Peruvian Grilled Chicken

There’s nothing I love more than grilling a whole chicken. It’s perfect for cook once, eat twice or more weekend meals. It’s perfect for sharing when we’re entertaining. This has been our go-to chicken recipe and we’re not sick of it yet. The smell of it on the grill will make you wait in keen anticipation. And the flavor – the mix of spices and grill flavor – is absolutely delicious.

Our preferred whole bird preparation is to spatchcock. It sounds more intimidating than it actually is. It’s really just butterflying the chicken it rests flat on the grill, allowing it to cook evenly (and faster). Turn the bird so its back (the side that’s connected to the tail) is facing up (meaning breast side is on the cutting board) and use kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the back from the tail to the neck. You’ve just cut out the chicken’s back. Then flip the bird over and flatten the breast with the heel of your hand. That’s it!

After spatchcocking, I separate the skin from the meat so I can spread the rub paste all over the bird. Then I let it sit in the fridge for 24-36 hours before grilling.

For the paste, I recommend using dried/powdered (but still fresh in flavor) ingredients. All of the flavor will come through these dried ingredients so getting the most flavorful ones will go a long way.

Ingredients
  • 4 lb. chicken, spatchcocked, skin loosely separated from meat
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbl cumin
  • 1 tbl paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1 tbl white vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon (approx. 2-3 tbl for a medium lemon)
Directions
  1. Mix together ingredients to form a paste. Rub into meat underneath the skin and on the skin. Marinate up to 36 hours.
  2. Preheat gas grill on high for 5 minutes.
  3. Turn grill to low and place chicken skin side up on the direct heat. Leave it on the grill for 30 minutes.
  4. Flip the chicken so that the skin side is down. Leave it on the grill for another 30 minutes.
Notes
  • If you don’t have lemon on hand but you do have white wine, you can substitute lemon for wine one-to-one.
  • Here are the ingredients that I especially like for the garlic, paprika and black pepper:

Mussels with Tomato Broth and Goat Cheese

I can confidently state that mussels are in my top 3 of favorite seafood dishes. Although you can hardly consider them as a singular dish, especially with all the different broths like tomato, cream and beer that are used. With all these combinations I don’t think I’ll get tired of mussels anytime soon! But the best part of mussels is the ritual of eating them: breaking open the shell and taking a bite, and a sip of the broth. And of course, mopping up the sauce with some crusty bread. The flavor is usually savory from the broth and slightly sweet and oceany from the mussels. Delicious!

When we were along the southern coast of Turkey, we took a 2 day side trip to the island of Rhodes in Greece. For dinner, we went to this restaurant called Agalma in the Rhodes new town. As an appetizer, we had these mussels in a savory tomato broth that was sprinkled with goat cheese. We loved this dish and wanted to recreate it when we got home. If you’re not a fan of goat cheese, feel free to leave it out. But either way, pair this dish with our garlic bread and you’ve got a great meal!

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the tomato juice and celery seeds. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Discard any mussels that are broken or do not shut when tapped.
  5. Add the mussels to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
  6. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until mussels are open, about 3 minutes.
  7. Remove the mussels and place into a large bowl, leaving the broth in the pot.
  8. Add the cheese into the broth and whisk over low heat for 1 minute.
  9. Pour broth over mussels and serve.

Cook’s Notes

I didn’t buy tomato juice for this recipe. Our grocery store only sells them in huge bottles, and this recipe only calls for a little bit. Instead, I had regular tomato sauce (not spaghetti or pizza sauce) on hand and mixed 3/4 cup tomato sauce with 3/4 cup water to get the 1 1/2 cups tomato juice.

For some added flavor, we used herb goat cheese.

Sautéed Scallops with Ramps

Ramps season is here and we got our hands on some from the Union Square Greenmarket. If you love garlic and onions, then you’ve got to try ramps. They have a short growing season and can only be found in early spring. And what’s more, they’re wild; so the ramps we eat are foraged from wild populations. Apparently they’re finicky plants and difficult to cultivate. But I guess that’s what makes it exciting when the first bunches of ramps are spotted at markets and on restaurant menus. Since the foodie population has grown exponentially, at least in New York, I’ve seen blogs and Twitter handles dedicated to ramp-spotting. I suppose the ephemeral nature of the plant excites us to seek it out wherever possible during the few weeks of its season.

