Simple Roast Chicken

roast chicken titleWe finally got our snow day on Tuesday, and I think it’s thrown off my whole week.  Monday was spent preparing for the storm (our work is tied heavily to the schools, so when they close, we are left with a lot of rescheduling) and then I feel like all of Wednesday was spent trying to get back into the groove.  But I did enjoy the day off!  It finally gave me a chance to mix up some homemade house cleaning and hair/skincare supplies.  I pulled most of my “recipes” from The Hand’s On Home, with which I am only slightly obsessed.  All of the various preserved recipes look amazing!  Considering that I’ve have breathing trouble the last few times that I’ve cleaned our bathroom (hello childhood asthma) I have really, really wanted to mix up a few sprays and scrubs made from gentler ingredients.  I now have a “grime spray” for the kitchen that is already working wonders on our glass stovetop, along with an all-purpose cleaning spray, a scrub for tougher stains, and an acidic spray to cut through soap scum.  I’m definitely willing to put in a little more elbow work if it means having the ability to breathe, so we’ll see how it goes!

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Last week, a roast chicken was the focal point of my meal plan, with the meat going into another two dishes after the initial roasting night, plus the bones providing the base for several quarts of bone broth.  Now, I do realize that roast chicken recipes are a dime a dozen and range from “super” simple to the most complicated mix of flipping and brining and rubbing and soaking, all in order to get a nice golden bird with crispy skin and juicy meat.  Roasting a chicken was a little intimidating when I first tried it a few years ago, mostly just for the dense amount of conflicting information that I encountered.  I’ve honed my method of choice over the past few years, and I wanted to finally share it here.  Yes, it does involve a flip or two, but it only requires 5 ingredients (not including salt and pepper) and, in spite of the flip, is mostly hands off during the roasting time!

I’ve also included the most basic instructions for a drippings-based gravy, plus noted where I add in vegetables, when I decide to make those as well.  I’m certain you’ve already heard how well a roast chicken can be used when meal-planning and/or early frugally.  It can easily provide the protein for 3 meals, plus creating the base for a fourth meal if you make the bone broth.  A rotisserie chicken certainly saves time and effort, and can usually be grabbed for $5.  But, I’ve yet to encounter a rotisserie chicken that is clearly marked as being gluten-free.  Plus, I’ve found most rotisserie chicken’s clock in at about 3 pounds.  I’ll just note that my 5+ pounder was $5.05 and I can be absolutely certain that it is safe for me to eat.  That being said, if anyone has a reliable source for GF rotisserie chicken, let me know.  Because on some nights, my not having to do anything at all would totally be worth the extra dollar or two!

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Roast Chicken

Serves: 6+ | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 1.5-2 hours

  • 1 whole chicken, 5-6 lbs
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Place a metal cooling rack in a higher-walled baking dish (or use a roasting pan, if you have one).  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Mix together the butter, thyme leaves, garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

It is likely that your chicken still has the giblets and neck within the cavity.  Make sure to remove those.  You can simmer these in a small covered pot filled with water while the chicken roasts, to create a basic broth to use to make gravy for the chicken (if gravy is your thing–it certainly is a necessity in this house!)  Pat the chicken dry all over, including inside the cavity.  Cut the lemon into quarters and place within the cavity of the chicken.   Place the chicken in the pan, breast side up.

Now we want to get the butter underneath the skin of the chicken.  The butter will help to keep the meat from drying out and help to keep the skin crispy.  Win-win!   Starting at the tail end of the chicken, you should be able to pull up the skin away from the meat.  You might have a little resistance, but it should pull away.  (Cue me trying not to get too technical, for those who may be a little squeamish!)  Use a spoon (or honestly, your fingers) to spread the butter over the breast meat, beneath the skin.   You should be able to poke through the dividing layer to get between the skin and the leg meat, too.  Add a little butter there as well.  Certainly can’t hurt!  Sprinkle the rest of the salt and pepper over the outside of the chicken.  Truss the chicken.  I tried this method for the first time and was quite pleased with it.  It definitely keeps the skin from shrinking!

