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Roast Chicken

I love roasting chicken. It takes a while, but the leftovers also last for a few days and you can do a lot with them so it’s worth it to do once in a while if you have the time. It’s also awesome because it’s versatile, it is chicken after all, so it can be absolutely basic OR more complicated (or sophisticated, if that makes you feel better about it) and still be dericious (that isn’t a typo).

Click here for the Allrecipes.com way of making roast chicken, the below cooking chart is from their website as well as some of the steps I outline.
Click here for an awesome video on how to roast a chicken. Jess Dang has her own cooking blog that is instrumental to how I cook without recipes. It looks pretty intimidating, but it’s worth browsing because her JOB is to teach people how to cook from the beginning.

You’ll need:
A strong stomach. This is a real chicken. Not chicken breast, not boneless and skinless chicken thighs, the WHOLE chicken. With innards (aka giblets), an empty chest cavity, and intact neck. It’s pretty much the size and shape of a small baby, so steer clear if that’s going to freak you out.
A chicken, obviously (any size works but keep in mind that larger chickens will take longer to cook, refer to the chart below for cooking times)
Meat thermometer (I cannot stress how important meat thermometers are for something like this. No one likes slicing into a chicken and then realize it’s undercooked. If you pop it back into the oven after taking a giant slice into the flesh, the juices will run out and chicken will be dry. Your best best for undercooked chicken is to slice it anyway and pop it in the microwave for one minute intervals. Also, larger chickens aka “roasters” will already come with a single use meat thermometer that pops up when the chicken reaches the optimal internal temperature).
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of butter

Optional (but ideal):
A small onion, quartered, and a bulb of garlic. These will go a long way to making the chicken more flavorful
Butcher’s string, also known as kitchen twine. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT use regular string you get from an office supply store. The purpose of this string/twine from the grocery store or cooking supply store is that 1) there are no toxic chemicals or dyes that can leach into the food or alter the taste and 2) it won’t burn/melt to a crisp in the oven.
Herbs! (dried or fresh) As long as you have salt and pepper, you can pretty much use whatever combination of herbs you want. Want to make it Indian inspired? Use cumin and curry powder! Jerk chicken, Thai chicken, go for it! Personally, I like fresh sprigs of rosemary, dried thyme, paprika, oregano.
Diced vegetables to bake with the chicken. I like to stuff the chest cavity with a peeled and quartered onion and then surround the chicken in the pan with other veggies. Suggestions: parsnips, potatoes, yams (aka sweet potatoes), butternut squash, carrots, celery, etc. As long as it doesn’t burn to a crisp when you bake it at high heat. Don’t be a dummy and use lettuce or something lame like that.

Now you’re ready to conquer this!

STEP ONE: Release the chicken from it’s plastic bondage. Be careful that you don’t get the nasty chicken juice everywhere. You’re also going to retrieve the giblets from somewhere inside the cavity or packaging; it may come in a little baggy or be on the loose and running amok.

STEP TWO (optional): Brine the chicken. Brine (a verb AND a noun) is just salt water. You’re soaking the chicken in salt water. This makes the chicken juicier and more flavorful. Don’t ask me how it works, but it works and questioning it won’t make it any more awesome. The catch is that brining takes a lot of salt, a lot of fridge room, and a lot of time, which is why it’s optional. NOTE: you do NOT need to brine a kosher chicken because it will have already been brined. Make enough brine/saltwater to submerge your chicken with the following ratio: 1/2 cup salt for every 2 quarts of water aka 8 cups of water. Brine for a least an hour, but no longer than 6 hours (Fun Fact: a quart of water is 4 cups, thus quart as in a quarter, which is a quarter of a dollar. Is your mind blown yet?? Consequently, a pint is 2 cups, which is half of a quart but you would never know that without looking it up. The imperial system of measurement is a fickle thing).

