Because, Chicken 🐔

As I have said before, my bouts of vegetarianism are always followed up by an insatiable chicken rage. I blame it primarily on Winking Lizard’s kickass BBQ half chicken. There are few things in life better than that BBQ half chicken. But I digress. I’ve been experimenting with various chicken recipes from The Joy of Cooking, and thought, instead of devoting a post to each, I could just summarize it all here.

Roasted Chicken with Herbs and Garlic (plus Gravy!)

After my success with my first roast chicken, I decided the other day to try it again, with some variation. It’s such an easy meal, because all you really need to do is coat the chicken and pop it in the oven for an hour. Of course, you have to worry about side dishes in the meanwhile, but you can focus on them instead of being torn every which way by the main dish.

This time, I decided to follow the recipe for Roasted Chicken with Herbs and Garlic. On the whole, it just follows the original recipe (I used the turning method again since it worked out so well last time) but before roasting, you coat the chicken with a mixture of minced garlic, finely chopped thyme or rosemary (I chose thyme), salt, and red pepper flakes. The mixture is supposed to be applied under the chicken’s skin, which I found challenging. I was able to loosen it to a point, but couldn’t get it all over. So I applied some to the skin, because, why not? The turning method worked well again, except this time it wouldn’t balance, so I used balls of foil to prop it up. One of them tumbled to the lower rack of the oven and I ended up burning my arm on the oven. Note to self: wear long sleeves when reached into the oven.

The best part of the recipe, though, was the gravy (Poultry Pan Sauce or Gravy, page 579). If you remember, I tried the gravy last time, but I misread the directions, and instead of making a paste of the butter and flour before mixing it in, I just threw them in separately, which resulted in a piecey, liquidy gravy. This time, I made the paste as directly and mixed it in slowly. The result was an amazingly thick broth, which was super flavorful with the extra chicken juices I poured in.

The last thing to mention about this meal is that I finally successfully carved a chicken! I’ve tried several times before but usually end up just shredding the meat off. This time, I cut eight nice, clean pieces just as one should. Thanks to an article I found in Bon Appetit for the instructions! So now I can both roast a chicken, and carve it too. Woohoooo!! If life was a video game, I feel like this warrants a level up.

I served up the roasted chicken with a salad with walnut, feta cheese, and homemade vinaigrette (page 236)!

Chicken Stock

But that’s not all to the story of the chicken who gave its life for our meal the other day! I am trying to get into a habit of utilizing everything and not wasting anything if I can help it. So that eve

ning, after our delicious dinner, I decided to make chicken stock. I used the recipe in The Joy of Cooking as a base, but went a little rogue with it. Instead of using the whole chicken, I used what remained of the chicken, and instead of pulsing the mirepoix in a blender (I hate using the blender because I hate washing it), I just chopped them up and tossed them in. This simmered for about forty minutes. Then I drained the liquid out– it fit into two deep square Tupperware containers. I wish I could share with you how good it smelled!

Arroz con Pollo

That’s not the end of the chicken. The stock got to play a role in a meal I made a couple days later. This meal was extra special because I got to make it for my sister Amanda, who was down with a cold. It’s not often that we get to hang out for any period of time, so it was extra special to make something warm and comforting and delicious for her.

I turned to page 599 for the recipe for Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice.) Instead of getting a mix of thighs, drumsticks, and breasts as the recipe calls for, I got about 4 pounds of chicken thighs on the bone from Fresh Thyme. I followed the recipe with few variations. I added an extra bell pepper (red for color), and omitted the saffron (for financial reasons) and the smoked ham (I’m sure it would have been so delicious in it, but I try to avoid eating ham and beef.) I also didn’t have the right kind of white rice (I don’t think sushi rice would work with this recipe!) so I used brown rice, which I allowed a couple extra minutes of cooking time before adding the chicken. I included my homemade chicken stock which was so delicious and flavorful. Plus the accumulated juices from the chicken– infused chickeny goodness from every angle.

The meal turned out so delicious, and was really so easy. I enjoy meals that are all in one dish so you don’t have to worry about side dishes! It also made a lot, so there was enough for all three of us to have, plus leftovers for each of us. It’s definitely one I’ll be adding to my rotation. I might try some variations on it next time!

