cafela: (nutmeg)
2014-04-22 11:29 am
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Fancy Mac & Cheese

I love mac & cheese, and this recipe has become a favorite with my dad's side of the family. You can use any shape of pasta you want--I prefer gemelli or mini bowtie instead of the traditional macaroni, but that's fine, too.

And yes, nutmeg sounds like a weird ingredient (my mom honestly sounded scared when I made it at her house and asked where she kept the nutmeg), but it's essential in this dish. You only need a dash or two (I wouldn't use more than 1/2 tsp), and it makes a huge difference. Also, feel free to substitute other cheeses, though you will want to keep at least one milder cheese like fontina or mozzerella in the dish.

1 lb of pasta
4 oz fontina (or similar mild) cheese, shredded
4 oz gruyere or parmesan, shredded (not the cheap parmesan that comes pre-grated in a big plastic shaker, the real stuff)
8 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
2 tb butter
2 tb flour
1 1/2 milk (or cream if you want)
dash of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
4-6 pieces bacon (you can omit this if you're making it for vegetarians, but it does take the flavor up a notch)
panko breadcrumbs

Cook bacon, let cool, and chop into small pieces. Reserve bacon fat. Make the pasta. While it boils, make a basic bechamel sauce/roux on the stove in a large skillet(melt the butter, whisk in the flour and let brown, heat the milk, whisk in milk slowly). Add the nutmeg, and some salt and pepper, then stir in the cheese until melted. Remove from heat.

Pour your pasta into your casserole/baking dish. Drizzle with reserved bacon fat. Mix in your cheesy bechamel sauce and bacon pieces. Once mixed, top with breadcrumbs. Cook in oven at 350 for about 20 minutes (until the breadcrumbs brown and the mac & cheese is bubbly.
cafela: (nutmeg)
2014-02-28 11:32 pm
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Banana Bread Muffins

I am not terribly breakfast-inclined. At least, not when it comes to making my own. Most weekends, I scrounge up some leftovers to reheat rather than eat cereal or poptarts. It's not that I don't like breakfast foods--I love breakfast foods! But I'm not a morning person, and if I take the time to cook breakfast, it's automatically going to end up as brunch, or possibly lunch. I never cook breakfast on weekdays because I'm always scared I'm going to forget to turn off the stove or the oven. But breakfast is an important meal, and I try not to skip it. Most of the time, that means I take an apple to work, or maybe a fruit cup, because they're easy to pop into my purse and I can eat them at my desk with little fuss. I tried the pop-tart route when I was a teacher, but since I quit teaching, eating pop-tarts just reminds me of how dreadful my weekday mornings were back then, so they're not an option.

However, sometimes I get sick of apples and fruit cups. Fortunately, we always seem to have bananas that sit on the counter, not getting eaten. Yes, they're still fruit--but they're fruit that can be turned into delicious muffins. I arrived at this recipe through some trial and error--the original recipe called for coconut flour, which I don't keep and which is basically the alternative baking flours opposite of almond flour. The great thing about it is how good for you it is--almond flour is just very finely ground almonds, so you get lots of fiber and healthy oils and cut down on carbs. Also, there's no added sugar, but it doesn't taste as though it's missing. They're good for breakfast, a snack, or a simple dessert.

I will say, these have a slightly weird texture, and they're one of the few foods that are much better eaten after waiting for them to cool--when they're hot out of the oven, they're not quite set up, no matter how long you've left them in the oven. It's like they need to sit and dry out a bit. The great thing about this quality is that they stay fresh and really get better with each day; they last up to a week if you keep them covered.

Banana Bread Muffins
3-4 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup almond flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt

Mash or whip bananas in your mixer until nearly liquefied. Add the other ingredients in the order given, beating slightly after each addition. Pour into well-greased muffin tin. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes (check at 30 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean. The muffins will look very dark brown, but that's okay, they're not burned, it's just a super dark muffin. Makes about 18 regular muffins.

*Note for those with gluten allergies: You can make this without the all-purpose flour, using just almond flour, but you should omit the vegetable oil and add another egg if you do.
cafela: (Default)
2013-11-22 10:59 pm
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Southern Cornbread Dressing

It's nearly Thanksgiving, and it's later than normal this year. I've managed to get a lot of Christmas shopping done already, and I already have Christmas cards ready to go out, so it seems wrong to not make Thanksgiving food until next week. So I've gone ahead and made my family's cornbread dressing. There are a lot of great variations on dressing/stuffing, but this is my favorite.

Dressing is actually really easy to put together--it's just the prep that takes work, especially if you don't like crunching on pieces of onion or celery. To avoid that, I always chop the onions and celery into very tiny little pieces--basically, I mince it, so that once it's cooked down, it essentially melts into all the other ingredients. Also, I hate celery in everything--except this dish. Including celery does make a big difference in the flavor, so if you don't like it, don't leave it out if you can help it, because I promise, it won't taste like celery. When celery cooks down the way it does in this recipe, it tastes nothing like celery normally does.

Also, while a lot of cornbread dressing recipes include just cornbread, I've always found that it has a better overall texture if you use a combination of bread and cornbread, so that's what I use. If you're hell bent on just having cornbread, make 2 recipes' worth of cornbread and omit the sandwich bread.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Southern Cornbread Dressing
1 recipe's worth of Buttermilk Cornbread (or any cornbread that has no sugar in the recipe)
4 tbsp butter
1 cup finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 large chicken breast (you can increase the amount of chicken if you want, or use leftover turkey)
salt & pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chicken broth
9 slices white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
1 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
3/4 tsp black pepper
4 cups chicken broth
3 eggs, lightly beaten

First, make your cornbread.

While your cornbread cooks, chop your onion and celery. Melt 4 tbsp butter over medium high heat in a pot/skillet large enough to hold all the celery and onion. Add the celery and onion, cover and let cook (stir occasionally).

Take a small pan and melt 1 tbsp butter in it. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper, then add it to the small pan. Add 2 tbsp chicken broth, cover and let cook over medium high heat until cooked through.

By this point, the cornbread should be done, so when it is, remove from oven and from the skillet so it can cool.

