Crisp Roast Chicken

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I love a roast chicken. The smell permeates the house and the oven makes the whole house feel warm. It’s so easy to prepare with a little fore thought and while the chicken is cooking you have plenty of time to make a couple of nice side dishes. What feels like a special occasion dinner can be made simply and rather inexpensively. The only step that is vital to making this chicken is remembering that you need to let it sit overnight. I always forget this, always. But, it’s worth waiting for. I’ll admit it right here in front of the world. I love a little bit of crisp skin. On Thanksgiving day there was always a fight over who would get the skin and now I’m realizing that may start in my household since my daughter has shown an appreciation of that crunchy skin that crackles. Moderation though, moderation!

This simple rub and overnight process will yield a perfectly crisp skin, yet will still deliver moist meat. It’s really the best I’ve found and there is no mess from frying! Whatever you do, don’t brine your chicken otherwise it will prohibit the skin from becoming crisp and your work will be for naught. The sheet of foil between the roasting pan and V-rack will keep drippings from burning and smoking so don’t skip that step either!

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Crisp Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds), giblets removed and discarded
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt or 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Place chicken breast-side down on work surface. Use the tip of a sharp knife to make four 1-inch incisions along the back of the chicken. Using fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon, carefully separate the skin from thighs and breast. Using a metal skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on top of breast halves and thighs. Tuck wing tips underneath chicken.

Combine salt, baking powder, and pepper in a small bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle all over with salt mixture. Rub in mixture with hands, coating entire surface evenly. Set chicken, breast-side up, in V-rack set on rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees F. Using paring knife, poke 20 holes about 1 1/2 inches apart in 16-by-12-inch piece of foil. Place foil loosely in large roasting pan. Flip chicken so breast side faces down, and set V-rack in roasting pan on top of foil. Roast chicken 25 minutes.

Remove roasting pan from oven. Using 2 large wads of paper towels, rotate chicken breast-side up. Continue to roast until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 135 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes.

Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Continue to roast until skin is golden brown, crisp, and instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 10 to 20 minutes.

Transfer chicken to cutting board and let rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Carve and serve immediately.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated March 2008

 

Cake Pops

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Cake pops were all the rage a few years ago, but they still make a great little sweet treat. Perfect for favors or handouts for school parties. Caroline was given one for Halloween last year and ever since then she’s been talking about cake pops. Since I’ve never made them I figured this was a good opportunity to try them out. I figured anything could be less labor intensive than our usual birthday favor bag treat, Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing. Since I had to make 2 birthday cakes and cupcakes for school, I wanted easier!

Here’s the funny thing, I’ve wanted to make cake pops for a long time. I have a million cute ideas bookmarked, I have one of those little machines still in the box down in the basement, and I have all of the materials ready to go. Yet, I’ve never tried them. I was told to steer clear, they were a pain to make. I was told a million different ways to make them. I tried that little cake pop machine that was supposed to make life easier, but it didn’t. Finally, I took some of what I was told by a few trusted friends and just sat down one day and started my journey by myself. That was the key advise I received. Set aside a day. Well, at least a few hours! The next bit of advise that was helpful? Go ahead and use boxed cake if you want. I made them both ways and there was no difference. While I have a ways to go to perfect the decorating portion of cake pops, these earned rave reviews from everyone and I’ll be playing with these in the near future to get my decorating skills perfected. So, here’s what I did.

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1) Bake the cake and let is cool. Once it has cooled, crumble it with your fingers until you have consistent fine crumbs.

2) Make frosting or open up a tub of store-bought. I used almost all of the store-bought, leaving only a couple of tablespoons behind. Slowly add frosting to cake crumbs and mix in with your hands. This was the hardest part for me, it totally felt worse to me than making meatballs! You do not want to add too much frosting that it becomes a sludge-like texture, but enough that the cake will hold shape.

3) Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop cake mixture and then roll into a uniform ball in your hands. Taking care while rolling, you do not want to put pressure on the cake, just gently rolling it until you have reached the perfect shape. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat and continue until you have used all of the cake mixture.

4) Melt a small amount of chocolate that you are using and submerge the tip of your candy stick in, about 1/2″ and then place half-way through your cake ball. Take care not to push the sticks all of the way through the cake ball.

5) Place cake pops in the freezer for about 20 minutes. You do not want to freeze them any longer. Too cold will make the chocolate freeze to it and crack, too warm and the chocolate will take forever to cool and adhere to the cake pop.

