Category Archives: dinner

Sautéed White Fish with Red Curry Coconut Sauce

not my prettiest plating. if you care, i'm sure you can do better

Fighting Frozen Fish Apathy

I got into sort of rut with frozen fish filets. Melt some butter in a skillet, toss in a few cloves of minced garlic, season the fish with salt and pepper and maybe a dusting of flour and some dill or curry powder or Old Bay, cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, and voila: dinner. Practically instant, and usually at least moderately tasty. But so boring.

So boring that at least once in recent memory, I let a package of filets go to waste. For the first few days after I’d pulled them out of the freezer, I could tell myself they might still be partially frozen. And I think there was something else in the refrigerator in more eminent danger of spoiling. And then I might have ended up eating dinner out once or twice. And I might have had one of those days when I ordered take out because taking even five minutes to put a piece of fish in a pan and flip it once while nuking some peas seemed too onerous. So the fish entered this sad limbo state where it might have still been edible and I didn’t really want to throw it away, but I also wasn’t particularly excited about opening up the package in case it wasn’t. Which made it all too easy to just ignore it for a few more days until it had reached an even sadder state where I was pretty sure  it wasn’t edible and I didn’t really even need to open the package to find out. Wasteful, profligate, shameful, I know. Lots of people don’t have enough to eat and people like me use far more than our share of resources.

not actually a cheese sauce, even though it sort of looks like oneAnyhow, this recipe isn’t going to solve world hunger or save the environment, but it managed to keep me from wasting another package of fish that was probably a day away from limbo. The sauce only takes a few minutes to throw together and reduces while you cook the fish, and it’s decidedly un-boring: velvety coconut milk infused with the classic combination of garlic and ginger, a little funk from the fish sauce, acid from the lime, mild heat from the curry paste, and bright cilantro to finish. If you wanted it spicier, you could double or triple the curry paste or use green instead of red. Including the Brussels sprouts, which I halved and braised for about 10 minutes in a cup of water, the whole meal took about 30 minutes from start to finish.

Recipe: Sautéed White Fish with Red Curry Coconut Sauce (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated cookbook)

2-4 servings (each 6-8 oz fish)

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lbs boneless, skinless white fish filets—cod, tilapia, whitefish, catfish, etc.
  • 2 Tablespoons fat—butter, bacon drippings, oil, etc.
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (optional)

Sauce: 

  • 1 Tablespoon fat ginger, garlic, brown sugar, curry paste
  • a small knob of fresh ginger (about 2 teaspoons minced)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2-4 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • juice of half a lime (about 1 1/2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper

Method:

1. Heat 1 Tablespoon of fat in a small saucepan while you mince the ginger and garlic. Add them to the oil along with the curry paste and brown sugar and cook for about a minute

2. Add the coconut milk, water, lime juice, and fish sauce and simmer over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until reduced to about a cup.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of fat in a large skillet and season the fish filets with salt and pepper. Let the fish sit for a minute, until it starts to glisten and then dust with flour, if using.

4. Cook the fish in a single layer in the skillet, 2-3 minutes on each side for thin filets (1/4-1/2” thick),  3-5 minutes for thicker filets (1/2”+).

5. Add the cilantro to the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve filets with sauce and lime wedges.

my flipping was maybe just a tad bit messy

Quick Spring Dinner: Stir-fried Noodles with Ramps & Eggs

and roasted cauliflower and fish cake (aka surimi aka imitation crab)

This is the kind of quick, simple cooking I rarely blog about because it doesn’t involve any advance research and usually happens at the end of a busy day when I’m too hungry to bother with pictures. But I was excited about my first ramps of the season and pleased enough with how the meal turned out that I decided this might be worth sharing.

Ramps are wild onions (or leeks) that grow across North America from South Carolina to Quebec in the early spring. Like morels, they’ve acquired a special status in part because they’re generally perceived as tasty and in part because they aren’t cultivated commercially, and thus can be difficult to come by. Unless, of course, you know how to forage for them, which is especially common in Appalachia and the Great Smoky Mountains. All of which gives ramps a sort of split personality: they’re prized by fancy urban restaurants because they’re the epitome of the “fresh, local, seasonal” aesthetic—they’re only available for a short time every year and too delicate to transport far or store for very long. But they’re wild and free and used extensively in some of the poorest regions of the country, where their short growing season is celebrated at the kinds of middle America heritage festivals whose attractions might include an RV rally or an outhouse race.

two bunches, $4 at Eastern Market in Detroit

If you happen to get your hands on some, you can use them the way you’d use any green/spring onion. Unlike commercially-cultivated leeks, their green tops are tender enough to eat. I decided to  freeze the ones from these bunches for the next time I make stock because I love the flavor of leeks in soup.

As for the rest, I minced the white parts of the ramps to sauté in bacon fat along with some garlic and ginger while boiling a few handfuls of udon noodles. Spaghetti would have worked, too. I left the slender burgundy stalks whole and added them in later, once the garlic and white parts had started to soften.

kind of similar to how I might cook garlic scapes

Then I tossed in some chopped, roasted cauliflower left over from dinner a few nights earlier, and when the noodles were done, I drained them and added them to the frying pan along with a splash of soy sauce. Meanwhile, I threw a couple of eggs in the same pot I cooked the noodles in and let them boil for 5 minutes (so the yolks would still be just a little custardy in the middle) while I stirred the noodles until they were evenly coated. Added a package of fish cake and stirred some more, just until that was heated through—if I wanted to get fancy, I might have used a can of real crab instead. I'm really not sure if this is more Chez Panisse or RV Rally. Maybe somewhere in between?

Garnished with the eggs and some chives from a friend’s garden, as seen above. Kind of like a cross between Vietnamese garlic noodles and udon soup—the noodles were studded with bits of the sautéed ramps & other vegetables, full of funky garlicky flavor, with slightly-sweet bits of fish cake and the creamy semi-hard boiled eggs. In retrospect, some kind of bitter greens would have made a nice addition, but it was pretty delicious as is.

Sauerkraut-braised Kielbasa with Cabbage and Potatoes

the cabbage & potatoes alone wouldn't be a terrible meal, either, especially with a hunk of brown bread and butter 

My friend Voxphoto gave me some tasty homemade sauerkraut, which reminded me of the kielbasa appetizer recipe from Sarita Ciatti that we included in the wedding cookbook. The only two ingredients in the appetizer are kielbasa and sauerkraut—you slice the kielbasa thinly, fry it until it’s crisp, refrigerate it overnight, and then spread it in a pan on top of a bunch of drained, rinsed sauerkraut and bake it until the whole mess gets sweet and tender and starts caramelizing around the edges. So. Good.

before the sauerkraut softens and sweetens and the beer cooks down

But I’m not entertaining much these days. Not really cooking much either. Working 60+ hours a week will do that to you. So I decided to look for something similar that would be a little less “party” and a little more “something resembling a meal you can make a lot of on Sunday and eat all week.”

Combining elements from half a dozen other recipes, this is what I came up with—it’s basically a stovetop version of the appetizer served alongside stewed cabbage and potatoes. The kielbasa got some beer and brown sugar and the cabbage stew also has carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, some herbs and mushroom bouillon. All of that is probably optional, but if you’re only going to cook once a week, might as well pull out the bay leaves, right?

Turned out pretty tasty, and pretty cheap, too, even if you don’t get your sauerkraut for free.

after, see all those caramelly brown sauerkraut bits?

Recipe: Sauerkraut-braised Kielbasa with Cabbage and Potatoes

  • the non-kielbasa part1-2 lbs kielbasa 
  • 1 cup sauerkraut (rinsed if you prefer to minimize the sourness)
  • 1 cup beer, wine, or cider (I used Bell’s Christmas Ale, the only sign of the holidays I don’t resent seeing before Thanksgiving)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar (preferably brown)
  • 1-2 Tablespoons butter, rendered bacon fat, or neutral cooking oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion
  • about half a head of cabbage
  • 1/4 lb. carrots
  • 2 pounds of waxy potatoes
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves or 1 tsp. rubbed
  • ~4 cups water, stock, and/or bouillon (you could also add an ounce of dried porcinis soaked in hot water and minced, along with the water)
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Slice the kielbasa thinly and fry in a single layer in a skillet until brown and crispy around the edges. (This is the first and key step in the appetizer version. The next steps: refrigerate the kielbasa overnight, rinse a 12 oz. can of sauerkraut and spread it on the bottom of a casserole dish. Put the refrigerated kielbasa on top of the sauerkraut and bake for about an hour at 350F. Unbelievably delicious, and I could eat a bowl of it like a meal so I’m not 100% sure why I thought the rest of this was necessary, but anyhow:)

2. Add enough sauerkraut to cover pan in a thin layer and about a cup of beer, wine, or cider (alcoholic or not), 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar to cut the sourness, and turn the heat down low and braise for 1-2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, heat the fat in a large pot.

4. Roughly chop the onion, shred the cabbage, mince the garlic, and peel or scrub the potatoes and cut them into 2-3” chunks.

5. Sweat the onion and garlic in the fat until the translucent and starting to color.

6. Add the cabbage, potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, sage, water or stock and bouillon if using. something about a big pot of potatoes and cabbage feels very "peasant," even though who knows if any peasants ever ate anything like it and if they did, they definitely didn't boil it with mushroom bouillon all soft, but not dissolving.

7. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cook until tender (about an hour).

8. Keep an eye on the kielbasa and add more liquid if necessary to prevent it from burning.

9. When the cabbage and potatoes are tender, drain (if desired, or you could leave it kind of soupy) and add the salt and pepper.

10. Mix it all together. Or serve the braised kilebasa on top of the cabbage and potatoes.

Hello, Fall! Smoky Black Bean Soup

am i just confused about what a "hock" is? i thought it was a foot. there is no way this is a foot, unless the big is the size of an elephant.. Nearly 3 pounds of smoked ham hock!

Soup Swap, Hunter’s Widow Edition

I went to another gathering of the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers last weekend. Mother’s Kitchen had a half-empty house because her menfolk were off hunting, so she invited us over for a third annual MLFB soup swap, which is just like a cookie swap: everyone brings a pot of soup and some containers and takes a little bit of each kind home. Perfect timing—my freezer is now full of diverse, delicious meals ready to be reheated on a moment’s notice, which will definitely come in handy on busy, chilly nights this Fall when there’s too much going on to cook. Including a flavorful, creamy Roasted Tomato Soup from Fruitcake or Nuts and nourishing, zesty White Chicken Chili from Mother’s Kitchen.

that's 2.81 lbs.My contribution was a smoky black bean soup, inspired by the gigantic ham hocks I got from Ernst  Farms. I bought two of them sight-unseen through Lunasa, a bimonthly Market Day-style order & pickup system for Ann Arbor-area farms, expecting them to be roughly the size of my fist like the ones I typically see at the grocery store. Instead, they’re the size of my head. And then, remembering that TeacherPatti doesn’t eat pork, I picked up some smoked turkey necks to make a pig-free version (and she didn’t even show up! The nerve!). The pork and turkey versions turned out remarkably similar. I imagine any smoked meat product would work. You could probably even do a passable vegan version with pimenton and/or liquid smoke.

Bean Basics I: Taming the Magical Fruit

Some people claim that the foam that rises to the top of a pot of simmering beans is connected to the gas many people get after eating them, and that skimming it off will prevent or reduce that effect. Not true. The reason beans make people fart is because of the indigestible carbohydrates—mostly oligosaccharides—that pass through most of the human GI system intact and then get devoured by bacteria in our lower intestine, causing a sudden spike in gas production. The foam in the pot, on the other hand, is produced by water-soluble proteins that trap air bubbles as they rise to the surface of the water. You can skim it if it bothers you, but it won’t affect how flatulent the soup is, or how it tastes or looks.

that foam, it is non-flatulent.

Hock shoved mostly beneath the surface, this batch got one turkey neck too.

So how do you make beans less flatulent? There are basically two options: 1) soak them overnight and throw out the soaking liquid (along with lots of nutrients and flavor) or 2) cook them a long time, which breaks the oligosaccharides down into easier-to-digest sugars and starches. Various folk traditions also claim that adding a slice of ginger, a bay leaf, a piece of kombu seaweed, epazote, cumin, and/or fennel seeds to a pot of beans helps reduce gassiness too. I’ve also seen a few recipes that claim adding baking soda helps, but according to Harold McGee, all that does is decrease the cooking time, which works against flatulence-reduction (McGee 2004 [1984] : 486-9). Since it’s basic, it can also make the soup taste alkalai or soapy.

Bean Basics II: Keeping It Together

If you’re okay with your beans basically dissolving into mush, a long cooking time is no problem. But if you like your beans to retain a little structural integrity, you should add a little acid, sugar, and/or calcium. Again, McGee: 

Acids make the cell-wall hemicelluloses more stable and less dissolvable; sugar helps reinforce cell-wall structure and slows the swelling of the starch granules; and calcium cross-links and reinforces cell-wall pectins. So such ingredients as molasses—somewhat acid and rich in both sugar and and calcium—and acidic tomatoes can preserve bean structure during long cooking or reheating, as for example in baked beans (ibid., 488).

What you definitely shouldn’t add, at least before the beans are done cooking, is salt. Salt increases the cooking speed by reducing how much the starch in the beans swells as it cooks, which not only works against the slow-cooking flatulence-reduction strategy, it can also make the beans mealy instead of creamy. For most bean dishes, water, alcohol, or unsalted homemade stock make better cooking liquids than canned broth or bouillon. If you really want to use bouillon in a bean recipe, stir it in at the end.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Like most soups, this is less a recipe anyone should follow exactly than a set of general guidelines you can adapt based on what you have on hand. In general, for every pound of dried beans, you’ll probably want about one large onion, a half dozen cloves of garlic, a can or two of tomatoes (or the equivalent in fresh), a carrot or two, a bunch of hearty greens, a pound of smoked meat, and about 5 cups of cooking liquid.

not-quite mirepoix. how many great soups start off this way?

I might have added celery, too, if I’d had any.

As McGee notes, molasses is good for flavor and bean texture—at least a tablespoon per pound of beans. I’ll almost always throw in a few bay leaves. I don’t even know what kind of flavor they add, I just reflexively add them to long-simmering soups. Additionally, this time, I added oregano, allspice, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Plus a splash of dry sherry and a squish of lemon. Fresh cilantro at the very end, salt and pepper to taste.

I bet orange juice, ginger, and allspice would be a pretty tasty combination. Sweet potatoes or winter squash would work instead of (or in addition to) the carrots. A beer in place of some of the broth would have been good in place of the sherry. Fresh or frozen corn and/or bell peppers might be nice if you wanted more veggies. Some hot peppers if you like things really spicy. Leave out the meat if that’s not your thing (in which case, a little MSG or nutritional yeast and additional oil would make up for some of the umami flavor you get from the bones & fat & cartilage).

Serve it with sour cream or shredded/crumbled cheese, green onions, more cilantro or parsley, lemon or lime wedges, corn bread, tortilla chips, a hunk of crusty sourdough, or just by itself. 

This is what I ate while I watched SDSU completely fail to capitalize on Michigan's 3rd quarter meltdown Also a good nacho topping.

Recipe: Smoky Black Bean Soup (adapted kinda sorta from allrecipes and simplyrecipes)

Makes 6-8 servings, doubles or triples well

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Tablespoons neutral cooking oil or rendered bacon fat
  • 1 large onion
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes or 2-3 large raw tomatoes, diced
  • about one bunch of hearty cooking greens or 1/2 lb frozen spinach
  • 1 lb black beans, soaked for at least 6 hours
  • 5 cups of the soaking water, beer, wine, and/or low-salt stock
  • 1-2 lbs smoked bones with some meat on them—ham hocks, turkey neck, etc. OR 1 Tablespoon pimenton or liquid smoke to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • a hearty glug of dry sherry (2-3 Tablespoons?)
  • juice of one lemon (or lime, or a little vinegar, or a lot of orange juice)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • a handful of chopped cilantro, chopped
  • salt, pepper, and more lemon juice or vinegar to taste
  • optional garnishes: cheese, sour cream, chives, cilantro, hot sauce, lemon or lime wedges

Method:

1.  Heat the oil or bacon fat in a large pot while you dice the onion, mince the garlic, and slice the carrots, adding each one to the pot as you finish cutting.

2. Cook until the onions begin to take on some color, and then add everything except the cilantro, salt, pepper, and garnishes.

3. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat until the soup is just simmering and cook for 2-3 hours, or until the beans are cooked through and the meat is falling off the bones.

4. Remove the bones from the pot and let them cool for about 30 minutes (let the soup keep simmering). Remove the meat and chop it into bite-sized pieces or shred it between your fingers. Discard the skin and bone.

5. Add the cilantro, salt, pepper, and more lemon juice to taste.

meat removed, cooling; the other turkey necks from the kosher batch were on a separate cutting board--i take food avoidances seriously!That’s the hock on the right, totally falling apart after about 3 hours of simmering.

shredded turkey neck meat added back to the pot The meat from the turkey neck, shredded back into the pot

cilantro--obviously optional if you're a soap person The turkey neck version after seasoning to taste and adding the cilantro: ready to serve!

Bulgogi-esque Grilled Ribeye

This did smoke; use the exhaust fan if you have one.

Quick, Easy, Kind of Korean

It may be grilling season, but sometimes it still seems a little too time-consuming or wasteful to fire up the outdoor grill when you’re cooking for one or two people. For nights when I just want dinner to happen quickly, but I also want it to have char marks and smoke, I’m loving our new slab of cast iron. It’s smooth on one side—good for pancakes and eggs—and ribbed for your charring pleasure on the other, as you can see above.

I grabbed this recipe off Slashfood for something reminiscent of bulgogi. Standard Asian marinade—soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, sugar, black pepper, green onion. Hard to go wrong there. I might add some red pepper flakes next time. And then, instead of having a butcher cut the steak into thin strips or freezing and then cutting the steak, I just bought a 1-lb ribeye, marinated and grilled it whole and sliced it after resting.

the thinner end turned out about Medium the thicker end was Medium Rare, verging on Rare

I turned the burners up as high as they’d go about 10 minutes before cooking and cooked the steak for 5 minutes on each side, accompanied by thick slices of onion that had also been marinated. Then I rested the meat for 5 minutes before slicing it against the grain. We ate the meat and onions together, wrapped in romaine leaves with Sriracha. Totally inauthentic. Totally delicious.

