Category Archives: Hearty Meals

Confronting My Fears, One Chicken At A Time

If I had to list my top five least favorite foods, I think it would end up lining up like this:

1. Banana
2. Seafood
3. Coconut
4. Dill
5. Cooked-fruit pie

I do a pretty good job of avoiding all of these foodstuffs, but tonight I had no choice but to collide head-on with one of my most reviled nemeses.

A Culinary Nemesis

Ew.

How did it come to this? How did I end up with a refrigerator full of reeking, vile dill since Monday? What was I thinking??

Well, it all started with perfecting the method for roasting a whole chicken in Cook’s Illustrated big book of poultry. I love roast chicken, and love how Cook’s Illustrated has you learn a master method, and then gives a zillion different variations on that. And I love having a roasted chicken carcass left over to make stock with, rather than buying chicken parts (or a whole one, as I’m often wont to do) just for stock-making purposes. But I’m lazy, and don’t often make whole chickens for dinner, so after a recent especially delicious meal of one, I vowed to try each and every variation on the recipe in the cookbook, in the order they’re printed. I made the master recipe magnificently. I made the one with garlic croutons and swooned over its deliciousness. And then the whole experiment screeched to a horrifying stop with recipe #3.

Herb-crusted roasted chicken.

In other words, a chicken crusted with, among other things, scads and scads of fresh dill.

Yaaarrrrrffff.

But I couldn’t abandon the project practically before it even started, so I girded myself. I psyched myself up. I soldiered on. I could be brave and make one meal with dill, if just to reassure myself that I hate the stuff.

My weekly grocery run happens on Mondays, and this week’s Monday was a doozy. I had to walk all over tarnation in the torrential rain, then spent my entire wildly hectic day at work with cold, damp socks, then had to go to the store, and then, when I finally got home, exhausted and wearing clammy socks, I accidentally crushed the grocery bag with the produce in it against the doorjamb while staggering into the front hall. The capper to my terrible day was getting the full-on blast o’ dill smell from the bag. ::Shudder:: It smelled just as bad as I remembered.

Chicken night was going to be Thursday, so that meant having to smell that horrible stench of dill every time I opened the fridge between Monday and then. It just kept getting worse. It seemed impossible that this was going to be an even remotely sensible culinary adventure. But, in for a penny, in for a pound. I had purchased the chicken and the dill, as well as a bunch of fresh parsley. And who knew — I might like it.

Here’s the deal:

1 3.5- to 4-lb whole chicken, giblets removed, rinsed and patted dry
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 cups loosely packed tarragon leaves
2 cups loosely packed dill leaves
2 cups loosely packed parsley leaves
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (F), and set a V-rack in a pan (I have used both a roasting pan and a regular baking pan, and both worked fine).

Put the herbs into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until they are finely chopped and combined. Mash up the butter with a fork. Gently loosen the skin on the breasts of the chicken with your fingers, and work the butter underneath the skin onto the meat. Brush the outside of the chicken with the egg yolks and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the herbs over the chicken and gently pat onto the chicken so it is uniformly covered.

Place the chicken wing side up on the V-rack, pour 1/2 cup water into the bottom of the pan (to keep drippings from burning), and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven, flip it over so the other wing side is up, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Then remove the chicken from the oven and rotate so it is breast side up. Return to the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Remove the chicken from the oven and pan, setting it on a cutting board. Let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Herb Crusted Roast Chicken

So, other than that I was so freaked out about the dill that I neglected to buy fresh tarragon, I followed the recipe to a T. (I added a few tablespoons of dried tarragon to the chopped herb mix before patting it onto the chicken.) It didn’t seem too redolent of dill at all while it was baking. It just smelled kind of nice and herb-y. And it had a nice look to it when it came out of the oven. And, if I’m being really honest, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you there was dill involved if someone made me take a blind taste test of the meat. But it also wasn’t lights-out awesome. It was just kind of fresh-tasting. Sort of a nice roasted chicken with overtones of vegetal greenness. So, while not dreadful, it probably wasn’t worth the copious clean-up involved (that herb stuff was messy, yo), and it definitely hasn’t swayed me on the dill front. That stuff just smells rank.

[Posted by Schnookie.]

7 Comments

Filed under Hearty Meals, Meats Meats Meats

Super-Quick And Hellenic: What More Could You Want?

