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September 2016

Lucky Peach's Miso Claypot Chicken (No Claypot)

Rice cooker

I made dinner in my rice cooker last night.

... insert blinking-in-disbelief emoji face ...

Let me repeat that.

I MADE DINNER. In my RICE COOKER. And no, not just the rice, mind you, the WHOLE DINNER.

(Well, except for the salads, but let's not split hairs.)

It may have been the greatest discovery of my year in food.

First things first, do you have a rice cooker? If not, GET YOURSELF ONE WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. I like the Korean Cuckoo brand. (Berliners, the tiny Korean shop on Spandauer Damm just past Klausener Platz sells Cuckoo rice cookers.) My model is very simple - it only has a "warm" and "cook" setting. Nothing special, no bells and whistles. (Unlike my friend Joe's rice cooker, which SPEAKS TO HIM IN KOREAN for crying out loud.) I honestly can't say specifically why I find the rice cooker such a transformative appliance in the kitchen, but not having to worry about getting rice (and other grains) cooked perfectly has actually improved my cooking life in ways other appliances just haven't.

Now that that's out of the way, you can focus on getting DINNER COOKED IN YOUR FLIPPING RICE COOKER WHY AM I SO EXCITED. The recipe I used comes from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes that my friend Florian loaned to me after I had dinner at his house a few weeks ago and had to restrain myself from swallowing the entire serving bowl of spicy celery salad in front of the other guests' horrified eyes. (While pregnant with Hugo, I craved crunchy, salty things, like tortilla chips and pretzel sticks. But this pregnancy has me wild-eyed over crisp vegetables and vinegar. In fact, I've eaten my weight in salad since May, literally guzzling the dressing out of the bowl when we're done. The other night, I actually found myself drinking olive brine from the jar. SO GOOD.)

The whole book is great -  it thoroughly demystifies various Asian grocery items, the goofy photo styling is funny and refreshing, and it's full of easy recipes for things you want to eat right now. Like "Economy Noodles", a simple Malaysian noodle dish that apparently takes about 7.5 minutes to make, hot-and-sour soup from Boston's Joanne Chang, char siu pork and miso-glazed eggplant (though I have yet to find Japanese eggplant in this fair city of mine), not to mention the spicy celery salad. But the recipe which is alone worth the price of the book is this one, for Miso Claypot Chicken (No Claypot), though of course you can make it in a Dutch oven if for some reason you still don't have a rice cooker. (GET ON THAT.)

For the No Claypot Chicken you make a really simple marinade of soy sauce, oyster sauce (which I replaced with hoisin sauce with spectacular results), Shaoxing wine, miso paste, salt, sugar, pepper and sesame oil. Into the marinade go sliced shiitakes and chunks of chicken thigh meat. While this sits for a minute, you put rice, water or stock and a single ginger slice in the rice cooker, then you scrape the chicken mixture on top of the rice and then put chopped scallions on top.

THAT IS IT! (I still can't get over it.)

One cycle of my rice cooker was enough to cook the meal completely - the chicken incredibly tender and moist, the mushrooms silky and fragrant, the rice sticky and savory and a deep mahogany brown on the bottom. Consistency-wise, it's sort of like the sticky rice filling of stuffed lotus leaves at a dim sum restaurant, and actually flavor-wise, too, except this meal is richer and more savory. We scooped out the steaming chicken and rice directly from the bowl and ate it with the aforementioned spicy celery and a cucumber salad with peanuts and cilantro.

Weeknight dinner jackpot!


Now tell me, good-people-who-already-own-rice-cookers: are you all doing a collective face palm because you've been making delectable meals in your rice cookers for years and I'm only now finally catching up? If so, what other dinnertime miracles await me? Give me your best rice cooker recipes, please!

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through these links, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Miso Claypot Chicken (No Claypot)
Adapted from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon white or red miso
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
White pepper to taste
4 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
8 fresh shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced, or 4 dried shiitakes, soaked, stemmed, and thinly sliced
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 slice (¼" thick) fresh ginger
2 scallions, cut into 1" pieces

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, wine, miso, salt, sugar, sesame oil, and a few grinds of white pepper. Add the chicken and mushrooms and fold to coat.

2. Combine the rice, stock, and ginger in a rice cooker or a small Dutch oven.
For a rice cooker: Scrape the chicken mixture and all of the marinade on top of the rice. Scatter with scallions. Cover, start the rice cooker, and cook until the cycle is done. Open the lid and check the chicken for doneness. Depending on your model, the chicken may need a couple more minutes to cook through. If it does, set the rice cooker for another cycle, press start, and check again in 5 minutes.
For a Dutch oven: Place over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, until just simmering. Reduce the heat to low and cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Fluff the rice, scraping up the crust from the bottom of the pot.
3. Scoop out and serve by the bowlful, or eat it straight out of the rice cooker.







Cook the Farm


That little blue window up there is from the room where I first stayed when I came to the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School on the Regaleali estate in 2015. I was there to teach a writing class with Rachel for a week and promptly fell in love with the place. We spent that week with our students wandering in and out of the garden, where flowering capers, fragrant rosemary and almond trees grew next to neat rows of chickpeas, tomatoes, eggplants, pumpkins and countless other plants in the vegetable garden. The school is an incredible place; founded over 25 years ago by Anna Tasca Lanza as a way to share Sicilian cooking with the world and now run by Anna's daughter Fabrizia, who has educational ambitions beyond the kitchen.

