Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken

Whole chickens used to intimidate me. I was afraid of dealing witht the whole bird and afraid I wouldn't be able to cook it through without drying it out. As a result, every time they go on sale I grab a few and practice with a nice Sunday dinner. This week's was perfectly moist with a golden brown skin and tons of flavor to boot (I adapted some tips from this month's Bon Appetit for simple roast chicken and then flavored up). I hope you'll give it a try (or I'll call you chicken!).

Lemon Rosemary Roast Chicken

1 3 1/2 pound chicken
3 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested and halved
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees and place a rack in the top third of the oven. Spray a wire rack and place inside of a roasting pan. Place your chicken on the rack and gently press your fingers to loosen the skin as far as you can go in.

Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Rub all over the chicken, making sure to get under skin as well. Place chicken, breast side up, on the rack in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Let sit about 15 minutes. Brush with some of the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and put back in oven. Roast about 40-45 minutes, brusing with melted butter occasionally, until breast meat registers at 165 degrees. Let rest 15 minutes, then carve.

Mustard Giblet Gravy
Adapted from Simply Recipes

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 chicken neck
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chicken liver
4 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons reserved roasted chicken drippings
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add neck and brown on all sides. Stir in onion and garlic and saute a couple of minutes. Add liver, water, bay leaf, thyme and salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer until chicken is about done. Strain the solids through a fine mesh sieve, reserving broth. Grab liver from the strained solids and finely dice.

Since my roasting pan is strangely shaped, I chose to make the gravy in the saucepan I created the broth in, but either pan would work. Star by warming drippings, then whisk in flour and cook about 30 minutes, whisking throughout. Stir in diced giblets and cook about 30 seconds. Then whisk in chicken broth (about 3 cups) and let thicken, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes. Add mustard and stir, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I "love" love dinner party

Valentine's Day may be a week behind us, but celebrating love is something you can do 365 days a year - especially when you gather good friends, good food, and good wine. It's no secret I'm a Julia Child fan, so after reading My Life in France, I was inspired to host another Julia dinner party. I loved the way she entertained, relishing in good company and good prep so that she could enjoy herself. With this dinner, I could too!

The dishes
  • Cheese plate (featuring aged English cheddar, Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor, 1 year aged Manchego, creamy buffalo milk cheese, quince paste)
  • Potato, Leek and Broccoli Soup with Pancetta Breadcrumbs from Food & Wine
  • Julia Child's Coq au Vin, served with egg noodles (note, I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks and omitted cognac)
  • Spring greens salad with walnuts, goat cheese and dates (recipe below)
  • Mexican chocolate ice cream from Cuisinart
  • Banana walnut chip ice cream from Cuisinart (recipe not online, typed below)
  • Heart shaped brownies with ganache filling from Williams Sonoma (recipe not online, typed below)

The prep
1 week prior
  • Prepare ice cream. Store in freezer with wax paper on top to prevent freezer burn
1 day prior
  • Prepare soup and breadcrumbs. Cool both and store separately
  • Make brownies. Cool and store in a sealed container
  • Make French bread, cool and store wrapped tightly in foil
  • Create place cards and cheese labels
Day of
  • 3 hours before dinner, make the coq au vin. When done, store in a just-warm oven.
  • While coq au vin cooks, set table
  • 2 hours prior, assemble salad and place in fridge covered with plastic wrap.
  • Set out cheese about one hour prior to guests arriving to cheese will be at optimal room temperature.
  • 30 minutes prior, slice french bread into thin pieces. Place cheese on tray and place labels.
During dinner
  • When guests arrive, warm soup in oven (I used individual Le Creuset pots, so I placed all pots on a baking sheet for easy transferring in and out of the oven then to people's plates. I topped soup with pancetta breadcrumbs before placing in the oven)
  • When sitting down to soup, boil water for egg noodles, make sure coq au vin is heated through
  • When finished soup, cook egg noodles and drain, dress salad
  • When finishing dinner, warm brownies, remove ice cream from freezer 10 minutes prior to eating for easy scooping

Spring Greens Salad with Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Dates

8 ounces spring greens
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
6 dates, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Toss greens, walnuts, goat cheese and dates in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Store in fridge until ready to eat. When serving, drizzle with vinegar and oil and toss.

Banana Walnut Chip Ice Cream (from Cuisinart)

1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons butter
2 large, ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

In a medium saucepan on medium-low heat, bring milk, cream, vanilla and slat just to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes.

While setting, heat sugar and water in a large skillet until it begins to sizzle. Stir in butter and melt. Add bananas and cook 2 minutes, until fragrant and softened. Carefully stir in rum and cook 2 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and remove bananas with a slotted spoon. Reserve bananas and rum mixture in separate bowls.

Stir lemon juice into bananas then mix bananas into cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.