And now to figure out what to do with the remaining 3ish cups of chicken stock…

A Couple New Things

Today I set my alarm for 3:00 and curled up for a nap on my couch.  I had to leave for work at 3:20 but I was so exhausted I needed to catch a couple minutes of sleep.  An hour later, I opened my eyes with that terror-of-being-late feeling and looked at my phone. I had completely missed the alarm somehow, and it was 3:15. I scrambled up, brushed my teeth, and rushed out the door– somehow I managed to be on time.

That’s just a glimpse into how exhausting my week has been. I’ve worked a lot of late shifts, and besides that, I’ve started a new job!  (On top of the boutique job I already had.)  The exciting thing about it is– it’s at a bakery!  It’s my first food services job since my brief five-month stint at Chipotle, my first job which I hated and left from with daily headaches.  But this one is a dream job.  Or, at least, a step towards a dream job.  I’m working in the front, taking orders and grabbing chocolate croissants, baguettes, and apple tarts for regulars, parents taking their kids to school, workers stopping in for lunch. Right behind me, bakers are rolling out dough, cutting pears for frangipane, shaping loaves.  One day, I hope to be back there with them. But for now, I’m just a couple feet away and making people’s day better by getting them delicious food.  It’s a step.

It’s been a joy getting to try different baked goods while I’m there too.  Yesterday I brought home some onion focaccia and enjoyed it alongside some potato leek soup. Today I was eyeing chocolate croissants all morning but they sold out before I could get one. 😥

I’ve also registered for classes for January– I will probably start part time, with Introduction to Hospitality Management, Sanitation and Safety, and Fundamentals of Culinary Arts.  I’m most excited for that last one– I’ll learn knife skills, measurement conversions, the ins and outs of stocks and sauces….  I can’t wait!

The last bit of news is that I’ve started an Instagram!  This is so I can keep up with you all even when I don’t have time to write a longer post.  You’ll see pictures of my own creations as well as the food I’m enjoying around Cleveland (and elsewhere, when I get the chance.)  Check it out at @honeykitchen16.

Til next time!  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Apple Pie

I always enjoy the challenge of trying new recipes. I pour over cookbooks and websites like Epicurious, dreaming about the new meals I can bring to the table (literally). I like to think Nigella Lawson transmits some of her skills and talent to me whenever I try one of her recipes.

But while one of the joys of cooking is in the challenge and the newness of things, there’s also a deep satisfaction in drawing back on the classic recipes that have carried on through the generations.  There’s a communion with the past and a feeling of carrying on tradition which is unique to you and your family.  It’s a chance to take part in one of the things so many bakers and chefs have in common– “I learned how to cook from my mother.”

I grew up on the best pie in the world. On the Fourth of July, Christmas, and other holidays, my mom would roll out a short dough and draw on the traditions of her family to bake tart-yet-sweet rhubarb pies and warm, cinnamony apple pies.  She grew up on these recipes too. The recipes can be found in a little church cookbook, with my great-grandma’s name next to each of them, a tribute to the wonderful, warmhearted woman we’ve missed so much since she left us over ten years ago.

One of my earliest experiments in baking, probably when I was in my late teens, was trying these recipes for myself– the crust and the rhubarb pie; I’d never made the apple pie recipe. It’s been a while, but I decided to revisit them this week.   I had a bag of Granny Smith apples, and decided I should put them to good use.

The pie was relatively easy to throw together, but I’m not going to lie, I called my mom three times while I was making it.  “This says the water and flour is supposed to make a paste, but it’s really liquidy– did I mess up?” “Do you use a pastry blender to mix everything up?” “How small do you slice up the apples?”  It must have reminded my mom of when I was three years old, asking “why” and “what” and “how” about everything.  But word-of-mouth is how these recipes come down in their truest forms, and, besides, I never mind a chance– or three– to talk with my mamma.

I also decided to try something a little different than anything I’d done before. I’ve always made a plain top for pie, with lightly crimped edges and a small design on the top cut by the tip of a knife.  This time, I wanted to make a lattice top.  Julian picked up a pizza roller for me at the grocery store and I used that to make long, mostly even strips.  It was tricky to weave them without breaking them or making too many gaps, and there ended up being some spillage onto the bottom of the oven, but overall it turned out well and I was really happy with it.

Once again, I had the joy of sharing this with Julian and his mom, who both loved it and declared it the best pie crust they´d ever had.  Perhaps there is some bias in there, but then, I´ve always thought the same too, whenever my mom made it.  Thanks to my great-grandma, whose love and skill make this a recipe worth making again and again.



On a side note, I learned from my aunt that Great-Grandma had a cherry pie recipe as well, which I have never had.  I see more experimentation in my future…

A Roast Chicken Dinner

I don’t host dinners very often, but when I do (as the meme would say) I like to make it a really special event. It’s a chance to try my hand at a special recipe or two, and to share my love through a delicious meal.  (It’s also a good excuse to finally get around to cleaning our little apartment which we still aren’t fully settled into half a year later…)

This week we had my mother-in-law over for the first time at our new apartment.  It usually works best for us to eat out, or to meet at her place, but this time, I had the privilege of hosting her at my own home.  It was a perfect opportunity to check off one of my cooking bucket list items: making a whole roast chicken.

Mama-in-Law had treated us to a whole chicken from Whole Foods, so this bird got to be the featured event for our dinner.  I turned to The Joy of Cooking pages 579-580 for my inspiration.

Joy provides two methods of cooking a roasted chicken. The first is the simple, traditional way– season it with salt and pop it in the oven.  I decided to try the second method: Turned Roasted Chicken on page 580. This method requires a little more attention with the end result of the breast meat and thigh meat being cooked at just the right amount at the same time, so neither ends up overcooked and dry.  This is done by cooking it for twenty-five or so minutes first on one side, then on the other, and then breast-side up.  The nice thing about the recipe is that once it’s in the oven, there’s time to work on side dishes while it roasts.

Earlier in the day, I had started the vegetable side by making croutons from my sourdough loaf I had made a couple days before.  (I was going for a fully home-cooked meal!)  My inspiration this time was on page 210: Reduced-Fat Caesar Salad.  Based on the ingredients I had as well as some of my own notions of how I wanted the salad to be, I altered the recipe. I un-reduced the fat a little by adding more olive oil spray than the recipe called for (5 spritzes is hardly enough, right?)  I made the dressing mostly as recommended, except I didn’t have any fresh parsley or fresh thyme, so I put in a small amount of dried herbs instead.  I also didn’t have anchovy fillets, but the dressing turned out just fine without them.  Finally, having no romaine lettuce and not wanting to go to the store on my day off, I made the Caesar nontraditional by using mixed greens instead.  I prefer mixed greens to romaine anyway.

Back to the chicken: once it was done roasting, I tried my hand at the Poultry Pan Sauce or Gravy on page 579. This was probably the least successful part of the meal, particularly because I didn’t read the recipe carefully and didn’t “mix to a smooth paste” the butter and flour before putting it in the sauce. Instead, I added both directly and separately, which resulted in them clumping up in the gravy. They still thickened it a little, but we (because Julian helped me) ended up having to strain out the clumps.  It still tasted good though, so I can’t complain too much.

Carving the chicken was challenging, because I’ve never watched someone do it so I had to just kind of guess.  Mama-in-Law helped me though, and we ended up with a couple whole pieces carved out (though a fair share of shredded bits too.)

Finally, all the prep was done (I should mention that there was one element of the meal that wasn’t from scratch, and that was mashed potatoes, straight from a Bob’s Red Mill bag — thanks, Bob!)  We finally settled down for my first homemade roast chicken meal.  The result was so very satisfying. All the meat was perfectly juicy and tender and cooked just the right amount. The croutons were addictive and the Caesar salad was actually worth getting seconds of (salads don’t always have that same pull for me!) The gravy was perfect over the chicken and mashed potatoes, and a glass of white wine pulled everything together perfectly.  And then we topped off the meal with Nigella’s walnut and ginger carrot cake, the perfect end to a wonderful and memorable meal.

It was one of the most satisfying meals I’ve made and I’m really very proud of it. I owe so much thanks to Julian for helping me get everything on the table, to Mama-in-Law for treating us to the chicken and for being so loving and supportive– you two are my greatest cheerleaders. ❤

I’m also very excited because now that I’ve roasted a chicken, I feel like I can do it again.  Now my next bucket list item to check off is cooking a whole fish with the eyeballs still in it (if I can stick my hand up a chicken’s butt, I should be cook a whole fish that’s looking up at me the whole time, right?)


My First Cake: Nigella’s Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake

I was recently talking with my mom and sisters in a group chat about what we all wanted for Christmas. I was listing off the usual baking and cooking needs and wants, one of which included a springform cake pan. My mom wrote back that she had one at home that she never uses anymore, and that I could take it home with me next time I came up.

This last Sunday I was off from work, so Julian and I drove up to my parents’ house for the day. It was a wonderful, cozy day catching up with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law, snuggling with the pets, and watching Avengers: Infinity War. The day ended with me bringing home not just a springform cake pan, but also a pie dish, a quiche pan, and some leftover curry (mom’s food is always the best.) Time to start baking.

A week or so ago, I was watching PBS Create and Nigella Lawson was on. Of course, everything she makes always look so good. But what particularly stood out to me was a delicious-looking carrot cake she made. It was a one-layered cake that included ginger for some extra spice and walnuts for texture. Here, have a look yourself:

I was drawn to the recipe for several reasons: I love carrot cake (carrots are good for you, right?), I love cream cheese frosting (who doesn’t?), and it looked like a relatively easy recipe to start with. I’d never made a cake before, except my mom’s pumpkin cheesecake recipe the last couple Thanksgivings, so I was feeling really intimated. The fact that this was one layer and a relatively easy recipe with familiar ingredients, I figured it would be a good first cake to try.

The recipe can be found on the BBC’s Food Recipes page. Unfortunately, all the ingredients listed use the metric system (could we Americans just switch to metric already??) so this slowed me down at first. I scoured the internet for help with converting measurements, which was harder than I expected. Finally I figured out a solution that worked for me.

For the cake:

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (plain flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2/4 cups plus 2 tsp light brown sugar (in retrospect, I think I put in two tablespoons….)
  • 2 large (at room temperature) eggs
  • 3/4 cups plus 1 tbsp (more for greasing) vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 7 ounces peeled and coarsely grated carrots (I used three medium)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped or crumbled walnut pieces

For the icing:


  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sifted if lumpy powdered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (corn flour)
  • 7 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp coarsely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped or crumbled walnut pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger

The rest of the recipe you can follow at the original source!

Besides the conversions, the recipe was easy enough to follow, especially considering that I watched the video above about three times to make sure I got it into my head. For the main cake part, I followed the recipe exactly, except that I grated the first two carrots a little finer than was called for before I realized to change the side of the grater I was using. This just resulted in some smaller, finer bits of carrot, and some larger, more shaped pieces. I then baked it at 325F for 45 minutes while I prepared the cream cheese frosting. I used just a little bit less ginger than the recipe called for because I didn’t want to overwhelm the frosting with the ginger flavor. When frosting the cake later, I also skipped the walnuts and crystallized ginger on top, because I wanted to focus on the cake and the frosting itself (and I’m usually not a fan of nut toppings as it is.)

The result was absolutely marvelous. The color of the cake turned out lighter than Nigella’s, which I still am not sure why, but it still tasted amazing. The ginger adds an amazing, delicious warmth to the cake, and the walnuts add just the slightest bit of crunch without interrupting the experience. I spread the icing when it was a little too cold still, so it wasn’t entirely even, which would have docked some points for me if I were on the Great British Baking Show (but “good distribution of the fruit and walnuts,” and “the flavor is excellent! Absolutely scrummy.”) I shared the cake with my husband and my mother-in-law, and Mama-in-Law, who usually has small portions of food, took a huge piece, which is one of the best kinds of compliments.

So while I’m basking in the joy of my first cake success, I am also really excited at the possibility of starting some culinary classes in January, at a local college. I’ve applied, and am working on getting in the necessary paperwork, transcripts and whatnot. My hope is to start of the year with a sanitation and safety class and an introduction to cooking. I am so excited for what lies ahead, and am hoping I can really take this first step towards making cooking and baking a career, and maybe, ultimately, one day, a family business.

One can dream.

