Winner, Winner…

Chicken Dinner!

I can’t keep up — I’ve started lots of aborted posts that got overwhelmed by the sewage-tsunami that is the Republican Party, its boils and carbuncles (yeah, really bad mixed metaphor. Sue me.) — but none get finished before another outrage occurs and…

Hell. We all know the drill.  Folks with more stamina (and intestinal fortitude) than I can muster are doing the FSM’s work to keep this blog ably supplied with insight and rage.

Still, every now and then something comes along and doesn’t serve so much as an antidote as an alternative to wallowing in the muck.

For me, that almost always includes roast chicken.  So, because it’s not just misery that loves company, here are two new preparations to share in the latest in my extremely occasional fowl series.

First up, this, from one of the remaining redoubts of more-or-less useful New York Times resources, the recipe section.  I’ve found Melissa Clark to be a very solid kitchen guide (I have one of her cookbooks in addition to paying attn. to her at the Grey Lady’s Food section).

I tried this for the first time a couple of days ago, using 6 thighs rather than a whole (split) bird.  It came out great.  A couple of notes: I didn’t have the Peruvian hots in hand, so I used sambal, as suggested, and aleppo pepper instead of pasillo chile powder.  It would be better (much) w. a good new-world chile flavor instead of my Levantine improv., but it was still just fine.  I dialed back a little on the heat, using one jalapeño, instead of the 2-3 recommended; next time out I’ll go to two — and any chile powder I use will pack more kick than the Aleppo spice.  Also, I only had time to marinate for about 90 minutes. Next time I’ll try to get to about 3 hours at room temperature.

But even with those notes, this really was good eating, and was at least as good or better the next day.  The cilantro sauce Clark outlines is really lovely, a variation on chimichurri that is worth doing.  For our second time around, my wife and I shredded the thigh meat to make simple tacos with more of the cilantro sauce and some avocado.  Didn’t need anything more.

All that’s well and good, but merely a tease for the peak chicken experience we had recently.  As y’all know, I’ve been mostly absent here for a while. Lots of reasons for that, from paralyzing political despair to the pressure of a book well past deadline, but probably the largest urge to silence is that it has been a tough year for losing the previous generation, both on my spouse’s side and mine.  Too many, folks who shaped who we are and how we think, gone in that hurry that can sometimes happen when you’re in later middle age and foolish enough to care for people about a decade or two ahead of you. So (my point, and I do have one), one Sunday a couple of weeks ago, I was in a deeper-than-usual funk of melancholy, and my wife took it on herself to take care of me.

Her gift? Roast chicken in its most echt form.  We got this from a friend who made it for us a while back, and then again from this TV episode.

It couldn’t be more simple.  Take a chicken.  Grab some goose fat, melt it in the microwave (just melt it — don’t get it really hot). Spoon a couple of tablespoons (or three, or four) under the skin, breasts and legs alike.  Spread some more on the outside of the bird.  Cut a lemon in half. Squeeze what you like of one half over the top of the chicken, and (having forked it a bit) put the other half in the cavity, along with a couple of sprigs of thyme and marjoram or whatever herbs you like.  Chop up some more of the herbs, scatter it over the bird, along with salt and little pepper.

Put the chicken breast side down in a heavy pot — a cast iron skillet, an enameled cast iron dutch over, whatever you ahve — in a hot over.  I’ve seen variations of the recipe call for as hot as 450 degrees, but we’ve got a pretty efficient convection oven and set that for 400, and it worked fine.  About twenty to twenty five minutes in for our fairly small chicken (3.5 pounds) we flipped it.  Another 10-15 and it was done.

It was spectacular.  The essence of fowl.

There are only a couple of keys here.  As there is no spice or sauce that masks the chicken itself, this calls for a really good bird; the best you can find.

The other is the fat.  Duck fat is available in jars and that works great.  We actually were able to use goose fat, though, and that lifted the recipe a notch.  I and a couple of friends have a tradition of cooking one goose most years around the holidays.  We render all the fat and save it, and give it as gifts.  It happens I didn’t do my goose (with Cumberland sauce!) last winter, but one of my old teachers did, and gifted me a quart of the fat.  It went into the freezer and we’ve been titrating it out over the year — and it really is the reason to do that big holiday bird.

But really any good fat will do.  Render off some chicken fat over a couple of dinners.   Cook a duck.  Buy a jar of fat.  Bacon grease would be a different accent, but would probably be grand.  It doesn’t matter.  This may be the cardiologist-full-employment recipe, but every now and then it is worth it to enjoy a bird in full.

So that’s how I’m dealing with the end of the American century.  You?

Image: James T. Eglington, The Poultry Seller, 1839

Fall Menus: Another Week in October

Another week has flown by. This week’s menus include some of my favorites.

Monday, Cream of Potato Cheese Soup, always perfect on a chilly fall day.

