire. The key is to rotate the chicken a quarter turn every 15 minutes. While not the constant movement of a rotisserie, about five turns produces remarkably succulent, smoky meat packaged in well-rendered, uniformly mahogany skin. (We purchased a 4-pack of pastes from Amazon which included both huacatay and aji amarillo.)

Peruvian Grill-Roasted Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz. can beer, divide
  • 2 Tbsp. finely grated garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. table salt
  • 2 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 4- to 4½-lb. whole chicken, giblets discarded
  • 1 cup wood chips
  • 1 13 by 9-inch disposable aluminum roasting pan

Directions

  1. Whisk ½ cup beer, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, salt, mustard, pepper, thyme, and cumin together in liquid measuring cup. Refrigerate remaining beer, still in can, until ready to grill. Using your fingers or handle of wooden spoon, gently loosen skin covering chicken breast and leg quarters. Using paring knife, poke 10 to 15 holes in fat deposits on skin of back. Tuck wingtips underneath chicken.
  2. Place chicken in bowl with cavity end facing up. Slowly pour marinade between skin and meat and rub marinade inside cavity, outside skin, and under skin to distribute. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning chicken halfway through marinating.
  3. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap wood chips in 8 by 4½-inch foil packet. (Make sure chips do not poke holes in packet.) Cut 2 evenly spaced 2-inch slits in top of packet.
  4. Place beer can in large, shallow bowl. Spray can all over with vegetable oil spray. Slide chicken over can so drumsticks reach down to bottom of can and chicken stands upright; set aside at room temperature while preparing grill.
  5. FOR A GAS GRILL: Remove cooking grate and place wood chip packet directly on one of outside burners. Set grate in place; turn all burners to high; cover; and heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 15 minutes. Turn 2 outside burners to medium and turn off center burner. (Adjust outside burners as needed to maintain grill temperature between 350 and 375 degrees.)
  6. Scrape cooking grate clean with grill brush. Transfer chicken with can to center of cooking grate with wings facing piles of coals (or outer burners on gas grill) at 3 and 9 o’clock (ends of drumsticks should rest on grate to help steady bird). Cover grill and cook for 15 minutes.
  7. Using tongs and wad of paper towels, rotate chicken 90 degrees so wings are at 6 and 12 o’clock. Continue cooking and turning chicken at 15-minute intervals until thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees, 1 hour to 1¼ hours longer.
  8. With large wad of paper towels in each hand, transfer chicken and can to clean bowl, keeping can upright; let rest for 15 minutes. Using wads of paper towels (or gloves), carefully lift chicken off can and onto cutting board. Discard can. Carve chicken, transfer to platter, and serve.
  9. Not part of the original recipe, we decided to defat all of the flavorful drippings in the aluminum tray and serve alongside the platter of chicken.

Aji Verde Sauce

This Peruvian Green Chile Sauce, also called Aji Verde, truly makes the meal- so don’t skip this part. Simply blend the ingredients together in the blender. So easy! And it can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup  mayonnaise
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded, coarsely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove. minced
  • 2 Tbsp. grated cotija cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh minced cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp. jarred huacatay paste
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender or small food processor until smooth, about 1 minute.

Aji Amarrillo Sauce

Another sauce option (which we did not make this time around).

Ingredients

  • ½ cup  mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. aji amarillo paste
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp. jarred huacatay paste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender or small food processor until smooth, about 1 minute.

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Recipe by David Pazmiño for Cook’s Illustrated

Grilled Pork Chops with Plum Mostarda

Absolutely delicious, this pork chop dinner was both slightly sweet and slightly spicy, with neither profile overwhelming the other. The Hubs is typically not fond of stone fruit, so when I mentioned that I’d like to make this recipe from Bon Appétit, he hesitantly got on board. After the first bite, he, and I, were amazed how much we plum loved it!

No doubt this will get on our rotation for company in the near future. The plum mostarda can easily be made ahead and rewarmed the evening of the party. All the host would have to do is season and grill the chops. The arugula gets mixed with a little of the sauce, and a simple side dish, such as a corn sauté completes the meal.

These grilled pork chops keep things simple—which is great when you are entertaining. Pop your seasoned plums onto the grill just before you add the meat. Then once everything is good and charred, toss the plums in the zingy dressing inspired by the flavors of mostarda, a sharp, heavy-hitting Italian condiment of candied fruit and dry mustard (used here is whole grain and Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and shallots).

