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Mild Diced Green Chiles-00039000010214

Right away I will say this is NOT my recipe. It came from the back of a package of Foster Farms chicken, circa 1982. I remember my mother making it and it was just wonderful.

Search for it now – ha! It isn’t on the Foster Farms website any more. Only a couple of blogs posted the recipe, and I thank them for preserving it.  I made it last night and again – just wonderful. I did make a couple of teeny adaptations but other than that, it’s the same old recipe. Putting it here so I can easily find it again.


  • 1 chicken, either left whole or cut up, or about 4 1/2 pounds chicken parts (I prefer thighs)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt OR 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped peeled green chilis (like Ortega brand)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with a little water to make a slurry
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (low-fat is fine)

Mix the chili powder, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and salt; rub the chicken all over with it and set aside 30 minutes or as long as overnight (in the refrigerator).

Heat oil in skillet. Brown the chicken lightly in the oil, turning as necessary (do not crowd the pan). Remove chicken to flameproof baking dish (i.e. one that can also go on a stovetop burner) as they’re browned.  Yes, go ahead and brown that whole chicken on each side if that’s what you’re using.

When all the chicken is in the baking dish, pour about 1 cup water into that still-hot skillet and scrape up all the delicious browned bits from the bottom. Pour that water into the baking dish along with the garlic, onions, chicken broth, and can of chilis (undrained). Cover and bake in 350 oven about 1 hour 15 minutes, until chicken is done (whole chicken will take longer). Turn the oven temp down if the liquid is boiling.

Remove chicken to deep platter and keep warm.

Bring the liquid in the baking dish to a boil on the stove and, stirring constantly, slowly add the cornstarch slurry, a little at a time until it’s as thick as you like. Taste for salt. Remove baking dish from stove. Stir in sour cream. Pour sauce over chicken and served with steamed rice or polenta.


Lamb and Grapes

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Lamb and Grapes

So I was grocery shopping and saw bags of grapes on sale. You know the bags – they have perforations and zip-lock tops, and are always crammed with as many grapes as can possibly be stuffed in, sort of like college students and phone booths (and if that doesn’t date me, I don’t know what will). I took about 2/3 of the grapes out of one bag and distributed them through the remaining bags on the shelf, and still came away with far more grapes that I really wanted. I like grapes but… not THAT much.

Got home, washed the grapes (the perforated bags are useful for that), put them in a nifty grape-leaf-shaped bowl, and we went to work eating them. By the end of the third day there were remaining about 48759 grapes, give or take a few. They were starting to think about becoming raisins. What to do?

It just so happened I also had a package of lamb chops. I’ve been making fresh mint sauce for lamb but I thought the grapes might make a sort of agrodolce sauce.  Lamb and grapes ought to be natural together due to both being staples in Greece, Italy, and France.

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Sauces and preparations with  grapes are referred to as Veronique – i.e. poulet Veronique, trout Veronique, but those use white (green) grapes and also often a hefty amount of cream. I didn’t know what using red grapes without cream would be called so I am calling it

Lamb Chops Red Veronica

  • 5 or 6 lamb chops
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups stemmed seedless red grapes
  • spring of fresh rosemary
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • vinegar (I used balsamic) and sugar/honey to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Season the lamb with salt and pepper on both sides, and let come to room temperature. When ready to cook, brown the chops on both sides and continue cooking until rare or medium-rare (if you cook them well-done, you’re a monster). Set aside to keep warm (on a heatproof platter in a warm oven is good).


Saute the garlic in the pan drippings for a few moments, stirring and scraping up the browned bits to prevent sticking and browning.

Then throw in the grapes and the rosemary.


Stir frequently and cook over medium heat until the grapes finally give in and are squishable. Mash them a bit to create the sauce. Taste the sauce and add vinegar and/or sugar/honey to make it sweet-sour, plus salt and pepper as needed.

Pour over the chops. Here I had them on a platter with leftover mashed potatoes formed into patties and browned.

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The same preparation would be good with pork chops, chicken, turkey, duck, venison, rabbit, or just about any game. This would also work with chopped apricots or peaches.


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Photo of Pollo alla cacciatora (hunter’s chicken) by pocketcultures on Flickr


I made this yesterday and didn’t take photos of it; I’m putting it here because two friends asked for the recipe, and so I can remember how I did it.

My husband had been asking me to make chicken cacciatore, and when I stopped into the market yesterday, the organic whole chickens had just been marked down to a reasonable price. Score!