Get a large bowl (large enough to hold all the ingredients combined) and tear up the sandwich bread. Add the torn up pieces to it. Once the cornbread is cooled enough to handle, crumble it into pieces (2 inches or so) and add it to the bowl as well. When the chicken has cooked through, remove it from the pan and chop or shred it into small pieces. Add the chicken to the bowl.

Sprinkle the sage and the pepper into the bowl. Mix everything that's in the bowl at this point. Add the 4 cups chicken broth, then add the beaten eggs. Mix everything in the bowl again. Add the celery/onion mixture, and mix once more. The mixture should be somewhat soggy--if it is still dry, add another 1/2 cup of chicken broth. If it goes into the oven dry, it will be too dry once it's cooked (though if it does turn out dry, a quick fix is to pour 1/4 cup warm chicken broth over the top).

Uncooked Dressing

Spoon into two pans or casserole dishes, or one large casserole dish. Cook in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes if you have two pans, 30-35 minutes if you have one large dish. It is done when the top turns golden brown. Serve with gravy or cranberry sauce or even just by itself.

cafela: (nutmeg)
2013-07-29 10:18 am
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Georgia Peach Pie

It's the height of peach season here in Georgia, and I've had several peaches sitting on my counter, waiting to be used ever since I bought them at the local farmer's market. A few days ago, I went ahead and peeled, pitted, and sliced them, then mixed them in a bowl with sugar and lemon juice. It took me awhile to decide whether I should do a cobbler, or a cake, or any of the other myriad things you can do with peaches. Finally, I decided to keep it simple and just make a pie. Now, you can always make your own pie crust, but I had some puff pastry dough taking up space in my freezer, so I decided to cheat and use that for my crust. Normal pie dough works and will taste just fine, but it doesn't rise to quite the heights that puff pastry will, so just keep that in mind if you use a different dough.

Also, while I love Georgia peaches, the peaches that are truly the best come from Chilton County, Alabama, so if you can get your hands on those, they are amazing. And any peaches will work for this pie--really, any fruit ought to be fine. I have some fresh blueberries from my mom's backyard that might get turned into a similar pie once this one has been eaten.

Georgia Peach Pie
3-5 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced (about 2 cups, maybe less)
2 tb brown sugar
2 tb white sugar
1 tb lemon juice
2 tb butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pie crust/dough for one pie (I used 1 puff pastry sheet)

Prep your peaches a day before if you can--peel, pit, and slice them, then toss them in a bowl with 2 tb brown sugar, 1 tb white sugar, and the lemon juice. You don't have to prep them a day ahead, but I prefer to.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your pie dough onto your pie pan; don't cut the excess off unless you just want to.

Drain excess juice/liquid from the bowl the peaches are in. Spoon peaches into the pie pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tb of white sugar, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg over the peaches. Cut up the butter into tiny cubes, and place them around the top of the pie.

Fold the excess pie dough/edges over the fruit. Place pie into the oven, cook for about 20 minutes (check on it at 15) until the pie crust is golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream if you have it.
cafela: (salt is magical)
2013-06-30 09:48 pm
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Roasted Tomato & Bacon Soup

I have a couple of tomato plants. We don't have enough of a yard for an actual garden, but we have a couple of large planters, and we get a lot of sun. So this year, I decided I was going to try to grow our own tomatoes. The main motivation is the fact that we go through at least one tomato a week, and I thought that a couple of tomato plants would probably net us one or two tomatoes a week. As it turns out, it's more like 4 or 5 tomatoes a week, and so when I realized we had 10 tomatoes waiting to be eaten (with at least 15 more growing) I decided it was probably time to do something with them. Spaghetti is the obvious thing, but it seemed too heavy. So I decided I'd try my hand at a tomato soup.

Tomato soup is not my favorite kind of soup; it's generally not even in my top 5 kinds of soup, because I'm picky about it, and few places make it the way I like it. Every summer, I test out a new tomato soup recipe, but while those soups have turned out okay, they've not been what I want them to be. My favorite tomato soup is served at a local restaurant called Plates; it is amazing, and everything a tomato soup should be. I always want my soup to taste as fresh and scrumptious as theirs, and until tonight, I've failed. Something was missing.

Tonight, however, I hit upon the missing ingredient. Or at least, a missing ingredient: bacon. You don't need much--I used one small slice. It took my tomato soup to a whole new level. As did roasting most of what went into it. It is the best tomato soup I've ever made. I will actually make this tomato soup again.

Roasted Tomato & Bacon Soup
about 2 lbs fresh tomatoes (I used about 10 plum-sized tomatoes), quartered
six large garlic cloves
1 vidalia onion (a large yellow onion will suffice if you can't get vidalia)
olive oil
2 tb butter
1 large shallot
1 more clove of garlic
1 slice of bacon, diced into small pieces
5 sprigs of thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
10 basil leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried basil)
10 sage leaves (or 1/2 tsp rubbed sage)
3 cups of chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
a blender
parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Get a large, shallow pan with an edge to it. Quarter your tomatoes and slice your onion. Place tomatoes and onion into the pan along with your six garlic cloves (cloves should have the skin still on). Drizzle olive oil over the veggies (you don't need much) and salt and pepper. Put them into a 400 degree oven to roast for about 35 minutes.

While the veggies roast, mince your shallot and your other clove of garlic. Add to the pot you're making your soup in, along with the butter. Turn to low (or if your oven vents through one of the stove eyes, just put it there and use the residual heat). If you're using fresh herbs, also use this time to chop those. Dice your bacon.

When the veggies are done roasting, turn your soup pot to medium heat, and add the bacon. As soon as the shallot starts to go translucent, add your roasted tomatoes and onion. Remove the roasted garlic cloves from their skins, and add them (not the skins). Let cook for maybe 5 minutes, until it gets thick, and add the herbs and the chicken broth.

If you have an immersion blender, now is the time to use it so that you have a super smooth soup (if you want that; it will be good chunky, too). If you just have a regular blender, that works, too; you'll just have to blend in a couple of batches, and be careful to blend slowly at first (and take the lid off in between pulses to keep steam from building up). Return the blended soup to the pot. Stir in the cream. Let simmer another 10 minutes; it can simmer longer, but give it at least that long so all the flavors have time to develop. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yields about 3 medium bowls of soup--add more chicken stock or more tomatoes to get more. Garnish with parmesan cheese or a few drops of cream. Perfect when accompanied by a grilled cheese sandwich.

cafela: (fried chicken)
2013-05-27 02:33 pm
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Coconut-Ginger Braised Chicken

I just finished making/eating the following recipe for lunch. It was so good, I had to write it up immediately, both so I could share it with everyone, and to be sure that I don't forget exactly how I made it.

