Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pollo Alla Birra...Chicken in Beer

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There are recipes you marry and there are those you have a fling with.  My Roast Chicken recipe is one I have perfected throughout the years and one that usually makes its appearance when the weather turns cold.   Sometimes I change the herbs, other times I add a lot of lemon or lime; but basically, it is the same recipe with different twists.  I can rely on this recipe.  Like a good husband, it  never fails me.

On the other hand, there are days when one wakes up wanting to do something different and exciting...like getting a new hair style or painting your bedroom a Mandarin Red.  Notice I didn't say anything too outlandish or riske, for as one gets older (and wiser) these leaps of faith take on a more conservative objective.

Which bring me to cheating....

When it comes to cheating, particularly on an old recipe,  one must rely on someone trustworthy.  So pick someone  who has never failed you.  Like Julia Child and Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich sits at the right hand of God as far as cooking is concerned.  I have never tried anything of hers that has been a disappointment.  On the contrary, her recipes never cease to amaze me in their complexity, technique and depth of flavors.  They immediately vault to the Hall Of Fame in their category.  She comes from the Northern part of Italy that borders the Adriatic and some of her recipes and techniques are quite different from what we think of as Italian cooking.  One of my favorites is the Beef Goulash she made for the Pope. I have learned much from this lady.





Thus I came to making her Pollo Alla Bierra, or Chicken in Beer, a classic dish from Trentino, a region of Northern Italy.  I usually try to vary my posts from week to week and mix them up as to course and cuisine.   I never post two recipes from the same cookbook or the same author in sequence,  but this one also caught my eye while reading Lidia's latest book Lidia's Favorite Italian Recipes.  If you don't have any of her books, this is the one to get.  It is small, handy and has a great selection of recipes from her other books.  It also comes in a Kindle edition.

When you read the ingredients, you will think I have lost my mind,  but you will have to take a leap of faith with me just like I did with her.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.  As simple as this recipe is in its preparation, it is complex in the flavors you taste when you first take a bite.  The beer is instrumental and renders a chicken that is moist and tender with a glossy skin. You will not need a knife to cut the meat.  It is incredibly tender.




I will admit, though, there were times when I almost lost my nerve, as when the chicken was still white sixty minutes into its roasting.  It did not seem to be browning at all.  It looked the same as when it came out of the fridge, and I have a convection oven! So  I raised the temperature  to 450 degrees for twenty of the  final thirty minutes of cooking.  In the end. I should not have panicked, for look at the results.  The skin was a bit over browned.  So, don't do it.  Follow the recipe to a tee. The skin is supposed to be a dark brown but not charred.





Now don't go changing and eliminating ingredients or you will be disappointed.  Everything has a reason for its inclusion in this recipe.  If you are wondering how cinnamon and nutmeg make their appearance in an Italian recipe, remember that the Northern part of Italy was once part of the  Republic of Venice which,  in the mid-13th century, emerged as the primary trade port for spices from the East bound for western and northern Europe. Just a little tidbit....

You will be happy to know that this recipe has no additional fat.  No butter, no oil, nothing.  Zippo.  I had to read it three times to make sure I was not hallucinating.  Talk about a leap of faith...so splurge on mashed potatoes!

Oh, and if you are wondering how I got my Le Creuset pot sparkly clean and almost new, soak for awhile in soap and water, rinse and rub with a sponge and Barkeeper's Friend.  




This will never be a substitute for your own Roast Chicken recipe.  Think of it as a lover, someone to have a fling with when you need a spark in your cooking.  It will not disappoint and nobody needs to know.  It's just between us chickens!





Good cooks need to keep trying new techniques and different recipes.  Don't stay in a rut, go out and try something new.    Make it a point to try new cuisines and ingredients.  I had never cooked Indian or Moroccan food until recently.  Just a couple of months ago I learned how to shuck an oyster.  You can do or make anything you set your mind to.   Keep on trucking and try to cook something new every month.  Believe me, it's easier  than dying your hair or painting your bedroom a crazy color.  If nothing else, you will be very proud of yourself.


