Roast Chicken for Dad

Two chicken

There are at least 400 ways to roast a chicken. Most of those recipes are great. I’m adding this one to the mix. It’s pretty standard and simple, and it works like a charm.

This weekend, my father came to visit. He keeps kosher, and my kitchen is not kosher by orthodox standards. I decided to figure out a way to make a kosher meal in a non-kosher kitchen. So finally, for the first time in my (or his) life, I cooked a meal for my dad.

One of the complications of cooking a kosher meal is that anything I put in the oven has to be double wrapped in foil. I usually cook birds wrapped up for half of the cooking time, and unwrapped for the second half of the cooking time. Wrapping the bird up for the entire time made everything turn out awesome! This was a happy discovery…

Dad’s Roast Chicken and Root Veggies
*Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

2 4-5 lb chickens
2 lbs small yukon gold potatoes
4-5 small-medium yams (sweet potatoes)
3 medium parsnips
1 large onion
2 carrots
3 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 large bunch thyme
1 large bunch parsley
2 lemons
2 heads of garlic
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

I used a large aluminum roasting pan. You could use 2 smaller pans if you’re making two chickens. Something rectangular, oven proof, and large enough to fit the poultry and veg is all that’s necessary.

Cut all the baby yukons in half. Peel and cut up the sweet potatoes so that they are about the same size as the baby potatoes. Peel the parsnips and carrots, cut them up in large chunks. Do the same with the onion. Scatter the veggies in the bottom of the pan. Add a few springs of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, and 2 bay leaves to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil.

Prep ingredients for the chicken: Peel a head’s worth of garlic. Cut the second head of garlic in half. Cut 2 lemons in half. Have rosemary, thyme, and parsley cleaned and ready to go.

Get the chickens ready (everyone has their own method, some rinse them, some don’t… in this case I gave them a rinse and patted them with paper towels). Season the chicken INSIDE and out with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over each bird. Stuff each chicken with the other half of the lemon, and half of the whole head of garlic. Stuff each chicken with half a bunch of thyme, half a bunch of parsley, and a sprig of rosemary. Take the peeled garlic and stuff some of it under the skin of the bird, anywhere you can fit it. Drizzle the birds with olive oil. Place them on top of the vegetables.

Cover the cooking dish with foil (wrap it tight).
Cook for 2 and a half hours or until the vegetables are fully cooked, and the juices of the chicken run clear. I upped the cooking temp to 425 for the last half hour, but that’s probably not necessary.

When it’s all done, the chicken will be moist, the top will be just slightly browned, the vegetables will be cooked and sitting in a sauce from the juices of the bird.

Roast Chicken

I made a quick spinach salad to go along with it.

This meal comes together quick and easy, and the results are yummy.

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Pear Bread 2 Ways

Pear Bread two ways

I’m obsessed with fruit and vegetable breads. Think: banana, zucchini, pumpkin, and so on.

I’ve been wanting to try apple bread for awhile. On a recent Sunday, I found that the apples I purchased for this purpose were total crap. Instead, I noticed the two lovely pears I had also recently purchased. I decided to substitue pears for apples. I’ll happily throw chocolate into any baked good; pears and chocolate are close friends. I split the batch in two and added chocolate to half. The results were a success. Voters have been equally divided amongst those who love plain pear, and those who love pear + chocolate. I vote for both.

I found a recipe for Apple Bread on Allrecipes. Aside from the apples, I tweaked a couple other things.

*NOTE: The batter for this is so thick you will assume nothing but a leaden lump will result of it. You will be wrong. You will also have to patiently wait through a long baking time, but the results will be worth it.

Pear Bread 2 Ways

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
2.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pears – peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
6-7 ounces chocolate chips (half a bag)

Directions:
Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl; set aside. In another mixing bowl, place oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and pears. Stir slowly into flour mixture. If you want to add chocolate to half, divide the batter into two bowls, and mix chips into the batter in one bowl. Your batter will be thick and gloppy. Do not fear! Divide mixture between two greased 8-in. x 4-in. bread pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for at least an hour – an hour and 15 minutes or until bread test done (stick a toothpick or knife deep into the bread and make sure it comes out clean). Cool for 10 minutes on wire rack before removing from pan.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookie out of the oven

Since the age of 12, I’ve been on a quest to find the most perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

My ideal cookie: slightly crisp edges, chewy center. This recipe delivers.

