Rules and Traditions

When you write a recipe blog, there are certain assumed rules you should abide by:

  1. Include a recipe.
  2. Post a picture of the completed dish.
  3. As Thanksgiving nears, post more recipes than any one kitchen could possibly churn out over a lifetime of ways to make the menu “new and exciting”, or “spicy and unexpected”, or “old-world”, or “vegan, raw, turkey-shaped gluten-free quinoa loaf we promise you won’t notice there’s nothing traditional in it (or that it tastes good)”…you get where I’m going with this, right?
  4. Don’t repeat yourself too much.

I’ve been writing this blog for over six years now, or to use blogger time – 7 Thanksgivings. During that time I’ve pretty much blown every food-blogger rule above, and some I’ve made up just because I want to. Guess what kids… I’m going to do it again.

You see, I’m a big believer in traditions. So I figure, if I post the same thing several years in a row, I’m just following a time-honored tradition.

Turkey Day slacker you say? Absolutely. But let’s face it, when you are lucky enough to have participated in the annual ritual of making the featured player of Bird Day in a big ol’ garbage can, it kind of sticks with you.  Thank you, JG for making this the new gold standard. 🙂 ❤

So, here it is, making it’s annual appearance (…and trust me, it’s not the last time you’ll see it) — Hungry Readers…let’s hear it for Trash Can Turkey!


2014-11-27 15.33.54

Over the years I’ve accumulated a respectable collection of cooking gear. Some of it is top of the line, some thrift store, but each pan, bowl,  gadget and tchotchke has a role in my kitchen. I’ve never been a snob when it comes to kitchen toys. If something works, I really don’t care where it comes from or what it’s made of. Stainless, cast iron, or ceramic, if it gets the job done, it earns a space in my space-limited kitchen. This year, I’m considering adding galvanized to the list.

When I first heard about Trash Can Turkey I thought it was a joke. Surely he was pulling my leg…it sounded too much like urban legend. But then Thanksgiving drew nearer and no “just kidding” was offered. The bird ala garbage can was about to enter my life. I actually liked the concept, even before tasting the bird. If turkey is in the can, the oven is open real estate. That means no more wondering how to fit a 20 pound bird, dressing, potatoes, veggies and PIE in one oven. No more having to resort to flow charts and air traffic control algorithms to get Thanksgiving on the table.

So what is Trash Can Turkey?  It’s exactly as it sounds. Start with a new galvanized trash can (reusable for beauteous birds to come), add coals, nestle turkey on stake in the ground underneath, and a mere two and a quarter hours later…SHAZAM! A golden brown juicy beast, just aching for cranberry sauce and taters!


Trash Can Turkey

Trash Can Turkey is really more technique than recipe. Technique, and activity. What’s nicer than sitting around the hobo oven enjoying a cocktail and pondering the questions of the universe… OK, back to the bird. Prepping the turkey can be as simple as olive oil, salt and pepper, or elaborate (rubs, herbed butters, brining or whatever.) The only limitation is you’ll be sitting Tom upright on a foil covered stake, so anything you stuff in is likely to fall out his who-ha.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 20-22 lb turkey (a smaller turkey works too, adjust timing accordingly)
  • 1 new galvanized trash can
  • Aluminum foil
  • Charcoal brickettes (two bags should do)
  • 1 wooden garden stake, about 1 1/2 feet long
  • A bundt pan
  • 2 barrel slats, or pieces of 2’x4′, and two eager helpers to lift the can when the coals are ready
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever else you want to use to season the bird

2014-11-27 14.18.37Step 1: Hammer wooden garden stake into ground, leaving about a foot sticking out. Cover the stake with aluminum foil.

Step 2: Find a bundt pan you are willing to sacrifice to this application forever. A well-scrubbed thrift store find is a perfect fit. Place the bundt pan over the stake to catch the turkey drippings for gravy. (I’m told this was a recent adaption, suggested by a smart mom who knew without drippings, gravy is a very sad thing.)

2014-11-27 14.19.58Step 3: Take four sheets of foil, and cover the ground that surrounds the can – this prevents major scorched earth. Forget the foil and you will consecrate trash can turkey ground for hereafter.

Step 4: Set your trash can over the stake/bundt pan. Pile coals on top and arrange around the can, leaving about 4-5 inches of space between the coals and the can.

Step 5: Light the coals, pull up a chair and beverage of choice, warm toes and wait until the coals are ready.

2014-11-27 17.29.03Step 6: When the coals are white and glowing, use the barrel slats (or whatever you have) and two volunteers to carefully lift can off the stake. Place bird over stake and carefully replace can.

2014-11-27 17.29.15Step 7: After two and a quarter hours, (for 20-ish pound bird, or about 6-7 minutes per pound), carefully remove can and revel in the glory of the golden turkey goodness.

