Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.


Posted: November 27th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 22 Comments »

While there WILL be a big Thanksgiving roundup coming, and believe me it will be both photo-heavy AND food-heavy, for now, I will be brief.

The un-TurkeyI’m thankful for having enough, and sometimes too much.
I’m thankful for amazing friends, who stick it out with me no matter what.
I’m thankful for a guy who will support me earnestly and wholeheartedly, just because he loves me.
I’m thankful for a family who love me, and who try their best to let me be everything I can and don’t encourage me to be too much that I’m not (besides neat.)

I’m thankful for youth.
I’m thankful for idealism.
I’m thankful for dreams and freedom to follow them.

I’m thankful for Rock-102 and jamming in the kitchen with my dad to Journey.
I’m thankful that my mom acquiesced and made the mashed potatoes without me having to beg. Because they’re the best.
I’m thankful for my dog, who kept us company in the kitchen and didn’t beg too much.

I’m thankful for my grandmas, who are two tough ladies that just keep on going, like Energizer Bunnies.
I’m thankful for my brother. Hemp Necklace.
I’m thankful that the squash was well-received, that the turkey was awesome, that I didn’t ruin the gravy, that the mac & cheese was good, and that my dad left that little dish of stuffing out on the table all day, because I ate way more than my fair share of it.

And boy oh boy am I thankful for Trifle.
And of course, for you. All of you. Whoever you are. I love to cook and I love to talk about it and honestly I’d probably be out here, blogging, even if no one read me. But I love that you show up, and read what I have to say, and what the rest of the Pretty Girls have to say. We’re starting to hit our stride, and I promise it’s only up from here. Thanks for your comments, thanks for stopping by. At our virtual Thanksgiving table, the extra place setting is for all of you.
And we’ll leave the light on.

1 More Eggplant Parm Recipe.

Posted: November 24th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 28 Comments »

Helloooo, loverI know. I know.
It’s eggplant parmigiana. How many different ways can you make it? I promise, from the top of my head to the bottoms of my feet, this is the most awesome way I have ever made eggplant parm.
#1. The eggplant is broiled, not breaded and baked or fried.
#2. The tomato sauce is really deep and rich, without being complicated.
#3. The pasta is whole wheat and I’m going to keep pushing it until you all are eating it.
#4. Melty broiled mozzarella is the best thing ever, and on this I will hear zero arguments. Got it???

This dish is a little bit time-intensive, but it’s neither something you can’t handle, nor not worth it. It involves no special techniques except for y’know, keeping an eye on your broiler, and doing a little multitasking. You can do this. Let’s begin.

1 Eggplant, medium sized, top and bottom cut off, remainder sliced top-to-bottom into 4 slices. Either peel before cutting, or discard the nubbins on the ends that are mostly skin and very little eggplant meat.
1 Onion
2 Cloves garlic
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes – with basil, with Italian seasoning, or plain, whatever you like best.
Tomato paste
1/2 box of whole wheat pasta
Assorted seasonings: Dried oregano, garlic powder, dried parsley, chili flake
Mozzarella. Not Shredded.

Step 1. The Eggplant Begins
Lay the eggplant slices out on a cooling rack, and sprinkle them with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes. This step will draw out some of the moisture that tends to make eggplant soggy, and it will neutralize the bitterness that eggplant can have. Plus, it gives you time to prep other things.
So, while the eggplant is sitting, mix together roughly 1 teaspoon each of the dried oregano, garlic powder, and parsley, and a pinch of the chili flake. Pour in an oil like sunflower or canola oil, something that won’t break down under high heat, because you’re about to stick the eggplant under an open flame. You want to have something that resembles Italian salad dressing, so drizzle in the oil until you reach a pretty runny consistency, where the herbs and garlic powder and chili flake are suspended in the oil.
When the 30 minutes are up, rinse your eggplant well under running water, and pat it dry. Then, drizzle the herb/oil mixture over the eggplant slices and use a pastry brush or your fingers to ensure that the slices are all coated on both sides with deliciousness.
Herby OilThe Pour: pt.1The Pour: pt.2Slices of Joy

