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Kane’s Cuisine: Indian butter chicken and sides (no cap!)

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

Editor’s Note: What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – Endeavoring to cling to whatever youth I have left, all week I have been clumsily working the phrase “no cap” into texts with my friends, none of whom knew what it meant because they, like me, are all aging Millennials. Let’s just say I was kicked out of a few group chats and had to grovel to be allowed back in. 

My attempt to cook a traditional Indian meal this week was less ham-handed, shall we say, than my effort to co-opt lingo used by the Gen Z crowd. Before we get into it, however, please allow me to preface this week’s column with a warning: I am not Indian, nor do I pretend to understand Indian cuisine beyond the extent possible for a white boy raised in the continental United States. So, the techniques and ingredients used to create the dishes described and pictured in this article came from an Indian cookbook and an Indian-owned spice market near my apartment in Washington, DC. 

You may be surprised to learn these columns are not sponsored. (But seriously, call me. Especially you, Le Creuset.) So, I am not in the habit of adding affiliate links, but am choosing to make an exception in this case to share the resources that allowed me to make something that’s…perhaps not quite authentic, but I assure you, delicious nevertheless. 

Reached for comment, my go-to source for Indian cooking was at a wedding in Kerala, understandably much more concerned with her beautifully ornate sangeet outfit than my culinary adventures. “Looks yum!” she exclaimed. “No cap?” (I couldn’t help myself.) (She still doesn’t know what that means.)

Photo by Dan Balinovic

BUTTER CHICKEN: recipe adapted from “Mother Butter Chicken” in Nisha Katona’s “Mowgli Cookbook(p. 112), with pantry ingredients from Rani Soudagar’s Spicez in Georgetown, Washington DC 

  1. Take one-pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I prefer thighs) and chop it into cubes each measuring about one to two inches across. Rub in about a teaspoon of kosher salt and two tablespoons tandoori masala seasoning (curry powder, while not quite as good, will do in a pinch.) 
  2. In a medium bowl, combine two teaspoons ground cumin, two teaspoons ground coriander, one teaspoon granulated sugar, a half teaspoon ground cardamom, a half teaspoon ground cinnamon, a half teaspoon ground turmeric, a fourth teaspoon ground fenugreek, a fourth teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, two tablespoons tomato paste, one can (~14 ounces) diced or whole peeled tomatoes, and five tablespoons Greek yogurt
  3. To a hot oiled pan, add two thinly sliced white onions with six to eight grated cloves of garlic and a two-to-four-inch piece of fresh ginger, diced or grated. Cook on medium-high for about 10 minutes, seasoning with salt and black pepper, until the onions are soft/translucent/golden-brown. 
  4. Turning the heat to low, add the spice/tomato/yogurt mixture and cook – stirring and seasoning again with salt and pepper – for another five minutes. 
  5. Use an immersion blender to emulsify the mixture until smooth. In the event that you, too, can’t seem to find your brand-new cordless Cuisinart Smart Stick® immersion blender, you can also transfer the mixture into a regular blender or food processor using a spatula and blend until smooth. 
  6. With a separate nonstick frying pan (or a stainless-steel pan coated with the teensiest bit of cooking spray), brown the chicken for six to eight minutes. This is one of the few times in which I will urge you to use as little oil as possible. 
  7. Combine the browned chicken with the emulsified sauce and continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes, adding about a half-cup of water every five minutes or so (up to two cups) until you reach the desired consistency (this part is a personal journey!) Taste for seasoning to add more salt if necessary. 
  8. Remove pan from the heat and add a full stick of butter, stirring it through until the sauce is thick and creamy. Garnish with cilantro
Photo by Dan Balinovic

LEMONY HUMMUS & SPICED CHICKPEAS: with pantry ingredients from Rani Soudagar’s Spicez in Georgetown, Washington DC 

