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Hatch Pepper Salsa Verde with Olive Oil Baked Tortilla Chips

I’ve joined the cult of the Hatch chili peppers. And what a cult it is – people love these things. There’s even a Hatch Chile Festival held annually to celebrate the bright little peppers. The townsfolk gather together and dance under the moonlight, praying to the ancient gods of harvest. Or at least, I assume that’s what happens.

One reason Hatch peppers are so coveted is the intolerably short season during which they are available. Typically, it’s hardly longer than a month. They blow out of New Mexico like a sudden wind in August, only to vanish from the markets by early September, gone as quickly as they came.

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So imagine my delight when I found them at the store just the other day, here in mid September. These warm years are nice for the extended growing seasons. I just had to grab some while I still could, so I picked up some tomatillos and cilantro, too. If you can make a killer salsa verde with serrano chiles, surely you can make one with Hatch peppers? It turns out you can. And it’s lovely.

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If you could take a dietary supplement that staves off heart disease, diabetes, and depression, you’d take it, wouldn’t you? Well, there’s growing evidence that chile peppers can do all of that and more. Researchers are becoming more and more interested in the benefits of capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their spice. Eating capsaicin causes your body to produce endorphins (the “feel good” hormone), so basically, peppers make you happy. And there’s early research that capsaicin lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and may even regulate blood sugar. Powerful stuff.

Speaking of healthy vegetables, the tomatillo is a pretty dang good for you too. I just love tomatillos. They’re like the tomato’s exotic cousin, sweet and tangy. And though they lack the lycopene that gives the tomato its superfood status, they have some unique antioxidants of their own. They’re also low in calories, high in fiber, and contain nutrients that are great for your eyes and skin.

What I’m really trying to say is, there’s no reason to hold back when eating this salsa. The more the merrier, if you will.

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And let’s talk about these chips! If I had realized how easy it was to make tortilla chips, I wouldn’t have been buying the preposterously fattening bagged kind all these years. It’s so simple, and so much healthier. They aren’t fat free (and seriously, they shouldn’t be), but they have a reasonable amount of fat. And it’s fat in its finest form – extra virgin olive oil, the stuff of myths and Mediterranean diets.

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Don’t you just love when food is good and good for you?

xoxo

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Ingredients

  • 10 corn tortillas, preferably stale
  • 5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2-3 Hatch chile peppers (depending on spice preference)
  • 1 pound tomatillos
  • 1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • crumbled cotija cheese for serving
  • juice of 1 small lime, optional

Method

To make Salsa:

  1. Preheat oven broiler on High.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  3. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse under warm water, rubbing to remove stickiness.
  4. Place tomatillos, peppers, onion, and garlic on prepared pan. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix vegetables to coat. Spread evenly over pan.
  5. Place pan in preheated oven, 2-4 inches from heat.
  6. Broil for 10 minutes, or until just beginning to blacken, flipping vegetables halfway through.
  7. Using a spatula or large spoon, transfer onions, tomatillos, and garlic to a food processor or blender to cool.
  8. Return Hatch peppers to the broiler until heavily blackened and blistered on both sides.
  9. Remove peppers to a bowl and top with a plate or lid, trapping the steam in. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, remove and discard the peel from the two roasted garlic cloves.
  11. After peppers are done steaming, remove the stems and most of the seeds (I recommend using gloves for this step, to prevent getting capsaicin on your skin).
  12. Add Hatch peppers and cilantro to the food processor with the other vegetables and puree until large chunks are broken up.
  13. Add salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste. Pulse to mix.
  14. To serve, transfer salsa to a bowl and top with crumbled cheese.

To make Chips:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
  3. Using a pastry brush or basting brush, coat both sides of each tortilla with olive oil.
  4. Lightly sprinkle salt on each tortilla.
  5. Stack tortillas. Cut the stack in half, then cut each half in thirds (to make six chips per tortilla).
  6. Spread tortilla pieces on prepared baking sheets and bake for roughly 20 minutes, or until crispy.

