Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

There are a million ways to make pork shoulder, and everybody with an opinion has the best way to make it. Fine by me, do it your way, I’m not trying to live your life for you. For me, the real test of porkmanship is using all of that tender, succulent meat and not being completely tired of sandwiches by the end of the weekend. So I’m offering up my favorite recipe with some leftovers ideas at the end. 

Shake Says: Try this with our classic Sidecar recipe!

Ingredients

Equipment: Slow cooker

3-5lb-pork shoulder or butt

12 oz. beer Saucy Note: I like the flavor of the pork to really shine, so I tend to use lighter beer, but its fun to play around with flavors and varieties. Mexican beer is great for southwestern style, darker beers impart more malty flavor, and the bitterness of IPAs can stand up to sweeter, spicier rubs. Hard cider is also a nice mix-up, although it makes for a sweeter pork.

Apple Juice-enough to almost cover the meat after the beer is added

Rub – At the very least, rub the meat liberally with salt. You will end up with a simple, pure pork flavor that is easily dressed up with sides and sauce (yay). Otherwise, I like a blend of garlic, onion, and cayenne powders along with the salt. I mix mostly garlic powder (about 2 tbsp.) with a couple shakes each of onion and cayenne. Add equal parts salt, and you’re good to go. Mess around with your own combinations too-other spices, sugar, citrus zest-and see what you like.

 Instructions

Pat pork shoulder dry with paper towels. Season liberally with salt or spice rub. Place in slow cooker fat side up. Pour can of beer around pork-I try to pour off to the side so the rub has a chance of sticking. Fill the crockpot the rest of the way with apple juice (usually the meat sticks out just a little, especially if your shoulder is on the larger side). Set crockpot to low, and ignore for at least 8 hours.

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I usually cook my pork for 10-12 hours. Start checking it every hour after 8 hours-it is done when the meat is tender and separates easily with a fork. As the head of this operation, you should definitely taste some to confirm.

Remove meat from sauce and put on cutting board (I recommend the kind with the little moat thingy, pork is juicy.) Shred using two forks, and try not to totally gorge yourself before you’re done pulling.

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Enjoy on a bun as a simple sandwich with BBQ sauce, or get creative with Carnitas, breakfast hash, or simple grilled vegetable and pork salad.

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Luxury from Economy: Deglazing, Gravies and Reductions

Sauce is my favorite thing to make (I’m sure this surprises you greatly.)  Whether I’m working on the long, slow reduction of demi-glace or a quick, punchy gastrique, I always feel just a little more accomplished when sauce is involved.  I have two staple sauces; both are easy, cheap, and require very few ingredients that are convenient to keep on hand, and they make your food look and taste sophisticated and well composed.  You can also minimize your food waste, especially of protein, if you start saving the scraps and fat that you trim off meat and putting them in the freezer.  I save fatty steak cuts, the slightly strange bits of ham, chicken necks, and anything else that would otherwise be thrown away.  Turn things like that sad, expires-tomorrow pork chop or leftover steak into a gourmet treat instead of chucking it when you inevitably forget about it.

Deglazed Pan Sauce

Deglazing is fun.  First you get to sear or sauté tasty morsels until they are dark and beautiful.  Then you pour in a little liquid and it blossoms into a cloud of steam and smells fabulous and you totally feel like a real chef.  Then you add more liquid so you don’t burn your sauce while having chef fantasies.

Anyway, moving on.  Fun aside, searing and deglazing are critical cooking skills, and it is in your best interests to master them.  Confidence is the essential factor, since there is a lot of heat and noise and smoke, but I believe in you.  Practice making a sauce every time you cook a simple chicken, pork or steak dish, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you improve.  And how often you find people inviting themselves back over for dinner.

The instructions are chicken based, but I’ll list of few of my other favorite combinations at the end.  The method and ratios are essentially the same, except where noted.

Ingredients

Equipment:

Large enameled skillet (preferably with a lid) or Dutch oven.  Nonstick will work if you don’t have anything else, but not as well.  You should probably just listen to me and buy a Dutch oven.

Wooden spoon

Kitchen fan A good sear easily creates enough smoke to set off the fire alarm. Crank it up to high, and crack a window if yours is not stellar.  