I may have started a doubter, but by Thursday night I was a convert. And among my list of gratitudes this year is a can, a stake, a bundt and some coals. And the man who made me my first Trash Can Turkey. 🙂

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), or my Instagram page. Thanks! 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Cooking in My Heels – Here’s a post from the past, and one of my best turkey days ever!


 

 

2014-10-16 09.08.48

THE GALVANIZED GOURMET

Over the years I’ve accumulated a respectable collection of cooking gear. Some of it is top of the line, some thrift store, but each pan, bowl,  gadget and tchotchke has a role in my kitchen. I’ve never been a snob when it comes to kitchen toys. If something works, I really don’t care where it comes from or what it’s made of. Stainless, cast iron, or ceramic, if it gets the job done, it earns a space in my space-limited kitchen. This year, I’m considering adding galvanized to the list.

When I first heard about Trash Can Turkey I thought it was a joke. Surely he was pulling my leg…it sounded too much like urban legend. But then Thanksgiving drew nearer and no “just kidding” was offered. The bird ala garbage can was about to enter my life. I actually liked the concept, even before tasting the bird. If turkey is in the can, the oven is open real estate. That means no more wondering how to fit a 20 pound bird, dressing, potatoes, veggies and PIE in one oven. No more having to resort to flow charts and air traffic control algorithms to get Thanksgiving on the table.

So what is Trash Can Turkey?  It’s exactly as it sounds. Start with a new galvanized trash can (reusable for beauteous birds to come), add coals, nestle turkey on stake in the ground underneath, and a mere two and a quarter hours later…SHAZAM! A golden brown juicy beast, just aching for cranberry sauce and taters!

2014-11-27 15.33.54Trash Can Turkey

Trash Can Turkey is really more technique than recipe. Technique, and activity. What’s nicer than sitting around the hobo oven enjoying a cocktail and pondering the questions of the universe… OK, back to the bird. Prepping the turkey can be as simple as olive oil, salt and pepper, or elaborate (rubs, herbed butters, brining or whatever.) The only limitation is you’ll be sitting Tom upright on a foil covered stake, so anything you stuff in is likely to fall out.

 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 20-22 lb turkey (a smaller turkey works too, adjust timing accordingly)
  • 1 new galvanized trash can
  • Aluminum foil
  • Charcoal brickettes (two bags should do)
  • 1 wooden garden stake, about 1 1/2 feet long
  • A bundt pan
  • 2 barrel slats, or pieces of 2’x4′, and two eager helpers to lift the can when the coals are ready
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever else you want to use to season the bird

2014-11-27 14.18.37Step 1: Hammer wooden garden stake into ground, leaving about a foot sticking out. Cover the stake with aluminum foil.

Step 2: Find a bundt pan you are willing to sacrifice to this application forever. A well-scrubbed thrift store find is a perfect fit. Place the bundt pan over the stake to catch the turkey drippings for gravy. (I’m told this was a recent adaption, suggested by a smart mom who knew without drippings, gravy is a very sad thing.)

2014-11-27 14.19.58Step 3: Take four sheets of foil, and cover the ground that surrounds the can – this prevents major scorched earth. Forget the foil and you will consecrate trash can turkey ground for hereafter.

Step 4: Set your trash can over the stake/bundt pan. Pile coals on top and arrange around the can, leaving about 4-5 inches of space between the coals and the can.

Step 5: Light the coals, pull up a chair and beverage of choice, warm toes and wait until the coals are ready.

2014-11-27 17.29.03Step 6: When the coals are white and glowing, use the barrel slats (or whatever you have) and two volunteers to carefully lift can off the stake. Place bird over stake and carefully replace can.

2014-11-27 17.29.15Step 7: After two and a quarter hours, (for 20-ish pound bird, or about 6-7 minutes per pound), carefully remove can and revel in the glory of the golden turkey goodness.

 

I may have started a doubter, but by Thursday night I was a convert. And among my list of gratitudes this year is a can, a stake, a bundt and some coals. And the man who made me my first Trash Can Turkey. 🙂

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

Embracing My Hate

FullSizeRender - Version 2I know we are supposed to be filled with the loving warm fuzzies this time of year.  But I feel it’s time to admit that as soon as Halloween rolls past and “the holidays” come into view, I feel something else too. I feel hate. Shocking, but true. And I’m not the only one.

In the past I’ve tried to hide it. I’ve tried to ignore my loathing, to be open to at least considering the possibility of tolerating if not liking. But this year I’ve decided I’m done. I’m 53 and it’s high time I acknowledge and embrace, publicly. Step back, here goes:

I HATE BRUSSELS SPROUTS!  I can’t think of any food I hate more. Kale comes close, but the sprouts still win. Sure they’re kinda cute, like doll-sized toy cabbages. Cuteness can’t quell my hate fire. Neither does the fact that you can buy them all cozied up on brussels branches and flaunt your purchase through the farmer’s market like a vegetable drum majorette. I still hate them.

