Saturday, July 9, 2011

Improvised Picnic Chicken

Getting ready to head to town for the Beatles Tribute evening in the park and packing a picnic dinner. We’re supplying the protein and friends are bringing the fruits and vegetables.

I had a whole chicken that I just cut up and left the skin on and I had a package of skinless thighs also, so I tossed that all into some buttermilk and minced garlic to marinate.

I didn’t actually have buttermilk on hand but it is so easy to make there was no need to go to the store. A friend dropped off some lemons so I squeezed one and got two table spoons of juice out, but because it was a sweet Meyer lemon I added another tablespoon of white vinegar to two cups of milk. Actually, I only had 1 cup of whole milk, a lot of heavy cream and some skim milk, so I used the cup of whole milk and a ½ cup each of skim and cream. All I had to do then was let it sit for 15 minutes and viola, buttermilk.

I then minced up a whole bunch of cloves, a ‘whole bunch’ because they were small and skinny cloves. Now that is all soaking together in a bowl in the fridge.

In the mean time I Cuisin-arted a bunch of long ago toasted baguette slices into bread crumbs. Again, didn’t have any on hand and didn’t want to go to the store, so a little effort went a long way! I tossed the bread crumbs (two cups total, about) with a teaspoon each of oregano, tarragon, and white pepper and two tsp. of kosher salt.

That’s hanging out on the counter until it is time to turn on the oven to 400 degrees which will be an hour before it is time to pack it all up. At which point I will drain the chicken, dredge it in the breadcrumb mixture and lay it out on a tinfoil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil.

30-40 minutes later Improvised Picnic Chicken is finished. I’ll pack it into a basket or box lined with a dish towel that is clean but one I don’t mind getting soaked up in chicken juice, I’ll pack a few hunks of cheese, a couple mini baguettes that came from the freezer that I warmed up in the oven after the chicken was finished and we have a rightful feast.

Off to the show!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Simple Salmon, Real Creamy Noodles & Asperagus

This meal is so easy one should never ever think about 'Alfredo' out of a jar or package ever, ever again.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and trim the asparagus. Get a pot of water on to boil. I use a big pot because I cook a whole pound of pasta so that there are always leftovers. Pour a pint of heavy cream into a small sauce pan and put this on the stove over a low heat. You want the cream to get hot but not boil, though if it does that’s ok. I tend to forget about the cream and it often boils over and what remains in the pan works just fine, but if you keep the heat low and don’t cover it you should be OK.

Coat a baking pan with a little olive oil. You don’t have to coat the whole thing, just where the salmon will go, and really, it only needs a little just rub it in with your fingers. Then put the salmon on this and drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil on the top side of the salmon and rub in about a teaspoon of kosher salt. If you’re whole family likes pepper than grind some fresh pepper on too, but since our daughter doesn’t like it we wait to put it on at the table. It saves a battle and it doesn’t make a big difference when the pepper goes on. Put this in the oven for 20 minutes.

Peal and mince a few cloves of garlic and get this simmering in about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan also over low heat.

Grate about two cups of parmesan cheese into a bowl and reserve.

What kind of pasta really doesn’t matter but we like spaghetti or linguini around here. Timing wise what you want to do is put the pasta in when the salmon has about 12 minutes to go, or about two minutes longer than the pasta needs to cook. The secret to a great creamy noodle is a warm bowl to toss it in and this is easily accomplished with a strainer for the pasta inside a big bowl.

The thickness of your asparagus will determine how long you’ll need to sauté it. Ours this past Sunday was medium so I started to sauté it about 7 minutes before the salmon was due to come out of the oven. On relatively high heat (medium high) toss the asparagus in with the garlic and olive oil. After a minute add about a ¼ cup of water so that a little steaming action can happen to help it cook through to the middle but not so much that it boils the asparagus. Give it a toss about every minute. You’ll know it’s done when the color is dark green at the tips and bright green on the stalks.

