Pantry Category

Peanut Butter & Squid

Ah, the classic peanut butter and dried squid snack. Where’s the Smucker’s grape jelly, you ask? Wonder Bread? BORING. What that classic combination really needs is a salty, briny, tough and stringy piece of jerky a la squid.

I can almost guarantee that in a Korean living room, bar, or “cafe,” where there is drinking of soju or beer (Hite or OB usually); then somewhere on that same table, there will be an unkempt scattering of fibers from strips of ojingo (dried squid) and peanuts (shelled or un-shelled) being eaten together. This is one of the most popular anju or snacks to eat while drinking for Koreans.

This combination is classic. There are even packaged snacks that deliver the strange combination in one cute little bite-size package.

I admit that peanut butter isn’t necessarily traditional. Typically, you’ll see whole peanuts being eaten with ojingo; some people like my Dad tear the ojingo into a thin strip, wrap it around a whole peanut, and then pop it all in their mouth at once. Others roast up the ojingo over a flame which softens it and intensifies the fishy flavor (don’t try this at home unless you’re an expert Korean person like my Mom. Seriously, it stinks up the whole house and the ojingo pieces usually catch on fire). And still others, especially children, like to take a strip and gnaw and suck on it until it literally looks like a wet ragged piece of cheesecloth at the end of an alien-like creature.

What’s nice about peanut butter is that you most likely have a half full jar in your fridge somewhere. It’s easy to dip into with a hard strip of ojingo. And what you lose in texture with peanut butter, you gain in indulgent sweetness.

Of course, don’t expect to be able to spread that peanut butter on much else, unless you like squid flavor on your sandwiches. And if you’re overzealous with your dipping, expect those skinny jeans to feel a little tighter.

Either way – whole or spoonable, dried or roasted – this combo is oddly wonderful.

Meals from the Pantry: Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

One pot meals that get better over time are all the rage in our house lately. I’ve gotten in the habit of leisurely cooking a bit pot o’ something in my trusty Le Creuset dutch oven on Sundays, and it’s made dinners during the week (and lunches for the hubby) so convenient and stress-free.

Here’s a recipe I adapted from the iconic Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook for a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. Their version takes two days, so I created my own version that still delivers the lusciousness and comfort of a traditional gumbo, while staying user- and pantry-friendly. If you want to kick it up for an occasion, use rabbit instead of chicken!


Sunday Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Adapted from The Uglesich’s Restaurant Cookbook

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup flour
1 medium white onion
2 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (white part mostly)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp of parsley, chopped
1 dry bay leaf
3/4 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry marjoram
1/2 tsp dry basil
2 tbsp file powder
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp Cajun spice powder (no salt version)
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cartons (32 oz each) low sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
1/2 lb (half pkg) Hilshire Farm beef smoked sausage, sliced into about 1/2″ thick pieces
2 lbs chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
Worcestershire Sauce
Black pepper
Hot sauce


The hardest part of this gumbo is the prep. And the hardest part about the prep is poaching the chicken. And the hardest part of poaching chicken is being patient and trusting it’s getting cooked in the pot even though the water is barely simmering!

Poached Chicken
Recipe adapted from

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
4-5 cups water
1 bay leaf
5 whole black peppercorns
Pinch of salt

Cut each chicken breast in half so they are all about the same size. Place chicken breasts snugly in ideally one layer in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot. If you have some pieces on a second layer, I wouldn’t sweat it but just try to layer evenly. Cover chicken with water (make sure all is covered). Add bay leaf, salt, and whole black peppercorns. Stir water just to stop the herbs from floating.

Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low so that the water is barely at a simmer. Partly covered, simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat completely, and allow chicken to remain in hot water for 15-20 minutes.

Remove chicken to a bowl until it is lukewarm. Shred the chicken and set aside.

This can be prepared a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate over night.


Now that you’ve got your chicken done, it’s time to gumbo! I highly recommend that you prep and assemble all the ingredients in a mise en place fashion so that you don’t get bogged down in chopping here and measuring there. Especially for something like a gumbo where a lot goes into a pot, not having to worry about prep while you’re cooking allows you to really focus on the flavor and seasoning which is where it’s all at anyway!

In a large pot or dutch oven, add the oil and set on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the flour. Try to sprinkle it evenly over the oil. You’re about to make a roux which is as traditional as traditional gets in Creole Cajun cooking! By using a whisk or a wooden spoon (I like to use both based on how things are progressing), stir the flour into the oil for about 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll see a lovely transformation take place where the flour and oil mixture transforms into a creamy base the color of peanut butter.