Notes

Serves 4

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Perfect Cinnamon Nut Granola

What makes the perfect granola? Is it that toasted nut flavor, cozy and satisfying? Is it the audible crunch when you chew a spoonful? Or maybe the warming spice of cinnamon and vanilla?

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Or, could it be the many ways that it benefits your body? It’s a veritable laundry list. Let’s take a look:

  • Naturally sugar free
  • High in protein and fiber.
  • 100% whole grain.
  • Gluten Free.
  • Vegan.
  • High in omega 3 fatty acids.

Shall I continue, or do you get the picture?

Oh, and one more thing. It’s delicious.

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I love granola. It’s tasty, comforting, and filling. And granola can be pretty healthy, as far as whole grains and fiber are concerned. But most granola has a couple of skeletons in the closet – namely, bad oils and copious amounts of sugar.

I’ve often considered making my own granola. I just didn’t know if it could be done without all of that sugar pulling the grains together. I needed something sticky to act as a binding agent, but was there a healthy option?

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Maybe, just maybe, I thought, a fruit puree would work. And there’s no stickier, tackier fruit I could imagine than a good old banana. So I threw a couple in my food processor (overripe, of course).

Add to that fruity yellow puree some stevia for sweetness, vanilla for warmth and aroma, and cinnamon for heady spice and you’ve got yourself the flavorful beginnings of a perfect granola.

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Warm that gorgeous concoction on the stove for a bit and then fold it in to a hearty mixture of oats, flax, nuts, and seeds. Then into the oven it goes until it’s all toasty and brown, and you’re burning your fingers and tongue because it smells too good to let it cool properly before tasting … Yeah. I did that.

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You’ll understand when you’re pulling your own batch out of the oven, all cute in your apron and oven mits. At least that’s how I picture people who make granola.

Now excuse me, I have to go make some more. My 2 1/2 year old just ate the last bowl full.

xoxo

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 3 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 3 small bananas
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 heaping tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp stevia powder

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  3. In a large bowl, combine oats, oat bran, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, flax seeds and meal, and sesame seeds.
  4. Puree bananas in a food processor or blender.
  5. Combine banana puree with the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat.
  6. Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients and stir well to combine.
  7. Spread the mixture out over the prepared baking sheets.
  8. Bake until dried, crispy and browned, about 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  9. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Notes

Servings: 16

Serving size: 1/2 cup

Calories per serving: 260

Pavlova with Macerated Strawberries and Basil

I love identifying trends in food as they come and go. If you love food like I do, you can’t help but recognize them. Every time you turn on the Food Network, browse recipes on social media, or go out to a trendy restaurant, you see those same key players at every turn. I happen to love it – when it comes to cooking and eating, I willingly jump on whatever bandwagon is passing by. It feeds my need to explore new flavors, methods, and cuisines.

I’ve been noticing a growing number of pavlova recipes on Pinterest. They’re visually stunning, so they catch my eye every time. These light nests of meringue topped with pillowy whipped cream and vibrant fruit can’t help but look gorgeous. My curiosity was peaked.

So when I opened my most recent Bon Appetite magazine and saw yet another lovely photo spread of the airy dessert, I finally gave in. I would attempt the illusive meringue, a task I had always categorized as “difficult”. It wasn’t …. not really. But sometimes you just have to roll your sleeves up and do something in order to realize that you’re capable.

pavlova

If you’re unsure about making a meringue as I was, pull up a video and watch somebody do it. I watched the Barefoot Contessa (and used her recipe for that part of the dessert). It’s nice to have a visual so you know what to expect.

So, after beating those egg whites half to death, folding in my dry ingredients, and baking the frothy disks for what seemed like forever, I ended up with two sweet little meringues that looked just right. Now for the other parts of the pavlova.

without topping

At first I thought it strange to put white whipped cream on a white meringue. The nearly identical elements blend together into a single pillow of white. I finally realized that that’s the point – the whipped cream is only playing a supporting role, adding a beautiful creamy texture to the crisp meringue and syrupy strawberries. You don’t even know it’s there … until you take that first heavenly bite.

