Monthly Archives: March 2014

Some of my favorite blogs …

Just a heads up — next week I’m likely on hiatus — personal travel. But the Kindle goes with me, and I’ll probably check each of these out while I’m out:

One Week Closer – Steadily gaining on retirement seven days at a time. Written by my friend Beverly. Bev is about 10 years older than, so it’s REALLY interesting to follow along as she talks about all sorts of things leading up to the big R: like finances, cooking for health, leisure, and travel. I’m still in the prime of my career, but in virtually every post she identifies something that makes me go Hmmmm, in a Good Way.

Heather Christo – Sharing the love of food with friends and family. I’ve been reading Heather’s blog for about a year or so now. Maybe a bit longer. She hooked me in with her recipe for Lemon Summer Squash Bread. It’s a really lovely light tea bread with a healthy amount of yellow squash in there. This is NOT your mother’s zuchinni bread.

The Feed – Recipes and Home Cooking from America’s Test Kitchen. A must-follow blog for anyone who loves to watch America’s Test Kitchen on PBS but doesn’t actually subscribe to any of their magazines. At least weekly you get access to a free recipe (normally a paid service) and nearly daily you get an update to one of their sub-blogs: like the Meat Blog, Baking, or DIY. My version of their DIY pimento cheese is To Die For.


Let’s Talk Spatchcocked Chicken

What a funny word, right? Spatchcock? No, I don’t rightly know where the word comes from. Sounds vaguely Olde English. In any case, it’s just a way of describing how you prepare a fowl (chicken, turkey, etc) for cooking by cutting out the backbone and flattening it out. Plus it makes people giggle.

Why spatchcock? Well, it can cut down on your cooking time when cooking a whole bird. It can be easier to flip/maneuver a whole (albeit large) piece of chicken rather than eight or more individual pieces. Also, it allows you to properly season the chicken both inside and out, because you now have full access to the interior of the chicken. Finally, this seems to be the way to cook a chicken so that the white and the dark get done at the SAME TIME!! I’m totally sold on the technique.

Spatchcock Chicken
Serves 4
1 whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds
Olive oil
Lime juice
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Indian spice mix (I use Penzey’s Tandoori Seasoning)
Ground chile powder (I use ground chipotle)

SAMSUNGPrepare your spice rub: Pour a couple of good glugs of olive oil in a small bowl. Add a couple of squirts of lime juice. Add a couple of teaspoons of kosher salt. Add a goodly amount of ground pepper. Add a tablespoon or two of Indian spice mix. Add a spare amount of chile powder — depends on your palate — could be 1/8 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon. Mix it all together — you are aiming for a gloppy paste. If it’s too thin, add a little more India spice mix. If it’s too thick, add a little more oil or lime juice.

On to the bird! Stick your hand up the chicken’s you know what and check for and remove the giblets. Put them aside. I’m a fan of the liver, the CGP likes the kidneys, and the dog gets the heart.

SAMSUNGTurn the bird belly side down so the back is up. Using your poultry shears, cut up one side of the backbone, from arse to neck. I usually start up the right since I’m right-handed. Rotate the bird 180 degrees, and cut down the OTHER side of the backbone from neck to arse. Save that backbone for stock. Your bird should look something like the one to the right.


Now, put use your hands to open that chicken like a book. You should hear a slight crack on the underside, but you can open her up, flatten her out, and flip her over like the pictures below. Slather the spice rub all over, top and bottom. Loosen the skin over the breast and thighs and smear some spice paste under the skin too.


Wash your hands like crazy. Now’s the time to prep your grill and get it heating. Let the chicken hang out on the counter up to an hour. The rest time will help the seasonings do their thang.

Aim for 375F. Put the chicken skin side down on the grate. Shut the lid and ignore it for 20 minutes (except to make sure it didn’t get above 400F). Open the grill, flip the bird over, and walk away for another 20 minutes. Now’s the time to get your meat thermometer. You need to measure a thigh in it’s meatiest place — you are looking for 165F. Check the breast too — again — 165F. Check again at 5 or 10 minute intervals if the bird needs a little more time.

This was a particularly busty bird. The thighs hit 165F before the breasts were ready. I just pulled them off (the joints gave no resistance — just needed to trim the skin a bit with a small paring knife) and let the breasts go another 10 minutes. Served with char-grilled brocco-flower (drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, and tandoori seasoning) and some garlic naan from the freezer of my local Southeast Asian market.



Are you tired of sangria recipes yet?

SAMSUNGI was on Round 3 of lamb. Why Round 3? Because the charming butcher at the Lebanese market agreed with me that leg of lamb is the right cut for kabobs. And then convinced me to buy the whole thing. He skillfully boned it out (saving and sawing the bones!), leaving me with one huge pile of beautiful boneless lamb. Huge = almost 7 pounds worth! So it was lamb stew on Friday night, lamb stock bubbling away all day on Sunday, and then lamb kabobs on Sunday night. I’ve thrown two “roasts” in the freezer for Rounds 4 and 5.

Quick word about the kabobs. I’ve come to know Amy Riolo through a local blogging group. She’s an accomplished chef, cookbook author, and lecturer (Amy’s also just really really NICE). So I turned to her cookbook Nile Style for some inspiration on the kabobs. Her simple and straightforward recipe for chicken and beef kabob calls for oil, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon, and something unexpected — a pinch of saffron — followed by a sprinkle of cumin just before it hits the fire. This less-is-more approach to seasoning truly highlights the charcoal-grilled lamb.

Back to the cocktail. This isn’t the first time I’ve made a sangria to accompany some lamb. To my palate, a strong or gamey meat like lamb or duck pairs well with a lightly sweetened and fortified wine. Because the lamb’s seasoning was relatively restrained, I chose a white rather than a red as the base. And slicing the grapes in half is key to their absorbing all that brandy-pom goodness.

