Thursday, December 15, 2005

What I Ate - Dinner

For dinner I made a chicken recipe that is one of my favorite's. My father has an ancient Time-Life cookbook series from before I was born, and there are a lot of treasures in it. This is definitely one of them.

First you need a chicken, about 3 pounds, cut up into pieces. 4 tablespoons oil (I use olive oil), 2 tablespoons butter, 16-24 peeled shallots, artichoke hearts (I usually use a 12oz-14oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts), 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When the butter finishes foaming, brown the chicken pieces in two batches (don't crowd the skillet). After you've browned the chicken and removed all the pieces from the skillet, add the shallots to the skillet and shake them around - carefully! - to coat them with the fat. Pour off the excess fat (I like to leave some in the skillet so that there's more sauce when the chicken is done cooking). Add the browned chicken pieces, 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste. Cover the skillet and lower the heat and baste ever 7 to 8 minutes.

After 15 minutes add the artichoke hearts. If you are using canned or jarred hearts, drain them first before adding to the pan. When I add the artichoke hearts, I take this time to move around the chicken pieces so that they cook evenly. Keep the pan covered and bake another 15 minutes. The chicken should be done after 30 minutes, but I always cook it extra because I am so paranoid. I find that the chicken doesn't dry out, but simply gets more tender and more flavorful.

If you want, after you take the chicken, shallots, and artichoke hearts out of the pan, you can add 1/2 cup chicken stock to the pan with all the remaining juices and boil it for a couple minutes, being sure to scrape all the bits from the sides and bottom of the skillet into the sauce. After it has reduced to about 1/3 cup, pour it over the chicken. However, I find that usually there is enough sauce from the initial cooking and I don't bother with the chicken stock.

I also made some roasted potatoes, this is another simple recipe from The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated. You need 2 pounds red bliss potatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, 3-4 cloves garlic, fresh rosemary. You take 2 pounds red bliss potatoes, wash them and slice them into 3/4 inch wedges. Put them in a bowl and pour about 1/4 olive oil over them and toss. Add salt, then toss some more. Lay the potatoes in one layer in a shallow roasting pan (I use a rimmed cookie sheet). Be sure the flesh side is lying down on the pan, not the skin. Cover the pan tightly with tin foil and put it in a preheated 425 degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then take off the foil and bake another 15 minutes, until the bottoms of the potato slices that are touching the pan are brown. Make sure they are brown! The first time I made this recipe I did not wait until the slices were brown enough and made a big mess when I tried to turn them all over. If they are not crisp enough, when you try to turn them over they will stick to the pan and you will not get crispy potatoes.

After you're SURE that the bottoms are browned (they shoud be by this point) take the pan out and flip over the potatoes so that the other flesh-side of the wedges is touching the bottom of the skillet. To flip the potatoes over, use a metal spatula and press hard against the pan when sliding the spatula under the potatoes, so that you don't tear the crispy skin off the potatoes. Put the potatoes in for another 5 or 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are baking, mash up 3 or 4 cloves of garlic. The recipe says you should make a paste by smashing minced garlic against a cutting board with the blade of a kitchen knife, but I have never been able to do that. I either put it in a mini-food processor or mash it up as much as I can with a mortar and pistle set I have. In either case, mash up the garlic with a little bit of salt as best you can, and put it in the bottom of a bowl big enough to hold the potatoes.

For the last 3 minutes of baking, sprinkle the fresh rosemary over the potatoes. When the bottom side of the potatoes is crisp, take them out of the oven and carefully scrape them off the pan and put them in the bowl with garlic. Toss to coat the potatoes with garlic and serve. This recipe is best when the potatoes cook long enough to get crispy.

For a late dessert I made a peanut butter avalanche. For one serving, you put 1/2 cup crushed ice, 1/3 cup vanilla ice-cream, 1/8 cup vanilla liquer (I couldn't find this and just put a dash of vanilla extract and extra vodka), 1 tablespoon vodka, 1/8 cup malted milk powder, 1/8 cup peanut butter, and 1/8 cup nonfat milk in a blender. Blend until smooth and drink.

This tasted pretty good, but I put way too much vodka and couldn't finish it. Since I couldn't find the vanilla liquer, I put 2+ tablespoons vodka into the drink. Too strong! But otherwise the flavors blended nicely. I would make this drink again.

What I Ate - Breakfast and Lunch

This morning I made waffles for breakfast. After growing up on pancakes made with Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, I went through a phase where I scoffed at anything made from a box. My favorite waffles are still made from scratch; my favorite recipe is from Cook's Illustrated The Best Recipe cookbook. It involves separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites. These waffles are crispy on the outside and soft on the outside - perfect! But alas, on a weekday morning I don't feel like separating eggs and whipping egg whites. So I use Trader Joe's Buttermilk pancake mix.

My standard variation is to add some pecan pieces and a dash of vanilla extract to the batter. The pecans taste wonderful once you add melted butter and syrup to the finished waffles. I make the full recipe on the back of the box and freeze whatever I don't eat. They reheat very well.

I also ate 4 pieces of bacon and had orange juice - not from concentrate! It's Trader Joe's juice, so delicious. Yes, you might as well know now, I am Trader Joe's bitch.

For lunch I had 2 little bags of Dorito's. I can't put out effort all the time.