Monday, March 23, 2009

Roast Chicken

Sorry for my absence! So VERY crazy. I went out to dinner last week and contracted the worst malady a food blogger could imagine....Food POISONING. Struck down by the very thing I love. Add to that the virus my home PC now has developed....I have just been unable to post for the last week or so! Lucky for you I had some photos saved on my work PC that I could post from -- in the event that I can never retrieve the photo files from my home computer....

Anyhow, this is Sunday dinner from a few weeks ago. Roast Chicken.
My whole family is Portuguese. Our favorite way to cook anything is to roast it. Its so easy. At its simplest, just drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika, and bake until golden and delicious.

Here is the naked can also see the chopped up carrots underneath the rack -- there were also onions and garlic down there. Once I take the bird out of its packaging I like to give it a little bath and rinse it inside and out....take out the gizzards and neck, and then dry it off with some paper towel.
Next I chopped up some herbs and flavorings. Here we have some Thyme, Rosemary, some slices of lemon and cloves of garlic. I salt and peppered the inside of the cavity of the bird...then put some herbs, lemon slices, and garlic inside.

I gave the chicken a little olive oil massage, then covered it generously with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest and paprika (helps get a brown skin)

I then roasted the bird at 400 until the juices in the thigh ran clear. I gotta say though, this did take a lot longer than it usually does. We had a couple false alarms when we thought the chicken was done but it was not....

The finished product is definitely worth waiting for. If any part of the bird starts to get too brown before the meat is cooked through, just cover that piece with a little aluminum foil to keep it from burning. We ate the chicken with mashed potatoes and salad.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Louisiana Gumbo

As mentioned in my earlier post (mushroom soup: one of my favorite soups is my mother's Louisiana Gumbo:My love of cooking definitely stems from my mother's great skills in the kitchen. Some of my earliest memories in the kitchen are with mom. I can remember scrambling eggs, shaping meatballs, and taste-testing (the best part) from a very early age. A lot of my initial technique and skills come from things that she has taught me, and some of my best recipes are adaptations of dishes that she used to cook for the family.

She has been very gracious to share her recipe for Louisiana gumbo - it comes from a cookbook compiled at her workplace.

Here are a few of mom's notes about the recipe:

Although this may not be authentic gumbo as originated in New Orleans - it is delicious and can be frozen. The recipe was given to me by a past chef for our cafeteria. His soup was a big hit with all our employees. The only ingredient I do not use is the Cajun seasoning - since I do not have any and never remember to purchase this seasoning. This soup is very hearty and especially good with ciabatta bread, sliced thin, buttered on one side and lightly broiled. ENJOY!!!!

Louisiana Gumbo

8oz cooked rice
3oz margarine
12oz Andouille Sausage
10oz onions diced
10oz green peppers, diced
8oz celery diced
1oz garlic, minced
3oz flour
2 1/2 Quart water
3oz chicken base or 3 bouillon cubes
1 Tbs hot pepper sauce
Cayenne Pepper to taste
Cajun seasoning to taste
12oz shrimp
12oz chicken, cooked
12oz okra, drained
15oz stewed tomatoes

In large pan melt butter. Add sausage, onion, peppers, celery and garlic. Cook 10 minutes until sausage is cooked through. Blend in flour. Cook on low for three minutes stirring constantly. Add water, base and seasonings. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add shrimp, chicken, rice, and okra. Cook for another 10 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

I can't say it enough - the soup is delicious - so make a big batch!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Whole Grain Bread

I got several cookbooks for my birthday. I've been slowly trying out new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. One thing I rarely do is bake. Even rarer than that is bread baking. Before trying this recipe, I had made bread with yeast 2 other times....once when I was 12 and my grandmother insisted that I learn how to make the portuguese bread fular, otherwise the 'family secret' of 1 lb of butter would die with her....and one time when I made foccacia bread and decided it was WAY to much work to do and much easier to just buy it from a store.

These past experiences (the fular situation was a day long endeavor), made me think that bread baking should be left to grandma's who don't work, and bakers whose sole livelihood was the cultivation of crispy crusts and tender insides. That's where Mark Bittman (Food Matters) comes in. His no-work whole grain bread was immediately interesting to me. No work? could this compete with the 'no-work' of picking a loaf from Trader Joe's artisanal bread selection?

Well, yes, I think so. All I had to do was mix the flour, yeast, and water in a large bowl while I was drinking my morning coffee...(sorry, you get no measurements from me. Buy Bittman's book, its worth it for this recipe - and several others...and I don't want him to sue me for copyright infringement).

I covered the bowl with plastic wrap, got ready for work, and left the house....I came home about 12 hours later to a bowl full of bubbling goo. Next step? move the goo to an oiled loaf pan, sprinkle the top with oil and cornmeal....cover and leave it alone for another hour. After 1-2 hours...bake. And here's the result.

Look at that crumb, and crust! Bittman was NOT kidding. I think i spent a total of 10 minutes of active time putting this whole loaf together...and I'm including the cleaning of the bowl.
Now, this will not replace all of my bread needs. Because of the texture of the dough, you can only really make a loaf out of it. It's definitely whole grain, a little dense, but its very good for toast and sandwiches. I bet it makes great croutons too. For the amount of work (or lack thereof) it will definitely continue to make an appearance in my kitchen.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mushroom Bisque and Gumbo

This recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. It is for a vegetarian mushroom bisque. This bisque is pretty unique in that it is made creamy not with cream, but by a combination of milk (skim in fact) and softened boiled potatoes.

This recipe starts as any good recipe should... with chopped onions and celery...and a little minced garlic (not shown).

The recipe calls for 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of mushrooms. I couldn't for the life of me figure out the conversions....or I couldn't bother to look them up, I just figured, the more the better. I used a combo of white button and creminis.

This is a picture of the mushroom mixture as it is being sauteed and sweated with the aromatics. After this is complete (along with adding some additional herbs/spices, a hefty dose of salt and some sherry). It is blended to a smooth bisque.

It became my lunch for the week - here it is ready for the lunchbag topped with some fresh snipped chives.

Expect to see more and more soups. Soup is by far one of my favorite foods - specifically for lunch - and especially in these cold Boston winters. When I was in kindergarten (half day back then). I would eat lunch at my grandmother's house...Every day I ate the same thing: chicken tortellini soup. It was the angie's brand that came from the freezer. My family was certain that I would get sick of soup - spefically that I would grow out of the tortellini phase. But if I were served some tortellini soup this very minute, I would eat it with gusto. Luckily, I did eventually develop a little more sophisticated palate.
Here is a picture of my most recent favorite soup. It's my mothers chicken gumbo soup. Chicken, andouille sausage, peppers, onions, rice...and lots of other delicious things...its savory and spicy. She got the recipe from a compilation cookbook made where she works. I'll see if she'll let me blog the recipe. I figured I could persuace her better if I gave her a shout-out on here. . .