Thursday, April 29, 2010

Roast (5Hour) Chicken in the middle of the week

IF you are going to roast a chicken on a Thursday in April in Texas, you may as well roast two of them. You also might as well do this roast chicken because it's cooked at 250 which hardly heats up a kitchen at all, even though it roasts for 5 hours.

This is one of my favourite 'go to' chicken dinners. Luckily, it's Connor's too! He is writing his 5th Grade TAKS (don't EVEN get me started!) test and when I suggested we go for a treat afterwards he grinned from ear to ear and leaned forward in the car - can we have roast chicken, mashed potatoes and minty peas for dinner?

You gotta love the 10 yr old (sorry, 11 in 3 days) who would rather get excited at the prospect of a homemade roast chicken dinner instead of a jaunt to the local ice cream store or local restaurant even. His wife may end up hating me but for now, I'm happy happy happy with his choices.

I take a chicken (or in this case, 2) and dig out their innards. I love disemboweling chickens and every time I do, I think of my friend who literally shudders at the thought. I keep saying I'm going to go and do an exhibition disemboweling, I need to get on that.

I need to interrupt and say the size of the bird really doesn't matter, these are 4lb'ers but it works with 3 and it works for 5. I've done as large as 6lbs with this method and it was delicious. Just get your standard .88/lb HEB roasting chicken and you'll be fine.

In any event, I don't rinse but I do pour out bloody juices, and season heavily with salt and pepper inside. I dig out the neck (today I got 3 necks for 2 chickens?! go figure, sometimes I just don't want to know) I yank the hunk of fat inside and dump it all in a bowl for using in a little bit. Nothing gets tossed at my house. I lop off the little nubby end of the drumsticks. There are tendons in there that when the bird is completely cooked you can see much clearer and they just slip out. It's a little trick with turkey too. The nubs are tossed into the bowl'o'bits. I dry the birds and season !!liberally!! with whatever spices I have to have a hankering for.

I have half a lemon in each one as well as half an onion. For the outside, today is kosher salt, cracked black pepper, poultry seasoning, tarragon, thyme and paprika. I drizzle with a little oil, just a little, and rub it all in well. You can do this point the night before, wrap the chicken well and pop it in the fridge. Put in the oven the next day and dinner's done!

Back to mine, the birds are on a rack because there's a load of liquid that comes out and I don't want them stewing in it. I chopped a couple small onions to put around, with skins on because it adds to the color of the broth/gravy.

I let them sit there while I get the rest of it organized. I have an enormous pot of peeled potatoes that'll mash later and now to the bowl of ick!

I take the fat I pulled out of the bird, melt it in a little pan and fry up all the bits of bone ends and innards...fry it till it's beautifully brown then toss in one carrot and one stalk of celery and fry that for a moment then cover with water and simmer for a really long time. A little pepper and salt and a bay leaf just helps it all along.

I simmer it for as long as I'm sitting in the general vicinity. Refill with water as it evaporates away and the smell of thanksgiving in your house will be fabulous on a Thursday morning.

It's 11:30 now so the birds are going in the bottom oven, set to 250. Do NOT OPEN THE DOOR until 4:45 under ANY circumstances. Trust me. The birds are going to be happy and we'll check later.

Dinner, done :) If you just wanted a salad with it, which is lovely, you don't have to do the giblets of course, skim the liquid that comes off these birds and use that in your vinaigrette is divine! Today though, is roast dinner with all the trimmings for kiddo so a light roast chicken and salad evening is out the window. (we may use bird 2 for that ;))


So I strained my stock, added my separated drippings...made a quick roux

I boiled the heck out of it for a bit and, it's rather good! The birds have rested and are much happier too

I mashed some potatoes, nuked the peas with some fresh sprigs of mint and it's sit down to a roast dinner mid week to celebrate the last elementary school test you have to take kiddo!

