Still without Power after Hurricane Irene

August 31, 2011

It’s been three days since the hurricane has come and gone and there is still no hint that my electric company is working to fix my power outage. Fortunately my next door neighbor does have power and offered to let me run an extension cord to their house, so we have light in the nighttime, can watch DVDs and the boys can play Wii.  Really, the only thing we don’t have is refrigeration, dish washer, laundry and internet. We are pretty lucky.

Three small problems hampered this otherwise great loaf

The Saturday before the storm I baked this loaf of cinnamon swirl bread (the super markets were sold out of bread). There were a few small problems that can be easily fixed. My son called this the best bread I’ve ever baked. I will post the recipe together with the adjustments when I finally get power.   The electric company is now predicting September 3rd.


Roast Chicken with Lemon Jus

August 21, 2011

While the overall techniques used in this recipe are sound. Brining the chicken kept the chicken moist, browning the chicken skin-side down to render the skin. The problem is that the jus lacks potency, and while there are hints of lemon, it tastes only slightly better than chicken broth.  Not worth the effort.

The mashed potatoes weren't as good as I had hoped with the jus.

This chicken was leftover from yesterday’s chicken casserole, so at least there were two dinners for the effort. I also baked this rustic dinner bread. However, the overall lack of potency in the jus made it just an average meal, 3-stars.


  1. I should have eaten the Chicken with Jus the first night and the casserole the second night; the main drawback was the need to reheat the chicken causing the skin to lose it’s crispness.

Rating: 3-stars.
Cost: $5.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinnertime: 7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

1/2 cup table salt
6 pieces of skin-on, split chicken breast.
Ground black pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium shallot
4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 fresh sprig fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon parsley leaves

  1. In a large container or bowl, mix 1/2 cup table salt in 2 quarts of cold water. Submerge the chicken breasts, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 60 minutes. Discard the brine, rinse the chicken, and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides of the chicken with pepper (not more salt).
  2. Position an oven rack to the middle of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Line a 13″x9″ Pyrex baking dish with aluminum foil.
  3. Place a 12″ regular skillet over medium-high heat. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil until just smoking. Brown half of the chicken for five minutes, skin side down. Flip the chicken using tongs and brown the second side for 4 minutes. Meanwhile mince your shallot.
  4. Place the chicken skin-side up into your foil-lined baking dish. Brown both sides of the remaining with 2 more teaspoons vegitable oil.  Bake for 22 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165-degrees.
  5. While the chicken bakes, reduce the heat to medium and add the shallot to skillet and saute for 1 minute.
  6. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, and thyme. Deglaze the pan and simmer for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced to 3 cups; then set aside until step 8. Meanwhile chop the parsley.
  7. Once the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165-degrees, place it on a serving platter. Let it rest uncovered.
  8. Add any accumulated juices from the baking dish back to the jus. Strain the jus through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or measuring cup. Discarding the solids and return 1-1/2 cups of the jus to the skillet. Bring back to a simmer, whisk in 2 tablespoons . Remove from heat and mix in lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.
  9. Serve the chicken and pass the jus separately.

Chicken and Rice Casserole with Lemon and Parmesan

August 19, 2011

I had planned for a 6:30 dinner, but took a short siesta. When I awoke at 5pm, I realized that I should have begun brining the chicken before my nap. In the end, we ate at 8pm; that in itself was not a big problem during these summer months. However, the recipe does have fundamental problems: it made a huge mess, was too much work, and yielded too little reward.  I am certain that I will never make this recipe again, but not because my family didn’t like it. It was quite similar to chicken risotto or arroz con pollo, both of which I love. There are simply better ways to arrive at a 3-1/2 stars meal.

Long process for average results; not recommended

While I do have a lot of complains about this recipe, it was delicious. My boys gave the results four stars, but I had to reduce it to 3-1/2 because of the issues below.


  1. My biggest issue with this recipe is the huge mess it made of my kitchen. Two skillets (one regular another non-stick), two Pyrex casserole dishes, three bowls, two cutting boards, and the food processor. Come on Chris; I love cooking for 3 hours, but the last thing I want to do afterwards is clean up a disaster area.
  2. The recipe calls for 3 whole chicken breasts; totaling 4-1/2 pounds. Of course, my grocery store sells split breasts, so I used 6 split breasts.
  3. The recipe is extremely inefficient, using only 2 of the 6 breast halves. It would have been better to pare the recipe down, because I don’t always want 3-pounds of leftover chicken.
  4. Unless you have super lemons, it takes two lemons to yield 3 tablespoons of juice.

Cost: $8.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess?  Huge mess!
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinnertime: 8:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe requires two recipes;  here and here. Actually, there is a third recipe for crunchy bread crumbs, but instead I used Ritz Crackers. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1/2 cup table salt with 4 cups of water
6 split, bone-in, skin-on chicken breast
Ground black pepper
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium shallot
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 fresh sprig fresh thyme
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Trim away attached ribs, which have very little meat but take up a lot of space in your skillet.
  2. To brine chicken, use a very large bowl or container. Mix together 2 quarts of cold water and 1/2 cup table salt. Place chicken in brine, cover with plastic wrap and and refrigerate for 1 hour. Line large 13”x9” Pyrex casserole dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
  3. Throw away brine, and rinse chicken. Pat dry using paper towels, and sprinkle skin-side with pepper.
  4. While cooking the chicken on the stovetop, preheat oven to 450-degrees, adjusting the oven rack to the middle position.  Also mince your shallot (about 3 tablespoons)
  5. Place 12” regular skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil until hot. Place 3 pieces of chicken in skillet, skin-side down, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for 3 more minutes. Remove chicken and place, skin-side up, into your prepared 13″x9″ casserole dish. Cook the remaining chicken using the remaining 2 teaspoons oil.
  6. Bake chicken in your 450-degree oven for 20 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken is 160-degrees.
  7. While the chicken bakes, reduce stovetop heat to medium. Saute the shallot in the fat remaining in the skillet for 1 minutes.
  8. Add broth, bay leaves, and thyme to skillet. Deglaze the  skillet and simmer for 15 minutes. It should reduce to 3 cups, then set aside until needed.
  9. When the chicken reaches 160-degrees, place it to a serving platter. Allow to rest, uncovered.
  10. Reserve 4 chicken breast halves, as the casserole recipe only uses 2 of your 6 pieces. Also reserve 1-1/2 cups of jus.

Preparing the Casserole:

2 tablespoons unsalted
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
3 medium garlic cloves
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups chicken jus (from above)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cooked chicken breasts (from above)
8-oz asparagus (about 1/2 bunch)
1-1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
25 Ritz crackers

  1. After removing chicken from oven, reduce temperature to 400-degrees.
  2. Peel 2 medium carrots and slice thin. Peel 3 garlic cloves. Dice 1 medium onion. Trim away the tough ends of the asparagus and cut into 1″ lengths. Shred chicken in a clean bowl using two forks. Using a food processor, crush 25 Ritz crackers into coarse crumbs. Grate your Parmesan cheese, which should yield about 3/4-cup.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 12” nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the foaming has subsided, saute the sliced carrots and diced onion and cook for 6 minutes.
  4. Press garlic cloves directly into skillet and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the rice and stir for another 30 seconds. Add the water, chicken jus, heavy cream, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring up to a simmer, then reduce to low heat, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Stir often. It will be ready when the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and is barely tender.
  6. Add shredded chicken, asparagus, Parmesan, lemon juice, and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper according to taste.
  7. Put entire mixture into an 8″ square baking dish. Evenly top with Ritz crumbs, and bake for 10 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Ultimate Cinnamon Buns

August 14, 2011

The last time I made these Cinnamon Buns was December 29, 2009; two days before I started this blog; and my oldest son has been begging me to make them again. The dough is rich and buttery, and the cream cheese frosting is sweet, but more flavorful than a standard sugar-only glaze.

Great tasting cinnamon buns, but there is a big flaw

It’s a bold claim for Cook’s Country to call these the ultimate cinnamon buns. While they are rich and delicious, the recipe has a fundamental problem that has occurred each of the five times I’ve made this recipe.  Chris Kimball claims that the butter and cinnamon sugar are “… baked together, [and] turned into a truly rich, gooey filling”.  But the truth is that the gooey filling oozes to the bottom of the pan, and after cooling forms a hard, unpleasant,  glass-like coating. If left too long to harden, it will permanently attach the buns to the aluminum foil used in baking. I haven’t found a solution prevent the formation of the epoxy-like coating. However, I have come up with a hard-and-fast rule to mitigate the damage: always remove the buns from the foil no more than 20 minutes after removing from the oven. Waiting the designated 30-minutes before removing from the foil will make a disaster of the already difficult process of removing the buns from the foil.


  1. Originally the recipe calls for diving the rolls into 8 pieces, but the cinnamon buns are too big. Nobody would eat a whole bun, but rather always cut them in half. So instead I divide into 12 pieces, which makes a much more manageable size.
  2. The recipe calls for a 13″ x 9″ pan size. In my kitchen I have two different Pyrex casserole dishes to choose from, so I had to choose the 14″x10″. I’m not sure if this could have impacted the filling.
  3. I strongly recommend using heavy-duty aluminum foil because of the filling problem described above.
  4. There are a few other recipes that I have not tried. They include these Yeasted Cinnamon Buns and also these non-yeasted rolls.

Rating: 4-stars.

Cost: $3 for 12 cinnamon buns.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start 5 hours before serving. If making ahead, restart 2 hours before breakfast. However, the recipe only requires 30 minutes of effort.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here (the site requires free registration, but no credit card). My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

3/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 eggs
4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (22-3/8 ounces)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces cream cheese
1 tablespoon whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

  1. Set eggs and 2 sticks of butter out for 30 minutes to warm to room temperature. Cut butter into 16 equal pieces.
  2. Adjust your oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 200 degrees, then it shut off. This will provide a warm environment for the dough to rise.
  3. Line a large Pyrex casserole dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, allowing excess to hang over the edges. Apply some butter to foil.
  4. Heat milk in 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup in microwave for 50 seconds to 110 degrees.
  5. Whisk yeast into milk and let hydrate for 5 minutes, then whisk in eggs (still in measuring cup).
  6. Add flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt to bowl of a standing mixer. Attach the dough hook.
  7. Turn mixer on low (2 on a kitchen-aide), and slowly pour milk mixture in a steady stream. Mix for 1 minute until dough comes together.
  8. Increase mixer speed to medium (4 on a kitchen-aide). One piece at a time, add butter and mix for 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and come away from sides of bowl. If the dough is still wet and sticky, one tablespoon of flour at a time until the dough releases from the sides of the bowl.
  9. Turn dough out onto clean surface and knead to form a smooth, round ball. Transfer dough to large bowl sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
  10. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put in warm, but turned-off, oven. Let dough rise for 45 minutes until it doubles in size.
  11. After 40 minutes, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. Lightly flour a surface, and turn out dough, and roll dough into an 18″ square.
  12. Spread the 4 tablespoons of softened butter over the top surface of the dough, but leave a 1/2″ border around edges. Evenly sprinkle the sugar mixture over the buttered dough, and gently press down on the sugar so that it sticks to the dough.
  13. Starting with the closest edge, tightly roll the dough into a cylinder. Pinch the seam to seal and turn so that the seam side is down.
  14. Use a knife to cut in half, then in half again; then each piece into thirds, yielding 12 rolls. Place the pieces, cut-side facing upward, into prepared pan and cover with plastic wrap. If you plan to finish them tomorrow, refrigerate now for up to 24 hours. If you plan to continue today, then let them rise near the oven (or other warm spot) for 1 hour. If you refrigerated the dough, let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.
  15. After 30 minutes begin preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Add the softened cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and confectioners sugar to a medium bowl. Using a fork, mix together until smooth.
  16. Remove the plastic wrap and bake for 27 to 30 minutes. The buns will be golden brown and filling will have melted.
  17. Transfer to a wire rack, and evenly apply 1/2 cup of glaze to the tops of the buns. This will be the “primer coat”.
  18. Allow to cool for 20 minutes, then use the foil overhang to lift the buns from the pan. After 10 more minutes top with remaining glaze, and serve.

Barbecued Chicken Kebabs Revised

August 12, 2011

I made these BBQ Chicken Kebabs three months ago for a party and they turned out fantastic.  I am posting the recipe again, because in the heat of party there were some important things I missed, plus I added more bacon as someone suggested. I stand by my statement at the time: “this is the best barbecued chicken I’ve ever eaten”.

Delicious Kebobs are the best BBQ ever

The changes were:

  1. Chris Kimball’s recipe leaves the impression that the grilling time is about 12 minutes. In reality, the chicken takes a full 30 minutes on the grill to reach 175-degrees. Also, the recipe doesn’t mention if the grill should be covered or uncovered, but I found that chicken thighs need the heat trapping provided by the grill cover to reach 175-degrees without burning the exterior.
  2. Three months ago I said that it made a low/medium mess. I see now that it makes a bigger mess than I remembered. I’ve reordered a few things in the recipe below to use two fewer dishes, but still the recipe makes (at least) a “medium” mess.
  3. As suggested by a reader last time, I added more bacon. Also because different brands have wider slices, I added a weight (3 ounces). I used Farmland bacon this time, but the slices were exceptionally thin. To calculate 3 ounces without a scale just count the total slices in a package and do the math.
  4. The BBQ sauce takes 9 to 10 minutes to reduce to 1-cup, rather than the 7 minutes specified in the original recipe.

Rating: 4-1/2-stars.
Cost: $5 for 2 pounds of chicken. Makes four 8-9″ kebabs.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 4:30 PM. Ready at 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

Homemade BBQ Sauce:

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 teaspoons sugar
3 – 4 slices bacon (3 oz)
4 skewers

  1. Grate 1/2 small onion and place in small saucepan. By grating the onion before cutting up your chicken, you can use the same cutting board.
  2. Trim any excess fat from chicken and cut into 1-inch cubes. Put chicken cubes in a large bowl, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Then add all remaining sauce ingredients to small saucepan with onions and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sauce has reduced to 1 cup; about 9 minutes. Add 1/2-cup sauce to small bowl (to be used during barbecuing), setting the remaining sauce aside to serve at the table.
  4. If using wood skewers, soak them in a Pyrex casserole dish filled with water.
  5. With 5 minutes before your chicken is ready to come out of the refrigerator, light a large chimney starter three-quarters filled, about 75-coals.
  6. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
  7. Cut the bacon slices into 1/2-inch pieces, and process in food processor until it forms a smooth paste; about 45 seconds. Scrape the sides of the food processor twice during processing to ensure an even paste. Sprinkle paprika and sugar over chicken, then add the bacon paste. Using your hands, mix until spices and evenly blended and chicken is completely coated with paste.
  8. Thread the chicken cubes onto skewers. Chris Kimball recommends metal skewers, but I used wood skewers without problem. Some oddly shaped chicken cubes required rolling or folding meat to maintain even thickness of the skewers.
  9. Once charcoal is fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash (takes about 30 minutes with new Kingsford formulation), dump all charcoal over half of grill bottom, leaving other half empty. Replace the cooking grate and scrape clean with grill brush.
  10. Place chicken kebabs directly over the coals. Cover, and turn a quarter turn every 2-1/2 minutes (for a total of 10 minutes for thighs). Rearrange the kebabs while rotating to ensure even cooking. After 15 minutes they should be well browned and slightly charred. Brush the tops of the kebabs with 1/4-cup of BBQ sauce, and immediately flip the kebobs (sauce side down). Cook for 2 minutes, then brush the second side with another 1/4-cup sauce. Immediately flip and cook for 2 minutes. Begin rotating for even cooking until a thermometer registers 175 degrees (for thighs); about 10 more minutes. (Should be about 30 minutes total on the grill).
  11. Remove kebabs from grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve, passing remaining barbecue sauce separately.

