vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

8 notes

Please take a minute to look at that damn fine roast chicken up there. 
I recently made my Best Ever Roast Chicken and I feel a duty to tell you about it. We had it on Tuesday, and I was just blown away. The skin was super crispy; the meat was tender and moist* and flavorful. You roast potatoes along with the chicken, and they were magic. They had a good crispy edge and a lot of richness from the chicken fat and I tossed them with a bunch of fresh parsley which gave them a herbal kick. I stood at the stove after dinner eating leftover potatoes straight from the pan. The recipe calls it “chicken with mustard butter,” but it’s just as much about the herbs as the mustard.
It’s a combination of two recipes from Mindy Fox’s A Bird in the Oven and Then Some. I wrote about a different, also delicious, chicken recipe from this book back in 2011.
The snag? You have to take the raw chicken and wedge your hand up between the skin and the chicken flesh (judiciously cutting away the connective tissue if need be). Once you’ve maneuvered some space in there with your hand mushed underneath the chicken skin, you squeeze in a butter mixture with your fingers and then rub your hands over the surface of the chicken to spread it all out. So that’s gross. It becomes less gross the more you do it, much in the way of picking up dog poop with the plastic bag covering your hand, but it’s gross. I have come to believe there are no good alternatives. 
On that note, let’s go! Best roast chicken ever!
Roasted Chicken with Mustard Butter and Potatoes
1 chicken (approx. 4 lbs)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (Cut it into small cubes to start. If it’s cold, you can treat it like butter in pie crust, and cut the ingredients together with two knives**)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (I didn’t measure, I just used one shallot)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage (I didn’t really measure, and may have ended up with more sage)
1 lemon
1 - 2 pounds small to medium waxy potatoes, cut up into 3/4” or so sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
A handful of parsley, chopped (maybe a 1/4 cup chopped? significantly more than a garnish)
Preheat the oven to 450˚ F with the rack in the middle. Put a roasting pan or 9 x 13” baking dish in the oven to heat up while you prep everything (10 minutes or so).
Make the mustard butter: Put the butter, shallot, mustard, and sage in a bowl. Zest the lemon into the bowl, close in so you capture the lemon oils that spray off as you zest. I often use a knife to cut the ingredients together until they’re fairly well mixed and finish mixing them together with a fork. Whatever works.
You can prepare the potatoes before your hands get raw chickeny if you want. Cut them up, toss them with olive oil, around 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper.
Now the chicken: with kitchen shears or your hands, pull or cut off the excess fat around the cavities of the chicken and discard. If the chicken has giblets, you should fish out the neck and freeze it to make stock (along with the carcass from the chicken you’re roasting). Again, gross, but you’re eating a dead bird. The instructions say to rinse the bird and pat dry, but that is ridiculous and we’re skipping it. Pat it dry if you want.
Next, verbatim from the recipe: “From the edge of the cavity, slip a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, then gently but thoroughly loosen the skin from the meat of the breasts and thighs.
"Using your hands and working with about 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, gently push the mixture into the spaces you created between the chicken skin and meat, being careful not to tear the skin. As you work the mixture in, gently rub your hand over the outside of the skin to smooth out the mixture and push it further down between the skin and meat where you may not be able to reach with your hand."
So that was intimate. I sometimes use a knife or kitchen shears to cut the connective tissue between the skin and the meat. 
Cut the lemon into quarters and pop one quarter into the chicken cavity. Save the others for later. Tie the chicken legs together with twine, although that step might be skippable. Season with salt and pepper.
Take the roasting pan out of the oven and toss in the potatoes, keeping them in one layer if you can and leaving room in the middle of the pan for the chicken. Add the chicken, breast side up.
Roast for 20 minutes, then turn chicken breast-side down and roast for another 20 minutes.
Take the chicken out and turn breast side up again. Squeeze the extra lemon slices over the chicken and then toss them in the pan. Continue cooking for another 20 - 30 minutes until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a fork.
In other words:
20 minutes breast side up
20 minutes breast side down
Squeeze on lemon juice and toss in squeezed lemon slices
Another 20 - 30 minutes breast side up
Toss the chopped parsley over the potatoes and mix a bit. 
If you’ve never carved a whole chicken, here’s a nice video demonstrating the process. It’s the same as cutting up a raw chicken, and a pretty useful skill. Don’t forget to save the carcass for stock— just wrap it in tinfoil or a ziploc bag and freeze it.
Serve!
* Moist felt less awkward than juicy in that situation. It was a judgement call.
** I tried to find a video or tutorial of cutting butter and flour together using two knives but didn’t find much. What I mean is you take your knives, one in each hand, pointed toward each other and slightly crossed in an x. You slice them away from each other so the bits of butter get cut up in between the knives. I should make a video of my mum doing this at some point.