At least 1 chicken neck

Saucy Note: Usually a whole chicken will come with the neck inside it, so it’s particularly easy to make sauce if you’re roasting the entire bird. The roasting time is also perfect for a nice rich reduction, so I tend to use less chicken scraps than when I do other proteins.  If you have extra pieces saved or chicken thighs are on special though, I highly recommend making extra meaty chicken gravy at some point.  You can also usually buy bulk chicken necks at the grocery store and freeze them in small bags if you want to have a better supply.

1 shallot or onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1 bay leaf

2 cups chicken broth

Saucy Note: Adjust the amount of liquid you’re using based on how long you’ll be reducing it for.  A long reduction calls for more liquid, whereas you can make a quick tasty au jus in about ten minutes with less than a cup.

2-3 second pour white wine or dry sherry Saucy Note: Buy a big bottle if you like our blog!

1-2 tbsp. oil, depending on amount of meat Note: Olive oil is fine, although it tends to be smokier than other oils.  Sesame oil or canola oil is better.

Salt

Optional: butter

Instructions

Heat skillet or Dutch oven over high heat.  Add oil and heat until just starting to smoke.  Quickly and carefully arrange chicken in single layer in the hot pan (very easy if you’re only using the neck.) Set a timer for 4 minutes. Do not touch, turn, flip, poke, or even look at the meat for too long during this time.  With practice you won’t need a timer, but anyone new to this technique should so you can ignore it for the appropriate amount of time without forgetting it.

While chicken is browning, dice onion and smash garlic.  Keep separate.

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When the timer sounds, use tongs to ever so gently pull at a piece of the chicken.  If it releases easily, it’s ready to flip.  If it sticks, give it another thirty seconds.  If it’s still stuck, you might need to turn the heat up.  When the meat releases easily and is dark brown, repeat the process on the parts that now look pale and anemic compared to your beautiful sear.  When chicken is well browned on all sides, use tongs to remove to plate.  Turn off heat and let cool for a moment.

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Make wine and broth easily accessible.  You’ll need to move quickly once the garlic goes in the pan.

If the pan is very greasy, drain or use a paper towel to mop up grease so there is about 2 tbsp. left.  Turn stove back to medium, and add shallot or onion and sauté until lightly brown, turning heat down if bottom of pan starts to get too dark.  When onion is golden, add garlic and turn heat to high, stirring constantly.  As soon as the garlic is fragrant (20-30 seconds), splash in the sherry or wine-you want enough to create a small puddle but not enough that the pieces are swimming.  It will steam and boil immediately, so watch your sensitive bits while continuing to stir with the wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up the fond (the savory, sauce winning brown stuff.  There will not be as much fond with nonstick, which is why it is not as awesome for this)

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After the alcohol has evaporated and the pan is almost dry, pour in the broth, repeating the scraping and stirring, and turn down the heat to simmer.  The liquid should be slowly producing small bubbles.  Add the bay leaf and return chicken pieces to pan, including the juices accumulated on the plate.

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If you have at least an hour until the gravy needs to be ready, cover and let simmer for about thirty minutes.  If you are working with less time, leave uncovered.  The next step can also be moved up 10-15 minutes if trying to reduce faster.

After thirty minutes, turn up heat until liquid is bubbling steadily.  Cook until reduced to desired consistency, and then strain the solids (I recommend a gravy strainer. The top is perforated to allow liquid through, and it has a special spout to separate the grease.)  Sometimes I make it thinner for hot sandwich dipping.  Other times I return it to the pan and reduce it even further until it is very concentrated.  Swirl in a couple tablespoons of butter for a rich gravy, and make sure you serve bread so people can resist drinking straight from the gravy boat.

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Salt to taste.

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Variations 

Seared smoked ham ends, deglazed with bourbon and simmered with beef broth  

Note: As I mentioned earlier, I save the little end pieces and fatty trimmings from pretty much everything.  In the case of ham, its usually already cooked and seasoned, so it imparts more flavor than others. I like it for French dips because it’s a little smoky.

Seared steak trimmings deglazed with red wine and simmered in beef stock 

Beef makes for a very luxurious tasting reduction because it is so rich, especially if you’re using steak trimmings, and can benefit from a splash of vinegar at the end.

Seared steak trimmings and onions deglazed and simmered with beef broth 

Very simple, and if you pick out the beef bits with tongs, the onions make for a heartier texture.