Why the need to post my sprout scorn for all the world to see? Because people don’t believe you when you tell them politely. Seriously. All you fellow haters out there try it and just see what happens. The minute your server gleefully announces “we finally have our brussels sprouts back on the menu for the season” and you reply, “thank you, no, I don’t care for them,” the dance starts. You’ll be told that their preparation is different. Countless sprout-haters have been converted with a mere bite, just trust them. Then they throw bacon, or duck fat, or cranberries into the mix. Maybe roast the suckers in high heat ovens, or braise them in bourbon, or countless other ploys to make you think that somehow the offending cruciferous veg would magically shrug off its foulness.

I know you sprout lovers have the best of intentions, but please, PLEASE believe me. I hate them. You could wrap them in hundred-dollar bills, bathe them in dark chocolate and bring out Clooney to serve them to me off his chest, and I would still refuse. THAT is how much I hate them. But hey, my hatred leaves more sprouts for you, right? So the next time you ask me to try them, telling me I only hate them because I haven’t tried yours, don’t. I love that you love them so I don’t have to, and will never question nor judge why. Just let me embrace my hate.

DSC07624

Not a chance a brussels sprouts recipe could darken my blogstep, but since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, here are a few gems to help your holiday, including last year’s star attraction, trash can turkey!

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks! 

Rude Acts

File Aug 07, 6 08 49 PM

That’s right honey, look away….

This weekend I did something rather rude to a chicken. And despite living about 65 miles east of Portlandia, I didn’t ask the chicken her name, or anything about her life. Clearly that was inconsiderate, but not really rude. Rude came a little later, when I shoved a can up her, well…

I’ve been curious about the whole concept of Beer Can Chicken for a while now, but never attempted. I think a certain boldness is required to pursue it. The concept seemed sound enough.  Barbecues can certainly double for ovens. I’ve tested that theory with numerous grilled pizzas and stuffed flatbread. I think it was just the way the bird actually looked that was stopping me. She’s sitting there, upright, as though she was watching her favorite afternoon stories. Well, if she still had a head. It just seemed a little, um, disturbing. That was how I felt until last Thanksgiving, when I met Trash Can Turkey. That seemed a bit odd too, a turkey who looks like he’s sitting in an easy chair watching the game, encased in a garbage can. But the succulent beast that landed on the table was without a doubt the BEST turkey I’ve ever had. So if sitting under a can is good enough for Tom, sitting on one is good enough for whatshername.

File Aug 07, 6 07 05 PMAnd it was good. Really good. Especially with the barbecue sauce I made to dress her nakedness as she sat there, back to the inevitable, like she was waiting for a bus.  A bit more on that sauce in a minute. First the bird. Sam Sifton from the New York Times has a great recipe for Beer Can Chicken. I made two modifications. First, I very generously salted and peppered the beast and let rest in my fridge, covered, for about 24 hours. This is my standard prep for a bird that goes in the oven, so I figured it would work as well with barby-bird. Second, I had no beer but did have a can of hard cider. Since the purpose was mostly a perch I figured it would be fine substituting, and not being particularly fond of this brand of cider, foregoing the contents wasn’t a loss.  I was thinking of playing around with cider in a recipe anyway, so the half can I was going to dump went into the sauce.

The resulting Hard Cider BBQ Sauce was a nice play of sweetness, heat and a little tang. Give it a try. But if you use it on a chicken sitting on a can, at least introduce yourself first. It would be rude not to.

Hard Cider BBQ Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1/2 a can of hard cider (your preference – I used Schilling Ginger Cider)
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 6 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne, New Mexico, or your favorite
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 good shot bourbon

Add everything together in a saucepan. Whisk until combined. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook about 30-45 minutes until thickened. I found it to be better the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to get to know each other. Store in a jar in the fridge.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

The Galvanized Gourmet

DSC03536_2

Over the years I’ve accumulated a respectable collection of cooking gear. Some of it is top of the line, some thrift store, but each pan, bowl,  gadget and tchotchke has a role in my kitchen. I’ve never been a snob when it comes to kitchen toys. If something works, I really don’t care where it comes from or what it’s made of. Stainless, cast iron, or ceramic, if it gets the job done, it earns a space in my space-limited kitchen. This year, I’m considering adding galvanized to the list.

When I first heard about Trash Can Turkey I thought it was a joke. Surely he was pulling my leg…it sounded too much like urban legend. But then Thanksgiving drew nearer and no “just kidding” was offered. The bird ala garbage can was about to enter my life. I actually liked the concept, even before tasting the bird. If turkey is in the can, the oven is open real estate. That means no more wondering how to fit a 20 pound bird, dressing, potatoes, veggies and PIE in one oven. No more having to resort to flow charts and air traffic control algorithms to get Thanksgiving on the table.

