Tag Archives: chicken

Chipotle for Middle Eastern Food

Bowl or wrap? Hummus or Baba Ghanoush? Protein?  Interrogated by the employee behind the counter at Naya express, I look into the glass at the choices in front of me, remembering not to reach over with my contaminated hands, and trying to make a decision before the people waiting in line behind me get too angry.
Sounds familiar? It should. This is Naya Express, the Chipotle for Middle Eastern food. You get a choice between a rice bowl, salad, or wrap, and get to add on hummus, baba ghanoush, garlic, and vegetables. If, however, you choose not to go through the assembly line to get your food, you can opt for their great selection of  sides, ready-made salads, flatbreads. Also on offer are Middle Eastern dessert classics like baklava and mhalabie (milk pudding).
The Assembly Line at Naya Express
The Assembly Line at Naya Express
 Once I had looked at all of the food behind the glass, and having made the employee sufficiently impatient, I decided to go for a bowl with chicken shish taouk, topped with garlic, baba ghanoush, pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes. A note before I talk about the food: just like Chipotle is not authentic Mexican food, Naya  Express is not authentic Middle Eastern food. Adding a bunch of random vegetables and toppings to rice and chicken is not really a thing where I come from. That being said, the meal I had was pretty good. The rice, mixed with short, thin vermicelli noodles, was warm, soft, and well seasoned. The chicken was marinated and then grilled, giving it a nice smokey flavor. It was a little bit on the dry side, which is always a risk we have to take when we order chicken breast. The baba ghanoush, a mixture of roasted eggplant, tahini, and lemon juice, was really good, with just the right eggplant to tahini ratio.
Chick Shish Taouk with rice, pickles, vegetables, and baba ghanoush
I think that Naya Express is a great place to get Middle Eastern food on the go. With already 3 locations around the city, they are planning to expand. Who knows? We might even get one closer to us!
New location coming up!
New location coming up!

Midnight Munchies: Malecon, King of Anytime Chicken

It’s Friday night. You’ve just left a show at the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights and step onto the sidewalk ravenous. You look across the street and see a friendly looking restaurant on the corner with a warm glow coming from one of the windows. Upon closer inspection, you realize that the glow consists of rows and rows and rows of rotisserie chickens roasting, dripping in Dominican goodness. You’ve reached the midnight meal of your dreams.

Washington Heights is home to one of the city’s largest Dominican populations. If you’re looking for authentic Dominican food in NYC, this is the place to be. The original Malecon restaurant is located just a few blocks from the 168th St. stop on the 1, but for those who can’t make it up to the Heights, the wonderful owners dropped a second location much closer to Columbia down on 98th and Amsterdam (having been to both, I can assure you there is no difference in quality between the two). In this article, I’ll cover the original restaurant whose hours extend a fair bit later to 2 A.M.

The inside of the establishment is much larger than the view from outside would lead you to think, with plenty of seating within boasting views of the glorious chicken ovens. Judging by the décor of the place, you would expect the price range of this meal to be up towards the $15-20 range; this is not the case. An entire chicken will only run you $10, and believe me when I say that one Malecon chicken is much more than you could ever ask for.

Chicken in foil, rice in foil, and containers of beans and green sauce. Is there anything more beautiful in life?


My first trip to Malecon stemmed from a recommendation my friend who lives in Washington Heights gave me, selling it as the ONLY place to go for the best food in the neighborhood. I was instructed to not even look at the menu but to order a single chicken with beans and rice, no questions asked. I remember watching the guy working the ovens pull out chicken after chicken, throw it down on the cutting board, and in three or four swift motions, cut the chicken with scissors into a few big sections.

When the chicken is brought to you, it comes out with two little containers of a green sauce. When I asked friends about how to describe the green sauce, I heard “life-changing,” “I’d put it in my water if I could,” and “it could make John Jay’s food edible”. These are not understatements. The Malecon green sauce would make a criminal turn himself in. The Malecon green sauce would bring Congress together to actually get things done. I’m heavily convinced that this green sauce could even cut through the bureaucracy of Columbia’s administration. Pour it over your entire meal. As if you’ll need more food, you get fresh baked bread for free for your table.

