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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Still lovin’ the homemade pasta thing…

Wow… I can’t believe I’m making fresh pasta and I think I’ve finally got the hang of it!

I noticed that making pasta for six, the original method I used didn’t quite work to my satisfaction and today, on my third attempt, I had a much better feel for what I was doing while using the mixer.

The key to making the dough is starting off with the paddle attachment, letting it do its thing until you have a crumbly mixture, then switch to the dough hook and let it continue mixing until it’s a more or less cohesive ball, adding only the tiniest dribbles of water if it absolutely needs it to get things to stick together. Once it’s made into a ball, turn it out, cover it with a bit of plastic wrap and leave it alone for at least 30 minutes.

Using this method, the dough cooperated so much better today, than it did on New Year’s Eve, when I was making linguini.

As a result of all my hard work & persistence, I am proud to announce: I made cannelloni!

Baked cannelloni

I am still in awe that I made cannelloni.

Homemade.

From scratch!

The original plan was to make lasagna, but for whatever reason, I decided that I just didn’t feel like doing that today. Actually, I was supposed to do a lot of things with this recipe, but I kept waffling over one thing or another and eventually ended up with what you see in the picture above.

Trying to find a suitable recipe for my needs, I noticed that a lot of recipes require you to cook your meat before using it as a filling and I’m not entirely sure why. Another thing I noticed was that the majority of the recipes for chicken lasagna I found online use an alfredo or bechamel-based sauce instead of tomato. As much as I enjoy a good cream sauce, it’s not exactly the most friendly meal for those of us who are lactose-intolerant, believe me.

I tried so hard to find a recipe that I was keen on making, but in the end, I just cobbled together something out of my head and I am rather proud of the results. Plus, with the leftover filling and pasta that remained, I finally made the ravioli I kept hoping I would make someday!

I just made enough cannelloni for myself & The Hubbs to have dinner, plus a portion for him to have a single lunch later in the week. I think if I had made an effort to make all the cannelloni possible with the ingredients listed in my recipe, it would have made about a dozen cannelloni.

One thing I should mention that isn’t written in the recipe, and I would highly recommend, is: Make sure you use a generous amount of sauce when baking the cannelloni, as the uncooked pasta absorbs as much liquid as it can from the sauce that it bakes in. If there isn’t enough, the cannelloni will potentially dry out, sticking to your pan, and making the cannelloni itself not tender enough. Plus, The Hubbs mentioned that he likes it when everything is saucier while he’s eating.

Homemade Ravioli

Even after making a few pieces of ravioli, there were still many pieces of leftover pasta sheets remaining. Those bits’n’bobs I cut into even smaller pieces with my pasta wheel and left them out to dry completely, so they can be used for soup noodles or a quick late night snack.

I have to say, I am pretty darn chuffed with this pasta-making thing ^_^

Chicken, Ricotta & Spinach Cannelloni

Filling ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tub ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 a package of frozen spinach, thawed and all the water squeezed out
1 egg
minced garlic
salt, pepper

To assemble:
your favourite pasta sauce, homemade or jarred
fresh pasta made with 300g of flour + 3 eggs
parmesan & mozzarella cheese for sprinkling on top

Begin by making your pasta dough and set the dough aside until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.
If needed, make your sauce and set aside until ready to use.

To make the filling: grind the chicken thighs in a food processor (or meat grinder, if you happen to own one) until you have a fine mince.
In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, parmesan cheese, and spinach until well combined. Season to taste.
Add the chicken mince & egg and with clean hands, combine until you have a relatively homogeneous filling mixture. Set aside in the fridge.

Time to roll out your pasta sheets!

Roll the pasta dough until it’s your desired thinness — on my kitchen aid, for lasagna/cannelloni sheets, I rolled it until I reached #5. Make sure to flour your dough well so it doesn’t stick to the rollers and place the sheets somewhere to dry slightly until the rest of your dough has been rolled out.

When you’re ready to assemble the cannelloni, take out your filling & preheat oven to 425F.

Cover the bottom of a 9×13″ casserole dish with enough sauce so that you have a generous layer to nestle in the filled cannelloni.
One sheet at a time, cut each of the pasta sheets to about the length of your hand, then place about 1/3 cup of filling along the bottom of each and roll the pasta to enclose everything, as below.