Coconut-Ginger Braised Chicken
3 to 6 chicken thighs (or 2 chicken thigh/leg quarters)
garlic salt
approx. 2 tsp each of ground ginger, garam masala, and turmeric
2 tb sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tb minced/grated fresh ginger, divided into 1 tb each
zest of one lime
1 can coconut milk, shaken well
2 tb brown sugar
1 tb thai fish sauce
juice from one lime
1/4 c chicken broth or 1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1/4 water

Also necessary: dutch oven or other stove-to-oven pan w/ oven-safe lid

First, season chicken all over with garlic salt, ground ginger, garam masala, and turmeric. Go easy on the garam masala if you don't want anything too spicy. In dutch oven, heat sesame oil on medium high. Brown the chicken in the dutch oven (about 5 minutes per side). Remove chicken.

Add the onion, garlic, 1 tb of fresh ginger, and lime zest to the pot, and let simmer for about 2 minutes. Shake the can of coconut milk up well, then open and add. Add brown sugar and thai fish sauce. Stir well. Add chicken (and any residual juices) back to the pot. Drizzle chicken with lime juice from 1/2 lime (save the other half of the lime). Cover with lid and put in oven. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

About 20 minutes before pulling out the chicken, make some rice (I prefer jasmine, but any kind is good).

When you remove the dutch oven from the oven, remove the chicken--put it in a bowl, drizzle with a little more lime juice, and tent with tin foil. Add the rest of the lime juice to the pot, along with the other 1 tb of fresh ginger and the chicken broth/bouillon. Simmer until thick (may already be rather thick).

When rice is done, plate with rice, then chicken, then pour sauce on top. Chicken should be tender enough that you don't need a knife. Enjoy!

cafela: (chocolate)
2013-04-29 04:26 pm
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Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

A few weeks ago, I made Homemade Twinkies, and that got me to thinking--what about other homemade versions of that kind of snack cake? One of my husband's favorites is Hostess cupcakes, so after I looked through a few recipes, I gave it a try.

It's actually a super easy recipe for what it is. All you really need is a solid chocolate cupcake recipe that you like, essentially the same inner creme recipe used for the Twinkies, and some chocolate ganache. And a little patience when it comes to those well-known curlicues that grace the top of the cupcakes.

I'll confess: after making enough cupcakes with curlicues for blog picture-purposes, I stopped doing them. I did not have the patience (plus the plastic bag I was using to pipe the icing burst open) to do more than five like that. There was no difference in taste between the ones that had the curlicues and the ones that didn't, so only do them if you want the look.

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
1 batch chocolate cupcakes (approx. 24)

For the filling
1/4 tsp salt
1 tb hot water
7oz marshmallow fluff
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Extra powdered sugar (to thicken remaining filling to pipe curlicues)

Chocolate Ganache
1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (Hershey's special dark or Ghiradelli are perfect)
1/4 c cream
1 tb butter

First, bake your cupcakes--use whatever your favorite chocolate cake recipe is, so long as it's sturdy enough to hold frosting on top (a box mix is fine). Let them cool. While they cool, make your filling.

Start by dissolving the salt into the hot water; set aside and let cool. Mix all the other ingredients together until fluffy, then add the salt water and beat another couple of minutes. The filling should be *almost* the consistency of frosting, but not as stiff.

Once the cupcakes are cool and the filling is prepped, scoop the filling into the appropriate device (injector or decorator bag). To get the filling into the cupcake, jab the injector or the decorating tip into the cupcake as shown in the picture, and squeeze the filling in. Don't put too much, or the cupcake could bust. If you're planning to make the curlicues, set aside about 1/3 c of the filling to use to make them.

Now you get to make the ganache, which is SUPER easy. I don't get why everyone freaks out about making it, but it does taste amazing. All you do is dump all the ingredients into a shallow pan, and whisk them slowly over low heat until everything melts together. Don't rush it, or you will burn it, and don't add any more cream or butter after you start, or it could thicken and become awful. If you keep it low and slow, everything should melt into a delicious swirl of smooth chocolately awesomeness. When it does, take it off the heat.

Now you can dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache. I used a small icing spatula to smooth the top out, very much the same way you smooth icing--the only trick is once the ganache cools, it's harder to work with, so try to smooth it out somewhat quickly. They should end up looking something like the pictures below:

Now, you can stop at this point, and you will have delicious cupcakes. But if you want the curlicues, take that filling that you set aside, and thicken it with more powdered sugar. I honestly don't remember how much, but at least a few tablespoons. Get it stiff enough to pipe. Then you just draw the curlicues on, which may take a little trial and error.

And that's all there is to it!

cafela: (salt is magical)
2013-04-16 12:00 pm
Entry tags:

Potatoes Boulangères, Au Gratin

I love potatoes. My husband does not. For some reason, he thinks potatoes don't taste good, whereas I say "but potatoes taste like whatever you cook them with!" which is often butter, garlic, and other delicious stuff. But since most of what I cook is food that we both eat, I don't make potato dishes that often. Sometimes, though, he just wants a sandwich for dinner, and that's when I get to indulge my love of the potato.

This dish is a blend of two dishes--Potatoes Boulangères, where sliced potatoes are cooked in leftover meat drippings, and Potatoes Au Gratin, where sliced potatoes are cooked with creamy cheesy goodness. It isn't exactly a healthy dish, but you can add other sliced veggies if you like. Some good ones to include would be onions, zucchini, or eggplant. As you'll see, I popped some sliced cherry tomatoes on top to add a little brightness and a little acidity to cut through all the starch and cheese. It's a great dish to use up an assortment of potatoes and other veggies that you might have on hand.

