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Kane’s Cuisine: Tacos- Are they up to the high standards of Angelenos?

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 – Let me begin by acknowledging that not only am I not Mexican, but I also don’t live in Los Angeles, nor in Texas, nor any place known for offering high quality south-of-the-border cuisine, whether wholly authentic or a hybrid Tex-Mex situation. Rather than Mexican restaurants, here in Washington, DC we prefer pizzerias with spacious basements for feasting on the children with Hillary Clinton and John Podesta. 

I’m kidding, of course, about the absence of good Mexican food here. DC’s National Press Club, for instance, hosts a wildly popular taco night on Fridays, consisting of a DIY bar with hard corn tortilla shells, spiced ground beef, and an assortment of toppings like “nacho cheese” (with those quotation marks doing some heavy lifting). 

So, especially when compared to folks who reside in Mexico or Southern California, places where really good tacos are abundant, accessible, and affordable, I am certainly not the most qualified judge. Much like with pizza, I think even the worst tacos usually tend to be tasty enough – even the crunchy shelled variety whose spice mixture comes in a packet along with what the FDA calls “processed cheese product.” 

What I’m trying to say with this rather unlettered introduction is this: Relative to tacos, however unsophisticated my East Coast palette might be, I am reasonably confident most people would agree with my assessment that those pictured here, made with the recipe below, are phenomenal. 

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Chipotle adobo chicken tacos, adapted from David Tanis’s recipe in New York Times Cooking:

  1. In a large saucepan or small stockpot with three cups of generously salted water, combine four to six bone-in/skin-on chicken thighs (they should weigh a total of 1.5 to two pounds) with a bunch of scallions, a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, a few black peppercorns, a head of garlic halved crosswise, and three to four whole cloves. Bring to a gentle simmer and poach for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat
  2. Remove the chicken, allowing it to cool as you transfer the broth to a heat resistant container or bowl, using a fine mesh strainer to catch and discard the solid bits. Shred the chicken, tossing out the skin and bones
  3. In a skillet with sides at least a couple inches high, cook a large onion, diced, in olive oil over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper, for about five to eight minutes. Add a half teaspoon of ground cumin and three thinly sliced garlic cloves, cooking for another minute. Open a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (my sparsely outfitted local Safeway store sells this ingredient in the international aisle, so I do not expect you will have a hard time finding it.) Chop the peppers and add them to your skillet, along with three tablespoons of adobo sauce from the can, stirring to combine
  4. Add your shredded chicken, stirring to coat, with a half cup of your reserved broth, simmering for about five minutes and tasting to see if you need to season with more salt. Meanwhile, heat up to eight corn tortillas and prepare to assemble your tacos

Now it’s time to customize! 

  • The heart and soul of this dish is the chicken, which is so delicious that the other ingredients are really playing second fiddle, here. Which means that I am here to endorse whatever else you choose to include in your tortillas (within reason. I will not tolerate “nacho cheese,” but then neither should you.) 
Photo by Dan Balinovic

If you like the look of the tacos in this article and want to replicate them, here’s what I used: raw white onion and cherry belle radish sliced razor-thin with a mandoline, parsley (only because I was out of cilantro), drizzled crème fraiche, crumbles of feta cheese (only because I couldn’t find queso blanco/queso fresco), and lime wedges for squeezing over the tacos

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Kane’s Cuisine: My easiest recipe (so far)

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

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – The toast pictured here was made with a homemade baguette. Yours doesn’t have to be, and there was no reason for me to flex like that because the point of today’s column is to demonstrate how a few easy steps can elevate the mundane into something extraordinary. 

This really is so easy. Low effort, high reward. A perfectly serviceable appetizer to serve guests at a dinner party and an equally satisfying lunch on the go. Plus, learning to make your own avocado toast will save you enough money to afford an undesirable home in the Valley in about 729 years. 

Plus, it’s officially spooky season. IYKYK. 

Using Props Properly: Christina Milian Explains The Toast | THE ROCKY HORROR  PICTURE SHOW - YouTube

The key ingredient, apart from the toast – obviously – is ricotta. From there, you can go sweet or savory. Fruit, fish, mushrooms…the world is your oyster.  

  1. Head a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium and toast a slice or two of bread (store-bought is fine. No, really.) 
  2. Spread ricotta over your toast. You can whip it with a whisk before you spread it. Or don’t. Just make sure it’s full-fat. 

