Tag Archives: chicken

A Normal Night

Today was a normal day. Dirk was out of the house/office, and I was home pretty much all day.

The rain came down hard and long, for the morning and early afternoon. I tried to placate Shadow from his normal morning run (and myself, honestly)!

Can I live here forever?

This is where we will be in a week.

It worked, until the rain subsided long enough to either get out for an hour, or lose that opportunity.

We grabbed the chance for an hour outside. And it was glorious! We were pretty much the only ones out on the Shoreline Path.

Coming home from our run at 1 pm vs. 10 am was odd, but we adapted. I made a quick lunch of carrots, celery and red bell pepper with roasted pepper hummus. A vegi burger on whole grain bread with tomato, lettuce and cheddar rounded out the meal.

Tonight’s dinner was a new(ish) recipe – roasted potatoes, shallots and garlic. Organic chicken breasts broiled with gruyere and smoked ham proved to be a fine meal indeed. Imagine a deconstructed Chicken Cordon Bleu, enhanced by a shwack of local watercress, tucked in for vegetable goodness, minus all the nasty breadcrumbs, butter and fat.

It worked.

The Sunset on the Pacific Coast

This is something I get to see all the time. I know, I am blessed.

Another break in the weather allowed me to hang out with Shadow for some catch and retrieve. He also got a good brushing, so he looks even more beautiful that usual.

Getting ready to hunker down inside with the furry one(s). Have a great night everyone!

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Ghee, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

In our attempt to eat healthier foods, cut back on saturated fat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables, Dirk and I have made some significant changes in our everyday eating habits. One major change has been to reduce our consumption of the beloved food known as butter.

As a baker, pastry chef and chef de cuisine, my history with butter has been long and faithful. I have worked in restaurants where a case of Plugra was used daily. I think Anthony Bourdain, (one of my culinary heroes), estimated the average person dining out—especially in a French influenced bistro—will consume on average a half cup of butter during the coarse of their meal.

Readers? Meet Ghee. He rocks.

Readers? Meet Ghee. He rocks.

That’s right, a whole stick of butter in one sitting.

Based on my own work in French bistros, I can attest his estimate may actually be on the conservative side. No wonder all that damn food tastes so good.

And, up until a year ago my refrigerator’s inventory would include two different varieties of butter. One for sauces, usually a high quality European style (less water, higher fat content), and an unsalted version for baking or spreading on sandwiches and toast. We even had a butter ‘ramekin’ that was always at the ready, room temperature. If I had to guess, we probably went through at least 1 pound of butter per month, more if I was baking.

Things have changed. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have butter in my fridge. Actually most of it lives in the freezer, except for a tiny knob kept handy for cooking. I haven’t bought butter in 6 months, and there’s still more than a half pound in my freezer.

Until last weekend that is, when I came across a wonderful product called ghee. It’s a type of butter which has been clarified. Here are a few facts:

ghee |gē|nounclarified butter made from the milk of a buffalo or cow, used in Indian cooking.ORIGIN from Hindi ghī, from Sanskrit ghṛtá ‘sprinkled.’

This is India’s version of clarified butter, but it goes way beyond the kitchen in their culture. It is used in religious ceremonies, it aids in the absorption of medicinal herbs, offers healing properties and the spiritual aspect of ghee is recognized as well. Darn smart country. Darn smart.

This smelled amazing. Trust.

This smelled amazing. Trust.

Unlike regular butter, its milk solids have been removed so it has a higher burning temperature and is perfect for sautéing.

Its nutty flavor lends a rich nod to pan cooked foods, so you don’t need much. Simply add a tablespoon to a medium hot pan and sauté some delicate fish filets or chicken cutlets for a few minutes on each side. Toss with some snipped chives or parsley and plate.

If you’re feeling adventurous, pour in a splash of white wine or vermouth and let it cook for another second. You will have a gorgeous pan ‘jus’.

Dirk and I had some fresh trout filets to prepare the other night and they got the ghee treatment. The nutty essence of the ghee was a perfect pairing with the delicate fish, the garden herbs and wine lifted this dish that rivaled any bistro meal.

And I didn’t need a stick of butter to achieve those results. Healing properties indeed.

Need a Lift? Drop Some Acid.

No, I am not tripping, nor am I advocating you do anything similar. I’m talking about using acid as a food enhancer.

I once worked with a very talented chef, who although I suspect was probably high half the time, taught me a few things about acid and flavors.

Chef explained that when food tasted ‘flat’, it could usually use salt or more often than not, a bit of acid. At first I was perplexed by this statement, but I learned what my chef was trying to teach me.

The kitchen crew would be busy preparing dishes for service, cooks heavy with tasks and  items to prep and complete. Chef would routinely come on line to sample the food, sipping sauces, dressings, tasting our recent projects.

