Friday, November 30, 2007

Clean-Out-the-Freezer-Challenge Day 6

Today’s freezer item was 1 pound of pork sirloin that I froze back in June. Yes, I know I’m pushing it using meat that has been frozen for 6 months, but if you package it correctly there’s no reason it can’t last that long.

There are two very important things to keep in mind when storing meat in the freezer. The first is to wrap it in usable portions in plastic wrap, making sure to push out all the air. Then it should have a secondary covering such as a Ziploc freezer bag. Make sure to push all the air out of that too. This will prevent freezer burn. The second important thing is to store the package as far away from the door as possible. You don’t want extreme temperature fluctuations to affect the meat, otherwise damaging ice crystals could form. "Damaged" meat will be dry when cooked.

I used one half of the pork to make a saucy pork and kale stir-fry seasoned with fermented yellow beans for Sonny. Normally this type of stir-fry would be eaten atop rice noodles, but steamed rice does just as good a job at soaking up the sauce.

The other half of the pork went to red curry, which is Hubby’s favorite Thai dish. I’ve been a little hesitant to post about red curry because the way I like it is usually not the way it’s served in restaurants. The red curry I grew up eating was not thick and sweet. Of course it does have a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk, but sweetness should not be the predominant flavor. As for the thickness, I think many Thai restaurants serve their curries thick because most Americans would probably be turned off if they saw a layer of oil topping their curry. But that’s the way it looks when it’s properly prepared (and just because you don’t see the oil on top doesn’t mean it’s not there). Of course you could just skim off the oil. As you can see, I didn’t bother. I figured I can eat very healthy for the next 5 days to make up for one not so healthy meal. Everything in moderation, right?

Coconut cream: the key to a delicious red curry.

Thai Red Curry with Pork and Bamboo Shoots
feeds 4 adults
  • 19oz can coconut milk (not lite), cream separated from milk
  • 1 to 2 tbs red curry paste, depending on desired heat
  • 1 to 2 tbs brown sugar, depending on taste
  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth (water is fine)
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 to 2 quarter-sized slices fresh galangal (or 1 to 2 pieces of dried galangal)
  • fish sauce to taste (about 1 to 2 tbs)
  • 8oz can bamboo shoots, rinsed well
  • 8oz pork sirloin (chicken, tofu or beef is fine too), sliced
In a heavy bottom pot on medium-low heat, add the coconut cream. It will sputter and pop, so be careful. Stir it occasionally and watch that it doesn’t burn. Turn down the heat if necessary. Cook until the oil separates out and it thickens. This could take about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the curry paste and mix it well to dissolve it in the coconut cream. Cook it with the cream for 2 to 3 minutes. The oil will continue to separate out and the mixture will be quite fragrant. Add the coconut milk, sugar , broth or water, lime leaves, galangal and bamboo shoots. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and season to taste using fish sauce, if needed. This would be a good time to skim the oil, if you care to. Once you get the flavorings to your liking, add the meat. Avoid stirring. Just make sure the meat pieces are separated and can simmer in the liquid. It’s done when the meat is just cooked through. Turn off the heat and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before serving with steamed jasmine rice.

See how the oil separates out? That's what you want.

Dried galangal can be found at any Thai-Viet grocer.

Before adding the meat or veggies skim the oil, if you like.

Enjoy with a bowl of jasmine rice!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Clean-Out-the-Freezer-Challenge Day 5

Today’s freezer item was frikadeller. Not quite sure when I made these as I forgot to note the date when I froze them, but I suspect sometime during the late summer. I promise I will get a recipe together soon because this is a great dish to bring to potlucks. And this is the season for potlucks, no?

Oh, you don’t know what frikadeller are? They’re Danish meat clumps that taste exactly like suspiciously similar to Swedish meatballs. But heaven forbid I call them meatballs! “That’s what the Swedes eat!” my live-in Dane would say.

Thawed frikadeller can be reheated in a skillet. Don't they look like meatballs?

I originally planned a traditional Danish dinner of frikadeller, potatoes and a vegetable, but at the last minute I changed my mind. Instead we ended up sitting down to frikadeller, hummus, flatbread and salad with chipotle Caesar dressing. Pretty random huh? Still tasty though.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Clean-Out-the-Freezer-Challenge Day 4

This is going to be a short and simple post, just like our dinner.

