Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chicken Under a "Brick" with Lemon and Thyme

Chicken. Seems ho hum, right? But oh my friend you would not say such things if you've tried this recipe.  It's got crispy skin.  It's got lemony thyme flavor.  And it's got....POTATOOOEEESS! Yes, we are pleased.

I've made this recipe a few times and my main advice is to use a small chicken.  The chicken we used this time was a meager 2.75 lbs, but I tell ya, it was the perfect size. You have to be fitting this sucker into a skillet and flipping it at some point, and I had some major problems with the 4 lb chicken I once used, although 4 lbs is definitely doable.  If your manual dexterity skills reside at a higher level than mine, which they probably do, then go for the 4 if that's the smallest size you can get.

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated and My Husband Cooks.


Lemon and Thyme seasoning
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped (about 2 to 3 TBS)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 TBS thyme leaves, chopped
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
Chicken and potatoes
  • 1 whole chicken, anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 lbs (though I recommend the lower end), butterflied (either courtesy of you or your butcher)
  • 1 1/2 lbs new potatoes, halved/quartered into 1-inch pieces (you can also use fingerling potatoes)
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
Prepare the lemon thyme seasoning. You don't have to do this first, but I did, because butterflying the chicken by myself was daunting and I was putting if off as long as possible.

Chop/mince your shallot, garlic, and thyme. Them mix all ingredients together into a chunky marinade/sauce.

It may not be glamorous, but this is the stuff of heaven.

Now turn to your chicken.  Pat your clucker dry.  For butterflying your chicken, I highly highly recommend a pair of poultry shears.  Without them, I'm sure I would have had bits of raw chicken flung all over the apartment.

My Husband Cooks has good instructions on butterflying a chicken and you can find plenty of resources online, so I'll just summarize.

  1. Place chicken on cutting board, breast side down.
  2. Cut out the backbone by snipping closely along each side of the backbone.
  3. Flip chicken back over, spreading chicken.  Press HARD on breastbone--you may hear cracking.  Revel in the violence.
  4. Cut off the tips of the wings.
  5. If you want, place a piece of plastic wrap over the chicken and pound the chicken to even that sucker out, but I didn't. I just smooshed it extra hard to get it as flat as possible.
And you end up with this.

I know you're all salivating and can't wait to bite into that raw chicken, but just you wait. Season your chicken with salt and pepper. 

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat, until shimmering.  Place chicken in skillet, skin side down.

See, I told you there would be more salivating. I mean wow, who wouldn't find this appetizing.  Chicken, thank you so much for your sacrifice, I want you to know that I ate you with love, respect and mucho gusto.

In order to maximize skin crispiness, place a heavy object (a pot works well) on top of the chicken and fill it with canned food (I put a barrier of foil wrap betwixt the chicken and pot.

While the chicken cooks, preheat oven to 425 degrees.  After about 20 minutes, you'll get a beautiful crust on the chicken skin.  Which, if you're like me, you'll maul a bit with a spatula as you're impatiently trying to scrape the chicken from the pan. Remove the chicken to a plate/baking sheet, skin side up.  Pour off chicken fat, leaving a few tsp.

See the bald spot on the thigh towards the bottom left of the picture?  It is my life's shame.

Mix the potatoes with 2/3 of the lemon-thyme mixture.  Place the potatoes in the skillet.

Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the potatoes.  

Drizzle the remaining 1/3 of the lemon-thyme mixture over the chicken.  Cook about 30 to 45 minutes, until the chicken reaches about 160 to 165 degrees internally.  Alternately, like me, repeated take out chicken, take a paring knife, press down on chicken.  If juices run clear, it's done. If the juices are pink, stick it back in the oven.  Be incorrect and doubt yourself multiple times so that you swear not to make chicken again.

When chicken is done, remove to cutting board.

The recipe says to turn on the broiler and crisp the potatoes, but mine were pretty well done so I skipped that step.

As you guys know, at this point in my recipes I'm f&*#g hungry and don't really have the patience for photos.  So here is the chicken, which doesn't look like a chicken, completely sans delicious potatoes, with romaine dressed with lemon and olive oil.
Really? That's the best I can do?

Don't be discouraged by this disappointing picture. The chicken was awesome and so were the potatoes.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gnocchi with Spinach and Peas

Feels a bit more like spring.  I slaughtered a lamb yesterday and rolled around in fields of asparagus. I'm kidding. I didn't do that.  But I did make pasta with spinach, lemon and peas recently.  It seemed all spring-ish to me.

The pasta called for in the original recipe is gnocchi, but you can use any pasta you like.  That original recipe recommends using dried De Cecco gnocchi, which I could not fine. The pasta force be with you.

Oh, I also had some leftover prosciutto so added that to the recipe, but you can skip that if you want this to be vegetarian.

Adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 to 3 oz prosciutto, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (optional)
  • 1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach (3 ounces) (I doubled the amount and bought one of those 5 oz bags. why not.)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pound dried gnocchi (or other pasta)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
Prrrrep! Your ppprrrrosciutto!

Place ppprrrrosciutto! in skillet over medium low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until ppprrooosciutto! (sick of that yet?) is crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes (that's a lie, I can't remember, but it should be somewhere around there.

And now ve begeen vis de odder ingaedienz for de pasta saus!

Anyway, add the peas, cream, garlic, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 tsp salt to the prosciutto.  Cover and simmer until peas are just tender, about 5 minutes.

Add in spinach and cook, uncovered,  until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add in the lemon juice and zest.

In a separate pot of boiling salted water, cook gnocchi according to package directions.  Drain gnocchi and add to sauce.  Liberally dose with grated parmesan. 

This was a relatively quick dish that I will make again.  My one caveat had nothing to do with the recipe but more with the gnocchi that I used, which was subpar. NEVER AGAIN will I use that gnocchi. Not that you'll use this gnocchi, but it was the Fairway brand in NYC.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

I've been taking a vacation from cooking/blogging, but I'll be back soon with all those terribly exciting recipes that you love!!! I know, you're about to burst.

Before you burst, feast your eyes on this.


I found an old picture of Bunni (i.e. B.G. i.e. "Before Gray settled in all over her chin and face")

Baby girl, if you were made out of chocolate, I'd eat you right up.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

There are a few cooking posts that have been languishing in my drafts that are just dying to debut themselves.

Anyway, I thought I'd fit in my long, slow-cooking dishes before it actually gets warm (winter has been dragging its feet a bit). So I pulled out my favorite recipe for meatloaf from Cook's Illustrated

I know, meatloaf gets a bad rap. People have icky thoughts about it. But this stuff is good. Really really good. It's a combo of beef and pork for balance (all beef can be too strong, all pork can be too sweet and soft), *gently* mixed with various aromatics (gentle mixing is the key, otherwise you end up with concrete), wrapped in BACON (I mean, come on), and drenched in a sweet sour sauce.  Enough talk, let's move onto the action.

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Brown Sugar - Ketchup Glaze
  • 1/2 cup ketchup or chili sauce
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cider vinegar or white vinegar
Meat Loaf
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped medium
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or plain yogurt
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork (the original recipe calls for 1/2 lb ground pork and 1/2 lb ground veal, but I had a 1 lb package of ground pork so there you go--I've made it with the veal combo before and that is delicious as well)
  • 2/3 cup Saltine crackers , crushed (about 16), or quick oatmeal, or 1 1/3 cups fresh bread crumbs (I used the quick oatmeal)
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 6 - 8 ounces bacon , thin sliced (8 to 12 slices, depending on loaf shape) (I used pancetta for various reasons not worth going into, but actually I prefer the bacon--I missed the smokiness)
 First, make the glaze.  It's extremely complicated.

Mix all the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan; set aside.  See? I told you it was going to be rough.  (You'll heat the glaze later, if you're wondering why you need the saucepan.)

Now, ze meatloaf.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prep your onion and garlic.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and put the garlic/onion in there.  Cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Take off heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, salt, pepper, thyme, milk or yogurt, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and hot pepper sauce.  You will get this lovely mixture:

I know, pretty. Makes you want to suck it down with a straw, eh?

In a large bowl, crumble up your meat.  

Add the cooked onion/garlic mixture, egg mixture, oatmeal and parsley to the meat.  Mix to combine, but be as gentle as possible and stop once as things are fairly uniformly incorporated.  A light hand leaves enough air pockets so that your meatloaf will turn out light, instead of like a super dense brick.

Line a baking pan with sides with aluminum foil (I have this baking sheet but turned up the sides a lot on the foil--the meatloaf lets off a good amount of fat).  Dump the meatloaf mixture onto the sheet and shape into a 9 x 5 inch loaf. If it's not perfect, toss in the trash. I'm kidding.

Brush half off glaze mixture over the meatloaf.  Lay the strips of bacon crosswise on loaf, with each slice slightly overlapping.  Tuck in the end of the bacon under the meatloaf.

I stuck it in the oven first before remembering that I needed to take a picture.  So here is a 2-minute baked meatloaf. So appetizing.

Bake for about 1 hour.  Remove meatloaf from oven, cool at least 20 minutes.

Simmer the remaining glaze and then brush that lusciousness over your big, bad, naughty meatloaf.

So I don't have the greatest pictures of it sliced up, because it is quite tender, but here it is with polenta and broccoli rabe.


