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    Perfect Roast Chicken

    DSC_1069

    This is so much less about roasted chicken than it is about chicken in general.

    Really, once you’ve roasted one or two chickens, you have the basics down pat and there isn’t much to change aside from herbs and citrus and, perhaps, what you roast around it.

    My fall back recipe – as I cannot for the life of me keep oven temperatures or timing in my head – is an oldie but a goodie, from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. I admit. I’m boring. I stuff a head of garlic that I cut in half horizontally, a lemon that I cut in half, and whatever fresh herbs I have around inside the chicken. I liberally sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and Bob’s your uncle. Potatoes, carrots and onions around the chicken. Completely fix it and forget it.

    As most of you know, I am now living in DownEast Maine – and why is it called downeast Maine? Well, I’ll tell ya! Coastal schooners laden with goods for Portland and other Maine ports would leave Boston, Massachusetts keeping their compass headings generally east or northeast, hoping that the prevailing wind from the westerly quadrants would stay behind them. Hence, they sailed downwind in an easterly direction. Hence, they were traveling down east. Things are very different here.

    And you must be wondering why, if I don’t really use a roasted chicken recipe am I prattling on about roasted chickens and living on an island off the coast of Maine.

    El Dia de la Pollo Muerto … the day of the dead chickens.

    A some of our friends once a year purchase chicks. They’re so very cute when they’re little. We would go over and look at them, watch them grow. I would wonder why, unlike the laying birds that are free range, these chicks were penned. Seems you can have either laying chickens or eating chickens.  They raise a bunch of eating chickens. Once they’ve been tended to and loved and fattened up … well, el dia de la pollo muerto.

    HORRIFYING! I know! Growing up in the big city, while you try to be conscientious about how animals are being raised and what they’re being fed, you don’t necessarily give much though to the in between raising and purchasing/eating.

    Around November, the Dear One and some of our friends get together and – to quote the Queens of Hearts – off with their heads.

    I have been invited to attend this gala event. I have politely declined, trying not to make the squelched up face I’m making as I type. ‘They’ say it’s quick and painless (let’s ask the chicken that!) and rather quick to go from live chicken to ready to eat. I don’t know the actual process, but there are beheadings, and contraptions that look like dryers that do the defeathering, and the descriptions just get worse from there.

    My last conversation with our friend MG went something like this –

    MG: You should come. It’s great. Fascinating to watch.
    ME: Are you kidding? No way, no how, no time.
    MG: Oh, it’s not so bad. Quick.
    ME: Well, what time do you start? But DON’T count on it. And I’m not helping
    MG: ME? No, no, no, no. I don’t go. I can’t bear it.

    Seriously, Dude?

    So I stay home. Thinking good thoughts for the poor little chickens giving so much of themselves for my roasting pan, and convince myself that the chickens going to my freezer are all from the grocery store. You see, the one request with these 8-10 incredible chickens that come into the house … no feet, no heads, no feathers, no guts, and please put them in plastic bags so I can pretend there was just a fantastic sale on chickens.

    I do wonder if the laying hens feel guilty. There they are, well fed, out all day playing in the sun with the turkeys and guinea fowl, goats (meanest little creatures ever born), and the pig, Kevin. Why are they safe? Are they to be next? One will never know the mind of a chicken.

    That being said, these are probably the best chickens I have even eaten. Cooked here only for those deserving, chosen few.

    This past go round, I was honored with a big bag of chicken livers and skin … pate and cracklings … more no that later.

    • 1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
    • Kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
    • 1 lemon, halved
    • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
    • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
    • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
    • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
    • 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
    • Olive oil

    NOTE: I skip the melted butter, use whatever fresh herbs I have around, and substitute potatoes for the fennel.

    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

    Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

    Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

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    Beef in Barolo

    Done

    Trying to decide what we’re having for dinner is liken to an unending loop of a scene from the film Marty. “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, Marty, what do you want to do?”

    “What do you want for dinner?”

    “I don’t know. What do YOU want for dinner?”

    Only the person who asks the question first has an advantage … “Well, I asked you first,” is usually the (not so) snappy retort.

    Pick a protein, pick an ethnicity, give me a jumping point and I’ll happily create something, but please decide before I leave for town …

    This entire stressful, daily conversation usually takes place before 8:00 am.

    This one particular day, a Saturday even, I was saved by a rather large box in the mail. From KitchenAid. A box from KitchenAid is ALWAYS a good thing.

    A little back story … When the Dear One and I moved all my worldly possessions to Maine 2 1/2 years ago, my slow cooker was the last thing placed on the truck. When we opened the doors some 9 bouncy hours later, the ceramic liner for my slow cooker was the first thing off the truck … KER-plunk … SMASH … sadness.

    It’s has taken me that long to pick up the phone and call KitchenAid (BTW, some of the BEST customer service around) and order a new one. I was SURE it would be expensive. I was SURE they wouldn’t have  it. I was SURE wrong! It was very, very reasonable and the shipping was $2!