The Start of a Starter

I’m not sure what inspired me to create a sourdough starter. I can’t remember if it’s something I had contemplated for a while, or if I started it on a whim.  It was, most likely, inspired by my love for baking bread, and the memory of my sister keeping a starter for a while when we were teens, and making mouth-watering cinnamon rolls with it.  Anyway, I launched into my experiment with a sourdough starter not entirely sure what I was getting myself into.

I had a cookbook which we had found at a book sale, probably the local ongoing library sale which we raid periodically, all about bread. My intention was to cook through that cookbook as well, and had tried a couple recipes, all of which had been flops. The Mexican wedding cookie was crumbly af and the cornbread recipe yielded the driest chili accompaniment I’d ever had. But perhaps those were flukes, I thought.  I read the chapter about sourdough and decided to use the book’s recipe to raise my own from scratch.

What came from it was complete disaster. The cookbook recommended covering the bread with a damp cloth for the first week as I slowly built it up.  Soon enough, I had a lump of dough which was streaked with grey and smelled like rotten yogurt.  And then appeared the mold.  Well, that was a flop. Into the bin it went.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t realized what a dumb idea covering it with a damp cloth was. What else will happen but mold?

As you might expect, I turned to the Joy of Cooking.

The process for making a sourdough starter takes about a week, more or less.  It requires consistency, patience, attention, and lots of flour (obvs.) And in time, it yielded my very own sourdough starter, lovingly named Doey (like Joey, but also like doughey.)

Raising Doey has been a constant learning experience for me, a bit like raising a child, I suppose. You have to feed it every day, make sure it gets exercise, and above all, don’t forget about it.  I’ve rung up King Arthur Flour Company more than once to ask questions like, should I feed it before storing it in the fridge for a week of no baking? Is it ruined if a fruit fly got trapped inside?

The most challenging thing for me, honestly, is all the baking science that goes behind a sourdough starter.  Science is far, far from being my strong point. Give me an essay to write on the great British novel and you’ll have it in a day; ask me to explain anything of a scientific nature and I will very possibly end up in tears.  (Same with math problems.) This article, “Beginner’s Sourdough Bread,” on the blog The Perfect Loaf, is one of the many amazing and helpful resources about sourdough starters, and summarizes much of what needs to be known about starters. For instance, it challenges my ignorant notion that the temperature of the water isn’t all that important in feeding the starter.  Turns out, it actually is.

But my ultimate resource is the King Arthur Flour Company. The website contains a vast collection of recipes that call for sourdough at its various stages– the peak of the rise, the discard, and so on.  The recipes range from basic sourdough loaves to sweet breakfast breads, rolls, pizzas, and dessert flatbreads. Who would have thought?  I’ve been slowly working my way through the different kinds of recipes, trying to learn something new about baking with each recipe.  As with The Joy of Cooking, I will be sharing about some of the recipes as I try them and perfect them.  But for now, I’m off to read their ultimate guide to sourdough and to think about which recipe to make tomorrow.

Chicken Piccata

One of my goals for the near term is to learn how to roast a whole chicken. As it stands now, though, I am trying to get more comfortable with cooking standard chicken breast or thigh dishes.  I’m not sure why, but meat is one of the things I feel most hesitant about when it comes to cooking.  I don’t feel confident with it, and usually when Julian and I cook together, I assign the meat prep to him.  Last night, however, I tried to push out the edges of my comfort zone a little bit.

It wasn’t a particular difficult dish, but still a good one to practice basic skills on: Chicken Piccata. The nice thing about this dish is it actually kills two birds with one stone (two chickens?) in that it involves two recipes: Sauteed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (Basic Recipe) on page 587 of The Joy of Cooking, and Sauteed Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts Piccata on page 588. The basic recipe is very simple and contains a method I was already familiar with, though the very light breading is not something I usually do. It also involved more oil and butter than I normally would use in keeping my points down (usually a spray of olive oil is enough) but this was a special dish, so I went all out, bringing the chicken itself to probably about 4 points.

I kept to the recipe as much as I could, but I found that the chicken needed just a little more than the four minutes the recipe called for. Perhaps I had the heat too low. But the texture and color turned out to be just right, so I would call it a success.

The piccata recipe calls for reusing the same pan the chicken was cooked in, to retain all the chickeny goodness.  So I popped the cooked chicken in the oven at 170F to keep it warm while I made the sauce.

