Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken Dinner

A tropical themed dinner just feels right when its mid-summer in Chicago.  So after scouring Pinterest for a few ideas, I  selected this Hawaiian grilled chicken and paired it with grilled pineapple and coconut rice.  The original chicken recipe is from fellow blogger "chef in training".  His recipe seemed to serve about 12 people (as it called for three pounds of boneless skinless chicken.)  I've made it a bit more manageable below and also included some info on preparing the sides.

Julian's Hawaiian Themed Dinner
I'm going to take the preparation just a bit out of order.  When doing this meal at home, you should make the marinade (bottom) and place the chicken to soak in it at least 8 hours in advance (morning of) or as long as 24 hours in advance.  The longer the better, particularly with chicken breasts.

Coconut Rice:  I use an automated rice maker whenever I'm making white rice, as I think it's the easiest way possible to get perfect rice every time.  As they say, you just 'set it and forget it'.  Whether you are making the coconut rice in a rice maker or on the stove top, you really just follow the same directions.  I replace the plain tap water I normally use to prepare the rice with coconut water with pulp.  You can get this in bottles or cans at the store, but do not confuse it with coconut milk which is creamy.  You are looking for the clear juice of a coconut that has small chunks of pulp in it.  It is for this reason I prefer the bottles, to ensure I'm getting just what I want.  One bottle of about 9-12 ounces will be sufficient to cook about one cup of raw white rice.

With the rice cooking (for about 45-60 minutes) it's now time to move onto the pineapple.

Fresh Grilled Pineapple:  I'm always amazed at how many people have never actually served a fresh pineapple.  They taste so much better than the canned version, raw or grilled!  While you can prepare them with a good sharp knife, this is another of those kitchen gadgets I would hate to be without.

I got mine at Williams-Sonoma as I wanted stainless steel, but you can find many versions of them.  They make the job of coring the pineapple very fast and easy.  When you pull the handle up out comes a stack of neatly cut pineapple.  I  just slice it straight down the side and you have a neat stack of pineapple rings.  It's then ready to grill or serve raw.  If grilling, simply brush a little olive oil on it and place it on a hot grill.  Turn once after about 3 minutes or until the pineapple is nicely marked.  Grill the other side and serve.

Hawaiian Grilled Chicken (makes 4, 4-ounce portions)
1 pound boneless skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 green onions, finely sliced (separate tops for garnish)
1 clove garlic minced (or 1 teaspoon granulated garlic)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 (5.5 oz) can coconut milk (more is fine if can is larger)

Trim chicken of any fat.  Using a fork, poke holes around all sides of the chicken.  Place the chicken in a large zippered plastic bag.

In a large bowl, mix soy sauce, water, brown sugar, onions, garlic, sesame oil, and coconut milk.   Pour marinade over chicken and marinate for at least 8 hours (morning of), or up to 24 hours.

When preparing for grilling, scrape and oil the grates, using a paper towel lightly dampened with canola oil.  Place the chicken on a moderately hot grill and cook until well marked on one side (about 5-7 minutes).  Turn and continue cooking until chicken is done (reaching 160F degrees internal temperature.)  Garnish with tops of green onions and serve with coconut rice, pineapple and green vegetable of your choice.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Asian Slaw ~ The Perfect Summer Salad

Today I'm serving up dinner for eight and I want to serve it outdoors.  It's likely to be hot and I want foods that will hold up to the heat and not feel heavy to my guests.  While coleslaw is somewhat traditional in the summer, I find the creamy slaw dressing too rich and not one that I want to expose to outdoor temperatures for very long.  So I went looking through my recipes for a slaw dressing that was more of a vinegar based dressing.  I came upon not only this great dressing but a better mix of ingredients that made my idea for plain old slaw seem outdated and uninteresting.

Asian Slaw ~ Perfect for a Picnic
I got the recipe below from Jennifer at Once Upon a Chef.  I've made a few modifications and you can do so as well.  This recipe easily makes 8-12 large and healthy servings.


