Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quiet Night In (Armadillo Potatoes)

After a long day or a tough week many people want to go out to dinner. But not me.  My favorite way to relax is to chop, chop, chop and then do something creative in the kitchen.   Steve pours a couple a glasses of wine.  Assumes his position at the counter that overlooks the kitchen.  And  watches as things unfold.

Make slices almost thru each
potato about 1/8 inch apart
With an event and a launch underway, I had one of those days and weeks at work. My knives called out to me last night as I hung up from the last of many conference calls. I also had this little bag of local fingerling potatoes that I’d been wanting to do something special with.  Kismet.

Headed to the oven
This one is more of a method than a “recipe,” but first a bit about North Carolina potatoes.  They are freakin’ unbelievable.  The white ones are tender and almost creamy.  The sweet potatoes are in a class all their own. And the best kept secret in the culinary world, if you ask me.  Who knew?
Ready to serve. Perfect with a grilled
steak and crisp green salad

I’m calling these “Armadillo Potatoes"  cuz thant’s what they look like.  Steve called them “just plain good.”  And as you’ll see in the photos, they offer a great opportunity to slice away the stress of a long week.

Armadillo Potatoes
  • A small handful of potatoes per person.  I used fingerlings, but any small white or red potato will do. 
  • Olive oil to coat
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ TBS rosemary, minced and divided in half
  • A small handful of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper   

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Using a small paring knife, make slices in each potato almost all the way through.  Make the slices about 1/8 of an inch apart
  • Toss the potatoes in the olive oil, and half of the garlic and rosemary
  • Place in a shallow baking dish
  • Bake for 30 minutes, turning twice throughout the process
  • After 30 minutes, check for doneness.  They should be cooked through and tender. If this is not the case, return to the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes. 
  • When they are cooked to your liking, toss in the remaining garlic and rosemary.  Return to the over for another 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cozy Sunday (Winter Veg/Roast Chicken)

Ready for the oven

It's in the 40s today - too cold for golf in Steve's book and a great day for hunkering down for some football, inside chores and cooking.  After making a run down to 9th Street for some new Zumba shoes (yes, shoes do make a difference - they don't just look cool) I set out this afternoon to make one of our favorite Sunday dinners, roast chicken.

Like so many people, I have been searching for years for the “perfect” roast chicken recipe.  Last year I hit pay dirt – with the Roast Chicken with Fennel and Spring Onions recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Cooking in the Moment by James Beard Award winner Angela Reusing of Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant

I just can't help myself.  While Angela's version is AMAZING, I’ve stuck to her method of starting at a high heat and dropping it down for the second half of cooking, but have adapted the ingredients here and there to match my general mood as well as what’s in season and available on a given Sunday.  Here’s the version I made today, featuring some of this winter’s fennel and leeks and a zestier twist with a compound butter.

I hope you give it a go yourself – and if you make some good adaptations of your own, let me know – that’s half the fun. 

The caramelized veg

Winter Roast Chicken with Fennel and Leeks

  • 1 (3 ½ to 4 lb) chicken, washed, pat dry and allowed to come to room temperature by sitting covered for about an hour.
  • 13 leeks, white portion and about 2 inches of the green, split
  • 2 fennel bulbs cut into quarters
  • 1 head of garlic cut in half, plus 3 cloves of garlic that you will use for the compound butter.
  • 4 carrots cleaned and left whole
  • 4 ribs of celery cleaned and left whole
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 4 Tbs of butter at room temperature
  • A handful of fresh parsley, for the compound butter and garnish

  • Make a quick compound butter (fancy name for butter with stuff mixed in) made my combining 3 tablespoons of the butter, 2 Tbs chopped parsley, 2 Tbs chopped garlic, a generous pinch of kosher salt and about 8 grinds of black pepper.

Chicken Roasting Method - a riff on the one from Cooking in the Moment
  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • In a large roasting pan, lay the vegetables in a criss-cross pattern to make a “rack” for the chicken 
  • Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken, then gently lift the skin off the breast and slide about ¼ of the compound butter directly onto the meat. 
  • Rub the remaining compound butter all over the outside of the bird, then season it a bit more with a sprinkle of kosher salt and pepper. 
  • Use some kitchen twine (or if you have none, believe it or not, dental floss works for this in a pinch!) to tie the legs together.
  • Put the chicken on top of the veggie rack.
  • Roast the chicken for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temp to 375, roast for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is done.  The skin will be crisp and golden brown, and the internal temperature of an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh will read 165 degrees.  If it doesn't look or read done, pop it back into the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.  
  • Remove the chicken from the pan and tent it loosely with foil for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • If the veggies are not caramelized, return to the oven for 10 minutes or so, but I've never had to do so. Then turn off the oven.
  • Using oven mitts, place the roasting pan to the stove – have those mitts handy – don’t go grabbing the pan when you are stirring!  Pull the edible veggies out of the roasting pan and into an over-proof dish.  Splash on some extra broth and pop them in the oven to keep warm.(some will be a tad overdone, just leave those in the pan for now.  
  • Now use the white wine and the broth to scrape the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for 5 minutes or so until it starts to reduce and get syrupy.  Then add a tablespoon or so of butter to give it some body. At this point I like to strain the sauce to remove the veggie remnants. 
  • Carve the chicken and spoon the sauce over the meat and veg.  Serve with your starch of choice if you’d like – tonight I did brown rice with chopped parsley stirred in right before serving.