Archive for the 'henhouse' Category

emergency tonic

My mom had an emergency appendectomy last week. Is there any other kind, really? My appendix decided to cash things in when I was seventeen. And it too was an emergency. In retrospect, the real emergency came several days after surgery. I was sent home to recover, but I never did. I have a vague memory of dad slinging me over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and laying me into the back seat of the family toyota for a run to the emergency room. The details from there on out are sketchy at best. Being force fed what seemed like a considerable amount of chalky, white, nauseating barium is the only thing that really stands out. The rest is all hearsay. My intestine had twisted over on itself and to complicate matters, it had leaked. Infection was raging. A second surgery was ordered.

Evidently the prognosis was dire. Dire enough that my dad felt compelled to smuggle our family cat, Max, into St. Paul Ramsey Hospital. Here was a man who didn’t mess around. He knew just how to get to the core of things. He drove Max downtown, stuffed him into a soft sided brief case, rode up several flights in the elevator, and waltzed into my room. They didn’t stay long, but long enough. Somehow I managed to pull things off. Or rather my surgeon managed. I spent another solid week in the hospital, but eventually I got home. Home to Max. Home to my parents who nursed me back to life.

Needless to say, I was glad to learn of the tremendous technological strides that have been made in the world of appendectomies in the last 20 years. Three cheers for laparoscopic surgery. But medical advancements or not, I went to help my mom recover. She’s always been tough, and this was no exception. Her sturdy farm-girl roots shinned from the get-go. The surgeon made her promise to at least fill the pain prescription. She did, but the bottle sat in the bathroom, unopened. She was in and out of the hospital in under 24 hours. And once I got her home and settled in, I proceeded to do what seems to me like the obvious thing to do in almost any situation – I cooked.

I made silky parmesan risotto with mushrooms, creamy macaroni and cheese soup with roasted tomatoes on top, and a ginger chicken soup. I think everyone should have a reliable, cure-all soup recipe in their back pocket to pull out in times of need. And this is my new standby. It’s flavor is very grown up – not like any other chicken soup I have tasted. The broth is beautifully clear and infused with ginger. The chicken itself comes out amazingly tender and packed with the rich flavor of the broth. I know this is a tonic I will crave the next time I’m under the weather.

This recipe originated from Nina Simond’s A Spoonful of Ginger, but I found it in the Essential New York Times Cookbook. Hesser’s version calls for Shaoxing rice wine, which I didn’t have, so I subsistuted sake – and would do so again. I loved the flavor. Depending on the situation, I can see serving just the broth by itself or with the chicken loosely shredded into the soup, which is what my mom and I did. There was plenty of left over chicken for other uses. In fact my mom told me tonight that she ate the last of it in a kung pao chicken.

Clear Steamed Chicken Soup
Adapted from the Essential New York Times Cookbook

One 3 1/2 pound chicken cut into 10 pieces, trimmed
(I opted to remove a good deal of the skin, but left some in tact for flavor)
1 3/4 cups sake
10 scallions, trimmed and smashed gently with the flat blade of a knife
12 quarter-sized discs of fresh ginger, smashed with the flat blade of a knife
6 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt
Chopped scallions for garnish

Heat the oven to 425ºF. Fill a pot large enough to hold all of the chicken pieces with water and bring to a boil. Blanch the chicken pieces for one minute and drain.

Combine the everything but the salt in a Dutch oven or casserole with an oven prof lid. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, then place the lid on top. Pour an inch or two of boiling water into a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the pot of chicken. Place the pot of chicken in the hot water bath and put the whole shebang in the oven for 2 hours. Check the water level in the roasting pan and replenish with more boiling water if necessary.

Once the soup is out of the oven, skim the top to remove the fat. Remove the scallions and ginger. Add salt and adjust to taste.

Add a handful of loosely shredded chicken to each bowl. Serve the hot broth sprinkled with scallions.

take out a chicken

I got the very best sort of e-mail from my husband Mark last week. The subject line said “take out a chicken.” The body contained just a link. I clicked it, gave it the once over, and eagerly proceeded to the freezer to pull out one of our Pasture Perfect Poultry chickens (of which I can’t speak highly enough – and I am not an overly huge fan of chicken). And then I waited for it to thaw. Finally, on Thursday evening, I had Mark do the dirty work of piecing up the chicken while I got the marinade ready for an overnight soak.