Most pavlova recipes will tell you to use sweetened whipped cream. I’m so glad I went with my gut and left out the sugar. The simplicity of unsweetened whipped cream was so necessary with the rest of the dish. It added a creamy decadence that sugary cool whip would not have attained.

with topping

Now for the topping. I happened to have a container of perfectly ripe strawberries on hand. I just love berry season. They truly are the crown jewels of the fruit world. And, I thought, the ruby fruits contrasting with the white cake might just be perfection. (it was).

“Macerated berries” may sound technical or fancy, but it really just means you’re marinating the fruit in something (in this case, sugar and the berries’ own juices) to create a sauce. First, you dice up the berries. Then you stir in the sugar and water and let it sit. The strawberry juices are drawn out as the fruit breaks down, and you end up with a really vibrant and delicious syrupy compote.

a slice

Another little trend that I’ve been eying is the combination of basil and strawberries. I’ve seen the pairing in everything from lemonade to pie. So I thought to myself, with all this sugary sweetness of meringue and ripe berries, why not throw in something green to balance it out a bit? Oh, am I glad I did. That lovely fresh basil flavor was wonderful with the berries, and it added a perfect surprise pop of flavor to my sweet little cake.

all gone

Ingredients

  • 3 extra large egg whites at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp white granulated sugar, divided
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

Method

To make Meringues:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees F.
  2. Line a baking pan with parchment paper
  3. Combine egg whites and salt in a bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat with an electric mixer on high speed until firm (about 1 minute).
  4. While mixer runs on high, gradually add in 3/4 cup of sugar until stiff, shiny peaks form (about 2 minutes).
  5. Sift in cornstarch and add vinegar and vanilla. Fold in with a rubber spatula.
  6. Spoon meringue onto the lined baking sheet in two piles, spreading each out with the spatula into roughly equal discs. They don’t need to be perfect!
  7. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and allow meringue to cool inside oven for an additional hour. They’ll have a crisp crust with a soft center.
  8. To assemble, spread half of the whipped cream on one meringue. Layer the second meringue on top and frost with the remaining whipped cream. Spoon macerated strawberries over the top.

To make Whipped Cream:

  1. Combine cream and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a large bowl. Using a whip attachment, beat with an electric mixer on medium just until firm peaks form.

To make Macerated Strawberries:

  1. Dice strawberries and add to a bowl with 3 Tbsp of sugar. Stir until well combined. Allow to rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
  2. Shortly before serving, finely chop basil. Stir in to macerated strawberries.

Notes

Servings: 4

Calories per serving: 325

Wheat Pancakes with Lightly Sweetened Blackberry Coulis

I love summer for so many reasons. I love the farmer’s markets that pop up in every town. I love the way springtime gardening finally pays off, my raised beds bursting at the seams with life. And I LOVE the way the natural world offers up its own fruits, wild and delicious and organic in every sense. And here in the Northwest, I don’t think anything is easier to find wild than blackberries.

It’s really the one time of year these overzealous, thorny weeds become something beautiful and desired. The warm weather ripens the deep-purple berries quickly. If you eat them right off of the bush, they burst in your mouth with the warmth of the summer sun.

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I let my two-year-old daughter pick them with me this year. She had her own little bucket to collect the berries in, which I had to keep encouraging her to use. Over the entire hour we were picking, I saw a total of three berries go in her bucket. But then she ate those too . . .

I’m okay with that. I love to see the same enthusiasm in her that I have for foraging. She looked at me with her purple berry-stained mouth and just kept saying, “I pick berries, momma! I pick berries!”

pancake

So I woke up the next morning and looked at that big juicy bowl of blackberries, and I thought, “breakfast!” And what better way to highlight the flawless flavor of the berries than to pair them with some hearty wheat pancakes? I have a hard time justifying a stack of refined, white carbs as a morning meal, but make it whole grain and I’m on board.

