You Can Serve a (Halal) Presidential Inauguration Luncheon, Too

This site has been officially moved to a new domain, http://www.myhalalkitchen.com. Please visit there to see what’s cooking!

White House Lawn in Winter

White House Lawn in Winter

If you’re like many other Americans today, you’ve been keeping a close eye on all of today’s historic Presidential Inauguration events. For foodies like myself, what was being served up at this afteroon’s luncheon was of key interest to me.

I’ve heard the Obamas are healthy eaters who also like Mexican food (particularly that which is served up at Rick Bayless’ restaurant, Topolobampo, right here in Chicago). http://www.fronterakitchens.com/restaurants/restaurants.html

This made me wonder if there would be organic food on the menu. What about Mexican food? I was interested to know but never imagined that the menu, let alone the recipes, would be available online!

Served to the President, First Lady and Congressional Staff:

First course: Seafood Stew
Second Course: Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney , Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing, Molasses Whipped Sweet Potatoes and Winter Vegetables.
Dessert: Cinnamon Apple Sponge Cake

Some tips for you to make these recipes halal:

-Leave out the vermouth (a type of alcohol) listed in the Seafood Stew recipe

-For the Duck Breast with Cherry Chutney recipe, substitute kosher grape juice for the red wine and do not use the Dijon mustard called for in the recipe, as most Dijon mustards have red wine vinegar in them. I would not substitute with any other kind of mustard, as they are mostly too ‘yellow’ and may discolor the end result. Just leave it out. And, If you’ve been a reader of this blog before, you know where you can find a halal duck, (http://www.midamar.com), or scroll down to find the article “To Roast a Duckling” where you can read more about halal ducklings.

-For the Herb Roasted Pheasant with Wild Rice Stuffing, if you can’t find a halal pheasant, try roasting a halal quail instead. They can be found, usually frozen and sold in packets of two, in most Middle Eastern or Mediterranean marts. Online they can be found at http://seattlediscountwarehouse.com/Quail%20page.htm, however, I have never bought from this merchant and cannot comment on their quality, taste or halal certification.

-The dessert calls for vanilla extract. Do not use the pure vanilla extract because it is stripped with alcohol, usually vodka, to bring out the extract of the vanilla bean. Instead, try using your own vanilla bean or an imitation vanilla extract- those usually don’t contain any alcohol at all.

Here’s the link to the pages where you can download the menu and the recipes listed above.

http://inaugural.senate.gov/documents/doc-2009-recipes.pdf

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To Roast a Duckling

This site has been officially moved to a new domain, http://www.myhalalkitchen.com. Please visit there to see what’s cooking!

To roast a duckling is an endeavor not meant for the faint-hearted of the kitchen. I’ve cooked duck in the past and it was disastrous- tough, pan-seared breast that I never researched how to make in the first place. How hard could it be, really?

It was the early years of marriage and my sweet husband ate every tough-to-chew last bit of it, while I looked at my plate deciding not to finish the ‘mistake’ on my plate. I knew then he was much too nice- or much too hungry. He argues that a person can be both, and that I must agree with.

Well, that was seven years ago and I have since broken down and learned that it doesn’t mean I’m not a natural in the kitchen if I have to read a recipe or study particular cooking techniques, especially in preparation for roasting poultry and game that are not regulars at our dinner table.

While recently shopping at our favorite Mediterranean grocery store, I scanned the frozen food aisle just to see if anything was new in prepared foods such as pizzas and falafel and meats like halal burgers and sejouk, or spicy sausages. I’m not a fan of frozen foods, but once in a while I do find something useful, especially at this store, which sells only halal products- very exciting in its own right.

Much to my surprise, sitting right next to the halal turkeys, I spotted a smaller frozen bird of some sort. I thought it was probably just another whole chicken but it seemed a tad bit larger so I turned it around to look at the label, not expecting it to be anything I would actually purchase (we already had an entire lamb being prepared for us as we shopped). Sure enough, it was the first frozen halal duckling I had ever seen before. I plopped it into the cart and hoped for the best, hoping I wasn’t kidding myself into thinking I could actually make up for the last bird.

At the checkout, the store clerk commented that the roast duckling would be ‘an extravagant meal’. “Great,” I thought. Just what I needed- not only to mess up the duck, but to waste money and ‘extravagant’ food in the process. “I’m in trouble now,” I murmured to myself.

I spent a couple of weeks letting the little duckling continue its destiny deep in the depths of my standing freezer. I thought about it often, trying to come up with my own recipe in my head, and then came to my senses: “NO! Not again, I will ruin the reputation of roast duckling for my husband forever if I do THAT again! I need the perfect recipe.”

