June 10, 2015

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Dear friends,

I passed on the chicken-and-waffles trend until last week, when I couldn’t resist the combo on special at the Wolfe Creek Tavern in Norton. This wasn’t the usual diet-busting version of fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup. Unbreaded jerk chicken was served on a sweet potato waffle with mango-strawberry salsa and dabs of strawberry-chili sauce. It was awesome.

I thought about that waffle the rest of the week, devising waffle-chicken combos in my head. I finally got one out of my head and onto a plate Monday, and it was worth the hassle of making the three separate components: chili-rubbed pan-seared chicken, cornmeal waffles and spicy blood orange sauce.

“This is like something you’d get at a great restaurant,” Tony enthused as he stuffed big hunks of waffle and chicken into his mouth so fast he almost choked. Seriously. Later, he marveled at my waffle-maker, which he hadn’t seen in the nine years we’ve been together.

‘You’ve never made waffles before,” he said accusingly. “I love waffles.”

Yeah, well, my hips don’t. But I ate a waffle with a piece of the deeply flavored chicken and spoon-licking sauce, and it was worth the calories.

Each element of the meal is easy to make and may be prepared in steps between other chores or commercial breaks if you’re watching TV. I made the sauce first by simply combining the orange juice, chopped garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and orange marmalade in a saucepan and boiling it to reduce and thicken the mixture. A couple of tablespoons of butter is beaten in at the end to give the sauce a creamy texture. If you can’t find tart blood oranges, use regular orange juice and lime juice according to the directions that follow.

The bone-in chicken pieces – skinned or not, your choice – are rubbed with a spice mixture and refrigerated until a half-hour before dinner. I used four large bone-in breasts, hacked in half crosswise before cooking. You can even prep the waffle mixture in advance by measuring out the dry ingredients into one bowl and the wet into another, to be combined just before cooking the waffles.

If possible, rub the spices on the chicken at least an hour before cooking to dry-brine and flavor the meat. Two hours is even better. I skinned half the chicken I cooked, and it was just as good as the skin-on chicken, maybe better. The chicken is crisped in a skillet and put in the oven to finish cooking. This method produces crisp, juicy chicken without a lot of standing over the stove. Just watch the meat carefully to avoid overcooking it.

If you have excess waffle batter, make pale-brown waffles to warm up and finish browning  in the toaster the next morning for breakfast. Tony loved his morning treat, which is a good thing. My Fitbit readout tells me they’re the last waffles he’ll see for a loooong time.
CHILI-RUBBED CHICKEN AND CORNMEAL WAFFLES WITH BLOOD ORANGE SAUCE

DSCN1455-thumbnail

Chili-rubbed chicken:
•    2 tbsp. ground cumin
•    1 tbsp. sweet paprika
•    1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
•    2 tbsp. salt
•    4 bone-in chicken breasts or thigh-leg pieces
•    Vegetable oil for frying
Combine cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Trim fat and excess skin from chicken, or skin the chicken if desired.  If the breasts are very large, cut in halves crosswise. Pat very dry with paper towels.

Rub spice mixture over all surfaces of chicken. Place in a single layer in an oblong pan or other container and refrigerate, uncovered for at least an hour (preferably two hours) before cooking.

Thirty minutes before dinner, heat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat a large, heavy oven-proof  skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1/8- to ¼-inch of oil. When oil is hot, place chicken in skillet, skin (or meaty) sides down. Cook for 4 minutes or until very brown and crisp. Turn chicken over.  Place pan in a preheated oven and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Makes 4 servings.
Blood orange sauce:

•    2 1/2 cups blood-orange juice OR 2 cups regular orange juice and 1/2 cup lime juice
•    Finely grated zest of 1 blood or regular orange, about 1 teaspoon
•    2 cloves garlic, minced
•    1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
•    6 tbsp. orange marmalade
•    1/4 tsp. salt
•    4 tbsp. cold butter, cut into bits

Combine all ingredients except butter in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to combine. Boil until reduced to 2 cups. Whisk in butter bit by bit to produce a creamy texture. Remove from heat until ready to serve. Rewarm gently, whisking once or twice. Makes about 2 cups.