Potatoes Boulangères, Au Gratin
About 2 pounds of potatoes, sliced thin (1/4 of an inch)
garlic salt
4 oz shredded parmesan or similar cheese
3-4 slices bacon, diced (easier to do with very cold bacon)
2 tb butter
1 cup chicken broth/stock
1/4 c cream
handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise (optional)
2 tb minced garlic
sprig of thyme or sage (optional)
2 oz cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and put the butter in the bottom of the casserole dish. Melt the butter (I did this by simply setting the dish over the stove eye that helps vent the oven's heat). Slice your potatoes--you don't have to peel them, but you can if you don't want the skins.

Once the butter is melted in the casserole dish, sprinkle pepper and garlic salt lightly, and spread 1 tb of the garlic in the bottom. Now add your first layer of potato slices. Pepper & garlic salt again, then sprinkle a small bit of cheese on top. Add the next layer of potato slices, then pepper, garlic salt, and more cheese. Repeat the process until you have used up all of the potatoes.

At this point, pour the chicken broth into the dish. Follow with the cream, and try to do it so that all of the potatoes on top get at least a splash. Place your tomatoes over the top next, and sprinkle the remaining minced garlic over next. Now do a quick sprinkle of pepper, and add your sprig of thyme or sage if you've got it. Finally, spread the diced raw bacon bits over the top as a final layer. Pop into the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove from the oven just long enough to sprinkle the cheddar cheese (and any remaining parmesan cheese) over the top. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove, and let stand for at least 10 minutes.

Note: This dish is even better when reheated the next day, so it's a great make-ahead recipe.

cafela: (alice in wonderland)
2013-03-29 03:46 pm
Entry tags:

Homemade Twinkies

As everyone knows, Hostess went bankrupt. There was a rush on Twinkies. Fortunately for me, I've actually never been a huge fan of Twinkies. Growing up, we were more of a Little Debbie house, so I prefer oatmeal creme pies and Swiss cake rolls (though I haven't had any in ages). Still, all these Twinkie recipes kept popping up on Pinterest and various recipe blogs.

It was easy to avoid the siren call of the Twinkie for awhile simply because the canoe pans you bake them in were sold out everywhere. The pans did eventually show up on Amazon at a relatively cheap price, so it was then that I pounced. I'm glad I did, because this semi-homemade recipe is pretty amazing, and not full of preservatives like regular Twinkies. I'm not saying this is a "healthy" recipe, mind you, just that it's slightly better for you than the original. So do pace yourself.

Homemade Twinkies*
For the cake part
1 box yellow cake mix + ingredients on the back of the box
2 tb vegetable oil
1 egg

For the filling
1/4 tsp salt
1 tb hot water
7oz marshmallow fluff
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 oz)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*Recipe adapted from several found online.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the cake mix, plus ingredients called for on the back of the box, plus the oil and the egg until well mixed. Spoon into pan, cook until done. If you have canoe pans, you only want to fill it the cavity about half full; it will rise plenty. Keep the leftover batter in the fridge while each batch cooks. It should take about 10 minutes for the cakes in the canoe pan to cook. Check with a toothpick in the center; when it comes out clean, it's done. Remove and let cool. You should get about 3 batches.

Once all the batches have cooked and are cooling, it's time to make the filling!

Start by dissolving the salt into the hot water; set aside and let cool. Mix all the other ingredients together until fluffy, then add the salt water and beat another couple of minutes. The filling should be *almost* the consistency of frosting, but not as stiff.

The canoe pan comes with a "filling injector" that's kind of a pain to use (super messy), but it will do if you don't have other decorating tips. If you do have other decorating tips, use those. Either way, scoop the filling into the appropriate device (injector or decorator bag). To get the filling into the twinkie, jab the injector or the decorating tip into the cake, and squeeze the filling in. Don't put too much, or the twinkie will bust.

Then you can enjoy your delicious homemade Twinkies! They taste best on the 1st and 2nd day after they're made.

Note: If you don't have the special canoe pan, you can bake these as cupcakes and it will be mostly the same. Instead of filling with the filling, you can simply swap out the 1/3 cup powdered sugar for about 32 oz of powdered sugar plus an extra 1/2 stick of butter and make a marshmallow buttercream to pipe on top.

cafela: (Default)
2013-03-15 10:21 am
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Croque Monsieurs

As you have probably picked up by now, I love French food. There's not a French restaurant in the town where I live, but there are several in the relatively nearby city of Atlanta. Mine and my husband's favorite is Ani's Bistro, which favors Provençal cuisine, but has a dash of everything else, too. I always get the Moules Marinières (mussels in white wine sauce) and he always gets their Croque Monsieur. I always steal a bite of his, because it's so good. But we can't always go to Atlanta, and so I decided I should figure out how to make a Croque Monsieur. After all, it's just a fancy ham and cheese sandwich, right?

Well, yes and no. This is what I came up with. The first time I tried it, it was good, but not quite to the level I wanted. I used deli ham--good, fresh, thick deli ham, but it wasn't right. Jambon de Paris aka Parisian ham is famous, and it's just about the only ham I'll eat. So I pondered on why it was so good, and why I don't like normal American sandwich ham. It was then that I remembered--I do enjoy ham at Easter, and sometimes Thanksgiving. But it's not deli ham, it's HoneyBaked Ham. Theirs is on par with Parisian ham. Fortunately, we do have a HoneyBaked Ham Cafe in town, so the next time I went to make this sandwich, I stopped and got a half pound of Honey Baked Ham slices. It makes all the difference.

To be sure, you can make a decent croque monsieur with a good sweet/honey ham from your local deli. But if you want it to be over the top good, get some from a Honey Baked Ham store.

Also, realize up front that this is a very rich, heavy dish. You'll want something to cut through all that cheesy goodness. I recommend a good medium-bodied red wine and a salad to round out your meal. And if you find yourself unable to finish your sandwiches, they reheat just fine.

Croque Monsieur

1/2 to 3/4 lb sliced ham (thick slices!)
2 tb butter
3 tb flour
2 cups hot milk
1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt (If you don't have it, use 1/2 tsp regular salt)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 oz)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 oz)
1 cup grated Fontina or Emmental cheese (about 3 oz)
6-8 largish buns/croissants, or very thick (1 inch) sandwich bread

Grate all your cheeses first, and set aside. Mix all of them together in a bowl, except for 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, which you should keep separate.