The recipe calls for removing all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat in the skillet, but there wasn’t even that much to remove, so I just left the pan as it was. I included the optimal amount of shallots, three heaping tablespoons, because why not? (Shallots are probably in my unsorted top ten favorite ingredients list. Maybe top five.) The rest of the recipe was easy to follow, though I followed it rather hectically as I was also busy preparing the Green Beans with Sauteed Mushrooms recipe found on page 345. The sauce did take much longer to reduce than the recipe called for.


I served the chicken piccata with a side of rocchetti as well as the green beans and mushrooms.  And of course, a glass of white wine for myself.

The verdict: absolutely delicious.  The chicken was just the right texture, and the sauce sank right into it in a burst of salty, flavorful goodness.  Julian really really loved it, and that, of course, is the greatest achievement for me.  The chicken piccata is a dish I definitely intend to add to my semi-regular repertoire, and the cooking method for the chicken makes me much more confident to try other chicken dishes in the future.

As for the green beans and mushrooms, the result was pretty good, though we agreed that the method called for in the recipe, covering the mushrooms to steam them for about three minutes, resulted in a less than ideal texture, and we will just saute them in the future.


Of course, a day off would not be complete without baking some bread, which I also did yesterday. More on that later!

The Tale of a Pseudo-Curry

There is a reason why I haven’t been posting as much this week.

I haven’t been cooking– and there’s a reason for that too.

Here’s the story.

The setting is a gloomy Sunday afternoon.  I woke up to a veil of clouds outside my highrise window, so thick that I couldn’t even see the trees outside our apartment. Halfway through the day, we decided to go out and about just so we could feel a little better, because the weather had us both so, just, bleh.  So we got coffees and drove out to a flea market where we wandered around, bought a cookbook about Jewish holiday baking, and interacted with crabby old white ladies who seemed put out that we existed.  Finally, we stopped by the grocery store and bought ingredients for a meal we were both really excited to try– Curry Shrimp, found on page 515 of The Joy of Cooking.

It’s not one of those recipes you can whip up in a couple minutes.  First, we prepared two onions and set them to slowly brown for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, I finished de-frosting the still half-frozen shrimp, shelled, and de-veined it with very cold fingers, and boiled the shells in some water to make a stock for the curry. We also prepped the list of ingredients which includes bell peppers, ginger, garlic, cilantro, tomatoes (we cheated and used canned), and mild flavorings of cumin, coriander, pepper, turmeric, and… well, it called for fenugreek, which we didn’t have, so I popped in a little bit of fennel. All of this took a good while and a decent amount of effort.  In went the vegetables and stock, to bring to a boil and then allow to cook slowly for a while.

During this time, Julian prepared some broccoli for a side and went to pre-heat a frying pan on another burner.

Somewhere during this time between the onions finishing browning and Julian preparing to start on the broccoli, we made an unbelievably frustrating discovery.

The burners had stopped working.  All of them.

We tested them multiple times, checked the broiler and the oven, flipped the breaker– nothing.

So here we were with a half-cooked sauce, raw shrimp, and cut broccoli, and no heat on our stove.  So we threw everything in the fridge, put in a maintenance request, and ordered Chinese takeout again.  Thankfully, Happy Buddha never disappoints, and munching on orange chicken and egg rolls while watching Hairy Bikers’ Chicken and Egg provided some relief.

Monday rolled around, and rolled out into a warm, sleepless evening.  The oven was still not working, and no maintenance worker had been by to check on it. Yet another meal out.

On Tuesday, we contacted the office for our apartment complex only to find out that the work hadn’t been assigned and nothing was being done about it.  After some persistence, we reached someone who was willing to do something about it, and when we got home from work that evening, we had a new (to us) oven awaiting.

Out came the awaiting curry sauce and the shelled shrimp. It made for a quick dinner, since all we needed to do was heat up the sauce and throw the shrimp in for a couple minutes.

Finally, the long awaited curry!

Unfortunately, we were very disappointed in the recipe.  We were expecting a dish full of flavor and spice, but in fact, the dish is severely under-flavored.  As I learn more about cooking and gain more confidence in my own seasoning skills, I may be able to build on the recipe, but as it is, the flavor was so bland that we didn’t even finish it, and ended up ordering some chicken to top off our meal.

