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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Daring Am I? Nanaimo Bars

When January 1st rolled around, I decided I would join the Daring Bakers for 2010. The monthly recipe challenges seemed like a great idea. I'd get to try new recipes. Writing about the challenges would help feed the hungry blog monster. And I love the idea of cooking essentially the same thing at the sametime as a whole bunch of other cooks all around the world, and then seeing how each cook works their own personal magic.

Well, the first challenge for Daring Bakers nearly did me in. Nanaimo Bars.

The January Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten Free Graham wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources on which she based her recipe are found here.

Graham Wafers -- 101 Cookbooks -- which Lauren adapted to be gluten free.
The adapted recipe is at Nanaimo Bars - City of Nanaimo.

To be frank, there was little that appealed to me about these layered bars. The bottom layer was essentially graham cracker crumb. And I had to make the graham crackers. Gluten free, too!

Here's something I haven't shared with many people. Graham crackers give me the WORST stomach aches. So, I never ever make anything with a graham cracker. I always substitute amaretto cookies. Or ginger snaps. But that Gluten Free twist? This challenge might clear up the graham question that has plagued me since I was a child.

So, I spent some time reading about celiac disease and gluten free cooking on Lauren's excellent blog, and decided to roll up my sleeves.

Off I went to the Thai grocer for glutinous rice flour and tapioca flour. Then to the Co-op for Sorgham flour. The rest of the ingredients I had in the pantry.

I intended to make half a recipe of the graham crackers. While the instructions said the graham crackers would last for two weeks, I wasn't that into the whole idea. (Seriously bad tummy problems.)

But the danged computer still doesn't work in the kitchen, so I was running back and forth to the front of the house, where the network connection is strong, reading instructions and back to the kitchen to cook. Really, it was just comical. Needless to say, I managed to get confused and added full amounts of half the ingredients, so I remedied the situation, finished the dough, and had a full recipe.

This would turn out to be a good thing.

I chilled the dough which was VERY soft, cut out the crackers and chilled them again, then made those cute little poked holes all over the cracker so it would look like the pictures. Into the oven - 12 minutes later this is what I had.


I shortened the time to ten minutes for the next two trays. Not much better. I stacked them up cleverly and took a photo. Then I threw them all into the food processor and blasted it into crumbs.

I have to admit. Those crumbs smelled divine. Brown sugary. Buttery.

The next day, I finished off the challenge. The original recipe called for a custard layer made with something called custard powder. I had no idea where to find that, so I considered a very stiff creme anglaise. Of course, this was two days before the posting date... of course I should have started this weeks ago, but I've always been a procrastinator.

Then I remembered my lemon curd stash. The freezer has four containers of Meyer lemon curd from one of the times I was unable to walk away from Meyer lemons.

Now, we're talking.

My little mind started whirring. Thinking of one of my favorite holiday cookies, I mentally combined pistachio, lemon, ginger and chocolate, and put a Mrs. Wheelbarrow spin on the Nanaimo bar.

Line a 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper.

For the base layer:
1-1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c chopped roasted, salted pistachio nuts (not red)
1/2 c crystallized ginger

Stir ingredients together and press firmly into the bottom of the baking pan.
Chill for 1 hour.

For the middle layer
1 c Meyer lemon curd (here's a link to Alton Brown's curd recipe)

Spread across the top of the base layer and chill for an hour.

For the top layer
Melt together 4 oz semi sweet chocolate & 2 oz unsalted butter. Stir well and cool for a few minutes so it's not too hot when you pour it on top of the lemon curd.

Now, chill this for at least 8 hours, overnight, if possible. Lift it out by the paper edges and

Cut with a knife that you clean after every cut.

These are sweet, gingery and tart with fresh lemon - really delicious. Cutting them was a challenge. Here's the prettiest plate I could manage. I needed one more day to chill them more, and the photo would do them justice.

Thank you to the Daring Bakers for opening my eyes to gluten free ingredients and to Lauren to introducing me to this tasty Nanaimo bar. And no tummy problems at all. I'm sold.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Exciting News! I'm Teaching!

