Category Archives: Recommendations

Tequila, Lime, and Cilantro Cole Slaw

Tired of the same old mayo, vinegar, sugar cole slaw? Me too. I decided that it was time do do something a little different, and perhaps radical, just to shake things up a little bit. We hosted some friends for dinner a couple of weeks ago, and needed a plan. We has been discussing with daughter #2 about the graduation party she was planning, and then subject of barbecue came up, which led to the idea of pulled BBQ sliders. Which led to a discussion of menu, which led to a rare meeting of all our minds–and thus the decision was made.

And so, not being red-meat eaters by nature, we felt a dry run was necessary, and thus our dinner guests became the poor souls to bear the burden of our adventure in BBQ.

And what, may I ask, is a pulled BBQ slider without cole slaw? Why it’s just a boring pork (or as often is the case in our house, chicken) sandwich with sauce (think that’s crazy? Try THIS out: https://jeffskitchen.net/2012/08/06/crock-pot-pulled-barbecue/)

So. Cole slaw. I didn’t want to go conventional; I DO have a reputation to uphold, and I DO want our guests to have a unique experience–whether it be dinner guests or a herd of hungry teen-age grad-party revelers. In the end it worked out spectacularly for our dinner guests, and again a week later at a pot-luck dinner I attended.

Hence…

Tequila, Lime, and Cilantro Cole Slaw.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

4 Tbsp FRESHLY SQUEEZED lime juice (about 2 limes)

4 Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced

2 Tbsp silver tequila

3 tsp granulated sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup green onions, thinly sliced

8 cups shredded cabbage and carrots)

1 cup shredded red cabbage

Preparation:

In a large mixing bowl, add the first 7 ingredients (through black pepper) and whisk to combine until smooth.

Add green onions, coleslaw mix and red cabbage and toss to combine.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, to allow flavors to fully combine.

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Baked Brie with Red Onion Jam, Candied Walnuts, and Cranberries

I made this dish for company last week, and it was a hit. I adapted it from a recipe that Ellen found on Pinterest…

(LINK: https://www.lemoinefamilykitchen.com/2017/10/baked-brie-orange-marmalade-walnuts-cranberries/ )

…from the kitchen of Angela LeMoine. img_0404-3 I think that the recipe as published is too sweet for a BBQ evening starter dish. We’ve tried it with orange marmalade, Meyer Lemon marmalade (my homemade), and for company we used my own caramelized red-onion jam with fresh lemon thyme.

It’s absolutely too good to be missed. Even Stella the dog liked it, as she managed to sop up the last of it while our company had some wonderful conversation and Caprese skewers (a grape tomato, a rolled-up basil leaf, and a marinated mozzarella ball, drizzled with the Balsamic vinegar marinade).

But I digress…img_0405-1

Here’s this fabulous outdoor-living starter, about the easiest appetizer you could imagine...

Baked Brie with Red Onion Jam, Candied Maple Walnuts, and Cranberries

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-oz Brie Round
  • 1/2 cup red onion (or orange) jam or marmalade
  • a handful candied maple walnuts (recipe follows…)
  • a handful dried cranberries
  • 1 baguette, 1/2-inch slices

Preparation:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
  • Place the Brie in a heat-proof oven baking dish
  • Bake for 15 minutes
  • Carefully move the  Brie to a serving dish
  • Serve with slices of baguette

Candied Maple Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 5 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups walnut halves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. In a bowl, whisk 5 teaspoons olive oil with 5 teaspoons pure maple syrup and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary and 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme. Add 2 cups walnut pieces; toss well to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until fragrant and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Cool completely.

Better-than-takeout Chinese Spare Ribs

Okay. You’ve mastered Kansas City-style BBQ ribs (you have, haven’t you? ribs If not, see the post immediately preceding this). We didn’t address the famous KC “burnt ends,” but that’s for another day.

Now I will present to you the easiest, tastiest Chinese-style spare ribs, that you can prepare at home.  Because let’s face it. Chinese-style spare ribs are one of your (and definitely my) most favoritist guilty pleasures.  I simply can’t go very long without a batch of these babies. Even the strip-mall place makes ribs to die for, but you’ve to go get them (OK, I’ll grant that GrubHub and UberEats have changed the calculus. But still, they will come to you in a foil-lined bag that’s just a bit soggy and the ribs have been steaming and are resting in a pool of saucy grease).