So what is Trash Can Turkey?  It’s exactly as it sounds. Start with a new galvanized trash can (reusable for beauteous birds to come), add coals, nestle turkey on stake in the ground underneath, and a mere two and a quarter hours later…SHAZAM! A golden brown juicy beast, just aching for cranberry sauce and taters!

2014-11-27 15.33.54Trash Can Turkey

Trash Can Turkey is really more technique than recipe. Technique, and activity. What’s nicer than sitting around the hobo oven enjoying a cocktail and pondering the questions of the universe… OK, back to the bird. Prepping the turkey can be as simple as olive oil, salt and pepper, or elaborate (rubs, herbed butters, brining or whatever.) The only limitation is you’ll be sitting Tom upright on a foil covered stake, so anything you stuff in is likely to fall out.

 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 20-22 lb turkey (a smaller turkey works too, adjust timing accordingly)
  • 1 new galvanized trash can
  • Aluminum foil
  • Charcoal brickettes (two bags should do)
  • 1 wooden garden stake, about 1 1/2 feet long
  • A bundt pan
  • 2 barrel slats, or pieces of 2’x4′, and two eager helpers to lift the can when the coals are ready
  • Olive oil, salt, pepper and whatever else you want to use to season the bird

2014-11-27 14.18.37Step 1: Hammer wooden garden stake into ground, leaving about a foot sticking out. Cover the stake with aluminum foil.

Step 2: Find a bundt pan you are willing to sacrifice to this application forever. A well-scrubbed thrift store find is a perfect fit. Place the bundt pan over the stake to catch the turkey drippings for gravy. (I’m told this was a recent adaption, suggested by a smart mom who knew without drippings, gravy is a very sad thing.)

2014-11-27 14.19.58Step 3: Take four sheets of foil, and cover the ground that surrounds the can – this prevents major scorched earth. Forget the foil and you will consecrate trash can turkey ground for hereafter.

Step 4: Set your trash can over the stake/bundt pan. Pile coals on top and arrange around the can, leaving about 4-5 inches of space between the coals and the can.

Step 5: Light the coals, pull up a chair and beverage of choice, warm toes and wait until the coals are ready.

2014-11-27 17.29.03Step 6: When the coals are white and glowing, use the barrel slats (or whatever you have) and two volunteers to carefully lift can off the stake. Place bird over stake and carefully replace can.

2014-11-27 17.29.15Step 7: After two and a quarter hours, (for 20-ish pound bird, or about 6-7 minutes per pound), carefully remove can and revel in the glory of the golden turkey goodness.

 

I may have started a doubter, but by Thursday night I was a convert. And among my list of gratitudes this year is a can, a stake, a bundt and some coals. And the man who made me my first Trash Can Turkey. 🙂

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

“Hobby Ladies”

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

The other day I was speaking with a woman about a possible collaborative opportunity for Cooking in My Heels. Our chat went pretty well at the start — she, Cordon Bleu-trained in Paris; me, cook when I’m blue trained in Queens. Over the course of conversation I asked whom else she’d spoken with, so I could get a sense of what her goals were with a collaborator. Apparently we (the spoken to) ranged from ‘serious professionals’ with real culinary school training (her words), to (her words again) “hobby ladies who think that just because they love to cook they can cut it.” Hmm… 

Now obviously this person had an opinion on “hobby ladies” that crossed the border into judgment. And naturally, I made my own judgment based upon hers. Then I began thinking about my new category and my pleasant pastime sisters. To be clear, I have the utmost of respect for anyone with an earned toque on his or her head. Cooking school is no easy ride, so bravo to those who’ve made it through, and especially through an institution that trained the culinary mother-goddess of us all, Julia. Where I have a teensy bit of a problem (ok, maybe more than teensy) is someone who dismisses a large slice of the whisk-wielding public, lumping us into a category that brings to mind sewing circles and stamp collecting. Not that there’s anything wrong with hobbyists, but whoa there missy! 

I mean, think about it. Who better to excel at something than a person who chooses to do it purely for the joy it brings? Someone who is constantly trying to get better, to learn more, and looks forward to “hobbying” at the end of a long day of doing all those un-hobby things we do to get by. I’ve spent a lot of time working with entrepreneurs over the past 20 years, and a sure sign of one who has a good shot at success is a driving passion for the work, without focusing on the financial payout it will deliver. Which is really good, since there’s probably no cha-ching to focus on, in the beginning anyway. And while I don’t deny there are plenty “ladies” and “gentlemen” out there who will likely not move beyond making their friends and family very happy with full bellies, there’s no reason to discount the growing number who have or will turn that passion into a thriving business.