For several years, friends have encouraged me to offer cooking classes. In fact, I've even done plenty of impromptu instruction (how to chop an onion/shallot/garlic, rolling out a pie crust, chocolate making, tofu tricks, knife skills) and it's all been well recieved. Sometime last summer, I started to think more and more about holding classes in my kitchen.

Last month, I sent an email around to a few friends who had indicated an interest. I asked them to gather some friends and come to a class, just to give me a chance to practice, to see if I liked it, how my kitchen would work, and to see if I even *could* teach.

Right before New Years, I held an appetizer class. Six students gathered around and we made tasty, fancy appetizers. We all had a lot of fun. Then, in mid-January, I offered a Dinner Party class - six people came, watched and participated, and in under three hours, appetizer, main course and dessert were made (no prep! all before their eyes!) About a week later, I showed another group how to put together three healthy soups, and how to make it all fancy-schmancy with some garnishes.

I am here to report that

1) The students seemed to have a good time while learning recipes, tips and tricks.
2) I had fun. And,
3) I want to keep teaching.

So, (drumroll, please!) here is the Spring Class Schedule in Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen.
Classes are $50. each
Prepay, and four classes are the price of three - $150.

Email me at to sign up.
There are only six places per class, first come, first served, and they go fast!

Sunday March 7 11a-2p
: Mini-Fritattas, Homemade Sausage Patties, Strawberry Rosemary Skewers,
Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce

Monday, March 15 1-4p

Saturday March 20 12-3

Sunday, April 11 11a-3p
DINNER PARTY: Shitake Thai Sticks, Chicken in Striped Pajamas, Sweet Potato Fries,
Perfect Salad, Crème Brulee

Saturday, April 17 1p-4p

Monday, April 26 11a-2p

Coming -- Summer, 2010
Basics of Canning: Jams
 & Chutneys
Basics of Canning: Tomatoes from Sauce to Salsa
Main Dish Salads

Indian Flavors

Quick Pastas

One Chicken Three Ways
Thai Take Out at Home

Saturday May 1 10a – 1p Class for Dads and Kids/Daughters? (three pairs max.)

Learn to Make Brunch for Mother’s Day

Mrs. Wheelbarrow is available to teach in your kitchen, too. Custom design a menu.
Maximum six guests. $250. includes groceries.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eating Other People's Food

It’s been a dreadful few days of computer drama. All self-inflicted, actually. Somewhere in my brain, I decided I needed to back up my data, photos, and who knows what else resides on this machine. And from there, into the land of software updates I ventured, only to take down computer, network, and ultimately, my sanity.

It’s still not completely fixed. I can get connected while sitting in one room of the house - neither the kitchen nor my studio, mind you. It’s like the olden days before wireless.

So, other than melting down over technology, I’ve been enjoying a quiet week of cooking from other food sites, using what was available in the pantry and freezer. Eating other people's food. Food52 is the most amazing resource. It’s my go-to site when I’m deciding what to cook, because I know those recipes have been made in a kitchen like mine, by a cook like me, and they never fail to impress, expand my imagination, and solve the “what’s for dinner” question. Returning from eating gloriously (fattening!) food in New York, I craved simple tasty vegetarian fare.

Here are a few highlights, and links to some fantastic blogs, as well.

Borrachos - an amazing recipe from LastNightsDinner, a friend from food52. This easy, tasty bean recipe has been fantastic. Because Dennis isn’t much for jalapenos, I just open a jar of my pickled jalapeno slices and spoon a generous helping right into my serving of the cooked beans. The tomatoes melt away and the beer provides a nice hoppy undertone.
We had burritos the first night - one of Dennis' favorite ways to enjoy beans. Breakfast for me was a bowl of these drunken beans, topped with a poached egg and some sriracha. And one night, I served the beans in bowls garnished with toasted ancho chili strips, avocado and creme fraiche.
I tried my hand at making corn tortillas, something I was quite good at the last few times, but this effort was a total failure. The beans, however, shine through everytime. For this particular recipe, I used Rancho Gordo Santa Maria pinquito. A tasty bean that makes me want to say Toothsome. (what a great word)

We both adored Macaroni, Cauliflower and Cheese from TasteFood. Another food52 contributor, Lynda’s twists on classic recipes are spectacular, as you can see in this simple, tasty dish. I made a full recipe, divided it into four gratin dishes, and froze two. It was the perfect dinner for Dennis when I was off in New York.

