Can You Hear Me Now? {Garlic Ginger Chicken with Brussels Sprouts}

Remember the Telephone Game from when we were kids?  The one where a bunch of people sit in a circle, and one person starts by whispering a message into the ear of their neighbor, and that person turns and whispers (what is supposed to be) the same message into their neighbor’s ear, and so on and so forth until the message comes back around to the first person?  And, inevitably, the message has become something completely different from what it started out as?chicken1

Well, this is that game, only in food blog form.  Like a bunch of us are standing in a globe-spanning circle connected by the interwebs, and we’re passing a roast chicken recipe from blog to blog, waiting to see how it changes and evolves as each person puts their own spin on it.

Which is, if you really think about it, what makes food writing/blogging so interesting and, dare I say it, controversial.  There are countless arguments back and forth over what constitutes an “original” recipe, what constitutes plagiarism in recipes, and what can and cannot be copyrighted when it comes to recipes.

Diane Jacob, in a March 17, 2010 post on her Will Write for Food blog, writes that “it’s not … legal to copy a recipe verbatim and give credit, unless you have permission from the publisher, let alone change a few things but not enough and not give credit.”  And yet, time and again, you see people copying recipes out of cookbooks and publishing them on their blogs (with or without credit), blind to the fact that they are breaking any rules, let alone being deviant enough to actually break a law.  Intellectual property is a complicated and mysterious thing.  I’ve even done it myself, before I knew what the rules actually were.chicken3

Even more complicated is what constitutes “adapting” a recipe.  The generally accepted standard is that if you change three things in a recipe, then you can call it yours.  This has proven to be a gray area for some folks, though.  I think it’s always a good idea to credit the original source, just to be on the safe side.  David Lebovitz gives some great tips on recipe attribution in a 2009 post on the Food Blog Alliance site.

All of that being said, it’s rare that I follow a recipe word for word.  One of my favorite things about cooking is that I can be creative – not constrained by exact measurements and specific ingredients.  I see recipes more as guidelines than as hard and fast rules.  We all know that rules are made to be broken anyway, right?chicken2

The originator of this roast chicken telephone message was Sheri Castle, a potential food blogger who received a recipe to adapt from Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (with their permission, I’m assuming).  Sheri created a blog just for this recipe, admitting that she’s “not a blogger,”  just “blog-curious.”  Her plan was to attend the 3rd Annual FoodBlogSouth conference in Birmingham in January to learn more about the craft.  She, like myself and at least 13 other participants, signed up for this recipe telephone game, the results of which will be used in a session at the conference conducted by Cynthia Graubart.  Sheri’s interpretation of the original recipe  can be found here.  I guess in this instance, the goal of the game is to change the message as much as possible, rather than the other way around.  Below is my version of Sheri’s version – 2 degrees of Roast Chicken, so to speak.  chicken5

Roasted Garlic Ginger Chicken with Brussels Sprouts

Oven-roasted chicken is the perfect canvas for being creative in the kitchen.  There are so many roasting techniques, flavor combinations and accompanying vegetables, the possibilities are nearly endless.  For many years I feared the roast chicken, having never found a technique that suited my last-minute lifestyle.  In my effort to get dinner on the table for my family on a busy weeknight, I would sometimes end up with underdone birds.  More often than not, though, I’d pull them from the oven dry and flavorless.

Recently I discovered the cast-iron cooking method, and my life has never been the same.  There’s just something about preheating that cast-iron skillet – getting it good and smoking hot – that really enhances the flavor of the bird and speeds the cooking process along.

This time around, I decided to add some Asian flavors to the mix.  Garlic and ginger combine with scallions, oranges and soy sauce to create a sweet-salty flavor combination.  The marinated chicken nests atop a bed of Brussels sprouts, infusing the tiny cabbages with it’s savory juices.  The chicken comes out with golden crispy skin, and the sprouts are tender and caramelized, bursting with deep umami flavor.

