(My First-Ever) Roast Chicken

There are few things in the kitchen that scare me quite as much as roasting a whole chicken.  There are lots of reasons for which I could blame this fear: general squeamishness with respect to handling liver and “giblets” (side note: what ARE those?!); general preference for white meat over dark meat; not knowing how to carve the bird once it’s done; not knowing how to use a meat thermometer…

The main reason driving my fear, though, is this: fear of not living up to my mom’s (delicious) roast chicken.  As it turns out, conquering this fear is even easier than reading the thermometer’s instructions: I just called my mom.  (And pulled up an Ina recipe for inspiration.)

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A Perfect Roast Chicken

  • 1 whole (5-6 pound) chicken
  • salt, pepper
  • Herbs de Provence
  • 1 large bunch rosemary
  • 1 lemon, sliced into about 4 parts
  • 1 head garlic, sliced in half cross-wise, plus another 5-6 cloves, crushed
  • about 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch segments
  • 1 bulb fennel, cored and sliced
  • olive oil
  • for the sauce:
    • 1 shallot, sliced
    • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
    • about a cup dry white wine
    • about 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. Chop all your vegetables first before you get your hands mucked up; place the carrots, fennel, onion, and 5-6 cloves garlic at the bottom of a roasting pan.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and a small handful Herbs de Provence and set aside.  Add about half of the rosemary to the veggie mix.
  2. Remove anything icky from the inside of the chicken, including aforementioned giblets and liver.  Wash the chicken inside and out with cold water and then pat it really, really dry with paper towels.
  3. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
  4. Liberally season the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper.  Stuff the cavity with the garlic, lemon and the other half of the rosemary.  Brush the melted butter (you could also use olive oil, if you want to keep this dairy-free) all over the chicken’s skin; season with salt and pepper (and if you can, you can stuff some garlic under the skin).  Season some more with Herbs de Provence.
  5. Tie the chicken’s legs together with kitchen twine.  Tuck the wings under the body of the bird and place it on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.
  6. Roast the chicken until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F – this took about 1 hour and 15 minutes in my oven. The juices should run clear when you slice between the leg and the breast.
  7. When finished, remove the bird from the pot.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the roasted vegetables and plate them around the bird.  Tent the chicken with aluminum foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes, while you make the sauce.
  8. At the bottom of your roasting pan, there should be all sort of delicious goodness.  On your stovetop, heat the pan, add the shallots and garlic, and bring the liquid to a boil.  Add the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the bits from the bottom.  Turn down the heat and let the alcohol cook off a bit, and then remove entirely from the heat.  Stir in the sour cream (you can leave this step out if you’re keeping it dairy free).  Pour the sauce into a bowl and serve as a gravy side.
  9. Be like my mom: serve the chicken with a starch (I made couscous with pine nuts and parsley) and a vegetable (roasted vegetables AND a salad).  Don’t forget dessert.

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The Verdict:

This meal was epic.  Epic, I tell you.  I cannot believe it took me this long to make a roast chicken.  (That being said: it isn’t necessarily a casual weeknight affair, as my mom used to do.  This bird takes tender love and care, and time.)  Ina, Mom, you’re both genius.

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Lobster Paella

Wedding season is glorious.

I love getting dressed up.  I love drinking champagne.  I love rocking out way too hard on the dance floor with the Husband.  I love the many, multiple reasons to come home to Boston and see my friends.

And I love going to bridal showers hosted by my mom.

A little over a year ago, my mom called me in a panic.  She’d offered to do the bridal shower for her BFF’s daughter, but now she didn’t know what that actually entailed.  Food? Decor? Drinks? She was supposed to figure out GAMES!?!  She asked me if it’d be appropriate to call in sick, citing European-ness.  (According to my mom the German, Europeans just don’t DO showers.)  She made her delicious Beef Bourgouignon, and needless to say, the shower was amazing.

Last night, my mom hosted a shower for another friend’s daughter.  As we cleaned up the kitchen, she turned to me and said, “this is just the most wonderful tradition.”

Agreed, Mom.  Made all the more wonderful by this lobster paella.  That’s right.  Lobster paella.

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Lobster Paella (Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

  • olive oil
  • 2-3 chopped yellow onions
  • 2-3 red bell peppers, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper (about a teaspoon each)
  • 1/3 cup Pernod or Ouzo
  • 1.5-2 pounds cooked lobster meat
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp
  • 1 pound kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • for serving: parsley, lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Heat olive oil in large, ovenproof Dutch oven.  Add onions and cook over medium-low heat for 5-6 minutes.  Add bell peppers and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Lower heat, add minced garlic and cook another minute.  Stir in rice, chicken stock, saffron, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Cover pot and place it in the oven.
  3. Cook in the oven for about 12 minutes, remove, stir rice gently, and return to the oven to bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes (or until rice is fully cooked).
  4. Remove from oven and transfer back to the stove top.  Add Ouzo or Pernod and cook over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off the heat; add lobster, shrimp, kielbasa, and peas.  Cover and allow to steam through, about 10 minutes, so all of the protein heats through.  Sprinkle with lemon and/or parsley and serve hot.

IMG_3379[1]The Verdict:

That was one happy bride-to-be.  And for an extra bonus round, we sent guests home with peppermint patties from Chequessett Chocolate and felt mighty pleased with ourselves.  (We kept the leftovers for us!)

Valentine’s Day Steaks with Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

I love Valentine’s Day.  Love, love, love it.  It is all of my favorite things, combined in one beautiful day.  Chocolate, cards (ok, I know people like to get down on Hallmark holidays, but honestly, who doesn’t looooove browsing the Paper Source?!), flowers, food, and of course, my husband.