This chicken is everything you could ever love about food. Cooked to perfection, it’s juicy with a slightly crispy skin covered in seasoning. The meat almost falls right off the bone, so as much as you want to keep it classy with the silverware, the real way to go is to just pull and chow. Not to be ignored, the rice and beans are an essential part of the Malecon experience in order to avoid a meat overload. Together, the three components of your meal complete a legendary trifecta of flavors.

Pollo y arroz


I quickly discovered that the best ratio of food to price at Malecon for one person is one half-chicken, a side of rice, and a side of beans. For two people, including tax and tip, your bill will only just pass the $20 barrier. If you bring the whole gang and order a couple chickens and some sides family-style, you can bring the price down to something like $7 each.

You better believe they deliver. Family-style is by far the best way to enjoy a Malecon meal.


All being said, next time you find yourself craving a late-night meal that will comfort you like only your mother could, Malecon will be there waiting for you with open arms and chicken wings. I give Malecon a rating of 5 green sauce-colored stars.

Delusions of Grandeur and Teriyaki Chicken

The Gluten-Free Manifesto.  One of my most missed guilty pleasures is Chinese take-out. I don’t miss all of it though; a considerable portion of my freshman fifteen can be attributed Ollie’s. There were too many times I went in ready to tell them off and say “no more to your shitty food,” only to leave with an order of everything. Unfortunately though, despite my allergies precluding me from ordering take out nowadays, I still find myself craving some dishes of old every now and again. To be specific, I’ve always had a soft spot for teriyaki chicken. It’s one of my more glaring weaknesses. One plate of it and my inner revolutionary Marxist can be reduced to a weak willed decadent capitalist consumer (I’ve decided I’m going to fit in “decadent” into all my posts). So when all is said and done, avoiding teriyaki chicken is usually what I try to do, being a seriously legit conduit and activist for a populist revolution and all…

But being a battle hardened revolutionary is a trying profession. It takes its toll. And I hear around that not taking a break everyone once in a while makes you lose perspective… yeah, something like that. Well anyway, while I was home my mom introduced me to a gluten free soy sauce that I could use to cook with.  (This happens only on the rarest of occasions, of course…She supports my “crazy ideations and delusions of grandeur” only as long as I stay in school. Translation, 100% support from the fam!)  Immediately a shiver went down my spine after I tasted the sauce, game on! I thanked the Teriyaki gods (metaphorically…I mean c’mon) and I resolved to make some food as soon as I had to time. Soo, yup! That’s what inspired this post. I hope it’s to your liking!


4-8 Skinless chicken breasts

1 tbsp cornstarch (Brand: Argo GF and DF)

1 tbsp cold water

1/2 cup sugar (brown or white sugar) I used white.

1/2 cup soy sauce (Brand: Tamari GF)

1/4 cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

1/2 tsp of ground garlic

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4-1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Sesame Seeds



Preheat the oven at 400o F and put a pan on the stove over low heat.

Pour the vinegar and soy sauce into the pan.

In a bowl put the black pepper (1/2 tsp gives more kick), ginger, garlic, white sugar, cornstarch and cold water. Take mixture and pour in the pan. Mix everything in the pan. Stir for about 5 minutes, than allow the sauce to simmer only stirring every few minutes subsequently. This shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes. Afterwards either keep sauce on low heat or turn off stove.

In the meantime you can place the chicken breasts in an oven pan. After the sauce has thickened a bit, either using a brush or spoon you can glaze the chicken with the teriyaki sauce on each side. Feel free to put sesame seeds on top. Place in oven.

20-30 minutes later, take the chicken out and brush both sides of the chicken again. You can do this/add as much and as often as you see fit. If there is any extra sauce left in the pan you can get rid of it.

After a total of 45-50 minutes in the oven take the chicken out, and enjoy!

You can boil rice as a side. I would recommend steaming vegetables as well. You can also add the steamed vegetables to the oven pan sauce while the chicken is cooking in the oven.

Importing Tamales: It runs in the family

Manon’s winter break story is filled with TSA trials and tribulations, but her good humor and amazing cooking skills leads us once again to a fantastic recipe.

