Friday, February 27, 2009

We Now Return...

...To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming
Idaho potatoesI'll bet you thought I'd forgotten you, gentle reader. Never ever, however, underestimate a blogger's unquenchable thirst for an audience. I can assure you I did cook this weekend, it's just that I forgot the digital camera at work (it's Championship Week), and had no means of documenting my culinary acumen. And while I have been complimented on my flowery prose once or twice, a pretty picture always breaks up text agreeably, don't you think? So, I swiped a bunch of pictures off the Web, and while my own photos are only of the remnants, I have proof that I didn't fritter away my days on the couch, the remote fused to my hand.
I had the entire weekend in the kitchen all planned out. I'd made a shopping list Thursday night, and skipped out of the office an hour early on Friday so I could go to the market with plenty of time to shop and get some prep work out of the way:
Yukon potatoes
heavy cream
sour cream
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
whole roasting chicken
baby carrots
button mushrooms
broccoli rabe
cherry tomatoes
dry sherry
fresh ciabatta loaf
Fresh leeksAny takers on what was on the menu? You get three guesses. The original opening sentence for this post was going to be along the lines of, "I've Had Just About Enough of This Cold Weather," and the menus were gonna revolve around beating those lingering winter blues. Here's a hint: when you're under the weather, or feeling a bit low, what does every mother prescribe? No, not cleaning your room: soup of course. I'd been hankering for soup for weeks and hadn't even realized it until the Top Chef finale jarred me out of my wintry stupor. I love soup and really must have been an old Jewish grandmother in a previous life, cause my soups cure whatever ails you.
Friday's Potato Leek soup
  • 2 lbs Yukon potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 leeks, cleaned of all sand and roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Yukon Gold potatoesFresh leeks
In a small roasting pan, toss potatoes and leeks with olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a pre-heated 400° oven for 40-45 minutes until tender. Move the vegetables to the stovetop and de-glaze the pan with the wine and 1 cup of the chicken stock. In batches if necessary, purée the vegetables and their liquid in a food processor and move to a large stock pot. Stir in the remaining chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the heavy and sour creams and season to taste with salt and pepper. When the soup reaches a temperature warm enough to serve (do not boil sour cream), whisk in the Parmesan cheese and another splash of white wine to brighten the dish.
Leftover potato leek soup
Ina made this soup on one of her shows, and anything she can do, I can do just as well, if not better. Say what you will about Ms. Garten, she (or her minions) have a firm grip on basic, good home cooking. She's not an ingredient slave. Everything she calls for can be found readily in most local markets and her results are always satisfying. The potato leek soup was no exception. With that splash of wine, the leeks were bright and oniony. The potatoes added substance, and all that cream and cheese brought out such a richness that I really should have eaten this soup on the couch wrapped up in a Snuggie. Thank goodness I made a big batch. With our March 2 snow storm, I have plenty left over to get me through the next couple days as a shut in.
Saturday: Let's roast a chicken
Whole roasting chicken with gibletsI know, I know; more roasting. It's still winter here. You try grilling in 20° temperatures. Roasting a whole chicken is so easy and requires very little in the way of preparation. The most effort you have to exert is remembering to season the whole bird with plenty of salt and a little pepper at least one day before roasting. The salt penetrates the flesh and makes all the difference for a more tender, juicier finished product. Salt the inside and outside of the bird and wrap in butcher paper. Stow the chicken in the refrigerator overnight. Another failsafe tip is to bring the bird to room temperature before cooking. Give the chicken an hour or two on the kitchen counter before roasting. Roast in a pre-heated 400° oven, 15 minutes per pound. Start the bird breast-side up. About ⅓ of the way through roasting, flip the chicken breast-side down. Return to breast-side up the last ⅓ of the cooking time.
Lemon slicesJust before roasting I stuffed the entire cavity of my bird with lemon slices and a thick wad of fresh thyme, stems and all. Those herbs and citrus lightly perfumed the chicken but in no way overpowered it, so really get in there and fill the whole void.

Remember Whogus and his chicken gizzard treats? Well I was a very good boy Saturday afternoon and whipped myself up a little chicken hearts & liver snack while the bird roasted away. A pat of butter, a dash of soy, Worcestershire, and Tabasco sauces, some dry sherry in a small sauté pan,  salt & freshly ground pepper and 10 minutes later I had a rich and creamy appetizer. Technically, you don't really have to be a good little boy or girl to have the organs this way, but it sure tastes like a reward in a small way.
In a separate pan I roasted carrots, mushroom, greens and cherry tomatoes with some olive oil, salt & pepper along side the chicken. With the drippings from the bird, I made a thick gravy with some flour, chicken stock and a splash of heavy cream. The vegetables didn't make it to the second day, but you can see for yourself the creamy gravy below.
Leftover potato leek soup and roasted chicken with gravyLeftover roasted chicken
Lemony Pop ArtSo rest assured, my loyal followers, I have not abandoned you for the latest fad or a new diversion. You can continue to count on me for honest home-style cooking and the occasional bon mot to swap at the next office party.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

No comments: