nigella notes.

On Thursday evening, we made a rare venture into Philadelphia to see Nigella Lawson at the Kimmel Center. We don’t often go into Philadelphia these days, as it is somewhat of hot mess. And yes we saw that last night, and the sidewalk was actually torn up right in front of the Kimmel Center.

An Evening with Nigella Lawson was originally scheduled for November 10th at the Miller Theater, and was moved to the Perelman Theater inside the Kimmel. The Miller (formerly the Merriam) is under renovation. I am actually glad they moved it to the Kimmel, and the space is gorgeous and so clean! And my friend and food blogger Marilyn was two rows behind us!! Marilyn is the genius behind Philly Grub.

It was an amazing experience and some very amusing people watching. In front of us to the left was a woman who literally massaged the top of her companion or husband’s head the entire time. In front of my friend to the left of her there was a person who took off their socks and shoes and put their bare feet up on the seat in front of them!

Overall, it was not a bad audience at all, and we had super nice people immediately around us.

Nigella Lawson is warm and personable. Friendly, funny, self deprecating in the most amusing and human way. I have seen other personalities whom I admire “live”, and seriously I walked away thinking how truly nice I think she is. Of course part of it is I am sure is the fact I am an Anglophile.

I took notes while Nigella was speaking. I wish it had been recorded! She is as lovely in person as we see on our television screens. And I don’t mean just beautiful, because she is drop dead gorgeous. I also mean lovely as in the nice person you meet whom you want to have over to your house for dinner.

To follow are the notes I took as she was speaking. You will note her program wasn’t a cooking demonstration, it was also the woman outside the kitchen. And she is not a classically trained chef, like Ina Garten whom I also admire and follow, she’s one of us just elevated. She’s a home cook.

Michael Klein from The Philadelphia Inquirer was the moderator. He was excellent. He and Nigella had terrific chemistry and rapport. Michael’s manner also helped make this a memorable event. Not that any of us should be surprised if you have followed his columns for years.

So here are my Nigella Notes:

When she was 9 she wrote a play on the meaning of existence. Terrapins were the characters.

At 10 she penned a self-described “very bad” murder mystery.

Originally Nigella thought she would be a novelist.

She spoke about finding her voice in writing. Nigella’s voice evolved from writing about food. I guess that goes along with something that one of my friends and writing mentors who is a retired journalist has always has said to me which is “write what you know.“

Writing – find your own voice. Nigella touched on that again. She also noted her experience when writing about food that people are more connected, almost nicer. As a blogger I can appreciate that, because when I post a recipe everybody loves it and no one complains. But if I write about a politician or politics/political issues, the keyboard warriors salute (and charge.)

Funny little Nigella notes include how she feels about fruit bowls- she doesn’t mix her fruit. Every kind of fruit has their own bowl.

Regarding her first book How to Eat– wasn’t sure at first if she would have recipes. She wasn’t sure she knew how to write about food.

“Life is full of unexpected turns.”

Nigella remarked how inspiration comes to us in odd ways, as we “lurch” through life.

She found it fortunate in her work as a journalist to live through her words.

Nigella started with TV at 38 or 40. She had two small kids, a husband who had cancer. His name was John Diamond, and he was also a journalist. He was 47 when he died. On a rather personal note, this resonated with me because my sister became a widow at 43, when my brother in law, then 49, died of a swift moving cancer. So I respect what Nigella went through and was dealing with back then.

Nigella spoke about what her terms were back then in order to do TV. If she could do TV, she wanted to do it from home but unscripted. Wanted to speak naturally. And with two small children and an ill spouse, it was an early work from home arrangement, and good for her for getting that.

I always have loved Nigella programs because she is relaxed and has fun in her kitchen. Her own dishes and pans, and not everything is perfect, much like our own kitchens. And one of my favorite parts of her shows is when she would go into her kitchen late at night for a snack. It’s so human and real.

Oh did I mention her pink boots?? Seriously an important note, they were truly fabulous!

When asked about writing her books, she prefers to do her books as they evolve, not as a “churning out machine.”