 

Gastrique: The Easiest Fancy Thing Ever

If you’ve never had a gastrique, you are majorly missing out. Sweet, tangy, and full of sass, gastriques are as beautiful as they are delicious.  Made of equal parts liquid sugar (simple syrup, maple, honey, agave…) and vinegar, gastriques are also deceptively easy to make.  Ten minutes of effort,  a little flavoring in the form of fruit, vegetable, wine or herb, and you’ll be sending it home in to-go cups.  Except there won’t be any left because everybody ate it already. The following recipe is my absolute favorite for smoked ham, but it’s also fun to play around with on breakfast foods. Ham and pancake sandwich anyone?

Ingredients

Makes about 1 cup 

Equipment:

Nonstick skillet or sauté pan

Silicone spatula

½ cup maple syrup

½ cup apple cider vinegar

Salt

Splash of red wine

Instructions

Heat maple syrup over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, swirling pan occasionally so it heats evenly.  Add vinegar all at once, careful not to splash the hot liquid on yourself.  It should boil immediately.  Continue cooking for another few minutes as the syrup and vinegar meld.

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Add the red wine, just enough to give the mixture a brilliant scarlet color, and reduce, stirring occasionally.  The gastrique is done when you can leave a temporary clean streak on the bottom of the pan with your spatula.

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To serve put in gravy boat or spoon over top. Keep in mind this is a strongly flavored sauce.

Finding Gatsby in New Orleans: The Sidecar

We rang in 2017 with quite the bang in the form of a canapé and champagne filled soiree accompanied by our delightfully colorful friends and family. Lots of cocktail dresses, delicate flutes and overly sparkly baubles abounded and such sights always make me think of the (admittedly fictitious) parties Mr. Gatsby threw. Imagine it if you will; Gorgeous outfits on everyone, enough alcohol to inebriate the entire country of Canada twice over consumed in a mere evening, and raucously inappropriate music, conversations and shenanigans everywhere the eye can see. It leaves no doubt as to how our favorite cocktails came to be during this time. Speakeasy parties, inconsistent (at best) alcohol quality and dodging societal faux pas led to the creative minds of bartenders coming up with classic recipes still enjoyed the world over today. Down in New Orleans, you’ll find a city that has done its best to emulate the opulence Jay Gatsby captured in those shindigs of the 20’s. The next big, sparkly celebration of the year is Mardi Gras, which (in my imagination Mr. Gatsby would have made an excellent King of the Mardi Gras Parade) takes that 20’s style right into the new century. The Big Easy’s most appropriate contribution to those of us bound by the grey skies, drizzly days and damp cold nights of Seattle’s metropolitan area is the Sidecar.

The culture of New Orleans needs to be touched on for just a second at this point. People of this gorgeous city are known for marching to the tune of their own drummers (particularly jazz, the heartbeat of the whole town). It’s very streets write the story of survival its inhabitants have written. Hurricane Katrina, diseases, invasions, influences from the French, Spanish, African, and Cajun cultures have all come together to make this a city filled with tradition. It is filled with some of the best soul food a home can provide and a restaurant scene filled with creative chefs and bartenders taking these flavors and evolving them into something altogether unique. This mindset isn’t exactly new. The history of New Orleans is as colorful and bold as the gumbo, jambalaya, hurricanes and sazeracs they pride themselves on.

Finding Sasquatch is arguably easier than finding an actual origin story of a cocktail and this drink is no different. As many accounts crediting New Orleans exist as those insisting it came to us from Paris or London. Lots of people tout Harry’s Bar in 1920’s Paris. Others believe it was specifically an anonymous US Army Captain looking to drink cognac in the daytime, (an act which most assuredly had most women clutching their pearls in horror) which led to an enterprising bartender blending the spirit with Cointreau and lemon juice. How this simple act of serving it chilled with a flourish in a coupe glass took the crass edge off this act I’ll never know. Personally I prefer to believe it was at the very least perfected in The Big Easy.

The Sidecar takes these influences and brings them all into the same fully evolved, complex cocktail. There are numerous schools of thought as to which sort of spirit base you should base your drink around. Bourbon, cognac, or brandies are the favorites and around here the classic is timeless. A good Cognac that stands up on its own makes this drink sing.

Classic Sidecar

2 oz Cognac

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lemon Juice

Slice of lemon

Superfine Sugar

Twist of lemon (For garnish)

 

Take a slice of lemon and wipe it around the rim of a chilled coupe glass. Dip rim of glass into a small plate of superfine sugar. Combine all ingredients in glass with ice. Stir and strain into glass.

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Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie was my first true victory in the kitchen. More colloquially known as Shepard’s Pie, they are essentially the same dish, except technically Cottage Pie is made from beef, whereas the Shepard fills his with lamb or mutton. I originally got the recipe from my mother in law, who got it from a friend in the UK, so it’s a little old school and very simple to whip together. This is also a great meal for a crowd, since the prep work is short, and the time in the oven requires very little supervision. Enjoy by itself or with a simple vegetable prep, like glazed carrots or buttered frozen peas. I also like a salad with vinaigrette to cut the richness of the beef a little, if you’re feeling ambitious.

Shake says: Cottage pie is just about as quintessentially British as you can get. Boddington’s Pub Ale is a smooth, easy to drink accompaniment to this delicious, homey meal. It always makes me feel like I’m sitting in a delightfully named pub in the Cotswolds.

This recipe serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the pie:

Special Equipment: Dutch Oven

1 lb Lean ground beef

4-6 potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1” thick rounds

2 beef bouillon cubes, dissolved in two cups boiling water (Note: If you double this recipe, I usually find I only require one additional cup of liquid)

1 onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, diced

½ tsp. Soy sauce

½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce

¼ tsp. Salt

2tbsp. Olive oil

1 stick butter, cut into small pieces

Shredded cheese

For the Golden Glazed Carrots: 

6 carrots

2 tbsp butter, cubed

¼ cup chicken broth

2 tbsp sugar

pinch of salt

 

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 350° F

Place beef into large bowl. Season meat with salt, soy sauce, and Worcestershire (I don’t usually measure, I just toss stuff into the bowl until it seems right. With practice eventually you’ll get a feel for it too and save yourself some cleanup) Mix the beef and seasonings together with your hands or a spoon until evenly dispersed.

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Fill a small saucepan with water and set stove at high heat. Add bouillon cubes when boiling.

Saucy Note: To cook the main part of this dish, I recommend a cast iron Dutch oven. It holds heat evenly on the stove and in the oven, and is great for browning and baking. My first one was from Target and cost less than $100, and I still use it when I need an extra pot.

Put the Dutch oven on the stove on medium high heat. Add 1tbsp. oil and heat until shimmering. Add beef, using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula to evenly press the meat across the bottom of the pan. After 2-3 minutes, turn beef with spoon so browned side is visible, breaking it up into smaller pieces as you go (it gets easier as it cooks longer, you want to end up with mostly 1-2 inch chunks). Turn beef every couple minutes until browned all around. Dice the onion and garlic while meat is browning, keeping the onion separate from the garlic.

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When meat is done browning, drain grease and put beef onto paper towel lined plate and return pot to stove.

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Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil to Dutch oven and return heat to medium high. Add diced onions, stirring frequently until golden brown. Add garlic all at once, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds so garlic doesn’t burn (the garlic tastes yucky if it burns.)

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Optional Step: Deglaze pot with splash of dry sherry. Pour a scant ¼ cup of dry sherry into the bottom of the pan.   It will boil and steam immediately, so keep your face and hands away. Stir quickly while alcohol cooks off, scraping up the tasty brown stuff on the bottom of the pan, then turn off heat.

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Return the meat and add the beef broth to the pot. Meat should just break the surface of the liquid. Put in 350° oven on middle rack and set timer for 1 hour.

While the beef is in the oven, make the mashed potatoes. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. While water is heating, peel and slice potatoes into 1” thick slices or cubes (it helps the potatoes cook more quickly and evenly.) Boil until tender when pierced with a fork or skewer. Drain.

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Return empty potato pot to stove. With heat off, add cut up stick of butter to warm pan so it melts while you mash the taters. I mash my potatoes with an immersion blender because mine has a potato masher attachment (soooooo cool right?), but if you don’t have one, I recommend either a hand masher or a ricer. Stirring potatoes for too long will make them gummy, so treat them gently!

Mash potatoes in warm pan so the butter is incorporated. Add a pinch of salt.

When oven timer goes off, remove meat and set on stove. Spoon the potatoes across the top so it covers the beef with a thick layer. Sprinkle on a handful of shredded cheese (sometimes I want a lot of cheese, no judgment if you add a couple handfuls.) Return pot to oven for 20 more minutes, or until cheese is bubbling. Sometimes I also turn the broiler on for 2-3 minutes at the end so it gets brown and toasty looking.

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While the cottage pie is finishing in the oven, make the vegetable and salad if desired.