Monday, April 4, 2011


My travels the other week got me thinking about tourism (just a little, I was on vacation).  Living in NYC, you see a lot of tourists.  When I first moved to NYC, I took on the stereotypical (and I think, to a certain extent, outdated and untrue) exasperated attitude with tourists, in terms of getting impatient when they were walking too slowly on the sidewalk and...actually that's the main thing, not moving fast enough.  Don't worry though, I was always friendly if someone asked for help.

 Improv Everywhere used spray chalk last year on NYC sidewalks to delineate different lanes for tourists and NYC-ers

But after a while, I realized that even though tourists walk too slowly because they are looking at the sights (as they should), I really like tourists. I love that people want to come from all over the world to visit the city I live in.  And it's not just the tourist revenue that I appreciate--it reminds me that I am privileged to live somewhere that people find worthy to visit, to plunk their money down for travel, hotel, etc. to enjoy.  It makes me realize how great this city is, and I'm happy that other people want a piece of it.  

Nowadays, I'll happily answer tourists' questions and probably give them more detail about how to turn a corner than they would like.  I also walk up to confused-looking tourists to ask them if they need help (only if they look really, really confused--people eventually figure things out).  I know other NYC-ers do this also, so actually I'm not sure the whole "stereotypical" NYC haughty attitude really applies that much.

Once, on a packed subway train, a couple visiting from elsewhere asked me about directions.  I told them, and after thanking me, the guy said "You must be tired of people asking you all the time about how to get somewhere."  I responded no, that I would do the same exact thing if I were to visit his city (as long as he didn't live in hell, I wouldn't visit hell for kicks). 

However, despite my more open-minded attitude about tourists, when I was in London last week, I found myself preoccupied with not seeming like a tourist. I walked fast. I carried my camera in my bag and only whipped it out when using it. I wore decent-looking boots, even though I schlep around at home in my comfy Ecco walking shoes. I tried to memorize maps before heading out so that I wouldn't have to stand in the middle of a sidewalk, studiously examining a map.

Why was I doing this? Why is it a bad thing to be a "tourist"? Because I'm concerned with looking like I know what I'm doing?  Why is it a bad thing to not know what I'm doing?

Well, even if I wanted to try and seem like I knew what I was doing, obviously my plan of trying to memorize every street in London before I headed out from the hotel didn't work. I needed to look at a map a lot. A lot a lot. London isn't on any nice grid system.  Streets just randomly stop and others go every which way.

I needed to pull obvious U-turns in the middle of a sidewalk when I realized I was going the wrong way, I needed to snap away with my camera in little gardens where people were trying to have some peace and quiet, I needed to take pictures of my food before I ate it, all that good stuff.

And as time went on, I became less self-conscious.  As in, it's okay for me to just pull over to the edge of the sidewalk and look at a map, because dude, I don't know where I am.  And yes, I'm going to take an annoying amount of pictures because I'd rather remember this than be self-conscious about brandishing my camera left and right.

Now, there are certain things as a tourist that I tried to be aware of.  Like if I did need to stop and take a picture, I pulled off to the side to make sure I got out of anyone's path.  If I was walking with Kevin, we wouldn't walk side by side the whole time so as not to block the path of the many people who were walking faster (apparently I'm terribly preoccupied with the walking thing).

Lucky for me, the Londoners I encountered seemed to embrace a more open attitude towards tourists, and they were all lovely and nice. Except for one person.  A server at a restaurant who made it pretty clear that she was annoyed that we were the last reservation and that she wanted to leave.  I complained about her to the manager, which was my right and I'm glad I did it, but I'm not glad about the bonehead move I made in which I didn't leave ANY TIP at all (by accident--my tourist brain didn't understand the system and I would have left a little tip but totally screwed the servers that night in my confusion.  I still feel a knot in my stomach from this--you know, because they were going to send their kids to college on my $10 tip).

As for walking slowly, the impetus of the Improv Everywhere prank, why not? As long as we make an effort not to block those that are walking more quickly, what's wrong with meandering? I'm on vacation, dude, I don't need to be anywhere.

So how do you feel about tourists and/or about being a tourist?

Friday, April 1, 2011

How Could You

Bunni, upon our return from London:

Mommy how could you have left me for so long?  I had no choice but to snuggle with (gasp) my sister, who prances around in that robe like she's the anointed Joseph with the technicolor coat.

Mommy it was horrible her ass was in my face the whole time.

I think I grew even more back wrinkles during the time you abandoned me.

I feared all was lost. Don't ever leave me like that again.

Editor's note: the truth is that Bunni acted very excited to see us for about 3 minutes before padding off to her special spot on our recliner, away from the rest of us. I forcibly pulled her back onto the couch for some family time, in response to which she extricated her limbs from my grasp, one by one, and marched straight back to the recliner.