It’s been cold and dreary in Portland this week and with every increasingly strong gust of wind, it’s becoming very clear that winter is approaching. A few weekends ago, the wind was so relentless that it took down trees all over town. We were lucky to only lose a 14-foot branch from the fir tree in our backyard. After talking to some of my co-workers, it sounds like we fared pretty well.
Since then, the wind has died down but the rain has not. Being a daily bike commuter means I come home every evening drenched, peeling off my soaked rain jacket, rain pants and booties.
It’s days like these that call for soup — something both warming in temperature and in spiciness.
Given the numerous Pok Pok posts on this blog, it’s clear I’m a girl with a serious hang up. Maybe it’s because I eat there often enough to know how good the food is, giving me extra motivation to replicate the dishes at home using the cookbook. Or because I know Chef Ricker’s recipes are spot-on and precise, which makes going through the effort all the more rewarding.
But, besides delights like yam khai doa and phat si ew, if you also own this cookbook, it’s possible you bought it just for one recipe: Ike’s Fish Sauce Wings. It’s okay — no judgment here! Ike’s wings are killer. The most perfect bar snack since beer nuts, they are at once salty, sticky and sweet. Every bite is full of umami bliss.
I can say with certainty I have never been to Pok Pok without ordering these wings. (Wait! The very first time I was there the wings hadn’t even been put on the menu yet!)
Chicken thighs marinated in coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass.
I almost titled this “Mother Nature is a bitch” but I didn’t want to get on her bad side.
See, I’m a summer person; I tend to daydream about sunshine from October all way until June. So it’s no surprise that last week my mind was on white sandy beaches when Portland got buried under 7 inches of snow.
Within the first hour of “Snowmageddon,” most of Portland was in a panic. People left work in droves, restaurants closed and the roads were flooded with cars as everyone tried to make it home before the worst of the storm hit.
I, on the other hand, was simply mad.
Sure snow can be pretty, but come on — I got through all of December and January marveling at how mild the weather was only to let my guard down in February. It was just cruel, and the cruelness continued for three days, ending with a stint of freezing rain that coated the streets in a layer of ice.
And even as the days finally warmed up and the snow began to melt, I continued to give in to thoughts of tropical beaches, palm trees and fancy umbrella drinks. It was not a good mental path to go down when the city you live in is covered in dirty slush.
One of my favorite work stories is the day I got a call from a guy who wanted to buy some possum meat. We get that type of call all the time — people looking for beaver, lion and squirrel — so this request was not too strange. I told him we did not sell possum, expecting that to be the end of it.
Instead he started to argue with me, saying that he was looking at our price list online and possum was on there as being a “stock item.” Baffled, I asked him for the item number. He gave it to me and I could barely contain my laughter as I said, “Sir, that’s not possum, it’s poussin — baby chickens.”
That happened years ago but it still makes me giggle.
For anyone else unfamiliar with poussin, they are basically a chicken a few weeks younger than a game hen. Once processed and packed, they weigh about 15-17 oz, making them ideal for a one-bird-per-person dinner.
I rarely ever buy them, but I had a recipe that I wanted to try out and it called for 2 each 3# chickens. Since I was only cooking for two people, I figured two poussin would work just fine.
Chicken wings, cooked the way my grandma always makes them, are a nostalgic food for me. The recipe she uses has been in the family for years and with one bite, they instantly transport me back to my childhood. Cooked low and slow, the wings end up as glossy little things, coated in a sticky mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar and wine. I love them so much it’s hard for me to even contemplating trying out a different wing recipe.
However, fellow Portland dweller Cam (who makes “violently delicious food for a modern life”) just posted a recipe for Triple Threat Chicken Wings on her blog Gekiuma. Her photos of the lacquered wings dripping with garlic, ginger and chilies were enticing enough to make me reconsider. And it seemed too much of a coincidence, serendipitous in fact, that I happened to have a package of chicken wings in the fridge.
So within 24 hours of her post, I broke tradition and gave her Triple Threat Wings a shot.
There was a recipe, pulled from an issue of Saveur, that I’d been wanting to try out since December. It was the name that got to me: Dolores’s Brokenhearted Chicken, so-called “because it tastes so good it makes you hungry even if you’re heartbroken.”
It sounded like a dish that could cure any life woes — the very essence of comfort food. The chicken is cooked somewhere inbetween being roasted and braised in a sauce made of stock, sherry and butter. It’s topped with parsley to brighten the flavors and served with crusty bread. And while the chicken is good (very good in fact), it’s the luxurious sauce that is the true winner. It soaks into the bread making it almost like a custard — full of flavor and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
In other words, this was the perfect meal for me to make before I left on vacation a few weeks ago. I had been running around so much that I was mentally and physically exhausted. In fact, I was so rushed that I ended up making this after I ate a dinner of ramen, so that my husband could have dinner ready when he came home.
See, the thing with being married to a chef and having a day job means we are often like ships passing in the night. I’m asleep when he gets home, he’s asleep when I leave for work. I try to make his late nights a little better by having a plate of food waiting for him when he gets home. Having cooked professionally for years, I know the last thing you want to do at the end of the night is eat anything you’ve cooked yourself. It’s just so much better when someone makes it for you.
So while this chicken is supposed to be made to comfort the lovelorn, I like to think it better expresses my attempts at being a good wife. (In return, since marriage is a two-way street and all, my husband makes sure my kegerator is never empty. That’s love.)