June – Perfect Roast Chicken

June – Perfect Roast Chicken

In her classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1), Julia Child states “You can always judge the quality of a cook or restaurant by roast chicken.” Roasting a chicken is certainly an important skill to master. Your own home cooked roast chicken will be miles better than any supermarket or deli chicken.

Julia’s method results in an excellent roast chicken. However it requires turning the chicken 4 times and basting every 10 minutes. Just reading the directions can be off putting. My own method doesn’t require any basting at all and only 1 turn. It results in crisp skin and juicy meat. I don’t truss because tying the legs close to the breast results in undercooked thigh or overcooked breast meat.

Here is the trick. I take advantage of the newest information on brining, and borrow a technique often used when roasting duck. I pre-salt the chicken and let it sit in the fridge (uncovered and breast up) for several hours or overnight. That’s the only preplanning that is required.

The perfect roast chicken starts with the quality of the chicken. Buy the best you can afford, preferably free range organic and air chilled. Water bath chilling results in the bird absorbing a lot of that soaking water. I also prefer the air chilled for food safety reasons, dozens of birds are not sitting in a vat of water. If one of the birds is contaminated it increases the chances that all will be contaminated as well.

The Perfect Roast Chicken

These are general directions.

Adjust the cooking time according to the weight of your chicken. I find it is done when the leg moves easily in the socket when jiggled. For a 4-5 pound chicken that will be somewhere between 50 and 70 minutes. There will be some personal preference determining the time. I don’t mind if the white meat has a very slight pink tinge, you may want to cook your own longer. Your oven temperature will also play a part. My oven runs hot, your own may run cool. It’s best to know those things, check your own with an oven thermometer. They are cheap and it will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

You can use an instant read thermometer for more precise measurements of doneness. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh without hitting the bone. The FDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. I take mine out just before it reaches that temperature. The bird will continue to cook with the residual heat after it comes out of the oven. Allow it to sit on your carving board or platter for 15 minutes, that allows the juices to settle back into the meat.

Salted Chicken on a Rack Ready for the Fridge

Salted Chicken Ready for the Fridge

So here we go…

There are two methods for brining a bird. The first, and older method, is to submerge it in a salt water solution. The second is a dry brine, simply rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of kosher salt. I don’t use method the first method anymore, I am not partial to a vat of salty water taking up space in my fridge (a spill will create a big mess…I’ve been there). In addition, a water chilled bird is what I am trying to get away from. I want to intensify flavors, not dilute them.

Dry brining intensifies flavors and will give you crisp skin. I use kosher salt because it doesn’t contain any additives and has a clean flavor.

Remove the chicken from its wrapping and dry it with paper towels. The latest food safety recommendations are to not rinse it. Rub it generously with kosher salt, both inside and out. Put it on a rack in baking dish, breast side up, and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. If you have 24 hours you will be amazed at the result. Don’t go longer than 24 unless you are brining a turkey.

Take the chicken out of the fridge while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). I don’t use the convection fan. Rub your chicken with olive oil and any flavorings you may want (I don’t worry about the salt). I have used my confit lemon oil and lemon slices with herbs to Provence (the aroma as it roasts is incredible), paprika, chili powder, roasted fennel spice, zatar, fresh herbs, etc. You can let your imagination run wild. But you will find this chicken is delicious with only a simple coating of olive oil.

Poke a few holes in a whole lemon and place that inside the chicken. You could also add a few sprigs of whatever fresh herb you have handy. The lemon adds additional flavor. You could even use an orange or a couple of limes (especially nice if you are giving the chicken a Mexican vibe).

Line your roasting pan with foil to make clean up easier. Rub a rack (V shaped if you have one) with oil and place the chicken breast down on the rack. Once your oven has reached 425 degrees F, place the chicken in the middle of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove it from the oven and turn it breast side up, roast for an additional 25 minutes or until done.

Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Perfect Roast Chicken

Look at how moist and juicy! And the skin is super crisp.

I often serve the chicken with a simple salad, I pour some of those chicken juices over the salad as a dressing with an additional squeeze of lemon juice. The fresh salad below had sliced peaches and red onion as well as some avocado. The combination was delightful.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Perfect Roast Chicken Thigh

Perfect Roast Chicken

I’m taking this to Fiesta Friday to share with Angie and the gang. It’s Fiesta #279 and I am a co-host along with Jenny from Apply to Face Blog.

Click on the links to join the party or check out all the blogs about food, the garden, and crafts. You can also add your own link.

Thank you so much for visiting and I would love to hear your comments.

 

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

It’s spring, but the weather here does not exactly match the season. It’s cool and overcast most days. But it’s impossible to resist the call of the BBQ and eating outside. The question is what to serve, do you have some favorite BBQ sides? Fresh summer tomatoes are still months away. A salad that bridges the seasons is needed. This broccoli salad is perfect. Roasted riced broccoli, crisped on the edges, is the main component. Add in pine nuts, garlic, lemon, dates, red onion, and sheep’s milk feta for additional flavor and deliciousness. It’s briny, crunchy, sweet, and tart. All in a single bite! I find raw broccoli a chore to chew, roasting softens it a little. I found that roasting also adds an additional toasty element. The broccoli chars slightly and crisps at the edges of the sheet pan.