Here is the way to have the best-of-the-best Chinese-style ribs at home–in your pajamas if you wish–without having to tip the delivery guy or gal–and lick your fingers in private, so that you get every single wonderful drop. And you don’t have to share.

So, here we go…

Better-than-takeout Chinese-style spare ribs

Ingredients:

½ cup Hoisin sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey, plus 1 teaspoon for finish

1 tablespoon Chinese Five-spice powder

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

2 racks spare ribs, St. Louis style—this is a MUST! Ask at the meat department counter.

A few drops of red food coloring (only if you insist. The restaurants do it to make the dish more visually appealing and authentic-looking, but really?

Preparation:

  1. In a non-reactive bowl, mix together the Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, five-spice, garlic, and ginger. Pour into a large zip-close plastic bag, reserving ½ cup for basting.
  2. Add the ribs to the bag, close and toss to coat all the pieces as best as possible. Refrigerate for at least three hours, turning occasionally—longer is better, and overnight is best.
  3. Heat a charcoal (best) or gas (OK) grill to 275º F  (low heat is a must!), set up for indirect grilling.
  4. Remove the ribs from the marinade (discard the marinade) and place on a wire rack. Place the rack onto the grill AWAY FROM THE DIRECT HEAT. Close the grill cover and cook, basting with the reserved marinade every half hour, until the meat is fork tender, 2-3 hours. You should be able to stick a fork into a meaty rib and pull it out without the rib being lifted off the grill.
  5. Mix the honey into the remaining basting sauce, brush onto the cooked ribs, move them over the direct heat and cook, turning frequently, until they begin to char and the sauce begins to caramelize (don’t let them burn).                                                                                                                                     Editor’s note: you can make these in the oven if you don’t have or want to grill. Wrap the ribs in foil and cook at the same temperature (basting every half hour) until they are fork tender, then broil until they begin to caramelize.

ENJOY!

Oven- Prepared Kansas City Barbecue Ribs

Kansas City Style Ribs are typically characterized by the thick, sticky sauce brushed on in the last 30 minutes of cooking. The dry rub and sauce are on the sweet side using a brown sugar base, but are balanced with chili powder and pepper, producing some truly finger licking good ribs.

Included are step by step directions to make the KC-style dry rub, an authentic KC-style BBQ sauce, and how to make these killer ribs in the oven, baked first, then broiled to finish.

Use only baby back ribs, and be sure to ask your butcher to remove the membrane from the back of the rack, and trim the pork ribs of any excess fat.

With a 2/1 ratio of brown sugar to paprika and the usual dry rub spices like garlic and onion powders, salt and pepper, chili and cayenne pepper, this is a great balance of sweet and savory with a slight kick. Use less cayenne if heat is not your thing. Bump up the heat if you like, too.

After the dry rub the baby backs are wrapped in aluminum foil and refrigerated to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours, but overnight is better.

If the grill or smoker isn’t an option, you can still get that smoky Kansas City flavor by adding a little liquid smoke seasoning, available at most grocery stores.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Place the ribs, bone side down, on top of a wire rack set in an aluminum foil lined baking tray and bake for 2-1/2 hours. Halfway through, cover ribs with aluminum foil to protect them from drying out. They will be done when a kitchen fork inserted into the meat between the middle two bones slides out easily without lifting the rack at all.

In the last hour, baste the top of each rack with the reserved marinade or BBQ sauce every 15 minutes. At this point they should be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. Then remove the foil cover and set the ribs under a broiler set to low and broil just until the sauce begins to blacken (be careful here not to let the sauce burn. It can happen very quickly at this point. The ribs should have an internal temperature of 145°F. Allow to rest, covered loosely with a foil tent, for 5-10 minutes prior to cutting.

