Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Perfect Roast Chicken

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The chicken you see above cost a little over $2. Not $2 per pound, not $2 per serving. Two dollars flat. It was about 4 pounds and was on sale at the local grocery store – I noticed all these old ladies leaving with a dozen birds, so I knew a good deal was on.

The beauty of roast chicken is that it does triple-duty. We had leftovers for two full meals and then boiled the leftover bones or whatever to make a delicious stock. Our leftovers are becoming tortilla chicken soup tomorrow.

Back to the roast chicken.

You can really do anything with this recipe, but I’ll include my adaptations to the original Ina Garten recipe.

Ingredients

1 whole roasting chicken, giblets and extra fat removed and stored for later (boil them in your chicken stock).

kosher salt

pepper

1 bunch fresh thyme

1 lemon, halved

1 head garlic, cut crosswise, or whatever you have on hand.

2 T butter, melted

1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced

4 carrots, cut into chunks

1 bulb fennel, cut into chunks

1-2 pounds of red or new potatoes, cut into chunks

olive oil

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Method:

Preheat oven to 425.

Rinse the chicken inside and out, pat dry. Remove any pin feathers. On the inside, liberally salt and pepper, then stuff with half the fresh thyme, all the lemon and garlic.

In a roasting pan (or large baking dish), combine the onions, carrot, fennel and potatoes (you could also add garlic – live dangerously!). Toss with salt, pepper, thyme and olive oil (you could add other herbs if you have them, and I used dried thyme). Spread the veggies in an even layer.

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Now, tie the chicken’s legs together with twine and tucks its wings under its body. Brush it all over with the butter and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. I also added paprika, for color and because my mom did. Use your gut instinct! Place the bird on top of the vegetables.

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Roast for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the thigh and the leg (mine was perfect after this time). Tent foil over the chicken for another 20 min. Remove the chicken to a platter and serve with the roasted vegetables and fennel fronds, for decoration.

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You’ll notice that some of the veggies got nearly black. They are delicious! In fact, I kept all the “burned” pieces for myself – they were so caramelized that they stuck to my teeth with sweet, savory goodness.

To serve, plate up the chicken and vegetables and spoon over extra juices from the roasting pan. We had this with bread and a simple salad – ta da!

What a satisfying meal.  As I hope you can see from the pictures, it is a feast for the eyes and the belly. One chicken feeds four people easily.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have to check on my chicken stock. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Sage & browned-butter pumpkin bread

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Pumpkin recipe challenge #7! I apologize for being so behind on posting lately, but I promise to do a better job this week…

Martha Stewart Magazine describes this recipe as such: “Fall’s classic flavor combinations come together beautifully in these little loaves.”

Indeed, Martha. Truth is, I don’t have eight small bread tins. Instead, I have one big one, which just took a little longer to bake. Other than that, and the fact that I strained the sage-browned-butter mixture, I didn’t change the recipe at all. True to her description, the subtle sage flavor is a nice balance to the sweetness of the pumpkin bread. And the browned butter gives it a nuttiness that is lovely.

Ingredients:

6 oz. unsalted butter

1/4 c. sage leaves, sliced

1 2/3 c. flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg

1/8 tsp cloves

1 tsp salt

1 c. canned pumpkin

1 c. brown sugar

2 large eggs.

Oven at 350. Butter and flour your loaf pan.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium-low. Add sage and cook about 8 min., until butter is browned. Strain into a bowl and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.

In another bowl, whisk pumpkin, sugar, eggs and browned butter. Add flour mixture until incorporated. Pour into pan and smooth the top.

Bake about 55 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 15 min., then take out of pan to cool completely.

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This is good with your coffee in the morning or with a dollop of whipped cream after dinner. We are big quick-bread fans in this house, and Jesse likes to buy the pumpkin bread at Krankie’s. I think he’ll now just bug me to make it every time he gets a hankering.

Yum! Enjoy, friends. xoxo

Southern Living

This post is dedicated to some decidedly Southern foodie bits I have been enjoying lately.

For instance, okra chips. We buy these at Fresh Market and they are wonderful. Lightly fried whole okra pods. Ma and pa brought some home with them.