Dennis and I took a field trip to a Thai grocer in Silver Spring. What a great place - my only regret is eating lunch before I went! The food on the carryout side smelled great. A very helpful guy helped me gather all the ingredients to start cooking from Andrea Nguyen’s Asian Dumplings.

And a few other ingredients, too, the most intriguing, perhaps, is the Black Sweet Soy Sauce. I first heard of it through the fun blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen. These up and coming food world stars, Phoebe and Cara, have been around food52 and I got to know them there, and on Twitter. There was a great shout of Hooray! from the Twitterverse when their book deal was announced. Their recipes are spot-on - easy, tasty and always inventive. I made their version of Pad See Ew, and we loved it, and when Dennis tossed some chopped peanuts on top, we loved it even more.
So, New York was absolutely fabulous! Perhaps my favorite moment was walking out of the hotel into a sea of teenage girls. Yes, indeed, Nick Jonas was pulling up just around the corner. What a hilarious, noisy experience.
The baby shower was delightful, especially getting to see the gal pals from Martha’s Vineyard Weekend twice this year! Wow! (We missed you Kathleen, Carole, Ellen.) Jessie glowed. Seriously. What a gorgeous mother. Driving to and from Where-The-Hell-Are-We-Is-That-Really-Belmont-Park-OMG-and-Flushing-Meadows-Too?, Long Island, was -- well, just was.

Other highlights - meeting the glorious YummyMummy for a good talk about this world of blogging. She provided great ideas and insights in her inimitable hilarious way (read her blog for some hardy belly laughs and great recipes, to boot.) We pinky-swore to go to BlogHer this August in NYC. Can Not Wait.

The food in New York was just fantastic. Our dinner at the Fatty Crab was exceptional - especially the Crispy Pork Belly and Pickled Watermelon.
The lobster rolls downstairs at the Brooklyn Flea were OutOfThisWorld.
Momofuko Ramen. YES.

No food trip to NY seems complete these days without a stroll through Chelsea Market, especially when it’s full of people and musicians and children. Beautiful fish market. Superb Italian market (fig vinegar!) Eye candy everywhere.
Dinner at Landmarc - luscious roasted marrow bones, a sharp frisee salad, highly acidic and a great counterpoint. The Union Square Greenmarket, even in the cold of January, offered gorgeous mushrooms, root vegetables, some yummy pretzels and a loaf of sour rye that made me immensely happy. Lunch at Union Square Cafe - yes, the service really is that good. And the food was perfection, as was the company, reconnecting with a mentor/friend from a million years ago.
So, to wrap up a few days of eating other people's food, I asked Dennis if he would go with me to a class taught by Patricia Jinich at the Mexican Cultural Institute.
An evening of tamales sounded pretty darn good to me, but I had NO idea! They were spectacular. Three types - veg, chicken & beef - taught in a breezy, charming way, making it all look so easy and approachable! Yes, I will have a tamale party this year!
For now, it's back to the kitchen. Presuming I can overcome these technology burps, here's what's coming up. Jim Lahey's No-Knead bread. The Asian Dumpling experiment. And making bacon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Real World Intercedes

I have a post I've been crafting for a couple of days. All about my fun trip to New York and all the delicious spot, the silly fun with great friends, and so on.

But then, there was an earthquake in Haiti. And all that seemed so, well, inconsequential.

In 1972, I was a teenager, high school rising senior, with a complicated relationship with divorced parents. A guidance counselor at my boarding school recommended a summer program called Operation Crossroads Africa. It was an organization sending college kids to Africa and high school kids to the West Indies to do Peace Corps style works.

And that's how I ended up in Haiti. I spoke French, sort of close to the Creole spoken there. A handful of us, all between 15 and 18 years old, flew into the Port au Prince of President "Baby Doc" Duvalier. We rode around the city speechless, a group of priveleged, spoiled, sassy teens buffetted by scenes of abject poverty and a terrifying dictatorial government. Goose-stepping soldiers marched daily on the soccer field in town.

My camera was seized after I snapped a photo of the President's Palace. There was a tank in the front yard. Today, that Palace is rubble.

