Using up the refrigerator (that’s what I do around here)

We had lots of unused vegetables from our CSA and leftover ingredients from Feastly and life, and needed to get rid of them. So… I made a casserole; a crazy veggie corn casserole. And it has in it: 2 eggplants, 6 ears of corn , 6 bell peppers, 3 hot peppers, 1 red onion, 5 cloves of garlic, and 1 cup of leftover rotisserie chicken. This was literally what we had in our fridge, and it needed to go away.

So I diced and salted the eggplant. Cut the corn off the cob. Diced the peppers (bell and hot). Diced the chicken (again). And mixed it all up in a bowl.

Then I made a cheese sauce. Oh god. Diced the red onion. Got it simmering in olive oil. Added several tablespoons of all-purpose flour (too many tbsp of flour). Added oil back to try to recover from too many tbsp of flour. Then pulled out leftover chicken broth. And in that pan, I keep stirring and stirring until it got thin enough to add a quarter of a pound of parmesan cheese and an eighth a pound of cheddar cheese (both of these were also leftovers). I mentioned this was a cheese sauce, right? And then I added a little bit of milk to thin it out more.

And after Laura very kindly transferred the mix of veggies into our covered casserole, I poured the sauce over and mixed it in. Then I covered it with panko crumbs from our pantry and shoved it in the oven at 350°F.

We’ll let you know how it turned out.

 

P.S. We also made apple sauce today, finishing the apples from our insane, mistaken purchase of a bushel of apples.

Dictated by Adam, transcribed and edited by Laura
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Good but not quite good enough

This was my second weekend hauling stuff up to my friends’ place, so that Adam and I can get dinner going while they deal with their baby and we’ll be able to play a board game (this week was Formula D; I did not do so well this time – frustrating, this is usually one of my better games). Lessons learned this week:

  1. They do not own a roasting pan with a lid
  2. pyrex covered with aluminum foil works just as well
  3. When folks have babies, things like pepper, garlic, and other pantry staples may run out without anyone noticing
  4. the legs of the chicken to be roasted goes up. However much sense it may make that the flat side of the chicken should go down
    1. If the pan is full of sauce, it’s okay if the breast side went down instead of up
  5. One day, one day!, I will succeed in making an entire meal that my new vegetarian, gluten-free friend can eat!
    1. first I need to remember all of her restrictions (forgot the vegetarianism this time, arrrrrgh)
    2. challenges are good – they make me grow as a cook

On to what I actually did make: Roasted Chicken in a milk sauce. In the end, the vote was ‘yeah, this was pretty good, but you’ve got other things that take less work and come out even better’. I am wondering if it would have been better with sauce poured on individual pieces – we pulled the whole chicken out of the pan, carved and served. I’m thinking one of those sauce/gravy boats that only see use at Thanksgiving (I’m pretty sure Adam and I don’t have one of those, much less our friends up in Columbia) of the sauce on the table may have been a good thing. ::shrugs:: Oh well, I guess roasted chicken is still safely in Adam’s repertoire 🙂

Roasted Chicken in Milk

Original found JamieOliver.com
Makes 1 whole chicken – maybe 8 – 14 servings?
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 16; Dinners: 2 recipes left

  • 6 lb whole chicken
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • handful of sage
  • 2.5 tbsp orange zest (b/c I didn’t want to zest a couple of lemons, and our orange zest was/is old, so we upped how much we used)
  • 6 cloves garlic, left in their skins
  • 2 1/3 cups milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper – sprinkle a generous amount onto the skin and then rub in with your hands. Heat the olive oil in a pan or pot on the stove, then fry the chicken until the skin turns golden. Remove the chicken and discard the oil. If using a pan, transfer the chicken to an oven safe pot (with lid) or pyrex dish. If using a pot, return the chicken to the pot.
  2. Add the cinnamon, sage, zest, garlic, and milk to the baking dish with the chicken. Roast in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. If you remember, baste the chicken with the sauce. If not, don’t worry, it’ll come out fine.
  3. Serve

Stealing Adam’s Schtick – don’t worry, I’ll give it back

Soups, stews and casseroles are Adam’s thing. The way breads and stir-fries are mine. Hmmm, Adam’s seem a bit more coherent/related to each other there… Anyrate, one of us attempting the other’s thing is likely to produce cries of “but that’s my schtick!” around here. Maybe even a fake pout.

Look, if I’m making soup in a wok, I think I can legitimately claim indulgence and/or a stretching of the boundaries of things. 🙂

Originally, I thought this soup would be an appetizer. I mean, that’s when soup is served right? Including the hot & sour soups served in Chinese-American restaurants, right? So, I’d marinated a chicken breast overnight, slapped it on the mini George Forman grill, and tossed a small salad on the plate too.

Didn’t need it. Between the ground meat and tofu already in the recipe (… the ground meat may have been upped from what was originally called for. What can I say, ground chicken is sold in 1 lb packages, not 10.5 oz packages), the leftovers are working handily as a full meal.

Maybe I should invest in small soup bowls. Or not use our soup/cereal bowls for dinner.

Personally, I think this one is a bit light on the spiciness (hot) and the sour part, but Adam’s reaction was ‘you’re keeping this right?’. So, I’ll probably use more chili garlic sauce and/or less sugar next time. Just to see what happens.

Hot and Sour Tofu Soup

Recipe Count – 31 left
Section Count – Appetizers: 4 left
original from The Spice Bible

Serves 6

  • 2:1 ratio of vegetable oil:sesame oil – get enough for the size of your pan
  • 1 bunch scallions, white part chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ground white pepper
  • 1 lb ground chicken (or pork)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can sliced bamboo shoots
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tsp superfine sugar
  • 1 lb firm tofu, cut into bite-sized dice
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Heat the vegetable & sesame oil in a wok over medium-high heat until shimmery/hot. Add the white part of the scallions, garlic, and pepper; stir-fry for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the ground meat and stir-fry, breaking up any lumps, until it browns (about 5 -8 minutes). Add the broth, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, for 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender.
  2. Mix the vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, and sugar. Add the sauce mixture and tofu to the wok. Combine 2 tbsp water and the cornstarch, mixing until smooth. Stir it into the soup and cook until the soup thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
  3. Drizzle the beaten eggs onto the top of the soup and leave for 1 minute without stirring, then stir through just before serving. Can garnish the soup with shredded scallion greens.

Hot & Sour Soup

A moderately long stew

This one’s been sitting in my queue for a while – I was put off by a) the whole chicken aspect (I’m working on it!) and b) the hour long cooking time. I don’t mind a longer cooking time, it just means I’d rather deal with it on a weekend than a weeknight. But Adam got a new job that ate his weekends while simultaneously making him the only real logical choice for grocery runs (this being a one-car household). So the grocery run got pushed back until the cooking couldn’t happen until a Monday night. Aaaaand, I wasn’t clear through the grocery app we use – instead of a 3 lb 6 oz whole chicken, Adam got me more of the chicken breasts Wegmans sells in large quantities. I think they call it a family pack or something. Oh well. Forwards – it’s not like I can’t substitute chicken breast for a whole chicken. It’ll just come out a bit different.

Although it would have helped if I’d correctly divided the 8 pieces called for by 2 (splitting a breast in half) to get 4 instead of three and defrosted the proper amount of chicken.

I swear I can do math, really I can.

All those little mishaps aside, this one really did come out well. The chicken was tender, the sauce had nuts in it, giving me a textural contrast with the chicken (did I mention it was tender?), and the saffron gave Adam some subtle tastes.

‘So, want me to keep this one?’

::CHESHIRE grin::

‘I’ll take that as a yes then’

Chicken in Saffron Stew

Recipe Count – 32 left
Section Count – Main entrees: 3 left, subcategory – poultry: 1 left
Original from The Spice Bible

6 servings

  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • bread cubes (~1/2 cup or the results of 1 thick slice)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • dried parsley, to taste
  • 3 chicken breasts (~1lb each or slightly less)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • thyme
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 egg yolks
  1. Heat some oil in a heavy-bottomed stove-top safe casserole dish, over medium-high heat. Add the cashews and bread; fry until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel and drain. When cooled slightly, move to a food processor (or a mortar and pestle). Add the cinnamon, saffron, garlic, and some parsley (about half the total amount you intend to use). Process or grind to a coarse, crumbly consistency.
  2. Heat enough oil to brown the chicken in over medium head in the casserole dish. Brown for about 5 minutes, then remove to a plate. Add the onions and cook gently until translucent, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the dish and add the wine, stock, bay leaf, and thyme; simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 1 hour, or until tender. Remove the chicken and keep warm.
  3. Add the cashew-bread mixture to the dish and cook until thickened slightly, roughly 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice, egg yolks, and other half of parsley. Return the casserole dish to the stove-top and stir over low heat, until just thickened again (do not allow to boil or the eggs and lemon juice will separate). Season to taste, return the chicken to the dish, and gently warm before serving.

It looks a bit like goop, but I promise, it’s tasty.

Chicken in Saffron Stew

Inspiration and Improvising Dinner

Adam here. There isn’t a recipe at the end of this post – instead I hope you find some inspiration for your own improvisation.

