Archive for February, 2009

Barefoot Roast Chicken

Ok, all chickens are barefoot, roasted or otherwise. The “Barefoot” I’m referring to here is the Contessa one, Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, who hosts the popular Food Network show. I used to watch her show, then I quit for a while, now I’m watching it again. I’ve also read most of her cookbooks and taken from them recipes that look like something I might actually prepare. 

I have so many recipes clipped/copied from various sources – thousands, I dare say. Every now and then I go through my files and look at a particular recipe and think “Who am I kidding? I will never fix this.” I can usually get rid of one third of them. I also find some duplicates, or near duplicates. Still, I have too many to use effectively. I guess it’s some kind of foodie addiction, this incessant searching for and collecting recipes. Luckily for me and my family, it’s not a harmful addiction. I don’t force feed anyone.

Be that as it may, I bought a roasting chicken yesterday and am cooking it right now. Last week, I tried Thomas Keller’s “favorite” roasted chicken from Epicurious.com. It was fine and you can find it here.  I wanted to try something different and the Barefoot one uses lots of vegetables as an edible rack upon which to cook the bird. That’s always good. That way there are lots of very tasty veggies cooked in the drippings. 

Here’s the recipe, or at least the way I fixed it. You can find the official one at the Food Network website.

Barefoot Contessa and Morgana’s Roast Chicken

1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch of fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs

1 lemon, halved

1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise

2 T. butter, melted

1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced

4 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 fennel bulb, tops removed and cut into wedges

Olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Remove giblets and neck if present in chicken cavity. Rinse the chicken with running water inside and out. Check for excess fat and pinfeathers and remove them. Pat the chicken dry on the outside.

3. Liberally salt and pepper the inside cavity.

4. Stuff the cavity with the lemon halves, and the garlic and the bunch of thyme.

5. Brush the outside of the chicken with the melted butter and season with the salt and pepper.

6. Truss the chicken legs and tuck the little wing tips under the chicken’s body. 

7. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel (I added a cut-up parsnip ’cause I had a lonely one handly) in the bottom of the roasting pan. Toss with salt and pepper, the 20 sprigs of thyme (I only had a few) and a little olive oil. Place the chicken  on top of the vegetables.

8. Roast for one and a half hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove the bird and vegetables to a platter and cover with foil for about 20 minutes. Slice up the chicken and serve with the vegetables.


Here’s how I finished the dish. While the chicken was resting, I poured the pan drippings into another container and removed as much of the fat as possible. Then I added about 1/4 c. white wine to the pan and scraped up the little goodies on the bottom, those caramelized bits of chicken, carrots, and the rest of the veggies. Over medium heat, returned the drippings and some chicken broth (saved from a previous dinner) and a little splash of cream.  I drizzled this over the veggies and chicken when they were served next to mashed potatoes which were ready just in time.

It’s trash day tomorrow so I went ahead and removed the remaining chicken from the bone and will decide what to do with it tomorrow. I’m way too full and tired to think of it now. I know I’ll be glad I took care of that little chore right away. I can get rid of the carcass immediately. I hate to keep chicken bones in the freezer. I’m not always prepared to make broth each time I have chicken. I would love to be able to have a ready supply. Oh well. Dream on.

Any suggestions?

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I used Thomas Keller’s recipe for roasting a chicken Monday night. It’s a high-heat-no-basting-leave-it- alone-kind of recipe that appealed to me. I found it at Epicurious. It was highly rated by those who read and tried the recipe so I decided it was worth giving it a go. It’s not much different than any other high heat roasting instructions but I found some of the comments in the ratings section interesting.

Several people warned that the recipe would set off all of the smoke alarms in the house.  I followed the suggestions of more than a few reviewers that a layer of sliced potatoes under the chicken would soak up the drippings and prevent smoke. That did the trick. I included a few slices of onions with the potatoes and had a bonus of crispy, chicken flavored potatoes and onions. I also had a layer of nonstick foil under the potatoes to make cleanup easier. 

Here’s the basic recipe:

Wash and dry the chicken, inside and out.  (Let’s hear it for paper towels!) Season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper. Truss the chicken to keep a nice shape that cooks more evenly without overcooking the wings and legs. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with lots of salt. I found that the dried skin repelled the larger Kosher salt crystals, so I used table salt which stuck a little better. If you lightly rubbed the skin with oil or butter the salt would adhere. Then sprinkle with pepper to taste.