STEP THREE: Pour the brine down the drain, rinse the chicken with cool water (warm water will already start to cook the chicken), and pat dry with paper towels. Patting it dry is key for a chicken because then it won’t be too salty and the herbs will adhere better to the skin rather than bunch together in clumps.

STEP FOUR (optional): Return the chicken to the fridge (uncovered) for at least an hour up or for as long as overnight to dry. This allows for crispier skin. DO NOT leave it on your counter to dry, this is a serious food safety violation. PUT IT IN THE FRIDGE. Don’t have the space? Good thing this is optional.

STEP FIVE (optional): What to do with the giblets? You can throw it away, or cook them up and give them to your dog/cat, or make gravy, or use them to make stock, or use them for a meal in a slow cooker. I just bake them and eat them because they’re perfectly edible and I’m not bothered by stuff like that because I’ve grown up eating chicken feet and cow organs. I mix it up with melted butter, salt, pepper, and garlic. Then I make a small sachet of aluminum foil and set it aside for later.

STEP SIX: Preheat the oven and season the chicken. Reference “roasting methods” below for oven temperature. If it’s NOT brined: I would suggest about 1.5 tablespoon of salt, half of table spoon of pepper, and half a tablespoon of whatever other dried herbs you want to use. If it’s brined: then half a tablespoon of everything is perfect. With salt, less is more because you can always go back and salt more if you need to but you can never un-salt a chicken. Repeat until you have enough dry rub for the whole chicken, depending on size. Remember to put it all together in a separate bowl rather than dipping your fingers in the individual jars. Let’s not spread germs around. Sprinkle it in every crevice you can find, inside the cavity, under the skin (use a knife to cut the sinew attaching the skin to the body), over the skin, under the wings and legs, over the wings and legs, on the back, on the tail. EVERYWHERE.

ROASTING METHODS (from Allrecipes.com):

Regular method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Roast whole (thawed) chickens for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.

High heat method (this creates a crispy, darker skin):

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and cook whole (thawed) chicken for 10-15 minutes.
  • Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast for 20 minutes per pound. (Do not add the extra 15 minutes to the cooking time as with the regular method.)

STEP SEVEN (optional): Stuff and truss the chicken. I like to line the cavity with sprigs of fresh rosemary. And then stuff it with smashed cloves of garlic and quarters of onion, alternating between the two. With that butcher’s twine, bring the legs together by wrapping the string around the legs in a figure eight. The end product will look something like this:

Trussed Chicken!

Trussed Chicken!

STEP EIGHT: Place and baste. Now that the chicken is seasoned and maybe stuffed and/or trussed, put that bad boy in your baking pan (roasting rack optional) and melt about 2 tablespoons of butter. Using a basting brush, spread that melted butter over every surface you can see. Don’t baste the bottom, but definitely the sides, in the crevices, etc WITHOUT clumping the dry rub. Apply generously and dab constantly. If you’re using vegetables, surround the chicken with those diced veggies.

STEP NINE: Roast. Follow those roasting methods instructions. Here they are again:

ROASTING METHODS:

Regular method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Roast whole (thawed) chickens for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.

High heat method (this creates a crispy, darker skin):

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and cook whole (thawed) chicken for 10-15 minutes.
  • Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast for 20 minutes per pound. (Do not add the extra 15 minutes to the cooking time as with the regular method.)

STEP TEN: Check on the chicken for with that meat thermometer towards the end the inner thigh will read at 165 degrees F if it’s cooked. If you plan on eating the giblets, throw that sachet in the oven about 30 mins before you plan on taking the chicken out of the oven. Allrecipes.com says:

“When you remove the chicken from the oven, cover it loosely with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. This redistributes the juices and results in moister chicken.”

Use this chart to determine how long to roast your chicken:

Roasting Times Chart

Weight (in lbs.)