My grandfather turned 85 this week. He is one of the best humans I’ve ever known. I’ve always admired and aspired to replicate his positive attitude, unconditional love, and soft and gentle nature. He and my grandmother are still madly in love, after decades of marriage. He adamantly did NOT want a gift; so instead, I baked him these cookies. He loved them.

The recipe is Nigella Lawson’s, from Nigella’s Kitchen (highly recommend). The only thing I’d change about this recipe is that I might make the cookies just slightly smaller, and next time I’ll add a little pinch of salt to the batter.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Maxes approx. 14 (if you choose to make them huge)

Ingredients
1 1/4 Sticks (10 Tablespoons)of soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup superfine sugar (I used regular)
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 egg, refrigerator-cold
1 egg yolk, refrigerator-cold
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 x 11.5-ounce milk chocolate morsels or chips

1 x large cookie sheet

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the butter and let it cool a bit. Put the brown and white sugars into a bowl, pour the slightly cooled, melted butter over them, and beat together.

Beat in the vanilla, the cold egg, and cold egg yolk, until your mixture is light and creamy.

Slowly mix in the flour and baking soda until just blended (I mixed them in a separate bowl first), then fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the cookie dough into a quarter-cup measure or a 1/4 cup round ice-cream scoop and drop onto the prepared cookie sheet, plopping the cookies down about 3 inches apart. (I used a 1/4 measuring cup, and THESE ARE HUGE. I decided to make them slightly smaller, a heaping tablespoon-sized.) You will need to make these in 2-3 batches (true), keeping the bowl of cookie dough in the fridge between batches.

Bake for 15-17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are slightly toasted.

cookies in the oven

Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

(The important thing is to never over cook cookies. If making them smaller, cook for less time. The key test of doneness is the slightly toasted edges, the center can be completely soft.)

Cookies

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Thanksgiving in review

Turkey prep
*Things the bird was stuffed with.

Thanksgiving is, and has always been, my favorite holiday.

Every thanksgiving, my mom always invited people over who needed a place to go. There were friends who couldn’t travel to see their families, or folks who maybe didn’t even have families to spend the holiday with. We always had amazing company on Thanksgiving, and I’ve tried to keep that tradition alive as an adult. I guess it’s called an “orphan thanksgiving.” The whole point of this holiday, for me, is to eat incredibly delicious and colorful fall foods, and to share that food with other people, in a cozy, warm and fun environment. This year, all of that happened. We had a great group of people, and we even had 3 last minute arrivals. I’m pretty sure everyone left full.

Here is our thanksgiving in pictures (click on any to see them larger).
The star of the evening was the kale salad. The other food didn’t suck, but something about this salad, well, it was special. It’s also a good companion to rich and hearty food. I’ll post a recipe soon.

Prep list
Prep list! (Things I’ve learned from being a personal chef).

Before the oven
Before the oven!

Candied yams
Yams are more important to me than mashed potatoes (controversial opinion). Here they are dressed in their glorious syrup and spices (prior to baking).

Green beans
Green beans with miso and almonds I was inspired by, and only slightly altered THIS recipe from Bon Appetit

Turkey out of oven
Cooked Bird.

Turkey, done
Cooked Bird, from the side (prettier).
*This bird came out super moist, but not mushy. The aromatics really helped.

Holding meat
*Han always takes a picture of me holding the meat.

Stuffing
Stuffing. Never in the bird. This is my own vegetarian recipe with: roasted chestnut, apples, leeks, fennel, onion, and loads of herbs.

Kale salad
Aforementioned super star: Raw Kale Salad.

Plate of food
Colorful Plate!

Meal time
Full table!

Turkey mostly gone
Aftermath.

Empty Plate
Aftermath 2.

Pies and such
Dessert, of course.

Dessert
Pie, coffee, tea, conversation.

Apple Cranberry Pie
Apple Cranberry Pie, baked the day before.

LA Fall
Even LA has fall.

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Pumpkin Bread

One glazed, one unglazed

This is my favorite time of year. Even L.A. gets its own kind of fall.

The food mascot of fall (for me) is squash (all kinds). Last weekend, my love affair was with pumpkin. I seem to always have extra fresh and canned squash on hand, and this is a good way to use that stuff up.

Nothing feels more like fall than the wafting intermingling smell of baking pumpkin, sugar, and spices. Bake this bread just for the sake of how it makes your home smell.

Adapted only slightly from Bon Appetit (November, 1995), here is my new favorite recipe for pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs (I left out a teeny bit of white from the 3rd egg, because I used less pumpkin and flour)
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin (I used about 15 ounces and it worked great)
3 cups all purpose flour (I used about 2.8 cups, since I had less pumpkin)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin.
Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts, if desired.
Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely.