For the carrots, peel and slice them into ¼” rounds. In a large skillet with a well fitting lid, add carrots, salt, 1tbsp. sugar, and chicken broth (The recipe calls for ¼ cup, but that is an approximate measure, depending on the size of your pan and carrots. The liquid needs to just barely cover the base of the pan, as in the picture below.) Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. After about four minutes, check carrots with a paring knife. They should feel just tender; if not, recover them for 1-2 more minutes. When tender, remove lid and turn heat to high. Reduce liquid to about 2 tbsp., stirring constantly. When liquid is reduced, add butter and sugar, continuing to stir until sauce turns golden and is thick enough to leave a bare streak on the bottom of the pan when you drag a spatula through it. Remove from heat.

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Remove pie from oven when cheese is hot and spoon some beef, sauce, and potatoes into individual bowls. Serve carrots alongside, or spoon into bowls directly.

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Tortellini Soup

Tortellini soup is delicious and comes together in less than fifteen minutes, making it ideal for a weekend lunch or light, homey weeknight dinner. As a bonus, all the ingredients can be frozen or kept in your pantry for months at a time, so you can always have a quick meal handy. Round it out with bread or toast and microwave some frozen veggies (I like peas or corn, personally), and you’ve got a nutritious meal that practically makes its self. If you have the time, a green salad also goes along nicely.

Shake Says: We usually enjoy a red blend with this meal. They tend to be more affordable for weeknight enjoyment. If you feel like getting fancy, try making a Classic Champagne Cocktail.

For this you’ll need –

Sparkling Wine (Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, use something you enjoy enough to drink on its own)

Champagne Flutes

Sugar Cubes

Angostura bitters (I also like Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters)

Lemon for twists

Put one sugar cube in each champagne flute you plan to serve and soak in bitters. Let them hang out for a few minutes. Open a bottle of sparkling wine and fill the flutes. Garnish with a twist of lemon. Cheers!

Soup Ingredients:

These amounts serve 1-3

1 package fresh Tortellini (Find it in the deli or cold packaged foods section. I like the simplicity of cheese, but there are also usually some meat options if you’d like something a little heartier)

32 oz chicken broth

4 large cloves of garlic, 5-6 if smaller (or a couple shakes of garlic powder, if you don’t have fresh)

Salt

Parmesan Cheese

Frozen Vegetables (optional)

Bread

Instructions

  1. If using frozen bread, preheat oven according to package instructions. If you’re serving toast, I like to prep the bread now.
  2. Pour chicken broth into medium-large saucepan-make sure it’s big enough that there will still be plenty of space when you add the tortellini. Add a couple pinches of salt and bring to a boil.
  3. When oven is hot, put in bread and set timer according to directions. If not having bread, put bowls in oven at lowest temperature to warm.
  4. Gently pour tortellini into boiling broth. Adjust heat so liquid continues to boil, but not at maximum effort. Set timer for 6 minutes. Test for doneness when timer sounds, and add 1-3 minutes as necessary. Remove from heat and let stand for 2-3 minutes when finished.

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  1. Start vegetables so they finish the same time as the tortellini.
  2. Warm bowls in oven once bread is removed. (Turn oven off)
  3. Serve tortellini in bowls with a ladle of broth. Sprinkle on some parmesan if desired, and serve with more parmesan, bread, and vegetables.

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Saucy Secrets:

This is a meal with endless variations. The bare bones meal I outlined above is a staple in our household, but I frequently mix it up when I have the time or ingredients. Below are a few of my favorite tricks, let me know if you think of any of your own!

To make a quick, colorful garnish, slice up some prosciutto or bacon and crisp it quickly in a skillet.

For a vegetarian option, use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and throw in a handful of cut veggies at the same time as the tortellini.

Before adding the broth, sauté the garlic in a little olive oil in the pot. It will infuse the soup with an extra aroma of garlic, and a rich dotting of oil across the soup when served.

Add cheese or a little ½&½ to the soup towards the end to make it creamy.

Throw in extras like leftover roasted chicken, diced tomatoes, or tomato paste to add a little heartiness.

New Year’s Resolution – Master a Roasted Chicken

Roasting chicken is an unnecessarily daunting task, and for every person I know that has mastered it, there are ten who haven’t quite grasped it, or even tried at all.  Not only is it easy to prepare with a little practice, it creates an elegant presentation for guests, or a bounty of leftovers if feeding only one or two.  Roast chicken is also wonderful because it pairs with pretty much anything, and can be dressed up or down depending on your mood and energy levels.  The following two menus take about the same amount of time to prepare, but the simpler one will give you more time to relax or prepare for guests, and the second one will provide a more robust meal, albeit with a little more prep work and hands-on time.