Regular Method

High Heat Method

2.5 to 3

1 hour 15 minutes

1 hour

3 to 3.5

1 hour 25 minutes

1 hour 10 minutes

3.5 to 4

1 hour 35 minutes

1 hour 20 minutes

4 to 4.5

1 hour 45 minutes

1 hour 30 minutes

4.5 to 5

1 hour 55 minutes

1 hour 40 minutes

5 to 5.5

2 hours 5 minutes

1 hour 50 minutes

5.5 to 6

2 hours 15 minutes

2 hours

6 to 6.5

2 hours 25 minutes

2 hours 10 minutes

6.5 to 7

2 hours 35 minutes

2 hours 20 minutes

7 to 7.5

2 hours 45 minutes

2 hours 30 minutes

That’s it! Okay, well it’s pretty complicated, but it’s worth it. If you try it, let me know how it turns out. If you have your own way of doing it, don’t be afraid to mention how YOU do it!

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Bake Often? Use Glass, not Metal

Before I start ranting about the awesome qualities of glassware I want to set a foundation for why I think stuff like this is important. I am a firm believer that in consuming durable goods, it’s worth it to get the more expensive of the two options you’re debating. In general, you get what you pay for so the extra 23% will go a long way in the overall lifetime of the product. However, this is not my buying philosophy for nondurable goods like food. I am all for store brand medications and  generic food. For that stuff, it’s all the same. And if something generic isn’t as good as the brand name, you’re only going to have it for a little while and then it will have expired or you finished it.

When buying pans, I would recommend buying glassware instead of metal pans. I’m not saying that you should forgo splurging on hummus so you can get a Pyrex 9×5 pan, but if you find yourself baking your food a lot like I do, find the size you want/need and spring for glass if you can. You can wait for it to go on sale, but that’s hard to come by since glass doesn’t expire. I did recently come by a Pyrex 9-inch pie dish for $2 (score!).

When comparing glass pans with metal pans, the biggest pro for me is that  I’ll never have to deal with warped glass pans. This may not be a big deal for you, but a non-flat cooking surface will affect cooking times and food quality. Say I’m baking chicken in a marinade, if the pan is warped, the marinade will pool in the middle of the pan so some parts will not be good as others. Plus, it’s annoying to try to take the pan out of the oven and it shifts and splashes around, which can be dangerous.

Another is that metal pans will always scratch and the finish will come off. You can cook it in, but once you try to cut something up to take it out, you’ll cut up the bottom and maybe even lift up some of the finish with your food. Gross. I’m also biased against Teflon finishes because the pan will only be good for a few years and then the Teflon eventually comes off. Suffice it to say, I won’t buy a non-stick pan if I don’t have to, which is never so I don’t do it. Maybe I’m not buying quality Teflon. What are your Teflon experiences? Comment below!

Another is that metal pans STICK to oil stains like its their lifeblood. If you’re not absolutely VIGILANT about scrubbing metal pans right after using them, it’s there forever. Let me be clear that this has nothing to do with cooking as far as I know, it’s purely aesthetic, but who wants to eat last year’s oil stain with their brownies?

What do you guys think? Am I just not buying good quality metal pans? Let me know what you think in the comments!

The Staples: Onion and Garlic

In an effort to do this “right”, I thought it would be a good idea to lend advice about cooking from the beginning– the grocery store! I realized in the middle of starting this that it’s going to be way too long for a single post, so I’ll break it up into smaller posts. I owe a lot of my knowledge to Cook+Smarts. There, Jess Dang has a lot of great resources, like how to store fresh herbs so they last longest. Personally, I don’t use a lot of fresh herbs because I’m terrible with plants. I always forget about them, don’t use them, don’t tend to them/maintain them like I should. I’ve had so many basil plants die that I just felt bad for the poor things and stopped buying new plants. But that’s neither here nor there…onward!

