Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Scrambled Eggs For Dinner!

I have a good friend who likes to say, "A woman only has so many meals in her". What she means is, you can't be a gourmet chef every night of the week. Boy do I understand that! So when I'm not feeling the whole gourmet vibe, I make something simple like eggs. Truth be know, I'm not a huge egg fan, but if I have to eat them, I want to eat them scrambled - Yummy!

I start by beating a few eggs in a bowl and heating up a big cast iron skillet. I've been using this one for 20 years. See how nice and black it is?

Well, about 10 years ago all that black disappeared when my hubby decided to surprise me by making dinner. Boy was I surprised... dinner from a man who doesn't cook AND 10 years of hard work destroyed all in one fail swoop.

You see, my beloved's intentions were wonderful, but he simmered tomato sauce in my skillet for hours. Highly acidic tomato sauce. Do you know what highly acidic tomato sauce does to a very black, very well seasoned 10 year old cast iron skillet??? Sigh.

Well, 10 more years have passed now and I'm happy to report my pan is finally back to its former well seasoned glory after a decade of TLC. That, and watching it like a hawk whenever my husband steps foot into the kitchen, which thankfully, doesn't happen very often. (I love you honey, but don't use my pan again)

Oh, back to the eggs. When the skillet is nice and hot, I melt a pat of butter (of course).

Now I pour in the beaten eggs and stir, stir, stir with one of my heat proof silicone spatulas. See how the eggs aren't sticking? That's what a well seasoned cast iron pan will do for you!

Voila! The eggs are done in 30-45 seconds flat.
(take that Rachel Ray)
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, a little parsley for color, and a touch of dried marjoram if you like - marjoram is related to oregano, but has a more delicate flavor that goes very well with eggs.

Super Crunchy Oven Roasted Potatoes!

Potatoes are my favorite root vegetable and these oven roasted spuds rank right up at the top of the list!

I especially like to roast my potatoes along side
the juiciest oven roasted chicken ever.
There's just something about chicken fat that really makes them good!

Anyway, I peeled and cut up about 4 large Idaho baking potatoes, but you could use whatever potatoes you like. Sometimes I throw in a few carrots too, but not today.

Next I drizzled the potatoes with a little EVOO (extra virgin olive oil). Just enough to protect them from the oven heat and keep them from shriveling into dry little bricks. I threw in a few chunks of chopped onion too. The onion will burn when exposed to too much direct heat, so tuck them down under the potatoes. You can season with a little salt and pepper now, or do like me and forget until later. Oops.

After nearly 2 hours in a 350F oven, the chicken was done. The potatoes were technically done too, but they weren't as brown and crispy as I like them because they ended up swimming in a lot of pan juices, so I removed the chickens from the roasting pan, poured off the juices (reserve for stock or gravy), tossed the potatoes with some of the rendered chicken fat, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper, then increase the oven temp to 450F and roasted the potatoes, uncovered, for another 10-15 minutes. Here's what they looked like when they were done.

So crispy and yummy! See those really dark bits? They're the most delicious caramelized onions imaginable. I really hope you try these sometime!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Juiciest Oven Roasted Chicken Ever!

Roasted Chicken is a favorite for this family of 6. I like to roast 2 birds at a time so I can have enough cooked chicken for 2 meals AND make a big batch of homemade chicken stock, which I value like gold! Stay tuned for a separate post on how to make
the most wonderful chicken stock.

Okay, first let me say that I grew up eating roasted chicken.  We had it all the time and I loved it. Didn't think it could get any better... that is, until I discovered the wonderful world of brining. If you've never brined before, you MUST MUST MUST give it a try. I promise you will not be disappointed! Brining adds so much flavor and moisture. You'll truly be amazed.

Here's how I brined my two 5 1/2 pound chickens. I do everything in a huge 16-quart stockpot, but you can use a 5 gallon bucket, a large plastic storage container, a cooler... basically whatever you have that will hold 2 gallons of brine and 2 chickens.

