Nigella’s Praised Chicken recipe

Wow.

I haven’t written about a recipe in forever. To put it mildly, I’m in a cooking rut and have been having the toughest time getting the motivation to make dinners lately. It sucks, I’m not happy about it. We’ve been resorting to soup and sandwiches for weeks, again, and I’m starting to get angsty.

Whatever.

Anyhow, just to back-story this recipe a bit: This year we got 10 chickens from Country Thyme Farm. These are not your grocery store specimens, lemme just say. Not by a long shot.

These guys are Heritage Breed chickens and they are far and away nothing at all like the stuff you would be familiar with in size, flavour and method of cooking. At least, I’m not. A long time ago, when I was in junior high/high school, we were taught about how chickens were classified for sale in Canada. They’re graded for sale dependant upon size, age, best cooking methods, etc… Nowadays, when you go to the store, you really only have one type of chicken to choose from.

Here in Calgary, the more common options that I have seen for chickens are: standard conventional commercial chickens (President’s Choice, Lilydale, un-named store chicken, etc), Hutterite chickens (I’ve only really seen at Co-Op), “Organic” labelled Chicken (President’s Choice, Costco, etc).

If you’re of the lucky few whose grocery store happens to be a little more ‘worldly’, and you’re lucky, you might be able to find other interesting prospects in the freezer section like: quail (rarely in a conventional grocery store), cornish hens, ducks and geese.

A few years ago we started to buy our meat directly from farms in whole, half or quarter-sized animals, whole ducks, geese and of course now recently, chickens.

For us, these purchases have always been great experiences and experiments, and really worth it in terms of taste and quality of meat. It’s a completely different beast when the meat you’re eating has been raised on a farm which aims to give the animal its best life possible with the healthiest diet available.

As for chickens, these are definitely more flavourful. The meat is admittedly a lot tougher than a standard grocery store bird because these guys have been living their lives outdoors running around eating bugs, enjoying the sunshine, grass and ability to roam around to their heart’s content, plus these birds are mature birds. These birds aren’t very large, but they are fully grown! I don’t think many people are aware, but nowadays, grocery store birds are not fully matured at slaughter, nor is their size normal for a bird that is confined to a limited amount of space and its only purpose in life is to become “a piece of white breast chicken meat on your plate”.

Anyhow, we were given the heads-up that these birds are not quite your normal roasting birds when we picked up the first half of our delivery, back in September. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to that key piece of information. For the first couple of birds, we just roasted them as normal or if I was feeling particularly impatient, I’d spatchcock the bird first then roast it in half the time of a normal roast chicken.

Needless to say: Bad idea. Well, not entirely true. It still tasted amazing, but it definitely not a tender bird; you knew these guys ran around all over the place when given the opportunity just by how tough and stringy the meat was. I say tough & stringy, which in my mind sounds like an awfully negative descriptor, but strangely, it’s not. It is what it is, but not in the way that you’d think of being a poorly raised bird that’s on its last legs, as it were. It’s just a really lean meat bird.

Fast forward to Sunday: The weather has officially begun turning to winter, the snow has begun to fall, the clocks were turned back an hour, and dinner was begging to be something warm and comforting — Nigella’s Praised Chicken.

I’ve always been curious about how this chicken recipe would taste and it turns out that this is probably one of the best recipes for this kind of chicken, especially in its whole bird state. It seems not a lot of people cook using a whole bird in its un-butchered state, nowadays, except in the case of a roast chicken. Most people opt for chicken pieces and leave it at that. Such a shame.

Anyhow, the recipe is ridiculously easy. All you need is a large pot, some carrots, celery, onions, a bit of your favourite herbs (I used sprigs of tarragon & a couple bay leaves), a whole chicken that’s been squished a little flat, and in my case: some thick cut bacon, a spoonful of chicken ‘better than bouillon’ base for the liquid, a few generous sploshes of white wine vinegar for the acid/wine component when deglazing the pan, plus a drizzle of tuscan-infused olive oil for extra flavour.

To serve, I would absolutely do as the recipe suggests and have it with rice. I’m not a fan of dill, so I didn’t use it in the recipe during cooking or serving. Although, please do make sure to have some good strong mustard on the side. The dijon mustard was a huge eye-opening revelation for me with this chicken.

We have a whole bunch of different kinds of mustards in our fridge, mainly because TheHubbs quite likes having options at hand (and to a lesser degree, so do I) but up until this point, I had never really put much thought into how much a mustard can impact the flavour of something depending on what kind of mustard you used. I am officially a fan of mustard options ^_^

Nigella’s Praised Chicken – My Way

1 large chicken

Garlic & Tuscan Herb-infused olive oils

4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into generous pieces

White wine vinegar

2-3 onions

2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks

1-2 stalks celery, sliced

Chicken bouillon

2L water

bay leaves, summer savory, thyme

salt & pepper, to taste

Lots of Dijon mustard (or your favourite) & rice for serving

On a chopping board put your chicken breast-side down and press down until you hear the breastbone crack. I used the lid to my super huge, oval, heavy, enamelled cast iron pot to bash the chicken until it flattened as best as possible. 
Heat the large cast iron pot over medium heat. Cook the bacon until some of the fat renders, it doesn’t need to be cooked through or crisp. Remove the bacon pieces to a bowl and add the chicken, breast side down, to brown for a few minutes. Press & squish the chicken down so that the meat makes good contact to the pot to brown nicely, then raise the heat and turn the chicken over to brown the bottom as well. Remove the chicken back to your chopping board for a bit. 

Add the bacon back to pot to render down some more fat, adding some olive oil if needed to help sauté the carrots, onions & celery until nicely caramelized. Once the veggies are cooked, deglaze the pot with white wine vinegar and let it bubble down a little before adding the chicken back to the pot, nestling it in among the veggies.

Cover the chicken with water, it’s fine if the very top of the chicken pokes out. Add the bouillon, herbs of choice, and season with salt & pepper.

The chicken should be almost completely submerged by now and if not, do add some more water. You want it pretty much covered by this point!
Bring everything to a bubble, clamp on the lid, turn the heat to low, and let it cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes. 
Serve the chicken and accompanying vegetables with lots of rice, adding a ladleful or 2 of liquid over each bowl, as you go, and putting mustard on the table for the eaters to add as they wish.

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Vat of soup?

 I did it! I successfully made a terrifyingly huge VAT of what I would be inclined to politely call pesto-turkey-vegetable soup, but in reality, it truly is what I’ve nicknamed it, in recent days: Eveything Soup.

It’s kind of a shocking combination of things I pulled out of the fridge and freezer and dumped into the pot that worked amazingly well. It’s a shame that I don’t really every follow or write down actual ingredients for all my soup/stews because some of them are amazing & shockingly tasty.

Since we’ve been drowning in CSA veggies the last few weeks, I had to figure out the best way to consume them all before they started going off or mutating and thankfully, it seems that this was one of my more brilliant concoctions that I will be more than thrilled to eat once Round#2 of Infusions, the chilly snap of autumn & long cold nights begin.

For my own records, these are the ingredients (and recipes) I used in my Everything Soup:

~3L Pressure-cooked chicken stock – used assorted leftover duck & chicken carcasses then stripped leftover meat to use for later in soup

Baked Parmesan Zucchini – chop leftovers into bite sized pieces

Boiled Potatoes with Kale Pesto – recipe template in link uses chard

Very Garlicky Braised Green Beans – chop into bite sized

Very Garlicky Braised SnowPeas – chop into bite size

Leftover Roast Turkey Breast – chop into bite size

Fresh veggies: Carrots, celery, onions, turnips, fresh green peas

Seasoning & Extra Flavourings: garlic-infused olive oil, salt, pepper, dried thyme, bay leaves, dehydrated garlic, Parmesan cheese rinds

This is one seriously tasty soup after being left to simmer for 2+hours once all the ingredients had been chucked into the pot!

Sadly, soup photos are never all that attractive.

Everything Soup

Almost done…

Well I didn’t quite get EVERYTHING accomplished, but some meats got cooked and stock got made. “Everything Soup” will definitely get made tomorrow and I’ll do the frozen biscuits then too. Even more exciting: I have a little more room in the fridge now!! :D

It might have been possibly unrealistically stupid to attempt making so many meals while I had the evening to myself, but I’m still pleased I managed half the list below because I am still panicking slightly about the upcoming Round #2 of Infusions.

Plan is still to try keep making as many already prepared freezer meals to dump into the deep freeze so we don’t even need to decide how something needs to be cooked, we can just pull out the meal, reheat and eat.

Today’s almost completed ambitious list:

1) Sousvide cooked lambchops

2) Spatchock roast chicken

3) Everything Soup — assorted carcasses stock, cubed roast turkey, pesto potatoes, cheesy zucchini & garlicky green beans

4) Homemade frozen herby-cheesy biscuits (!!)

As a bonus I even took pics because it amused me so ^_^

Lamb chops ready for their 3 hour 57°C bath
Vac-sealed spatchcock roast chicken & sousvide cooked lamb chops!
Pressure cooked assorted poultry stock for “everything soup”!

Oups I did it again…

Man, I miss writing.

I don’t know what happened over the last nine months or so, but writing was far, far, far away from my list of things that I wanted to do.

Having surgery last October took it out of me and everything that came after it was just too tiring to consider. I’m not feeling any better at the moment in regards to my health, but I am feeling a little more inclined to write.

The thing is, there was so much I wanted to write about, I just didn’t have the energy to sit down and formulate coherent thoughts about everything I wanted to write about. Most of it pertained to food, some of it pertained to projects and even some still had to do with SALLY & Co.

So what should I do?

How about I start by making this a massive photo-dumping post (because that’s always fun!) and then I could just see how things play out over the next little while.

Sound good? Good.

So without further ado, here we go!

X-Garden Update

This is what our raised bed garden currently looks like, as of about a couple weeks ago. We had a return of bees to our formerly empty hive! For the longest time we had bees and wasps coming into the hive and ransacking whatever was remaining from the previous colony’s stores of honey after realizing we had no bees. As of a few weeks ago, we now have a proper colony of bees again and the ladies are working their little butts off to get enough new stores before the winter hits. Hopefully they will be more successful than their predecessors, who, unfortunately, we were told, had gone into the winter without a viable Queen.

The Hubbs is also beginning the slow process of being mentored in the arts of beekeeping, as we will be the ones taking care of this hive as best we possibly can. Sadly, J & Miss R are no longer going to be doing the bee thing as they lost almost all their hives over the winter, except for maybe two or three of the many they had set up around the city. The Hubbs wants to make sure he can do everything in his power to help this colony survive as there have been so many colonies of bees which have been decimated from all sorts of horrible things. We have been planting as many bee-friendly flowers as we possibly can in hopes that it helps the Little Ladies to flourish.

As for other 2013 Garden Experiments, at the beginning of the summer I had purchased some corn transplants from our fantastic egg & flour CSA farms. Again, a few weeks back, is a photo of the corn’s girly bits readying itself for pollination from surrounding corn plants. Unbeknownst to me at the time, you’re supposed to plant corn in squares to increase the chances of cross-pollination in your corn. The wind is the biggest pollinator for corn and the more chances you give the corn’s silks to catch the falling pollen from above, the better odds of having actual cobs of corn with fully developed kernels on it. We shall see if we get any viable specimens this year, seeing as I only had four transplants and was sexing up all the corn by hand.

One night over dinner, we were discussing my new discovery of corn pollination with J & Miss R and everyone had the mental picture of me going around the garden “sexing up my girly corn bits with boy corn bits”, J said we should play the song “It’s raining men” around the garden to get the corn in the mood for pollination ;D

X-Garden Corn

Well, I finally finished my first crocheted commission projects. Ladies & Gentlemen, I introduce to you Peep and the Lumpy Space Princess.

X-Peep & LSP

I am currently working on Loki for my newest Project #Ranma! Amigurumi and will actually be making a second one in the near future for another commissioned project for a friend of The Hubbs’ in Vancouver.

