1/25/08

Roast Chicken

Today I thought I'd share with you what I like to refer to as Mark's Perfect Roast Chicken. He does it like his grandma used to and swears by this method. After tasting this chicken a few times myself... I swear by it, too. It is the BEST roast chicken I've ever had... really. And the great thing about it is, it's really easy to do. If you take the time to follow these steps, you should end up with a beautifully browned, herbed, crispy, juicy, flavorful chicken like this one.

The first step is to REMOVE THE ORGAN SACK FROM THE INSIDE OF THE CHICKEN! haha... I'm sure most people that are just learning to cook forget this part... I know I did when I was younger. Anyway, I'm sure you all already knew that, so moving on.

Next, you want to drizzle some olive oil into the cavity. Using your hand, make sure the entire cavity is coated. Then, season it with fresh ground sea salt, black pepper, and chopped rosemary leaves. Cut up some onion, a couple cloves of garlic, some carrots, and celery and stuff it all into the cavity.

Now it's time for the most important part: seasoning under the skin. SO important. This will create the best tasting chicken skin in the world (you know you all love it). Just gently lift up the skin so it detaches enough from the meat that you can get your hand in there and season it up. Again, you're seasoning it with olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and chopped rosemary.

Finally, you season the outside of the chicken. Lay the skin back down and in place, then season the entire outside of the chicken with all the same stuff: olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and chopped rosemary. Make sure you get the top and the bottom. If needed, tie the legs loosely closed. Make SURE it's loosely so that the heat and juices can get into the crevice where the legs meet the body so everything crisps up nicely.

This beauty is now ready to roast. Place your chicken into a roaster pan that has a rack so the juices can drip down into the pan without drowning the chicken. Roast the chicken in a 425 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until it starts to brown and gets a crispiness to it. Starting it out in a very hot oven seals in the juices, makes the skin crispier, and just produces a better chicken.

Now decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees. This was an 8 lb. chicken, so the total cooking time will be about 2 1/2 hours. You'll need to gage this cooking time by how large your chicken is. As long as you have eyes to see the browning of the skin and a meat thermometer to check its temperature, you'll be fine.

After about an hour of the chicken roasting in the oven, pull it out and pour a dry white wine all over the chicken to baste it - about a 1/2 cup or so. Make sure the wine is DRY and not sweet.

Return the chicken back to the oven.

After about another 35 minutes or so, check the temperature of the chicken. The chicken is done when the skin is golden brown and the internal temperature of the meat is 175 degrees. You want to stick your thermometer in the middle of the breast and also between the leg and thigh right at the bone to get your best temperature.

Now you may be tempted to just tear into it immediately because its beauty is undeniable and you know it's calling your name, but don't you dare. Make a tent out of foil big enough to cover the chicken without touching the chicken. You want most of the steam to be able to escape, while still keeping the chicken hot. If you smother the chicken too much with the tent, the skin will get soft again and no one wants that. Let the chicken rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

We served ours with some steamed green beans tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and almonds, and some roasted potatoes. I used Cooking For Engineers' technique on the potatoes and it worked like a charm. Very tasty, crispy on the outside and creamy inside.

Look at that skin. Oh yeah babe...


Oh, and Claudia...

I made stock! haha... (Well, Mark made it, and I watched...) It was very tasty and ended up producing a scrumptious chicken noodle soup the next night. Yum!

I don't really have a formal recipe to post for this one, however all the instruction you need is already in this post. This recipe isn't a measuring kind of recipe. This is one you eyeball. Like Mark's grandma used to say, "You cook it until it come 'a nice."

1/21/08

Prosciutto and Gruyere Pastry Pinwheels

Hello! Yes, I'm alive! So sorry for letting a whole WEEK go by without posting... it won't happen again. I'm chalking it up to the first week of school and getting my butt back into the gym on a regular basis. All that holiday partying really took a toll on me and I'm ready to get back into shape. I mean, I'm SO ready.

Anyway, I guess my schedule got the best of me last week and my little foodie blog fell by the wayside. Again, so sorry!

