Recipe: Rontini Signature Fried Chicken

~ This is Day 189 ~

Watch how to make #RontiniSignatureFriedChicken below! I’ve been developing these fried chicken since 2005 so needless to say, this recipe is perfect as long as you follow it! This is my No.1 way of making fried chicken at home. I have other ways to make different types of fried chicken but this is my go-to for full meals!

If you liked any of my stuff, get them here with the links below:

For the Marinade

  • 8-10 pieces organic chicken drumsticks
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed/washed
  • Soy sauce
  • Chili powder/Red Chili Flakes
  • Sesame oil

For the Finish

  • 3-4 qts deep frying oil (canola, soy, vegetable, grapeseed)
  • 1 bag rice flour in a ziplock

Recipe: Paella de Mariscos

~ This is Day 182 ~

I’ve posted a couple paellas (1 & 2) in the past but here is the instructive video on how to do it yourself at home! I thought I posted more than 2 on this current website but the other ones were probably from my previous website. Anyhow, watch below:

If you want what I have:

Makes one 13-inch paella pan. Feeds 3-4 people.

For the Salsa Verde

  • 1 cup parsley leaves, packed
  • 1 cup EVOO
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Salt

For the Rice

  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika/pimentón
  • 1 TBS tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups Matiz rice
  • 1100 mL chicken/clam/shrimp/lobster stock
  • Pinch of saffron
  • One 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • Assorted seafood
    • 1 monkfish fillet – cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 12 headless shrimp – deveined, tail left intact
    • 1 chorizo link (forgot to put in the chorizo in my video! But sear this with your pre-partially-cooking process.
    • A few squid tubes and tentacles – cut into thin strips
    • Mussels, de-bearded
    • Littleneck clams – soaked in salted cold water 20 minutes before cooking
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges

Click here for the recipe to making your garlic aïoli!

Recipe: Watermelon “Sushi”

~ This is Day 164 ~

Looking for a quick and easy, last minute passed hors-d’oeuvres? This is it! All you need is a plate for passing because the watermelon acts like its own vessel! This is one of my favorite canapés to do!

I always like to have reduced sherry vinegar on hand at home because I use it to season a lot of random things. I buy a 16-year aged Pedro Ximénez sweet sherry vinegar from Despaña and reduce it with herbs and spices until it becomes syrupy. You should err on the conservative side when reducing because the reduced vinegar is going to be served either cold or room temperature so you don’t want to over-reduce it in the pot. Of course, you can always add water to thin it out and bring it back to a boil.

Obviously, you’re not going to use all the watermelon. The best part is the center where it is most dense and less airy due to where the seeds usually are.

I like using kanpachi because it is less fatty than regular hamachi. Some fish suggestions:

  • Dover sole
  • Fluke / hirame
  • Yellowtail / hamachi (lean)
    • Hawaiian Amberjack / kanpachi (pictured)
  • Red snapper / red seabream / madai
  • Salmon (lean) / sake **use as last resort, if you cannot find any white fish

Not in Manhattan? Some Amazon links to some sherry vinegars:

Makes around 36 servings/pieces.

  • 1 whole seedless watermelon
  • 10 oz. kanpachi, sashimi grade
  • 1 pint curing salt
    • equal parts kosher salt and granulated sugar
  • 2 limes
  • Reduced sherry vinegar

Cut the watermelon into rectangular blocks and set aside. In a shallow container, pour the curing salt to cover the bottom of the container. Place the fish fillets on top and then bury completely with the rest of the curing salt. Place uncovered in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Once the 45 minutes is up, rinse the fillets under cold water and wrap in a damp paper towel and put into an air-tight container, back into the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, cut watermelon into thin rectangles and place on a plate. Using a slicer or very sharp and long knife, slice fish into thin cuts. Place 1-2 pieces of sliced fish onto each watermelon piece. Drizzle sherry reduction and microplane fresh lime zest over the top.

This is always a big crowd pleaser and is perfect for summer!

Recipe Update: Coconut Curry

~ This is Day 95 ~

After making Fish Cheeks’ coconut crab curry at home several times using the mortar & pestle way, I got tired. It’s hard work!! So here is the modern way using appliances.

This is a double recipe of the mortar & pestle, yields 2 quarts of curry. I pint them up and freeze them.