Potato Soup Photo by JeffreyW

Wednesday features Pan-Fried Catfish and Buttered Potatoes. You can find all the menus here: October Menus 2

Thursday is a German Pocket Burgers and Apple Strudel.  And Friday will have the kids licking their fingers with Buffalo Chicken Legs, a healthy alternative to deep fried buffalo chicken.

Complete shopping lists are here: October Weekly Shopping List 2   A reminder that the menus and shopping lists are color coordinated. You can easily disregard any item you won’t need.

JeffW’s awesome biscuit photo.

Tonight’s bonus recipe is Garlic Biscuits, below.

That’s if for this week. What’s cookin’ for you this weekend?

Tonight’s bonus recipe:

Garlic Biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tbsp buttermilk powder*
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or shortening
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 cup milk*

bowl and baking sheet or cast iron skillet, greased

I prefer using butter over shortening because it gives the biscuits a buttery, garlic flavor that is irresistible.

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in butter, stir in garlic, add milk. Stir quickly with a fork until completely moistened, don’t over mix. Knead gently on floured surface for 10-12 strokes. Roll out to ½ inch thick, cut into biscuits. Place on baking sheet or cast iron skillet, and bake at 450° for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

*or substitute 1 cup buttermilk,  then omitting buttermilk powder and milk.


Sunday Garden Chat: “How to Make the Most of Gorgeous Late-Summer Tomatoes”

Since I’m out of garden pics, here’s a recipe for the use of gardeners. Mark Bittman, in NYMag:

We think of tomatoes as summer food, and they’re the best thing to eat right now. For the next couple of weeks, you can make the best late-summer pasta sauce there is, though it’s probably the most ingredient-dependent pasta sauce, too. That is, if you do this with supermarket ingredients, you’ll be rewarded with decent sauce. If you do it with Sun Gold cherry tomatoes; fresh-picked basil; strong, ultrasticky garlic; and top-notch olive oil (mine happened to be Californian), you’ll end up with something mind-blowing.

Getting the ingredients is the hardest part — the actual prep and cooking are simple. Let’s say for two servings you want 30 or 40 cherry tomatoes, cut in half. You want a couple of big cloves of garlic (or a few smaller ones), slivered, and, say, a quarter cup of oil — maybe a little more. A small fresh chile is not a bad addition.

As you start the water for the pasta, grab a medium pan and begin cooking the garlic in the oil very slowly (add the minced chile, if you’re using it). By the time the water boils, the garlic should have begun to color. Add the halved tomatoes to the garlic and crank the heat a bit. A minute or two later, start the pasta. I’d use long pasta for this if you have it, but I’m not slavish about shape. A decent serving size is 75 grams, but 60 is good for a snack, and 100 if you’re hungry.

When the tomatoes have broken down a bit, throw in a lot of roughly torn basil leaves — an entire supermarket-size bunch isn’t too much. Add salt and pepper, of course, and toss the whole thing together. It does not need cheese; a little shredded basil on top of it all is nice….

Bittman also includes a recipe for a tomato “galette/crostini/free-form tart”, for which you’ll have to click the link.

I’ve got a friend coming out from the midwest to sightsee, so my blog participation this week is liable to be spotty and unreliable. Good thing there are other front-pagers to take up the slack — here’s hoping for a slow news week…

What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?

Fall Menus: September Week 2

Tuesday is Oven Fried Chicken

This is a little late, but I suppose better late than never. I’ve been crazy with work and glued to hurricane coverage, as I have Florida family (and friends).

Since we are moving into cooler weather, I’m bringing the meals in from the grill and into the kitchen. Although we do have a Grilled Steak on Monday – it’s in a soy/wine marinade that I love because you can use an inexpensive cut of beef and still get a great steak out of it.

One of my favorite meals, Red Beans and Rice, heads up Wednesday’s menu. And Friday is a slow-cooker BBQ Beef on Kaiser Rolls. 

All the PDF menus can be found here: September Week 2 Menus

The color-coded weekly shopping list is here: September Week 2 Shopping List The color coding allows you to eliminate any ingredients you won’t need if you skip a recipe.

Tonight’s bonus recipe is Creole Vegetables and Black Beans, (pictured above, recipe at the bottom of post)

What’s on your plate as you end your weekend and begin your week. If you have any questions, hit the comments and I’ll try and get you an answer. Have a great week!

Bonus Recipe:

We’re trying to do a vegetarian night a few times a week. This was one of my favorite creations.

Creole Vegetables with Black Beans and Rice

  • 1 cup Jasmine Rice
  • 1 -15 oz can no salt black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • limejuice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 green onions, chopped (including greens)
  • 1/2 each: green, red and orange pepper, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1-14 oz can no salt diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste

Cook rice according to package directions, keep warm.

Add beans and a dash of limejuice and salt to saucepan and heat through.

In a skillet, heat olive oil, add onions and saute until softened, add peppers and celery, saute for 2-3 minutes. Add carrots, cook additional 2-3 minutes and add tomatoes. Add a tablespoon of Creole seasoning (recipe below) and mix in. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until carrots are tender.  Salt to taste and add more seasoning as needed.