I really do wish Ms. Cordon Bleu the best of luck in finding her “perfect collaborator” and I’d bet that person has a pedigree like hers. I think I’d rather be happy with my “hobby ladies and gentlemen” peers anyway. I mean, with Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, Nigella Lawson, Ree Drummond and Jaimie Oliver around, to name just a few, I figure I’m in pretty good company. So COOK ON HOBBY LADIES! There’s plenty of room for us all.

This week’s recipe, Lemon and Garlic Chicken and Mushrooms is adapted from one of my favorite food writers, and as it so happens, someone who didn’t train as a cook either – Martha Rose Shulman. Based on a classic Provencal chicken recipe, this comes from Shulman’s “Recipes for Health” column in the New York Times, and like most of her recipes, is quick, easy, good for you and really delicious.

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

Lemon and Garlic Chicken and Mushrooms

(Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times, March 2014)

Serves 4

The original recipe called for chicken breast cutlets, but I find boneless skinless thighs are a lot more flavorful. I like to nestle the chicken pieces in under the mushrooms for the last 5 minutes of cooking. It gives the opportunity for the juices of the chicken to flavor the sauce. Serve it on a bed of arugula dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, and it makes an elegant and healthy dinner.

For the marinade

  • 16-20 ounces boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or puréed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed, sunflower or canola oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

To serve:

  • 1 bag baby arugula
  • Flavorful olive oil
  • ½ a lemon cut into two wedges
  • Salt and pepper

1. Stir together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Cut each chicken thigh into 2 equal pieces (3 if they’re 12 ounces or more) and place in the bowl. Stir together and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

2. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry (discard marinade). Place two sheets of plastic wrap (1 large sheet if you have extra-wide wrap) on your work surface, overlapping slightly, to make 1 wide sheet, and brush lightly with olive oil. Place a piece of chicken in the middle of plastic sheet and brush lightly with oil. Cover the chicken with another wide layer of plastic wrap. Working from the center to the outside, pound chicken with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until about 1/4 inch thick. (Don’t pound too hard or you’ll tear the meat. If that happens it won’t be the end of the world, you’ll just have a few pieces to cook.) Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

3. Season the pounded chicken breasts with salt and pepper on one side only. Dredge lightly in the flour (you will not use all of it) and tap the breasts to remove excess.

4. Turn oven on low. Heat a wide, heavy skillet over high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, place one or two pieces of chicken in the pan – however many will fit without crowding. Cook for 1 ½ – 2 minutes, until bottom is browned in spots. Turn over and brown other side, about 1 ½ – 2 minutes. (Do not overcook or the chicken will be dry.) Transfer to the platter or sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. If there is more than a tablespoon of fat in the pan, pour some (but not all) off into a jar or bowl.

5. Turn burner heat down to medium-high. Add mushrooms to the pan. Let them sear for about 30 seconds to a minute without moving them, then stir, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. When mushrooms have softened slightly and begun to sweat, add wine, thyme or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to stir until wine has evaporated and mushrooms are tender, 5 to 10 minutes.

6. Add the chicken back into the pan and spoon mushrooms over the chicken. Simmer another 5 minutes to let the flavors meld.

7. Toss the arugula in a bowl with a good drizzle of olive oil, the juice from ¼ of a lemon, and a good pinch salt and pepper. Divide onto 4 plates. Divide the chicken and mushrooms between the 4 plates. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.

Nutritional information per serving: 234 calories; 10 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 6 grams polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 73 milligrams cholesterol; 7 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 138 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 28 grams protein.

[Advance preparation: The chicken breasts can be pounded several hours ahead – but don’t marinate them until shortly before cooking – and kept between pieces of plastic in the refrigerator.]

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at www.cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! 🙂

What I Know Now

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

They’re everywhere. Year-end revelations. New year resolutions. Pick up a paper, listen to the radio, log onto the various nets and webs and there they are. Joys, regrets, wisdoms and the sundry flotsam and jetsam of a year lived and discarded for the promises of what comes next. I used to make resolutions, but like most, they rarely lasted past the first page of the new calendar. So several years ago I resolved not to resolve, and have managed to stick to that resolution ever since. But that doesn’t mean I don’t make lists. Once the trimmings are gone, halls de-decked, tree curbside and house clean, I fix a big cup of something and remember the past 365. Then I write down what I know now that I didn’t the last time I performed this ritual. I supposed you could call it my lessons learned list. On years where nothing much has happened it’s the size of a post-it. This is not one of those years. Here’s a sampling of my What I Know Now List, 2014 Edition:

