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Iron Skillet Roasted Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes

Ready to serve

After what seemed like forever, I left New York (again) and went home to Maine (again). The next days were filled with errands, getting the house settled before the Dear One’s return, and breakfast and giggling with my girlfriends.

But in the evening, I was home alone, and then suddenly you realize just how big the house is and how empty, and you want to have people around you, so then the conversations went something like this …

Thank you so much for watching the house and picking me up and picking up the mail and packages and turning up the heat. Wanna come for dinner? Sure, but I have a house guest. Bring him. The more the merrier.

Hey, I’m back in town. Wanna come over for dinner? Sure!

Okay, dinner for 2 is now dinner for 4. I can do that. Same recipe, just no leftovers.

Uh, oh, the phone is ringing … we’re going out for dinner, do you want to come. Sorry, can’t, company coming. Oh, well, I’d much rather come to your house. Sure, come on over. GREAT! But I have a house guest. Bring her along.

Dinner for 2 turned into dinner for 4 and then into dinner for 6. Yipes! Now what!? I trolled through the recipes I have been dying to try and found this recipe that I had first seen in Relish Magazine and then in  Y’all Come Over by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson. One skillet. Perfect. Lots of great ingredients. Fab! Seriously simple and quick to make. Even better! Turned out to be really easy to double, just switching from a 10″ cast iron skillet to a 15″ cast iron skillet.

(Heard around the dinner table … hmmm, yum, this is so good. So glad you’re back home. We missed you. Does M know you’re having 4 men over for dinner while he’s away? Answers: thank you, I am too, and me you, and OF COURSE he knows. HEAVY SIGH!)

As it turns out it was a good thing I fed them all BEFORE the insanity started! See, it seems I live my life like Lucy Riccardo. No, really. Stop giggling, please, I have so little dignity left.

This group of fellows and my dear friend Lisa were my saviors for the week and a half I was home alone. There were locked doors and dog doors (and snow) and pterodactyls (and snow) and more locked doors and broken windows that needed to be removed and replaced (and snow) and lost spare tires and snow and cancelled flights because of snow and more cancelled flights (can you believe more snow in Maine) and yet more cancelled flights (you know the word that fits here) and a wee bit of emotional upheaval.

While I realize I have kept them all VERY entertained (when one of them now hears my voice on the phone, he laughs, asks if I’m okay, and then ‘so what did you do’), they kept me very entertained and feeling loved and cared for during my first time home alone trial by fire.

Give this dish a whirl … you will be making it for company again and again!

  • 1/4 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled (reserve drippings)
  • 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 1/2 t salt, divided
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 C thinly sliced onion
  • 1 can (14-oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 t crushed red pepper
  • 2 cans (15-oz) Great Northern beans, drained

NOTE: I sort of increased this to 1 1/2 of the original above recipe, but using 3 cans of beans and two cans of the tomatoes and 4 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bacon

Place the bacon drippings in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat.

NOTE: I made the bacon in the skillet I used to make the whole dish and just left the drippings in the skillet.

Dry the chicken pieces with a paper towel, and season with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Brown the chicken in the bacon drippings, turning once, until the skin is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and stir in the onions. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, scraping up any brown bits.

Adding tomatoes

Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook uncovered for about 4 minutes or until the juices are thickened. Add the reserved bacon and the beans. Top with the browned chicken pieces, skin side up. Place skillet in the oven and bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes.

Some bread to sop up the sauce, a salad, and you are done!

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Hasselback Potatoes with Bacon

Potatoes Finished
A side dish. A side dish. Don’t you just find yourself making the same ones over and over again? Rice, potatoes, orzo (no comments, Marg!) I find that particularly true with POTATOES … mashed, baked, roasted, baked, mashed, roasted, and roasted again … B-O-R-I-N-G.
If this dinner was going all the way, the potato had to go all the way as well.  I had seen Nigella make these years ago and had tagged them in Forever Summer to try one of these days.
Always to be one to gild the lily, I added BACON. Bacon makes everything better!
  • 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon, cut crosswise into 9 pieces
  • 2+ tablespoons butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375º.

After peeling potatoes, place them in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.

Lay the bacon pieces on a baking sheet and freeze until hard, about 30 minutes. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Cutting Potatoes

Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and carefully transfer to a baking sheet; let cool slightly.

NOTE: This just gets them started cooking a little faster.