Ingredients:

2 racks baby back ribs

DRY RUB

  1. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  1. 1/4 cup paprika
  1. 1 tbsp black pepper
  1. 1 tbsp kosher salt
  1. 1 tbsp garlic powder
  1. 1 tbsp onion powder
  1. 1 tbsp chili powder
  1. 1 tsp to 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  2. 1 tsp Liquid Smoke

Preparation:

  • Whisk together the Kansas City Style Dry Rub spices together and set aside.
  • Remove the membrane from the back of the rack, and trim the pork ribs of any excess fat. Rub each rack liberally with the rub on both sides. Wrap ribs in foil or large container and refrigerate over night (optional, minimum 2 hours).
  • Remove the ribs from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  • In advance, make the Kansas City Style barbecue sauce recipe (see bottom of this post) and set aside (or use your favorite).
  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Place the ribs, bone side down, on top of a wire rack set in an aluminum foil lined baking tray and bake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours for spare ribs or 1 1/2 to 2 hours for baby back ribs. Halfway through, cover ribs with aluminum foil to protect them from drying out.
  • In the last 1/2 hour of baking, baste the top of each rack with the barbecue sauce, re-cover with foil, and finish cooking. At this point they should be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. You want the ribs to have an internal temperature of 145°F. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes prior to cutting.
  • Kansas City BBQ Sauce
  • Ingredients:

    2 tbsp butter

    1 small onion diced

    3 garlic cloves minced

    1/2 tsp kosher salt

    2 cups ketchup

    1/3 cup dark molasses

    1/3 cup brown sugar

    1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

    2 tbsp yellow mustard

    2 tbsp chili powder

    2 tsp black pepper

    1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

    Preparation:

    • In a medium saucepan over medium heat melt butter. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
    • Add ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, chili powder, black and cayenne peppers and whisk to combine.
    • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
    • Use a hand blender or carefully pour into a blender and purée until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Use immediately or transfer to a clean jar with lid and keep refrigerated for up to a month.

    Cauliflower Fried Rice. Incredible. Vegan. Gluten free. Healthy. Who could ask for anything more?i

    Speaking of cauliflower…

    Were we? Of course we were. That vegetable Americans love to hate.

    I can’t get over how many ways I’ve found to use this wonderful vegetable the rest of the world understands. So flavorful. So simple to use. So misunderstood.

    I’m out to demystify this white (usually) head of tasty goodness. This time with an Asian twist.

    Cauliflower fried rice. My wonderful partner served it up the other night with an “empty-the-veggie-bin” stir fry, and to speak the real truth, I liked it better than rice.

    You will too.

    Cauliflower Fried Rice

  • Ingredients:
    1. 1 medium head cauliflower, all green parts removed (2 1/2 cups cauliflower rice)
      2 tablespoons toasted dark sesame-seed oil
      1/2 medium onion, chopped medium
      1 large carrot, cubed
      2 garlic cloves, minced fine
      1 cup frozen edamame
      3/4 cup frozen peas
      2 eggs, lightly beaten
      4 tablespoons light soy sauce
      6 green onions, minced

    Preparation:

      Shred the cauliflower with the large holes of a box grater or pulse in a food processor until the pieces resemble rice grains
      Heat 1tablespoon sesame oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and carrot and stir fry until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower, edamame, peas, and remaining sesame oil to the pan; stir fry quickly to cook the cauliflower to a soft (but not mushy) texture.
      Make a well in the middle, turn the heat down, and add he eggs. Stir gently and continuously until the eggs are fully cooked. Add the soy sauce and green onions, turn off the heat, toss to mix and serve immediately alone or with your favorite stir fry.

    Note: for the last add of soy sauce, you could make a mixture of 1 tablespoon each soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and oyster sauce for a slightly different, and most interesting flavor.

  • Roasted Curry and Cumin Cauliflower

    Cauliflower.The very mention of the word sends children running screaming into the night, right? To which I respond, “Good! More for me.” Inspired by the most wonderful small Indian restaurant in our town–that would be The Himalayan Curry and Grill on East Orange Street–and at the request of my sweetheart, who craves vegetables almost as much as I crave her, I found a most tasty, zesty, and bursting-with-flavor and aroma cauliflower recipe (truth be told, she found it, not I).

    But with a tiny bit of skill and knowledge I managed to make it even better that what it looked like on paper, and even more healthy.

    Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that you either love or hate–there doesn’t stem to be many take-it-or-leave-it opinions–so I decided to make it so deeply savory that even the doubters would not find it objectionable. It’s about the curry, actually, and of course there’s no shortage of opinions about curry, but that’s a discussion for another time.

    So…curried cauliflower. It’s a good marriage. As a soup it’s unparalleled. As a roasted vegetable, even better. So let’s get to it…

    Roasted Curry and Cumin Cauliflower

    Ingredients:

    1. 6 heaping cups cauliflower florets from 1-1/2 pound cauliflower cut into 1-inch florets
    1. 3 garlic cloves smashed
    2. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1. 1 tsp turmeric
    1. 1 tsp ground cumin
    2. 1/2 teaspoon sweet curry
    3. 1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
    1. Kosher salt to taste
    1. 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1. 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

    Preparation:

      Preheat a convection oven to 425°F (if you don’t have one, heat a regular oven to 450°F). Cut the cauliflower florets into 1-inch pieces and combine with the garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat.
      Sprinkle the turmeric, cumin, curry, pepper flakes, pepper, and salt over the cauliflower and toss to coat. Spread the cauliflower out on a large rimmed baking sheet. Keep the bowl handy.
      Roast for 10 minutes on a middle rack of the oven. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven and spoon the cauliflower back into the large bowl. Toss the florets well to turn and capture some of the seasoning left in the bowl. Return to the baking sheet and roast for another 10 minutes. Repeat the bowl-toss process and return to the oven, until browned on the edges and tender, 3-10 minutes more, depending on your oven. Don’t let the cauliflower burn, but a little bit of char is okay. Remove the from oven, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve hot!

    Roast Chicken with Warm Bread Salad and Thai-style Pan-roasted Brussels Sprouts

    So, I’ve got to tell you folks, rchickenthat I have come across the most wonderful “dinner-for-four” menu, both in terms of pure wonderfulness and ease of preparation. I made this recipe for the family and then for company, and won raves both times–the shocking rave was the family one, considering just how picky some of the people in my family can be. Truth be told, “picky” doesn’t quite capture the general intransigence with which my cooking is often met. More often my productions at dinner time is met with a “why can’t you just make macaroni and cheese, like all my friends’ parents do?”

    To which I generally reply, “What the heck is macaroni and cheese?”

    To which the response usually is, “Daaaaaaaaaaaddddd!”

    But I digress…sprouts

    Roast chicken, as you know if you follow this space with any regularity, is not really a mystery to me, as I believe I have previously graced you with what I believe to be the easiest, foolproof-est, moistest, tastiest roast chicken, done in an hour start to finish–perfect for a quick weeknight supper. If you haven’t seen it here, then check below.  It’s here somewhere. Promise.

    This particular chicken presentation takes a bit more time and planning, but then if you’re cooking for company you might want to take the extra time and effort, and buy wonderful fresh ingredients. Your guests deserve it.  And so do you.

    So try this recipe, for a butterflied chicken with warm bread salad and Thai-style pan-roasted Brussels sprouts (that’s right, Brussels sprouts!  Even the kids liked them.

    Butterflied Chicken with Warm Bread Salad

    Ingredients:

    1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds) giblets discarded

    4 1-inch thick slices crusty country bread, bottom crust removed, cut into 1-inch cubes

    1/4 cup chicken broth

    6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons  extra-virgin olive oil

    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    2 tablespoons white balsamic or champagne vinegar

    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

    3 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin

    2 tablespoons dried cranberries

    5 cups baby arugula

    Preparation:

    1. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears, cut through bones on either side of backbone; discard backbone. Do not trim off any excess fat or skin. Flip the chicken over and press down hard on the breastbone to flatten.  Or remove the breastbone entirely.
    2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Spray a 9  12 roasting pan with vegetable oil spray. Toss the bread with broth and 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the pieces are evenly moistened. Arrange the bread cubes in skillet in a single layer, with most of the crusted pieces near center, crust side up.
    3. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place it, skin side up, on top of the bread cubes. Brush 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the chicken skin and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast until the skin is deep golden brown and the thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating halfway through.
    4. While chicken roasts, whisk vinegar, mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in small bowl. Slowly whisk in the remaining ¼ cup oil. Stir in scallions and cranberries and set aside. Place the arugula in a large bowl.
    5. When done, transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Run a thin metal spatula under the bread to loosen from the bottom of the roasting pan. (The bread should be a mix of softened, golden-brown, and crunchy pieces.) Carve the chicken and whisk any accumulated juices into vinaigrette. Add bread and vinaigrette to the arugula and toss to evenly coat. Transfer salad to a serving platter and serve with the chicken. When carving the chicken, remove the legs, thighs, and wings. Remove the breasts whole from the breast bone and rib bones and cut the breasts crossways into 3/4-inch slices.