Having never made this before, I looked at two recipes – one in Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? and the other in Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking – and saw pretty quickly that one was rustic Italian style and the other classic style; the only thing they had in common was chicken, so I winged it. (I never met a pun I didn’t like.)

I used a friend’s home-canned tomatoes which were excellent; since I don’t have any more of those, next time I will use San Marzano canned tomatoes.

I used some claret from Grocery Outlet but use whatever red wine you have. White wine would also work as would dry vermouth, or chicken broth if you’d prefer.

Do the prep before you start cooking; don’t try to do all the slicing and dicing while the oil is heating. Make this and store portions in the freezer for do-ahead meals.


  • 4 1/2 pounds chicken (2 kg)
  • olive oil for frying
  • flour mixed with salt & pepper
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped or sliced into half-moons
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 sweet bell peppers (capsicum),  any color or combination of colors, thinly sliced (I used some green, red, orange, and yellow)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped, including leaves
  • 1 carrot, sliced thin
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 3 bay leaves (laurel)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 quart tomatoes (1 liter)
  • 1 fresh tomato, chopped
  • pinch of cayenne or other hot pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives

The chicken: I cut up a whole roasting chicken (putting the backbone into the freezer to make stock from later on) but if I hadn’t had that, I would have used chicken thighs and legs. Don’t use only chicken breasts; they cook too quickly before the sauce reduces & becomes flavorful and will dry out. And actually they really aren’t all that tasty to begin with.

Mix about 1 cup flour with salt & pepper and toss the chicken parts in it. Heat about 1/4 cup olive oil in a large sturdy pot over medium heat and brown the chicken pieces in it, a few at a time. Don’t crowd the pan or they won’t brown. Remove the pieces to a plate as soon as they’re browned, maybe 5 minutes on each side.

(If the oil has started to burn the flour that falls off into the pan, toss it out and wash the pan, and start again with fresh oil.)

Add the onions to the oil and cook, stirring frequently, about five minutes. Toss in the peppers and cook another five minutes, then add the celery, carrots, and four of the garlic cloves (minced). Cook all this about five more minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.

Pour in the wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add all the tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, cayenne, and a little salt & pepper.  Return all the chicken to the pan (putting the breast pieces on top),  bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered. Moosh the chicken pieces into the sauce if needed so they cook all the way through.

After about 45 minutes, add the mushrooms and olives plus the remaining four cloves of garlic (minced) and let cook another 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more salt & pepper if needed. If the sauce needs a little oomph, add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Simmer until chicken is completely cooked through (use an instant-read meat thermometer if in doubt).

Serve this with pasta or polenta plus a green salad and/or steamed broccoli, as well as some garlic bread. Some minced parsley or basil sprinkled over would look nice.



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One of my many stories about being a dumb kid involved thinking that something that smelled as good as vanilla extract just HAD to be delicious.  If you never tried tasting it by itself, let me save you the trouble: Reader, it does not taste good.

Pure vanilla extract is made from vanilla beans and alcohol (not being a drinker at age 4, I didn’t appreciate this tidbit of information). Vanilla beans are expensive and have become much more so after bad weather in Madagascar, so the price of a little bottle of vanilla has gotten crazy high.  Imitation vanilla is not worth buying no matter how much you save. It smells cheap. It tastes fake. And it is not made from vanilla.

But you can make vanilla at home for much less what you’d spend on the equivalent amount of a retail bottle of vanilla. And it’s extremely easy.

You need:

  • Vanilla beans
  • Alcohol
  • A bottle with stopper

I got my vanilla beans from Penzeys. There are many online sources; I have also seen them in supermarkets.


Alcohol: I used a mixture of Skyy vodka, Jack Daniels, and Jameson Cask Mates Irish Whiskey because that’s what I had on hand. The Skyy vodka we’ve had for YEARS and I rarely use it unless I make a Bloody Mary, which hasn’t happened in a long time. The Jack Daniels – I guess we’ve had it two or three years.  I put it in eggnog at Christmas and some desserts/ dessert sauces; my husband puts it in his recipe for oatmeal cookies. We were given most of a bottle of Jameson on St. Patrick’s Day and since neither of us was really crazy about it, it’ll sit there indefinitely gathering dust unless it’s given a purpose in life. But bourbon, rum, sour mash, whiskey, Everclear, vodka, etc. by themselves would work. I don’t think I would use a liquor with a flavor like the herbaceous nature of gin, one of those flavored vodkas,  tequila, or a strongly flavored liqueur.