  • One woman can lift 3 tons: Sounds implausible? It’s not, and no, I’m not an ex Eastern European weight lifter or part-time superhero. What I am is someone who packed every item she owned into boxes, then deposited said boxes into every nook and cranny of an 825 square foot apartment. It took 3 burly men with hand trucks and dollies to move three tons of my stuff into and out of a large truck. Feh…bunch of lightweights….
  • This country is big, and beautiful, and full of CORN! Don’t believe me? Start in Upstate New York, point car west, step on the gas. The corn doesn’t let up until Wyoming.
  • I now know what a stockyard smells like. I could have probably gone to my grave not knowing that one…
  •  New York City winds its way into your DNA. Leave, and you miss it like family. As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the city, but not the city out of the girl. Good thing too, because it’s one of my best parts.
  • Simplifying your life is very complicated. Three tons of stuff, Craigslist, movers, maps, boxes, packing, unpacking, Ikea assembling, Ikea disassembling, Ikea reassembling, new friends/job/life, shoes, Shoes, SHOES! 
  • With a jar of peanut butter at hand, it’s possible to make a relatively well-balanced meal from the bounty of most rest stop vending machines. Thank goodness for sourdough pretzels, blue diamond almonds, and V8… 
  • Being chatty is your greatest asset when you’re the new kid in town: Met some pretty swell new friends this year via my gift of the blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. 

And I think the most important one, for this year at least:

  • The thing that scares you the most is most likely the thing you should do, which is likely why it’s the thing that scares you the most.  Yeah, this is all about that “comfort zone” stuff, and how life begins once you dare to take a step outside of it. I hate it when refrigerator magnet wisdom rings true. 😉

There is one thing that I have known for a while, but was reminded of again recently – the joy (and ease) of a simply and deliciously roasted chicken. I must have a dozen clippings of elaborate and delicious chicken recipes, but as with most things simple is often the best. This recipe for Easy Roast Chicken Dinner is as simple as it gets. The only equipment is a cast iron skillet, the only fancy preparation is generously salt and peppering the bird and letting it chill overnight in the fridge. Just add in an onion, some potatoes and a few root vegetables with the bird as it roasts, and you have a splendid one-skillet meal guaranteed to make it on your best of list from now on!

Easy Roast Chicken Dinner

Serves about 4

  • One 3 to 4 lb Chicken (free range, kosher, or organic — I like a smaller bird because it fits in my cast iron frying pan better)
  • 1 onion, cut into quarters or sixths
  • 1 fennel bulb, or 2-3 large carrots, parsnips or whatever other root vegetables you like cut into chunks all about the same size
  • 6- 8 small new potatoes (red bliss or yukon gold), cut in half
  • Salt and Pepper
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 2 tsp finely chopped thyme or rosemary

(Although you don’t have to, this recipe is best if you season the chicken the night before you are going to make it and let it sit in the fridge overnight and up to 24 hours.) 

Wash and dry the chicken. In a small bowl, combine about a tablespoon of salt, half that of pepper. Sprinkle generously all over the bird. Don’t forget a little inside the cavity, in the leg joints and all the nooks and chicken crannies. Cover with cling wrap loosely and stow in the refrigerator for overnight, a day and up to two days.

When you are ready to roast, preheat oven to 450°F.  Scatter the vegetables and onions into a cast iron pan (I use my 10” one). Scatter the potatoes in the pan, cut side down. Sprinkle the vegetables with a little bit of salt and pepper. (Remember, the bird’s juices will do a lot to season the veggies so go easy).

Pat the bird dry thoroughly with paper towels. A dry bird makes a crispy skin.  Truss the bird (tie the legs together, tuck the wing tips under). Place bird on top of the veggies in the pan (they provide a nice rack). Roast for 50-55 minutes until it’s done and the juices run clear. 

Take the chicken, veggies and potatoes and remove to serving platter. Add the wine and rosemary or thyme to the hot pan juices, stir well, and pour over the chicken and veggies. Cover loosely to keep warm and let rest 10 minutes before carving. Set the table, open the wine, and toast to all the things you’ll learn this year! Calories: about 400-450 calories per serving. 

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Happy Thanksgivukkah!

How could I possibly not be thankful about this? Two holidays completely interwoven with food happening on the same day!! Yes gentle readers, for the first time in, well, I have no idea how long, Thanksgiving and the first night of Hanukkah happen at the same time this year. Visions of cranberry sauce topped latkes dance in my head!

To honor this culinary convergence of two of the BEST food holidays (ok, so any holiday that involves food is tops in my book), I’ve combed the CIMH archives for a few pithy posts and associated recipes from years past to help gear up for next week’s feasting festivities.

