Monday, April 6, 2020

Eggsellent – A One-Egg Omelet That’s All About Flavor

Right now, most of us are safe-at-home. Like most of you, we have reorganized our pantry, refrigerator and freezer to inventory exactly what we have on hand. 



Maximizing those ingredients is important so we don't have to go shopping more than necessary. I have been writing about getting several meals out of one chicken and making pasta and gnocchi from scratch, because a few ingredients can make many meals.


But to eat well doesn’t mean denying yourself pleasures. In fact, consider the gastronomic advantages of a one-egg omelet.


THREE, TWO, ONE

A neighborhood restaurant we frequented for many years proudly publicized their three-egg omelet. The omelet was a plump 2-inches thick and settled on the plate like a seal sunning itself on a wave-washed rock.
After eating their three-egg omelet, I always felt like going back to bed.
Having consumed many omelets over many years, the realization hit me that what I like about an omelet isn’t the eggs. What I like is the filling.
At home I experimented. What I was looking for was a ratio of bulk: flavor that pleased my palate and wasn’t overly filling. Three eggs were never considered, and eventually two eggs gave way to one. Another significant milestone was switching from a stainless steel to the more forgiving qualities of a nonstick pan.

A THIN ONE-EGG OMELET IS A REMINDER OF DELICATE CREPES


One egg creates texture not bulk and places the emphasis solidly on the filling. Just about anything sautéed, roasted or grilled can find itself tucked inside an eggy bed. For me, I prefer fillings that are dry rather than wet, but experiment and find the ingredients and combinations you like. 
Whatever the mix of ingredients, the key to a good omelet is creating a warm creaminess of melted cheese.

The combinations are limited only by your palate preferences. The salty-sweetness of sautéed ham, Comte cheese, spinach, shallots and shiitake mushrooms complement the pliancy of the egg. Grilled asparagus and Parmesan cheese, dusted with finely chopped Italian parsley leaves makes an elegant omelet perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Shredded lobster, Manchego cheese, cilantro, raw red onions, a dusting of cayenne and a small amount of finely chopped ripe tomatoes transform an ordinary egg into a culinary adventure.
Adding country-fried potatoes, buttered toast with jam and crisp bacon or pork links, a tossed green salad or a bowl of fresh fruit to fill out the plate and the one-egg omelet creates an enviable meal, full of flavor and careful about calories.

One-Egg Omelet With Spinach, Cheddar Cheese, Shallots and Mushrooms


Use any cheese of your liking. I prefer a cheese that plays well with others. Strong cheeses, such as blue cheese, will dominate the other flavors in the filling. Mild cheddar, Comte, Manchego and soft goat cheese work well.
The recipe is for one, because making each omelet individually will result in the best looking dish. If you are serving more than one, multiply the number of servings times the ingredient quantities to create the correct amount needed to make all the omelets.
Use a 9-inch nonstick pan, understanding that nonstick pans are designed to be used on medium and low heat. Because fat is not required to prevent the egg from sticking to the pan, the butter is used for flavoring. Could the omelet cook on a nonstick pan without the butter? Yes, perhaps as serviceably, but that little bit of butter adds a lot of flavor.

The egg can be beaten by itself or with milk or half-and-half. 
Serves 1

Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 cup spinach leaves and stems, washed, pat dried, chopped
1 shallot, washed, ends and skin removed, finely chopped
2-3 mushrooms (shiitake or brown preferably), washed, root ends trimmed, finely sliced longwise
1 farm-fresh egg, large or extra large
1 tablespoon cream, half and half, whole milk or nonfat milk (optional)
⅓ cup freshly grated cheese, preferably white cheddar, Comte, Manchego or goat
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Directions
1. In the nonstick pan, melt 1 teaspoon butter and sauté together the spinach, shallot and mushrooms until wilted and lightly browned. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne (optional). Use a high-heat or Silpat spatula to remove the sauté from the pan and set aside.
2. Beat the egg and milk (optional) until frothy.
3. On a medium-low flame, heat the nonstick pan, melt the remaining teaspoon butter and pour in the beaten egg using the spatula to get every drop into the pan.
4. Swirl the egg mixture around to coat the bottom of the pan so it looks like a full moon.
5. Gently sprinkle the cheese on one half of the omelet — the half moon with the filling –and spoon on the sauté to cover the cheese.
6. When the cheese has melted and the egg is cooked the way you like, use the Silpat spatula to gently flip the empty side of the half moon on top of the filling.
7. Use the Silpat spatula to help slide the omelet onto the plate and serve hot.