Be creative with your toppings. Pictured here is prosciutto, capers, freshdill, and flakysalt. On other piece: sliced cherry tomatoes, chives, and honey.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

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Kane’s Cuisine: Amatriciana, one of the four pastas of Rome

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

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – The head cold or upper respiratory infection or whatever it is that I’m suffering from has worsened over the last 24 hours and I feel like complete garbage. So, what have I turned to for comfort on this weekend afternoon? 

That’s right, NyQuil chicken

But afterwards, a bowl of warm noodles (followed by a bowl of cold ice cream) all while re-watching Dance Moms. Look, if you can’t handle me at my worst, that is completely understandable because I am a monster. 

Today, we’re making one of the four pastas of Rome, amatriciana. I made some modifications that Italians might not approve of, but I don’t care. Oh, you learned everything there is to know about the Italian culinary arts from your study abroad? I don’t think so. 

“When I was in Lazio, our Pecorino Romano was crafted by local cheesemakers who raised sheep on the hillside, playing Giuseppe Verdi’s operas for at least four hours per day. These farmers, who were all named Salvatore, would sooner have eaten their own shoes than tasted an amatriciana prepared with canned tomatoes. Calling what they serve here in America ‘pasta’ is an insult. And don’t even get me STARTED on how much better the coffee is in Italy…”
  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil 
  2. In a large skillet or fry pan with a couple tablespoons olive oil, cook 4 ounces guanciale or pancetta, cut into ½ – inch cubes, on medium-low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally 
  3. Increase the heat slightly and add a sliced onion and cook for about 5-8 minutes. Add two teaspoons red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds to one minute
  4. Add a 28-ounce can of tomatoes (crushed, or whole and then crushed by hand or with a wooden spoon). Add a dash of fish sauce and season to taste with salt. Cook for about 20 minutes and set aside
  5. In your pot of boiling water, cook a 12-ounce box of pasta – whatever kind you like –until a few minutes before al dente (refer to package directions for cook times). Reserve one cup pasta water, strain the noodles and set aside 
  6. Add the pasta and half the reserved pasta water to your pan with the sauce. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring to make sure the noodles are evenly coated and the sauce is thickened 
Photo by Dan Balinovic

Optional but encouraged: Season with flaky salt, black pepper, grated raw garlic, more red pepper flakes, a drizzle of olive oil, and garnish with basil 

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Food

Kane’s Cuisine: potato salad doesn’t have to be boring

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

The LA Blade’s intrepid Washington D.C.-based political reporter snarks his way through another delicious weekly recipe while dishing tea on other subjects…

WASHINGTON – Is anyone ever that jazzed about potato salad? Always the side dish but never the bride, it’s somehow simultaneously the most omnipresent but least memorable food brought to a barbecue or potluck situation. Friends, I’m here to tell you there’s a better way. 

To make my point, I should have done just the potato salad and not distracted you with the fried chicken pictured therewith. If you would like to make the fried chicken, I used the same recipe from my August 14 column

What makes this potato salad so special? Everything. It’s so much more than mayonnaise and boiled spuds. It’s got tangy citrus, salty umami-rich anchovies, fresh dill. Your German immigrant ancestors could never. Sorry. 

Oh, another thing: For those of us who are not infants and still have use of our teeth, I do not understand the appeal of any food that doesn’t have some texture. Another issue I have with other potato salads but not this one, which has a delightful crunch.

Photo by Dan Balinovic

Bring this to a potluck and it will be gone faster than the Queen’s spirit traveled to Trisha Paytas’s baby. I need to get off Twitter because it’s rotting my brain. Also, when looking up the spelling of Paytas’s name, I discovered she named the baby Malibu Barbie. Don’t really have further comment on that matter but I thought you should know, too. 

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  1. Boil two pounds baby potatoes in three quarts of water with one cup of salt cup (yes, you read that right) until they can be easily pierced with a fork, or about eight to ten minutes. Strain out and discard the water 
  2. Smash and peel a few garlic cloves, adding a pinch of salt as you mash them into a paste. Chop a few anchovy filets and mash them into a paste, too. Combine your pastes and mash them together until their color and texture is uniform
  3. Add paste to a large bowl with a third cup mayonnaise, a tablespoon Dijon mustard, and a teaspoon black pepper, whisking to combine. Continue whisking as you slowly add two tablespoons olive oil and the juice from one lemon. Season with salt
  4. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, smash them lightly into a cutting board with your palm so they split open but aren’t totally mashed (does that make sense?) Add them to the dressing mixture, tossing evenly to coat
Photo by Dan Balinovic

Add six to eight thinly sliced radishes, a few scallions, or chives, radish and sunflower microgreens, and an ungodly amount of fresh dill. Some of the ingredients in this step are optional. The dill is not. Season again with salt and black pepper

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