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Something called a “grits bowl” that I got in Durham, N.C. You can add all sorts of toppings. I had a fried egg, bacon, salsa and avocado. The grits already had cheese in them. Delicious for breakfast.

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Shrimp and grits. They should be made with lots of bacon or other pork products. With Atlantic shrimp. Fabulous.

North Carolina's finest

North Carolina's finest

Pumpkins and mums. These were all on sale at the farmers’ market and I just couldn’t help myself.

My fall doorstep decor!

My fall doorstep decor!

Enjoy your week, friends! xoxo

Christmas came early this year!

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Cranberry-orange scones with an orange glaze

Well, friends, Christmas came a little early this year.

Mom and dad were visiting for the weekend and mom insisted on buying my present now. I told her that I don’t want to buy a KitchenAid stand mixer before I get married – they are too expensive and take up too much counter space and are perfect for wedding registries or first-house warmings.

Well, she declared that she has ‘given up hope’ that wedding bells will ring any time soon. Her lost hope turned into my…

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It is brushed nickel with metal attachments and I love it!

The first thing I made with the KitchenAid was Ina Garten’s cranberry-orange scones with an orange glaze. Yum! I have been wanting to make these for years, but didn’t because the thick dough seems to need heavy machinery to mix. In fact, I ended up halfing the recipe and it still yielded nine scones, which was plenty for us.

They are wonderful: light and flaky, with a wonderful orange zest aroma. The cranberries were a nice tart surprise. And the simple orange glaze? Beautiful!

Ingredients (this is the full recipe, so twice as much as I made)

4 c. plus 1/4 c. flour

1/4 c. sugar

2 T baking powder

2 tsp. salt

1 T orange zest

3/4 lb. cold unsalted butter, diced

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 c. cold cream

1 c. dried cranberries

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with splash of milk)

Glaze: 1/2 c. powdered sugar mixed with 2 T fresh oj

Oven at 400.

Mix 4 c. flour with sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add butter and mix on low until the butter is pea-sized.

Combine eggs and cream. Add to the mixer on low, mix until just blended. This will be a very lumpy, wet dough.

Combine cranberries and remaining flour, add to mixer on low.

Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead into a ball. Roll to 3/4 in. thick. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter (I used a drinking glass), cut out scones. Gather dough and repeat until all is gone.

Place scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I forgot the parchment and they didn’t stick).

Brush the scone tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20-25 min. until the tops are browned and the scones are firm to the touch. Cool for 15 min. on wire rack, then drizzle with glaze.

I’m sorry to say these are going fast at my house. I am NOT, however, sorry to say that I’ll never look at store-bought scones the same way.

Flaky, buttery, yum

Flaky, buttery, yum

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go gaze at my new piece of kitchen machinery! Enjoy, friends. xoxo

Pumpkin-bourbon bread pudding with maple cream

Cobbled pumpkin goodness

Cobbled pumpkin goodness

Pumpkin Challenge No. 6!!! Are you guys getting tired of this yet? We only have a couple more to go, and my waistline would like to thank me for that fact. Why does pumpkin always have to be in the most rich, fattening recipes?

Alas, fattening = delicious. This is a recipe that I got from Smitten Kitchen. Although this time I made it, I used fresh brioche from Ollie’s Bakery. It was a hugely awesome change. That dense, eggy bread all baked in a custard … heaven. I also left the crusts on for added color, and because I’m too old to be cutting off my crusts (remember that, mom?).

Ollie's brioche

Ollie's brioche

I also put way too much bourbon in. Probably 1/4 c. instead of the 2 T that they recommend. But I thought, we bought all this Maker’s Mark…why waste it? I would recommend holding off, because it can be really strong. Not the worst thing to happen, but still.

SK originally got this recipe from Gourmet (RIP).

Ingredients:

1 c. heavy cream plus 1/2 c. whole milk

3/4 c. canned pumpkin

1/2 c. sugar

2 eggs plus 1 yolk

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. ground allspice

Pinch ground cloves

2 T bourbon

5 cups cubed day-old bread (3/4 loaf for me)

3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted.