Not able to source pork rib chops at the grocery store, we opted for loin chops—just make sure they are at least an inch thick. For the rub, we mixed together and pimentón and brown sugar then added 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper before sprinkling on the meat.

Grilled Pork Chops with Plum Mostarda

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grill
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped oregano
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large ripe plums, halved, pitted
  • 2 1”-thick bone-in pork rib chops
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • 4 oz. mature arugula, tough stems removed (about 4 cups)

Directions

  1. Whisk together shallot, vinegar, whole grain mustard, granulated sugar, and Dijon mustard in a medium bowl. Gradually stream in ½ cup oil, whisking vigorously until emulsified. Whisk in oregano and season with salt and pepper. Set vinaigrette aside.
  2. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; oil grate. Grill plums, cut side down, until charred and fruit releases easily from grill, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool.
  3. Season pork chops all over with salt and pepper and sprinkle with brown sugar and paprika. Grill, turning occasionally, until deeply browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone registers 140° (internal temperature should climb to 145° as chops rest), 10–12 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let rest 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cut plum halves into 2 or 3 wedges each and add to reserved vinaigrette; toss gently to coat. Season plum mostarda with salt and pepper.
  5. To serve, toss arugula with some plum mostarda in a large bowl to coat; transfer to plates. Spoon more plum mostarda over pork chops; serve chops with arugula salad alongside.

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Adapted by a recipe from Tiana Gee for Bon Appétit

Butter-Roasted Cabbage with Citrus and Mustard

An interesting twist that elevates humble cabbage into something special. Softened butter is rubbed on edges of a cut head and then sprinkled with a fragrant combination of citrus zest, garlic and coriander. As the wedges roast, the exterior leaves become deeply browned and crispy, while the interior remains silky, sweet and tender. A bright, citrusy dressing completes the dish.

This side dish was born out of necessity. We were a few short days away from leaving for vacation, thus trying to use up any food that might spoil before we got back home. In our auxiliary refrigerator was a half-head of savoy cabbage which prompted us to look in our copy of Milk Street’s Vegetables cookbook for an appropriate recipe.

We had every ingredient on hand except for the hazelnuts (which is omitted in the list below) and decided to make it anyway, forgoing any nuts altogether. Since the half-head was just shy of 2 pounds, we kept all of the other staples at full value. As far as the herbs, we used a combination of chives and tarragon freshly picked from the garden.

NOTES: Don’t forget to allow the butter to soften. Make sure to line the baking sheet with foil (which I forgot to do).

Butter-Roasted Cabbage with Citrus and Mustard

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tsp. grated grapefruit OR lemon zest, plus a 1/2 cup of its juice
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces and softened
  • 2-lb. head of savoy OR napa cabbage, tough outer leaves removes, quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. whole grain mustard OR Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon OR fresh chives OR fresh flat-leaf parsley OR a combination

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the coriander, garlic, zest and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
  3. Using your hands and 1 tablespoon of butter per cabbage wedge, rub the butter on all sides and into the layers. Sprinkle the wedges evenly with the spice mixture, rubbing it in to adhere, reserve the bowl.
  4. Place cabbage wedges cut side down on the prepared baking sheet. Cover tightly with foil and roast until a skewer inserted into the thickest part meets little resistance, 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Uncover the baking sheet and roast until the cabbage is deeply browned on all sides, about 15 minutes more, flipping halfway through.
  6. Meanwhile in the reserved bowl, whisk together the citrus juice, mustard, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
  7. Place wedges on a platter and drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve with any remaining sauce on the side.

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Adapted from a recipe in Milk Street’s “Vegetables” cookbook.

I Betcha You’ll Enjoy Thecha

“Spicy, garlicky thecha is a green-(or red)-chile-based condiment that hails from Maharashtra in western India. You can use it to complement seared skirt steak, as well as chicken, eggplant, cauliflower, or any other ingredient that longs for massive flavor.” — Bon Appétit

Since we had some flap meat in the freezer, and actually prefer it over skirt steak, it became the foundation for our meal. Because flap steak is thicker than skirt, we sliced the thicker portions and adjusted the times slightly. However, the Skirt Steak with Scallion Thecha recipe below mimics the original from Bon Appétit.