Add the onions, celery, green pepper, scallions, garlic and parsley. Saute until veggies soften and are mixed well with the roux.

Add the thyme, basil, bay leaf, cayenne, and about a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of black pepper. Stir into veggie and roux mixture, then pour in can of crushed tomatoes.

Again continue to incorporate all ingredients well, then add the chicken broth.

Give everything a good stir and then add the shredded chicken, andouille, smoked sausage, file powder, Cajun spice powder, and some healthy dashes of both the Worcestershire sauce, and your favorite Louisiana pepper sauce or Cajun hot sauce.

Jordan being a hot sauce fanatic ensures we always have a good variety, but use what you like and how spicy you make it is up to you!

Bring the gumbo up to a boil, then turn down the heat until you have a gentle simmer.

Simmer on low partially covered for 2 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper and cayenne and/or hot sauce (as desired).

Serve over cooked rice.


This is definitely one of those dishes that gets better and better the longer it sits, but you’re going to want to treat yourself to a least a little bowl! Don’t forget you can garnish with a little chopped scallion on top too, and maybe a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce.


Meals from the Pantry: Pork involtini stuffed with spinach and ricotta, sauce “alla cacciatora”

After our boisterous “Tour of Italy” dinner party where we bribed our friends with an authentic Tuscan meal if they sat through a picture slideshow of our Italy trip, I had plenty of pork scallopine left from the Scallopine alla Chianti (pork cutlets in a Chianti reduction with rosemary and juniper), and spinach ricotta filling from the fresh ravioli with butter and sage we cooked.

So on the drive home from work today, I had only one thing on the mind for tonight’s dinner: involtini!

Involtini are like a “roulade” if you’re familar with the term. They are thin slices of meat rolled with a mixture of cheese, egg (to bind), and really any combination of other ingredients you may want. It’s great especially if you’ve got leftover ingredients like I did.

Pork involtini stuffed with spinach and ricotta, sauce “alla cacciatora”

8 thinly pounded pork loin cutlets (1/5″ thick)
1 green pepper, julienned
1 medium to large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons capers (optional)
1 28-ounce can of tomatoes, whole or crushed
1/3 bottle of dry red wine
1 teaspoon crushed chile flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
Spinach ricotta filling (see below)


Spinach Ricotta filling
1 pound fresh spinach, blanched and finely chopped (with water completely squeezed out) – substitute frozen chopped spinach
1 pint or 15 ounces of whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup of finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, add spinach, ricotta, egg, parmigiano, and a little salt and pepper. Combine all together well.


Prep the Pork!
Lay out a piece of pork. Then dollop a couple tablespoons of filling to the middle and spread an even layer on the pork so that it’s easy to roll and filling doesn’t squeeze out. Try to leave a little uncovered pork on the other end. Then take the end nearest you and roll it up. Secure the roll with a toothpick so that it lays flat and doesn’t open up.

Roll up all the involtini and lightly season all around with salt and pepper.

Time to Cook!
Heat saute pan or skillet to medium-high, and add enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan. When pan is hot, add the onions and peppers and saute for 2 minutes, then add the garlic. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn, until the vegetables soften and begin to caramelize. You should also see some nice brown bits on the bottom of your skillet as well.

Pour the red wine over the vegetables. Enjoy the sizzle! This will loosen the brown bits allowing you to scrape them all up. After deglazing, turn the heat down and simmer the wine and the vegetables until about 1/2 the liquid is cooked off.

When sauce is ready, crush the whole tomatoes into pulpy pieces and add them and the tomato puree into the sauce. I like to gently crush the tomatoes directly in the can (don’t be rough, you’ll be covered in juice!) and pour the whole thing in. Add capers, oregano, and chile flakes. Season with salt and some fresh black pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly. Bring sauce back up to a simmer.


Heat another skillet on medium-high heat and add enough extra virgin olive oil to generously coat it. When it’s hot, add the involtini and lightly brown them on all sides. You don’t want to cook the involtini through, just put a nice color on each one. Each should take only a couple minutes.

When they are ready, nestle each one in the pan with the sauce. Try to cover them with some veggies and sauce. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until sauce has thickened a bit and pork is cooked.


Serve involtini with the yummy veggies and sauce on top. Don’t skimp! Generously sprinkle grated parmiggiano on top if desired.

Chow down!


10 2010