In a small to medium saucepan (nonstick if you have it) melt the butter over medium heat. Once it melts, add the flour and stir (I use a whisk). Stir for about 2 minutes; if you've ever made a roux before, that's basically what you're doing here, b/c it's the first step of bechamel sauce....which is exactly what we're making. Once the two minutes are up, add your hot milk slowly. I add about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking it in as I go. It may get thin, but at some point, it will thicken to a gravy-like consistency. At this point, whisk in the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Take off the heat and whisk in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of Gruyere that you set aside. Ta-dah! You just made a Bechamel sauce. This is the hardest part of making a Croque Monsieur; the rest is just layering.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit at this point.

Cut your rolls/buns/croissants in half (the way you would for a sandwich). Lay the bottoms out on a cookie sheet. Spread a small spoonful of the bechamel sauce you just made onto the top of each of the bottoms (hope that makes sense). Layer your ham slices onto each (use all your ham). Put another dollop of the bechamel sauce on top of the ham, along with a generous amount of the shredded cheeses. You should use half or slightly more than half of the shredded cheese for this step.

Now put the tops on top of the shredded cheese layer. Spread bechamel on the top. Put more shredded cheese on top. The bechamel sauce should be helping the cheese stick to the bread.

Put into the hot oven, and bake for about 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes the cheese doesn't have the nice browning that you want, turn the broiler on for about 2 minutes, and keep a close eye on it, b/c it's incredibly easy to burn things with the broiler on. Serve immediately. You'll probably need a knife and a fork. Bon appetit!

Protip: If you have leftover bechamel sauce or leftover grated cheese, save them for the next time you make a pasta dish, and throw them into the sauce. Or make cheesy toast with them.

If you find Gruyere to be too strong a flavor for you, you can always increase the amount of Fontina/Emmental and reduce the amount of Gruyere.

cafela: (Default)
2013-01-03 01:32 pm
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Buffalo Chicken Dip

I know, it's been a couple of weeks between postings. Not that I wasn't cooking, it's just that with the holidays, I didn't get on the computer as much. I was too busy visiting family and making delicious foods!

I first tasted this amazing dip two years ago, at my friend Janet's Boxing Day (aka: the day after Christmas) Party. The great thing about Buffalo Chicken Dip is that you get the flavor without too much spice (though you can keep a bottle of hot sauce nearby for those that want to add it to theirs). This isn't quite the same recipe as Janet's; there are a lot of variants, and they're all good. All you'll need to go with it are some kind of chip or cracker. Tostitos Scoops are good, as are Ritz and Clubhouse crackers.

Now, some people insist that if you're using ranch instead of blue cheese, you're wrong. Well, they're wrong. You can use either. I prefer ranch because blue cheese is a little overpowering, especially for this dip. You could even use both. But this is my recipe, so I'm just going to tell you how to make it the way I do. Experiment with your own approach--odds are it will still be awesome. This makes a lot of dip, but it keeps in the fridge and reheats easily; you can also always halve the recipe.

I only have the one picture because I didn't originally intend to post this, but everyone was asking for the recipe, so I snapped the pic you see below so there would at least be a picture of the final product. It's an easy recipe, though, so step-by-step photos aren't necessary anyway.

Buffalo Chicken Dip


3 10 oz cans chicken (Sometimes I find 12 oz cans, and those work fine too--more chicken is great!)

1 1/4 cup/10oz hot sauce (I use Texas Pete or Frank's, and I often just buy Texas Pete's "Mild Buffalo Sauce" and use half of that, half regular hot sauce)

1 cup/8oz ranch dressing (any brand)

8oz cream cheese

2 cups of preshredded mexican blend cheese (you can use plain cheddar)

9x9 baking dish that's at least 3 inches deep

First, get a medium sized pot out and put it on medium heat. In it, pour the ranch dressing and add the cream cheese. Drain the liquid from two of the cans of chicken into the pot as well. Don't add the chicken itself, just the liquid. Stir everything together, and continue to stir occasionally until the cream cheese has melted.

Drain the third can of chicken, but not into the pot(2 cans is just right, 3 makes the dip too watery). In the baking dish, dump all three cans of chicken. Add the hot sauce, and mix, being sure to break up the chicken into smaller, more dip-friendly pieces. Mix in about 1 1/2 cups of your cheese at this point.

Once the ranch/cream cheese mixture is done (namely, once the cream cheese is melted), pour it over the chicken/hot sauce/cheese mix. Stir a little. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top, and mix it just slightly (in other words, don't let it just be a mound of cheese on top; let some of the dressing mixture be worked into it). Most of the recipes I've come across for this dip prefer to layer the ingredients, but I think they're better mixed up. Plus, if you have a layer of just cheese on the top, it can overcook and create a weird hard top. Better to mix it in and avoid that.

Bake in the oven at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, and serve hot. This can easily be reheated in the oven if you're taking it somewhere. My family devoured this dip on Christmas, but if you end up with leftovers, they can be kept in the fridge and reheated in the microwave for up to a week.
cafela: (nutmeg)
2012-12-14 01:16 pm
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Rosy Apple Pie

It's the holidays, and I like to bake treats for my coworkers to share on the last day before the break--ah, the joys of working in academia; we might not make much money, but we do get Christmas break!

Anyway, this year I came upon this tutorial for making apple pies shaped like roses on Pinterest, and decided I had to attempt it. I figured, worst case scenario, it doesn't work and I end up with a normal apple pie. I wanted to make some individual mini-pies for coworkers that had gifted me little presents, and one larger pie to share with everyone. So that's what I did.

The trick to the roses is that the first one is rough, and you don't want to use crisp or long apples because they break more easily. So when you buy your apples, buy short, squat ones, not tallish ones. Unless you are amazing at cutting thin slices, you'll need a mandolin slicer to get them thin enough. Also, you kind of need to hold the rose in your hand until you're done with it, so it's hard to do one that's the size of an entire normal-sized pie. It could be done, though, it would just take more work. I recommend starting with smaller, mini-pies/tarts first.

Rosy Apple Pie


2-3 red apples, not too crisp

2 tb lemon juice*

4 tb sugar*

1 tsp cinnamon*

3/4 tsp nutmeg*

**You need a mandolin-style slicer**

pie crust (whatever pie crust recipe you prefer; refrigerated dough is fine)

*I eyeballed these when I added them, so this is a guesstimate--add what seems to be right for the amount of apples you have.