Despite the fact that we are technically newlyweds, this Saturday marked our ninth February 14th together.  And it was the best one yet, planned entirely by him, & capped off by this ridiculous meal, also prepared by him (with a little help from Ina).

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Valentine’s Day Steaks with Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

for the steaks

  • 2 8oz filet mignon steaks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter

for the sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2-4 oz roquefort, blue, gorgonzola or carambiola cheese, crumbled
  • salt & pepper
  • chopped scallions or chives

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  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees; heat a large oven proof skillet over high heat.
  2. Pat dry the filets with paper towels.  Brush a little bit of oil over them and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Start making your sauce by pouring the cream into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream is reduced by half.
  4. Add the steaks to the hot pan and sear evenly on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.  Top each steak with a pat of butter and place the pan in the oven.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove, cover tightly with foil and allow to rest.
  5. Remove the cream from the heat,a dd the cheese and stir until melted.  Season with salt and pepper, add scallions or chives.
  6. Serve steaks topped with the sauce…and if you’re lucky, like I was, with a side of sauteed mushrooms, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and a good bottle of red wine.

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The Verdict:

Honey, you’re the man.

This is my Mom’s Pork Loin.

I grew up in an incredibly food-rich household.  We sat down to dinner as a family every single night after my dad got home from work.  We said grace (because of or despite being Unitarians, not really sure).  And every single night, my mom made a fully balanced, completely delicious and nutritious meal, composed of vegetables, a starch and some protein.

I never ate it.  If you’ve been following along, you know I was a picky, word-class, non-eater.  I’d devour the starch (usually pasta, as I maintain an aversion to rice for whatever weird reason, even to this day), pick at the veggies, and that was that.

Did I mention my mom is a trained chef?

I’m sorry, Mom.  You were right.  Food is awesome.  Especially yours.

Mom’s Dijon and Tarragon Pork Loin with Roasted Broccoli

For the pork–

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • Dijon mustard
  • fresh or dried tarragon
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream

For the broccoli– (inspired by my girl Ina, obvi.  You can do almost ANY vegetable this way, adjusting the time in the oven: Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, you name it.  I was hoping for Brussels sprouts tonight, but they were just so…le tired looking at le Safeway.)

  • as much broccoli as you can stand, cut into florets
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • lemon zest
  • optional: lemon juice, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese
  1. First, get all your veggies prepped.  If you time it right, you can have both of these dishes coming out of the oven around the same time.  Peel and chop your garlic, cut the broccoli, wash and (important!) dry the florets thoroughly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a pan that can go from oven to stovetop, rub the pork loin all over with Dijon mustard, sprinkle tarragon, a bit of salt (not too much! there’s salt in the mustard) and a good amount of pepper over the loin.
  3. Spread your broccoli on a separate baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and the garlic.  Give it a good toss – don’t be afraid to use your hands.
  4. Put both the broccoli and the loin in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Take out the broccoli when it starts to brown at the edges; take out the loin when just slightly pink in the center.
  5. Take the pork out of the dish and let it rest (don’t cut into it just yet).  In the same pan it cooked in, add wine and sour cream, bring to a boil on the stove and reduce.  Be careful not to let the sour cream burn.
  6. Toss the broccoli with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.  Add a few squeezes of lemon juice, some basil and pine nuts if you please.
  7. Slice the loin, serve with the sauce and veggies.  Think about how fast, easy, and tasty your dinner is!
is it weird to love broccoli this much?
get your broccoli on.
this sauce is #killingit
this sauce is #killingit

The Verdict:

This was fast, easy, healthy, and tasty.  What more could you ask for?

Side Dishing: Ina’s Cauliflower Au Gratin

Who doesn’t love cauliflower?  More importantly, who doesn’t love cauliflower drenched in cheese, bechamel, and bread crumbs…Ina Garten style!?  No one? That’s what I thought.

I bought a head of cauliflower on a whim this past weekend because it was on sale.  I had some healthful thoughts of roasting it with a bit of olive oil and garlic and serving with our butternut squash soup.  Then we ran into our friend in the bookstore, and I knew I needed a new plan.  If the soup had been a bust, we needed something to tide over hungry stomachs.  Enter Ina Garten and her blueprints for making all vegetables even tastier fare.

This recipe is more of a weekend affair, as it takes a while, mostly because of the bechamel (lots of stirring needed for this one).  It’s a good one for company, though, as you can assemble the dish in advance and then just pop it in the oven.  If you have leftovers, reheat them in the oven (or a toaster oven!)…microwaves tend to take out the delicious crunch.

Cauliflower Au Gratin

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk (you can warm in the microwave)
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup shredded or grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus a handful for topping
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil; cook the cauliflower about 8 minutes – until tender, but still firm.  Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, melt 1/2 the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Pour the hot milk into the pan and stir until it comes to a boil (it will take a while!).  As soon as it boils, whisk constantly for about a minute, until the sauce starts to thicken.
  4. Off heat, add about a teaspoon of salt, pepper to taste, the nutmeg, half of the Gruyere and all of the Parmesan, minus a handful, to the bechamel.  Mix through.
  5. Pour one third of the sauce on the bottom of a baking dish (I used a 9×9 square).  Place the cauliflower on top and spread the rest of the sauce evenly.  Combine the breadcrumbs, the rest of the Gruyere, and a handful of Parmesan and then sprinkle on top.
  6. (This is when it gets really decadent).  Melt the rest of the butter and then drizzle over the gratin.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top starts to brown.  Serve immediately.
eat your vegetables.
eat your vegetables

The Verdict:

Do you see the amount of cheesy goodness in here?  Enough said!