Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crisp High Roast Chicken with Potatoes ~ 5.20.11

Maybe you've figure this out about me, but maybe not. I love cooking shows. I'm a visual learner and when  I see someone make something- it brings the recipe to life and gives me the confidence to approach the recipe! Maybe that's why Ree is so popular? She shows you step by step. Well, that and her amazing recipes.

I digress.

I've always been a fan of Cook's Illustrated and more specifically the PBS show America's Test Kitchen. I find it fascinating to hear all the trial and error they put into testing these recipes. Makes me really believe that this is the best way to cook/bake something.

I thought this recipe for cooking a whole chicken was brilliant and doable. And the first time I made this recipe was back in 2006, right before I left for a week's vacation in California! Why do I find it necessary to try new things 24 hours before a big event? I dunno. It was my VERY FIRST time cooking a whole chicken! seriously! And I'm glad I started with this recipe because it was amazingly moist and those potatoes- WOW!

This time around, I skipped the brining and just split my chicken according to my How to Cook Everything cookbook. Not too difficult, made easier with kitchen shears. As with most of their recipes, there are many steps, but the result is well worth it. Just a lot of explaining. I promise it's not that difficult to prepare. I made this on a soccer night!
Here's the recipe:

Crisp-Skin High Roast Chicken and Potatoes
from America's Test Kitchen

For the brine (optional- but give it a go sometime so you can say, (Oh, yeah, I've brined a chicken")
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole chicken, 3 1/2-4 lbs; giblets removed and reserved for another use, fat around cavity removed and discarded

Dissolve the salt in the sugar in 2 qts cold water in a large container. Immerse chicken and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 1 hour.

2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (use a food processor or a nice, sharp knife)
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
3/4 tsp salt

Compound butter- place in a bowl to schmear your chicken!-- OPTIONAL, but AMAZING addition
2 Tbs softened butter
1 med garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees! HOT, HOT, HOT
Line the bottom of your broiler pan with heavy duty foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Remove chicken from brine (if you brined), and rinse thoroughly under cold running water (be sure to clean out your sink!). Butterfly chicken, flatten breastbone and apply the flavored butter (if using) under the skin of the chicken- all over! Thoroughly pat the chicken dry.
 And place on the top part of your broiler pan.

Toss the potatoes with 1 Tbs oil, slat and pepper in a medium bowl. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the foil lined broiler pan. Place the top of the broiler pan over the potatoes- See picture above. Rub the chicken with the remaining olive oil and season with S&P. Put into the oven.

Cook until the chicken is spotty brown, about 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue to roast until skin has crisped and turned a deep brown and an thermometer registers 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, 20-25 minutes longer.
Transfer chicken to a cutting board and with pot holders, remove top of broiler pan. Using paper towels, soak up the excess grease from potatoes. Remove foil liner with potatoes and invert foil and potatoes onto a cookie sheet. Peel back foil and scrape off remaining potatoes with a spatula. Pat off remaining grease with paper towels.
Cut chicken, arrange pieces on a serving platter and transfer potatoes right beside them. Voila- dinner is ready.
Serve with fresh steamed green beans or a crisp garden salad!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lemon Spaghetti ~ 5.14.11

 I first made this recipe for spaghetti after watching Giada make it on her food network show. It sounded amazing to this lemon lover and what few ingredients! What a perfect springtime dinner. I made it in 2006 for Father's Day and everyone loved it.

Just this past week, I resurrected this lovely recipe to serve alongside Lucinda's chicken piccata. I had never made chicken piccata but after watching her make it on her show Mad Hungry, I knew it was doable and would compliment this spaghetti perfectly. 
As a note, I only used 2 very large chicken breasts- butterflied them (split them open like a book) and then pounded them thin. It served everyone in my family! I simply cut the breasts into servable pieces before I dipped them in the flour and cooked them. Really great weeknight meal.

Giada DeLaurentiis' Lemon Spaghettti
 I'm going to count this as a 5 ingredient recipe because S&P don't count and you use the lemon 2 ways!

1 pound spaghetti

2/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup grated Parmesan- (use the good stuff, please, not a green shaker jar.... gasp)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon zest (have forgotten this and guess what, it's OK)

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (take it to the next level)

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.

**Eat leftovers mixed with a little premade pesto! Delicous!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spinach Pie (Byrek Mi Spinaq) ~ 5.25.11

{my first albanian spinach pie- the edges got a bit crispy, but not a problem, just cut them off!}

So, maybe I've talked about my love for a show on the Hallmark channel called Mad Hungry. Lucinda Scala Quinn, a dear friend of Martha's, hosts this amazing little show. that I DVR everyday. What is it about this show that I love? Maybe it's the presentation, the approachable recipes, the unique flavors she presents, the excitement of guests in the kitchen (love the Albanian recipes show!) or Calder, her son, joining her in the kitchen. Well, it's all of these. Lucinda presents recipes in a simple, straightforward manner. You feel like you're in the kitchen with her and you cannot wait to see what she's cooking on the next show. 
Add to all of that, the fact that my 4 year olds LOVE the show-- especially, Zach. They say things like "mmmm, can you make that sometime?" and "can we watch "the" cooking show?" I know just the one that they're talking about.

 Check this out- she has a cookbook (or two)- thanks Lucinda!

Yet, maybe the best part is that so many of these recipes are REAL, passed down from family and then shared with us. I think that's the part I can relate to the most (that and Lucinda's love for salty pork products ;)). I love hearing the stories behind recipes and seeing the family cooking together- loved when her brother came on and made deep dish pizza dough and light and fluffy meatballs. After that show aired, I knew exactly what I was making for dinner THAT weekend (look for those recipes to come Friday)!

On this particular episode, Lucinda invited her son's friend, Milot, to come into the kitchen and share his family's Albanian Spinach Pie (Byrek Mi Spinaq). I knew I had to make it asap. I even had all the ingredients in my fridge! I had just bought 3 bags of spinach on sale that week and just needed a little yogurt and whipped butter to make this recipe. I even had the phyllo dough in the freezer leftover from the last Spanokopita I had made. Perfect reason to make this recipe and they made it look doable on a weeknight!

Oh and if you're like me and are a bit fearful of working with filo I say, pshaaaw! DO NOT be afraid! It couldn't be simpler, as long as you watch to keep it covered so it doesn't dry out while you work! It's extremely forgiving: read- even if it does try out, just butter it up and piece the broken pieces together, it's all good in the end.

My kids LOVE this recipe, so there's a little butter involved, at least they're eating spinach!!
Now, onto the recipe:

Spinach Pie
(adapted from Mad Hungry, May 2011)

1 8 oz container of whipped butter
1/2 cup canola oil
3 bunches of spinach, stemmed and chopped (I used 3 bags)
1/2 small onion, chopped as fine as you like it
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbs plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs of butter and oil mixture, as per directions
20 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed if frozen (I made it with 1/2 of a box of filo and it worked out just fine- that's what I had on hand!)
optional: a little feta- not true to the Albanian version, but I had a little to use up- so in it went!

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degreees
2. Combine butter and canola oil in a saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Stir to combine. Reserve two tablespoons for the filling
3. For the filling: In a VERY large bowl (get out the biggest one you have), combine the spinach, onion, egg, sour cream, yogurt, salt and 2 Tbs of butter/oil mixture and mix it all well- use your hands if needed. Set aside
4. Using a large rimmed sheet pan, butter the bottom and sides of the baking sheet and lay down 2 sheets of phyllo so that the edges overlap in the middle. Brush with butter. Continue this process for 9 more sheets of phyllo making sure to butter each sheet and the parts that overlap- the butter helps everything to adhere and get flaky and delicious!
[ As a side note, the recipe says to use one sheet, but it barely covered the bottom of the baking sheet, so I adapted and laid the sheets side by side. Once you unroll your phyllo and size up your sheetpan, you'll have an idea of how you need to lay out the phyllo, too]

5. After your 10th sheet is laid down on the baking sheet, top the buttered phyllo with your spinach mixture. Even it out with a spatula. Repeat the phyllo layering process with 10 more sheets of phyllo- don't forget to butter every layer. Butter, butter, butter!
6. Turn up the edges to seal- folding them over towards the top is just fine. Nothing fancy. Think RUSTIC.

