Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Menu of Music

On those rare occasions when I get to take my time in the kitchen, I like to set the ambiance.  Proper lighting (BRIGHT), temperature (nice and cool), and good tunes.  I'm fairly particular about my environment in the kitchen while I cook (don't even think about talking to me while I'm in the zone about non-culinary matters. You will be met with curt, short answers and no eye contact).  This is probably why I blare music.  And amongst many reasons I could never be Rachel Ray.

Me, in my kitchen. Cooking a Diet Coke.

Cooking while listening to music feels so good, it almost seems indulgent.  I'm amazed I'm even able to do it.  I was never one to listen to music while I study or before I go to bed, or even while writing.  It's distracting.  I get too into it and start hearing things I haven't heard before in a hook, or even dropping what I'm doing to go clumsily figure out the chords on my guitar.  Before I know it, I've gotten through McCreesh's mix CD, but only half a paragraph of my book.

Here are some playful playlists recommendations from my kitchen to yours (as well as a lesson in French dinner courses).

Links provided by GrooveShark ( > Pandora by a million)

Aperitif or Amuse-Bouche (these are actually separate things. An aperitif is a drink. An amuse-bouche is a little one-bite teaser):
John Legend.  A lil somethin something to whet you appetite.  Butter your bread with Legend's vocals.
Try: Album, "Get Lifted" It Don't Have to Change. Or play the album from the beginning.  It's great the whole way through.

EntrĂ©e (or to us Americans, the Appetizer):
The New Pornographers.  Can they get a party started or what?  I've played their albums non stop in my kitchen.  They are my go to for the gym as well.  Neko Case, stop being so cool.  Who knew Canadia's hottest export would be indie rock instead of ginger ale?  If you can't bob your head to this, you are either in a neck brace or have no soul.
Try: Album, "Challengers",  All the Old Showstoppers.

Plat Principal (Main Course):
The Dead Weather.  I wanted to pick something meaty.  This is meaty.  This is spicy.  This is rich. This has...umami.
Try: Album, "The Sea of Cowards" Hustle and Cuss.  You might feel compelled to lift weights.

Le Fromage (The Cheese):
Katy Perry.  She brings the cheese...but no one can deny the production value of this album.  Honorable mentions:  Hall and Oates, Journey, and the Outfield
Try: Track: Teenage Dream ...you've already heard this unless you've been in a hole for the last year.  Bonus...the all boys Glee version a cappella.  Don't judge.

Rilo Kiley...the only thing sweeter than your confections is Jenny Lewis' voice.
Try: Album, "The Execution of All Things".."My Slumbering Heart" is always a good one.

I'll skip the "cafe" course...since who's cookin that up, really.

Digestif (after dinner drink):
If you don't have room...you should really make it.

The Shins.  Perfect music to throw on while everyone sits borderline comatose.  You still have dishes to do.  Keep the night rocking with the adorable, melodic, bordering on precious, quartet from Washington State.  Think, Beach Boys with edge, before the wave of surf rock that's coming back.  Mixed with brit pop.  Perfect.
Try: Album: Oh, Inverted World, Girl on the Wing

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Easy Roast Chicken: We unite Ina Garten and Meredith Grey

Every Thursday I take part in a ritual I'm slightly mortified to be a participant of.  Obviously not enough to be including this detail of my life on a blog.  My friends and I unite for a delicious homemade feast (usually using ingredients from the CSA, not so much these days) then gather around to watch Grey's Anatomy.  Don't judge.  There are a handful (ok, a dozen) shows I compulsively watch.  I've watched it since college and it's just something I have to hold on to.  Whatever, I don't have to explain myself to you.

From pretty much my favorite episode when Meredith lights all the candles and is all like  "Because I believe that we can be extraordinary together rather than ordinary apart ".  Weeeeep.

I digress.

This week I was short on time, and not feeling very creative.  So, I give you, my version of Ina Garten's Roasted Engagement Chicken.  It's actually exactly the same, but I promised Bortz I'd post it for her:

Roast Chicken
Serves 4

1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons
1 whole head garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise
Good olive oil
2 Spanish onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 425F.

Remove the gross bag inside the chicken.  Okay, it's not that gross, but not everyone enjoys organ meat.  I for one like to saute up the chicken liver.  So now you know. I like Grey's Anatomy and chicken livers.