Not only are we eating whole grains here, but blackberries are a superfood in their own right. According to Oregon State University, they contain more cancer-fighting antioxidants than the amazing blueberry, and even have anti-viral properties. And they’re free!

pancakes

I’ve always thought it was a shame to take something as healthy and fresh as berries and overload them with sugar. There comes a point when the sugar just takes over the flavor. In this recipe, I added just a touch of sugar to enhance the natural sweetness of the berries. What I ended up with tasted like pure essence of blackberry, and that’s a really, really good thing.

more berres

I let the coulis get really nice and reduced, and then it cooled off and thickened even more while I made the pancakes. This gave me a thick and luxurious jam-like sauce, but with a flavor worlds beyond jam. If you want the sauce to run more like pancake syrup, don’t let it reduce as long on the stove and serve it warm.

berries

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • butter for frying (about 1 tbsp.)
  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 1 tbsp sugar

Method

To make Wheat Pancakes:

  1. Whisk eggs in a large bowl until well combined. Add milk, honey, and oil and stir to combine.
  2. Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and mix well.
  3. Add dry ingredients all at once to the large bowl of wet ingredients. Stir until combined.
  4. Add a small pat of butter (about 1/2 tsp) to a heated pan over medium-low.
  5. Once butter melts, pour 1/4 cup pancake batter directly on the puddle of butter.
  6. Fry until the pancake holds its shape when a spatula is slid underneath (2-3 minutes). Flip.
  7. Fry until the second side is golden brown, then remove to a plate.
  8. Repeat from step 4 with the remaining batter.

To make Blackberry Coulis:

  1. Add berries and 2 tbsp water to a small saucepan.
  2. Simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently and mashing berries with a spoon.
  3. Add sugar and continue simmering 5-10 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached.
  4. Strain berries through a fine-mesh sieve.
  5. Serve warm over pancakes, or cool for a jam-like consistency.

Notes

Yield: 8-10 pancakes with sauce

Servings: 4

Calories per serving: 405

Salmon Bake with Citrus Relish

Citrus Salmon

They say the Mediterranean diet will make you live forever. Well, perhaps not forever, but at least until 90 (which is a synonym for forever, if I’m not mistaken). Whenever I hear the word Mediterranean, I have this mental image of sun-kissed Sicilians, their skin browned and bare. They have sea salt in their hair and olive oil on their lips. They are happy because they live in the sun and by the sea.

Of course, we can’t all live in Sicily. We can’t all have sun and ocean waves. But we can eat the foods of the sea, and the fruits of sunny orchards. This recipe is a triple threat of Mediterranean basics – fish, citrus fruit, and olive oil. It’s both simple and vibrant with color and flavor. It begins with the fresh juices of those tangy jewel-toned citrus fruits. This is as labor-intensive as this recipe gets – it’s all down hill from here. And personally I kind of enjoy squeezing oranges, lemons and limes. It’s somewhat satisfying to mush those plump little fruits to a pulp.

Citrus Relish 2

After you’ve squeezed the fresh tangy life out of your citrus fruit, you throw it on a the stove for a bit. It reduces down to something even more beautiful – a thick nectar, an elixir of orange, lemon and lime. In to this reduction you’ll throw the mild oniony flavors of crisp shallots and fresh chives. Then a good dose of olive oil ties it all together into a vinaigrette fit for the gods.

Citrus Relish 4

Then all that’s left is the fish. It’s not difficult to prepare salmon. I like to keep things simple. Anybody whose ever eaten a good piece of salmon sashimi will attest to this – the salmon is already delicious in its raw, natural state. Your only job is to enhance the flavor already there. Which is why it’s enough to add a brush of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and then in to the oven it goes. I try to catch my salmon at that sweet spot where the center has only just cooked through. Right on the cusp of underdone, the fish is sweet and tender and lovely. Of course this requires attention and a bit of luck.

Citrus Salmon 2

Then you just spoon that gorgeous relish right over the plump pink salmon, and you’re done! It’s as easy as that. There’s so much flavor packed in to the rich, savory fish, the crisp shallots, the pleasantly sour citrus juices … your eyes just might fly open when you take your first bite.

Citrus Salmon 3

Ingredients

  • 2 lb salmon fillet
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 small bunch fresh chives, minced
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

Method

To make Citrus Relish:

  1. Combine orange juice, lemon juice, and lime juice in a small saucepan
  2. Simmer over moderate heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes
  3. Transfer citrus reduction to a bowl and allow to cool somewhat
  4. Whisk olive oil into cooled reduction until well combined
  5. Add shallots and chives and stir to combine
  6. Whisk in salt and pepper to taste

To make Baked Salmon:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Line or grease a large roasting pan
  3. Rinse salmon and pat dry with a paper towel
  4. Place salmon, skin side down, on prepared pan
  5. Salt and pepper fillet to taste
  6. Bake salmon until just cooked through, about 10-20 minutes
  7. To serve, plate individual portions of salmon and spoon Citrus Relish on top

Notes

Serves 4

Citrus relish can be made up to one day in advance

Adapted from this recipe by Cathal Armstrong in Food & Wine magazine.

Greyhound Cocktail with Thyme-Scented Salt

I’m not much of a fruity drink kind of girl. I don’t need an umbrella, or a cherry on top. Most of my favorite cocktails involve salt, in fact … Dirty Martinis. Bloody Marys. Margaritas with a salted rim. But the simple freshness of a greyhound – that perfect balance of grapefruit juice and gin – earned a spot near the top of my list the moment I first tasted it. Massive extra points were earned for fresh squeezed grapefruit, of course. I’ll never forget the greyhound I drank at a little Seattle bar on Capitol Hill called Sun Liquor, on a date with my husband. The bartender proceeded to squeeze the huge pink fruit right at the bar where we sat, the juicer being a huge antiquated metal thing that conjured up images of an old farmhouse kitchen. It was lovely.
Salty Dog
I remember the moment I learned that there was such a thing as salting the rim of a greyhound. A salty dog, they said. Who “they” were I can’t recall, but I know my face lit up with the possibility. And it was everything I imagined and more. The bittersweet tang of the pink citrus. The gin, that fresh evergreen elixir. All pulled together with the crusty salt, just a pinch with each sip. Yes! Please!

Salty Dog 4

But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I had to take it that step further. I blame my herb garden, lush in this unprecedented Seattle summer heat, for making a junky out of me. I’m putting herbs in everything.
And so I grabbed my chefs knife and a handful of thyme stalks and just started chopping the heck out of those pungent little leaves. Adding them to the rimming salt threw in a pinch of color to my drink. And conveniently, the salt pulls moisture out of the herb, increasing the shelf life.
Salty Dog 2
The added flavor of the thyme on a salted rim was surprisingly and pleasantly subtle. It gave it just an herbaceous hint that paired well with the flavors of the cocktail. I suspect the addition might be even more delicious in a vodka greyhound, as the thyme would have no other herbal flavors to contend with.
Salty Dog 3

Ingredients

  • 1 (1.5 fluid ounce) jigger gin
  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp finely minced fresh thyme leaves

Method

  1. In a small bowl, whisk salt and thyme until well combined.
  2. Quarter the grapefruit. Using a citrus juicer, extract 4 fluid ounces of juice. Set aside.
  3. Use a slice of grapefruit to wet the rim of your glass. Dip the rim in the salt mixture to coat.
  4. Carefully fill the glass halfway with ice.
  5. Add the gin and grapefruit juice. Stir well with a cocktail spoon.
  6. Drink up!