Chef would then yay or nay our progress, asking questions about recipes used. Ultimately I would hear the following sentences often enough, I began to understand the process of ingredients, chemistry and their dance together.

“More salt.”

“Needs acid.”

When properly used, acid enhances the natural flavors in the food you are preparing. It won’t alter the dish so much, but it gives it punch. It has this wonderful ability to give foods another layer of flavor. This I learned, could turn a mediocre meal into a party in the mouth.

Let me give you a few examples that will make good foods taste even better. Chances are you already have a few, if not all these goodies in your pantry or fridge right now. The following list is a sample of what I call my “Arsenal of Flavors.”

This is only a sampling of acids I recommend, but this will get you started. They are extremely versatile and demonstrate the beauty of key flavors. Hopefully, they will transform your meals, get you cooking more  and enjoying great food!

  • Citrus juice and their zest (orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Spanish Sherry Vinegar
  • Champagne Vinegar
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Red and White Wines
  • Some liquors and cordials such as Sake, Tequila, Port and Brandy
  • Pernod or Dry Vermouth
  • Mustards
  • Capers
  • Beer!
  • Soy Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce

Here is a recipe I am using tonight which incorporates acid in a marinade, a great example which will impart maximum flavor versus just throwing the damn bird on the grill. No love or respect. Without further adieu, I give you:

Love and Respect Marinade for Grilled Chicken

This marinade would also work well for shrimp, scallops, various cuts of fish and pork. Tonight I’m using 1 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. This marinate makes about 1 cup, enough for up to 2 or 3 pounds of meat.

Key ingredients for the win.

Key ingredients for the win.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • a few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup. Stir completely and pour over meat, chicken or seafood. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour, turning halfway if you remember.

Giving the chicken some love.

Giving the chicken some love.

Remove meat from marinade and season with salt. Discard marinade. Grill chicken thighs over indirect heat until cooked through, about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

I am grilling the chicken tonight because it is still hotter than the be-jesus over here. I suppose you could broil the chicken, or saute, but I think a marinade and summer should require an outdoor cooking vessel.

Speaking of which, time to stop blogging, and get cooking.


It’s Like Africa Hot

My brain is not working at full capacity. Summer finally came to Santa Barbara in late August, and currently the temperatures are hovering around 90 degrees. My guess is our 1950’s beach shack is even hotter. I am hoping during the next hour as the sun travels further west, it will leave our humble home in a shady um, shade and I’ll be able to cool down and think about dinner.

I told you my brain wasn’t fully functioning.

I think about food. A lot. I think about food when I’m eating. Not only about what I’m eating at the moment, but what I’ll be preparing and enjoying later. When I’m on my morning run, I’m planning lunch. I plan entire meals in my head when I should be engrossed in work. I can’t help it, the random thoughts invade my head, and although I try to focus, food trumps all. Over the years I have learned to embrace it (and thank the Angels my darling husband can also get lost in anything food related). I was even able to make a living with my obsession, so I guess it’s not a serious problem.

Right?

What currently fills my mind is how to make dinner without an additional rise in the mercury of our thermometer. Because I have raw chicken or beef for dinner choices, tonight I must create fire. A crisp garden salad will round things out. Thank goodness I can escape the heat of my kitchen and fire up our outdoor grill. A fabulous invention and one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.

Fire + meat = yum

Fire + meat = yum

Several years ago, my dear father in-law who lives in Holland suggested buying us a barbecue for our house warming gift when we moved to Santa Barbara. We didn’t have a barbecue and the thought of owning a fine gas or propane grill to cook large amounts of food for our friends and family was a great adventure I eagerly awaited. We began our research immediately, visiting many hardware stores, the small independent shops and the ginormous home club venues. I looked online as well.

The one thing we kept coming across were the enormous grills, which wasn’t a bad thing. However, the quality or lack thereof did not impress. Flimsy hardware, rust just waiting to invade every surface, and those weird ‘volcanic briquettes’? What’s up with those things? You can’t even throw some mesquite or hard wood chips in there? Odd. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the cost of these things! My father in-law is a very generous man, but I didn’t think any of these grills deserved consideration.

Grill with goodies

Grill with goodies

I remember as a child we had an old Weber Grill in the back yard. It always fired right up, offering the chef the choice of hard wood, mesquite or coals, and you could cook with direct or indirect heat. You could prepare a shwack of food or just a couple of burgers. Clean up was a breeze, it never rusted, and it was a fraction of the price of most grills. It didn’t rely on gas, propane or phony rocks, just some crumbled up newspaper, briquettes of your choice and a match. Sold!

After several years of abuse, this grill has never let me down. It cooks evenly, it’s dependable, rust-free and a joy to use. The best thing about it right now? It’s outside. In the shade. Next to a picnic table where I will enjoy a glass of wine (or two) and let the grill do the work.

Cool.