Broccoli Salad

Many groceries carry riced broccoli but I don’t recommend it for this recipe. The commercially available riced mixes contain a large percentage of stem. You want the florets only for this recipe. It only takes a minute to rice the heads in a food processor. Purchase a large head and save the stems for another recipe. Try this garbanzo bean free recipe for broccoli stem hummus. Doesn’t that sound interesting? And a wonderful alternative for anyone watching their carbs.

Riced Broccoli Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of broccoli, florets only, very finely chopped in the food processor
  • 1 cup raw pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive or avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon, organic if possible
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or shredded on microplane
  • 4 dates – pitted and chopped into raisin sized pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ox of feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 additional tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, 220 degrees C
  2. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper
  3. In a large bowl combine the broccoli, pine nuts, olive or avocado oil, zest of 1 lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands and spread on the parchment lined sheet pan.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes until the broccoli and pine nuts are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli to a large salad bowl. Toss with the lemon juice, wine vinegar and olive oil. Taste for salt and add as needed.
  6. Add the red onion, dates and feta. Mix again.

You can either serve this salad immediately or chill for up to 2 days. It’s a great do-ahead salad that won’t wilt once the weather warms. Also, without mayonnaise, it’s good for picnics.

Riced Broccoli Salad

 

 

 

May – Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

May – Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

What is that grain in the salad? Is it rice, is it cracked wheat, is it couscous? Nope, none of that. This salad is grain and gluten free. It’s my favorite substitution, cauliflower! And this salad is wonderfully delicious as well as healthy; it’s full of chopped herbs plus cherry tomatoes and toasted almonds with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. It keeps well so you can make it ahead.

I can find already riced cauliflower in the grocery store, both Trader Joe’s and Safeway carry it. But it is easy to make at home in your food processor if you need to start from scratch (or have cauliflower growing in your garden…lucky you). I don’t recommend using the packaged already riced cauliflower if you are making mock mashed potatoes I think it has a high percentage of stem. It won’t result in a creamy rich amazing mashed potato substitute. You need to have mostly florets for that recipe. But, it is perfect for use in this recipe. The kernels hold their shape and crunch once cooked.

I roasted the cauliflower for extra flavor before mixing it with the other ingredients.

Middle Eastern Herb and Cauliflower Salad

If you are starting with a head of cauliflower, slice the head in half and remove the tough core. Roughly chop the florets. Working in batches, add the cauliflower to your food processor and pulse until the consistency of ‘rice’. Transfer to a large bowl.

Ingredients:

Cauliflower:

  • I head of cauliflower or a package of pre-riced cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons of fruity olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad:

  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped flat leaved parsley
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of coarsely chopped mint
  • 4 scallions white and light green, chopped
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced to make about 1/4 cup of juice
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 3/4 cup of sliced almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the riced cauliflower in a large bowl and add the olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  3. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes until tender and browning around the edges. You may need to leave it for a few additional minutes but check it so it doesn’t burn. Remove the sheet from the oven and let cool on the parchment paper.
  4. Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and toast in the same oven for about 5 minutes, again check constantly as they will turn from nicely toasted to burnt in seconds. Remove and cool.
  5. While the cauliflower is cooking you can make the herb salad. Combine all the ingredients for the salad in a bowl and let the herbs and tomatoes marinate until the cauliflower is cool.
  6. Once cool, add the cauliflower to the bowl with the salad and mix well. The parchment paper works well as you can just lift it off the baking sheet. Taste to see if you need to add any additional lemon juice or salt or pepper.
  7. Chill until ready to serve, garnished with the toasted sliced almonds.

I found this salad kept well and was still good the next day for lunch.

You could turn this into an entire meal by adding some sliced feta or leftover chicken to the salad. It would be an excellent side with lamb chops or kebobs.

Middle Eastern Cauliflower and Herb Salad

I’m taking this to share with fellow bloggers at Fiesta Friday #274, over at Angie’s place (where she is feeling the need for spring cleaning). Please click over to meet other food, garden and craft bloggers. And guess what, I am co-hosting with Antonia @ Zoale.com

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

April – Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and Kale

April – Grilled Cheese with Prosciutto and Kale

My garden is overflowing with kale, and unfortunately, it is not my favorite green. I know it’s good for me, full of antioxidants and other vitamins, but I have a hard time getting around to cooking it. Enter some great ideas from two books, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler and Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Norsrat. Ms. Adler modeled her book after one of my favorite food essayists, M.F.K. Fisher. Her classic collection of essays, How to Cook a Wolf, was written amid the hardships of W.W. II and is about cooking well in spite of lack. The New York Times described it as “spiritually restorative”. Ms. Adlers book is about eating affordably, responsibly, and well. There are recipes but it also contains many ideas to think about in light of our current global situation. I recommend all three of the books, they are essential parts of my library..

