Soy/Honey Chicken Legs

  • drumstick2 lbs chicken legs
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons gluten-free ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place chicken legs in a baking dish.
  3. Whisk together soy sauce, honey, ketchup and garlic powder.
  4. Pour over drumsticks.
  5. Bake for one hour.

Variations

  • Wrap chicken legs in thin sliced bacon before coating with sauce.
  • Replace honey with maple syrup.
  • Grill chicken legs and brush with glaze

Coq au Vin

coqJim and I were working side-by-side in the kitchen last night. Actually, since I was in the midst of the world’s worst hot flash, he was cooking and I was instructing. Jim isn’t much of a cook – something he’ll freely admit. He can follow instructions pretty precisely and do okay. He’s awesome on the grill. He sometimes comes across something he decides is a “magic ingredient” and begins adding it to absolutely everything he cooks (such as the great Emeril Lagasse Kicked Up Gahlic Salad Dressing explosion of 2002 where he combined the salad dressing and green beans, wrapping it in a tortilla because, hey – it’s a burrito). But really what Jim does is heat stuff up so that it is warm enough to ward off bacteria and food-borne illness. This is how many people cook – with the goal of getting the food cooked, rather than making it flavorful.

On the other hand, building flavor is pretty easy if you know a few cooking techniques. If you can get food to the proper temperature in order to serve it, if you can combine ingredients in a recipe to make a dish, then you can begin to build flavors in your food. Best of all, it won’t take that much longer than just following the recipe ingredient by ingredient and your food will improve by leaps and bounds.

One of the best ways to build flavor is via the Maillard reaction. I know – it sounds all fancy, but it’s really pretty simple. When meat browns, it happens due to the Maillard reaction. When bread browns, same thing. Essentially, what you need to know about the Maillard reaction is this: it adds flavor to food. At its most basic, the Maillard reaction occurs when heat is added to foods containing amino acids and carbohydrates. In food terms, it adds tremendous savoriness meats and other foods.

For example, how do you like your steak? I am a medium rare gal, myself, but I know some people who like their steak super rare in the middle. Yet these same people wouldn’t consider eating a cut of meat that is entirely uncooked. When you are served a rare steak in a restaurant, it arrives crisp and brown on the outside, but when you cut into it, it is nearly raw. And most of the flavor on that steak comes from the brown part on the outside (as well as seasonings), which has browned due to the Maillard reaction.

To promote the Maillard reaction in your cooking:

  • Don’t crowd the pan. That inhibits the reaction and instead causes steaming. I work in batches.
  • Leave whatever you are cooking in contact with the heat without moving it for several minutes until it browns. Do this with vegetables, mushrooms, onions, meats. This allows for tremendous flavor development.
  • If you are thickening with flour, add it to the heated fat in the pan and then let it cook for a few minutes to develop flavor.
  • When you add liquids to a pain that you’ve browned meat and/or vegetables in to make a sauce, don’t waste the flavor that is stuck to the pan. Use the side of a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.

Let’s look at the application of the Maillard Reaction in a recipe for coq au vin.

Coq au Vin

  • 6 thick slices bacon, chopped
  • One chicken, cut into pieces, skin left on
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb button mushrooms, quartered
  • 1-1/2 cup pearl onions (fresh or frozen)
  • One onion, diced
  • One carrot, peeled and diced
  • One celery stalk, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 6 tbsp flour (or sweet rice flour for gluten-free)
  • Two cups dry red wine
  • Two cups gluten-free chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large, oven proof pot such as a dutch oven, cook bacon over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from fat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook the chicken pieces in the bacon fat until skin is browned on both sides.
  4. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add the mushrooms to the oil in the pan. Allow them to stay in contact with the pan for about four minutes to brown before stirring them. Continue to stir and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Add pearl onions to the pan, allowing them to stay in contact with the pan and brown for a few minutes before stirring. Once cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  6. Add mirepoix to pan (diced onions, carrots, celery). Cook in the oil without stirring until they are browned. Once browned, stir and cook until tender.
  7. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring until garlic releases its scent – about 30 seconds.
  8. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to cook flour about four minutes.
  9. Pour wine into pan, scraping the bottom of the pan and stirring as you do. Cook for a few minutes to remove alcohol flavors.
  10. Add chicken stock and thyme. Stir to combine.
  11. Return chicken, mushrooms, pearl onions, and bacon to the pan, making sure you add any juices that have accumulated, as well. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  12. Cover pan and place in preheated oven. Cook 60 minutes, until chicken is tender. Serve with egg noodles or rice if you prefer gluten-free.

