Monthly Archives: October 2013

Simply the Best Roast Chicken!

Sometimes simple does it just fine.  Take chicken, for example.You can dress it up, cut it up, marinade it, grill it, and use it in innumerable recipes for soups, stir fry dishes, casseroles, pasta dishes, wraps, and more.  One of the most versatile of foods, it is a staple in most, if not every major cuisine and culture.

But  just tossing a whole chicken in a high temperature oven with a little butter and some vegetables can result in the most delectable meal you could ask for. And that’s what I did last night.

Before

Before – everything right in the pan with no rack.

I usually butterfly chicken, or turkey, for that matter, when roasting in the oven because it results in more even cooking and browning.  If you have never tried it, get yourself a pair of very sharp cooking shears and click How to Butterfly a Chicken for excellent instructions.

In fact, it was the recipe presented in the post linked above by Deliciously Organic blog author Carrie Vitt that inspired my version of roast chicken, sans squash but with potatoes. But, bottom line, you can do this using any number of vegetables and combinations thereof. Just be sure the quicker cooking veggies are cut in bigger chunks so they don’t get overdone during the roasting process.

All I did was put four small potatoes, a few carrots in big chunks and two medium onions quartered in with my 4.5 lb chicken, brushed everything with melted unsalted butter, seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and put it in the oven at 450 degrees for about an hour or so. I used my convection option, but a preheated hot oven will also do the trick. Just be sure to  cook until it reaches to 165 degrees in the deepest part of the breast.

AFTER

After

Cook’s note: if the chicken seems to be getting too browned before it comes to temperature, cover with foil for the last 15 minutes or so.

As you can see, this came out beautifully.  If you click the photo, you will be able to see the resulting juices in the pan – plenty to make a cup or more of delicious gravy to go along with the tender and juicy chicken and the roasted veggies. And that’s what I did.

Like I said, sometime simple does it fine.

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Another note: Using amazingly fresh ingredients helped make this dish even better.  The chicken was pasture-raised by Copicut Farms, butchered just a few days before and purchased at the Winchester Farmers Market, and the potatoes and carrots were purchased on the last day of the Wakefield Farmers Market from Farmer Dave’s.  There is NOTHING like freshly butchered pasture-raised chicken and locally grown and dug potatoes and carrots… The onions were from Market Basket – but at least were organically grown. 🙂

Caldo Verde: A Classic Fall or Winter Soup from Cook’s Illustrated

I admit it. I am totally in love with my magazine and online subscriptions to Cook’s Illustrated, even though I do find some of the recipes a bit fussy for my taste. But this Caldo Verde recipe is quick and easy to prepare, uses inexpensive  and healthy ingredients, and tastes sublime. In this version, I did not change anything in the recipe other than to use leek instead of onion and reducing the amounts proportionately because I only had 7 oz of chorizo sausage on hand instead of the 12 oz called for in the recipe, although I did use the full pound of collard greens.

First, brown the chorizo

First, brown the chorizo

Here is the recipe verbatim from Cook’s Illustrated:

Caldo Verde

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces Spanish-style chorizo sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped fine ( I chopped up some leek, instead)
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 pound collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Leeks and garlic

Leeks and garlic

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer chorizo to bowl and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add onion (or leek), garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and pepper flakes and season with pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add potatoes, broth, and water; increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

cooking the potatoes

cooking the potatoes

Transfer 3/4 cup solids and 3/4 cup broth to blender jar. Add collard greens to pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in chorizo and continue to simmer until greens are tender, 8 to 10 minutes longer.

Gorgeous collard greens from Flats Mentor Farm

Gorgeous collard greens from Flats Mentor Farm

adding the greens

adding the greens

Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil to soup in blender and process until very smooth and homogeneous, about 1 minute. Remove pot from heat and stir pureed soup mixture and vinegar into soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Before adding the processed liquid and potatoes

Before adding the processed liquid and potatoes

Hey, I just realized I forgot the vinegar…Oh well, next time.  🙂

Anyway, there really isn’t much more to say because I pretty much followed the instructions as is, with the only other minor difference being that I used my immersion blender with the handy blending jar it comes with for such purposes to do the pureeing part.

This recipe is a total winner in my book, and Steve loved it, too.  Plus, I can see using it as a jumping off point for a number of variations depending on what I have on hand on a given day.  In any case, it’s a keeper!

DONE!

DONE!

Under Pressure: A Tough Old Bird Goes Tender

Upon learning that I had never prepared a stewing hen, Jeff from Copicut Farms suggested I try one since he knows I like to experiment in the kitchen.

Spoiler Alert: 15 minutes in a pressure cooker does the trick, although I know one can have equally excellent results using a crock pot or simmering or braising the bird long and slow on the stove top or in the oven.

The other spoiler alert:  Stewing hens are UG-U-LY!

The hen with the ingredients going into the pressure cooker.

The hen with the ingredients (other than the neck- I put that in the freezer to use later for stock or a gravy base) going into the pressure cooker.

This angle shows just how skinny the breast is.

This angle shows just how skinny the breast is.

I was a bit short on time and I also had a hankering for garbanzo beans since, in my research, I had come across some recipes that combined chicken and chick peas, as garbanzos are also known, in a hearty stew, hence my opting for the pressure cooker method.

I came up with an outline for a recipe, posted it on Facebook so I would have it in writing, and onward into the kitchen I went to get the beans into a quick soak before cooking them with the chicken and barley.  I had decided I wanted a stew and barley seemed a good choice for a fall concoction.