NOTE: To save a step, grind the peanuts in the mini-food processor before using it to make the thecha.

Our choice of sides was roasted butternut squash and red onions, plus a side salad; but you could also serve the steak with rice, roasted potatoes, and/or a salad for a full meal. Our Thai chiles were red, so the thecha is more red than one made with green serrano chiles, as is typical.

Skirt Steak with Scallion Thecha

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 small bunch cilantro, tough stems removed, leaves and tender stems coarsely chopped
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 green Thai or serrano chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsest chopped
  • 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil, plus more for steak
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup salted or unsalted roasted peanuts, crushed
  • 1½ lb. ½”-thick skirt steak, cut into 5”-long pieces
  • Flaky sea salt

Directions

  1. Pulse cilantro, scallions, chiles, garlic, and 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt in a food processor (a mini processor works well here) until a coarse paste forms. Transfer to a small heatproof bowl.
  2. Heat ⅓ cup oil in a small skillet over medium-high. Cook cumin until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Transfer to bowl with paste; add peanuts and mix well. Set scallion thecha aside for serving.
  3. Pat steaks dry with paper towels and season on both sides with kosher salt. Rub a little oil over steaks to coat lightly.
  4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add half of the steak, arranging in a single layer, and cook, undisturbed, until a golden brown crust forms, 2–3 minutes. Turn steak over and cook until second side forms a golden brown crust, 2–3 minutes. (We had a large enough grill pan to cook all of the steak at once.)
  5. Transfer steak to a cutting board and repeat process with remaining steak, if necessary. Let rest 10 minutes.
  6. Slice steak against the grain and arrange on a platter. Top with reserved scallion thecha and sprinkle with sea salt.

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Recipe by Rachel Gurjar for Bon Appétit

Sizzling Pork and Eggplant Hiyayakko

According to Bon Appétit where we sourced this recipe, Hiyayakko is a Japanese warm-weather starter or side dish made of a small square of chilled silken tofu, a sprinkling of toppings, and saucy drizzles (think a heap of bonito flakes and puddle of soy sauce, or fresh tomatoes with ponzu).

In this version, the simple template goes family-style, with sliced silken tofu carefully shingled on a platter, topped with a savory ground pork and eggplant stir-fry. The combination of cold, custardy tofu and hot, saucy pork was a bit odd in our opinion. We think next time we’d use firm tofu and flash-fry slabs of it in a hot skillet, then shingle it on a platter.

Fresh basil from the garden showered on top was the perfect garnish. If Thai basil is accessible, use that. Unable to source Chinese or Japanese eggplant, we substituted an Italian variety which is typically larger, and therefore had to slice it down differently.

The hubs thought it would be good over steamed rice. While I agree, it is no longer a low-carb or as high a protein meal. Your call…

Sizzling Pork and Eggplant Hiyayakko

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 16-oz. packages silken tofu
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 medium Chinese or Japanese eggplant (about 8 oz. total), cut into 3″-long pieces, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 red Thai chiles, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 2″ piece ginger, scrubbed, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar, divided
  • Basil leaves (for serving)

Directions

  1. Wrap tofu in a few layers of paper towels to absorb moisture; place on a plate. Chill until ready to use.
  2. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook eggplant, stirring occasionally, until slightly tender, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet. Cook pork, breaking up meat, 1 minute. Add chiles, garlic, ginger, and sugar and cook, stirring and continuing to break up meat into small pieces, until pork is no longer pink and mixture is fragrant, about 4 minutes.
  4. Return eggplant to skillet; add fish sauce, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, and 2 Tbsp. vinegar. Cook, stirring often, until liquid is mostly absorbed and eggplant is browned and tender, about 3 minutes. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. soy sauce and remaining 1 Tbsp. vinegar and cook, stirring, until mixture is slightly saucy, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  5. Carefully unwrap tofu; slice crosswise ½”-thick. Shingle tofu on a platter. Spoon eggplant mixture over; top with basil.

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Adapted from a recipe by Kendra Vaculin for Bon Appétit

Sweet and Sticky Grilled Chicken

We just can’t get enough of roasted or grilled chicken. The bird is so versatile and the ways to prepare it are endless! “Pantry superstars do the heavy lifting in this easy, crowd-pleasing grilled chicken dinner.”

