Potatoes That Taste Better Than The Chicken

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
Fall is around the corner, my friends. The beginnings of fallish things are happening from the wonderful cooler temperatures and crisp mornings to the not-so-wonderful appearance of Christmas decorations ALREADY. I’m not one to start up the Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving and I’m not one to drink a pumpkin spiced latte until it can actually do its job of warming me up because I’m cold from natural causes (as in, I didn’t sit in my car with my AC on full blast to get the same effect. That’s cheating AND rushing the perfect moment, which I feel, should come about authentically.) My friend Libby is rolling her eyes at me because she LOVES rushing fall and pretending it’s cold outside. In fact, she already had a pumpkin spiced latte! ūüôā I’m fine with seasonal enthusiasts. Honestly – whatever makes you happy! But as for me and my household, we won’t decorate for Christmas until Thanksgiving is over. ūüôā

Another thing that¬†makes me happy is starting to think about fall dinners. I love the braising and stewing and the simmering of heavy, warm spices on the stove. One meal that gets me to thinking about the warmth of the winter is this simple and yet divine dish: roasted chicken on top of potatoes. We made this recipe a loooong time ago by¬†Jean-Georges Vongerichten. His recipe was so delicious, we’ve done it a few dozen times since and have varied and simplified and it’s always delicious and always perfect. I never mess this recipe up and it’s always so amazingly delicious. And let’s not ignore why: the potatoes are cooked in schmaltz. You’d also be delicious if you were roasted in chicken fat.

I also love this recipe because it is one of those dishes that everyone can agree on. Add a salad or some braised greens and you’ve got yourself a complete meal!

Potatoes Cooked in Chicken Fat Chicken Potatoes

Potatoes Taste Better Than the Chicken*

1 whole chicken, about 3 lbs
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
coarsely ground salt and pepper
butter to coat the pan and chicken
1 head of garlic, sliced in half
sprigs of thyme, rosemary, whatever you have

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Butter a large cast iron skillet and place the cut potatoes in a single layer. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Pat your chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Rub with butter and then stick the halved garlic head into the chicken cavity and add whatever herbs you like. Place the chicken on one of its sides on top of the potatoes.

Roast for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken onto its other side and roast another 20. Then, turn the chicken breast-side up and continue roasting until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer says at least 165F, about 15-20 minutes more. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes and carve on top of the potatoes and serve them along with the chicken. Beautiful.

*adapted from Jean-Georges Vongerichten

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Rosemary Pork Chops with Grapes and Parsnips

rosemary pork chops with parsnips and grapes
Yesterday¬†was rainy and dark. ¬†A cold front moved¬†in yesterday¬†afternoon and cooled everything down a few degrees and it put me in the most severe autumn mood. ¬†I bought the ingredients for this dish at the beginning of this week because the forecast said there was a chance of rain every day and it just felt like fall had officially arrived! ¬†I found this extremely autumnal recipe a few years ago in an issue of Martha Stewart Living and it became a very frequent dinner occurrence for us. ¬†It takes literally 15 minutes from start to finish – maybe 20 if you include peeling the parsnips. ¬† It’s perfect for a family on a budget as I can usually find discounted pork chops no matter when I go to the grocery store. ¬†Parsnips may be hard to find at a mega grocery store, but if you can’t find them, you can substitute in carrots. ¬†Parsnips are like carrot’s albino cousin. ¬†Maybe slightly more bitter, but they mellow out while cooking. ¬†The combination with the sweet grapes is perfect, though, so if you can find them, branch out and try them! ¬†For babies, simply steam come cubed up, or puree after steaming with a little water or chicken stock!

pork chops with grapes and parsnips

Pork Chops with Parsnips and Grapes*
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless pork chops, about 1/2″ thick
salt and pepper
2 or 3 large parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
1 cup red grapes
3 tsp fresh chopped rosemary

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Season pork with salt and pepper and add to skillet along with parsnips. Brown pork and parsnips on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Add grapes and rosemary, and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until pork is cooked through, parsnips are tender, and grapes have just burst, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve pork with parsnips, grapes, and pan juices.

*recipe adapted for quantity from Martha Stewart Living

Cheesy Cauliflower and Rice Bake

Cheesy Cauliflower & Rice Bake
I¬†always look for interesting sides to put with lunch and dinner every day. ¬†It has been a challenge for me as the typical American cook to think of vegetables as a main component to meals. ¬†For most of us, vegetables are exactly as we call them – a side dish (a side thought!) and we obligingly scrounge a bag of vegetables from the freezer to make our meals “complete” when we very rarely enjoy those components and most of them, if we are honest, get put in a leftover container and saved until we no longer have guilt about throwing them away.

Maybe this is just me. ¬†I’ve wanted and tried this year to think of vegetables as the main component and meats and carbs as a side dish. ¬†To balance the plate in the opposite direction. ¬†This. Is. Hard. ¬†I will be the first to admit that I know how to cook meats, starches and carbs MUCH better than I know how to cook a vegetable. ¬†But I’m trying! ¬†And I’ve looked to cuisines that tend to focus on vegetables as main dishes for inspiration. ¬†Indian cuisine is wonderful for this approach, but even I tire of the cumin/cardamom/curry combination of flavors pretty quick. ¬†There needs to be a balance to the approach of getting more vegetables on your dinner plate, and so for me, I’m taking winter as a wonderful excuse to make some slightly more indulgent and comforting vegetable dishes to get me in the habit of seeing them as the star of the show, instead of a side act.