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Place the finished cannelloni seam-side down in the sauce and continue with the remaining pasta sheets & filling.
When all the cannelloni have been filled, pour enough sauce over top to completely cover everything and top with parmesan & mozzarella cheese.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 1 hour, remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
Remove cannelloni from oven and let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

Jambalaya!

Mmmmm… so tasty!

I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever eaten jambalaya before — either at a friend’s house or at a restaurant or wherever, and as far as I can remember I’m pretty sure that I’ve never had it. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never had it… or if I have it was a poor representation of the dish and I’ve subsequently erased the whole episode from my mind, which is a possibility.

Last Saturday we were invited to an old coworker’s of The Hubbs’ for dindin and unfortunately, as wonderful a cook as his wife is, she had a bit of a disaster happen with her attempt at jambalaya and as a result I’ve been rather craving something that is a little bit better. I have to laugh because the way she was telling it, the whole dish just became a comedy of errors from the get-go: when she decided to make the jambalaya, it turned out she didn’t have a lot of the ingredients. Then she accidentally burnt the rice. In an attempt to salvage what rice there was unscathed by the burning, she decided that the addition of tomato sauce & cayenne pepper might work. It basically ended up being a mildly spicy tomato rice dish. It was okay, but it wasn’t jambalaya and it was a little too sweet for me.

So after that whole fiasco, my tastebuds were in great need of a more recognizeable interpretation of jambalaya — I have to laugh at myself, because once again, my tastebuds have decided to crave something in which I’ve never eaten before and so I didn’t know quite what to expect when we finally got to eating supper tonight.

Sunday night I had taken out some chicken thighs to defrost with the intention of making jambalaya later in the week. I knew that at some point I would have to do some grocery shopping for the remaining ingredients which I didn’t have and all I vaguely knew was that I would need some sausages and maybe some shrimp. Beyond that I figured I probably had everything else on hand — well, I was mostly correct. The only thing I was missing was the bell pepper and lucky enough for me, Mom had some red ones and gave me one this afternoon.

I am pretty sure that the jambalaya I made isn’t authentic — what is an authentic recipe, anyhow? Is there such a thing anymore? Mom does weird stuff like cutting ingredients out or adding stuff that totally clashes with the dish on the grounds that it’s supposed to make a recipe “healthier” and then it doesn’t even resemble the original anymore, that just irks me to death. I dunno, maybe I’m just being nit-picky, fussy and closed-minded. *RAWR!*

Anyhow, back to my jambalaya…

Jambalaya

I’m pretty sure I don’t actually own a cookbook with a recipe for jambalaya, but I do own Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for my iPad! As much as I love downloading cooking apps, I have a hard time cooking with my iPad — it’s just too dangerous! I get stuff everywhere when I cook & bake! I am pretty sure that iPads don’t like getting sticky, messy and spilled upon, so I tend to only read(?) the apps from start to finish, playing all the videos and making sure to bookmark/star all the recipes that interest me for future reference when I’m feeling more brave about taking my iPad into the kitchen. I admit, lately I’ve been using it more often in the kitchen, but I’m terrified of getting stuff all over it still. It does make cooking so much easier when you have the recipe right in front of you, but sticky/dirty fingers do not mix with touchpads and that is something I’m going to have to rectify soon. I’ve read that you can put your iPad into a big ziplock freezer bag and you can still use the touchscreen without any problems, so that is probably something I ought to try before I really get junk all over the screen or spill something on it.

According to Mark Bittman’s recipe, making a version of jambalaya using only chicken & sausage and omitting the tomatoes, changes the name slightly and is referred to as a “brown jambalaya”. I happen to like the taste of rice & tomatoes, so I decided to keep the tomato component in my version by using a can of tomato sauce, which reduced the amount liquid, in this case chicken broth, required to cook the rice.

I have to say, for my first attempt at jambalaya, I’m really, really impressed. It was so incredibly tasty and pretty easy to make, too! I didn’t think that jambalaya would be complicated to make, but I didn’t think it would be as easy as just continuously adding more ingredients to the pot as the last one finished cooking and then finishing it off by just letting everything come together as you stirred it all around so stuff wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. Me likies jambalaya! The Hubbs really enjoyed it too, which pretty much made the recipe a winner and absolutely worth keeping as it was written.

