Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chai Chicken

Bhakti Chai is a local company, and I was recently treated to a tour of the facility thanks to Sprouts (a grocery store chain, if you're not familiar).

As soon as I sampled the product at the factory, I thought it would make a great marinade for chicken. Maybe I was just hungry.

Yeah, I know. it's a drink. It's not a marinade. But the ginger-forward flavor just wanted to be used in cooking. So ... we got to take some samples home, and after having a little pick-me-up, I decided to give Chai-Chai-Chai Chicken a try.

But, being me, I didn't actually do a marinade. Nope. I bought some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and I cooked them sous vide.

I know I post a LOT of sous vide recipes ... but that's because they're so easy and hands-off. Most of the time, I finish the recipe with a quick sear on the stove or maybe a broil in the oven, but that's all I have to do. With the chicken breasts, I just sliced and served.

Let me say here that sealing a sous vide bag that has a lot of liquid in it can be a little tricky. I didn't add a LOT of liquid, but if you're skeevy about having any liquid at all to deal with, just freeze some of your marinade mixture - in this case the chai - and put that into the sous vide bag.

If you've got a giant thick hockey puck of frozen stuff in your sous vide bag, you might want to extend the cooking time a little bit, but if you froze a 1/2 cup in a baggie so it's thin and flat, it's going to thaw pretty quickly. And seriously, you don't need a lot of marinade or sauce or whatever in the bag.

You can cook each chicken breast in its own bag (which is great if you're adjusting flavors to people's personal preferences) or cook them all together in one bag. Just make sure the breasts are in one layer in the bag, if you're doing a bunch of them together, so cooking is even.

Bhakti Chai Chicken Breasts

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Bhaki Chai Concentrate (I used the original version)
Let's assume we're doing just one chicken breast, okay?

If you've got those giant chicken breasts, one breast might be enough for two people, depending on what you're serving with it. If it's really huge, feel free to add another 15 minutes to the cooking time.

So, put the chicken breast in the sous vide bag and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the Bhakti Chai - depending on how comfy you are with dealing with wet ingredients in your sous vide bag. If you were smart enough to freeze some of the chai ahead of time, you're so much smarter than me.

Add a pinch of salt, if you like.

Vacuum carefully and seal. Use the wet sealing feature, if yours has that option. If you want to be extra sure you have a good seal, wipe the recently-sealed end of the bag to remove any moisture, and seal it again on the end.

All done? Good.

Set up the sous vide for 150 degrees. Chuck that chicken in there and set for 1 hour (or a little longer, if it's one of the huge breasts that they sell these days).

Now go and do something fun.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the bag. Slice and serve.

That's it. No muss, no fuss. I didn't even bother browning the breast afterwards, but you can do that if you like. This was also great cold ... try it on a salad with an Asian-style dressing and some bean sprouts and snow peas - or maybe some of crispy fried wonton skins. Yum!

About Bhakti Chai

Bhakit Chai is a great example of a small business started by one passionate person. The original Chai product still exists, but the company has expanded the product line to include more flavors, a ready-to-drink line, and some fizzy chai drinks as well.

The fizzy drinks might have been my favorite, since I'm a fan of ginger ale and similar fizzy drinks that are less sweet and more refreshing.

But that doesn't mean I didn't like the others. The ready-to-drink iced chai is perfect if you just want to grab one and go. That's them, in the photo on the right. Lots of options, including one coffee-chai drink.

The concentrate is what you need in the fridge for drinking at home. I've been making mine with about 1/3 chai concentrate and 2/3 with either milk or almond milk, but of course you can adjust that to your preference. And you can drink it hot or cold.

If you're me, you can also use the concentrate in recipes. I was thinking that rice with a little chai would be really really nice with a stir-fry dinner. And chai rice pudding is awesome. Simmered down to concentrate the flavor even more, it would be a nice sauce for either sweet or savory.

While you can find some of the Bhakti Chai products on Amazon, you probably want to just go look for them at the grocery store, since they're a perishable product. Like, you know, go to Sprouts and buy them there.

One of the best parts about going to tours of different companies is seeing how things are made. here's a super-short video of the bottling line at Bhakti Chai. It was cool watching it work. Yum, chai!


Thanks to Sprouts for sponsoring and arranging the tour and to Bhakti Chai for being such a great host (and for the samples!).



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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mango Mousse

Let me be honest. I have a love-hate relationship with mangoes. When they're good, I love them. Totally love. But it seems like I also sometimes end up with mangoes that are mealy or that just taste ... weird.

I have a better track record with peaches, plums, and all their relatives.

Also, mangoes are not the most fun thing to peel. So I dragged out my mango splitter. I don't use it often, but it has its place in my drawer full of things that I don't use often, but I use enough.

That said, the little yellowish mangoes tend to be more successful for me, and when I saw them on sale, I grabbed a few of them. And then as I was browsing through a cookbook that just appeared from a publisher - Farm-to-Table Desserts by Lei Shishak - I found a recipe for mango mousse that looked pretty intriguing.

