Saturday, August 9, 2014

Grilled Chinese Chicken Burgers

My kids have a list of meals they call "The Week of Awesomeness."  It includes Mediterranean Pasta and Root Beer Sloppy Joes.  It also includes this recipe, which I'm finally posting because a friend who had them a few weeks ago has been bugging me to do so.

All of which makes me sound like the world's greatest cook, right?  The irony, though, is that this recipe emerged from a grand mistake:  I found the original version in the newspaper and it included the burgers themselves, a sauce, and a slaw (which I haven't included here, because it's not very good).  
Glancing at the recipe, I dug all of the ingredients out and started mixing, not realizing that I was actually adding components intended for the sauce into the burgers themselves.  

Yeah.  A Ph.D. in English, and I can't even read.  

Anyhow, the result was fantastic.  So that's what I've done ever since.  I've also added a couple things to give the burgers more texture and a bit more flavor.  If your kids don't like cilantro, you can always leave it out, although, frankly, you might want to just get new kids instead.  

One final note:  part of what makes these such a good meal for kids is that a lot of the spice is in the sauce.  That in mind, let the kids test the sauce first to see if they want any.  If they don't, no big deal--that just means more for the grownups.  

Grilled Chinese Chicken Burgers

1 lb ground chicken breast
1 lb ground chicken (if you can't find both ground chicken and chicken breast, use two pounds of whatever you can find)  
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP hoisin sauce
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP sugar
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 TBSP minced lemongrass
2 TBSP minced cilantro
1/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped (sometimes I use slightly less)
3/4-1 cup store-bought bread crumbs 
6-8 hamburger buns, toasted (I usually split them and put them on the grill, face down, for 2-3 minutes as the grill is warming up)

3/4 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1-2 TBSP Thai chili sauce
2TBSP hoisin sauce

  1. Combine the first 12 ingredients (from ground chicken to bread crumbs).  Mix together well, using your hands.  If it's still sticky when well mixed, add another 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs
  2. Fashion into 10-12 patties of moderate thickness.  I like to make them of varying sizes, so that the kids can pick and choose.  (Don't worry about leftovers:  these reheat really well, and are even good cold)
  3. Now mix the sauce, adding the mayonnaise, the lime juice and zest, the chili sauce and the hoisin. 
  4. Heat your grill, toasting the buns for a few minutes just to make them a little crispy.
  5. Grill the burgers, roughly 10-15 minutes, turning frequently.  These cook quickly and throughly, so keep an eye on them.
  6. Serve on the buns, with sauce (if desired). 

Family ratings: 

Will, who will request these by name and mock any of his friends who don't like them:  10
Lucy--really, you have to ask?:  10
Jamie, who's into being contrary:  9
Ellen, who's not much of a meat-eater, but loves these:  10
Paul, who's looking less like a former swimmer and more like a former linebacker:  11

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thai Lemon Grass Pork Chops with Dipping Sauce

The beauty of this recipe is that you get an amazing amazing amazing taste, but you only have to marinade for ten minutes!  Another great thing is that, because the dipping sauce is served in small separate bowls, you can make it (and your pork chops) as hot as you want without hurting the kids.  Unless, of course, they've really been annoying you lately and you want to hurt them . . ..  

Not that I'm suggesting that, mind you.

These can be grilled or cooked under the broiler.  The recipe comes from Thailand:  The Beautiful Cookbook, and like most recipes from that book, I haven't changed it a bit.  

Thai Lemon Grass Pork Chops with Dipping Sauce

Marinade Ingredients
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoons white pepper
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon cognac or whiskey or white wine
2 Tablespoons chopped lemon grass
1 Tablespoon finely chopped green onion
2 Tablespoons coconut milk

5-6 bone in pork chops, about 1-1.25 lbs total

Dipping Sauce Ingredients
1/4 cup fish sauce
5 Tablespoons lime juice
1 pinch (or more, if you like) dried red chili pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro

  1.  Mix all the marinade ingredients together thoroughly. 
  2. Add pork chops and make sure they're well coated.  Allow to sit for at least ten minutes.
  3. Mix together dipping sauce ingredients. 
  4. Broil or grill the meat for about 8 minutes on each side or until done. 
  5. Serve.  

Family Ratings: 

Will, who kind of digs pork:  10
Lucy, who kind of digs everything except for fish and tomatoes:  10
Jamie, who insists he wants the dipping sauce even when he really doesn't:  10
Ellen, who occasionally grudgingly admits that there are some benefits to being married to me:  10
Paul, who sort of enjoys being who he is, especially when he's eating these pork chops:  10

Sunday, February 9, 2014

To Hell with You Chili

I call this "To Hell with You Chili" because I know the moment I post it a bunch of people who REALLY care about chili will write to me and explain to me exactly why this chili is just so so so wrong.

I don't care.  I like this chili.  It tastes good.  It makes me happy.  And my kids like it too.

So . . . well, you get where this is going . . .