Trying South Asian food recipes– or Asian recipes in general– can be really tricky, and I think it’s because when they are translated to American cookbooks, they become altered for the Western palate. “Here’s a hint of Indian spices, but not too much just in case you’re not into spice.” But what’s the point of having Indian curry if it’s not going to be spicy?

I have high expectations too, having lived with four Indian roommates for two semesters, and daily experiencing the intense smells and tastebud-enlightening dishes my roommates would concoct.  There’s no skimping on flavor when it comes to the real deal.  If I could go back in time, I’d pay more attention and figure out what they did to make their food so delicious and spicy, and replicate it with a new, revolutionized curry shrimp.


The curry shrimp is the first recipe I’ve been disappointed in from The Joy of Cooking, and perhaps all the more so because of the long prep-time and the even longer wait to actually taste it.  A year ago, I would have been really hard on myself for the meal not turning out, but as Julian has encouraged me, I’ve come to view these disappointments as just steps in my kitcheneering journey– I experiment with things, I try new recipes, and sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t.  Hopefully, the next one will turn out better.


What is your ultimate South Asian curry recipe?  If you know any hidden tricks to bring the spice-filled subcontinent straight to your home kitchen, please let me know in the comments below!

Cleveland Noshes: Winking Lizard Clambake


You aren’t a true Clevelander, I suppose, if you haven’t been to a Winking Lizard.

Now, your opinions of Winking Lizard may vary. If you’re my mom or my older sister Amanda, you hate the local chain with its reptilian mascot, and vow to never ever eat there again (a tear drops down my face as I write.)


If you’re a Cleveland sports fan and love a good sports bar– well, I assume Winking Lizard is a good place for such folks (I wouldn’t know, not being a sports fan, albeit a Clevelander, if it’s possible.) Finally if you’re Julian and me, you might not be a fan of the loud sports bar experience, but the food, as a whole, is worth it. We also have a special fondness for Winking Lizard, as the final part of our first date took place over drinks at the Cleveland Heights Coventry location, which sadly no longer exists. Nowadays, we make an occasional visit to the Mayfield Heights location, which has yet to disappoint.

One of the main attractions for me over the summer was the ultimate BBQ half chicken, one of their summer specials. After my brief stint as a (mostly) vegetarian, I have been what I call a chicken fiend. It happened last time I tried going vegetarian as wellIMG_20180915_200044467.jpg— once I stopped, it’s like I felt like I had to make up for all the chicken I hadn’t eaten. And Winking Lizard’s BBQ half chicken with its side of Latin street corn– let’s just say if I was stranded on an island and had to choose three meals I could have there, it would be on the list.

Imagine my heartbreak, then, when September rolled around, and despite the fact that summer wasn’t really over, the specials were gone and the fall specials had replaced them. We had made a special trip to Winking Lizard out of my desperate craving need for BBQ half chicken only to find out it was gone, and I had to content myself with wings.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait all that long to experience my favorite dish again.

Every year, Winking Lizard has its annual clambake. It takes place over a couple weekends around September or October (the dates differ depending on the location), and features a special menu that inevitably includes a dozen steamed clams and a couple select entrees. This year, they featured the return of the BBQ half chicken! (Fireworks! Confetti! Banners! Hip hip hooray!)

There was no way we were going to miss it.

So we went twice.

The meal begins with a bowl of clam chowder. The first time we went it was okay– no complaints but no raving reviews either. The second time, it was really delicious and a perfect way to start off a feast.

Following up the chowder, we each received a dozen steamed clams served in little nets that made us feel at least a little bit like being back in Cape Cod. The clams are served with a little butter sauce on the side for dipping.

Finally, the part we have all been waiting for: the entrees. Julian and his mom tried the lobster, which received good reviews. But you know, I was there for the chicken.


The entrees are served with your choice of baked potato or sweet potato. I tried the baked potato the first time, which was hot and soft the whole way through. The second time, I tried the sweet potato which was equally good. The dish is also served with the Latin Street Corn that came with the BBQ half chicken during the summer. This is not the type of corn you have when you want something light and healthy. It is slathered in butter and topped with a delicious buttery sauce with an edge of spice to it. To add on to the points, they serve buttery garlic bread as well.