Step 2: The Sauce/Pasta contingent
The sauce is a manner of personal taste, of course, but here is what I do. First, put a big pot of salted water on to boil. It’ll take longer than you think, and the sauce happens pretty quickly. Dice an onion, and chop up 2 cloves of garlic. Put the onion in the bowl that held the herby oil mixture, because that way the flavors from the eggplant will be echoed in the sauce. Toss the onion bits around, and then put them in a saute pan with a tablespoon or 2 of oil. Sprinkle with salt, and cook on medium-low heat until the onions start releasing their liquid. Then, add in the garlic, and some tomato paste. Stir to combine, and once the tomato paste has cooked for a few minutes, add the can of tomatoes and smash with a masher. You COULD use crushed tomatoes, but I prefer the whole ones for this situation. Season with a little salt and pepper, but be careful because tomato paste is salty. Let simmer while you’re staring at your watch waiting for the pasta water to boil, stir frequently so the sauce doesn’t stick, and cook the pasta in the normal way in the water.

Step 3: The Big Ta-Daa
Turn on your broiler once you put the pasta in to cook. Take your eggplant slices, and put them on a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet.  Stick them under the broiler for roughly 3 minutes, flip, and broil for another 2 minutes. While the eggplant is broiling, slice your mozzarella into slices that will fit on top of the eggplant. After you flip the eggplant, drain the pasta, and once that’s done, lay a slice of cheese on top of each piece of eggplant, and broil for an additional minute or 2, until the cheese gets lovely and melty and brown-speckley and delicious. After that, you know what to do: pasta, sauce, eggplant, NOM!
The finished productFeel the Fire!Topped with CheeseMelty Cheesy Goodness

This is a great variation on Eggplant parmesan’s traditional bready, soggy self. It’s awesome in a different way than my earlier attempt at deconstructed Eggplant Parm, which is awesome if you love fried eggplant like I do. However, this type is more virtuous, without sacrificing any flavor. It’s a winner.
Try it! You’ll like it!! :)

These things take time

Posted: November 22nd, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 23 Comments »

Until recently, I had never made Rice Krispie Treats.
I know, I know. Shock, sacrilege, etc.  But we didn’t really eat Rice Krispies in my house, and we didn’t have marshmallow Fluff in my house, and I was never a Girl Scout, and I will take a chocolate chip cookie over anything else any day and…..
Uncertainty. Just keepin' it real.
I digress.
So Deb, from the ever-amazing Smitten Kitchen, posted a recipe a few weeks ago (oh lord, a month ago? WHERE DID NOVEMBER GO???) for something that seemed too delicious to pass up: Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats.  As with many things, if Deb has posted it and made it, I’ll try it. I mean, hell, I made bagels because she did. And homemade oreo cookies. And cider donuts. Maybe I have a problem. Regardless, the idea of gussied-up, grown-up Rice Krispie Treats got in my brain and stuck. So, I had to make some.
Ingredient listThe ingredient list and procedures for this is pretty simple. 1 stick of butter, 1 bag of marshmallows, some salt, and about  6 cups of Puffed Rice Cereal (Whole Foods doesn’t carry Rice Krispies, but having brown rice in my treats was like an even BIGGER treat.)
The first step is to brown the butter, and this is the only bit of the process that takes time. You have to melt the butter over low, low heat, and let it keep cooking until it foams, and then stops foaming, and then starts to smell nutty. As soon as you get a whiff, turn off the heat and throw in the bag of marshmallows. Stir like crazy, and encourage all the marshmallows to melt.

So much brown rice Goooooey!

I had a little trouble with the next step, so will give you my updated version. Once all the marshmallows have melted into the butter, put a GENEROUS 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, and the 6 cups of crispies, into a big bowl, and toss. Once everything is combined, pour/scoop the marshmallow and brown butter mixture into the bowl. Maybe if I had a bigger saucepan at my disposal, this wouldn’t have been an issue, but as it stood, I needed some help. So, once everything is in a big bowl, just start stirring and folding and smooshing, until it’s cohesive.

Stir and smooshFinished Product!!

Spread it into a well-buttered baking dish, and let it sit until it’s cool and set. Then, you can cut it into squares, rectangles, or whatever weird shape happens when you and your boyfriend say, “Oh just one more teeny piece” about 67 times between the two of you and suddenly, there’s a janky-looking cut down the side of your pan of Crispy Treats and….