I know--wrong kind of lettuce, wrong kind of hot sauce, wrong way to do the meat. Whatever, it tasted awesome.

Recipe: Bulgogi-ish Ribeye (adapted from Slashfood)

Ingredients

  • a steak or two—something like ribeye or flank steak (you probably want about 8 oz per person, scale up the marinade if cooking for more than 4 people)
  • one large white or yellow onion
  • optional garnishes: lettuce leaves, hot sauce, steamed rice and pickled things

For marinade:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • a thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • one green onion, minced
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, cayenne powder, or Sriracha (optional)

Method

1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients and pour the mixture into a zip-top bag or other container large enough to accommodate the meat. Slice the large onion thickly and place the steak and onion slices in the marinade. Toss and turn or shake to cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 8 hours or overnight.

2. Get your grill or broiler hot. Put the steak and onions on and let cook for 5 minutes. Turn both the steak and onion slices once and cook 5 minutes more on the other side. For a typical cut, that will turn out mostly medium rare (or, for uneven thickness, a range between medium and rare). Cook more or less if you like it more or less done. For thicker cuts, cook to 125 F in the middle for rare, 130 F for medium rare, 140 F for medium, 150 F for medium well, and 160 F for well). Or use the finger test.

3. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes, and then slice thinly against the grain.

4. Serve with garnishes.

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce: Good, cheap, and fast (yes you can have all three)

if you have bigger ramekins, you can bake 2 or even 4 per dish, though you may have to increase the cooking time  

Just another variation on baked eggs, which turns basic pantry staples into a main dish that works well for brunch and also makes for an easy weeknight meal. Perfect for the kind of day when you’re just too busy to make anything very elaborate (or write much of anything on your blog—although if you really want to read more about eggs, I got your eggs right here).

they were soft but not quite runny. also: no flash and forgot to correct for tungsten light.The key to getting the whites to set softly while the yolks stay runny is to let the eggs come to room temperature before baking them and then take them out of the oven a minute or two before they look “done” because they will continue to cook for a couple of minutes from the residual heat.

Of course, if you’re completely preoccupied or in a rush and forget to take the eggs out of the refrigerator before you make the tomato sauce and then forget to set an oven timer, both of which I did, the worst that can happen is you end up with cooked yolks. They’re still tasty, and the tomato sauce is almost as good for sopping up with bread alone as it would be muddled with warm, runny yolks.

Like most egg-based dishes, the possibilities are basically endless—you can certainly bake eggs without tomato sauce, which is often called “coddled” or “shirred” eggs, usually dotted with butter or cream and sprinkled with herbs before they go in the oven. I added some leftover spinach-artichoke dip to the tomato sauce, and that could have been a base for the eggs on its own if I’d had more of it. You can add some chopped up cooked meat (especially bacon or prosciutto), a smear of soft cheese, some cooked greens or pesto, or any kind of herbs you think sound tasty. I suspect that tarragon and gruyere would be a nice combination.

Toasted bread is almost compulsory, especially if you get the yolks right. If you have the time and ingredients, a green salad would be a nice accompaniment. But perhaps the best thing about baked eggs is that they basically feel like a complete meal all on their own. roughly 20 minutes after starting, all prepped and ready to go in the oven

Recipe: Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce (adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 T. oil or butter (plus a little more or some cream for dotting eggs before baking, if desired)
  • 15 oz. can diced or crushed tomato
  • 1 t. fresh thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley, and/or oregano
  • 4 eggs
  • a few pinches of salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 3-4 T. grated hard cheese like parmeggiano reggiano, romano or asiago
  • 1 shallot or ~1 T. minced onion (optional)
  • 1/4 cup leftover spinach artichoke dip or cooked greens or 1 T. tapenade or pesto (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2. Mince the garlic and shallot or onion, if using, and cook in the oil or butter until golden.   

3. Add the canned tomato and cook about 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced, breaking up the tomatoes a bit. Add the herbs and cooked greens and any other additions, if using.

just tomatoes and garlicplus the spinach artichoke dip and some herbs

4. Place the dishes on a baking sheet and divide the tomato sauce between them. For four 4-oz dishes: break one egg into each dish. 8-12 oz. dishes can hold 2 eggs each. Top with a sprinkle of salt, a little black pepper, more chopped herbs, and some grated cheese. Add a few dots of butter or dribble of cream, if desired.

a bed of savory, richly umami sauce and of course, while they're in the oven, you can tend to all the other things in your life that need tending

5. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until whites are just set. If doing 2 eggs/dish, they may take a few minutes longer.

almost like little individual savory custards, but without fussing with tempering or water baths or anything of that

Sourdough-risen No-knead Pizza Dough

with a spicy tomato sauce, bacon, cherry tomatoes, sauteed onions, and fontina cheese

Homemade Bread When There’s No Time to Make Bread

One of the perks of being in graduate school is that I basically work from home most days, so if I want to take a break in the middle of the afternoon to knead bagel dough until there’s enough gluten to make a baker’s windowpane, I usually can. But I know that’s a luxury not everyone has, and sometimes even I can’t seem to fit all that kneading in. As much as I might like to live by some sort of mantra like, “If I’m too busy to knead bread for 15 minutes, I’m too busy,” sometimes, like it or not, busy just happens.  

Ezekiel, just after being refreshed with 1 c. bread flour and 1 c. water, already bubblingHowever, I also have this yeast creature named Ezekiel, and if I don’t bake with him at least once every  two weeks (and preferably every week—keeps him more active), he will eventually suffocate in his own excrement. That may be one of the biggest deterrents for people who might otherwise be interested in creating and maintaining their own starters—even if you’re an avid baker, a sourdough starter represents a kind of commitment. Whether or not you’re type to get emotionally invested in your fermenting flour paste, the whole endeavor is likely to seem like a waste of time and food if you’re just going to end up killing the stupid thing in a month or two anyhow.

