DIY: Chicken Stew with Sweet Plantains

I was inspired to make chicken stew with sweet plantains after my friend served me some leftovers of this dish. The stew was very fragrant and the flavors were new to my palette. She had gotten the recipe from the New York Times and passed it on to me. I was somewhat intimidated at first because of all of the herbs.

My friend used chicken thighs for her stew, but I decided to cut up a whole 3 pound chicken. Instead of eight pieces, I cut the chicken into ten perfect pieces by cutting the two breasts in half. I coated the chicken pieces with the following and refrigerated it overnight:

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon chile powder

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon orange zest

  • 1 teaspoon lime zest

  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
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    The next day when I was ready to cook the stew, I heated up my Martha Stewart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. I added some olive oil and started cooking the chicken pieces until it was golden brown. I transferred the chicken into a bowl.

    I cut up two plantains into half inch pieces and browned them in some olive oil in the same pot used for the chicken. I transferred the plantains to the same bowl as the chicken.

    In more olive oil, I sautéed a diced onion, a red bell pepper, and three garlic cloves with a pinch of salt until it was soft.

    To the pot, I added the following in medium high heat:

  • 3 chopped Roma tomatoes

  • half a carton of grape tomatoes (approximately 6 oz.)

  • 2/3 cup of orange juice

  • 1 cup of water

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • the bowl of chicken and plantains

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    Once I got it to a simmer, I covered the pot and lowered the heat to medium low for about thirty minutes. I mixed in a 1/2 cup of green pitted olives and the juice of half a lime, and topped it off with cilantro.
    I served the stew over some hot white rice. It was amazing.


    San Jose for Broken Rice Plates

    I just finished dinner at Com Tam Dat Thanh (CTDT) a Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose. I am writing this post in the passenger seat while my friend drives us back home to Oakland. 20140323-220411.jpgIt was our first time to CTDT. My friend picked the place based on the name. Com Tam means broken rice and that was what she was craving. I seldom get to eat broken rice. Broken rice refers to rice that is damaged in the milling process. I was game to give it a try.

    My friend ordered a salted plum drink with club soda. Salt in a drink is pretty unusual unless it is on the rim of a glass. It is different and takes an acquired taste, so it is not for everyone.
    We both ordered similar rice plates. My plate came with BBQ pork, BBQ shrimp, shrimp cake, picked vegetables, and broken rice. Our plates also came with a small bowl of tasty broth.
    Everything was good, but the pork and shrimp cake were especially outstanding. The grilled pork was tender and very flavorful. This was my first time I had shrimp cake prepared like this. Bean curd is wrapped around a molded shrimp paste and deep fried. It was delicious especially after dipping it into some fish sauce. I like how every table gets a large bottle of fish sauce.
    When in San Jose, I would return to CTDT for inexpensive Vietnamese fare.

    Welcoming Rita’s to Northern California

    This Thursday starts the first day of Spring, but it sure felt like a beautiful warm Spring day today. My friend and I began the day with a 10 mile hike around Lake Chabot Regional Park. After burning hundreds of calories, we definitely deserved a special treat. My friend suggested a place called Rita’s in Castro Valley for something cold and refreshing.

    Rita’s is a chain originating on the East Coast that was founded in 1984 by a former Philadelphia firefighter. Living in the Bay Area you would not know that there are over 500 locations in the United States. At this time, the location in Downtown Castro Valley is the only shop in all of Northern California. I will not be surprised if Rita’s follows the success of businesses like “In-N-Out” or “Krispy Kreme.”

    So you are asking “What is Rita’s?” Rita’s sells a variety of fresh Italian ice and frozen custard. The Italian ice is unique at Rita’s because there are actual chunks of fruit in the ice. Frozen custard is a form of ice cream popular in the Midwest and the East Coast, so it’s great to have a Bay Area location to serve it.
    I walked into Rita’s not sure what to order. Italian ice? Frozen custard? I decided on the Gelati which is a mixture of both ice and custard. I chose wild black cherry ice with a top and bottom layer of vanilla custard. My friend got the watermelon ice and vanilla custard Gelati. Today they had Swedish fish as a flavor. I assume there were pieces of my favorite gummy candy in it.
    The Gelati was amazing. The creaminess of the custard and the slushy ice was the perfect blend in consistency and flavor. The fruit in the ice added a third texture that I appreciated. On a warm day, this treat was refreshing and hit the spot after a day of hiking.