Now If you can find a whole chicken that is already split, the result is a chicken dinner with the same properties of spatchcocking (quick-cooking, lots of surface area to get charred, crispy skin) but which is more manageable than dealing with a whole bird. If you can’t score one, buy a whole chicken, butterfly it, then split it yourself by slicing directly between the two breasts.

The chicken got a bit too charred on the outside, but the inside meat was succulent and juicy!

For the tangy glaze, stir up a few condiment powerhouses like marmalade, Dijon mustard, and sherry vinegar, and brush them onto the chicken after cooking it most of the way through, covered over indirect heat. For the final 10 to 15 minutes, transfer the chicken halves to direct heat and baste with every flip until glistening and charred. Leftover glaze can be cooked down as a sauce to serve alongside the finished dish. 

Word to the wise, have extra napkins on hand 😉

Sweet and Sticky Grilled Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 3½–4-lb. chicken, backbone removed, halved
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup orange marmalade or seedless jam of choice
  • ⅓ cup Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for grill
  • Flaky sea salt

Directions

  1. Generously season chicken halves all over with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes, or chill up to 1 day. If chilling, let sit at room temperature 1 hour before grilling.
  2. Whisk marmalade, mustard, vinegar, soy sauce, jalapeño (if using), and garlic in a small bowl to combine. Set glaze aside.
  3. Prepare a grill for medium-high indirect heat (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill; for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off). Lightly oil grate. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, then rub with 1 Tbsp. oil. Place, skin side down, over indirect heat. Cover grill and grill chicken, turning halfway through, until skin is lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thighs registers 120°–130°, 15–20 minutes.
  4. Uncover grill, turn chicken over, and move over direct heat. Brush chicken with reserved glaze. Grill, turning often and brushing generously with glaze (move to indirect heat if browning too quickly), until charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 150° (it will climb to 160° as chicken rests), 10–15 minutes. Transfer chicken, skin side up, to a cutting board; let rest 15 minutes.
  5. While chicken is resting, transfer any remaining glaze to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbling and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  6. Carve chicken and transfer to a platter; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with sauce alongside.

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Recipe by Zaynab Issa For Bon Appétit

Stir-Fried Beef and Gai Lan

This riff on the ever-evolving Chinese American standard features gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and filet mignon: The luxurious cut is ideal for quick, high-heat cooking; is readily available in small portions; and just needed a brief chill in the freezer to firm up for easy slicing before being coated in a simple mixture of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and cornstarch.

While the meat chills, slice the gai lan stalks thin on the bias and cut the tender leaves into wide ribbons. Start the stir-fry by cooking the stalks in oil in a hot wok. As they sizzle, the oil smolders, infusing the dish with a smoky aroma. Then set the stalks aside and stir-fry the leaves with garlic and toasted sesame oil, speeding their cooking with a small but flavorful addition of chicken broth before arranging them on a serving platter.

Finally, stir-fry the marinated beef; returned the stalks to the wok; and stir in a blend of chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, toasted sesame oil, and cornstarch. The sauce thickens in less than a minute. Arrange the beef mixture over the leaves, ensuring that each bite is perfectly sauced. If desired, serve with steamed rice.

If gai lan is unavailable, you can use broccolini, substituting the florets for the gai lan leaves. Do not use standard broccoli. In the end, we found it served 3 sufficiently, or 4 “small plates”.

Stir-Fried Beef and Gai Lan

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 (8-oz.) center-cut filet mignon, trimmed
  • 1 lb. gai lan, stalks trimmed
  • 5 tsp. Shaoxing wine or dry sherry, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch, divided
  • ¾ cup chicken broth, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1½ tsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
  • 1½ tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, divided