However, thanks to the no-knead method popularized by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Bakery and Mark Bittman of the NYTimes, the inevitability of weeks when you will be too busy to knead a loaf of bread shouldn’t stop anyone from having a starter. Honestly, no-knead bread is probably the only reason Ezekiel is still alive. There are some culinary justifications for the no-knead method too—if you don’t have to knead a dough, it can be stickier and that increased moisture content is one way of producing a crackling “artisan bread” crust. Also, the long, slow rise produces the big pockets of air and uneven crumb people have come to expect and desire from “rustic” breads like ciabatta. But the best part by far is being able to make homemade bread with about as much time and effort as it takes to boil an egg.*

I’ll post my sourdough-risen adaptation of the classic crusty Dutch Oven-baked boule everyone loves eventually. But I think the best testament to the versatility and ease of the no-knead method is no-knead pizza.

The Four Keys to Great Pizza Crust

1) Gluten 

Pizza is even more reliant on gluten than most yeast breads. Without a lot of gluten, the crust will tear before you can stretch it thin enough to be a crust instead of something more like focaccia. can be rolled thinner for a true thin crust, but then it won't get those big fat bubbles, which I loveLots of gluten is also what makes pizza crusts chewier than normal bread—usually, you want something closer in texture to a bagel than sandwich bread. Normally, you produce gluten by kneading the dough for a long time, but the no-knead method uses a very long rise instead, which facilitates gluten production without any effort on your part. Time basically does the kneading for you.

However, you do need to use a high-protein flour to give time the raw material to work with. If you substitute all-purpose flour, the crust will probably tear when you try to shape it. If you don’t want to buy bread flour because you’re afraid you’ll never 5 lbs of it, but you do have access to a “natural foods” store, you can use vital wheat gluten to increase the protein content of regular or low-gluten flour—whisk 1 T. vital wheat gluten per cup of all-purpose flour or 2 T. per cup of whole wheat or cake flour into the dry ingredients before combining them with the wet ingredients.

2) Olive Oil

The traditional no-knead dough recipe contains no fat at all, like a baguette dough, but pizza dough usually contains at least a little fat both for suppleness and for flavor. So instead of using Jim Lahey’s recipe for no-knead pizza dough, I use the “Olive Oil Dough Master Version” from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, adapted to work with my 100% hydration sourdough starter (a 1:1 combination of flour and water by volume). Any kind of oil will work, but I think my favorite thing about this dough is that you can smell and taste the olive oil in the final product. 

3) Refrigeration

can be used just like the refrigerated dough you can buy at the storeMost pizzerias refrigerate their crusts for a minimum of 24 hours. The cold slows the yeast activity  down and enables even more gluten development and a lot of flavor development, which is largely due to the yeast byproducts. You can bake the crust without refrigerating it, and it will turn out okay; however, it will be way better after at least one and up to ten days in the refrigerator. While that might be a bummer for instant gratification-seekers, it actually makes this a super convenient meal. You can throw the dough together one day and then after the long rise, divide it into individual pizza-sized amounts and store them in separate ziptop bags in the refrigerator for use basically anytime in the next two weeks.

Then, whenever you want pizza, all you have to do is roll it out, top it, and bake it. Even if you grate the cheese by hand and the toppings you want to use take some prep work—like cooking bacon and sautéing some sliced onion in the rendered fat or chopping up a pear or bell pepper—you can do that in the time it takes the oven to preheat. Baking only takes 15 minutes, and if you’re of the mind that pizza alone isn’t a complete and balanced meal, you can use that to throw together a salad or cut up and steam a head of broccoli. If you use already-prepped toppings like shredded cheese, canned artichokes, and pre-sliced olives or chopped up leftovers, the whole process takes less than 20 minutes of active time. Either way, your pizza will be done in less time than it takes to get delivery.

4) Hot Oven & Stone

While the exact temperature may vary by oven, which you’ll only figure out by experimenting, you can narrow your search to 400F+. A super-hot oven is what makes the yeast go crazy, producing those great big bubbles and crisping the top of the crust. For a crisp bottom crust, you need a preheated surface—ideally a baking tile or pizza stone, but a preheated baking sheet is better than nothing.

For my oven, 15 minutes at 500F is perfect—I get a soggy crust at both 450 or 550. You’d think it would just get crisper as the oven gets hotter (or at least I did), but when I tried it at 550F, after 12 or so minutes the top was starting to burn and the bottom wasn’t totally crisp, and got softer and limper as it cooled. At 450, the bottom would begin to burn by the time the cheese on top melted and despite that, never got totally crisp.

As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t have to drop $40 on something specifically marketed as a baking tile or pizza stone at Williams-Sonoma, you can use any unglazed quarry tile that will fit in your oven, which should be available at most home improvement stores for a couple of dollars (Alton Brown claims they cost $0.99 in the 2007 Good Eats episode “Flat is Beautiful” and katie k at the Fresh Loaf recommends asking for “saltillo tiles” which ran about $1.50 in Southern California in 2006).

1 pizza serves 2-3; we usually eat 2/3 for dinner and leave the last two pieces out for a snack later that night. on rare occasions, they survive and become breakfast the bubbles inevitably collapse a little once you cut the pie

Recipe: Sourdough-risen No-Knead Pizza Dough (makes 2 12”-14” pizzas)

(adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day; for the instant yeast version, see Steamy Kitchen)

  • 2 c. refreshed starter
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour (may substitute some or all whole wheat flour, but add 2 T. vital wheat gluten per cup)
  • parchment paper or cornmeal and additional flour for dusting baking sheet

1. Whisk the olive oil into the refreshed starter, and then add the rest of the ingredients (aside from the parchment paper and cornmeal) and stir just until combined—about 1 min.

2. Cover and let rise 8-20 hours or until the dough is more than doubled in size and there are fat bubbles on the surface.

ingredients just combined into a dough--it will be sticky about 12 hours later. also an illustration of why if i cooked more during the day, my photos would be so much nicer

3. Divide the dough into two balls. Stretch the surface of each one and pinch the edges together and then roll it around on a smooth surface to form round balls with taut surfaces. Pour some olive oil into two zip-top bags (I usually use the 1 qt. size) and spread it around a little or spray a little cooking spray into them and tuck one ball into each bag. You could also just store the whole thing in one gallon-sized bag and pull off a grapefruit-sized hunk when you want to bake, but I find the one ball, one bag method to be a little more convenient.

how dirty does "smooth, taut balls" sound? oiled bags

4. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 10 days. Alternatively, shape and bake now.