This: a cookbook from the ingredients she loved that was an essay, reflecting on ideas, then recipes to follow.

Home cooking because of COVID seems to have inspired this book in part.

This book, Cook Eat, Repeat are essays with recipes, like a companion piece to How to Eat. For that reason, on my own book shelves, these books are together.

On making or creating a book with food- the feeling of creating something.

The practical can make you feel you achieved something- the dizzying feel of achieving from the blank page.

Cooking for one in book because of COVID but she’s done it before. But cooking for one is important- you can concentrate on process of cooking and learn.

Lockdown caused her to spend more time on Twitter. Also notes recipes for one are important. I agree. I have always cooked for myself, even when it was just me.

Nigella hates the term “guilty pleasures.” It “blinks to snobbery” as in liking the “right” things and being afraid to say that you like something.

Essentially she remarked the hell with you shouldn’t be eating something, just try it. Life is too short. Don’t be counterproductive. Guilty pleasures with food doesn’t really work. Feel grateful not guilty.

When asked about things that she can’t live without or would prefer not to live without, there was bread and butter. “Life would be poorer.” She says she definitely needs lemons and salt in life. She remarked about a chips sandwich and referred to it as an English delicacy. As near as I can grasp it, this would be a sandwich of french fries or chips in between two slices of bread with butter.

She loves English mustard. Coleman’s, specifically. I always have Coleman’s dry mustard in my spice rack, and when I can get the actual jarred mustard I do. It has a bite. I use Colemans mustard in deviled eggs along with curry powder.

Now she and Michael Klein chatted about “brown food.” She said she wants to write about not just bright food and color. Not everything has to be high octane in your face. Or Instagram worthy. There is a need in life for the quiet bits. Food might not always blow your mind, sometimes it has a quiet kind of dignity, comfort. Lasts longer. “ A stew doesn’t shout for you to come to the table, it whispers.” (I loved that description.)

Quiet food, comfort food, has equally rich rewards.

It’s not all about the “shouty look at me.” Not everyone needs to be the same. (Amen. I wasn’t destined to live in a beige, beige world for one.)

We evolve our ideas, but your cooking evolves the way your life currently is. “I bumble away” referring to being a home cook. The more you cook the more you know.

“If you can’t deal with a cracked cake in life, life is going to be more difficult.”

What do you want to eat ? People have different palettes.

Recipes express the nature of cooking. Recipes express the nature of the chef.

Then she and Michael took a few questions from the audience. We were all asked to write a question down and basically put it in a little wicker basket when we were checking into the event.

The event actually went over the time allotted, and I could have listened to her for a couple of hours more. It was delightful. It was such a nice change from the obnoxious world we’ve been living in recently.

This was a really cool experience, and well I didn’t particularly enjoy the City of Philadelphia because it’s just so dirty and the streets and the sidewalks are such a hot mess these days, but the Kimmel Center was really nice.

Thanks for stopping by.

swedish meatballs….my way

I love old school recipes.  One from my childhood is Swedish meatballs.  Not because we had any Swedish heritage – it was just one of those dishes my mother would make for us.  Over the years I have tweaked a basic recipe to suit me.

The weather has finally turned crisp and fall-like so I thought tonight would be a good night to dust off the recipe and prepare Swedish meatballs.  My recipe is NOT made with heavy cream and I add mushrooms and a couple of other herbs/spices. But the flavors work and you get that old school Swedish meatball flavor…enhanced.  Some add caraway seeds to either the gravy or meatballs, I add celery seed to the gravy

I also do something that I doubt anyone else does – I will prepare the meatball mix ahead of time the day I am cooking and refrigerate until it is time to make the meatballs.  That allows the spices to meld and perfume the meat mixture better.

Panko bread crumbs are superior to regular bread crumbs in my opinion, but the most important thing to remember is to use PLAIN breadcrumbs. This is not the recipe for flavored breadcrumbs.

Some use mashed potatoes, I like wide egg noodles.

I hope you enjoy my recipe if you try it. Watch the salt you add because of the sodium in most broths.