8. Serve hot with toast, sautéed potatoes, a breakfast meat (crisp bacon or sausage links) and fruit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ready. Set. Go. "00" Flour Makes the Best Homemade Pasta, Especially When We're "Safe-At-Home"

A post from last year is worth revisiting now. Making pasta is an ideal dish for these times when we are denied visits to our favorite restaurants. 

As with gnocchi, pasta is as variable as the sauces. Go simple with olive oil, black pepper and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese or make a savory meat sauce enlivened with roasted tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms. 

I recommend using "OO" flour, usually easily available at upscale markets like Whole Foods, Gelson's and Wegman's and online. If "00" flour is not available right now, All Purpose (AP) white flour is a good substitute. But "00" is clearly superior and I hope you can find some.

For those of you who always wanted to make pasta but were discouraged because you thought it was too difficult to make and required special equipment, this is your moment to have fun and delight your family with the best comfort dish ever!  Buon Appetito!

When I learned how to make pasta from scratch, I gave away all my boxes of dried pasta. Quality brands of spaghetti, linguini, fusilli, penne, tagliatelle and pappardelle. All of it.

I put away my shiny chrome Marcata hand-operated pasta making machine.

Now I only wanted to eat pasta that I made myself.  No machines. Just me, a rolling pin, an egg and "00" flour.

I always loved pasta, even when my mom served me Chef Boyardee's pasta and sauce in a can. As an adult, I made my own sauces and used dried pastas, priding myself on buying the best quality available.

On a press trip to Seattle, I had a pasta-epiphany at Spinasse (1531 14th Avenue, Seattle 98122, 206/251-7673). I was traveling with a group of food writers. Before the pasta arrived, we were talking nosily about the trip. One taste of our pasta and all talking ceased. Everyone focused on their plates. I had pasta with a deliciously savory meat ragu (Tajarin al ragu). 

That pasta was a revelation. The bite, flavor and texture of chef Stuart Lane's pasta was unique in my experience. After that visit, I wanted to make my own pasta at home. I bought a machine and read countless recipes. The result was always less than satisfying.

Ultimately I gave up on making my own pasta and concentrated on sauces


Then I watched the "Fat" episode of Samin Nosrat's Netflix series Salt Fat Acid Heat. That episode is my favorite of the series. I loved watching chef Nostrat lose herself in the sights, sounds, textures and ingredients of Italy.

In the episode she visits Benedetta Vitali's Tuscan kitchen to learn her way of making pasta. The instruction was simple. Mix together the best eggs and "00" flour you can find. Knead and roll out the dough into a paper-thin, round sheet. Use a knife to cut the pasta. Boil in salted water. Drain. Done!

As soon as the episode ended, I had to try. Since I didn't have "00" flour, I used All-Purpose flour. The result was good and, thinking "00" flour was too exotic to find locally, I kept using AP flour, but the result was inconsistent. 


So I went in search of "00" flour. Which wasn't much of a search. Our local supermarket carried it. A bit more expensive than AP flour, "00" made all the difference.

I was so excited by the result, now I make pasta all the time.

Basic Pasta Dough

In correspondence with chef Lane for this post, he explained that "'00' is "a fine grained/milled slightly softer than all purposed flour."  That finer grain gives the dough better elasticity. 

To prevent the dough from sticking while you roll it out, sprinkle flour on the surface of the cutting board and on the dough. When pastry chef Federico Fernandez was showing me how to make sfogletella, a wonderful Italian pastry, for my YouTube Channel: Secrets of Restaurant Chefs, he used semolina instead of flour on the cutting board. 

