Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Marinated Roast Chicken

I'm not all about chicken, unfortunately 4/5 of my house loves the silly bird.  So I had to learn to do chicken.  So I can eat it I take the approach load it with flavor, something other than KFCish and its good to go.

This chicken recipe is loosely based on a Barefoot Contessa recipe for chicken, turkey breast and from the Fresh & Easy Markets.  Simple rub is slipped under the skin and allowed to sit 30 minutes before you roast the beasts.  The rub makes enough for two chickens, I always do 2 as it leaves me another whole chicken for later in the week.

Marinated Chicken

2 4-5 lb roasting chickens

  • 2 t sea salt
  • 2 t whole pepper corns
  • 2 T butter at room temp
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 T lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 3 T chopped garlic divided.
  • 1 t dried rosemary (1 T fresh if you have it)
  • 1 t dried thyme (1T fresh if you have it)
  • 1 T Grey Poupon style mustard
  • 1 T whole grain mustard

  • 2 lemons, cut in half.
  • Salt and cracked black pepper.
  • 1 C white wine or lemonade (1/2 water/ 1/2 juice)
  • 1 can chicken stock

Rinse of chickens including the insides.  Remove any giblets or whatever else you find inside.

Combine butter, oil, vinegar, salt, peppercorns, herbs, 1T garlic and Grey Poupon into a mini-food prep and pulse until it blended and herbs are coarse chopped.  Fold in the whole grain mustard.

Carefully insert fingers under the skin and loosen under the breast and along the sides as much as possible.  Use care to not tear the skin as it will not yield a nice browned skin.

Season inside cavity of each chicken with salt and pepper.  Rub 1T garlic in each chicken cavity.  Insert 2 lemon halves into each cavity.

Place 1 heaping tablespoon marinade under each breast.  Massage the marinade under the skin and down the sides until evenly distributed.  Divide remaining marinade and rub all over the chickens.  Fold wings under.  Tie the legs together.  Insert your oven probe or a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh.  Place chickens on rack in roaster.  Add the lemon juice or white wine.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Place chicken in a 425F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350, use convect option if you have it.  If your oven has a probe set internal temp to 170F.  If no probe option then roast until temp is 170F about 60-75 minutes.  While roasting watch the pan drippings, add chicken stock if it begins to dry up too much, I usually use most of the can.  NOTE:Convect does speed up the roasting time, but more importantly it ensures even browning and nice crackly skin.

When chickens are done place on carving board and tent to allow juices to redistribute.  Skim off the fat from the pan drippings and use to make a gravy or reduce down for simple pan sauce.

The hardest part of this recipe is pulling the skin from the chicken to get the cavity needed without tearing the poor bird a new one.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Easy Coq au vin (chicken stewed in wine)

Coq au vin is literally rooster (cock) cooked in wine.  Its a classic French peasant dish that is oh so very tasty.  Of course when you use an old rooster, its all tough as it is an old bird.  My version is using regular store bought chicken parts that are generally from young birds.  The meat is infinitely more tender and as such doesn't need to soak in wine forever to marinate and break down the meat.

Of course I cheat even more by buying already whacked chicken parts at Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets.  I use both the chicken thigh and chicken breast.  Both bring different flavors to the dish more like you'd get with a whole chicken.  Also its damn easy which is a good thing in my book.

This version also is heavily influenced by Janna who asked about cooking with flavored salts on another post.  Yes, indeedy, I used my sel gris aux herbes in the marinade and did not regret it one bit.  Yowsa- its some good stuff there Maynard.

Easy Coq Au Vin

  • 1 2 lb package chicken breasts
  • 1 2 lb package de-boned chicken thighs
  • 2 c red wine (I used a shirah/cab blend from Callaway Crossing)
  • 2 t fresh cracked black pepper.
  • 2 t sel gris aux herbes (substitute herbs Provence and sea salt)
  • 2 T fresh garlic - chopped
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 T black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion halved then sliced
  • 1 stalk celery with tops (approx 1c chopped)
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 t +/- sel gris aux herbes to taste
  • 1 t fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 -2 14oz cans chicken broth

  • 8 oz cremini or similar small dark mushroom - halved
  • 1/2 c fresh chopped parsley

In large non-reactive bowl place one layer of chicken some of the sel gris, garlic and a couple of sprigs of thyme.  Repeat until all chicken is in the bowl.  Add the wine it should just cover the chicken.  Cover bowl with cling film and set in refrigerator to marinade at least 2 hours.

Pull chicken from marinade and pat dry on paper towels.  RESERVE MARINADE. 

