Sunday, February 20, 2011

Good Old Roast Chicken

My husband and I love roast chicken, but the average roaster (5+ pounds) is far more than we need nowadays, so generally I buy a whole frying chicken (2-3 pounds) so that we can enjoy one meal of hot roast chicken and then eat the leftovers in a salad later in the week. My husband likes to do the beer can chicken on the grill, but if it's too cold or rainy outside, I do the chicken inside.

1 whole frying chicken (about 2-3 pounds)
1 lemon, cut in 8 pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (we like rosemary, sage, and thyme) or 2 teaspoons dried herbs
1/2 medium onion, thickly sliced
butter-flavored cooking spray
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken broth + 1/4 cup lemon juice for basting
1 cup chicken broth (or a combination of broth & white wine) (for the gravy)
2 tablespoons flour

Preheat the oven to 375F. Spray a roasting pan and rack with cooking spray. Combine the chicken broth and lemon juice in a measuring cup and set aside.

Remove giblets (if any) from the chicken cavity, cut away any visible fat, rinse the chicken and dry with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of herbs and some salt and pepper in the cavity. Fill the cavity with lemon chunks and onion slices (if there are extras, put them in the roasting pan). Put the chicken breast side up on the rack in the roasting pan. Spray the chicken with butter-flavored cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the remaining tablespoon of herbs. Put the roasting pan in the oven and cook the chicken for 20 minutes.

Pour half of the broth & juice mixture over the chicken. Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes. Pour the rest of the broth & juice mixture over the chicken, return it to the oven, and cook for another 20-30 minutes or until juices run clear, a meat thermometer reads 190F when inserted in the breast, and the skin is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven.

Lift the chicken off the rack, tipping the bird so that the juices can run out of it into the pan, and transfer the bird to a serving platter. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside.

Remove the rack and any pieces of onion or lemon from the roasting pan and discard.

To make gravy: put the roasting pan on a burner on the stove set on medium-high heat. Add the flour and using a whisk, combine the flour with the cooking juices in the pan until a thick sludge develops. Add the cup of broth and continue to stir until the broth and flour mixture are well combined and the gravy is thickened to your preference, about 3-5 minutes. Taste the gravy and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the gravy into a gravy boat or small pitcher.

Carve the chicken and serve it with the gravy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Basic Vinaigrette Dressing

Traditional French vinaigrette is made with 3 parts oil and 1 part vinegar. I prefer it (and so do my arteries) with less oil and more vinegar. And I usually add a little bit of Dijon mustard because for some reason, it helps the rest of the ingredients emulsify (combine and thicken) and stay together instead of separating so that you have an oil slick floating on top of the vinegar.

1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil

Put the vinegar, salt, pepper, herbs and mustard in a small bowl. Gradually pour in the olive oil, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, until the ingredients are well-combined.

You can also use this basic recipe to make a lemon or lime vinaigrette by substituting lemon or lime juice for the vinegar.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Celery Root & Potato Gratin

1 cup chicken broth
2 cups peeled and thinly sliced celery root
2 cups peeled and thinly sliced white potato
1/2 cup peeled and thinly sliced yellow onion
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon butter (or margarine)
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 cup shredded 2% cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled reduced-fat blue cheese

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium high heat. Add the celery root, potato and onion, reduce heat to medium-low heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Transfer the vegetables from the pan to the prepared baking dish with a slotted spoon. Pour 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid from the saucepan into a measuring cup. Add the milk to the cup. Set aside.

Melt the butter in the saucepan. Add the flour and whisk to combine. It will form a pasty mixture. Tap the whisk on the side of the pan to release any of the butter and flour mixture that gets stuck in it. Cook one minute. Slowly pour in the chicken broth and milk mixture, stirring constantly with the whisk, until the sauce is thickened and creamy. Add the salt, mustard, and cheddar cheese, and stir until the cheese has melted and combined with the sauce.

Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the vegetables. Sprinkle the top with the blue cheese. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender when poked with a fork.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beef Tagine with Autumn Vegetables

When you serve a beef rib roast to two adults, one of them banded, you end up with a lot of extra roast. We purposely undercook the roast, slice our servings off the less-rare ends, and use the juicy red inner portion for other meals, like this Beef Tagine. A tagine is a Moroccan style stew of beef, vegetables, and spices. The first time I made this, I had my doubts about the cinnamon, but I assure you, it works wonderfully with the rich beef and sweet autumn vegetables. Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. You can cut up the veggies in advance and store them in a zip-lock bag in the fridge until you're ready to start stewing. And you can cut up the beef, shake it up with the spices in a zip-lock bag, and pop that into the fridge a few hours in advance too.

2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 pound of rare leftover roast beef (or uncooked beef shoulder roast), cut in 1" cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
1 can (14.5 ounces) chopped tomatoes
1 cup cubed (1-inch) peeled butternut squash
1 cup peeled parsnips, cut in 1" slices
1 cup peeled carrots, cut in 1" slices
1 cup peeled celery root, cut in 1" cubes (or 1 cup diced celery)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or parsley)

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a zip lock bag. Add the beef cubes, seal the bag, and shake to coat the meat with the spices. Set aside, or store in the fridge until you're ready to cook.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned beef and the onion. Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes or until browned. Add the garlic, stir and and cook 1 minute. Stir in the broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil, and cook 5 minutes. Add the squash, parsnips, carrots and celery root. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.

This is good served with couscous or bulgur, or with crusty French bread to dunk in the cooking juices.

8 servings (1 cup each)