Swedish Meatballs My Way

  • 1 pound meatloaf mix
  • 1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped x 2 or 1 cup
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon White Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • Splash of buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 8 oz package baby bella mushrooms slices thin
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups beef broth or bison broth
  • 1 cup evaporated Vitamin D canned milk (also great for homemade macaroni and cheese) or half and half
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium sized bowl combine ground beef, panko, parsley, allspice, nutmeg, onion, garlic powder, white pepper, cumin, paprika, mustard powder, dash of buttermilk, salt and egg. Mix until combined. Put in refrigerator and chill a couple of   I do this because meat mixture flavor deepens.
  2. Roll into  20 + small meatballs. In a large dutch oven heat olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter. Add the meatballs and cook turning continuously until brown on each side and cooked throughout. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.
  3. Quickly sauté ½ cup minced onion and baby bella mushrooms
  4. Add 4 Tablespoons butter and flour to skillet and whisk until it turns brown. Slowly stir in beef broth and milk. Add Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard and dill and bring to a simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a small dash of nutmeg (I mean small!) and celery seed.
  5. Add the meatballs back to the skillet and simmer for another few minutes. Serve over egg noodles or as the Brits call it, a “good mash” or plain mashed potatoes. I prefer egg noodles.

oh my easter pies!

Savory Easter Pie

Savory Easter Pie

I was inspired by my friend Lisa DePaulo’s mom’s Easter Pizza recipe, but didn’t have everything on hand to make that recipe.  So I took my recent Ricotta Pie recipe and adapted it…to two pies in normal, not deep dish pie plates.

I ended up with a a pair of pies…and here is how I did it:

Preheat oven to 350°

Take ricotta pie recipe  and assemble the filling but ONLY add   2 tablespoons of sugar. Add the vanilla and add the lemon zest of one fresh lemon. Do not add the orange zest.

Take two piecrusts and line two regular pie plates. Put in refrigerator to keep dough chilled.

Split your ricotta mixture in half into two large bowls.

In one bowl which will be your sweet pie add the sweet ingredients (1/2 of the sugar or 1/2 a cup, lemon zest, candied citron/lemon/orange peel, cinnamon, white raisins if you want and even 1/3 cup UNSWEETENED coconut), and there you have the mixture for the sweet Easter or ricotta pie.

In the second bowl (for the savory Easter pie)  beat in one more egg, add half a cup of Parmesan and Romano cheese mixture, and a about 4 to 5 ounces of grated cheddar. I prefer a sharp and white cheddar very dry. Add a little salt and pepper to taste, and a little dill and thyme and tarragon.

In a small sauté pan sauté with 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter melted add  2/3 cup of diced ham, one onion, and eight or nine baby bella mushrooms. Sauté down and drain of any liquid. Set aside to cool slightly. Some dill, oregano, thyme, tarragon to taste. I do not add any extra salt because of the salt in the ham.

Put the meat mixture into the bottom of one of your pie crusts in the pie plates and pour the savory ricotta cheese mixture over.

Pour  your sweet ricotta pie mixture into your other prepared pie crust and plate and you can bake them together in the oven for about an hour – you’re going to have to start checking at about 55 minutes- this is my first time through doing it this way so you guys are learning with me! I took about 1 hour and 10 minutes baking both – the savory dinner pie in the end was ready before the dessert pie.

Both pies turned out ok and are honestly very tasty and disappearing fast, although I probably should have taken both pies out of the oven at the 1 hour mark.

Buona Pasqua!

Sweet Easter Pie

Sweet Easter Pie

 

little old italian lady in training 



I became a bit of an Italian cliché today, or a little old Italian lady in training, take your pick.

I made sauce, I made gnocchi, and I made a ricotta pie.

I will give you the recipe below I used a roll out store-bought crust this time –Pillsbury  brand.

Deep dish pie plate required.

Preheat oven to 350°

Follow instructions on premade piecrust – I like using my own pie plates so I get the Pillsberry brand piecrust when I don’t feel like making my own crust. 