    While opening the box I knew, just knew, that whatever “what-do-you-want-Marty” meal I was going to cook was definitely going into the slow cooker.

    There’s something wonderful and magical about the slow cooker … food goes in, you set it, go about your day, come back to a home filled with wonderful aromas, a couple of quick sides and you’re done.

    But what to make?

    Wait! In our chest freezer in the bowels on our basement is a chuck roast. The Dear One offered to do the grocery shopping one morning. Thrilled with the idea of rolling over and going back to sleep for a while, I acquiesced. (As an aside, I love food shopping. There’s something about looking at food, loving picking out produce, picking just the right cut of meat or fish that’s just so … well, my fellow foodies, I know you understand.) Back to the Dear One. He wanted a roast. Okay. I made a list and sent him off into the world. He returned with a chuck roast. Not really a Sunday dinner kinda roast cut so I scowled at it and sent it off to the freezer, mostly to be forgotten.

    Gazing through the slow cooker books on my shelf, I came across The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone. I’ve had this recipe for Beef in Barolo bookmarked from my very first pass through the book. What cut of meat does it take, you may wonder. Well, a CHUCK ROAST. The Dear One has been saved, the roast has been liberated from the icy depths.

    And what a recipe it is! The cloves give the beef and sauce a wonderful warmth, the wine and pancetta … just layer after layer of flavor. There is the bit that early in the morning you’re searing a hunk-o-beef and veggies, but so worth it in the end!

    • 1/3 C all-purpose flour
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • 1 3-pound boneless beef chuck or bottom round roast
    • 3 T olive oil
    • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 1 C dry red wine, such as Barolo
    • 2 C peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
    • 1 C beef broth
    • 2 medium carrots, sliced
    • 1 medium celery rib, sliced
    • 1 bay leaf
    • Pinch of ground cloves

    NOTE: Even here in culinary wasteland of Bar Harbor I was able to find chopped pancetta in the specialty deli section. I always keep a few of these in the freezer for a quick meal and to avoid chopping. I used the wine I had on hand and open. As long as you’d actually drink it and it’s dry any red wine will do.

    Combine the flour with salt and pepper to taste. Spread the mixture on a piece of wax paper and roll the meat in the flour.

    In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown it on all sides, about 15 minutes. Place the meat in a large slow cooker. Add the pancetta and onion to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender. Stir in the garlic. Add the wine and bring it to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan.

    Ready to Slow Cook

    Pour the mixture over the beef. Add the tomatoes and broth. Scatter the carrots, celery, bay leaf, and ground cloves around the meat. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork.

    Transfer the meat to a platter. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce. Slice the meat and spoon on the sauce.

    NOTE: I served this over garlic mashed potatoes, but polenta would be wonderful. Sadly, the Dear One isn’t fond of polenta.

    done 2

     

    Pork Carnitas #SundaySupper

    dressed

    Around here we don’t need Cinco de Mayo to have a passion for Mexican food! But it certainly doesn’t hurt! A roasted pork shoulder soaking in a citrusy marinade is enough to make my son and Jeremy and Jeannie and I absolutely giddy. This time I decided to take this dish a step further and take the delicious slow roasted pork shoulder and turn it into carnitas tacos.

    A few toppings, some tortilla, rice and beans, and cold beer and you’re all set for a Cinco de Mayo fiesta!

    Fixings

    First, you need what my darling friend Nanner refers to as a big honkin’ piece-o-pork shoulder. I use the same marinade ingredients regardless of the weight of my piggie.

    • Pork shoulder (mine was 7+ pounds)
    • 1 bottle of Goya Naranja Agria (bitter orange) marinade
    • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
    • 1 T dried oregano
    • 1 t kosher salt
    • 1 t coarsely ground black pepper
    • 1/4 C olive oil

    Everything into a gigantic ziploc bag and into the fridge overnight.

    Preset the oven to 350 and take the pork shoulder out so that it comes to almost room temperature.

    Ready to Roast

    Line a roasting dish with foil (you’ll thank me at washing time). Place the pork shoulder in the roasting pan and add about half the marinade (keep the other half). Cover with foil and roast for 3 to 4 hours (this is going to depend on the size of your roast). Remove the foil and roast for another 45 minutes to an hour.

    Roasted

    Let the roast cool.

    Chop a medium sized onion.  Once the roast has cooled to the point where you can handle it, shred it with your hands. This is a messy affair.

    Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a pan, over medium high heat. It should be large enough to hold all the meat. When it’s hot, add the meat and cook until the pork starts to get crispy.

    NOTE: We like ours very crispy on the outside. Also, if it seems to be drying out a bit while it’s crisping, add a bit of the reserved marinade to the pan.

