Recipes: Traveling the culinary world with ‘The Chew’ co-host Carla Hall

04/23/2014 12:00 AM

04/21/2014 2:04 PM

Carla Hall wants people to travel the globe in their kitchens – and creative use of seasonings is the ticket.

Her latest book, “Carla’s Comfort Foods,” promises (in the words of the front flap) to turn “your favorite go-to dish into a culinary trip around the world.”

Hall, co-host of ABC’s “The Chew,” opens the book with a spice chart, outlining the important herbs, spices and aromatics used by the world’s major cuisines.

Her global theme was born out of the 2012 presidential election, where the Washington, D.C.-based Hall recalls politicians spending much of their time emphasizing the “smallest differences” between people.

Her book, on the other hand, focuses on what people have in common, namely a desire for delicious, comforting food, and how spices, herbs and other aromatics can help transform a familiar dish into something new.

Take her Hungarian-style chicken with sour cream and paprika.

“This is the dish where this whole book started,” the recipe head note reads. It is based on the chicken with milk gravy that Hall’s grandmother used to make.

And while the flavors of the finished dishes will be different, the recipes share many of the same cooking techniques.

Hall doesn’t stop with chicken. Peas are buttered and seasoned with tarragon in French fashion, mashed British-style and spooned up in an Indian chili, pea and coconut chutney.

Eggplant stars in an Italian caponata, a Chinese hot and sour stir-fry and an Indian potato and tomato stew. Cornmeal turns up as Southern cheese grits, Italian polenta and a Jamaican porridge.

“I want you to explore some of these cuisines,” says Hall, a former competitor on Bravo’s “Top Chef.” Hall says people tend to be afraid of spices – too hot, they fear – and she wants readers to feel at ease enough to play with the spices and herbs called for in the recipes.

“I want you to feel you are making something awesome,” she says.

RECIPES

Chicken with milk gravy

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves 4

Both recipes here are from “Carla’s Comfort Foods” by Carla Hall. The preparation for the chicken is similar in each, then the recipes diverge. After frying the chicken, we poured off all the fat except what was needed to continue the recipes, 2 to 4 tablespoons.

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons flour

Pinch each: garlic powder, dried thyme, cayenne

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2 pounds total), excess fat and excess skin removed

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 3/4 cups chicken stock or store-bought unsalted chicken broth

1/4 cup whole milk

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, thyme, cayenne and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a large cast-iron skillet with oil to a depth of 1/8 inch; heat it over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. The oil should dimple and have wavy lines. Season the chicken generously with salt; add it to the hot oil, skin side down, spacing the pieces apart. Don’t crowd the pan; work in batches if you have to.

Reduce the heat to medium. When the skin is dark golden brown, turn the pieces over. Cook until the bottom is dark golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in the garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is nice and soft, about 7 minutes.

Whisk in the spiced flour; cook, whisking continuously, 1 minute. Continue whisking rapidly and add the chicken stock in a slow, steady stream. Turn the heat to low to maintain a steady simmer. Nestle the chicken pieces in the gravy, skin side up; add any accumulated juices from the plate. The sauce shouldn’t cover the skin. Partially cover the skillet; simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes

Transfer the chicken to serving dishes. Whisk the milk into the gravy; cook, whisking continuously, just until heated through. Season to taste. Spoon around the chicken.

__________

Chicken with sour cream and paprika

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2 pounds total), excess fat and excess skin removed

Kosher salt

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 Serrano chilies, stemmed, seeded, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, or more to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 cup chicken stock or store-bought unsalted chicken broth

1/3 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

INSTRUCTIONS

Fill a large cast-iron skillet with oil to a depth of 1/8 inch; heat it over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. The oil should dimple and have wavy lines.

Season the chicken generously with salt; add it to the hot oil, skin side down, spacing the pieces apart. Don’t crowd the pan; work in batches if you have to.

Reduce the heat to medium. When the skin is dark golden brown, turn the pieces over. Cook until the bottom is dark golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the onion, chilies, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is nice and soft, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the paprika and cayenne; cook 1 minute. Stir in the chicken stock, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer.

Nestle the chicken pieces in the sauce, skin side up; add any accumulated juices from the plate. The sauce shouldn’t cover the skin.

Partially cover the skillet; simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to serving dishes. Reduce the heat to low so that the sauce no longer simmers. Whisk the sour cream into the gravy until just heated through. Don’t let the sauce come to a boil, or it will break. Spoon the sauce around the chicken; top with parsley.

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