So I laid my piecrust in my pan, fluted the edges of the crust and tossed in the freezer while I mixed up the ricotta mixture.

Beat 5 eggs and  1 tablespoon vanilla together. (my mother bought me back this amazing Mexican vanilla on her last trip there and that is what I use today – the flavor is better I think than regular vanilla.)

Mix in with electric mixer 1/4  cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the grated rind of one fresh lemon and one fresh orange. (I had some blood oranges and so that is the grated orange rind that I used today.)

Mix in with electric mixer 1 cup of white sugar and beat together well.

Beat in 3 1/2 cups of whole milk ricotta cheese. When mixture is well mixed, you next stir in 1/3 cup candied minced orange peel and 1/3 cup candied minced lemon peel.

Get out your pie shell in your deep dish pie plate and carefully pour the creamy ricotta cheese mixture into the piecrust.

 Bake at 350° until firm and light brown on top approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.

You can either serve this at room temperature or chilled.

Enjoy!

quiche with ham, broccoli, and spinach….and a side of teenager

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Yes….how to get more vegetables into your teenager. Of course my teenager has just decreed that he’s not eating any quiche.

(Deep breath…..deep breath…..)

As parents is incredibly frustrating when you are going out of your way to try to make things that will be appealing to them, and then they won’t even try things if they are in a teenage mood. Well the teen can try it, right? Not everything can be of the favorite teenage boy food group of starch sugar and more starch. He was much easier to feed when he was 10, and he was actually open to trying new things and allowing things that were green and vegetable like to pass his lips regularly.

Of course if I had a show on Food Network like Nancy Fuller or Martha Stewart or Ree Drummond or Ina Garten everybody would sit magically around the table which would be set beautifully to perfection every night and eat everything that I made and rave….LOL reality is far different!

Okay enough venting my frustration over the eating habits and mercurial moods of the teenage male! I just have to keep repeating “I love my teenager I love my teenager I love my teenager I love my teenager“.

I think out there somewhere there must be a 12 step program for surviving the teenage years. They really aren’t mutant ninja secret agent super gamer teenage cave dwellers who have taken a vow of silence. My brother-in-law humorously noted recently that the average teenage boy doesn’t really start conversing with adults again until they hit 18 or 19.

Anyway I know this quiche will be delicious. The wine depicted in the photo is for adults in the house.

So how this recipe came about: I had ham leftover from New Year’s. I had frozen the bone for an upcoming lentil soup, but decided to go quiche with the remaining ham meat.

First I made my crust – I am into these herbs and savory crusts these days, so the recipe for this particular crust is below the rest of the quiche recipe.

Once I had rolled out my crust and fit it into my 9 1/2 inch vintage glass dish pie plate, put that in the refrigerator to keep cool well I got to work on the rest of the quiche.

Somewhere during the crust making process I preheated my oven to 375°.

My next step involves the ingredients below:

1 1/2 cups cubed ham
1/2 cup grape tomatoes sliced thin
1 medium onion chopped small
1 cup fresh broccoli diced
Dash of salt fresh cracked pepper
Dash of Cumin

For all those ingredients listed above, sauté with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat for about 10 minutes, maybe 15. Turn off heat and set-aside.

Okay now that that part was complete and the crust was chilling, comes the next step before assembly. It involves the ingredients below:

1 3/4 cups shredded Swiss and Gruyere cheese
5 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
Dash sriracha sauce

1/2 cup fresh baby spinach stems removed

In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs milk salt, pepper herbs and spices. Add your dash of sriracha sauce.

Fold in the cheese. Take your piecrust out of the refrigerator and place in the center of a rimmed baking sheet – I use a professional jellyroll pan. First layer in the ham mixture from your sauté pan, then add baby spinach – the leaves are so small I don’t bother to chop up. Finally add your shredded cheese.

Place quiche on your baking sheet and your preheated 375° oven. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving. I don’t like eating boiling hot quiche so I will let mine sit 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve with a green salad.