*I also glazed the bread after they cooled. I mixed powdered sugar with a little water until I get a not too think consistency, and then I drizzled it over the bread.

pumpkin bread cooling

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Quinoa and Spinach Salad with Roasted Asparagus

Quinoa salad

Months ago, I ate a Black Quinoa salad at Surfas. It was one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten.

I catered a wedding shower this past weekend, and I decided to try to replicate the Surfas salad. For whatever reason, Whole Foods in Glendale has decided to discontinue its sale of black quinoa. I found rainbow quinoa instead; but I think black would have been better. I also think this salad would have been better if I was making it for 4 people, as opposed to 30. I prepped the asparagus and the leeks the day before, and I wish time had allowed me to cook them the day of. Nonetheless, it was good…

Quinoa and Spinach Salad with Roasted Asparagus
*Inspired by the salad at Surfas’ cafe
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2-3 cups cooked quinoa (ideally black)
6-8 cups of fresh baby spinach (or however much you like)
2 bunches of asparagus, roasted
2 medium leeks, roasted
1-2 oranges, supremed
Pistachios, shelled and toasted (however much you like)
Lemon vinaigrette

Directions
First, I cook the quinoa. This can be done the day before. Use 2 cups of liquid (water or stock), to 1 cup quinoa. Bring the quinoa and liquid to a boil. Turn the flame to low, cover the pot, and let the quinoa simmer for 20 minutes.

Next, I roast the leeks and asparagus. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Clean the leeks and asparagus. I slice the leeks into about 1/2 inch rings. I lay out the leeks and asparagus on separate cooking sheets. Drizzle both with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the leeks for about 10-15 minutes, until browned and softened. Roast the aspragus for 20-25 minutes. Halfway through you can stir them about, so that they don’t get too browned on one side. The tops of the asparagus should be brown and slightly crispy. The stalks of the asparagus should be browned and softened.

Supreme the orange. Here is a good video on how to do that.

Once everything is prepped, assemble the salad. Add the cooked and cooled quinoa, the cooked and cooled roasted veggies, the fresh spinach, top with oranges and pistachios. Dress the salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette (lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper).

You can play around with this; use a different dressing, or different vegetables. I really love this combination of flavors. The acid of the dressing and the orange go well with the nuttiness of the quinoa, and the roasted vegetable flavor.

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French Lentil Soup

I make lentil soup more than any other soup (in fact, have we talked about it before? I can’t remember). I don’t get sick of it. It’s a perfect lunch. It’s a perfect dinner. It’s a perfect soup.

Lentil soup and toast
*Topped with cheese, fresh Italian parsley, and served with Ezekiel bread toast

And the most perfect of the perfect recipes, in my humble opinion, comes from Mrs. Perfection herself: Ina Garten. Ina’s books are pretty reliable, recipe wise. And if you are capable of harboring affection for (or at least accepting) slightly elitest perfectionists, she’s for you.

For this recipe, I follow it pretty much as written. Sometimes I add turmeric, bay leaf, extra thyme, lemon juice, and I always swap out a vegetarian base stock for chicken stock. The leeks make all the difference (as they do in lots of soups).

French Lentil and Vegetable Soup
Ingredients
1 pound French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
Boiling water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
3 large onions, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 large leeks, white and tender green parts only, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth (I use veggie stock, or water and a bay leaf)
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar (I use fresh squeezed lemon juice in a pinch, or in addition to the vinegar if I want more acid)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions
In a large heatproof bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. (I never do this step, and my soup turns out awesome. Lentils don’t really need to be soaked).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic, leeks, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper and the thyme and cumin and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the celery and carrots and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils to the pot. Increase the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to moderate and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 1 hour. You can always add more water or stock if you feel your soup is too stewy. If you like it thick, cook it a little longer, liquid will evaporate.

When the soup is done to your liking, stir in the red wine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan.

MAKE AHEAD The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let return to room temperature and reheat gently, adding more stock to adjust the consistency if necessary.

Lentil soup

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Ottolenghi – Link and Rec

I highly recommend this cookbook:
Plenty

It’s great for vegetarians, but it’s also great if you’re just looking to expand your side-dish repetoire.

The cover image recipe (a baked eggplant dish) is INSANELY good. This is a good demo of the recipe (don’t you love his voice?)