(FYI - this stockpot is one of those cheap-o flimsy ones that is so light weight and thin that anything you cook in it burns (even boiled pasta - seriously). Not good for cooking, but great for brining or boiling large amounts of water.

Recipe can easily be halved, but here's what you'll
need to make two chickens like I do:

2 gallons water (divided)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt (I use Morton's)
(or 1/4 cup non-iodized table salt)
2 teaspoons of ground black pepper

Start by bringing 1 quart of water to a boil (4 cups). Add salt and sugar; stir to dissolve.  Add enough cold water to equal 2 gallons (that's an additional 28 cups). Be sure your finished brine is COLD. Stir in the black pepper (my arms would fall off if I tried to grind all that pepper by hand, so I grind peppercorns in a coffee mill that I reserve for spices); stir. Remove giblets/neck from the chickens (good for stock, minus the liver which can give a bitter taste).  Submerge the chickens in the brine - get that brine inside too! Cover the stockpot and refrigerate for 8-24. If you're brining in a cooler, keep brine temp below 40F using ice packs.

After the chickens are done lounging in their luxurious salt bath, remove them from the brine and pat them dry. I don't rinse, but you could if you wanted to. Discard the used brine. Let the birds sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, but you can skip this step if you're in a hurry. Pat birds dry again, and rub each with 1-2 tablespoons of softened butter. Yuck Warning - if the chickens aren't completely dry, the butter will stick to you instead of sticking to them!

Sprinkle liberally with ground black pepper only.  DO NOT sprinkle with salt at this point. Remember, these guys have been swimming in the dead sea for hours.

Oops, I forgot to get a photo of this step, but I stuff each chicken with half of an onion and
some whole garlic cloves. I added some cut potatoes to the roasting pan.
Click here for super crunchy oven roasted potatoes

I like to tie the legs together for a nicer finished presentation. Believe me, they turn out much better looking this way, but you don't have to.

These babies are going to exude a lot of juice, so be sure to use a deep sided roasting pan. Roast the birds at 350F for about 20 minutes per pound (5.5 pounds x 20 minutes = 1 hour and 50 minutes), or until the internal temperature taken in the thickest part of the thigh registers about 165F. Remove the chickens from the oven and let them rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Oops, you can see that I set the alarm on my roasting thermometer to go off at the wrong temp, but I'm not worried... I know brining these guys guarantees that they're still going to be super juicy and tender.

Mmmm - you are going to LOVE LOVE LOVE this chicken. Your family is going to Love Love Love this chicken... and your mother-in-law is going to hate hate hate you and be so jealous.  Err, uhh - just kidding... Hi Carol! Thank you for all the great kitchen toys you've given me over the years... your son sends his love... and so do your grandkids... and so do I... :).

Can you see the puddle of juice this chicken breast is oozing?  So succulent and delicious. Be prepared to hear praise from even your pickiest eater as this yummy chicken is being devoured.  You'll thank me later - Enjoy!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Here are a few treats for the eye to enjoy while you wait!

Red Velvet Wedding Cake filled and frosted with Vanilla Buttercream - Interior color was stunning!!!

Vanilla Butter Cake with
Vanilla Buttercream - Classic!

Vanilla Almond Pound Cake filled and frosted with Vanilla Buttercream. Decorated with a stunning variety of fresh flowers and Rose Hips.

An amazingly delicious Vanilla Butter Cake with Fresh Raspberry Puree Buttercream filling and Vanilla Buttercream frosting - accented with fresh flowers and ruby red raspberries.

This super rich and delicious Chocolate Buttercake
filled and frosted with the most amazing
Chocolate Ganache - TO DIE FOR!

New York Style Cheesecake with Wild Maine Blueberry Sauce - Delish!

Delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Rich,
Buttery Caramel Sauce - Yum!

These goodies were all made pre-blog, so I can't post about them specifically, but I'll be sure to get lots of pictures of future baking projects!