A lot of young people don’t appreciate fresh fruits and vegetables like they should. Seriously, they’re awesome: better for your health, cheaper than snack foods, and some of it even travels better than a bag of chips (ahem, apples). In general, a good rule of thumb is to get stuff with skin that’s homogenous/uniform in color with a smooth surface. Just because your recipe calls for green squash (aka zuchinni), don’t buy it if the stuff at the grocery store is covered in brown spots and cuts. The glory of cooking is that you can always substitute with something similar or something you like better. Buy some yellow squash instead or do away with it all together and get some bell peppers. Who’s going to know? But don’t assume that the green squash at that grocery store is always gross. It changes! Check back next week! Super easy and delicious baked green squash entry is coming soon (remind me if I don’t post something by Jan 2013).

ONION AND GARLIC
I always make sure that I have onion and garlic in my house. I just stick ’em in a bowl on my counter and they last forever, so I don’t have to worry about it going bad BUT I use it all the time so none of it has the chance to go bad in the first place. These two will add a savory flavor to your food. I use either or both almost every time I’m cooking. You can always get alternative forms, like onion and garlic powder, but you’ll have to use more to get the same flavor. I also like the idea of fresh vegetables in my food and the texture it lends.

If you hate the way garlic makes your fingers smell, I have two helpful solutions:
1) You may not know that garlic comes chopped or minced in jars of oil or water so you can spoon it out. It’s soo convenient but it’s also milder in flavor so keep that in mind. I prefer the water variety since (I heard) it’s healthier and allows more control over what goes in my food. But to each her own, do what you want!

jar chopped garlic http-::i.walmartimages.com:i:p:00:07:09:69:00:0007096900008_300X300minced garlic http-::www.tumblr.com:tagged:minced-garlic

2) People swear that stainless steel is the way to get rid of that onion and garlic smell on your hands. It’s even made in a handy soap shape.

Rub Away Bar http-::ecx.images-amazon.com:images:I:41P4f496aLL._SX450_

Click on it to see it on Amazon!

Making Curry

Thai food is, hands down, my favorite food. Pad thai? Love it. Curry? Love it too. The difference between these two dishes is that I can’t make the former on my own, but I LOVE making the latter for myself because I can get my hands on something already made for me. The thing with Thai food is that it takes a dozen different ingredients, all of which I would never in a million years buy as a staple in my fridge and cupboard because they’re too damn unique. What else am I going to use lemongrass for except for curry? Where the hell would I get my hands on gangalan in the first place? While there are a few amazing restaurants around me that will cook it for me, why not try it for myself if I can?

I live in a predominately Asian community, so luckily there are some Asian food markets around where I can get 1) curry paste (of every variety) and 2) canned curry pre-made for me. This is the stuff I buy (it must be good because it popped up first on Google images):

Image

You know it’s legit good curry when it’s not packaged the way other American canned food is packaged. You know what I mean. The label is made of this glossy paper that makes you think it was printed out of an Epson inkjet printer and the translation on the side isn’t written in the best English. You know how the best Chinese places have terrible English translations on the menu? Bingo, you’ve hit the motherlode.

Anyway, so this stuff is delicious. It even comes with potatoes IN THE CAN. If you know how long it takes to make potatoes, you’ll appreciate this (a whole potato can take more than an hour to cook through). All you really need to add is chicken and rice, but I like to guss it up a little more than that– I add string beans, too (fancy, amiright?). Remember, it’s a good rule of practice to start cooking the stuff that will take longer to cook to make sure everything is cooked at the same time.

Ingredients:
2 cans of curry
1 lb of string beans
1 chicken thigh
1 chicken breast

1) Put two cans of curry in a medium sized pot and bring to a simmer on very low heat. Keep in mind that it needs to be big enough for all that curry, chicken, and string beans. It’s better to use a pot that’s too big rather than too small.