One at a time place potato lengthwise on a cutting board. Place wooden spoons lengthwise along the potato. Cut slices across the short side of the potato, about 1/8 inch apart. The wooden spoons will prevent your knife from cutting completely through the potato. You don’t want to cut through to the bottom of the potato.

Stuffed with Bacon

Once cut,place potatoes on a baking sheet and insert 3 pieces of the frozen bacon into the cuts of each potato, spacing the bacon evenly and letting it poke out of the top. Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter and brush generously over the potatoes and in the cuts. Reserve any excess butter for basting. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

NOTE: Okay, so I used more than THREE pieces in each potato. THREE? Seriously?

Transfer the potatoes to the oven and bake until the outsides are browned and crisp, about 40 minutes, basting halfway through with the reserved melted butter.

Season with salt and pepper.

Vidalia Onion & Bacon Pie

One of my favorite features of the Sunday New York Daily News is Relish Magazine. The cooking sections in the New York area papers have become seriously lacking, so when Relish came along a number of years ago, it was a welcome addition.

I don’t remember if I saw this recipe on their website or in the magazine, but I knew instantly that this was something that needed to be made.

It’s a little preparation bogged down, but the end result is certainly worth the time. A friend of mine made this as well, but the bacon on only half as there is a vegetarian in the house. Though my non-red meat eating sister will tell you bacon doesn’t count. It is its own food group.

I have already been thinking of different twists on this and know I will come back to it again and again.

Crust:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2  C cornmeal
  • 1/2  C all-purpose flour
  • 1  t baking powder
  • 1/2  t salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2  T butter
  • 2 to 4  T ice water

NOTE: The crust needed something more. Maybe a little more salt. Maybe a little sugar. Oh, maybe a kick of cayenne. But the cornmeal crust was wonderful. Perfect for filling with tomatoes and mozzarella and basil.

Filling:

  • 1  T butter
  • 3  medium Vidalia or sweet onions, slivered
  • 2  eggs
  • 1/2  C half-and-half
  • 1/2  t salt
  • 1/4  t freshly ground black pepper, plus more for top
  • 1  C (4-ounces) shredded white Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2  C corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 4  slices thick, smoky-style bacon, cooked and chopped

NOTE: FOUR? Only FOUR? Now, you know that would never do! I cheated, I used a a couple more.  I silvered the onions by cutting each in half and the thinly slicing them. Cutting through the pie, the slivers are too long and difficult to cut while slicing and eating. Next time maybe the slivers need to be cut a bit – most likely AFTER caramelizing them.

To prepare crust, coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with cooking spray

Place cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a pastry cutter blade; pulse to combine. Add egg and butter; pulse until mixed. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a dough ball forms. This will form a sticky mass of dough. Press into pan. If the dough is too sticky, add a little cornmeal.

NOTE:  I used nearly 2 tablespoons of water to form a ball. But when I took it out of the food processor it was really sticky. Instead of putting the blade back in and getting the sticky mess back into the bowl, I sprinkled cornmeal over the top and that kept the dough from sticking to my hands.

Preheat oven to 350F.

To prepare filling, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Drain if necessary.

NOTE: And – purely with an eye toward waste not want not  – I cooked the onions in the bacon fat.  I did still add the butter in – can you have enough butter or bacon? I don’t think so either!

Combine eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk well. On bottom of pie, sprinkle half the shredded cheese. Top with corn kernels,  onions and bacon.

Pour egg mixture over top. Top with remaining cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake 40 minutes, until top is set and browned.

NOTES: Before baking, I sprinkled the top with chopped scallions. Be careful not to over bake. The cheese gets a little too dense if it gets too brown. I think this would be nice with leeks as well.

This is great as a side dish for grilled chicken, alone with a big salad … or just by itself because you cannot stop eating it and are VERY impressed with your own creation!

Bacony Mac and Cheese

I love Mac and Cheese.

It doesn’t necessarily like me back – lactose intolerance is a terrible thing.

Every once in a while I just can’t help myself – I just gotta have it.

If I am going to suffer after eating Mac and Cheese, this is the mac and cheese it has to be!

My sister gave me this recipe many moons ago. I change it to suit my mood and what I have on hand. I’ll give you the original recipe and then the way I made it this time.

Really, as long as you keep the bacon in, it’s all good, right?

  • 3/4 C bread crumbs
  • 1 lb pasta
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • 1 qt milk
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 lb shredded gruyere
  • 1/2 lb Velveeta
  • 1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 3 T olive oil

Now that’s the original recipe. This make A LOT of mac and cheese. I halved the recipe and made some minor adjustments to the ingredients.

  • 1/3 C bread crumbs
  •  1/2 lb pasta
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 T flour
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 C milk
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1/2 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil

NOTE: I used medium shells. I switched to just cheddar because gruyere is SO expensive and my supermarket didn’t have it.

NOTE: The cooking instructions are the same regardless of which version you use.

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook the pasta, drain, set aside.

NOTE: I cooked the pasta, drained it and then put it back in the pot I cooked it in. How many bowls and plates can one person mess up for a recipe!?

Generously butter a 1 quart baking dish. Add a third of the breadcrumbs and shake to coat the baking dish evenly.

Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add nutmeg. Whisk in milk all at once. Heat to a boil, lower to a simmer, and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese until melted.

Add sauce to pasta and mix thoroughly.

Spoon half the pasta mixture into baking dish. Add bacon and tomatoes in an even layer and top with remaining pasta mixture.

Combine remaining breadcrumbs with oil and sprinkle over pasta.

Bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 45 minutes.

NOTE: Every time I make this I say I don’t like the tomatoes in it. Everyone else does, but I am not a fan. I wonder if I used grape tomatoes and roasted them first if it would be better?

Liebster Award & Pasta with Cauliflower, Bacon and Sage

So here I am poking around my foodie friends’ blogs and what do I see? I was given a Liebster Blog Award by my fellow foodie friend Stella over at Lola & Finn’s Mum. Stella, I am truly touched and thank you from the bottom of my mixing bowl!

The rules are simple. Once you receive the award, you must follow five steps:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
2. Link back to their blog.
3. Copy and paste the Liebster award to your profile
4. Pick 5 blogs that you feel deserve to be in the spotlight (they must have 200 followers or under)
5. Blog about it and leave a comment for your nominations to let them know that you have chosen their blog.

So for my nominations:

1.  Greg from Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide. Great photos and great recipes for food and drink.

2.  Nuts About Food. Lovely photos. Fabulous food. Wonderful stories about life and family and living in Italy.

3. JamieAnne over at A Dash of Domestic. Great cook-alongs and recipes. Love her family and all the tales about them woven into her postings.

4. Geni at Sweet and Crumby. Steal have made many of her recipes with great success. Love her photos and writing style.

5.  Mary at Barefeet in the Kitchen.  One of my family’s fav recipes is from here – untuffed peppers! Great photos and great food. WHat more does one need!

Ever flip through a cooking magazine and just fall in love with a recipe? This one made my heart flutter – pasta, bacon, cauliflower, BACON, quick, BACON, sage, bacon – oh, and I think there may have been bacon in there as well.

Everyday Food Magazine, you have done it again! This recipe is wonderful. May have even turned my cauliflower haters into cauliflower lovers. Well, truth be told, we live by a strict, I make it, you eat it or starve policy in my house. One CLAIMS to not like cauliflower, the other staunchly believes he doesn’t like cauliflower – they both INHALED this pasta!

  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3/4 lb of a short pasta
  • 5 slices of bacon cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, diced small
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 T fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
NOTE: I used mezzi rigatoni. The magazine suggested gemelli (my fav, but we were out!). And without having to say so, I used more than 5 slices of bacon. How many more is none of your beeswax! Also, as we all so often do, I went to the store without my list! No sage! I used dried and it was fine.
 
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water. Reserve 1/2 a cup of the pasta water and drain pasta and return to pot.
 

NOTE:I cooked the whole pound of pasta.

IN a large skillet, cook bacon over medium until the fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. ABout 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add the butter, onions and garlic to the skillet and cook until onions are softened. About 10 minutes.

NOTE: Yes, my onions are a LITTLE dark. But not quite cinders. Watch the onions!

Add cauliflower, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender. About 12 minutes.

NOTE: You can substitute frozen cauliflower florets here. Just reduce the cooking time.

Stir in bacon and sage and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Stir in vinegar and enough pasta water to create a thin sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Quick, easy, bacony, delicious. Even the ‘we don’t like cauliflower’ boys loved it! I might roast the cauliflower next time and then add it to the rest … hmmm, just a thought!

Slow-Cooker Bacon Jam

OK – now really – does it get better than this? The slow cooker AND bacon AND jam. All 3 words swoon inducing on their own, but put them all in the same recipe and the outcome could be lethal.

When I saw the Slow-Cooker Bacon Jam recipe in the December ’09 Everyday Food Magazine’s “mmmmmm … bacon” section, it got an instant flag. I thought a jar of this would be great tucked into my Christmas goodie baskets.