Place the chicken in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, to start the initial browning of the skin.  Remove the chicken from the oven and turn the heat down to 350 degrees F.  Flip the chicken upside down, so that the breasts are down in the pan (I found it easiest to use tongs).  Place back in the oven and continue to cook.  You should bargain for 20 minutes per pound (So a 5-lb chicken should cook for 1 hour and 40 minutes.  A 6-lb chicken should cook for 2 hours.)  Make sure you do the math and set a timer! 🙂  If you want to add any vegetables to roast alongside your chicken, I like to give the chicken a headstart by about 30-40 minutes (if the roasting time is 90+ minutes), then add the chopped veggies into the pan around the chicken for the remainder of the roasting time.  Once the time is up, remove the chicken from the oven and use the tongs to flip breast-side-up.  Check that the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh has reached 160 degrees (it will raise to 165 degrees while it rests.)  If the skin is a little pale, go ahead and broil for a minute or two.  Just be sure to keep an eye on it!  After broiling (or not), pull the chicken out of the oven and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes.

While the chicken is resting, you can make gravy.  Spoon a tablespoon or two from the drippings at the bottom of the roasting pan into a large skillet over medium heat.  Add a spoonful or two of flour until it makes a roux.  Let this cook, stirring frequently, until the roux turns a light brown.  Add a little broth (from a carton or from the boiled giblets/chicken neck).  The paste will bubble and thicken.  Keep adding the broth bit by bit, stirring until smooth, until the gravy reaches your desired thickness.  Taste and salt/pepper if needed.  By now the chicken should be rested and ready to eat!

 


Weeknight Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie

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Did you vote today?  I am typing away while the results roll in (eek!  I’ll be distracted soon enough).  Today was a student holiday workshop day, since the public schools were closed in order to be used as polling sites.  That means I had to be in work two hour earlier than normal.  And since I still had the late shift at work as well, and couldn’t be positive that I could get away during the day, my only choice to cast my vote was to wake up and do it before work.  I wanted to be sure that I had enough time, in case there were lines (there were), so I aimed to get to my polling place before it opened at 6am.  While my mother’s house isn’t that far away (I haven’t actually changed my permanent address yet…), in order to be up and prepared for the day plus the drive over, I had to wake up at 4:45am this morning.  Whoof.  Good thing I am all about making sure my voice is heard.  Plus, there was already a line when I got to the polling site at 5:40am, so I’m glad I was early.  I got the last spot inside out of the cold!  It was so worth it, but I am definitely beginning to drag!  I did manage a twenty minute catnap since I made it to work a little early (bargaining for traffic in this area is always a crapshoot).  Thankfully working at a theater company means we have handy items like beanbag chairs to add to my naptime comfort!

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In the continuing saga of today, I had to bite the bullet and get a new car battery after my car died (totally knew it was coming) and my phone’s SIM card seems to be dying as well.  I can’t catch seem to a break whenever I am running on too little sleep.  I’ve tried all the tricks from the internet to try to reset the SIM card, but the best I can do is make my phone recognize the SIM but find no service…so, a dying antenna, most likely.  Unfortunately, this is not the best week to try to squeeze in an appointment at the Apple Store, but I may have no choice.  Thankfully, while on wifi, I can still have everything function and receive iMessages.  Occasionally, I’ll even have a regular text get through.  What is it about the holiday season, hmm?  Just when the gift and food costs start to add up (even extra, since M’s birthday is in November), everything electronic and/or mechanical in my life suddenly needs repairing, too.  Sigh.  I suppose that is how that goes!

However, speaking of stressful elections and less money, this recipe can be the answer to both!  Cheap eating comfort food at it’s finest!  Plus, by trading pie crust for super easy biscuit dough, it becomes quick enough to whip up on a weeknight. (Though if you want the more traditional version, I have that too)  Dare I even point out that, since your are putting the chicken into the mix when it is already cooked, it would be so easy to swap this for cooked turkey in order to use up some Thanksgiving leftovers!  If your family does roasted potatoes at the Thanksgiving table, you could also swap those leftovers for the fresh potatoes in this recipe, too!  (Just cook the raw vegetables until tender and add the potatoes then, just before you add the broth).