Notes

Calories per serving: 163
Servings: 1

Chardonnay Braised Chicken and Mushrooms with Mustard

cooked 1st

There’s something so classic and comforting about the combination of wine, onions, and mushrooms. Add the richness of chicken thighs and some tangy whole-grain mustard, and you have a deliciously satisfying meal that warms the tummy and soul. I can see this meal on a French table with wine and a green salad, a crusty baguette waiting to sop up the rich, brown sauce. Of course, my family made do without the bread for this meal; a pillowy spoonful of mashed cauliflower was the perfect accompaniment for all that sauce, and added an extra dose of veggie love.

It all starts with those juicy little chicken thighs. It wasn’t long ago that I thought boneless, skinless chicken breasts were the only meat to eat. Every “healthy” recipe pushes them. They’re so over-used, in fact, you get tired of typing out “boneless, skinless chicken breast” and start abbreviating to “BSCB”. A sure sign of too much familiarity. And yet I continued to use them to the exclusion of the rest of the bird, all in the name of good health.

But every time I would serve a whole chicken, I would struggle with what to do with all that dark meat. One thing you have to understand about me – I hate to throw away food. So I started researching dark meat, and was shocked by what I found. Not only is dark meat only slightly higher in calories than white meat, it’s also significantly richer in an array of different nutrients. And we must remind ourselves that a little fat isn’t a bad thing – many vitamins are fat-soluble only, which means you have to eat them with some fat or your body won’t reap the benefits. What’s more, the extra fat in the dark meat will fill you up faster and keep your body satisfied longer, so you eat less overall. And of course, it brings more flavor to the dish than white meat ever will.

raw

Admittedly, you’ll probably do yourself a favor by removing the skin some of the time. But even chicken skin isn’t as bad as it’s rumored to be. While there is some saturated fat, the majority is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid (the kind found in olive oil that’s considered heart-healthy). So it’s okay to leave it on, too. You can always serve light side dishes to balance the richness of your meal. Now you see why I skipped the bread!

So yeah … you can eat bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. Is your mind blown yet? I know mine is. Just look at that crispy browned skin, simmering in a gravy of caramelized onions, earthy mushrooms and oaky white wine. Put your tongue back in your mouth and get cooking! This recipe is pretty straight-forward, so just dive in.

good

Ingredients

  • 6-8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
  • 6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 sprigs of thyme, finely chopped and woody stems discarded
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup Chardonnay
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup flour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Generously salt and pepper the chicken thighs, then dredge in the flour, shaking off excess.
  3. Heat the oil in a large oven-safe pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs to the pan, working in batches to avoid crowding. Sear on each side until browned. Set the chicken to rest on a plate.
  4. Add the onion and mushrooms to the same pot and saute until onions begin to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the wine, chicken stock, and mustard to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce has reduced somewhat.
  6. Return the chicken to the pan, cover, and bake in the oven for 50 minutes.
  7. Remove chicken and cover loosely with foil. Return pot to the stove and simmer uncovered, over medium heat, until sauce has reduced and thickened to desired consistency.
  8. Plate the chicken. Spoon the sauce, onions, and mushrooms over the top. Enjoy!

Notes:

Serves 6

Adapted from this recipe at The Candid Appetite.

The Art of Chicken Stock

good broth (3)

For my first food post, I thought I’d start where so many recipes begin – with a rich, wholesome chicken stock. When I realized how easy it was to make my own stock, and when I tasted my first soup made from such a stock, I was fully invested. Since then it has been a journey through aromatics, fresh green things and pungent spices.

One beautiful thing about stock making is that each batch turns out a little differently. I don’t use a strict recipe (three carrots, one yellow onion, blah blah blah). Instead, I squirrel away vegetable scraps from my many culinary ventures in a freezer bag creatively marked “stock vegetables”. Because here’s the thing that gets me really excited: we throw away handfuls of untapped nutritional potential when we chop our veggies each day. Onion skins are rich in antioxidants that prevent heart disease. Celery leaves have five times more calcium and magnesium than the stalks. More often than not it’s the “bad” part of the produce that carries the most vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. That used to break my little health-nut heart.

