Tag Archives: recipes

Simple Roast Chicken

Many times I feel that people making cooking much more complicated that it needs to be.  Roast chicken is the perfect example of this phenomenon.  A brief search of roast chicken recipes online and in my cookbooks gives a bewildering array of procedures and complications.  I have seen procedures for turning, basting, trusing, shoving butter and herbs under the skin, a bewildering array of oven temperatures, etc.  Frankly, most of them are worthless.  The most sensible roast chicken recipe I have seen comes from (of all people) Thomas Keller in the Bouchon cookbook.  Chicken, salt, pepper, roast.  That is it.  In my experience, good technique and a good chicken are what make a successful roast chicken, not complicated preparation.  I do sometimes break my own rules and insert tasty things (lemons, onions, herbs) laying around my kitchen into the cavity before roasting.

While we are discussing chicken, I’m not sure I really understand the very unusual relationship people have with chicken.  Perhaps one of you can explain it to me??  I have the impression that every evening, millions of people all over the country carefully don hazmat suits, unwrap packages of tasteless grocery store chicken as though an army of salmonella are preparing to leap out of the package and into the souls of their children, cook  the chicken until it has the consistency of a rubber band, and then congratulate themselves that they have consumed something resembling a healthy meal.  In my  mental caricature they then proceed to hose down every surface in their home with industrial strength disinfectants and antibiotics as though they just handled a biohazard that in a sane universe would only be contained in a biosafety level 4 lab…

Caricatures aside, I have never understood this mentality.  I can hardly imaging sitting down to eat a steaming plate of something I feared would kill me mere moments before.

On that happy note here are the details…

1) Start with a good chicken – grocery store chicken will taste like…..grocery store chicken.  Free-range, organic chicken from your local farmer’s market will taste 1000x better.  Use it.  You can thank me later.

2) Preheat the oven to 450 C.  Carefully dry the chicken inside and out, sprinkle the cavity and the skin liberally with salt and pepper.

3) (optional) Insert an onion, herbs, lemon, or any other tasty flavoring that you have into the cavity of the chicken.  Throw some veggies under the chicken if you would like (potatoes, onions, carrots, fennel,etc. are all good choices).

roast chicken - raw

4) Roast the chicken until it is done.  Do not overcook the chicken.  Do not overcook the chicken.  Do not overcook the chicken.  There are various guidelines for how to determine when the chicken is done available around the net.  I am not going to recommend a specific temperature here.  I will say that I prefer to err on the side of juicy chicken rather than government approved chicken leather.  Don’t forget that the internal temperature of the chicken will continue to increase after it is removed from the oven, so let the chicken rest at least 10-15 minutes before carving.

roast chicken - done

Mmmmmm.  Crispy skin, juicy meat, minimal effort…delicious!!

P.S.  Sorry for the mediocre pictures this time around – the lighting was bad and I was too lazy to get out my tripod 🙂

Next time: Heirloom tomato salad

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What I’ve been cooking…

Sorry for the unexpectedly long hiatus!  I’m working on a new post now.  Until then, here are a few photos of what I’ve been whipping up in the kitchen…

Cumin-crusted salmon with citrus butter and chive mashed potatoes…

cumin salmon

Heirloom tomoato, basil, mozzarella salad….

tomato salad

Basil ice cream…

basil ice cream

See you soon….

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Homemade Pasta

There are few things better than fresh, homemade pasta.  It has a vastly superior texture and flavor when compared to that dried stuff from a box.  I suspect that more people don’t make it because it seems somewhat intimidating if you haven’t done it before.  While it does take a bit of time to complete, it isn’t difficult at all.  However, it is somewhat difficult to give a procedure with precise measurements because the exact size of eggs and the hydration of flour can vary with time and location.  Making pasta dough is definitely one of those kitchen activities that requires some on the fly adaptation to the conditions at hand.  If the dough looks dry add a bit of water or oil; if it is too sticky, knead in some flour.  Below I give directions for making the dough by hand – you can also throw everything into a food processor and whirl it around until clumps of dough form.    

Before attempting fresh pasta on my own I did a survey of all the recipes I could easily find and they ranged from a ratio of 3/4 egg per cup of flour to recipes with a ratio of slightly more than 1 egg/cup flour with extra yolks added as an enrichment.  As a sensible compromise I chose to use 1 egg per cup of flour – this has the added benefit of being supremely easy to remember. 

Fresh Pasta

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

large pinch salt

Procedure

1.  Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.  Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the eggs.
pasta-1
 2.  Working outwards from the center, slowly stir the flour into the eggs until it becomes difficult to incorporate more flour.

