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Peppered Lemon Rosemary Chicken

Peppered Lemon Rosemary Chicken with Autumn Vegetables

The nights are releasing their grip of their clenching fists of daytime warm air.  Visually, there’s not much evidence of fall in Texas.  The long dry summer sucked the moisture out of the limbs and leaves of even the heartiest of flora.  There was a lack of lush flowers and bushes since the middle of spring.  Bluebonnets suffered a short growing season and I have no fields of blue dotting my recent collection of digital photographs.  The land remains stagnant, waiting for water to return.

This subtle change in the night air is like a whisper from the far north, the snow-capped mountains sleeping through the summer.  Winter and hopefully rain will be here soon.

October must be the best month during fall.  Not only do we see and feel the changes of autumn, it’s also Little Sister’s birthday and Halloween.  Double the chances to have excuses to bake treats for the family!  October is also then month of Thanksgiving in my native land.  I often observe the holiday abroad with a whole roasted chicken, or if I’m feeling ambitious enough, a turkey.

Peppered Lemon Rosemary

This year I was inspired by what was waiting in the fridge: lemons and fresh rosemary, assorted vegetables, and a whole chicken.  With minor preparation, you can have a warm succulent chicken bursting with citrus and piney rosemary.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small lemons, zested and halved
  • 1 white or yellow onion, halved lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 3-4 small zucchini squash, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tomatoes, halved
  • 2 carrots, cut into manageable pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oregano or Italian herb blend, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.

Start by preparing the vegetables and arranging them on a baking sheet.  Give them a rub with olive oil then sprinkle salt, pepper and oregano.  Set this aside.

Autumn Vegetables

Autumn Vegetables

Combine the butter, lemon zest, about a tablespoon of rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Prepare the chicken by removing the gibblets and washing the bird inside and out.  Pluck any pieces of feather that might remain.  Using paper towel, pat the skin dry.  The drier the skin the crispier it will be.  Tuck the lemon butter between the skin and the meat, all over the breasts and drumsticks.  You can save a bit of the butter to smear over the skin or use olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper generously.

The chicken I used was 4 and a half pounds, and it was ready in about 75 minutes.  Always have a thermometer handy while roasting, the thickest part of the thigh meat needs to be 180ºF and juices running clear (i.e. no pink hue).  Cover the chicken for the first 45 minutes, then remove the lid or foil for the last part of the roasting time to get a crispbrown skin.

The veggie tray will take about 30 minutes to soften and get a hint of brown caramel around the edges.

Arrange the chicken and vegetables on a platter and sprinkle with rosemary as a garnish.

Look for a dressing in an upcoming post to serve alongside the chicken or a turkey!

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This was, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of my best loaf of bread to-date.

There must me something wrong about the way I knead dough.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking about stressful things while folding and pushing the dough, desperately trying to get the gluten doing what they are supposed to do in order to give me a proper loaf of bread.  I shouldn’t compare myself to my grandma, at least not now, she had decades to perfect her whimsical ability to turn out the most remarkable bread and buns.  I’ve made close to a dozen loaves.  Maybe 20-odd attempts? 

With the kids and their rapidly expanding appetites (especially Little Sister these days), I’m looking for heathy ways to trim the grocery bills.  Baking bread at home, with total control over the ingredients, I figure I can save a couple of clams.

I found this bread on Nourish Network originally.  However, the recipe would take 24 hours, or more to complete.  I just don’t have that sort of time or dedication to a single loaf!  So I took the combination of olives and rosemary and found a quicker (albeit still long) solution.

Ah yes, there’s a story to go with the rosemary too.  I met hubby for lunch and we wandered around near the restaurant afterwards.  I spotted a natural grocery store and pulled him inside.  I found a few things, paid, and we headed out of the store.  I also noticed the shrubs lining the edge of the parking area, they were rosemary bushes!  Even better was the fact that new tender branches were poking out of the top of the bush on the way to the car.  I pulled off a few leaves and lifted them to my nose, yup – it’s the real deal.  I stole some rosemary.  Hubby grabbed a whole tendril too!  It’s not like we took a spade and dug up the plant, just trimmed the bush a bit.  I keep killing my rosemary plants, so this bush-nabbing might become a habit.

Adapted from the New York Times Speedy No-Knead Bread

  • 2 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100ºF)
  • 2/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 2 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • sea salt

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, olives and rosemary.  Drizzle the warm water into the bowl and mix to combine.  The dough will be tacky and shaggy.  Cover with plastic or a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm place, undisturbed, for 4 hours.

Place a dutch oven, cast iron pan, or other high heat pan/pot which has a lid in the oven and pre-heat to 450ºF.

Deflate the dough and fold it over itself once or twice on an oiled work surface.  Cover with plastic for 30 minutes.

Carefully plop the dough into the screaming hot pre-heated pan.  Sprinkle with sea salt and cut a slit in the top.  Bake for 30 minutes, with the lid on.  Remove the lid and bake another 15 – 25 minutes, until golden. 

Note: I removed the loaf from the pan after it had baked for about 45 minutes and put it directly on the rack in the oven.  Big mistake.  The bottom of the loaf burnt.  The remaining bread and the top were perfectly fine, scrumptious actually, I had to trim the charred crust though.  I should have taken the darn thing out at 45 minutes.

 

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Rack of Lamb

Today we bought our first rack of lamb.  This is not a typical main dish in our home, as it’s quite expensive for our family of 4.5 (counting the dog of course).  I thought it would be a nice treat and something to get my culinary fangs into.  A challenge.

Lamb is very forgiving to work with.  This rack is from New Zealand, and had the ribs Frenched before packaging, a big time saver for a busy mom like myself.  There was a thin fat cap and silver skin, I loosened the skin in preparation of a buttery implement.

Sure, you could use a dry marinade, but why not use a compound butter?  Take a good tablespoon of butter, add an insane amount of freshly minced garlic and a tablespoon of fresh rosemary – and I mean just-picked-off-the-plant fresh rosemary.  This makes a difference, I think, because the essential oils of the plant have not had a chance to wither away, the herb is very fragrant and that’s how it should be.  To the butter, include sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, plus a few drops of olive oil to ease the viscosity of the butter.

Take a little of the butter mixture and stuff it under the loose skin on both racks.  Then smear the remainder all over the outside.  Interlace the ribs and place into a shallow roasting pan, or a stainless steel pan with no rubber handles.  Sprinkle a dash more sea salt and pepper on the top of the meat and the ribs.  Roast, fat side up, in a 425 F oven for about 20-25 minutes.   The internal temperature should read 130 F minimum, 140-150 F for medium, which may add 5-8 minutes.  Then turn on the broiler to finish the crust, the salt will help the meat brown, the butter under the skin will melt into the meat as it cooks.  Allow the finished rack of lamb to rest for 10 minutes before carving between each rib.

I’ve also made single lamb pops using a dry marinade consisting of the same formula as the compound butter, only there’s to butter added.  Rub the pops on both sides and let them marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.  Let them warm up on the counter before cooking, 20 minutes or so – not too long.  Lightly coat with olive oil and quickly sear in a skillet on both sides.  Finish the pops in the oven (425 F) to your desired doneness, I let mine roast for about 12 minutes.  Under the broiler would cut that amount of time in half easily, however you would need to watch the lamb pops like a hawk, or like Pepper our dog.

Rack of lamb only sounds complicated and fancy, it’s really not!  Try this at least once and tell me about it…

~ midnitechef

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Basil Serrano Polenta with Smoked Pork Tenderloin

 

It’s the end of summer, at least we thought it was… It hit 99 degrees today.  So what better day to cook outdoors!  My dear hubby wanted to smoke something and started a fire for me to work with.  I had the foresight to prepare a tenderloin with a marinade sèche straight out of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child (finally I could open up her book again!)  I will always use her recipe for pork because this was beyond delicious, it left you with a mouth-watering flavour of the pork plus my added twist of smoke.  Unbelievable! 

With the tenderloin, I made Polenta for the first time, on the BBQ as well.  Who needs plain boring polenta?  Not me! So I experimented a little: 

  • 2 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 1 Serrano, into slivers

Bring the 2 3/4 cups of water to a boil, meanwhile mix the polenta, sea salt and cold water in a bowl.  Slowly add the polenta to the boiling water, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly.  Once all of the polenta is in the pot, turn down the heat to low and stir in the onion and garlic powders.  Cover with a lid for a few minutes as it will splatter, and trust me it’s HOT.  Cook while stirring for 10-15 minutes.  When the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pot, it’s ready to be poured out into a baking dish.  At this moment, add the basil and Serrano and mix it quickly to distribute them as evenly as you can. Let it cool for 30 minutes in the pan or pie tin to set up.  I used a pie tin because I knew it was going on to the grill, otherwise a baking dish is fine for the oven.  If you bake it off in the oven, it’s about 20 minutes at 350ºF.  On the grill, I covered the tin with foil and popped it on for about 30 minutes over indirect heat.  If you’re not sure it’s done, take out a small slice to see if the bottom is soggy, if it is, put it back for another 10 minutes, uncovered.  In the end it should hold it’s shape all on its own. 

I think the leftovers will be fried and garnished with parmesan cheese… mmm cheese… 

The potatoes you see on the plate were also prepared on the grill.  Super easy: quartered Yukon gold potatoes, halved Roma tomatoes, chucks of onion, about 4 whole cloves of garlic, nice bit of fresh rosemary, good tablespoon coriander seeds, same with sea salt, just enough oil to coat everything.  I had my 5-year-old help me by stirring everything in a huge bowl and grind fresh pepper over top.  Then we put the whole lot into a foil bag (just fold a large piece of foil like an envelope) and covered it with one more layer of foil (I tend to burn the potatoes on the grill since it’s outside and the doors are shut I can’t smell them when they start to char).  I start the potatoes on the heat then move them to the indirect heat once the foil is very hot and you hear them sizzle.  Since they are over indirect heat, they can stay on for the same amount of time as the meat, roughly an hour and a half.  Mind you, I had hot coals, no flame, for this time.  If you are using a gas grill, this amount of time would obliterate the veggies, so use your judgement according to what method you use!  There are lots of variations on potatoes-in-a-bag on the grill (oven works too), use flavours you like and veggies you like.  Heck, you could eliminate the potatoes all together and use bell peppers and squash!  They would be ready in about 20 minutes, or less.  

For the duration of summer, which lasts until Halloween around here, I would like to make it a point to smoke something every other weekend.  Once the grill is ready and the wood is chopped, you can smoke a lot of food with little effort if you plan ahead. 

Happy grilling 🙂

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