Go ahead and put your pie crust in your pan (or in your mini pans). Next, wash and core your apples. Do NOT peel them! You want the red contrast of the peel so that the rose shape stands out.

To core your apples, slice them so that you get a square core. Go here to see what I mean. Stop once you reach the part where the core is removed. From that point, you'll need a mandolin to slice your apples. Very thin slices are key to being able to make the rose. Once you have your apples sliced with the mandolin, you're ready for the next step.

Dump the slices into a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients; mix them in with your hands (to help prevent breaking the slices. Now, you get to make the rose! Start with one slice curved in on itself, forming a kind of tight circle. Then add another slice to sort of "close" that slice. Keep adding slices around and around, building by overlapping the slices you just added.

It will be tricky the first time. My second rose turned out a lot better than the first. Be sure to have good look at the first tutorial I linked to, because she has great step-by-step pictures. When you've got the rose big enough, set it into the pie pan, and add a few more slices at the edges as needed. Repeat until you've made all the pies you want to make. This recipe should net you about 4 mini pies or one large pie.

Now, keep in mind that if you messed up a bunch of your slices, it's no big deal--use them to create an edge around the rose (you'll see that's what I did with my larger pie). If you can't get the rose at all, you can still make a great apple pie by layering the slices flat in the pan, or even just dumping them in haphazardly.

Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Cool for about 10 minutes, then serve!

cafela: (ninja biscuits)
2012-12-05 12:43 pm
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Buttermilk Cornbread

I love cornbread, and so does my husband. It's an essential part of the dressing I make for the holidays, too. It goes great with chili, or pork chops, or a bowl of beef stew. This recipe is very close to the one you'll find on White Lily cornmeal; my family uses that recipe, and I've tweaked it over time. Our original recipe calls for a whole stick of butter, and it is good that way, but it's just as good with half the butter. It has a good crust and soft, light crumb. It is NOT sweet, because proper cornbread shouldn't have sugar in it. If you add sugar, technically you're making "johnny cake," not cornbread (however, if you really prefer sweet cornbread, all you have to do is add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the batter, and that should do).

Back in 2009, the library I worked in had a cornbread contest for our dept. chair, who was trying to find a recipe that approximated the cornbread his grandmother used to make. This recipe came in 2nd by his judgement, and first by popular vote. So it's not just my family that likes it, I promise!

If you want to make a Mexican-style cornbread, follow this recipe, but add some chopped jalapenos and peppers. I suppose you could add other things in, too, but I've not tried them myself. I tend to prefer my cornbread plain with some butter, though it's buttery enough that you can forgo that. It will keep for 4-5 days if wrapped/in an air-tight container.

To make this cornbread, you NEED a cast iron skillet/pan. It does not turn out properly in a regular pan. You can buy a preseasoned one very cheaply these days.

Buttermilk Cornbread


1/2 stick of unsalted butter

2 eggs

2 cups White Lily Self-rising cornmeal

About 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup oil

Turn the oven to 425 F. Place the half stick of butter into your cast iron skillet, and put the skillet in the oven while it preheats. It is very, very important that the skillet and oven be hot before you put the batter in later. This is how you get the nice crust on your cornbread that gives it extra flavor and great texture.

Lightly beat the eggs together in your mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal, buttermilk, and oil to the egg mixture and whisk together until blended. The batter should be like a thick pancake batter.

Take your skillet out of the oven--remember to use an oven mitt! It should be hot and the butter should be melted.

Pour the batter in and use a spoon or spatula to level it if needed. I like to make sure the butter is sort of evenly spilling over the top, but it's not crucial that you do that. Bake until the top is golden brown (about 20-25 minutes).

You should be able to flip it out of the skillet immediately without it sticking to the bottom. Enjoy!

cafela: (Default)
2012-10-29 11:39 am
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I was first introduced to this pastry/cookie via the vending machine on the first floor of CIDEF in Angers, France. CIDEF was part of the university where I spent my first semester abroad in France, and while on the campus, if my friends and I weren't in class or hanging out in our program director's office, we were often near the vending machines, catching a quick snack before going back to class.

The madeleines from the machine were okay. Not great, but not bad. Better than the dry ones you can get at Starbucks. At the time, they were one of the better snacks on offer, and definitely one of the more filling. At some point, I bought some from a pastry shop, and was surprised that they were even tastier than I thought they'd be. Freshness makes all the difference!

The great thing about madeleines is that they're really easy to make. The real trick is having a madeleine pan so that you get them in the proper shape. But even if you don't have a madeleine pan, you could still make them in mini muffin or even regular muffin tins. Amazon has some affordable madeleine pans. For the recipe below, I got about 24 madeleines, so I had to use my pan 2 times. Luckily, they bake very quickly. :)

Another issue with madeleines is the hump. Some claim that the hump is the sign of a good madeleine; others say madeleines with no humps are the marker of a good chef. All I know is that if you want the hump, fill the mold to the top of the edge. If you don't, fill the mold about 2/3 full.



2 eggs (at room temperature!)

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

grated zest of one lemon

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp lemon extract*

1/2 tsp almond extract*

5 tb unsalted butter, melted and cooled

*If you don't have one or either of these, just use more vanilla.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease your madeleine pan, even if it's non-stick.

Relative temperatures are important in this recipe if you want your madeleines to come out crisp and light. Start by combining your dry ingredients(flour, baking powder, salt) in a bowl. Next, beat the eggs and sugar together at medium-high speed until they're thick and pale (about 2-4 minutes in a stand mixer).

Now, add the zest and the vanilla and other extracts. Beat until mixed in (maybe 15 seconds?). Next the fun part--folding in the dry ingredients! This is the only onerous part of madeleines; you want to be careful to fold in the dry ingredients (about a third of the dry stuff at a time) and not just mix it in, because you want to keep the lightness and volume that the whipped eggs are giving you. So just take your time, and once you have all the dry ingredients folded in, you then fold in the melted butter. Don't be dumb like I was once, and forget to fold in the butter at the end.

Most recipes I've seen for madeleines say that you should chill the batter for about 3 hours (up to 24 hours) before baking. I somehow didn't see that step in all the recipes I consulted, and went ahead and made them. They turned out fine. So if you're in a hurry, you can skip that step, though after filling the molds, you will want to put the remaining batter in the fridge to chill while each batch bakes.

Let each batch bake for somewhere between 6-12 minutes. Look for the edges to turn golden brown. You'll have to keep an eye on it for your first batch, because the time is going to depend on how hot your oven gets and the size of your madeleine molds. Mine are usually done within 7 minutes, but most recipes I've seen said 12 minutes.

When you get your madeleines out, toss them in sugar (powdered or regular both work). They're at their best when they're still warm from the oven, so be sure to taste-test/quality control at least one. ;) Serve within 48 hours. They go great with coffee, tea, as dessert, or as breakfast!

cafela: (salt is magical)
2012-10-19 11:33 am
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Quiche with Prosciutto and Mushrooms

One of my go-to French meals is the quiche. All you need is a crust, some eggs, milk, and then you put whatever else you want inside, and top it off with cheese. It's like the pizza of France, if you think about it. My favorite quiche is the Quiche Lorraine, but it's hard to get lardons (similar to bacon, but oh so much more delicious) here, so this is the variant I make most of the time. I have an actual quiche/tart pan, but if you don't, you can use a 9-inch or larger pie pan, or an 8 inch spring-form pan.

A lot of people here mistakenly think that quiche is a breakfast food--in France it isn't; it's strictly a lunch or dinner meal. It isn't quite enough for a meal by itself, but pair it with a salad or soup and it's plenty. My husband likes to eat it with salsa, and while I think that's sacrilege, some of you might want to try it that way.

Quiche with Prosciutto & Baby Bella Mushrooms


1 pre-made pie crust

1/4 lb prosciutto, diced

6 eggs

2/3 c half and half (or 1/3 c milk + 1/3 c cream)

1 tsp garlic salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp thyme or herbes de provence

3 to 4 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped/sliced

5 oz shredded cheese (I use a mix of sharp cheddar and swiss; mozzerella works, so would colby or fontina or gruyere)

An ingredient note: I get prosciutto from the deli, sliced sandwich thin, which I then slice into 1/2 inch squares. If you don't want to run to the deli for prosciutto, you can substitute 8 slices of thick bacon, cooked but NOT crunchy (it's going to cook in the oven too, so you don't want it to overcook) and diced. I find prosciutto a lot easier to deal with than bacon, but my husband prefers the bacon flavor, so it's really up to you which to use; it will be tasty either way.

To start, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your pie crust in your pan. You do not need to grease your pan; if you're concerned about the pie crust sticking, put a small circle of parchment in the bottom.You do not need to precook your crust.

In one large mixing bowl, whip the eggs until they are well mixed and starting to get a little frothy/light yellow. Add the milk/cream/half and half, the salt, pepper, and herbs, and mix until well combined. Set aside.

Dump the prosciutto, mushrooms, and 4 oz of the shredded cheese into the pan and even out. I try to have a good mix so that each bite gets some of everything. See below:

Now you just pour the egg/milk/salt/pepper/herb mixture over the ingredients in the pan. If you're using a larger pan and don't have enough of the egg mixture, you can just whip a couple more eggs and pour those over to add to it. Sprinkle the rest of your cheese over the top, and pop it into the oven.

Cook for about 25 minutes, until set. It may poof up a lot, but that will fall back down once it's out of the oven and cooling. It will keep for about 5 days, and it's just as good reheated as it is fresh out of the oven.

cafela: (alice in wonderland)
2012-10-12 11:22 am
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Pineapple Coconut Bread (or Muffins)

I love pineapple, and my husband loves coconut. When I stumbled across the recipe for this bread on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it sometime soon. A couple of days ago, the grocery store had pineapple on sale, and that decided it.

There's a lot to love about this recipe. It tastes very fresh, and there's a good crunchiness throughout the bread. Best of all, you can do this as jumbo muffins, and simply cut the baking time in half. It comes together very easily, and isn't overly sweet (and if you worry about that, you can leave out some of the sugar).

Pineapple Coconut Bread


7oz bag sweetened shredded coconut

1 stick butter, at room temperature (NOT COLD)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup or 8oz sour cream

2 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, diced into chunks (a little over half of a pineapple)

Turn the oven on 350 degrees F.

First, toast about 2/3 c of your shredded coconut(the rest you will save for topping). Spread it over a cookie sheet, and stick that in the oven for about 6 minutes. Watch it, because you don't want to burn it, you just want to bring out more of the flavor. Some of it should get to be a nice golden color. You can dice up your pineapple while you wait for it to toast. When the time is up or the coconut has turned golden, pull it from the oven and let it cool.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix your butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add eggs, one at a time. Next, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture. Then add half of your sour cream. When that has combined, repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture, and the rest of the sour cream. When that has combined, add the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, and mix just until everything is incorporated.
Now you get to add the toasted coconut and the pineapple.

When that's done, pour the batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan or into jumbo muffin tins. I did a little of both, because our loaf pan is 9x4 and I didn't want a super tall loaf.

Sprinkle the top of the loaf or muffins with the untoasted coconut. If you're doing jumbo muffins, at this point you can just pop them into the oven for about 30 minutes (regular muffins should probably cook about 15-20 minutes). If you're doing a loaf, you'll need to cover the top with tin foil for the first 30 minutes to keep the coconut from burning (or you can just add the coconut topping after it's baked for 30 minutes). The loaf will need to cook for about an hour total.

Let the muffins/loaf cool before eating--the pineapple will retain a lot of heat, and you don't want to burn your mouth just because you were a little impatient. ;)

cafela: (Default)
2012-09-28 01:30 pm
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Cinnamon Nutmeg Zucchini Bread

I made this for the first time at my sister-in-law's house, while visiting in July. She had a bunch of zucchini to use up, and I wanted to bake something to thank them for letting us stay with them, and this recipe was born! It's incredibly easy, since you pretty much just throw the ingredients together, mix, and bake. It's a pretty standard zucchini bread recipe, with some extra spices added to make it extra delicious. My niece and nephew gobbled them up quickly.