Heat saucier over medium high heat.  Add extra virgin olive oil and heat til shimmering.   Dredge dried chicken pieces in the flour, knocking off the excess and sear all sides until nice deep brown.  You will need to do in batches so as not to crowd the pan in order to get a good sear instead of steaming.  As each batch is seared put on a platter until you are ready for them.

Add the onion, carrot and celery with a bit more oil if needed.  Cook 5- 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan as you go.  When onion is translucent add the reserved broth.  Cook and scrape the bottom of the pan until all the browned bits are removed.   Cook about 5 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half.  

Add reserved chicken.  Add enough chicken broth to just cover the chicken.  Cover and reduce heat to simmer at least 1 hour.  Or you may cover and put in 325 oven to simmer 1 hour.  Add mushrooms and simmer 15 minutes longer until cooked through.

Remove lid and stir in parsley, cook 1 minute.  Serve in bowl with mashed potato or boiled potato on the side.  

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sel Gris - grey sea salt en francais

Toss the iodized salt once and for all.  Sea salt has a wonderful flavor without a nasty metallic after taste.  I did so years ago and am glad I did.  The last year or so has been experimenting and tasting different salts.  The all are salty but some do a much better job of brining out the natural sweetness and depth of flavor in your food than others.

I first heard about "sel gris", literally "salt gray" in french several years ago as that is what chef Michael Chiarello uses, liberally.  His show "Napa Style" started out on FoodTV and now has moved over to the Fine Living Network.  Its good viewing though at times his parties in the vineyard are so far fetched for us regular folks.

I've sorta half-assedly look for the stuff and stumbled across a jar of "Sel Gris aux Herbes" at Surfas a while back.  (Literally Salt Gray with Herbs.)  I grabbed a jar a few weeks back and only recently decided to crack it open and wow...what a different level of flavor it brings.

I used it with some vegies I sauteed to put with some couscous.  The "Sel Gris" was tossed on the hot veg just before I added it to the cooked couscous and folded it in.  Wow.  Just plain old wow.  Yes you got little bits of salt that just exploded with herbal goodness and a "sweet" finish.

Next experiment is on some Sourdough bread I am baking at the moment.  

Doing a little research I found out that "Sel Gris" is actually a very healthy salt.  It gets it dark gray color due to the high mineral content in the salt.  Those trace minerals also are what we need in our diet.  Getting them naturally has to be way better for us than getting white salt that has been "iodized".  Am not an expert but that is my take on what I've read.  If I'm wrong then I may have kicked off a good urban legend.

If you can't find it locally you can always order your own stash at Surfas Online. will be allowed to use a good kosher salt for general baking, cooking and pickling, sea salts are way too expensive to use for the general stuff, they are a finishing salt.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sourdough...its what you had before packaged yeast

That bowl of puffy and bubbly stuff is not drek rather it is the humble beginnings of sourdough starter. Each feeding it gets more food and becomes increasingly bubbly and ready for bread. Not that white stuff at the market, but gloriously chewy porous and crusty sourdough bread.

Its the way bread was made before the invention of packaged yeast. Its the way bread has been made the last several centuries.

I got my starter from a friend who remembered I did a lot of sourdough cookery back years ago. I lost my starter in the Northridge Earthquake and could never get one going again and gave up. The starter I had was 20 years old at the time it croaked...over fermented, rotted if you will as we had no electricity for days and with the relative heat (80's during the day) it just went to hell. Bummer.

This starter has all the right odors and I think it will be perfect. I'll do a bread in the next day or so then move forward with pancakes, sticky rolls even a chocolate cake all made with sourdough in the coming weeks and months. Carb heaven here we come.

If you are daring there are two ways to get it started. Both are very dependant on the weather and natural yeast in the air. Once the yeast lands in the mix you will know in a couple of days if you have real sourdough starter or rotting mix. One is has the softly sweet back ground notes of fresh bread with a tart note as well. If its bad you will will smell like dirty socks, feet or fish. If you get any of those toss and start over.

Starter 1
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 c bottled water
  • 1 T sugar
  • additional flour, water and sugar if needed

Mix well. Place in uncovered bowl in cool place not in direct sunlight. Watch for a couple of days. As soon as you start seeing bubbles forming cover and move to fridge to allow it to grow. Feed every few days with 2 T flour, 2T water and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. On 4th day if it is all thick, full of large bubbles and smells right you have an active starter ready to begin its life as natural leavening for breads and all sorts of baking.