Cornmeal waffles:
•    1 cup corn meal
•    1 cup flour
•    2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
•    1/2 tsp. baking soda
•    2 tbsp. sugar
•    1/2 tsp. salt
•    1/4 cup vegetable oil
•    2 eggs
•    1 cup milk

In a medium bowl whisk together corn meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. In another bowl whisk together oil, milk and eggs. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture until dry ingredients are moistened. Let stand while waffle iron heats.

Ladle batter onto a greased waffle iron. Bake according to manufacturer’s directions. The batter should make 4 large waffles.

Place hot waffles on four dinner plates. Top with chicken and spoon sauce over all. Makes 4 servings.
TIDBITS
Slowpokes who haven’t yet made it to Lemongrass in Monroe Falls have lost the chance to taste Sunanta Fogle’s extraordinary Thai food. Fogle, who recently returned to the area after an extended stay in her native Thailand, has left the new Thai restaurant after just a month.

“It’s a long story,” Sue said.

I’ll keep you posted on whether she finds another restaurant willing to showcase her considerable talent.
MAILBAG
From Michele, Elkton, Md.:
I loved your post about your arugula. I didn’t attempt it this spring, but might towards the fall when temps are a bit cooler.  I have container gardens on my deck.  One is full of herbs, another has radishes and green onions (I will replant them mid-summer and enjoy them all summer long, well into the fall).  Two others hold lettuce (one was lettuce that I accidentally let go to seed last fall, but was a nice surprise that I could have lettuce earlier than planned). Jalapeno, red peppers and cherry tomatoes each have their own pot, too.  I don’t have the time for a huge garden, but my containers are my little slice of heaven.  I also support our local farmers at the farmers’ market and have a membership with one of the farms for first pick of fresh produce.

I am hopeful that the Vernons will open a specialty shop that will include their cheeses.  While I no longer live in Akron, I have always visited West Point for the best in everything.  It was an icon for our family.  My grandmother shopped there almost exclusively and both my sister and brother worked there. Can’t wait to see what comes in its place.

Have a great summer!

Dear Michele: Your container garden sounds bigger than my in-ground garden. What fun.

From Judy:
Have you tried wilting your arugula and tossing it with pasta?  My son does this periodically with baby organic spinach and he really likes the result.  Would it work with your arugula?

Love the trough garden.

Dear Judy: Yes, it would work with arugula. I’ve seen recipes. Thanks for the idea.

From Linda A., France:
Make pesto with your arugula, then top pizza dough with the pesto and put a handful of fresh leaves on top when you serve it — best, by a mile, pizza I ever tasted!

Dear Linda: Aw, why don’t I just come visit you and taste it there? I’m overdue for a trip to France.
Seriously, I’ve had pizza in Italy topped with arugula, but never pizza with arugula pesto. I’m on it!

From Joy:
Re: the question from one of your readers (Tami) seeking a recipe for the West Point Market cheese spread she likes so much.

I do believe an English-style garlic cheese spread that had been discontinued by Kraft, was mentioned in one of your long past newsletters.

I’ve no idea if this homemade version of the discontinued cheese spread might be close to what your reader Tami was referring to, but the ingredients seem to suggest it might be.

Have a look and see what you think.

http://www.deepsouthdish.com/2009/11/kraft-garlic-cheese-roll-substitute.html

Dear Joy: I have a vague memory of that discussion. Here’s the recipe for Tami to try:

GARLIC-CHEESE SPREAD

    • 1 1/2 lbs. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
    • 1/2 lb. of Velveeta
    • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
    • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
    • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, or to taste
    • Drop of Liquid Smoke, or to taste

Warm ingredients in the top of a double boiler until cheeses have melted and ingredients are well combined. Pour into storage container to cool and set. Portion as needed.
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