Once a month I get all motivated to try new recipes — the day the new “Food & Wine” issue arrives in the mail. This month I was stopped in my tracks while flipping through the pages thanks to a feature of “Fast Recipes” that claimed to reimagine classic Greek dishes. Having never eaten Greek food (I have no idea how it’s eluded me this long), it’s not like I was all a-quiver with the thought of whipping up my old exotic faves; no, they just had a really scrumptious-looking picture accompanying the recipe for Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki. I had no idea what Souvlaki is (I’ve since looked it up. This seems to be a skewerless version of it), but it said it would take me 40 minutes, had an easy list of ingredients, and looked perfect for a weeknight meal. Here’s the recipe:

1 1/4 pounds trimmed pork shoulder, cut into 3-by-1/2 inch strips
1 large onion, cut through the root end into 1/2-inch strips
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Greek-style whole-milk yogurt
1/2 European cucumber, seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Warm pita, for serving

(The only change I made to the recipe is that I used pork tenderloin rather than shoulder, because it seems leaner and easier to deal with. But I’m normally a big fan of pork shoulder, so I’m not sure why I opted for that. I guess I’m just lazy.)

1. In a medium bowl, toss the pork strips and onion wedges with the olive oil, lemon juice, chopped oregano and half of the garlic paste. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and let stand for 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the yogurt, cucumber, mint and the remaining garlic paste. Season the tzatziki with salt and pepper.

3. Heat a large cast-iron griddle or grill pan (or, in my case, just a large skillet) until very hot. Add the pork and onion wedges along with any marinade and cook over high heat, turning once or twice, until the pork and onion are tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pork and onion to plates and serve with the tzatziki, lemon wedges and pita.

Presto! Easy and delicious!

February 10 2009

This was super-duper fun to make, not least because it made the kitchen smell absolutely heavenly. Through a strange confluence of events, I ended up prepping everything before Pookie got home from work, and Boomer got home even later. Now, it should be noted that Spring Fever is creeping up on the denizens of Maple Hoo, and a kitchen redolent of fresh mint and oregano, lemon, cucumber, garlic and onions… well, it was enough to drive us all into progressive tizzies. I was in the thrall of the spring-fresh aromas, then Pookie walked into the kitchen and nearly swooned, then Boomer got home and exclaimed about how fantastic the place smelled. This meal was like a big plate of scrumptious freshness. I’d spent all day at work getting increasingly excited about trying a new recipe, and the whole experience of this didn’t let me down. Everyone should try it!

And perhaps the best part of all, by the way, was that I had extra mint, and there’s only one thing to do with that: make mojitos. (In a tall glass muddle 1 tablespoon of sugar, the juice of one lime, and 6-8 whole mint leaves. When the sugar has dissolved, fill the glass with ice, pour in 2 oz. of light rum, and then top off with chilled club soda. Stir and drink. Repeat the process from the beginning.) It was really the only civilized thing to do.

(Posted by Schnookie)

18 Comments

Filed under Hearty Meals, Meats Meats Meats

The New Recipe Challenge: Rancho Gordo White Turkey Chili

I’ve said many a time in this space that I am a really lazy cook for someone who likes to think of herself as being fairly cook-ish. I have a tendency to let myself spiral downward into protracted bouts of lethargy and dullardliness, until Pookie slaps me a few times in the face and says, “Snap out of it woman!” This past December, as it turns out, was one of my bottoming-out periods, and to start the New Year, I have been issued a challenge to cook a new recipe — from one of my many cookbooks — at least once a week, for as long as I can sustain the energy. And to start off the year, I dipped into my Christmas loot, which included Steve Sando’s (of Rancho Gordo) Heirloom Beans cookbook. The recipe of choice? White turkey chili.

january-1-2009

The cookbook itself is a mouthwatering collection of deceptively simple recipes that showcase the ridonkulously delicious heirloom varieties you can get from Rancho Gordo and other such purveyors of fine beans. It also offers up all kinds of suggestions for bean substitutions, so you can easily match recipes to whatever types of beans you might have on hand, which is a good thing considering how not exactly easy it is to find heirloom beans. What I find most appealing about the recipes, though, is that they are all about straightforward combinations of good, stalwart ingredients to make the kind of food that you can enjoy any day, whether it’s a run-of-the-mill worknight or a fancy holiday.

tepary-liquid

Now, before I get into this recipe and my take on it, let me give you a rundown of the ingredients:

12 tomatillos, husks removed
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds ground turkey
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 poblano chiles, roasted and diced
3-5 serrano chiles, seeded and finely sliced
2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
3 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup homemade or purchased chicken broth, or more if needed
3 cups cooked cellini beans, in their broth

See? Nice, straightforward ingredients, the kind of stuff you know is going to taste great together.

ingredients

Of course, somewhere in the course of the last year, I’ve become the kind of person who looks at this recipe and, instead of just trying it once as written, is all, “I have all kinds of little modifications I’m going to make!” Not because I’m trying to make it taste better than I think it would as written, but because I’m lazy and have certain things on hand instead of what’s called for.