5. Remove dough from cold storage 30 min-1 hr before rolling it out to let it warm up a little. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 500F with a baking tile placed on a middle rack or a baking sheet on the lowest rack possible—or even on the floor of the oven. you can also stretch it with your hands and toss it in the air. I am not that cool.

6. Roll the dough to approximately 1/4” thickness for a chewy, bubbly crust. For a true thin crust, roll it as thin as you can make it—until you can almost begin to see light through it. The best way to create a mostly even circle is to flatten the dough into a round and then roll from the center to the top edge and then turn the circle 90 degrees and repeat—roll, turn, roll, turn, roll turn, etc. always rolling in the same direction, straight from the middle of the circle towards 12 o’clock. 

7. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a lightly floured towel (I usually cut open the ziptop bag and use that as the oil will keep it from sticking). Let rise for 20-30 minutes while the oven finishes preheating and you finish prepping any ingredients.

8. Top as desired. Alton Brown insists that less is more. I think it’s your damn pizza and you should do whatever you want with it. Some combinations I especially like:

With no sauce, just brushed with olive oil:

  • sautéed shallots and shitake mushrooms with fontina
  • firm pears and blue cheese (with or without bacon and/or arugula)
  • lots of fresh herbs, garlic and a hard cheese like asiago

With tomato sauce:

  • eggs (either scrambled or just broken, whole, onto the pizza so they cook over easy in the oven) with peas and ham or bacon (fake bacon works just about as well) with pressed mozarella or monterey jack
  • artichoke hearts, sliced olives, and asiago
  • salad shrimp, diced green onions, blanched asparagus tips, and a hard, sharp cheese like parmeggiano-regiano grated coarsely or peeled in strips with a vegetable peeler
  • fresh tomato and garlic with slices of fresh mozzarella (basil optional)
  • leftover meatloaf with onion and sharp cheddar

With an herb or arugula pesto:

  • sautéed bell peppers and onions with pepperjack cheese
  • fresh tomato and mozzarella (a repeat, but it’s a classic)

and bacon, sauteed onions, cherry tomatoes, and fontina wasn't half bad either 

9. Bake for 10-15 min. or until cheese is melted and crust is golden-brown.

*Why this is the standard metric of simplicity, I don’t know. I mean, I had to look up how to boil an egg not that long ago. And anytime you have to drain something and then shock it in ice water, that’s probably at a level of complexity belied by the way “boiling an egg” is invoked. I mean, have you seen The Worst Cooks in America? How many of them would know how to boil an egg? I mean, I’m sure they could put an egg in boiling water—but how many of them would know when to pull it out and how to prevent that unappetizing grey outer layer of yolk from developing? Clearly a cliché from another era.

Coq au Vin, or really ambitious and somewhat disappointing adventures in amateur meat preparation. Also: how to break down a whole chicken into pieces

mmmm frenchy

I wouldn’t normally cook two chickens in back to back weeks, but last month I ordered two chickens from a local farm with a stand at the farmer’s market and then basically forgot all about it. The day after I roasted Larry, I got a call letting me know they’d killed my birds and I could pick them up Saturday. We were still working on Larry’s leftovers, so I decided to do something other than simple roasting with at least one of the local birds.* I’d been wanting to try Coq au Vin, the "classic" French treatment for old roosters, and even though my just-butchered birds were relatively small, young chickens, I decided to give it a go. many, many hours earlier

The reason "classic" gets scare quotes is that there’s some debate about whether Coq au Vin is actually the ancient, peasant dish it’s often alleged to be or something more modern. The most compelling evidence on the side of "ancient": the ingredients and methods are typical of many other age-old European cooking traditions—it’s basically a fricassee in wine with mirepoix (onions+carrots+celery), mushrooms, herbs, and some salt pork or bacon. There are also dozens of regional variations based on different varietals of grapes and mushrooms. For example, in the Alsace region, there’s a recipe for cooking roosters that uses Riesling, morels, and cream (the epicurious version is here). Additionally, since it’s basically a time and labor-intensive way of salvaging a tough piece of meat, it seems to exemplify the ideals of frugality and resourcefulness associated with old, "peasant" traditions.

But those traditions are often invented rather than discovered. What makes Coq au Vin questionable is that despite the long history of French culinary publications, the first written reference to "Coq au Vin" doesn’t show up until 1913. A decade later, when the first recipe for "Coq au Vin" appeared in print, it presented the idea as a truly novel. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, aside from the cockscomb, which was prized as a garnish, the cock was historically regarded as indigestible.

Whether or not it’s ancient, it’s certainly a "classic" in that it’s become part of the popular canon of French cuisine, on par with other dishes like ratatouille and coquilles St. Jacques, if not quite as iconic as the baguette. In The Next Iron Chef Season 2 Episode 2 earlier this month, Coq au Vin was one of the "classic inspirations" contestants had to use as the basis for an elimination challenge (along with things like boulliabaisse, pasta puttanesca, and Greek dolmas). Although its modern popularity is a little ironic, given the difficulty most cooks would have securing the titular rooster, it’s easy to see why it would be a winning flavor combination. What wouldn’t be delicious after marinating overnight and then simmering long and slow in a lot of wine infused with the richness of mushrooms, bacon, garlic, mirepoix, and fresh thyme? I’m almost tempted to try it with an old belt or pair of worn out shoes.

That gets at the main reason I was ultimately dissatisfied with the results: it was tasty enough, but the chicken is basically expendable. As a meal, it was no better than this mushroom bourguignon and way, way more time consuming. It’s not that it’s hard, but it just doesn’t quite seem worth it. So unless I happen into some old rooster meat, I’ll stick to roasting my chickens—which is not only easier, but tastes better and takes advantage of their juicy, tender, young meat better.

*I will never get over the delightful double-entendreness of birds and women, and because I am intellectually thirteen, I will never give a chicken a classically feminine name. The idea of a "bird named Larry" just tickles me on so many stupid levels. I named this one "Biff."