Place rice, beans and tomato mixture in separate bowls and let everyone mix to their own taste. Put remaining Creole Seasoning on the table for garnish.

Serves 4.

Creole Seasoning

  • 2 tsp paprika (go for the good stuff)
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on the heat you like)

Mix all together and grind with a mortar and pestle or run through a spice grinder.  Add to tomato mixture.

*you can use dried beans, cooked and drained

Fall Menus: September Week One

If it’s a pizza photo, it has to be JeffreyW’s.

Fall is not quite here, so the menus still include grilling favorites.  Monday is Fruit Juice Marinated Chicken on the grill.  Tuesday is Pasta Rustica and Garlic Cheesy Bread.

For all of the PDF menus, click here: September Week One Menus

Thursday is Spicy Beef and Broccoli (photo above from JeffreyW) and Friday is a fun Kid’s Menu of fun and easy pizzas.

Complete shopping lists are here: September Week One Shopping List

Tonight’s bonus recipe is Blueberry Coffeecake

What’s on your plate for the holiday? Anyone else in denial it’s September already? If you have any questions about any of the recipes, let me know in the comments.

Bonus recipe:

Blueberry CoffeeCake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp cultured buttermilk powder (or 1 cup butter milk  & omit water)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 8 oz frozen blueberries


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup flour

8×8 baking dish, greased

2 bowls

In bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, buttermilk and mix well. Make a well in the center add egg, water & oil. Stir quickly until all everything is mixed well, but don’t over mix. Fold in blueberries. Spread batter evenly in baking dish. In bowl, mix topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the top of batter. Bake at 400° for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Summer Menus: August Week 3-4

I know I totally flaked out on you last week…so week 3 will be the last August menu and we’ll jump into September next week.Tonight’s bonus recipe is Veggie-Meatballs in Fire Roasted Tomato Basil Sauce is below.

This week takes advantage of the late-summer/early fall harvest.  Patty pan squash, nectarines, plums, peppers and tomatoes.

Click here for the menus PDF: August Week 3 Menus

Click here for this week’s shopping list: August Week 3 Shopping List

JeffreyW has some nice looking tomatoes, mine are still green on the vine. I’m prepared to survive any frost so they have time to ripen.

Bonus recipe:

Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of  garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. I think next time I might add a bit of red pepper flake.

Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs

  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs, beaten


  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
  • Olive oil

Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.

Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.

Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.

Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.

You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.

To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.

To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.

Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Sauce

  • 28 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes or better yet, click here to make your own.
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh chopped)

Add ingredients in saucepan, bring to a low boil, reduce to low and let simmer while prepping meatballs.

Serve sauce and meatballs over your favorite pasta.

That’s it for this week. What do you have cooking as you wrap up another weekend?


Summer Menus: August Week 1

Tuesday’s recipe calls for Green Beans and Red Peppers, but if you’ve got an plethora of tomatoes, switch things up, as JeffreyW does in this yummy photo.

I love this time of year because of the abundance of fresh ingredients. This week’s menus rely heavily on farm stand fresh items. In addition to green beans, Tuesday has a quick and easy Pasta w/Fresh Basil.

JeffreyW’s tempting pasta

For a PDF of all this week’s menus, click here: August Week 1 Menus

Wednesday pairs up Grilled Steak and Collard Greens w/Bacon, finishing up with a perfect Apple/Blackberry Crisp.

Full shopping lists can be found here: August Week 1 Shopping List – don’t forget you can use the color coordinated list to customize it.

The week ends with Cheesy Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries.

Bonus recipe:

Stuffed Jalapeno Cheese Burgers

Stuffed Burger Final

Ingredients for each burger:

  • 4 oz ground beef
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed garlic (opt)
  • 1 oz sharp cheddar, sliced thin
  • 2 or more slices of pickled jalapenos

Mix salt, pepper and garlic into the ground beef. Form two, 2-oz patties. Place jalapenos on one burger, cheese on the other.


Place the two sides together and seal the edges completely. Gently flatten the burger, but be careful because you don’t want the cheese busting out of the center


The key to grilling or frying these is low and slow. Medium heat seals them and allows the cheese to melt without drying the burger out. I flipped at the 5 minute mark, but depending on the heat, 3-4 minutes may be enough to flip. They’re thin, so the beef cooks quickly, but you want to make sure the cheese melts. I would say minimum 4 minutes per side.

If cheese starts to leak out, flip and flip again as needed. DON’T press down on these burgers while you grill, you’ll have a cheesy mess.

Now the warning. Did I say WARNING? Yes I did. You’ll need to rest these burgers to let the cheese cool a bit. Otherwise you could be biting into a scalding cheese center. You’ve been WARNED.

That’s the basics, now let your imagination run wild.

What’s on your plate this weekend? My birthday is tomorrow, so I’m headed up to the mountains for the second weekend in a row. For more of this:

That’s it for it this week. If you have any recipe questions, hit me up in the comments. – TaMara