    Spring officially starts this Thursday which may be the perfect day to give Rita’s a try as they are giving out free Italian ice.

    Angeline’s: A Bit of Louisiana in Berkeley

    Last Tuesday was Mardi Gras also known as Fat Tuesday. I wasn’t in New Orleans, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t celebrate. I made last minute plans with my sister and one of my close friends to dine at Angeline’s Louisiana Kitchen in Berkeley.

    It’s been a few years since I had gone to Angeline’s but I was looking forward to it. The restaurant was decked out in Mardi Gras decorations, everyone was in the mood to have fun wearing beads, and there were some Mardi Gras specials on the menu.

    I started with a drink special popular in New Orleans, the Hurricane. It was not the regular mixture of juices and rum. With a limited liquor license, this version had soju in it. It was actually pretty tasty. My sister and friend ordered sweet tea.
    We shared Oysters Bordelaise. I actually remember how good these were from the last time I was here. These cornmeal-crusted fried oysters came with lemon and garlic butter. The beautiful golden brown oysters had the perfect crisp.
    My friend always has a hard time deciding between gumbo and jambalaya so she ordered a cup of gumbo as an appetizer. The gumbo had a mix of rice, okra, andouille sausage, ham, and shrimp. She enjoyed it.
    She ordered the jambalaya as her entree. The consistency of the jambalaya was quite rich. It was very meaty with roasted chicken, ham and andouille sausage. I was able to taste this and thought it was missing some of the Cajun flavors. I agreed it was rich and thought that it was thick like risotto.
    My sister ordered the fried catfish which came with potato salad and hushpuppies. Hushpuppies are cornmeal fritters and I thought that was the star of her dish. It was heavenly when you spread honey butter on them.
    My dish was a Mardi Gras special which was BBQ shrimp. The BBQ shrimp is typically on the menu, but tonight it was served over grits and with green beans. The grits were super creamy and the mix of the sweet BBQ flavor of the shrimp matched well. I think I probably picked the best dish because my sister and friend helped me clean the plate.
    Although we were full, we went ahead and ordered the beignets. It was another special for the evening and they were made to order. It reminded me very much of my last trip to New Orleans. They came out hot with an abundance of powdered sugar. They were delicious! The beignets helped to end the night on a good fun note.

    Arizmendi: Great No Matter Which Way You Slice It

    Arizmendi Bakery on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland is one of six worker owned co-operatives of bakeries that are part of the Arizmendi Association. The other bakeries are located in Berkeley, Emeryville, (two in) San Francisco, and San Rafael. I have been frequenting Arizmendi since I returned to Oakland in 2001. Arizmendi is a place where I can grab quality baked goods such as scones, breads, and cookies.
    Most people including myself go to Arizmendi for their pizza. Their gourmet pizzas are thin, have a sourdough crust, and made with fresh seasonal vegetables. Their pizzas change daily, but one thing that doesn’t change is that they are always meatless.
    Today’s pizza was a combination of spinach, roasted yellow onions, mozarella, green onion, goat cheese, and olive tapenade. I ordered a slice of pizza and a small soup. The benefit of getting a slice of pizza is that it always comes with an extra sliver. The pizza was crisp and delicious. I especially liked the tartness of the tapenade on the pizza. The soup of the day was a Mediterranean lentil rice stew. This was a rich hearty soup. I enjoyed the flavors of the cumin and the coriander.
    I found out that the bakery in Emeryville will be selling King’s Cake this Tuesday for Mardi Gras. They are $20 and if you want one, you should place your order.