When the pasta is cooked through pour the water into the strainer and bowl and then lift the strainer with the pasta out to drain. Let the hot water steep in the bowl to heat it through. When the bowl is hot drain the water, put the pasta back into the bowl, pour most of the hot cream over the pasta and toss with most of the cheese. Add the rest of the cream then the cheese and keep tossing the pasta until it is all mixed together.

Take the salmon out of the oven and dinner is served.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunday Dinner

There is something wonderful about a Sunday dinner. Family gathered around the table, sometimes friends, too, sharing the best parts of the weekend planning the week ahead. Last night’s dinner was no exception, made all the more beautiful after a sun filled warm weekend.

The Menu: Roasted Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Sautéed Zucchini.

The Process: I am a big fan of the organic chicken from Costco, they come two to a pack and freeze well. I rinse one, pat it dry then put in a pan. I coat the inside with a salt and coarsely ground pepper and then stuff it with a lemon cut in half, a garlic bulb cut in half (so all the cloves are showing like a flower) about 10 sprigs of thyme. Be sure to pre heat the oven to 350. I often forget this part, but it is important.

I mix up a paste of three tablespoons of softened or melted unsalted butter, three tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of kosher salt (always Kosher and I’ll talk about that another time) and a tablespoon of pepper.

The outside of the chicken gets rubbed with about half of this mixture and then with the breast side down it goes into the oven. The other half of the mixture gets tossed around quartered potatoes. I am a big fan of the white potatoes, but red ones are good, too. Mixing them up is nice, too. Me, I’m not so fond of the fingerlings, but if you are, go for it. Use a non stick baking pan for the potatoes, trust me, it makes a huge difference. Oh, and if you think of it, which I didn’t last night, which is why we had zucchini, peel and quarter an onion to toss into the mix and throw in some carrots.

And, for a really special treat you’ll want to peel whole cloves of garlic but don’t toss these into the roasting pan right away.

The chicken will need to roast for at least an hour if it is a small one, but the ones I get from Costco take an hour and a half. No basting necessary, but the potatoes will need to be stirred up every twenty minutes so that they brown on all sides. You’ll want to put the garlic in when there is about 40 minutes remaining.

When the chicken is ready to come out of the oven it should rest for at least 10 minutes on a carving board, preferably with a moat to catch the inevitable juices but 15-20 is even better. Cover it with a bit of tin foil to keep it warm. Keep the potatoes in the oven but turn the heat off so they don’t over cook.

How about some gravy? Especially because it is so easy and really shouldn’t be reserved just for Thanksgiving dinner. All you have to do is empty the roasting pan of the melted fat into a separator (a bowl will work, too) but don’t scrape the pan clean and put it onto the stove top over a medium flame. If you have chicken broth on hand use it, if not, water will do, but it won’t be as rich in flavor. Bring the liquid (a little more than you will want to fill a saucer) to a simmer and the bits that stuck to the pan will come up easily, which you want.

In a separate bowl, mix up a few tablespoons of flour with cold water making sure that there are few to no clumps. Slowly pour in this mixture all the while stirring with a whisk and incorporating everything until is shows signs of thickening. At this point that reserved fat that has risen to the top of the separator or bowl should be poured off and discarded but the yummy bits at the bottom of the bowl or gravy separator should be added to the gravy. Allow the gravy to simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally and voila, you have gravy.

Since I forgot to put the carrots and onions in with the potatoes last night I sliced up four zucchini and minced four cloves of garlic. When the chicken was resting I heated up the garlic in olive oil until it was just starting to brown. I like a crispy crunchy garlic, if you aren’t a fan just don’t let it get to that point but do allow it to soften in the heat for a minute or two so it mellows in flavor. I then throw in the zucchini and about a teaspoon of salt into the pan and toss it all about every three minutes. I also like a browned zucchini so I tend to use a high heat and it takes about 7 minutes, but a lower heat will do just fine if you are afraid it might burn.

