Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Chicken

Shoyu (or soy sauce) chicken seems to exist in some form in many Asian cuisines. The first time I had it was at a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, and it was called soy sauce chicken. In Hawaii, it's called shoyu chicken, as shoyu is the Japanese word for soy sauce. It is simply chicken thighs braised in five spice-infused soy sauce. The chicken turns a dark, rich brown color, and absorbs the perfect amount of salty soy sauce and warm five spice, while the sauce is enriched with the broth from the chicken. I like to add frozen pineapple juice concentrate (I've written before about my love of cooking with frozen fruit juices here and here), which provides just the right amount of sweetness and acidity, and hey, it's Hawaiian! It makes plenty of sauce to pour over rice or noodles and veggies. It's a simple, exotic tasting one pot meal that only requires a few ingredients, plus it can be made on the stovetop or in a slow cooker!

Shoyu Chicken

1/4 t five spice
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 T minced garlic
2 t minced ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup froz pineapple juice concentrate, or 1/4 cup rice vinegar plus 2 packets Splenda or 2 t sugar
4 lbs chicken thighs (bone in or out, skin removed)
1/4 cup water (omit if using slow cooker)
2 T cornstarch mixed with enough water to make a slurry

Stovetop method: Stir all ingredients except cornstarch together in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove chicken from broth and set aside. Separate fat from broth. (I use a fat separator, although you could just skim it. Return broth to saucepan and pour in cornstarch slurry. Simmer for a minute to thicken. Return chicken to pot and coat with sauce.

Slow cooker method: Dump all ingredients except cornstarch slurry into slow cooker. Cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Remove lid and skim off fat. Stir in cornstarch slurry, cover, and cook for another 5 minutes, until sauce has thickened.

Serve chicken with rice or noodles and steamed broccoli, and pour sauce on top.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pulled Pork Jalapeno Poppers

I wanted to highlight one of my favorite applications for my Low Fat Crockpot Chipotle Pulled Pork that I posted below. Pulled Pork Jalapeno Poppers! Need I say more? The best thing is, the poppers are baked, not fried, so they are, like the pulled pork itself, relatively healthy.

This is really a non-recipe. You can make as much or as little as you want. You can also use this same technique to make other kinds of jalapeno poppers: bacon and cheese poppers or cheese and mushroom poppers. Just to give you a sense of the proportions, I used:

12 fresh jalapenos

1 cup pulled pork
6 oz shredded low fat cheddar or jack cheese, a handful reserved

Preheat oven to 400. Slice jalapenos in half and scoop out the seeds and ribs with a spoon. You should be left with little hollow jalapeno "boats". Put the jalapenos in a large pan in the oven for 10 minutes to parcook. Meanwhile, stir together the pork and most of the shredded cheese. After 10 minutes, remove the jalapenos from the oven and stuff them with the pork mixture. Top each with a little extra cheese. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes, until filling is heated through and bubbly. Makes 24 poppers. Try serving with sour cream, ranch, or blue cheese dressing.

Low Fat Crockpot Chipotle Pulled Pork

I grew up in the South, so I dream about pulled pork. I have perfected a super simple, delicious, and healthy recipe for it.

The tweaks:
Pulled pork is traditionally made by slow smoking a fatty cut of pork like shoulder or picnic. As it is slow smoked, the fat and connective tissue melt, making the meat flavorful, juicy, and fall-apart tender. Instead, I use a very lean cut of pork such as pork sirloin. Instead of smoking it, I just drop it in the slow cooker, which keeps it moist and tender. Since the juices from traditional smoked pulled pork tend to run off the meat into the smoker, it loses a lot of flavor and moisture that way. By retaining the broth that develops in the slow cooker and stirring it into the meat, I dare to say that my pulled pork ends up being moister and more flavorful than the traditional kind, all with much less fat. 

The best part about pulled pork is the smoky flavor. I add chipotles in adobo to impart a spicy smokiness. I am also a huge fan of liquid smoke, and I add that as well to boost the smoky flavor, but that is optional. It's a natural product that is essentially the condensation produced from smoking wood. I love to add it to steaks, burgers, and pork. 