Starter 2
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 c nonfat milk
  • additional flour, water and sugar if needed

Mix well. Place in uncovered bowl in cool place not in direct sunlight. Watch for a couple of days. As soon as you start seeing bubbles forming cover and move to fridge to allow it to grow. Feed every few days with 2 T flour, 2T water and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. On 4th day if it is all thick, full of large bubbles and smells sweet with a slight yogurt air about it, you have an active starter ready to begin its life as natural leavening for breads and all sorts of baking.

Then again if all else fails, beg someone for a cup of their starter and they can get you going that way. Much easier than trying to catch the right yeast in the air and making your own from scratch.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


For starters a little pronunciation.  KLAW - foo - tee.  Clafoutis is a classic French dessert.  It is a very simple unleavened batter poured over the sauteed fruit and baked until fluffy.  Very light and extremely tasty.

Over Christmas we had a raging debate over dinner.  Mike B insisted that you are either a "London" person or a "Paris" person, you cannot like both cities.  I took the complete opposite.  I think you can love both cities and for different reasons.  The table soon divided into the two camps.  The debate was unresolved.  My mind wasn't changed, neither was his.  Good debate.

Not to slam the Brits as I can say I never had a bad meal while in London.  Paris is an eaters delight.  From Bistros to the funky immigrant restaurants the food is pretty amazing no matter where you go.  Their chocolate and hot chocolate is absolutely the best Think warm cream with chocolate melted in. Heavenly rich and sinful.  My first real clafoutis was there over such a hot chocolate in a little sidewalk cafe near our hotel and La Tour Eiffel.  

My recipe is culled from one we used for a neighborhood Iron Chef themed on Provence.  I dug it up for one of the gang who didn't know what to make.  It was a hit.  For mine I decided to up the ante and make it a clafoutis with attitude.  I learned long ago if you want something to be cherry-er you add almond extract.  The two share similar flavinoids and it just boosts the cherry to a more intense flavor.  The other bit I added was the cherry brandy...makes the caramel very cherry with just a nice hint of brandy.  

Note to self.  Next time I make it just get frozen dark sweet cherrys and skip the whole pitting of the fresh.  Its a lot of work and your fruit get's butchered.  Doesn't affect taste but presentation its not so nice to see hacked up fruit.  The recipe:

  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
  • 1/4 t almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon (13 grams) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated white sugar
1 T Cherry Brandy

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven.  
Wash the cherries, remove the stems and pits. 

For the Clafoutis Batter:  In mix bowl place all the batter ingredients.  Beat for about 45 - 60 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Once the batter is completely smooth, let it rest while you prepare the fruit. 

In a large 9- or 10- inch heavy (nonstick if you have one) ovenproof skillet melt the butter over medium heat making sure the melted butter coats the bottom and sides of the pan.  When the butter is bubbling, add the pitted cherries, and cook until the cherries have softened a bit and are coated with butter (2 - 3 minutes).  Then sprinkle the cherries with the sugar and cook until the sugar has dissolved and turns into a syrup (1 - 2 minutes). Remove pan from flame and stir in cherry brandy.

Pour the batter over the cherries and bake for about 20 minutes or until the clafoutis is puffed, set, and golden brown around the edges.   Do not open the oven door until the end of the baking time or it may collapse.  Serve immediately with a dusting of confectioners sugar or whipped cream.
The resting is important as it allows the glutens to relax and lets the batter puff while baking.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sweet n' Savory Hot Pickles

I'm not sure where it came about that I liked pickles. I can't remember even what age I started eating them.  To this day my kids won't touch pickles.  I love 'em, dill, sweet, sour, hot and it doesn't even matter what the veg is in there with the cucumbers.  For me its all good.

I do remember my Grandma Jasovec made all sorts of cucumbers.  The one that stands out in my mind the most are the "watermelon pickles" she made every summer.  The rinds were saved and trimmed then canned in a sweet clovey brine that I just loved.

I do remember my Mom's friend Kay Ropelle used to have tons of cucumbers and every summer they would spend a couple of days slicing them with onions and stuff for "Bread and Butter" pickles, but damn that is a  lot of work and the store bought are just as good.

I got a wild hair a couple of years ago for fresh dill pickles and decided to learn how to make them.  I can't even say for certain where I got the bright idea to steer off the recipe and add a jalapeno or two every jar to make them "hot dill pickles" but I did it anyway.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  Turned out nicely if I say so myself.

This recipe takes some inspiration from the Watermelon pickle and the hot dill pickle.  Don't let the name fool you, the heat is extremely subtle, more of a slight warmth and tingle in your mouth.  The clove and other spices are subtle against the very light sweetness.  What you get is the veg flavors coming through with the rest just a nice back ground.  Tried them at breakfast and could have had the whole jar.  I think I did pretty good on this one.