Before we move on to the actual recipe, I want to state my one and only unbreakable rule for cooking: Read all the ingredients and directions first.  Before you go to the grocery store, before you start cooking, before you even start thinking you might want to make this meal! It will save you a lot of time and frustration, and in the long run help you develop a sense of timing and difficulty when you read recipes.

Shake says: Pair either menu with a Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc for white wine lovers or Pinot Noir for those who prefer red. To change things up on the weekend, enjoy this meal with a bottle of Cava or Brut leftover from the holidays! Sparkling wine perfectly complements dark thigh meat and the potatoes, asparagus, and any desire to feel fancy.

Simple Chicken Dinner Menu

Oven Roasted Chicken

Green Salad with Vinaigrette

Bread

Sauce’s Cheat: Instant yellow rice adds a quick and easy starch

Ingredients List – 

For the Simple Menu:

Chicken:

  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 onion, cut into small (1 in.) chunks
  • 1 lemon, cut into small chunks
  • 1 whole chicken
  • Specialty Item: Kitchen Twine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

For the Salad and Dressing:

  • Green leaf lettuce
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup champagne, white, or red wine vinegar
  • ½ tbsp. honey
  • Pinch of salt

A Note on Bread

As much as I love to cook, we all live in the real world, and whether that involves, work, kids, marriage, pets or video games, sometimes we need a shortcut here and there.  My favorite shortcut involves bake-at-home bread-I freeze it until I need it, and it comes out looking and smelling like a fresh loaf in under ten minutes.  Our household practically requires bread at every meal, so until I get to the point that I’m capable of making 4-6 loaves a week, I’ll keep my modern luxuries.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and adjust rack to middle.
  2. Prep lemon, onion, and garlic.  You are going to stuff all these tender morsels into cavity of the bird, so try and get them roughly the same size, about that of a large garlic clove.  To smash the garlic, gently press the flat side of a chef’s knife until you hear a crunch. Don’t annihilate it; just release some of that garlicky goodness.
  3. img_0744Remove the bird from the packaging and rinse gently under cold water to get the weird off, noting the weight.  Note: I recommend keeping latex gloves on hand for handling raw meat, especially chicken.  It greatly cuts down on contamination issues, and keeps you from drying your hands out washing them every 13 seconds.
  4. Remove giblets and neck if present (reserve neck and heart in a ziplock in the freezer for gravy making purposes if you’re feeling ambitious).  
  5. Pat dry with paper towels.  
  6. img_0761Stuff with equal parts lemon, onion, and garlic in the cavity until full.  
  7. Truss the bird. WHOA, right, we were doing easy stuff like slicing lemons and patting chickens with paper towels. Calm down, this is easy.  If you want to get fancy, there are a thousand tutorials and stories about how to use a trussing needle and the fact that you’ll never be anybody if you don’t do it like every French baby can (it’s a natural skill there, like breathing) but in reality, you can fake it easier than you tie your shoes.  You will need cooking twine, but that’s the only special thing besides a basic sense of coordination.  Anyway, on to the task at hand:
  8. Cut yourself about a 14 inches of twine.  Holding it evenly in both hands, wrap it over the breasts and wingtips so they stay tucked in close.  
  9. img_0773img_0776img_0782Twist twine underneath chicken (like you’re tying ribbon on a present) and bring back up around the skinny part of the drumstick (chicken ankle?).  Wrap in figure 8 so chicken ankles draw together, then tie off in knot of your choice.  Since I already assumed you could tie your shoes and you kept reading, I’m again going to assume you can figure that bit out for yourself.
  10. Rub with light drizzle of olive oil (none should pool in the joints, but skin should glisten nicely) and sprinkle liberally with coarse salt.  It should look like snow sparkling in the sun, not a glitter disco ball.img_0844img_0865
  11. Place in roasting pan on a bed of onions.  You can also use thick slices of French bread in the bottom of a skillet, which produces something that is best described as half stuffing, half crouton. It’s Sauce’s favorite way to roast chicken.
  12. Whatever vessel you have chosen, it is now time to put the chicken in the oven. Calculate your cooking time at 20 minutes for every pound, plus 20 minutes-so a 5lb bird will take 2 hours, whereas a 3 pounder will take less than an hour an a half.  Keep that in mind when purchasing your bird, since the greater yield may not be worth the time.  Timing is also an estimation-it’s the best way to start out, but pay attention to sounds, smells, and colors along the way to start getting a better feel for things.img_0874