Today’s freezer item was stewed tomatoes. Every year, I grow all kinds of tomatoes. This summer we had sungolds, early girls, roma and couple of heirloom varieties. By the end of the summer all the plants were producing so many tomatoes we couldn’t keep up with eating them or giving them away. Rather than let them spoil, I’d stew a batch every 3 or 4 days and freeze them for later use…like tonight.

For dinner I made a basic pasta sauce with anchovies, garlic, and thyme leaves. Tossed with spaghetti and accompanied by a salad, it made for a simple yet satisfying meal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Clean-Out-the-Freezer-Challenge Day 3

Before I get to the food, I just need to rant about some technical difficulties I’ve been having with my Blogger template. I’ll be the first to admit that the problems probably stem from my ineptitude with all things computer related, but why is it that what I see when I’m writing the post is not what I see when I preview it? What’s more, the final post looks nothing like the two other views. I spend all this time trying to get everything just right and it usually doesn’t end up looking like I expect. All my pictures get shoved around and the text formatting is all funky. The spacing is always weird. The Blogger help pages end up confusing me more than being a help because I don’t understand half of what they are saying. I just can’t figure it out, and it’s driving me crazy!!!


Okay, today’s freezer items were Indian vegetable smash and lamb for stewing. The vegetable smash I made back in September, and it tasted as good (maybe even better) as the first time around.

Vegetable smash

I used the lamb to make lentils and lamb. The earthiness of the lentils goes so well with the flavor of the lamb. If you prefer you can make this a vegetarian dish, which is normally how I make it.

Masoor Dal

Indian-spiced lentils
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 knob ginger, finely grated (totaling ½ tbs)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs mustard oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • cups split lentils, picked over for stones and briefly rinsed
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ to 3/4 pound lamb for stewing (optional)
I like to cook the lamb separately from the lentils then combine them at the end. Use a pot with a lid that is large enough to cover the lamb with water. Add a cinnamon stick, 3 or 4 whole cloves and bring to a boil. Once it boils, put the lid on and stick the pot in a 325º oven for 1 ½ hours or until tender.

In a heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, add the mustard oil and about 1 or 2 more tablespoons of a neutral oil. When hot, add the onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, cloves and cardamom pods. Fry until the onions are soft and begin to get lightly browned. Turn down the heat if the garlic and ginger begin to burn. Once the onions are soft, add the cumin, coriander and chili powder. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, mixing well to coat the onion mixture. Add the rinsed lentils and stir to combine with the onion mixture. Add about 2 cups of water to begin. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Allow the lentils to simmer, stirring occasionally If the lentils absorb all the water before they are done add more water, about ½ to 1 cup at a time. It usually takes less than 30 minutes to cook the lentils. Once they are done, add salt to taste and the garam masala and turn off the heat. When the lamb is done, add it to the lentils, give it a quick stir and it’s done. Enjoy with an Indian bread of your choice.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Clean-Out-the-Freezer-Challenge Day 2

Today’s freezer item was Isaan-style sausage. We finished the last three links from a batch mom brought with her the last time she visited in September. To go with the sausages, I made Chinese-style scrambled eggs with shrimp and sautéed broccoli on the side.

No, these sausages aren't burnt.

The first food I probably learned to cook (not including rice) was a basic Thai-style omelet (which always turned out to be scrambled eggs). It was just eggs, fish sauce and green onions. If I was in the mood, I’d add sliced tomatoes. I loved it with sticky rice and naam prik phao.

The basic Chinese omelet (scrambled eggs) is just as easy. Just replace the fish sauce with oyster sauce. When I worked at a Chinese take-out joint, I often asked my boss to make this for my dinner. He made it extra special by adding shrimp. Served with steamed rice and hot chili oil, there really was nothing better.

Whenever I make this dish, I like to brine the shrimp. The brine recipe I use comes from Alton Brown. It’s quite simple to do and it doesn’t take long to get a good effect—maybe 20-30 minutes for medium to large shrimp. The huge jumbo shrimp take about 45 minutes. Brining adds a little flavor to the shrimp and it complements the eggs so well. It also prevents the shrimp from drying out. Really it’s completely up to you, though.

