July – Three Pepper Quick Roast Chicken

July – Three Pepper Quick Roast Chicken

Three Pepper Chicken comes from a recipe typed by my mother on her old manual typewriter. I came across it while cleaning out some files, finding it was like discovering buried treasure. Mom had a cooking school in Florida back in the 70’s, but I don’t think this is from her classes. Judging from the folds, my mother must have mailed it to me. We shared a love of food and cooking. I don’t remember ever making it, which makes me sad. I missed an opportunity for the memories of a shared conversation about the recipe and the evening on which it might have been served. She would have wanted to hear all about the guests and the menu.

Three Pepper Chicken

This chicken was destined for our BBQ on a warm Friday night. It was too hot to spend time in the kitchen as we don’t have air conditioning. If your weather doesn’t cooperate, you could easily roast it in your oven. That’s how the recipe reads and my mom must have made it.

I combined her suggestion to spatchcock the chicken, cutting off the backbone and flattening it (see video),  with opening up the thighs for faster cooking. You can see more about this technique in my post about 45 minute roast chicken. The chicken does look a little pornographic but it immensely speeds the cooking time and ensures that the thighs are cooked at the same time as the breast meat. This method also has the advantage of letting you rub the three pepper seasoning into the thigh meat and the entire breast. The flavor is amazing!

Three Pepper Chicken

The three peppers are sweet paprika, black pepper, and Szechuan peppercorns. Only the additions of a little salt and olive oil are needed.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarsely and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, bruised and crushed slightly (I used a mortar and pestle but you could put them in a plastic bag and hit them with a rolling pin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Olive oil – about 1 tablespoon

Method

  1. Preheat your BBQ or oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). If making it in your BBQ, set it up for indirect heat (the central burners off or coals pushed to the side)
  2. Mix the paprika, black pepper, Szechuan peppercorns and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Coat the chicken, inside and out, with the spices. Drizzle with olive oil.
  4. If cooking in the oven:
    • lightly oil a roasting pan just large enough for the chicken to lay flat, skin side up.
    • Press any remaining spice mixture into the skin.
    • Roast in the center of the oven for 30-45 minutes until juices run clear. The time will depend on the size of your chicken.
  5. If cooking on the BBQ:
    • Clean and lightly grease the grill.
    • Rub any remaining spice mixture into the skin.
    • Place the chicken skin side up over the area of your BBQ where there are no burners or coals.
    • Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
    • Turn the chicken skin side down and continue to cook for 20 minutes or longer until juices run clear. Timing will depend on the size of your chicken.
  6. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes before carving.

Three Pepper Chicken

The chicken had the most lovely color and flavor from the spices. She would have enjoyed hearing all about it.

 

June – Middle Eastern Beer Can Chicken on the BBQ

June – Middle Eastern Beer Can Chicken on the BBQ

It was in March of 2015 that I first posted about beer can chicken. If you don’t have a rotisserie on your grill, cooking over a beer can (or other metal container filled with liquid), allows you to roast a whole tasty and tender chicken (or two) in your grill. As I wrote in the earlier post, the method is controversial. It has naysayers claiming cooking over a beer can makes absolutely no difference to the flavor, not to mention any other merits. I beg to differ. In my experience, it has two advantages. First, you fill the container with a liquid to flavor the chicken from the inside. There is no reason to confine yourself to beer. I have used wine, juice of all kinds (apple is very nice in the fall), chicken broth with spices or herbs, and plain water with sliced lemons and/or oranges plus some crushed garlic. Let your imagination go crazy. What would suit your taste buds on that particular day? And second, the liquid and metal container heat up and cook the chicken from the inside. This shortens the cooking time and ensures your chicken is done all the way through, resulting in a more reliably and evenly roast chicken. It has much the same result as those metal pins you can put in roasted potatoes to speed up the process.

There is a problem with using a real beer can though, it tends to tip over if you are not careful. I used the real beer can method for several years before I found this…a handy beer can BBQ tray with attached metal containers. It solves the problem of a potential scalding from a tippy beer can. Not to mention the mess it can make. This one came from Williams Sonoma where they call it Two-in-One Vertical Chicken Roaster. Please note that this endorsement comes only from my own experience and was not solicited.

Vertical Roaster

You can either roast two chickens (leftover roasted chicken is welcome on hot days), or one,  the center of the tray has a holder for a metal cup as well.