Chicken Soup with Homemade Noodles – Love in a Bowl

chickensoupFor me, cooking for my family and friends is about more than just the Zen I achieve in the kitchen. It’s also about putting love on a plate. Food that is made with love has a certain extra something that you don’t get when you open a can or microwave a meal. I spend time considering ingredients, deciding how to build flavors, and planning which foods will complement one another on a plate. I try to create foods that the people I am cooking for will love. I put my heart and soul into my food, and hopefully it comes across in the way I intended it – as a plate or bowl full of pure love.

Today, I made a simple dish, but for me it is the epitome of love in a bowl: chicken soup. This simple meal can be tremendously satisfying when you take the time to develop flavors. Making it even more satisfying, I made some basic egg noodle dough and rough cut noodles that floated in the soup. As sometimes happens, fate stepped in and I had a bunch of ingredients in my refrigerator that lent itself well to chicken soup – and that I needed to get rid of. The result was delicious, and the thickly cut egg noodles made it hearty and satisfying, as well.

Homemade Egg Noodles

  • 1-1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour, and crack the eggs into it.
  2. I mix the noodles with my (very clean) hands, gradually incorporating the flour into the eggs until I have a rough dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
  4. Allow the dough to sit for 10 minutes to relax the glutens.
  5. If using a pasta roller, roll to desired width and roughly cut into egg noodles.
  6. If using a rolling pin, roll the dough to desired thickness and cut into strips.
  7. Set aside for a few hours to dry slightly.

Chicken Soup with Egg Noodles

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken – I prefer thighs for flavor and texture
  • Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • Lite (in color – not calories) olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bulb fennel, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Chicken stock
  • 1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • Thyme
  • Juice of one or two lemons
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Cut chicken into bite sized chunks. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a few swirls of lite olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat until it shimmers.
  3. Working in batches, cook chicken in the pot. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Allow the chicken full contact with the pot bottom until  it starts to brown. As the meat browns, it caramelizes the sugars in the protein, known as the Maillard reaction. Once the meat has caramelized on one side, turn it over to allow it to continue to cook through. Your chicken will not react with caramelization if the pan is too crowded, so work in two or three batches.
  4. Remove the cooked chicken from the pot with a slotted spoon and set it aside on a plate.
  5. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and fennel to remaining oil in the pot, distributing evenly across the bottom. Allow vegetables to stay in contact with the pot without stirring until it begins to brown (but not burn), about 4-5 minutes. This allows the flavors to caramelize and will add richness to your soup.
  6. Stir in garlic, cooking just until the garlic is fragrant. If you cook it for more than about 30 seconds, the garlic can burn and become bitter.
  7. Add chicken stock to fill pot about half way, scraping the bottom of the pan as you do to lift all of the flavors that have caramelized there.
  8. Add mushrooms, lemon juice and a few teaspoons of thyme.
  9. Return chicken to the pan, pouring any juices that have collected on the plate into the soup, as well.
  10. Bring soup to a boil, and add the noodles.
  11. Return to a boil and cook until noodles are el dente – about 6 to 7 minutes.
  12. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.

That’s the chicken soup I made today, but mine is never the same twice. I just used what I had available in my refrigerator. The good thing about chicken soup is that you can change it to suit your own tastes. Change the thyme for rosemary. Add different seasonal vegetables like zucchini or green beans. Add rice instead of egg noodles. Once you can make a basic chicken soup, the possibilities are endless to make your own love in a bowl.

Roasted Poultry Stock

stockHow to Make Roasted Poultry Stock

  1. Preheat your oven to 450.
  2. Arrange about four pounds of turkey and chicken wings in a roasting pan in a single layer, and roast for one hour.
  3. Remove the poultry from the pan and add one cup of water to the pan, scraping to remove all of the flavorful browned bits from the bottom.
  4. In a large stockpot, saute two ribs of celery, two carrots, and two onions roughly chopped in a few tablespoons of oil until tender. Add poultry, water from roasting pan, and about one gallon of water to the pot and bring to a simmer.
  5. Meanwhile, wrap 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns, several sprigs of parsley, several sage leaves, two bay leaves, and several sprigs of fresh thyme in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine. Drop it in the simmering water.
  6. Simmer, uncovered, for three hours. Allow to cool and strain out solids. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.

You can use homemade stock in gravy, soups, sauces, and stews. It has much better flavor than canned broths.

Chicken Pot Pie

chickenpieWhen I was a kid, I HATED chicken pot pie. My mom would buy the Swanson’s premade chicken pies and bake them. The mushy vegetables and cubes of super soft chicken weren’t appetizing to me. Worse, they contained what I considered to be the most awful vegetable on the face of the earth. Peas.

I hated peas with a vengeance as a kid. For a while, I tried hiding them in my napkin or throwing them on the floor. Sadly for me, my mother was just a little cleverer than that I gave her credit for being, so those avenues of pea disposal were lost to me. I can recall a few dinners sitting long after everyone else was done eating, staring down the slimy green objects I found so disgusting. Then I hit on the perfect solution. If I swallowed them whole with my milk, I didn’t have to taste them at all. Chicken pie, however, made this exercise more of a challenge, and I dreaded seeing those Swanson’s boxes on the counter.