Then there was the chicken– half of it, slathered in delicious Winking Lizard barbecue– tender wings and thighs. I ate it like I imagine a cavewoman would in the days of olde, or someone stranded on an island who hadn’t chosen BBQ half chicken as one of their three meals and was finally presented with their first good meal in months. It’s the last chance I’ll have until hopefully next year, when I hope (and might even petition) for them to bring it back in all its chicken glory.

You have one day left to try it for yourself. The last date of the clambake is October 7th, at the Peninsula location. It’s your last chance until next year!

The Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure

I saw a post on the internet recently that said, “You can control white people by giving them cheese.”  Another Tumblr user responds, “Cheese is so good tho.” Victini, the original poster, responds, “I got one.”

For me, I think it very likely the way you can control me is by East Asian food. Or East Asian music. Or East Asian languages. Or two free flights to East Asia.  Or all of the above.  If you narrow it to South Korea, all the better for you.

After two semesters in South Korea, a piece of my heart is forever nestled into that corner of the world, and wherever I go, that little piece will always be there waiting for me to come back.  East Asia holds a special place in my heart, so when flipping through Netflix options after having finished The Great British Bakeoff, there was no resisting this tempting show title, despite the fact that I have a personal dislike of excess facial hair.


It turns out it was an amazing find.  The Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure is one of many shows hosted by Dave Myers and Si King, two men from the north of England that remind me a little bit of Merry and Pippin– goofy, down-to-earth guys with a passion for really good food.  And not only that, but they are also amazing chefs who make the creation of mouth-watering top-notch food look as easy as a walk in the park.

In Asian Adventure, Dave and Si (also referred to as Kingy) seek the source of the Asian cuisine that has become so popular in the UK (and in America as well.) Their journey begins in Hong Kong, where they sample street foods and visit a multi-generational family in a tiny high-rise apartment for real, homecooked Chinese food.  The following two episodes feature Thailand– first Bangkok, and then the more rural seaside and mountain regions.  Their adventure takes them to the rice paddies of rural Thailand and to a small village of the Lisu people, where they learn about how rice is cultivated in the sloping mountains, try local dishes, and encounter a giant tarantula.

The final three episodes move further East.  Two episodes feature Japan– first up is Tokyo, where they visit with sumo wrestlers and try their hands at making sushi.  Next, they bike to Mount Fuji where they try homemade noodles, and further south to Kyoto.

Finally, the moment I was on the edge of my seat waiting for: South Korea.  Here they try classic dishes such as bibimbap and Korean barbecue, and go behind-the-scenes with one of my favorite Korean fast foods: Korean fried chicken.  (There is nothing like crispy Korean fried chicken, which can be delivered to you at any time of the day or night, and which I enjoyed many nights sitting on the floor of my dorm room with my roommates, Miso, Suah, and Eunsol.) They also enjoy something straight off my bucket list: making homemade kimchi with a seasoned and experienced ajumma to guide them.  One day, Melanie, one day.

Needless to say, one of the charms of the show was getting to travel vicariously throughout the six, all-too-short episodes.  It feels like for an hour, you’re on the other side of the world with them, exploring all those countries have to offer and filling up on some of the best cuisine on the planet.  And they bring their experience into reach of stuck-at-home viewers with their amazing recipes. Si and Dave are amazing cooks who, periodically throughout the show, cook up tributes to the people and places they’ve encountered, demonstrating recipes step-by-step in a way that makes me feel like I can really just run over to the Asian market, grab some ingredients, and make something at least almost as good.

It’s also so refreshing what normal, down-to-earth people the hosts are. They are far from queasy, need-everything-to-be-sanitized-and-Westernized tourists. They want to know what daily life is like for the people they meet, and where the food we take for granted comes from.   In all their interactions, there is a charming curiosity and a loving respect and admiration for the people they encounter.

My only complaint was that the show was far too short. I’d love to see a sequel featuring more Asian countries (I would love to explore the world of Vietnamese food some more!) and more rural corners of South Korea (or just make a whole entire series about Korea, I won’t complain!)  But luckily, there is more to the Hairy Bikers.  We’re now embarking on another series on Netflix, where the bikers adventure across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the U.S. to find the perfect chicken and egg recipes.  I’m anticipating some experimental chicken recipes to be featured on this blog soon…