Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Beer Can" Chicken . . . right in my oven!

Like most people who love cooking, I bet you are always eager to try different or new things in the kitchen—that North African hot chilli sauce you just read about on the latest issue of your favorite cooking mag . . . those new dip chiller/warmer bowls that would be, oh, so fabulous for your next party . . . or that cute "ex" knives holder . . .

. . . and if you are anything like me, you actually end up buying some of that stuff and just keep storing it in your already cram-packed tiny kitchen! lol

Well, one of those things I bought—a vertical chicken ceramic roaster—has been sitting on my kitchen counter for some three or so years!

Instructions on the box said: "For wonderfully moist chicken, pour beer, wine, fruit juice or marinade in the center tube of the Vertical Chicken Roaster. Then stand your chicken over the tube, place some vegetables or potatoes in the roasting pan, and place the Vertical Chicken Roaster in your oven. The heat causes the marinade to seep into the chicken, soaking it with flavor. With this all-in-one Vertical Chicken Roaster, you'll have a delicious and complete meal in no time."

So . . . I had been thinking this week about finally getting to use the roaster and, last night, when I was doing my grocery shopping online—hey, a girl needs to be resourceful when she doesn't drive!—I ordered a whole chicken.

I've seen cooking tv shows about the famous "Beer Can Chicken" and read some recipes, so all I needed now was to put my shoulders to the wheel! :)

I felt confident enough to do my own version without checking again for recipes.  Basically, you need beer, a rub for the chicken and some potatoes or veggies (optional).  I can't tell you exact measures, but I can tell you what I made my rub with:  minced garlic, kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder and thyme.  First I massaged the bird with some olive oil, so that the rub would stick to it.  I poured beer (Sam Adams Boston Lager) in the center tube of the roaster and added some minced garlic and thyme.  Finally, I cut some potatoes and a couple of tomatoes (rubbed them with olive oil and thyme) and put them in the roaster, around the chicken.

It's 4:30 p.m. and my chicken is now sitting in the oven (400 F for the first half hour and then I have to lower the heat to 350 F) and should be cooked in 1.5-2 hours, considering that it is a 4.5 lb bird!

And . . . voilà . . . it's 6:15 p.m. . . . here is the final product! :)


Bouillabaisse - In the Kitchen with Franny - KitchenDaily

I personally think this is a lovely story!
Bouillabaisse - In the Kitchen with Franny - KitchenDaily

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A gift and a story . . .

My friends Ylia and Margarita came back from Cancún, Mexico a few days ago and they were thoughtful enough to bring me a little something from their trip.  I must clarify though that they were working over there and not on vacation!  We have this event at the office called the "Annual Meeting" which takes place in different countries every year (and every four years in a city here in the States).  This meeting always happens around the end of March or begining of April . . . and it's what kept me also busy for most part of March, like I stated a few postings ago! :)

Anyway . . . as I was saying, Ylia and Margarita thought of me and decided that they were not going to bring me any candy from Mexico, but something I could actually use for cooking . . . so they brought me this "salsa picante" . . .

and they also got me something called an "Alebrije".

“Alebrijes” are brightly-colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures, and the story about how they came to be is a very interesting one! Pedro Linares López—a papier mache artisan born in Mexico City in 1906—started out as a common “cartonero” (papier mache artist) who eked out a living in La Merced, on the outskirts of Mexico City, by making traditional piñatas, carnival masks, and Judas dolls for local fiestas. In the 1930s, he broke from tradition and started creating elaborate decorative pieces that represented imaginary creatures he called alebrijes. Inspired by a dream when he fell ill at age 30, these papier mache sculptures were painted with bright colors and intricate patterns, and frequently featured wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth, and bulgy eyes. Although Pedro Linares was the first one who used the term to describe his creations; nowadays it is also commonly used in reference to the Oaxacan woodcarvings popularized by Manuel Jimenez.

One day, at the age of 30, Pedro got very sick. Poor people didn’t have any access to doctors or medicine, so Pedro’s sisters were doing the best they could by giving him home remedies and herbs. Apparently, Pedro got worse, and the only thing the family got left were prayers to their saints.

In bed and unconscious, Pedro had this dream where he was in a very strange, interesting and peaceful place, kind of like a forest, with trees, rocks and animals, and where he could also see the sky and the clouds. Pedro said that everything was quiet, he wasn’t feeling any pain at all, and he was happily walking around when, all of a sudden, the rocks, clouds and animals turned into weird creatures: a donkey with wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with a dog’s head. All these creatures were yelling just one word: “Alebrijes”. He said that they were yelling louder and louder and just repeating that same word “Alebrijes, Alebrijes, Alebrijes!”

Pedro claims that the noise was terrible and that he wasn't able to stay there for a long time because he got a terrible headache and left. He then found himself on this road and saw a man walking along. He asked for help—he wanted a way out! The man told Pedro that he wasn’t supposed to be there yet, that he had to keep walking and that a few steps away he would find an exit. Pedro started running and soon found a narrow window. He was barely able to escape through it and then he woke up.

Some versions tell that Pedro suddenly woke up in the middle of his own wake, and that he heard expressions of astonishment and prayers from friends and family when they saw him “coming back from what seemed his death”. After that moment, Pedro recovered completely and started remembering his dream. He wanted his family and everyone else to know about these fantastic animals. And taking advantage of his artistic ability, Pedro grabbed some paper and molded it into these figures, painted them—just like in his dream—giving life to the “Alebrijes”.