3.  Dump the contents of the bowl onto the counter and knead the dough until a smooth, elastic dough is formed (about 5 minutes).  

4.  Wrap the dough in plastic and rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

5.  Cut the dough into pieces and use a pasta machine to roll it, typically the pasta sheet is rolled 1-2 times on each setting, decreasing the roller spacing one notch at a time until the desired thickness is reached.

pasta-3

6.  Cut the dough into the desired shape.

the homogeneity of my cutting leaves something to be desired...

You can cut the dough by hand into large pappardelle as I have above, or any other shape you like.  At this point it helps to let the pasta lay on the counter to dry slightly before handling it, this will prevent clumping.  A light dusting of flour is also helpful.  If you want to be really fancy you can buy one of those spiffy pasta drying racks with all the arms (this would be really helpful if you don’t have lots of empty counter space).

Next up:  Christmas candies

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Holiday Party Part 4: Standing Rib Roast

Finally, the main course!  If you have been following along (or want to now), I’ve published all the recipes for a fabulous holiday party: a chicken liver pate appetizer, a potato gratin side dish, and a Meyer lemon tart for dessert.  A traditional (and delicious) main course for Christmas dinner is a big beef rib roast.  Not only is it delicious, it is one of  the easiest things you will ever make.  Thanksgiving turkey is like brain surgery compared to this.  There are just a few things to remember for the best results: 

1) Allow the meat to warm up before you start roasting; 1-2 hours on the counter before roasting should be sufficient.

2) After roasting, allow the meat to rest 20-30 minutes before carving.  This will allow the meat to finish cooking (the thermal mass of the meat will cause the internal temperature to rise 5-10 degrees after it is removed from the oven) and allow the juices to redistribute.

Standing Rib Roast

Ingredients

beef standing rib roast (prime rib) 

salt

pepper

Procedure

1.  Remove the meat from the refrigerator 1-2 hours before roasting.

2.  Preheat oven to 450 F.  Place the meat in a roasting pan, fat side up.  Sprinkle salt and pepper copiously over the roast.

roast-raw

3.  Roast the meat in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 350 and roast to an internal temperature of about 115-117 degrees for medium rare (the temperature will continnue to rise after the roast is removed from the oven).

roast-cooked

Yep, that is it.  No basting, no stuffing, no worries.  Nothing but beefy goodness.  Just carve the roast into nice slices and serve to your guests.

roast-carving

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Holiday Party Part 3: Potato Gratin

Alrighty, by now you’ve read all about chicken liver pate and meyer lemon tart, the first and last courses in my holiday menu.  Since a potato dish is requisite at any big family meal, I’ve suggested a potato gratin.  How can anything composed of potatoes, cream, and cheese be bad?  Think of these as fancy scalloped potatoes.  You’ll notice that the amount of potatoes in the recipe is fairly vague.  Sorry!  I didn’t weigh my potatoes when I made the recipe.  You can use the photos as a visual guide to the the cream to potato ratio.  Thankfully, the recipe is forgiving and should work over a wide range (the consistency will just be a bit different).  You can easily scale this recipe up or down depending on the number of guests.

Gratin Dauphinois

adapted from Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain

Ingredients

Yukon gold potatoes, sliced 

2 c heavy cream

5 garlic cloves, crushed

1 sprig rosemary

1 sprig thyme

salt and pepper

nutmeg, preferably freshly ground

1 T butter

4 oz. grated Gruyere (or other good Swiss cheese)

Procedure

1.  Add sliced potatoes, cream, 4 garlic cloves, and herbs into a pot.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.

potatoes-cream

potatoes-cooking2.  Meanwhile, butter a baking dish large enough to hold the potatoes and cream, cut the remaining garlic clove and rub it inside the dish.

3.  Transfer the potato/cream mixture to the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the grated cheese.  Bake in a 350 C oven for about 40 minutes, until the cheese is browned.

potatoes-cooked

Yum!  During the time in the oven, the cream and starch from the potatoes (along with evaporation I assume) thicken the mixture into a mass of creamy goodness.  The flavors of the herbs and nutmeg really come through to highlight the potatoes and cheese.  I’ve never tried it, but I suspect that you could separate the boiling and baking steps by a few hours if necessary.  If you are making my whole holiday menu, you can work on this while the roast is in the oven, and then bake this while the roast is finishing.  I have made this for several groups of people and haven’t had to take leftovers home yet.  Enjoy!