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in the middle.

In a large bowl, whisk pumpkin, cream, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, spices and bourbon.

In another bowl, toss the bread with butter. Add the pumpkin mixture and toss gently to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish. Bake until the custard is set, 25-30 min.

Dark parts are the brioche crusts

Dark parts are the brioche crusts

This can be served warm or cool. I whipped up a cup of heavy cream with a splash of maple syrup to put on top and I thought the maple was a nice addition. Reminded me of another recipe from the pumpkin challenge.

Brioche layers

Brioche layers

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

French lentil soup with sausage

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So far, it seems The South goes kicking and screaming into fall. A cool week, then an 80-degree weekend. We’ll have rain, then we’ll have sun to make everything muggy. The honeysuckles are still blooming, but the maple leaves are turning into their own kind of brilliant flower.

All of this brings me to soup. Thick, spicy, hearty, fill-that-tummy-up soup. We really don’t eat enough of this economical food in my home, so we recently decided to change that. What immediately came to mind is a soup that I love but never have made: lentil soup.

I browsed a few recipes on FoodNetwork.com, and decided on Ina Garten’s recipe, after reading glowing review after glowing review (tip: always read reviews of Food Network recipes – it is a rare luxury to hear others’ experiences of online recipes). She combines dark green French lentils with a ton of onions, leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, cumin, tomato paste and red wine. Oh, and kielbasa sausage (for the Polish in me).

It was a great combination of flavors, although I must say that  my Dutch oven was too small to fit all the chicken stock she asks for. No worry, just fill the pot as much as you can.

Ingredients:

1 pound French lentils

1/4 c. EVOO

3 large yellow onions, diced

2 leeks, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 T minced thyme

1 tsp. cumin

5 stalks celery, diced (I used hearts)

5 carrots, diced

3 quarts (boxes) chicken stock

1/4 c. tomato paste

1 pound kielbasa sausage, sliced into half-moons

1/4 c. dry red wine (I used a cheap Malbec)

Parmesan cheese

Method:

Cover the lentils with boiling water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In large Dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and saute onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and cumin for 20 minutes. Add celery and carrots and saute 10 min. Add stock, tomato paste and lentils and cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour. Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.

Once the lentils are tender, check for seasonings and add the sausage and wine. Simmer until the kielbasa is heated through.

To serve, drizzle olive oil over the portioned soup and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add a great loaf of bread and simple salad and you have a complete and healthy meal.

This will definitely make enough to freeze the leftovers, so I wouldn’t recommend doubling the recipe. It was a truly satisfying combination of flavors – exactly what we were looking for on a drizzling, gray autumn day.

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Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Sausage and Gruyere egg bake

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One of the virtues of being home more often is the ability to watch a Food Network show, become inspired and make whatever you witnessed. Yesterday was such a day. I watched Giada on “Everyday Italian” make what she called an omelet but what I would call an egg bake. If it were cooked on the stove first, I would call it a frittata. If it had bread in it, it would be a strata. So I guess it is an oven-omelet? Whatever.

Oh my GOODNESS I love Gruyere. It has to be my favorite cheese to cook with. Melts perfectly, has a nice nutty flavor, mmmmm. The Gruyere makes this dish, although Jesse says that each ingredient was a star, like you can really taste each in every bite. Instead of following Giada’s recipe exactly (I don’t like bell peppers), I made it my own.

I used spicy Italian chicken sausage instead of turkey sausage and I used tomatoes instead of bell pepper. I also used more cheese (oops!) because the Gruyere only comes in 8 0z. packages and she called for 6 oz. Oh wells!

Ingredients:

Italian sausage

parsley

2 tomatoes

1 small onion

Gruyere cheese

eggs

milk

S&P

butter

olive oil

Here’s what I did:

Preheat the oven to 425 and butter a glass baking dish (mine is 8-inches square).

Heat 2 T EVOO in a large skillet and sautee one chopped yellow onion until translucent. Add in 1/2 lb. sausage, casings removed, and brown. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat seven eggs (she called for eight, I had seven) with 1/3 c. milk (I used 1 percent). Add a large pinch of salt and some cracked pepper to taste. Stir in two tomatoes, seeded and chopped, 1 c. shredded Gruyere and 1/4 c. parsley. Stir in the onion mixture.