Prep time: 1-24 hours

Cook time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 3-4 lb. roasting chicken
  • 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • zest from 2 oranges
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 scallions, green parts only, chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 Tablespoon neutral cooking oil (again, I used grapeseed)chicken6

Begin by patting the chicken dry with paper towels and removing any extra parts (like the neck, heart and gizzards) that might be in the cavity.  Place the chicken in a zip-top bag.  Combine the 1/4 cup oil, soy sauce, orange juice, zest, ginger, garlic, scallions and black pepper and pour into the bag, evenly coating the chicken.  Zip the bag closed, squeezing out as much air as possible as you go.  Massage the chicken a bit, making an effort to get the marinade all over the bird.  Refrigerate for at least an hour, but up to 24 hours (the longer the better, really).

About 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook the chicken, place a large iron skillet on the lowest rack in your oven and preheat the oven to 425F.  Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator.  Toss the halved Brussels sprouts with 1 Tablespoon of oil.  Once the oven has preheated, and the skillet is hot, remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a heat-proof surface.  Pour the Brussels sprouts into the hot pan and spread them evenly across the bottom.  Remove the chicken from the bag, scraping the excess marinade off as you do.  Place the chicken, breast side up, atop the sprouts and return the pan to the oven.  Roast for 45 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165F.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Serve with accompanying Brussels sprouts on a bed of steamed rice.  Drizzle with any excess pan juices.  Enjoy!

Hello, November {Roasted Pumpkin Seeds}

November.

It’s always been one of my favorite months of the year.  The weather is cooler, the sky is clear and impossibly blue.  It’s a month of celebrations in our house: my youngest’s birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving. Lots of opportunities to consume ridiculous quantities of delicious food.  And cake.  And pie.  November is a good month.

For the last three years, though, November has also brought with it a little bit of worry and uncertainty.  Just a little, but it’s still there.  Every November, for the last three years, we’ve had a follow-up appointment with our oldest’s cardiologist.  He’s a wonderful doctor, and our visits are always pleasant, but there’s always that little bit of fear in the backs of our minds when that appointment reminder comes in the mail.

When P was almost four, he underwent open heart surgery to repair a congenital defect in his heart.  The surgery went beautifully, and he’s had no complications since, which is a blessing.  I won’t get technical here, but there are a couple of areas that still require regular monitoring, just because they could become issues as his body grows and changes.  So, while we’re thrilled with how well he’s done since the surgery, there’s always that tiny nagging worry that they’ll see something on the echo.

Today was this year’s appointment.  The doctor listened and poked and prodded and listened some more.  The sonographer did her job and took some beautifully eerie pictures of my boy’s heart.  And P got to watch Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs and relax.  The cardiologist assured us that everything looked fine, even in those areas of concern.  We breathed a quiet sigh of relief.  Another reason to celebrate this month.

We don’t have to go back for two years, which leaves me with mixed feelings.  In a way, I’m glad that he’s doing so well that our doctor is confident that two years is a safe period of time to wait until our next visit.  But there’s also a part of me that needs that yearly reassurance, as stressful as it might be.  Next November will come and go without that appointment reminder.  I’m sure I’ll still worry, though (I am his mother, after all – that’s what we do).

One of P’s (and my) favorite things in November is roasted pumpkin seeds.  Every year he looks forward to taking the seeds from our Halloween jack-o-lanterns and roasting them the next day.  He takes them in his lunchbox to school, and he eats them for snack when he comes home.  If we’re not careful, he’ll have pumpkin vines growing out of his ears.

This year, he’s also become obsessed with pomegranate seeds, so we find ourselves in the afternoons alternating between a small bowl of each – our fingers tinged pink and slightly salty.  I love that he loves these things.

The pomegranate seeds require nothing more than cutting open a pomegranate and carefully scraping the seeds from the membrane.  The pumpkin seeds, while pretty simple, require a little bit more work than that.  The combination of spices I used this year really made them irresistible, so we’ve pretty much finished off the batch I made a couple of days ago.  I guess I need to buy a couple more pumpkins.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

prep time: 20 minutes

cook time: 30 minutes

yield: 4 cups of roasted pumpkin seeds

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh pumpkin seeds, with most of the pumpkin flesh removed (mine came from two large carving pumpkins and one small pie pumpkin)
  • 1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sucanat
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil
  3. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly to coat seeds
  4. Pour on lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 30 minutes, stirring seeds occasionally to insure even browning
  5. Remove and let cool
  6. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a couple of day.  After that, store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  7. Enjoy (and happy November)!

