Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012 Kitchen Bucket List Challenge: Roast Chicken

As part of my 2012 Kitchen Bucket List Challenge, I decided to take on roasting a chicken.

I was originally going to use Bethenny Frankel’s Boyfriend Chicken recipe, but then I decided it just had too many ingredients. I wanted a recipe that used salt, pepper and chicken. I found this one  by Thomas Keller. Thomas Keller is the chef behind two of the best restaurants in the United States.

This recipe is the exact opposite of almost every other roast chicken recipe I saw while perusing the internet. Most recipes suggest roasting the chicken at 350 degrees for an hour a half or two hours. Keller’s recipe cranks up the heat to 450 degrees for an hour. This leads to smoke and grease splatters inside the oven. A small price to pay for this awesome chicken.

Before I handled the chicken,I poured some salt and pepper into a bowl so I wouldn’t contaminate my salt and pepper shakers. The first steps are to rinse the bird, remove the sack of yuck from the inside cavity and then pay dry. I coated the bird inside and out with salt and pepper. Then the recipe said to truss the bird. Yep, had to look that one up on the internet. Basically it means tying it together so it cooks more evenly. Here’s a video that I found very helpful:

I tied it up and let it rest while I waited for the oven to pre-heat. This gave the salt sometime to work its magic. Into the 450 degree oven it went.
The spattering sounds started with the first 10 minutes.
Within the first 20 minutes,  wisps of smoke were escaping from the oven.
At 22 minutes, I turned on all the fans in the kitchen and started biting my finger nails.
At 40 minutes, the bird was turning a lovely golden brown.
At 55 minutes, I put a meat thermometer into the breast. It came out 170 degrees so I took it out of the oven.
 I used a basting brush to take the fat from the bottom of the pan and brush over the chicken. Then moved the chicken from the pan to a cutting board. It looked like this:

I did a little dance. The recipe recommended letting it rest for 15 minutes. Do not tent it with foil. If you want crispy skin – you cannot tent. The end result was a delicious, juicy roast chikcken.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2012 Kitchen Bucket List Challenge: What is Quinoa?

As part of the 2012 Summer Kitchen Bucket List Challenge , I decided to figure out quinoa.   Quinoa is usually considered a “whole grain”, but it is actually a seed and therefore, gluten free. The method to make it is very similar to making rice.

Quinoa's rise in popularity may be due to NASA. Some reports say NASA was looking for a nutrient rich "grain" to send to space and stumbled on quinoa - a staple in the Andes mountains. 

One news article  highlighted how the popularity of quinoa has led to a price increase in many of the areas that previously relied on it as a staple. For instance, in Bolivia, noodles have replaced quinoa in many people's diets. This has a big nutrional impact. At the same time, many people are returning to the country side to farm quinoa because now it is a sustainable profession.

For my culinary experiment with quinoa, I used Trader Joe’s Organic Tricolor Quinoa.

The directions are pretty simple. Rinse the quinoa in cold water. Bring the right ratio of water  and quinoa to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Quinoa does not have a strong flavor. A lot of recipes recommend using a flavorful liquid like a vegetable or chicken broth to cook it. I decided to just use water and then try to spice it up once it was cooked. I found this great recipe for Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowls.
You basically make black beans with onion, garlic, chili powder and a  little cayenne pepper.  Prepare the quinoa according to the instructions, then add some cilantro and lime. The quinoa becomes the base of your bowl and then you add lettuce and the beans on top. 

  Instead of lettuce, I layered super greens (spinach, arugula, Swiss chard) in the layer between the beans and the quinoa. The heat from both wilted the greens just a little.  I loved how filling the dish was. The flavors reminded me of Mexico. I also liked how you could personalize depending on what people in your group like by adding salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc.

Overall, my experience with quinoa was a success. It's very easy to make and I will be replacing rice with it every now and then.