Thursday, October 28, 2010

Conquering The Bird

I’ve cooked with chicken for all of my adult life. It’s pretty lame unless you dice it, grill it, smash and fill it with something, quarter it or use it for chicken stock. With that said, we ALWAYS end up eating it for at least one of our meals during the day. I’m really trying to cut down on our weekly grocery bills so instead of buying the huge pack of chicken breasts that we usually get at Costco for over $20, I got 2 whole chickens. At the time I was so certain that I was staying under budget that I didn’t really care how I’d figure out how to cook them but once I got home I quickly put the into the freezer for me to “think about”. Chris, my husband, told me, “You better not waste this chicken.” so I bit the bullet and decided to roast one. If anything, it would impress him and I like to impress my husband in the kitchen since he’s my first critic.

So I defrosted the chicken which took about two days. Since I’ve cooked a turkey before I should have realized how long it took to defrost, but the two days gave me time to think about how I was going to tackle the bird. In those two days I searched the internet for recipes on roasted chickens and my worry was that I was going to have a great looking roasted chicken (you know, the kind that you see at the supermarkets) but it was going to be dry and unseasoned. It seemed like there was A LOT of meat to season and with a bunch of skin on it, it just wouldn’t do the trick. Finally I found a recipe from Ina Garten (my favorite Food Network chef) that I thought would be perfect. It’s a roasted chicken stuffed with garlic, lemon and thyme.

*On a side note, I invited Lucas into the kitchen to help me. I think having your children help is a great way to get them involved in cooking their food. It helps them create healthy food habits, learn where their food comes from, and it also shows, I think most importantly, that you are not perfect! Cooking is a learning process and everyone can mess up. Most children my son’s age think their parents are perfect so they strive to be as perfect as they are. Showing that you can have a struggle in the kitchen, make a mistake and still have a good time is GREAT modeling for your children.

This chicken, I have to say, is pretty easy and almost fool proof. The biggest struggle for me was not checking the meat too early so find something to do and don’t check the meat till the timer goes off. I also tweaked the recipe a little bit and didn’t cover my chicken with bacon like Ina did. I think there was enough fat in the skin to get us through the roasting. We didn’t need bacon to help us out. Basically, you clean your chicken, washing it inside and out, get all the giblets out then pat it dry with a paper towel and tie it up. Stuff the chicken with garlic (I didn’t have cloves, just minced so I used that), a quartered lemon, and a bunch of fresh thyme, butter the top, sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper and pop it in the oven for 90 min. The chicken was perfectly crispy on the outside, most and delicious on the inside and FULL of flavor. Chris and I are still practicing how to carve birds, but we got the meat off and everyone enjoyed it..including the boys. I reduced the juice and fat with a cup of Sauvignon Blanc to compliment the lemon flavor in the chicken and it was very tasty.
Please try this recipe! I have used the leftovers for chicken salad as well as quesadillas for the next day’s lunch. It’s easy, cheap and kind of fun to conquer a bird. Here’s Ina’s recipe Bon Appetite!
Roasted Chicken With Garlic, Lemon and Thyme


1 (5 to 6-pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
4 lemons
3 heads garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 pound sliced bacon (I omitted this!)
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the thyme, reserving enough thyme to garnish the chicken dish, 1 lemon, halved, and 2 halves of 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. Cut 2 of the lemons in quarters and scatter the quarters and remaining garlic around the chicken. Lay the bacon slices over the chicken to cover.
Roast the chicken for 1 hour. Remove the bacon slices from the top of the chicken and set aside. Continue roasting the chicken for an additional 1/2 hour, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil while you prepare the gravy.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the bottom of the pan. Add the wine and chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until reduced by half.
Slice the chicken on a platter. Garnish the chicken platter with the bacon slices, roasted garlic, reserved thyme and 1 lemon, sliced. Serve with the gravy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