Directions

  1. Prepare white rice as per package directions.
  2. Cut beef into 4 equal wedges. Transfer to plate and freeze until very firm, 20 to 25 minutes. While beef freezes, prepare gai lan. Remove leaves, small stems, and florets from stalks; slice leaves crosswise into 1½-inch strips (any florets and stems can go into pile with leaves); and cut stalks on bias into ¼-inch-thick pieces. Set aside.
  3. When beef is firm, stand 1 piece on its side and slice against grain ¼ inch thick. Repeat with remaining pieces. Transfer to bowl. Add 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch and toss until beef is evenly coated. Set aside.
  4. In second bowl, whisk together ½ cup broth, oyster sauce, ½ teaspoon sesame oil, remaining 4 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, remaining 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and remaining 1 teaspoon cornstarch; set aside.
  5. In third bowl, combine 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, ginger, and ¼ teaspoon garlic.
  6. Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in wok over high heat until just smoking. Add stalks and cook, stirring slowly but constantly, until spotty brown and crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
  7. Add remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil, remaining 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, and remaining ½ teaspoon garlic to wok and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add leaves and cook, stirring frequently, until vibrant green, about 1 minute. Add remaining ¼ cup broth and cook, stirring constantly, until broth evaporates, 2 to 3 minutes. Spread evenly on serving dish.
  8. Add ginger-garlic mixture to wok and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef and cook, stirring slowly but constantly, until no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Return stalks to wok and add oyster sauce mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, 30 to 60 seconds. Place mixture on top of leaves. Serve.

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Recipe by Lan Lam for Cook’s Illustrated

Portuguese Salad

In a sense, this salad is glorified gazpacho, but chunkier—and it paired wonderfully with our Cataplana (Portugal’s Simple Seafood Stew) entrée. As it only feeds 3 to 4, we doubled the amounts to feed the party of 6.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, our gas oven broiler doesn’t do the best job. When I walked into the kitchen and saw The Hubs down on his knees with his arm stuck into the oven rotating the peppers with tongs, I gently told him that it might be much easier to char them directly over a gas burner. Smart man that he is, he took the hint, because when I walked back in, he was searing the plum tomatoes, two at a time, directly on the grates.

When it comes to hosting, we like to do as much as possible the day prior to the event. For this side dish, he blackened and peeled the tomatoes and bell peppers, then salted the peeled cucumber slices. About half an hour before the feast was served, the salad was finished with the dressing.

Portuguese Salad

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 3 plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cucumber, peeled
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chili paste
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Turn the broiler on, and set the red and green bell peppers underneath. Cook, turning occasionally, until lightly blackened on all sides. When done, place in a small plastic bag and let steam for a few minutes. Repeat with the tomatoes, but first lightly coat in olive oil. They will cook much quicker. Remove when lightly blackened all over and let cool on a tray.
  2. While the bell peppers and tomatoes cool, slice the cucumber into 1/2 inch inch thick slices. Set on a rack or on a paper towel, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let those hang out for 20 minutes or so until they release some water. Dry with paper towels.
  3. Remove the bell peppers from the plastic bags when cooled. Peel off the skin, remove the stems, and chop into 1-inch squares. Repeat this process with the tomatoes, discarding most of the pulp.
  4. Toss the chopped bell peppers, tomato, and cucumbers in a large bowl. Add the chopped cilantro, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and chili paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Eat right away, or let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes for the flavors to really marry.

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Adapted from a recipe on Serious Eats by Nick Kindelsperger

Corn Sauté with Miso and Scallions

To create this corn side dish with rich, toasted flavor, strip the corn from the cobs when they are raw and then cook the kernels in a nearly smoking skillet. It is important not to stir the corn for a few minutes to give it a chance to brown. Once the corn is cooked, mix in plenty of salty, savory ingredients to balance the sweetness. Finally, an acidic component rounds out the dish.

Because fresh corn can vary in sweetness, the recipe calls for seasoning with a range of rice vinegar. We made it twice so far, and prefer the version with just 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar. When browning the corn kernels in a nonstick skillet, we found it took longer to get that caramelization, nearly three times longer! But so worth it because it was delicious and paired well with our grilled baby back ribs.

Corn Sauté with Miso and Scallions

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 6 scallions, white parts minced, green parts sliced thin on bias
  • 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 Tbsp. white miso
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (4 cups)
  • Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Melt butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add scallion whites and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until scallions are softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer scallion mixture to large bowl and whisk in miso and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Wipe out skillet.
  2. Heat oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add corn and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, without stirring, until corn is browned on bottom and beginning to pop, about 3-5 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, stirring once or twice, until corn is spotty brown all over, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
  3. Add mirin and cook until evaporated, about 1 minute. Transfer corn to bowl with scallion mixture.
  4. Stir in scallion greens. Season with salt and remaining vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

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Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Iraqi Spice-Crusted Grilled Chicken

If you reside in the camp of bold flavors, then this bird is calling your name. Not only does it smell and taste wonderful, but the meat remains juicy while the skin gets nice and crispy. We paired ours with mixed vegetables that were grilled alongside the chicken, and an easy boxed rice dish. Some stores even sell the chicken already spatchcocked, but we prefer to buy it whole so that the extra parts can go into our poultry “body bag” and used to make stock.