Some credit here goes to my friend Sarah who, years ago, told me that her secret for good chili was to use italian sausage instead of ground beef.  Way to go, Sarah!  From there on, it was just one broken rule after another for me.

Note that I kept the heat pretty low on this.  Feel free to add more chili powder or red pepper flakes, particularly if you're mad or your children have been acting sassy lately.  

To Hell with You Chili

2 14 oz. cans Mexican tomatoes (I mean that the tomatoes have Mexican-style spices in them, not that they're actually from south of the border)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 carrot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, also chopped
1/3 cup dark beer
1/3 cup beef broth
1/3 cup steak sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 jar of fire-roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 lb. mild Italian sausage (or hot, if you prefer)
1/2 lb ground sirloin
5 slices of bacon
2 TBS chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried basil
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
1 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley

  1. Combine tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, carrot, celery, beer, broth, wine, steak sauce, pepper flakes, bell peppers, and roasted pepper together in a large pot.  
  2. Simmer over medium heat. 
  3. Cook bacon in a frying pan until crunchy. 
  4. Drain bacon on paper towels.  Cook sausage and beef in bacon grease.  Stir in the chili powder, basil, and cumin. 
  5. Mix the beef/sausage mixture into the simmering vegetables, adding the bacon.  
  6. Cover and continue to simmer for 20-30 minutes (or longer), until the veggies are tender and the flavors are tasty.  
  7. Stir in the beans, cilantro, and parsley.  Simmer for another ten minutes. 
  8. Serve with saltine crackers.  

Family ratings: 

Will, who almost likes this chili as much as fajitas but won't give it a higher score just out of principle: 9.5
Lucy, who pretty much loves everything:  10
Jamie, who can occasionally surprise himself with the things he likes: 9
Ellen, who much prefers the vegetarian chili recipe we've been using for twenty years:  6
Paul, who knows he's going to get in trouble with his mom for naming this chili what he did:  10

Friday, January 3, 2014

Salmon Pasta with Tarragon Sauce

Yeah, I know, I know:  whose kid eats salmon?  I mean, really, right?

Fair enough.  While Will and James will do due diligence and eat more or less most of the salmon that arrives on their plate in this dish, Lucy, my fearless go-to eater, pretty much refuses to eat more than one piece or two of the salmon, picking through the noodles instead.  She does this, I'm pretty sure, more out of principal than out of taste:  fish has always been the one food item at which she draws the line, and the more her older brother teases her about it, the more she insists she hates it.

So when I serve this, two of my kids do fairly well, one of my kids eats pretty much only the noodles and sauce, and Ellen and I CHOW DOWN!

Because you know what?  This dish tastes GREAT--so great that I'm not really bothered if my kids don't like it and/or don't eat that much of it.  Hell, serve them a couple carrot sticks to round off their appetites if that's what it takes.  This meal is delicious, and it deserves to be placed on the table at every possible opportunity.


And just for the record, tarragon is THE most underrated herb ever.


A few notes:

  • Always used the thin sliced smoked salmon--also known as lox.  And if you can, get the hardwood apple smoked, as I find this adds a little extra sweetness and . . . um . . . smokiness . . .
  • Use fresh tarragon.  And rather than plucking the leaves off the stem one by one, just hold the stem firmly in one hand, pinch the fingers of the other hand together, and pull along the stem in one smooth motion, tearing the leaves off that way.  Much faster. 
I took this recipe from the Betty Crocker Easy Italian book, pretty much word for word.  Betty rocks, even if she is just the imaginative product of an anonymous corporation.  

Salmon Pasta with Tarragon Sauce

16 oz. bow-tie or similar pasta
1 TBSP olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 TBSP chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1.5 cups half-and-half
2 tsp stone-ground mustard
1-2 packages (3-4 oz. each) of sliced smoked salmon lox
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook and drain your pasta following the directions on the package
  2. Prepare your herbs
  3. Pealing off each layer of the salmon separately, cut it into 1/2-inch wide strips using a cooking shears (this is to prevent the salmon from clumping together, something that will undoubtedly turn off any kid)
  4. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat.  Cook the onion, tarragon, and parsley for 3-4 minutes, until onion is tender.  
  5. Add the wine
  6. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the wine has almost evaporated
  7. Stir in the half-and-half and the mustard
  8. Heat until just boiling, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 7-8 minutes, until the sauce has thickened
  9. In a large serving dish, mix together the pasta, the salmon, the sauce, and 1/4 cup of the cheese, then toss gently until the pasta is coated
  10. Serve with remaining cheese

Family Ratings: 

Lucy, who insists she hates fish even though she once gave a tuna steak a "10" before realizing what it was:  6
Jamie, who still kind of assumes all meat is chicken:  8
Will, who likes to like fish because his sister hates it:  8
Ellen, who herself isn't too crazy about smoked fish:  10
Paul, who never ate salmon until he was 35 and now loves it:  10