Last Friday I was going through Lifehacker and happened across this post: “Five Sauces Everyone Should Know.” If you haven’t already, take a look. It was a great post and offered some excellent tips on building the sorts of sauces that really make up how I cook. Whether starting a soup with a roux (equal parts butter or olive oil and flour) or creating the garlic sauce I’ll talk about a little later, the way of improvising where you start with a basic sauce and the take whatever you have in the fridge and make a tasty meal is where I feel like I do my best cooking.

A little bit after reading through the Lifehacker piece and the directions on creating Creme Toum linked with in, Laura texted me that most important question:

What’s the plan for dinner?

I responded with “chicken, veggies, and a baguette.” Beyond those very basic descriptors I didn’t really know what I was going to do. So I looked back at the Creme Toum recipe (find it here: garlic-y goodness) and thought to myself: time to do something new. I grabbed garlic, olive oil, eggs, and lemon juice and started broke out our food processor.

Now, the recipe called for 5-7 cloves of garlic. I put in something closer to 12. Those got chopped in the processor until they disappeared with an egg white. Then I very slowly added the 3/4 of a cup of olive oil until it was all completely emulsified and then added my lemon juice. The resulting sauce is very powerful. Like so powerful that if you have a loved one that can smell – ensure that both of you enjoy it. So, that got made and put aside. The creme toum would be the sauce for dinner but what on Earth was I going to do for the rest?

I pulled some frozen chicken out of the freezer and started it defrosting and then started poking around the pantry searching for inspiration. I found pistachios. Lovely, roasted pistachios. A nutty compliment to a simple meat. I broke out a meat tenderizer, put the shelled pistachios in a bag and smashed the dickens out of them. With beaten-down pistachios now on hand, I added some olive oil and set it aside.

With the chicken on the counter moving towards being defrosted, I put myself together and went out to run some errands. About two and half hours later, I returned triumphant with a fresh baguette from one of my favorite DC area grocers: Glut Food Co-op. If you’re in the DC area, especially around the Hyattsville area, check them out and enjoy!

With some time to kill before Laura got home, I went ahead and got started putting dinner together. I filleted the chicken as thinly as I could and spread the pistachio and olive oil paste across and then rolled it up – holding the roll with a few toothpicks. I added the leftover paste to the top and cracked some black pepper to finish it off. Then, I put them into roast at the relatively low heat of 215ºF. The chicken roasted for two and half hours wrapped in parchment paper to keep it moist.

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So – that gave me the chicken. Now – what to do with the toum? Garlic bread. I broke out the baguette, cut a trough into it and spread as many several teaspoons of the sauce as could reasonably be spread. Then, with some finely grated parmesan romano to add creaminess, I replaced the bread I’d cut out, wrapped the bread in foil and put it in to heat up with the chicken about 30 minutes before Laura was supposed to get home.

Chicken and bread. Veggies. I thought for a moment about what would be a tasty addition and settled on steaming some broccoli. The broccoli then got dressed with a little bit of the grated parmesan and a touch of lemon juice.

Here’s what it looks like plated:

Pistachio-encrusted Chicken, Brocoli, and Garlic Bread

The paste at the bottom of the plate is the finished creme toum.

All told, Laura and I had a lovely dinner inspired by a Lifehacker post. Happy Improvising!

In which I, once again, brave a whole chicken

I am what you might call a bit squeamish – I have never dealt with fish that wasn’t scaled and cut into usable chunks, their eyes freak me out at the fishmonger’s, the fetal pig in high school biology was interesting once it got opened up but I couldn’t force myself to do the opening up, I’ve never hunted any animals,  never watched an animal being slaughtered, plucked a chicken, and so on. In fact, the first time I dealt with a whole chicken, post slaughter and plucking thank you, was in grad school – 2011. I don’t even remember what the plan for it was – maybe Adam was going to roast it and then make stock out of the bones. But any rate, we got it home and Adam leaves it to me, because it’s good for me, gods curse it. So the chicken is still in it’s grocery given wrapper, sitting in the kitchen sink, butt up. I split the packaging open and get a good look at the gizzards in the chicken butt opening.

“Honey? How do I get the gizzards out?”
“Reach in and yank.”
“You mean… I just stick my hand up a chicken’s butt… and pull?”
“Well, twist then yank, but yeah.”

Commence staring at the chicken for about a minute.

Adam wanders in to see what I’m up to.

Continue staring at the chicken for 30 seconds.

Adam reaches around, sticks his hand in the chicken’s interior cavity, grabs the paper wrapped gizzards and pulls.

“I was getting there!”

….

So yeah, I’ve mostly left the roastings of chickens, soups, stews, and stocks to Adam. It’s kinda as much his thing as baking is mine. But it’s a sill area of cooking that I should have some skill in, right? Enter the Roast Chicken with Wasabi Chive Butter with a side dish of Sweet Potato Tots with Spicy Ketchup.