That first of Pedro’s alebrije caught the eye of a gallery owner in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The gallery soon commissioned additional pieces. Eventually, museums around the world purchased the extraordinary, one-of-a-kind alebrijes, and Pedro traveled to participate in exhibitions throughout Latin America, the United States, and Europe.

Pedro’s family says that he used to work 16 hours every day—from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.—until the day before he died, on 26 January 1992, at age 86. His family still keeps the tradition alive.

I found a video on YouTube, "The Colors of Mexico: Alebrijes" . . . I thought you might want to watch it! :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Last Friday I posted this recipe on my Facebook wall and had been "dreaming of it" during the weekend.  This morning I wasn't feeling well (remember I told you on Saturday that I had been harboring a cold?) so I had to call in sick, something I do on very rare occasions!

Around 3 p.m. I was feeling a little bit better and hungry . . . but I knew I didn't have many things left in my pantry. After coming back from Michigan last week I kept postponing ordering groceries online, thinking that I might have the time Friday afternoon after work to go shopping.  And, even though we were released at 1 p.m. because of Good Friday, it didn't happen (going shopping, that is) . . . I wasn't feeling that great and decided to go straight home.

Well, going back to my pantry . . . I found a box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese—not exactly something I like or crave, but I guess I bought it to have some sort of "life saver" on a rainy day (or sick day)!  Reluctantly, I set a saucepan with water on the stove to boil it for the shell pasta and went into my fridge looking for some Parmesan cheese.  To my surprise, I found half a jar of mild chunky salsa . . . hmmm . . . "I can mix that with the Velveeta cheese sauce", I said to myself . . . and then, at the very bottom of the fridge, I found a can of Guinness beer!  Oh wow!  That meant I could probably make the "Guinness Chocolate Cake"!  I double-checked the recipe and . . . voilà . . . I found out I had everything I needed!

I turned off the stove in the meantime I started preparing the cake . . . and here are the pics . . .

I have to admit though that I made a couple of changes to the recipe:  used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream (because I didn't have any) and added chopped pecans.  The cake turned out really good!!!  You can find the recipe here:

Oh yeah . . . I ended up making the box of shells & cheese with the chunky salsa and it didn't turn out that bad! :)


Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Ate . . .

. . . Totally Unexpected!  That's the name of the show I was just watching on Food Network.  I've seen it a few times and some of the dishes they mention are mind-blowing!  Oh . . . and there are some items that are "mind-blowing" as well, but not in a good way:  Deep Fried Candy Bar? . . . Proscuitto Ice Cream??? . . . give me a break! lol

I like olives and artichokes . . . so when I heard that this dish "Eggs Rose" had those two things, I wanted to find out more about it.  Cat Cora—one of the Iron Chefs—was commenting about the best breakfast she had ever had at "D'Angelo Bread", in Santa Barbara, California.  "The Eggs Rose is one of my favorite breakfast items I've ever had. Poached eggs on top of fresh baked Kalamata olive bread with an artichoke spread, delicious!"

Of course, I wanted the recipe!  And, sure enough, I couldn't find it anywhere! :(

So, I started looking on the Internet for the different components of the dish by separate and came up with these recipes:

Artichoke and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Spread

1 jar (6 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts

6 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 Tablespoon toasted pine nuts
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of salt

Drain the artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process to consistency that you like. This recipe is from "The Pampered Chef".

Artichoke and Goat Cheese Spread

1 can artichoke hearts, well drained
1 pound mild soft goat cheese, such as Montrachet
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 roasted red bell pepper or pimiento
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

In a food processor, add the artichoke hearts, goat cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, roasted bell pepper, parsley, chives, basil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and process until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Place in a nonreactive bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 2 days in advance.  This recipe is from Emeril Lagasse.

Kalamata Olive, Sun-dried Tomato, and Feta Bread

400 g water
14 g instant yeast

625 g bread flour (I used King Arthur—you might need a little more flour depending on how wet your olives and tomatoes are)
42 g dried milk powder
18 g sugar
7 g salt
1 egg, beaten
180 g pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half or thirds (I used a drained 6.5 oz. jar of TJs)
8 oz. julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained (can use reconstituted dry pack if you prefer; I used an 8.5 oz. of TJs julienned sun-dried tomatoes)
25 g chopped fresh parsley (fresh basil would also be delicious)
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Egg wash

Combine water, yeast, flour, dry milk, sugar, egg, and salt in mixer bowl. Mix with paddle just to combine. Add in tomatoes, olives and parsley at the end being careful not to break them up too much.

Let dough rest 15 minutes in covered mixer bowl. Turn out onto lightly floured counter and knead a few turn to form a ball. Place in oiled covered container and let rest another 15 minutes. Do a stretch and fold. Return dough to bowl. Wait another 15 minutes and do a 2nd stretch and fold.

Return to covered bowl and let rise until double (about an 1 1/2 hours—I can't remember exactly how long this took).

Divide dough into two equally sized balls and roll each out into a cylinder about 12" long and 1/4" thick. Sprinkle each rectangle with half the feta, and then cut the rectangle in half length-wise.

Roll up each strip of dough tightly to form a long cylinder, and then roll each cylinder back and forth until each is 24" long. Braid two cylinders together and then coil them to form a round loaf.
Place each loaf on parchment, spray lightly with pan-spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let proof until almost double, about one hour.

Place oven stone on rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375º F. Just before baking, brush loaves with egg wash. Bake directly on stone for about 35 minutes until center reaches 190º F. Makes two round loaves (can also be baked in loaf pans).  This recipe is from "The Fresh Loaf".