If you are using a real beer can, place it on a roasting pan or other flat surface. And handle it very carefully.

The weather in Northern California has finally reached summer temperatures, a few days before the the official date. Perfect for starting up the BBQ and staying out of a hot kitchen or further heating the house.

I decided to give these chickens a middle eastern flavor and use pomegranate juice as the liquid, and added a rub of cumin, Marash Turkish chile, and salt mixed with  with olive oil on the outside of the chicken before roasting. I first read about Marash chile in a book My Pantry written by Alice Waters, it has since become a favorite. If you don’t have it, substitute espelette or another you have on hand.

Although you could season the chicken immediately before cooking, letting it marinate for a few hours in the fridge will heighten the taste and aroma. You could even leave it overnight.

Middle Eastern Beer Can Chicken

Rub for two chickens:

  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin, toasted in a hot skillet
  • 1 teaspoon of Marash Turkish chile or another favorite chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt

Marash Turkish Chile

You will also need a liquid to put in the cups. See my comments above. Since this was a Middle Eastern themed dinner, I chose Pomegranate juice. Fill the cups 2/3 of the way to the top.

Chicken:

  • 1 – 2 organic chickens, free range if you can get them. Air chilled preferable.
  • Liquid or beer to fill cups

Slightly Off Kilter Chickens ready for the BBQ

Although these look tippy, they are held upright by the cups.

Method:

  1. Preheat your grill to between 350 and 400 degrees F (176 to 204 C). If using a charcoal grill, set it up for indirect heat.
  2. Fill the cups or can 2/3 with liquid, I used pomegranate juice. If using real beer cans, pour off some of the beer.
  3. If not done already, brush the chickens with marinade.
  4. Carefully place the chickens upright over the cans or cups, spreading out the legs.
  5. On a gas BBQ, turn off the center burner over which you will place the chickens.
  6. Place the tray with the chickens in the grill and cover the grill.
  7. Monitor the temperature throughout.
  8. Bake for 1 hour and check, the chickens will cook faster than you think. They may need another 10 minutes or more depending on the temperature of your grill and size of the chickens.

Finished Chicken

Crispy skinned chicken and tender meat is your result. Carve and serve.

Carved Beer Can Chicken

May – Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

May – Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

Who doesn’t love chicken breasts? Me, that is who. Until I tried them sous vide. Oh my! They are an entirely different experience. If you have ever had a chicken breast in a good restaurant and were shocked at the perfect texture and delicious flavor (did you ask yourself “How did they do that?”), chances are that it was prepared sous vide. Sous Vide has been a standard technique in restaurant kitchens for years but the machines were far too expensive for most home cooks, costing in the thousands of dollars. Not any more. You can pick one up on sale for under $200 and even closer to $100 if you keep a sharp eye out. You will find my first post describing the sous vide wand here. I notice that Amazon carries a well respected brand, the Anova.

If you are watching your weight or health, here is the good part. You don’t need to add any additional fat or oil to take advantage of that wonderful flavor. Plus you can cook the breasts ahead of time (a couple of days), then finish them just before dinner. That makes them almost easier than a rotisserie chicken and better for you as they don’t have all those “additives” the grocery store or deli uses to keep their chickens moist. You will save money because you purchase the bone in, skin on breasts. Buy them when on sale, season as described below, put in individual vacuum sealed or freezer bags, and pop in the freezer. No need to defrost, cook them frozen, adding an additional 30 minutes to the time.

Once they are cooked, it is easy to strip the breast off the bone. Chicken cooked on the bone will have far more flavor than those you buy already boned and skinned. And they are much less expensive.

We just returned from two amazing holidays, two weeks in France and a cruise in the Caribbean. I had to celebrate my retirement, right? The result is that I haven’t spent much time in my kitchen, and am anxious to concentrate on healthy food before summer gets going in full swing. Too much delicious food and wine has added a few pounds and my clothes are tight…uncomfortably tight. Sigh. It sure was fun.

But, with this kind of food you don’t need to feel deprived.

I pre-seasoned the breasts (curry powder, 5-spice, fennel spice, chili, BBQ, slice of lemon, sprig of fresh herbs, etc.), vacuum sealed them in labeled bags (a good quality freezer zip lock bag also works), and cooked them while I was busy doing something else in the kitchen. They don’t need any attention. It only takes an hour but is forgiving enough to be left for two if something distracts you.

