Friday, July 30, 2010

The most disgusting thing. . .

I really don't like touching raw meat (not that anyone does). The first time I cooked a turkey and realized I had to reach into the turkey and pull out the innards, I was ready to throw in the towel right then and there. Fortunately for my husband (who happens to like turkey on Thanksgiving), amidst my cries of disgust I managed to get all of the innards out and move on with the day.

At the beginning of the summer I decided I wanted to grill a whole chicken. I can now say that although the process (and I'm sorry, but the pictures too) was a little gross (and by that I mean much more disgusting than having to pull the innards out of that first turkey), in the end it was all worth it. The chicken came out tender and juicy with lots of flavor. It was worth every disgusting step!

Grilled Whole Chicken

Although you can grill a whole chicken without doing any butchering, by butterflying the chicken it cooks faster while still staying nice and juicy and getting the crispy skin on the outside.

1. While grill is heating, clean out the inside of the chicken, remove the gizzard, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In order to butterfly the chicken use kitchen shears to cut about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart on each side of the back bone. Cut all the way down the backbone and then pull out the back bone (if you hadn't guessed this is the gross part!)

3. After removing the backbone, open the two sides of the chicken and break the breast bone by firmly applying pressure and pressing down. Tuck wing tips under the upper wings.
4. Brush both sides of the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

5. Place on grill skin side down over indirect heat (flame should not be directly under the meat, but to one side). Grill for 25 minutes. Turn chicken over and and brush skin with BBQ sauce. Grill for 25 to 30 more minutes or until juices run clear and thermometer in thigh reads 180 degrees.

By this time the meat should just pull right off the bone and the skin should be nice and crispy- perfect and ready to eat!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Back into the kitchen

So cooking in our house was put on hold last week while my kitchen was overrun with tools and sawdust. The happy results of all this mess and lack of cooking? A new kitchen floor! Good-bye yucky linoleum, hello beautiful laminate floor!

That said, I do feel the need to makeup for my lack of new recipes, so I have a few in the works for this week. Today's recipe is what I would call a "refined" take on traditional pizza taken from Food & Wine magazine. It included a few ingredients not included in my usual cooking repertoire, but I was very pleased with the results.

White Bean and Pancetta Pizza

4 ounces pancetta (Italian style bacon), cut into 1 by 1/4 inch strips (Trader Joe's sells diced pancetta that also works well!)
extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped Rosemary
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 can cannellini beans or white kidney beans
4 pocketless pitas, flatbread, or naan
6 ounces thinly sliced Fontina cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450
2. heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook pancetta until crisp, then transfer to a plate. Add the garlic, rosemary, and crushed pepper to the skillet and cook for 20 seconds.
3. Mash beans into the mixture in the skillet, stir in the pancetta and season with salt.
4. Brush flat bread with olive oil and then spread with bean mixture. Top with slices of fontina cheese.
5. Bake flat bread pizzas about 7 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

I love the flavors of the cheese and rosemary in this super simple, summer meal. And if you don't feel like heating the oven on a hot summer day, simply cook pizzas on the grill!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nothing Says Happy Fourth of July like a Pie

Happy 4th of July! Our otherwise quiet neighborhood comes alive on the 4th of July; music from the park drifts (okay, occasionally blares) in, everyone is outside talking and laughing, and the streets are lined with lawn chairs as everyone jockeys to reserve the best spot for watching the fireworks. In many ways it seems to signal the start of summer.

Once again I am realizing that, at least in my mind, holidays revolve very much around the food we eat. For me July 4th means lots of bbq, rocket pops (remember those red, white and blue popsicles?), and of course pie. This year's pie was an experiment, but one my husband, after much reflection and only a little prodding, called "the best fruit pie" he's ever had. Now lets just hope I'm able to recreate this success again!

My original idea was to make a classic apple pie, but alas- not enough apples! In an attempt to use what I already had on hand I combined a few different recipes to concoct my very own Apple-Peach & Apricot Pie. In addition I tried out a new pie-crust recipe, which came out with such flaky, buttery goodness that even Martha Stewart might cry (those would be tears of joy of course).

The crust recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen's Pie Crust 102 tutorial with a few additions from America's Test Kitchen's Apple pie crust recipe. The two keys to getting this crust super flaky are not breaking down the butter too much, and keeping it cold, cold, cold! Here goes:

Super Flaky, Buttery Crust

Makes one double crust pie or two single crust pies

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup or 16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very cold!

1. Measure out 1 cup of cold water and add a few ice cubes; set aside.
2. In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar and salt. Dice cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces and add to dry mixture.
3. Using pastry blender, cut in the butter and work into flour mixture until butter is the size of tiny peas and no smaller!
4. drizzle about 1/2 cup of the ice water (but not the ice!) over the flour & butter mixture. Blend and gather dough together using a rubber spatula. Add additional water as needed 1 tablespoon at a time (you will probably need about 1/4 cup more all together). Once you have large clumps of dough, use your hands to gather it all together and gently knead into a ball. Divide the dough in half and shape each clump into a disk, then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour, but preferably two. (Dough will last for about a week in the fridge, or longer if you freeze it).

5. After dough has chilled, prepare your pie filling and proceed as follows.

6. Liberally sprinkle work surface with flour (you can always wipe off excess flour so use enough to really be sure your dough won't stick). Take first mound of dough out of the fridge and place on top of floured surface, sprinkle top with more flour and roll out dough from the center. Continue rolling dough until you have enough rolled out to cut into a 12 inch circle. Trim dough using knife. Move to pie plate by folding dough loosely into quarters and then unfolding in pie plate.

7. During this process keep dough COLD! You should always be able to see the pieces of butter throughout the dough- this will help create that flaky crust you want. If needed you can place dough back in the fridge throughout the rolling process.

8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 with the other half of the dough. Fill crust with pie filling of your choice and then top with crust- you can create a lattice top for the pie, or simply cover with the rolled dough and slit the top to vent.

9. Another key to a FLAKY CRUST: before baking place pie in the freezer for 10 minutes. During this time place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 500 F. After chilling the pie reduce heat to 475 and place pie on baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes or until top is golden. Reduce heat to 375 and rotate pie; bake for another 30 to 35 minutes and filling is bubbly and top is a nice golden brown.

Filling for Apple Peach & Apricot Pie

6 cups of peeled and sliced fruit including apples, peaches, and apricots
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice

1. You want enough peeled and sliced fruit to equal about 6 cups. I used 4 cups of apple (about 5 medium apples) 1 1/2 cups peaches (3 medium white peaches) and 1/2 apricot (4 small apricots).
2. In a medium bowl mix together sugar, flour, salt and spices. Add fruit to the flour mixture and toss to fully coat the fruit. This mixture will become very juicy. Fill pie crust shell with filling and bake as directed above.