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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Domesticity On a Dime!

It’s appropriate, I think, to kick off a new blog during the beginning of the Holiday season.  Especially one having to do with food!  As such, I begin my attempts at becoming a blogger.  I have tried, in the past, unsuccessfully, to write personal blogs, but found my life just uninteresting enough that I had nothing much to say!  Lately, after sampling some of the more well-known food blogs and trying some new recipes, I have begun to think about starting my own, cost conscious, as well as time conscious food blog.  I love to cook.  That’s an understatement. I ADORE cooking.  I love the way it fills the house with unparalleled aroma and makes a house into a home.  In general I am not a “pinch of this dash of that” kind of girl.  For the most part I need a recipe to follow or at least as a jumping off point.  I tend to like to tweak and twist classics.  I am not afraid of butter and cream and oil and yes, even sometimes grease.  I love to make things from scratch the way our mothers and grandmothers did.  I love dying arts.  I have recently taught myself several as a way to preserve our heritage as modern people, as well as compare the final result to store-bought comparables.  Doing things yourself really gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment that you can’t get anywhere else.  I hope, with this blog, updated whenever I have inspiration to do so, will help a few people discover my love for cooking and food for themselves, and inspire them to try things that they may not otherwise have tried.  I do not use expensive ingredients, complicated recipes, or fancy mustards.  My food is home made from stuff in my home!  That’s the way dinner usually goes here.  Walk into kitchen. Open fridge, Open freezer, Open cabinets. Make something from what’s already there!  You can do anything I do.  I promise.  Bon apetit everyone, and be fearless!!

My first entry will be kind of a bonus entry.  I call it 4 for 1 chicken because that is precisely what you will get out of it if you are feeding two people.  4 meals for one chicken.  (If you are feeding a family, you may want to invest in a larger bird, or roast a couple breasts of thighs alongside your whole bird.)  I am cheap.  That is no lie; I am a cheap person, partially out of necessity to be so, partially because I can’t stand spending exorbitant amounts of money on silly things.  So getting more bang for my cluck is something I must do! I won’t waste any part of a whole bird, be it chicken, turkey, quail, what have you.  This entry, I hope, will give you some tips and insight on how to be less wasteful and more frugal when thinking about chicken.
Herb Rubbed Roasted Chicken
1 whole chicken
Chopped fresh herbs (I use flat leaf parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme.) substitute dried herbs if you don’t have fresh, b ut I really recommend using fresh, the flavor is so much more intense.  A window herb garden is just a few dollars to start and totally worth it to have fresh herbs year round.
4 or 5 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
1/2 stick of butter or margarine (I have used honey butter with stunning results) (4 Tbsp)
Salt & pepper
Kitchen twine, heavy cotton thread & needle, or toothpicks
One onion
Make sure the chicken is thawed and clean, rinse it with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Poke holes in the chicken breast, thighs, and legs with a small paring knife. Shove the slivers of garlic deep into the holes. This will give the chicken a great garlic flavor.  Cut the onion and half, remove the outer skin, and stick the whole thing into the cavity of the chicken.  Mix the softened butter with the chopped herbs and make a thick paste.  Put any leftover herbs you have cut into the chicken cavity too.  Rub the butter and herb mixture over the whole chicken.  I like to rub a lot under the skin as well as on top.  You can easily separate the skin on the breast from the meat by using the handle or a wooden spoon or spatula.  Use as much of the herb butter as you can, it helps keep the meat moist and the herbs give the chicken a lovely taste.  Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper.  Coat the chicken all over with a light dusting of flour, and pat it in.  It will keep the butter from immediately running off and help the skin to brown and crisp, sealing in the juices.  Close the chicken cavity with the loose skin and either sew it shut, or use a few toothpicks to secure it.  Tie the drumsticks together with twine or thread, and turn the wing tips under the body so they won’t scorch.  Roast in a 350 degree oven for 20 min. per pound.  About 1 ½ hours for an average grocery-store chicken.  The advantage of using whole chicken is it is SO much cheaper than pre-cut pieces and you get more meat, flavor, and juiciness.  I paid $3.24 for a BIG whole chicken (the bigger it is, the further it will go.)  SAVINGS!
Serve the chicken with some crusty bread and steamed vegetables, spooning the pan juices over the meat. (you will want more!!)
Next-day or later-that-night chicken dishes.
I pick every bit of meat from the carcass when the chicken cools.  I usually put the entire thing in a plastic food bag in the fridge overnight to make it easier.  Then I strip the bird.  I use the breast meat for the stir-fry because it absorbs juices well, and the darker meat for the chicken salad because it is more flavorful on its own.  While you are making the other two dishes, you can prepare the chicken stock.
Dump the carcass and any pan drippings, juice bits, well, just everything from the roasting pan, into a large soup pot or crock pot.  Add two halved onions, two stalks of celery, and two carrots.  Boil.  It couldn’t be simpler.  Boil until things start to fall apart and float around in there, about 2 hours on low-medium heat.  You will be able to smell when it’s getting close to done, it’s wonderful.
Orchard Chicken Salad
1 c. chopped roasted chicken
¼ each chopped onion, celery, apple, pecan pieces
Dash salt, pepper
1 tsp dill
4 tbsp mayonnaise
This is the easiest thing to make and SO delicious, it gets better if you let it sit overnight in the fridge, the mayo really picks up all the flavor. Make sure the onion and celery are chopped pretty small. The apple and chicken can be cut slightly larger. Toast a couple slices of sourdough bread and pile it on! (This also works well with slivered almonds instead of pecans and halved red grapes instead of apples)

Leftover stir fry chicken
1 – 2 cups sliced chicken
Assorted veggies sliced into strips (I used peppers, onions, green beans, peas, and broccoli) Use whatever you have in your refrigerator and freezer. About 4 – 5 cups uncooked.
1 packet stir-fry seasoning (found with all the other taco, roast, and grilling packet seasonings)
(mine required 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1/3 c water for the sauce)
Minute rice, any rice, or noodles.
Boil the rice or noodles to your liking and set aside, covered, so it stays warm.  This doesn’t take long, so it pays to have your starch ready and waiting for a hot forkful of still-crisp veggies.  In a wok or large frying pan, heat about 2 tbsp. olive oil until it smokes and sizzles when a drop of water is put in it.  Add the vegetables, fresh and frozen all at once, stir or toss every minute until then begin to soften (about 7 or 8 min) making sure they don’t burn.  Add the chicken just until it warms.  You don’t want to cook the chicken too long because, well, it’s already cooked, and it will become tough.  Mix the stir-fry sauce according to the package directions.  Add the mixed sauce to the wok and stir vigorously for about another minute, until most of it evaporates.  Add a dash of teriyaki sauce if you want, I love its flavor.  Serve over rice or noodles.  Voila! Your family will inhale it.

Chicken and Dumplings
This is a home-made superstar.  I haven’t met a person yet who doesn’t just adore this recipe.  It takes a little more time so probably not ideal for a weeknight meal, but Saturday or Sunday.  Since you already have a pot of stock ready for delicious additions, the chicken is cooked, the dumplings should be a piece of cake.
1 egg
3 T water
2 T oil
½ tsp salt
1 c. all purpose flour, more for dusting
4 c. chicken stock
2-3 cups of chicken chunks
1 c. warm water
2 T cold butter cut into pieces
¼ c. cream, whole milk, or half and half
Pinch of black pepper
Kosher salt
In a bowl, whisk together egg, oil, salt, and cold water. Add the flour slowly and stir it together until its elastic and kind of “gloppy.”  Cover and put in the fridge for 2 hours.  Pick the chicken apart into chunks, I like big pieces of chicken in mine.  Get the stock and warm water boiling just before the 2 hours is up, in a large pot.  Make sure there is room in the pot, the dumplings will expand.  Season well with kosher salt.  Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and roll thin. I suggest ¼ to ½ inch.   Try not to let the dough get too warm, it becomes harder to work with, cold dough is easier.  Cut with a smooth knife or pizza cutter into 2-3 inch squares.  Drop into boiling stock, don’t dust off excess flour, it will help thicken the stock. Shake the pot, don’t stir it.  Cook 3-5 minutes.  Add chicken, cream, pepper and butter, and reduce to simmer.  Cook 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes.  WARNING! This makes a LOT of food.  It is savory and comforting and will fill your belly!

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