A bottle with stopper: I used a red wine bottle that I soaked to get the label off. It has a screw-top cap. If you don’t have one, I bet you know someone who does.


Vanilla beans smell heavenly but look a little disappointing.

So for one 750-ml wine bottle, I used three beans. Took a knife and ran the point down the length of each bean to open it, then tucked all of them into the bottle. Poured in the vodka, Jack Daniels, and Jameson. Put the cap on, labeled it, and set it aside to think about things for a few weeks.


In two or three weeks, it’ll be ready to use.

So what’s that cost?

I just looked online. 2 ounces of McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract costs $9.39 at Target, or $4.69/ounce. At Walmart, 4 ounces of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract, $23.99 ($5.99/ounce).

Three vanilla beans cost me $19.95. Let’s say I splashed out and bought a new bottle of Jameson at BevMo: Right now a 750 is $23.99. I’m recycling the wine bottle, so we’re at $44.00 (rounded up).  The wine bottle holds 750 ml/ 25.36 ounces, but let’s round it down to 25 ounces. That comes to $1.76 per ounce. So yeah, the initial outlay could be pricey, but in the long run it’s a LOT cheaper.


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Every now and then I find a new recipe, a new technique, for making pizza at home. I’ve abandoned most of them because they just weren’t all that and not worth the effort. I know I can’t replicate the pizza of my dreams, which lives at La Perla in Amsterdam and photos of which figure heavily in my Amsterdam posts. But that doesn’t mean I should be deprived of halfway decent pizza in between trips to The Netherlands.

Not to say I can’t find good pizza here in Humboldt County.  I found pretty good locally made pizza dough from Tomaso’s and used it for a while. Brick and Fire makes excellent pizza but it’s a bit pricey to be visiting too often. And I have heard good things about Headies in Trinidad; it’s a bit of a drive but could be worth the trip.  Sometimes I just want to make pizza to enjoy at home while listening to the Giants lose.

This is my latest version that I think is pretty good. The dough is easy to put together. It does take a couple of hours for the rise, but that’s when I do the prep for the toppings. Or I can make the dough and store it in Ziplock bags in the refrigerator four or five days, or freeze it and bring it out later. This makes enough dough for two large (16″) pizzas.

A few things I have learned about making pizza:

  • A pizza stone is non-negotiable here. It virtually guarantees a superior crust. They’re fragile – set it down too hard, or subject it to sudden temperature changes, and it’ll break, but it’s worth the extra care.
  • Another necessary item: parchment paper, to transfer the raw pizza to and from the stone. Waxed paper isn’t a good substitute; it isn’t made to withstand really high heat.
  • Less is more when it comes to toppings. Too much stuff won’t cook well in a home oven and will create a soggy center.
  • Some toppings have to be cooked before putting them on the pizza. The pizza won’t be in the oven long enough to fully cook anything but the crust; putting raw pork sausage on the pizza will end up with mostly-raw pork and grease on top. Raw meat (pork, beef, chicken, etc) as well as shrimp needs to be pre-cooked and drained of excess grease. Vegetables like eggplant and zucchini won’t cook through so they also need to be sauteed before baking.
  • Put the sauce down, then the cheese, then the toppings. Adding cheese last will create a tent over the vegetables that prevents moisture escaping and will leave a soggy center.
  • About gluten-free: I don’t pretend to be an expert on gluten-free baking, but I suspect this could be made with the right substitute. King Arthur Flour has a helpful page on this subject.


  • 1 heaping tablespoon dry yeast (about 1 1/2 packets, or buy in a jar)
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (95F – 115F)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 1/3 cups unbleached flour plus extra if needed (if you have bread flour on hand, even better, or add some high-gluten flour to regular flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

The water has to be just the right temperature. Too cool and the yeast won’t do anything but get soggy. Too hot and you kill the yeast. I like to live dangerously and have it almost- but-not-quite too hot.


Add the sugar to the water, then the yeast. Stir to combine – doesn’t have to be completely blended – then leave in a warmish place.  Even though it looks like what you pour out of your shoes after a day at the beach, yeast is alive though dormant, and adding warm water starts to wake it up. The sugar gives it something to eat. Then if you’ve done it right, it starts to burp and fart, causing bubbles and foam. (If you don’t see this happen, the water is too cool or too hot or the yeast wasn’t terribly active to begin with.)