Next up: Standing rib roast

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Filed under Vegetables and Sides

Holiday Party Part 2: Meyer Lemon Tart

Now that you’ve made (or at least read about) chicken liver pate, it is time to tackle dessert.  After a heavy, luxurious holiday meal, I thought that something refreshing was in order.  A lemon tart is just the thing.  I shouldn’t even be blogging about lemon tarts since my friend over at Small Kitchen, Big Ideas is truly the expert.  She has literally made dozens in the quest for lemony perfection (I’m not sure if any are on her blog yet; it is probably only a matter of time).

Meyer lemons are larger, juicier, and a bit sweeter than regular lemons.  They may be difficult to find in some locales; I got mine from the citrus guy at the local farmer’s market.  If you don’t have them, just use regular lemons from the supermarket, the tart will still turn out great.meyer lemons

meyer lemons

Meyer Lemon Tart

adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Susanne Goin

This recipe can be made 1 day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Ingredients

1 tart shell – use your favorite pastry dough or dessert crust recipe

4 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 cup plus 1 T sugar

1 cup Meyer lemon juice (you can use regular lemon juice as well)

10 T cold butter, cut into pieces

1 pinch salt

Procedure

1. Completely bake the tart shell.  Set aside to cool.

lemon-tart-shell

2.  Whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spatula.

3.  Remove from heat.  Add pinch of salt.  Mix in butter, a bit at a time, until completely mixed in.

lemon-tart-curd

4.  Strain the lemon mixture into a bowl and then transfer to the cooled tart shell.  Chill until ready to serve.

lemon-tart-seivingSo the tart looked really smooth and beautiful until I dropped a container of yogurt into it as it was setting…it still doesn’t look bad.

 

notice the impact crater...

notice the impact crater, just beyond the missing piece...

The real recipe from ‘Sunday Suppers at Lucques’ includes a thin chocolate layer in the bottom of the tart shell.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the chocolate-lemon combination so I skipped that this time around.  The tart is a great mixture of tart and sweet, a refreshing finish to the (almost excessive) richness that comes before in my holiday menu.

Next up: Potato Gratin (Gratin Dauphinoise)

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Duck Part 3: Duck Breast Salad

So I have to admit that project duck was not a total success…between work, traveling home for the holidays, and hosting a Thanksgiving get together for myself plus about 15 coworkers and friends I didn’t get a chance to use the duck liver.  I was reminded of this because when I returned home after the holiday and opened my refrigerator I was greeted by a most malodorous substance.  After quickly scurrying outside to dispose of a small plastic bag with a very smelly duck liver (and hoping that no one called the police to report a potential corpse) the situation was rectified.  Perhaps I’ll buy some chicken livers this weekend and make some pate. However, before project duck went south, I did make a really tasty warm duck breast salad.  As a matter of fact, it was so good that I make it twice (don’t worry, I really like duck so I’ll provide more recipes when I buy the next one).

Warm Duck Breast Salad

adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

Ingredients

2 duck breasts

1 T minced shallots

1/2 T salt

2 T white wine vinegar

zest of 1 orange

1/3 c olive oil

2 heads Belgian endive, trimmed and sliced into bite-sized pieces

2 oz. salad greens

2 oranges, cut into segments

1/2 pint raspberries

1/2 c pecans

Procedure

1. Liberally salt the duck breasts.  Be sure to leave the thick pad of subcutaneous fat on the breasts.  Roast in a 400 oven for about 20 minutes, until medium-rare (about 135 degrees internal temperature).  Wrap the breasts in foil until ready to slice and add to the salad.   The actual roasting time will depend on the size of the duck breasts.  There are a few species of duck (Muscovy and Pekin) that are available and they differ in size.  Be sure to remove the skin and fat pad from the duck breasts before serving.  

 

before roasting

before roasting

 

 

2.  Mix the shallots, orange zest, salt, and vinegar in a small bowl.  Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify (albeit temporarily, oil and vinegar mix only for a short time without some extra help).

 

shallot-orange vinaigrette

shallot-orange vinaigrette

 

 

3.  Mix the endive, greens, orange segments, raspberries, and pecans in a bowl.  Mix in dressing.  Slice duck breasts and serve over the salad mixture.

 

salad mixture

salad mixture

 

yum!

yum!

So there it is.  The sweetness of the orange and raspberries and nutty taste from the pecans help to offset the richness and fattiness of the duck.  It was so tasty that I made it twice (the recipe above uses both breast halves from a duck, I made two 1/2 recipes).

Up next: I have no idea, whatever food project I tackle this weekend; any ideas?

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Filed under Main courses, Salads