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Gluten-Free Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie

  • 1 batch gluten-free biscuit dough*
  • 1 large chicken breast (or 2 mid-sized chicken thighs), cooked**
  • 1 medium russet potato
  • 1 small-medium sweet potato
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. rice flour
  • 3-4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning mix***
  • salt & pepper

* My favorite biscuit recipe is from the Blackbird Bakery cookbook, which, fortunately, was shared on Epicurious!

***Or a heaping 1/4 tsp. each: ground sage, ground thyme, and finely minced rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Grease a pie pan or an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish.

Dice the potatoes, onion, and carrot into medium, equal-sized pieces.  Take a pat from the 3 Tbsp of butter and add the pat of butter to a large saucepan.  Melt over medium heat and then add the potato, sweet potato, onion, and carrot pieces.  Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally until all the pieces are softened and tender, about 4-7 minutes A fork should easily pierce the potatoes and the onions should be turning translucent.  Chop the chicken into equally-sized pieces and stir into the vegetable mix.  Add the rest of the butter to the pan.  Once melted, add the rice flour and stir occasionally.  Allow the flour and veggie mixture to cook for 3-4 minutes.  Finely mince the garlic clove and add to the pan with the spices, including salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a thick gravy holding all the vegetables.  Add in the frozen peas and remove from heat.

Make the biscuits according to directions, stopping after you have cut the raw dough into biscuits (for cut biscuits) OR right before you are instructed to drop the dough onto a baking sheet (for drop biscuits).  Spoon the gravy-veggie mixture into your prepared pan, leaving almost a inch of space from the rim of the pan.  Top the mixture with a biscuits and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Allow the pie to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving (it will be hot!) and enjoy!


Swedish Meatballs (Gluten Free)

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I might have a problem. Every time I happen to think about these meatballs–or worse–I happen upon a picture of them as I organize my photos, I immediately, desperately, need to make them again. I might be obsessing over these meatballs (or, more specifically, these meatballs doused in this gravy). Actually, considering the bubble of joy that swells in my mind at the prospect of making a big batch of these meatballs to freeze now and pack later for those quickly-approaching camp lunches, I am certain that I am obsessing over these meatballs. That is fine with me. I think you might obsess over them too.

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So, Swedish meatballs. In this day and time, I would guess that many people’s minds would immediately think of Ikea’s famous take on this dish. I have certainly heard about Ikea’s glorious swedish meatballs time and time again. But I have never tried them. My first trip to Ikea was less than a year ago, well after I gave up gluten. So the gluten-filled meatballs and creamy gravy were definitely out of the question.

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I have no idea if these meatballs taste like Ikea’s. If you have some ground pork and would like to weigh in, I wouldn’t be opposed to an informed opinion. I do know that these little roasted parcels of chicken and pork swimming in this dreamy gravy make a dinner that lingers in my memory and kickstarts cravings at the mere thought. Honestly, I am sharing this post so that I can take the photos out of my To-Be-Posted folder and limit my encounters with the visual reminder. I am having a hard time preparing a convincing argument with myself as to why I can’t just have meatballs for dinner every night.

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Swedish Meatballs & Gravy

Adapted from The Londoner

Serves: 3-4 | Prep time: 20 min | Cook time: 30 min

For the Meatballs

  • 3 slices Udi’s white bread, thawed and untoasted (you may only need 2 if you use larger slices than Udi’s brand)
  • up to 6 Tbsp. milk, divided
  • 1 sm. yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 lb. ground pork
  • 3/4 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 2 tsp. sage
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne, optional
  • 1 Tbsp. butter

For the Gravy

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour (rice flour, a blend, any kind that is not pure starches)
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 4 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. worchestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. sour cream*
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. parsley (dried flakes, or chopped fresh)

To Serve

  • Cooked pasta or mashed potatoes
  • 1 small lemon
  • Fresh parsley

Make the meatballs

Remove the crusts from the bread slices and roughly chop into small pieces. Tear or chop remaining bread innards. Add all bread pieces to a large bowl. Add 4 Tbsp of milk and allow to soak for several minutes until bread softens and absorbs most of the liquid. If portions of the bread are still dry, add up to 2 additional tablespoons of milk, one tablespoon at a time. While the bread is soaking, add butter to a large saucepan and cook onions until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant–about 1-2 minutes. Add onion mixture to the bowl. Add meat, sprinkle over all spices. Mix well, until all ingredients are incorporated. Form meat mixture into 1 1/2 inch wide balls.

Cook the meatballs in the large sauce pan used for the onions, turning gently, until all sides are browned and meatballs are firm, about 7-10 minutes. Do not overcrowd the pan–cook the meatballs in batches if necessary. Place in oven on “Warm” or lowest setting.

Make the gravy

After the meatballs are all cooked, melt the butter is the large saucepan used for the meatballs over medium heat. Sprinkle over flour, whisking constantly. The butter and flour will come together. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the roux begins to turn golden. Add a large splash of the chicken broth. Keep whisking. The roux will bubble and hiss and clump, but that’s okay. Just keep whisking. When the mixtures smooths out, add another big splash of chicken broth. Repeat. Whisk some more. Keep up this cycle: a little broth, whisk until smooth, more broth, whisk again; until all of the broth has been added into the smooth gravy. Measure out the sour cream in a separate container. Stir in the vanilla extract and the sugar. These ingredients are both to take the edge off of the sour cream, so you get a delightful rich, not-too-tangy gravy. Stir the mustard, worchestershire, and sour cream mixture into the gravy in the pan, stirring until thoroughly combined. Stir in nutmeg, parsley, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Add a little water if it is too thick.

To serve, plate up the mashed potatoes or pasta, add meatballs and top it all off with delicious gravy. Sprinkle parsley over top. I also like a squeeze of lemon juice. Enjoy the meal and try not to obsess over these meatballs!


The Best Asian Pan Sauce

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I thought about calling this post “The Little Asian Pan Sauce That Could…Be Put on Everything”.  But ultimately, I thought simple was better, because this sauce is exactly that: simple.  And, yet, it is extraordinarily delicious on everything I have brushed it onto: chicken, shrimp, pork, pineapple, roasted vegetables.  These photos are from the beginning of the summer, before the camp craziness, but I have made this sauce several more times throughout the past weeks.  Even after an 11-hour work day, the fifteen minutes spent to create this sauce were well worth it.  Though I rarely remembered to take photographs over the last seven hectic weeks, I still have a respectable list of recipes (and even a craft or two) waiting to be posted.  But this sauce tops the list.

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Camp is an interesting time in my life.  I keep hoping that I will be better adjusted each time that summer rolls around, but even after three years, camp is the sprint of my occupational race.  This year, with our move, we were up by 5:30am to walk the dog, pack breakfast, dress and get out the door to beat traffic.  M’s schedule had him outside for five hours of the day, and running around in between.  My schedule had me warming-up, stretching, dancing, writing, filming, improvising, acting, blocking, and directing 30 teenagers for seven hours straight, before joining M for the final hours outside.  Besides the physical energy needed to keep up with our campers, the mental energy needed also surprises me.  We are monitoring allergies and health issues, and students’ preferences, behavior, and participation.  We are leaders, mediators, teachers, and examples, whether we are behaving correctly or not.  Especially with teenagers, the moment that their teachers disengage in an activity, their interest is lost, as well.  We eat with the students and take breaks with them; every moment between when they step out of their car, until they climb back in, is under our eyes.