  13. Start the timer!
  14. Slice or dice shallots and garlic.  I like to use an immersion blender to get a smooth texture, so I chop pretty lazily, but if you do not have that technology I recommend dicing the ingredients as fine as possible.  Combine in small bowl with mustard and vinegar and let marinate until ready to combine other ingredients.
  15. Wash and cut lettuce into bite sized pieces.  Lay out to dry, or use a salad spinner.  I personally prefer the salad spinner when I have the fridge space, because the basket is excellent for storing leftover washed greens.  You can prep an entire head of lettuce and use it until its gone-lettuce lasts much longer in the spinner than in the bag.
  16. Check the timer.  Subtract ten minutes from the remaining time.  Go find something else to do for that amount of time.  Suggestions: set the table, open wine, pour wine, call your mother, kiss your spouse, pour wine for your spouse, tell your spouse to pour wine for you, walk the dog, write a haiku about how pleased you are to successfully roast a chicken; I don’t care, but do anything besides open the oven every five minutes.  Or at all.
  17. Ten minutes before the timer says the chicken should be done, check the thickest part of the thigh with an instant read thermometer.  If you don’t have one, trust your math and cross your fingers. Remove the chicken when the internal temp goes above 160° F.
  18. Add oil, salt, and honey to salad dressing.  Whisk vigorously with fork or blend with immersion blender.  Adjust ratios to taste-remember, I’m giving you very simple guidelines here, and everybody has their own preferences.  Too sweet for some is positively astringent for others, so trust yourself.  Make what you like first, and worry about everybody else later.  You have to find what makes you happy before you can please others-words to live by, really.
  19. Remove chicken from oven when ready, and cover loosely with foil, so the chicken is covered completely but the foil isn’t touching the skin, otherwise it can lose some crispiness. Set timer for 10 minutes.img_0937
  20. If having, put bread in oven and turn up to 400° F or stated temperature on package.
  21. Toss salad and put in serving bowl if using.  Or eat out of the mixing bowl with your fork, I don’t’ judge.
  22. 2 minutes before end of timer, remove bread and wrap in clean kitchen towel or foil.  Turn off oven and put in dinner plates to warm.  Leave door partially open so the oven can cool a little, and proceed with caution when removing the plates, as they will get very hot very quickly.  Tough fingers are helpful in cooking, but I don’t suggest trying to develop them all at once.
  23. If you didn’t listen to me earlier, or nobody listened to you, open the wine.  Chef bonus: Taste for quality
  24. At the end of the ten minute timer, remove foil from chicken and retrieve the hot plates from the oven.  Carve chicken in quarters, starting by slicing into the thighs (a clear sign the chicken is done is if the joint separates fairly easily) and then slicing along the breastbone and along the ribs to free the breast.  Our household is strictly divided on the light/dark meat issue, so I don’t have to cut it apart farther than that.  If you need a more egalitarian division, just make sure you’re keeping the pieces skin side up and plating as quickly as possible to keep that crispy golden exterior from getting soggy from all those delicious juices your chicken will be exuding.  img_0961img_0975
  25. Serve plated chicken alongside breadbasket and salad.  Allow guests and family to serve themselves bread and greens while you pour wine or water.  Enjoy!!!

 

Weekend Chicken Dinner

Oven Roasted Chicken

Green Salad with Vinaigrette

Prosciutto wrapped asparagus

Roasted Potatoes

Bread

Ingredients List:

For the Chicken:

  • 6 cloves garlic, gently smashed
  • 1 onion, cut into small (1 in.) chunks
  • 1 lemon, cut into small chunks
  • 1 whole chicken
  • Specialty Item: Kitchen Twine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

For the Salad and Dressing:

  • Green leaf lettuce
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup champagne, white, or red wine vinegar
  • ½ tbsp. honey
  • Pinch of salt

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus:

  • 1 bunch asparagus, the thinner the better
  • 3oz prosciutto
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Roasted Potatoes:

  • 1 lb baby potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Directions

If there is any confusion or seeming lack of information, please reference the Simple Chicken Dinner instructions.