To shorten the very long list of spices that make up the aromatic rub for traditional Iraqi grilled chicken, both curry powder and garam masala are used. These two Indian seasoning blends add up to about a dozen different spices at play in this recipe. Ground sumac in the rub lends the chicken earthy, citrusy notes and, along with the paprika, a deep, brick-red hue. But don’t omit the additional few spices listed!

Spatchcocked and grilled, the bird cooks in under an hour and is rich and complexly flavored, with smokiness from the grill. (If you’re using charcoal, don’t forget to open the grill vents, both on the bottom of the grill and on the lid. This is will allow airflow so the fire does not extinguish during the covered cooking time.)

Iraqi Spice-Crusted Grilled Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2½ Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. ground sumac
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. sweet or hot paprika
  • ¾ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground cardamom
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 lbs.
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

Directions

  1. In a small skillet over low, combine 1½ tablespoons of oil and the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and sizzling, but not browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In another small bowl, stir together the sumac, coriander, curry powder, garam masala, paprika, cumin, cardamom, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture to the garlic oil and stir to form a paste.
  3. Place the chicken breast down on a cutting board. Using sturdy kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone, from top to bottom; remove and discard the backbone (or save to make broth). Open up the chicken, then turn it skin up. Use the heel of your hands to press down firmly on the thickest part of the breast until the wishbone snaps. Loosen the skin over the chicken’s breasts and thighs by gently working your fingers between the skin and the flesh.
  4. Using your fingers, evenly distribute the garlic-spice paste under the skin and rub it into the flesh. Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture evenly on both sides of the chicken, patting gently to help it adhere. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
  5. Prepare a grill for indirect, high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate.
  6. Using tongs, rotate the chicken to bring the breast side closest to the heat. Cover and cook until the thickest part of the breast reaches 160°F and the thighs reach 175°F, another 25 to 35 minutes.
  7. Brush the skin of the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Using tongs and a wide spatula, flip the chicken skin down onto the hot side of the grill. Cook until the skin is lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer skin up to a cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with lemon wedges.

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Adapted from a recipe found in Milk Street Magazine

Portugal’s Simple Seafood Stew (Cataplana)

Simply delicious! It just so happened, that we started making our vacation plans to visit Portugal the same day we made this dish. The power of suggestion…

Cataplana is both the name of the dish and the pot that it is cooked in. There are two types of cataplana: either seafood packed with both fish and seafood, or a pork and clam version, which this one is. It uses abundant fresh seafood, smoky cured meat, and vibrant paprika in a rich, ruddy broth. In lieu of a traditional copper cataplana pot, we cooked ours in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid to mimic the steamy cooking environment.

The strips of fresh fennel and red bell pepper, enliven the dish with a crisp‑tenderness that contrasts with the juicy chew of the sausage and the meaty clams. Since I don’t eat clams and The Hubs does, we substituted a bit more shrimp and fewer clams, but kept the ratios the same.

To accompany the stew and help mop up all of those luscious juices, we made some tasty toasted garlic baguette slices topped with grated parmesan and a hint of smoked paprika—the perfect companion! We made it again a few weeks later for a small party we hosted…

Portugal's Simple Seafood Stew (Cataplana)

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 12 oz. extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per lb.), peeled, deveined, and cut in half crosswise
  • ¾ tsp. table salt, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 oz. linguica sausage, quartered lengthwise and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped coarse
  • 1 8-oz. bottle clam juice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 lbs. littleneck or Manila clams, scrubbed
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

  1. Combine shrimp and ¼ teaspoon salt in bowl; refrigerate until needed. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add linguica and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and fat is slightly rendered, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic, paprika, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add onion, fennel, bell pepper, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomatoes, clam juice, and wine. Bring to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
  5. Increase heat to high and bring mixture to boil. Stir in clams; cover and cook until clams have opened, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.
  6. Off heat, stir in shrimp. Cover and let stand off heat until shrimp are opaque and just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  7. Discard any unopened clams. Stir in parsley; season with salt to taste; transfer to serving bowl if desired; and serve, passing lemon wedges separately.