Again. I digress.

Fair Warning: Everybody that I know is getting these for the holidays. Some of you may get them drizzled with Salted Caramel sauce. Some with chocolate sauce. Some just on their own.
But you’re going to eat them, and you’re going to love them. Until that time….. yum. Make these. But beware: they disappear FAST!!

A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Cranberry-Chipotle Relish

Posted: November 20th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: A Very Pretty Thanksgiving, Johanna, Make-Ahead, delish | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Being a native New Englander, I know the story of the first Thanksgiving very well. And even if it isn’t true, and even if Thanksgiving is a holiday to cover up the horrible, terrible things that the original Pilgrims did to the Wampanoag people, what with their smallpox and their venerial diseases….. I don’t care.

Not-Quite-Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s nice, to think that in celebration and thanks for the fact that they did not die alone in the horrible New England winter (a thing I too gave thanks for, every time it got to be spring in my childhood and I still had a pulse), my forebears sent a message to ol’ Squanto, and chief Massasoit, telling them to come hang out and bring some food and some friends. Together, said Miles Standish, we’ll all celebrate the fact that we did not die. And while there may or may not have been cranberries (although cranberries originated in Massachusetts and Maine), and there may or may not have been some gnarly old heritage turkey, I think that the Pilgrims were probably pretty happy that the Wampanoag hadn’t murdered them all yet, and had in fact helped them survive.

Along with laying an extra place for the people who might show up, and the people who are there only in spirit, my family is mindful of tradition. My father, true to his Yankee heritage, makes cranberry sauce every year, from a very nice recipe by Jeff Smith, that old preacher-man, whose ingredients are essentially, if memory serves, cranberries, oranges, and sugar. Dad, correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

While I’ve often eaten it, I can’t say that cranberry sauce is one of my favorite parts of the actual holiday table. Cranberries are tough to eat, very bitter and sour. But I’ve long been intrigued by them, and wondered if it was just me, or Jeff Smith’s pairing of them with something that could ALSO be bitter and sour. So, emboldened and embarking on a trip into the land of Thanksgiving foods, I decided that Cranberries should be tested.
Cranberry-Chipotle RelishCranberry Chipotle Relish
Via Epicurious – Bon Appetit November 2009

The ingredients here are pretty simple: 1 pkg of frozen cranberries. 1 1/3 cup of sugar. Juice of 1 lemon. 2 chipotles in adobo (don’t bother soaking a dried chipotle. Trust me.) Garlic. Cinnamon (I’m working on a replacement). Cumin.

You combine the cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, and chipotles (rinsed. trust me.) in a saucepan, and bring them to a simmer. You can put the cranberries in still frozen, I learned. Once the sugar and lemon juice have dissolved and everything is at a simmer, let it go for about 5 minutes. I mashed some of the cranberries up with a potato masher, although I also mashed some of the chipotle by mistake, but didn’t see any adverse effects.
You add the garlic, cinnamon and cumin, and simmer until things start thickening and darkening. When this happens, immediately scoop or pour your cranberry relish into a clean bowl, and rinse. out. your. saucepan. STAT.
Melted sugar, especially when combined with fruit sugars, WILL TURN TO CEMENT. It’s a fact. Sort of. Regardless, you need to wash your saucepan while the sugar is still warm, and therefore liquidy, to avoid a situation that involves you chipping caked-on sugar out of it (sidenote: anyone know how my new saucepot got a dent in it already? dub tee eff?)

Back to the relish. Once it’s in the bowl, put it in the fridge while you prepare your baked chicken and brussels sprouts (roasted with bacon and garlic. delish. who knew?? not me. this was the first time I’d ever even SEEN a brussels sprout in person. legitimately.)
So technically they're Belgian Sprouts, right? It's not about the chicken.

And there you have it! A winning update to a Thanksgiving classic, and a TON better than whatever you shake out of the can on the big day, I promise. Not to mention, I bet if you mixed this with some honey mustard, it would create a sandwich spread that would rival the delicious one that I slathered on turkey burgers last year, at the behest of my girl, Rachael Ray. Also, it keeps for ages. Make it on Saturday and put it in the refrigerator until Thursday, and you’ll have one dish less to worry about on Thanksgiving.
Simplicity in the face of chaos – that’s really what we’re looking for, isn’t it?

