Tag Archives: chicken

Chicken Three Ways

25 Mar
A threesome of chickens.

A threesome of chickens.

Wait. Before you think I’m dramatically changing the focus on this blog and have a sexual interest in poultry, let me explain…

Tonight I’m giving thanks for having some culinary skills. I think my life would be infinitely less rich if I didn’t know how to cook. I may not have won Top Chef (yet!), but I do know my way around a kitchen. I routinely surprise myself with the meals I can construct on the fly with random ingredients in my fridge.

The meal that prompted my most recent pat on the back was this: A chicken roasted from scratch (thank you, 40×40!) served with the most amazing roasted asparagus… then plucked and used to construct… white bean and sausage cassoulet… and garlic penne with chicken and asparagus. A week of meals, all created in less than an hour (if you ignore the hands-off cooking time).

Friends who are intimidated by the kitchen often ask how I learned. Here’s my answer: I had a good role model. My mom didn’t teach me to cook – or instruct me on specific recipes – but she has modeled a few things for me:

  1. Be curious. She often flips through cookbooks or magazines and earmarks pages for things she wants to try. She doesn’t always make them, but they add to her knowledge base.
  2. Don’t be intimidated. Cooking isn’t exactly a mystery when you’re driving off a recipe. Someone else is giving you explicit instructions – so as long as you can read and follow directions, you can basically cook anything. This might explain why – after being impressed by Chicken Divan at a “Brunch with Bach” (the gold standard for our community’s quarterly cultural events) – my Mom found a recipe and tried her hand at it. It rocked.
  3. Improvise. I don’t think I can open any of my mom’s cookbooks without finding recipes that include her handwritten notes of modifications she’s made – either based on what she had on hand, or the family’s preferences. I think her experimental notes would earn an approving nod from scientists.
  4. Take risks. I can’t remember the specific risks my mom took, but I DO remember the occasional meal hurled straight into our compost bucket – which tells me she was pushing her limit. It also makes me realize I’m doing something right when I spend four hours trying to create crunchy spiced nuts and then end up having to write-off an $8 bag of walnuts because it’s all stuck to my wooden spoon.
  5. Pay attention. You’ll start to realize what works well together – and develop your own library of what to combine when you need to add a pinch of something to get the flavor just right. This makes you confident and nimble – and able to create your own recipes.
  6. Love food. If you enjoy eating, cooking isn’t a chore – it’s an adventure.

So that’s my gratitude for the day – knowing how to cook, and having had a great role model to inspire me. Thanks, Mom!

Now if you’re interested in the most amazing asparagus ever, comment and I’ll share it. Warning: It involves a wee bit copious amounts of bacon butter.

Image Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35dv15

Did someone call me chicken?

7 Jan

Image Source: http://www.disneymike.com/blog/whole_chicken.jpg

Since everyone just made New Year’s Resolutions and is constantly posting about their progress on Facebook (good job – you joined a gym!) I’m going to share a progress update from MY mini-bucket list for the year, which I kicked off on my birthday back in October.

One of the items was to roast a whole chicken. I know, especially for someone who cooks as much (and I’d like to think as well) as I do, roasting a bird should be old hat. Yet despite the fact that I routinely make roasts, when I made my list I had never dealt with an entire bird.

Two reasons: CAVITY and GIBLETS.

Just thinking about a chicken’s “cavity” reminds me of the metaphor Chris Farley trotted out in Tommy Boy: I can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take a butcher’s word for it.

You understand now, right?

Image Source: Maxine from HallmarkSomething about watching my hand disappear into a chicken, unsure if “giblets” await, makes me a bit queasy. Maybe I’d be more comfortable with a turkey, where I could open that sucker up and get a good look before losing my elbow to it?

And the word GIBLETS? That just implies that you aren’t even dealing with real anatomical parts – it’s more like a bag of mystery parts that have no real anatomical names. As in: This grab-bag contains one ovary, half a liver, four inches of intestines, a spleen-ish looking item and what might be a fallopian tube.

Now that I think about it, maybe I’m scarred from the Thanksgiving when I was in college and the house of guys living next door to us invited my roommates and me over for dinner. The meal itself was great, but I still remember opening our back door that morning to find what we thought was a severed penis on our stoop. (It was during the height of Lorena Bobbitt and in my defense, none of us knew what a turkey neck looked like.)

In any case, I bit the bullet and decided to make a chicken for our New Year’s Eve dinner this year. I thought it would be nice to ring in the year with one more item crossed off my bucket list. As it turns out, I got lucky with the bird – it was organic and the giblets were already removed so the cavity was as clean and smooth and vacant as the Capitol Rotunda on Christmas Day.

That hurdle crossed, I got to the fun part: seasoning the bird. The Thanksgiving turkey that my friend Lisa had made was so addictive that I decided to take a page from her book and prep my chicken with bacon butter.

Here’s the recipe if you want to make chicken that’s like crack. In a food processor, combine until it’s a smooth paste:

    • Fresh thyme
    • Fresh rosemary
    • Fresh sage
    • 3 cloves of garlic
    • Cooked bacon (I used six strips of center-cut)
    • 3 T. Butter (room temp)

Anywhere I could work the skin loose, I slid in a thin layer of this butter. Then I rubbed the entire outside with it before salting and peppering. I stuck half a lemon and a whole bulb of garlic in the (once-scary but now benign) cavity, then criss-crossed the legs and tied them in place like a proper lady to make sure nothing slid out during the roasting. Then I stuck the whole thing on a roasting rack on top of sliced onions.

While it was cooking, I made myself a toasted roll – and spread it with bacon butter. Then I made mashed potatoes – and added some bacon butter. And when it came time to sauté the green beans? You guessed it.

Basically, the entire meal was an ode to bacon butter.

I wish I would’ve taken a photo of the final result for this post because it did Norman Rockwell proud. I mean, that bird was golden and glowing and tasted as fantastic as it looked. I just can’t believe it took me almost half a lifetime to attempt it.

Now if only I can find a restaurant that makes bacon butter sushi…