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Recipe by Steve Dunn for Cook’s Illustrated

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops with Capers, Balsamic Vinegar, and Red Peppers

Typically, we find lamb shoulder chops to be a tough cut of meat and benefit from a longer braise. However, Cook’s Illustrated tried a much shorter braise than usual for this lamb chop recipe—just enough to cook the meat. After only 15 to 20 minutes, they claimed the lamb was tender, but we beg to differ.  

Our initial concerns at the short amount of time (15 to 20 minutes originally) the lamb chops cooked were well-founded. After 20 minutes, they were still tough and we added another 10 minutes to the braise. In fact, they could have used even more time to tenderize. In the past, we’ve always braised them, covered over low heat for 2 hours, until they were fall-apart tender.

The much-anticipated caper and red pepper sauce with the deglazing liquid was delicious! Because we only cooked two chops, there was some sauce leftover which we made good use of on some pork chops the following day. Our pairings for the lamb included a side salad and a recent new potato fave, Crispy Parmesan Potatoes.

included

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 lamb shoulder chops, about 3/4 inch thick, trimmed of external fat
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅓ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes packed in puree, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, drained
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed nonreactive skillet over medium-high heat. Cooking in 2 batches to avoid overcrowding, add 2 chops; sauté until brown on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside. Repeat.
  3. Pour fat from pan; return pan to medium heat, adding remaining tablespoon of oil. Add onion and pepper; sauté until softened, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer.
  5. Add wine; simmer until reduced by half, scraping browned bits from pan bottom with wooden spoon, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in tomatoes, then return chops to pan. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until chops are cooked through but tender, at least 30 minutes.
  7. Transfer chops to each of four plates. Stir parsley, capers, and balsamic vinegar into braising liquid; simmer until sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings, spoon portion of sauce over each chop, and serve.

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Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated

Greek Chicken and Potato Traybake

The Greek dish known as kotopoulo skorthato is typically called “Greek garlic-lemon chicken” in English, but the ensemble also includes potatoes, making it a delicious complete meal. OK, so we added a side of roasted broccolini to make it a more veggie-forward dinner.

For this riff, Milk Street used their trusty traybake technique—roasting the ingredients on a rimmed baking sheet in a hot oven to ensure the quickest cooking possible and to develop nice caramelization.

As a finale, toss in black olives, dill and capers to ratchet up the flavors. If using chicken breasts, try to purchase pieces that are close in size so they cook at the same rate. Since we used both thighs (for The Hubs) and breasts (for Yours Truly), we cut the breasts halves in half again, making them more uniform in size to the thighs.

Because we cooked 4 pounds of chicken pieces (25% more), we doubled the spice mixture so that we had enough to sprinkle on all sides of each piece. This meal was sooo flavorful, and not difficult at all!

Don’t use extra-large bone-in chicken breasts if you can help it; 12-ounce pieces work best. If unavoidable, keep in mind that bone-in breasts weighing about 1 pound each require 40 to 50 minutes of roasting.

Greek Chicken and Potato Traybake

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼-½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 12-oz. bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or 3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ lbs. medium Yukon Gold potatoes, not peeled, cut into 1-inch-thick wedges
  • 2 lemons, halved crosswise
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. drained capers
  • 3 Tbsp. roughly chopped fresh dill, divided

Directions

  • Heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the middle position. In a large bowl, stir together the oregano, pepper flakes, 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the mix onto all sides of the chicken. To the remaining seasoning mix in the bowl, add the oil, potatoes, lemon halves and garlic, then toss to coat.
  • Place the garlic in the center of a rimmed baking sheet, then arrange the chicken, skin up, around the garlic; this placement helps prevent the garlic from scorching during roasting. Arrange the lemons, cut sides up, and the potatoes in an even layer around the chicken. Roast until the thickest part of the breasts (if using) reaches 160°F and the thickest part of the largest thigh (if using) reaches 175°F, about 30 minutes.
  • Using tongs, transfer the chicken and lemon halves to a serving platter. Push the potatoes to the edge of the baking sheet, leaving the garlic in the center. Using a fork, mash the garlic to a rough paste. Add the olives, capers and 2 tablespoons of the dill to the baking sheet, then, using a wide metal spatula, stir and toss the ingredients, scraping up any browned bits.
  • Transfer the potato mixture to the platter, placing it around the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon dill.