7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until top is golden brown. Use a knife to check the bottom to make sure it, too, is nice and crispy. Let cool for 15 minutes (if you can wait!). Slice however you like and serve.
The spinach filling really cooks down!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blueberry Sauce ~ 5.18.11

My family {loves} blueberries and this is a great sauce to make for pancakes, ice cream, coffee cake... whatever! You can use frozen or fresh and I think it would be a tremendous addition to the lemon ricotta pancakes I have lined up for this week!

Blueberry Syrup
from: The Way the Cookie Crumbles

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water + 2 Tbs
pinch of salt
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 cup blueberries
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Bring the sugar, 1/2 cup of water and salt to a boil. Mix until dissolved. Add the Tbs of cornstarch and 2 Tbs of water. Blend.
Add the blueberries and stir. Boil until they POP and syrup turns purple (about 5-6 minutes)

Turn off the heat and add 1/2 tsp lemon juice and a pat of butter.

Serve warm over hot pancakes!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cool 'n Creamy Chocolate Fondue ~ 5.12.11

We love this dip. It is everything the name of the recipe says: Cool, Creamy and chocolatey. Perfect treat on a warm spring or summer day. Especially with fresh fruit!

Cool 'n Creamy Chocolate Fondue
recipe from Pampered Chef

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 container frozen whipped topping, thawed (8 oz)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp rum or vanilla extract- we use vanilla
Assorted dippers- fruit, pretzels, cinnamon pita chips (you can make these easily w/ flour tortillas), your fingers

Place choc. chips and half the whipped topping in bowl and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH, one minute, stirring every 20 secs until chocolate is melted.
Fold in remaining whipped topping, cinnamon and extract of choice, mixing till smooth.
Cover and chill for 30 minutes- it's hard to wait, but you can do it!

Serve with fruit dippers, etc.

yield: 2 cups (16 servings) 80 cal, 5 g fat, 7 g carb per 2 Tbs fondue

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Polish Sugar Cookies ~ 5.5.11

This past Sunday was a special day for me as our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II was beautified in Rome! I wanted to make a special dessert but we had a very busy weekend and I knew that simple would be the only way to go. Friday morning, I whipped these cookies up in no time flat. They are really quick to come together and the only thing that takes a little extra time is the rolling them into balls and into the sugar.
Now, I was bringing these into Max's classroom for a snack after my lesson to the kids on Blessed JPII, so I used vanilla instead of lemon as the original recipe intended. I knew vanilla would be a hit but sometimes kids can be funny about lemon.
The kids loved the cookies and wanted seconds (and thirds)! When I told our boys that I could make them lemon the next time they encouraged me to definitely give that a try. When will I ever figure these boys out?
These are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea!

Polish Sugar Cookies

1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar, plus extra for rolling
3 egg yolks
1/2 t. lemon extract (or 1 t. vanilla)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream sugar and butter.
Add egg yolks and vanilla (or lemon extract).
Add flour, baking soda and cream of tartar.
Mix until well combined -- dough will be stiff.
Pinch off dough and roll into 1-inch balls.
Roll in granulated sugar.
Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake until set, not brown, for 10-12 minutes.
recipe from Catholic Cuisine

Zach with our cookies and "statues" of Blessed JPII!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Caramel Pull Apart Bread ~ 5.1.11

How have I let this blog go this long without adding this easy and favorite recipe of ours? I even made it Easter morning after Mass!

If you could only smell how good this was...

Nothing beats waking up to a house full of some sort of delicousness in the oven, am I right? Well, maybe having all those necessary ingredients in your fridge is a close second. 'Cause without them, this wouldn't be sitting on the platter in all its glory.

And this little beauty couldn't be easier. 4 ingredients. four. that's all!

Pull-Apart Caramel Coffee Cake

2 tubes refrigerated flaky biscuits
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream (aka heavy cream)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Open the biscuits, get out your kitchen shears (it's the easiest way to do this) and cut those biscuits into fourths. (first in half, then in half again)
Arrange in a 10in fluted tube pan coated with cooking spray.
Combine the brown sugar, cream and cinnamon; pour over the biscuits.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for minutes, unless you want to burn the top layer of skin off of your fingers or tongue (uh, trust me on this one). If the middle still looks undercooked, then pop it back in until they're puffed. I've had this take longer than 30 minutes before...
Eat and enjoy!

This little beaut' won $500 in a recipe contest. Found it in Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious magazine, Mar/April 2008.

first posted to She's A Crafty Pumpkin in May 2008