For starters, let’s talk beans. Now, up until early 2008, I was terrified of dried beans. I used canned beans for all my bean purposes, and if a recipe really desperately called for dried beans, I just didn’t make it. Then we decided to plant some soup beans in our garden, picked a variety that’s all flashy and heirloomy, and in our research into what they would taste like, we discovered Rancho Gordo. Reading about all the histories and flavors of the heirloom beans they sell, I was hooked. I ordered a hodge-podge of bean types, and discovered that the modicum of extra effort that goes into cooking dried beans pays off in spades with the massive improvement of flavor and texture over canned beans. And if you go the slight extra mile of getting heirloom beans, you get to experience tastes that go so far beyond the standard five or six types of beans that dominate the average American bean-eater’s options. It was a world-altering, mind-blowing discovery, and we decided well before the year was over that BY FAR the best food event in our lives in 2008 was finding Rancho Gordo.

Over the last few months I’ve enjoyed a few Rancho Gordo shopping sprees, and have selected types of beans that sound good, regardless of what I think I’m going to do with them. And what I’ve learned is that beans are beans. They’re interchangeable. They all taste different, but still delicious. So when I read the note about the beans in this recipe, “Any of the white beans such as marrow or runner canellini will work here. For something different, you might try yellow eye or European soldier beans,” the fact that I had none of those beans on hand didn’t faze me at all. Nope. I just riffled through my stack of Rancho Gordo bags and pulled out the only white bean on the shelf: tepary beans.

tepary-beans

To cook them, I just soaked them overnight a few days before chili night (I think you’re supposed to optimally soak beans for, like, four hours, but the only way I can manage to soak them is if I think to do it the night before), then put them in a pot with their soaking liquid, added a little more water to cover them, brought the pot to a boil, covered, and simmered on very low heat until they were soft. These beans were pretty fresh and pretty small, so they cooked in a hurry (about an hour!). When they were done, I put the whole kit and caboodle — beans and liquid — into a large tupperware and tossed it in the fridge for a couple days until I was ready to use them. The “Rancho Gordo way” of cooking beans involves sauteing some diced carrots, celery and onions in olive oil in the bottom of your bean-cooking pot, then adding the beans and water and proceeding with the boil and simmer. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don’t. Heirloom beans are so tasty, they really don’t cry out for additional flavors, but if I was using regular dried beans from the grocery store, I’d probably want to zazz them up a bit.

(Now, here’s the thing about this recipe: while I love, love, love delicious heirloom beans, you could totally make this with canned beans. Just… don’t tell anyone I said that, okay?)

peeled-poblanos

The next note is the poblanos. I suppose you could use canned green chiles here, but it’s so simple to roast and peel peppers yourself that I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t. We don’t have gas lines on our street, so I have all electric cooking appliances (sigh…), so no roasting peppers over the flame of a burner for me. Instead, I just put the whole peppers all on a baking sheet, stick them under a hot broiler, and turn them periodically until the skins are all blistered and charred. This takes about five minutes. Then put the peppers in a bowl and cover the bowl with a plate to steam the skins off, and after letting them sit for about fifteen minutes, the skins will all just rub right off. Then you can take off the stems and scrape out all the seeds and you’re good to go. It’s simple as pie, and totally delicious!

So, beans cooked and poblanos roasted, we’re ready to get started. The very first thing I did with the recipe was depart from it completely.

bagged-tomatillos

The recipe says this as its first step:

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the tomatillos and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water, and then chop.

Obviously, this is not a difficult step, but I was possessed by some strange demon of productivity in September and actually picked my weekly share of tomatillos at the farm. Since we very rarely eat tomatillos (despite how delicious they are), it was kind of a strange thing for me to do, and even stranger yet, I didn’t just compost them. Nope. I roasted them until they were soft and browning a bit in spots, and froze them whole. I figured the worst thing that would happen would be, next September, digging them out of the freezer and composting them then. But how serendipitous to have found a recipe already that calls for tomatillos! I skipped the boiling and just thawed out my bag, digging out the equivalent of 12 big grocery-store tomatillos, and chopped them up. (They were outrageously delicious, so my advice is if you have a chance to pick a quart of tomatillos at the end of the summertime, go ahead and do so — you never know when you’ll find a use for them.)

The next step I was totally on board with:

raw-turkey

In a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the turkey and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it has lost its pink color. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

cooked-turkey

Then: Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.