For the Curry Paste:

  • 1½ oz. dried Thai bird’s eye red chili
  • 1 oz. fresh Thai bird’s eye chili
  • ½ oz. garlic
  • 1 oz. fresh galangal, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 oz. lemongrass, smashed and chopped into small pieces
  • 2 oz. wild ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 oz. fresh turmeric, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 oz. dried shrimp
  • ½ oz. sea salt

In a food processor with a feeding tube, start with the ingredients listed above in that order. Blend into a paste.

For the Curry:

  • Four 14 oz. cans of coconut milk
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 2 oz. fish sauce
  • 2 oz. palm sugar
  • 2 oz. lemongrass, smashed and chopped
  • 2 oz. tamarind concentrate
  • 1 oz. fresh galangal, sliced into rounds
  • 8 fresh makrut lime leaves
  • 8 Chinese broccoli leaves, coarsely chopped

In a large saucepan over low-medium heat, bring the coconut milk, shallot, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass, tamarind, galangal, makrut lime leaves, Chinese broccoli leaves, and the curry paste to a simmer. Be sure to break the tamarind concentrate thoroughly with a whisk. Stirring constantly to prevent scorching, cook for 15 minutes, then take off heat and remove the Chinese broccoli leaves.

Wait till cool enough to blend without steam building in the VitaMix. It’s better to blend while the curry is still warm but I don’t like to get burned by spicy curry at home so I blend the next morning, after the curry pot has cooled down completely in my fridge. Blend in batches until smooth. Pass through a chinois and discard solids.

Store and freeze! Just take them out the night before and let it thaw overnight in the fridge.

Recipe: Zabb Fried Chicken

~ This is Day 67 ~

Before you do anything, go here to Fish Cheeks‘ website and buy their zabb seasoning because this recipe won’t work without it!

My favorite number 3 dish at Fish Cheeks is their zabb fried chicken wings! Zabb is a spice seasoning consisting of chili, lemongrass, makrut lime, salt, and sugar. Their wings are so incredibly scrumptious! Finger-licking, smackingly good!!!!

About two years ago, I have been conducting trials at home to recreate their zabb seasoning but was unsuccessful. Thanks to Chef Ohm for recently selling the seasoning now!!! Now that I know what exactly is inside, I’m still going to try and make it at home from scratch. I was only missing the lemongrass and makrut lime flavors.

Anyway, I live outside of their delivery zone and it’s been really rough looking at their gorgeous food on social media everyday during quarantine, so I finally got their seasoning and made fried chicken at home. Not exactly how they make it at the restaurant, I made drumsticks like how Korean fried chicken is made and tossed it with their zabb seasoning! For fried chicken, I prefer drumsticks over wings!

For the Marinade:

  • Salt, as needed
  • 1 TBS garlic powder
  • 1 TBS ground ginger
  • Splash of Chinese rice wine/white wine/vodka/booze
  • 8 chicken drumsticks

Cut slits on the drumsticks to maximize flavor absorption. Season chicken drumsticks generously with kosher salt, then marinate drumsticks with spices and flavorings in a shallow bowl or dish for 30 minutes in room temperature before frying.

For the Flour Mix:

  • AP flour
  • Cornstarch/Potato starch
  • Salt

I mix equal parts flour to starch and season it a little with salt.

For Deep Frying:

  • Grapeseed or canola oil
  • Thermometer

Take marinaded drumsticks and toss in flour mix, make sure to pat flour mix into and onto drumsticks. I like to shake them in a ziplock bag to fully coat the chicken. Place coated chicken on a wire rack and heat up oil.

Fry the chicken twice, once at 300°F, and the second time at 400°F. Internal temperature of chicken should be at least 165°F. After the second frying, while the chicken is resting on a clean wire rack, find your largest bowl and toss chicken generously with the zabb seasoning!

Recipe: Thin Crust Pan Pizza

~ This is Day 30 ~

I haven’t owned a conventional oven since I moved into my current apartment, which was 5.5 years ago. Not a huge difference for my cooking needs but it would be nice to have one. I just have a large toaster oven, which can fit quite a lot of large poultry, but a regular sized pizza pan/stone it cannot. So I always make thin crust pan pizzas and broil them in my toaster oven with the door ajar because my pan doesn’t fit all the way in either.

*Side note, I’ve had my eyes on June ever since it came out… (it would be a great housewarming present) just saying!*

The pizza dough that I make is really easy – almost no knead and all you do is wait. I always make the same pizza at home because I just love the following set: spicy tomato sauce (with the addition of red pepper flakes), ham, bacon, pineapple, and mozzarella. I’ll sometimes add some baby spinach in there if I have some. If I run out of ham, I’ll substitute shrimp. And YES, I am part of that group who LOVES pineapple on their pizzas!