And that's why today I just can't get to writing about a frivolous, fabulous weekend in New York. I remember how poor and desperate that country was long before this earthquake. And I can't imagine, can't bear to think, of how desperate it must be now.

Our adult supervisor checked out the house we were supposed to stay in - a house that purportedly had water and electricity, though never both at the same time, and mostly neither - and she left. Really left. Went out for bread and milk and never came back. Day three or four. We were there for ten weeks. Many centuries before cellphones.

Eight teens left to our own devices. Our local contact was in Port au Prince, several kilometers and two TapTap rides away, so we organized ourselves, Lord of the Flies style. Everyone took on a role. Yes, even then, I was the cook.

We were there to build a nutrition center and connected with the work gang that walked five kilometers up a mountain every morning to start work. Yes, we Built - as in - dug a foundation with shovels, *made* concrete blocks (Martha, are you hearing this? Have you ever made your own concrete blocks?), mixed cement and built and entire building. This center was to be a distribution point for the mountain towns that surrounded our town of Kenskoff. Those mountain towns that have been reduced to rubble piles studded with bodies.

Every day two of us stayed back in the house, cleaned up, shopped for food (no refrigeration), made lunch and carried it up the mountain to the others. The women in town taught us to carry flat baskets with food, or jugs of water, on our heads. We would return to the house and make dinner and wash laundry by hand if the water in the house was running, and there were no rats. Or spiders.

I learned how to snap a chicken's neck. And stood shoulder to shoulder at 5:30 every Wednesday morning watching as a pig, or a sheep, or a goat, was killed and prepared for roasting, a treat every market day (and the only meat we really ate.)

We subsisted on oatmeal, peanut butter, avocados, mangos, and flatbread. Rice and peas for dinner. After awhile we got bored boiling all our water, so most of us had disentary for 8 of the 10 weeks.

Imagine what it's like for the Haitian population - when you grow up with the worst nutrition and then add to that disentary, parasites and E-coli. And now, imagine there isn't even dirty water available. I can see Kenskoff, the Haitians I knew, the experiences I had in my mind, but it reality, it's all gone.

When the rain was off in the distance, there was a man who would line up bottle caps on a wall in the town square. He would wait until the rain started and then drink from each cap as it filled. He would drink and drink and drink and drink. And then he would smile.

All those people. Gone.

I was such a narrow human being before I spent time in Haiti. I arrived there a private schooled, country club, dancing classes, horseback riding, self-involved child and suddenly my heart was opened.

I arrived home and my mother, taking my backpack from me, said "Where are all your things?" I told her I left them all with families in Kenskoff. I knew there were more in my closets and all that abundance seemed so wasteful.

It seems that way today, too. Reach into your heart and please, help the people of Haiti.

Friday, January 8, 2010

More from the $17 Chicken: Pot Pie & Pho

my favorite pie plate, from artist Miranda Thomas, who also made our dinnerware

It's snowing here. 7am. I'm getting ready to head to NYC to meet good friends for a long weekend. I have a list of 50 restaurants I'd like to visit. I won't get to all of them, but I'm willing to try.

Before I leave, I wanted to get the pot pie recipe out. After all, if you've roasted that chicken, you're now looking at leftovers. First, let's talk about my theory of pot pie. I'm a huge pot pie fan. (My sister in law practically turns green and gags when you mention it, but for me, it's the ultimate comfort food.)

While pot pies that are all meat, a little creamy gravy, and a flaky crust are delicious, I'm thinking healthy now. I picture a dinner plate - 30% animal protein and 70% veggies - and build a pie with the same ratios. And I omit the cream. Sad, but true.

Pot pie can be made with meat or poultry, or even all vegetables. One of Dennis' favorites is a pot pie with mushrooms, barley and chickpeas and a biscuit crust. (Typing that has made me want to make it NOW.)

After Thanksgiving, I made this Turkey Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuits. It was fantastic.

So, when I started to think about how far I could stretch the $17 chicken, pot pie was a given. At the end of Dinner #1, I had made 8 cups of stock and I had two cups of cubed and shredded chicken meat to work with. To make the stock, I added to the $17 chicken, two onions, 3 carrots and celery tops. Let's call that another $3. So we're up to $20 for dinner for two.