As a side note: The Hubbs did mention that jambalaya tends to be quite hot & spicy, so I guess I did make it a lot less spicier than it could have been, but the recipe only called for a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. It was just pleasantly piquante, for my tastebuds and I was perfectly content with that but if you like your food spicier, by all means have at it and add as much as you need to please your tastebuds! Oh and I didn’t have andouille sausages. I have no idea where to buy those actually, so I just used a plain pork sausage instead. I enjoyed the resulting flavours from having such a mild sausage in the dish, a lot of people might actually be highly offended that I omittied a pretty crucial ingredient from the recipe, but sometimes you have to make do with what you’ve got.

Jambalaya
olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, diced
4 cups chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can (398ml) tomato sauce
2 cups long-grain rice
4 chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
2 pork sausages, cut into bite sized pieces
2 handfuls shrimp, shelled, deveined & defrosted (optional)
minced fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
salt & pepper, to taste

Heat enough olive oil over medium high heat to coat the bottom of a large cast iron dutch oven.
Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion softens and just begins to brown.
Push the veggies aside, add the sausage pieces and cook until the fat renders out and pieces start to brown nicely.
Add the chicken, cooking until the pieces are no longer raw looking on the outside, then season with cayenne and thyme, stirring well to combine.
Stir in rice, making sure stuff isn’t sticking to the bottom, and let everything cook for a few minutes just to absorb all the yummy meaty juices.
Pour in tomato sauce and chicken stock, bring everything to the boil, stirring constantly.
Turn heat down to medium and cook uncovered, stirring occassionally so bottom doesn’t stick, until rice is tender and liquid’s absorbed — about 20-30 minutes.
When rice is cooked, if using shrimp, stir them into the rice, let cook 2-3 minutes until then turn off the heat, cover and let rest for 10-20 minutes.
Top with your choice of garnish and serve.

Vacation photos are coming! I promise!

Man, it’s a lot of work to sift through 8 days worth of photos (almost 1000 of them!) just so you can create a “small” album that is a nice reflection of your trip, but won’t bore people to death as they look at all the pictures…

It’s just so ridiculous how easy it is to just shoot off hundreds of photos now that people no longer develop film! Now vacation photos are even more boring than before if you’re forced to sit through someone’s slideshow if they haven’t weeded out duplicates

I’m kina disappointed that photobucket doesn’t keep the pics that you upload in the order that you upload them. It makes no sense to be looking at vacation photos backwards. *sigh*

So instead of spending all my time in front of my laptop sifting through the photos yesterday, I made turkey potpie for The Hubbs in hopes that it entices him to eat & get over his cold faster… then I would get back to the grind of uploading more Cruise photos…

I actually got the recipe from the May issue of Martha Stewart Living’s FOOD digital magazine — speaking of: Have I mentioned how in love I am with digital subscriptions to magazines?? OMG! The number of magazines I can have now, which take up ZERO room in the house all at once, and not killing a single tree! I’m thrilled! Not only that but I can even have the back issues at my fingertips if I so choose and I can bookmark all the recipes to my heart’s content!

Admittedly, some magazines are made a lot better than others (MSL, I’m totally looking at you!)… and I’m still waiting for the Jamie Oliver Magazine to come back to iPad, they certainly do make me happy.

ANYHOW!

I didn’t actually alter the recipe too much, surprisingly: I substituted leftover turkey for chicken, omitted the parsley and added about 2 sticks of celery in small dice. I even made the turkey broth from scratch using the frozen turkey pieces leftover from my birthday turkducken and then shredding the meat for the recipe! The one significant change I did make was to double the pie crust so I could make six baby pies with my pie maker (it was needing some serious lovin’. I haven’t used it since the beginning of the year!) instead of baking one large pie.

The one thing I am rather baffled by is that this recipe serves SIX.

As a calorie-saving measure, I’ve noticed that a lot of recipes, nowadays, no longer use double crusts for pot pies and that makes me sad. Half the enjoyment of a potpie is that you get a top and bottom crust! Most of this pie is in fact filling. On the other hand, there’s probably a large number of people who will argue that the filling is where it’s at for a pot pie. If you’re one of those people, then this is the recipe for you: it makes about 2 quarts-worth. It’s friggin’ huge!