Put the flour and salt in a bowl that holds about, oh, three or four quarts (the size of a gallon of milk, more or less), dump in the yeasty water and EVOO, and mix with your clean ringless hand (getting dough out of the prongs of a ring is a bitch). Scrape up the flour from the bottom of the bowl to incorporate it too.

Scrape the dough onto a clean board, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour, and knead three or four minutes to get everything smooth. If it’s really sticky you might need a little more flour.

Wash and dry the bowl, pour in a couple of tablespoons of EVOO, and return the dough to the bowl. Turn the dough over a few times to make sure it’s oiled on all sides and that the sides of the bowl are likewise oiled, then cover with stretch wrap. Place the bowl of dough in a warmish place, like the oven that was BRIEFLY preheated. (Again, if it’s too hot, you’ll kill the yeast – too cool and it’ll take forEVER to rise.) Let the dough rise 45 minutes to an hour or so, until it’s doubled, which looks considerably more dramatic than you think.


(My stretch wrap is green – that’s because I got the special Christmas stretch wrap really cheap in January. Wish I’d bought several rolls at that price.)

When the dough has doubled, take the wrap off and give the dough a good punch to deflate it. Divide the dough in half – don’t obsess about getting it exactly right – and put each half in a bowl (oil the new bowl like the first one), cover both bowls with stretch wrap, and let rise again. This second rise will take a bit longer than the first.


This is a good time to assemble toppings. Chop veggies, shred cheese, cook raw meat, whatever. Here I’ve got minced garlic, green onions, red onions, mixed bell peppers, and tomatoes.


And here: shredded cheese (a Swiss type from Holland), pepperoni and sopressata, dry basil, pizza sauce, and anchovies.


Once the two hunks o’ dough have doubled again, take them out of the oven (if that is where they were) and set aside. Put the stone in the oven on the middle rack, and start preheating oven to 500F. I like to preheat the stone at least 20 or 30 minutes.

This is one well-used stone. (Yeah, my oven’s dirty. I would sooner buy a new stove than use oven cleaner.)


Lightly dampen a regular round 16″ pizza pan. Tear off a piece of parchment paper and lay it on the dampened pan. Scrape one of the risen doughs onto the paper, plus any oil in the bowl, and start pressing it out with your fingers. Get it all the way to the edge. Patch holes with dough torn from the edges. It doesn’t matter if it looks like a half-assed job.

Once you have your dough pressed out, add sauce, cheese, and toppings.


Now you have a raw pizza on parchment paper on a metal pizza pan. What to do?

Get a pot holder. Open the oven door and pull the rack out a bit with the hand with the pot holder.  Drop the potholder. Lower the pizza pan by the baking stone, grab the far edge of the parchment paper, and pull it with the pizza onto the stone. Push the rack back into the oven and close the door.


Check the pizza in about seven minutes. You want the edges lightly browned and the center bubbling.  Don’t overbake!  This turns tough if baked too long. When the edges are just right, remove pizza by lowering the empty pizza pan near the stone, grabbing the near edge of parchment paper, and pulling the pizza onto the pan. This sounds harder and scarier than it really is.


If you have some fresh basil on hand, tear up a few leaves and distribute over the pizza, followed by a light drizzle of EVOO. I like this with hot pepper flakes and a balsamic reduction to add to each slice.

Of course this dough can be used for all sorts of pizza toppings – i.e. Asian pizza with hoisin sauce, peanuts, chicken, cilantro, or BBQ pizza with pulled pork, BBQ sauce, Jalapenos, onions, whatever strikes your fancy. Or if all else fails, tear off pieces of the dough about the size of a golf ball, deep- or pan-fry in plenty of oil under golden brown, and flock with powdered sugar.





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A very long time ago in another place and life, I was introduced to sesame noodles. I wasn’t won over immediately, possibly because I only knew sesame as the decoration on hamburger buns.  I didn’t know about halvah or tahini or benne cookies. After a few false starts, I found a restaurant serving sesame noodles warm (not cold, as I’d been trying them) and was converted, yea verily the scales fell from my eyes.

Since then I’ve made a lotta versions of sesame noodles,  but they always fell short because the only sesame I had was oil and seeds. I rarely saw sesame paste for sale where I lived and when I did see it, it was a giant can that would take years to finish up. So I’d substitute peanut butter, which had a certain appeal but wasn’t really the same thing as what I was after.

