Tag Archives: Soy Sauce

Grill Something Different for Labor Day: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Looking for something different to grill this Labor Day weekend?  Borrow a recipe from the Caribbean and try some Jamaican Jerk Chicken, loaded with tons of spicy, sweet and bright flavors.  Inspired from our stop in Jamaica earlier this summer (lunch after the zip line), I broadened my horizons and tried making Jerk Chicken at home. Thankfully the task was made much easier by a timely article in Cooks Illustrated magazine (July/August 2012) with a well-tested recipe. In the article they explain their trial and errors in getting the flavors just right, include some science behind the food, and share grilling techniques to make the chicken succulent and moist.  As usual, they were spot on with flavors and techniques; you can read the abbreviated article here. We’ve made this recipe numerous times since and always get great results with juicy, flavorful chicken. Even though it may sound spicy, don’t skimp on the habanero peppers because they add a wonderful flavor punch without the extreme heat. To round out the meal, we added jasmine rice with black beans and some watermelon slices.

This menagerie of spices is what makes the jerk chicken so flavorful – 17 ingredients in all, but the blender does the work for you. The chicken and spice paste are added to a Ziploc bag where they marinate from 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours which is what we prefer because the flavors penetrate all through the meat. I modified the recipe for two people with one large chicken breast, 2 thighs and 1 drumstick – all bone-in and with skin on. Their recipe also calls for smoking the chicken using a foil packet with spices and wood chips, an easy way to add delicious smoke flavor, but we never seem to remember this part. With or without this step, the recipe is still delicious and easy to put together.

If you want more visuals, Cooks Illustrated created a video for this recipe that quickly steps you through making the marinade and grilling with indirect heat, the secret for juicy chicken – including how to make that simple tin foil smoker packet.

Did you know?  
In closing, here are some Labor Day tidbits from the U.S. Department of Labor’s website: 
“The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union.”

“In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.”

“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”

Whatever plans you may have for Labor Day, celebrate your day as an American worker.  And make sure you enjoy some scrumptious food with loved ones and friends!

Eat well and share the love!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken (print recipe)
Recipe: Adapted from Cooks Illustrated magazine, July/August 2012 issue, page 8
Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, 4 pieces of chicken

Ingredients:
2 lbs. chicken (bone-in, skin on), about 1 breast, 2 thighs, 1 drumstick
Marinade
2 teaspoons whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
2 habanero chiles, cut into thirds (stems & seeds removed, discard)
6 scallions, cut into large dice (remove & discard ends)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime zest (about 2 limes)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried yellow mustard
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:
Add the chicken pieces to a gallon Ziploc or freezer bag; place the bag in a large, shallow bowl.

Marinade: Add the whole allspice berries, coriander seeds and peppercorns to the blender and replace the lid. Pulse on highest speed (“ice” if available) until coarsely ground.
Note
: You can also use your mortar & pestle or spice grinder to grind these spices, transfer spices to the blender.

To the blender, add the remaining ingredients and process until a smooth paste forms. Transfer the mixture to the bag with chicken, seal well, making sure all the air is removed. From the outside of the bag, massage the paste into both sides of the chicken pieces. Store the bag of marinated chicken in the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.

Grill (using gas grill): Turn all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot, 15 to 25 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium and turn off all other burner(s).

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken, with marinade clinging and skin side up, as far away as possible, with thighs closest to fire and breast furthest away. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Move chicken, skin side down, to hotter side of grill; cook until browned and skin renders, 3 to 6 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken pieces and cook until browned on second side and breast register 160 degrees and thighs/drumsticks register 175 degrees, 5 to 12 minutes longer.

Transfer chicken to serving platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges.

  • Don’t forget the gloves when working with habanero chiles

An exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

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Dad’s Wontons Become Lettuce Wraps

My parents often cooked when we were kids, and they sometimes made recipes that exposed us to different cuisines.  Some we never cared to repeat and some became family favorites, with each sibling putting their own mark or twist on it.  Dad’s fried wontons served with a garlicky, ginger soy dipping sauce were a favorite because they tasted like real grown up food, highlighting vibrant flavors and crunchy textures.  He picked up the recipe while enrolled in culinary school in Texas and it was often a menu item for their backyard parties.  Ground beef, carrots, raisins and onions make up the filling and with Dad’s version it gets rolled into an eggroll wrapper (we still called them a wonton) and fried to a crispy golden brown.  With the soy dipping sauce drizzled on every bite, it was the ultimate savory and sweet combination. My deconstructed version has a crisp crunch from the butter lettuce, with all the flavor memories intact. Ground chicken or turkey can easily be substituted for the meat, just be sure to add extra seasoning.