But here's some good news. Mark was home for a few extra days this past week and he got in the cookin' mood. Yeah! Ladies, if you lived with this man, you would want him to get in the cookin' mood as much as possible. He's very good at it. And he's cute when he does it, too. :-)

So stay tuned, because tomorrow I'm gonna show you one of his specialties... the perfect roast chicken. Oh believe me, you just can't top it.

But, for today, I want to finish bringing you all the courses of my dad's birthday meal from a couple weeks ago. This was the first course; an appetizer. These little pastry pinwheels are a cinch to make, they look good, and they taste great. They're flaky, a little salty, buttery, and cheesy. Oh yeah... how could that be bad? I made these for dad, but also made another batch and brought them to a New Year's Eve party. They worked out great because even at room temperature, they taste really good. Plus, as you will quickly see, you could take these little pinwheels in many different directions. Just pick your favorite ingredients and roll them up in some puff pastry dough and you're all set with some easy, tasty appetizers.

Here's how you make them:

Open a package of pre-made puff pastry and unfold the first sheet of dough. Cut it in half length-wise to get two pieces that look like this. Lay down your prosciutto first to cover all of the dough. In this picture, I'm actually using speck, which is a smoked prosciutto. Next, sprinkle your cheese over the meat, then season it with chopped fresh basil (or dried italian seasoning as I did).

Next, roll up each dough half jelly-roll style. Brush the very top of the dough with egg wash, so when you roll it up, it will act as a seal.

Wrap each dough roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night (or at least for a few hours). Right before you're ready to bake them, slice them in 1/2 inch thick rounds and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake them at 400 degrees for about 16 minutes or until golden brown. That's it! Doesn't get much easier than that, folks. So, at your next dinner party, or the next one you're invited to, make these or bring these along with you. They were a hit at both houses for me, so you can feel confident that people will like them.

Ok, homework time for me... I'll talk to you all tomorrow!



1/14/08

Potato Gnocchi with Beef Ragu

I would have written about this dish last night when I got home, but oh no... I had to watch Rock of Love 2 with Bret Michaels. Dude. So funny.

Ok, so part two of my dad's birthday dinner, here it is. I enjoy making homemade gnocchi and I was pretty sure my dad had never had it, so I decided to make him a main dish of Potato Gnocchi with Beef Ragu. I got this recipe from Epicurious.com. It has a rich, creamy, smoky taste and the ragu is perfect with the delicate, pillowy gnocchi. Hit it with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper and you're all set. Keep in mind, this dish is rich and filling, so when plating it up, start with smaller portions than you'd normally serve, especially if you're planning on serving dessert that evening.

To make this comfort food, start by making the gnocchi. Boil the potatoes until tender, drain and cool. Working in batches, press warm potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. You could mash them up by hand, too, however the ricer gives it a very fine, fluffy texture and I suggest picking one up if you want to make these every now and then. They freeze well, so I think it's worth it.

Cool the riced potatoes until lukewarm, then add the egg, cream, salt, and nutmeg and blend well. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix until a soft and slightly sticky dough forms, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if too moist.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 6 equal portions. Gently roll 1 dough portion between hands and work surface to a 3/4-inch-thick rope about 20 inches long. Cut into 3/4-inch-long pieces. They look like little pillows. You can leave them this way if you want, or you can give them the traditional gnocchi look and feel.

Roll each piece over your wooden gnocchi board, or the tines of a dinner fork work well, too. Set completed gnocchi aside so they're ready to cook when your ragu is complete.

To make the ragu, heat olive oil in a heavy large pan over medium heat. Add your onions, pancetta (or bacon like I used), prosciutto, and garlic and sauté until the mixture begins to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add your ground beef and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Now, add 1 cup beef stock or broth, dried mushrooms, and sage. Simmer until the liquid is almost absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 3 cups of stock, 1 cup at a time, simmering until the liquid is almost absorbed before adding more. Mix in tomato paste, then the canned tomatoes with juices. Simmer until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally and thinning with about 1 cup water every 30 minutes, about 1 1/2 hours (sauce will be medium-thick consistency).

It reminded me of how you cook risotto a little bit. Cooking the ragu in this slow way really gave it a huge depth of flavor and there was an incredible smokiness to the flavor.