Oops, I almost forgot, here is how I made the crust:

1/2 teaspoon each rosemary, marjoram, tarragon
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 Tbs. very cold buttermilk

Directions:
To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives or yes your fingers, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together. Form dough into a ball and flatten slightly on a floured surface roll out. Put in your pie plate crimp the edges, and refrigerate why you assemble the rest of your quiche.

it’s pesto season!

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I love planting herbs in my flower beds, and now I get to start to reap the rewards: it’s pesto season!

The basil needed a bit of a haircut, so that’s what’s for dinner, pesto. Olive oil from A Taste of Olive in West Chester, and fresh garlic from the farmers market. It doesn’t any get easier than that!

I must admit, my kitchen smells marvelous right now with the scent of the basil!

Fresh pesto and homemade salsa is yet another reason why people should garden more!

another recipe for the pasta coma category…

pasta coma just made this up….yesterday.  I am sure many people do something similar, but this is all me:

Ragu of Pork and Veal

In a large Dutch oven, sauté one large sweet onion and one medium-sized regular onion cut into very thin rings.

Sauté in a few healthy tablespoons of olive oil and include four cloves of garlic
minced (I just pour oil in the bottom of the pan until it looks right, but not an elephant’s foot bath.)

Add oregano, and basil. A little marjoram. And kosher salt to taste.

When almost at the point of caramelization, add 1/3 cup good balsamic vinegar.

Allow vinegar to mostly cook off, leaving a darkish sauce in the bottom.

Add to this two grated carrots, two fresh bay leaves, and 6 ounces of chopped baby Bella mushrooms.

Next add one package of ground veal.

Add one package of ground pork.

(Both should be no more than a pound.)

yumAs the meat cooks down and browns slightly (ground veal and pork do not brown like ground beef), add one-third of a cup of 2% milk or half-and-half. large

Allow the milk solids to cook off as if you would with a Bolognese sauce, and when all simmered and brown and delicious, add two 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes. One can should contain purée.  (And buy good tomatoes – it does make a difference.)

pasteAdd one small can of tomato paste. (6 oz)

Cook on medium low for about 15 minutes or until it starts to gently bubble up from bottom

Adjust salt and pepper, add rough chopped fresh basil and Italian flat leaf parsley to taste. (for me that means a fistful – love both)

Simmer on very low for a couple of hours

Cook spiral pasta, as in the spiral shaped pasta that is called cavatappi. You can cavatappi_nudoalso use ziti.

Cook pasta according to directions and drain. Do not rinse

Get out your giant pasta serving bowl and ladle some of the sauce into the bottom. Next add on top of that sauce a third of the pasta you cooked – I cook the whole 16 ounce box.

On top of pasta add a healthy sprinkling of shredded Italian cheese – I like the six cheese Italian blend

Ladle more sauce on top, and repeat the layers twice more.

Top off with a little more sauce and cheese and some more fresh parsley.

Served with a salad, pasta coma guaranteed.

pudding 101

This morning the breeze has started the fall rustle of leaves.  Don’t know how else to describe it.

Fall means the start of comfort food season.  What people don’t realize is there is something to be said for the basics.  Basics include foods we grew up with, comfort foods.

Last night I made an old-fashioned pot roast.  Mine is different because I use a little lemon or orange peel in mine and toss in a small can of crushed tomatoes and wine along with a few kinds of mushrooms (fresh not those rubberized canned things). To make a perfect pot roast you need a heavy dutch oven large enough to comfortably cook your roast and you must dredge the meat in flour and brown up a little before putting in a low and slow oven and ignoring for a few hours.

What I made the other day also falls into the category of old-fashioned comfort food: rice pudding.  I never wrote my recipe down before, so I hope the proportions are right.