A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Better Butternut Squash

Posted: November 16th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 25 Comments »

Squash+Cream+Parmesan=Glee!As we work our way through Thanksgiving favorites, I have to get this one out of the way. I have to get it out of the way, because I want my dad to look at it and decide whether we can make it for Thanksgiving dinner this year. I have to get it out of the way because I need to make clear, once and for all (ok that’s a lie, I’ve made it clear before) that butternut squash is a beautiful thing when not sullied by maple syrup and brown sugar. I have to get this out of the way because I honestly LOVE this dish and it’s the first time that I have a chance to do more than try to mix my butternut squash in with my mashed potato and gravy to try and eat it.

Tasty tasty squash

Plus, any dish whose ingredients are Butternut Squash, Heavy Cream, Parmesan, Salt and Pepper….. is a winner in my book.
Parmesan-Roasted Butternut Squash
Gourmet November 2008 – via Epicurious

1. Peel a butternut squash, and cut it up into bite-sized chunks.
2. Combine the squash chunks with 3/4 cup of heavy cream, salt, and black pepper in a casserole dish or cast-iron skillet, whatever you’ve got with a lid.
3. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
4. Remove the dish from the oven, stir in 1/3 cup of grated parmesan, and sprinkle another 1/3 cup over the top. (I would recommend moving this up a little, maybe 3/4 cup total.)
5. Return to the oven for 20 minutes, with the lid off, until the parmesan gets crusty.

To go with this squash deliciousness, I made sauteed turkey cutlets. I marinated the turkey breast cutlets in lemon zest, 3 grated garlic cloves, parsley, and lemon juice, and sauteed them quickly while the squash was finishing.
This butternut squash is savory, and not too rich. It combined well with the lemony juices from the turkey cutlets, and provided a nice balance to the very very lean turkey breast meat. I think that this would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving table, and a great alternative for all of you, like me, who don’t love the confusingly-sweet mashed butternut squash with brown sugar that so often graces our tables. Not to mention, I almost licked the inside of my cast-iron skillet because it’s that delicious.
If you don’t feel like buying a whole squash and cutting it up yourself (and I’m ok with this because squash are scary to cut while raw), you could most definitely use the frozen cubes of butternut squash, defrosted.

Try this one, for a change of side-dish pace. You will NOT be disappointed. I promise!

A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Who’s yer Punkin?

Posted: November 15th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: A Very Pretty Thanksgiving, Bake-zilla, Johanna, pumpkin | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Punkin Paaaah!There are some things that are synonymous with Thanksgiving, with the holidays. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Squash. We’ll get to all of these except the turkey as we help our dear friend Bakezilla work her way through her first Thanksgiving dinner, as well as sharing stories adn tales about our own personal holiday faves.

A big one for me at the holidays has always been Pumpkin Pie. I went through a phase where it was my favorite thing ever. I’ve kind of cooled on it lately, which is odd given my recent love affair with most things pumpkin. I’m more into combining pumpkin with muffins, or brownies, or jello shots.
However, my friend and all around awesome lady, Jackie, brought me back to pumpkin pie. She has an allergy to cinnamon, which means that her fave dessert  has the chance to put her into anaphylactic shock. This is not a cool thing, as you might imagine, because I love Jackie and do not want her to die from dessert. She asked the Pretty Girls via Twitter to try and hack pumpkin pie to produce something she could consume. I promised to try.

A couple days later, while washing the dishes, my mind wandered away from the crusted on remains I was scraping off my casserole dish, and suddenly, I had it. Cumin, and Cayenne, would provide the heat and spice that cinnamon give. Nutmeg and Cardamom would provide warmth and spiciness.


I had it. And I had to immediately try my theory. I abandoned the dishes and immediately ran to the store to buy pumpkin and evaporated milk.
Pumpkin Pie for Jackie
Preheat oven to 425.
Roll out your pie shells and place into your pie plate. If making 1 pie, make it a deep-dish pie plate.
Combine 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar in a bowl. Reserve.
Beat 2 eggs in a large bowl. Add in 1 can of pumpkin puree and the sugar-and-spice mixture. Once this is combined, add in 1 can of evaporated milk.