The school now hosts writing workshops and illustration workshops, in addition to their traditional cooking classes, but Fabrizia's desire to keep Sicilian culinary traditions alive as well as offer a deeper understanding into the way the Sicilian land is farmed and tended has given rise to her latest and most ambitious program, Cook the Farm. Cook the Farm is an ambitious 10-week immersive program where students - chefs, farmers or food professionals - live with Sicilian families or in the town next to the school and spend each week studying everything from olive oil production to horticulture, culinary anthropology to cheese-making. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about the program here, saying

"On a spring afternoon at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school—set on 1,300 acres of vineyard in the green hills of Sicily—preparations are underway for a celebration marking the conclusion of Cook the Farm, its new residential program at the intersection of agriculture, academics and cooking. At the farmhouse kitchen of this rural wine estate, a two-hour drive southeast of Palermo, students scurry about as they assemble a mix of dishes from home and recipes learned during the 10-week program. In a window nook across from a neat row of the school’s branded jams (made from sour cherries, figs and mandarins grown on the property) hang framed photos of the Marchesa Anna Tasca Lanza di Mazzarino, 'Sicily’s culinary ambassador to the world,' as the James Beard Foundation has called her. Photographs taken during the school’s early days show her posing with visiting dignitaries like Robert Mondavi and Julia Child (more recent guests include chefs Grant Achatz and Alice Waters). In the 27 years since the school’s launch, the region has emerged as an epicurean destination, with the marchesa, one of the first Sicilians to open her cloistered upper-crust life to outsiders, helping to set the stage for a new generation of chefs and winemakers."

If you would like to be a part of this exciting and groundbreaking program, the school is accepting applications for the course, which runs from January 21 to March 28, 2017, until September 15, three weeks from now. To apply, click here. For more on Cook the Farm, watch this video.

An End-of-Summer Catch-Up

My dearest readers, you have been so patient with me! My last post was almost three entire months ago. Eek! I didn't fully intend to take such a long break, but I really, really needed it. In early May, I sent off the very last book-edit-related email and it suddenly went very quiet around here. After all those endless months of recipe testing and writing, it felt like a huge weight had come off my shoulders. I was exhausted, and also in a sort of recovery from several months of really bad health, including two bouts of the flu, pneumonia, not to mention the discovery of an under-active thyroid condition.

So in May, I rested.


In June, we celebrated Joanie's annual birthday picnic, and Hugo turning four (four!), before I left to teach the second annual Language of Food writing workshop at the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School in Sicily together with Rachel. It was an incredibly intense and rewarding week. I'm already looking forward to next year's workshop, which will take place from June 26 to June 30, 2017. As soon as booking for the workshop opens, I'll let you know.

From Sicily, I flew up to meet Max and Hugo at my mother's house in Italy. We attended a big and beautiful Italian-Hawaiian wedding in Urbino (remember my friend Alessandro, he of the bruschetta di pomodori gratinati?) Hugo got to spend time with his adorable Modenese cousins. Max became an expert acacia-hunter on my mother's property, clad in gardening gloves and constantly casting his exacting German eye about for another sucker to rip out of the ground. (Now we can't walk two blocks in Berlin without him pointing out another offending specimen - I see a new career in the municipal landscaping department on the horizon.) I immersed myself in mastering the art of classic lasagna, as taught by my beloved friend Gabriella, who you already know about from here and here, for the October issue of Harper's Bazaar Germany, and I promise to share the recipe with you soon, too.

In August, Hugo's daycare closed for their summer break, so we escaped to the Baltic with friends, discovered new playgrounds, and tried to find ways to pass the time. Let's face it, there was also a lot of Peppa Pig.

Roasted fennel and tomatoes

Besides dipping my toe into the murky, mysterious world of sourdough in the spring, mostly following this recipe, and becoming obsessed with roasting fennel and tomatoes together (cut one bulb of fennel into wedges, halve a handful of cherry tomatoes and combine in one roasting pan, then sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil before roasting at 400F/200C for about 35 minutes - or longer - until tender and delicious), I did very little cooking of note. In fact, I'm still trying to figure out how to get a better system in place for our dinners that leaves me more time to do other things, like cooking in bulk in advance or meal planning or whatever. Very boring stuff, but apparently this is life as a nearly-middle-aged working mother. What a sexy beast adulthood can be!

This catches us all the way up to today, which just happens to be the eleventh anniversary of this blog. Happy birthday to it! At this point, I'm almost embarrassed to say how old the blog is and celebrating feels a bit out of place after not having even written a word here in nearly three months, but so be it. Eleven! The Wednesday Chef would be a middle schooler by now.

The truth is, if we're going to talk about celebrating, I've got something much better than a blog birthday to celebrate and that is that we're having another baby! It's a little boy due in late January and after a rough first four months, it's all starting to get very real and exciting around here. Hugo is over the moon to finally get the baby brother he's been longing for and we can't wait to have another darling child in our arms to love. So, yes, this might also have contributed to my silence around here, but I hope you understand. Gestating is no picnic! I'm glad to finally be feeling better.

I'll be back with more on our writing workshop, the aforementioned lasagna, a little report on this cookbook, and this one, and of course a lot more on Classic German Baking, which just received its first review, from Publisher's Weekly, no less! See you very soon.