     

    Thai-Style Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

    Ingredients:

    1 pound small (1- to 1 1/2-inches in diameter) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

    5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    1 medium-hot chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced fine

    2 teaspoons lime juice

    1 teaspoon fish sauce

    2 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped

    2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

    Preparation:

    1.  Arrange Brussels sprouts in a single layer, cut sides down, in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Drizzle oil evenly over sprouts. Cover skillet, place over medium-high heat, and cook until sprouts are bright green and cut sides have started to brown, about 5 minutes.
    2. Uncover and continue to cook until the cut sides of the sprouts are deeply and evenly browned and a paring knife slides in with little to no resistance, 2 to 3 minutes longer, adjusting the heat and moving the sprouts as necessary to prevent them from overbrowning. While the sprouts cook, combine the chile, lime juice, fish sauce, and ¼ teaspoon salt in small bowl.
    3. Off heat, add the chile mixture to the skillet and stir to evenly coat the sprouts. Season with salt to taste. Transfer to a large plate, sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro, and serve.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Ruby Red Grapefruit Marmalade

    C’mon, folks. Who doesn’t like marmalade?  I know, I know. Orange marmalade, an English tradition hasn’t quite captured America the way it  ought to.

    But I’m trying.P1030359

    I make orange marmalade. I also make other types too, including, famously, the Meyer Lemon marmalade that got me started on this mad adventure into  fruit and sugar cooking. I found an entry on one of Ellen’s Pinterest pages saying that she wished she had such a  product, so with a little research I ventured to attempt a batch of the bittersweet goodie, and it came out wonderful.

    And then, as my obsessive personality drives me, there was no looking back.

    Marmalade became an obsession. Navel oranges, Clementines, blood oranges, red grapefruits, Persian limes, Key limes–no citrus fruits are safe. I’ve made them all. Some are good, some are great (Ellen says the Key lime marmalade has no future, because the color just doesn’t look particularly appetizing, but it tastes terrific.

    In the meantime, my little jars of sunshine are turning up in the kitchens of friends and family, as they make wonderful gifts.

    Also the obsession has now leaked into chutneys, but I’ll save that for another time. In the meantime, I’ve had a request for a recipe, as one demented relative has suggested to me that red grapefruit marmalade matches well with hummus. I simply can’t imagine that, but I suppose that’s why they make cookbooks and cooking shows on TV–because there’s no end to the combinations of foods that intrepid chefs are willing to convince us to try. I guess that’s what keeps them in business.

    So, in that spirit, and without further ado, here is my red grapefruit marmalade recipe. It’s simple, so long as  you have lots of time on your hands and the patience to cut big fruits into tiny little pieces. I apparently do, and it pleases my wife no end (and isn’t that what life’s about anyway?):

     RUBY RED GRAPEFRUIT MARMALADEP1030360

    Ingredients:

    2 large pink or red grapefruits
    6 cups water
    5 cups sugar
    2 lemons

    Preparation:

    Place the grapefruit in a large pot with ample water, so they are bobbing about, and boil for 2 hours, until they’re soft. (You may have to top up the water here and there.) Drain, cool a bit, slice the grapefruits thinly, and roughly chop as well. Remove any large seeds.

    Return everything to the pan, along with 5 cups of sugar and the juice of 2 lemons. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. With a candy thermometer at the ready, boil until the brew reaches 220 degrees F and holds that temperature for a minute. You can test to see if the setting point is reached. This is done by placing a teaspoon of the jam on a small plate and cooling it in the refrigerator. If the mixture thickens and creases when you press on it, it’s ready. If not, keep cooking and test again in a few minutes.  When you are testing, take the marmalade off the heat so it doesn’t overcook. Also, skim the bubbles from the marmalade as you cook – this will keep the finished product from becoming cloudy.  You can jar and process the marmalade at this point.  If not, use within one month.