Pollo Alla Birra

4 pound roasting chicken
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled, halved crosswise and quartered
2 medium parsnips, peeled, halved crosswise and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1½ cups chicken stock
1½ cups flavorful beer or ale, (one12-ounce bottle)
1 cup apple cider, preferably unfiltered
Directions

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Trim excess fat from chicken, and season it inside and out with salt. Scatter the onions, carrot, parsnips, sage, cloves, and cinnamon in the pot, sprinkle over this salt, and set the chicken on top of the vegetables. Put the pot on the stove, pour in the stock, beer, and apple cider, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes on top of the stove. Put the pot in the oven, and roast the chicken for about 30 minutes, basting with the pan juices two or three times. Cover the chicken with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning, and roast another 30 minutes.

Remove the foil, and roast another 20 to 30 minutes, basting frequently, until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken to a warm platter, and surround with the vegetables. Bring the pan juices to a boil on top of the stove, and cook until reduced by half.

Carve the chicken at the table, and spoon some of the pan juices on top.
- See more at: http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/379#sthash.pwhbGdwA.dpuf

Ingredients

  • A 31/2- to- 4- pound roasting chicken
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, quartered
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, halved crosswise, and
  • quartered lengthwise (about 4 ounces)
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled, halved crosswise, and
  • quartered lengthwise (about 6 ounces total)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 11/2 cups light stock (chicken, turkey, or vegetable
  • broth) or water
  • 11/2 cups (one 12- ounce bottle) flavorful beer or ale
  • 1 cup nonalcoholic apple cider, preferably unfiltered

 

Directions:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, and heat to 400 degrees F. Trim the excess fat from the chicken, and season it inside and out with half of the salt.

Scatter the onions, carrot, parsnips, sage, cloves, and cinnamon in the pot, sprinkle over this the rest of the salt, and set the chicken on top of the vegetables. Put the pot on the stove, pour in the stock, beer, and apple cider, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes on top of the stove.

Put the pot in the oven, and roast the chicken for about 30 minutes, basting with the pan juices two or three times. Cover the chicken with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent over browning, and roast another 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and roast another 20 to 30 minutes, basting frequently, until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through and tender.

Remove the chicken to a warm platter, and surround with the vegetables. Bring the pan juices to a boil on top of the stove, and cook until reduced by half. Carve the chicken at the table, and spoon some of the pan juices on top.
Serving Size
Makes 6 servings

Carve by removing the legs and wings and the breast whole.  Cut on the bias as shown so everyone gets a little skin.

Serve with mashed potatoes.
4 pound roasting chicken
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled, halved crosswise and quartered
2 medium parsnips, peeled, halved crosswise and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1½ cups chicken stock
1½ cups flavorful beer or ale, (one12-ounce bottle)
1 cup apple cider, preferably unfiltered
Directions
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Trim excess fat from chicken, and season it inside and out with salt. Scatter the onions, carrot, parsnips, sage, cloves, and cinnamon in the pot, sprinkle over this salt, and set the chicken on top of the vegetables. Put the pot on the stove, pour in the stock, beer, and apple cider, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes on top of the stove. Put the pot in the oven, and roast the chicken for about 30 minutes, basting with the pan juices two or three times. Cover the chicken with a sheet of aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning, and roast another 30 minutes.

Remove the foil, and roast another 20 to 30 minutes, basting frequently, until the chicken and vegetables are cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken to a warm platter, and surround with the vegetables. Bring the pan juices to a boil on top of the stove, and cook until reduced by half.

Carve the chicken at the table, and spoon some of the pan juices on top.
- See more at: http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/detail/379#sthash.pwhbGdwA.dpuf
         

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Shrimp Buzara...Gamberini Alla Buzara

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Shrimp alla buzara
Gamberini alla Buzara is a very popular dish from the Dalmatian Coast of the Adriatic Sea and a perfect example of the rich seafood offerings influenced by neighboring Italy.  This recipe comes from Lidia Bastianich, the well known Italian cookbook author and restaurant owner, a native of the region.  Second to Marcella Hazan, she is my bible when it comes to Italian cooking.
Shrimp alla buzara

Shrimp alla Buzara can be prepared with head-on shrimp, tail-on shrimp, or peeled shrimp. In this particular recipe, just the heads are discarded,  As you can imagine, leaving the shells on when stewing makes for a delicious sauce, perfect for crusty bread . 

Bring a big empty bowl to the table to discard the shells.  Serve a pasta or risotto as a first course,  or by itself with a baguette, and choose an Italian white wine from the Veneto such as a Soave.   The recipe is simple and easy to prepare, perfect for a midweek dinner.