I liked the idea of using the coarser semolina when I make pasta. I dust the cutting board with semolina, which is incorporated into the dough. I think it adds a nice texture. Less available than "00" flour, both are sold in Italian markets. (For a good description of the differences between "00" flour and semolina, please visit the website Farro.)


As with any dish, using the best ingredients improves the quality, so use the best eggs you can find. Chef Lane sources his from organic farms in the Seattle area like Stokesberry.

One day after I had rolled out the dough, I was distracted by a phone call. Before I realized it, more than half an hour had passed. When I returned to the kitchen, I discovered that the dough had dried slightly. The pasta that day was lighter, with a better bite. I added the air-drying step to my pasta making. I was very pleased when chef Lane noted that letting his dough dry was a key step for him as well.

Because the dough is fresh, the pasta cooks more quickly than dried pasta. On average, 5 minutes is sufficient, but taste the pasta after 3 minutes so it doesn't over cook.

I add freshly ground pepper and sea salt to the flour for added flavor, but that is optional.

When the pasta cooks in the salted water, it expands. What appears to be a small amount of dough on the cutting board will yield a much larger amount of cooked pasta.

To make larger yields, multiple the ingredients by the number of servings you want. However, for ease when rolling out the dough, I would advise working with an amount of dough equivalent to that made with 1 egg and 1/2 cup of flour.

The dough must be used the same day you make it. Once cooked, the pasta can be kept in an air-tight container to use the next day.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Waiting time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Total time: 65 minutes

Yield: one entrée serving or two side dish servings

Ingredients

1 farm fresh egg

1/2 cup "00" flour + 2 tablespoons "00" flour or semolina to dust the cutting board and dough

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Directions

1. Place the flour on the cutting board. Using a fork, make an indentation into the top of the mound to create a "volcano." Season flour with black pepper and sea salt (optional)


2. Remove the egg from its shell and place into the indentation.

3. Using the fork, swirl the egg into the flour until completely incorporated. Use the fork to scrape the wet dough off the cutting the dough.


4. Dust the wet dough with flour or semolina. Clean any dough off the fork. Use your hands to form the dough into a ball. Liberally sprinkling flour or semolina on the cutting board, roll the dough back and forth. Incorporate any dough that sticks to your fingers or the cutting board. Continue rolling the ball back and forth on the cutting board for 10-15 minutes. As chef Lane notes, "Really knead the dough a lot. You are not going to overwork it (like bread). In fact, it is more common to underwork it."

5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest 30 minutes. If the weather is cool, leave the dough on the counter. If the weather is hot, place the dough in the refrigerator.


6. Unwrap the dough. Sprinkle flour or semolina on the cutting board. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough and roll out, keeping the round shape by turning the disk of dough frequently. After rolling out the dough three or four times, flip it over, dusting the cutting board and the dough to prevent sticking. Continue rolling out the dough until it is paper thin.


7. Allow the rolled out dough to air-dry for 15-30 minutes.

8. Add kosher salt to water in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil.

9. Place a colander and a heat-proof cup in the sink.

10. Sharpen a chefs knife.

11. Lightly dust the rolled out, air-dried dough with flour or semolina, fold the circle of dough in half. Do not press the dough.


Dust again and fold a second time.


Dust again and fold a third time and then a fourth time until the folded dough is approximately 1" wide.


12. You can cut the pasta into any width you enjoy, remembering that the pasta will double in size in the boiling salted water.


13. After you have cut the dough into strips, lift the cut pasta and let fall onto the cutting board so the strands separate.

14. Place into the boiling salted water, using tongs to separate the strands. Cook 3-5 minutes. Taste after 3 minutes to confirm when the pasta is to your liking.


15. Drain in the colander, capturing 1 cup of salted pasta water in the heat-proof cup to use in making a pasta sauce.

16. Toss in the colander so the strands do not stick together and serve while hot.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: Easy-to-Make Gnocchi is a Perfect Staying-at-Home Comfort Food

Making gnocchi is perfect for this time when we are spending a lot of time at home. If you make gnocchi already, you know how easy they are to prepare. If you have enjoyed gnocchi in Italian restaurants, you remember how these heavenly "pillows" make you happy.


I was lucky enough to have chef Mirko Paderno invite me into his kitchen where he did a cooking video showing how to make gnocchi. Please go this link to see Mirko make gnocchi.

Mirko's original recipe was designed to serve 8. I have adapted his recipe to serve 4 people since we cannot currently have dinner parties. I made other small changes as well.

Gnocchi Made with Cold Potatoes

For Paderno, two details are key to making the best gnocchi. The potatoes must be steamed over salted boiling water so the flesh does not become water-logged. And, the dough must be made with cold cooked potatoes so less flour is needed.

By using cold potatoes, the dough can be prepared before the meal, even the day before. But if hot potatoes are used, when the egg and flour are added, the gnocchi must be cooked immediately to avoid becoming soggy.

Paderno uses Idaho russet potatoes because they have a neutral flavor, the better to work with a variety of sauces. But he suggests using any potato you enjoy, even sweet potatoes or purple potatoes. 

Paderno uses “00” flour which blends easily with the potato. If “00” is not available, use all-purpose (AP) flour. 

The amount of flour used partly depends on the moisture of the cooked potatoes. Getting the right density takes a bit of practice. The gnocchi dough should be not too dry and not too damp. Like pastry dough, with a dusting of flour, the gnocchi should roll out without sticking on the work surface. Watch the video to see Paderno’s technique.

Serves 4

Time to prepare: 30 minutes

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Idaho russet potatoes, washed, skin on
5 ounces “00” or AP flour
2 tablespoons AP flour for dusting
1/2 extra large egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place a steamer on the bottom of a large pot. Add water only to the bottom of the steamer. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Place potatoes in the pot. Cover.  

Depending on the size of the potatoes, cook 20 minutes or until a paring knife can be inserted into the potatoes easily. Add water as needed if more steaming is required. Remove when the potatoes are soft but not mushy. 

Cool potatoes to room temperature or refrigerate. When it is time to make the gnocchi, peel and discard the skins or reserve to sauté with onions and parsley for breakfast. 

Run the cooked, peeled potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill using a fine blade. If neither is available, press the softened potatoes though a strainer or colander.

The potatoes will now look like strands of soft pasta. Place into a mixing bowl and add flour (preferably "00") and mix well together. 

Sprinkle work area with flour. Place potato-flour mixture on the work area and create a “volcano,” the way you do when making fresh pasta, with a depression in the middle of the mound.

In a bowl, crack open a raw egg and whisk with a fork until the white and yolk are well blended.

Pour 1/2 the egg mixture into the center of the volcano.  Reserve the other 1/2 for another use.

Using the fork and your fingers, work the egg, flour and potato together until all ingredients are combined into a ball. 

As you do with pasta (please see that recipe as well), roll the ball back and forth on the work surface. Sprinkle additional flour to prevent sticking. When the ball is smooth and well-formed, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place into an air-tight plastic bag and refrigerate for one hour or until the next day.

Before cooking the gnocchi, make a sauce. That can be as simple as a butter sauce with a little pasta water or as complicated as a braised meat ragu.


Shaping the Dough into Gnocchi

Sprinkle the work surface with flour. Work in batches. Cut the dough into four pieces. 

Form one piece of dough into a ball and then using both hands, fingers and palms, roll the potato dough back and forth until it takes the shape of a dowel, about 1” in diameter. 



The dough is forgiving so if the dowel breaks apart, start over.

Once you have made a uniform shape, create individual gnocchi using a pastry cutter or chefs knife. The gnocchi should be approximately 1” long.


It is important to mark each gnocchi using a fork, your finger or a gnocchi board. The indentations will help the sauce stick to each gnocchi.

Cooking the Gnocchi

Fill a large pot with water. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring to a boil.


The gnocchi cook quickly. To determine how much time is needed, place several test gnocchi into the water. 


If the first gnocchi breaks apart, either the water is boiling too fast and/or the potato dough needs more flour, in which case you can return to the work area, gather up the gnocchi, sprinkle with flour, knead together, roll out and cut again.

If your gnocchi hold their shape in the boiling water, test how long they should cook. Taste one after 30 seconds. Taste another after 45 seconds. And another after 60 seconds and so on. Decide which you like and use that timing to make the rest. For my latest batch, 120 seconds worked the best.

Working in batches, carefully drop a dozen gnocchi at a time into the boiling, salted water. 

Using a wire strainer, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water. 

Drain and add to the heated sauce, which can be as simple as sautéed San Marzano tomatoes with olive oil or a tablespoon or two of pasta water mixed with a good quality melted butter. Or more robust with slices of grilled sausage or coated with pesto sauce.

Serve each plate of gnocchi hot, topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Ready, Set, Go: One Chicken Makes 3 Meals

Living in a coronavirus world means that markets are stressed by shoppers who need more supplies since they are cooking at home and because people are buying extra. Finding a whole chicken may take a bit of work, but the results are well-worth the effort. 



Restaurants are closed. The home kitchen is now more important than ever. What's needed are easy-to-make recipes that yield not just one but several meals.

A roasted whole chicken is a great way to go.

After you have enjoyed the hot-from-the-oven chicken, by using the bones and pan drippings, you can make a stock, which in turn can be used to make soups and sauces.

My mother and grandmother taught me that to waste food is a sin. In this case, that means always reserving the pan drippings, giblets, neck, heart, bones and carcass of the chicken to make a best-ever stock that you can use to make a delicious chicken-vegetable-rice soup or chicken and dumplings.


If a liver came with the chicken, use it to make a tasty mushroom-chicken liver pate for an amuse bouche.

Serve the whole chicken with sides or make the one chicken serve up several meals by combining a leg, wing or part of the breast with steamed rice and a chopped parsley salad.


Easy to Make, No Fuss Whole Roast Chicken

I have a friend who doesn't cook. For her, a roasted chicken is the ideal dish because it has only a few simple steps. 

As with anything in life, begin with good ingredients to achieve better results. That is especially true in cooking. Buy a good plump, pale-pink chicken, preferably one that was raised without hormones. 

Check the expiration date to confirm it is fresh. 

One chicken 3 1/2 - 4 pounds feeds 4 people. If you are feeding fewer people, the chicken will provide you with even more meals. 

If you aren't going to eat all the meat and stock within 2 days, use plastic wrap to wrap the cooked chicken, place the pieces inside a sealed plastic bag and freeze. 

To freeze the stock, place the liquid in sealable containers, preferably 8 or 16 oz for easy use. 

Only use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. All the other brands I've seen add chemical preservatives. Diamond Crystal does not.

Use a roasting sheet tray larger than the chicken, with 1" sides. 
 A sheet tray with sides lower than a roasting pan facilitates browning on the sides of the chicken. 

Line the bottom with aluminum foil and, if available, a Silpat sheet. 

If a Silpat (non-stick) sheet is not available, lining the pan with aluminum foil is sufficient for easy-clean up. The advantage of a Silpat sheet is that all the delicious drippings slide off easily and can be added to the stock. 

Silpat sheets are widely available in many supermarkets, at all cooking supply stores and online. Use a Silpat sheet that fits the dimensions of your pan.

Truss the chicken with kitchen twine if you want. 



As an option, place Yukon Gold potatoes, brown mushrooms and yellow onions on the bottom of the roasting pan when you turn over the chicken. They will acquire flavor from the drippings. Serve the vegetables with the chicken or use in a soup.

 Serves 4

Time to prep: 15 minutes

Time to cook: 60 - 90 minutes depending on size of chicken

Time to rest before serving: 5 minutes

Special Cooking Tools 

Roasting sheet tray (with a 1" rim)

Aluminum foil and Silpat sheet (optional) to fit the roasting sheet tray

12"-14" kitchen tongs

Roasting rack (optional)

Cooking twine (optional)

Ingredients for roasting

1 whole 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken, washed, liver, giblets, neck and heart if included, removed, washed and reserved separately

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, quartered (optional)

1 large yellow onion, washed, peeled, root end and top removed, quartered (optional)

6 brown mushrooms, washed, stem end removed, leave whole (optional)

Directions

First, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (remember the 20 second drill), then wash the chicken inside and out with water (no soap). Dry off the outside of the chicken.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Prepare a roasting pan by lining the bottom with aluminum foil. Place a Silpat sheet on top of the foil and, if available, a roasting rack on top of the Silpat sheet and aluminum foil.

Drizzle olive oil inside and outside the whole chicken and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Place the chicken breast-side down on a roasting rack, if available. If one is not available, place the chicken breast-side down directly on the aluminum foil/Silpat sheet lined roasting pan and place into the oven.

Cook 30 minutes.

Using oven mitts, remove the chicken from the oven. Place on stove top and use tongs to turn over the chicken so now it is breast-side up.

Add vegetables to the bottom of the roasting pan (optional).


Cook another 30 minutes or until the legs move easily.

Remove from the oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the top. Allow the chicken to rest, to release its juices.

That's it.

To make chicken stock from the bones and pan drippings, please look below to the directions for Making Chicken Stock.

Feta-Brined Roasted Whole Chicken

My favorite roast chicken takes a bit more effort (not that much!) and seven additional ingredients.

To make the roast chicken more festive, I add feta and onions on top. Neither are essential but they add delicious flavors.

Brining the whole chicken for two hours or overnight makes the meat more tender and moist. That extra step is well worth it, but can be omitted.

One chicken 3 1/2 - 4 pounds feeds 4 people. If you are feeding fewer people, the chicken will provide you with even more meals. If you aren't going to eat all the meat and stock within 2 days, wrap the chicken in plastic wrap inside a sealed plastic bag and freeze. To freeze the stock, place the liquid in a sealable container, preferably 8 or 16 oz for easy use. 

My mother and grandmother taught me that to waste food is a sin. In this case, that means always reserving the pan drippings, giblets, neck, heart, bones and carcass of the chicken to make a best-ever stock that you can use to make delicious chicken-vegetable-rice soup or chicken and dumplings.



If a liver came with the chicken, use it to make a tasty mushroom-chicken liver pate to serve as an amuse bouche.

Only use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. All the other brands I've seen put in chemical additives. Diamond Crystal does not.

Use a roasting pan with 1" sides to facilitate browning on the sides of the chicken. 


Line the roasting pan first with aluminum foil and then with a Silpat sheet. If a Silpat (non-stick) sheet is not available, lining the pan with aluminum foil is sufficient for easy-clean up. The advantage of a Silpat sheet is that all the delicious drippings slide off easily and can be added to the stock. Silpat sheets are widely available in many supermarkets, at all cooking supply stores and online. Use a Silpat sheet that fits the dimensions of your pan.

You do not have to truss the chicken with kitchen twine. 

Before beginning, carefully wash the inside and outside of the chicken with fresh water. If brining, place the washed chicken into the liquid. If not, pat dry and season with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on the inside and outside.

 Serves 4

Time to brine: at least two hours or overnight

Time to prep: 15 minutes

Time to cook: 60 - 90 minutes depending on size of chicken

Time to rest before serving: 5 minutes

Special Cooking Tools 

Roasting sheet tray (with a 1" rim)

Aluminum foil and Silpat sheet to fit the roasting sheet tray

12"-14" kitchen tongs

Roasting rack (optional)

Cooking Twine (optional)

Ingredients for roasting

1 whole 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken, washed, liver, giblets, neck and heart if included, removed, washed and reserved separately

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the brine

1/4 cup fresh feta, preferably Bulgarian (because it is less expensive), crumbled

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon white sugar

4 bay leaves, whole

1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Ingredients for the topping

1 medium onion, washed, top and root end removed, peeled, sliced thin from the top to the bottom

1/2 cup Italian parsley, stems and leaves, washed, drained, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh feta, Bulgarian, crumbled

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Small bowl of flake salt (optional) on the table

Directions for brining

Use twine to tie together the legs and wings (optional)


Place the chicken, salt, sugar and aromatics into a large heavy plastic bag or a container with a lid. Fill with cold water until the chicken is submerged. Seal. If using a plastic bag, place in a large bowl so the water doesn't leak.

Refrigerate at least two hours or overnight.

Directions for Roasting

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and a Silpat sheet on top of the foil for easier cleanup. Place a roasting rack on top of the lined baking sheet. If no roasting rack is available, place the chicken directly on the lined baking sheet, breast side down.

Remove the chicken from the brine. Rinse, pat dry and allow to rest uncovered for 10 minutes.

Pour the brine through a colander to capture the feta. Discard the brining aromatics. Remove the feta and reserve.

In a bowl, mix together the feta from the brine, the additional feta, onion, parsley, sea salt and black pepper.

Rub olive oil over the chicken. Add remaining olive oil to the feta-onion-parlsey topping and mix well. Set aside.

Place chicken onto the roasting rack if one is available, breast down and put into the preheated oven. Roast for thirty minutes or until the skin is brown and crisp to the touch.

Reduce oven to 350F.

Using tongs, turn over the chicken, being careful not to tear the skin. Place the chicken breast-side up on the roasting rack.

Cover the breast-side up chicken with the feta-onion-parlsey topping.  The mound of onions will seem large, but will greatly reduce during cooking. If any bits fall onto the bottom of the baking tray, no worries, you can scoop them up later.


Return to the oven. After 30 minutes, check for doneness. Wiggle a chicken leg. If there is resistance, the chicken needs more time. If the topping is getting too brown, place a sheet of aluminum over the top like a tent. Roast another 15 minutes and check for doneness. Continue roasting until the leg moves freely.

Remove from the oven and place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top so the chicken rests for 5 minutes.

Remove aluminum foil. Carve in the kitchen or at the table. Use a recently sharpened knife or kitchen sheers. Plate the chicken with the charred onion-feta-parsley mix on top.

Serve hot with sides of roasted potatoes, squash or salt boiled spinach.

Place a small bowl of flake salt on the table. The crunch of the salt will add to the pleasures of the dish.

Making chicken stock

Once the chicken has been carved, reserve all the bones and pan drippings. If there isn't time to make stock that night, refrigerate and make the next day.

I prefer to make my chicken stock without aromatics or seasoning beyond the flavors provided during roasting. That way, when you use the stock to make soup or a sauce, you can add whatever flavors you want.

To make the stock, add the bones, pan drippings, reserved neck, heart and gizzard to a 3-4 quart pot and add fresh water to cover by 2".

Place on the stove on a medium-high flame, bring to a low boil and simmer 60 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by 1/3. Taste and continue simmering until the flavor is to your liking.

Allow to cool. Strain the liquid into a bowl.  Remove the bones, neck, heart and gizzard. Pick the meat off the bones and reserve the gizzard. The meat and gizzard can be used in a salad, to make chicken and dumplings or to add to a chicken-vegetable soup.

Place stock into containers with lids. 8 and 16 oz containers are useful. An 8 oz container will make a sauce. A 16 oz container will make soup for one.

The soup can be kept frozen for 3-4 months without hurting the quality. When you remove the frozen stock from the freezer, use fresh water to rinse off any ice crystals that might have formed on the top of the stock.

To make a soup, sauté cut up vegetables in olive oil until lightly browned, add chicken stock and parts of the chicken like a leg or wing. Simmer covered until vegetables soften. Serve hot.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Have a Picnic for Super Bowl Sunday - Kimchi Chicken Wings, Salads & So Much More

A week to go for Super Bowl Sunday and I have my menu planned. No chips or dips. No ordering in (although a sausage pizza with mushrooms, onions and extra cheese would be nice). A great game deserves great food.

I'm making favorite dishes, ones designed to share at a picnic or at buffet-style Super Bowl watching party.


I love my kimchi chicken wings (see below), sticky sweet with heat, moist and tender. Nothing is better except fried chicken the way chef Wes Whitsell showed me for a cooking video we did when he was at Manuela DTLA. His fried chicken is crispy and moist. For the cooking demonstration he made wings, thighs and legs. He doesn't like breasts because they don't have enough flavor. I pretty much agree. For my pot luck contribution, I'm making cut apart wings and legs, the easiest parts to eat at a picnic.


I'm also making carrot salad with golden raisins soaked in lemon juice & seasoned with black pepper, Yukon gold potato salad with charred corn & parsley, a charred corn & vegetable saladroasted beet saladgarbanzo bean salad with charred onions & Lacinato (purple) kale, salt boiled broccoli florets and a buttermilk custard pie I saw Martha Stewart demonstrate on her PBS show.


