When it comes to Thai food, the cuisine ranks among the top of our ethnic food preferences. This classic from Milk Street, Thai Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashews raised the bar as the best version we’ve made at home. We pretty much followed the recipe to a T, except exchanging a medium-large red pepper in place of the small one. Oh, and of course we increased the amount of cashews 😉
Milk Street’s version uses mostly pantry staples and can be on the table in about 30 minutes. The chicken marinates for 15 minutes before cooking, and you can prep the bell pepper and scallions in the meantime. Serve the stir-fry with steamed jasmine rice.
Tip: Don’t discard the marinade after draining the chicken. It’s mixed with ¼ cup water and becomes a sauce that lightly coats the chicken and vegetables.
With stir-fries, most commonly we use our carbon steel wok, but our large cast-iron skillet happened to be sitting on the stovetop that evening, so it became the vehicle of choice. Choose your weapon—I mean skillet—according to your own preference, but don’t use a non-stick otherwise the chicken won’t brown well, if at all.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths; save some thinly sliced greens for garnish
1/2 cup roasted cashews, more for garnish if desired
In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, pepper flakes and ¾ teaspoon white pepper. Stir in the chicken, then marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Drain the chicken in a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, pressing the chicken to remove excess marinade. Stir ¼ cup water into the marinade and set aside.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken in an even layer, then cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the bell pepper, scallions and cashews. Stir the marinade mixture to recombine, add to the pan and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring often, until the liquid thickens and clings to the chicken, about 2 minutes.
It’s not unusual that most of us would like to cut calories and fat where we can, but not loose flavor. With this riff on a Martha Stewart recipe, you bake rather than fry, for less mess and less fat. In addition, there is no salting of the eggplant to extract moisture—a process I’ve never grown fond of.
Another plus, make the chunky tomato sauce a day or two ahead and save time on dinner night. It only takes about 20 minutes total, then refrigerate in an air tight container, and you’re one step ahead of the game.
As we prepped the dish, we realized that a few tweaks to the recipe were needed. After coating the slices for one of the eggplants, we noted there would not be enough for all the remaining slices, so we quickly increased by about another 50%; while the amount of egg wash was spot on.
The shredded mozzarella was increased to 2 cups from 1 1/2, although we would even increase it more next time! The dried basil was swapped out for fresh, making sure to add it between layers as well as a garnish. One of those grocery store clamshells of basil is the perfect amount. These changes are noted in the ingredients below.
It was so light and tasty, The Hubs claimed it might be the best Eggplant Parm he’s ever had! Can’t wait to attack those leftovers… Serves 8 as a side dish, 6 as a main.
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 Tbsp. for topping
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 oz. fresh basil, chopped to equal a loose 1/2 cup, save some whole leaves for garnish
2 large eggplants (2 1/2 lbs. total), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2+ cups shredded mozzarella
Tomato Sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until translucent, 2 to 4 minutes. Crush tomatoes into pan; add oregano. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Make up to 3 days ahead.
Eggplant Parm: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 1 cup grated Parmesan, and oregano; season with salt and pepper.
Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until browned on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400 degrees.
Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 of the chopped basil. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, mozzarella and basil; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Harissa is a North African spice paste whichis used as the flavor base for this simple skillet-cooked meat sauce, as well as to season the couscous that’s served alongside. Scallions play a dual role in this dish—the whites are caramelized to lend depth of flavor to the sauce and the greens are sprinkled on as a garnish.
Dates (or golden raisins) lend sweetness that play off the spicy, savory notes. Neither of us are huge fans of raisins/dates in our savory dishes, so we only incorporated one ounce of golden raisins and to us, it was the perfect amount of sweetness.
While the directions were followed as written, the next time we prepare this dish, we’ll brown the meat in the skillet first, remove it to a dish, wipe out the grease, and then cook the scallions as directed, adding back the cooked lamb afterwards. The original way leaves all of the fat in the pan.
The chopped pistachios, lemon wedge and cilantro all added welcome pops of flavor as garnishes.
In a large bowl, stir together the couscous, ¾ teaspoon salt and 1½ tablespoons each oil and harissa. Stir in the boiling water; cover and let stand while you prepare the beef.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook the remaining 1½ tablespoons oil, the scallion whites and cumin, stirring, until the scallions brown.
Add the lamb (or beef), the remaining 1½ tablespoons harissa, the dates, ¾ cup water and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Simmer and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally while breaking up the meat, until the mixture is saucy.
Stir in the scallion greens and season with salt and pepper. Serve over the couscous.
Pistachios are a borderline addiction for me (although I’m usually not picky when it comes to nuts of any sort). In fact, whenever we stop at Costco’s, it’s pretty likely we’ll pick up a 1.5-pound bag of the shelled, roasted/salted variety.
Did you know Sicily is famous for its pistachios, as well as for ricotta cheese? In this recipe, Milk Street blends the two, along with fresh basil and chives, to create a simple pesto to toss with al dente pasta.