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and adjust rack to middle.
  2. Quarter potatoes and toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and enough salt to be visible but not coated.  Put on rimmed, foil lined baking sheet.img_0902img_0914
  3. Prep lemon, onion, and garlic.  If you’re feeling sassy because you already conquered the simple dinner, or just want to add an extra touch because you have the time, toss those bad boys in a little olive oil and salt before you stuff them.
  4. Put water on to boil for asparagus.  Add generous pinch of salt.
  5. -Remove the bird from the packaging and rinse gently under cold water to get the weird off, noting the weight.  Note: If you only like some of my ideas and didn’t listen to the latex glove one, I recommend keeping hand lotion next to the sink. The one I use my husband turned me onto when we both worked on cars, so it’s pretty stellar for any situation.  To each their own, but find something. Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve $15.00
  6. Remove giblets and neck if present (keep freezing them!).  
  7. Pat dry with paper towels.  
  8. Stuff equal parts lemon, onion, and garlic in the cavity until full.  
  9. Truss the bird. It worked the way I told you last time right? If not, do what I did; try something else until it works, short of mummifying the thing with twine.  Jacques Pépin will still never see this.
  10. Place in roasting pan on rack or bed of onions.  Or try the bread and skillet plan! Hint hint.
  11. Put the chicken in the oven. Calculate your cooking time at 20 minutes for every pound, plus 20 minutes.
  12. Start the chicken timer, plus an extra timer for the potatoes.  The covered potatoes go in the oven under the chicken when there is about an hour left, so plan accordingly (you managed the math in the last post, so I feel confident in once again assigning you this task of simple arithmetic. Thinking is good for you anyway).
  13. Slice or dice shallots and garlic. Combine in small bowl with mustard and vinegar and let marinate until ready to combine other ingredients.
  14. Cut off tough asparagus ends and wash. Prepare ice bath by filling a large bowl at least half full with ice and the rest of the way with cold water.
  15. Place entire bunch of asparagus in boiling water at the same time. Blanch (which is a fancy word for boil for a short time) for 1-2 minutes.  The asparagus should bend slightly when removed from the water with tongs, but the water should not turn green-that’s the sweet spot.
  16. When the asparagus reaches the previously mentioned point of perfection, quickly remove it from the stove and plunge into the ice bath to stop cooking.  Leave to cool.
  17. Wash and cut lettuce into bite sized pieces.  Dry.
  18. Dry asparagus thoroughly with paper towels.  Toss with a scant amount of olive oil and salt, just enough to barely coat and leave a visible sprinkle, since the prosciutto adds extra salty deliciousness.
  19. Line baking sheet with foil.  Peel individual prosciutto pieces away from wax paper, stacking pieces loosely as you go.  When they’re all unwrapped, slice in half lengthwise.  Working with one to two pieces of asparagus at a time, depending on thickness, wrap a piece of prosciutto around the length of each stalk as nicely as you can.  I give you permission to eat those pernicious pieces that refuse to cooperate.img_0930
  20. Put the potatoes in when the chicken has just under an hour left. Set timer for 20 minutes.
  21. When potato timer dings, quickly remove the foil and place back in oven.  
  22. The potatoes should be crispy about the time the chicken is done, but check them during the last ten minutes when you temp the chicken.  Remove the chicken when the internal temp goes above 160° F.
  23. Add oil, salt, and honey to salad dressing.  Whisk vigorously with fork or blend with immersion blender.
  24. Remove chicken from oven when ready, and cover loosely with foil, so the chicken is covered completely but the foil isn’t touching the skin, otherwise it can lose some crispiness. Set timer for 10 minutes.
  25. If having, put bread in oven and turn up to 400° F or stated temperature on package.
  26. Toss salad and put in serving bowl if using.  
  27. Eight minutes into the timer, remove the bread and turn the oven to high broil (that’s how long my favorite frozen bread takes, adjust as necessary or use a second oven if you have it).  Broil asparagus for 2-5 minutes on the top rack, and put the plates on the bottom rack to warm.
  28. Open wine, or tell somebody else to because you’re working.
  29. Remove asparagus when ends are slightly charred and prosciutto is starting to get crispy.  Turn off oven and remove plates.
  30. When the ten minute timer and the asparagus are done, remove foil from chicken and carve into desired servings.  Plate as you go to keep skin crispy, and add a few spears of asparagus and a scoop of potatoes to each plate before serving.  
  31. Serve plated meal alongside breadbasket and salad.  Allow guests and family to serve themselves bread and greens while you pour wine or water.  Enjoy!!!
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