When using my pie maker, I can only use 1/3 cup filling per pie. In my opinion, that’s the perfect ratio of crust to filling, in the case of an individual pot pie. Using only 2 cups of filling, total, to make my pies, I put the rest of it into the freezer for another day — be it if we want to have just turkey stew OR thaw it out and make more pot pies with it. To be honest, if you just made the filling on its own, and served it with some soft squishy buttered buns, that would probably make just as satisfying a meal if you didn’t feel like going near crust-making.

Turkey Potpie

If making individual pies, make 2 recipes of the crust, below:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
3-5 Tbsp ice water

5 Tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup flour
4 cups turkey broth
1 cup frozen peas
salt & pepper, to taste
3 cups shredded cooked turkey

Note: If making baby potpies, make 2 recipes of the crust
In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, and salt.
Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Sprinkle with 3 Tbsp ice water.
Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 2 tablespoons ice water); do not overmix.
Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour or overnight.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high.
Add celery, onion and carrots and cook until softened.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add flour and stir to coat vegetables.
Slowly add broth, whisking constantly until sauce is smooth.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened. Stir in peas.
Season with salt and pepper, then stir in turkey.
Set aside filling to cool until ready to make pie(s).

If making baby potpies:
Roll out first disc of pastry 1/8″ thick and cut 6-8 bottom crusts. Set aside.
Roll out second disc of pastry 1/8″ thick and cut 6-8 top crusts. Set aside.
Preheat pie maker until hot.
Place bottom crusts in pie maker, fill with 1/3 cup cooled turkey filling, place top crusts and close pie maker.
Cook ~9 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

For large potpie:
Preheat oven to 375°
Pour filling into a 2-quart baking dish.
Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness.
Place dough over dish and fold overhang inward while pinching to crimp edge.
Cut vents in dough.
Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling around edge, 45-50 minutes.
Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

The Joys of Friends & Thanksgiving…

Friday night, The Hubbs & I were invited to J & Miss R‘s house for a belated Thanksgiving dinner celebration.

J had seen my postings from the long weekend and how I was lamenting the fact that I missed out on my family’s (non)traditional Thanksgiving dindin. Monday morning I got an email from him asking if I would like to come over and help J with all the prep work involved and then later have The Hubbs join us after work to partake in a Thanksgiving turkey dinner. I was absolutely thrilled to bits that he had asked. Apparently he himself was kind of sad that they didn’t have their traditional dindin with the recent arrival of Lil’Miss E=MC^2.

So Friday morning, I did some at-home prep and then went over to their house to help J with the rest of the turkey dindin. My job that morning was to bring dessert and the root veggies for roasting — I chopped a skin-on sweet potato and a buttercup squash into cubes, tossed them with a chopped onion and 3 massive cloves of Hutterite garlic, extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh as well as dried rosemary from my kitchen pot, and some dried thyme. When I poured the everything from the mixing bowl into the roasting pan, I realized that there was way too much veggies going on for only four of us eating that night, so I saved half the vegetables in a ziplock baggie and tossed it in the freezer for The Hubbs and I to have in the future.

The whole day was really fantastic and sharing the prep work with J was a nice change seeing as it was just the two of us chatting while doing the mundane tasks of vegetable peeling, turkey seasoning and then eventual cleaning. While all this was going on, Miss R was seeing to the needs of Lil’Miss E, who was demanding instant food-action from her mama. They’ve been trying to figure out how to feed her in such a way that doesn’t involve eating too quickly and then barfing everything up afterwards. I think they may have figured it out by now.

Once all the dinner prep was done and we were just left to wait for the turkey to do its thing and The Hubbs to show up after work, the four of us retreated to the basement for some movie-watching until it was time to eat. J had Lil’Miss E strapped to his chest so she could snuggle, be warm and feel safe while we were watching the movie. I have to admit, we are not a quiet bunch… okay, ~I~ am not a quiet bunch, and that had absolutely no effect on Lil’Miss E. I’m kind of glad for that, they’re happily getting her used to her surroundings and the day to day goings on of the household and no one has to feel like there’s a need to be uber-quiet.