There’s no need to grate the Parmesan—simply cut it into chunks and toss the pieces into the blender. The pesto is good on a wide variety of pasta shapes, but the hollow centers and surface ridges of rigatoni do a particularly good job of gripping the rich, creamy sauce. We used rotini whose spirals also made an easy job of grasping that sauce.
Milk Street advises NOT to use toasted or roasted pistachios because they claim, in this case, raw pistachios are best. Their bright color and natural sweetness lend a vibrant, full-flavored pesto. Well, as I mentioned, we had the roasted salted pistachios and went ahead and used them.
Now don’t forget to reserve some of the pasta water before draining the pasta. You’ll need some of the starchy seasoned liquid to thin out the pesto.
¾ cup raw pistachios, plus 2 Tbsp. finely chopped pistachios
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 oz. Parmesan cheese (without rind), cut into 4 or 5 pieces
½ cup lightly packed fresh basil
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh chives
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts water to boil. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
In a blender, combine the ricotta, the whole pistachios, oil, Parmesan, basil, chives, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and blend until creamy, about 1 minute; the pesto should have a consistency similar to yogurt.
Pour the pesto over the pasta and stir, adding more reserved pasta water as needed so the sauce coats the noodles. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with the chopped pistachios.
Looking for a vibrant fish dinner combination? This Roasted Fish and Fennel with Grapefruit Salsa from Better Homes & Gardens caught our attention immediately. And if you lean toward low-carb, keto-friendly dishes, you may want to put this meal in your rotation.
Choose a firm whitefish option like cod, grouper, or hake. These varieties hold up well to oven-roasting—and topping with a tangy, refreshing fruit salsa. Our original intention was to purchase hake, but the local supermarket didn’t have it and we were to lazy to drive to the other side of town to the Asian fish market and get it, so cod it was.
The recipe calls for four fish fillets, but with only the two of us at the dinner table, we simply bought a one-pounder fillet and split it. As far as the fennel, once roasted, it not only dissipates the licorice flavor (which deters some people from eating it), but it takes on a subtle, sweet flavor, which makes a great counterpoint to the grapefruit salsa.
2 medium fennel bulbs, halved, cored, and cut into thin wedges, plus 2 Tbsp. chopped fronds
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 1-inch thick firm white fish fillets, such as cod, grouper, or hake
1 large pink grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a shallow baking pan with foil. Add fennel wedges. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt. Arrange in a single layer. Roast 12 to 15 minutes or until starting to brown.
Turn fennel and push to sides. Add fish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine chopped fennel fronds, grapefruit, parsley, shallot, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and black pepper. Serve fish with roasted fennel and the salsa.
A richly caramelized crust, juicy and flavorful interior, and a sauce so irresistible you’ll be tempted to eat it right out of the skillet. Take note, while the cooking portion is a mere 15 minutes or so, the seasoned poultry needs to be refrigerated uncovered for two hours, then sit at room temperature for another 30 minutes.
Why season and chill this chicken before cooking? That chilling time allows salt to penetrate the chicken and as the muscle fibers break down, it helps the meat reabsorb the juices. And no one enjoys a dried out piece of chicken!
Instead of just serving with plain steamed rice, we upped our game and made rice pilaf which also included a chipotle chile pepper. The other companion side served was glazed carrots.
1 chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
Chopped fresh cilantro
Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Place on a plate. Chill, uncovered, for 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator and let stand 30 minutes.
Heat a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. To check when hot enough, add a large drop of water (1/8 teaspoon) to the skillet. When it rolls around the pan like a bead of mercury it is ready. This will take 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove skillet from heat; add oil. Swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Return to medium-high heat. Add chicken (don’t crowd the pan). Cook for 5 minutes or until a crust forms (be patient; the chicken will release when it’s ready to be turned). Turn and cook for 5 to 7 minutes more—or until chicken is done at 165°F. Adjust heat as necessary.
Remove chicken from skillet to a plate; cover loosely. Remove skillet from heat. Carefully add broth, lime juice, and garlic to skillet (mixture will spatter). Return to heat. Bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Boil gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until reduced by about half. Remove from heat.
Whisk in butter, chipotle, and any juices from the chicken.
Spoon sauce over chicken to serve. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Southeast Asian curries combine Indian influences with regional ingredients such as lemon grass and star anise. For this one, Milk Street took inspiration from a recipe in “Best of Malaysian Cooking” by Betty Saw. Instead of calling for a long list of spices, this uses Indian curry powder as an easy flavor base; and sambal oelek, an Indonesian-style chili paste which adds bright heat to the meal.
The dish was delish, BUT, it took way longer than indicated. First, since we couldn’t locate boneless short ribs, we bought a chuck roast that was sliced in half lengthwise and popped into the freezer for 30 minutes. This allowed us to easily cut the beef into thin, 1⁄8-inch slices. And there was quite a bit of prep—at least 20 minutes worth—so there was no way this meal was going to be done in a half hour!
Then, the potato halves, which were supposed to be tender after 30 minutes, were still too firm after 45. I fished them out of the curry, and microwaved for several minutes before reuniting them with the other ingredients. For a pop of color, chopped cilantro was added as a final garnish.