Here it is:

Start with turning on the oven to 350 degrees to pre-heat. Next grab some unsalted butter  for greasing baking dish

 Ingredients

3/4 cup white sweet rice cooked and cooled (sweet rice is an extra sticky rice used in Asian cooking and you can buy it at an international grocery or specialty foods store)

3 cups whole milk (you can also use the canned Carnation milk you use to make pumpkin pie)

1 cup fat-free half and half

1 cup light cream

6 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom

1/2 cup shredded coconut

3/4 cup white raisins

Directions

Grease well a  round baking dish (I use  Pyrex 2 or 2 1/2 quart baking dish – not sure which one – it has a lid which makes for handy storage of leftovers)

Into the bottom of the baking dish first add rice. Smooth out evenly on bottom. Sprinkle raisins evenly on top.  Sprinkle coconut on top of that. Set aside

Combine egg yolks, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Add sugar.  Beat until sugar is dissolved, incorporated, not grainy on the bottom of the bowl

Add  cornstarch, lemon zest, spices.

Slowly add milk, half and half and light cream.  Beat until frothy . Pour over rice/raisins/coconut in round baking dish.

Take your round baking dish and place in a Bain Marie – a Bain Marie is literally a water bath.

I take a larger rectangular pan, place my round baking dish inside it, and then pour hot water inside the rectangular pan AROUND the baking dish (DO NOT get the water into your rice pudding mixture)

Bake until the rice pudding is no longer liquid – at least an hour.  When I made a few days ago, my oven may not have been properly pre-heated and it took about an hour and 20 minutes to cook.  Your baked pudding will be caramel and brown colored on top when cooked and a knife inserted will come out clean. You just have to watch it.

Take pudding out of oven and place baking dish on a trivet to cool.  I like serving the pudding still slightly warm.  Some people like putting whipped cream on top to dress up the pudding when serving.  I do not – I think it is overkill.  You can have fun with this dessert and serve in red wine or martini glasses (wide rim).

Pudding variations include:

  • You can tweak recipe and remove just the rice and add a can of DRAINED cream corn to make a sweet corn pudding.
  • You can also substitute cubed day old brioche and make a bread pudding.  You can omit the cardamom and mace and raisins and coconut and add chocolate chips and it becomes a chocolate chip bread pudding.

Puddings are fun.

 

 

this chicken dinner will keep them coming back for more

Any vegans in the room need to turn away from the page now.  We’re talking chicken.  And I love chickens. I am also  a fan of Chickenman in West Vincent and am hoping he doesn’t get run over by the road master of West Vincent or the peace love and eminent domain lady and the lawyer of reinvention either.

But I digress. And besides, I bet Chickenman would love my home cooking as well as witty political repartee n’est–ce pas?

Back to cluck…so easy to wander down a rutty path towards politics when discussing chicken dinners.  After all chicken dinners are the staple of most politicians.

(If you were hoping for The Pioneer Woman or Barefoot Contessa , sorry, it’s just me)

And yes, as per above photo I do know where chickens come from.  No, I will not be doing my version of Little House on The Prairie and fetching a chicken and slaying it for dinner.  Mine came from the market.

It’s summer I don’t want to stuff anything except maybe the occasional tomato or deviled egg.  But today has been thunderstorm city  and who knows if it will keep on not raining or not, so oven it is.

I love roast chicken and this is the plan B roast chicken when you don’t feel like stuffing.

First I clean out my chicken and remove the gizzards (which I freeze for homemade stock another time.)

Then I June Cleaver it with my cleaver.  Oh ok: translation: I place my raw chicken breast side down on a non-wooden cutting board and cleave her open (see photos).  Then I place her breast side up and spread out on a little roasting rack in a pan I have lined with that half parchment half foil paper, foil side up (easier clean up – sorry – it is Friday and I don’t want to be slave to kitchen.)

Then I look for two little skin pockets that I help along with a little paring knife (see photo) and I stuff 4 cloves of garlic sliced under the skin (evenly on each side) along with the herbs I have handy and fresh outside – oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, 2 bay leaves.

Then I channel my inner Julia Child but not to the point of Paula Deen and I rub the chicken with a pat of butter (ok so maybe it is like a tablespoon plus a smidgen.)

Then I rub on the skin  salt, pepper, a little garlic powder, oregano, basil, smoked paprika, regular paprika, tarragon, cumin, and dried Valencia orange peel.  Look, I don’t go THAT overboard, a dash or this and a dash of that until it smells good going in the oven.  Omit what you don’t like.