X-Loki Bits

Now that The Hubbs & I are taking over the beekeeping responsibilities (okay, more The Hubbs, than I, but still!), The Hubbs had some very grave concerns that I might have a serious allergic reaction should I ever be stung because we’re not entirely sure what SALLY’s done to my immune system’s ability to deal with things like foreign substances in my body. The other thing is that we’re not entirely sure if The Hubbs has allergies to stings, either. So as a precautionary measure, we got me a couple of prescriptions for an Epi-pen. HOLY JEEBUS these things are terrifyingly huge! The sight of it even terrifies me and I’m pretty used to needles and scary pokey things now o_O;;

X-Epi Pen

From our wonderful 2013 CSA delivery, we have a first: CANTALOUPE! Homegrown in Alberta! I find that absolutely amazing and it tastes pretty damn fantastic, I have to admit and I am almost considering the idea of naming it my favourite melon… almost.

X-CSA 2013 Cantaloupe

Whilst shopping last week, I stumbled upon this brand new tea: Dark Chocolate Chai. Mmmmm…. so incredibly yummy and is great when used as a base for making steel-cut oatmeal, believe it or not! How, you ask?

* Bring to a boil 1cup milk + 1 1/4 cup water + squeeze of honey with 2 teabags.
* Turn down heat to simmer and add 1/2cup steelcut oats.
* Cook for 5 minutes, remove teabags.
* Continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occassionally!

X-Chocolate Chai

Finally, my last photo of today’s post: 1L of iced teaccino. The weird thing? Even though it’s a 1L mason jar, it’s not actually a lot of caffeine. There’s a full tray of ice, a small cup of strongly brewed rooibos tea, a large espresso and finally a 1/2 glass of milk.

X-Teaccino

Belated thoughts on (winter) CSAs

This summer is our second year with Noble Gardens. Last winter we had our first CSA with Eagle Creek for eggs & veggies and it just wasn’t the same, it turned out… obviously. Winter veggies just aren’t as diverse as in the summer because traditionally you need to be able to store these things for months at a time to keep you fed through the winter. The eggs we loved, but we got so many bags of potatoes and carrots. We got other veggies, too, of course: some squashes (pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut, etc) & cabbages, a few really intriguing vegetable specimens like kohlrabi & Jerusalem artichokes and some great garlic.

Our diet is not one that uses root veggies (okay, tubers) as the main source of carbohydrates and as a result, we discovered that we just can’t eat that many bags of carrots or potatoes. For us, serving mashed or roasted potatoes with a meal is usually seen as something of a special occasion because I make The Hubbs’ favourite meal: roast chicken with mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies, stuffing, and lots of gravy. It’s not a meal I make on a regular basis, so when I do make the roast chicken dindin, I want to make him feel extra-special… and I guess it really is an extra special meal since we rarely buy chicken, anyhow.

As to what we normally consume to bulk up a meal along with our conscious attempts at eating lots more veggies, we usually consume various forms of rice or rice noodles, occasionally pasta and sometimes even bread. Obviously I don’t have any kind of “hardy European” lineage in my blood seeing as I can’t stomach the idea of having potatoes more than a couple times a month :P Trying to figure out how to consume those 5 pounds of potatoes every two weeks with our winter CSA was really difficult and I’m not gonna lie: I am very sad and horrified to admit that we ended up with a lot of rotten, wasted and mouldy veggies which is something that I absolute abhor. Food waste absolutely breaks my heart and it’s just a horrible waste of so many resources of all kinds.

Now that we’ve had the experience of a winter CSA, would we do it again? I don’t know.

We’ve had four different CSA experiences under our belts, and The Hubbs has discovered that he is more comfortable with some farm families than he is with others, and as a result, feels more comfortable to support those farmers, first and foremost, over the ones he can’t quite jive with. This is sort of one of the reasons why I am hesitant on making a decision regarding a winter CSA… and yes, I realize that we have literally only just begun our summer CSA and I am thinking about what our winter options are!

I really want to say yes, but I’m kind of leaning more towards the no because of last year’s experience. If Noble Gardens offered us an opportunity for a winter CSA, something they mentioned they might be considering for winter 2013/2014 when we talked about it last fall, The Hubbs & I will have to have a serious discussion about it. I would like to think we might take it, but if our only option is to go with the CSA from Eagle Creek like we did last year, I think we might have to decline and contend with grocery shopping once a week like the rest of the world does for their veggies. Truth be told, having just realized that the grocery store is our only option, I’m feeling a little ill for some reason. Taking part in a CSA and not making full use of it is a lot of money to literally be throwing away, and I don’t know that I could do another winter of trying to eat all those potatoes & carrots — we might also, very seriously, be faced with as much food wastage as we did last year and that’s not a good thing.

Magic CSA Veggies Week #16

Well, this is it: our final CSA veggie delivery fom Noble Gardens

It was a great 16 week experience and we’re so pleased with the relationship we developed with Noble Gardens that I have already registered us for their 2013 CSA Season.

So without further ado, our final delivery: purple kale, 2 little pumpkins, an acorn squah, 2 different kinds potatoes, a couple onions, a purple cabbage, beets and a bunch of parsley.

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We wish The Vrieselaar family a full & happy remainder of the year and thank them for the wonderful experience they gave us.

We look forward to seeing them again next year at the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Farmer’s Market!

Magic CSA Veggies Week #15!

Our second last CSA delivery for the year!

Onions, onions and more onions!

Interesting that there’s no kale but so many leeks, I’ve never had leeks so small and tender before! I am kind of excited to use them as I have a Jamie Oliver recipe that I’ve been wanting to make for a few years now but never had the chance since leeks are more commonly found super huge at the grocery store.

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This week’s Magic CSA Veggies: beets, acorn squash, lots’o’leeks, potatoes, a spaghetti squash and a lone onion.

Magic CSA Veggies Week #13! Plus: Surprise Treat of the Week awesomeness!

Oh my goodness, I was mistaken! I thought that this week was the second last week for our CSA, but in fact we still have 3 more weeks of Magic CSA Veggies coming from Noble Farms!

Sadly, what is ending for the season is the Hillhurst-Sunnyside Farmer’s Market for 2012. That means there won’t be many (any?) more Treat of the Week purchasing opportunities for us when we visit Tim to pick up our veggies for the week. Our last CSA pickup will be the week after Thanksgiving, in the middle of October.

The share sizes are noticeably decreasing in quantity and very reminiscent of the beginning of the season when only a few different veggies were of actual harvestable size… Holy cow! Can you believe that we’ve been getting veggies for THIRTEEN weeks?!?

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This week’s Magic CSA Veggies consist of: slightly less prolific monster-celery, a lovely bag of red potatoes, some tomatoes, more cute carrots, a couple onions, a nice little bag of kale and a beautiful acorn squash (yay!!) ^_^

Now, we haven’t had a TotW for a few weeks now and this week is technically no different… BUT(!) I do have something which is packed with mega-super awesomeness that I had to call it a Treat of the Week even though it’s not something that I could photograph along with the Magic CSA Veggies.

Any guesses in what it might be? I can wait while you mull it over awhile… ^_^

o/~ …Jeopardy music queues up and quietly plays in the back of your mind… ~\o

Time’s up!

This Week’s Treat of the Week: a WINTER CSA SHARE WITH EAGLE CREEK FARMS!!

We will be receiving, bi-weekly starting in mid-October, a half-share portion of winter veggies that with any luck, we will be picking our first delivery right when our CSA with Noble Gardens finishes for its season so we won’t have to worry about feeling like we’re missing out on fresh veggies!

Also starting in mid-October: We are officially signed up for a full year of local grain and flour with Country Thyme Farm’s CSA that we will be sharing with J and Miss R!

I am so thrilled that everything I wanted an opportunity to try this year has happened! The only thing that is left for us to sort out is what we’re going to do about our meat supply for the year. I’ve spoken to Miss R about sharing bison again this year and I have my fingers crossed that she and J will be able to look into it once they’ve finished the huge task of potato harvesting for the year ^_^