February 22, 2015
Simple, delicious meal of chicken and potatoes cooked together in just 1 skillet. The only other cleanup is a cutting board and a small bowl. But be sure to allocate two hours of mostly unattended cooking time. The flavor was very well-balanced, and the chicken was moist. 4-stars.
Simple to make and clean up
The timing on the recipe is based upon a very small whole chicken; 1 to 1-1/4 hours and was perfect for a 4-lb chicken. If your chicken is bigger, you will have to reduce the over temperature (and increase cooking time) to prevent the skin from becoming overcooked. I’d suggest 375. Alternatively, you can bake it at 350 for an hour, then increase to 425 until the breast meat registers 160 and the dark meat registers 175.
- I also tried to make this recipe using 6 pre-cut thighs. It baked in only 35 minutes. The main drawback was that the thighs had too much skin; while delicious; there was too much fat that rendered. After removing this chicken to rest; discard the extra fat from the pan before finishing the potatoes on the stove top in Step 8.
Rating: 4 stars.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start time: 4:00 PM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.
The Cook’s Country link to the original recipe is here. The recipe as I prepared it today is given below:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving
1 (4-lb) whole chicken, giblets discarded
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 400-degrees.
- In a very small bowl, add 2 tablespoons oil, thyme, 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
- Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry, then use your fingers to separate the skin from the chicken breast. (While the original recipe just calls for loosening over the breasts, I loosened over the legs and thighs too). Rub the oil mixture from Step 2 underneath and on top of the skin of the chicken. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together, and tuck the wingtips behind the back. Set aside
- Peel your potatoes and square-off the ends. Slice into 1″-thick-rounds. Add potatoes to a 12″ oven-safe, non-stick skillet. Toss with 1 tablespoon oil, 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- Arrange potatoes so that they lay flat and in a single layer. Set over medium burner and cook for 7 to 9 minutes without moving or flipping the potatoes, until the bottoms become browned.
- Set chicken with the breast-side upward on top of the potatoes and put skillet into oven. Bake for 1 to 1-1/4 hours until the breast meat reaches 160-degrees and the thighs reach 175-degrees.
- Move chicken to cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil; allowing to rest for 20 minutes.
- While the chicken rests, cover the skillet with a lid and continue baking for 20 minutes.
- Carve the chicken and serve with potatoes. Pass lemon wedges along side.
February 15, 2015
Last year, I made some amazing Valentine’s Day truffles. I pulled out all the stops and created something that I considered unique and amazing. This year, without an official Girl Friend, I almost didn’t make truffles. But I decided at the last-minute to make them, and I made them jointly together with my nearly-16-year-old son, who plans to give some to a friend of his. In a twist this year, I included a recipe that I have been experimenting with for the past 7 or 8 months; homemade Snickers. I know that I am not alone in my love of Snickers.
Delicious Valentine’s Day Truffles
Snickers are a combination of three different layers; each made separately and layered on-top of each other. First, I made the caramel. Then layered the nouget on top. I froze everything solid so that I could cut them into pieces without squishing the more delicate nougat. Finally topped with chocolate, which importantly makes the sticky middle layers much easier to eat.
- While I generally love dark chocolate, I didn’t like using exclusively dark chocolate with the taste of Snickers. I achieved a great, rich flavor using 50% dark chocolate and 50% milk chocolate. I used Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe’s ($4.50/lb).
- 500 grams of chocolate will cover about 30 truffles.
- While I tried a couple of times to make my own marshmallow, it was too delicate a process and I ultimately have changed the recipe to simply buy Marshmallow Fluff. I imagine that I could also use regular marshmallows, melted down, but Marshmallow Fluff works perfectly.
- I also considered using homemade dulce de leche instead of caramel; because it is so easy to make. While the texture is perfect, the flavor is slightly different. Ultimately I opted for caramel.
- If you are making snickers bars instead of truffle-sized treats, then melt 8 ounces of chocolate and pour over nouget (after the 20 minutes in the refrigerator). This will give a nice even base layer of chocolate. Cut into 2-3/4″-by-1″; yielding 24 bars.
- A few of the websites I used when working through this recipe include here and here.
Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium/High.
Start time: 10:00 AM. Finish time: 6:00 PM.
For the caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup evaporated milk
8 oz roasted salted peanuts
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Spray a 8″-by-8″ baking pan with cooking spray, then line with a 14″ long piece of parchment paper folded over to match the exact width of the bottom of the pan. Leave a few inches of overhang on each side. Then spray the parchment paper again (never use wax paper). Set aside.
- Fit a heavy-bottomed small-sized saucepan with a candy thermometer so that it is near, but not touching the bottom of the pan. Remove thermometer for the time being; only using it for the last few minutes (otherwise your thermometer will overheat).
- Add sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup, butter and kosher salt and set over medium-high burner. Stir mixture for 2 minutes until sugar completely dissolves. Use a wet pastry brush to wash down the inside of the pan to eliminate crystallization. Continue to boil , occasionally swirling the pan (but not stirring), and brushing to prevent crystallization, mixture for about 16 minutes until it reaches 260-degrees.
- Meanwhile roughly chop peanuts; roughly in half.
- Immediately remove the saucepan from heat, add peanuts, evaporated milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix until the peanuts are evenly distributed. Pour caramel mixture into prepared pan using an oiled rubber spatula, spread evenly in the pan. Let cool for 30 minutes until caramel is no longer warm to the touch. Place in freezer until caramel is solid; about 3 hours.
- To fully clean the caramel from your pans it may be necessary to re-soften using boiling water.