The best variation I tried was from Sheila Lukins in The Silver Palate Cookbook, where she made a sesame mayonnaise to be mixed with pasta. It was delicious BUT it made 3 cups – which is a LOT – and I felt rather guilty eating all that pasta lavished with mayonnaise. Not guilty enough to stop eating it, though.

Now I live where tahini (that’s sesame paste) is available in nearly every store. It isn’t the cheapest ingredient on the supermarket shelf but unless you’re making gallons of hummus, it’ll last a while. If you can’t find it, there are directions online for making your own. I’ve decided there are some things – like sushi and filo dough – that I am just not interested in making at home, but have at it if you’re so inclined.

This recipe is a mashup of versions, one from the Lucky Peach Cookbook, one from a cooking blog, plus my own preferences.


The sauce:

Combine in a bowl

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use low-salt and think you should too)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (find at Asian market or well-stocked grocery store)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (use the unseasoned)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tahini plus some of the oil which will have separated from the paste
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce (find at Asian market or well-stocked grocery store)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, depending on how hot you want it (find at Asian market or well-stocked grocery store)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (optional) (find at Asian market or well-stocked grocery store)

You may need to warm the sauce (microwave is fine) to soften the tahini and get everything mixed.


It won’t look very impressive.

The Vegetables:

Now this part is optional, but if you do this, it becomes a one-dish meal. or you can leave the noodles vegetable-free. Up to you.

Prep some vegetables. How much and which is up to you.


I sliced a small red onion, some celery, carrots, and red bell pepper, all to be cooked. Raw toppings are some chopped green onions, cilantro, peas, and cucumbers cut into matchsticks; alongside are some edible-pod peas. I chose these veggies because that’s what was in the refrigerator but just about any veg works here.


I sauteed some veggies until they were almost but not quite tender.

The noodles:

Then I cooked 1 pound linguine until almost but not quite al dente in NONsalted water with a little vegetable oil added. If I’d had rice noodles on hand, that’s what I would have used, but Ronzoni it was. Before the linguine was done, I scooped out 1 cup of the boiling water.


Tossed sauce with the noodles along with about 1/3 cup of the cooking water, then  stirred in the cooked veggies plus some leftover cooked chicken that had been lurking in the refrigerator. Scraped everything out onto a serving platter and topped it with the uncooked vegetables plus some peanuts and  Slug Slime (though toasted sesame seeds would have been fine).


We let this sit for a while as we listened to the San Francisco Giants lose badly to the Los Angeles Dodgers, then ate this warm-not-hot. It’s good hot, warm, or cold.






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It might be hard to believe, oh children of today, but there was a time in California and many other modern places with electricity and running water (bottled water was not yet invented) and telephones (landlines only) where your choice of Asian food was Chinese or Chinese, and by that I mean chow mein or chop suey, which the American diner poured soy sauce over lavishly. (I am loathe to admit we called soy sauce “bug juice.”) If you were really living it up you could also get Chinese BBQ ribs and egg foo yong and sweet and sour pork. A few very avant garde restaurants offered rumaki, though I have never known anyone to actually order it. I was a picky child so when we went to one of the three or four Chinese restaurants in town, I stayed safe with a hot roast beef sandwich.

Then sometime in the late 1960s or early 70s woks became the rage. It was impressed upon we aspiring Chinese chefs that the wok absolutely had to be made of carbon steel, seasoned properly with heat and oil, and used frequently in order to keep up the seasoning else it would rust. It was also absolutely essential that one had the right shovel (a shovel-shaped spatula with a long handle) and that the wok had to have a round bottom, or it was not authentic and your food would likewise be not authentic. This was at a time when electric stoves were pretty standard in most kitchens; round bottomed woks rolled and tilted dangerously on the flat burner.

Also, we had to learn to chop vegetables properly, preferably with a Chinese cleaver, or they wouldn’t cook correctly.  Something about cut-half-roll-cut on an angle. (See above about not authentic.)

We bought Chinese cookbooks that listed a new-to-us array of ingredients that were likewise absolutely essential to Chinese cooking, almost none of which were available in circa-1970 Safeway and Albertsons.  The standard supermarket soy sauce was La Choy (who had a catchy television commercial with a jingle, “La Choy makes Chinese food *swing* American!”). Bamboo shoots and water chestnuts were available in cans; people bought one of each and displayed them to show off their culinary chops. (You didn’t have to actually use them; just owning the cans was enough.) Tofu was  starting to become available but viewed with suspicion.  Garlic was available but ginger less so. It took a drive to a larger city to find sesame oil, five-spice powder,  oyster sauce, rice sticks, and bok choy. (This was before the internet.)