*I make this sauce with tahini and yogurt (because I rarely have buttermilk on hand), and it wonderful!
I love the smashed ginger and cucumber salad, too. And of course the Cauliflower is great. Every recipe I’ve tried has been delicious and successful.

You can catch a glimpse of the Ottolenghi world HERE.

Fun!

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Rosemary Pecans

rosemary sea salt roasted pecans

This is a very quick and easy recipe I came up with one day when I was looking for a way to make a salad slightly more interesting.

I’ve had rosemary in roasted nuts before, but there’s something about rosemary paired with pecans that is unexpected and perfect.

These go well in a salad with goat cheese, arugula, and fresh figs (if they’re in season). I always make extra, and I put them in a little bowl for people to munch on before the meal is ready. People assume something magical and extraordinary happened in order to prepare these pecans. My friends, this is an extremely simple, un-magical recipe that can be adapted a thousand ways with different kinds of nuts.

Roasted Rosemary Pecans
Ingredients
6 oz bag of whole RAW pecans
2-3 sprigs of FRESH rosemary
Olive Oil
Maldon Salt (you can get by with Kosher salt if you’re in a pinch)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Wash, dry and coarsely chop the fresh rosemary.
In a bowl, add the pecans, rosemary, and drizzle the mixture with olive oil. I use about a tablespoon or two… You just want to lightly coat the nuts with oil (not soak them). They should glisten slightly once dressed. Toss the mixture with your hands.

Dump the mixture onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle salt all over; I tend to err on the side of under-salting, you can always add more once they come out of the oven.

Place the baking sheet in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Check the pecans at the 8 minute mark. Nuts can easily burn.
Once you can smell the pecans and rosemary, and once the pecans have darkened slightly in color, remove them from the oven.

Sprinkle with more salt if desired, let them cool and enjoy!

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Holiday Brisket

Hi y’all. It’s been a long time (sadly). Lately I haven’t been personal chef-ing full time. I’ve been doing it on the side. It’s a long story involving how I got fired after 3 days by a famous hollywood director that you’ve all heard of. It’s a pretty crazy story (need to do a comic about it), and the experience killed my will to cook for a bit. But I’m back. Most importantly, I’m back to cooking more for moi, which really means I’m back to cooking for friends.

Enough about me…

As you may know, the Jewish High Holidays just happened. Every year I cook a Brisket for Rosh Hashanah. Example, this year:
Brisket Done!
I’m not a big meat eater, but this once-a-year-brisket is sooo worth it. The Jewish new year may have passed, but the other more widely-observed holiday season is approaching, and I think this recipe is worth busting out. It’s easy, showy, and a huge crowd pleaser.

The recipe comes from Tyler Florence’s The Ultimate Braised Brisket. I slightly adapted it to my needs. I added maple syrup, and I don’t have a dutch oven (I would love one – hint hint), so I improvise!

I bought a 10 POUND brisket this year (from McCall’s, aka best butchers in LA). Therefore, I basically doubled all of the ingredients. This recipe is flexible.

This is what at 10-pounder looks like before you cook it (kinda gross, right?)!
Holding the brisket

The Ultimate Braised Brisket

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 pound) beef brisket, first-cut
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 large carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
  • 1 head garlic, cut in 1/2
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, hand-crushed (recommended: San Marzano)
  • 3/4 bottle dry red wine
  • bay leaves
  • 1/4 bunch fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS

Drizzle brisket liberally with olive oil then season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper.

Place a large Dutch oven or heavy-based pot over medium-high heat and add a 3-count of olive oil. Place the brisket in the pot and sear on both sides to form a nice brown crust.

Browned brisket
Remove from pot and set aside before adding carrots, onion and celery. Brown vegetables, then add the garlic, tomatoes, red wine, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, and parsley.
With all the aromatics

Add the brisket back to the pot, cover and roast in the oven for 3 hours until the brisket is fork tender.  If you’re using a roasting pan, double wrap it in foil.  I actually tend to cook my brisket longer.  For a smaller roast 3 hours is enough, for my big roast, I cooked it for 5 1/2 hours. It doesn’t seem like you can overcook this guy. 

*This is not your average dry boring brisket. The meat becomes incredibly succulent, and you don’t need a knife to cut it. You will have no leftovers, but if you do, it’s even better the next day.

Remove the brisket to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes. Strain out the vegetables and pour off some of the excess fat, then pour over the brisket.

Slice brisket across the grain and serve over parsnip puree with roasted red onions and garnish with parsley.  I served mine with roasted root veggies, aspragus, and a field green salad with figs and roasted pecans.

Brisket to hand ratio

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