Thursday, March 11, 2010

1 chicken 3 ways: the final chapter

Tonight, last week's chicken finished its journey in a pot of spring vegetable soup.

I made the stock for this soup earlier in the week. I'm enjoying this newly developed habit of making slow-cooker stock after finishing a chicken meal. Once we cleaned the chicken off all of the bones, I threw them into the crock pot with vegetables and water and let it go overnight. Then I chilled the stock, drained off the fat, and made a quick vegetable soup with it. My only issue with the soup was that the herbs I added were somewhat harsh. If I had better planned ahead, I would have thrown herb stems in while the stock was cooking. Always use herb stems only as the leaves get weird and gross.

All of these things are optional and can be adjusted to fit the recipe you'll be making with the stock. I always use onion, carrot, garlic, and peppercorns, then add some aromatics. For Asian cooking, I used pieces of ginger. For Mexican cooking, I put in cilantro stems. I like the suggestion from Nourishing Days to keep carrot, onion, and celery scraps in a bag in your refrigerator or freezer until it's time to make stock. I'm sure this could be vegetable broth if you wanted to leave out the chicken, though I've never tried it.

Chicken Stock
adapted from Nourishing Days

leftover chicken carcass (plus uncooked wings if you have them from a cut-up chicken)
1 large carrot or 2-3 small ones, peeled and trimmed
1-2 celery stalks or leftover tops, roughly chopped
1 small or 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled
stems from herbs such as thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, or marjoram (or whatever you have!)
1-2 tbsp of any vinegar (I used apple cider for this one, rice wine and plain white for others)
1-2 tsp kosher salt (optional, depending on what you'll make with the stock--don't salt if you'll be making risotto)

Dump everything in a small crock pot. Fill to the top with filtered water. It is suggested that you let it sit for an hour to allow the vinegar to extract minerals from the bones--I've been too impatient to wait quite that long. Then put the slow cooker on low. I've let mine go for 20-24 hours, which makes a pretty dark and strong stock. I've read that others only go for 8-12. I think you can do whatever's convenient for you. Let cool, strain out the solids, and refrigerate. When the fat has congealed on top, strain again to separate the fat and either use or freeze for later use.

Spring Vegetable Soup
adapted from Spring Chicken Soup in Real Simple, April 2007

homemade chicken broth (above)
1 large turnip or 4-6 baby turnips, scrubbed and cubed
4 carrots and 4 parsnips, peeled and sliced into coins
8 oz asparagus, sliced into 1-in pieces (I didn't have this)
10 oz frozen or fresh green beans
1 beefsteak tomato, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat chicken broth in soup pot until simmering. Add vegetables and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper as needed and serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

another easy dinner

Somehow when I'm menu planning, I can manage to fill one week with incredibly painstaking recipes and the next with very simple meals. I typically don't notice this trend until the groceries have been purchased and it's time to cook. It seems his week has been on the easy side. Here's a sandwich recipe that took us less than 20 minutes to whip up tonight.

These sandwiches are a more modest version of the super-sweet Monte Cristo which is typically topped with powdered sugar and raspberry jam (sometimes Matt fixes his that way still!). What makes these Monte Cristos is a french toast-style bread filled with some kind of meat and cheese.

Turkey Monte Cristos
adapted from Family Circle
Makes 4 sandwiches

8 slices sourdough bread (the crustier the better!)
sliced turkey breast
4 slices muenster cheese
Dijon mustard
tomatoes (optional--we just happened to have some around)
arugula, basil, or spinach leaves
3 eggs
1 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp butter

Assemble the sandwiches with the mustard, turkey, tomatoes (if using), muenster, and greens. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the milk, nutmeg, and cayenne.

Heat 1 tbsp of the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until bubbly. Quickly dip each side of the assembled sandwich in the egg mixture. Fry two sandwiches for a few minutes on each side, until brown and the egg is cooked and the cheese is beginning to melt. Transfer the sandwiches to a warm oven and turn the skillet down to medium heat. Cook the other two sandwiches. Serve with your favorite kettle chips. Easy!

*Note: If you'd like to make a more traditional Monte Cristo, leave off the mustard, add ham, dust with powdered sugar at the end, and serve with raspberry jam.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

easiest dinner ever

It seems I've been posting pretty involved meals lately. Often the quick 30-minute meals don't make it to the blog, I guess because they don't always seem that impressive. On the other hand, everyone needs quick and easy weekday meals, so here's a new one that we tried tonight. (I tend to say "we" because Matt almost always assists in the cooking process!)

This ravioli dish is hearty and flavorful, vegetarian, and can be easily halved as we did tonight.