    To can the marmalade, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water, and then place the jars in the canning pot so that the water is at least an inch over the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a boil , reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Then place the lid disks and rings in the hot water for at least five minutes before using. Fill the hot jars with marmalade, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe clean the rims of the jars, carefully set the lids on the jars and tighten to finger-tight. Allow the filled jars to sit on a wire rack until all the jars are filled. Then place them in the canning pot so that they are not touching each other and the water is at least 1 inch over the tops of the lids. Bring the water to a rapid boil, then set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer beeps turn the heat off, allow the jars to sit in the water for an additional five minutes, then carefully remove the jars and place them on a dry towel to cool. The lids should all pop inward and sound solid when tapped with a spoon. Allow them to sit untouched for 24 hours. If any of the lids don’t pop, refrigerate them and use within one month.

     

     

    Roasted Chicken Perfected

    I’ve been making this recipe forever. I just discovered that I have never posted it here. So here is, courtesy of my late, lamented Lancaster Sunday News and America’s Test Kitchen, the best AND simplest roasted chicken recipe you’ve ever seen.

    Roasting chicken: Everyone’s got an opinion

    The other night I wanted to roast a chicken.

    OK, OK. I know how to roast a chicken. Everyone does. So they think.

    I wanted to know how other people roast their chickens, so I turned to the Internet. I Googled “How to roast a chicken,” to see what I could learn. The results were, to say the least, surprising.

    I viewed each of the first 15 returns to my search and discovered 15 different ways to roast a chicken. No two were the same.

    You’d think that roasting a chicken is a simple task; simply season the chicken and stick it in the oven. Apparently, there are as many ways to roast a chicken as there are ways to, if you’ll pardon the expression, skin a cat. (And where did that idiotic metaphor come from?)

    Depending on which recipe you subscribe to, the oven gets preheated to anywhere from 325 degrees to 500 degrees. In my sample, each 25-degree increment was represented.

    I learned that the roasting pan gets some variation of onions, carrots, celery, leeks, potatoes, scallions, garlic, shallots, fennel, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, cabbage, bok choi, oranges, lemons, apples and pears.

    I discovered that the process can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, and that the resting period after cooking can be anywhere from 20 minutes to no resting time at all.

    I learned to insert a meat thermometer during roasting, after roasting, or not at all, and that the temperatures registered on these devices could range anywhere from 115 to 185 degrees, depending on where and when you insert the thermometer.

    Crisp skin or no skin? Brined or not? Water or broth or wine (white or red?) or orange juice or ginger ale or nothing in the roasting pan? Garlic or no garlic? Herbs or spices? Stuffing? Gravy? Upright over a beer can? And then there was the matter of oven or grill. How about a rotisserie?

    It’s just so confusing. All I wanted was a roasted chicken.

    What I finally decided was to keep it simple. I want a roast chicken that is tasty, done but not overdone, and without a lot of muss or fuss.

    So naturally, I turned to my personal cooking bible, Cooks’ Illustrated, from America’s Test Kitchen. I can depend on them to have roasted about a zillion chickens, trying a zillion different methods, to determine which one is worthy of their publication (which I trust implicitly), and which is simple, direct and accessible.

    The important thing I knew going in was that my choice of chicken makes a huge difference. So I choose my chickens carefully. I prefer fresh, local chickens, from any of the fine chicken farmers here in Lancaster County.

    Today’s chicken came from the Shenk’s Poultry stand at Lancaster Central Market. It costs a little more than grocery-store chicken, but hey – I’m feeding my family, so it’s worth it to me to know that these are grass-fed, hormone-free chickens.

    So here it is, with a small twist or two of my own: my simple, foolproof version of the perfect roasted chicken.

    WEEKNIGHT ROASTED CHICKEN

    1 chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds

    1 tablespoon kosher salt

    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 sprig fresh rosemary

    Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Place a 12-inch oven-safe skillet on the rack and preheat the oven to 450°F. (Turn on the exhaust fan!)

    Combine the salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat completely dry with paper towels.

    Rub the entire surface of the chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with salt/pepper mixture and rub it in with your hands to coat the chicken evenly. Cut the rosemary sprig in half and insert both pieces into the cavity. Tuck the wing tips behind the back under the chicken.

    When the oven reaches the preheated temperature, place the chicken into the preheated skillet in the oven. Set the kitchen timer for 35 minutes and walk away. When the timer beeps, turn the oven off and set the timer for 35 minutes again and walk away.

    Do not, under any circumstances, open the oven.

    When the timer beeps the second time, transfer the chicken to a carving board and allow it to rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

    While the chicken rests, prepare a pan sauce. The pan will be very hot so handle it carefully.

    ROAST CHICKEN PAN SAUCE

    1 shallot, finely minced

    1 cup chicken broth

    2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

    2 tablespoons butter

    2 teaspoons fresh minced or 1 teaspoon dry tarragon

    2 teaspoons lemon juice

    2 teaspoons capers (optional)

    Freshly ground pepper, to taste

    Using a large kitchen spoon, remove all but one tablespoon of fat from the skillet, leaving the brown bits (the fond).

    Place the skillet over medium-high heat, add the shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and mustard, scraping the skillet bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the fond from the pan.

    Turn the heat down and simmer the broth until reduced by one-third, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter, tarragon and lemon juice until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add the capers and season with black pepper. Cover the pan to keep warm.

    After resting for 20 minutes, carve the chicken and serve with a spoonful of the pan sauce drizzled over each serving.

    If you opt for a grocery store chicken, it will be larger than fresh, local chickens, so increase the timer settings to 40-45 minutes roasting and 40-45 minutes with the oven turned off (depending on how much over 4 pounds your chicken is).

    Jeff Thal welcomes questions and comments at his blog, jeffskitchen.net.

    Brown Rice: Perfect Every time

    Do you like brown rice? Do you hesitate to make it because it’s time consuming, and half the time it comes out wrong? Too mushy or too hard, too runny or too sticky? And then you don’t do it again, because you’re unsure of the final product?

    Well let me ease your pain.

    This brown-rice recipe isn’t much fussier or time consuming than regular rice, its as easy to make, and healthier, tastier, and fluffier–all the reasons you want brown rice instead of white.

    I make a lot of brown rice; Liza wants it with almost every meal. So I needed to find a simple, foolproof recipe that was consistent. I tried a dozen recipe sources, and wouldn’t you know, I settled on Martha Stewart? I’ve honed it to, ahem, perfection. Martha’s recipe is three ingredients: rice, water, and salt. The amounts and the timing are different from what you think you need for rice, but it works.

    For my recipe I’ve replaced the rice with bouillon cubes, because I just like it better; it adds a note that just picks up the flavor of whatever you serve it with. But if you don’t want the extra flavor, replace the bouillon with 1/4 teaspoon of Morton’s or 1/2 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt. And trust me on the amounts and timing. It won’t seem right, but I guarantee success if you follow the recipe.

    Here then, is perfect-every-time brown rice…

    Ingredients:

    1 3/8 cup water

    1 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown rice

    2 Wyler’s bouillon cubes (chicken, vegetable, or beef)

    Preparation:

    1. Rinse the rice in cold water, stirring and changing the water until it runs clear.

    2. Add the water to an enamel-coated cast-iron pan, turn the heat on to medium, crush the bouillon cubes (or add the kosher salt) into the water. Stir to mix, add the rice and stir once quickly.

    3. Cover and bring the pot to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to a low setting that keeps the pot at a very slow simmer. Give the rice one quick stir and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes (no more!). Remove from the heat.

    4. Quickly fluff the rice with a rubber spatula, replace the cover and allow the rice to steam, off the heat, for 10 minutes. Move the rice to a refrigerator-safe storage container and allow to cool to room temperature. Store for 3-4 days in the fridge or freeze in single servings in airtight zipper-close freezer bags (yup! It freezes, too, but defrost slowly, not in a microwave oven).

    Perfect every time.

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