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine one and a half cans (~14 ounces each) chickpeas, half a preserved lemon, juice from half of a fresh lemon, two to four cloves garlic, and a teaspoon ground cumin. 
  2. Blend while slowly adding up to three-fourths cup ice water until the mixture turns into a smooth paste. Season generously with kosher salt. 
  3. Preheat your oven to 350° F and grease a baking sheet with butter or cooking spray, or line it with parchment paper. 
  4. Distribute a layer of chickpeas, about one and a half cans (~14 ounces each). Cover them liberally with olive oil and season generously with salt, along with about a tablespoon cumin seeds and a tablespoon of sumac. (If you only have ground cumin, use maybe one and a half teaspoons.) 
  5. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes and then serve with a good extra-virgin olive oil, a dusting of red chili flakes/paprika/turmeric, and roti/naan/pita/other flatbread
Photo by Dan Balinovic

RICE:

The important thing, here, is to remember to add one teaspoon of kosher salt per cup of uncooked rice. Garnish with cilantro and flaky sea salt. (Again, this column is not sponsored. But Diamond Crystal, Maldon, I am – and I can’t stress this enough – available. DM to collab.) 

NAAN:

Safeway Signature SELECT, $4.99. 

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Alison Roman’s blueberry cornmeal tart

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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Photo by Dan Balinovic

What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – At this point, maybe I should just cook and bake my way all the way through Alison Roman’s cookbooks (I have both) and then move on to her recipes in “A Newsletter,” Bon Appetit, and The New York Times. She’s a virtuoso. She never misses. 

As Roman says in her video for this recipe, it’s an amalgamation of the best parts of a pie, a tart, and a galette: Easy to slice into, jammy but not soggy, and with a perfect crust: filling ratio. This is a real winner.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Like Roman’s lemon turmeric tea cake, which you may recall I made in a previous column, the blueberry cornmeal tart is easy and travels well. Added bonuses. 

  1. Combine one pound fresh blueberries, ½ cup light brown sugar, two tablespoons apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice, two tablespoons all-purpose flour, and a pinch of salt 
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together 1.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup cornmeal, 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar, ¼ cup light brown sugar, one teaspoon baking powder, and one teaspoon salt
  3. To the bowl, add 1 + ½ sticks melted unsalted butter and combine until no dry spots remain 
  4. Putting aside ¼ of the dough, press the remaining cornmeal mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9” pie plate, cake pan, springform pan, tart pan…I don’t even think it has to be round. I told you this recipe is versatile (unlike the author of this column)
  5. Add your blueberry mixture to the baking vessel and crumble the reserved cornmeal dough over top, flattening pieces between your hands to increase its surface area 

Bake for 50 minutes, allow to cool completely, and enjoy with vanilla ice cream

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Hangover-cure chicken

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

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on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – This summer has given us plenty of reasons to drink, as if the past three years doesn’t feel like one long hangover. Last month alone we had Pride, and then the conservative ghouls at the Supreme Court decided they were gonna fuck around with everyone’s rights. 

And then, within just days of each other, Joe Manchin and Beyoncé gave the people what they wanted in a major way and suddenly it was time to ring in the weekend with some vodka sodas. My only complaint is that I’m terrible with lyrics so it’s going to take me forever to learn to lip-sync along to RENAISSANCE. If you see me in public mouthing along to “CUFF IT” pretending I know the words, please mind your business. 

Among the reasons I’ve significantly moderated my drinking now that I’m in my (early) 30s is that my hangovers have become multi-day ordeals for which I’ve been known to beckon a nurse to administer an IV (a service that costs about $400. Don’t tell my husband.) 