Every time my family and I go to France, my parents manage to bring the most outrageous things with them in the suitcases. A couple years ago for example, they were able to fit a Weber barbeque into the bags, accessories and all. We have one in California and my dad swears it’s the best outdoor grill on the market. He’d been wanting to introduce American, barbequed burgers to his French in-laws, so naturally, the Weber was the only way to properly do so. Interestingly enough, it turns out that the summer we imported the barbeque was the year that that particular brand and model became available in France. Oh well..

In other years past, my mom’s brought back fabric for curtains or crabmeat for crab cakes (we haven’t found good crab meat in France). One time she even tried to bring back a bottle of sake for the sushi night we’d been planning on having, but it didn’t go through security. The incident that really topped them all was when my mom bought a 9 x 12 foot rug for the living room and brought it to France. I still don’t understand how she was able to fold and fit it into a TSA-approved bag, but somehow it got through. The rug was, to be sure, a beautiful addition to the living room, but I think the hassle of that particular trip officially stopped my parents from bringing any more crazy things back to France.

Even though my parents have finally stopped importing crazy things, I always crave the foods I can’t have while in France, so I’ve now taken up their old task. I had extra room in my suitcase this winter, so the day before the flight I went out and bought a bunch of salsa, chili powder, Maseca, and cornhusks: we were going to make tamales. Little did I know what I would be getting myself into.

When I had decided to make tamales I knew it was going to be a time consuming process, but I had not anticipated it taking quite as long as it did. By God, it literally took forever. I mean, the preparation itself is pretty easy: you basically just stew the meat, mix together the dough (masa), and stir a chili preparation into the meat. But it’s the assembly that takes time. I guess part of the problem was that since I had so much meat I had to double the recipe, so I ended up having an incredible amount of masa to use up. Good thing I had bought the big bag of maseca and two cornhusk packages, because after a bowl-full of masa and 40 corn husks later I had only used up half of the meat filling and needed to make a new batch of dough. Finally, after a full afternoon of filling and folding cornhusks, victory was mine, and the freezer was full of chicken and beef tamales. All that was missing to have a perfect Mexican-themed dinner party was a couple of ripe avocados for guacamole and a fresh batch of margaritas. Continue reading Importing Tamales: It runs in the family

Are you chicken?

Amanda takes the dive and nervously makes chicken parmigiana but is pleasantly surprised.  Spoiler alert, there’s a vegetarian option at the end.

So, here’s the deal: before this summer, I had never cooked meat on my own.  Sure, I had watched my mom marinate steaks or seen her flattening chicken.  Of course, I’m still scarred aware of the memories of Thanksgiving turkey and the treacherous caverns of the beast.  However, without a dining hall or my family to supply me with a creative diversity of food, I knew I was going to have to venture past pasta and grilled cheese at some point.  I flipped through my mental memories of simple meat recipes.  After a few minutes, it was settled.  TARGET ACQUIRED: chicken parmigiana.

At this point, I’ve made it on the other side.  I ventured into the unknown.  I vanquished my fears.  I forded the metaphorical rivers from Oregon Trail and didn’t lose any supplies from my saratoga wagon.  I cooked chicken.  And as far as I can tell, I don’t have salmonella.  To top it off, my food actually tasted pretty good.  I’d call this a success.  I was so excited that I texted my mom with several exclamation marks explaining that this was a grown up step for me.  My fellow Culinarians are far more adventurous cooks than I, and they have an incredible talent for constructing elegant and complicated dishes.  But this post is a shout out to the college cook, the ramen masters, the hey-I-could-eat-cereal-for-every-meal!-ers…you can totally make this dish.  For the record, everything below is available at Morton Williams so if you’re in New York, don’t be afraid!

Continue reading Are you chicken?

30 Minute Gourmet: Chicken Pot Pie

Our speedy-quick chef in the kitchen, Kelcey, finds the time limit a little difficult this week as she tackles a homey comfort food.

Ok, so maybe the title of “Thirty Minute Gourmet” doesn’t quite pertain to comfort foods like Chicken Pot Pie. But to be quite honest, I don’t really care. Last week, walking in the bitter cold and 8,000 mile an hour winds, a craving for chicken pot pie hit me like a cold gust of air off the Hudson. So I texted Matt, asking if he would be down for an evening of pot pie last Sunday. Thankfully, he was down.