Pour the filling into the pie shell, thump it on the counter a fe times to get rid of the air bubbles, and put it in the oven. I baked my 4 mini pies and 1 mini springform for 15 minutes at 425, then reduced the heat to 350, and baked  them for 35 minutes. For a larger pie, make it 45 minutes at 350.

This pie was 2-boy-approved: Jesse and our friend Steele both decided it was pretty darn good. While you notice the lack of cinnamon, I certainly didn’t miss it. The spices work brilliantly with the pumpkin, creating a general feeling of warmth, and the cayenne provides a nice slow burn at the end.
In fact, you could probably use coconut milk instead of evaporated milk, if you’re lactose intolerant.

But in the end, the best part is that Jackie can have her fave again, without anaphylactic shock. And that’s a win. :)

Sunday Brunch, Anyday

Posted: November 14th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna, Make-Ahead, Monthly Mingle, brunch, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

One of my favorite bloggers recently posted a recipe for Saffron shortbread cookies. And she posted it as a participant in something called the Monthly Mingle. The internet is full of blog events, from Novel Food to Daring Bakers to the BBA Challenge.

This month’s Mingle theme is brunch recipes. Now, I love me some brunch, so I decided that a heck of a time to start participating would be with brunch. So….. away we go!
Breakfast Bread PuddingWhile I love french toast or a good stack of pancakes as much as anybody, I’m much happier to put my energies into a savory brunch, and similarly much happier to eat it. Plus, it’s difficult for me to make a brunch decision out at a restaurant that doesn’t involve cheese or eggs in some way. Unless it’s corned beef hash. And honestly, cheese on corned beef hash would be delicious, but overly decadent.
And yet I digress.
We were out at a party the night before our at-home brunch, and I knew that I would be up early the following morning to go for a run (4.5 miles. ughhh). So, when we got home from the party, I threw together a Breakfast Bread Pudding, which much like a strata, can be left in the fridge overnight, fully assembled, and baked the next morning.
Breakfast Bread Pudding
1. Butter a baking dish. It can be round or oval or rectangular, 9×13 or smaller, or possibly bigger if you scale up. I used a smaller one than I planned, but any baking dish will do, as long as it has 2-inch or higher sides.
2. Tear up half a loaf of crusty bread. We used Pan Paesano from Whole Foods, which has a delicious cornmeal crust, but please feel free to leave whatever loaf of bread you want out on the counter all day, so you can tear it up at night. Rip it into bite-sized pieces, and scatter them evenly over the bottom of the dish.
3. Dice 1 small onion and 1 clove of garlic, and saute in 1 tablespoon of butter until soft. Add roughly 8 ounces of chopped crimini mushrooms, and cook until softened and starting to color. Add a pinch of salt, and season with pepper. While the mushrooms and onions cook, halve 3/4 of a pint of grape tomatoes and reserve.
4. Whisk together 6 eggs and 1 cup of milk, and season with salt and pepper. Raid your cheese selection to see what you have left in the fridge. Grate whatever looks good — in our case some leftover Madrigal baby swiss that was used in several recipes, most notably the Most Amazing Mushroom Risotto EVER.  Grate 2/3 of a cup of cheese.
5. When the mushrooms are cooked, sprinkle the mushroom-onion mixture, as well as the tomatoes, over the bread chunks. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Pour in the egg mixture, and press everything down into the bottom of the baking dish. This is literally the most disgusting combination of sound and feeling ever, but persevere. Top with the rest of the cheese.
6. At this point, you could cover the bread pudding, and stick it in the fridge overnight. Otherwise, you could put it directly into a 350-degree oven for 1 hour.

You bring the champagne. I'll bring this.Call your friends up, and tell them to bring the mimosas.

Or, y’know, change out of your sweaty running clothes, thank the heavens for boyfriends who remember to put the food in the oven, and settle down on the couch with a plate of this and a cup of coffee. Your house will smell gorgeous and you will be eating a delicious meal. I suppose there might be more to life, but around 11am, I couldn’t think of a darn thing.

