Monday, January 16, 2017

Cape Malay Chicken Curry


Although A Cooking Safari with Mickey is one of my least favorite Disney cookbooks, due to its minimal size and lack of depth, it does contain some recipes of dishes I love from the Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge. I can't recommend the book because even at its cheaper-than-Amazon price in the parks, it's still way overpriced for what you actually get--a total of 26 recipes, which is the least robust of any of my Disney cookbooks.

You may recall that one of my favorite dishes from the buffet at Walt Disney World's Tusker House Restaurant was the Cape Malay Chicken Curry, a South African dish of stewed chicken with spices and tomatoes. Fortunately for me, this recipe is one of the 26 in that cookbook.

You will find many recipes for Cape Malay Chicken Curry on the internet, and I'm sure they are all wonderful, but I feel extra special making the version provided by Disney since it brings back a wonderful food memory from my recent trip.

Mine was less tomato-y than the version at Tusker House. I would imagine using canned crushed tomatoes would yield a far more tomato-heavy sauce that replicates the Tusker House version better, but I used seeded chopped fresh tomatoes and although it wasn't as red, the general flavor of the curry was fantastic.

I also simmered it uncovered rather than covered for the most part because the sauce became very thin once the tomatoes broke down, but once it reduced uncovered it was the perfect consistency.

I served my Cape Malay Chicken Curry with jeera rice, an Indian cumin-scented basmati rice. It's simple to make: just toast some cumin seeds in oil or ghee prior to adding your dry basmati rice and boiling water or broth. It adds a bit of fragrance and flavor and just elevates the rice to something worthy of pairing with this curry.

Cape Malay Chicken Curry
Serves 4 to 6
(From A Cooking Safari with Mickey)

2 pounds chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
Coarse salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, diced
2 green chilies, seeded and finely sliced (I minced 1 1/2 seeded jalapenos)
1 teaspoon crushed garlic (I used about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger (I used about 1 tablespoon)
1 to 4 tablespoons Madras curry powder (all curry powders range in flavor and spiciness because they are spice blends--I used 2 tablespoons in my version)
1 tablespoon flour
3 to 4 large vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped (I seeded mine before chopping)
3 tablespoons cream of coconut
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro, for ganish
Rice pilaf or couscous, for serving

Season chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken (in batches if necessary) and sear until browned, stirring often. Remove from pan and add onions, cooking until lightly brown and tender. Add chilies, garlic, and ginger; cook 2 minutes. Add curry powder and cook 1 minute.

Whisk in flour and stir over medium heat until mixture slightly thickens. Stir in tomatoes, cream of coconut, and chicken stock; return chicken to pan. If sauce is too thick, stir in more chicken stock.

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. (I would recommend simmering for about 5 to 10 minutes covered and then remove the lid and simmer uncovered for the remaining time, or longer, if sauce becomes too thin and needs to reduce to thicken).

Taste and adjust seasonings. To serve, garnish with cilantro and serve with rice pilaf or couscous.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Walt Disney World: Tusker House Restaurant


Winding down my Walt Disney World blog posts, today I'm sharing one of our favorite experiences from our trip. Whispering Canyon Cafe and Tusker House Restaurant were probably our two favorite meals from our visit, not only for the fantastic food, but for the overall ambiance and fun interactions.

Tusker House is located in the Animal Kingdom within the fictional village of Harambe in Africa, and is known for it's African-inspired buffet and character meet-and-greets with Donald, Daisy, Goofy, and Mickey.

The atmosphere is great. The entire buffet area is very open, and designed like an open-air market with food stations around the perimeter, an island of buffet carts in the center with desserts, and beautiful, colorful fabrics stretched across the ceiling filtering in light.

The dining area is separated into several smaller dining rooms, each of which with fun African decor that is consistent with the rest of the themeing.

The stars of the show are the characters who visit each table and interact with guests, signing autograph books, posing for pictures, and even leading a parade around the dining room, showing off their dance moves.

Goofy busting a move!

This is probably the main draw for a meal at Tusker House, but as a foodie, I'm particularly drawn by the incredibly diverse buffet. Let's take a closer look.

Breads: Herb Focaccia, Moroccan Multigrain Bread, Mealie Cornbread, Cluster Oat Rolls, Jalapeno Cornbread, Pita Bread, Whipped Butter

Spicy South African Preserves: Blatjangs, Mixed Fruit Chutney, Hummus, Tabouleh, Whipped Butter

Mixed Greens, Ranch Dressing, Italian Dressing, Coconut Curry Vinaigrette, Chermoula Vinaigrette, Olives, Cucumber, Broccoli, Tomato, Housemade Pickles

Fruit Salad, Toasted Couscous Salad with Craisins, Grapes

A closer look at the Couscous Salad

Spiced Beet Salad, Black-Eyed Pea Salad, Trek Power Salad

Brown Gravy, Whipped Mashed Potatoes, Collard Greens, Roasted Vegetable Couscous

A closer look at the Roasted Vegetable Couscous

Oven-Roasted Red Skin Potatoes, Tandoori Tofu, Oven-Roasted Rainbow Carrots

Spicy Green Coconut Curry, Basmati Rice with Lemon, Cinnamon, and Cardamom, Cape Malay Curry Chicken

A closer look at the Spicy Green Coconut Curry

A closer look at the Cape Malay Curry Chicken

Whipped Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Chicken Drumsticks

Corn Dog Nuggets, Macaroni and Cheese, Corn Medley

Spit-roasting meats on the "Wall of Flames"

Mojo Pork Shoulder

Sweet Plantains, Spit-Roasted Chicken, Mealie Pap, Pigeon Peas and Rice
It's nearly impossible to try every single item on the menu, as much as I'd like to try. I did manage to try quite a few dishes, and particularly fell in love with the Cape Malay Curry Chicken and the Peri Peri Salmon (which I didn't get a photo of on the buffet, but it's pictured below on one of my plates). I don't think there was a single item I tried that I didn't like. Everything down to the mashed potatoes and gravy, both couscous dishes, plantains, and even corn dog nuggets (which I can't resist regardless of my age), were delicious. Food-wise, this meal at Tusker House was the highlight of the trip, especially since you can eat as much as you want!