Recipe and pictures below the jump

Recipe: Coq au Vin, adapted from Alton Brown

  • ~20 pearl onions
  • one whole 4-lb chicken, or 6-8 servings worth of pre-cut chicken pieces
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 T. water
  • 6 oz. salt pork, chopped into 1/4" cubes
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms (also sold as "baby bellas")
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 750-ml bottle red wine, preferably cheap**
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped in 1-2" chunks
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped in 1-2" chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 T. dried thyme or 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken stock

Boil a small-to-medium pot of water (large enough to submerge the pearl onions), cut off the root ends of the pearl onions, and cut an "ex" in each one (I’m not sure the "x" is necessary, but it probably takes less than a minute for the whole bunch. Then, blanche the onions in the boiling water for 1 minute and remove to an icewater bath. Let cool for a minute or two and then drain. The skins should slip right off. I suspect that frozen, peeled pearl onions would be a completely adequate and way more convenient substitute if you wanted to skip this step entirely. possibly-unnecessary "x"blanched and denuded

Cut the chicken into 6-8 pieces. I was nervous about this and tried to find a guide online, but after wading through a guide to butchering chickens en masse starting with the kill and gutting, which suggested that the actual carcass breakdown was "pretty intuitive," I decided to basically start hacking at it with a sharp knife at all the places where it seems natural to hack at it. That actually worked pretty well.

I started by removing both of the wings, which separate from the body at a joint and then the legs and thighs—also connected at a joint. I had a harder time finding the hip joint, but after wiggling around with the knife a little I managed. Then I sliced the breast meat off as close to the ribs as possible, a lot like you do when you’re carving a roasted bird. And that’s it—you’re left with six pieces of meat and a carcass. Amazingly easy and indeed, pretty intuitive. Good to know, given that whole chickens are often cheaper than buying already-cut pieces, and you get a bonus backbone with enough meat on it to make a nice soup or stock sometime.

 this is biff. de-winged   de-leg/thighed biffde-breasted biff Biff is soup of the future

Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and then coat with flour by placing them, a few pieces at a time, in a plastic bag with the flour and shaking. Remove and set aside.

wheee FLASH

Meanwhile, cut the salt pork into small cubes and add to a large skillet along with 2 T. water. Cover and cook until the water evaporates. Apparently this step removes some of the salt, and perhaps a little bit evaporates, but especially if it’s covered, most of it would stay in the pot, so I’m not sure if that step was necessary either. But you do need to render the fat, so water or no, cook until the pieces are crispy and brown and sitting in a pool of hot grease. While the pork cooks, you can prep the other vegetables: quarter the mushrooms, chop the celery, the medium onion, and the carrots into big pieces, and peel and crush the garlic. The mushrooms and pearl onions are the only things that remain in the stew for serving, so you really don’t need to worry about making the vegetables bite-sized. A very rough chop will do.

When the pork is crisp, remove it to a container large enough to contain the pork, onions, and mushrooms (the latter two will cook down—a 2-3 cup container should be big enough). Next, saute the peeled onions until golden brown and remove those to the same container. Then, fry the chicken in batches for a couple of minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Does this matter when it’s just going to get simmered for hours? I don’t know. The skin is not going to end up crisp in the final dish, but perhaps the browning adds some depth to the flavor. It’s probably not strictly necessary.

 bitsy onions half of Biff, browning

As they finish browning, put the chicken pieces in a large oven-safe pot (preferably enameled cast iron according to AB, although a very well-seasoned Dutch oven or other covered casserole dish might work as well).

The last ingredient getting the saute treatment in the pork fat is the mushrooms. If there isn’t enough fat left in the pan, you can add a tablespoon of butter. Once the mushrooms start to release their liquid, remove them to the same container as the bacon and onions, cover and refrigerate.

Pour about 1 cup of white wine into the skillet and stir well to deglaze, meaning dissolve all the brown bits remaining in the pan. Add the tomato paste and stir to dissolve, adding more wine if necessary. Add the deglazing mixture to the chicken, along with the rest of the bottle of wine, the other vegetables, the herbs, and the stock. AB calls for two bottles of wine but my pot wasn’t nearly big enough and that seemed excessive for one little chicken. I did double the amount of stock he uses, though. The idea is to have the chicken and vegetables entirely submerged/floating in a pot full of liquid. Cover it and refrigerate overnight.

the dream of the hoover administration deglazing

The next day, preheat the oven to 325F, place the pot in the oven and cook 2-2 1/2 hours or until the chicken is done through (155-165F). When the chicken is done, turn the oven down to warm, remove the chicken to a separate casserole dish, cover and place in the oven.

Then, strain out the vegetables and aromatics and discard them (you’ve already gotten as much flavor out of them as they have to give). Bring the remaining liquid to a simmer on the stovetop and reduce by at least 1/2, which will take about a half an hour. Assuming you’re serving the meal with a starch (egg noodles seem standard, rice or potatoes would also be good…eh, as noted, almost anything drowning in this sauce would be good), try to time it so it’s ready around the same time as the sauce.

When the sauce is reduced and thickened, add the pearl onions, bacon, and mushrooms and cook just until heated through. If the sauce isn’t as thick as you’d like it, whisk together equal parts flour or cornstarch and water or stock, and add that to the sauce. Start with 1 T. each and increase if desired. Let the starch heat through before deciding if you need more.

to strain, I just spooned the solids into a colander held over the pot finished stew

I added al dente egg noodles directly to the pot to finish cooking in the sauce, which may have improved their flavor slightly but made for somewhat gummier leftovers than would have been ideal. In the future, I’ll keep the noodles and sauce separate. Well, and I’ll also omit the chicken entirely.

Here’s the pared-down version that I think would hit most of the key flavor elements with minimal time and effort, very similar to the mushroom bourguignon linked above and easily made vegan.

Recipe: Coq-less Coq au Vin

  • 1 bottle red wine, cheap**
  • 1 package frozen pearl onions
  • 1-2 lbs mushrooms, any variety, cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 cups stock, vegetable, chicken, beef, or mushroom
  • 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 t. dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 T. butter or vegetable oil or ~6 oz. salt pork or bacon, diced
  • 2 T. cornstarch or flour

Either cook the bacon and remove, or heat the butter or oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sweat the garlic and onions in whatever fat you’ve chosen until the latter are golden or browning. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid. Add herbs, stock, wine, and tomato paste and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until liquid is reduced by more than half. Add the pearl onions and simmer another 10 minutes or until they’re tender. Whisk cornstarch into 2 T. water or stock, add to pot and stir well.