Apple Cider Donuts. Sort of

Posted: November 12th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 24 Comments »

They sell 3-pound tubs of Crisco.A couple weeks ago, the blogosphere was alive with doughnut recipes. And yes, that’s the last time I’m going to use the non-New England spelling. Be prepared. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of donuts, but I am easily swayed by suggestion, as documented previously.

Deb at Smitten Kitchen made these glorious-looking Cider Donuts that got me thinking.

I found this recipe for Pumpkin-Spice Donuts at a blog called When in Doubt, Leave it at 350.

And before I knew it, I was inviting friends over and telling them I’d be feeding them donuts and mulled cider and all manner of delicious things. Mind you, I had never made donuts before. BUT, figuring myself an enterprising lady, I decided to go for the Pumpkin Spice donuts from Leave it at 350 and Deb’s lovely-looking Cider donuts.

Pumpkin Donut Dough?

I noticed that something was….off, when I got to the point in the pumpkin donut recipe where you’re supposed to put the dough in the freezer for 15 minutes, and then cut and fry. I couldn’t cut anything. I couldn’t get it to hold a shape, because the dough was super-wet. I also couldn’t work any more flour in, because the dough was also super-sticky. I had to scoop up the parchment paper and toss it in the trash, right as our friends walked in, much to my embarrassment.
Oh well, I thought. Maybe it was just a flaw in the recipe. Maybe it was written for less flour than it needed, or a different type of flour, or at high altitude, or…..
I believed in Deb. Deb would not steer me wrong.

So, I reduced my apple cider, and I stirred in extra flour, and I spread things out and I put it in the freezer. I melted my shortening and I  got it to temperature. And I couldn’t cut the f$^#&@*B$^#& dough into donuts!!! So, I did what any resourceful person who doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of her friends does.

When in doubt, make zeppoleI got out my spring-loaded ice cream scoop, and I made drop-donuts. After a few small mishaps with over and under-cooked donuts, I managed to knock out some pretty tasty specimens. They were glazed with cider and powdered sugar. In all, they tasted pretty good. I wish that I had been able to cut them out, and had donuts, and holes, but that’s more because of who I am than because of what they tasted like.

I’ll be trying these donuts again, along with the pumpkin ones. I’m committed to figuring out how to make donuts, because I really believe that I’m not a true New England woman until I can present those I love with homemade cider donuts on a snowy morning. Dammit.

Stay tuned. Round 1 went to the Donuts. Round 2…… will go to me.

The best mushroom risotto like…..EVER!

Posted: November 10th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 29 Comments »

I know that there are about 800 risottos on this site. I’ve made it for dessert. I’ve made it with spinach, with braised beet greens, with all manner of things, but I have never, ever, made one like this.
NirvanaHonestly, I’m kind of embarassed that this is the only photo I took of this dish. However, I can explain. Typically when I’ve made risotto with vegetable stock, I’ve failed to salt things properly, and managed to basically under-season my risotto, and that’s a shame. However, this time I used slightly better vegetable stock, and I seasoned pretty aggressively with salt.
Step 1.
Mushrooms. I sauteed a package of mixed wild mushrooms that I’d cut into chunks with some butter and a little onion and garlic. I waited until they had begun browning to season with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence. I also grated over a little lemon zest before I pulled the mushrooms out of the saute pan and put them on a plate. While all this was happening, I heated up 4 cups of vegetable broth with a few thyme sprigs in it.
Step 2.
Risotto. I didn’t clean out the pan that I sauteed the mushrooms in, knowing that every browned bit was flavor. So, I dropped in a new tablespoon or two of butter, and sauteed and sweated a diced onion and a few minced cloves of garlic. When these things were smelling wonderful, I added a solid shaking of herbes de provence. Then, as usual, I added a cupful of arborio rice to the pan and stirred and cooked it until the grains looked translucent. I added stock by the ladleful, making sure to add a solid pinch of salt each time.  I think that a lot of the vegetable stocks on the market are under-salted, and this is upsetting. So taste your stock as you’re adding it, but be prepared to add more stock than you technically think you should use.
Step 3.
The Finish. Once you’re about to add the last ladle of stock, add in all the mushrooms you cooked earlier. I also grated in some Madrigal cheese, which is a young swiss, that I had left over from another recipe earlier this week. I honestly never thought I would say this, but I greatly preferred it to parmesan in this instance. The sweetness and nuttiness of the cheese really worked with the earthy mushrooms and the bright lemon zest. In fact, I ate this risotto cold the next day after I got home for work.

