Easy Chicken Pho

As with so many of my recipes, this is not truly authentic. I’m lucky there are many Vietnamese restaurants in Southern California that serve delicious gluten-free pho (both beef and chicken). I’m also aware that every place I’ve ever gone has a slightly different variation of the broth.

Some are salty and a bit spicy. Some have a bit more sweetness. Most are very rich, with intense meat or vegetable flavor.

These different flavor profiles make me confident my soup is just fine for those times when I don’t want to venture outside to get my pho fix. And when I say this soup is addictive, you can either take my word for it, or, well, become an addict yourself!

Yes, beef pho is traditional, but I haven’t mastered a good beef broth (I’ve mastered an okay beef broth), so I stick with chicken when I’m dining at home. Some things, I believe, are best left to the experts.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry

This is a great, easy recipe for weeknight meals. Soy sauce and fish sauce marinate the chicken. A bit of brown sugar added to the final stir fry adds a touch of sweetness and helps caramelize the chicken while it’s cooking. Bright green broccoli is the final touch in this fast meal.

On Mustard

I am going to introduce a controversial topic here: my favorite condiment.

I won’t keep you guessing. I love mustard beyond all reason. My refrigerator is an embarrassment of mustard styles. Except honey mustard. I don’t understand the concept of honey mustard. Heck, I’m teetering on the edge of making my own mustard (someone, anyone, push me!).

For the record, I am not a ketchup fan. I wouldn’t even have the stuff in my house if it weren’t for the sake of maintaining a happy marriage. Someone I married a dude who reflexively ketchups just about potato item he sees. To each his own, I suppose.

In addition to the tangy heat mustard naturally has, it’s a low-calorie condiment. Unlike, oh mayo, a condiment I’ve been learning to love in moderation. And, of course, unless things have gone horribly wrong, mustard is gluten free, making it something you can trust in your kitchen.

Here are some ideas for incorporating mustard into your cooking repertoire (though I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that one of my favorite party dishes is sausage with a mustard dip):

  • Barbecue Sauce: Yeah, I love my mustard in barbecue sauces. I’m not alone. Use this sauce on everything. Literally. Everything.
  • Braised Dishes: I love to braise chicken in a mustard sauce. Even more than enjoying the sauce with that night’s dinner, I love having leftover sauce for lunches. This is a perfect comfort food dish. Serve the chicken over rice, potatoes, or quinoa.
  • Cream Sauces: The chicken dish above is essentially a cream sauce, but what about other cream(y) sauces? Like, oh, this delicious sounding egg dish with mustard-creamed spinach. Skip the breadcrumb topping unless you have gluten-free crumbs handy (I keep the ends from Udi’s loaves in freezer to make breadcrumbs on the fly).
  • Marinade: Dry mustard, Dijon, or even a traditional yellow mustard are perfect additions to marinades. Pork, fish, and chicken are perfect candidates for mustard-based marinades. I’ve even made lamb chops this way.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Oh yeah! Is there a reason why you shouldn’t add mustard to your mashed potatoes? No, not a single one.
  • Meat Rub or Glaze: Of course, you know the fun of including dry mustard in your spice rubs. But what I love is using it as a coating for pork chops or salmon. If you’re breading your pork chops, incorporate the mustard into base layer.
  • Potato Salad: My favorite potato salad features a tangy mustard-based vinaigrette instead of a creamy mayonnaise dressing (you could add a bit of mayo or Greek yogurt if you like that creaminess). The warm potatoes absorb lots of flavor from the vinaigrette, so be sure to reserve some for tossing with the potatoes right before serving. Needless to say, a grainy Dijon is perfect here!
  • Stews: I add mustard to crockpot dishes like braised beef or pork. Again, the tanginess enhances flavors. When I make a beef stew, mustard is one of my secret ingredients.
  • Veggie Flavor Enhancer: Mustard can be used in many ways to amp up the flavor of vegetables. It’s great with Brussels sprouts, and, confession, I’d probably mix up my own honey mustard for roasted Brussels sprouts. Or, if I weren’t in a sweet mood, this recipe from Michael Symon would do the trick.

What are your favorite ways to use mustard? Tell me!

Tip of the Week

Mustard, due to the vinegar used to make it, lasts a good long time (well, beyond the “enjoy by” date given by manufacturers). You can store an unopened container in your pantry for about a year. Store opened containers in the refrigerator for about a year. Do not use mustard where the liquid has significantly separated from the other ingredients or mustard, gone dark, and/or that smells “off”.

Menu of the Week

Of course, this week’s menu features lots of mustard! The chicken in the Dijon sauce is a favorite of mine — you can customize the dish for any style of chicken you like. It also makes incredible leftovers. Spoon a bit of the sauce over rice and make your mouth happy!

The addition of mustard to the creamed spinach amps up the flavor — bitter greens are greatly enhanced with a bit of mustard. I prefer to use coconut milk instead of the traditional cream because I like the subtle sweetness it brings to a dish.

  • Chicken with Dijon Sauce
  • Mustard-Coconut Milk Creamed Spinach
  • Rice or Potatoes for Absorbing Extra Sauce

Chicken Chile Verde

Chile Verde is a green, tangy tomatillo-based salsa or sauce. While you can certainly use the sauce for dipping chips or chilaquiles, I love simmering chicken or pork in the sauce for a quick weeknight stew. I love the addition of jalapeno to the sauce, but it can be omitted if your prefer your food less spicy.

(You can also ramp up the heat by using additional peppers or adding a few dashes of red pepper flakes or chipotle powder.)

There is no need to add a thickener to the salsa — the tomatillos have lots of pectin to do the job.

Ready, Set, Eat!

I’ll admit it: I envy people who have time to make full meals during the week. Every day, my inbox is filled with recipes and meal plans and great ideas to feed my family. As I look at complicated ingredient lists and photos of artful garnishes, I wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

Because, during the week, I don’t have the luxury of meals that take forever to prepare. My menus are filled with fast, efficient meals. Any artful garnishes that hit the plate are pure luck! Continue reading “Ready, Set, Eat!”

Chicken Paprikash

Since I’m half Hungarian, I’d like to pretend that I’ve been making this dish since birth. The truth is I’ve only been making it for a few years. While you can make it spicy with the addition of cayenne or hot paprika, I like the way the onions and paprika mellow into a slightly sweet and smoky dish. Some dishes don’t need to be spicy hot!

This version uses chicken on the bone (I generally use thighs because they are so good and relatively inexpensive), but you can substitute boneless meat. The volume of onions will seem huge, but they cook down pretty quickly. The longer the onions braise, the more they melt into the sauce.

If you’re making this for a party, transfer the browned meat and onions to a crockpot and cook on low for several hours. I prefer using cut-up boneless thighs if I’m making this for a party.

Chicken Vindaloo

Vindaloo is a tangy, spicy curry with origins in Portugal — the vin in vindaloo stands for “vinha de alhos”, or wine vinegar. The spiciness comes from a mix of warm spices such as cumin and coriander, as supplemented by a bit of cayenne. My husband would probably eat this dish every day if he could.

If you have time, marinate your chicken — or lamb, beef, pork — in some of the curry paste before cooking. If not, no worries. I prefer chicken thighs over chicken breasts because they carry more flavor. If have breasts on hand, they’re a fine choice.

As with most curries, this recipe is naturally gluten free. The list of ingredients is long, but don’t let that daunt you. The whole thing comes together very quickly!

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