Doing this in the slow cooker had to make it simple, right? Well, almost simple. There is a lot of prep to be done before it hits the slow cooker.  That’s the part that’s annoying. Once it goes into the slow cooker the house fills with the most amazing smells of bacon and coffee and maple syrup … just wonderful.

And then it goes into a food processor after cooking. There is a LOT of clean-up after this one! You get about 3 cups from one batch. So, while delicious, it causes a lot of mumbling and cursing while this process and clean-up is going on.

This particular slow-cooker recipe calls for the cover to be off during cooking. I am BARELY comfortable with the slow-cooker being on while I am not home PERIOD, now you want me to go out and leave the cover off too! What will I have to endure for a recipe next? Juggling knives?

Anyway, off we go –

  • 1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1″ pieces
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 C cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 C pure maple syrup
  • 3/4 C brewed coffee

NOTES: I don’t drink coffee and don’t have coffee in my house. I bought a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts and used that.  I may switch next time to muscavado sugar in place of the dark brown sugar. It has a deeper, more molasses flavor. I used Oscar Mayer center cut bacon.

In a large skillet, cook bacon over a medium high flame, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat.

NOTE: DO NOT eat all the bacon while it is sitting there. It is tempting to grab it by the handful, but don’t.

Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes.

NOTE: Once all of these ingredients hit the pan, you are in for a real treat. The smells are just fantastic. Those smells still bring me back to being a little kid down in Breezy Point and waking up to the smells of coffee and bacon wafting up the stairs from the kitchen.

Add the cooked bacon and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture  to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high uncovered, until liquid is syrupy – about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool. refrigerate in airtight containers.

NOTE: Great on toast. Makes an amazing BLT! I am trying to think of other ways to use it – aside from just spooning it right out of the jar. I thought perhaps on top of sautéed chicken. I am open to suggestions! It is a little sweet for me. When I do this again, I am going to use moscavado sugar and perhaps a little less of it. Maybe espresso instead of coffee would cut the sweetness a little!

Country French Omelet

The recipe for the French Country Omelet is from  Ina Garten’s Back to Basics cookbook.

I was looking for something simple, homey and would not heat up my kitchen too  much – and I get to use my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. I love being able to use her things. In a silly way it reminds me of being in the kitchen with her.

I had spied this recipe while participating in a cook-along on one of my favorite food boards – Contessa’s Kitchen and thought I would give it a try on a hot summer night when I was cooking for just myself. I knew I had all the other ingredients at home, so I bought some beautiful slab bacon at Whole Foods. Arrived home, opened the book, and realized – not so cool! It has to bake in the oven for 8 minutes!

Now this is one of my worst habits – I inherited it from my mother – I see a recipe. Glance through the ingredients, and don’t read the directions all the way through. Hopefully this writing experiment will break me of this habit.

I love slab bacon. I hope I have more recipes that use slab bacon. There is nothing better than the smell of bacon cooking!

bacon

While the bacon is browning and crisping in the cast iron skillet, I cube the potatoes. Once the bacon is removed from the pan I realize that these wonderful yukon gold potatoes are going to cook in the bacon fat. Yummy! Into the pan they go with a little salt and pepper.

Potatoes

Crack some eggs, mix in milk, salt and pepper, whisk away. SInce I also didn’t see the word chives in the ingredient I add some fresh tarragon instead. Remove the potatoes from the pan, add to a bowl holding the bacon I have already cooked and am desperately trying not to nibble on.   Empty the bacon grease from the pan.

A tablespoon of butter sizzles in the pan, in go the eggs, the potatoes and bacon – don’t eat it, don’t eat it, don’t  eat it – get sprinkled on top, and into the oven we go!

butter

Timer goes off, eight minutes are up, open the oven door and there is this HUGE, fluffy omlet staring back at me! I cannot imagine, looking at this omlet, that only two people are to eat this!

Omlet

 But it looks yummy!

I cut it in four and, yes, I can now imagine that 2 people can eat this. It deflates a bit once out of the oven. I ate half, and wrapped up the other half for breakfast t his morning.

Cut omlet

This was terrific and simple – and very basic. It is a quick I-don’t-want-to-cook-alot meal. It does, however, need something. Some heat. Some onion – maybe leeks – sauteed after the bacon, but before the potatoes. Maybe some sharp cheddar cheese.

That will be for next time!