No longer. Stock is the answer! They say not to boil the heck out of your veggies, because all of the good stuff leaches out into the water…. where it stays, fully intact and waiting to be sipped. The chicken bones have their often-wasted offerings as well. I always add a good “glug” of apple cider vinegar to my stock before cooking, because the acid helps coax the calcium and phosphorous out of those bones. You won’t taste the vinegar, and your own bones will thank you.

Like I said, there’s no strict recipe. But here’s a guideline to get you started on your own artisanship.

I start with a slow cooker. Mine is a cute little 3 quart, and it’s the perfect size for the bones of one whole chicken. If you’re working with a significantly larger crockpot, you might consider saving up two birds (you can freeze these as well). I cut all of the meat I can get off of my chicken, then I throw everything in the crockpot. EVERYTHING. Don’t waste your time pulling off the skin or the fat. It will boil up the the top and when it cools, the more fat you have the easier it is to skim off. Also be sure to throw in those drippings that turn in to a gelatinous blob in the bottom of your pan after refrigeration. That chicken jello action is chock full of gelatin and collagen.

(I tried to take a photo of this step, but you just can’t make a chicken carcass pretty).

Now toss in any spices you want to use. I always add a small handful of peppercorns, because I love the flavor of pepper. I also put in a couple of bay leaves, and a dash of salt. Don’t go too heavy on the salt – you can always add more later, and your seasoned chicken skin is salty already. I haven’t had great luck with fresh herbs – I think many of them are a little strong in the finished product. I’ve heard parsley lends a great flavor, however.

spices closer

Now, fill the rest of the pot with vegetables. Get those scraps out of the freezer, then supplement as needed with fresh veggies. I find that a good oniony broth really floats my boat (so rich and earthy … it gets me thinking of French Onion Soup), but having a good balance of carrots, celery and onions is a good place to start. Don’t forget the garlic!

 

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goood onion

You can branch out to other vegetables as well, but there are a few to avoid – broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in particular are said to lend strong, unpleasant flavors.

crock

Once your crockpot is brimming with ingredients, fill it with water and a dash of vinegar, and turn the cooker on low. Now you wait – for up to 24 hours! Let it go overnight. When it’s done, the vegetables should be mushy and the bones brittle. All that good stuff will now be in the water. Refrigerate until the fat solidifies on the top, and skim off with a big spoon. What’s left is that delectable liquid gold we call stock. Yum!

good broth (2)

Homemade Chicken Stock

Ingredients:

  • Scraps from one whole roasted chicken
  • 3 unpeeled carrots plus more to taste
  • 3 celery stalks (leaves on) plus more to taste
  • 1 unpeeled onion plus more to taste
  • whole peppercorns (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 5-10 cloves of garlic
  • 2-4 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup vinegar

Place chicken (with pan juices), peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves, and a dash of salt in a 3 quart crockpot.

Wash and roughly chop the carrots, celery, and onion, then add to the pan. The vegetables should reach the top of the crockpot.

Add vinegar, then fill to the brim with water.

Set crockpot to low heat and allow to simmer 10-24 hours.

To strain, carefully pour the entire contents of the pot into a fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl.

Refrigerate until the stock is cooled and the fat has solidified on top (about 4-6 hours).

Skim the fat from the surface with a large spoon and discard.

The Beginning

It was the moment I absent-mindedly shoved a binky in my husband’s mouth that I knew motherhood had consumed me. How could I be so distracted, so very automated, that I didn’t notice whose face I was trying to pacify?

I laughed at myself. It was, after all, very funny. But even as I laughed, I knew I needed to find my way back. Back to myself, and the present. So here I sit, a stolen half hour when the girls are asleep and my husband watches golf on the couch. This blog is my way to rekindle that internal monologue that has been so stunted, so overridden by nap schedules, to-do lists, and toddler power struggles. An endeavor for me.

So here I will indulge my passion for cooking (I rarely make the same dish twice), photography, and the written word (my old friend and best method of expression). Who knows if my thoughts will be read. Does it matter? They are my own true thoughts, and that’s enough for me.

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