Gobble Tov!!!

timesofisrael.com

Spiced Cranberry Pear Sauce, from The Thanksgiving List

Orange Olive Oil Cookies, from Religious Gastronomy

Pumpkin Turkey Enchiladas, from Leftovers

If you like what you read here, follow along and share with your friends to help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). Thanks! :-)

What Siri Hears

Every morning I get up and go for a big long walk to start my day. It started off as a way to trick myself into exercising, figuring if I was going somewhere rather than running on a treadmill like a gerbil, I could pretend I wasn’t really exercising. My daily rambles are also useful in shaking my muses awake, especially those associated with writing weekly ruminations. And when a blog-related thought, snappy bon mot, or just something I need to remember for later pops into my head, I usually send myself a note via email. Which used to require me stopping (or at least slowing down so I didn’t walk clear off the High Line and onto 10th Avenue 30 feet below), while I fumbled with thumbs to tap out the message on my phone. That is until Siri stepped into my life.

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

I’ve waxed poetic before about my love for Siri, and how with one little word, (“weather”) I get not only the forecast, but commentary too (“Brrr…it’s 32 degrees”, “It’s a hot one, 92 degrees”.)  But you really get to know the gal when you play around her ‘send an email’ function. Just hit her magic button, ask her to send a note to someone (in this case, me) and a few questions later, POOF it’s done! Which is a pretty great feature when you are deep into a 5-mile walk and a flash of pithy blog goodness comes your way. Just “send an email to me, home” and I’m off, no fumbling with thumbs and touch screens, no to and fro-ing between screen and eye in the attempt to actually see what I’m typing. Just modern technology at it’s finest. Of course, what you say and what Siri hears can vary just a tad, and that’s when she gets creative.

For example, after spending several days cleaning out the accumulated crap of 9 years in one apartment, the idea for last week’s post popped into my head. So I asked Siri to send me an email reminder. “Do blog on the crap that accumulates in your apartment when you move” became “Do a blog on the crack that accumulates in Los Altos Windlestraw YouTube.” Huh? Ok, crap and crack are close, but how did she manage to get ‘accumulate’ but follow it with ‘Los Altos Windlestraw YouTube?! And what exactly IS a Windlestraw, anyway? Siri got a little confused, it happens to us all. But what really takes the cake is when she editorializes. This week’s recipe is for chicken fricassee. Granted, fricassee is probably not the easiest word to throw at her; it’s not likely Steve Jobs’ minions are well versed in French culinary banter. But really, I don’t think it was necessary for Siri to resort to insults. When I asked her to send me a note of “chicken fricassee”, what I got in return was this:  “Cheap, call me…”

Twice in the span of two weeks I called upon my family’s basic recipe for Chicken Fricassee. The first was on a cold, raw day and I needed something warm and cozy. The second after a particularly stressful day of cleaning out crap and looking for a new place to call home 3,000 miles away. Ever since I was a kid, chicken fricassee meant comfort in food form. At it’s simplest, fricassee is a relatively quick yet elegant dish of braised chicken (or veal) in a basic white wine sauce. Mushrooms are  traditionally added, but my mom and Oma would always add in peas, sometimes carrots too. Oma would serve it over toast points and steamed asparagus, or in little puff pastry cups for fancy luncheon. It’s a wonderfully comforting dish with a touch of class, despite what Siri thinks…

Chicken Fricassee (a.k.a.: Cheap, call me)

Serves 2

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 8 oz. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2/3 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 TBSP butter at room temperature
  • 1 TBSP flour
  • Zest of a lemon, plus 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 6 oz. asparagus spears
  • 2 slices good white bread
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 TBSP chopped parsley

Cut up the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil, and lightly brown the chicken. Remove chicken to a plate.  Add the minced shallot to the pan and a pinch of salt and sauté until just softened (add in a little more oil if necessary). Deglaze the pan with the wine or vermouth, scraping up any brown bits. Add back in the chicken and any accumulated juices, then stock and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the flour and butter together into a paste with a fork. The fancy term for this is beurre manié, and it’s one of the best ways to thicken a sauce or gravy and guarantee no lumps. Set the paste aside.

Once the chicken has cooked for about 10 minutes, add in the peas and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Whisk in the butter-flour paste and simmer sauce 2-3 minutes until it thickens. Stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasonings, adding salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

To serve:

Toast the bread and cut in half on the diagonal. Put two triangles of toast in each plate. Steam the asparagus spears until just tender, and lay across the toast points. Spoon the fricassee over the asparagus spears. Calories: about 470 per serving.

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Emergency Preparedness

A week ago we had a record-shattering blizzard. Three months ago, the “storm of the century.” Considering the meteorological walloping the East Coast received recently, it’s no surprise a lot of people are thinking preparedness. Water, batteries, generators and the like are such hot items that even my local coffee shop is stocking DDs right there on the counter next to the sugar and coffee stirrers. A frenzy of milk and bread buying ensues at the mere mention of the word “storm.” All of that is good. After what we’ve been through “better safe than sorry” isn’t a bad idea. But what about being prepared for less climatic and climactic events? That’s when a box mix and a covered dish come into play.