Please take a minute to look at that damn fine roast chicken up there.

I recently made my Best Ever Roast Chicken and I feel a duty to tell you about it. We had it on Tuesday, and I was just blown away. The skin was super crispy; the meat was tender and moist* and flavorful. You roast potatoes along with the chicken, and they were magic. They had a good crispy edge and a lot of richness from the chicken fat and I tossed them with a bunch of fresh parsley which gave them a herbal kick. I stood at the stove after dinner eating leftover potatoes straight from the pan. The recipe calls it “chicken with mustard butter,” but it’s just as much about the herbs as the mustard.

It’s a combination of two recipes from Mindy Fox’s A Bird in the Oven and Then Some. I wrote about a different, also delicious, chicken recipe from this book back in 2011.

The snag? You have to take the raw chicken and wedge your hand up between the skin and the chicken flesh (judiciously cutting away the connective tissue if need be). Once you’ve maneuvered some space in there with your hand mushed underneath the chicken skin, you squeeze in a butter mixture with your fingers and then rub your hands over the surface of the chicken to spread it all out. So that’s gross. It becomes less gross the more you do it, much in the way of picking up dog poop with the plastic bag covering your hand, but it’s gross. I have come to believe there are no good alternatives.

On that note, let’s go! Best roast chicken ever!

Roasted Chicken with Mustard Butter and Potatoes

  • 1 chicken (approx. 4 lbs)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (Cut it into small cubes to start. If it’s cold, you can treat it like butter in pie crust, and cut the ingredients together with two knives**)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (I didn’t measure, I just used one shallot)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage (I didn’t really measure, and may have ended up with more sage)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 - 2 pounds small to medium waxy potatoes, cut up into 3/4” or so sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A handful of parsley, chopped (maybe a 1/4 cup chopped? significantly more than a garnish)

Preheat the oven to 450˚ F with the rack in the middle. Put a roasting pan or 9 x 13” baking dish in the oven to heat up while you prep everything (10 minutes or so).

Make the mustard butter: Put the butter, shallot, mustard, and sage in a bowl. Zest the lemon into the bowl, close in so you capture the lemon oils that spray off as you zest. I often use a knife to cut the ingredients together until they’re fairly well mixed and finish mixing them together with a fork. Whatever works.

You can prepare the potatoes before your hands get raw chickeny if you want. Cut them up, toss them with olive oil, around 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper.

Now the chicken: with kitchen shears or your hands, pull or cut off the excess fat around the cavities of the chicken and discard. If the chicken has giblets, you should fish out the neck and freeze it to make stock (along with the carcass from the chicken you’re roasting). Again, gross, but you’re eating a dead bird. The instructions say to rinse the bird and pat dry, but that is ridiculous and we’re skipping it. Pat it dry if you want.

Next, verbatim from the recipe: “From the edge of the cavity, slip a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, then gently but thoroughly loosen the skin from the meat of the breasts and thighs.

"Using your hands and working with about 1 tablespoon of the butter at a time, gently push the mixture into the spaces you created between the chicken skin and meat, being careful not to tear the skin. As you work the mixture in, gently rub your hand over the outside of the skin to smooth out the mixture and push it further down between the skin and meat where you may not be able to reach with your hand."

So that was intimate. I sometimes use a knife or kitchen shears to cut the connective tissue between the skin and the meat.

Cut the lemon into quarters and pop one quarter into the chicken cavity. Save the others for later. Tie the chicken legs together with twine, although that step might be skippable. Season with salt and pepper.

Take the roasting pan out of the oven and toss in the potatoes, keeping them in one layer if you can and leaving room in the middle of the pan for the chicken. Add the chicken, breast side up.

Roast for 20 minutes, then turn chicken breast-side down and roast for another 20 minutes.

Take the chicken out and turn breast side up again. Squeeze the extra lemon slices over the chicken and then toss them in the pan. Continue cooking for another 20 - 30 minutes until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a fork.

In other words:

  • 20 minutes breast side up
  • 20 minutes breast side down
  • Squeeze on lemon juice and toss in squeezed lemon slices
  • Another 20 - 30 minutes breast side up

Toss the chopped parsley over the potatoes and mix a bit.

If you’ve never carved a whole chicken, here’s a nice video demonstrating the process. It’s the same as cutting up a raw chicken, and a pretty useful skill. Don’t forget to save the carcass for stock— just wrap it in tinfoil or a ziploc bag and freeze it.