I placed my chicken on a rack over the aforementioned foil, potatoes and onions. Next, the chicken went into a 450 degree F. oven until done. Keller suggests 50-60 minutes, with a 15 minute resting period once removed from the oven. My chicken was slightly larger than the 2-3 lb bird he recommends in the recipe. It took significantly longer for mine to be done, about another 15 minutes in the oven. After resting, it was nice and juicy.

While the chicken was cooking and resting, I made mashed potatoes. When I took the chicken out of the oven, I scraped off the layer of onion and potato slices from the foil on the bottom of the roasting pan, gave them a quick chop or two and mixed them into my mashed potatoes. That was a delicious addition, let me tell you, and the caramelized onions and crispy chunks of potatoes added some textural interest as well. Let’s hear it for textural interest!

We had about 2 cups of chicken leftover after we picked the meat off the carcass. Last night I used it in a quick chicken divan casserole. I have a different chicken divan recipe for you to consider  here .

The one I used last night was a little simpler. I steamed some broccoli florets and made a quick mornay sauce with a little gruyere, white wine and nutmeg for flavor. I layered the broccoli, half of the sauce, the chicken and the rest of the sauce. Then a topped it with about 1/4 c. grated parmesan. It baked in the oven for about 25 minutes at 350, just until the top was starting to get golden brown. The recipe for that is at the bottom of this post.

I had planned to make chicken salad with the remains, but, having a cold, I didn’t want to handle all the fresh ingredients and risk sneezing or coughing all over food that wasn’t going to be cooked later. For that reason, I let my husband unload the dishwasher for me and set the table. That’s about the only benefit of having a cold. 


1 1/2 c. cooked broccoli florets

1 1/2 to 2 c. cooked chicken, diced

1/2 – 3/4 c. shredded gruyere or swiss cheese

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

1 c. milk or cream

1/2 c. chicken broth

2 T. white wine

1/4 t. nutmeg

salt and pepper

1/4 c. grated parmesan


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray an 11 X 7 or 9 x 9 baking dish or gratin dish with the same capacity.

2. In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for a minute or two to cook the flour. Then add the 2 T. white wine and the chicken broth and stir to  mix well. Add the milk and whisk until all lumps are gone and the sauce begins to thicken. (If the sauce is too thick, you can add a few tablespoons of milk or cream.) Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring. Season with the nutmeg, and the salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add the gruyere or swiss cheese and stir to melt the cheese.

4. Put the broccoli in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour about half of the sauce over the broccoli and then add the chicken evenly over the sauce. Pour the remaining sauce over the chicken and then sprinkle with the Parmesan.

5. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the top starts to become golden brown.


I hope you try one of the two Chicken Divan recipes and, by all means, roast a chicken. It’s one of the true values in the grocery. 





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Bricks in the Kitchen


One day last week I was catching up with the DVR’d Food Network shows I like to watch. Mostly, Barefoot Contessa, Tyler Florence –  that’s enough. If I watch too many shows, I would have way too many ideas floating around in my mind and wouldn’t get around to trying any of them. I usually find one or two to try each week and those that I have liked best were usually from Barefoot Contessa or Tyler Florence. 

I use her method for roasting beef tenderloin**. It never fails, and is so easy. Tyler’s dishes are usually great, but sometimes just a little too involved for me to make at the last minute. I do like his Ultimate Potato Gratin with the Savoy cabbage*** and prepare it several times a year.

Last night I was compelled to prepare a meal that Tyler Florence had on his show last week, “The Ultimate Brick Chicken”. It looked intriguing, weighting down the whole chicken with bricks while browning it in a skillet. The method was used to force as much surface area as possible to be in contact with the hot oil in the skillet. The cooking was finished in the oven while I made the recommended couscous and delicious yogurt sauce flavored with cilantro and mint, honey and lemon juice. The sauce was so good that I had to try a few – HA!  – spoonfuls. I think it would make a delicious salad dressing on its own. 

The chicken, a whole split chicken, backbone removed, and flattened, was rubbed with a Moroccan inspired spice mixture and allowed to rest in the frig for about 4 hours. Then it was into the hot skillet, bricks applied, and cooked for 15-20 minutes undisturbed on the burner, then flipped over, and finished in the oven for 35 minutes. It was served with the apricot, almond couscous, the recipe for which takes couscous to a whole new level. Delicious!

Here’s the recipe for the whole she-bang. It will become one of your favorites.

(You will need a brick a heavy rock, the afore-mentioned extra cast iron skillet, or something really heavy (and relatively clean) to lay atop the chicken. I had an old brick in the yard which I covered in foil. It wasn’t big enough to weight down the whole bird so I scrounged around and found another rock which did the trick.)

(Go to this link and  read the comments sections for other folk’s reviews of this meal. The photo shows the chicken and couscous served on flatbread seasoned and grilled. I didn’t fix that this time. If you can’t find a flat chicken, ask your butcher to remove the backbone of a whole chicken and flatten it for you. If you can’t do that, look for a “split chicken” in your grocery. I found one at Kroger. I suppose you could always use a cut-up chicken and cook  it the same way. Maybe I’ll try that next time.)


*Brick Chicken with Apricot Couscous

Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence

Prep Time: 15 min
Inactive Prep Time: 4 hr 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Level: Intermediate
Serves: 4 to 6 servings


  • 2 tablespoons cumin seed
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 whole free-range chicken (3 pounds), split (see directions below or have butcher split chicken for you)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Mint Yogurt Dressing. recipe follows
  • Apricot Couscous, recipe follows


Toast cumin, coriander and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over low heat until fragrant. In a clean spice grinder or coffee grinder, blend spices until fine. Add the toasted spices to a bowl with paprika and cayenne. Season with kosher salt. Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice.

Prepare chicken by splitting it down the back and removing the backbone, breast bone and rib cage. Lay the chicken out flat and rub the blended spices all over. Marinate for up to 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat a large cast iron skillet (or other heavy oven-proof pan) over medium-high heat. When hot, add a 2 count of extra-virgin olive oil and place the chicken skin side down in the pan. Cover it with a second cast iron pan (you could also use a more traditional foil-wrapped brick) immediately so the skin doesn’t have time to contract. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until chicken is golden brown and has a nice crust. Finish cooking in the oven for a further 20 to 25 minutes. Internal temperature between the leg and thigh should register 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, when cooked through. Serve with Mint Yogurt Dressing and Apricot Couscous.

Mint Yogurt Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1/2 bunch chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves
  • 2 green onions, green parts only
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

While chicken is cooking, combine yogurt, cilantro, mint, green onions, honey, lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste, in a blender. Blend until mixture is fully combined and has a smooth consistency.

Apricot Couscous:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, small dice
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, warm
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 scallions green parts only
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan add a 2 count of extra-virgin olive oil. Add the red onion, apricots and almonds and saute gently over low heat until translucent and slightly fragrant. Add the couscous then dump in the warm chicken broth. Stir with a fork to combine, add lemon zest and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes, then uncover and add the scallions, mint, and cilantro. Fluff again with a fork. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine.

Serve family-style on a large platter and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings




***The Ultimate Potato Gratin

Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence and the Food Network

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 35 min Level: Easy
Serves: 6 to 8 servings



  • 1 head savoy cabbage, cored, cleaned, and shredded
  • 1 (2-inch) piece slab bacon, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped to 1/4 cup
  • 2 pounds baking potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch), see Cook’s note*
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Finely shred the cabbage. Cut the bacon into 1/2-inch chunks. Place a small skillet over medium-low heat and fry the bacon, until crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon butter to bacon fat in frying pan. When it has melted add 1/2 the garlic and give it a quick stir with a wooden spoon to soften. Add the cabbage and coat it with the butter. Slowly let it wilt. Add the bacon. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat and add most of the chives, reserving a little for the garnish.

Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13-inch ovenproof casserole dish. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, 1 1/2 cups of cream, 1 cup of Parmesan, and the remaining garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using your hands, place a layer of potatoes in the casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan and repeat with 2 more layers. Spoon the cabbage mixture on top and spread it out evenly over the potatoes. Top it off with 2 more layers of potato and Parmesan. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream over the dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Leave for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chives.

  • Cook’s Note: Slice the potatoes immediately before using so they don’t turn brown.



Copyright, 2001, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, All rights reserved

Prep Time: 5 min
Inactive Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 25 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 8 to 10 servings


  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) fillet of beef, trimmed and tied
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper


(Be sure to remove the beef from the frig an hour before cooking so that it can reach room temperature)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the beef on a sheet pan and pat the outside dry with a paper towel. Spread the butter on with your hands. Sprinkle evenly with the salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for exactly 22 minutes for rare and 25 minutes for medium-rare.

Remove the beef from the oven, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and allow it to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove the strings and slice the fillet thickly.

Note: Be sure your oven is very clean or the high temperature will cause it to smoke.

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At one time or another each of you has had a breakfast concoction called a “strata”. You know what I mean  – one of those sliced-bread-on-the-bottom, eggy/cheesey/milky-mixture-poured-over-the-top, kept-in-the-refrigerator-overnight-and-cooked-in-the-morning-thingies. They are usually too dry, too salty (especially if there’s sausage involved), and just not worth eating.

However, when we have overnight guests, it’s not great fun to awaken hours before everyone else and start whipping up gourmet delight. That’s when we all too often pull out one of the tried-but-not-true “strata” recipes. For lack of anything better, they’ll do.

Well, I’m here to give you something better. Actually, my friend Vicki gave me something better. 

I have fixed this several times to hungry guests who all raved about it. Give it a try next time you need an AM life saver. All you need to do is put it in the oven, set the timer, go get dressed, section the grapefruit, fix some toast and grapefruit, make sure the coffee’s ready, set the table, pour the juice, remember the salt and pepper, get the cream for the coffee, put the jelly in a pretty bowl, get the jelly spoon, get the sugar, sweetener….

Well, anyway, there’s always a lot to do, but this recipe will help somewhat. By the way, it’s easy to double. When I double it, I bake it in a buttered 9 x 13 pan.

Thanks, again Vicki.


Serves 6

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 c. corn flakes, crumbled

1 T. bacon fat or melted butter


5 eggs

2 1/2 c. shredded refrigerated hash browns

8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or cheddar)

1/2 c. cottage cheese

1/3 c. milk

2 green onions, thinly sliced


1. Cook the bacon, drain on paper towels, and crumble.

2. Mix the, corn flakes and bacon fat together and set aside.

3. Beat the eggs until foamy and stir in the rest of the ingredients.

4. Butter a 9″ pie pan.

5. Pour in the egg mixture.

6. Sprinkle with the bacon/crumb mixture.

7. Cover with foil. Refrigerate overnight.

8. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake 325 degrees for 50 minutes. If doubling, use a buttered 9 X 13″ pan and bake for  60 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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As I have said before, I rarely use a crockpot. When I find a crockpot recipe that works for me, I am always surprised. Sometimes one can pitch all the ingredients in the pot, turn it on, leave it alone for 8, 9 or 10 hours. No worries, mate. Of course, your meal may be less than gourmet, but, it’s a meal. The obvious benefits of crockpot cookery aside, the results are usually less than stellar. 

This recipe was a pleasant surprise. It does require some packaged food items, but they are some that might be found in many homes. However, it is not one that can be ignored for 8 hours or more. It’s ready to eat in 5 to 6 hours, tops. So, it’s not one you can fix in the morning and have that evening for dinner. For working folks, it would be a good one for a weekend meal. Start it after lunch, run errands, take a nap, watch the big game, work in the yard. Then you’ll have a good pork chop dinner waiting for you. 


1 c. diced dried fruit, apples, apricots, raisins, cranberries (I use a mixture)

1 c. chicken broth

1/2 c. apple juice (1 small box)

3 T. butter

1/4 t. cinnamon

1/8 t. nutmeg

1 – 6 oz. package Stovetop Stuffing mix (pork or chicken flavor)

4 pork chops, 1/2 to 3/4″ thick

1/8 t. salt

1/8 t. pepper


1. Combine in a small saucepan: 1/4 c. apple juice, dried fruit, broth, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.

2. Bring to a boil. Stir in the stuffing mix. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside.

3. Arrange pork chops in the bottom of a crockpot. Pour the rest of the apple juice over the pork. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Top with stuffing.

4. Cover and cook on low setting for 5 to 6 hours.


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