Unimpressed with Chicken-of-the-Woods Mushrooms

Well, this was a failure. I bought some Chicken-of-the-Woods mushrooms, and was excited to experiment with them, but I tried cooking them three different ways, and didn’t like any of them.

I chopped them small and sauteed them in butter (dry, no mushroom flavor), I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled them (very dry, pretty much flavorless), and I curried them — Jed and I agree that everything else in the curry is tasty, but not the mushrooms.

I suppose if you’re looking for chicken texture, they sort of have that, but other than that, I’m afraid I’m unimpressed. I think there are a lot of better vegetarian options for texture. Did I do something wildly wrong with the preparation of these? Any of you really love the taste?

Black Pork Curry

Perfect dish for chilly autumn days — Sri Lankan Black Pork Curry. It’s not really black, but the tamarind does make it quite dark. Dark and delicious. 🙂

Locals, I picked up this pork shoulder from Carnivore Oak Park — it makes a sumptuous pork curry!


Black Pork Curry (1.5 hrs — serves 6-8)

This traditional tangy, peppery dish gets its dark color from the combination of dark roasted curry powder, tamarind paste, and lots of ground black pepper. Tamarind paste is typically fairly easy to find in Mexican and Indian markets, or you can order it online; it keeps well in the pantry for a long time, even after opening.

I keep a little jar of ground black pepper on hand for dishes like this; I buy strongly-flavored Tellicherry peppercorns from Penzey’s online, grind them in a coffee grinder I keep dedicated for spices (although you can use a regular coffee grinder if you clean it out thoroughly), and grind up a jar’s worth as needed. The flavor is much better than you’d get from the pre-ground black pepper at the grocery store.

Typically, you’d leave a good portion of the fat on the pork pieces; it soaks up a ton of flavor, and is truly delectable, balancing the meat, which can otherwise be a bit dry after long cooking. But you can trim all the fat off if you’d really prefer.

3 medium yellow onions, chopped fine
2 T ginger, chopped fine
4-5 garlic cloves, sliced
6-12 curry leaves (optional)
3 T vegetable oil
1/4 t. black mustard seed
1/4 t. cumin seed
1 T Sri Lankan curry powder
1 heaping t. salt
4 t. ground black pepper
3 lbs. pork shoulder, cubed, about 1 in. pieces, with some fat left on
3 t. tamarind paste

1/2 c. white vinegar

1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, garlic, and curry leaves in oil on medium with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed.

2. Add curry powder, salt, pepper, stirring to combine, then turn heat to high, add pork, and sear, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, to bring out the flavor of the meat.

3. Add tamarind paste and white vinegar; stir well, turn heat to medium, and cover. Cook one hour, stirring occasionally. Serve hot, with rice or bread.

Serendib Kitchen Approved

Locals, I’m going to make a big pitch for Angie’s Pantry. I’m not sure why we never tried this before — it would’ve been a lifesaver when the kids were little (maybe she wasn’t around then)? Some things I particularly like about this home-cooked food delivery model:

– you order a week ahead for the following Tuesday, Wednesday, or both (you can pay $5 for delivery, or pick-up if you’d prefer from their storefront near the center of town)

– that turns out to be exactly the part of week when I would most like someone else to feed my family — I’m busy with the day job, and weekend leftovers have run out, and I don’t really want to cook again yet — brilliant!

– Angie varies the cuisine every week, so this past week, for example, leaned Greek, and next week will be leaning Mexican (chicken tacos, guacamole have both been ordered!)

– I feel like this is a particularly nice way to get the kids to try new cuisines pretty regularly, and it also helps keep us from being bored. Kev and I spent too many years making mac-and-cheese with broccoli as a weekday staple just because it was easy to do when mindless and tired. Steamed broccoli, boiled broccoli, roasted broccoli — SO MUCH BROCCOLI.

(Adding insult to injury, ‘broccoli’ was the word I misspelled that knocked me out of the Catholic national spelling bee. [shakes fist at broccoli])

– the food is flavorful, BUT also fairly mild in its seasoning / spicing, which is very helpful when you’re feeding picky children — there are always some general American-ish options too. (She also offers fresh fruit and cookies, which we haven’t gotten, as we always have fresh fruit on hand.)

– I’m getting salad every week now, which is something I think I should eat, and even usually like when I eat it, and yet, generally fail to make for myself

– since you’re reheating at home, it’s easy to adjust the spicing for more adventurous tastes. We have an array of hot sauces in our pantry, and Kevin and I are not afraid to use them.

– the pricing is comparable to getting takeout, but the food is clearly healthier; I can see and taste that Angie doesn’t use a lot of extra oil / butter as a quick shortcut to flavor, as I’m afraid lots of restaurants do, including ones I generally like — I have to consider those restaurants occasional treats, or I’ll start gaining weight and/or feeling a bit ill from the heavy use of oil. I feel like I could eat her food every week.