Serve!

* Moist felt less awkward than juicy in that situation. It was a judgement call.

** I tried to find a video or tutorial of cutting butter and flour together using two knives but didn’t find much. What I mean is you take your knives, one in each hand, pointed toward each other and slightly crossed in an x. You slice them away from each other so the bits of butter get cut up in between the knives. I should make a video of my mum doing this at some point.

Filed under chicken dinner gross things that are part of adulthood

9 notes

Tahini Week: Hummus!
It’s come to this.
But first, let’s get it out of the way: this particular hummus, in which you dump all the ingredients into the food processor, is not significantly better than store-bought hummus. Maybe if you’re buying crappy hummus? Then, sure, homemade will be better. But my favorite hummus is really smooth and light and creamy. Word on the street is that peeling the chickpeas will get you the really great hummus texture, and that is on my list of things to try but I did not have 10 - 15 minutes to stand idly in the kitchen pinching the skins off a million little beans yesterday evening, so that’s something I’m going to have to report back on.
Okay.
Now, there are people who say you can substitute other nut butters for the tahini in hummus, but that’s bullshit. Then you’re just making a bean dip with peanut butter. Buy the tahini! I hope I’ve convinced you here that tahini is a useful pantry item. 
In any case, the reason to make hummus at home is that it is quite good, despite the not-perfect texture, and it’s easy, and it makes a TON. We eat a lot of hummus.* It also makes me feel resourceful, which I enjoy.
I used Mark Bittman’s hummus recipe available on epicurious here. My notes in italics below.
Hummus
2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas, liquid reserved (I used chickpeas I had frozen— they freeze really well)
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste), optional, with some of its oil (NOT OPTIONAL. Here’s a tip: measure the olive oil in your 1/2 cup measuring cup, swirl it around to coat, and then use the same cup for the tahini. It’ll keep the tahini from gluing itself to the sides of the measuring cup. I use this trick with honey and molasses in other recipes.)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, peeled, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika, or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish (I used cumin, and think that a little paprika would also be nice)
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed (I needed 1 1/2 - 2 lemons)
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish (I’m not in a place in my life where I wash and chop up fresh parsley leaves for garnish)
Combine everything (except the parsley, if you’re using it) in a food processor and process. I added quite a bit of extra water as well as some extra olive oil. I added more than a teaspoon of salt. I’m not sure how much more. Taste as you go! Puree a LOT. 
* Especially when Bear was in his hummus-eating phase. I will have you know that both hummus mixed with chopped cooked spinach and hummus with roasted beets are really delicious.

Tahini Week: Hummus!

It’s come to this.

But first, let’s get it out of the way: this particular hummus, in which you dump all the ingredients into the food processor, is not significantly better than store-bought hummus. Maybe if you’re buying crappy hummus? Then, sure, homemade will be better. But my favorite hummus is really smooth and light and creamy. Word on the street is that peeling the chickpeas will get you the really great hummus texture, and that is on my list of things to try but I did not have 10 - 15 minutes to stand idly in the kitchen pinching the skins off a million little beans yesterday evening, so that’s something I’m going to have to report back on.

Okay.

Now, there are people who say you can substitute other nut butters for the tahini in hummus, but that’s bullshit. Then you’re just making a bean dip with peanut butter. Buy the tahini! I hope I’ve convinced you here that tahini is a useful pantry item. 

In any case, the reason to make hummus at home is that it is quite good, despite the not-perfect texture, and it’s easy, and it makes a TON. We eat a lot of hummus.* It also makes me feel resourceful, which I enjoy.

I used Mark Bittman’s hummus recipe available on epicurious here. My notes in italics below.

Hummus

  • 2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas, liquid reserved (I used chickpeas I had frozen— they freeze really well)
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste), optional, with some of its oil (NOT OPTIONAL. Here’s a tip: measure the olive oil in your 1/2 cup measuring cup, swirl it around to coat, and then use the same cup for the tahini. It’ll keep the tahini from gluing itself to the sides of the measuring cup. I use this trick with honey and molasses in other recipes.)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus oil for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin or paprika, or to taste, plus a sprinkling for garnish (I used cumin, and think that a little paprika would also be nice)
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed (I needed 1 1/2 - 2 lemons)
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish (I’m not in a place in my life where I wash and chop up fresh parsley leaves for garnish)

Combine everything (except the parsley, if you’re using it) in a food processor and process. I added quite a bit of extra water as well as some extra olive oil. I added more than a teaspoon of salt. I’m not sure how much more. Taste as you go! Puree a LOT.