Ingredients:

24 large shrimp, raw (1 ounce apiece) with shells
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon bread crumbs, or more if needed
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Directions:

Without removing any of the shell, remove the vein (digestive tract) that runs inside the curving back of each shrimp: Slice open the back with a sturdy sharp paring knife, cutting through the shell, and scrape out the vein. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry.

Pour 1/4 cup of the olive oil in the sauté pan and set over medium-high heat. Scatter in the garlic, cook until sizzling, then stir in the shallots. When they're sizzling, stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 cup of the wine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is nearly completely evaporated and the shallots have softened.

Drop in the tomato paste and stir it around the pan for a minute, coating the shallots and caramelizing.

Pour in the rest of the wine, bring to the boil quickly, then add the water and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the sauce bubble gently and reduce for about 5 minutes while you sear the shrimp.

Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the wide skillet and set over high heat until very hot. Scatter the shrimp in the pan, toss them in the oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook for just a minute or slightly longer, until the shells are lightly colored and the flesh underneath is opaque, then turn off the heat.

With the sauce still bubbling, slide in the seared shrimp and tumble to coat them all with sauce.

Stir in the coarsely ground pepper, then the tablespoon bread crumbs-use more crumbs if the sauce is thin. Cook for another 2 minutes then turn off the heat.

Drizzle over the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil-or more to taste-and incorporate it well, tumbling the shrimp in the pan. Sprinkle the parsley on top and serve immediately. -

Recipe from Lidia Bastianich
Photo: Lindaraxa

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spiced Applesauce Cake With Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

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Everything about this cake is simple, easy and delicious.   You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry and the only other thing you will need is a mixer, a big bowl and an 8 or 9 inch square pan.  It is perfect for dessert on a Fall Sunday and it goes particularly well with a cup of tea in the afternoon.   All the flavors one craves when the leaves start to fall come together in this easy dessert.

 I always keep those small single cups of applesauce that come in a package of six in reserve for those times when we grill pork chops.  They last forever and you never know when one will come handy, particularly when grandchildren drop by for dinner.  In my book, it is unthinkable to have pork chops without applesauce or some sauce on the sweet side, like chutney.  If your applesauce is sweetened, just reduce the brown sugar to 3/4 cup.

If you, like me, do not like to bake but love a good cake, this recipe is for you. I am having an itsy, bitsy teeny, weenie piece as I write this post and it is as good or better than I had anticipated. It is also a small cake so if you plan to eat it all by yourself not much harm will be done.  I've promised myself I will freeze some, or give a piece to the neighbors...maybe.



  

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  For cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional), toasted, cooled, and chopped

For frosting

  • 5 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square cake pan.


Make cake:

  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  • Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined, then stir in walnuts (if using).
  • Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely.

Make frosting:

  • Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated.
  • Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Butternut Squash, Kale And Chorizo Soup

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This is the most magnificent soup I have ever created.   I don't usually brag this much but this one is special.  I got the idea somewhere on the web, took a note of it, and went off on my own, adding some of the spices and herbs I prefer.  I have seen this soup made with curry, but here I decided to give it more of a Spanish flavor.  Although I cannot get it where I live, if you can find the Spanish calabaza pumpkin go ahead and substitute for the squash.  It will have more flavor.  While the soup was cooking, I added some of the butternut puree I had leftover from the other night to give it more flavor.  In the end, the squash totally disintegrates into a delicious broth.





Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 Tb butter
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
3 chorizo sausage (casings removed and sliced in chunks)
3 cups chicken broth or chicken stock,  Use more if needed.
2 cups cubed butternut squash or pumpkin puree
1 potato (peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cup of kale leaves
Splash of dry Sherry
1 tablespoon cilantro per bowl (chopped)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat the oil and butter in a pot, preferably Le Creuset.
2. Add the onions and saute until tender.
3. Add the garlic and coriander seeds and saute until fragrant.
4. Add the chorizo and brown.
5. Add 3 cups of the chicken stock and the butternut squash cubes and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes.  Save the other cup of stock in case you want to use it at the end or to dilute a bit when you reheat the next day.
6. Add the potato and kale. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potato is tender, about 45 minutes. You want the squash completely disintegrated and the potato pieces tender but whole.
7. Add a splash of dry Sherry and simmer for a couple of minutes.
8. Check for salt and pepper.
9. Mix some chopped cilantro into the soup and let rest for about 1/2 hour.
10.Pour some soup into a bowl and top with more cilantro. Drip some olive oil on top before serving.