6) Melt chocolate in a narrow cup. I used Wilton’s Candy Melts. I accidentally made one batch with the pink raspberry chocolate and the flavor combination with the chocolate cake was delicious!

7) Taking a few cake balls out of the freezer at a time, submerge the cake pops in the melted chocolate. Hold the cake pop over the cup at an angle and tap your wrist with your other hand until you have shaken off excess chocolate. Then, place your finished cake pop in a holder and repeat with the rest. The chocolate should harden within 30 seconds. If you are using sprinkles, add them just before the chocolate hardens. Too early and they will sink into the chocolate as it is hardening and too late and they wont stick at all. Any kind of holder is fine, I used spray-foam since we had some laying around and created my own Styrofoam board. You can also buy some cardboard ones in the baking aisle of many stores. Lots of folks make cake pops with the sticks pointing up, this is the easiest since you can lay the cake pop directly on to a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

8) Once the chocolate has hardened. You can wrap them in cake pop candy bags. They will stay fresh for 2 weeks. The chocolate coating and wrapper will seal in the freshness. I’ve even tried longer and they were fine, but I live dangerously! You can place them in the freezer to quicken the process, but mine were hardened and wrapped within 30 minutes.

If you choose to further decorating, simply do so after the initial chocolate coating has hardened. Then allow to fry and wrap and store them as mentioned above.

Yields roughly 40 cake pops.

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Mashed Potato Casserole

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Both my husband and I are big fans of mashed potatoes, but my daughter has recently decided she doesn’t like them. I’ve been thinking of ways to get her to like them, while still satisfying the adults at the table. Seriously, is she my kid? I LOVE mashed potatoes! I didn’t want to go to far from our comfort zone, but I needed the right amount cheese/flavor combo that would get her interested. This recipe is great because while it offers the cheese and crunch factor of the crumb topping, it isn’t horrible for you. My husband and I enjoyed it, my daughter refused to try it! Apparently, next time I make this I can’t use the term “potato” at all. *sigh* You can’t win them all, but this dish will definitely go on the menu again. It’s perfect when you want something a bit different than the usual, but still a nice, simple comfort dish. You can even assemble this dish a day ahead and bake shortly before serving.

Mashed Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 1/2 pound baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 6 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp thinly sliced chives

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Place potatoes, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

Press potato mixture in batches through a ricer into a large bowl. Stir in reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and cream cheese.

Spoon potato mixture into a broiler-safe 11 x 7 -inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Pre-heat broiler.

Combine Parmigiano-Reggiano and panko; sprinkle evenly over top of potatoes. Broil 4 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with chives.

Serves 8 (about 2/3 cup)

Nutritional Information

Calories 243, Fat 6.5g, Protein 8.3g, Carbohydrate 37.9g, Fiber 2.6g, Cholesterol 20mg, Iron 1.2mg, Sodium 361mg

Source: Cooking Light, October 2013

 

 

 

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While I have no quirky April Fool’s recipe or food treat for you today, I have been switching things up in the kitchen lately. This time of year, when we’re about done with winter foods but don’t have the wonderful spring veggies in season is always a difficult time. So when I saw this recipe I thought it would be a great, easy way to play with our taste buds.

I decided to change the name of these meatballs from Barbecue Meatballs to Southwest Barbecue Meatballs. They definitely lend a more complex flavor then the image that comes to mind of simply saturating meatballs in BBQ sauce. We found the flavor and heat just perfect with these meatballs, you weren’t diving into the mashed potatoes because they were too hot. Serving with mashed potatoes also makes these flavorful meatballs seem like comfort food and is a great medium to soak up some of the gravy! These can be interchanged with ground beef or ground pork, whichever you prefer. They can also be made in advance and frozen, but they are quick enough to make on a weeknight as well.

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Southwest Barbecue Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chiles
  • 1 1/4lb ground turkey
  • 3 Tbsp Italian-seasoned dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • Cooking spray

Place the first 6 ingredients in a blender; blend until smooth. Set aside.

Combine the turkey, breadcrumbs, and chili powder in a larger bowl; using wet hands, shape into 16 meatballs.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat pan with cooking spray. Add meatballs; cook 2 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Add tomato mixture to pan; bring to a summer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 6 minutes or until the meatballs are done.

Serves 4

Nutritional Information

Per serving (4 meatballs and 1/3 cup sauce)

279 Calories, 11.4g Fat, 29.5g Protein, 14.2g Carbohydrates, 2g Fiber, 98mg Cholesterol, 2.4mg Iron, 540mg Sodium, 61mg Calcium.

Source: Cooking Light April 2013