Friday, December 28, 2012

For the Love of Roast Chicken

I think I must have been bad this year or something, because Santa is out to get me. His new version of coal in your stocking is to give you tons of great gifts that you can't use. I've had to exchange 4 gifts that were broken or weren't the right size. And I lost a card with a check in it…for the second year in a row. No wonder Santa has me on his naughty list! Regardless, I had an amazing Christmas with my family. A white Christmas! We woke up Christmas morning to about 4 inches of snow that had fallen over night, and it continued to snow throughout the day. We ate a ton of good food (our go-to Christmas Eve crab legs and Christmas day prime rib), lounged around all day every day, filled up on cookies and pie, and had a great time. 

But enough about that, I'm sure if you're anything like me, the last thing you want to think about right now is holiday baking. So today I want to talk about something totally simple and un-Christmassy: roasted chicken. A friend recently told me that in the (American) Deep South, they call chickens yard birds*. I like it, I get it. My parents’ chickens flee the coop and mill about the yard all day. They’re totally yard birds. 

As you may recall, I was late to the chicken roasting game. But alas, since that fateful day, guided by the words of Thomas Keller, I’ve become a chicken roasting fiend. I just can’t get enough. It’s easy! And cheap! And boy is it ever delicious. Every chicken I roast—whether I butter it or oil it (or follow Keller’s lead and simply salt & pepper it), add special herbs and spices, use lemons, put it over vegetables, use a recipe, or just wing it (get it, wing it!?)—it turns out amazing.

Want a roast chicken tip? The pan juices, people! The pan juices! Either pour that delicious goodness over your carved bird before serving, or serve alongside your chicken for dipping. Sometimes Evan and I just use our hands, and dip every tasty bite into that amazing pan juice, licking our fingers along the way. It's barbaric. And its the best possible way to do it. We ate an entire chicken by ourselves the other night. It was just so good we couldn’t stop. Don’t judge… I have a few more days until resolution time!

My new favorite roast chicken recipe is from Lottie and Doof. Great site, great chicken. I've made a variation of this bird twice now. Smoky paprika, garlic, yukon gold potatoes. It smells so amazing while it's cooking that I can hardly stand it. I also just received a hilarious cookbook for Christmas that I can't wait to try—Fifty Shades of Chicken—which is full of mouthwatering chicken recipes and photos. Food porn, literally! The book is a parody on the 50 Shades of Grey series, but if you want my opinion, skip Mr. Grey, go straight to the chicken. 

Sorry… I hope we can still be friends, but I happen to hate 50 Shades of Grey. When the books came out, I heard a lot of hype… was I curious? Sure. Did I buy all 3 books on my Kindle? Absolutely. Did I like it? It was mildly entertaining, and yeah, that first “adult” scene caught me off guard, made me blush a little. But, first of all, the area near Pike Place Market is NOT called the “Pike Market District.” No one says that. Ever.  And the “inner goddess” thing? Cute the 1st time. Mildly annoying the 10th time. I WANT TO PUNCH YOUR INNER GODDESS IN THE EFFING FACE the 500th time. 

Oh.. sorry, where were we? Oh yes, chicken. Wait until after New Years—it's bad luck to ring in the new year with chicken, because the bird scratches backwards (rather than moving forward)—and then go for it. I plan on working a roast bird into my weekly winter/spring rotation, and I suggest you do the same! 

Here are a couple of goodies to get you started. Follow them exactly, or use them as a guide... trust me, a great roast chicken is hard to screw up! 

Happy New Year… I'll see you in 2013!

*In writing this post, I also learned that yard bird is slang for prisoner, which is not my intended use, and I mean absolutely no offense. However, this is a good time to plug an amazing non-profit organization that Amanda has been volunteering at: Books to Prisoners. Based here in Seattle, BTP’s volunteers send donated books to prisoners around the US, in hopes to foster a love of reading and encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement. Check it out! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

San Francisco

On Friday morning, Evan and I got off the plane in San Francisco (my first time there!), hopped on the BART, and plugged ourselves back in to Facebook, Twitter, and email. That's when we discovered that during the short time we were up in the air, something horrible, so so terrible, had happened. It seems silly to write about holiday cookies or post stories about eggnog so shortly after such a tragedy. Some of my favorite food bloggers and writers have expressed their feelings so amazingly—I think we all feel a little unsure about whether or not it's ok to move on, to write new blog posts or retweet recipes. A lot of people don't get to just move on. So, maybe it's too soon for a rum ball post, and it's definitely too soon for this country to stop mourning, but it's exactly the right time to grab everyone you love and hold them closer than ever. To celebrate life and the people around us—parents, friends, sisters, brothers,  teachers, little ones. 

That's what Evan and I did all weekend. We visited with old friends, shared delicious food, and spent every spare moment with our little nephew, that baby we're both so in love with and obsessed with, even after only 7 short months and 2 quick visits. 


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012: Waffle Cookies

It’s holiday cookie swap time! This year, I decided to participate in THE BEST COOKIE SWAP EVER: The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! How could you not love an event that combines some of the best things ever: baking and eating cookies, supporting a good cause, receiving fun mail, exchanging recipes, and meeting new friends. Here’s how the creators, Lindsay and Julie, describe the swap:
"The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap brings together food bloggers from around the world in celebration of all things scrumptious. The premise is this: sign up. Receive the addresses of three other food bloggers. Send each of them one dozen delicious homemade cookies. Receive three different boxes of scrumptious cookies from other bloggers. Eat them all yourself (or, you know, share. If you want. No judgement either way.) Post your cookie recipe on your blog. See everyone else’s cookie recipes. Salivate. Get lots of great ideas for next year's cookie swap. Rinse and repeat."