There are some variations in instructions for soaking beans, but generally, dried legumes bigger than lentils or peas need to be soaked about 8 hours and then drained before cooking in fresh water.  If short on time, you cover the beans by about an inch of water in a pot, bring it to a boil, remove from heat, and let sit covered for an hour in lieu  of the longer soak.

In a real pinch, you can opt to cook beans in the pressure cooker without any soaking, but unsoaked garbanzos would have taken way longer than the chicken and barley; plus, I’d rather soak beans so as to make them more digestible.

While the beans soaked, I gathered the first set of ingredients and cut up the chicken and seasoned it with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Cut up and seasoned with salt and pepper

Cut up and seasoned with salt and pepper

Once the beans were ready to go, I lightly browned the chicken in some olive oil, added a clove or two of garlic, (about a scant tablespoon chopped) stirred until fragrant, and then added the soaked and drained garbanzos and 1/2 cup pearl barley that I had first picked over and rinsed.  I tossed in two bay leaves and topped it all off with 6 cups of water, closed the lid, brought to pressure, and cooked for 15 minutes.

lightly browned and garlic just added

lightly browned and garlic just added

chicken, with the garbanzos, barley, and 6 cups of water ready to go

chicken, with the garbanzos, barley, and 6 cups of water ready to go.

After the 15 minutes, I removed the pressure cooker from heat and let it sit until the pressure came down naturally and the pot could be opened safely.  (You can run a pressure cooker under cold water – the fast release method – but it can wreak havoc with some foods, such as beans!)

First I removed the chicken.

First I removed the chicken.

Just so you know, while I left the skin on for the flavor, it sure does not look pretty!

Just so you know, while I left the skin on for the flavor, it sure does not look pretty!

All drained!

All drained!

Then I drained the beans and barley because they were almost too done and I still had carrots and leeks to cook in the liquid.

Chopped carrot and leek - both veggies from Farmer Dave.

Chopped carrot and leek – both veggies from Farmer Dave.

Along with carrot and leek from Farmer Dave, I chopped up a bunch of fresh parsley from Flats Mentor Farm to make a 2-3  tablespoons, and added a teaspoon each of dried oregano and dried thyme to the liquid.

This parsley from Flats Mentor Farm is so gorgeous I had to take a picture.

This parsley from Flats Mentor Farm is so gorgeous I had to take a picture.

I also had a tomato that was just about too ripe, so I chopped that up to add to the fun.

I was just using up a tomato, but I recommend keep this ingredient in the recipe. :)

I was just using up a tomato, but I recommend keeping  this ingredient in the recipe. 🙂

Next I brought the liquid back to boil, added the veggies, and simmered until the veggies were tender. 

While that was going on, I picked the now cooled chicken off the bones and the skin off the chicken and pulled the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces.

The just over 2.5 lb chicken resulted in just over 9 ounces of meat.

The just over 2.5 lb chicken resulted in just over 9 ounces of meat.

Note how dark the meat it compared to that from a chicken raised for butchering. It makes for a nice deep flavor…Nothing against Copicut Farms regular chickens!  Those rock, too.  🙂 And have more meat, of course.

Once the veggies were tender, I added the chicken, garbanzos, and barley back to the stock, and heated through.

mix

All together and ready to heat through.

All done! Delicious.

All done! Delicious.

A final touch of salt and pepper was all it needed.  Quick, easy, tasty, nutritious.  A winner!  I’ll be asking Copicut Farms to bring some more stewing chickens to the market this week, that is for sure!  And, thanks for the suggestion, Jeff!  🙂

What the Hake? It’s really good!

Last week Michelle The Fish Lady (aka Globe Fish at the Wakefield Farmers Market) recommended that I try some hake, a white fish that is similar in flavor to haddock et al.

Always up to trying something new, I got a pound and decided to prepare it in the quickest, most simple way that I have used successfully with other fillets of white fish, which is to coat the fish with flour ( I use whole wheat) seasoned with a bit of salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper, dip it in egg, then do a final coat of a mix  fine and panko breadcrumbs before quickly frying in a  small amount of oil.

Seasoned flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and panko for the crust.

Seasoned flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and panko for the crust.

Honestly, this is such an easy way of preparing all kinds of fish!

Seasoned flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and panko for the crust.

Close up of the floured fish.

NOTE: Be sure to shake off the excess flour and then let some of the egg drip off before moving to the next step.  You do, however, want as much of the breadcrumbs and panko on the fish as will stick.  🙂

Once the fish was coated, I just heated up … I think I used peanut oil, but canola or sesame would work fine… anyway, I heated up about a 1/2 inch of oil until it was shimmering and hot enough to sputter if flicked with water droplets and put the fish right on in.

Fish in the oil

Fish in the oil

I actually cooked the fish longer than I meant to, but basically, since the fillet is thin, you can just cook until crisp and browned on each side.

done!

done!

Although, when I make this again which will be soon because I bought some more this past Saturday, I might just do it this well done on the outside because, as you can see by the next picture, it was perfectly done in the middle.

fished plated with corn

So moist and tasty! Shown with freshly picked corn from Kelly’s Farm.

So good and so easy!  Thanks to The Fish Lady for the fish, Kelly’s Farm for wonderfully crisp corn, and, not shown, Farmer Dave for fantastic potatoes that I sliced thin, coated with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and roasted at 400 for about 40 minutes.  And then, there was the salad of greens from Flats Mentor Farm and more… YUM!