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So I suppose it isn’t so surprising that camp, while exhilarating, entertaining, and uplifting; is also entirely draining.  Though I jumped at the chance to participate in any opportunities for stretching during the camp day, I come out of camp craving long walks and yoga.  I find myself needing a nap by midday, and still climbing into bed early each night.  I yearn for the contemplative time spent kneading gnocchi dough, simmering soups, and slow-roasting vegetables.  I need to savor the meditative smells of rising yeast bread, caramelizing onions, and fresh-chopped herbs.  The end of camp sends me running to the kitchen and also induces cravings for the heartier, slower autumn dishes, in spite of the August heat.  Luckily, butternut squash is already starting to appear in our farmer’s markets, and the summery tomatoes and peppers lend themselves towards these fall flavors as well.  I’m alternating between long, involved dishes and quick sautés and stir-fries as I settle into this self-imposed time of renewal.  I’m looking forward to my mornings of walking and yoga, with more slow-paced stretches of work before I come to evenings of cooking, writing, and learning.  I finally have time to truly delve into my Lynda.com subscription, and I am very excited at the variety of program tutorials waiting for me.

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I suspect that this Asian sauce will be showing up in my kitchen again, very soon.  The full flavor, so simply made, is too perfect to ignore.  I hope you will make some, too!  Let me know what you try it on–I’ve yet to be disappointed.  Shrimp may be my favorite meat to glaze with this sauce, but it was absolute divine on the peppers and pineapple in these skewers.

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Asian Pan & Glazing Sauce

Adapted from Bonefish Grill

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. gluten-free tamari*
  • 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 1/2 c. gluten-free oyster sauce**
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp.-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tsp. sriracha sauce (optional)

*Please always check labels.  The vast majority of tamari used to be gluten-free, but I am finding more and more that contain gluten.  San-J is a reliable gluten-free brand.

**Wok-Mei makes a gluten-free oyster sauce.  For vegetarians/vegan readers: several veg. brand are available.  Lee Kum Kee’s Vegetarian Oyster Sauce is, in fact, vegan, but contains wheat.  Please let me know if you find a reliable Gluten-free AND Vegan Oyster sauce.

Saute ginger and garlic in the olive oil in a small saucepan.  In a separate bowl, whisk together tamari, ketchup, oyster sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and honey/agave.  Once ginger and garlic is fragrant (1-2 minutes) and just barely beginning to brown, add sauce mixture.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in red pepper flakes and sriracha sauce.  Remove from heat.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.  If too thick, add up to 1 Tbsp. of warm water.

Brush sauce onto grilling or frying meats and vegetables, basting with every turn.  Or, use as a marinade.  Sauce will keep in tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.


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Quick and Easy Weeknight Chicken Fajitas (+ Pico de Gallo & Guacamole)

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When I first began to cook, when it became more than just mixing up a boxed cake mix when I was bored or overloading on cookie recipes near the holidays, I was mostly driven to surprise my mother with dinner.  A few trusty dishes developed, but they were nothing too extraordinary.  Sauteed chicken and onions tossed into jarred marinara sauce over spaghetti.  Thin slices of chicken cooked with peppers and onions and sprinkled with McCormick’s fajita seasoning.  I remember feeling especially revolutionary on the day I decided to add a squeeze of lime juice.  Simple as these dishes may be, they were still delicious, and remain as quick and easy standbys for when my creativity runs out (or when I can exercise prudence and restrain myself from running to the grocery store for more ingredients).

A few things have changed–corn tortillas instead of flour, my own spice mix instead of prepackaged–but much has stayed the same.  A minimum 2-to-1 ratio of onions to peppers (I think restaurants’ tendency toward extra peppers is what prompted me to make my own in the first place.  Onions are the best part!), served up with guac, sour cream, and pico de gallo.  This comfort food is easy and tasty to toss together fast.  If you are more prepared than I am, you can set the chicken to marinade in the morning, giving it a full day to soak up those flavors.  If you are really proactive, chop and toss the pico de gallo together, too.  The longer it sits, the better the flavors meld.  If you are more like me, don’t worry about it.  Just give the chicken and the pico at least 30 minutes to mingle!

m's fajita

We used thick corn tortillas that we found at our international market.  I piled mine up, but M preferred a more deconstructed method.  The tortillas made these fajitas a bit more of a knife-and-fork kind of meal, but they were still delicious!  Also, if you’ve noticed a drastic improvement in photo quality (if you haven’t, I’d be highly surprised) you can thank M.  He has been lending me his photography skills and his iPhone 5 camera!  I love the quality of these photos, compared to my grainy snaps.  The iPhone (camera-wise) definitely kicks my Droid Incredible’s butt.  Next on the list after paying for rent, a cruise, and my student loans…a new phone?  Haha, maybe this summer!

