Friday, November 21, 2008
This. Is. Amazing. If you only make one chicken recipe from this blog, make this one. Now! Hurry! You can thank me later.
I was a little suspicious about the pears. I’m not a proponent of putting fruit in savory dishes. (Big chunks of fruit, anyway; lemon and lime juice and zest obviously get a pass.) Sure, I’ve made exceptions—Brie and apple soup and butternut squash with sausage and apples—but in general if I see any hint of cranberries, figs, plums, raisins (god forbid) or any other such malarkey in a non-dessert recipe, I turn the page. I’m just close-minded that way. But the photo at Sassy Radish was so succulent-looking, I would have made any recipe that followed it, even if it were titled “Raisiny Chicken in Raisin Sauce.” Luckily, the title name-checked shallots and leeks instead, which I love. But then there was that pear, plus all that orange juice…would this chicken just be a mass of fruity sweetness?
Not at all. The chicken doesn’t even taste overwhelmingly orangey, but the juice gives the skin an impressive caramelized, burnished finish. Those sweet pear and orange flavors are facing off against savory shallots, leeks, garlic, olive oil, salt, and chicken fat, and they all melt together into a luxurious, addictively delicious compote blanketing tender, juicy, falling-off-the-bone chicken. (Do not even consider substituting chicken breasts or anything boneless and skinless here—the dark meat is integral to the moist, complex richness.) This is guaranteed to knock the socks off anyone you serve it to. They’ll be convinced that after years of expensive culinary-school training, you spent hours laboring in the kitchen over a hot stove crafting this gourmet masterpiece for their enjoyment. The kicker is that not only is this dish unique and mad tasty, it’s one of the easiest main dishes I’ve ever made. Throw everything in the pan and bake it—not even for that long, because you’re using small pieces of chicken instead of those dense, honkin’ breasts—and magically it transforms into molten awesomeness. Oh, and? And! If you’re still hesitant about using dark meat, let me just inform you that a package of 6 drumsticks at Trader Joe’s cost me under $3. TOTAL.
Delicious, creative, sophisticated, easy, pretty quick, and cheap? Folks, we may just have found the holy grail.
6 chicken drumsticks and/or thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
1 pear, thinly sliced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1–2 leeks, thinly sliced (white part only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Wash and pat dry the chicken parts and place in a 9-by-11-inch glass baking dish. Surround the chicken with the pear, shallots, leeks, and garlic. Pour orange juice and olive oil over everything and season with salt and pepper.
3. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the drumsticks over and return to the oven for another 20–25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Time: 50 minutes
Leftover potential: This yields a modest amount of food—for a while there, I didn’t even think we were going to have any leftovers because midway through our first drumsticks we were in such rapture that we’d already decided we needed to have a third one apiece, but this is actually pretty rich stuff, and after our second drumsticks we were definitely sated. A ate the two leftover drumsticks a couple of days later and reported that they were just as excellent as the first time around.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Yum yum yum. This recipe, from Recipezaar via Ezra Pound Cake, is a simple treatment for salmon that packs a big whallop. The brown sugar creates an irresistible crispy, caramelized crust, while the onion powder, lemon pepper, and pepper balance it out with a savory edge. The seasonings don’t overwhelm the flavor of the salmon, but they do permeate the fish a lot more than some other salmon recipes I’ve tried. That plus the bold flavors and candy-like appeal make this is a great way to tempt fish-phobes (or the fish-reluctant, like me) into eating salmon for dinner.
The only reason I wasn’t completely head over heels is that I feel like I overcooked my fish a little, and the result was a tad dry. I blame myself; I halved the recipe and thus probably should have shortened the cooking time more than I did, plus things got a little confused because I was roasting squash in the oven at the same time. I’ll certainly be trying this again. I love lemon and pepper nearly as much as I love brown sugar, and am grateful to this recipe for finally giving me a reason to buy the bottle of lemon pepper with built-in grinder that has always tempted me on the shelves at Trader Joe’s. I actually ended up using a bit more lemon pepper and black pepper than the recipe called for, and I was not sorry.
This was my first time trying frozen wild Alaskan salmon from Whole Foods. It was so much fresher than the non-frozen farmed salmon we’ve been getting from Trader Joe’s, and the 12-ounce package was exactly the size I needed for a half-recipe. My only trouble was in defrosting the fish. I followed the directions on the package to let it sit in the fridge for 6 to 8 hours, but when I removed the fish to cook it, there was still a thin shell of ice on it. The middle of the fish was soft, but I had to crack away the icy coating with my fingers, and the fish was still so cold that it solidified the melted butter when I brushed it on. Next time, more defrosting!
One other note: Melted, burnt sugar makes a big mess, so use an old baking sheet and be sure to coat it with foil. Even after a thorough greasing, my salmon stuck to the foil—which actually ended up working in our favor, because when I pulled the fish away, it conveniently left its skin behind!
1½ pounds boneless salmon fillets
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine the brown sugar, onion powder, lemon pepper, and pepper in a small bowl and mix well.
3. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease it.
4. Pat the salmon fillets dry, place them on the baking sheet, and brush them with melted butter. Sprinkle the seasonings over the salmon and press down gently so they adhere.