Into a pre-heated 350 degree oven it goes.  I have seen recipes that say different things with regard to the internal temperature and doneness, but I just let my meat thermometer do the thinking and when it says done for poultry I haul it out of the oven and rest the cluck for at least 15 minutes with foil on top.  Tonight’s bird is 6.74 lbs. so it will cook about 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.

A note is halfway through I always sour a roast, whether it is chicken, turkey, pork, beef, etc.  I sour it with whatever wine is open.  I don’t drown it, just refresh it.

Tonight I have fresh corn and a salad to accompany my cluck. 

I will post a roasted completion photo later.

Happy cooking!

side stuff

A lazy Sunday afternoon, warm enough to make a fresh batch of sweet tea, with fresh curly mint from the garden.

What is sweet tea?

Sweet tea is southern style iced tea, where you brew the tea with the sugar in it.  I also add the mint at this stage and tie it with a tiny piece of kitchen twine so I can fish it out after the tea cools, prior to adding the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon.  I am a bit of a tea snob and I like one of two teas for brewing homemade iced tea: American Classic Tea from Charleston, SC or PG Tips from England.  Those are the two black teas I drink, hot or cold.  Good tea is worth the extra money.

So dinner is semi-homemade without Sandra Lee (she’s kind of annoying I think). I have a pre-marinated Smithfield pork loin (Teriyaki), but I can’t just serve that with a salad (even if it is the beautiful red leaf lettuce I bought this week at the East Goshen Farmers’ Market), or there might be a revolt.

Since the 12-year-old loves pasta, I thought a spin on mac and cheese was in order. Now I made this pasta up today, and truthfully, it is rather tasty.

Side Stuff: Ziti with Mushrooms and Swiss Cheese Sauce.

Cook a small box of Barilla Ziti, drain, do not rinse.

Cheese Sauce:

2  cups of grated swiss cheese (I used a blend today that contained Gruyère) 

4 oz of fresh Queso

2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

Dash of Tabasco

Couple dashes of Worcestershire Sauce

salt & pepper to taste

dash nutmeg

4 oz. of sliced white button mushrooms*

4 oz. of sliced baby bella mushrooms*

(*it’s what was in the ‘fridge – you could use shiitaki or whatever fresh mushrooms you have handy except canned. Canned mushrooms are rubbery and gross.)

2 or 3 scallions minced

3 tablespoons of butter for mushrooms/scallions

4 tablespoons flour for sauce (rue)

4 tablespoons butter for sauce (rue)

zest of fresh lemon

small dash nutmeg

squeeze of chilis in a tube (Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper Spice Blend)

Fresh flat leaf parsley

Melt butter for cheese sauce with flour.  Create a rue.  Add a dash of tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and whisk in.

Add milk, whisking constantly over medium heat, until the temperature comes up to just about a boil.

Add the Queso, whisking constantly until blended.  Add the swiss bit by bit, whisking until blended.

Using a small grater or micro plane, give like three runs of a lemon across the blades over the sauce so the lemon zest goes right in.

Salt and pepper to taste.  Nutmeg (seriously not much) Set aside.

Using a small saute pan, take the other butter and melt.  Toss in the chopped scallions, salt to taste and cook until almost transluscent.  Add the mushrooms, cook down.

Return cheese sauce to a medium to low flame and incorporate the mushroom and scallian mixture into it.  Add a squeeze of the chili peppers in a tube, check the salt and pepper.

Pour over ziti in a medium dutch oven on the stove top, mix around a bit, throw in flat leaf parsley rough chopped.  The sauce will be hot, but if the pasta is not warm enough, warm gently to your desired temperature on VERY LOW so as not to burn.

This is literally something I just did for the first time, so you might have to tweak it to your taste.  This is not a stick a spoon in it and it will stand up in the cheese sauce either.

Later……..

Of course, Murphy’s Law of 12 Year Olds was triggered and he went to the neighbors’ house to have dinner with some other kids….and order take-out Chinese.

I am sure the left overs will entice him at some point later this week, and grown-ups will eat this too, incidentally.