To impress my three lucky matches, I wanted to make a cookie that I love, and that other people may not have tried before. I immediately thought of my mom’s waffle cookies with maple glaze. While my dad was always the baker and sweet tooth in my house (not to mention the waffle fanatic), it was Mel who always made the waffle cookies.

Growing up, Amanda and I were obsessed with waffle cookies. Along with Mel’s smoky salmon dip, Oma’s poppy seed struedel, and whole pomegranates from Grandpa’s tree, waffle cookies were one of those things that the other kids (in rural Washington in the late 80s/early 90s) didn’t have in their lunch box. Imagine the cafeteria trading power we could have had! But alas, we hung on to our waffle cookies for dear life, they were far too delicious to part with!

Mel’s cookies have shortening, but I went with full on butter for a cookie that’s buttery, dense, salty, sweet, and just downright delicious. And top that with sweet maple-cinnamon glaze….need I say more?
Waffle Cookies with Maple Glaze
1.5 cups unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1.5 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
4.5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
For glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
a pinch of cinnamon
Cream butter, both sugars, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and salt, and mix into butter mixture until stiff dough is formed. You'll need to chill your dough before cooking, but you have a few options. You can either roll dough into walnut sized balls, spread out on a cookie sheet, and pop in the freezer for 30-60 minutes, or you can roll into logs, freeze for 30-60 minutes, and slice off half-inch thick slices to cook. Cook in a hot waffle iron until golden brown. 
Whisk together glaze ingredients, and drizzle over cooled cookies. 
These hold up really well in shipping, and also stay fresh quite away. To package for shipping, I filled 2 little treat bags with 6 cookie each, and put those side by side in a plastic container filled with tissue paper, which went into a shipping box filled with packing paper. 

Wait, there's more!
Looking for more recipes from the cookie swap? Check out the blogs of my random matches: the gals I sent these bad boys to, as well as the gals who sent cookies to me!
Heed the Feed: 
My Kitchen is Open:
The Right Recipe:
a periodic table:


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter Bourbon Cocktails

My dad and I have a darker skin tone than Mel and Amanda, we have dark hair, and both have a penchant for dark drinks. The two of us go crazy for super dark, heavy beers—porters and stouts—and dark booze. When I was a little kid, and no one was looking, I would sneak a taste of John's whiskey and cokes, dipping in my finger in for a quick taste. It was the 80s, that kinda stuff happened.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love whiskey? Well, I love it. Quite a bit. Especially this time of year. Cold, dark winter days just beg for a warm, spicy whiskey drink. By the way, have you ever wondered what the difference is between different kinds of whiskey (bourbon, rye, etc)? Well, wonder no more. As usual, Wikipedia has us covered

You can shake together a ton of combos of tasty fall flavors for a delicious whiskey cocktail. Apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, lemon, rosemary—all go great with whiskey. Just start throwing stuff in a shaker. If all else fails, add more sweet stuff. Or more whiskey. 

Snappy Bourbon & Cider Cocktail 
Makes 2 small or one large drink

1/2 cup fresh apple cider
2 ounces good bourbon
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
splash of bitters
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
pinch of fresh nutmeg
3-4 smashed cardamom pods
cinnamon sticks and apple slices for garnish

Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a shaker with ice, and shake everything is incorporated and shaker feels chilly to the touch. Strain into glasses, and serve with a cinnamon stick and apple slice. 


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Slow Cooker Rootbeer Pulled Pork

December! How did that happen!? I guess I've been a little distracted lately, considering…I started a new job! I was at my old job for 5 years, and leaving felt a bit like a breakup. But I assured them it wasn't them. It was me. And it was an awesome opportunity to put the last 5 years of knowledge and skills to the test, and step out of my comfort zone. Taking a leap is always a bit scary, but I highly recommend it. I can't even tell you how much this change reinvigorated me. I cleaned out my closet and updated my wardrobe. Joined a gym and started working out. My new office, though only a few blocks from the old one, is introducing me to a new part of town, so I'm even seeing my city in a whole new light. I feel ten pounds lighter. If only I really was ten pounds lighter… 

Speaking of losing weight… good thing I joined that gym, because winter cooking and holiday baking are ramping up. And I love winter cooking and holiday baking… like, a lot! Who wants to eat a salad on a cold, stormy day? Not this girl! I want something warm and hearty, the kind of dish you can imagine yourself tucking into while sitting around a fire after a day on the slopes. Ok, so I don't actually do winter sports. But you know what I mean. I'm talkin' soups, stews, saucy slow cooked meats. Slow cooked anything, really! 

This slow cooker pulled pork has become one of my faves. I usually do pork shoulder in the oven, and I make a mean pork shoulder.  But this one, this one in the slow cooker with rootbeer, it's something special. It smells unbelievable while it's cooking, so it's probably best for you to be out of the house for a few hours, so you don't go crazy while it' simmering away all day. I served it with coleslaw (this is my favorite basic slaw recipe), buns, and a tangy hot mustard BBQ sauce, but it's so good you could skip the extras all together (though I would really recommend that mustard sauce…on everything!). Try a spoonful of pork atop a baked sweet potato, mixed with pasta or rice, or even just in a dish on its own. 

Slow Cooker Rootbeer Pulled Pork

3 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into 3-4 large chunks
canola oil
1 onion, diced
1 bottle root beer 
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon chili paste (or more, depending on your spice preference)
1 tablespoon tomato paste 
salt and pepper

Whisk together onion through tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste, set aside. 

Pat the pork chunks dry, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Starting with one chunk at a time, brown pork on all sides. Add pork to slow cooker, top with marinade, and cook on high for around six hours. 

The pork should be tender enough to easily shred with a fork. I like to just do it right there in the slow cooker, then stir it up in the sauce, and serve a big, saucy heaping scoop…into my mouth. 
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