Makes 4-5 personal sized pizzas.

  • 1 cup water, lukewarm
  • ¼ oz. yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp EVOO
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2¼ cups bread flour, plus more for dusting

Don’t have bread flour? AP flour is fine.

Pour 1 cup of lukewarm water into a medium sized bowl. Add in the yeast and sugar, and stir. Sit for 5 minutes until it gets foamy. Add in the EVOO and salt, then slowly add in the flour and mix (with chopsticks or wooden spoon) until water is fully incorporated. Dough will be dry; once there is no more water, knead until smooth (only a few minutes). 

In the same bowl, Pam spray/oil it, leave it covered for 45 minutes in a warm place. Punch the dough down and continue letting it rest for another 30 minutes. 

Divide into 4-5 portions and roll. Allow to rest for 15 minutes if you have trouble rolling it.

You can store the remaining portions/dough in the fridge for up to 1 week, keeping it covered and greased in the same bowl. Temper it out before you roll it.

Some tips:

  • I poke holes in the dough after I roll it to prevent bubbles of air to form when cooking.
  • I first cook the base in the pan by itself on medium heat, just to get some color on the bottom and then flip it to get the base of the pizza somewhat cooked before adding your sauces and toppings.
  • Layer/scatter your toppings, try to squeeze out as much moisture/water as possible.
  • Put a lid on your pizza in the pan while cooking.
  • I usually cook the toppings for 5+ minutes, then add the cheese, and cook for another 5+ minutes.
  • Before broiling it in the oven to get some color and to fully melt the cheese, I tilt the pan to remove excess moisture that got released from cooking. You don’t want your base to be soggy.

Recipe: Mango & Sticky Rice

~ This is Day 15 ~

For having a not-so-sweet tooth, there are few desserts that I crave for. With this self-quarantine and almost every restaurant is closed, the only way to satisfy that craving is to make it at home yourself. Luckily, this dessert/snack is incredibly easy to make at home.

Here is fresh Mango with Sticky Rice (also called glutinous rice) with a Coconut Sauce, Toasted White Sesame Seeds, and Mint.

Serves 6.

  • 2 cups glutinous rice, soaked overnight
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 13.5oz cans coconut milk
  • ½ cup palm sugar (more if you like it to be sweeter; substitute brown sugar if you don’t have palm sugar)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Mangoes
  • Garnish: sesame seeds, mint, Thai basil

Soak rice in cold water overnight. Drain completely. Add 2 cups water and cook rice until tender. 10 minutes set to steam in rice cooker is enough.

In a pot, melt palm sugar and salt in coconut milk. Do not bring mixture to a boil. Pour half of the coconut milk into the rice and mix thoroughly. Reserve the other half for pouring over the rice on the plate with the mangoes. Garnish with toasted white sesame seeds and fresh herbs.

Lemon Verbena Cured Arctic Char Sandwich

This was one of the last morsels of food that I created before my tenure was up at Degustation. My watermelon “sushi” amuse bouche was on the tasting menu for awhile then and spring was turning into summer so it was the perfect time to change the amuse.

It took me a few tries to perfect this little bite! I experimented with the salinity of the cure, the time of the cure, and the thickness of the potato chip. I really hope I wrote down the recipe because I’d want to do this in the future, whenever I have my own place.

Anyway, here was the new amuse: Lemon Verbena cured Arctic Char, Salmon Roe, Potato Chips, Paddlefish Caviar, and Chive Batons.

Recipe: Szechuan Chili Paste

I have a feeling this is going to be a long post because I’m about to tell a story.

Growing up, I didn’t eat much spicy food because I didn’t like it. I would loathe if I knew my parents were going to a Szechuan restaurant because then I wouldn’t be able to eat anything except for cold vegetarian dishes and rice. At the time, I also disliked Szechuan food because of the numbing sensation. I would always unluckily bite into a Szechuan peppercorn, which tastes like soap, and still to this day, tastes like soap, and my mouth would go numb, while being on fire too. Needless to say, I was harshly against eating spicy food as a kid.

I didn’t start self-introducing spicy food into my diet until I was in college. I had a seafood soondubu jjigae (Korean seafood tofu stew) late one night and it was so delicious that I moved past the mouth burning sensation and devoured it, along with a lot of rice, since I was a novice.

By the way, chili flakes in Italian food is not considered spicy in my books. Unless, if I ordered the Linguine Misto Mare in Arrabbiata Sauce from Enoteca Vespaio – my favorite restaurant in Austin! I started cooking and experimenting with spicy food at home and moved slowly from there. I was more into Korean spicy flavors than Chinese spicy flavors in college.

It wasn’t until I spent a year and half back in Hong Kong that my addiction for Szechuan food skyrocketed. I was a private preparatory English teacher in Shenzhen and all of my coworkers were from Mainland China and most of them were avid Szechuan foodies. That’s when I started building my super high tolerance to Szechuan chili and peppercorns. We would eat spicy hot pot and Szechuan food almost everyday for lunch. Spicy frog hot pot was a common occurrence as well. I had the best Szechuan food in Shenzhen and it has had an everlasting impression on me. I have been to Szechuan province but that was during my childhood years and I chose to eat McDonald’s there. Hahaha…

So, ever since moving to NYC, just shy of 6.5 years ago, I have been on the quest to find a stellar Szechuan restaurant. I base all restaurants of every cuisine on the authenticity of their signature/classical dishes. And I know, I know, go to Flushing, people say… do you have any idea how far it is to go to Flushing just to eat? Taking the 7 to one of its termini is torture. And the Chinatown bus is just an accident away from happening. No, no, no, I live on Manhattan so there must be somewhere good. If my former colleagues were to ask me if I could find 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in Manhattan, I would laugh in their faces and say that it is served as a variation here. Fish is not served whole nor chopped into chunks in America because “Americans” do not eat fish with bones. The so-called 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in all Manhattan restaurants is always served with fish fillets. Hey, I’m not complaining about the fillets because it makes eating easier but I do miss eating the gelatinous parts of the fins.

水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in China is served with whole fish or chopped whole fish and you can choose the type of fish that you want, whether you want a freshwater or saltwater fish. It is also always served in a basin filled with chili broth, chili oil, and scattered with chili peppers. You cannot find that here, although I have had some really great contenders to the real thing at the following restaurants:

Other great Szechuan restaurants/hot pot places are:

A Flushing import, Szechuan Mountain House, recently opened up shop on St. Mark’s Place and I was not impressed/severely disappointed with their 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil). However, they nailed other really good dishes, such as the Fish with Pickles and Fried Cony with Green Chili Peppers.

Okay, so where does all this tie into my recipe? Since I have been constantly unsuccessful in finding a restaurant that would serve me authentic 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil), I decided to make it at home. This recipe took me FOREVER to get right. It took years of researching and asking all my Szechuan friends (who asked their parents and previous generations for secrets and tips). This recipe results in a paste. You put the paste in a flavorful and seasoned broth to cook whatever protein you prefer but this braising/poaching technique works best with fish and frog, in my opinion. As of today, I have not perfected 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) at home yet. I need to continue with my trials and errors, i.e. what exactly is coated around the fish to make it to smooth and tender?… But I have perfected 水煮牛蛙 (Braised Frog in Chili Oil). I have been eating 水煮牛蛙 (Braised Frog in Chili Oil) for the past three weekends at home!

Feel free to adjust the spiciness level to your preference. Below, my recipe is quite spicy – based on a high tolerance to spice.

Yields 1 quart.

For the wet ingredients:

  • 100 g bird’s eye chili (aka Thai chili, they also come in green but you want all red; approximately 1 loose pint, stems removed)
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 125 g ginger
  • 50 g galangal
  • 50 g Chinese fermented black beans
  • 250g Szechuan spicy bean paste

For the dried ingredients:

  • 12 g star anise
  • 40 g Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 g black cardamom
  • 1 g green cardamom
  • 10 g cinnamon sticks
  • 8 g sliced licorice
  • 25 g fennel seeds

Other ingredients:

  • 500 mL Shaoxing wine
  • 40 g brown sugar
  • Grapeseed or neutral oil

Remove all stems from bird’s eye chili peppers. Peel the garlic. Peel the skins off both gingers and cut into pieces, similar in size to that of the garlic cloves. In a food processor, blend all wet ingredients until homogenous.

In a wok, add cooking oil and have heat on medium. Add wet paste, and toss/turn/stir for 10 minutes. Add in Shaoxing wine and brown sugar and incorporate. Then turn heat to medium-low and add in dried ingredients. Toss/turn/stir frequently and cook for 20 minutes.

When paste is cool, place in air-tight containers and into the fridge.

Romescada

It’s snowing outside. It’s fucking freezing too. It’s unbearably chilly near my window. And all I want is this Romescada with Monkfish, Octopus, and Gambas.

Happy New Year & Happy Holidays!!!