I'll also make an Italian parsley salad with chopped vegetables and pitted olives and a Little Gem lettuce salad with carrot rounds and feta cheese, served with whole wheat lavash.


Only recently did I discover Little Gem lettuce. First, at Glatt, a kosher market, on Pico east of Robertson and then at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market at the Garden of Organic stand. At first I thought they were "baby" romaine lettuces. They have a cleaner, crisper flavor, with less water and more crunch. Wrapped in a damp kitchen towel and placed into a plastic bag, the heads will keep fresh in the refrigerator for three weeks.


Here's the recipe I'll use for the Super Bowl (which is exactly the recipe I use when I make the salad at home except sometimes I'll trade out the feta for blue cheese).

Crispy Little Gem Lettuce Salad

When making the salad, leave the leaves whole so they don't wilt.

For the olives, use any kind you enjoy. We like Castelvetrano Green olives, which can be found pitted for easy use, although olives taste best when not pitted.


Serves 4

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Ingredients

2 heads Little Gem Lettuce, leaves removed whole, washed, pat dried

1 large carrot, washed, ends removed, peeled, cut into thin rounds

1 large tomato, stem end removed, washed, pat dried, cut into dime size pieces

1 cup pitted olives, roughly chopped

1 scallion, ends removed, washed, brown leaves discarded, cut into paper thin rounds (optional)

1/2 cup feta, pat dried, crumbled

1 medium avocado, washed, peeled, pit and any brown spots removed, cut into dime sized pieces

1/2 cup homemade croutons (optional)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced over a low flame to 2 teaspoons, cooled

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Lay the Little Gem leaves in the bottom of a serving bowl. Sprinkle on the carrots, tomatoes, olives, scallions (optional), feta, avocado and croutons (optional).

Just before serving, season with sea salt and black pepper, drizzle on olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar.

Serve with a knife and fork.

Kimchi Chicken Wings

Chicken wings are sold whole, the drumstick only or the two-bone part. If you prefer one part of the wing over another, buy only those. The whole chicken wing will be less expensive and the wing tips can be roasted and used to create stock.

Do not use the whole chicken wing, which is too difficult to eat. 


I prefer preservative-free kimchi. I have been enjoying Mommy Boss napa cabbage kimchi. Read the label carefully because there are different kinds of kimchi, I would recommend only using cabbage kimchi without dried shrimp.

Serves 4

Time to prepare: Marinate overnight, prep 20 minutes, bake 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken wings

1 cup kimchi, without preservatives

1/2-3/4 cup brown sugar, depending on taste

1 medium yellow onion, washed, pat dried, peeled, root and stem removed, thin sliced from root to stem

1/4 cup kimchi liquid

1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Thinly slice kimchi and mix together with onion slices, brown sugar, kimchi liquid and olive oil.

Add chicken wing parts to marinade. Mix well. Place in a covered bowl or sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate over night.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare a roasting pan. Line the bottom with aluminum foil. Because the drippings are sticky (and delicious!) I place a Silpat sheet on top of the aluminum foil so I can easily retrieve the bits of caramelized onions and kimchi. Place a wire on top of the aluminum foil and Silpat sheet.


Place the chicken wings on top of the wire rack, allowing space between each part to allow for even cooking. Reserve the liquid marinade with the onions and kimchi.

Place wings into preheated oven.

While the wings are roasting, place the reserved marinade into a small sauce pan and reduce the liquid by 1/2 over a low heat.

Remove wings from the oven after 30 minutes.

Turn wings over and baste with reduced marinade, placing onion and kimchi slices on each wing.

Return to oven.

After 30 minutes, remove and check for doneness. The onions and kimchi slices should be lightly browned and beginning to crisp. The wings should be tender. If not, return to oven and continue baking. Check every 10 minutes for doneness.

Serve hot as an appetizer or on top of steamed rice. The wings are delicious at room temperature, perfect for a picnic. However they are served, have a good supply of napkins available.