Now it's time to lightly boil your gnocchi. Bring a pot of water to a slow boil, then drop in the gnocchi in batches so the pot doesn't become overcrowded. Wait until all the gnocchi floats to the top of the water and about 30 seconds after that, remove the gnocchi into a bowl. Toss the cooked gnocchi immediately with butter, grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh ground pepper. Repeat until all the gnocchi is cooked and ready to serve.

To plate, ladle some ragu in the bottom of your bowl, top with a portion of the gnocchi and a bit more Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper. Sprinkle a little more sage on top if you desire (and I did). There you have it!

This main course was proceeded by a cold romaine salad in the style of an iceberg wedge salad. I don't mind iceberg, but I thought the romaine leaves would be pretty fanned out on the plate. Whatcha think?



Tomorrow I'll share the appetizer portion of the meal with you. Stay tuned!

1/12/08

Viva la Swedish Chef!

I'm away from home today and without my camera and tantalizing foodie photos. So, part two of my four course meal story will have to wait until tomorrow. But until then, who doesn't love The Swedish Chef!? Here's a blast from the past for all you 30-40 year olds.

I have to run downstairs to the fitness room now and run until well... things are smaller.

1/10/08

Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries and Pistachios





















My dad's birthday was last week and this year I asked him if he'd like it if I came over and cooked him a four course meal, complete with an appetizer, salad, main course, and a dessert. Know what he said?

"...and you'll do the dishes when you're done?"

I said, "Yes, of course!", and he immediately said, "Ok!". haha...

I was really excited because I rarely get to cook like this for anyone, so it was fun to show off what I could do. I mean, Mark and I cook for each other all the time, but never a four course meal. Geez, we'd be 400 lbs! haha... Anyway, my papa was proud and that was cool.

Soooo... since I'm sitting here watching a very good episode of Grey's Anatomy which is reducing me to nothing more than a pile of tears, I'm just gonna dive right into the dessert part of the dinner and share with you the chocolate mousse (my first) that I made for my dad.

The recipe is from Epicurious.com and was taken from a December 2002 issue of Gourmet magazine. The reviews said that this was the recipe to use if you've never made a mousse before. I believe they were right because it turned out great and the instructions were precise and easy to follow. Here's how it went:

Start by heating the heavy cream in a saucepan until hot. In another bowl, whisk together 4 large egg yolks, sugar, and salt.

Next, whisk in the hot cream until combined. Now transfer the mixture back into the saucepan and get your thermometer ready. Turn the flame on LOW and heat the custard while stirring constantly until it just reaches 160 degrees. Immediately remove it from the heat, continuing to stir so it can start to cool back down. Be sure to not let the custard get above 160 degrees or the mixture may turn to scrambled eggs.

Next, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a glass bowl in a microwave at 50 percent power 3 to 5 minutes), stirring frequently.

Then, whisk the custard into the melted chocolate until smooth, then cool.

Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks.

Whisk 1/4 of the cream into the chocolate custard to lighten...

...then fold in remaining cream gently but thoroughly.

Spoon the mousse into stemmed glasses or ramekins and chill, covered, at least 6 hours.

The recipe suggests letting the mousse stand at room temperature about 20 minutes before serving. It's good that way and it's good straight out of the fridge, too. It tastes like ice cream, but not as cold. It was so chocolaty and delicious and rich. I topped it with some freshly whipped cream sweetened with some sugar and vanilla, some chopped pistachios, and fresh raspberries. If you love chocolate like me and you have a special occasion, I suggest this dessert.



1/7/08

Yellow Corn Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Mango-Serrano Crema

Guess what I just bought? Ok, I'll tell ya... Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook! Yeah!!! He is one of my very favorite chefs and I was beyond thrilled when I saw that there was a cookbook in existence with
actual recipes from his NYC restaurant, Mesa Grill. He has other locations, like Las Vegas, but I've only been to the one in NYC, a couple times. I LOVE IT. I've eaten there every time I've visited NYC and will continue to do so because it's that good. I know why I love his restaurant. It's because he cooks things that I would want to cook if I had a restaurant. I love his southwestern style of cooking. I love the spice and I LOVE LOVE LOVE tamales and he does them better than anyone. Boy can make a tamale, damn it. Have any of you eaten there? What did you think?