– it’s not something we need, but Angie always has gluten-free options, which is very nice. I think her dishes are generally not too heavy on salt either (though possibly not low enough to qualify as a low-sodium diet)

– it feels a little like a present from Past Me when the food arrives on Tuesday. “Look, how nice! No need to even think about providing food tonight!” And after you’ve eaten all that food, it’s easy to remember to order for the next week.

Pictured here: Greek salad, roasted cauliflower, beef kofta, pita, tzatziki sauce (the latter three make a great sandwich, which I’ve had for multiple leftover meals so far), and also a Thai pumpkin soup. All very tasty!

I feel like I need a stamp: “Serendib Kitchen Approved!”


White Crane Creative Sushi & Thai

Tried another new local restaurant recently, White Crane Creative Sushi & Thai — it’s in Forest Park on Harlem, just south of Harrison. They don’t have outdoor dining, but the interior space looks really nice; I’ll probably eat there sometime soon. But I started with takeout, sampling most of the items we typically get. We got (enough to feed five people for dinner plus a few days of leftovers):

– steamed shumai
– sake (salmon) sushi
– unagi
– spider roll
– avocado roll
– vegetable fried rice
– edamame
– fried pork potstickers
– steamed veggie potstickers
– spicy basil tofu
– green curry chicken

– avocado & tofu curry

As an overall review, I’d say their Thai is very good, and their Japanese is fine. It’s not somewhere I’d go out of the way to get sashimi or sushi, but if you’re ordering takeout for home (or going in with a big group) and want to be able to feed people with diverse tastes, having the variety is helpful.

The standout for me was the steamed shumai – this is perhaps my favorite Thai dish generally, or certainly high up there, and I’ve tried it at most Thai restaurants in the area, and I think this is my favorite iteration of it, so you know I’ll be back for that! I have to restrain myself and not order it every single week, in fact.

I also strongly recommend the avocado curry — I haven’t seen that before, and with the creamy tofu, it’s an unctuous, luscious dish, beautifully flavored, and feeling very indulgent. A really great vegetarian option!

Recommended, and looking forward to eating there in person sometime soon.

Food from Angie’s Pantry

Trying some local mom food delivery this week — with Jed visiting for a month, we’re eating a bit more than normal, and while I’ve cooked some, and Kevin has too, we’ve probably been relying too much on takeout. I was hoping this would be a healthier option, and I’m pretty happy with it.

This is all from Angie’s Pantry — about $140 got us enough food for two nights’ dinners for 3 adults, 2 big kids, plus some leftovers. The Thai chicken was quite tasty, the food overall was kid-friendly. It seemed quite light on oil and with a nice reliance on citrus notes for flavor interest.

Personally, I’d probably add a *little* more oil / butter / sour cream / salt, because I guess I don’t want my food too healthy. 🙂 Also more cayenne! But you can adjust that easily while reheating. We’ll be ordering from her again.

Continuing Grill Experiments

Experiments in learning how to grill continue. I picked up some beautiful farm fennel at Carnivore Oak Park, trimmed off the green fronds (nice to save for plating and/or tossing into soup), peeled off the tough outer layer, cut out the core, sliced the fennel into 1/4″ slices, tossed it in oil, salt, and pepper, and grilled for 8 minutes, turning once.

It was SO GOOD. Roshani had brought over some lentil curry for lunch with Jed, and I’d also grilled some chicken tikka (and some chicken of the woods mushrooms, report on that in a future post), and we pulled out various things from the fridge and freezer and made fresh red rice, but the best part of the meal was clearly the combination of grilled fennel and lentils and rice and chicken — those four together were beautiful.

Fennel straight up is too licorice-y for me, but once grilled, it gets soft and buttery and tastes like a more complex version of grilled onions; the licorice is still there, but as a light afternote. Yum.

Pasta with Tandoori Chicken in Sauce

Pasta with Tandoori Chicken in Sauce

We ordered Indian for dinner last night (hey, locals, did Khyber Pass get a new chef? Everything tastes different…), and Kavi requested pasta with tandoori chicken in sauce for dinner tonight. I think I’ve written this up here before, but just in case, it’s a useful recipe:

– set water boiling for pasta
– when boiling, add pasta, set timer appropriately (this one was 11 minutes)
– shred leftover tandoori chicken
– sautĂ© raw red onion that came with the chicken in some vegetable oil (or ghee, or butter) until golden
– add chicken and sautĂ© a minute or two
– push chicken and onions to the side, add 1 T flour and fry briefly, until flour is cooked, aromatic and light brown; stir flour into chicken and onions
– add 1 c. chicken broth and simmer a few minutes
– add 1/2 – 1 c. milk and simmer down to a sauce; taste and add salt / pepper if needed, but usually I don’t need to season it further

– if you want a veg in here, now is a nice time to add some frozen peas and cook a few minutes more

– drain pasta when timer goes off, add it to the pan with the sauce

– serve hot!