20. November 2014 · Comments Off on Let’s Make Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , ,

Late fall and early winter are the time of year to start craving comfort foods, especially ones where you can do a little prep work and then set them aside to cook while you get other stuff done. An old-fashioned example is the classic Carolina-style chicken and rice, with whole chicken parts simply simmered with stock in golden South Carolina rice. I’ve made it a few times before, and while it’s tasty, I always wanted something with a bit more punch flavor-wise.

So, when the co-op slings me a pound of wild rice from the Great Lakes and some free-range chicken breasts, I figure it’s time to step things up a bit. Protein and starch are fine, but I want some veg in there too – especially aromatic sorts. So let’s add some sweet red onion and carrots. Cumin goes with carrots and chicken nicely, so some toasted whole seed should be a part of this. Wild rice usually gets cooked with onion and celery, but I’m just gonna stick with celery seed for the flavor without the extra prep. For herbage, chicken loves sage and tarragon, so they’ll get simmered with the broth to extract their complex flavors.

The prep part of this takes about 15-20 minutes if you’re a decent multitasker, and about a half hour if you’re not. Then, you throw it all into an oven for and hour and a half. Which gives you plenty of time to work on your Thanksgiving menu or Christmas shopping list while your kitchen fills with fantastic smells. More »

05. January 2014 · Comments Off on The Bit About Chicken Noodle Soup (Thank You, Mr. Warhol) · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , , , ,

Warhol-Campbells-Chicken-NoodleFor a bit of a stretch, we were getting chicken in various shapes and sizes through Friends and Farms, our grocery co-op. I’d finish broiling off or baking one set of split breasts or thigh quarters and more’d show up in the following week’s pickup. So, when another whole bird arrived, I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to do with it. I’d roasted three whole chickens already over the summer. And while I like roast poultry a lot, I didn’t want to do it again.

So, I ended up parting it out into quarters – leg/thigh, breast/wing – bagging it, and freezing it for later. And later lasted quite a while. During which, more chicken dutifully appeared in our insulated bag on Saturdays. Fortunately, the new fridge has a freezer drawer that really is a deep-freeze, keeping things sub-zero or thereabouts. So, it wasn’t a couple months later that I finally hauled those rock-solid quarters out in a decision to free up some bin space.

If you’ve never made real, honest-to-goodness, home-made chicken noodle soup, you will be surprised at a) how easy it is and b) how long it takes. I promise, however, the results are more than worth it. You just need a chicken, some basic vegetables, and a couple of common herbs. And time. Definitely time. In fact, this is a recipe in two parts, and you should plan on starting the process the evening before your intended meal. The following day, assembling the finished soup takes less than an hour.

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21. August 2013 · Comments Off on On Roasting the Perfect Chicken · Categories: Cooking, Food · Tags: , ,

Roast Chicken with Tossed Green SaladOver the years, I’ve made many an attempt to roast a chicken dependably and consistently. I’ve tried low-heat, starting with a super-hot oven to crisp the skin and then reducing the temperature to finish cooking.

Basting.

Not Basting.

Stuffing the cavity with aromatics, inserting compound butter under the breast skin.

Brining, oiling, etc., etc.

And over and over again, I’d end up with breast meat that was done and dark meat that wasn’t quite to proper temperature. So, I’d extend cooking times until all the juices ran clear, and end up with a mostly over-done bird. Then out came the foil, covering the breast and leaving the dark meat exposed to full heat. Eventually, the whole thing became such a pain that I gave up. Chicken became something only made in parts – legs and thighs under the broiler where with judicious turning everything ended up uniformly cooked and crisp.

This past week, the food co-op we joined tossed a whole free-range hen into the bag. It was either part that sucker out, or puzzle out how to cook the thing with a minimum of fuss.

Enter the sage advice of Thomas Keller – keep it simple. Don’t screw around with it. Prep simply, put it in the oven, and leave it the hell alone. No basting. No turning. No tenting. Just one moderately high temperature and go do something else for a little less than an hour. Don’t add anything to the chicken that adds moisture to the cooking – “steaming” the bird is a cardinal sin.

So, following this rather basic guideline, here’s a damn-near foolproof roast chicken.

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