Even around 1980 I remember being served stir-fry dishes in Chinese restaurants that included crinkle-cut frozen French fries and gherkins.  It was indeed a strange time in America.

It took Americans a long time to relax and learn to make Chinese food; from there we segued into Thai and Korean and Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian (which, I have been assured by a Lao woman, are pretty similar), Japanese and Asian fusion. I don’t know just when the tide turned and we started appreciating and making decent Asian dishes, but even small-town grocers stock hoisin sauce and cilantro now.

We have a copy of Lucky Peach Presents 101 Asian Recipes which has a less structured approach to cooking and a what-the-hell punky approach to authenticity, while not ceding anything to white bread America. It’s been helpful in loosening up and having fun while making really good tasting Asian food. I used to have a carbon steel wok but I have no idea where it is now. I use either a cast iron frying pan or a nonstick Ikea flat-bottomed wok.

I bet you thought I would never get around to the recipe, right? This started as something else and became this. But it could become something else yet again if the cook made it so. Lots of possible variations. Much of it can be made ahead. Don’t be discouraged by the long list of ingredients – it’s really simple to make.

Note: This is clearly full of meat, but I suspect a vegetarian version could be made with the spices and some miso.


The Meat Part:

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder or pork butt, beef chuck roast, beef 7-bone roast, country-style spare ribs, chicken thighs, or a whole chicken


  • 1 head garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 fat slice onion
  • 2 quarts water (include some low-sodium broth if it’s on hand)
  • 1/2 cup low-salt soy sauce or tamari (I use Aloha soy sauce and/or San-J Tamari, both low-salt)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (I use Squid brand, available in Asian markets)
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, Demarara sugar, turbinado sugar, or golden brown sugar (optional)
  • 2/3 cup Shaoxing rice wine, mirin, sake, or sherry (a generous splash of Madeira would not go amiss here as well)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, about 3″ long
  • 2 star anise
  • t teaspoon whole cloves
  • 4-5 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds or anise seeds
  • 10-12 whole peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1″ piece of ginger root, sliced
  • 1-4 dried hot peppers (optional)


  • 1 large bunch collards, kale, spinach, or other sturdy greens, hard stems removed, greens sliced thinly (roll them up like a cigar and then slice across)

Optional Vegetables:

  • shredded vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, daikon – about 1/4 cup of each
  • sliced mushrooms – 2 or more, depending on your fondness for mushrooms
  • snow peas – 1/4 pound ought to do it
  • green beans, cut into 2″ lengths -like the snow peas, about 1/4 pound


  • 8 – 16 ounces rice noodles, glass noodles, rice sticks, or other noodles, cooked according to package directions (I used the rice vermicelli pictured above, 14 ounces)

Optional Garnishes:

  • chopped green onions
  • chopped cilantro
  • chili-garlic sauce (Huy Fong Foods makes one version, much more garlicky than Sriracha) or sambal oelek
  • finely shredded cabbage
  • a raw egg yolk for the hardcore


Brown the meat in a little oil, flipping as necessary to brown all sides.  When the meat is almost brown enough, add the onion slice and let it get good and brown on both sides. Toss in the garlic to lightly brown for a few minutes, then the spices to lightly bloom in the oil.


Clockwise from top: star anise, whole cloves, cardamom pods, coriander seeds, whole peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds in the center


Pour in all liquid ingredients and scrape up any lovely browned bits from the bottom, bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover.


Let simmer until meat is falling-apart tender – about 1 1/2 hours for chicken thighs, 2 hours for country-style ribs or a whole chicken, 3 hours for pork butt, pork shoulder, or beef chuck/7-bone roast. Remove meat from pot and let cool, then remove bones/skin/fat and shred meat. (This can all be done ahead and put in the refrigerator for another day.)

Taste the broth and adjust seasoning – I like this on the sweet side so I usually add more brown sugar, but this is subjective. (My husband doesn’t like it sweet so for him I  keep it at 1/4 cup. Or skip the sugar altogether.) Strain broth and discard solids. Skim fat from broth (this is easier if made ahead and chilled). Reheat broth, add the thinly sliced greens, and cook until tender – could be 20 to 40 minutes for collards, 20 minutes for kale, almost instantly for spinach. When greens are almost tender, add any other vegetables.

Cook noodles separately, then add to broth with greens along with shredded meat. When soup is heated through, serve with optional garnishes.

Makes a lot.


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