Pat the chicken dry.  This is so you can achieve a nice, crispy brown skin.  No one likes a soggy chicken.  Salt and pepper the inside cavity.

Cut the lemons into quarters and stuff the cavity with the 2 quarters of a lemon and all of the garlic (it doesn't matter if it's not peeled).  Truss.  Tuck the wings under so they don't burn.  Rub olive oil all over it's body.  Place in a roasting pan.

In a bowl toss together the onion and the rest of the lemons in olive oil.  Salt and pepper. Arrange around the chicken.  Make sure it's all kind of snug in there.  If the pan is too big, the onions may burn.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the thermometer reads 165F on the thickest part of the chicken.  Or the leg is easily twisted in its socket.  That's an old culinary school trick.

Move the chicken to a platter and tent.  Transfer the roasting pan to the stove.  Deglaze with the wine, scraping up all the good stuff...and bits you don't want to scrub later.  Add the stock and flour.  Stir until it thickens.  Transfer any juices from the platter into the sauce.  Spoon over chicken and enjoy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quick Turkey Meatloaf

Who doesn't love comfort food?  You?  Liar.  Unfortunately most of my favorites are not part of a judicious eating repertoire.  I've borrowed some inspiration from Paul Deen's recipe.  What, I'm slimming down a Paula Deen recipe?  Yes. And I assure you it's just as good, if not better.   Another added bonus, the prep on this takes about 15 minutes.

I've replaced the ground beef with ground turkey.  A simple, yet tricky substitute.  I've always found turkey to be a sorry substitute...but you gotta make some sacrifices, right?  But for something like meatloaf, the lean turkey is masked by other bold flavors.  Also, I recommend carefully purchasing your ground turkey, as just like beef, there are higher fat options, and also extra lean options.   Go for the lean.

I used a minimal amount of tomato paste, which can if you don't look closely, contain a lot of sugar.  So I opted for only a tomato paste that contains TOMATOES.  You'd be surprised of how many will sneak in sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  I also added Worcestershire (and took out brown sugar) to the "glaze" which, if you leave out will leave it looking orange.  I'm not bothered by it, but we do eat with our eyes.

I'm also a a fan of free forming my meatloaf on a rimmed baking sheet with a separate pan of water on the bottom shelf of the oven to prevent cracking.  The steam from the water should hold it together.  You'll want to keep that extra step in mind, as turkey is much leaner than ground beef.

I hope my dietitian, Danielle Omar, RD approves.  Danielle, if this recipe is a bust, let me know and this will for sure be re-tweaked!

Turkey Meatloaf
Serves 4-6

1 lb extra lean ground turkey
1/2 cup of  small diced green peppers
1/2 cup small diced onion
2 TB tomato paste
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup of quick cooking oats

For the glaze:
2-3 TB of ketchup
1 TB dijon mustard
1-2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce for color

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Make sure you have two racks set, one for the loaf (top), and one for your pan of water (bottom).

With your hands, thoroughly mix the meatloaf ingredients. Be careful not to handle the mixture too much, you don't want to make the loaf tough.  Mix enough to evenly distribute all of the ingredients.  Whisk together the glaze ingredients.  Form the loaf on to a baking sheet (lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray).  Slather on the glaze.

Place a baking pan or casserole dish with about 3 cups of water on the bottom rack of the oven.  Put the loaf sheet on the top.  Bake for 1 hour.  Serve with some roasted broccoli and you've got yourself dinner.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Korean Kitchen Staple: Gochujang

Gochujang is a Korean red chili pepper paste.  Koreans have been using this paste since the 18th century to flavor marinades, stews (click for an easy kimchee stew recipe) and as a condiment.  I grew up with this stuff and it is in every good Korean kitchen.

This is what you look for instead of pointing wildly and confusing Asian food store owners.

It has a thicker consistency than that of tomato paste with a deep red hue.  Do not be alarmed by the scary spicy sounding name.  It's actually quite mild.  I urge you to taste a little of it before adding it however.  It's sweet with a touch of smoke and heat.  Try it in your next marinade with soy sauce and honey over chicken or pork.  Dissolve a little into your soup...I stir some into my butternut squash soup or puree to give it a little complexity.  Whisk some with soy sauce, water and cornstarch and pour it over your next stir fry.  Try it with a hint of rice wine vinegar.  An oldie but a goodie proves to be able to be reinvented over and again.