My husband does the carving, our daughter sets the table and I serve either from the stove top or from the table depending on how many dishes I want to do that night. We sit down at the table and everyone holds hands for grace which is a long standing tradition we adopted from my husbands family. It goes like this,

“I’m glad we’re all together.”

And I am.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lovely Leftovers

Sunday night a friend brought over a lasagna, Monday I made quiche, and last night I defrosted some chicken soup I'd made this winter.
They were hearty feasts with just enough left over to make up an individual plate or bowl including the zucchini and potato soup form dinner club on Saturday.
So, yup, you guessed it, tonight is leftover night.
Everyone gets to choose their favorite and hopefully everyone is happy. Thankfully husband and step son are amenable to just about anything.
Dinner is served and I get the night off.

In the very back are eggs from the chickens and the kitchen scraps they'll get to enjoy tomorrow along with their regular feed.
Stay tuned on Friday, it's rib night. Yummmmm.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quiche, Glorious, Quiche

I do believe that quiche is one of the greatest gifts to the kitchen table since I don't know when. With Spring in full bloom our chickens are laying eggs like crazy and our stock is piling up. No better way to use them up than with a glorious quiche with a light simple salad on the side.
Today's quiche will have the leftover zucchini (from Saturday night's Zucchini & Potato soup) and crumbled feta, and onion.
First I'll turn on my oven to 400 degrees.
Then I'll saute a little onion, maybe a 1/2 cup diced or about 1/2 an onion depending on how big they are , in a little olive oil. Then I'll add the zucchini to soften it a little bit, but not too much.
While that's cooling a little I'll crack about 8 eggs, add about a cup of 2% milk and whisk that together with a few pinches of salt and pepper.
I made a big batch of pie crusts a while back and divided them up to wait in the freezer. The last one just came out and is defrosting in the fridge while I type. I'll roll that out and fill a deep pie dish, mix in the veggies and feta(about a cup) into the egg mixture and pour it all into the crust lined pie pan and put it into the oven for 45 minutes.
For the salad I'll get some mixed greens with herbs if they have it at the store and whip up a simple red vinegar vinaigrette with a little mustard and oil and really, that's dinner.
Ooh, I can't wait to get eating.
Thanks for reading.
PS I'll try and toss some photos in later this evening.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Zucchini & Potato Soup

Tonights Dinner Club challenge is 5 ingredients or less for each course.
I chose soup and because I have fresh zucchini in the fridge and potatoes in the cellar.
I'll start with a non stick pan because I don't want an oil to use op one of my 5 ingredients. In the pan I'll saute a diced onion and then the chopped but not peeled zucchini until they are tender.
I'll boil the pealed and diced potatoes in the chicken stock I made last night and add the zucchini. Thankfully Salt & Pepper don't count in the 5 limit so I will be able to add a bit more flavor without sacrificing ingredients.
Once the potatoes are tender I'll add the onions and zucchini and blend it all together with my hand held blender.
Then it will be time to transport to the host's house and warm it again while the salad is served. Once it is warm but not boiling I'll add heavy cream and serve it up.
Because I will want a garnish for the presentation I will peal off some strips of zucchini skin and hope it curls up or I will julienne it and add to the top of each full bowl.
And there you have it, potato and zucchini soup. Can't wait!
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Grapefruit, Grapefruit, Grapefruit

Grapefruit Overload
Just got a case of grapefruit. Bought it from a friends daughter who is raising money for a school trip to Guatemala. It’s a lot of grapefruit. And I think another case is coming from our family in Oregon who send one every year from Harry & David. Co. That’s even more grapefruit. Ooh, I think I’ll squeeze a bunch of it and freeze it and then when we have our next party I’ll make Cosmos. Yup, that’s the plan, but I might enjoy one here in a moment cut in half with honey from friends who keep bees in Ross. Yum.