I also like to add a little apple juice concentrate to add some natural sweetness and tang, but you can substitute sweetener and apple cider vinegar if you prefer. I've written before about cooking with frozen fruit juices. I always keep some on hand in the freezer.

Pulled pork on a biscuit--breakfast of champions
The goods: 
This pulled pork is so easy to make and really quite healthy since the meat is lean. I like to make a lot and freeze it in individual portions. It is extremely versatile. You can go traditional and serve it on a bun with coleslaw (or my pickled veggie slaw if you hate cabbage like my husband does). I've gotten creative with it and filled jalapenos with it for pulled pork poppers, put it in burritos, nachos, empanadas, pupusas, panini, or lettuce wraps. I like to put some on a biscuit, maybe with an egg, for breakfast.

Low Fat Crockpot Chipotle Pulled Pork
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4-5 lbs pork loin or sirloin roast, with or without bone
salt and pepper or Goya Adobo seasoning to taste (I do about 2 t of Adobo seasoning)
1 can chipotles in adobo, mashed with a fork in the can
3 T tomato paste
3 T apple juice concentrate or 
3 T apple cider vinegar plus 2 T brown sugar or Splenda
3 T Worcestershire 
1 t Liquid Smoke, optional

Place onions on the bottom of the slow cooker. Dump everything else on top. Cook 5 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Once cooked, reduce the sauce by removing the meat and cooking on high with the lid removed. 
Meanwhile, shred pork with two forks. Stir it back into the sauce. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools and the meat absorbs it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tortilla Soup and Mexican Brown Rice

I have always loved the tortilla soup at Superior Grill in my hometown of Baton Rouge. The broth is rich with chicken flavor and packed with guilt-reducing vegetables. Plus, you get to stir cheese and Mexican rice into it!

I discovered how to make tortilla soup by accident, just when I needed it the most. My husband and I were visiting Baton Rouge for the holidays and staying at my mom's. We had too many drinks at Slinky's on New Years Eve, and woke up with terrible hangovers on New Years Day. We rolled out of bed around noon, and smelled what we could have sworn was Superior Grill's Tortilla Soup. But why did my mom's house smell like it? Turns out she was braising chicken breasts in diced fire roasted tomatoes for lunch. As we soothed our unhappy stomachs with the nourishing broth from her lunch, I realized that this would be a viable base for a tortilla soup recipe rivaling Superior Grill's. A few days later, I worked out recipes for a healthy and flavorful tortilla soup and simple, flavorful Mexican brown rice.

I crave this in summer and winter alike. It is light and fresh enough for a summer soup, but it is hearty enough to warm you through the winter. I always try to have an emergency supply in the freezer in case someone wakes up with a hangover or a cold.

Tortilla Soup

1 t olive oil or some Pam spray
1 onion, diced
1 lb carrot, chopped into bite-sized pieces
6 ribs celery, chopped into bite-sized pieces

6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb bell peppers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 lb zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1 1/2 t dried oregano
1 t Goya Adobo seasoning or salt to taste
black pepper to taste
2 cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 32 oz carton chicken broth plus 2 cups chicken broth or water
1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts (you can either chop them into bite-sized pieces and add them to the soup towards the end of cooking, OR leave them whole and poach them in the soup, remove them at the end and shred them with two forks, and return to pan. I personally prefer the texture of chopped rather than shredded chicken.)

Garnish (all are optional):
touch of lemon juice (it's a great flavor enhancer. I swear it makes the soup taste more "chickeny")
low fat cheddar or jack cheese, grated

tortilla chips (duh!)
Mexican brown rice (see recipe below)

In a stockpot, saute vegetables until softened. Add remaining ingredients. (If you decided to chop your chicken beforehand, wait until the rest of the ingredients come to a simmer before adding.) This prevents it from overcooking. Cover and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, until veggies have softened and chicken is cooked through. 

Mexican Brown Rice

4 cups water or chicken broth
2 T tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 T Goya Adobo seasoning (or 2 t salt)
1 t dried oregano
red pepper flakes to taste

black pepper to taste
2 cups brown rice

Bring all ingredients except rice to a simmer. Once simmering, stir in rice and cover. Cook on low heat for 45 minutes.