A few minutes before you want to serve dinner, preheat a skillet on high (cast iron works well). Cut open the bag with the chicken and peel the breast off the bone, it should come off easily. You may want to add a teaspoon of oil to the pan, use something that can tolerate high heat (such as grape seed) without burning. Add the chicken to the hot skillet, skin side down to brown. I press it gently with the side of a spatula. A good trick is to place the thicker edge against the side of the skillet so it will brown as well. Leave it for a few minutes to caramelize. Turn it over to briefly to brown and heat the other (bone, but now boneless) side. That’s all. Serve with a fresh vegetable and starch of your choice. Mashed potatoes would be excellent; double sigh, not for me.Sous vide chicken

This recipe is for 4 breasts, serving 4 – 6 (easily multiplied)

Sous vide chicken breast – basic method

  • 4 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
  • seasoning of choice. For example BBQ rub, fresh herbs, lemon slices, curry powder, etc.
  • Kosher salt

Method

  1. Preheat your sous vide water to 150 degrees F for moist chicken, still slightly soft. You will finish them in a hot pan.
  2. Season and seal each chicken breast in either a vacuum bag (seal on moist setting) or in a heavy duty plastic zip lock bag (you will use the water displacement method to remove most of the air).

    Fennel Spice Rub

  3. Once hot, place the bags in the heated water. The vacuum bags should sink below the water level. For zip lock bags, gently push the bottom of the bag into the water displacing the air (without getting any water into the opening). Once near the top, seal the bag. Trick: if the bags don’t sink to the bottom, you can put a teaspoon into the bag with the food.
  4. Cook the chicken for at least an hour, as long as two is fine. My chicken breasts were quite large so I cooked them for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If frozen add another 30 or 40 minutes to the time.
  5. If you are not going to finish and eat them immediately, cool the bags in an ice water bath for an hour, then refrigerate. You want them to cool quickly to avoid food poisoning. If properly refrigerated the chicken will be fine for 2 or 3 days. I cooked mine the night before.
  6. When ready to eat, remove the chicken from the bag and gently pull off the breast bone. If they are cold this might take a bit more elbow grease but the bone should release from the meat.
  7. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Once very hot, add a slick of high temperature oil like grape seed and brown the chicken on all sides.

    Sous vide chicken breasts in cast iron pan.

  8. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing.

    sous vide chicken breasts

    Tender and delicious, juicy and moist without a bit of dryness, plus a crisp skin from the hot frying pan. It was a wonderful contrast of textures. Use the best quality chicken breasts you can find as the flavor really comes through. 

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #170 hosted by Angie.  The co-hosts this week are Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sue @ Birgerbird. Click on the Fiesta Friday link to see all the yummy food other bloggers are bringing to the party.

February – Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

February – Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs, it’s a meal I consider one of the ultimate winter comfort foods. It is certainly a classic. Remember that scene from Lady and the Tramp? A classic! The original calls for ground beef, eggs and breadcrumbs. But what about replacing those meatballs with ground turkey and ricotta? I’ve done this before with turkey burgers and recently saw the same idea using meatballs in a new cookbook, Small Victories (see the link below). No breadcrumbs or eggs required. Even better, these are baked, not fried. The meatballs are moist and flavorful, full of fresh herbs. You could serve them with zoodles (spiralized zucchini noodles) for the ultimate gluten free dinner. This easy recipe makes enough meatballs to freeze a batch for a future meal, any leftover tomato sauce is delicious with baked eggs for brunch.

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Pasta

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Pasta

This recipe makes a large sheet pan of meatballs, 6-8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 28-ox cans of whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine or water
  • 7 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves, 4 thinly sliced and 3 minced
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh Italian flat leaved parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • 2 lb. of ground dark meat turkey

Method:

Meatballs

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drizzle the baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and smear to cover the sheet.
  2. In a large bowl combine the minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, parmesan, turkey and 1 tablespoon salt. Mix everything together until well blended, not too roughly.
  3. Use your hands to to form golf ball sized meatballs, you can wet your hands to prevent it from sticking. Transfer the meatballs to the lined baking sheet. It is ok if they are fairly close together or lightly touching.
  4. Drizzle the meatballs with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake until browned and firm, about 25 minutes.

    Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

    Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

While the meatballs are baking, start the sauce.

Sauce

  1. Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and crush them, the easiest way is with your hands.
  2. Add the wine or water to one of the cans and swish it around, add it to the second can again rinsing to clean out any remaining tomato and add it to the bowl.
  3. Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook about one minute (make sure it does not burn). Add the tomatoes and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer for about 10-20 minutes.