Serve with crusty bread.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Swiss Chard, Onion And Gruyere Quiche

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We have been eating lots of Swiss chard and kale this Fall.  You name it, we've had it...sauteed, in soups, omelettes and quiche.

Chard is one of the most nutritious vegetables around, with the leaves containing most of the vitamins.  It is very popular in Mediterranean cooking. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sauteed as their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked spinach.

Because of the zone I am in, Fall is the time to grow lettuce as well as some of the leafy vegetables and  herbs that don't do well in the heat of our summers . I have just set out a pot of new parsley on the deck, as well as cilantro,sage and dill.  It has only taken me four years to figure this out.  They will grow and thrive until the first frost which, in North Georgia, is usually around mid December.  I am now also restarting a new pot of basil.  It's complicated, I know.  I'm still trying to figure it out.

I usually purchase a couple of bunches of kale or chard, steam them, remove all the water and save the leaves in a Ziploc or plastic tub in the refrigerator. When I need some for quiche, omelettes or whatever, it is all ready to go.   Kale and chard also freeze beautifully but take advantage of them while they are fresh.

If you have your chard ready to go, this quiche is a breeze.  A ready made Mrs. Smith crust  is perfect.  All you will need is a glass of dry French rose or white wine and lunch will be memorable.  The recipe is basically Julia Child's Spinach Quiche, with Swiss Chard instead, and the addition of onions and Gruyere.  I thought about using shallots, but in this quiche the good old onion is better.  Trust me.

Wait til you see what I did with kale in the next recipe.  It was memorable.  Stay tuned.....




Ingredients:

1 9 inch deep pastry crust, preferably Mrs. Smith's
1 finely minced  onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups chopped blanched Swiss Chard  (drained)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
 
Egg Custard

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 pinch nutmeg
 
1/2 cup grated Gruyere 
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pea-size

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and pre bake pastry shell in a baking sheet according to directions for 9-10 minutes. Don't forget the pie weights! 

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Cook the onions in the butter until translucent.

Add the chard and stir over moderate heat for several minutes to evaporate all its water.

Add salt, pepper and taste carefully for seasonings and set aside.

Beat the eggs and cream in a mixing bowl.  Add the nutmeg.
 
Gradually stir in spinach mixture.
  
Pour into partially baked pastry shell.


  
Sprinkle with cheese and dot the top with butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. Let cool a bit before serving.



Notes: the recipe fits a 9 inch pie shell perfectly.  Do not overfill.  Fill only to 3/4 so it has room to rise.
 


Sunday, October 6, 2013

While We Were Out...Encore!

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I have stupidly deleted the original post.  Goes to show you that practice makes perfect.  Be very careful with this.  Believe me, you cannot get it back.  I have been trying for two hours.  In the meantime, thank you Parnassus, Libby, Deanna, Sam and Martha for your kind comments.  I have missed you too.

I know I've been gone longer than I thought I would, but after four and a half years of blogging a girl needs a break. I will say it has been hard to come back.  Whilst I enjoy posting new recipes and sharing some of my old ones with you, it is a production of sorts to put everything together. One has to be in the right mood. On the other hand, the friends I have made blogging are priceless and the only reason to keep on trucking.

It would be hard and time consuming to replicate the whole post again so I am just going to share some of the highlights .  The next post has been already baked and photographed... a recipe for a delightful Swiss Chard Quiche we had yesterday for lunch.  In the meantime here are some of the photos and bits of the deleted post.

Coco and the Sous Chef have finally reached an Entente Cordiale, of sorts.  Here's a typical morning in my sitting room:


Coco takes the high ground

She is so thankful to have a home

While the Sous Chef schemes and sulks

Watching for prey in the garden below.  The Sous Chef likes this part.

And then I wonder why I've had a "cold" for over two months.




The front door has been Fall-ized.  Out with the ferns and geraniums and in with two Japanese hollies for the urns and my favorite mums.



 And we have been eating lots of Swiss Chard:



Sauteed
  
In omelets




And a delightful Swiss Chard, Onion and Gruyere Quiche I will post next.

Visited with Madame Mere for a couple of weeks and came back to a weekend with the grandchildren and a delightful cocktail party given by Reggie Darling at the Four Seasons in Atlanta for his blogger and banker friends. As only he can pull off.  Barry of the Blue Remembered Hills , Jennifer of The Peak Of Chic and Terry of Architecture Tourist were there.

Life has been good and I'm glad to be back.
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