Once again, Julia Child came to my rescue, renewing my hope in ever being able to successfully bring a duck to an edible level. My husband’s only preference this time around was not to make the orange sauce that traditionally accompanies this bird dish. “No problem, I’m sure Julia has a recipe for that,” I thought.

Life has a way of allowing you to surprise yourself once in a while. It just so happens that my newfound love of all things Julia Child ever created has brought me to remember the poultry pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Fortieth Anniversary Edition.

Simply put, “Caneton Roti”, or Roast Duckling, had real instructions I could follow on two pages (274-275), and I had all the ingredients in tow.

I followed the recipe exact, like an apprentice following a master chef in hopes of earning a Le Cordon Bleu diploma at the final exam. If I messed this one up, I would be traumatized. That’s why I chose the easiest of all the duck recipes, and the only one listed for roast duckling, not duck- aren’t they older, anyway?

I trussed it, cut off the wing tips and stuffed its cavity with fragrant herbs, just as instructed. I poured cut onions and carrots at the bottom of the roasting pan and laid him down gently out of the way of the vegetables. No water or broth needed for this baby- it would generate more fat than I could ever imagine. No need for basting, just keep removing the fat.

After a few hours (much longer than the recipe suggested, due to the funny temperament of my oven), it was finally done- successfully. Served with a side of garlicky mashed potatoes, it was worth the wait–and the work–and the need to follow a recipe, at least once in a while.

If you’d like to try this recipe, you can find it in Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 40th Anniversary Edition, Volume One. Alfred A. Knopf. 2001. http://www.amazon.com/Mastering-Art-French-Cooking-Fortieth/dp/0375413405

To find your own halal duckling, check out Midamar’s website at: http://www.midamarhalal.com/scripts/products.asp?C=Halal+Chicken. Each duckling costs $15.00.

If you live in the Chicagoland area and want to take a drive out to the western suburbs to buy your halal meats, including a frozen Midamar duckling, check out our favorite spot: Mediterranean Oasis Mart Inc., 357 E Bailey Rd., Naperville, IL 60565; Telephone: (630) 420-9507. Ask for Abu Shoosha- he’ll take great care of you.

Halal Tamales by Mari

Tamale Wrapped in Banana Leaves
Tamale Wrapped in Banana Leaves
 

I owe my husband the credit of pursuing the creation of this totally dhabiha (meat slaughtered in the Islamically correct way) halal chicken tamale. We met a Mexican woman, Mari, from the southern part of Mexico City who now lives in Chicago’s Little Villag (La Villita).

Mari stays with Abuelita, my husband’s grandmother, and makes the tamales in her kitchen then hits the street to sell them for just $2 each. (Needless to say, they are sold out quickly!)

On a recent visit to Abuelita’s house, Mari offered us tamales made with Mennonite cheese and soft jalapeno peppers. The tamale was wrapped in banana leaves and when opened, brought me back to the memory of my own Abuelita’s Puerto Rican pasteles, similar to tamales wrapped in banana leaves.

Tamales are a traditoinal Latin American food whose main content is masa (steamed corn dough). They are then filled with meat, cheese and/or chiles. There are hundreds of different ways tamales can be made and home cooks have their own twist on traditional recipes.

Although in Mexico most tamales are wrapped in corn husks, many other parts of Latin America wrap their tamales in plantain (banana) leaves. I was told that since Mari’s tamales are wrapped in banana leaves that they are of the Veracruz (Mexico) style.

Unfortunately for Muslims, most traditional
Mexican tamales are made with masa that is mixed with manteca (lard)- a very important word every Muslim should know if he/she wants to eat Latin American food because lard is pork fat.
Although there is a health trend in Latin American cooking moving away from manteca to aceite vegetal (vegetable oil) or aceite de olive (olive oil), it’s better to ask whether or not your frijoles (beans) or huevos (eggs) are fried in them. Even Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican sweet breads (pan dulce) and regular pan is often made with manteca, which gives the pan its flaky crust. Be sure to ask. In the case of traditional Mexican tamales, the masa is almost always mixed with manteca for sabor (flavor).
So, how did we avoid the lard and get dhabiha halal chicken into our tamales? A little questioning and prodding into the preparation of tamales was essential. Getting to know Mari was the next most important thing.
Additionally, we’re fortunate in that Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, although almost all Mexican, has one dhabiha halal chicken store called Pollo Vivo  (Live Chicken). That is where we bought our chicken for Mari to make our tamales.
We explained to her that we could not have the tamales prepared in masa with manteca, so we bought corn oil and she agreed to make it with that instead. Mari said it wasn’t such a strange request because when she lived in Mexico city she worked with many Jewish people and they also had similar requests for kosher meats and food prepared without any pork or pork products.
The result was simply wonderful- and we weren’t the only ones to think so. Mari thought the result was less heavy and more healthy than the traditional ones prepared with manteca. Now, all I have to do is learn the process from Mari- then I can share the results with you!
Additional Information/Resources:
About Pollo Vivo:
The owners are Muslims who keep chickens, rabbits and ducks in the store for a number of days and give them only halal animal feed. They are not kept cramped up in cages, but often seen having time to waddle around in their specified area. They are then prepared for you in the Islamic manner right there in the store within minutes of your purchase.
The store also sells quail eggs when available and dhabiha halal turkey around Thanksgiving season.  is located at 2601 S. Ridgeway at the corner of 26th Street and Ridgeway in Chicago’s Little Village(773) 542-9451.
For more information and an explanation on what dhabiha means, please refer to the following site: http://www.ehalal.org/Dhabiha%20Halal.html

Marcella Hazan on the Martha Stewart Show

Today I learned about a renowned food writer I thought you should know about: Marcella Hazan- and she appeared today on the “Martha Stewart Show” preparing a Tortelloni Stuffed with Swiss Chard, Prosciutto and Ricotta served with a heavy cream tomato sauce. She also talked about her new book, Amarcord: Marcella Remembers, available online at: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?r=1&popup=0&ean=9781592403882

The base of this dish is prepared with “prosciutto”, an Italian word for ham that has been seasoned, cured or air-dried. It is often used as a fat base for flavoring (thus referred to as “pancetta” or offered in sandwiches as a deli meat or part of an appetizer tray with other cured meats, cheeses and olives.
 
 In this particular recipe, we Muslims can simply delete this item without sacrificing any great taste at all, or we can substitute it with a wonderful halal alternative, such as the Midamar Halal Beef Soujouk, a type of beef sausage. You can find it in many halal supermarkets or online at: http://www.midamarhalal.com/scripts/products.asp
 

Marcella. Hazan is renowned for teaching culinary techniques and methods, which I noticed while watching her on Martha’s show. For example, she says when you drain pastas like ravioli, that you shouldn’t just throw them in the colander, but try to catch them first with a ‘chinese spider’ type of handled colander because the weight of the water will break the raviolis. What a great tip!

You can find these types of colanders online at: http://www.amazon.com/6-diameter-Bamboo-Skimmer-Strainer/dp/B00012F3U4

 

Ms. Hazan is not teaching cooking as she used to in the past at the famed French Culinary Institute but is now retired and lives with her husband, Victor, in Florida.

 

To find the exact recipe mentioned in this post, please click on the link below for the Martha Stewart show:

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/tortelloni-stuffed-with-swiss-chard-prosciutto-and-ricotta?lnc=38f9cf380e1dd010VgnVCM1000005b09a00aRCRD&rsc=showmain_tv_the-martha-stewart-show

 

You can read more about Marcella Hazan’s interesting background online at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcella_Hazan

 

 

 

 

 

Turmeric-Ginger Chicken in “Cooking Light” Magazine

If you’re looking for a quick and easy dish that is bursting with flavor, check out my recipe that was selected and appeared in Cooking Light Magazine last winter. I came up with it one night when I only had boneless chicken breast and several exciting spices on hand. Let me know how you like it!

http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=1734343

Published in: on October 16, 2008 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Iftaar Menu Ideas

As a Muslim I really look forward to the Holy Month of Ramadan where we fast the whole month from just before sunrise until the sun sets. No food or water is ingested throughout the whole day, so we must have a healthy suhoor (pre-fasting meal) and our iftaar (meal at the time of breaking the fast) must be light enough so that we can continue our prayers and worship through the night.

Here is one menu idea for an iftaar that I would like to share with you:

At the time of breaking the fast:

  • Water
  • Saudi dates
  • peach smoothie

After the maghrib salah (sunset prayer):

  • Yellow lentil soup  (I always serve soups since they warm and ease the stomach out of the fast and into eating again)
  • Super-moist turkey meatloaf
  • Creamed mashed potatoes
  • Green salad with red onions, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil and salt

Dessert:

  • Assorted fruit
  • light yogurt cake

This is simply one menu idea you can use to expound on, Insh’allah more to come. Remember, in Ramadan the point is not to eat to your fill but to eat to have enough energy to perform the daily salah, the extra ibadat and to simply give you the energy for all the other things you have to do in your day and evening.

Published in: on September 21, 2008 at 6:44 pm  Comments (10)  
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