* Especially when Bear was in his hummus-eating phase. I will have you know that both hummus mixed with chopped cooked spinach and hummus with roasted beets are really delicious.

Filed under peeling chickpeas tahini hummus

4 notes

Tahini Week: Tahini Shortbread Cookies

It makes me sad for tahini week that I didn’t LOOOVE these cookies. I liked them. They were good. They were not amazing, which is difficult for me because the cookies I had a Sofra were amazing. I think replacing the peanut butter with tahini as in these Martha Stewart cookies produced better cookies.

Pictured: the Martha Stewart tahini cookies, photo by Bryan Gardner for Martha Stewart.

One central issue is that 25 minutes is a LONG TIME to cook very little shortbread cookies. You can see the ones at top that were cooked twenty five minutes in that second photo. They were too dry. But then I cooked the next batch for 18 minutes and they were still kind of dry. I want a shortbread to be really rich and crumbly and melty-tasting. These were crumbly but not quite buttery enough. I also think two teaspoons of salt was too much.

The brown sugar in the Martha Stewart cookie recipe paired really nicely with the tahini flavor, and I missed that here. In any case, I have another full log of cookies to bake, and I’ll try 15 minutes on the next batch in case they’re still just getting dried out. Perhaps!

They’re good, though, and I’m open to the possibility that someone else would love them. I’ve sure eaten a lot of them for a cookie I didn’t LOVE.

Word of advice: if you have anyone with a sesame allergy in your life do not roll them in the sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are the glitter of the cooking world. I’m going to be finding sesame seeds pressed to the bottoms of my feet for the next four months.

Filed under tahini sesame seeds

4 notes

Tahini Week: Supporting Documents

From a Food and Wine interview with Maura Kilpatrick:

Secret-weapon ingredient?
Tahini. It took me a while to use tahini in desserts. Now we put it in so much. We make milk chocolate and tahini cups, like peanut butter cups with tahini instead of peanut butter. We paddle tahini into brioche dough with the eggs. It gives it a spongy, softer texture. The sesame taste doesn’t get you at first—it’s more a late hit in the back of your throat. We turn the tahini brioche dough into doughnuts on the weekend: We fry the doughnuts and put salted caramel ganache on top.

Filed under tahini nut allergy a late hit in the back of your throat

8 notes

Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s tahini week up in here.
Welcome to Tahini Week!
Tahini is sesame seed paste. It’s creamy like processed peanut butter, but thinner. Up until maybe last year I knew tahini as the non-chickpea ingredient in hummus and the thing that I want drizzled on my falafel (before I moved to Maine and had to give up falafel [SIGH]). Then I had tahini cookies at Sofra in Cambridge, MA and then I read small feature about tahini and how it could be used as a substitute for peanut butter in a recent Martha Stewart Magazine and I decided I had vastly underestimated tahini.
Then I spent a number of weeks looking for it in the section of the grocery store that has the middle eastern foods and not finding it. At Hannaford, it’s in the middle eastern foods sections. At Whole Foods it’s buried on the bottom shelf of the jam section, next to the nut butters. 
Entry level tahini:
Make yourself some hummus (I use the Silver Palate recipe, but here’s one from Ina Garten and here’s one by Mark Bittman by way of epicurious)
Use tahini in place of peanut butter in a peanut butter cookie recipe (I used this recipe from Martha Stewart and it was great)
Mix some honey into the tahini and use as a dipping sauce for apples.
And if I’m being honest, I’m super super super excited to send away for my free recipe booklet from Joyva tahini (which has the worst website in the entire world).

Apple and tahini dipping sauce photo from Martha Stewart Living

Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s tahini week up in here.

Welcome to Tahini Week!

Tahini is sesame seed paste. It’s creamy like processed peanut butter, but thinner. Up until maybe last year I knew tahini as the non-chickpea ingredient in hummus and the thing that I want drizzled on my falafel (before I moved to Maine and had to give up falafel [SIGH]). Then I had tahini cookies at Sofra in Cambridge, MA and then I read small feature about tahini and how it could be used as a substitute for peanut butter in a recent Martha Stewart Magazine and I decided I had vastly underestimated tahini.

Then I spent a number of weeks looking for it in the section of the grocery store that has the middle eastern foods and not finding it. At Hannaford, it’s in the middle eastern foods sections. At Whole Foods it’s buried on the bottom shelf of the jam section, next to the nut butters.

Entry level tahini:

And if I’m being honest, I’m super super super excited to send away for my free recipe booklet from Joyva tahini (which has the worst website in the entire world).

Apple and tahini dipping sauce photo from Martha Stewart Living

Filed under tahini sending away for booklets nut allergy