THE cake

Fern Gumber

Did you ever as a child have something so good that it lived on in your memory your entire life? I have. Fern Gumber’s Apple Cake. I’ve already discussed in an earlier post that I wasn’t a big chocolate fan growing up and if I could have one thing from my memories as a child it would be this cake that Mrs. Gumber would bring over every Christmas and Easter. People, lemme tell ya, It was THE cake, the cake that everyone in my family waited for every Christmas and Easter on bended knee. My parents met Fern and her husband Art at church one Sunday and they became close friends. They were very sweet and kind to our family and like good, southern friends do, they’d bring over this cake every Easter and Christmas and chit chat for a while on a Sunday afternoon. I would hear rumors here and there of when they’d come and I’d stare out the window waiting to see them and Mrs. Gumber carrying the cake inside. I’d never had anything like it before. The top of the cake had this apple cinnamon crust on top and the inside of the cake was moist and delicious, filled with apple bits that tasted as if the cinnamon and sugar gods had kissed each and every piece. I’m not sure if my mother just never asked for the recipe, I mean, I know I would, but poor Fern and Art passed away and we never figured out how she made it. I grew up and ever so often I’d remember the cake, the smell, the excitement of having our friends bring over something so yummy and thoughtful to us. I mean, we must have been pretty special to get a cake like that.

So, I got married, got pregnant, and got on bedrest. Not the best situation for someone who spends most of her time in the kitchen so I organized my recipe books, re wrote old recipe cards that were all tattered and torn, filled my brain with cooking shows and made my husband run out to get anything that sounded similar to what I was watching. One afternoon, I was really down and throwing a pretty big pity party for myself and sure enough Paula Deen comes on. I was sure I’d seen it before. I had her cookbooks, watched most of her shows so what was the big deal? In the preview I see something that looks very similar to Fern Gumber’s Apple Cake. NO WAY I thought. In the back of my mind this was a secret recipe that Fern pulled out of her “good southern woman’s recipe safe”, you know the ones that you hide behind pictures in the living room? This wasn’t a recipe that could be shared with the normal Joe’s and Sally’s of the world! But it was. It was THE cake. So, I pulled the recipe up on my laptop, saved it, and made it the week that I got taken off bedrest. The crusty top, the sugar/cinnamon kissed apple bits and the crunch of the coconut and walnuts. It was all there. I felt as if my recipe book had been complete. I’d found it. So now, every time I make the cake, I think of Fern, her visits and my excitement as a child. I make it every Christmas and love sharing it with my family. It’s so special to me and I an honored to share it, in her name before this upcoming holiday season. Thank you Fern for always making our seasons special and thank you Paula Deen for getting me out of my pity party.

• Butter, for greasing pan
• 2 cups sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
• 1/4 cup orange juice
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 3 cups peeled and finely chopped apples
• 1 cup shredded coconut
• 1 cup chopped pecans
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup buttermilk
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously grease a tube pan.
For the cake: in a large bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, oil, orange juice, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract; and mix well. Fold apples, coconut, and pecans into batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.
Shortly before the cake is done, make the sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan, stir in the sugar, buttermilk, and baking soda, and bring to a good rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Pour the sauce over the hot cake in the pan as soon as you remove it from the oven. Let stand 1 hour, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Monday, October 4, 2010

From Corn to Clams

I was really excited to interview my friend A.M. I met her when I was a freshman in college at St. Edward’s (Go Hilltoppers) and she always had a great sense of humor so I knew that she would be PERFECT for the job. She’s been married for 5 years and grew up in Ohio. A.M. lived in Texas throughout college and then moved to Rhode Island when she got married. What A.M. didn't know, is that one of my favorite memories as a child was traveling up through New England and eating clam chowder and clam cakes on the sides of the road. New England has such amazing food and I'm jealous that she gets all that fresh seafood I hope you enjoy reading her interview as much as I did! Thank you so much A.M. for being a part of Salty Brownies! She’ll be sharing her favorite dessert soon!

My first memories in the kitchen were watching my mom bake cakes. She took a few cake decorating classes and then it evolved to an at home business. The tagline on my mom's business card was, "Cakes that Make Your Party Glowe"...this was a perfect name since her last name is Glowe! Anyway, getting back to my memories: I would watch and my mom in the kitchen and she would be talking about baking. She would say things like, "Great cake makers squeeze the frosting with a firm and steady hand from the top of the pastry bag." "Be sure to scrap the sides, you want all the batter in the cake." As a kid this advice made me sad because I always wanted to so badly to lick the mixing bowl and the mixers. ;-) Sometimes we would get to try our frosting skills on a plate if there was extra frosting left over from when she made the cakes.

Ahhh! Disasters in the kitchen. I think disasters make you a better cook. It means you are willing to experiment! One of my disasters was with My First Thanksgiving dinner that I decided to create for my brother and boyfriend. I was on Thanksgiving break from college staying with my brother. I went shopping and began reading the family recipe that my mom gave me. I was bugged out with the fact that you had to pull out the organs of the turkey before cooking the thing. I needed to put on rubber gloves and called my boyfriend over for support. GROSS. It ended up that I did not even get all the gizzards out. When we carved the turkey a heart was still in there! YUCK! Oh yeah, I burn meals about 3 times a year. This happens when I have too many things cooking at once or if I am on the phone with a friend or family member. Can anyone really multi-task? Maybe we all just say we can?