And what does it taste like exactly? Think of it as the flavors of garlic and a mild shallot combined. After all, it is part of the Allium genus, which also contains leeks, shallots, onions, scallions and garlic. So definitely have a post-ramp stick of gum at the ready. Or have a few sticks on hand since when they are in season, they’re everywhere. You can have them at breakfast – they’re great with eggs, as a side, or in them as an omlette. You can also have them at lunch and dinner with pasta, pizza, seafood…basically with anything you usually put garlic and onion in. The whole ramp, including the stem, can be eaten. They’re fast to cook (either whole or chopped up) and just need a quick sauté.  I cooked one bunch with eggs, which I didn’t photograph. The other bunch I used with wild Diver Scallops. This might be one of the easiest recipes I’ve posted. I cooked both the ramps and the scallops cleanly since I wanted their natural flavors to shine.

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Sauté the ramps, season to taste, and set aside on a plate.
  3. Rinse scallops and pat dry. Season to taste.
  4. In the same or another pan, heat some more olive oil.
  5. Sear scallops for a few minutes (about 2) on each side.
  6. Plate scallops on top of ramps and serve immediately.

Vietnamese Meatball Lettuce Wraps

During the week we sometimes don’t get around to eating dinner until around 9PM. I’m a fan of eating larger meals earlier in the day and having the meal size taper off as the day dwindles down. I also try not to leave about 3 hours between dinner and bedtime. However, with our late dinners and early bedtime, this can get challenging. So I try to have light dinners with as much vegetables as possible. Lettuce wraps are great for light dinners. While I especially love them in the summertime, I make them all year round. Usually I use ground turkey or thinly cut chicken breast meat that has been stir fried. This time, I actually wanted to make these Asian inspired meatballs first. And then I had to figure a way to eat them without covering up their flavor. Lettuce wraps seemed perfect.

 Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the turkey, garlic, shallot, chili flakes, fish sauce, soy sauce and black pepper.
  2. Let marinate for about 30 minutes.
  3. Make the dipping sauce while the meat is marinating.
  4. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or foil.
  5. Make the meatballs by wetting your hands and scoop out enough meat to make a scant golf-ball sized (or about 1.5″ diameter) meatball.
  6. Roll into a ball and place on the baking sheet.
  7. Repeat until the mixture is used up.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.
  9. To serve, take a piece of lettuce, add a meatball and some of the condiments and dipping sauce.

Cook’s Notes

Make sure your hands are wet as you are forming the meatballs because the water will help prevent the meat from sticking to your hands.

Orecchiette with Rainbow Swiss Chard and Andouille Chicken Sausage

I love pasta dishes because of their versatility. Pasta is a great dish to experiment with because of all the variables that go into it. First, you have the pasta itself and its numerous shapes to choose from. Then you have the different types of sauces, tomato based, cream based, with or without meat. Then you have all the different types of add ins like vegetables, meatballs, and cheeses. And lastly you have the option of cooking it on the stove or baking it in the oven. I can probably make a different one for every day of the year. It’s also a great one dish meal that can combine almost all of the food groups. I’d usually make my own pasta if I feel really determined. But if you’re using dried pasta, then making the dish is even easier and faster.

I loved this orecchiette dish by Daisy’s World and wanted to take my own spin on it using some of the ingredients found in my farmer’s market. In this dish the slightly bitter bite of rainbow swiss chard and the smoky flavor of the andouille chicken sausage are balanced by the chewy orecchiette and the sweetness of the ricotta.

Directions

  1. Cook orecchiette pasta according to package directions until al dente.
  2. Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.
  3. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil.
  4. Add the andouille chicken sausage, warm through if using pre-cooked sausage or cook through if using raw.
  5. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic is just fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the swiss chard and cook, stirring often, until just tender, about 2 – 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
  7. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir in the ricotta cheese.
  8. If needed, add in some of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta.
  9. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Cook’s Notes

I went to the farmer’s market and found nice rainbow swiss chard. In that same trip, I stopped by Trader Joe’s and picked up their pre-cooked andouille chicken sausage. But by all means, substitute whatever type of greens you prefer. This dish also will taste great if using broccoli rabe, kale, regular swiss chard or even spinach. You can also substitute the andouille chicken sausage with whatever type of meat you’d like. Sweet or spicy italian sausage will also work well. If you’re using raw sausage, just cook it through before you start adding the garlic and the rest of the ingredients.

When you’re draining the pasta, don’t rinse it. Rinsing it will wash away the starch that will help bind the ricotta cheese (or any type of sauce you’re using) to the pasta. When you add the pasta back to the pan, it can get dry if it’s been set aside for too long. This is why you need to reserve the pasta cooking water. It will help moisten the pasta.