**The reason to use cheap wine while cooking is that, much like delicate or aromatic oils, the subtle flavors aren’t going to survive the heat, especially when cooked for a long time the way they are in this dish. A few years ago, Julia Moskin reported for the New York Times on the results of a series of experiments she did to test the theory that you should "never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink." Even in double-blinds, she and her tasters consistently preferred classic dishes made with cheap wines rather than expensive ones:

Over all, wines that I would have poured down the drain rather than sip from a glass were improved by the cooking process, revealing qualities that were neutral at worst and delightful at best. On the other hand, wines of complexity and finesse were flattened by cooking — or, worse, concentrated by it, taking on big, cartoonish qualities that made them less than appetizing.

It wasn’t that the finished dishes were identical — in fact, they did have surprisingly distinct flavors — but the wonderful wines and the awful ones produced equally tasty food, especially if the wine was cooked for more than a few minutes.

Simple Roast Chicken, or more adventures in amateur meat preparation

I named this one Larry

This was my fourth or fifth roast chicken—I’ve tried it Thomas Keller’s way with almost no seasoning and no added fat, just lots of salt to dry out the skin so it stays crispy,  "Peruvian-style," which is covered in a pungent mixture of garlic, cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika, oil and vinegar, and a one-lemon version of Marcella Hazan’s "Chicken with Two Lemons." They’re all pretty great, but rather than pick a favorite I seem to be settling into a combination of all three of those along with techniques and tips and techniques I’ve picked up from so many random places I can’t remember where and give them proper credit.

The basic formula is lots of garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, salt, and pepper tucked underneath the skin with the whole zested lemon and a few extra cloves of garlic shoved into the cavity. I truss it—no stitching, I just tie up the legs so it stays together—and rain kosher salt all over the skin. Then I roast it in a pre-heated cast iron pot at 425F for 20 min breast-up, 20 min breast-down, and 20 min breast-up or until the internal temperature is between 145-150F. I let it rest 15-20 min before carving, and usually serve it with a green salad.

nice, polite dinner portionWe typically carve off the breasts and drumsticks and eat them like polite adults, with a knife and fork, but when we finish with that, we inevitably start picking at the remains with our fingers. After a few minutes of that, we abandon all propriety and flip the body over to dig out the oysters and lick the juices dripping down our hands and wrists, making little guttural noises. When’s the last time a boneless, skinless chicken breast made you do that?

after the carnage--the little spoons about 1/3 of the way down from the top are where the oysters wereA day or two later, after using the leftover meat in salads or sandwiches or omelets or quesadillas, I simmer the carcass for 4-6 hours with a bunch of vegetable peelings I accumulate in a zip-top bag in the freezer, along with a clove or two of fresh garlic, a couple of carrots and celery stalks if I have them around, and some thyme and bay leaves. That yields about two quarts of pretty amazing chicken stock. When we’re out of stock, it’s time to buy another chicken.

Details and pictures of the process after the jump:

Recipe: Roast Chicken

  • 4-5 lb chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 T. kosher salt
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • Dijon mustard, to serve

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Remove any giblets and save for the stock. Crush and peel the garlic cloves, and slice 3 of them thinly. Zest the lemon. Mince the rosemary.

Larry and friends

Combine the lemon zest, rosemary, sliced garlic, black pepper, and about 1 t. of the salt and stuff underneath the skin of the chicken.

seasoning blend you can see the slices of garlic peeking through the skin a little in the upper left

Truss the bird by tucking the wings up and under the back like so:

tucking the wings

Stab the naked lemon with a fork or toothpick a half a dozen times, and insert it into the cavity along with the crushed cloves of garlic and some more rosemary. Then, take a long piece of kitchen twine or unwaxed dental floss, and loop it under both drumsticks. Make an "x" between the drumsticks and loop the twine under the opposite drumsticks, like you’re making a figure 8 around them.

truss, truss, truss the bird I know, it's lewd.

Then wrap both ends around to the other side of the bird and tie a knot or a bow that sits just underneath the severed neck.

okay, "severed neck" might be off-putting, but I like remembering that Larry was alive and be-limbed once

Rain the remaining 2-3 t. salt all over the outside of the skin, and let it rest so it comes to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 425 for 30 minutes with a cast iron pot large enough to hold the chicken inside.

When the oven and pot are hot, carefully place the chicken breast-side up in the pot and set a timer for 20 minutes. If you want to, you can oil the pan, but the fat from the skin will seep out and should prevent it from sticking. When the timer goes off, carefully flip the bird (lolz) and set the timer for another 20 min. Repeat that one more time so it finishes breast-up.

The USDA thinks your chicken should be cooked to 180F, which is probably why so many people think chicken is inherently dry, boring, and terrible. Salmonella can’t live at temperatures higher than 163, but I’ve seen a number of recipes saying you only need to roast chicken until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 145F. My general rule with meat is to cook it to the lowest recommended temp I find, so 145F is the mark I shoot for. The other indicator with chicken is whether or not the juices run clear (instead of pink or red). The one time I let it go to 155F, it was too dry for my taste, and when I overcorrected in the other direction and took it out despite getting internal readings in the low 140s, the juices on the cutting board looked bloody. The temperature will continue to rise another ten degrees as it rests, so if you’re very concerned about food safety, go ahead and let it go to 155F, but much higher than that and you’re going to end up with dry, flavorless chicken.

roast chicken 014While it rested, I decided to throw together a green salad. I had a heel of very stale bread, so I diced that up and tossed it in some of the fat from the pan and seasoned salt (dried onion, dried garlic, salt, black pepper, and parsley) and put it in the oven on a piece of crimped foil to toast. Then, I washed some lettuce and diced some carrots and topped that with some leftover roasted cauliflower from dinner a few nights ago. I make a quick dressing by whisking together one part white wine vinegar to two parts olive oil with about a teaspoon of Dijon and some more of the seasoned salt.

Simple, delicious luxury. I still try not to eat a lot of meat, or eat meat with every meal, but this is one of those things that makes me really glad I’m not a vegetarian anymore.

Thanks for the meal, Larry.