Most of the mousses I've made have been chocolate, and they've been rich and calorie-dense. This mousse is much lighter.

I figured I'd make it as written, and if it worked, I could certainly adapt it to other fruits. Like peaches. A peach mousse, in season, would be pretty awesome.

So anyway, the book's tagline is "80 seasonal organic recipes made from your local farmers' market." Well, mangoes don't grow here and it's only May as I write this. We had snow not that long ago, so there aren't a lot of local crops at all.

But that's why we have grocery stores. That carry in-season fruits and vegetables that are in season in other parts of the country. Otherwise, I'd be fruitless at this time of year, and still living on root vegetables and petrified winter squashes from last season.

So anyway, the mousse was really nice. Fruity and soft and silky and and just sweet enough without being overly sweet. I think it would make sense to make this in a larger quantity, for best blending in the blender and also to have more mousse for dessert.

I think my mangoes were a little smaller than what the author imagined, so what I ended up was probably not four servings. I didn't put it into individual ramekins, as suggested, because I thought one container in the fridge made more sense.

This is one of the easier recipes in the book, which has a nice range of recipes from simple all the way to ones that are a little more of a project. There are baking recipes, ice cream recipes, and some that are uncooked. And kettle corn, too. Lots of variety.

Mango Mousse
Adapted from Farm-to-Table Desserts by Lei Shishak

1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons water, divided
2 medium mangoes, ripe
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup yogurt (she suggested Fage, so use a Greek-style)

Sprinkle the gelatin over 1 tablespoon of water and set aside while you wrangle the mangoes.

Peel the mangoes, cut the fruit away from the pit, and cut the fruit into chunks. Or use a mango pitter, then use a spoon to slide the fruit out of the skin.

Put the mango pieces and the lemon juice in a blender, and blend until smooth.

Add the softened gelatin to a small pot and add the sugar and the remaining tablespoon of water. Heat on medium, stirring, until the sugar and gelatin have dissolved. At first, this will look like you don't have enough water, but it will be fine. Pour the gelatin into the blender and pulse to combine.

Strain the mango mixture into a small bowl. If you have a super-powered blender, you might not need to do this, but I found that it was even smoother after straining. So, your choice. Whisk in the yogurt.

Chill the mouse for at least 2 hours. You can divide it into individual servings before chilling, or put it into a storage container and scoop it out to serve.

YUM.

I received the book from the publisher at no cost to me.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Small-Batch Brownies

I really love to bake, but it seems sort of ridiculous to make a whole layer cake just for me. Fortunately, I have wonderful neighbors who are always willing to take in homeless baked goods. Still, a whole layer cake is a lot of cake, even when I have help eating it.

I usually look for recipes that make a single layer, or I cut the recipe in half, which isn't all that much fun when it uses 3 eggs. So, when a publisher offered me a copy of 175 Best Small-Batch Baking Recipes, I knew I had to try it.

Cake for one or two? Count me in. Don't worry, neighbors ... I'll still have plenty of goodies for you!

The first recipe I decided to try was for brownies. I love brownies, and they have the distinct advantage over other baked goods in that I like them when they're chilled, unlike many cakes that are best at room temperature. Storing them in the fridge gives them a longer life, so I can take my time eating them.

I was quite pleased to see that I had six different brownie recipes to choose from, including a white chocolate brownie with cranberries and hazelnuts. I chose a somewhat classic recipe that had nuts. It called for walnuts - which is pretty typical - but I used macadamia nuts, since I recently got some from a friend in Hawaii.

It's good to have friends.

One thing I thought was complete genius in this book was the way they handled pan size. They didn't suggest going out and buying some weird-sized pan to make the small batch in brownies. Instead, they use loaf pans. Wow. I never thought of that! And heavens knows I have enough loaf pans around here.

The recipe I chose made brownies that were a bit soft and cake-like and also a bit fudgy, but I think they would be more dense at sea level.

These don't include any leavening except the air beaten into the batter when the eggs are whisked, and that sort of whipped-in air tends to expand more up here in the mountains than it would where most people live.

The recipe was easy to make - I didn't even need a hand mixer. The ingredients all include metric measurements as well as US, so you can use whichever you prefer, and it also makes it easier if you prefer to weigh your dry ingredients rather than measure.

The recipe includes frosting, but I didn't make that. I prefer my brownies unadorned.

Chocolate Walnut Brownies
Adapted from 175 Best Small-Batch Baking Recipes by Jill Snider

2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I used macadamia nuts)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper (I made a sling that covered the bottom and long sides) and spray with baking spray.

Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat on medium heat in 30-second increments, stirring after each heating, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until light and frothy (they might be easier to whisk in a larger bowl, but a medium bowl is all you need to hold the ingredients). Gradually add the sugar while whisking, until the mixture is thick. Whisk in the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Add the flour and walnuts and stir them in.

Bake in the preheated oven at 350 degrees until just set, about 20-25 minutes (mine took a bit longer). Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before removing using the sling.
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