2) Rinse and dice the chicken into cubes. When preparing chicken, it’s important to know that meat shrinks when it’s cooked. What you think is a good sized raw chicken thigh for one is closer to 3/4 of that after it’s been cooked. I like to combine one breast (white meat) with a thigh (dark meat) to get some variety.
When rinsing, be sure to use lukewarm water. Don’t use water that’s too hot or it’ll start to cook, which will make the outside tougher.
Then, cut off the skin and as much of the fat as you can. This is optional since some people like fat.
Finally, dice them up as close to a cubic inch as you can. For a chicken breast, consider slicing it half lengthwise (aka butterflying the chicken, pictured below) before dicing.This makes for a good bite-sized piece. Add to the curry.

butterflying chicken http-::www.goodhousekeeping.com:cm:goodhousekeeping:images:preparing-chicken-breasts-butterfly-pounding-3-ghv-325-86204037

3) Prepare the string beans. Rinse them (RINSE EVERYTHING!) and then snap (or cut) off the tips on both ends. If you look at it, you can see that the ends are likely going to be tough to eat or brown-looking. Then cut them into about inch and a half segments. Assuming the chicken has been cooking in the simmering curry for about 10-15 mins, add the beans to the curry and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done if you sacrifice a piece of chicken and cut it in half. White all the way through means it’s cooked. A little translucent (aka see-through) or pink means it needs to be cooked for another 5 minutes or so.

4) Serve over rice or pasta. Rice is more authentic, there are a lot of minute-made rices and microwave rice varieties available. Rice cooker stuff takes much longer.

Fresh Artichoke

Hey, guys, so after preparing, cooking, and subsequently devouring an artichoke, I realized that I could have used it to make a blog post and now I regret eating it in such haste! My initial reaction after finishing would be similar to what I probably thought about my first shrimp. Really good, but a lot of work considering how little meat it had. For those of you who don’t know, an artichoke looks like this:

artichoke

It was 2 for $3 at my local ShopRite and I picked one up based on color, much like I do for other produce. Beware, though, the tips of the leaves have thorns, so don’t do what I did and grab at them like an ogre. Honestly, I don’t know why you’d put them tip out; that’s just setting you up for failure!

When I was ready to eat it, I filled a deep pot with an inch (or a knuckle, to eyeball) of water and boiled it. To prepare these bad boys, I cut off those leaf tips (sweet, sweet revenge). The thorns are allegedly harmless once it’s cooked, but cutting them off makes it easier to work with. Once that’s done, I cut off about 3/4 of an inch off the tip and most of the stem, leaving about an inch of that.

Then I slivered a few cloves of garlic and tucked them under the leaves. Once the water was boiling, I put my vegetable steamer in the pot followed by the artichoke, stem down. Left the fire on high and cooked for about 3o mins*. If you try this, don’t worry that the color is darker, that’s normal! I knew it was done when the outer leaves came off easily.

I personally love dipping sauces, so I made one by melting 1 part butter with 3 parts lemon juice. I read an article that mentioned mayo with balsamic vinegar. If you don’t like dipping sauces, consider slipping some slices of butter with the slivers of garlic before you steam the whole artichoke.

Try it out and tell me how you did!

SITES I USED:
http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_cook_and_eat_an_artichoke/
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/artichokes/

*Cooking temperature itself isn’t important, it’s about getting food at the correct internal temperature. Click here for a handy chart on food temperatures by FoodSafety.gov. In this case, it doesn’t matter how high the heat is, as long as the center is cooked. Too high of a heat and the outside leaves aren’t going to taste the same as the inside. Too low heat and it’ll take forever, but it’ll get there eventually! Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but food safety temperatures are 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the most.

Packaging Meat to be Frozen

This entry applies to all cuts of meat, but I’m focusing on chicken as an example.

PROBLEM…
I love buying chicken on sale and/or in bulk. It’s so cheap and lasts forever in the freezer! That is, assuming you package it properly. Yes, this is a wrong way to freeze food. For the love of Mike, DO NOT put the package you bought from the grocery store straight into the freezer. It’ll burn.

