The biggest (okay, only) disappointment in meeting Roger Mooking is he is not a Gemini. How can that be? We’re so alike.
Like me, Roger once felt “like a mad man caught in two worlds.” It took a long time for him to realize his love of food and music both branch from the common root of entertainment. I spent years figuring out my food/writing dichotomy is anchored in story telling. Same thing, if you think about it — only I have a blog and he has a recording studio.
Roger and I also share the tendency to be passionate yet down to earth. When he talks, he waves cilantro about like he’s conducting a Wagnerian opera. There’s no mollycoddling of herbs and romancing of spices. Ask him how to store cilantro and he’ll tell you to wrap it in slightly damp newspaper and stick it in the fridge. You could almost read my tag line in the fallen cilantro leaves.
If these parallels aren’t enough, he loathes his trademark words as much as I regret naming this blog Christie’s Corner. He shakes his head at his catch phrase “obedient ingredient”, which garners him as much hate mail as praise. He also rails against the term “exotic” — despite having a Food Network show and cookbook entitled Everyday Exotic. “What’s exotic?” he asks, flicking his hands in the air like a dog shaking off water after a swim. “It’s strictly based on relativity!” He picks up a fuzzy tamarind pod and swivels it in his fingers. As a kid he hated them. Why? “Because they fall and I had to pick them up — just like leaves.” Point taken.
The only area on which we don’t agree is sweets. Baking is too precise for him. He finds it too limiting and dislikes the “tedium of measuring.” Me? I’ll do almost anything for a perfect cake.
Although each recipe in Everyday Exotic is triple tested (twice internally by food professionals and a third time by friends or family), at home Roger never makes the same recipe twice. When I challenge him on this claim, he riffs on mashed potatoes:
- whipped cream
- 2 % milk
- milk with garlic steeped in it
- raw garlic
- roasted fennel
- riced potatoes with fried skins on top
Okay, Roger. I believe you.
Based on what I had in the fridge, I adopted Roger’s No-Recipe-Made-Twice approach. I cooked up a variation of Coconut Baked Chicken, swapping in cilantro for mint, ground cumin for garlic powder, and boneless chicken thighs for chicken pieces.
Somehow I don’t think he’ll mind.
Coconut Baked Chicken Served with Mint Dipping Sauce
Excerpt printed with permission from Everyday Exotic: The Cookbook by Roger Mooking and Allan Magee. Published by Whitecap Books ©2011.
- 1 cup (250 mL) coconut milk
- 1 large bunch mint, leaves picked (I used cilantro)
- zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Transfer the dipping sauce to a bowl and place it in the refrigerator until needed.
Store in a clean, airtight container in the fridge for up to two days. Makes 4 portions.
Coconut Baked Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces to match the size of the chicken thigh (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
- 2 tsp (10 mL) garlic powder (I used cumin powder)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
- 3/4 cup (185 mL) shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) panko (or coarse breadcrumbs)
Preheat the oven to 375°f (190°C) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Place the chicken in a bowl, drizzle with the vegetable oil and toss to coat. Season with the garlic powder (or cumin, in my case) and cayenne and toss again to coat the spices.
Place the coconut and panko in a resealable bag. In batches, place the chicken pieces inside the bag, close it and shake it to distribute the coconut and panko evenly. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and place them on the lined baking tray.
Repeat the process with the remaining chicken.
Place the tray in the oven and bake until the chicken pieces are golden brown and cooked through, approximately 45 minutes.
Review in Brief
This will appeal to: Anyone wanting to expand their cooking repertoire. Most “obedient ingredients” are easy to come by — avocado, buffalo mozzarella, feta, chickpeas and arugula are just a few of the items Mooking explores. All have has at least 3 recipes, so even if you do have to go to the specialty shop, the trip is worthwhile.
If Mooking’s newest TV show, Heat Seekers, scares you, don’t worry. Unlike the show, the spicing in this book isn’t over-the-top hot.
Must Make Recipes:
- Thai Basil Chicken Soup
- Five-Spice Lamb Burgers with Homemade Cucumber Relish
- Wonton Ravioli with Apple Cider Glaze
Biggest Delight: Other than having sections dedicated to my favourite ingredients — cilantro, ginger and coconut? His ability to demystify “exotic” ingredients. While the main ingredient may not be familiar, you won’t need specialty equipment. The mix of new and familiar is inspiring and encouraging. Ever been tempted to try King Oyster Mushrooms but were afraid to try? Now’s your chance. Roger’s got your back and some mouth-watering recipes.