Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chicken chorizo meatballs

It’s pretty well established here that I’m a compulsive recipe-tinkerer. I’m also a big fan of returning to recipes I’ve already played with, and tweaking them to make something new. Usually, when I do that, I tend to keep the bones of the recipe the same. But every so often, I’ll come back to a recipe I riffed on months or even years before, and decide to make something entirely different from it.

For example. About four years ago now, my friend Mel tipped me off to an online cooking show her friends were doing, called Economy Bites. The show is sadly now defunct, but I loved it for its goofy spirit, its no-bullshit realness and its creativity. One of the recipes on the show was a chicken and chorizo meatloaf, which inspired me to start mixing ground meat and sausage, which eventually morphed into my turkey andouille chili recipe–still one of my signature and most-requested dishes. But even with the triumph of the chili, I still thought about that meatloaf, and wondered what other directions I might take it in.

My friends were throwing a finger-food potluck, so I decided to make a batch of Southwestern-ish cocktail meatballs. This time, I stayed a bit more literal to the inspiration: chicken and chorizo. The original recipe called for the hard-cured Spanish chorizo, but I swapped in the squishy Mexican stuff. It blended in with the ground chicken, giving the meatballs a smooth and succulent texture. It also made the meat mix fairly delicate and loose, compared to the meatballs I usually make. They were a bit challenging to shape, but the payoff was juicy, tender, almost airy meatballs. The chorizo rounded out the chicken’s blandness with richness, sourness, and a tiny touch of heat; I could easily see these as game-day party fare, alongside a plate of nachos or chips and salsa.

Speaking of chips: there’s another twist in here, which I’m pretty proud of. Because we had a gluten-free partygoer (and I’d forgotten to buy breadcrumbs), I decided to crush up tortilla chips to use as a binder. The crumbs worked beautifully to soak up fat and juices, while adding a hint of cornmeal sweetness to the mix. I crushed my chips in a bag with a rolling pin, but I think pulsing them in a food processor would have worked even better. The finer the crumbs, the smoother the meatball texture–and with these, smoothness is absolutely a virtue.

chicken chorizo meatballs

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Pickled daikon radish

One of the things I love about my boyfriend is our shared, almost fanatical love of certain foods. I’m pretty sure that about 23% of our relationship is based on radishes, and another 37% is based on pickles. We both love snacking on radishes–the spicier, the better–and we both unapologetically eat pickles of all kinds straight from the jar. So it’s no surprise that pickled radishes are one of our mutual favorite foods.

I love eating pink radishes raw, but when it comes to pickling, I’m a sucker for daikon. Daikon radishes are larger and denser than their bunchy cousins, with a mild but distinct radish flavor. Pickled with lots of sugar, they make a delightfully crunchy sweet-and-sour snack. I’ve had pickled daikon radish all over the place, tucked into sushi rolls or onigiri boxes, but not until recently did it occur to me to try pickling my own. One taste, and Sam shouted “OH YEAH THIS IS GREAT” and immediately took possession of the jar.

These are straightforward refrigerator pickles, easy to make and easy to eat. The radish flavor starts out mellow, but intensifies as the pickles sit in the brine, so that every nibble is sugary, spicy, and sour all at once. I added a bit of ginger, to warm things up a bit, but it honestly wasn’t necessary–the simple, uncluttered flavors of radish, sugar, and vinegar are lovely enough. I’ve seen a lot of pickled radishes that are dyed a garish shade of yellow, so I decided to mimic that by adding a bit of turmeric to the brine. It’s also a personal preference thing, but I cut my radish into matchsticks instead of chunks or half-moons, so that I could fish them upright out of the jar and snack on them like carrot sticks. (Cutting them this way also makes them ideal for rolling into sushi. But that’s another post for another day.)

I do want to offer a couple words of caution. First, the brine for these pickles is very sticky, and it will stain things. I would recommend using a glass measuring cup or a ladle to get the brine into the jars, and possibly doing it over the sink if you’re really klutzy, like me. Second, daikon radish is one of those vegetables that produces a lot of sulfurous compounds as it pickles. In other words, this stuff smells. Strongly. It’s not really evident until you open the jar, so keep your radishes tightly sealed in the fridge and you shouldn’t have any problems.

pickled daikon

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Cross-post: Fancy feasting

Recently, I’ve been doing some writing for CASE Magazine, a new online magazine of cultural criticism. My latest piece went up today. Since it’s about food and the experience of eating, I thought I’d repost it here. Enjoy!

It’s a windy Monday evening. I’ve skipped out of work a little early to meet up with friends for a cheese and charcuterie tasting class in the Mission. It’s not the sort of thing I usually do on a weeknight, but it’s exactly the kind of thing I love: fancy artisanal food, and lots of it.

We enter the class area through a narrow, neatly arranged courtyard, into a patio area with a tall wooden table and a pizza oven. There are big bottles of artisanal beer on ice and a display of cookbooks and cheese knives for sale. The knives cost $10; I don’t check the price on the books.

The class is neatly set up indoors, safely out of the wind. There are place settings and name cards for each of us, and each place has an enormous plate of cheese wedges and cured meat slices. There’s a platter of locally-baked bread on each table, and little cups of cornichons and mustard, and a plate of apple slices and blackberries, and glass milk bottles for water pitchers.

I really enjoy this kind of thing—meticulous presentations of excellent-quality food, curated by someone who knows their stuff. But at the same time, even as I settle into my seat and pour myself a glass of water from the nearest milk bottle, I can feel the objections rising in my chest. This is a little pretentious, no? A little overly precious? A little silly?

Read the rest of this piece at CASE Magazine.

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