A soy dipping sauce pulls all the flavors together and enhances the taste of this meal.  The salty tang of soy sauce is combined with spicy ginger root, rich garlic, oniony scallions and bright cilantro for a superbly delicious sauce! A spoonful for every bite is certainly warranted.

Here’s where the crispy wonton part comes into play. Instead of frying the whole meal as an eggroll, I thinly cut a few wonton (or eggroll, whichever you can find) wrappers into thin strips and fried them up in a small amount of oil. They provide the perfect crunch on top and remind me of the wonton taste. For those of you who aren’t familiar with butter lettuce, also known as Bibb or Boston lettuce, it has a slightly sweet, buttery flavor with thick leaves – perfect for lettuce wraps. I like to buy mine live (living greens) with the root ball attached and packed in a large clam shell, pictured below. It lasts for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator if the root ball is kept moist.

If you are yearning for something fried as I often do, here’s how to enjoy Dad’s original wontons: Simply heat your oil (about 2 ½ to 3 inches deep in a medium sauce pan with tall sides) to 350º and assemble the wontons: Add about 1/3 cup filling to the bottom half of an eggroll wrapper (a generous tablespoon for wonton wrapper), roll up like a burrito (for wonton: arrange wrapper with corner at top, place filling in the middle and fold in half) and seal the last edges well with a fingertip dipped in water, repeat process. Fry in small batches until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let drain and cool slightly on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot with the soy dipping sauce.

Eat well and share the love!

Dad’s Wonton Lettuce Wraps (print recipe)
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies, makes 5 to 6 wraps

Ingredients:
Soy Dipping Sauce
½ cup soy sauce (low-sodium if available)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, skin removed
1 tablespoon sliced scallions
1 clove garlic, mashed whole
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
Fried Wonton Strips
Vegetable oil
5 to 6 wonton wrappers or 2 to 3 eggrolls wrappers, sliced into thin strips
Filling
¼ medium yellow onion, diced (about ½ cup)
1 large carrot peeled and grated (about ¾ cup)
½ cup golden raisins
½ pound lean ground meat (or chicken, turkey)
2 to 3 tablespoons of dipping sauce
1 tablespoon cilantro, rough chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely minced/grated
¼ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/8 teaspoon lime zest
Olive oil or vegetable oil
Salt
Pepper
Family Style Platter – Serve
4 to 5 whole leaves of butter lettuce
Wonton filling (keep hot until ready to serve)
Small bowl of Soy Dipping Sauce with spoon
Fresh cilantro leaves, from 4 to 5 sprigs of cilantro
Fried wonton strips

Directions:
Soy Dipping Sauce:  To a small bowl or glass measuring cup, add the soy sauce, ginger, scallions, garlic, cilantro and rice wine vinegar – mix well with a fork. Let the dipping sauce sit for at least an hour before serving to allow the flavors to develop. Can be made one day ahead, cover & refrigerate. (Sauce will keep in refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.)

Fry the wonton strips Add oil to a small sauce pan with tall sides, enough so oil is about 1 inch deep and heat to 350º over medium-high heat (do not leave pan unattended).  Cut the wontons into very thin strips and gently run your fingers through them to loosen.  Fry in small batches until lightly golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Let drain and cool on a plate lined with paper towels; season with salt and pepper while still hot.

Filling: In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon oil and the onions.  Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the grated carrots along with a few drizzles of oil and continue sauteéing for another 3-4 minutes, until carrots are almost tender.  Mix in raisins and transfer to a medium bowl.

In the same skillet over medium heat, add a few drizzles of oil and the ground meat, break up with the back of a spoon.  Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, mix together and continue to crumble meat as it cooks. When meat is done (no longer pink in the center), add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the grated ginger, cilantro and lime zest, stir well and mix in the onion carrot mixture, stir together until well combined and keep hot.