Pour that into the buttered pan and cover with more cheese. Bake until the center is set, about 25-30 min. and the cheese is amber and bubbling. Just make sure the center is set – these things can take forever to bake! If your cheese is getting too brown and the middle still isn’t set, put the whole thing in the microwave for a couple minutes, or put foil over the top and keep baking until done.

While that bakes, make some toast and spiced apples. I peeled and sliced two gala apples and added them to a pan with 2 T. melted butter, over medium heat. Then I added a few shakes of cinnamon and some freshly grated nutmeg. Then the juice from one lemon and two tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir and cook until thick and bubbly.

A sweet side dish

A sweet side dish

For the toaste, I just sliced the rest of our ciabatta bread and toasted it with garlic-olive oil.

When the bake is done, let it rest a few minutes and then cut into wedges, sprinkling with more parsley. In my opinion, the corners are the best because they have all that crusty cheese…

Baked cheesy goodness

Baked cheesy goodness

Turns out, this meal was wonderful for dinner, but of course works for breakfast and brunch. You could even make it ahead and bake it off in the morning, although it really doesn’t take that long to prepare. I thought I didn’t like strata-type baked egg dishes, but this one proved me wrong. And it was dirt cheap – eggs go a lot farther if you mix them with vegetables, meat and cheese, then bake them. Nummy.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Marbled pumpkin cheesecake

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Taking a bite into this silken wonder, I am transported to a cozy kitchen with a turkey roasting in the oven, cranberry sauce bubbling on the stove and fresh rolls steaming on the counter.

The roasted nuttiness of the pecan-gingersnap crust, the bite of cream cheese and the wonderful smell of spiced pumpkin – These are the things that make this recipe my favorite in the Pumpkin Challenge. Here we are at #5 – a recipe I’ve had for years and that people seem to LOVE.

And I must say, the swirled top does give it a rather professional look…

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Here’s the recipe:

1.5 c. crushed gingersnap cookies

1/2 c. chopped pecans

1/3 c. butter, melted

16 oz. cream cheese, room temp.

3/4 c. sugar, divided

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 c. canned pumpkin (I used the whole can)

3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Method:

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, mix cookies, pecans and butter. Press into a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, use and electric mixer to combine cream cheese, 1/2 c. sugar and vanilla. Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each. Set aside 1 c. of mixture. Blend in 1/4 c. sugar, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread pumpkin batter into the crust. Drop plain batter in spoonfuls. With a knife, swirl the two around to create a marbled effect.

Bake the cheesecake for 55 minutes, or until the custard is set (just barely wiggles in the center). Run a knife around the edge of the pan and let it cool before removing rim. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

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Yum Yum Yum. I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese on this, but whatever floats your boat. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Caprese panino

Attack of the giant panini!

Attack of the giant panini!

Question: is there any discernable taste difference between sweet and Thai basil? In my opinion, not when you cook with it.

I found all this Thai basil stuffed in our crisper drawer from last week’s farmers market (oops) and hurried to turn it into a pesto, hoping to salvage whatever I could. Tasting the basil raw, it definitely had a more lemony, almost peppery flavor, compared to the sweet licorice of the “other” basil. Moreover, the physical differences are greater: Thai basil has more pointy leaves that are roughly textured, and are almost purple.

Still, basil is basil, in my opinion, and it all tastes good in pesto.

I made the quick pesto with roughly two handfuls of basil leaves, one palmful of pine nuts, four chopped garlic cloves, 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese and 1/4 c. EVOO. Blend with salt and pepper to taste.

I shmeared the pesto on the beautifully bubbly ciabatta bread we picked up today from Ollie’s bakery downtown. Then, I layered sliced fresh mozarella and heirloom tomatoes (don’t even bother with the non-heirloom variety here).

I pressed the sandwich in a hot skillet with a little butter, my substitution for a real panini press. It was delicious. I really think that ciabatta bread is the best bread for panini.

Just look at that bread!

Just look at that bread!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo