I’m a recipe thief. One of the worst kinds of culinary offenders out there. I steal not one, not two, but many, many recipes and fuse them together into an uber copied-concoction. And then garnish it with something I’ve seen someone else try.
Back in my consulting life, where we’re skilled at finding/creatings fancy ways of stating the simple, I’d have been happily labelled as a broker. A broker who adds value by leveraging key ideas from rock star recipes implemented by chefs around the world, thereby capitalizing on the potential to gain synergies through diversification of existing recipes rather than reinventing the wheel.
Nothing like a bit of consulting lingo to make even a scum like me feel legitimate.
To give myself some credit, I usually do begin with at least basic idea of what my star ingredients will be before I rummage through Google for online recipes. So in the case of my “Southern-style Mediterranean biscuits,” I had already decided that I would use a Mediterranean chicken and olives combo, sandwiched between something bready. But there were so many different permutations...should the olives be tossed with the chicken, or blended into a tapenade? Should the chicken be grilled, or minced and stir-fried? Should I make a flatbread, or keep it simple with store-bought bread (a cop-out in my opinion, so at least this possibility got ruled out pretty quickly)? And the list of questions goes on...which is why I like reading through online recipes. Someone, usually many someones, have tried a similar recipe or components of the ‘concept’ I have in mind. Reading through their experiences, drooling over their photos, glancing over the comments from people who’ve responded after trying a posted recipe – all of it helps to shape what I’ll eventually end up producing in the kitchen. Sometimes it transforms my basic concept into something totally new and unrecognizable (as a great example, my quest last week to make a Gujarati street food item called Dabeli turned into an American chicken pot pie mission). But that’s all part of learning and experimenting, and as long as I don’t kill any stomachs in the process, I'm golden.
So going back to my Southern-style Mediterranean biscuits, the concept of chicken and olives sandwiched between a bread-like TBD product was transformed into super soft and dense biscuits stuffed with spiced minced chicken, cream cheese and olives. The butter, shortening, and buttermilk combination in the dough created a biscuit that was creamy and flavourful, yet super light and fluffy. I baked some for my friend’s baby shower and got positive reviews. My uncle demanded for more after sampling the mini portion I’d sent over to his place. And my sister and I nibbled on them through the week. (They taste best when right out of the oven, though they held up really well throughout the week too).
The chicken stuffing on its own, unstuffed and without the cream cheese, actually tasted better than when I’d rolled it into the biscuit. Somehow the bay leaf and cumin flavour that had fully seeped through the minced chicken got somewhat lost in the biscuit, probably overpowered by the sour buttermilk dough. So next time the two – chicken and biscuit – get served separately. And maybe I’ll lose the cream cheese.
Rather than give you the recipe for my Southern-style Mediterranean biscuits, I’m doing what I almost always end up doing – referring to the sources I’ve stolen ideas from (at least I’m not a plagiarist!)
Mediterranean-inspired Chicken & Olives Stuffing. At least this I didn’t steal...
- Chicken breasts, minced in the grinder
- Onions, finely chopped
- Olives (I just used the regular green kind with pimentos, though I’d probably use bitter black olives if I had them on hand)
- Cumin powder, 2 tsp
- Bay leaf, 1-2 nos.
- Salt to taste
- Chillies, if you want to amp up the spice level
- Heat some vegetable oil in a wok, toss in the onions and cook them until they’re a stage between translucent and crispy brown.
- Add in the minced chicken breasts, bay leaf and cumin powder, and cook until the chicken is done
- Once cooled, you can add in cream cheese if you like, though I’m going to skip it next time around
It’s definitely not authentic Mediterranean, it’s just got the flavours of olives and cumin that I’ve enjoyed at Mediterranean restaurants. Super flavourful, and incredibly easy to make.
- Found this really popular recipe for buttermilk biscuits at allrecipes.com (I didn’t have a cast iron skillet, and went with a muffin tray instead which gave me these cute mini muffin-style biscuits perfect for snacking.)
- How do you stuff the biscuit the chicken mix? The dough is super sloppy, so stuffing it with the chicken can be somewhat challenging. Just follow the instructions on the site to making the biscuit (dumping scoops of dough in flour and then shaping it into a ball), then make a tiny depression in the middle, put a tiny heap of stuffing in, and then try to close it up with the doughy edges. Roll it around a bit in your palms and slop it into the muffin tray. It’s a bit messy, but you’d become a pro by the fifth sloppy biscuit-muffin.
- I’m a repeat offender when it comes to ensuring that I have the right ingredients in the kitchen. 9 times out of 10 I’m missing something that’s mission critical – which can often be a real deal-breaker when it comes to the exact proportions and weights and unfathomable chemical reactions involved with baking recipes. So for those of you afflicted with the same culinary carelessness as I am, Joy of Baking has a pretty neat list with substitutions. Just in case you forgot to buy buttermilk or got all-purpose flour instead of self-rising. It happens.
- Someone out there in cyberspace had baked these pretty curried chicken muffins and studded them with onion rings on the top. Loved the idea so much that I had to find a way to weasle the idea into my stuffed biscuits.
I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said I sometimes steal get inspired by online photos for how to dress up the beasts that emerge from my cooking experiments.