Family Style Platter – Assemble the Lettuce Wraps:
Using a large plate or medium platter, arrange the wonton lettuce wrap ingredients for serving.  To assemble a lettuce wrap, add some filling to the middle of the lettuce leaf, drizzle some soy dipping sauce, add a few cilantro leaves and top with wonton strips.  Finish with a bit more of the soy dipping sauce.  Fold the lettuce leaves down and over each other, and eat with your hands.

A recent summer sunset from our front deck!

Jack Daniels & the Other White Meat

We absolutely love the simplicity of this recipe for Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce.  With just three ingredients, the marinade for the tenderloin has big flavors of bourbon and soy sauce with some sugar for good measure; they all get happy together and soak overnight.  The unusual flavor combination is delectable, and the outside of the tenderloin gets a sweet, crispy crust when grilled.  The meat stays tender and juicy, and has subtle flavors from the marinade.  When you pair it with the creamy mustard sauce, which only takes about ten minutes to make, it’s an unforgettable dinner.  Our friend Chris shared the recipe with us a long time ago, and it’s still a favorite go-to, especially for company.  I give her credit for this recipe but it is adapted from the California Heritage Cookbook from the Junior League of Pasadena (1976).

There is also a funny story about the mustard sauce.  A long while ago I was hospitalized due to some complications (no, that’s not the funny part).  David was ragged from the stress, Mom had flown out to help and they were back at the house making this for dinner.  He knew the marinade recipe by heart and had just pulled the tenderloin off the grill when they both realized the mustard sauce wasn’t made yet.  In a panic, he called the phone in my hospital room to ask where the recipe was.  Despite my morphine stupor, I somehow knew – with clarity – exactly where to find the scribbled recipe.  It’s all about the food for me! 

Now back to the mustard sauce ingredients – it is full of delicious flavors but isn’t tart as the name might suggest; the cream that is added at the end rounds out any tartness.  The flavors are rich and bright from dry mustard, stone ground mustard, sugar, salt, rice wine vinegar, egg yolks and half & half.   The directions call for a double boiler to cook the sauce but I don’t have one.  I use two of my sauce pans, one large and one smaller that sits just on top (see picture); the trick is to make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the top pan, for an indirect and gentle heat source.  As for the side dish, I’ll either make some jasmine rice or roasted vegetables (cauliflower – as shown in main picture – or potatoes, or carrots).

This is one of our top five favorite recipes and I am happy to share it with you.  May you enjoy it as much as we have!

Eat well and share the love!

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Adapted from: California Heritage Cookbook from the Pasadena Junior League (1976)
Serves two foodies

Ingredients:
Marinade for Pork Tenderloin
½ cup bourbon/whiskey (I use Jack Daniels)
½ cup soy sauce (low-salt)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 pork tenderloin, 3/4 to 1 pound weight
Mustard Sauce (makes about 1 cup)
1½ teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
½ cup half & half

Directions:
Marinade & Pork Tenderloin:
Add the bourbon, soy sauce and sugar to a large ziploc bag and mix together; gently squeeze bag until most of the sugar is dissolved.  Add the tenderloin, turn bag over a few times to coat meat completely and place bag on a plate in case it leaks.  Refrigerate overnight (or a minimum of 8 hours), turning bag over a few times.

Mustard Sauce:
In a double boiler pan, add a few inches of water to the bottom pan, cover with the top sauce pan and heat to a light rolling boil over medium heat.  Add all the ingredients, except the half & half, to the top sauce pan and cook, whisking constantly, until thick – about 3 minutes.  Slowly add the half & half and continue whisking until sauce thickens, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Transfer to a glass bowl and refrigerate until needed; sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, stored in a sealed container.  Serve at room temperature.

Cook:
Barbecue the tenderloin on medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes until no longer pink in the center (finished internal temp of 160 degrees F). Drizzle marinade over tenderloin while cooking; do not re-use marinade with cooked pork. 

When tenderloin is done, transfer to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for five minutes.  

To serve, slice pork into ½” slices, arrange on a platter and serve mustard sauce on the side.

  • Don’t have a double boiler pan?  Just use two of your saucepans.  Select a large and medium sauce pan, making sure the top pan sits just inside the rim of bottom pan.