You may be thinking, “But how can it burn in the freezer?”. Well, dear reader, ever heard of sublimation? Have you ever wondered how that crust of ice lined your freezer? Most likely you chucked your supermarket packaged meats in the freezer with abandon. Don’t do this. You’re pretty much freeze drying your chicken badly. While this alone won’t render the chicken inedible, it doesn’t make it pleasant to eat either. It’s a waste of money.

The water from your chicken sublimates and forms that icy lining, which dries out the chicken. You know how matter has three states: ice, liquid, solid? Normally things have to turn to liquid before they either freeze or melt (gas to liquid to solid, or vice versa). Well, sublimation is special phenomenon when it goes straight from solid to gas without that liquid state. In this case, the water in your chicken turns into a gas where it travels out of the chicken and lingers in your freezer, and then back to a solid that lines your freezer with ice. Don’t believe me? Click here or look it up yourself! Or don’t bother re-packaging your chicken. It’s not worth fighting about. (FYI: the icy lining can also be attributed to someone leaving the freezer open).

MEET SOLUTION:
What you should be doing (at least, what I do) is taking that package apart and then putting single serve portions into freezer bags. Freezer bags are NOT the same as sandwich bags. Freezer bags are made of thicker plastic than sandwich bags and the zip closure withstands sublimation.

And when I say single serve, I mean enough for everyone you feed per meal. For example, since I just feed me and one other, I like to buy the quart sized Ziploc freezer bags and put 3 or 4 thighs or 1 or 2 chicken breasts per bag (pictured below). You may feed 5 people, so buy bigger bags (they go up to 2 gallons) so you can freeze 6 or 7 chicken breasts per bag. Use common sense and do what works for you and your family.

Qt Freezer Bags http-::ecx.images-amazon.com:images:I:515OUOT1k7L._SX300_

HOW I DO IT:
Since I believe that sublimation is a thing as well as I don’t like to spread germs around if I can help it, I like to put my chicken straight from the package whence it came into a freezer bag. I don’t see the point of rinsing it at this point of the cooking process. It’s not going to stay clean and just adds more water into the nooks and crannies to contribute to freezer burn. I also think it’s a good idea to make use of the white label. Just the date, quantity, and cut of meat that’s in the bag. It saves on future confusion/frustration.

The next step is the most important, close the zip half way and squish as much air out of the bag as possible. No air in the bag means there’s no space for the frozen water to turn to gas. Someone people even buy equipment solely for the purpose of vacuum sealing their food. I’m considering it. Then seal it before the air goes back into the bag. Voila, it can now go into the freezer and be as fresh as when you first bought it.

(BONUS) DEFROSTING:
I don’t like to defrost using warm water or the microwave. I’ve found that it cooks the outside while leaving the center frozen. Instead, I like to give it plenty of time to defrost in the refridgerator. Keep in mind that a larger bag of meat will take much longer to defrost than smaller bags, so this may not be an option for your family. I always like to keep a bag defrosting or defrosted in the freezer, since we eat a lot of chicken. Do what makes sense for your family!

It begins…

Hello, there, reader! Welcome to my pseudo-world. This is very much under construction but who’s to say when the improving and progression of this website will ever reach an end? I plan on constantly adapting and updating the content, so you better check back often (or else)! I’ve recently gained an interest in digital marketing and, as a natural progression of aforementioned interest, this site is an experiment (of sorts) to get some hands-on knowledge on making a website, maintaining it, and promoting it. The idea for the actual subject matter blossomed as I was brushing my teeth just now, which is really when all the best ideas come to fruition, isn’t it? But don’t fret, dear reader, I may be somewhat erratic but I’m by no means cockamamie! I’ve had this URL reserved for some time now, it was always a matter of content until this point.  My plan for the future is to make a video and try to put it here! Stay posted to witness the magic.

I would love to hear your ideas and website suggestions! Especially name ideas because “Welcome” isn’t particularly imaginative, is it?