Spice up your chicken!

September 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Add some extra flavor to your bland, old chicken dish with a recipe for a spiced rub. Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine and editor of the cookbook "Gourmet Today: More Than 1000 All-New Foolproof Recipes for Today's Kitchen," shares this recipe.

Recipe: Spiced Chicken
Serves 4
Active Time: 10 Minutes Start To Finish: 45 Minutes

Fragrant and deeply savory, this spice rub balances the heat of chili powder and black pepper with the more floral notes of coriander and cinnamon. It jazzes up bland chicken breasts nicely, and legs give even juicier results. The quick pan sauce adds an extra shot of flavor.

  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 chicken breast halves (with skin and bones) or 4 whole chicken legs, thighs and drumsticks separated if desired, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup water

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.

Stir together spices, salt, and 1 tablespoon oil. Rub evenly all over chicken.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Brown chicken, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes.

Zucchini Curry
Serves 6
Active Time: 20 Minutes Start To Finish: 35 Minutes

Zucchini benefits from strong seasoning, and that's what it gets in this finely tuned curry. Mustard seeds, cumin, ginger, chile, and garlic do the trick, while coconut milk adds lushness. Don't skimp on the cashews and cilantro-they make a nice counterpoint to the tender squash. If you can find fresh Cocozelle zucchini at your farmers market, snap it up. This striped, ridged variety has a sweeter and more pronounced flavor than regular zucchini.

  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow or brown mustard seeds (see Sources)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño chile, including seeds
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder, preferably Madras
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 medium Cocozelle or regular zucchini (3 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 (13- to 14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk, well stirred
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews, chopped

ACCOMPANIMENT: basmati rice

Toast mustard and cumin seeds in a dry small heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until cumin seeds are fragrant and a shade darker and mustard seeds pop, about 2 minutes. Cool.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound garlic, jalapeño (to taste), ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt to a paste (or mince and mash with a large heavy knife). Stir in curry powder, coriander, and toasted mustard and cumin seeds.

Heat oil in a 6-quart wide heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add curry paste and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add zucchini and cook, stirring, until it begins to look moist, 3 to 5 minutes. Add coconut milk and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is just tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Sprinkle with cilantro and cashews and serve with rice.

Devil's Food Cake with Marshmallow Frosting
Serves 8
Active Time: 30 Minutes Start To Finish: 2 1/2 Hours (Includes Cooling)

Topped with swirls of fluff y white frosting, this cocoa cake will take you back to those "devil dog" snack cakes of your childhood-but it's much better. Baked in a brownie pan, it's easy to pull together on a weeknight, and it is just the thing for a homey family celebration.

FOR CAKE

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, left at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups water

FOR FROSTING

  • 2 large egg whites, left at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

GARNISH: unsweetened cocoa powder

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: an 8-inch square baking pan

MAKE THE CAKE: Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter baking pan and dust with flour.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and water alternately in 3 batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing until just combined.

Pour batter into cake pan and smooth top. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 1 hour.

Run a thin knife around sides of pan and invert cake onto rack, then reinvert onto a cake plate.

MAKE THE FROSTING: Combine all ingredients in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled.

Mound frosting on top of cake. Dust with cocoa powder.

COOK'S NOTES:
The cake improves in flavor if made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, uncovered, then keep, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature. Frost the cake just before serving.

The egg whites in the frosting are not fully cooked. If that is a concern, see page 915. Alternatively, substitute pasteurized liquid egg whites or reconstituted powdered egg whites, such as Just Whites.

Blackberry Upside-Down Cake
Serves 6
Active Time: 20 Minutes Start To Finish: 45 Minutes

Pints of chubby blackberries line produce shelves all year round, and they are surprisingly good, even when out of season. So while this buttermilk cake is sublime at the height of blackberry season, it's also very tasty in the depths of winter. Be sure to line the cake pan with a double layer of parchment, as called for; without it, the blackberries tend to take on a tinny flavor.

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 ounces) blackberries
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, left at room temperature for 30 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk

ACCOMPANIMENT: vanilla ice cream

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: an 8-by-2-inch round cake pan; parchment paper

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter cake pan and line bottom with two rounds of parchment paper, then butter top piece of parchment. Dust pan with flour, knocking out excess.

Arrange blackberries in one layer in pan. Sprinkle with 11?2 tablespoons sugar and shake pan to help distribute sugar.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter and remaining 1?2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer (fitted with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix at low speed until just incorporated. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in 3 batches, scraping down sides of bowl between batches, mixing until just incorporated.

Spoon batter evenly over berries, smoothing top. Bake until top is golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes.

Run a thin knife around sides of pan, invert a large plate over pan, and, using pot holders to hold plate and pan tightly together, flip cake onto plate. Peel off parchment and serve cake with ice cream.

For more information, visit www.gourmet.com

About Ruth Reichl:
Ruth Reichl joined Gourmet as Editor in Chief in April 1999. She came to the magazine from the New York Times, where she had been the restaurant critic since 1993. As chef and co-owner of The Swallow Restaurant from 1974 to 1977, she played a part in the culinary revolution that took place in Berkeley, California. In the years that followed, she served as restaurant critic for New West and California magazines. In 1984, she became restaurant critic of the Los Angeles Times, where she was also named food editor. Reichl began writing about food in 1972, when she published a book called Mmmmm: A Feastiary. Since then, she has authored the critically acclaimed, best-selling memoirs, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Not Becoming My Mother. She is the editor of The Modern Library Cooking Series, released in March 2001. She has also written the introductions for Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery: Recipes for the Connoisseur (1996) and Measure of Her Powers: An M.F.K. Fisher Reader (2000).

Reichl has been honored with three James Beard Awards (two for restaurant criticism, in 1996 and 1998, and one for journalism, in 1994) and with numerous awards from the Association of American Food Journalists. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan, and lives in New York City with her husband, Michael Singer, a television news producer, and their son.

John Willoughby, Gourmet's executive editor, who collaborated on shaping and editing the book, is available for recipe demonstrations and other publicity. He is the coauthor of nine cookbooks, including the best-selling Thrill of the Grill. He has appeared many times on television and radio.

Ruth will be appearing at the Commonwealth Club at the Cubberley Theater in Palo Alto on September 29, 2009.

Time: 5:45pm check-in; 6:15pm event; 7:15pm book signing

Location: Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto CA (650) 329-2418

Price: $12 members, $18 non-members

Website: tickets.commonwealthclub.org


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