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Chicken Fajitas

Serves: 4 | Prep: 20 min (total) | Rest time: 30 min+  | Cook time: 15-20 minutes

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 3-4 thighs)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1/4 c. chicken broth (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp oil, divided
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder*
  • 1 tsp cumin powder*
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder*
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper*
  • 1/2 tsp paprika*
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 med. onion, sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper (any color) sliced

*Or use 1 1/2-2 Tbsp of a prepared/packaged fajita seasoning mix

Fixings:

  • 1 batch prepared guacamole (recipe below)
  • 1 batch prepared pico de gallo (recipe below)
  • Sour cream
  • Corn tortillas

Mix the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of oil, garlic, a pinch of lime zest, and dry spices to make a paste.  If you would like a more liquid marinade, add the 1/4 cup of chicken broth.  Spread paste over all surfaces of chicken, or dip chicken to cover in the marinating liquid.  Place chicken and marinade (paste or liquid) in a ziploc.  Press out the air and seal tightly.  Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes, up to several hours.

Heat half of remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Remove chicken from marinade, season with salt and pepper, and place in hot skillet.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until the pan-side is nicely browned.   Flip, cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes more until cooked through and evenly colored.  Remove chicken from skillet.  Add remaining oil and add sliced vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a pinch of lime zest.  Cook until slightly softened, with onion beginning to turn translucent, about 5 minutes.  Slice the chicken thinly.  Turn heat up to high, add chicken back into skillet, and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Serve with corn tortillas, sour cream, pico de gallo, and guacamole.

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Pico de Gallo

Serves: 4-8 | Prep time: 10 min | Rest time: 30 min+

  • 2 plum tomatos, diced and seeded
  • 1 sm. onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • Salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Allow to rest for at least 30 minutes, up to several hours.

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Guacamole

Serves: 4-8 | Prep: 10 min

  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 1 sm. onion, finely chopped
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste (usually a generous pinch of each)

Juice lime over avocado immediately after dicing avocado.  Add remaining ingredients and mash and mix to preferred consistency.

 


Winter Has Come: Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie

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Well, we finally got a bit of snow this past week: a couple of inches evenly spaced to have just enough time to melt in between snowfalls.  Thankfully, things didn’t get too icy.  Considering the season has been positively balmy, it was a welcome bit of change.  I had the day off during the first snowfall and was struck by a cooking binge.  The end of the day found me with roasted banana bread and chicken pot pie topped with gluten-free puff pastry, with the dinner rounded out by new potatoes, green beans, and kale chips.  Yes, at the end of the day, I had plenty of dishes…but that doesn’t guarantee that they all came out well.  My “banana bread” was a ruin.  The taste was similar to what you might expect, but only if you could ignore the texture, which was remarkably akin to play dough.

I had decided to try a new flour mixture, lured by the promise of sorghum flour and millet flour, two of my favorite whole grain flours.  But while I was measuring in he various ingredients, tiny alarm bells began to ring.  Over half the mixture is starches?  Millet is the same weight as rice flour and sorghum nearly there…they can’t need that much balance.  Isn’t it supposed to be 60/40 grains-to-starches, max?  An entire quarter of the mix is potato flour…?  And there was the trouble.  Too much starches, specifically potato starch.  Of lately, I’ve been using more of it, because I love the elasticity it adds, but too much of the starch, at the least, means baked goods that rise beautifully in the oven, only to sink and shrink as they cool.  At the worst, it means playdough banana bread.