Adding 4 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1/3 of a bag of frozen pearl onions, a handful of frozen peas, some herbs and a pie crust (for me, that means homemade, but I won't tell if you choose a store-bought one) is another $10. or so. And I still had 6 cups of stock and 1/2 cup of chicken left over.
Dennis loved the pie. We had it for dinner, lunch the next day, and then he had the last piece for lunch the day after that. So far, the $17 chicken had provided several meals.

Add another $7 for kale and cellophane noodles, and I will make Pho from this stunning Food52 recipe from Dr. Winnie. (I'll admit, I froze the last of the stock and the meat, as we'd just had enough chicken at that point.)

That's three meals for two, plus a couple of leftover lunches. And that's the end of my poultry tales.

Off to New York today to meet friends, I am going without computer (!!!) but I'll be back next week. Have a wonderful weekend.

that is one cute dog in the corner

Chicken Pot Pie

Pie crust
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1-1/3 c flour
1/4 c ice water

Cut the butter into the flour (or pulse in the food processor). Stream in water and stir/pulse just until the dough comes together. Form into a disk and chill for at least an hour.

Pot pie

2 Tbls butter
2 Tbls olive oil
12 peeled, frozen pearl onions
pinch sugar
4 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tsp Herbes de Provence
3 Tbls flour
3 Tbls unsalted butter
2 c chicken stock
1-1/2 c cubed and/or shredded chicken
1/2 c frozen petite peas
Salt & Pepper to taste

Add butter and olive oil to a saute pan and heat to shimmering. Add pearl onions and sugar and cook, stirring, until the onions are well caramelized.
Add the carrots, celery and Herbes and cook until just softened.
Into a pretty pie plate, layer the chicken, veggies and peas (don't cook the peas ahead.)

In the same pan, heat butter and flour, stirring over medium heat until it darkens a little, making a nice roux. Add the stock, heat to a boil, taste and correct for seasoning, and pour this nice mixture over the chicken and vegetables.
Roll out the pie crust and put in on the yummy filling, decoratively pinching the edges and cutting a vent (or a hole) for steam to escape.
Pop into a 425 oven for 15 min. and finish at 375 for 45 minutes more.

Note: Sometimes, I make individual pies for the freezer. Such a treat to find on that day you just do not want to cook.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Meeting Invisible Friends

I've been around the interwebs for quite awhile. I met my husband in an AOL Chat Room (I know!) And I met my best friend on AOL, too. This was back in the last century... in fact, it was nearly 20 years ago. In those days, I would attend get-togethers for DC AOL people from time to time. Always anxiety producing for me, these meetings actually, generally, went very well.

Although if you handed me a martini, I could keep you laughing for hours with stories of internet dating. But that's another topic altogether.

Last night, I attended a DC Food Bloggers event. Even before I left the house, I was certain I would be the oldest person in the room. I changed my clothes a million times. I didn't want to hear "My mother has that sweater." I was pretty terrified, but I had a secret weapon. My Party Wings.

These Asian inspired chicken wings have been a winning recipe for more than half my life. I first had them at a catered event, wrangled the recipe from the caterer, then tinkered with it until I was satisfied. I've never carried a single leftover back into the kitchen - they are always eaten up.

Sticky, sweet, tangy - perfect. I even made a couple of new friends last night, and I give the wings credit.

Yes, I was the oldest blogger in the room. I was relieved to see two women my age in one corner, but when I talked to them, it turned out they had crashed the party. How funny is that?

The sweets table at the DC Food Bloggers event.

In general, I didn't feel any more out of place than I usually feel, being wracked with social anxiety, and in fact, I found I shared an interest in food, photography and restaurants with everyone I met. Yes, I will do this again. Yes, I will.

And to the Artist who made that pate en croute? It was hands-down the most delicious, beautiful, photo-worthy item there. I wish I'd taken a picture before it was cut and devoured. Kudos.

Here's the recipe for Party Wings. Don't forget extra napkins.

6# chicken wings, cut into three parts, the tips frozen for stock)
1/4 c fermented black beans
1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c toasted sesame oil
1/4 c unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
2/3 c hoisin
1/4 c horseradish
1/4 c dijon mustard
1 T minced garlic
1/2 c ketchup

Combine everything but the chicken. Stir well. Add chicken and marinate overnight, or 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 400•. Line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange wings in a single layer.
Bake the wings, basting and flipping them about halfway through. Cook a total of 45 minutes.
Taste a wing when the come out of the oven, because they'll go so fast you won't get one otherwise.

PS Thank you to Elyse, who has two children who explained why I had the coding showing up in the last blog post. I knew I should have had kids.

PPS Chicken pot pie is coming next.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Roast Chicken & Old Friends

''There is nothing like roast chicken,'' Laurie Colwin writes in ''More Home Cooking, ''It is helpful and agreeable, the perfect dish no matter what the circumstances. Elegant or homey, a dish for a dinner party or a family supper, it will not let you down.''

In case you're wondering, I’m reading Laurie Colwin. Rereading to be precise. Back in 1981, Laurie set me on a food path. My sister in law sent me all of Laurie’s books for my birthday a good 20 years ago.

Thanks to Laurie Colwin, I thought about food in different ways from the very first of her essays. And I thought more and more about food food food. On and on. Julia. Marcella. Craig Claiborne. Ruth Reichl. Silver Palate. Amanda Hesser. Deborah Madison. Diana Kennedy. Year in Provence. Buford’s Heat. FoodTV, Bourdain, Mario. Sara Moulton (God, I loved her show.) Don't even get me started on the demise of Gourmet.

Today, it’s nice to revisit Home Cooking. I see a new edition will be published this Spring. If you haven’t read it, you must.

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (Vintage Contemporaries)

And More Home Cooking is just like going back for seconds at the best dinner you’ve ever been invited to. After you’re done there, don’t miss her essays and short stories.

I know there are a million places to find inspiration for our cooking these days. Still, it’s nice to spend a winter afternoon curled up in a chair with a cup of tea and a book of stories by an old friend.

My Roast Chicken

I’m reading Laurie’s words, and I’m craving roast chicken. And, I’m determined to prove a point to myself. Many friends have quietly challenged my “buy local and organic as much as possible” focus. They say, in one way or the other, “it’s nice if you can afford it.” I decided to see what I could do with a $17.00, 3.5 lb. organic, free range chicken from Smith Market Farm (at the Broad Branch farmer’s market). In my heart, a $17.00 chicken is a bit ridiculous, I’ll admit. I’m old enough to remember chicken for nineteen cents a pound. So, my next couple of posts will be devoted to said bird, and a vague accounting.

I roasted the chicken on day one with my own method combining Judi Rogers and Thomas Keller and Laurie Colwin’s rhapsodies on roasted chicken. Using the dry brine description in the Zuni Café Cookbook, I tucked sprigs of thyme under the breast and thigh skin of a clean, dry bird. Mixed a scant tablespoon of good kosher salt with two teaspoons of fresh ground pepper and rubbed it all over the chicken. Tuck the wings under the chicken and tie the legs together. Yes, that’s it. Nothing else. Now, set the bird on a rack over a sheet pan and put it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for awhile, anywhere from 8 to 24 hours.

This next is pure Thomas Keller (Bouchon) and also Michael Ruhlman, who you can thank for the elegant text in all the Keller books, as well as the brilliant, revolutionary Ratio. He offers a brilliant roast chicken tutorial on his blog.

Fire up the oven to 475 or even 500. Put a cast iron pan on a burner and turn up the heat and heat up the pan to seriously hot. Add about a tablespoon of grapeseed or canola oil and get that good and hot. Now, put the chicken in the pan back side down, breast side up, and pop it in the hot hot hot oven. Set the timer for an hour.

During that hour, get four or five big sprigs of thyme ready, as well as ½ cup of chicken stock. Need I say, preferably homemade?

After an hour, test the temperature of your chicken by inserting a thermometer (don’t even tell me you don’t have one – you can find them in the grocery store, for heavens sake) into the fatty part of the thigh. It should register 170. Take the bird out of the oven and set it on the top of the stove.

Toss in the thyme springs. They’ll crackle – so satisfying – then pour in the broth and spoon it over the nice brown shiny roast chicken. Take the bird out of the pan and set it on a carving board and let it sit for 10 minutes while you toss a salad. Heat up the broth, thyme, crusty yummy stuff in the pan and cook it down a little bit.