Where Have You Been All My Life? {Cast Iron Roast Chicken}

Kids, I’ve had a revelation.  An absolute epiphany.

I’ve seen the light.

Today, I discovered the secret to fast, perfectly roasted chicken.

Two and a half  years into this blogging experience, and I’ve finally found a roast chicken recipe I feel confident sharing.  That just seems wrong somehow.

Do you ever feel like you’re doing things all wrong?  Swimming upstream?  Trying to come in through the out door?

That’s the way it’s been with me and roast chicken.  Try as I might over the years, I’ve never been comfortable with cooking a whole chicken in the oven.  I’ve tried a multitude of techniques – high-heat roasting, low-heat roasting, splitting and splaying, with vegetables, without vegetables, with butter and herbs under the skin, stuffed with citrus and herbs.  Sometimes with success, but most often I’d end up either overcooking or undercooking the poor bird (neither of which is desirable).   I really thought I’d tried just about everything.

Well, almost everything.  Yesterday afternoon I decided to do something I should have done a long time ago.  I asked myself “what would Bittman do?”

I had a 3-4 lb. chicken in the fridge that I needed to get prepped and cooked in under an hour, so  I turned to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.  And lo and behold – there it was. A method I hadn’t tried before, and an intriguing one at that.

Maybe you’ve seen this before.  After discovering how easy it was, I did a little online search to see if maybe I’d just been living under a rock.  As it turns out, this method (or a similar one) has been featured here, here and here.  So yes, under a rock I have been.  But no more.

Now I’m enlightened.

And so, my friends, are you.  Grab your cast iron skillets and go forth and roast some chicken.  And rejoice.

Cast Iron Roast Chicken

Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

prep time 10 minutes

cook time: 45 minutes

serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 3-4 lb. chicken
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality paprika*
  • salt and pepper
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 425F**.
  2. Place your cast iron skillet on a low rack  in the oven while it preheats.
  3. Remove your chicken from the packaging and pat it dry with a paper towel (if there’s a packet of parts in the cavity, be sure to remove that, too).
  4. Combine the olive oil and paprika in a small bowl, and rub it all over the chicken – get some inside the cavity as well.
  5. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
  6. Once the oven is good and hot (and the skillet, too), transfer the seasoned chicken to the hot skillet.
  7. Let roast at 425F for 45 minutes, or until the meat registers 150-155F on a meat thermometer (it will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven).
  8. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.
  9. Enjoy!

*You can use pretty much any seasonings you want here.  The paprika is nice, but you could also use garlic and herbs, or lemon and herbs, or go a more Latin route and use cumin and chili powder, or even Asian with soy sauce and ginger.  Get creative.  What’s important here is the technique.  

**Bittman recommends a temperature of 450F, and some of the other recipes I’ve seen call for 475F.  I did mine at 425F, and it was perfectly done after 45 minutes.  Sometimes I think my oven runs hot, though, so there’s that.  If you do it at one of the higher temperatures, check it after 35 minutes, just to be sure it’s not getting to dried out.

Worth Sharing {Roasted Potatoes}

Listen, y’all.  I know it’s been over a month since I last posted.

It’s not like I haven’t been trying.  I have at least three posts in various stages of completion that I just haven’t been able to bring myself to publish.  I’m sorry.  I guess I just haven’t felt like sharing much lately.

Until tonight.  Tonight there were these potatoes.  And I just knew that you’d want to know about them. Because after weeks of kitchen mediocrity and work-related anxiety, these potatoes arrived on the scene and changed the course of events for the better.

It’s amazing how food can do that.

It’s pretty simple, really.  Golden potatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and bacon grease.

Yep – see that mini-mason jar in the top left-hand corner of the photo?  That’s rendered bacon grease, leftover from the BLT’s we had for lunch yesterday.  You know, the French are known for their potatoes cooked in duck fat (a distinction that is well deserved), so I figured here in the American South, we could use our humble equivalent – pig fat.

If, however, you are averse to pork products, you could most certainly use all olive oil.  It’s totally up to you.