Cheesy Toasted Ravioli with Pesto
from Cook's Country April/May 2010
Makes 4 servings

1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 (9-ounce) packages fresh cheese ravioli
1 c low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 c heavy cream (I used 2% milk because I don't like to have tons of cream sitting around)
1/4 c basil pesto, homemade or store-bought refrigerated
1/2 c crumbled goat cheese (we used goat feta)
3 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
Salt & pepper

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler (do as they say or your cheese won't brown--I tried to skip this). Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (if you use an oven-safe skillet you won't have to switch pans midway). Add ravioli and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth and cream and cook, covered until ravioli are nearly tender, about 3 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook until sauce is slightly thickened and ravioli are completely tender, about 3 minutes.

Off heat, stir pesto and 1/4 cup cheese into pan with ravioli. Transfer to broiler-safe 1 1/2-quart casserole (unless you used that oven-safe pan in the beginning). Arrange tomatoes over ravioli and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and broil until surface is spotty brown, about 3 minutes. Serve warm with a salad.

Monday, March 8, 2010

1 chicken 3 ways: part 2

Tonight we completed step two in the consumption of a small chicken that Matt purchased last week. This time the breasts were baked and then topped with a cherry caper chile sauce. Yes, I did just list all those things in one sauce. This is a mixture that you would think had a crisis of identity. Is it sweet? Salty? Briny? Spicy? Actually, it's all those things, and yet the flavors come together quite nicely.

Previous to today, I had only made this dish with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you can believe it, I wouldn't eat bone-in chicken only a few years ago. I endured a lot of teasing from Matt for complaining that chicken on the bone tastes "too chicken-y". With some concerted effort I've gotten over my issues and actually found that I prefer this recipe with the juicier bone-in chicken.

Chicken with Dried Cherries, Capers, and Chiles
from Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool

1 tsp paprika (I used smoked)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
4 bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c chicken broth
1/2 c dried cherries
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half (I always leave this out!)
1-2 hot chile peppers, such as cayenne, red jalapeno, or habanero, seeded and minced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the paprika, salt, and black pepper. Place the chicken in a large, shallow roasting pan. Brush with 1 tbsp of the oil and sprinkle with the paprika mixture. Roast for 45 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 180 degrees F and the juices run clear.

While the chicken is roasting, heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the broth, cherries, capers, honey, cumin, and cinnamon stick (if using). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the cherries are plump and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the chile peppers.

When the chicken is cooked, for extra flavor, if desired, drain off the pan juices and stir them into the cherry sauce. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick before serving. Place the chicken on a serving platter and top with the sauce. Serve with saffron couscous.

*Note: I just made two chicken breasts for the two of us, but made the entire batch of cherry sauce since I like things saucy.

For dessert, we topped things off with apple goat cheese tarts.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

perfect nachos

Wow! This is my 100th post! It doesn't seem like it's been that many posts, but after a year of blogging I should probably have even more. Oh well.

With our burgers and nachos, this weekend would seem to be filled with "junk" food, but I'd like to think that we do these dishes in a more healthful (and most definitely more delicious) way than your Burger King or your Taco Bell. My parents are to thank for beginning a grand tradition of amazing nachos made at home on the weekend. This is one of those meals that is never exactly the same since I just make them from memory.

Nachos or tacos usually follow a few days behind burgers. One half of the ground bison makes 2 burgers, the other half seasoned taco meat. The meat just gets cooked over medium heat, then coated to taste with lots of chili powder and cumin, plus a little chipotle powder, garlic powder, and salt.

Preheat the oven on low (300-350) and line an oven-safe plate with tortilla chips. Stick with a ceramic plate if possible--we've warped a porcelain plate in the oven before. The best chips are hearty, heavy, coarse corn chips. We usually use local blue corn chips, because the restaurant-style chips I used this time got too soggy from all the toppings.

Dollop warmed refried or black beans (if you like) over the chips, then add some meat and shredded cheese. Warm in the oven right on the plates until the cheese is melted and remove with hot pads. Then comes the fun part--slathering the nachos with lots of whatever toppings you like.

My nachos were topped with homemade salsa (that recipe is for another post!), plain yogurt (in lieu of sour cream), jalapenos, and my "green" guacamole. I originally got the guacamole recipe somewhere that I've since forgotten, but it's easy enough to make from memory. Below is the very non-scientific recipe.

