Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chili chicken, pork and seafood

I really hate long, elaborate recipes. We cook family meals five days a week, and my attention span in the kitchen is only 15 to 20 minutes. I prefer rubs to sauces, and don't eat or cook with butter or cream. I recall vividly the New Year's Eve when I prepared Spanish Duck, Mountain-Style from a New York Times cookbook. Not only did I spend the evening alone, my duck wasn't done until long after midnight.

That's why I love a breadcrumb and spice mixture that makes quick work of preparing chicken, pork, fish and shrimp. I keep a large tub of this breading in my refrigerator, where it lasts for months.

The basic ingredients are plain breadcrumbs from the supermarket and the spices and salt in Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili Kit, which you can find in some stores or buy online. Over the years, I've improvised and added black sesame seeds and even more spices.

I wet the chicken pieces, pork chops, fish fillets or shrimp, then coat them in the mildly spicy breading before popping them into the oven to bake as usual at 350 to 375 degrees. I love how the juices mix with the coating to produce a savory, down-home flavor.

Start with a large can of plain or flavored breadcrumbs and the spices, salt and other ingredients from six chili kits -- onion/garlic, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin/oregano and paprika. Do not use the masa flour, a thickening agent like corn starch. This week, I added more salt, Korean red pepper, black pepper, black sesame seeds, allspice, garam masala, tumeric and sumac. No spice would be out of place here.

The balance of breadcrumbs and spice is up to you, but you want a breading that taste predominantly of spice. You don't even have to use Wick Fowler's kit, unless you want to make chili. Enjoy.

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