Sliced and Ready for the Refrigerator
For the Dressing
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (Thai hot sauce preferred and optional)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced

For the Slaw
14 ounces classic coleslaw (about 3 cups) prepared and shredded
10 ounces (about 2 cups) prepared shredded carrots
1/2 small head purple cabbage (about 1 1/2 cups) thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 cup cooked and shelled edamame (soy beans)
2 medium scallions, finely sliced
1/2 cup salted peanuts
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro

Red Cabbage
If you haven't used red cabbage before, here are a couple notes on preparation.  Simply remove outer damage or limp leaves.  Cut the head in half horizontally through the middle of the core.  Cut out the white core (shore above).  You can slice in a food processor, but it seems hardly worth dirtying the device.  To do this manually, turn the cabbage flat (cut) side down on your cutting board.  Slice it again in half, this time from top to bottom.  Slice into thin slices with a sharp knife.

Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir until the peanut butter is dissolved. Set aside in a lidded container. Refrigerate until ready for use.

I like to prepare as much of this as possible in advance.  You can purchase the prepared coleslaw and carrots shredded and ready for use at most grocery stores.  This will save you time, especially if you do not have a food processor.  The morning of your event, place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerator until one hour before serving.

Gently stir to combine all of the slaw ingredients. Shake the slaw dressing or stir well to combine.  Add the dressing and toss until fully coated. Let sit at least 30-45 minutes so vegetables will soak up the flavors from the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and serve.

Click To Enlarge

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summer Rum Punch

This wonderful, refreshing summer fruit punch (with optional rum) is delicious and not overly sweet.  It's the perfect punch to serve friends and family before dining al fresco, regardless of your menu.

Refreshments as Guests Arrive

I believe I got the recipe originally from Martha Stewart.  But as with many recipes, I've changed it up just a bit to accommodate my preferences.  I encourage you to do the same!  You can see I use a large dispenser for the drink.  It would work equally well or perhaps even better in a punch bowl.  After about an hour in the above container, I do have to stir the ingredients although it doesn't often last that long.  Below I recommend using rock or punch type glasses because while the punch won't taste like it has rum, it will have a bit of a kick after a glass or two, particularly on a hot summer's day.

59 ounces pulp free orange juice (1 carton)
46 ounces pineapple juice (1 large can)
3 limes (2 for juice, 1 for garnish)
1/2 cup light cranberry juice
1/2 cup grenadine
3 cups light rum (optional)
Ice cubes (a dozen or so)
1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish

Slice the lemon and one of the limes.  Squeeze the remaining two limes and remove any pits from the juice.  In a large pitcher, combine the juices, grenadine and optional rum. Add the ice.  Stir until well blended. Garnish with the lemon and lime.  Serve in rock or punch glasses.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Seafood Luncheon Salad

When the weather heats up and you are looking for a cool, refreshing, satisfying lunch, turn to this classic summer salad.  With a slice of good bread, this makes for your entire meal.  And the presentation is pretty enough for guests, should they be so lucky to be invited to your luncheon table.

Julian's Seafood Dill Tomato Summer Salad
You may recall a similar dish made by your mother with canned tuna.  This updated version uses lump crab, shrimp and a good splash of dill, both of which will dispel any memories of your mother's version.

I cut the recipe in half for the photos shown here and used lump crab in a jar from my grocer's cooler.  It worked out just fine.   Keeping a bag of frozen cooked shrimp (50-70 count per pound) is always a good idea in the summer, as they can be used in many recipes or just as an appetizer.  Remember however they've already been cooked, so they cannot be used in the place of raw shrimp.

Ingredients (serves 4)
8 ounces cooked shrimp (cleaned, no tails, 50-70 count preferred)
8 ounces lump crabmeat (drained and picked clean of shells)
2 hard cooked egg (peeled and chopped)
2 medium celery stalks (about 1/2 cup), chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped (green/white separated. Save green for garnish)
4 teaspoons dried dill
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1-2 teaspoons water

4 whole lettuce leaves (Boston lettuce preferred)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 large ripe tomatoes

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Click to Enlarge
In a large bowl gently combine the first seven ingredients.  In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and sour cream.  Thin the cream mixture with 1-2 teaspoons of water as needed to reach a thick dressing consistency.

Place a single lettuce leaf on each plate and drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  With the tomato upright on a cutting board, cut out the stem.  Cut the tomato into 6-8 wedges, without cutting all the way through to the bottom.  The tomato will lay open like a flower but still be connected.  Place a tomato on the lettuce leaf on each plate.

Spoon the mayonnaise mixture over the seafood mixture.  Gently toss to combine.  "Stuff" the center of the tomato with the seafood mixture.  Sprinkle with freshly grated black pepper and salt.  Garnish with the green tops of the onions and serve.