Seriously Karin….a BOX MIX? I once pooh-poohed the idea of always having a prepackaged mix around as a pantry staple too. I laughed when my friend told me of her mother’s advice to always have one handy for emergencies. In my mind, box mixes were relegated to the same bucket as TV-dinners – maybe when I was a kid, but that was before I actually learned to cook. That was, until I found myself in a situation where I really needed one. It’s not all that uncommon. Kids let you know they promised the teacher they’d bring in cupcakes for class tomorrow, just as you are tucking them in? No worry if you have a box-mix, (and you didn’t need that extra hour or two of sleep anyway.) Want to invite that cute and single new neighbor moving in to drop by for coffee when he’s finished unpacking? If you just happen to have something fresh out of the oven to nibble on you definitely up the odds of future nibbling. And what if you find out last-minute you need to coerce colleagues to come in an hour early tomorrow for your new pet project? Mention you’ll bring some baked goods from home, because if you feed them, they will come…

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

Casseroles used to suffer the same fate as the Betty Crocker box in my mind. Visions of female casserole brigades making their way to the newest widower in the retirement community, cans of condensed soup and Garrison Keillor’s church socials filled my head. Funny thing about a good casserole though. When you bring one to a potluck, new neighbor or laid-up friend, the reception is always warm and the leftovers always scare. Everybody loves a good casserole, including me. And why not? It’s the perfect expression of creativity, efficiency and frugality in a pan. Each bite is a complete meal of protein, vegetable, starch and sauce, all under a crunchy, savory topping. So while I may have scoffed in my early cooking and food-snobby past, I now embrace the humble covered-dish. There are few other things in this world that can nourish, comfort and welcome all at once. And if you have a box-mix on hand, dessert is covered too.

Tarragon Chicken Casserole

With it’s origins in my chicken thing recipe, this casserole gets classed up a bit for company with tarragon, cognac, fingerlings and peas. You could serve it just like that, but like any good casserole it needs a topping. I’ve given you a few options, from breadcrumbs to biscuits or puff pastry. Whatever you choose, it’s a perfect bring-along for any casserole occasion.

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 large boneless skinless chicken thighs (about a pound or a little more)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 TBSP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 10 oz. package of sliced cremini mushrooms (or whole mushrooms you slice)
  • 8 oz. fingerlings potatoes
  • 3 TBSP chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 TBSP heavy cream
  • 2 oz. goat cheese
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 TBSP cognac
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Preheat oven to 400°F. Add salt, pepper and flour into a zip-closure bag and mix. Cut up the chicken into bite-sized pieces, drop into the bag and give the chicken a good mixing in the seasoned flour so every piece is covered.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Sauté chicken over medium-high heat until it is lightly browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl. Turn heat to medium, add in the onions, mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until onions are wilted and mushrooms have given up most of their moisture and the pan is relatively dry. As the vegetables are cooking, put the fingerlings in a microwave safe dish. Toss with a TBSP of water and a pinch of salt. Cover and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until the potatoes are just beginning to become tender but not mushy.

When the mushrooms are a little moist but not wet, remove the pan from the burner and add in the cognac, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Place pan back on the heat, add in the remaining ingredients except the peas and bring just up to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook about 25 minutes until the chicken is done. Remove cover and continue to simmer another 5 minutes to thicken sauce a bit. If you still think it’s too soupy, dissolve 2 tsp corn starch in one TBSP each of cold water and sour cream, cream or milk, add to dish and stir. The sauce will thicken as it heats up. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in the frozen peas, and pour into casserole dish large enough to hold 5 cups (you should have about that much filling).

Choice of toppings

Breadcrumbs: 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (plain or seasoned), drizzled with 1-2 TBSP of melted butter and a pinch of salt– bake until crumbs have browned and casserole is bubbling.

Biscuit topping: Use your favorite “box mix” (enough for 4-5 biscuits), or make them from scratch using any of the many drop biscuit recipes out there. Spread or drop biscuit dough on top of casserole and back according to the recipe you use.

Puff pastry: Using your favorite brand, roll out to fit about ½ inch larger than your casserole dish. You could also divide up the casserole filling into individual potpies too. Wet the rim of your dish with a little water, then cover the dish with the pastry and pressing the extra dough around the edges so it sticks. Cut a slit or two in the center of the dough to allow steam to escape. Brush with milk or cream and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or more, until the dough is golden and filling is bubbly.

Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes before serving. Calories: The casserole without topping is about 360 calories per serving. The toppings add anywhere from 60 (breadcrumbs) to 100 (pastry) to 200 (biscuit) extra calories per serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). Thanks! 🙂