To finish

Finished Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Finished Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

  1. Remove the desired number of meatballs from the baking tray with tongs and gently add them to the simmering sauce.
  2. Cook for at least another 10 minutes for the flavors to meld, but they can go longer (up to an hour according the recipe but I wouldn’t leave them so long).
Tomato Sauce with Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Tomato Sauce with Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs

Any leftover meatballs can be frozen.

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs, Tomato Sauce and Pasta

Turkey and Ricotta Meatballs, Tomato Sauce and Pasta

This recipe came from the excellent cook book Small Victories by Julia Turshen.

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Cheese

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Cheese

Flyng Frisbee Quinn

Flying Frisbee Quinn with Leo and Mazee on a winter beach

I am taking this comforting winter dish to Fiesta Friday #161 hosted by Angie. Her cohost this week is Laura @ Feast Wisely. Click on the link to join the fun and read the recipes brought to the virtual party by other bloggers.

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe combines two of my favorite foods, chicken and tomato soup (don’t worry, it won’t call for that red and white can). Those flavors are especially welcome on a night like this, stormy and cold. We took the dogs for a walk on the beach just before the rain hit, the first drops fell as we were driving away from the parking lot.

Seaside Winter Beach

Seaside Winter Beach

Don’t you think a winter beach is special? It was empty of summer visitors, only the hardiest souls were out in the late afternoon. We only met two other couples, both with dogs chasing balls or sticks.  out. Our dogs were in heaven, excited by the wind, leaping into the air to catch the frisbee.

The beach was full of driftwood washed up by the waves onto the high tide line. I didn’t get a picture, unfortunately. The salvage groups have been out cutting up the logs.

Winter beach

Winter beach

I cooked this sous-vide, inspired by a post from Bewitching Kitchen for Chicken Korma-ish. But the dish could also be cooked in a skillet with the sauce. I will give instructions for both. Sous-vide means “under vacuum” and is a method of cooking in a water bath at a very carefully controlled temperature. Your food is encased in a food safe plastic bag, either under vacuum or the air having removed by displacement. Your food cannot overcook. It takes longer but the results are amazing. In this case, silky and moist chicken breasts.

I served this with both spiralized zucchini and pasta. Take your pick, it was delicious both ways.

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced. I didn’t bother to skin them as I was going to puree them in the food processor.
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • thinly sliced basil or parsley, about 1/4 cup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • toasted pine nuts for serving
  • garnish of chopped basil
  • pasta of any shape or spiralized vegetable

If making this in the summer with wonderful vine ripened tomatoes, you may not need to add the tomato paste. Since these were February tomatoes, green house grown, they could use a little help.

Method

  1. If using sous-vide, heat your water bath to 150 degrees F.
  2. Melt butter or heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  3. Add the shallot and saute until starting to soften.
  4. Add the garlic, do not let either the shallot or garlic brown. Saute for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the sliced tomatoes, cook until softened and starting to melt into the pan.

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

  6. Add the tomato paste and salt, stir to mix.
  7. Put the contents of the skillet into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  8. Add 1/3 cup of the cream and process again.
  9. For sous-vide:
    1. Add the diced chicken to a food safe plastic bag.
    2. Add the second 1/3 cup cream to the bag and mix.
    3. Add the contents of your blender or food processor and mix.
    4. Immerse the bag in the water and squeeze out the air.
    5. Cook for 2 hours, 3 is ok if you need to leave it longer.
  10. For traditional:
    1. Return the contents of the processor or blender to the skillet, add the second 1/3 cup cream and mix.
    2. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and heat on medium until just under the boil.
    3. Add the chicken and turn the heat to low.
    4. Cook until the chicken is done, about 10-15  minutes. Test a piece to make sure it is cooked all the way through.
Spiralized Zucchini

Spiralized Zucchini

There is a trick to using spiralized zucchini. Zucchini is mostly water. salting before using will help it retain the crispness. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt and drain in a colander. Then dry on paper towels or a tea cloth before using. You will be amazed at the liquid that is released (and doesn’t water down your sauce). You can then add the zucchini to the hot sauce in the skillet to heat.

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

The chicken was fantastic!

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

I am adding this post to the virtual blogging party at Fiesta Friday #158 hosted by Angie. The co-hosts this week are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.