So needless to say, when I got home from Barnes and Noble, I couldn't WAIT to crack open this book and read it until my eyes crossed. I started to see recipes for items that Mark and I have ordered at his restaurant, including the BBQ-Duck-Filled Blue Corn Pancakes with Habanero Sauce. We had that as an appetizer the first time we visited Mesa Grill and it was out of this world. Oh trust me, you will see that recipe made on this blog, guaranteed. In fact, you may become quite sick to death of all the Bobby Flay cooking I will be doing this year, but guess what? Don't care! hahaha... Don't worry, I promise you, he doesn't know how to make bad food.

That brings me to my first attempt at making something from this book. We were invited to dinner at our friends' house, so I said I would bring an appetizer. I wanted it to be fairly easy because I didn't have a ton of time to make it, so I decided on this one with that there de-lic-ious smoked salmon. Yum!!! Where did I get the smoked salmon, uh Costco baby! It was good stuff, too. Kirkland Signature Smoked Salmon imported from Norway. If you're at Costco, pick some up.

This appetizer turned out very tasty, but very spicy. Now, for me, that is not a problem, nor is it a problem for Mark. We're just spicy hounds, but for others, it may have been a little too spicy. I could have toned it down just a bit and it would have been okay, but honestly, if you don't mind a spicy-sweetness, then just follow the recipe to the T and hang on tight because it was very good.

I won't be posting the recipe at the end of this post, however, because I wasn't able to easily find it on the Food Network website or the Mesa Grill website, so apparently he'd like you to buy the cookbook to get these recipes. However, I will be describing how I made it, so you may be able to just figure it out from there. But please, just go buy his book. There are TONS of full color beautiful pictures in it and it is currently my favorite cookbook.

So without further ado, here is how I made it.

I started by making the mango-serrano crema. The first thing you want to do is roast your serrano peppers. If they're small, use 2-3. If they're larger, use 1-2. It really depends on your desired spiciness. Roast the oiled, salted, and peppered serranos in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Place them in a plastic bag for a couple minutes so the skins loosen, then peel off the skins.

Next, cut them in half length-wise and remove the seeds with the tip of your knife. Once you've seeded them, finely dice them.

I then diced up my mango. Keep in mind the very middle of the mango has a core, so you want to slice a little off center for your first half. Next, score the fruit with your knife into little bite size pieces.

Now, turn the fruit inside out, so the chunks of fruit stick out like so. You can just pick them off with your fingers, or cut them off using your knife. Do that with both sides of the mango, then finely dice the mango pieces so you don't end up with big chunks in your finished sauce.

Combine a 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream, your serrano peppers, your mango, some chopped red onion, salt and pepper and stir together until everything is well incorporated. The sweet juices from the mango really get into this sauce and turn it into the perfect consistency and flavor. Now cover the sauce with plastic wrap and get it into the fridge so the flavors can walk down the aisle.

Onto the corn pancakes. These are tasty and would be great for breakfast too. Start by combining 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, 1/2 cup flour, some baking powder, kosher salt, and honey. Mix together until crumbly. In another bowl, beat together 1 egg, a little over a 1/2 cup of whole milk, and a tablespoon of butter. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together to form a batter.

Using about 2 tablespoons worth of batter for each, cook your corn pancakes on a cast iron griddle (or non stick pan) using cooking spray before each set of pancakes are poured. They should be about 3 inches in diameter.

As with any pancake, when you first start to see bubbles in the batter, it's time to flip them.

Cook them until they're golden brown on both sides, then cool on a wire rack.

To assemble the appetizer, place one pancake on the plate. Top with a little mango-serrano crema, then a slice of smoked salmon. Repeat this again for the second layer, then again for the third layer, except dab a little more of the sauce on top of the piece of salmon, then garnish with a beautiful sprig of cilantro.



I very much enjoyed this recipe and will definitely make it again in the future (right after I cook everything else in this book!). Now, go run out and buy your copy of this book!

1/4/08

Chicken Marsala with Herbed Green Pea Risotto

Depending on the time of year, Mark sometimes has to go out of town during the week. This means eating out or making frequent trips to the grocery store for something halfway healthy to eat for dinner. So when he comes home on the weekend, I like to cook him a good home-cooked meal. I love my guy and I love feeding him. The dinner I make either ends up being something that I've been wanting to cook that I saw in a cookbook or on the internet, or other times it's whatever he requests. Last week he called and requested Veal or Chicken Marsala. Since we had chicken breasts on hand, I went with the latter.