So, this is how my 10 yr old celebrates his final test day and I think it's a fine choice. Sure, it's 5 hour chicken but it's unattended hours and I think everyone should make it. It's tender, delicious, easy. The skin is crispy, flavorful and makes everyone happy.

Thanks for joining us for dinner but it's time for us to eat! I really hope you try it!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The movie made me do it! *chocolate cake*

Wednesday at 9am seems a perfect time to spend some quality time with one of my most beloved 'things' ... 'Big Red'.

I took the housewife day off yesterday and went to spend time with girlfriends. We watched a movie - midday - I felt like a rebel. We lay on the very comfy couches, barefeet snuggled in under overstuffed floral pillows. We ordered pizza, we giggled, we took turns holding the new baby one of the friends was sweet enough to have to satisfy the urges of the rest of us.

We all were enthralled with one specific thing in the movie. It wasn't the story, the plot or the stars, it was only mentioned twice but had a lasting effect on all of us in the room - a giant slab of homemade chocolate layer cake.

I got Connor to school, rushed home and threw a load in the washer, started the dishwasher. Multitasking! I ran through a shower and thought, wow, if I have so many things going simultaneously I'm obviously way ahead and, um, deserve a little somethin' somethin' with my coffee later. I gaze over to the coffee maker and lookie lookie who is looking back at me; G'mornin' Big Red, let's play:

In the raggedy old strainer I have that fits perfectly inside Big Red's bowl I dump in:

2 cups a/p flour
1 cup sugar
2tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup good cocoa

I shake sift it into the bowl (hey, does this count as a workout?) I dump in:

1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise (use real mayonnaise (salad dressing is NOT mayonnaise) oh and also use full fat - you're not allowed to make this if you don't!)
1 cup cold water
1 tsp vanilla (use the real stuff, if you use 'vanilla flavoring' don't speak to me!)

Beat like heck until it's batter - doesn't take long in Big Red. Prepare two pans (butter and flour), I use 9' pans because I like a balanced cake/icing ratio, if your cake is way too thick, the required amount of icing would make it all slide off :)

Put in 350F oven for 25 minutes, then we'll check for doneness, it may need a few mins more but not much

DING! - perfect, out to cool on racks

NO self respecting chocolate cake lives without icing, I don't care who you are, there's no good that comes from a naked cake. Seriously, how can anything that starts like THIS be bad?

Cream 1/2 cup soft butter
sift in 2 1/2 (heaping) icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3-1/2 milk (depending on how you like it)

beat like heck! it starts looking like nothing but then... yummmm

then... perfection!!! did i mention *yumm* ?

Ok, the cakes are cooling on racks and I'm sitting here waiting - do NOT ice a warm cake, do NOT ice a warm cake - ok ok, I'll wait

...there's really nothing to say is there

I have to be alone now - you have to go make this

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some container gardening, the new old fashioned way

I don't have a rosemary plant. I live in Texas and there are rosemary bushes EVERYWHERE. Giant ones, unattended 'we belong here' plants. I'm feeling a little left out. I also am one of the top worst gardeners in Texas, I'm pretty sure of that. I try though and that ought to count for something.

I have been doing the eco container gardening and am having great success with it. I used to do this sort of thing because I was a poverty stricken student, now it's cool and 'eco', who knew.

Today I'm making another pop bottle (I'm from up north so it's pop, soda for the rest of you!) garden to plant my rosemary seeds, WHEN it's a lush beautiful plant (I'm nothing if not confident) I'll transplant it outside and let nature have it. Until then, it'll be under my tender loving care.

My supplies: empty soda (ok ok have it your way) bottle, seed packet, cotton string, potting soil

Cut a piece of string about foot and a half long, take the cap off and dig a hole in the center, I used a old metal bottle opener to make a hole, it only needs to be big enough for you to thread your string through. I made a second smaller hole beside the big one for drainage and because two holes are always better than one.

Then I stripped my bottle and cut it 7 1/2 inches up from the bottom. Ultimately the top will sit inside the bottom upside down and you want a few inches of clearance.

