Cilantro, garlic, & peppercorn marinade

I learned this recipe/flavor profile while attempting to replicate Thai barbecued chicken I’d had at a local (now defunct) restaurant. I think it was one of the first times I had stumbled across Leela’s blog.  This will give a punchy herbal sweetness with peppery undertones to whatever you’re cooking, be it bone-in skin-on chicken or pork chops.

I never make this with exact measurements and often add other flavorants such as lemongrass and ginger root for additional oomph.   Traditionally this would be made with cilantro root, but its stems are used here instead.  The turmeric is optional, but I think it adds a nice sweet earthy note and a great color; you could use Madras curry powder in its place if you want more complexity.

  • Stems and leftover leaves from 1 bunch of cilantro, washed well and sliced finely
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • (1 small shallot, cleaned and chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. white and/or black peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • 3 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • (1 tbsp. ground turmeric)
  • (1 tbsp. brandy)
  • 2 tbsp. neutral-tasting vegetable oil

Generally, the idea is to make a flavorful paste; the fine details of how you arrive there aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things. I’ve assembled this using both my hands/knives and my food processor, and both methods give tasty results; although there is something very satisfying about using a mortar and pestle to pound the garlic and peppercorns into just the right consistencies.

The next step is to slather it on your desired edible, let it chill out for a few hours, and then cook.  Grilling, roasting, and stir-frying are the best cooking methods, in that order. Due to the high sugar content of this marinade, you will get significant browning (and if unmonitored, burning); be sure to account for this.

For the full monty, serve with sweet chile dipping sauce and shrimp fried rice.

Cilantro, garlic, & peppercorn marinade

Thai citrus vinaigrette

I made this dressing for a romaine and grilled steak salad with cucumber slices, slivers of red onion, and sweet cherry tomatoes. Basically it’s a hybrid French vinaigrette and Thai dipping sauce. The finished salad was bold, refreshing, and delicious!

Depending on the salinity of your fish sauce, you may not need to add salt. I suggest starting out with no salt, and after tasting, adding 1/4 teaspoon and going from there. The taste should be a tart, savory, herbal, and spicy explosion in your mouth. If you feel it’s too intense, extra chopped herbs and a little more vegetable oil (and even a tiny pinch of sugar) will help take the the edge off. This dressing can be made a few hours ahead, but it does not keep well: the herbs go limp by the next day.

Remove the zest and juice from

1 medium lemon (yielding 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. juice)

1 medium lime (about 1 to 1 1/2  tbsp. juice)

and put into a small screw-top jar (or small mixing bowl), then add (or stir in)

1 tbsp. fish sauce

3 tbsp. (small handful) cilantro, minced

1/2 tbsp. (6 to 8 leaves) mint, sliced

1 small shallot, minced

1 to 2 small red chiles, sliced finely

(1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt)

1/3 cup neutral tasting vegetable oil.

Secure the lid and shake vigorously (or whisk thoroughly). Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. 

Thai citrus vinaigrette

Watching someone succumb to cancer is such a terrible title for a blog post

I’ve been binging on the Two Fat Ladies boxed DVD set, which is possibly my favorite cooking show ever. When I first watched it as an adolescent in the early 2000s, I didn’t appreciate the subtleties, but as an adult I can delight in Clarissa Dickson Wright’s double entendres and taste for chiles and cilantro or Jennifer Paterson’s staunch opinions and delightfully colorful vocabulary.

Dickson Wright and Paterson didn’t know one another before the series began filming, other than having been introduced once at a party. As you watch the series progress you can see their friendship bloom. Obviously there was some scripting—one episode had the two letting themselves into an ancient wheat mill and providing the manpower to grind a bag of flour for their dishes—but their anecdotes and kitchen wisdom (and songs) are very organic and personable. 

One thing that is really peculiar is to watch it with the knowledge that the heavy smoker Jennifer died seemingly unexpectedly from cancer while filming the fourth series. After falling ill, she was diagnosed in July 1999 and within a month had passed away. By the time they got to series four, the production values had gone up, and the fan base was large, so both ladies were hamming it up and preparing rich boozy dishes with zeal. But you can hear Jennifer’s voice grow rougher and note in their jaunts around the various locations how she mentions being tired from having walked too far. It is truly bizarre to see this great spirit on screen at the top of her craft, engaging her admirers and playing to the camera, all the while we the now-audience know her body is being taken over and pillaged by some rogue cells. As the children say, it’s kind of a mindfuck.

Watching someone succumb to cancer is such a terrible title for a blog post

Trail mix cookies

I adapted this from Elise’s browned butter chocolate chunk cookies recipe at Simply Recipes. This is generally a great cookie base into which you can stir whatever lovely bite-sized things you want, keeping the dough to mix-ins ratio fairly constant. In addition to increasing the amount of solids (in the form of oatmeal, peanuts, and other goodies), I used all dark brown sugar because I like the fudgey texture and molasses flavor it provides, and since I also added raisins and coconut, I reduced the amount of sweetener in the dough.

Cream together
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, browned and cooled to room temperature (or simply softened)
1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar.

Stir in
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ to 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
(¼ tsp. ground allspice);

followed by
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract.

Mix in
2 ½ cups all purpose flour.

Fold in
1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup peanuts
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup raisins
2 to 3 cups oatmeal.

Bake at 350 degrees F for ten to twelve minutes. Their edges should be brown but the centers won’t be completely set; that’s good because when the cookies cool, their interiors will be chewy and perfect.

Trail mix cookies

Tasty thoughts

This is inspired by my beloved Jennifer Paterson, who made savory baked pinwheel crackers flavored with anchovies spread, mustard, and parmesan on an episode of Two Fat Ladies. David Lebovitz said on his chicken liver pate recipe post that he enjoys a pate and cream cheese sandwich, so I thought I’d use her method and his flavor combination.

Make a smooth puree of chicken liver and mushrooms sauteed in butter; caramelized shallot (or onion) braised with some Marsala wine (balsamic vinegar or Madeira would be nice substitutes); some crumbled thyme; a few pinches of warm spices (e.g., allspice and ginger); and a good spoonful of salt. Cool to room temperature or chill. You want this to be a spreadable paste. 

Prepare, chill/rest, and roll out a cream cheese and fine herbs (e.g., chive/parsley/tarragon) pastry dough, forming a rough rectangle. 

Spread the liver puree thinly over the dough rectangle, leaving a half inch margin. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, lift and roll over the side nearest you to start forming a jellyroll or log shape. It doesn’t have to look perfect; the shape will improve as the roll forms. Continue rolling and nudging the dough until you have a relatively symmetric finished log, oriented with its seam facing down. Wrap with plastic film and chill for 30 minutes. 

Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry, cut the chilled dough log into thin slices (think cracker), then transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F until golden, 7-10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack. Serve as a starter with drinks and wine.

Tasty thoughts