Basic Roast Chicken

A while back I bought a whole chicken at Kowalski’s. Last Saturday when we were driving home from Duluth I said “Crap. I bought a whole chicken at Kowalski’s and it’s been sitting in the fridge ever since.” It was still good, so that night we ate roast chicken.

The recipe was adjusted from Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of the Zuni Cafe roast chicken. (click the link. I’m too lazy to re-type it.) I get a lot of my recipes/inspiration from Smitten Kitchen. She’s awesome.

The main thing with this recipe is I didn’t have the extra day to prep the chicken ahead of time. I slid little bits of parsley and rosemary, because those were the herbs I had on hand, under the skin, along with a bunch of garlic cloves. I let the chicken rest for about an hour, then preheated the oven.

The recipe suggested using a cast iron skillet, and preheating it on the stove. I did this, but the skin still stuck to the bottom when it came time to flip. I might try some oil next time.

Also, the recipe had the oven set at 475. This was all fine and dandy for the first half hour, until I opened the oven to flip the bird. Copious amounts of smoke ensued. Smoke alarms went off. Cats hid. Husbands came running into the kitchen yelling “what the f…” A produce bag over the detector and 50 degrees lower later, we were back in business. I reduced the heat to 425 until things had settled down a bit, then increased back to 450 for the rest of the cooking time, which was fine.

A mere hour after I had put it in, the bird came out smelling lovely with a thermometer saying “done” everywhere it should.

Also served with Tahini Squash Chickpea salad, also inspired by SK. Doesn’t photograph nearly as well as it tasted. The high temp kept the breast moist but the skin crispy and the dark meat perfect.

Four days later, and the plastic produce bag is still wrapped around the smoke detector…

On woks, etc.

If it is possible to feel pride in one’s kitchen implements, I definitely am proud of my wok.  I believe I paid $14 for it at Shuang Hur market down on Nicollet.  The pride comes from the fact that I managed to not just season it, but season it perfectly, on my old electric stove in the Belmont.  It took a long time.  Many sessions of standing over the stove, rolling the oiled wok around the burner, breathing in the smoky oil fumes.  Now it has a perfect patina from years of use.

It’s taken me a while to get the hang of stir fries, and I’m still figuring it out.  I know, you chop stuff and cook it with some sauce.  But figuring out that exact proportion of soy sauce to corn startch to fish sauce to sesame oil to hoisin to rice wine etc., combined with the 80 other things you need, is tough.  Tonight I actually only used a recipe for reference, and was quite pleased with the results.  Josh thought it needed Sirracha, but he says that about a lot of things.

Miscellaneous Stir Fry

I’ll keep this generic, as there are many ways you could vary the formula.

About a pound of meat – chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, etc. cut into 1″ or smaller cubes

1 egg white

1 tsp cornstartch

1 tsp soy sauce

Various vegetables – mushrooms, carrots, peppers, ginger, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, celery, etc.

One small onion

bunch of garlic

1 tbl cornstartch

1tbl water

1 tbl soy sauce

1/4 – 1/2 cup water or chicken broth

1 tbl Hoisin

pinch of chili flakes, if desired

Whisk together egg white, tsp. cornstartch and tsp. soy sauce.  Maybe add a bit of oyster sauce too.  Add meat and let marinate while prepping everything else.

Chop veggies, onion, and garlic and place in prep bowls.  I usually sort by how long they take to cook – carrots and mushrooms don’t go in at the same time.

In another small bowl, whisk together 1 tbl. cornstartch, 1 tbl. water and 1 tbl. soy sauce.

Make sure meat, veggies, sauce, hoisin, and broth are ready and placed near the wok.

Heat wok on high heat.  Pour in about 1 tbl vegetable oil and heat until smoking.

Add meat.  When cooked through, remove from wok.

Add more oil if needed.  Add veggies, starting with onion and garlic, then harder veggies, then soft.  Stir fairly constantly.

Add meat back to wok with veggies.  Add hoisin and stir.  Add broth and stir.  Add pinch of chili flakes.  Finally, pour in cornstarch mixture.

Let simmer for several minutes.

Serve over rice.

Of course, after you have eaten your yummy stir-fry, and your belly is full of expanding rice, then you must clean the wok.  Immediately.  Which means hot water, and a soft sponge, and (Maureen, avert your eyes) NO SOAP.  Ever.  Never ever.  If it has a good seasoning, it will be completely non-stick anyway, so everything just wipes off with a sponge.  No harsh scrubbies, either.  Dry it immediately, then put it on the burner again over high heat and pour in a bit of oil.  Use a paper towel (watch your fingertips) to make sure the wok gets completely coated.  Let it smoke for a while.  Last night, I discovered the method of turning the wok upside down over the burner, so the flame can burn directly onto the inside surface.  Needless to say, that part wouldn’t work with an electric stove.  When the oil is baked on or all smoked off, let the wok cool down.  Now it’s ready for the next meal!

(Which will be soon, because really I was motivated to make a stir-fry because I found an awesome-sounding ginger fried rice recipe, so I had to make something that would leave us some leftover rice.  But then we ate most of the rice, so I had to steam more rice just to put straight into the fridge to wait for next week’s meal.  I’ll tell you how it turns out.)

A simple dinner

I said I’d write more about food, so here I go…

Chuck, if you are one of my 6 readers, avert your eyes.

Salad of peppers, red onion, kalamatas, and feta.  So light, so colorful, so yummy.  The other day I was thinking about how sick I am of winter produce – I really don’t want to eat another mealy tomato this year.  So, I’ve been playing with salads that are a departure from “lettuce, tomato, croutons.”

Of course, in our house, even a “simple” dinner makes the kitchen look like this.

So pretty!

Served with beef quesadillas.  Hot and spicy and crunchy and salty and oh-so-good.

Pepper Salad

1 each red, orange, yellow pepper

half a red onion

1 cucumber

kalamata olives, pitted

about 1/4 lb. feta

1/4 c red wine vinegar

1/4 c water

1 tbl kosher salt

2 tsp sugar

olive oil, salt, pepper to taste

Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a small bowl.

Chop onion into half-inch chunks.  Put in vinegar mixture to quick pickle.

Chop peppers, cucumber, olives, and feta into roughly half-inch chunks.  Combine in big bowl.

Strain onions.  Reserve half the liquid and add to bowl with other ingredients.  Also add onions.

Stir.  Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

(inspired by)

Steak Quesadillas

I used one 8-10 oz steak for 2 quesadillas.  Use as much meat as you need.

Slice steak into thin strips about 1-2 inches long.  Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of cumin.  Sautee until just cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.

Slice one jalapeno, one shallot (or small amount of onion) and a bit of smoked chipotle pepper. (Skip the chipotle if you don’t want super spicy.)  Sautee in same pan as beef for 5-7 min.  Remove and set aside.  Keep pan hot.

Microwave large tortilla for 20 sec.  Grate cheese on tortilla.  For this, I used cheddar and gruyere, because that’s what I had.  Anything will do.  Spread layer of steak on half of tortilla. Top with layer of jalapeno-onion mixture.  Fold tortilla in half.  Brush top side with oil.  Flip over and put oil side down in hot pan.  Turn heat down to medium.  Brush oil on other side while cooking.  Flip after 5ish min (check bottom of tortilla – you want it crispy but not burned.) When the other side is crispy and the cheese is nice and melty, it’s done.  Put it on a plate and slice in fourths.  Serve with sour cream or salsa or both or neither.