    Ready to dress

    When I serve this I place queso fresco, sliced radishes, sliced avocado, limes, cilantro, and red onion on a platter, wrap warm flour tortilla in a tea towel, put all the pork in a bowl, ice cold beer, and tell everyone to jump in. I pickle the onions and cilantro a bit by placing each in a bowl with about a 1/2 cup red wine vinegar and a 1/2 teaspoon cumin and let it sit for a while.

    Enjoy!

    If you want to keep the theme through this meal, make some of these FABULOUS Maya Galletas de Chocolate! Deep and rich in chocolate goodness with just a hint of kick at the end!

    This week’s Sunday Supper Movement, Cinco de Mayo, is being hosted by Jen over at Juanita’s Cocina

    Cinco de Mayo Appetizers & Sides {Aperitivos}:

    Cinco de Mayo Main Dishes {Platos Principales}:

    Cinco de Mayo Desserts {Postres}:

    Cinco de Mayo Drinks {Bebidas}:

    Puerco Pibil #SundaySupper #MovieInspiredRecipes

    Ready to serve

    After watching the Johnny Depp movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico, my son became obsessed with Puerco Pibil. Puerco Pibil was the favorite dish of Sands, Johnny Depp’s character, so much so that he murders any cook who makes it too well.

    After watching the movie a number of times and my son asking and asking for me to create this dish for him, I realized that on on the DVD the director, Robert Rodriguez, provides a recipe and video instruction on how to cook the dish. It’s located in the bonus features.

    First time I made this, couldn’t find the banana leaves, used the wrong cut of pork, was so spicy that there were scorched throats all around the table … but it is requested again and again, and I have changed it a bit to suit the folks eating – unless of course you have a table of fire breathing dragons and then the original would suit you just fine!

    • 5 pounds pork butt, cut into 2 inch cubes
    • 5 T annato seeds
    • 2 t cumin seeds
    • 1 T whole black pepper
    • 1/2 t whole cloves
    • 8 whole allspice berries
    • 2 habanero Peppers, fresh or dried, cleaned and minced (optional)
    • 1/2 C orange juice
    • 1/2 C white vinegar
    • 8 garlic cloves
    • 2 tablespoons salt
    • 5 lemons
    • 1 shot of tequila
    • banana leaves (optional)

    Blend the cleaned and chopped habanero peppers with the orange juice, vinegar, garlic and salt.

    Mix the dry spices with the liquid.

    Add the juice of 5 lemons and a nice splash of tequila.

    Place the cubed pork butt in a large zip lock bag and add the marinade. Soak 4-6 hours, in refrigerator, turning several times.

    Line (8×13) baking pan with banana leaves. Pour in pork along with the marinade. Cover with Banana leaves and seal the pan with foil. Bake in a 325 F degree oven for 4 hours.

    Spices

    Grind the annato seeds, cumin seeds, whole peppercorns, whole cloves, and whole allspice in a spice or coffee grinder, or use a mortar and pestle.

    NOTE: I have a coffee grinder that’s dedicated to grinding spices. I use rice or bread to clean it out in between uses so there’s very little residue to flavor whatever you may grind next.

    Blend the cleaned and chopped habanero peppers with the orange juice, vinegar, garlic and salt.

    Peppers

    NOTE: I used one habanero and one jalapeno. It was still spicy, but much tamer than the first time.

    Add the dry spices to the liquid and add the juice of 5 lemons and a nice splash of tequila.

    Pork

    Place the cubed pork butt in a large zip lock bag and add the marinade. Let it sit for 4-6 hours, in refrigerator, turning several times.

    Ready to cook

    Line (8×13) baking pan with banana leaves. Pour in pork along with the marinade. Cover with Banana leaves and seal the pan with foil. Bake in a 325 F degree oven for 4 hours.

    NOTE: I was lucky enough to find banana leaves in one of the supermarkets near me. If you can’t find them, line the roasting pan with foil and then parchment paper – OH! or use Martha Wrap, foil and parchment in one (Reynolds Wrap makes it as well)!

    Serve over a bed of white or Spanish rice, extra limes, lots of napkins, and beer – plenty of beer!

    Enjoy!!!

    NOTE: BTW, this was my first participation in the Sunday Supper Movement, hosted this week by Heather over at Girlichef. This week’s theme is inspiration from a favorite food movie scene. I owe a big thanks to my friend Lizzie from That Skinny Chick Can Bake. Thank you for mentoring me through this first foray into the Sunday Supper Movement! There are a lot of great participants in the Sunday Supper Movement, stop by their movie scene inspired dishes and have a look!

    NOW SHOWING:

    Toast (bready things)

    No Reservations (soups and salads)

    Today’s Special (fish, chicken, beef, and pork)

    Forks Over Knives (veggie-heavy dishes and sides)

    Udon (pasta and noodles)

    Just Desserts (sweet treats)

    Bottle Shock (beverages)