So today was my birthday! I LOVE my birthday! My best friend from undergrad, Rachel, came to visit (we make a BIG deal out of birthdays and try to spend most of them together). Friday we went out on the town in Boulder and Saturday Rachel must have tried on fifty bridesmaid dresses (still haven't settled on one). We decided that it would be fun on Sunday to make a big dinner out of TJOC. We didn't decide what to make until we went to the grocery store but quickly decided that Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (p. 424) sounded absolutely delicious! We both LOVE garlic so it seemed like the perfect choice. Although 40 cloves of garlic seems like a ton, it also sounded amazingly good.
Reading through the recipe, I noticed that it required chicken stock. I was totally out of chicken stock. That being said, there was about two hours in the middle (where the chicken was to soak in the spices) that seemed perfect for stock-making. Starting the recipe, I laid out the chicken...
There is just something really funny about chickens. First off, I always want to make them dance around. Second, I'm reminded of that Friend's episode where Joey puts the turkey on his head and it gets stuck (I'm fond of that one!). And third...well, it just looks so naked!
I gave the chicken a nice olive oil massage (giggling the entire time--what can I say, I'm immature). Next step? Making the spice mixture. Thyme, sage, salt, rosemary, and black pepper are mixed together. I used my prep bowls--and just noticed that they have measure lines on the side (that could be useful in the future!).
The spice mixture is then rubbed all over the chicken (both inside and out, tee hee!) and a lemon is shoved up the "cavity" too.
The chicken was then supposed to be placed in a flame-proof casserole--and I had the perfect dish to use! My brand-new Le Creuset enameled cast-iron Dutch oven that my aunt Charlotte sent as an engagement gift (part of a five piece set! How awesome is that!). It was the absolute perfect size for a 4-lb chicken. The chicken was plopped in it and it was placed in the fridge.
Onto the chicken stock. I knew there was a recipe for a quick stock that I had been meaning to make...Becker Express Stock (p. 120). The recipe was pretty easy...take three cans of broth (I used two chicken and one vegetable, although I would have used beef consomme if I had been reading the recipe [Rachel read it for me]). We added the leftover chicken pieces (the giblets, neckbones, and assorted other pieces--but not the liver, learned that the hard way) and some bouquet garni to the canned stock. The recipe for the express stock is online.
Next, an onion, carrot, celery, one garlic clove, and some sad, wilted scallions were chopped up in a the food processor.
Some white wine was then added along with the vegetables to the stock mixture.
It's simmered for about thirty minutes and strained and there you are! Chicken stock. Fairly fast and easy, good enough, but not quite as good as "real" stock. Still, better than just pouring something out of can. My biggest problem with canned stock is that it's really hard to control the salt content and that can spin your dishes salt profile out of control. Obviously, this doesn't account for this problem, since the main ingredient is canned stock.
When the chicken came out again, 3 heads of garlic, some of the chicken stock, and some white wine were added to the pot. Now 3 heads of garlic might not sound like that much--but it is a HECK of a lot. And the mixture is brought to a boil (which is why I'm glad I have a flame proof casserole--in and out of the oven with no problem!). Look at all the garlic!
The chicken is popped into the oven until it gets up to temperature. I think this roasted chicken is one of the most beautiful things I've ever produced--a gorgeous golden brown. And you should always use a thermometer to check temperature--it's the only accurate way to know if your food has been cooked enough.
The chicken and garlic are removed from the pot and covered in foil. If you have a normal amount of dishes, you probably have a platter, and that's what you would have removed the chicken to. I don't have a platter, so the chicken was moved to a big glass pan.
The sauce is then boiled down for awhile. The recipe says to boil to concentrate and although it never got thick like a gravy it still smelled delicious.
The recipe says that you can mash six or so of the garlic cloves and mix them into the sauce. OF COURSE! Sounds wonderful!
The garlic was mixed into the sauce and then boiled for a while....mmmm......
Rachel and I were pretty proud of our chicken! And it was super fun to have someone new to cook with! (I must be getting old when cooking wins out over going to the bars)
Beets...my old enemy.
To explain why I don't like them I have to give a little background. My father can be a little obsessive about food (an understatement). My parents have been divorced for almost twenty years and my mother still can't eat winter squash because she ate it so often one winter with dad. I would spend a month a summer with dad while I was growing up and 5 our of every 7 meals consisted of pork, green beans, beets, and squash (don't let this make you think my father is a bad cook--far from it, he and my mom are both excellent cooks. But dad likes to use all of the garden's crop and those three vegetables are prolific). I never liked green beans, so I never got burned out (in fact, I think I like them better now). I LOVE squash, so I never burned out on that either. But beets...
Beets have such a specific sweet taste that I burned out BAD one summer and haven't eaten one since. I also always hated how they stained the rest of my food. I bet I haven't eaten a beet in fifteen years.
So why start now? There are four beet recipes in TJOC and they are in season. Rachel likes them, so I had someone to eat them if I couldn't. Josh didn't know about beets--he had never had them before, but he was willing. It seemed like the perfect time to make a beet recipe.
Of course, after the greens were cut off of the beets, I was left with beet greens. I ate a lot of my dad's beet greens in my day and I really hated them, but I figured that I might as well knock out another recipe with what I had on hand. My main problem with beet greens is that they often seem bitter. Either way, I decided to make Beet Greens (p. 278). Beet Greens I is barely a recipe--pretty much, prepare beet greens like spinach. Beet Greens II is much much more of a recipe.
Easy enough...the greens, horseradish, onion, Dijon mustard, and salt are all added to a big skillet with some water. So far so good, although none of those ingredients were really interested in being mixed...
The greens are then covered and cooked down.
How was it? Surprisingly good! The horseradish and mustard compensated for the bitterness--it was really tasty. Rachel slowly kept picking at it as we finished the rest of the food up and it was a hit with Josh too. I recommend this recipe if you are making beets--it's a terrific compliment.
I decided to make Beets in Sour Cream (p. 259), which requires cooked beets. Might as well knock out another recipe...Steamed or Cooked Beets (p. 259).
The beets are washed, the tops are cut off, and they are placed in the steamer and steamed until tender.
Easy enough! The jackets are then slipped off (I didn't do this part, Rachel did, but she says it's really easy), the beets bleed all over your cutting boards, sink, hands, and everything else they touch...watch it, much like turmeric beets are used as a dye.
To test the actual recipe, we each ate a steamed beet. Tasty! Nice and sweet...maybe I am ready to eat beets again...although this picture is disturbing and looks like a murder scene.
The cooked beets are placed on top of a double boiler and sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, a pinch of chopped chives, and some salt are added and it's heated...but you have to be real careful or it curdles. I don't know this from experience because mine didn't curdle, but I trust TJOC. The beets were such a beautiful color! A gorgeous magenta...I loved it!
Josh got me a carrot cake from Whole Foods--I LOVE their carrot cake cupcakes and knew I would love a cake from there. Now, most of you are also CakeWrecks fans and if you are, then you know the Naked Mohawk Carrot Jockey entry, which is one of my favorite blogs of all time. Bizarrely, I have a set of naked babies (from years ago) because I think they make every cake much more funny (to understand how odd it is that I have these, you have to realize that I have changed locations five times since buying these guys and have MOVED them with me!).
We made our own version! Ours are less mohawk and more mullet and I loved it! Ours were riding tandem.
And remember--beets can turn your urine pink. It's pretty disconcerting if you aren't expecting it :)