Category Archives: Main Dish

Dijon Mustard and Panko Breadcrumb Chicken

Panko chicken with brown rice and steamed green beans

Verdict: my most cooked recipe, three years running! It taste like a master chef prepared meal but is incredibly easy and oh so tasty.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats ‘Eat for $8 column’ four years ago. It was love at first bite and remains my favourite ‘go to’ recipe. The flavours and textures are incredible! The Dijon mustard keeps the chicken moist and provides a slight bite while the panko bread crumbs contrasts with crispiness and savoury flavour.

This dish is a modern twist on a classic French dish where chicken pieces are coated with Dijon mustard and bread crumbs, then baked to perfection. Instead of plain bread crumbs, this recipe uses Panko, a Japanese bread crumb that has a very subtle soya flavour and gets incredibly crispy when baked.

panko breadcrumbsPanko bread crumbs, the last step of the chicken seasoning process.

We make this all the time! Simple, delicious and affordable. Does anyone else wonder why chicken thighs can be so inexpensive? It’s one of the first recipes I taught Andrew (his sleeve is pictured below).

panko chicken with dijon mustardUsing a spoon to coat the chicken with Dijon mustard.

This chicken is great paired with brown rice because they cook at about the same time, 50 minutes in total. What I love about this recipe is after you have cooked your brown rice and put the chicken in the oven, there’s nothing more you need to do. You can take a long shower, chill out on the couch, or if you’re good, you can wash the dishes. After your break, a lovely dinner is ready for you!

Moist and tender chickenSuper moist and flavourful panko chicken.

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Easy 3 Ingredient Miso Salmon

Verdict: Simple and spectacular! It doesn’t get easier and more delicious than this 3 ingredient miso marinade.

I was really impressed the first time I made this dish, so much flavour for so little effort! A truly versatile meal: great for a quick weeknight dinner yet impressive enough to save for a special dinner. You can add sake and ginger but it’s such a nice dish, I’ve never felt inclined to add more.

Miso, mirin and sugar is all it takes!

If I have green onions around, I thinly slice them and garnish for extra flavour and to add a pop of colour to the presentation.

Sliced green onions add a pop of flavour and colour.

The cucumber salad included in this recipe is quite nice but I like my salads a little heartier so my favourite way to enjoy this dish is to start with a big salad dressed with Japanese dressing (recipe later this week!).

P.S. It might be the rice lover in me but I love to eat this miso salmon with a mountain of jasmine rice. Add an extra half cup of rice to your cooking process just in case you find yourself in the same mind set.

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Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

Fish stew with rice

Verdict: A hearty and delicious stew of tender fish and succulent shrimp which can be made in 30 minutes. The dill and soft licorice flavours make for a refreshing version of a traditional fish stew recipe.

Memories are the unreliable narrators of life; selective, pleasantly fuzzy around the edges, and often showered in a soft, warm glow is how I recall most of the past. Since enjoying food can be such a wonderful experience, I tend to hold on tightly to the memories of sharing great meals with friends and family.

Adding tomoatoes to fish stewTomato broth with a soft licorice flavour from the fennel (or anise seeds).

Last year, on a dark, blistering cold night in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), I first enjoyed the comfort of this fish stew. My roommate, with a newly acquired recipe collection from her mom, decided to make this on a -40 degrees Celsius winter night, the kind of cold that freezes nostril hairs together and eyelashes shut. In my memory, we huddled over a small table lit by a solitary kerosene lamp while the wind whistled a lonely tune across the Arctic landscape. Dressed in knee-length parkas, we handled the hot bowls of stew with seal skin gloves. Outside, the sled dogs howled for their dinner.

In reality, we ate this over an Ikea wooden table, in our well heated but poorly insulated house, its windows always dewy with condensation in the winter time. I can recall with confidence that the soup was delicious, fragrant and oh so comforting. Like the shrimp niçoise pasta, this was another example of the winning combination of seafood, licorice flavour and tomato based broth.

Dill for the fish stewFresh dill, a herb commonly used in North Vietnamese cooking.

The Mediterranean fish stew recipe reminded me of my mom’s take on fish stew: she poached salmon steaks in a simple broth composed of sauteed shallots and tomatoes, and seasoned with tamarind powder for the sweet and sour element. When the salmon was almost cooked through, she would add fresh chopped dill and large lettuce leaves, which would wilt slightly but retain their crunch. The stew was served with your choice of rice or vermicelli and garnished with chopped green onions and cilantro.

Since I was too intimidated to re-create my mom’s fish stew, I followed my friend’s family recipe and threw in some Viet twists along the way, like the fresh dill and serving it with white rice. Try out this wonderful stew and create some new fuzzy and warm food memories of your own, Arctic themed or otherwise.

Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

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Buttermilk and Paprika Roast Chicken

Easy and delicious buttermilk roast chicken

Andrew’s Verdict: This dish provides an excellent, quick, and delicious way to cook chicken, perfect for a Sunday family dinner, or as an easy dinner any night. Experienced and inexperienced cooks: give this one a go. It’s fantastic.

A short, telling introduction: once, while attempting to strain pasta, I came very close to burning down our home.  While I do love food (even if I did not, I believe that anyone who spends a significant amount of time around Linh would come away with at least some appreciation for food, even if it were merely peripheral, like wearing a black sweater and leaning against a chalk-covered blackboard written upon by a favorite professor), I do not possess the full passion which Linh does.

Buttermilk and paprika Buttermilk with Spanished smoked paprika marinade.

So, then, it should be clear: cooking is not my forte.  I’ve never had much experience with it, nor have I had a great deal of success on those rare times when I stretched myself and tried to make a more elaborate dish.

Given my past difficulties, when I asked Linh to suggest a meal that I could prepare, the number one criterion was simplicity. After some thinking, she suggested this dish which originates from Smitten Kitchen; it promised to be a simple, delicious way to prepare roast chicken.  The blurb, beginning with a mouth-watering description of chicken done to a golden-tinged exterior perfection with a rich, flavorful, moist interior from the marinade sold me.

Roast for 30 minutes at 350F Chicken roasted to perfection in 30 minutes.

The marinade was very simple and quick to make.  I used a smoked Spanish paprika, and we’ve since prepared it with regular paprika (paprika can be found in many varieties).  Both turned out delicious, it’s just a matter of taste as to whether you’d prefer a less spicy, smokier, woodsy chicken or a something in the spicier spectrum.  I whipped up the marinade, dumped it in the bag with the chicken, and let it soak overnight. Easy. The original recipe noted that a day-long soak makes a remarkable difference, so that’s what I stuck to this time.   We’ve since made this in a time-crunched two-hour soak, and while still yielding a tasty result, the 24 hour sit is definitely preferable.  Roasting the chicken was a simple matter of 30 minutes in the oven at 425 (for legs; 35 to 40 minutes for breasts is suggested).  As per the recipe, I drizzled the legs lightly with extra olive oil, and sprinkled paprika and some sea salt to taste.

Roast chicken with quinoa and broccoli Roast chicken with quinoa and broccoli.

Due to my lack of culinary experience (as previously noted), I messed up a bit and ended up with some soggy sides – a serving of broccoli that was on the limp side, and some ill-timed quinoa– which, in turn, caused me to leave the chicken in the oven a bit longer than I should have.  As it turns out, the marinade saved the day by helping to attenuate any errors incurred from my poor form.  The chicken came out of the oven moist and delicious.

Tender morsel of chicken Super moist buttermilk marinated chicken.

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Shrimp Niçoise Pasta

Verdict: A wonderful and easy to make pasta dish that sets itself apart from the rest. The licorice flavoured liqueur compliments the tomato sauce and shrimp, lending depth and a subtle sweetness to the dish.

I planned to write about our Meatless Monday recipes today but my coworkers said they would appreciate some meal ideas for Valentine’s Day. I’m not crazy about celebrating it but I understand if people want to spend this day with someone special and perhaps impress them with a home cooked meal. I went through my recipe trove in search of a recipe with a definitive flair, a certain je ne sais quoi.

I found a pasta dish that is pleasantly different, easy to make,  yet gives the impression that you slaved away in the kitchen. Shrimp Niçoise (French pronunciation: [niˈswaz]) pasta borrows ingredients from the traditional Niçoise salad which consists of various vegetables topped with seafood and finished with Niçoise Cailletier olives.

The shrimp is succulent, the pasta sauce full bodied with the je ne said quoi quality from the licorice flavoured liqueur. You can try using Sambuca, Absinthe or Perdon Ricard for the liqueur. It’ll be between you and I how simple it is to prepare.

A key step added to this recipe was using sea salt to refresh the shrimp before cooking. The salt is rinsed off with cold water and the shrimp is patted dry before sauteeing in the garlic butter. I learned this from a Vietnamese cookbook and have noticed the step refreshes the shrimp by removing the ocean smells and making the meat more tender.

Other Valentine’s Meal Ideas

Bonus: They’re all gluten free recipes.

  • Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Broccoli – exotic, super simple and quick to prepare. Lots of flavour pay off here.
  • Balsamic Foil Packed Chicken – take a quick trip to the Asian aisle of your grocery store for sweet soya sauce and prepare this unique and delicious dish. This could be your new chicken and rice recipe for life.
  • Steak Ssam Lettuce Wraps – marinade flank or skirt steak in apple juice, grill them up and serve with rice, kimchi and the ginger-scallion mixture, all wrapped in a crisp lettuce leaf. You will impress the pants off anyone who eats the dish.

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