More on Baking Homemade Sandwich Loaf

August 7, 2011

Finally, I’ve perfected the sandwich bread that I’ve been working on for the past few months.  While Chris Kimball’s original recipe (which I made here) was excellent, it only lasted for a few days before going stale. In the worst case it sprouted mold after 3 days. The final loaf I made today is just as delicious as Chris Kimball’s original, but also satisfies my goal of baking a loaf that will last a full week. During the upcoming school year I intend to bake it every Sunday so my two boys can eat sandwiches all week long.

Thick oversized slices made for a delicious sandwich

The changes I made to Chris Kimball’s original recipe are:

  1. I replaced the butter with an equal amount of vegetable oil. While butter does add flavor, it also adds saturated fat, and I’m trying to make a healthier loaf. Plus, the vegetable oil makes for a softer, longer lasting loaf. Since this bread will be used to make sandwiches, the loss of the very subtle butter flavor isn’t a big deal.
  2. I have made his recipe about four times, and each time I found the dough to be too stiff and had to adjust the water each time.  In the end, I added one extra tablespoon of water to the recipe. The recipe now reads “Almost 1/2 cup of water”, by which I mean to measure out 1/2 cup (4 ounces) and remove 1 tablespoon.
  3. Because I wanted a kid-friendly texture and to promote longevity of the finished loaf, I added a few natural “dough conditioners” to help. I made the following additions:
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated lecithin, which is a vitamin, makes for a moister loaf that is not too dry.  Chris Kimball’s original loaf had a problem of drying out after a few days.
  • 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid (Vitamin C ) will inhibit the growth of mold by slightly alters the pH of the loaf.
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger will help the yeast rise, resulting in a lighter, fluffier loaf. Very kid friendly.


  1. Slicing bread before bread has cooled completely will cause moisture to escape from loaf, resulting in a dry loaf. I sliced one loaf after almost 2 hours of cooling, but the escaping moisture will encouraged molding after 3 days. It you intend to keep the loaf for more than 2 days, it is important that you wait a full 3 hours before slicing.
  2. I am eying a new loaf pan for a standard sandwich bread shape. My current over-sized slices are delicious for the summertime.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: 90-cents for 29-ounce loaf.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Finish time 6:30 PM. (But don’t slice for another 3 hours)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared and baked the bread today are given below:

Wet Ingredients:

1 cup milk (8 ounces)
Almost 1/2 cup water (3-1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rapid-rise yeast or dry active yeast
1 tablespoon granulated lecithin

Dry Ingredients:

3-1/2 cups bread flour (18-1/2 ounces)
2 teaspoons table salt
1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid (or 1/4 teaspoon fruit fresh)
1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger

  1. Adjust two oven rack to low and low-middle position. Put a broiler pan on the bottom rack, which will be used in step 8. Pre-heat to 200-degrees, then turn off your oven. You will use the residual heat of the oven to speed the first rise. If you don’t mind waiting for 2 hours for the first rise (less in summer), then you can skip the pre-heating portion of this step.
  2. Mix together milk and water  in a Pyrex measuring cup (at least 2 cups); net weight should be 11-1/2 ounces.  Heat in microwave for 1 minute until mixture reaches 105-degrees. Mix in vegetable oil, sugar, yeast and granulated lecithin; allow to hydrate for 5 minutes.
  3. Add dry ingredients (flour, salt, ascorbic acid and powdered ginger) to the bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.
  4. Turn on standing mixer to lowest speed and slowly add liquid; use a rubber spatula to scrape out measuring cup. After the dough has come together, increase speed to 4 on KitchenAid mixer (medium-low on other models). Continue mixing for 10 minutes, stopping twice to remove the dough from hook. The dough will become smooth. If the dough is too dry, add 1 more tablespoon of water. I like to use a spray bottle. Lightly flour a work surface and gently turn out the dough. Knead for about 15 seconds to form a smooth ball.
  5. Lightly oil a large glass bowl, put dough inside and roll around to lightly coat the dough ball. Cover with plastic wrap and place in your warm (but turned off) oven. The dough should take between 40 and 50 minutes to double in size.  If you don’t mind waiting about 2 hours for the first rise, then you can let the dough rise at room temperature.
  6. Gently turn the dough out onto floured surface. Gently press the dough into a 9″x12″ rectangle. Note that the 9″ should correspond exactly to the length of your loaf pan. Roll the dough into a 9″ cylinder, firmly pressing down to ensure that the dough sticks to itself while it rolls. Pinch the seam closed along the length of the cylinder. Spray your 9″x5″x3″ (LxWxH) loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Put your loaf into the pan and softly press the dough so that it touches all four sides of the pan. Spray the top of the loaf very lightly with non-stick cooking spray or dust with flour to ensure that the plastic wrap will release.
  7. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap, realizing that the loaf will grow a few inches above the top of the pan. Place it in a warm spot in your kitchen for 45 minutes until it almost doubles in size. A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly. Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 400-degrees, and bring 2 cups of water to boil on the stovetop.
  8. Carefully remove plastic wrap, spray the loaf twice with water from a spray bottle (optional), and place loaf pan in oven. Pour your 2 cups of boiling water into the pre-heated empty loaf/broiler pan, and close the oven door immediately to trap the steam. After 5 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees . Bake for 25 additional minutes, rotating half way through baking time. After 15 minutes, optionally tent with aluminum foil to keep the loaf top very soft. The bread will be done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees. Carefully remove bread from pan, and let cool on a wire rack for 3 hour before slicing.

Delicious loaf takes some time, but little effort

Grilled Chicken Teriyaki

August 5, 2011

While this delicious Grilled Chicken Teriyaki took about an hour of clock time, it required very little effort to prepare. Most of the hour was purely unattended waiting; for the coals to ignite, and for the chicken to cook. There was only about 15 minutes of work involved.

A Big Sucess for the Family

The end result was highly praised by both my boys, so I gave it a family-friendly 5-stars. In fact, I was a little surprised that they loved it so much. My older son can be quite picky, but then again I guess kids love almost anything that includes 1/2-cup of sugar.  Of course, as an adult there are other recipes that I’d prefer, but I was astonished at how much my two sons loved this recipe. I made it two days in a row.

While I now keep Mirin in my refrigerator, Chris Kimball offers the following substitution: 2 tablespoons of white wine, mixed with an extra teaspoon of sugar. Unfortunately, I only have this Sushi Chef Mirin, which was available in my supermarket. But supposedly it’s not nearly as good as this universally praised Mitoku Organic Mikawa Mirin Sweet Rice Seasoning.


  1. I used 2-1/2 pounds of boneless chicken breasts, instead of bone-in thighs. Mostly because it was on sale, but it also kept the effort very low. De-boning eight thighs can be a little bit of work.
  2. I had a scallion on-hand, and generally like scallions in my Japanese cuisine. So I added the minced white part to the sauce immediately after I removed from heat, and garnished the plate with the sliced greens.

Rating: 5-family-friendly stars.
Cost: $5.00
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Small.
Start time: 5:00. Dinner time: 6:00

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
(optional: 1 finely minced scallion, white and green parts separated).