Sweet n' Savory Hot Pickles
  • 36-40 small cucumbers
  • 1/2 non-iodized salt
  • 2-3 cups ice cubes
  • 6-8 1/2 pint canning jars with lids. - washed and sterilized.

  • 3 c water
  • 2 c vinegar
  • 1/4 c salt
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 T Pickling spices
  • 1 t celery seed
  • 1 t red pepper flakes

Remaining pickle items
  • 1 1/2 large red bell peppers
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • mustard seed
  • whole cloves

Trim cucumbers at least 1/4" from each end so they fit into jars within approx 1/2" of the jar top.  Slice cukes in half lengthwise.  Layer 1/2 cukes in colander and cover with half of the salt.  Repeat.  Place colander in a larger bowl. Layer with ice, cover entire package with aluminum foil.  Refrigerate over night (at least 12 hours).

At end of the refrigeration period rinse cukes well.  Leave in colander. Put a plate on top of the rinsed and layered cucumbers.  Add a weight such as a large bowl of water or a brick on top of the plate.  Let it drain and squeeze out the water for 1/2 hour.

Combine brine ingredients in a non-reactive pan and bring to a boil.  Simmer covered 15 minutes.

While brine is simmering prepare the remaining pickling items. Trim ends of the bell peppers to fit into jars within approx 1/2" of the jar top.  Cut it into 1/4" inch strips. Remove paper from onion.  Trim off enough of the blossom end to fit into jars within approx 1/2" of the jar top.  Cut just enough for the root end to remove roots but leave enough so onion won't fall apart when cut into wedges. Cut onion into 1/2-3/4" wide wedges (about 16 wedges.

Divide cukes, pepper and onions to fit into the jars.  Bundle loosely in your hand and pack into the jars.  To each jar add 3 cloves whole cloves and 1 teaspoon mustard seed.  Ladle the hot brine into each jar.  (You will pick up some of the pickling spices which is fine, just be careful to not overload the jars with that mix).  The brine needs to be added until the veggies are just covered and within 1/2" of the top of the jar.  Clean rims and add the lids and seal tightly.

Bring large pot of water with canning rack to a boil. Process the jars in a hot water bath up to about 1/4/1/2 inch of the top.  When water is back to a gentle boil start timer for a 10 minute water processing.  At end of time remove jars, wipe down and re-tighten each of the rings.  Cool at room temperature and allow them to sit 1 week before using to allow all flavors to meld and pickling to be completed.

It pays to be uniform length in advance and have it all set mis en place ready to pack the jars.  The prep goes fast and can be done while the brine simmers.
Pack the jars tight enough so they don't float and wiggle about, but not so tight that the brine can't get into and around all of the vegies.
Bring the water for the bath to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Just at the level of the band is perfect. Boil gently so the jars don't bounce on the rack or into each other.  There is nothing worse than a jar hitting another and it all breaking making a giant mess in the canning pot.
Of course the absolute hardest part is waiting for the pickles to sit a week before sampling.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

This is one of those OMG it is so f'ing good things.  The entire tray was devoured in minutes during the Super Bowl.  I have to admit the idea for Roasted Shrimp Cocktail got its start from a recipe from Ina Garten on Barefoot Contessa.  However, I know that her version was a bit plain.  My Mike likes his shrimp without sauce but still with some flavor.  I do to sometimes, though a good horseradish laden sauce like the one from Heinz works out fine.

To make the basic recipe mine I opted to add some lemon juice for the citrusy acid bite, a little crushed red pepper for some subtle heat and thyme to enhance the lemony notes and give it a little fresh green flavor.  Either way its tasty and is even better washed down with a good cold beer or a newish red that can handle the heat of the crushed red pepper.

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

For the shrimp: 
3 pounds (12 to 15-count) shrimp 
2 tablespoon good olive oil 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon freshly finely ground black pepper
1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1 T loosely packed fresh thyme 
Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
Peel and devein the shrimp. Place them in a bowl.  Add olive oil, salt,lemon juice, thyme and peppers.  Toss until well coated. Spread them in 1 layer on a sheet pan. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes, just until pink and firm and cooked through. Set aside to cool. 

What ever you do don't toss out the shells and tails.  Add them to 2 qts hot water with celery, an onion and 2T Old Bay and you have a terrific Shrimp stock for "Shrimp Chowder" which is on the menu with fresh hot bread this weekend as it is supposed to rain here in LA.