Undaunted by the failed banana bread, I figured I would try my hand at Nicole’s Gluten-Free Puff Pastry.  This rolling and turning business couldn’t be that hard…right?  Truth be told, I’m not sure if I did it right, but there was a lot of rolling and folding and chilling and pressing that left me with a (fairly) manageable dough with the butter well-incorporated.  And since I had puff pastry, I might as well make some Chicken Pot Pie for the pastry dough to top.  It’s only logical.

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Lucky for me (and M) my first attempt at Chicken Pot Pie turned out much better than my banana bread.  Truth be told, the puff pastry didn’t puff much, but it did make an extra-buttery, beautifully crunchy top shell.  My recipe for Chicken Pot Pie is inspired by Ina Garten’s–her’s was the first I stumbled upon that seemed classic.  But Ina’s recipe is huge (even though it claims to feed four), so I immediately cut it down.  And I didn’t have all of the ingredients.  It all worked out in my favor, though.  Instead of 1 1/2 sticks of butter and 1/4 cup of heavy cream, my gravy gets by on a bit of oil, a splash of milk, and only two tablespoons of butter.  Let’s just put the pie crusts out of our heads, for the moment.  But quite seriously, if you need a dairy free recipe as well, and already have a reliable dairy-free pie crust up your sleeve, this recipe is a cinch to adapt!  Chock full of vegetables and warmed gently by spices, it was the perfect dinner for the day of our first snow.

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Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie

Serves 6

  • 1 prepared batch of uncooked pie dough or puff pastry, chilled
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 2 BL, SL chicken breasts)
  • 2 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube (I used a packet of Trader Joe’s Better Than Bouillon)–make sure the brand is GF
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 small (or 1 large) onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix (I used 2 parts white rice flour to 1 part cornstarch–just trade off spoonfuls, it doesn’t need to be exact)
  • 2 Tbsp milk or cream
  • 1 c. chopped carrots, par-cooked (confession: I tossed mine in the microwave for 2-3 minutes)
  • 1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 (heaping) c. frozen peas (about 5 oz or half a bag)
  • 1 c. frozen pearl onions
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp of water for an eggwash

If pan-frying the chicken, heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a large saucepan.  Add chicken and cook over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes or until browned and cooked through.  If roasting chicken, preheat oven to 350 degree F, lightly rub chicken with olive oil and roast for 35-45 minutes until cooked through.  Sprinkle cooked meat with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.  Turn the oven up to 375 degrees F.  Place your crust dough on the counter to come to room temperature.

While the chicken is cooking, chop all vegetables and measure out the flour mix.  Pour the chicken stock into a small pot and heat until simmering.  Add the olive oil and chopped onion to the saucepan where you cooked the chicken (or scrape a bit of the brown tasty bits from the roasting pan into a new saucepan).  Cook over medium-low heat until the onion turns translucent, about 10 minutes.  Melt in 1 Tbsp of butter and then turn the heat to low.  Add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, scraping up all of the sauce from the bottom of the pan until the roux turns golden brown.  Add the chicken stock and continue to stir until thoroughly combined.  Simmer over low heat for 1-2 minutes, until thickened.  Add milk, rosemary, poultry seasoning, garlic, paprika, salt, and pepper and stir until well incorporated.  Add in carrots, celery, peas, and pearl onions.  Cube the cooled chicken and add to the vegetables.  Mix well.

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish or into 4-6 individual, oven-proof dishes.  Smooth the top and sprinkle over a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/3 inch thick, larger than the top of your dish(es).  Mix the egg and water together into an egg wash and rub some of the wash all along the edge of the dish.  This will help the crust stick.  Place the dough over your casserole, pressing it gently to the sides of the dish to seal it.  Brush the entire top with egg wash and cut a slit or three to allow the steam to escape.  Place the casserole dish onto a jelly roll pan (a baking sheet with a low rim) to save your oven from any drips.  Place into the preheated oven and cook for 1 hour, until pie crust is golden and crisp and the gravy is bubbling.