Chinese Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp
Serves 2 adults (or 4 if part of a multi-course meal)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbs oyster sauce
  • approx. ½ tbs soy sauce (low sodium okay)
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 3 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • ½ pound medium (21/25s) raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped for garnish

For the brine (optional)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pound ice
If you’re going to brine the shrimp, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water (on the stove top or in the microwave). When the solids are dissolved, pour them into a large bowl with the ice. When the ice melts, add the shrimp and soak for about 20-30 minutes. It’s important to wait until the ice melts, even if the solution is cold. Otherwise the brine will be too concentrated, resulting in very salty shrimp. When the shrimp are done soaking, rinse them briefly (you don’t want to undo all your work) and pat them dry thoroughly. They should be used immediately.

Just before you’re ready to cook, beat the eggs with the oyster sauce, soy sauce and vinegar until frothy.

Heat up a wok over medium-high heat. Add about 3 or 4 tbs oil by drizzling down the sides of the wok. You want to coat the sides to keep the eggs from sticking. Add the green onions and allow them to sizzle undisturbed for about 20 seconds. Add the shrimp and allow to sizzle undisturbed for another 20 seconds. Add the eggs. Avoid overworking them. You want them to get a little browned on the bottom. The eggs should set at about the same time the shrimp are done (maybe 4 minutes or so). Garnish with the chopped cilantro and serve over steamed rice with hot chili oil.

This is good for breakfast too!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Join the Clean-Out-the-Freezer Challenge!

I’ve decided to start one of my New Year’s resolutions early. I’m going to de-clutter my life. It doesn’t take a Feng Shui practitioner to tell me that a cluttered house leads to a cluttered life. Stuff is literally spilling out into my arms every time I open a door or cabinet. Due to a DIY home renovation project with no foreseeable end in sight, our square footage has been reduced by over half and I’m tired of holding on to things that I might-maybe-perhaps use one day. Besides, I need to make room for all the Christmas gifts I’ll be getting (just in case you’re wondering what YOU should get me I want, click on the Amazon button in the right margin).

Since the kitchen was the room that took me over the edge, I started the big purge there. I’ve amassed a nice stash to donate, but I’m not stopping there. I’m challenging myself to clean out the freezer and pantry. For the next 7 days, I’m going to use at least 1 thing I have in the freezer. The next week I’m going to do the same with the pantry. Anybody wanna join me? Resolutions are so much easier to keep when you have friends to help you along!

Miscellaneous junk. Why did I hold on to this stuff for all these years??

How could Hubby think this is junk?! It's got the real vendor label printed on the mug, complete with chemical formula and molecular weight. I'm taking it back to work, where it'll be the coolest mug in the office.

Day 1 of clean-out-the-freezer challenge: hot and sour soup with shitake mushrooms, leftover turkey and rice. I made the base for the soup back in August. All I had to do was add the mushrooms, tomatoes, turkey and rice.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Easier Than you Think: General Tsao's Chicken

I have 3 Chinese cookbooks and not one of them contains a recipe for General Tsao’s Chicken. But walk into any Chinese Restaurant in America, and you’ll find it on the menu. Is this a Chinese-American invention or is it actually genuinely Chinese? Anyone with an answer, please speak up.

Whatever it’s origins, it’s definitely a crowd pleaser. That’s why I was thrilled to find a recipe for it here on Slashfood. If you think it’s difficult or time consuming to make, it’s not! I think it’s the deep-frying bit that turns people off to making this at home. Personally, I find deep frying a lot neater than frying up a steak or pan searing chicken; it just takes a little longer. Still, this dish can be done in about 30 minutes.

I pretty much followed the recipe since this was my first time, and it turned out great. The only things I did a little differently were double the sauce (because God forbid there isn’t enough sauce to go around) and wok-caramelized the chicken in the sauce to give it that extra touch. Of course you can just toss the chicken in the sauce and serve it that way.