If you’re like me, though, and you relish the thought of bacon scented potatoes, then by all means read on.

Roasted Potatoes

prep time: 5 minutes

cook time: 45-60 minutes

yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 medium-sized golden potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste

I start by preheating my oven to 450F, then scrubbing the potatoes and cutting them into 2-inch pieces.  I then combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon bacon grease and 1 teaspoon grated garlic in another bowl, whisking to combine.  This mixture then gets poured all over those potatoes.  Add a teaspoon of salt and lots of freshly grated black pepper.

Pour the potatoes out onto a baking sheet, making sure you scrape every last bit of that delicious oil and bacon grease mixture out of the mixing bowl.  Spread them into a single layer, and place them in your preheated oven.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, checking periodically to make sure they’re not sticking.  If they are, use some tongs to scrape the pan and loosen the potatoes – if they tear a bit, that’s okay – those torn bits get good and crispy and delicious.

See, crispy and delicious.  They’re addictive.  I had to slap my husband’s hand out of the way as he stood at the kitchen counter eating them off the baking sheet (I might have had to practice a little self-restraint, too).  I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough for dinner.

I served them alongside this salad – a combination of spinach, romaine, golden tomatoes, blue cheese and avocado – and some chicken sausage.  Even though it was a simple meal, it was one of the most flavorful we’ve had in a long time.  And I wanted to share it with you.

Enjoy!

These Drumsticks Rock

I have to admit, these drumsticks were not totally my idea.

First, there were these Caveman Pops (aka Roasted Turkey Legs) over at The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  And they sure did look tasty.

Then, there were these Berbere Roasted Chicken Legs over at Gluten Free Girl.  Her description of berbere, with its ginger and garlic and cardamom and chiles, made my mouth water.

And then there were the two packages of chicken drumsticks that I had in my freezer, gently calling my name, asking to be brined and spiced and roasted.

What?  Your chicken doesn’t talk to you from your freezer?

The key to this recipe – the thing that takes it from typical weeknight chicken to something worthy of sharing – is the brine.  It does something to the chicken, elevates it somehow.  The combination of apple cider, sugar, salt and ginger really takes this chicken to the next level, imparting flavor all the way through to the bone and leaving the meat moist and tender.  And then the spice rub, which is one of my own devising, added a nice spicy kick to the whole thing.

The only drawback is that you have to plan ahead a little.  The drumsticks have to sit in the brine for at least 2 hours, and then they take about 30-45 minutes to cook.  So, this is not a last-minute meal, but it is relatively simple.  And I promise it’s worth it

Apple Cider Brined Drumsticks
prep time: 2 hours
cook time: 35 minutes
serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 10 organic drumsticks
  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 finger of fresh ginger (about the length of my thumb), thinly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons dry rub of your choice (see my mix below)
  1. Place drumsticks in a gallon-sized zip-top bag
  2. Prepare the brine
  3. Place cider, sugar, salt, ginger and bay leaf in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until sugar and salt have dissolved
  4. Allow to cool slightly, then pour over chicken in bag and seal, taking care to squeeze out most of the air as you do
  5. Place in the refrigerator and let sit for at least 2 hours
  6. Preheat your oven to 400F
  7. After two hours have elapsed, place drumsticks on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle with dry rub on all sides
  8. If you like, place the brine back in the saucepan and let it come to a boil and  reduce it slightly.  Brush this on the drumsticks before and halfway through roasting
  9. Place the drumsticks in the preheated oven and let bake for 15 minutes
  10. After 15 minutes have elapsed, brush the drumsticks with the reduced brine if desired, turn them over, and bake for another 20 minutes
  11. Remove them from the oven and enjoy!

We served ours with some cheddar mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli for a relatively simple weeknight meal.  I did remove the skin from the drumsticks I gave to the kids because the dry rub made them a tad spicy.  If your kids tolerate heat, I think they’d love these.  My kids left nothing but gnawed leg bones on their plates, so the lack of skin certainly didn’t seem to bother them.

Dry Rub Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon red chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard
  1. Place all ingredients in a spice grinder and grind.
  2. Use as desired.