Cut up the chicken and spoon some sauce over it. Delicious with roasted broccoli. (We opted for no potato or rice or anything. We’re trying to say farewell to holiday weight.)

I should mention – I often cook the chicken on the gas grill. I just heat it up to 500 and put the cast iron pan on the grill and put the lid down. It’s cooked perfectly in 50 minutes.

Next step, best done right after you enjoy the roast chicken dinner. I make stock while Dennis does the dishes. Rough chop two onions and three carrots and some celery tops and leaves. Toss them in a 5 qt stockpot with the carcass and bones. If you have the neckbone from the chicken, add that. If you have a stash in the freezer with wingtips and scraps and necks, add those. Fill the pot up with water. Add a bay leaf, a dozen peppercorns, half a bunch of parsley. Have some extra sauce leftover in the cast iron pan? Put that in, too.

Set the pot on the stove and bring it to a slow simmer. Cover and cook for four hours or more. Skim if you want to get fussy. This works wonderfully in a slow cooker, overnight. Shred whatever meat you find and toss the bones away. They've done their job. I had more than 8 cups of beautiful stock after straining. And I had 1 cup of shredded meat, and the meat from two legs, one thigh and one small piece of breast meat. Total of 2+ cups of chicken to use for the next meal.

Tomorrow – Chicken Pot Pie, or the Siren that calls to my mostly vegetarian husband.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Collecting and Reflecting

2009 White House ornament

Because my friends all come over and trim the tree while I cook, taking down the tree and all the decorations is the time for me to reacquaint myself with my favorite ornaments.
This set of seven handmade pieces celebrate my gardens, kitchen, and love of shiny objects.

I've always been a magpie. And I collect, organize and think in themes - a leftover from design school? - so putting everything away today, I took some pictures of my little collections.
Every year, it's fun to decide how to display the White House ornaments. I received the first of these in the early'90s, when I was still working in government affairs, ages before landscapes and cooking. Available through the White House Historical Association, these have long been the go-to gift from a DC boss. They're beautifully crafted and I love collecting them. It's wonderful that my friend Nancy brings one to Tree Trimming every year and now I have such a nice grouping.
Back in 2004, Dennis and I went to Sweden to pick up our new Volvo. It was December - the sun came up and went down in what seemed like 20 minutes a day. It was a great trip - we drove the new car from the west coast city of Gothenburg to the east coast and Stockholm, about 400 miles. We went to Christmas lunches and holiday festivals. The cones are so sweet, I've often thought they would make a great project. These are made with vintage wallpaper and scraps of trim. They hang on the tree and I fill them with candies. The little bark one with greens and berries is also a favorite, though it's starting to fall apart. The Swedish Lady & Swedish Gent are articulated wooden people - He has a muffler - she has a heart in her hand and curly hair. The two parka'd heads are from Barrow, Alaska. How funny that they were a gift from an old boyfriend and now m last name is Barrow! Ha! And finally, that little angel at the top? That's the first Christmas ornament I ever received. It was made by Carol Rockwell, whom I haven't seen since 1982. But I cherish that angel.
Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. There was a time when I adored shoes. Then I had an ankle transplant that failed and then I had a successful ankle replacement. Five years of surgeries, with friends trimming my tree when I couldn't. And all my friends brought me shoe ornaments. I love this collection. Especially the riding boot. It's been a few years since I soared over jumps, and I remember that feeling everytime I see this boot.
Cakes, cookies, garden implements. Not a single wheelbarrow. Weird, isn't it?
Fox terriers, angel terrier, white angel kitty, deer, birds and the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.
The wreaths are made of spices and nuts - Ukrainian, I think. The eggs are all real - the eggs blown out of the shells and the treated, dyed, wrapped in beads. The red egg was brought back from Eastern Europe, while the white and blue (a goose egg) are handmade in Vermont. The long turned wood spindle was found years ago at a craft fair, and I wish I had a dozen. They feel gorgeous in the hand.
This is the cat's favorite ornament. Every year, it goes on the bottom branches. Every day she takes it off the tree. Every day I put it back on. It used to look more like a sheep. It's been loved to death.

Thanks for indulging me. It's fun to share these lovelies.