In high school, a close family friend was also my home economics teacher. Etta Kirk taught a class called Meal Management, and we made all sorts of really great foods like cream pies and cinnamon rolls. We also made chicken pie, a lesson I knew was coming and dreaded with the same intensity I used to fear seeing a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Still, Etta encouraged us to try everything we’d cooked in the class. The chicken pie didn’t suck, but it still wasn’t my favorite. I avoided it for years.

It wasn’t until about five years ago that I had a revelation. I was a grown up, and I could put whatever vegetables I wanted into my chicken pie, and there didn’t have to be a single pea in it. I set out on a mission to create a chicken pie that I would love.

Here’s the good news. If you love peas, you can add them into this recipe. You can change up the herbs and vegetables, and make a chicken pie that suits your palate if you just use the really simple techniques I outline below. The result will be a rustic, delicious, comforting chicken pie that is sure to become a family favorite. The best part? You don’t even need to know how to make pie crust. I’ve hit on a simple solution that has earned rave reviews. Instead of making pie crust, I purchase pre-made puff pastry sheets in the grocer’s freezer section, and top my pie with that.

Deep Dish Chicken Pie

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound raw pancetta, diced (you can find pancetta in the deli section of the grocery store. You can also use bacon, which will impart much smokier flavor. I prefer pancetta.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 1 pound chicken thighs, boned and quartered
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 bag frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered (mushroom haters – these are optional)
  • One sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed on the counter for 30 minutes, plus flour for rolling
  • 1 egg, beaten slightly
  • 3 tablespoons fresh or 2 tablespoons dried tarragon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat oil on medium high and cook pancetta. Remove pancetta from oil with a slotted spoon and set aside in a deep pan such as a deep dish pie dish or a 9 x 9 deep dish square pan.
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook in oil from pancetta in batches, allowing it to caramelize before turning it over. Do this by leaving chicken in contact with the pan for 3-4 minutes before flipping it. You do not need to cook chicken all the way through – just allow it to develop flavor by browning it on both sides. Do not overcrowd the pan. I typically perform this step in 2-3 batches. Remove chicken from pan and set aside with pancetta.
  4. Using the same pan and oil, add diced onions, carrots, and celery (mirepoix). Leave the vegetables in contact with the pan to allow flavor to develop before stirring, about 3 to four minutes. Stir and allow vegetables to soften. Reduce heat to medium.
  5. Add flour to the vegetables and oil, stirring constantly for two minutes.
  6. Add wine to pan, stirring constantly and scraping any browned bits from cooking off the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add chicken stock and allow to come to a simmer and thicken slightly, stirring constantly.
  8. Pour the mixture over chicken and pancetta in deep dish pan. Add mushrooms,  pearl onions and tarragon. Stir to combine.
  9. On a floured surface, slightly roll out your sheet of puff pastry so it is large enough to overlap the edges of your pan. Place on top of the deep dish and crimp the edges by pinching them between your fingers.
  10. Brush beaten eggs along the top of the crust in a light wash.
  11. Bake for 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Serve this with a nice dry white like a Chardonnay.

Some tips:

  • Prepare all of your proteins and vegetables before you start cooking, so that everything is set out and ready to go when it is time to cook. This is referred to as “mise en place,” which means everything in place. This is the best way to cook anything – with all of your ingredients pre chopped, pre-measured, and ready to go before you cook.
  • Mirepoix is a standard combination of diced carrots, celery and onions. Try to cut all of your vegetables to roughly the same size so they cook evenly. The standard measurements for mirepoix are two parts onion to one part carrot and one part celery. It serves as a flavor base for many dishes.
  • Develop flavor by leaving chicken and vegetables in contact with the pan so it starts to caramelize. Don’t skimp on this step, because it makes a huge flavor difference, adding layers of complexity to your cooking.
  • Don’t shorten your cooking time with the flour. When you add flour to oil or melted fat (even if there are vegetables in the oil), you are making a roux. A roux is a standard way of thickening
  • When you add the wine to the pan, make sure you scrape all of the browned bits off the bottom  to incorporate the flavor into the broth.
  • If you wish to add other vegetables (like peas), use fresh rather than frozen, and add them just before you put the crust on top and put the pie in the oven.
  • You can trade tarragon for thyme, which is also really good in this recipe. If you add thyme, a little garlic would be nice, as well. Add it in the last few moments of sauteeing your vegetables, right before you add the flour. Garlic doesn’t need to cook long. As soon as you can smell it, it’s good enough. If you cook it too long, it grows bitter. If you are using tarragon, don’t add garlic – because the garlic will overwhelm the delicate character of the tarragon.