5. Bake for 20–25 minutes.
Time: 35 minutes
Leftover potential: Unknown, since I made a half-recipe. Generally, though, I don't like leftover fish, and I don't think the crustiness of the sugar coating--one of the main selling points of this recipe--would hold up particularly well on reheating.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This barely qualifies as a recipe, but it was still something of a revelation to me. Roasted squash is certainly nothing new, and acorn is a prime candidate, with its single-serving size, easy-to-cut-and-seed texture, and edible skin. Traditionally, roasted squash is prepared with sweet flavors, like butter and brown sugar, or spices, like cinnamon or curry, or some combination of the two. I grew up eating it with butter and brown sugar, although shamefully I was not much of a squash fan (it was a textural issue I’ve happily outgrown) and would only eat the small surface area that had come into direct contact with the sugar. Anyway, when I saw this idea at The Kitchn, I was immediately struck by its genius: throw a few peeled cloves of garlic into the shelter of the squash cavity as it bakes! Then you get two for the price of one—both roasted squash and the nutty, caramelized awesomeness of roasted garlic! When it comes out of the oven, just smoosh the garlic into the soft flesh of the squash and devour. I loved how the garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil all help to balance out the squash’s sweetness. As much as I love brown sugar and butter, this more savory treatment wins hands down in my book.
One note: I used a mix of small and large garlic cloves (I was in the process of finishing the teeny inner pieces of one head and starting with the huge outer pieces of another), and some of the bigger ones didn’t quite get as soft and squishy as I’d have liked, so I think it’s best to err on the side of small-to-medium cloves to make sure they cook through. (Or if you have only big cloves, maybe cut them in half?)
2 acorn squash
8–12 medium cloves garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the strings and seeds. Place squash halves, skin side down, in a baking dish or on a baking sheet. Brush the tops of the squash (the flesh and especially the cavity) thoroughly with olive oil. Place two to three garlic cloves in each cavity and drizzle them with a little more oil (toss to make sure they are thoroughly coated). Sprinkle squash with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until squash flesh comes up easily when scraped gently with a fork, and garlic is soft and lightly browned. Let cool for a few minutes, then mash the garlic into the squash flesh with a fork or spoon before eating.
Time: 60 to 70 minutes
Leftover potential: OK.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Here’s an easy side dish (from Tyler Florence via the fantastically useful blog Cheap Healthy Good) that may win over some members of the anti-broccoli contingent. Roasting is an awesome treatment for almost every vegetable, and it’s an especially good way to transform questionable ones like kale, beets, and Brussels sprouts (or so I’ve been told—I’m sold on kale, but not the other two…yet). I’d tried roasted broccoli before and liked it, but this recipe takes things to a new level by adding a small amount of Parmesan. The cheese not only tastes great with the broccoli (or distracts from it, if you’re trying to convert a skeptic) but also creates an appealingly browned, crispy crust. This is how I sold the recipe to A, who is wary of broccoli; I, of course, love cheese but was mainly in it for the lemon. Neither of us were disappointed; this one’s a keeper.
1 head broccoli (½ to ¾ pound)
½ tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ lemon, juiced
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Trim about 1 inch off the ends of the broccoli stalks and cut the broccoli lengthwise into spears. Arrange the broccoli on a nonstick baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Put in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.
3. Remove broccoli from the oven, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top, and bake until the cheese melts and forms a crisp shell over the broccoli, about 10 minutes. Drizzle with lemon juice.
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Unknown, since we made just enough to eat that night and if A hadn't been around, I might have eaten it all on my own. I expect it would taste fine the next day, although you'd lose some of the crispness of the cheese.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Here’s a quick and easy side dish that pairs one of my favorite vegetables with one of my favorite flavor combos for vegetables: shallots and lemon. After making this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen (but leaving off the tomatoes, which I don’t particularly like paired with green beans) a couple of times, I barely even want to bother with any of my other green-bean side-dish recipes anymore. This one is light enough for spring and summer but can just as easily brighten up a fall or winter meal as well.
½ pound green beans, trimmed
2 teaspoons butter
1 small shallot, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of ½ lemon
1. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 3½ minutes. Drain and plunge beans into cold water.
2. In the empty pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté until tender, 1–2 minutes. Add drained and cooled green beans and reheat them in the butter and shallots. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze lemon juice over.
Time: 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Low, because they’re so addictive you’ll eat them all right away. If you do somehow manage to have some hanging around the next day, the lemon juice will have discolored the green beans, although they’ll taste just fine.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Wow. I’m down with putting potatoes (and more potatoes) and squash on pizza, and everyone knows roasted onions and garlic are splendid on anything, but I was skeptical about the carrots. Not to fear; this recipe from Everyday Food, which I mainly selected because I had leftover ricotta to use up, is one of those fabulous “I wish I’d thought of it sooner” combos. Paired with creamy cheese, these sweet, tender, caramelized vegetables make a great topping for a crisp crust. The result is a sophisticated and surprisingly rich pizza—after two pieces, my taste buds still wanted a third piece, but my belly was quite sated (a green salad makes a nice accompaniment to lighten things up).