"Green" Guacamole

2-3 soft avocados, mashed
1-2 green onions, sliced into thin rounds
2-4 cloves garlic, finely minced
handful cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped
small can diced green chiles, drained
splash of lime juice and pinch of salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

friday night burgers and fries

One meal we keep coming back to is some variation on burgers with oven fries. Since spring seems to have come early in the midwest (cross your fingers that it stays), yesterday was the perfect day to dust off the grill and cook some bison patties. Yes, the actual, fiery, outdoor grill. Not the George Foreman. We topped the burgers with our go-to topping, chipotle caramelized onions. I'm not sure whether these are caramelized in the "right" way (see here for a tutorial), but they always turn out very well.

Chipotle Caramelized Onions
adapted from Food Network

1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 - 1 chipotle in adobo, finely chopped, or about 1 tsp dried chipotle chili powder (go easy--you can always add more later!)
1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 tbsp beef broth, chicken broth, or water
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Place all ingredients in a medium saute pan and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and cooked down (about 30 minutes). If things begin to stick too much, add another tablespoon or two of water. These keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

bison burger with sharp cheddar, bacon, chipotle caramelized onions, and avocado

I also took the opportunity to try a new recipe for oven fries. The NY Times recipe involved preheating the pan in a very hot oven while preparing the mixture of sweet and red potatoes. This intrigued me. Could the hot pan make for crispier fries? I could not fit all of the potatoes into one pan and grabbed another at the last minute, thus unintentionally conducting a sort of experiment that compared a preheated pan to a pan at room temperature.

The results were varied. As I should have foreseen, the sugar in the sweet potatoes quickly caramelized and then scorched on the preheated pan (you can see some of them in the photo). They turned out better in the cool pan. On the other hand, I preferred the red potato wedges that crisped up in the preheated pan. I could have gotten the same effect in the cool pan if I left them in longer, but the high heat cuts the cooking time down from 40-45 minutes to 25-30. I would definitely recommend this method, but leave out the sweet potatoes.

Oven Fries
adapted from
makes 4-6 servings

2 pounds waxy potatoes, such as red potatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt or coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, shiny side up. Place in the oven while you prepare the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into wedges that are 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch thick at the thickest point and toss with the olive oil and salt.

Remove the hot pan from the oven, and add the potatoes to the pan in an even layer. Be sure they don't overlap or they won't crisp. They should sizzle. Return to the oven, and lower the heat to 450 degrees. Roast 25 minutes or until tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, and loosen the potatoes from the foil using an offset spatula. Return to the oven and cook for another five minutes. Serve at once, seasoned with more salt if desired.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

1 chicken 3 ways: part 1

It can be difficult to juggle local, sustainable, healthy, and affordable eating, so I like to set small, attainable goals for myself every few months. In the summer I began making preserves and freezing excess CSA vegetables.

My recent goal involves putting a face on my food by using locally-sourced meat. I have been using convenient boneless, skinless chicken breasts for too long. I have been wanting to use whole chickens, but was nervous about cooking whole chickens. I think it's time that I jump in with both feet and learn by trial and error.

Matt and I have been buying a small fresh chicken from our local butcher every other week or so. Then I cook the meat in some fashion and make broth from the bones. The chickens are much cheaper than boneless chicken breasts and the homemade broth also saves us a great deal of money.

This week we had the chicken parted into white and dark meat that I can make into two separate meals. Here's the first recipe that we made, using the thighs and legs. We've made this several times and it's always very tasty and the broccoli that I made for a side was hands down one of my favorite broccoli dishes ever.

Chevre-Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Roasted Broccoli
from Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool

4 oz soft goat cheese, such as chevre
1/4 c currants or raisins (I always leave this out!)
2 tbsp dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives or 1 tsp dried
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mixed dried Italian herbs
1/2 tsp salt
8 chicken thighs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the cheese, currants or raisins (if using), bread crumbs, chives, oregano, and pepper. In another bowl, combine the oil, Italian herbs, and salt.

Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan (we had good luck with a broiler pan). Lift the skin of each thigh and place one-eighth of the cheese mixture under the skin. Brush the skin with oil mixture.

Roast for 30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 170 degrees and the juices run clear.

Note: I only used the two thighs and two legs from the chicken, which was perfect for two of us. I halved the cheese mixture, but used the entire oil mixture.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


In the last month or so we've made it to two tasty Asian restaurants in Madison, one Korean and one Laotian. I'm tired and not in the mood to elaborate much. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

New Seoul Korean Restaurant
2503 University Avenue
Madison, WI
(608) 238-3331

bibim bop with beef

fried chicken with spicy sauce

Lao Laan-Xang
1146 Williamson Street
Madison, WI
(608) 280-0104

garlic chicken with mushrooms

sum thom with fried chicken and sticky rice