It should be noted that I used way more than three garlic cloves because I was going with some of the garlic we grew this summer. The cloves are eensy-weensy, so it takes, like, 20 of them to equal one normal garlic clove.

onions

Next: Return the turkey to the pot and add the poblano and serrano chiles, coriander, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and bay leaf.

chili-spices

Okay, I deviated a little here. For starters, I did not toast and grind my own coriander. And the only reason I did with my own cumin is that I didn’t have any ground cumin on hand (I grind my own cumin for chili powder, so I’ve got the spice grinder and whole seeds sitting around. If I had pre-ground, I would have used it here). Also, instead of fresh chopped serrano chiles, I chipped away at the giant bag of minced hot peppers I froze in September. I think it’s safe to say that the chopped chiles of your choice will suffice. Oh, and I only used 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne instead of a full teaspoon because Boomer’s not into super-spicy food.

January 1 2009

Back to the recipe: Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatillos and 1 cup chicken broth.

chopped-tomatillos

chili-stock

Then: Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and cook, uncovered, until the flavors blend, about 45 minutes.

I… may not have waited the full 45 minutes.

chili-no-beans

Meanwhile, in another pot, I got my brown rice started. I always have brown rice with chili, because it’s a great way to stretch a pot to make dinner for all of us and then lunches for Pookie and me for much of the work week. I am currently deeply enamored of brown basmati rice, which just calls for two parts water to one part rice, and a smidgeon (or heaping slab) of butter.

uncooked-rice

You combine everything in a pot (for three dinners and seven lunches, I tend to do about 2 1/2 cups of rice and 5 cups of water), cover it, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 50 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the rice is soft. Then fluff with a fork and enjoy!

cooked-rice

Going back to the chili, once you’ve let everything simmer for 45 minutes (or 30, if you’re me): Gently stir in the beans, adjust the seasonings, add more chicken broth if a thinner chili is desired, and cook for about 30 minutes to blend the flavors.

chili-beans

And that’s it! The cookbook recommends serving this with chopped fresh cilantro, sliced green onions, crumbled queso fresco, sour cream and lime wedges. We just ate it straight-up on brown rice. And it was scrumptious. I made it again a few days later, because I only used half the beans I’d cooked up and half the tomatillos, and the second time we topped ours with grated cheddar cheese. That was also scrumptious. Really, though, how can you go wrong with all the stuff that goes in this? I’m looking forward to making this time and again, and trying different beans to see how they work out. So the first recipe of my New Recipe Challenge turns out to be a keeper! WOO HOO!

7 Comments

Filed under Hearty Meals

Cooking A New Recipe! WOO HOO!

Regular readers of IPB Living will know that, while I claim to like to cook, I have a pretty narrow scope, and tend to fall into ruts. This is probably a result of my doing all my grocery shopping on Mondays after work, and often doing my weekly menu planning on the fly while I’m in the store. I am not at my cognitive best after a Monday at work. And so we end up eating lots of Schnookie Tacos and chili. You can imagine, then, how excited I was to discover a new recipe in the month’s Food & Wine at just the right time of the week that I was able to plan ahead to make it on Saturday night (our traditional pasta night). I’m so put-together! Heh.

The recipe in question is Baked Orecchiette With Pork Sugo, something totally unlike anything I’ve ever made before.

September 27 2008

It was a time-consuming venture, as is anything that involves slow-cooking pork shoulder, but other than thinking to get everything started a few hours ahead of dinnertime, it was a nice, leisurely cooking adventure. There was only moderate chopping involved, to which I added a bit by peeling and chopping some fresh tomatoes rather than using canned, and other than that, it was just a question of gradually adding each new layer of flavor. First the pork, then the onions, garlic, celery and carrots, then the tomatoes, the wine and thyme, the chicken stock, and then simmering it all until it’s falling-apart tender. Then came the odd (to me) step of pulsing the cooked pork in a food processor until it’s all pulled apart — I was terrified I was going to end up making a smooth pork puree rather than a chunky pulled-pork sort of texture. But a light touch on the “pulse” button was all I needed (along with a fortifying swig of wine), and I ended up with a sauce that was just insane. I could have stopped right then and just eaten that as a soup. But adding pasta? And cheese? And baking it? That’s like taking “delicious” and ratcheting it up by a factor of a thousand.

Baked Orecchiette With Pork Sugo

This tasted like something you’d get at a nice restaurant, not like something I cooked at home on a lazy Saturday spent playing MarioKart Wii. It was one of those dinners where we all just eat in total silence, focusing hard on savoring every phenomenal bite. My plan for this recipe is to make it a bunch more times in rapid succession, so I memorize how to make it. And then I can include it in my routine of the mundane and everyday. Because every day should be this scrumptious.

(Post by Schnookie)

4 Comments

Filed under Carbo Loading, Hearty Meals