Soak the string in water while you plant so the string has a 'water memory' and will wick up the water for you. After it's soaked, put the lid on and pull the string most of the way into the bottle, leave about 1/3 that'll dangle down into the water. I weave the string around the outside of the neck of the bottle then drop some potting soil in, then am sure some string is in the middle portion of the soil... then load her up to about an inch of the top. Sprinkle your seeds on, cover with a light coat of soil and give it a good water.

Pour enough water into the bottom portion of the bottle to come within an inch or so of the capped neck that you will sit in upside down. Put it in a sunny spot and wait... Watch that the top doesn't dry out, only a little watering is needed intially. After there's some roots going, there's no need to water it directly at all, just check the string is always sitting in water underneath it and you're good!! It's a self-watering, self-babysitting system.

I'll update it's progress in a week, happy recycle gardening!

While I'm here, I'll show you some of the other recycled container gardens that are going gangbusters in my laundry room window!

Thyme and Basil (12 days old) These are planted in the plastic 'clamshell' containers from the grocery store. I cut the top off the bottom, knifed a few holes in the bottom and used the lid as the saucer underneath it. These work great and you can reuse them. They are easy to transplant out of because they're shallow and flexible. A quick rinse and you can reload which is great because I'm bad for snacking on shoots.

Eggshell container - I saved my eggshells, rinsed them out and put a little soil in each one and one pea seed (I love pea shoots most of all and eat them as quickly as they sprout up - delish in an egg salad sandwich instead of lettuce) These are about a 2 weeks old I am going to drop each eggshell in a larger container - each transplants. I may do another popbottle garden with one and see how it goes.

Find stuff around your house you don't want to go into the landfill, punch holes for drainage and plant stuff!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I try really really hard to think popcorn is health food

I'm home today and supposed to be doing other things but I don't want to. I'm also hungry which, as we well know, is not conducive to being productive or even terribly polite to telemarketers.

There are a couple things I have as my 'go to' when a snack attack happens. Popcorn is one of those things. I've been a diehard micropop girl for a while but when I was walking through Bed Bath & Beyond last year I spied the WhirlyPop. Wow, I thought, that's retro and I think I had one in college or maybe earlier.

Flashback to popcorn in a little bowl when I was a kid, sitting on a hard plastic kitchen chair, at the front screen door, watching thunderstorms. We had gigantic, all afternoon, thunderstorms when I was a kid and we always had a snack to watch them. I used to think my mother must have cared so deeply that we be exposed to the natural world in all her glory but now that I'm a mom and as I look back, it was mother nature's DSI and I'm sure mom appreciated the babysitter.

Back to my shopping trip, I had the requisite $5.00 coupon and it was on sale so Mr. WhirlyPop came home with me.

I find I get very righteous when I have the popcorn urge, still somewhere in the back of my head I am managing to convince myself it's either health food or NOT junk food or something, whatever, it makes me happy and damnit I've lived long enough AND an interesting enough life to justify this (and anything quite frankly but that's another day)

So, the whirlypop comes out on the counter, opens it's lid - waiting.
2Tablespoons of bland oil
1/2cup of any popcorn you happen to have around get dumped in, off heat

I give it a few slow handle cranks to mix it up and pop it on mostly high heat (my recipes are hideous I know but I never pay attention)

After a minute or two, you hear the popping and stand at the stove for a whole 2 minutes, cranking the handle (so you're actually COOKING and not just NUKING something) it's all about involvement and I feel terribly involved when I crank that handle. The popping will stop and you'll open the little door and LOOK what's waiting for you!!

It's hot and dry and steamy and crunchy and popcorny. I dump it into a pretty glass bowl because I really like the look of popcorn in glass for some reason.

I season with kosher salt and a drizzle of melty butter (yes, I nuke it so the micro doesn't feel completely abandoned) and dive in... it's corn and only really a drizzle of oil so it's GOT to be healthy...doesn't it?