Around five o’clock, we mosied on back up to the kitchen to finish dinner prep — turkey needed to be checked upon for doneness, potatoes needed to boiled for mashing, root veggies needed to be tossed into the oven underneath the turkey to be roasted and Lil’Miss E needed to be fed before dindin. When we checked on the turkey, we discovered that the breast was super duper browned, almost to the point of being burnt, but it was caught in time and pulled out of the oven. I totally forgot that when brining a turkey, the skin goes crazy dark, super fast, from the sugars in the brining liquid — the recipe that J used for the turkey brine came from Nigella’s Feast cookbook. Checking on the temp, the breast was definitely done, but the thigh meat hadn’t quite gotten there so we were in a bit of a quandary. After a little bit of discussion as to what to do, I suggested that J just take the turkey and flip it over onto the breast so the bottom could cook. This would both colour the skin and help to finish cook the thigh meat. I have to admit, it was a brilliant idea. We only left the turkey in the breast-down position long enough for it become golden brown, prevent the breast meat from overcooking to dreaded dryness and save burning its luscious skin. Admittedly, doing this was a little bit awkward and did require two sets of hands, and it made the skin less than crispy for serving but we discovered after dinner that the skin managed to crisp up once the juices dried off.

While the turkey continued doing its thing, butt up in the air, we chucked the root veggies on the lowest shelf. When J & I were prepping veggies for seasoning inside the turkey and lining the bottom of the roasting pan, I chopped up a small bag of parsnips to go with the squash and potatoes and that rounded out our roast veggie tray. Having the veggies roasting in a cookie sheet as opposed to a casserole dish was a fantastic way of getting them to cook faster and truthfully, our only option at the time since the 12 pound turkey was so huge it took up the majority of the space in the oven, leaving us with only the skinniest of spaces between the bottom two racks.

While I was keeping an eye on the turkey and boiling the potatoes, J had to pick up Whelkin and Miss R had Lil’Miss Eneeding another feeding before dindin. By the time everyone had finished whatever it was they were doing, The Hubbs had arrived, potatoes were finished cooking and the turkey was perfect and ready to come out of the oven to rest before carving.

I have to admit, I am not a mashed potatoes kind of girl, but when made with nothing but high fat cream and butter, I am all over that. We had a pretty awesome batch of mashed potatoes going on, care of The Hubbs, as always: 54% cream + butter and seasoned with salt & pepper. That’s it. It was amazing. I’m still blown away by how awesome three simple ingredients can make mashed potatoes.

Once the potatoes were done and Miss R was finished feeding Lil’Miss E, she was handed to me and I got to snuggle her for the rest of the time it took for everyone else to finish with setting the table, putting out food in serving bowls, corn could be boiled, Stove Top(!) stuffing made, and turkey could be carved once rested, etc etc etc… Miss R makes awesome gravy. She claimed that it didn’t taste as good as it normally does, but it tasted pretty phenomenal to me.

Lil’Miss E is so tiny! She’s so tiny! I’m so amazed at how small she is. J nicknamed her Spudlet before she was born and she reminded me exactly of a baked potato when I was holding her against my chest – she was all curled up like a frog against me (as in utero) and she was just giving off so much heat that she reminded me of a baked potato. I could hold her with one hand and almost engulf the bottom half of her body with it. Babies that small are amazing. She has huge hands and feet for only being ~10 days old at the time, too! It was kind of funny, D & K‘s Baby D is almost 2 months old and Lil’Miss E’s hands and feet are the same size as his!

Once we had finished clearing away and divvying up all the leftovers… omg so much leftovers… we relaxed with dessert that I had made, All-In-One Holiday Cake, recipe from Dorie Greenspan and coffee. The recipe I got from her new iPad app and I made in the cornucopia bundt pan that Dad had bought on sale after last year’s Thanksgiving. The above link doesn’t have any mention of the maple frosting served with the cake, but is super simple: 6 rounded tablespoons of icing sugar mixed with 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and just enough cream to make the consistency loose enough to drizzle. And as we discovered, goes really nicely in a cup of coffee in place of a regular old spoonful of sugar.

At the risk of sounding all mooshy and sentimental and stuff… It was absolutely fantastic and such a joy that they invited me into their home so soon after Lil’Miss E’s arrival to help cook dinner and share a table with them. Having a belated Thanksgiving dinner with friends so soon after the birth of their first child was such an honour and the memories will be treasured.