Achin’ Fer Spring Sangria
Serves 4

SAMSUNG1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 cup grape halves
1/2 cup applejack or brandy
2 tablespoons PAMA Pomegranate liqueur
1 cup cranberry-pomegranate juice, chilled
1 bottle dry white wine, chilled

Prepare your spiced syrup: Boil the water in a 2-cup pyrex cup in the microwave. Add the sugar carefully and stir to dissolve. Add the cinnamon stick and star anise; allow to cool to room temperature.

Put the apples and grapes in a large pitcher. Add the spiced syrup, applejack, and pomegranate liqueur, including the cinnamon stick and star anise. Let the fruit marinate for an hour or two. If your kitchen is cool — the countertop should be fine. If you have started wearing shorts, you should probably refrigerate it.

Just before serving, add the chilled juice and chilled white wine. Stir gently and serve over ice.



Behold the Meyer Lemon!

In a previous post, you heard me wax poetic about a hand-delivered Meyer lemon. As I thumbed through cookbooks and browsed the Internet, lemon curd was the frontrunner for a foodstuff that would really showcase the lemon in all its lemony glory. I’d never made it, so there was that challenge as well.

So what do you do with lemon curd? Other than eat it with a spoon straight from the bowl? Smear it on toast (or bagels or english muffins or scones). Fill a crepe. Or, make a tart.

Which is where I went. I wanted to try mini-tarts, for the ideal crunch-to-creamy ratio. I also wanted something that would work better for us two to nibble over the course of a few days — a full-size tart would get soggy (I could assemble 4 or 5 of these little guys just before nom nom nom). And I knew I wanted a sweetish-crust, not a classic pie crust, so I decided to go with a shortbread-cookie crust. The CGP really raved over these!

One thing I read is that the egg whites **may** contribute a certain, well, egginess to your curd. With that in mind, I chose to separate the eggs and use only the yolks (never fear, make these insane macaroons with the whites). I also wanted to avoid straining at the end as I saw in some recipes, so another reason to stick with just the yolks.

Meyer Lemon Curd
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

1 large-ish Meyer Lemon, peeled and juiced as described below
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into tablespoons
4 egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin from the lemon, trying to get as little of the white pith as possible. Put about half of the peel in the food processor and reserve about half for another project.

Juice the lemon, yielding (hopefully) about 1/3 cup of juice. Set aside.


Put the sugar in the food processor with the peel and whir until the peel is finely minced and fully incorporated. Add the butter one chunk at a time while the processor is running until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated. It won’t be as fluffy as when you cream for a cookie, but the butter won’t chunky, either. Add the yolks one at a time and process. Add the lemon juice and salt and process until smooth.

Pour into a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over low to medium-low heat, stirring CONSTANTLY, until thickened. You are aiming for about 170F, just shy of a simmer. I switched between a wooden spoon and a heat-resistant spatula to make sure I kept sides and corners stirred as well. Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate if you aren’t going to use it immediately.


Shortbread Cookie Tart Shells
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

Makes about 36 shells

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, cool room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ginger liqueur (or one teaspoon vanilla)
Baking spray

Preheat oven to 325F. Spray the wells of your mini-muffin pan with baking spray.

Whisk the flour and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Add the liqueur (or vanilla). Gradually add flour mixture on LOW speed and mix well. This is a stiff dough and your mixer will tell you when to STOP.

Dump the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap that has been dusted lightly with flour. Shape into a large disc, wrap, and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Pull your dough from the fridge and use a large knife or bench scraper to portion off about 1/3 of the dough. If your muffin pan has 12 wells, wrap and re-refrigerate the larger portion [If your muffin pan has 24 wells, wrap and re-refrigerate the smaller portion]. Portion into 12 [or 24] equal-sized balls, about 1″ in diameter. Drop a ball into each well. Press the ball into well, using your fingers to press the dough against the sides and shape a hollow in each, but not letting the crust rise above the rim of the well.

Bake for 8 minutes and remove from the oven. The shell will have puffed up in the center — gently use the back of a metal teaspoon to press a hollow in the center. Return to the oven and bake another 8 minutes. Remove from the oven while it’s a light golden brown. Again, the shell will have puffed up in the center — gently use the back of a metal teaspoon to press a hollow in the center. Let them cool just 3 or 4 minutes in the pan and then use a spatula to coax them out. Put on wax paper to finish cooling. Fill with lemon curd shortly before serving and garnish with candied lemon peel. Count on 2 or 3 bites per person (I ate 4 in one sitting and admit it was a bit too much LOL). The curd recipe above will fill about 24 of these mini tart shells.


In the interests of transparancy, you need to understand you are going to dirty up ALOT of dishes:



Happy Belated National Margarita Day!

So Saturday, February 22 was National Margarita Day. Not that I really keep track of that year to year, like say Christmas, but someone was kind enough to post it on my Facebook wall first thing that morning. Because apparently when they hear of margaritas, they think of me. Not a bad legacy, eh?

So it’s pretty obvious that we’re going to have margaritas with dinner. So now I need to plan a simple supper AROUND the margarita. I want to do something with chorizo, but moderate the heat level, so I decide to mix 1 pound of Nick’s spicy chorizo (squeezed from their casings) with 1 pound of ground beef, shape into patties, and then grill off like a regular burger. Served with chips, salsa, and an olive-and-feta salad from Nick’s deli.

As for the margarita, I started with my classic recipe. However, instead of 1/4 cup orange liqueur, I used 2 tablespoons orange liqueur and 2 tablespoons creme de cassis, for a little color. Delish!