Cook to 260-degrees
Pour caramel layer first
Create sling to ease removal
For the peanut nougat:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 cup marshmallow fluff
3 tablespoons cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in sugar and milk, stirring until dissolved and bring to a boil; about 1 minute.
- Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and fold peanut butter until melted.
- Fold in fluff, and vanilla extract, stirring until smooth. Pour over bottom layer of caramel and allow to cool completely in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Freeze until solid for 3 hours.
- Use a paring knife to run along the sides without parchment. Use parchment sling to remove pan.
- Place on a cutting board with the caramel-side down, cut into appropriately sized pieces. Put back in freezer while you prepare the chocolate coating in the next section.
The two inner layers of snicker
For the chocolate coating:
1-lb milk chocolate
1-lb dark chocolate
- Bring a saucepan filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer over high heat; once simmering, turn off heat. Place ALL BUT 6-OZ of chocolate in a dry heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan and stir until chocolate is completely melted and reaches 118°F.; about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile break the remaining chocolate into smallish pieces.
- When chocolate reaches 118°F, remove the bowl from the saucepan. Add remaining 6 ounces of chocolate and stir until all chocolate is melted and cools to 100°F. Do not remove the thermometer from the bowl.
- Keep the saucepan over low burner. As necessary, return the bowl to the saucepan to maintain the temperature between 95°F and 105°F.
- Fill each cup of a mini-cup-cake pan with mini-cup-cake-liners; which will help maintain the form while the chocolate cools.
- Spoon chocolate into each empty cup, add one square pushing down so that the chocolate squishes halfway up the sides. Top with another spoonful of chocolate to cover.
- Freeze for 5 minutes. Use the tines for a fork to help remove from mini-cup-cake pan. Repeat until your run out of chocolate.
A wonderful assortment
Melt chocolate over double boiler
February 3, 2015
When in college a person eats Ramen noodles because they are inexpensive. But there was a time in college that frozen taquitos comprised a significant part of my weekly menu, not because they were inexpensive, but because I thought they were delicious. At the time it never occurred to me that I could make them for myself; they were beyond my young culinary capabilities. Fast forward 20 years, when I tried them again, all that I could taste was their flaws; leathery tortillas, dry meat, lackluster spices (plus a bunch of chemicals and preservatives). I felt the same way when I went back to my hometown in my 30’s. It had been the focus of my life; I had known every nook and cranny of the sleepy little town. Or when I see my ex-wife; a woman who I loved just 3 years ago; but to whom I now feel nothing (opps, a little too revealing; but she never reads my blog). The bottom line is this: Life only moves forward; just as I outgrew my home town, nothing can make eating frozen taquitos appealing again. No amount of horses and men can make Humpty Dumpty whole again. If taquitos are to ever be part of my future, so that I can share them with my kids, it is up to me to figure out how.
Good Mexican food takes a lot of time to prepare
Chris Kimball does not have a recipe for taquitos. Of course I don’t generally trust his yankee-palate when it comes to “Mexican food”. I have been developing this recipe over the course of the past year, and am only just giving it 3-1/2 stars because there is room for improvement. The flavors are rich and delicious, but the flavors are not completely and properly balanced. Infinitely better than frozen taquitos, and represents a good starting point. I post another recipe when this recipe goes above 4-stars. (Please feel free to offer suggestions).
- To freeze taquitos, put on a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm. Transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag; they can be frozen for up to 3 months. To use frozen taquitos: put in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400-degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
- I used flour tortillas tonight, but generally make them using corn tortillas. There is a common (mis)belief that taquitos are made only with corn tortillas, and that flautas are only made with flour tortillas.
Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium/High.
Start time 1PM. Ready at 6PM.
5-lb bone-in pork butt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups (16 ounces) beef broth
2 medium onion
2 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
4 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (4-ounces)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
12 corn tortillas (6 inches)
Serve with: Sour cream, guacamole, salsa and lime slices.
- Pre-heat your oven to 300-degrees. Trim away any excess fat from the pork, and remove any skin (especially if you ended up with a pernil).
- Pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in Dutch oven set over medium-high burner until oil begins to shimmer. Sear pork for 5 minutes per side; about 20 minutes total.
- Add beef broth to Dutch Oven, bring it up to a simmer, cover and bake for 4 hours until the pork is extremely tender. Remove pork to a large bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
- While the pork cools, strain the braising liquid into a fat separator and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Discard any solids.
- Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees.
- Pre-heat 1 tablespoon of pork fat (from fat separator) into now-empty dutch oven over medium-high burner. Add onions and jalapenos to pot, sprinkle with 2 teaspoon table salt. Saute until tender; about 5 minutes.
- Press garlic into the pot, and add tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, black pepper and cayenne; cook 1 minute longer.
- Pour 3/4 of liquid from the fat separator into the pot, using the liquid to deglaze the pan. Reduce for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Meanwhile, use two forks to shred pork, then pick through with your fingers to discard any clumps of fat or other unappetizing bits. Add pork to pot with sauteed vegetables.
- Add grate cheese, and lime juice. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.
- chopped cilantro,
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
- Soften tortillas by wrapping them a paper towel and microwaving them for about 30-45 seconds.
- Put 2 tablespoons of filling over lower third of a tortilla. Roll up tightly, using gravity to hold the taquito closed. (You can secure with toothpicks; or mix up your own paste by adding water to flour). Repeat rolling process with remaining tortillas.
- Bake at 400° for 8 minutes. Serve with: Sour cream, guacamole and salsa.
Shred using forks or by hand
Use fat separator
Cook for 4 hours