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Adapted from a recipe by Rebecca Richmond for Milk Street

Tuscan Spring Soup

In Tuscany, the advent of spring doesn’t signal the end of soup season, like it might here in the Northeast. But it does mean the soups that are served take on a different tone. Tender vegetables meet a rich, meaty broth in this light Tuscan-inspired soup—just perfect for a not-too-hot Spring evening.

And while a hallmark of Tuscan cuisine is its rusticity, this soup is all about luxury. In stark contrast to the typical hearty Tuscan soups, which often cleverly repurpose scraps, only the finest ingredients go into a typical “garmugia”—a pairing of pricey meats and the season’s freshest vegetables.

In garmugia, meat is a seasoning, not the main event. To that end, Milk Street omits the veal, as the combination of beef broth and pancetta (plus a simmered rind of Parmesan) gives the soup a wonderfully savory depth that enhances the vegetables without competing with them.

For their clean vegetal flavors and year-round availability, this soup opts for scallions, asparagus, artichoke hearts and frozen peas. By cooking the vegetables in sequence—starting with the sturdiest, ending with the most delicate—each ingredient retains its character, ensuring that they’re not overcooked. The artichoke hearts are simmered first, then the asparagus, followed by the peas, all topped with a finishing sprinkle of scallion greens for a burst of zingy freshness.

“Each bite of the finished soup is a spoonful of spring in a bowl, no matter the season.”

Milk Street instructs you to simmer the optional Parmesan rind into the mix to boost the umami notes. Canned artichoke hearts do well here, but frozen artichokes also work—just defrost and pat dry before use (you’ll need about 2 cups). To serve on the side, make savory Parmesan toasts that are perfect for dipping into the broth.

Don’t use ultra-slender asparagus, which will end up overcooked. Look for spears about the size of a pencil. To retain the bright-green color of the peas, don’t allow the soup to boil after the peas are stirred in.

Tuscan Spring Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve
  • 3-4 oz. pancetta, chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens reserved separately
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1½ qts. low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 chunk Parmesan rind (optional), plus ½ oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (¼ cup)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. crusty white bread, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and quartered
  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths on the diagonal
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed

Directions

  • Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the element. In a large saucepan over medium, combine 1 tablespoon of oil and the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has rendered its fat and begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the scallion whites and thyme. Cook until the scallions are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the broth, the Parmesan rind (if using) and ½ teaspoon pepper, then bring to a boil over medium-high.
  • Meanwhile, brush both sides of the bread slices with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, then place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan, then broil until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
  • When the soup reaches a boil, add the artichokes, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  • Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is just tender, 2 to 4 minutes.
  • Stir in the peas, reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring, until the peas are heated through, about 3 minutes; do not allow the soup to boil.
  • Off heat, remove and discard the thyme and Parmesan rind (if used). Stir in the scallion greens, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with additional oil and serve with the Parmesan toasts.

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Recipe by Shaula Clark for Milk Street

Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs with Goat Cheese and Honey

These addictive fig bites are very simple, but it’s crucial to use the best ingredients, from true Spanish ham to ripe, juicy figs, crunchy marcona almonds and best-quality olive oil. That being said, we couldn’t parse any Spanish dry-cured ham, such as jamon iberico or serrano and therefore opted for prosciutto. If you can locate the Spanish types, by all means use that.

The original recipe directs you to place the almonds on top of the ham-wrapped figs and goat cheese mixture. However, we didn’t think they’d stay atop the figs once encased, so we put the almond on top of the goat cheese and then wrapped it all in the thin slices of ham.

Just a word to the wise, let your guests know that there is a nut inside, so they aren’t surprised and think it’s a pit (as one of our guests thought)!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs with Goat Cheese and Honey

  • Servings: Yields 16 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 8 fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup ruby port
  • Black pepper
  • 4 oz. fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
  • 4 oz. very thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 16 long strips
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 16 marcona or roasted almonds
  • Small mint leaves, for garnish

Directions

  1. Arrange the figs cut side up on a plate. Drizzle with the port and season with black pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, using a fork, blend the goat cheese with the honey, scallion and a pinch of flaky sea salt.
  3. Dollop small spoonfuls of the goat cheese on the fig halves. Wrap each cheese-topped fig half in a strip of ham and transfer to a platter. Drizzle the figs with olive oil, top with the almonds, mint and sea salt and serve.

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Adapted from a recipe by Abraham Conlon for Food & Wine