It is suggested you serve over hot jasmine rice, yet we are not typically fans of both potatoes and rice in the same dish. Although it would be lovely over rice to help sop up the wonderful sauce, we would substitute sweet bell red and/or green peppers in place of the potatoes, cooking them first before the onions to reduce incorporating any more liquid into the curry.
Tips: Don’t forget to trim off any silver skin from the short ribs before slicing. The silver skin is stringy and fibrous unless the meat is cooking for a long time, and if left in place, it will cause the slices of beef to curl during simmering. Look for sambal in well-stocked supermarkets and Asian grocery stores; if it’s not available, chili-garlic paste is a good substitute.
1½ lbs. boneless beef short ribs (or chuck roast), trimmed and cut to ⅛-inch thick slices against the grain
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 medium red onion, halved thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1½ Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 stalks fresh lemon grass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised
2 Tbsp. curry powder
2 star anise pods
1 lb. small Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1½ inches in diameter), unpeeled, halved
14 oz. can coconut milk
1 Tbsp. sambal oelek or chili-garlic paste, plus more as needed
Cilantro, roughly chopped for garnish (optional)
Season the beef with salt and pepper; set aside. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, curry powder, star anise and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften and the mixture is fragrant, about 3 minutes.
Add the beef, potatoes, coconut milk and sambal, then bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot. Reduce to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the largest potatoes meets no resistance, about 30 minutes (or longer).
Off heat, taste and season with salt, pepper and additional sambal. Remove and discard the star anise and lemon grass. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if using.
A regularly-enjoyed Sunday ritual for The Hubs while preparing the evening meal is, experimenting with different cocktails. This time he met up with an “Old Pal.” Who was that you ask? Not “who,” but “what” was this pal?
By way of definition, the Old Pal is a cocktail originally made with rye whiskey, French vermouth, and Campari. It is similar to a Negroni, but with rye whiskey instead of gin and dry vermouth instead of sweet.
The classic Old Pal recipe is built with equal parts of each ingredient, just like the Negroni. However, some modern recipes increase the rye whiskey while decreasing both the Campari and dry vermouth. The latter formula is often made in a 2:1:1 ratio for a slightly boozier take on the original.
Now The Hubs ratio is even a bit different than that with a 2:1⁄2:1⁄2. By way of explanation he calculates that a coupe (martini) glass holds 3 ounces and therefore the 2:1:1 ratio would be too much liquid.
You should play with the recipe to see which combination floats your boat, but know that either option produces tasty, balanced cocktails that are the warm, whiskey-spiked equivalent of an old buddy…
Salivating for some fabulous potatoes with a lot of flavor? Look no further than these Portuguese Wine-Braised Potatoes with Garlic, Bay and Chilies that we first spotted in a recent issue of Milk Street magazine. Paired with another of their recipes of Madeiran Pork with Wine and Garlic, and some Fresh Peas with Lemon & Chives, it was a dinner to remember!
The traditional way of cooking potatoes with these classic Portuguese flavors is to slow-roast them in the oven or long-braise them on the stovetop alongside meat. But in “Authentic Portuguese Cooking,” author Ana Patuleia Ortins includes a quicker, meat-free version that yields a wonderfully delicious side.
Milk Street adapted her recipe, opting to use a mixture of wine and chicken broth for simmering (wine alone tends to toughen the exteriors of the potatoes) and substituting jarred crushed peppers—the type often smeared onto Italian hoagies—for the spicy Portuguese red pepper paste called massa de malagueta. If you cannot find crushed peppers, simply use ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes instead.
In Portugal it’s known as “batatas cozidas em vinho e alhos” and varies by region and family, but the heart of the recipe is consistent: potatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil. First the onions and garlic are cooked until jammy-sweet, then the potatoes are added and simmered in white wine to add wonderful acidity to balance the starchiness.
“The thing that people don’t understand about Portuguese cooking is that it’s flexible. The way they say it, it’s ‘com gusto.’ It’s how you like it.”
We knew it was going to be a winner so we increased the recipe by 50% right off the bat. And although the directions indicate it takes about 30 minutes for the potatoes to meet no resistance when pierced with a knife, ours took an additional 20 minutes—therefore be prepared to add extra time if needed.
Tip:Don’t stir the potatoes too vigorously or they’ll break apart and make the sauce gluey. Aim to keep the large pieces of potato as whole as possible. Also, don’t reduce the sauce too far; as the potatoes sit off heat, they’ll continue to absorb the sauce.
Portuguese Wine-Braised Potatoes with Garlic, Bay and Chilies
2 lbs. Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1- to 1½-inch chunks
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1½ tsp. jarred crushed peppers or ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1¼ tsp. smoked paprika
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
¼ cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with the garlic, bay, crushed peppers, paprika, ¼ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
In a large saucepan over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until fully softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
Stir in the potato mixture, then add the wine and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the potatoes meets no resistance, about 30 minutes.
Uncover and cook over medium, now stirring more often and adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, until the liquid has thickened and lightly coats the potatoes, about 7 minutes.
Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay and stir in the parsley. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.