I hope that we can do this again with J & R and Lil’Miss E, as well as have the opportunity in the future to do so with other friends that may be in need of a helping hand with a cozy homecooked meal and extra on-one-time together as friends.

All-In-One Holiday Cake

JFC & KFC Recipes

It would seem that I’ve been a little slow on the ball the last few days.

On Friday I made, for the first time: JFC & KFC — Japanese Fried Chicken & Korean Fried Chicken. They were fantastic. Not only that, but it was my first time deep-frying, which is usually a pretty scary activity in and of itself. The recipes were pretty easy and straight forward, there’s just a smidgen bit of marinating time involved to get the most flavourful chicken pieces.

KFC – Korean Fried Chicken

The only difference between the two recipes is that the I tossed the chicken pieces in sauce just before serving, which is what made the KFC, otherwise they are technically both JFC recipes.

JFC Fried Chicken
2 boneless chicken legs, cut into bite-sized pieces.
minced garlic
minced ginger
1 1/2 Tbsp soysauce (tamari for gluten-free!)
1 Tbsp sake (I used Chinese Cooking Wine)
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
3 Tbsp corn starch
oil for deep frying

KFC Sauce
¼ Cup Ketchup
3 Tbsp Red Pepper Paste
2 Tbsp Corn Syrup
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Minced Onion
½ Tbsp Soy Sauce
½ Tbsp Minced Garlic
½ Tbsp Cooking Oil
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds

In a bowl, combine all the chicken ingredients except cornstarch and mix well. It will be sticky!
Leave chicken to marinate for a minimum 20 minutes.
When you’re ready to cook, heat oil for deep frying until a little piece of the flour mixture floats immediately to the surface.
To the marinated chicken, dust on the cornstarch and stir well.
Carefully cook the chicken pieces, in batches, until they turn a nice golden brown.
Remove the chicken from the oil to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm until all chicken pieces are cooked.
Meanwhile, add all the KFC sauce ingredients, except sesame seeds, to a small pot and cook over medium-low heat until bubbly.
Remove sauce from heat until you’re ready to eat.
When all the chicken pieces have been cooked, return the sauce to the heat until bubbly and add half the chicken pieces to the sauce, tossing to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.

JFC – Japanese Fried Chicken

Alternative (Less Spicy!) Sweet Garlic & Soy Glaze
3 Tbsp jin ganjang, korean soy sauce (or just Kikoman)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp Xiao Xing rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp red pepper seeds or red pepper flakes
4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
3 dried red chilis
sesame seeds (optional)

LOTS of shredded green onions, soaked in cold water, then drained before serving.

Heat a small sauce pot or pan over medium high heat. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil and 1 tsp of vegetable oil and sauté dried red chiles and garlic slivers until slightly brown and fragrant. About 30 seconds.

Add to garlic chili oil made in step 3, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, ginger, water and crushed red pepper flakes. Mix and bring to boil. Then simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside until ready to serve with chicken, either on the side or tossed like the sweet red pepper sauce, above. Remember to sprinkle with sesame seeds!

Note: You don’t need the sweet garlic soy sauce to be thick and syrupy because it will be mostly absorbed by the fried chicken.

Serve with all the green onion slivers, Korean pickled radish or pickles, and salad like cole slaw. Don’t forget the rice and kimchi 🙂
For extra garlic flavor, fry some garlic separately and serve as garnish. Crispy garlic is always great!

Interesting…

So The Hubbs has come to the realisation that chicken is rather bland and his now-preferred treatment of chicken, along with roasting with a herb butter under the skin, would be brining it.

The last few brining experiments I’ve conducted have thus left his tastebuds in a rather unhappy state of being when the meat is not brined. The meat is rather flavourless to him and so he’s rather indifferent to my method of preparation.

I guess this means that I need to have a standard brine recipe under my belt to be whipped up at a moment’s notice. Well, almost moment’s notice, since it would probably take a good 12 hour brining before roasting can occur.

This is a rather interesting discovery, I find, because it means that The Hubbs actually has an opinion as to how I can make his meals more memorable, if that makes sense.