I like to think that I am still learning how to make a great meal...I like exploring new cuisines so I began a Gourmet Club with three other couples. We choose a theme and all take turns with what to bring to the dinner. We have been doing this for about 5 years. The way it works is one couple brings appetizers, another drinks and finally the dessert. The couple who chooses the theme and hosts creates the main course. Our gourmet club has a blog...I will send you the link and you can see the dinners that we have been successful on!

For the most part I love what everyone else loves when it comes to cooking. Some of my favorite cuisines are Thai, Asian, Tex Mex and Mexican.

No fear in trying to cook, I fear I won't have enough time to do a good job, then I try to take short cuts...not a good idea with a new recipe.

I asked my husband what people say about my cooking and he said, "They think you are a great baker!" That was a nice way to say....I am still learning to be a good cook and I have a feeling it is because my roots are in from the Midwest. The Midwest mentality towards food is to enjoy the flavors that the food. Generally, you do not need to spice it up. Just taste the flavor that is already there...maybe you add pepper. From a health standpoint our cholesterol is awesome, but from a taste standpoint we could improve our daily currently, I am using different low cal marinades and spices and I love it! Now, I know what Christopher Columbus was looking for keeps eating interesting.

Now, we are living in Rhode Island, to tell you the truth cooking here consists of chowder, lobster, scallops, shrimp, littlenecks etc. Popular dishes that people commonly have in RI are stuffed clams, better known as stuffed quahogs. I am not fond of fish smell in the house, so I have not ventured to cook these lovely sea creatures from scratch. I have happily bought pre-made New England dishes from the butcher/sea market and baked them. Maybe around Lent (No meat on Fridays) I will be more adventurous and try to cook some New England dishes.

My family menus are classic at the holidays- turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, ham for Easter, My husband's family serve a seven fish meal on Christmas Eve, and since his mother is Italian they serve pasta with every holiday and a few times they had lamb at Easter. We don't have any kids yet, so we still are swapping turns at our mom and dad's places, so we still have the chance to establish what we will cook for our family.

I would love to cook for Curtis Stone, he is a celebrity chef that is easy on the eyes. The reason I would choose Curtis is because I would actually be secretly trying to get him to teach me his wicked mad skills. BRING THOSE SKILLS CURTIS! I would NOT want to ever meet or eat with Rachel Ray. I have a love/hate relationship with her. She gives great tips, but her personality is annoying, especially when she says EVOO!!! Aaaaaahhhhhh. What is so hard with saying, Extra Virgin Olive Oil? On a side note, there are websites that have hate groups on Rachel Ray. I am not the only one who finds her obnoxious.

One of my last meals would need to include a dessert called Strawberry Pretzel Dessert..sweet potatoes.....hmmmmm.....other than that I am not sure what else would be on the menu.

The Middle East sounds interesting when it comes to their cuisine. I would love to go there and try things blindly. I know that they make hummus and I love that!

Candles are in my freezer and batteries are in my fridge! If you have melted candles stuck in a glass holder you can freeze them and then the melted candle will pop out cleanly. (Sometimes you need to use a little force with a knife.) I have read that keeping your batteries in the fridge will keep them fresh and working better when you use them.

My guilty pleasure is licking the batter bowl or eating cookie dough! Yum!

Eating veggies was natural and easy for all of us in the family. I still load my plate with veggies today! I grew up eating a salad with every meal and loved it.

I don't like saying that I don't like certain foods because as time goes on I noticed that my palette changes and honestly I don't want to sound prejudice! ;-) Right now, I shy away from dark heavy beers- like guinness and on a day to day basis I stay away from pink ham. I find ham super salty. I mean who likes to retain water weight?

Recently, I mentioned to my husband that I love that he loves CHEESE. I think it makes our cooking relationship just work out so well. It would be hard to live with someone who doesn't love cheese. Cheese makes so many meals amazing. Chocolate is a side item for me...I like to dip things in chocolate or have nuts and chocolate but I am not a purest when it comes to chocolate.

A favorite recipe...Strawberry Pretzel Dessert...I will have to get it from my mom! Look to the blog in the future and I will give Danielle the post.