A less expensive but equally effective remedy is this chicken dish. Ohmygosh, y’all. Trust me. It’s so good. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Recipe from Molly Baz’s “Cook This Book” 

  1. Cook one cup jasmine rice and be sure to season the water or broth with about a teaspoon of salt 
  2. To a big stockpot, add four cups of water, two tablespoons of salt, and two pounds of chicken (the recipe calls for bone-in/skin-on breasts, but I’ve made it with thighs and it was delicious. If you’re using boneless skinless breasts as I did this time, add a tablespoon of chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon)
  3. Add two heads of garlic, sliced crosswise, a thinly sliced 4-6” piece of fresh ginger, the dark green parts of about eight scallions, and the stems of one bunch of cilantro
  4. Bring the water to a simmer and cook until the chicken is done (about 10 minutes for boneless skinless breasts, closer to 15 if they’re bone-in/skin-on, and longer for thighs). Remove the meat from your stockpot and allow it to cool on a cutting board. Strain the broth and reserve it
  5. Chop the tender leaves and stems of the cilantro and the light green and white parts of your scallions, adding them to a bowl. De-seed and chop two jalapeño peppers, adding them to the bowl with a fourth-cup olive oil and juice from one lime, seasoning with salt and mixing until well combined

Remove skin and bones from the chicken and slice it against the grain into 1/4 – inch-wide pieces, as shown in the pictures. Put everything together (your rice, broth, chicken, and cilantro-scallion-jalapeño sauce) and serve garnished with more cilantro and, if desired, crème fraiche or sour cream

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: Alison Roman’s mushroom flatbread

LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane shares his love and passion of cooking writing in his weekly Sunday column

Published

on

Photo by Dan Balinovic

What happens when you have a pandemic and a bored stay-at-home political reporter with extra time on his hands? LA Blade staff writer Christopher Kane decided that he would pursue his second love and passion of cooking and now he’s sharing the results in his weekly Sunday column.

WASHINGTON – Are flatbreads and pizzas the same thing? Well, you’d be forgiven for thinking so, but the answer is technically “no.” 

Flatbread dough keeps company with such delicious, carb-y foods as naan, roti, and matzo, even if it’s topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and sliced pepperoni. 

Notice I didn’t include pineapples? Is this because I don’t care for them on my pizzas/flatbreads? Or am I merely sidestepping one of the most divisive debates of our time? Stick around to not find out. 

Anyway, when it comes to food and beverages, there are some distinctions without much of a difference. For example, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really care whether eggplant is a fruit or a vegetable, or whether my sparkling wine is champagne or prosecco or cava. 

The point is flatbread is much easier and less time consuming to make than pizza dough. And while I will sometimes insist on more challenging ways of doing things, folks, the earth is boiling and I’m looking for shortcuts wherever I can find them. 

For this mushroom flatbread, if you can’t harvest cremini mushrooms yourself from the forests of the cremini region of France, store-bought is fine.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Recipe from Alison Roman’s “Dining In”

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve a pinch of granulated sugar and one packet of active dry yeast (2 and ¼ teaspoons) in 1.5 cups warm water
  2. Add four cups all-purpose flour, stirring until fully combined. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 10 minutes 
  3. Add ½ cup sour cream, two tablespoons unsalted butter, and one tablespoon kosher salt, mixing until well blended
  4. Re-cover the bowl and allow to rest for two hours. Punch down the dough and keep covered, allowing it to rise for another two hours
  5. Transfer dough to well-floured surface and divide it into four to six equal pieces. One at a time, roll it out with your hands. Don’t make perfect the enemy of good! 
  6. Cook on a non-stick skillet greased with a bit of olive oil on medium-high for about three to four minutes, flipping to cook the other side for a further two to three minutes 

Toppings

  1. Listen, I understand people have strong opinions on their preferred toppings for pizza (sorry, flatbread), so I am not going to be proscriptive with this. See below for toppings used in the flatbread pictured here
  2. In a Dutch oven, add mushrooms, seasoning them with salt and bathing them in a ton of olive oil (they should be practically submerged). Feel free to add halved heads of garlic and/or onions, shallots, etc. Cook in a 400° F oven for about 40 minutes
  3. Spread ricotta cheese over the flatbread. Top with mushrooms (include at least some of that olive oil), along with grated Parmesan and fresh basil
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