I think we will be done with eating chicken for the next while. We seem to have eaten a lot of it in the last few days and I am kind of sick of it. Personally, I don’t much care for chicken to begin with, so for me, this has been a bit of overkill.

Tonight: Braised/stewed short ribs with leftover coconut rice & peas.

Reggae Reggae Chicken with Coconut Rice & Peas

Pretty easy dindin to make since the majority of it is just marinating the chicken in the Reggae Reggae sauce then tossing it into the oven to cook until the chicken is done.

The rice I’ve totally winged from a few recipes I read last night from Nigella’s Kitchen book plus epicurious, bigoven and allrecipes.com while trying my darnedest to get to sleep. What I’ve gathered from most of the recipes is that it needs some beans, some coconut milk and then some stuff like onions, garlic, salt and thyme, which is exactly what I’ve mixed into my rice cooker.

There are no measurements, as usual, but it smelled pretty good. I’ve made 2 cups of rice using my leftover “almost-refried bean-lentils” that were stashed in the freezer and thawed along with whatever juices drained out, a generous sprinkling of dehydrated onion flakes, some granulated garlic, a carton of coconut milk, a generous pinch of dried thyme and a pinch of kosher salt (since I have no idea how salty things will taste with the already seasoned lentils).

I am really hoping that the rice tastes good, because if it does, it means that the leftovers will be really yummy to eat for the rest of the week ;) The chicken is already smelling really good — for some reason I never imagined jerk chicken marinade to be sweet. Oh damn… now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder if I needed to put a pinch of sugar into the rice as well…? Oh well!

Wish me luck, it’s the first time I’ve ever had jerk-anything and reading the ingredients on the bottle, there are SCOTCH BONNET PEPPERS in it. Eep!

Roasted Pheasant

Mmmmm….. I am mightily impressed.

A year and some ago, The Hubbs & I acquired a couple of freshly killed pheasant from our friends J & R. At that time, he was muchly into the hunting of animals. He may still be, but I think they’re more into acquiring locally raised meat at this point. The first time I made pheasant, I did it in the crockpot and braised it for a good long time. It was flavourful, but the meat was still kind of stringy and dry.

Last night I took our last frozen pheasant and roasted it in my little convection oven. Actually, backtrack to last week, I pulled the pheasant out of the deep freeze to thaw with the intention of making the roast pheasant on Wednesday. That didn’t happen because we ended up at Mom & Dad’s for Chinese New Year. It didn’t happen on Thursday because I had a date with a gf to go shopping at T&T. And neither did it happen on Friday, because we had a dinner date with D & K at Edelweiss.

So in the end, I finally got around to cooking my poor neglected pheasant last night. Sometime last week, I can’t even remember what day it was now, after the bird had completely thawed, I rinsed it well inside and out and then put it into a big ziplock bag and covered it with an ice cold brine mixture. I put the ziplock bag into a bowl and then chucked it back into the fridge for about 8-9 hours. After the allotted time had elapsed, I drained all the brine, zipped the bird back up into the bag and left it in its bowl in the fridge until I was ready to cook it.

Fast forward to Sunday night: I pulled the pheasant out of the fridge a good 3-4 hours before I was wanting to roast it so it could come up to room temperature. Drained the pheasant of any remaining briney liquid, gave it a good once over rinse again, then patted it dry.

In the meantime, I chopped up one onion, half a large zucchini, half a large eggplant, one yellow pepper and four cocktail tomatoes. I tossed all the veggies in some olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, some dried thyme and rosemary. Put all the veggies into my now-favourite convection oven roasting pan and tossed it into the oven during the 450F preheat cycle and left the veggies in there for 15 minutes on their own.

While the oven was coming up to temperature, I got some room temperature butter and mixed it up with some thyme, rosemary, and lemon pepper and tucked it under the skin. Before popping it into the oven, I basted the skin with some olive oil.

When the fifteen minutes were up for the veggies, I carefully snuggled the now-basted and generously buttered bird into the veggies and put it back into the oven for 15 minutes. Once the fifteen minutes were over, I turned the temperature down to 325F and left it to continue roasting for another 30 minutes. After the thirty minutes, I left the pheasant in the oven to keep warm/rest until we were ready to eat, which was probably another 10-15 minutes after the timer had originally gone off.

