Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Roast Chicken... so much easier than you think.

At least that was my impression the first time I pulled it off, I was all "It will be dry or still bleeding or have no flavor..." I was just plain intimidated by making a perfect roasted chicken. Little did I know it's as easy as the buttons on a good thermometer.

roast chicken ingredientsThe Cast: A good baking dish, I really like using this pyrex 9x13 baking dish, it's substantial feeling in my hands and super easy to clean, for our family of 5 to get 2 dinners out of it I use about a 5lb young chicken, I really like to catch them on sale for 99 cents a pound or less, kosher salt, fresh pepper, yup a whole stick of butter or margarine, you really can't tell at the end what was used so the cheap stuff it is, and the most important, a good thermometer with a probe and the option to beep when temperature is reached.

washing the chickenFirst step: Not only wash your hands, cause we will be handling the bird, but clean out all the guts they pack into the cavity, throw them out, keep them for gravy whichever you like, they go straight into the garbage around here cause organs just creep me out. Next rinse the bird good with cold water inside and out, most come packaged in a saline solution to keep germs in check but it's not particularly appetizing. I use paper towels to not only dry my hands, wet bird = slippery but to go ahead and dry the bird off too. Butter just does not cooperate with water.

butter under the skin of the chickenSince our tripod has absconded to the garage somewhere and I didn't want chicken goo on the camera I enlisted Dad's help in taking these shots. After tucking the wings under (your preference) pull the skin away from the breast meat, don't remove it just loosen it with your fingers.

butter under the skin of the chickenNow for the butter, I'm originally from the south, we call it all butter. Just use your hands and break off about a 1/5 of the stick or 2 tablespoons, yup gotta use your hands, they will get messing and gooey before this is all over best to get it over with now. Place the butter between the chicken breast and it's skin and use your fingers to just smooth it out, you want a nice coating but it does not have to be perfect just well covered. Repeat this for the other side of the breast as well.

butter under the skin of the chickenThis is what you get. Disclaimer: NO this is not the healthiest way to eat chicken, but mmmmm it sure does taste good. Here is also where my camera decided to eat the picures I would take, so of course I had to wait until the next time I made chicken to finish.

butter coated chickenThe rest of the butter! Yup the truly gooey part, spread the rest of the stick of butter or about 4 tablespoons, all over the bird, try to catch all the surfaces so the skin is well coated. Now go wash your hands and use all the soap you want to! Oh and preheat the oven to 350.

salt and pepper and butter coated chickenSalt and pepper, I don't measure but just sprinkle heavily all over, somewhere in the neighborhood of a tablespoon and a half if I had to say of salt, and a good teaspoon of pepper. Remember all that butter we slathered on? This is what it's for, to hold the salt and pepper in place so sprinkle away.

where to place the thermometer in a chickenThe important part, at least in making the chicken edible and not a biohazard is the thermometer. This isn't some fancy $50 one either, I picked it up at Target for around $15, but it has all the functions I need, a probe, a standard timer, and a temperature timer.

I try to put the probe into the thigh meat by going through the leg, on bigger birds say the Thanksgiving turkey, the dark meat needs to reach about 10 degrees higher than the white meat to be done, I've found these smaller chickens don't have that problem.

I set the temperature timer to go off when it reaches 175 degrees, it needs to get to 180, but will do that sitting on the counter waiting to be sliced. Place the chicken in the oven just like it is now, I've found that to fit the thing in the oven the rack has to be down far enough that the skin browns quite nicely but the bird is small enough it isn't in there long enough to burn.

Notice how I don't list any times for cooking? Well that's because I really have no idea how long it might take, I've had them take anywhere between 1 and a 1/2 to 3 hours to cook and can't really explain the difference. But I can tell you I never start this dish before 5 with plans to eat somewhere after 6, also when using a thermometer to cook you notice it takes forever to get going then it's done, so I usually estimate I've got 30-45 minutes to get my sides done when the temp. reads 145-150.

roasted chickenTA DA! The roasted chicken is done. The meat is tender and juicy, the skin is crispy and not for anyone watching any kind of healthy diet, and see all that glorious chicken flavored butter in the dish? Don't ever throw it away. I have more than one use for that which will be another post.

Let it sit here in the dish until the temp reads 180, should be all of 5-10 minutes after you pull it out of the oven, and just long enough to finish the sides and fight with the kids to wash up and get ready.

roasted chickenHere we go ready to slice and serve, nope no pics of that, cause really I just cannot cut a chicken without it looking hacked into. Plus by the time I've cut out servings for everyone, Dad has eaten all the crispy skin, he says it's the best part.

So there you have it, really pretty simple but man does it make an impact.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Birthday!

birthday cake
So my baby turned 8 this past Sunday. We usually do a big party with a store bought cake decorated with her current favorite character. This year since we called off the big party I figured I'd make the cake since really Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker taste just as good as the grocery store bakery cakes.

This also shows what happens when you use buttercream frosting in 75 degree weather, felt really nice to us but was a bit warm for the frosting which I could have poured out of the jar and kept up a steady slide down the sides of the cake. But you know what? It was a lot easier to get a smooth finish with my lacking decorating skills and it tasted just fine.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I'd heard of schnitzel before but never had it to my knowledge, maybe because it is often served with cabbage or sauerkraut neither of which I am a fan.

Even though reading the recipe it seems to have no flavor, the lemon is a surprisingly big factor.

What we need: boneless pork chops, preferably about 1/2 inch thick, panko bread crumbs, a couple eggs and a few tablspoons flour. We'll also need some vegetable oil for the pan and a couple lemons.

Using some parchment paper to keep the flinging bits of pork to a minimum, pound out the chops til 1/4 inch thick or so.

Dredge in the flour.

Next the egg.

Finally the panko crumbs.

Heat a skillet on medium with about 4 tbsp of vegetable oil and fry the pork chops for about 4 minutes per side. Check the first batch and make sure this is long enough, it depends on how thick they are.

Drain on a paper towel. Squeeze a little lemon juice of the top of the schnitzel and serve with a slice of lemon and some oven roasted potatoes.

4 boneless pork chops
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
vegetable oil for frying

Pound the pork chops to a even thickness, dredge in flour, egg then crumbs. Fry approx. 4 minutes per side on medium. Drain on paper towels. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top and serve with lemon slices.