Speaking of winter: I am in love with a new cookbook. ¬†Well, I suppose it isn’t exactly new, but it’s new to me, and it’s called Homemade Winter¬†by Yvette Van Boven. ¬†I absolutely love when a cookbook has recipes listed by seasonal availability. ¬†This cookbook is ALL about winter – sure, winter in Holland, but STILL! ¬†Most winter vegetables in this hemisphere are available and relatively fresh no matter where you reside, and so this cookbook has introduced me to a season of cooking that has previously been nothing but soups and stews and squash. ¬†Goodness, how many times can I eat squash?!

Enter: cauliflower and rice baked with swiss into a creamy but not-too-heavy dish. ¬†I made this yesterday for our lunch and it was the main component. ¬†In her cookbook, Yvette calls it a risotto, but I didn’t have arborio rice and so I made it with what I had – plain ol’ white, short-grain rice – and it worked beautifully. ¬†I love a recipe that is accessible and works, no matter what you have on hand. ¬†A lot of home cooks don’t have arborio in the pantry, yet most people have regular white rice! ¬†The only splurge for this dish was some good Comte cheese, but I believe it could be just as flavorful with nearly any cheese you have in the fridge.

We loved it Рit was warm, filling and satisfying as a main dish and perfect for a freezing day like today.  In fact, I turned the leftovers into cauliflower rice fritters today for lunch and served them along side a white bean soup I will blog about very soon, and it was an awesome lunch!  Hope you all stay warm, today and have an extra cup of coffee with me!

Cauliflower & Rice Bake

Cheesy Cauliflower Rice Bake
serves 6-8 as a side or 4-6 as a main

1 small head cauliflower
1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup shredded cheese such as Comte, Emmentaler or Gruyere – would work with any hard cheese, though
1 cup of white, short-grain rice
2 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup panko or plain bread crumbs
drizzle of olive oil

Boil the cauliflower for 10 minutes until tender.  Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat the oil in a large skillet (12″ at least). Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes. ¬†Add the garlic and cook for one minute more, then add the rice and stir to combine. ¬†Saute all this for another 2 minutes or so. ¬†Add the broth and bring to a boil. ¬†Stir in the cauliflower and cheese and cover the skillet with a lid and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until all liquid has absorbed.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before uncovering.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs and drizzle the top with olive oil and bake until the breadcrumbs are toasted, or just stick it under the broiler for 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls with lots of cracked pepper!

Chicken Fricassee, Deconstructed

chicken fricassee 2

Chicken Fricassee was one of the first meat dishes I made for Olive when she was a baby, just starting out on solids. ¬†(The first meat she had was homemade beef ragu – I kinda threw the rule books out when it came to feeding her and I haven’t regretted it a single day.) ¬†I made the dish from that month’s Martha Stewart Magazine and took a little bit of each component and blended it up with a little extra chicken stock. Olive consume it with a great fury. ¬†The flavors are so simple and so rich – it truly is a comfort food dish. ¬†And if you think it’s “fancy” because it has a French name, fear not – it’s basically a chicken pot pie without the pie. ¬†All those amazingly comforting flavors of chicken soup, thyme, carrots, peas, cream gravy, butter – they’re all there. ¬†You serve it over rice or pasta and revel in the comfort. ¬†It’s not difficult and it tastes like pure love.

I’ve made that Martha Stewart version several times, but for this recipe, I worked out of the Bonne Femme cookbook and decided to deconstruct it because Olive is able to eat each component just chopped up small, but not big enough to tackle chicken still on the bone. ¬†So I cooked the chicken, shredded it after it had cooled, and then assembled, garnishing with the pan gravy at the very end for an easy to eat version that everyone really loved.

chicken fricassee

chicken fricassee 3

chicken fricassee 2

Deconstructed Chicken Fricassee*
serves 4

2.5-3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken parts (legs, thighs, breasts, whatever – I used the whole chicken in pieces)
salt and pepper
2 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 a white onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (or more chicken broth, if you don’t have any)
1 bay leaf
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 x 2″ sticks
1/2 cup frozen pearl onions
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs AP flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk
2 tbs chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbs fresh lemon juice

Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or stock pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and drain off all but a tbs of fat from the pan.

Add the onion to the pan and cook briefly, stirring, until fragrant.  Add the chicken broth and wine, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add the bay leaf and bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  Then, scatter the carrots and pearl onions around the chicken; cover and simmer until the chicken is done (internal temp should register 170 on an instant read thermometer), about 15 minutes more.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken and vegetables to a large bowl; cover with foil to keep warm.  Discard the bay leaf.  Pour the pan juices into a measuring cup and set aside.  Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour with a wire whisk to make a smooth paste.  Cook and stir for one minute.  Slowly add the pan juices back to the pan, stirring with a wire whisk until smooth.  Cook the mixture until it boils and thickens, then continue to cook for one minute more.  Whisk in enough milk to make a sauce of the desired consistency and bring to a simmer.  Stir in the tarragon, parsley and lemon juice.

I then shredded up the chicken by hand, scattered an equal amount into each bowl over a heap of rice, arranged the vegetables on top of the chicken and then spooned my pan sauce over everything and cracked a lot of black pepper on top of that! ¬†There’s something magical about fresh black pepper and a rich chicken dish. ¬†It’s just perfect.

Enjoy!

*adapted from the Bonne Femme cookbook, which is perfect