I legitimately do not know what about this was so flooring, but I can say that the addition of lemon zest, as well as herbes de provence and the choice of cheese totally rocked. It was fantastic. Please try this. Please make this.

Also. I certainly did not eat any of it cold a few days later as a post-night-of-drinking breakfast. As far as you know.

A BETTER Roast Chicken??

Posted: November 8th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 20 Comments »

Roast Chicken is one of my very favorite foods. In fact, before we go any further, big thank yous go out to my Mom, who brought down 2 lovely air-chilled, actually CHICKENY-TASTING chickens for us to put in the freezer when they visited about a month ago. Huge help.
So I love Gourmet magazine, as I’ve already mentioned, and for some reason, the March 2008 issue was a big hit with me. Either that, or it was the only issue whose pages that I pulled out that actually survived. Regardless, this issue is amazing – it brought forth the Chicken in Riesling that I made a few weeks ago, as well as the Salmon with Lentils that we enjoyed with Alex in mind. PS – Did I mention she HIT HER FUNDRAISING GOAL?!?!?! Congrats to Alex and a big thank you to everybody who commented here, for helping us fight cancer. Thank you thank you.

So, a better roast chicken. I admit, I scoffed when I read it. Roast chicken is BASICALLY the best food ever. ANd of course I’ve made it a million different ways, but in typically the same method. Which means that the results have a small margin of difference, and are otherwise pretty consistent. But, in the March 2008 Gourmet, there was a recipe that caught my eye — Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives, aka Poulet Provencal.
This is one of those recipes that could not be simpler. In fact, basically everything is inexpensive, and easily prepared. Basically, you slice up some tomatoes, onions, and garlic. You smash up a few black olives. If you want to get fancy, you could also slice up some fennel to add, although I didn’t do that. These items get mixed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbes de provence, and poured into a roasting pan.

Then, you mix together minced garlic, more HdP, more olive oil, salt, and pepper into a paste. This gets smeared all over inside and outside the chicken, after you wash and dry it thoroughly. I would recommend adding some lemon zest, for some nice freshness as well. Reportedly, you have to truss the chicken. I will be honest with you, and say that mine came pre-trussed, so I just looped the string back over the legs after I dried and seasoned the chicken. I see no reason to truss the chicken, although if it gives you a thrill, please feel free.

You put the chicken in the roasting  pan with the tomatoes, onions, etc, pushed over to the sides. The whole shebang goes into the oven at 425, for roughly an hour, although checking for temperature (167 works for me) is the best way to tell when your chicken is done.

I had a mental lapse and did not photograph this dish, even though it was gorgeous. The chicken’s skin came out of the oven beautifully golden, and the vegetables produce this gorgeous liquid and get very soft. I made focaccia to go with it, but it was kind of lackluster. I need to work on this recipe more before I post it. HOWEVER, the slightly dry focaccia was great for sucking up the juices in the pan left from the slow cooking out of the olive oil-soaked tomatoes and olives and onions. The photo that Epicurious posts for this recipe also doesn’t show the chicken’s gorgeous golden skin, and I guess that makes sense since it disappeared pretty quickly here too. Probably by the time Epi’s photographer got out the camera, all that remained was the lovely oniony-tomatoey goodness at the bottom of the pan, which is …. well….. lovely.

This recipe legitimately comes together perfectly in 10 minutes, and when it comes out of the oven, you look like a genius. As the weather gets colder, sometimes it’s nice to remember that you can totally use canned tomatoes for this – just slice your whole peeled tomatoes up and add some of the juice from the can in there for added yum. In the comments on Epi, it also looks like some people managed to do this in a slow-cooker, although I prefer the crispy chicken skin, so I wouldn’t do this. Also, it might be interesting to baste the chicken with the accumulated pan juices every once in a while, to make sure that all the flavor goodness gets combined.
I have to say that this makes an excellent version of roast chicken, especially since it lets me roast olives. Yum!!!

Have a variation on roast chicken you think I should try? A disagreement? A tip? Throw it on over in the comments!