Cinnamon Nutmeg Zucchini Bread


3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tb cinnamon

1/2 tb nutmeg

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar (if you don't have brown sugar, just sub another cup of white sugar)

1 tb vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini--if you grate it and end up with a little more than 2 cups, it's fine)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 loaf pans or 24 standard muffin tins.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the oil, sugar, and vanilla, then mix. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if you want, you can mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first, but I've found it doesn't make a difference in this recipe). Mix.

Add the grated zucchini, and mix with a spoon (the grated strips will get caught in a whisk/etc.) until incorporated. Pour batter into loaf pans or spoon into muffin cups. Bake loaves for 45-55 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Muffins will bake for a shorter time; start checking at 20 minutes.

Let bread cool, then remove from pan. Voila, a tasty treat for breakfast, or just for snacking.

You can play with this recipe by adding nuts, raisins, or by swapping the zucchini with carrots.
cafela: (chocolate)
2012-09-10 11:07 am
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Decorating with Raspberries

I made a chocolate cake for my father-in-law's birthday this past weekend. The recipe for the cake was basically me adding an extra tablespoon of oil and a couple ounces of melted chocolate to a devil's food cake mix. I usually bake from scratch, but there's nothing wrong with improving on a cake mix you know will work. Especially when you waited until 9pm to start said cake. But since I did take the easier route, I wanted to give this cake a special touch. I started by using 6-inch cake pans instead of 8 or 9 inch pans--this gives you a much taller (and cuter, I think) cake.

I love my 6-inch cake pans. You can either use 3 of the cake pans and have a very tall cake, or use 2 and pour off enough batter for a couple of cupcakes. I usually go the extra cupcake route, because it's a good way to test to make sure the cake turned out well, or to fend off those who might want to cut into the cake too soon.

Raspberries were on sale (probably for the last time this year) at the grocery store this past week, so I decided to dress the cake up with some well-placed raspberries. It's an easy way to make most any cake look a lot more impressive, and the raspberries lend a fresh sweetness to each slice. Here's the finished product:

cafela: (fried chicken)
2012-08-20 10:51 am

Simple Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken

I've been cooking for a long time, but up until a year ago, I had never attempted to roast a chicken. I thought it was a complicated thing to do, that would involve racks or somehow violating the chicken with a beer can. Then I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen that went through the process step-by-step, and it turned what I thought was a daunting task into something that now seems relatively easy.

The best thing about this approach is how easy it is, and how adaptable it is. If you don't have any other seasonings, you can use just salt and pepper and it will still taste good. And this particular recipe lends itself to a very simple gravy, the recipe for which I'll also include. The recipe itself is going to seem long, but it's just because I wanted to spell everything out for anyone else who, like me, had never roasted a chicken before encountering this recipe.

On a separate note, I apologize for the quality of some of these pictures. My nice camera is temporarily out of service due to a worn out shutter button, so I'm stuck with just my camera phone camera until I can get the other fixed.

Simple Lemon & Garlic Roast Chicken


a whole chicken (about 4 lbs)

2 lemons, zested

6 garlic cloves

thyme (fresh or dried)

garlic salt


olive oil (or some other kind of fat--veggie oil or melted butter can work if that's all you have)

twine/string (you can get by without this if you don't have it)

A pot that can work on the stove and in the oven--a dutch oven is perfect, as is plain cast iron. If you don't have this, you'll just have to do a little more work in transferring the chicken

Start by prepping your lemons. Zest them, and set the zest aside. Next, slice one lemon into thin slices. Cut the other lemon into wedges. Now prep your garlic by peeling the dry bit off of two cloves and mincing them. Leave the other cloves alone. If you have fresh thyme, go ahead and chop it into smaller pieces.

Now, remove the chicken from the packaging. Pat it dry. Check the inside for the inner bits (liver, gizzard, etc.) that should be in a package inside the chicken, and pull that out if it's in there. I never use those parts, but some people like to fry those separately. Rub the chicken with a couple tablespoons of oil, then rub with garlic salt and pepper; I find that this is also a good time to add the thyme, and about half of the lemon zest. Don't be afraid to use your hands and get messy.

Then, add the rest of the seasoning--Put a couple of wedges of lemon inside the cavity of the chicken along with the minced garlic. Shove the lemon slices under the skin of the chicken--try to get about four per each side of the chicken; if you have more than 8 slices, that's fine. Tie the legs of the chicken together at this point; this will help keep the stuff you put inside from escaping by accident.

On the stove, heat a couple tablespoons of oil along with a bit of salt and pepper and the remaining zest. If you've got a pan that can go both on the stove and in the oven, use it, if not, you'll just have to use two pans. I put the whole chicken into the pan on the stove, breast side up. This is important, because the main reason for this step is to get the leg/thigh meat started cooking, since it takes longer than the breast does. Cook it on medium high for about 8 minutes. Then I put the pan in the oven at 450 for 30 minutes, adding the last 4 unpeeled garlic cloves then so they can roast with the chicken.

At 30 minutes, without opening the door, switch the oven off. Leave the chicken in the oven for another 30 minutes. I realize this sounds crazy, but it works perfectly every time, and keeps the breast from drying out.

After the 30 minutes are up, pull out the pan and set it back on the stove. With tongs, pick up the chicken and let the juices in the chicken drain into the pan. Set the chicken on a clean cuttiing board/plate to rest for 20 minutes. Pull the roast garlic from the pan and set aside. Squeeze a couple lemon wedges over the resting chicken. You can make the gravy while you wait for it to finish resting. Carve and serve!

Simple Chicken Gravy


Drippings from roasted chicken

Roasted garlic cloves

1 shallot, minced

1/3 cup white wine (pinot grigio, chardonnay, or sauvignon blanc are good choices)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/3 cup heavy cream (or 1/2 cup half n half)

Turn the heat on the stove to medium with the pan full of drippings/juices. Add the shallot to the pan. Take the roasted garlic you set aside and squeeze the garlic part back into the pan (if you've never roasted garlic before, the inside gets all mushy and delicious, and you just have to open the skin to squeeze it out). Stir to help incorporate the roasted garlic. When the shallots are soft, add the white wine and chicken broth. Once that cooks for a few minutes, add the heavy cream, and simmer until the gravy reaches your desired thickness. If you want a more elegant/smoother gravy, strain it. Either way, this gravy works very well with rice or biscuits as a side.