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Traveling the culinary world with 'The Chew' co-host Carla Hall

The Chew co-hosts Iron Chef Michael Symon, left, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Daphne Oz rehearse with the studio audience. Hall’s new book brings a twist to comfort foods.

Associated Press (2011)

The Chew co-hosts Iron Chef Michael Symon, left, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly and Daphne Oz rehearse with the studio audience. Hall’s new book brings a twist to comfort foods.

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: Favorite Dishes From Around the World (Atria, 2014), 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, wrote the book with Genevieve Ko. She opens 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, and the dish 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 the 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.

>>MODERATE

Chicken Around the World

The preparation for these two chicken recipes is similar in each, then the flavors diverge. When frying the chicken, don't crowd the pan; work in batches if you have to. After frying the chicken, we poured off all the fat except what was needed to continue the recipes.

Chicken

with Milk Gravy

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 ¾ cups chicken stock or unsalted chicken broth

¼ cup whole milk

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

Fill a large cast-iron skillet with oil to a depth of ⅛ 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.

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. Pour off all but 2 to 4 tablespoons of the fat.

Add onion and ¼ teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in the garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is 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.

Serves 4.

Nutrition information per serving: 439 calories; 28g fat; 11g carbohydrates; 34g protein; 273mg sodium; 1g fiber.

Chicken with Sour Cream and Paprika

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

½ teaspoon sweet paprika, or more to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 cup chicken stock or unsalted chicken broth

cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Fill a large cast-iron skillet with oil to a depth of ⅛ 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.

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. Pour off all but 2 to 4 tablespoons of the fat.

Add the onion, chilies, garlic and ¼ 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.

Serves 4.

Nutrition information per serving: 487 calories; 37g fat; 5g carbohydrates; 32g protein; 159mg sodium; 1g fiber.



Source: Carla's Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes From Around the World by Carla Hall and Genevieve Ko (Atria, 2014)

Traveling the culinary world with 'The Chew' co-host Carla Hall 04/21/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2014 4:32pm]

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