Thursday, October 11, 2007

First Night... FINALLY!

Okay, so, I didn't start right away on my magical culinary tour. Kinda busy with shtuff. But last night, 10 October, we began. And here's how we went:

first of all, it's all arbitrary choice on what we're going to go for with the cookbooks. i have 218 cookbooks total. this does not include the vast amount of recipes from pretty much everything and anything. we've decided to cook 1 recipe a night AT THE VERY LEAST from each cookbook in our library -- since i belong to The Good Cook (ya know, that Cookbook of the Month Club?), there will be more cookbooks coming. but let's just start with the 218 that range from American homecooking to Asian tea ceremony stuff to a cookbook from Britain circa 1890. oh, and my mom's 23rd birthday present -- a totally amazing Betty Crocker cookbook (my mom is now 72). here's the first cookbook i grabbed:

i tend to read cookbooks all the way through and i'm one of those freaks who's actually all about the mise en place theory -- everything in its place. with this little deal-ee-o, i've decided to slightly fly by the seat of my pants and see if i can be creative with a recipe on any given night. i'm also just opening up to some page and see what meets our fancy by whatever vibe i'm in at the time and stick to that category NO MATTER WHAT. so, if i open in the relish area, yep, we have some sort of condiment made from scratch to go with whatever i can figure out to put with it. it's pretty fun. but, then again, i have no life.

i opened up my cookbook to this recipe:

what's cool about this book is it's a collection of great recipes from different magazines, restaurants, etc. giving them credit and putting in little bits of info about the cook/or source of the recipe and notes of assistance from their test kitchen. here is how the recipe is in the book:



2 large garlic cloves
Kosher or sea salt
3-4 tablespoons xtra virgin olive oil

12 chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, rinsed, and patted dry
2 large lemons, each cut into six 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 bunch fresh rosemary, snipped into twelve 2-inch pieces
1 bunch fresh thyme, snipped into twelve 2-inch pieces
12 fresh sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

serves 6

To make the allioli: Using a mortar and pestle (or a small mixing bowl and the back of the spoon), mash the garlic with a large pinch of salt to create a coarse past. (Or mince the garlic very finely on a cutting board.) Add the oil very slowly in drops while pounding and grinding the past until the allioli is thick, creamy, and emulsified.

To make the chicken: Put the chiken in a large bowl. Rub the allioli all over, including under the skin. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425º and set a rack in the middle level.

Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer in a large shallow roasting pan or a 9x13 inch baking dish. Top each slice with a piece of rosemary, a piece of thyme, and a sage leaf. Place the chicken thighs skin side up on top; sprinkle generously wiht salt and pepper. Bake until the skin is golden and the juices run clear, 45 to 60 minutes.

Sometimes the lemon slices and chicken produce a lot of juices, in which case you can make a delicious pan sauce. Transfer the chicken (keeping the herbs and lemon slices underneath) to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Tilt the pan to pool the juices in one corner. Spoon off the fat that rises to the top. Set the pan over medium heat (if the pan isn't flameproof, pour the juices into a small skillet) and scrape up any stuck-on bits. Let the juices boil and reduce so they thicken the sauce. To maintain th ebirds crisp skin, drizzle the sauce around, not on, the chicken. Serve the chicken pieces sitting on their beds of lemon and herbs.

that's the recipe as it is written. this is how i changed it:

when i went to pick out the chicken from my deep freeze, while i had plenty of chicken, i only had 4 bone in/skin on thighs. i do a lot of japanese cooking -- tomorrow night's feature, by the by -- and there's a lot of need for boneless, skinless chicken thighs in our house because of it. so the recipe, as you can see, needs 12 thighs. since i didn't have them, i used a whole chicken and the rest went like this:

1 whole chix, between 3-4 pounds -- just wiped dry, not washed. i learned that from this faboo cookbook -- washing spreads the germs of raw chicken, cooking kills it. obla-dee, obla-uh, huh.
1 tsp dried thyme -- i didn't have fresh herbs in the house, had no time to get them, so there.
the allioli
salt and freshly ground black pepper -- huge believer in that, ya know
and 1 large lemon.

i rubbed the allioli on, inside and under the skin of the whole chicken. i refrigerated it, covered, overnight. the next day, when i came home from work, i took it out and preheated the oven to 375º. i salt and peppered the chicken, inside and out, and i definitely used freshly ground pepper. trust me here. the flavor is incomparable and finding an inexpensive pepper mill is really easy. i know i sound all "cooking showy", but i swear it's true.

so, i marinate the whole chix overnight, take it out, preheat the oven, blah, blah bore you to death, then i put the dried thyme all over the chicken and inside the cavity. i put the chicken on a rack in a baking pan then i cut the lemon in half, squeezed a bit on top of the chicken, squeeze some inside the cavity then shove the sucker into the chicken. as for the seasoning part, make sure you season ALL OVER THE CHICKEN. and i mean, top, bottom, sides, inside, got it? cool.

then i baked it WITHOUT BASTING IT for 45 minutes, then let it rest INSIDE THE OVEN WITHOUT THE HEAT ON for about 10 minutes. however, you could totally take it out and tent it with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes. same deal. now, I don't happen to do the meat thermometer thing. it's just me, unless i'm making a turkey for a cooking client on thanksgiving, but i pretty much just go by what my heart tells me. but, testing the temp is cool if that's what you want to do, need to do, MUST do. if there's anything i can suggest on the road to cookery, it's to be your own best-taster and stroke your ego by doing what makes you feel better about your dish and gives you control.

why no basting, you ask?
cuz the purpose of skin on any fowl is to keep things out. so basting doesn't really do much of anything (it's been my experience and what i've learned, but, ya know, if you're about basting, then baste on) and cooking your fowl without the skin can dry it out. if you don't want the calories that come with this yummy, crunchy skin, then just take it off after cooking. however, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE cook the chicken with the skin on. puh-lease. it gives it GREAT flavor.

now, onto the report card from my two sons, Nicholas, 12, and Brandon, 11:

i served the chicken, which was an organic chicken, with an organic brown and wild rice combo that was simply cooked and fluffy, a little of the degreased au jus/sauce spooned on top of the rice, not the chicken. i wanted to keep the skin crispy and lovely. i added some fresh bartlett pears, sliced, and some slices of honey crisp apples onto the plate. my sons took one bite of the chicken and absolutely went BONKERS. and i mean, they totally flipped for it. they devoured that chicken and while, yes, my sons like to cook and do, they're still boys and they loved that meal. i liked it, too. tons. i think i'd like to bring in the fresh herbs next time, but how it was worked GREAT.

i felt pretty good about that. now, onto meal two.

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