Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ali Baa Baa sandwiches in homemade pita

Friends, I am back! My poor laptop needed a new hard drive, the Easter Bunny has come and gone, and I've pledged to get back to a regular blogging schedule.

So I bring you a family favorite, a recipe invented by my father to use up leftover leg of lamb. (We always said he should submit the recipe to Gourmet magazine. Alas, Gourmet is no more, so I will give it its public debut here on Home Baked.) As this is the week after Easter, there was a big chunk of garlicky leg of lamb waiting in our fridge. Dice up the lamb, add some apples and onions, a scattering of Middle Eastern spices (hence, the name), a dollop of cool Greek yogurt--pile it all in a warm pita and serve with a salad. This is a wonderful quick weeknight meal, and the kids, who eyed the lamb suspiciously on Easter Sunday, ate it on its second appearance so quickly I had to slice some more lamb to add to the pan. No doubt my version is not exactly the same as the original (which may have included some curry powder), but this is one of those adaptable, use-what-you-have recipes.

But let's start with the pita. As I suspected, no-knead dough is ideal for pita, so I got out my trusty copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and fiddled slightly with the recipe. (But only very slightly.) I chose the whole wheat flour variation for depth of flavor, and, you know, as a nod to healthy eating. (Let's not talk about the mysterious disappearance of all the leftover Easter cupcakes.) I mixed up one batch of dough mid-morning, refrigerated it until late afternoon, and then scooped out about 1/3 of the cold dough to make 6 individual pitas. The entire rolling and baking process took about 20 minutes, and I managed it while supervising homework. Easy, easy. The results: "Just like storebought. And that's a compliment."

adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 T. active dry yeast
1 T. Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Mix everything in a large lidded container until the flour is completely incorporated. You may need to use wet hands to mix in the last of the flour. Cover, but do not seal, the container and let rest on the counter for 2 hours. Transfer the container (still covered but unsealed) to the refrigerator until ready to use. Use the dough within 14 days.

Heat the oven with a baking stone inside to 500 degrees. For 4 individual pitas, dust 1/4 of the dough in the container with flour and scoop it out. Quickly shape into a ball by gently stretching the the surface and tucking it to the underside. Dust with a little more flour and cut the ball of dough into 4 equal pieces. On a floured surface, pat each piece into a round and roll into a circle about 1/8 inch thick.

Turn on the exhaust fan (some of the flour on the baking stone will burn and set off your smoke alarm--be prepared!) and slide two pitas onto the stone. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until puffed and starting to brown. Wrap the warm pita in a clean dish towel and let it cool on a rack. They will deflate slightly while cooling, but the pocket inside will remain. Bake the rest of the pitas, two at a time. An entire batch of dough should make 16 pitas; bake some now and some in the next 2 weeks, or bake them all now and store them in an airtight bag in the freezer. Warm frozen pita in the oven, wrapped in foil.

Ali Baa Baa Sandwiches

1 lb. cooked lamb, diced finely (if you're starting from scratch, you could use ground lamb, browned and drained--in that case, add some garlic)
1 apple, diced
1 medium onion, sliced
olive oil for the pan
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper
Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

Brown the onions in a little olive oil over medium-high heat. When they start to get translucent, add the diced apple. When the apple begins to brown and soften, add the diced lamb (or you can remove the apples and onions and set aside, so that picky eaters can have their meat all by itself). Add the spices to the lamb and heat until the meat is hot and begins to sizzle.

If you are serving this right away, go ahead and stir in a good spoonful or two of yogurt into the lamb mixture. But if everyone isn't gathered at the table all at once, leave the yogurt out and let each person add a dollop to their own sandwich. Cut warm pita in half, fill each half with the lamb and yogurt, and serve with a big salad. There shouldn't be any more leftovers!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Korean chicken wings

Sorry for the long radio silence, folks. Last week was Spring Break, and we drove all the way to New York to visit family and friends and see the sights. And eat. And eat, and eat some more. Nothing fancy, just the very best burger and fries EVER at the Shake Shack in NYC (I'm fairly certain the Shake Stack is the best thing I've ever eaten on a bun), lunch at a Japanese grocery in New Jersey, and some takeout wings from Bonchon. The wings were for the kids--the adults were having sushi--but we managed to snag a few from their greasy little hands. They are shatteringly crispy, sweet, salty, garlicky and completely addictive.

When we returned home, I found a giant bag (nearly seven pounds!) of chicken wings on sale and took it as a Sign from the Kitchen Gods. I cruised the internet for recipes, watched grainy YouTube videos of deep frying chicken, and took the plunge. To be fair, my attempt was not exactly the same as Bonchon, but it was still really, REALLY good. My taste testers asked if we could have "Momchon" wings every day. The post-frying kitchen clean up is not on my daily to-do list. But I will certainly make them again soon (there must be four pounds of wings left in the freezer), experimenting once again with the sauce. I won't change the technique, though I'd like to try rice flour instead of the flour/cornstarch mixture. And next time I'll hunt down some of the special Korean bean paste that is the base for the spicy version of the sauce.

Momchon Chicken
Marinating wings

15 chicken wings, tips cut off, and cut in half at the joint (30 pieces)
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
salt and pepper


5 cloves garlic, chopped
2-inch piece peeled ginger, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. honey
1 T. Asian sesame oil

After the first fry
Grate or mince 1/2 an onion. Add 2 cloves garlic, minced, salt and pepper. Toss chicken wings in this mixture to coat; marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (I used a covered bowl, but a plastic freezer bag is also perfect.)

Mix up the sauce and bring it to a simmer in a small saucepan. Let it simmer gently for about 5 minutes. If you make it ahead, just warm it again as you're frying the wings.

Heat oil in a heavy, deep pot until it reaches 350 degrees.

Mix the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper in a bowl or zippered freezer bag. Toss the marinated wings into the flour until completely coated. When the oil is at 350, add 1/3 of the wings to the pot and deep fry for about 5 minutes, until golden. Pay attention to the temperature and don't let it go above 350! Remove from the oil and let drain on a rack or paper towels. When the oil comes back up to temperature, fry the next batch. When all the wings have been fried once, bring the oil back up to temperature and fry them in batches again for 4-5 minutes.  Drain on a rack or paper towels, and immediately brush with the warm sauce.