  1. Trim and de-bone the chicken leaving skin intact. Using a sharp knife, make three diagonal slashes in skin being careful not to cut into the meat.
  2. Fill a large chimney starter about 80% full with charcoal (about 4-1/2 quarts, or about 65 briquettes ). Ignite and let burn for 20 minutes until covered with a layer of fine gray ash.
  3. Remove the cooking grate and place a 16×12″ disposable aluminum roasting pan in center, and empty half the coals on each side of the aluminum pan. Replace the cooking grate, cover and preheat grill for 5 minutes; then scrape the cooking grate clean.
  4. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper. With the skin side up, put chicken in the center of grill (over roasting pan). Cover and cook for 15 minutes to 20 minutes.
  5. Immediately after placing the chicken on the grill, add soy sauce, sugar, grated ginger, and press the garlic clove into a small saucepan. Separately, whisk together the mirin and cornstarch in small bowl, then add the mirin mixture to the saucepan.
  6. Over medium-high heat, bring sauce to boil.  Once it has reached a boil, reduce the stovetop to medium-low and simmer for 4 minutes. Stir as necessary, the sauce should be reduced to 3/4 cup. Cover saucepan to keep warm until ready to serve.
  7. After 15 minutes on the grill, check the internal temperature using an instant-read thermometer. The thickest part of thighs should be 170-degrees. Flip chicken skin-side down directly over coals, and grill for 5 minutes until browned and the skin is crisp.
  8. Let chicken rest for 3 minutes on a cutting board then slice meat crosswise into 1/2″-wide strips. Place chicken either on a serving platter or individual plates. Stir the teriyaki sauce to recombine, then drizzle over the sliced chicken. Serve immediately, passing extra sauce separately to be used with the accompanying rice.

Ground Beef Tacos

August 1, 2011

I’ve been going through a “dry spell” recently, when I have not felt much like cooking. Pressures from work and home have led towards sleepless nights lately, and the combination has sapped my energy to do anything beyond the basics. However, my kids still need to eat, so I have been relying on easy recipes: Macaroni and Cheese, Pepperoni Pan Pizza, Barbecues Burgers, Pasta, etc.  Another of these easy recipes is ground beef tacos. I’ve made them at least 100 times for my kids, each time using a small envelope of taco seasoning costing $1. However, this week I discovered that Chris Kimball has a recipe for Ground Beef Tacos.

Sorry for the terrible cell phone photo

Chris Kimball’s recipe turns out to be no more difficult than using the envelope. Adding just one extra minute to mix my own spices; all of which were already in my kitchen. Of course, there are other improvements, but nothing that adds more than a few extra minutes. (1) Sautéing the onion and garlic, (2) blooming the spices rather than soaking them in water, (3) using tomato paste , and (4) using chicken broth instead of plain water. The kids certainly love them, but I made one mistake that prevented this tacos from reaching their full potential. As such, I’d give them a solid 3-stars; good, but not great. Fine for the kids, but no something I would consider cooking for guests.


  1. I made one small mistake. The recipe called for 1/2-cup tomato sauce, but I inadvertently used 1/2-cup of tomato juice. This meant that I had to let the filling cook much longer to dry out the extra moisture.
  2. I just gave my kids regular  flour tortillas, not the homemade taco shells described in the recipe.
  3. Also, I noticed that the first ingredient in Taco season is Maltodextrin. I’m not sure what that is, but I don’t like the sound of it. Chris Kimball’s recipe is 100% Maltodextrin free.
  4. Actually, the only thing that has motivated me lately has been baking bread. I’ve been baking a lot of this; a loaf based upon Rustic Dinner Rolls, but formed as a typical loaf. Oddly, the dog days of summer are the worst time of year to be baking bread.
  5. Chris Kimball has a collection of 30-minute meals, I should give them a try, to get me through my motivational lull.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $6.00
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Small.
Start time: 5:00. Dinner time: 5:30

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:


2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small onion
3 medium cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound 90% lean ground beef
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

  1. Dice the small onion, which should yield about 2/3-cup. Peel 3 cloves of garlic.
  2. Preheat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Sauté the diced onion for 4 minutes, stirring as necessary.
  3. Meanwhile measure out and combine all dried spices into a small cup.
  4. When onions are ready, press garlic directly into skillet and add spice mixture. Cook and stir for 1 minute to bloom flavors.
  5. Add ground beef to skillet. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to prevent scorching. The beef should no longer be pink.
  6. Add 1/2-cup tomato sauce, 1/2-cup chicken broth, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons cider vinegar. Heat up to a simmer, then turn down to medium-low. Continue to simmer until liquid has thickened, but not completely dry, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently and ensure that no chunks of meat remain. Adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.
  7. Place in serving bowl and pass toppings separately.

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