There are a couple of important things to remember: 1) Even though the sauce may taste very salty by itself, the chicken is not seasoned, so it all mellows out in the end. Serving with steamed rice also cuts the saltiness. 2) Use whatever cuts of chicken you like. Contrary to what people think, using breast meat will not be too dry. In fact, it won’t be dry at all. The cornstarch prevents that. It’s the Chinese secret to any stir-fry and deep fry. 3) The batter will look similar to a tempura batter, but the chicken will never get as “crunchy” due to the egg. Don’t worry. The result will not be soggy, especially after you give it a quick turn in the sauce in your wok.

General Tsao’s Chicken
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken, cubed or sliced
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup soy sauce (low sodium is fine)
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbs cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1-2 tsp sambal oelek or 1-2 chili peppers split lengthwise (or more to taste)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced in long on the diagonal (save 1 to slice finely for garnish)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying (I do not recommend olive oil)
Set the oil on the stove to heat while you prepare the chicken and batter. Depending on the size of the pot, you may need about 3-5 cups of oil.

Start by making the batter. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until they are well scrambled. Slowly add the cornstarch in batches while whisking vigorously to prevent clumping. When you get a uniform mixture, add the chicken and turn to mix well. When the oil reaches 350º, it’s ready. Don’t worry if you don’t have a thermometer, just add a drop of the batter to the oil. If it starts to sizzle, the oil is ready. Fry the chicken in batches, making sure not to crowd the pieces. Use a spider to separate the pieces as they will have a tendency to stick together, even if they are not crowded. It will probably take about 2 minutes per side, so a total of 4 minutes per batch. The chicken should be golden brown and cooked through. I recommend draining on a rack set above a cookie sheet, but draining on paper towels is okay too.

As you’re frying up the chicken, you can begin to make the base for the sauce. In a small sauce pan, add the soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to dissolve the cornstarch. Put the pot over a medium-low heat and simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir it as needed. Add more sugar or vinegar according to your taste. Once it gets thick, turn off the heat and put the lid on to keep it warm until needed.

Once the chicken is done and the sauce is ready, heat up your wok on high heat. Add about 1 tbs of oil (you can use some of the oil from deep-frying) then add the garlic, ginger and sambal or chili. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds or until the mixture is fragrant. Add the green onions and continue to stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the chicken and continue cooking. Add the sauce (about ½ cup or more to your taste) and quickly turn the chicken it in. You need to work quickly because the sauce will become very thick and caramelize quickly. Once the chicken in well coated, you’re done. Garnish with the sliced green onion. Serve immediately with steamed rice and a vegetable.

TIP: One thing you can do is to cook a vegetable like asparagus or broccoli in the wok after you have removed the chicken. Add the vegetable and a little water to release the caramelized sauce. Put a lid on the wok and steam/simmer the vegetable until tender-crisp.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Someone Call 911!

I was going to do a post about Thanksgiving, but after nearly taking off every finger on my left hand*, I need to keep this brief. Typing is slow going as it is and an extra strong mojito is about to catch up with me. So I apologize in advance for any and all spelling and grammatical mistakes or if there are sentences that just plain don't make sense.

What can I say about Thanksgiving..? I’m going to use a frozen organic turkey because I’m testing the idea that frozen turkeys taste better than fresh. I know it sounds unbelievable, but there's a whole debate out there. I will say the best turkey I ever had was frozen (and brined) but that was years ago, and I've yet to experience a turkey worth remembering, whether fresh or frozen.

I’ll also be making creamed spinach, corn muffins and cranberry chutney, the inspiration for which I found in a new (and cool) local food magazine called MIX. I made the chutney in advance and put it in the freezer. That’ll be one less thing to worry about on Turkey Day.

Cranberry Chutney
adapted from MIX Magazine
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbs neutral oil, such as canola or grape seed
  • 1 tbs mustard oil (or 1 tsp mustard seeds, finely ground)
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 jalapenos (or more to taste), split lengthwise
  • ½ tbs grated ginger
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 12oz bag fresh cranberries
  • salt to taste (about ½ to 1 tsp)
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, fry the onions, cinnamon stick and jalapenos in the hot oils until the onions start to brown. Add the ginger and cook for about another minute or two. Add the ground spices and turn to mix well. Fry for 30 seconds to a minute. Add the cranberries, sugar and vinegar. Allow to come to a boil and the cranberries start to pop. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the cranberries are soft. Take off the lid and turn up the heat a little to drive off some of the moisture until it becomes the consistency you like. Add salt to taste.

*Here’s what happened: I was going to make a mojito to enjoy with our dinner (Mexican food), but the glass shaker shattered. The cuts were pretty deep and it took about 15 minutes for the bleeding to stop. Have you every tried to compress 3 fingers at once while holding your hand over your head? It’s harder than it sounds.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mamas Gone Wild

I’ve been doing a lot of chillaxing lately. First there was Cancun at the end of October. This weekend it was Rockaway Beach on the Oregon Coast. Through a friend of a friend, I was able to get a beach rental for a girlfriends-only-getaway on short notice. It was gorgeous. It was spacious. It was spotless. There were no kids, no routines, no cell phone coverage. Just a whole mess of peace and quiet, and...a whole heap of trashy food.

I normally don't have a sweet tooth, but even I can't resist glazed donuts.

We didn’t know what we’d have at our disposal in the kitchen or if there’d be anything bigger than a convenience mart nearby, so we hit up Trader Joe’s before heading out. I don’t frequent TJ’s very often, but for our purposes it was perfect. We picked up about 5 different cheeses, breads, some dips and spreads, chips, chocolate covered almonds and anything else that wouldn't provide any real nutrition but tastes really good. We also picked up a dozen glazed donuts, sodas and lime sorbet at a small market on the way. Of course we had plenty of beverages to keep us well hydrated.

Girlfriend M makes a mean mojito.

In the midst of our 2 and half day trash food binge, we did manage to have one square meal. At the recommendation of a local real estate agent, we had lunch at Mazatlan, the town’s Mexican restaurant. We weren’t expecting much, but quite honestly, it was the best Mexican food I have had since moving to Portland over 2 years ago. Their beans were so tasty, they must have used a healthy dose of lard. I ordered the pork al pastor tacos, which were literally the best I have ever tasted. Girlfriend L ordered the carne asada tacos, which were made with NY strip, and they were so tender and tasty. Girlfriend M ordered the chicken nachos and they were also quite good. We stuffed ourselves so full, we literally had to waddle out of the restaurant.

Carne Asada Tacos

Nachos with Chicken

After lunch we made the semi-spontaneous decision to visit the Tillamook Cheese factory. If you’re unfamiliar with the name, Tillamook is a town near the Oregon coast that is home of Tillamook brand dairy products. They make cheddar and the like as well as butter, ice cream and sour cream. At the factory you can take a self-guided tour to learn about the cheese making process and watch the packaging process from an observation room. As interesting as the tour sounded (not really), we skipped it. The girls and I were more engrossed in watching the pile-up that occurred on one of the convey belts, causing package after package of cheese to fall from a height of about 20 ft. There was a small mountain of piled cheese before any of the employees caught on (many of them wear ear protection and are too busy to even look up and around). At the small on-site market, they offer their products at prices much lower than found in Portland supermarkets. They also offer other Oregon-produced products, such as honey and jams, for prices higher than can be found in Portland. I guess it all evens out in the end and I ended up paying what I would normally pay in the city. And as if we didn’t have enough junk food, the Girlfriends thought it would be a good idea to purchase a flourless chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream for dinner (you know, since they were too full to eat a proper dinner). They ate the leftovers for breakfast too. See what happens to the parents when there are no kids around??

Modest selection of cheeses.

Just in case you're wondering, we did do more than eat junk food. We watched an awesome Ninja Warrior marathon and lots of reality TV on VH1. We also played 3 games of Scrabble and read several past additions of gossip magazines.

Chillaxing in the cozy slippers I purchased in town.

Tomorrow starts my week of abstinence. I'll be abstaining from eating anything all week to make up for my gluttonous behavior this weekend. So you know why I'm not posting.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What Do You Feed a Sick Child?

Did I mention I'm exhausted?

At 4:30 last night Sonny crawled into bed with us. Ten minutes later, he threw up...on me. Miraculously, Hubby and his side of the bed were spared. After cleaning up, Sonny and I moved to his bed, where he proceeded to throw up about 10 more times. Luckily I had the foresight to put an empty bucket next to the bed and luckily we were able to contain everything in that bucket. Finally at 6:30 we gave up trying to sleep and turned on cartoons. He didn’t throw up again. But he didn’t really eat anything substantial all day, just crackers and toast.

What do you feed a child who seems to have a stomach bug (or any other ailment for that matter)? If you asked my mom, she’d probably say her cure-all hot and sour soup. But my own motherly instincts tell me hot and sour soup is not going to help Sonny’s stomach. I decided to make a milder rice soup instead.

When people think of an Asian-style rice soup, something like jook usually comes to mind. I love jook...the porridge texture with bits of shredded fried pork on top and dotted with chili-garlic oil, but Sonny won’t touch it because of the texture (did I mention he’s picky??). He prefers a soupier version with firm grains of rice and mini meatballs. Don’t forget the meatballs or the world might end.

Basic Mini Meatballs for Asian soups
  • 1 pound ground pork, chicken or turkey
  • ½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs grated or finely chopped ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tbs cornstarch
  • 1 egg
Mix all the ingredients together and form into small balls. If you end up with more mixture than you need to use immediately, just freeze some of it (before cooking) for later use. I recommend poaching the meatballs in a separate pot from the broth, otherwise your wonderfully rich, clear broth will become cloudy. If this doesn't bother you, then by all means, poach them in the soup broth. If I'm feeling industrious, I will poach them then give them a quick saute to brown the outsides.

Some things to keep in mind:
Use a good broth for the soup. This goes without saying. The broth should be rich enough that if you don’t want to add any sauces or garnishes, it will still taste great. Starting with a bland broth will result in a bland soup, no matter what sauces or garnishes you add.

If you want to chance the world ending, you can use any other protein you like. Diced leftover roasted chicken, tofu, or a poached egg work well. I’ve even used leftover stir-fry from a previous meal (see picture below). It gives the soup some extra flavor.

To keep the rice firm, I use cold leftover rice. I don't even bother to reheat. The grains will warm through when you ladle the hot broth on top.


Rice soup with chicken and stir-fried mustard greens.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My Best Friend in the Kitchen this Week

I am so exhausted. This week has been incredibly hectic at work and we’re only half way through. In case you don’t know, I manage a service laboratory at an academic institution. That means we are contracted by investigators to help with their projects. Normally I love my job. Except, of course, when I’m working for crazy-ass investigators who watch too much Star Trek and can’t tell the difference between science and science fiction.

But I’m sure you don’t want to hear me rant about work, do you?? This is a food blog and I do have a gastronomic point to make.

For a working parent and the family cook, the pressure is always on to get dinner on the table at a reasonable time. That’s why I like foods that can be stretched over a couple of meals. Do the real cooking once and whip up something quick with the leftovers the next time. What fits that bill better than oven-roasted chicken?

Everyone has a favorite way to roast a chicken. I like to use my Dutch oven. I get the pot very hot on the stove then throw in the chicken. After the bottom sears, I transfer the pot to the oven and roast uncovered for about 1 hour at 375º. The chicken skin gets browned while the meat stays moist and juicy.

This time, I decided to brine the chicken because I wanted to try this recipe before using it on my Thanksgiving turkey. I changed it a bit but it turned out great and I think I'll use it for our turkey.

Pineapple Chicken Brine (suitable for 4 to 5 pound chicken)
  • 1 ½ quarts unsweetened pineapple juice (sold as 1 quart 14 oz)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 6 tbs kosher salt
  • 1-2 stick cinnamon
  • 2 star anise (optional)
You can make the brine in a microwave or on the stove top. Heat all the ingredients, except the cinnamon and star anise, until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Take off heat and add the cinnamon and star anise. Cool completely before pouring onto the chicken. If the brine doesn’t completely cover the chicken, turn the bird so that the breast side is down and completely submerged. Before roasting, take the chicken out of the brine and pat it dry.

I was able to get three meals plus a rich stock out of a 5-pound chicken. Day 1 we had roast chicken. Day 2 we had chicken and mushroom sauté with creamy polenta. Day 3 we had a delicious Asian chicken noodle soup with bok choy.

So tell me, what’s your favorite way to roast a chicken? And what do you like to do with the leftovers?