This one is definitely being added to the pizza repertoire. Even though it takes some time to cut and roast the vegetables, barely any work is required of you after that, so this is still a pretty easy recipe that’s manageable on a weeknight. I think sweet potatoes would be a nice addition to the vegetable mix, maybe instead of the butternut squash if it’s not in season or you don’t want to futz with peeling and seeding it. I loaded my pizza pretty heavily with vegetables and still had about a cup of them left over, but I just stuck them in the fridge and ate them later in the week as a side dish with something else. Oh, and the original recipe calls for 2 cups of mozzarella—I cut it down to 1½ cups and might consider reducing it still further in the future. The cheese is nice and adds some needed moisture to the starchy vegetables and crust, but 2 cups is a lot, especially when you’re also using a cup of ricotta. The original recipe also calls for a final drizzle of olive oil before putting the pizza in the oven, but I also skipped that as unnecessary and didn’t miss it—it felt a bit like gilding the lily to be pouring oil on top of cheese.
For the roasted vegetables:
1 pound (about ½ medium) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound small red potatoes (6 to 7), well scrubbed and quartered
½ pound red onions (1 to 2), peeled and quartered
½ pound carrots (3 to 4 medium), halved lengthwise, if thick, and cut into 1½-inch lengths
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1½ tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper to taste
For the pizza:
1 pound pizza dough
6 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated (1½ cups)
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Spread vegetables and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with oil, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and pepper to taste. Roast until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes, tossing them halfway through.
3. Brush a pizza pan (I use 9x12) with oil, roll out dough, and transfer to pan.
4. Sprinkle dough with half the mozzarella. Scatter vegetables on top (you may have extra vegetables left over), then dollop with ricotta. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and rosemary. Bake until bubbling and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: OK. The crust won’t be as crisp on the second day, but the toppings are still just as tasty.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
This recipe, originally from Serious Eats, wasn't the quickest thing I've ever cooked (in addition to the long baking time, there are lots of prep steps), but it was triumphantly worth the labor--A declared it to be "awesome" and "the best use of butternut squash yet." Caramelized onions, smoked cheese, and chicken stock (infused with squash flavor via a clever method of boiling it with the squash innards) all help to pack a powerful flavor punch for a dish that actually has relatively little meat and fat. I halved the recipe and then feared there wouldn't be enough food for four servings, but the squash tasted so rich that a petite portion, served with a fresh green side salad, was plenty satisfying.
I made a few changes to the original recipe, mostly because when I halved it some of the quantities seemed so tiny that they might disappear altogether--only an eighth of a pound of sausage (less than one link)? A quarter-cup of cheese? And 3/8 cup of stock was hardly enough to simmer the squash seeds in. Since the volume of a 9-inch square baking dish is more than half of a 9-by-12 dish, I felt OK about using slightly more of certain ingredients, and though I mostly eyeballed it, I've tried to replicate the measurements below. I also substituted smoked Gouda for smoked mozzarella (which Trader Joe's didn't carry) and used panko instead of the breadcrumbs because it was easier. Whatever I did, it was great and I'll certainly be making this oozy, deeply flavored little casserole again during the dark days of winter.
2 links Italian sausage (about ¼–⅓ pound) (I used chicken sausage)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small-to-medium onions, quartered and sliced
3 thyme sprigs
1 teaspoon dried sage
Salt and pepper to taste
1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes (3–4 cups), seeds and scrapings reserved
2 tablespoons flour
⅓ cup shredded smoked mozzarella or Gouda
⅓–½ cup chicken stock
1½ slices white sandwich bread, cubed, or about ⅓ cup panko
1 tablespoon melted butter, plus butter to prepare baking dish
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish.
2. Remove sausage from its casing and cook in a large skillet over medium heat until just browing, breaking up sausage with a spoon as it cooks. Remove cooked sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
3. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the rendered fat in the skillet, then add the onions, thyme, and sage. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When onions are thoroughly soft, remove from skillet and place in bottom of baking dish. Dot with the sausage bits.
4. While the onions cook, simmer the squash seeds and scrapings in the chicken stock in a small saucepan for 10 minutes; strain, discard seeds and scrapings, and keep the stock warm over low heat.
5. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the empty skillet. Toss the squash cubes with the flour and arrange in a single layer in the skillet. Let the squash brown, undisturbed, for 4 minutes, then stir the squash as it cooks for the next 4 minutes. Season liberally with salt and pepper and add squash to baking dish atop onions and sausage.
6. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the squash, and then pour the stock into the baking dish. Press the top of the casserole with a spatula to evenly distribute the liquid. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
7. While the casserole bakes, if you are not using panko, pulse the bread cubes with the melted butter in a food processor until you have coarse bread crumbs.
8. After 30 minutes of baking, remove the baking dish from the oven, remove the foil, and top casserole evenly with breadcrumbs, or top evenly with panko and drizzle with the melted butter. Bake uncovered an additional 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the top is nicely browned.
Time: 2 hours
Leftover potential: Pretty good; doesn’t make a ton, but the flavor deepens over time and there are no unappetizing textural changes.