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

Tasty potatoes

You know, I really need to a) copy out some recipes before I try them for the blog and b) wait on cold weather recipes until the actual fall!

I freely admit that trying out recipes before copying is ultimately cutting down on the number I will copy out, thus less stress on my hand/thumb, as well as cutting down on the paperwork tracking everything and the amount of paper that ends up in the recycling bin (when I don’t like a recipe). I also cop to the fact that we are moving in two weeks (in city move) and thus quite a bit of time has been spent prepping for that. You know how I kept saying I would try to be really picky with the recipes in a section and eliminate lots before they even got to the copying and trying stage? Yeah, picture that going on with our 1000-ish book collection. Except even worse on the elimination aspect. We may get down to 850/900 books to move.

So potatoes and the roasting thereof: wait until fall Laura! There is no need to heat the house with a 450°F in the middle of summer and the air conditioner works well. Even if it was a relatively cool day (highs in the low 80s [I think]). Hot stoves are uncomfortable to stand next to or at. Even if you’re only there for 5 minutes sautéing the chicken and pulling both the potatoes and corn out of the oven.

That said, these were tasty and fun (looking – lots of down time on the roasting). We used red potatoes this time and I’m interested to try out more varieties. Ooooh, maybe I could grab 1/2 a pound of a whole bunch and make them all at once, have a taste test night. 😀 I like this idea.

Personally, we like garlic a lot, so this variation used 3x the amount called for in the originating recipe. Modify to suite your tastes. Please.

Grown-up Tater Tots

1 lb potatoes
Recipes left to try (& copy…): 34; Vegetables: 2 recipes left

  • 1 lb Red potatoes
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil,
  • salt, black pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wash the potatoes and arrange on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn oven up to 450°Fand bake for 10 minutes. Potatoes should be tender enough to be pierced by a fork, but not browned. Allow to rest until cool enough to handle.
  2. Using the bottom of a measuring cup, sturdy glass or plate, smash the potatoes with firm downward pressure. Squish until about3/4 and inch thick.
  3. Transfer potatoes to the baking sheet. Drizzle or brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with the minced garlic. Return to the oven and bake until crispy and golden, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and an herb of your choice, if you so choose.
  4. Serve.

Try not to eat the whole pan in one go. Adam and I failed miserably at that.

Tater Tots

Pasta Interrupted

So this is what I should/wanted to have posted last Tuesday, before I got sick (all better now, thanks. just a cold/sinus thing) – y’all might recognize the roasted squash from last week. In a lot of ways, this recipe (Fettuccine with roasted butternut squash, brown butter, and sage) is comfort food for me – lots of carbs, contrast with some nuts, and slightly sweet squash with some bite.

Man I like carbs. Might explain why I like baking bread. I get to eat the results.

Any rate, this pasta recipe is also rather flexible. As written, it’s vegetarian (not vegan through) but it’d be pretty easy to add some animal protein, especially if you’ve got a little grill – slap a chicken breast on a grill or chop it up and sauté in a pan, then mix in the cooked chicken at the end. If you’re trying this one on a weeknight or just otherwise don’t have time to fully roast the squash, there’s a short-cut version I’ll include. I think it’s not quite as good, but still very decent. The original calls for pine nuts, but those are expensive so I’ve always substituted cashews – bet you could substitute your favorite nut. And it’s not like we keep any sage other than the dried variety around the house, which still works despite the original calling for frying sliced thin whole sage leaves in butter. I mean it sounds delicious, but there are some limits around here. … I’ll get back to you when I actually figure them out.

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Fettuccine with Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and Sage

Serves 4
original: TheKitchn.com

  • 1 small to medium butternut squash, about 2 lb (don’t worry if all the ones at the store are too big – as long as you can fit all the chunks on a pan in one layer, you’re good)
  • 1/2 lb fettuccine noodles
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • dried sage to taste
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup nuts of choice, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray or butter a baking sheet OR lay down enough parchment paper to cover the bottom.
  2. Peel the squash, scrape out the seeds, and cut into roughly 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with a little olive oil and salt. Spread the butternut squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45-60 minutes*, by preference stirring every 15 minutes but will work if left alone. You are cooking until the squash is tender and beginning to have caramelized brown spots. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the fettuccine noodles with a generous amount of salt according to package instructions. Scoop out and set aside 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta and setting aside.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl the pan every so often and cook until butter turns caramel-brown, about 5 minutes. I am told there should be a nutty smell.
  5. Add the sage leaves to the browned butter and allow to fry for a few seconds, until crispy. Add the roasted squash, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp salt to the pan*; stir until butter coast the squash. Pour in a 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta liquid and let bubble into a thin sauce, adding more liquid if needed. Taste and adjust salt at this point. Add the cooked pasta, tossing to coat and mix evenly. Remove from heat, split into bowls to serve, and top with nuts and parmesan.

Short-cut version:
1) Roast for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender, but not carmelized.
2) Squish the squash a bit with the back of your stirring utensil.

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.

A Friday Fall Feast – in which we Feastly again

Ze Menu:
Shredded Slow-cooked Savory Brisket Sandwiches
Moroccan Raw Carrot Salad
Roasted Potatoes & Kale
Whole-Wheat Dinner Rolls
and
Mini Baked Apple Fritters

Our Guests: a couple originally from Mumbai, India (NOT vegetarians – I had a moment of panic when they first arrived of the ‘oh no am I about to try and serve beef to Hindus?’ variety – probably presumptuous and stereotypical of me, given that they had to have seen the menu before signing up, but I can only liken it to suddenly realizing that your guests are from Israel and the main dish is pork chops. The odds are good that you have just royally screwed up.)
I am really digging this whole dinner with people I’ve never met before. I have no idea how else I would have met this couple otherwise and they were really good dinner companions – talkative and good listeners, interested in food so we had something in common and it got the conversation started, different life experiences so we got to talk about things which were new to both sets of couples, and just generally a fun evening.

Also, having to pull together a menu and pitch it to the Feastly community is good-for-me(TM). It’s pushing me to consider (more) how dishes go together – more than ‘have a protein, carbs, and at least 2 servings of vegetables’ which is where I’ve been stuck skill-wise for a couple years. In my defense (excuse!), I’ve been concentrating on knife and technique skills. But really now, this is a useful food skill and I am glad to be finally developing it. (There, I said it, stop twisting my arm now! ::poke, poke::) Learning to pitch things is also good for me in the ‘stretch beyond your comfortable skills little introvert!’ kind of way… but seriously, if anyone ever calls me a ‘little introvert’ with a straight face, there will be pain in their future. I’M the only one who gets to mock my lack of social acumen. Well, occasionally Adam too.


Plus, excuse to try out a new dessert recipe – it’s an event, dessert is totally justified and we don’t end up munching on way too many sweet things for the next 3 weeks.

Mini Baked Apple Fritters

Recipe Count – 40 left
Section Count – Dessert: 10 left
9 fritters

MEH. So much meh. They weren’t bad, they just weren’t… anything. No wow, no interesting texture, no interesting sweet, or spices, or tastiness. They were entirely composed of food. And my dessert binder is full of dessert recipes that are composed of tasty goodness that are entirely worth the a) effort and b) nutritional downsides of the occasional food indulgence composed of all the sugar and butter.

This recipe has earned a trip to the recycling bin, not a place in my binder of sweets.

Which means I am totally not inflicting it upon y’all, who deserve good sweets in your lives. Tasty goodness in recipe form to follow below, of something actually worth your time.

So, the original plan was that I would make the dinner rolls and they’d be the bread to our sandwiches… Yeah, I’m still getting the hang of using whole-wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose flour. The rolls were tasty, but not fluffy/big enough to be sandwich rolls. Luckily there’s a Harris Teeter close enough that wonderful husband Adam could run out and grab some sandwich rolls from their bakery. Also, all-purpose flour. Somethings are just better that way (like pie crust). Also, I’d made the rolls by 4pm. So, you know, enough time to fix things.

The carrot salad is a cold one, and thus could be made early that morning, hanging out in the refrigerator until dinner time. Also, totally not over-chilled by hanging out so long in the fridge, which was nice. Also nice? The cumin and cayenne spices – just enough kick to make it interesting without kicking you in the face as a greeting and a ‘pay attention to meeeeeeeee!’

Roasted potatoes and kale are quickly becoming my thing, so much so that I am consciously banning my self from using them for a third time in our next Feastly. By this point, I’ve actually made them three times – first was just before the break-in and thus, I lost my write up and pictures but taking the pictures was ticked off on my mental list and I have yet to take more photos. Which y’all totally deserve because this is a tasty recipe. Which Adam informs me that I ‘need to make again’. Every. Time. The man bans roasted carrots for about a year (and counting….) after one unfortunate week of trying out all of my roasted carrot recipes (3 or 4….) to cut them down to a reasonable amount, but still wants these? Timing is, apparently, everything.


Roasted Potatoes and Kale

Adapted (minorly) from What’s Cookin, Chicago?

  • 1 lb potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
    • different varieties will give this recipe slightly different textures/tastes – experiment and find your favorite is my best advice
  • 1/2 lb fresh kale, rinsed, stems/tough ribs discarded, and roughly chopped
  • cloves of garlic, minced
    • pick a number of cloves to your taste
    • Adam and I have been influenced enough by several friends of Italian cooking traditions that the answer to ‘how much garlic?’ is usually ‘Yes’
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • salt & pepper, to taste
    • pepper is best as freshly cracked/ground from peppercorns
    • if using peppercorns, pick your favorite type/color. or mix it up and try out different types for slightly different tastes each time
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper, non-stick cooking spray, or your favorite food don’t stick here method.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chopped potatoes with 1 tbsp of oil, the minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Transfer potatoes to the baking sheet; bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  3. In the same bowl, toss the chopped kale with 1 tbsp of oil, salt, and pepper, to taste. After potatoes have roasted, add the kale on top – do not worry if it looks like a huge mound on top of the potatoes. The kale will shrink/flatten out as it crisps. Just mound it in such a manner as it will not fall off the baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, or until kale is crisp.
  4. Serve hot or at room temperature, but not cold.

Check back in next Tuesday for my write up of the Shredded Slow-cooked Savory Brisket Sandwiches