The Best Chicken I’ve Ever Made — Buttermilk-Dijon Chicken

As an apology for my summer-long absence, I gave you puppy pictures last week.  And today, I am going to show you my favorite new recipe (and possibly the best discovery of this summer).  This chicken is incredibly delicious and even more incredibly easy.  I was inspired by Deb’s Buttermilk Chicken recipe where she paired buttermilk+paprika+chicken, after being inspired by Nigella Lawson, whom I adore.  Take those two wonderful ladies’ recipes, and add a night full of Diners, Drive-in’s, & Dives, and, inevitably, I wanted delicious, tender, fried chicken.

Its rare, nowadays, that my craving for anything breaded beats the hassle of creating a gluten-free breading mix or batter, and the frying or baking that such food requires.  So it wasn’t long before I realized that I wanted the quintessential “fried chicken” flavors without the long preparation and heavy batter.  Thus, adapting Deb & Nigella’s marinades seemed to be the best option.  I leaned towards Deb’s paprika covered dish.  I’m never opposed to a bit of a kick, spice-wise, and paprika started us off on just the right foot.

And so I started playing, adding a little dijon mustard, some hot sauce, garlic, paprika, pepper, and a touch of honey to my base of tangy buttermilk.

Then the waiting game began.  Add you chicken to a large Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over the pieces.  Make sure all pieces are well-coated, then squeeze out the extra air, seal the bag, and allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, or up to all day (8-12 hours).

After you have waited as long as you can, choose if you are grilling or roasting your chicken pieces and follow the recipe below.  I’ve made this chicken for family and for guests, with a two-hour marinade, and an 8-hour wait, with honey and with sugar or without sweeteners at all, grilled and roasted.  It is very, very forgiving to your schedule and the ingredients that you have on hand, though I would insist on keeping the paprika, garlic, hot sauce, mustard, and pepper if you truly want the Fried-Chicken-Without-the Fried taste.  I would also recommend using real buttermilk, or at least the tub of buttermilk powder that can be mixed into water/milk, rather than mixing a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar into enough milk to make a cup (which is the BEST trick for baking and I use that shortcut all the time).  But here, in this recipe, the buttermilk really shines through, and that authentic taste is exactly what we are aiming for.

Because at the end of it all, you get this:

And I promise, if you’re a fan of fried chicken, this recipe will go straight into the recipe box.  It was the first one entered into my new Moleskine recipe book (best birthday present, ever! Thanks, M! )

Buttermilk-Dijon Chicken

Prep time: 15 mins + 2-12 hours marinating  Cook time: 30-45 minutes, roasting or grilling.  Serves: 4-6

  • 2 lbs chicken pieces (dark or light meat, bone-in or bone-less)
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp-1 Tbsp. hot sauce (to taste, I use Frank’s Red-hot Sauce generously)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. paprika (plus more for sprinkling)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, ground
  • salt
  • Optional: 2 tsp honey or granulated sugar

Mix all ingredients, except chicken, in small bowl until thoroughly combined.  Place chicken parts in large, resealable bag.  Pour marinade over chicken and mix, massage, or toss to coat meat thoroughly.  Seal bag, squeezing out extra air, and allow to marinate in fridge for, at least, 2 hours, or up to all day long (8-12 hours).

If roasting, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Shake excess marinade from chicken.  Place meat in a  greased/oiled roasting pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with additional pepper, paprika, and salt.  Roast bone-in chicken for 45-50 minutes, or bone-less pieces for 35-40 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

*When roasting, I like to turn pieces over 15 minutes from the end of roasting time.  5 minutes until the end of roasting time, I turn them back for final browning.  It isn’t necessary, but I believe it helps the chicken get crispy on all sides, and gives a better appearance.

If grilling, preheat the grill as normal.  Grill on medium heat, flipping as minimally as possible, for 15-30 minutes, or until chicken pieces are cooked through and hold good grill marks.  Sorry I’m a little brief on the grilling aspect (though it is equally delicious).  Grilling is M’s kingdom ;).

The most recent time we grilled up this chicken, we served it with grilled corn-on-the-cob, quick-skillet green beans and shallots, and popovers.  Yummm!