The Spice Bible, which is where the chicken recipe is originally from, is a) the most recent cookbook I did my block of copying recipes from and b) a gift from Adam. The photography is gorgeous, things are organized by type of spice then individual spice (so, all the recipes highlighting cardamom is under the cardamom subsection of the seeds and pods section), the intro to each spice gives you enough to go on with enough hooks to look in farther if you want, and there’s an index of topics and an index of recipes. Yes, I notice the indexes of cookbooks and use them as a selling point. If you think they don’t matter, contemplate trying to navigate the Joy of Cooking without a index for a second. We good here? Good.

Yeah, the cataloging librarian who’s on and off contemplating taking courses on book indexing for a second job (…third after the blog…) feels strongly about the organization of information/metadata. I do recognize though that if I do my job really well, you’ll never notice because it’s just seamlessly integrated into your life. And I think that’s a good thing. Up until it’s time to argue for funding the public library. [Expletive].

Where was I… Oh right, FOOD and RECIPES. So far, the recipes from the Spice Bible have been decent – interesting enough to get me thinking more about my cooking but not wowing me yet. Once again, I think any one with a working olfactory system is going to get more out of these recipes than I have been – a lot of spices are aromatic based, so recipes highlighting spices and combinations of spices on me might be like trying to teach a tone-deaf person the difference between middle C and upper C. Which I totally don’t hear the difference between either. Wharg, I’m depressing myself about my sensory system here. Pffrt. Back to food.

So, I may have accidentally chosen an advanced course chicken roasting recipe for my second go – this one includes the step of rubbing butter between the skin and breast meat. It was actually not as difficult as it sounds. Once you get over touching chicken skin (look, I’m prejudice, I think handling chicken skin and guts and stuff is grosser than beef, pork, and lamb – maybe I’ll change my mind if I ever deal with skin on any of those, but for now? Whole chicken is pretty gross. Tasty results, not fun prep) and assuming you have actually gotten your butter to room temperature, it’s just a wiggle to loosen the skin, shove some butter underneath, and smoosh it down the chicken breast by smoothing the skin. Kept the breast meat very moist and tender, even if this particular recipe is nowhere near spicy enough to something with ‘wasabi chive butter’ in the title.

All in all, I’d give it maybe a 5 out of 10. Good, solid working recipe but I’m more interested in the technique of flavored butter going between skin and meat than the particular flavored butter combo of the recipe – I think it should work with your flavored butter of choice.

Roast Chicken with Wasabi Chive Butter

Recipe Count – 38 left
Section Count – Poultry: 2 left
serves 4 with leftovers. Also bones for making stock.
Adapted from The Spice Bible

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened or room temperature
  • 2 tbsp wasabi paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • about 3 tbsp snipped chives
    • this is mostly to taste, but make sure there’s enough to be very visible in the butter
  • 1 whole chicken, 4-5 lb, rinsed well & patted dry
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • sea salt, to season
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the butter, wasabi paste, garlic, and chives in a small bowl. Starting a the opening of the chicken, carefully loosen the skin over the whole breast of the chicken. This works best using your fingers. Place the butter under the skin and smooth over to evenly distribute.
    Buttered
  2. Combine the vegetable oil and sesame oil; paint over the chicken with a basting brush. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the chicken, then sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Place in a roasting pan and cook for 1 hour & 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced, or a meat thermometer says 165°F minimum (lightly cooked) up to 180°F.
  3. Rest for 10 minutes before carving and then drizzle the pan juices over the meat.

Roasted

And now for bonus recipe:

Sweet Potato Tots with Spicy Ketchup

Recipe count: 37 left
Section count:  Side dishes – 2 left
Makes about 20 tots
Adapted from the Ginger Bear Kitchen

This one was pretty good, but took too much time for my cost/benefit analysis. This one is going in the recycling but y’all may like sweet potatoes more, so I’m sharing. Don’t make the mistake I did and substitute whatever breadcrumbs you have on hand for the panko – the crunchiness from the panko will probably make this recipe.

Tots

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • salt, pepper to taste

Ketchup

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tbsp (1.5 tsp) Sriracha hot chili sauce, or to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Poke the sweet potato a few times with a fork, then place it straight on the oven rack of the heated oven. Bake for 50 minutes.
  2. Allow the potato to cool, then using your hands, peel the skin off. Mash with the butter, and season with the Parmesan, salt and Pepper.
  3. Place a wire rack on top of a foil-lined baking sheet and the panko in a shallow bowl. Form the mashed sweet potatoes into about 1/2 tbsp sized balls and roll them in the panko. Transfer to the wire rack and continue until no sweet potato remains.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crumbs brown slightly. Meanwhile, mix the ketchup and Sriracha. Serve.