My first plate

My second plate (notice the second helping of Cape Malay Curry Chicken--sooooo good!)
Let's take a peek at dessert next! By this point I was beyond full, and only managed to try a few bites. I didn't get photos of all the desserts. I believe there was a variety of cookies that I missed, but you get the picture :)

Mango Cardamom Fruit Tart, Pecan Chocolate Tart

Passion Fruit Spice Cake, Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Banana Bread Pudding with Vanilla Anglaise

The bread pudding is truly phenomenal (and I know a thing or two about bread pudding). It's pure comfort, and I really wish I had more room to enjoy it after this gluttonous experience. I also like the freshness of the mango-cardamom fruit tart to balance it all out.

Tusker House definitely stands out as a premiere character dining experience. If you're an adventurous foodie and looking to mingle with Mickey and friends, this is probably the best combination of food and festivities on Disney property. The price of a meal at Tusker House ranges depending on the season (popular times of year may cost more). We paid $45 per adult and $27 per child in early December, but it also includes basic beverages and a whole lot of personality.

Tusker House Restaurant
Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Osceola Pkwy
Orlando, FL 34747
(407) 939-3463

Monday, January 9, 2017

Roasted Fall Vegetable Soup


It snowed quite a bit this past weekend in New England. Thankfully it was over the weekend and didn't impact most people's commutes to work. I do enjoy a good snow day when I can stay home, relax, and not have to leave the house for any reason.

Spending a lazy weekend snowbound at home is the perfect excuse to get cooking. It may defeat the whole "lazy" aspect, but then you get to eat your yummy creations! Soups and comfort foods are best this time of year, and so I decided to make a big pot of soup to enjoy over the next few days of cold weather.

This roasted fall vegetable soup is perfect for snowy cold winter days. It's chock-full of colorful, flavorful fall veggies that sweeten a bit as they roast, and provide such wonderful flavor to this hearty soup. A combination of parsnips, carrots, butternut squash, celery root, shallots, leeks, and garlic roast together with a touch of thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.

I used two large sheet pans to roast these bad boys, and they roasted beautifully, but didn't really start to brown by the time the veggies were mostly tender, so in order to avoid mushy vegetables, I decided to pull them out of the oven at that point. The flavors were still wonderful even without that bit of color!

Even though I followed the suggested amounts of vegetables, mine were probably a tad larger than what the original author had used, and my soup was on the chunkier side. I decided to increase the amount of broth by an extra couple of cups just to ensure there is plenty of broth for each and every bowl.

I also used chicken broth instead of vegetable broth because I like the flavor and I'm not vegetarian so it's not a dietary issue to make the switch, but feel free to use either.

Although the soup is excellent on its own, a vibrant green parsley pesto is the perfect accompaniment to dollop onto your soup and then swirl it in.

Roasted Fall Vegetable Soup
Serves 6 to 8
(From Soup Swap)

3 medium leeks
3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (2-pound) butternut squash, or any type of winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large or 3 medium celery stalks, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 shallots, peeled and quartered
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 2 teaspoons dried
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cups vegetable stock or canned low-sodium broth (I used chicken broth, and bumped it up to about 7 cups since my soup was extra chunky)
3/4 cup dry white wine
Parsley Pesto, for serving (recipe follows)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400°F.

Trim off the dark green sections from the leeks and save for making vegetable stock. Halve the pale green and white sections lengthwise. Rinse under cold running water, pat dry, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

In one large or two medium very shallow roasting pan(s) or rimmed baking sheet(s), combine the leeks, parsnips, carrots, squash, celery, celery root, shallots, garlic, and thyme. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to evenly coat the vegetables. You don't want to have vegetables on top of one another; you want them in a single layer.

Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature to 450°F and roast for another 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are a nice golden-brown, almost crispy on the edges, and almost soft when you gently test them with a fork or small, sharp knife. You don't want them soft and mushy; they will continue cooking in the soup.

Meanwhile, in a large stockpot over high heat, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and gently simmer.

Remove the vegetables from the oven, add the wine, and deglaze the pan, using a spatula to loosen any bits clinging to the bottom. Pour everything from the baking sheet into the stock. Turn the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls and serve piping hot, topped with the pesto.

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Store the pesto separately.

Parsley Pesto
Makes 3/4 cup (180 g)
(From Soup Swap)

1 cup (60 g) packed chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup (65 g) walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pine nuts, toasted (optional)
1 garlic clove, peeled
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup (15 g) packed freshly grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan, Romano, or manchego

Using a food processor or blender, process the parsley, nuts (if using), and garlic until finely chopped and season with salt and pepper. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, being careful not to overprocess the pesto; it should still be a little chunky. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Bring to room temperature before using.


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