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent and turn this into a book review.

So, on to grilled cheese…

Ms. Adler recommends pre-cooking or preparing the greens as soon as you get them into your kitchen from the market or your garden. That way they are ready to finish quickly. Blanching also removes most of the bitterness from kale. So, I took her advice using the blanching instructions by Ms. Norsat. What a fabulous idea! The greens are ready to saute or add to a soup or other dish. A bonus is how much less space they take up in the fridge. You will see her simple instructions below.

Enter Friday night and the complete loss of ambition. Do you ever get like that? I couldn’t think of a single thing I really wanted to cook, and I write a food blog. With no energy to make a quick trip to the market, my husband suggested “Why don’t we just make grilled cheese?” It was a request to make me smile. Grilled cheese is one of my favorites, and not an everyday meal. It’s a special treat because we have cut down on both gluten and dairy, we don’t have either very frequently. This simple Friday night dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches became a special occasion. It was time to take a quick assessment of what was in the fridge and pantry. Earlier that afternoon we had picked up a loaf of wonderful seeded whole wheat bread from Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino. That already blanched kale added another layer of deliciousness and health. Rounding out my ingredient list was a package of thinly sliced prosciutto I found in the cheese drawer (kale pairs especially well with cured meats according to the The Flavor Bible), and a sharp white cheddar from the UK. It melted beautifully.

The combo elevated grilled cheese to a gourmet treat.

Seed Bread

Just look at that melty cheese!

Grilled Cheese with Kale

I used a panini press but a heavy skillet would work just as well.

To prepare your greens:

  • Wash them if they have just come in from the garden or farmer’s market.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it liberally. Put a half sheet pan or baking dish next to the pot and line it with parchment paper.
  • Drop the trimmed greens (strip off any tough stems) into the pot and bring it back to the boil.
  • Cook until tender, my variety of kale only needed a couple of minutes. Chard may take up to 3 while collards could take as much as 15. Taste a sample to determine when they are tender.
  • Using a sieve or spider to to pull the greens from the pot and spread them on your baking pan to cool.
  • Once cool, squeeze out any excess water using your hands or a dishtowel.
  • Chop them coarsely and store in the fridge until ready to use.

To prepare the sandwiches…

Ingrediens for 2:

  • 4 slices of sturdy bread
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto or other deli meat
  • 4 generous slices of a good sharp melting cheese
  • about 1/3 cup of precooked kale per sandwich
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • butter or oil if frying in a pan

Method:

  1. Lay out two slices of bread, cover each with a layer of kale (sprinkled with a pinch of red pepper flakes), then prosciutto, then cheese. Cover with the second slice of bread.
  2. Grill or fry until the bread is crisp and cheese is melted.

Sliced sturdy bread

The seeds were deliciously crunchy and flavorful. A green salad rounded out the meal.

Grilled cheese and salad

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. This sandwich would also make a fabulous Saturday lunch, put an egg on it and it could be brunch.

I going to take this idea to the folks at Fiesta Friday, it’s Fiesta Friday #271, hosted by Angie. The co-host this week is Ai @ Ai Made It For You

Come enjoy the posts on food, crafts and gardening.

March – Deconstructed Wanton Soup

March – Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Why is this deconstructed? Because it has all the delicious parts of pork wanton soup, but without the wanton wrappers. Leaving those out makes it both gluten free and low carb. I was inspired by a recipe for egg roll soup and thought…why not wanton? This is a lighter version of regular wanton soup, without the wanton wrappers. It’s perfect when you want a quick, healthy, vegetable laden and warming bowl of soup for lunch or a light supper.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound of ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon of neutral oil like grape seed
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 cup of shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of scallions, sliced white and light green portions
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 2 baby bok choy, rinced and sliced thinly
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil for drizzling when serving
  • chopped cilantro for serving

Method:

  1. Heat the 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a large stock pot or saucepan over medium heat and sear the ground pork until browned.
  2. Add the carrots, garlic, ginger, mushrooms and scallions. Saute until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken broth, soy sauce, and fish sauce.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the bok choy, cook until softened, about 5 minutes. It should still be bright green. if the white stems are large, add them first and cook for a few minutes before adding the tender greens.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve with a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Deconstructed Wanton Soup with Wantons

If you want a heartier meal for dinner, extra bulk can be added with a few steamed wantons. A request from the husband when serving for dinner. I found the lighter version perfect for me.

I think the folks at Fiesta Friday would enjoy this, especially anyone wanting to cut down on the carbs. Angie hosts Fiesta Friday and this week her co-host isJhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook. It’s Fiesta Friday #270. Click the link to read interesting posts about cooking, crafts and gardening.