Chicken Pot Pie, adapted from a recipe from Ina Garten

The recipe I use isn’t really a pot pie. It’s actually more of a chicken and biscuits type of thing. But the chicken stew is exactly the same as pot pie filling, and the dough for the biscuits is just as short as a pie crust (2 cups of flour to one stick of butter). So essentially, pot pie. But easier to make!

The original recipe is from Ina Garten, however I chose to augment it a bit. First of all, Ina’s recipe calls for a grand total of ***drum roll, please*** 2 AND A HALF STICKS OF BUTTER. I mean, really?! Using 1 and half sticks of butter to saute an onion is crazy talk. I cut down that 1.5 sticks to half a stick, and there was still plenty of butter to make the roux for the stew. And it still tasted awesome. Second augmentation… omit pearl onions. Instead of paying for 2 bags of frozen veggies and using half of each bag, I opted to just buy one bag of frozen peas and use the whole thing. Cheaper, and tastier in my opinion (I love frozen peas). And all you have to do is increase the amount of regular onion and you still get a nice, onion-y flavor.

The stew came out absolutely delicious. And thankfully, a few members of the e-board decided to stick around to help Matt and I consume my giant chicken-pot-casserole. Otherwise I would have been a pot pie blimp.

Note: If you are not comfortable making biscuit dough yourself, and that will just cause you more anxiety than pleasure, just buy refrigerated biscuit dough. Trader Joe’s makes a good one, sans partially hydrogenated oils and other yucky stuff.

Note^2: If you don’t want to wait for/cook your chicken in advance, just buy a rotisserie chicken, remove the skin, and shred the meat. Just as tasty and somewhat easier/faster.

Note^3: Buy frozen peas and carrots if you don’t feel like prepping the carrots yourself. Another shortcut if pressed on time.

Chicken Stew with Biscuits Continue reading 30 Minute Gourmet: Chicken Pot Pie

Culinary Queries: Defrosting Meat

 Every week, the Culinary Society gets a handful of questions on food stuffs. Do you have questions about how to cook a certain type of food, how to use certain kitchen appliances, or do you just want to know cooking tips?  If so, Culinary Queries is here to help!  Let us help you demystify your cooking experience!

Properly thawing chicken.

The Question: “I keep trying to defrost my chicken in the microwave, but it keeps coming out cooked. What do I do?”

The Answer: When working with meat it is very important that you thaw the meat safely.  Meaning, you do not want to leave a frozen piece of chicken out on your counter overnight to defrost since this is an excellent place for bacteria to grow.  Instead, thaw meat either by putting it in the fridge overnight, in a bowl of cold water, or by thawing it on the defrost setting in the microwave. Every cut of meat and type of meat will take a different amount of time to thaw.  Frozen chicken breasts that are left in the fridge overnight will usually be thawed by the morning.  Whole turkeys can take a few days so be sure to plan ahead.

When you place meat in the fridge make sure to put the wrapped, packaged meat above a cookie sheet or pan that will catch any juices as the meat thaws.  If the meat is thawing in a bowl or sink full of cold water make sure the meat is wrapped or in a tight bag so the water is not directly touching the meat.  I would also recommend this cold water method for thawing fish and other frozen seafood like shrimp.  Using cold water is very important since warm water speeds the growth of bacteria.  Change the water every half hour or so to keep it at a cool temperature.  Running water will speed up the thawing process, just make sure your sink doesn’t over flow.

If you do decide to use the microwave method then make sure the microwave is set to the defrost setting and your meat is in a container that will collect the juices.  I would only suggest using a microwave to defrost small cuts of meat like chicken breasts.  If your microwave does not have a rotating plate, then turn and flip the meat every minute.  You should still flip the meat every minute or so even if it is rotating.

Cook meat immediately after defrosting it and do not refreeze.

Post questions below or send them to the culinary@columbia.edu!

Recipe: Orange-Vanilla Chicken

Remember, Claire and I are not photographers... this dish is tastier than this picture looks...

I first had a version of this dish at an event hosted by Zarela Martinez. Ever since I had it, I was intent on replicating it. With the title, one would expect this to be a Frenchy, sweet version of chicken. However, it is in fact a Mexican recipe with quite a bit of spice. It’s a surprisingly easy recipe, but it is sure to impress your guests/friends/family. Plus, this is a way to spice up chicken, taking it from the mundane to the extraordinary.

(Note: If you cannot fit the chicken in a single layer in a large skillet, split the recipe between two skillets.)


6 chicken breasts

Salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper for seasoning chicken

4 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. butter

2.5 C of orange juice

2 vanilla beans, split and pulp scraped out

1 jalapeno, sliced in half and seeds removed

Cilantro for garnish


1. Tenderize the chicken breasts and lightly season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne. (Be careful not to over salt your chicken.)

2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, brown the chicken breasts (3-5 minutes on each side). Once the chicken is browned, remove to a plate. Set aside the chicken.

3. Once the chicken is removed from the skillet, add the minced garlic. Saute the garlic for 1 minute. Add the vinegar, butter, and orange juice. Add in the vanilla beans along with the scraped pulp of the beans. Add in the split jalapeno. Stir to combine all of the ingredients.

4. Add the chicken back into the skillet in one layer. Cook, basting the chicken with the orange-vanilla sauce, until the sauce is reduced to a syrup, 25-40 minutes. The chicken is finished once it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees.

5. Serve each chicken breast with the reduced orange-vanilla sauce and some cilantro for garnish. Claire and I served it with a bean stew, but it can also be served with rice and tortillas.

Recipes: Chicken-Pepper Stir-Fry and Grilled Cake with Ice Cream


The Recipe of the Week: Chicken-Pepper Stir-fry:

This recipe serves 4 and takes approximately 1 hour.


1.5 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs

2 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. red wine

2 tbsp. hot sesame oil

3 tbsp. ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

2 yum-yum peppers, chopped

2 shishito peppers, sliced

1 tbsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. rice vinegar

4 C cooked rice (to serve with the stir-fry)


1. In a bowl, toss chicken with the cornstarch and wine. Let sit in the fridge for 45 minutes.

2. In a wok, heat the sesame oil. Add in the chicken and stir-fry until cooked through. Add in minced ginger, minced garlic, and chopped vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes until peppers are tender. Add in sugar and stir-fry until chicken pieces are caramelized. Add soy sauce and vinegar and cook until sauce is thickened, about 30 minutes.

3. Serve on rice, garnished with lime wedges.

Dessert of the Week: Grilled Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

This recipe serves 4 people, and takes 15 minutes (plus steeping the syrup)

You’ve probably heard of grilled steak, grilled vegetables, and maybe even grilled fruit. But grilled cake? Well, believe it or not, it is quite delicious. Plus, I have a surplus of vanilla cake from my internship, so I was getting a little creative…


1 vanilla cake (yeah, I don’t want to put the details of making a cake here… use whatever recipe you have)

4 scoops of vanilla ice cream

Lavender Sage Syrup (recipe follows)


1. Cut the vanilla cake into 1-inch cubes and place in a baking dish. Turn on the broiler (since nobody at Columbia has a grill) and place cake pieces in the broiler. Broil until crispy, flipping the cake pieces over so they brown evenly.

2. Once cake pieces are evenly toasted, distribute the cake pieces among 4 dishes. Top with ice cream and lavender sage syrup.

Lavender Sage Syrup:


1 ½ C water

2 ¼ C sugar

4 tbsp. dried lavender

8 sage leaves

2 slices of lemon


1. In a saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat, and cover the saucepan. Allow to steep for 3 hours or more.

2. After the syrup steeps, strain out the lavender, sage, and lemon. Use syrup for dessert or drinks.

Pics from the Hapa Fusion Party

Greetings all, finally posting pics/recipes from the Hapa Fusion Party event! The theme was cultural “fusion” and we were asked to incorporate flavors from four widely different cultures, representing the groups performing during the event: West African, Chinese, Indian, and Phllippino. It was definitely one of our more challenging events as we had to figure out not only which flavors to incorporate, but also how to incorporate them, in terms of ingredients and technique.  Here’s the finalized menu!

  • Puled Pork Lettuce Wraps w/ Mango Salsa
  • BLT Spring Rolls
  • Sweet Samosas with Yams, Bananas and Golden Raisins
  • Spicy Thai Peanut Chicken Quesadillas
  • Homemade Lime flavored Tortilla Chips w/ Asian inspired Guacamole- served as an appetizer
  • Ginger-Mint Limeade

and now for lovely behind-the-scenes pics: