Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pour Some Sugar on Me: Brined, Roasted and Honey-Glazed Chicken

I've been on a let's-brine-everything kick...okay, just meat. What a difference it makes! Come to think of it, I've really only been brining chicken, but for all different preparations: for grilled chicken, chicken nuggets and of course, this lovely, golden, sticky-skinned clucker.

My parents brought us back some lavender-infused honey from a little jaunt they took to a prairie lavender farm. The farmer infuses the honey from his property with the lavender that he farms. It's really, really delicious. I wanted to do something special with the honey and not just slap it on a slice of toast, so I felt my beautiful little birdy would be very happy to be bathed in such a carefully-crafted product.

Some little Pooh Bear delightfully interrupted my photo session with the "hunny pot".

Slightly random side note: I have fond memories of my mom making a whole fryer dance a jig in the kitchen sink just before she broke it down into fry-able pieces. I just thought that was the funniest thing ever and so cute. Hence, my admiration for poultry and finding it irresistibly adorable.

What I love about brining, is that with minimal effort, one can achieve a flavorful and tender roast chicken that rivals that of Costco's cheapy, six dollar, rotisserie chicken, which is pumped full of all sorts of things that I cannot pronounce. (They are nice, however, when you've the cooking inspiration of a hound dog on a hot summer day.)

Lauren's Sticky Chicken

1 3-4lb. whole chicken
6 quarts water
1/2 c. kosher salt
1 c. sugar
2 garlic cloves
2 jalapenos, halved
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 tbsp. honey (lavender-infused or any kind you like)

Mix water, sugar and salt until dissolved in a large pot - I used my giant stockpot. Crush or slice garlic and add with peppers. Add the chicken and let it refrigerate at least 8 hrs.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from brine. Thoroughly dry off skin with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Stuff cavity with fresh rosemary and thyme and tie up the legs. Place on a roasting rack, breast-side up, and bake for 45 min. Baste with honey. Bake another 20 min. and baste with honey again.You will see how the honey turns the skin the most gorgeous amber color. Full baking time is around 1 1/2 hrs. Internal temp at thigh should be around 175-180 degrees. Let it rest a good ten minutes before carving.
 And that my friends is how you make a delicious, flavorful (through and through) roast chicken. Leftovers can be made into sandwiches, or chicken salad or into a chicken soup. But the best part has to be that crispy, sticky skin.

Love Ya, Foodies. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dork-a-licious: A BFF Reunion

Alright, people. I've been away gallivanting around with the likes of this fabulous person, Steph. Okay, that's not all I've been doing, but the Hubs and I did hang out the other night with her and her husband Adam. What a blast we had from the past...well, us girls anyway. They guys were left to watch football (which they did not complain about) while we cackled like wild chickens as we rooted through piles and piles of notes that Steph had saved from jr. high. Jr. high is where we were connected at the hip.

We found that not only did the notes that we passed to one another carry information, long since removed from our aged brains, but that they were full of drawings, redundant observations, bad spelling and the occassional pep talk, because, after all, jr. high is rough.

It has been 15 years since we last saw each other. I know it's cliche, but we picked right up like time had never passed. It was, from beginning to end, total delight.

Did I mention that she is a PHENOMENAL cook? Did I also mention we were total dorks?

Probably didn't take you long to figure that one out, huh? I'll get to the cooking in just a minute, let me expound for a moment.

We ROCKED the dork. I mean, we embraced our awkward ways, our clumsy ambitions, our fashion snafus and our love for all things drama/creative. We snorted when we giggled, we pretended to cook like Julia Child in my kitchen, we built forts out of mattresses, and we went to an all girls summer camp and tried to run with the big dawgs, but alas, it was futile. We were simply dork-a-licious.

That was my worst haircut...ever. I still cringe at the thought. Steph looked really adorable. She had good bangs.

So here we are now, years and years later, finding we still have so much in common, still a bit dorky but in the cutest of ways. We are slightly more refined and a little bit less awkward...okay, so it's pretty much the same, and I love it.

Back to the dinner, Steph graciously invited us over for dinner. I asked what I could bring, she said some wine and some herbs from my garden. No problem. I made a dash to the liquor store and harvested some fresh parsley from the garden along with a few hot peppers and other tasty bits. I remember being extra careful to avoid the caterpillars for they like to hang out on the parsley.

That evening, as Steph was stirring her duck risotto (sing-songy "awesome!!!"), letting the dog out the back door, sipping wine and carrying on a conversation (which was all quite effortless, for she caressed that risotto like she had done it a million times before, that is, if risotto can be caressed) I was in awe that here we were hanging out, only grown-up now, and it was simply surreal.

I snapped back into reality, when she asked me to chop up some of the parsley I had brought. I carefully plucked each leaf and rinsed it well. I started chopping, all the while imbibing my chardonnay and carrying on, when I realized there were all these little yellow balls on the cutting board. I looked closer and there was a massacre of caterpillar mixed in with the weird yellow balls (which I am guessing were caterpillar eggs?) and the vibrant green of the parsley. I told Steph about the abuse on the cutting board and then another hilarious uproar ensued. Needless to say, I washed the board and started over. Caterpillar-free garnish was now on the menu.
It really was as good as it looked. Scrumptious. I don't use the word "scrumptious" very often, so when I do it's for only the good stuff. The duck was the most perfect pink and the risotto was creamy and studded with bits of duck thigh and proscuitto! It was finished at the end with lemon zest and the fresh parsley.

And then there was this...brace yourselves, raspberry sherbert. You may be thinking, "Um, Lauren, I love raspberry sherbert as much as the next guy, what's all the hullabaloo?"

The most perfect balance of sweet, fruity and tangy creaminess that you can imagine. It was the best ending to a rich, sumptous meal. I went absolutely bonkers over this stuff and even more so after I found out the recipe.

Are you ready? It has only four ingredients...really. AND no ice cream maker required!

Steph's Raspberry Sherbert

1 10 oz. bag of frozen raspberries, thawed and crushed with a fork
scant 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. light sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix well and freeze. Serves 4.

In the words of Steph, which are so true and sweet:

"When you are a teen, you write things like BFF, FF, Yours Always….And then 20 years goes by and your written promises are put to the test. Tonight I was lucky that despite more than 15 years of pause of “friend” in BFF, I know that the forever still stands.We may have missed a few romances, heart breaks, weddings, children, several states and other milestones, but the core of who we were, who we still are today will always bond us." 

P.S. Never judge a worm by his bottom. (this p.s. was quoted from one of the notes I sent to Steph. I've got no explanation, people. Steph just said I was "creative". Sounds good to me.)

Well, I leave you with that, dear friends.

Love Ya, Foodies.

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