Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Roast Chicken with Garlic Green Beans

Recently I was watching another episode of Top Chef, and one of the contestants made a roasted chicken for none other than Lidia Bastianich.  I was inspired by seeing this simple yet rich and comforting dish, and decided to make my own.  We happened to have about 5 heads of garlic on hand, so I decided to roast lots of garlic as well, and to incorporate it into my side: green beans.

1 small roaster chicken, giblets removed
3/4 lemon (cut a whole lemon into quarters)
1/4 large white onion, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
18 cloves garlic, whole
2 cups baby carrots
salt and pepper to taste

Green beans:
1 lb trimmed green beans
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 white onion, diced

Chicken drippings (all)
2 to 3 tbsp white flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
1 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425.  In a roasting dish with sides, stuff the chicken with 1/2 lemon, cut into 2 pieces, sliced onion, and 3 or 4 whole garlic cloves.  Tie the legs together tightly with twine (I didn't have any, so had to use a strip of twisted cheesecloth!) so that nothing falls out of the cavity while cooking.  Under the chicken's skin, drizzle about 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil on each breast, and rub around so it covers the breasts evenly (and get your mind out of the gutter!).  Then in your cupped palm, mix together a scant half teaspoon each of thyme and rosemary.  Rub this also under the skin, and try to spread it around evenly over the breasts.  Finally, insert the slices of garlic under the skin, and try to cover the breasts completely.  If you tear the skin, don't worry too much; you can pin it back with a toothpick if the meat is too exposed.

Toss the carrots and remaining whole garlic cloves (I recommend 3 to 4 cloves per person, so maybe 15 total) in a bit of olive oil, just barely enough to lightly coat.  Arrange in roasting pan around the chicken, squeeze 1/4 of a lemon over the whole thing, and put in the oven.  Cook with a tent of aluminum foil over the chicken for the first 40 minutes.  Then remove the foil and cook uncovered for another 10 - 15 minutes.  Baste occasionally with pan juices.  To test for doneness, remove the tie from the legs and cut into the crease between the leg and the breast.  There should be no pinkness or blood.  Juices should run clear.

While the chicken cooks, parboil the green beans.  When they are slightly tender but still quite crisp, remove from heat, drain, and rinse with ice cold water to stop the cooking process.  In a saucepan, saute onion and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil about 10 minutes, until soft and caramelized.  Your house should smell delicious by this point!  Just before serving, add the green beans and saute for about 5 minutes.  Salt lightly to taste.

When chicken is ready, remove from oven and rest for about 10 minutes in a dish with sides (to catch additional drippings that may emerge).  Tilt the roasting pan to the side and scoop out as much fat as you can without sacrificing the little scribbly brown bits of chickeny flavor.

Add about 1-1/2 tablespoons of flour to the remaining drippings and whisk to incorporate.  When smooth, transfer to a saucepan, and add the stock and wine.  Stir or whisk continuously while over medium heat to reduce.  If you stop stirring while the heat is on, the gravy will separate.  When reduced to your desired thickness, taste and add salt and pepper.  

Going back to your chicken, you can now remove it from its resting place and place on a 
carving board.  If there are any additional drippings, whisk in another tablespoon of flour to create a roux, and then add to the gravy, stirring over medium heat.

Carve the chicken, make sure the beans are hot, and serve with the roasted carrots and garlic cloves, and some white rice.  Gravy can be served on top AND on the side!  You might even want to smear some of that roasted garlic on baguette slices.

This goes extremely well with a cold sauvignon blanc.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spinach-Sausage Quiche

I love love love quiche, and I had forgotten how lovely the combo of spinach and swiss cheese is until I made this one. I also used Aidells chicken/turkey sausage flavored with portobello mushrooms because it is lighter than a traditional pork sausage, but also packed with scrumptious mushroomy flavor (Aidells is one of my favorite food companies, and they make a couple of dozen different flavors of sausage, including a fantastic Andouille, by the way).

1 frozen pie shell (you don't think I make dough from scratch every time, do you?)
5 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk or cream
2/3 pkg chopped spinach, thawed
6 ounces Swiss cheese, chopped or shredded
2 links mushroom sausage
salt and pepper

First, pre-cook the pie shell so that the bottom crust doesn't get soggy. About 20 minutes in a 350 oven should be sufficient. And don't worry if you don't have parchment and weights - the crust might puff up a bit, but it will fall again as if it never happened. Leave the oven on at 350.

Slice sausage into thin coins and saute about 5 minutes, turning frequently. Remove coins from pan and set aside. In same pan, add a tiny drizzle of olive oil and saute the spinach. Salt and pepper it to taste. Cook about 5-6 minutes, so that some of the liquid evaporates. Drain off any left in the pan. Grate the Swiss, or, if you only have sliced cheese, as I did, just chop it into tiny squares.

In a bowl, toss sausage, spinach and cheese. Pour into pre-cooked pie crust. Beat the eggs with the milk, and pour over the spinach mixture. Prod with a fork to distribute beaten eggs as evenly as you can throughout the spinach mixture.

Bake uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325 and bake 30-35 minutes more. Eggs should be set and slightly moist in the center, but not runny or wet. Depending on your oven you might need to bake it 5 minutes more. Also, if you like more cream in the eggs, you will definitely need to bake it longer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Spicy Chicken Soup

This recipe is an update on my previous chicken soup recipe, and I think it's better. It involves most of the same ingredients, but has a lot more flavor. It gets a rich herbal flavor from oregano, some sweet earthiness from shiitake mushrooms, and a little kick of heat from some cayenne pepper.

2 stalks celery
2 cups chopped baby carrots
1/2 large turnip
1 bulb fennel
1 pkg sliced shiitake mushrooms (about 8 oz)
6-7 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 split chicken breast, on bone, with skin

Chop celery, carrots, turnip, and fennel into a 1/4 inch dice. Mince the garlic or push through a press. Put all of this into a large stockpot, and add the salt, pepper, cayenne, and oregano. Place the chicken on top, and add enough water to cover everything.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Remove chick breasts from pot and set aside to cool. Turn heat off the soup and let that cool as well.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and discard it. Cut chicken off the bone and into small pieces. Return to pot, and add the shiitake mushrooms as well.

Bring back to a boil and reduce immediately. Simmer about 5-10 minutes, and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve with a large spoonful of white rice cooked according to package directions.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bacon-Wrapped Trout

This is a very old Celtic method of cooking fish that my mother -- who was Welsh -- used, and apparently it is a method used in Celtic Brittany as well. It is incredibly easy and fast, and provides you with a very tasty dish that seems far more impressive than it is.

8 strips bacon
1 trout, filleted and deboned
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of a 10 inch oval casserole with 4 bacon strips. Lay the fish, skin side down, on top of the bacon. I didn't notice how much my fish weighed, but it was about 9 inches in length without head or tail.

Sprinkle with parsley, and then the salt and pepper. Lay more bacon strips on top.

Cook for 35 minutes, then turn oven setting to broil and get the top layer of bacon nice and crispy. It should only take about 5 minutes under a medium broiler.

Makes enough for 4.