Category: Entrees

July 19 / Asian

sriracha chicken recipe Brooke BurtonThis city has taught me a lot about food, but one of the most important food lessons came in the shape of a plastic bottle with a green cap and nozzle. Sriracha–a sauce created by a Chinese immigrant from Vietnam who relocated in Los Angeles–has flavors that are warm and spicy–like ketchup mixed with garlic and smoked jalapeno. It’s a magical sauce that can transform anything into something spicy good.

During those formative first few months in LA, I spotted the rooster sauce on restaurant tables all over LA–from the Mexican taco stand, late night diners, Chinese restaurants, and an all night Thai place in Hollywood where a Thai man with thick black hair dressed up like Elvis and sang between courses.

I was hesitant to try the spicy red sauce. Before I became a citizen of a multi-cultural city, I had never been exposed to a food city where Mexican, Guatemalan, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Middle-Eastern dishes could be found within miles of my home. I was brought up on simple foods and avoided spice wherever possible. But once I took my first taste of Sriracha sauce I was hooked. I bought a bottle at a Thai market not far from my home and began experimenting with it. Sriracha perked up my scrambled eggs, made the cheap frozen pizzas a I survived on more palatable, and took my Thai cooking up a notch.

In the years since my discovery, I have figured out a way to work Sriracha into many of my mainstay recipes, including sauteed kale, chicken banh micaramel pork banh mi, and edamame dip. So when one of the food-loving employees at the restaurant I consult at, told me a story about the Sriracha marinaded fish she cooked the night before, I got inspired. Rather than make my usual roasted chicken for dinner, why not make Sriracha chicken instead? Rather than making things complicated, I kept this recipe really simple.

September 24 / Breakfast Food
May 31 / Entrees

chicken broth poached egg recipeIt was the summer between my junior and senior year and I was away at a summer youth music school. My parents were getting a divorce, my home life was a mess, and I was happy to spend almost two months with other kids my age focusing on the one thing I really loved: music.

I spent the summer working hard on my vocal performance. I auditioned for groups and tried out for the privilege of private lessons. I didn’t make the special chorus but I did qualify for one-on-one sessions with a vocal coach. I was excited. I was going to grow as a performer.

By the end of the summer I had learned more than I had ever bargained for. I even fell in love. On the last day of camp, hundreds of students and teachers gathered in an auditorium at the University of New Hampshire for a final ceremony.

I wore a loose tee shirt and a jean skirt as I sat in my seat feeling butterflies. I desperately hoped I’d be given an award. I wanted something to prove to the world around me that all of my hard work that summer was good. Really good.

Despite the fact I had rather low self-esteem, I did feel with some certainty that I would get an award. I just knew I had achieved something great. I had matured as a young woman, a student, and as a performer. But as the awards ceremony stretched out, I started to doubt my intuition. Hadn’t I proven my commitment and my passion for music?

Near the end of the awards ceremony, when it seemed as if all the awards had been handed out, the chairwoman of the vocal department stepped up to the podium. She cleared her throat before reading some handwritten words from a small note card.

“And lastly,” she said, “we have an award for this one very special person who worked hard, was committed to learning, and grew in leaps and bounds…The award for most improved singer of this year’s Summer Youth Music School is Brooke Burton.”

“The Most Improved” Award? I sat in my seat completely dumbfounded. I was struck by the thought that maybe the faculty had created the prize in a last minute show of pity. The self-loathing teenager I was–the person who told herself that her body was too square to be attractive and that the deep tone of my contralto voice was too manly–became undeniably uncomfortable in this long hoped for moment. I began to sweat through my tee.  I was terrified.

Someone elbowed me to go up and take the award. I could barely feel my feet underneath me as I walked up to the stage. That’s it, I thought to myself. Now everyone knew the cold, honest truth. I was a terrible singer, only made better by a lot of hard work.

I felt humiliated by the award. Because when you’re seventeen years old and full of self-doubt, humility and pride is a hard thing to come by. Humiliation is what shows up, trucked in by the dumpster.  “I guess I really sucked,” I said when I got back to my seat. I said it because I half believed it and also so that that person sitting next to me wouldn’t say it to me first.

February 6 / Chef Recipes

A wonderful thing happened. My husband started cooking.

The change came about a month ago. It began with breakfast. While I dressed for work he’d slip into the kitchen and brew a pot of our favorite organic coffee and construct a delicate egg white omelet with spinach and goat cheese. When I emerged from the whir of my early morning rituals—hair drying, make up application, multiple outfit changes—I’d find a folded cloth napkin, a perfectly doctored coffee, and a plate of comforting food waiting for me. On mornings when our window of time together was brief, he’d surprise me with a thick slice of bread dripping with melted butter and apricot jelly. I barely had time to notice he had perfected the careful balance of sweet and savory in the fruit smoothies he’d slip to me as I headed out the door.

I started to see a pattern of culinary devotion as he began adding lunches to his repertoire. Rather than visit our usual neighborhood lunch spot, he’d serve us decadent open-faced turkey burgers he grilled that were draped in a blanket of melted cheese or a thick slice of over-ripe persimmon. He’d peel an orange and have it waiting for us when we found ourselves at that inevitable point of the meal when we started to crave something sweet.

Then came dinners. I marveled at his grilled fish on a bed of Israeli couscous with thinly sliced lemons. On another night, he sautéed perfect squares of halibut with a spiced rub and a spicy yogurt sauce with fresh mint. Then there was the time he roasted a whole bird he bought at the farmers market with muddled fennel seeds and thyme.

After those meals his kisses never tasted sweeter.

With my husband at the helm of our kitchen, I’ve begun to relish the stacks of dirty mixing bowls or the skillet that needs a good soak. Because with every food-stained plate comes a piece of the story of what he learned in the kitchen.

I didn’t think it was possible, but every culinary tale makes me love him a little more.

September 25 / Asian
September 6 / Asian
April 17 / Chef Advice
March 21 / Chef Recipes
March 13 / Chef Recipes
March 4 / Asian
February 27 / Entrees
December 6 / Entrees
July 21 / Chef Recipes