Pour mixture into ice cream maker and let mix until thickened, about 15 minutes. While churning, melt chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. When ice cream is fully churned, gradually add reserved sugar mixture and let mix until combined. Now add walnuts and let mix until combined. Right before ice cream is done, drizzle in melted chocolate and let swirl in. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze.

Chocolate Ganache Heart Cakes, courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Cocoa powder for dusting pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter, cubed and softened
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease your 6-well heart shaped baking pan (or 6 muffin cups) and dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium heatproof bowl, combine 2 ounces chocolate and cream. Set bowl over (not touching) simmering water in a small saucepan and melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth and blended. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until firm, 20-30 minutes.

Next, in another heatproof bowl, combine remaining 4 ounces chocolate and butter and melt, stirring constantly, until smooth. Remove and cool 10 minutes. In a standing mixer or medium bowl, combine eggs, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla and salt. With wisk attachment, beat 5-6 minutes until nearly triple in volume.

Sift flower over bowl and gently fold until blended. Add chocolate and gently fold again until smooth and blended. Divide batter amongst 6 hearts or muffin tins. Remove chocolate from fridge (now ganache) and roll into 6 small balls. Place into each heart and press in gently. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes, then carefully remove cakes from pan.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Endive Surprise

The kind folks with California Endive surprised me with an early Valentine today - a bouquet of beautiful endives! I thought it was so clever, mostly because I think it would be such a fun hostess gift. I've always waited for the day when someone brings me a large Brussels sprout stalk or the like to be quirky and fun - not to mention useful!

Anyway, with this surprise vegetable bounty, I decided to put it to use with some things lingering in my pantry and fridge. The result, a delightful meal!

Cauliflower Pasta

1/2 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets (2-3 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon truffle salt (or sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 pound whole wheat pasta
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup olives, chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay out cauliflower florets on a baking sheet, then drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the truffle salt and pepper. Toss to combine then place in the oven to roast for 30 minutes, until cauliflower begins to brown. Remove and place in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, place a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the cauliflower bowl.

While pasta cooks, heat a cast iron or other skillet on medium heat and cook bacon until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel-lined plate, reserving oil. Add garlic to the drippings and saute one minute. Remove garlic and add to pasta bowl. Add the sun dried tomatoes, olives and Parmigiano Reggiano and toss to combine. Bon Appetit!

Endive Surprise Salad

2 endives, cores removed and outer leaves roughly chopped
reserved bacon drippings (from recipe above!)
4 ounces spring mix
6 dates, chopped
1 ounce toasted walnuts
Balsamic vinegar to taste
Salt and pepper

After removing the garlic from the bacon drippings in the cast iron skillet from the cauliflower pasta, I added the endive to the skillet to saute it in the drippings for 3-4 minutes. Next add it to a large bowl, then add in the lettuce mix, dates and walnuts and toss to combine. Top with balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano and salt and pepper and toss to combine. The bacon drippings that cling to the endive will combine with the vinegar for a delightful dressing.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Salmon and Veggie Fried Rice

Luke and I rarely go out for Chinese, and sometimes I just CRAVE it. Fried rice is a fun way to breath some life into veggies that are sitting in your fridge waiting to wilt and die. Plus, I had some salmon leftover after buying a huge fillet on sale, and this was the perfect way to use that up to. So while this meal was a bunch of scrounged up leftovers, it tasted first class!

Veggie Fried Rice

2 tablespoons Canola oil

1 leek, sliced

2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
4 cups prepared brown rice, chilled
2 eggs, lightly whisked
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional, or you can add additional salt to taste)
3 tablespoons chopped cashews
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large wok or skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Saute leeks for 1-2 minutes until beginning to brown, then add carrots and Brussels sprouts. Saute for 3-4 minutes, then add the garlic and ginger and saute another minute. If needed, add a little more oil, you don't want the food to stick! Stir in the brown rice and toss to combine and bring up to heat, about 1 minute. Make a well in the middle of the pan and pour in the eggs. Let them cook about 1 1/2 minutes then begin stirring around to make sure they get cooked. Once the eggs are cooked and combined with the rice, stire in the oyster, soy and fish sauces and toss to combine. Remove from heat and top with cashews and cilantro, then flake Honey Soy Salmon on top, if using.

Note, you may be tempted to season veggies, etc. with salt and pepper during cooking. The Asian sauces are VERY salty, and I regretted adding additional salt. I recommend tasting first before adding any additional salt.

Honey Soy Salmon

1/2 pound coho salmon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season salmon with salt and pepper to taste. In an oven-proof skillet, heat olive oil then add salmon. Cook about 3 minutes then flip and let cook about 1 minute. Next add salmon to the oven and let finish cooking about 5 minutes (or longer if it's a thick piece). While salmon is cooking, whisk honey and soy sauce together, adjusting amounts to get your preferred thickness. When salmon has about 1 minute left, brush some of the sauce on top then return to oven. When it's finished cooking, brush remainder on salmon, then serve. The sweetness will contrast nicely with the saltiness of the fried rice.