All in all, it was an EXCELLENT method of cooking pheasant. The Hubbs was really surprised at how good it tasted, and so was I. I was worried that perhaps it might be overcooked, having left it in the oven for so long afterwards, but I think the brining definitely helps to save the meat in this case, since there really isn’t all that much fat to be had on a pheasant. We each had a breast for dinner last night along with all the veggies, plus rice and the two remaining thighs+drums will be eaten tonight for dinner.

I had considered taking pictures, but I’ve been feeling so crummy again that I just wanted to eat and go back to bed.

Brined Roasted Pheasant

4 cups water
1/4 cup salt
5 crushed bay leaves
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp crushed juniper

1 pheasant
onion
butter
rosemary
thyme
lemon pepper
olive oil

Bring all the brine ingredients to a boil, then cover and let cool to room temperature.
When it cools, submerge your pheasant in the brine, adding extra cold water if it needs more to be completely covered.
Keep it in the fridge for 8 hours. You can go over or under an hour or two.

After the soak, drain the pheasant of its brine and dry him off.
Bring the bird to room temperature, at least a few hours before ready to cook.
Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of preheating, and up to a half-hour.
While preheating the oven, mix the butter with thyme, rosemary and lemon pepper. Gently put butter under the breast skin of the bird.
Oil the bird outside of the bird.
Stuff the bird with a piece of onion or apple and a few fresh herbs. DO NOT PACK THE CAVITY!
Roast the pheasant for 15 minutes at 450F.
Lower the temperature to 325F and roast for another 25-35 minutes.
The internal temperature to be about 155F and for the bird’s juices to run pretty clear. A little pink in the juice — and in the bird — is OK.
Remove the pheasant, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Eat.

Some things really do go wonderfully together…

In this case, what I’m referring to is my version of Nigella Lawson’s Boxing Day Bacon & Egg pie.

Every Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter, my Mom makes a turkey. My family’s not huge into breast meat and I usually (though, not always) end up taking a whole breast home with me to stash in the freezer for supposedly future sandwiches. At least, that’s what I used to do with them. Nowadays, I’m not so much into sammiches because I no longer eat breakfast on a bus on the way to work, so my usual run of things generally include fried rice and the above mentioned pie.

I do of course make changes to the above recipe, and I can’t recall if I’ve even posted it before in the past, but I figured it deserved a re-visit given we’ve just had Thanksgiving a week ago and I was left with a half turkey breast to use up.

The recipe itself calls only for bacon and eggs and I’ve found that the original recipe is just a wee bit too salty for my likings, so I’ve come to add turkey to the mixture. When I don’t have bacon on hand I’ve substituted ham and the results are just as stellar, if not more so, if I do say so myself. The other changes I make include: using a whole onion, adding some extra greenery to the filling with the addition of some frozen peas and a generous handful of dried parsley, and substantially increasing the quantity of eggs to the mix so everything sticks together inside the crust.

Finally, because the only pie plates I own are rather huge, I’ve come to the realization that I have to make a double quantity of the pie dough just to cover everything — it does make for an extremely rich & satisfying pie, so be warned. When I double the quantity of dough, there is always just enough remaining from the cut-offs to make one hand pie which I stuff with whatever appeals at the time. This time around I used a little bit of tomato sauce, pepperoni and a chunk of gruyere.

As to how one eats this rather daunting pie with its thick and savoury shortbread-like crust is up to you. Day I is always hot from the oven and subsequent days are generally eaten cold, straight from the fridge or popped into the microwave for a minute just to take the brain-numbing, fridge-coldness off, making it more like room temperature.

The most important things to note about this pie is its accompaniments, the real reason for this post. You must always have them. Must. Must. Must. The Hubbs’ accompaniment of choice is dill pickles. Going along the pickled vegetable route, I’ve found that most any pickle will taste fantastic — I’ve found that pickled jalapenos are especially tasty, along with yumyums and beets. This time around I’ve been gorging on yumyums while I eat my pie, but ordinarily I would be eating the pickled beets.

The second accompaniment that you must have with your pie is cheese. An old cheddar has been our usual standby, but I was cleaning out the fridge of end bits and served some Swiss cheeses which went quite nicely. One was a harder cheese and the other was a softer one.

Now go. Make yourself a pie!