Since I haven't cooked out of my Giada book for a while, I reached for my copy of "Everyday Italian" and looked for a Chicken Marsala recipe. She had Veal Marsala - close enough. I decided to pair it up with my own recipe of Herbed Green Pea Risotto. The resulting dish, in my opinion, was very tasty. The gravy was rich, but not thick and had a strong rosemary flavor that I loved. Mark also liked it, but added that it wasn't really a traditional Chicken Marsala. He said the Marsala wine was more of an afterthought, rather than the star of the dish. He thought it tasted good, but that it shouldn't be called a Marsala sauce.

So knowing that, I would say if you want to make a yummy chicken dish with a rosemary gravy, well then here's the dish you're looking for.

Start by getting your risotto made. You can always put it in a bowl when it's done and then nuke it to heat it back up when your chicken is ready to be plated. That's how I did it and it worked out great. Then you're not running around the kitchen trying to time everything.

Since I don't really have a formal recipe for this dish, I'll just describe how I made it. I chopped about 3/4 cup of onion and added it to a pan with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. I seasoned the onions with sea salt, pepper, dried basil and dried thyme. As that cooked over medium heat for a few minutes, I crushed a couple cloves of garlic, minced them and threw them into the pan.

I sauteed the onions and garlic for a few more minutes, then added a 1/2 cup of uncooked arborio rice. I sauteed the rice, onions, and garlic until the rice started to brown.

I heated a quart of chicken broth over low heat until hot in a seperate sauce pan, then began ladling a little broth at a time into my risotto. If you haven't made risotto before, just remember it this way. The first ladle of broth is to deglaze your pan. It will make a loud sizzling sound at first and you want to stir the broth into the mixture, making sure to scrape the bottom of your pan with a wooden spoon so any brown bits are mixed into your risotto. This adds wonderful flavor to your final product.

Now the key is to keep an eye on your risotto. I have a TV in my kitchen - I highly recommend it if you're a TV head like me. That way, you can pay attention to your food and not miss a thing! So back to the risotto. Once the rice has absorbed the first ladle of broth you added, it's time to add another one. And these are large ladles, by the way. About 3/4 cup at a time. Stir the mixture again and let it simmer over medium heat for a few minutes. Once you see that the rice has absorbed the broth again, add more broth. You continue to follow this method until your rice is al dente and the broth is somewhat creamy. That means it's time to stir in the last few ingredients and take it off the heat.

This time I decided to stir in some frozen peas and a cup of grated parmesan cheese. I hit it with some fresh ground pepper and transferred the finished risotto to a serving bowl. Top it with a little more parmesan cheese so it's pretty.

Now, on to the Chicken Marsala.

Start by again melting a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan. Season three skinless, boneless chicken breasts with sea salt and pepper, then add them to the pan and brown on both sides. This fed me and Mark - two for him and one for me, so you gauge this for the size of your family.

Once the chicken has browned, remove it from the pan and set aside on a dish. It's more than likely not done inside yet, so no tasting. It will finish cooking when it gets back into the pan. Now, add another tablespoon of butter to the pan.

Yeah baby... how can this be bad?

Add a large chopped shallot and 2 minced garlic cloves and saute for about 30 seconds.

Next add your mushrooms. I would normally use crimini mushrooms or an assorted mix of wild mushrooms, but we happened to have shiitake mushrooms on hand, so I used them. They tasted surprisingly well in this dish by the way. Also add some salt and pepper to season the mushrooms and saute the mushrooms until they begin to brown and the liquid is absorbed.

Now add the Marsala wine and a rosemary sprig. Simmer until the Marsala reduces by half, about 2 minutes.

Now add your chicken broth and simmer again until it reduces by half, about 4 minutes.

Now it's time to return the chicken to the pan. Cook for about 30 seconds, then flip the chicken over to coat it with the sauce on the other side. Remove the rosemary sprig and stir in one more tablespoon of butter. Let the chicken simmer in the sauce for a few more minutes until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and it's done! Plate it up and enjoy a warm, comforting dinner. Perfect on a cold winter day. Hope you like it!