It felt like Friday night would never come. But five o’clock eventually rolled around and I took the opportunity to mix us a couple of my favorite winter time cocktails – a shot of Sailor Jerry’s mixed with grapefruit juice and a splash of soda. And then we got to work – if you can even call it that. We simmered the chicken in the same pot that it had been marinating in. While it cooked, we put on a pot of jasmine rice and rustled some Valentine green beans out of the deep freeze. We left things to simmer while we sipped our drinks and reflected on what felt like a very long week. (I even used our titanic ice cubes. Having little ice bergs float in my drink and watching the big ship slowly go down is a sure way to cheer me up.)

And thirty minutes later things were indeed looking up (ice cubes aside). We sat down to a steaming hot platter of Chicken Adobo. It looked heavenly and smelled even better. It’s a good thing we did our chit-chatting over cocktails, because conversation rapidly died off when we picked up our forks. At some point I did mutter that the recipe reaffirms my belief that anything involving a can of coconut milk is bound to be good. We did give the chicken a quick spin in the broiler while the marinade reduced – which I highly recommend. It caramelized and crisped up the chicken just perfectly. The sauce meanwhile, was creamy, slightly tangy, and loaded with flavor. And the tender, coconut milk simmered garlic cloves were outta this world.

I only have one piece of advice to offer on this bitterly cold Wednesday afternoon. Take out a chicken.

Chicken Adobo
(Adapted from the Purple Yam’s Memories of Philippine Kitchens)

2 cups coconut vinegar
(or rice vinegar, but I would add an extra 1/4 cup, as it is less tangy than coconut vinegar)
2 cups coconut milk
1/3 cup soy sauce
20 garlic cloves, peeled (the more the merrier – you won’t regret it)
4 bay leaves
5 whole birdseye chiles (the cutest little chiles I’ve ever laid eyes on)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

One (5-6 pound) whole chicken, quartered, and cut into pieces

Combine all of the marinade ingredients – ideally in a stainless or enamel pot with a lid that is large enough to hold the chicken pieces.. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. If the pieces are not completely submersed, flip them once or twice throughout the day.

Heat the chicken and the marinade over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure the chicken is covered in the marinade, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a broiler pan and broil for about 4-5 minutes. Flip the pieces, spoon a little marinade over them and return to the broiler for another few minutes, While the chicken is broiling, raise the heat under the marinade pan to medium-high, and reduce the sauce until it is the consistency of heavy cream, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and chiles. Return the now lightly browned chicken to the sauce and cook until just warmed through.

kale crunch

Time for another Dark Days Challenge local foods report. Our last two meals were classics – grilled chicken and grilled pork chops. We do a fair amount of grilling in the winter. It’s oddly satisfying to stand on the snowy deck, fully bundled up, dreaming about about summer barbecues and cold drinks. And in fact I was in so much of summer mood that I couldn’t help myself. I cheated on local night. Once the thought of my all-time favorite summer bbq chicken recipe entered my head, I couldn’t shake it. I had to have it.

The bird itself came from just down the road. But the brine I soaked it in was anything but local. I e-mailed Mark at work and asked him to pick up the interloper on his way home – a liter of coke. Mixed with a half cup of kosher salt it makes a splendid bath for the butterflied and pierced chicken to soak in. After a quick towel off, I slather the bird with a paste of honey, olive oil, garlic, salt pepper, paprika, and dry mustard. Then onto the grill it goes, where it is promptly flattened beneath a few fire bricks. And it never fails to come off the grill crispy, salty, sweet, and juicy. For local night I made a honey mustard dipping sauce. It is also quite tasty with a bourbon based sauce, but I thought one non-local sin was enough for the night. We rounded out the meal with a baked butternut squash from the garden and roasted kale also from the garden, via the freezer.

Kale Crunch
I have many favorite ways to prepare kale, but my latest fixation is to simply coarsely chop it, spread it out on a heavy baking sheet, splash a little olive oil, salt, and pepper on it and roast it in a 250º oven for about a half hour until it is crispy. The result is something so crunchy and salty and earthy tasting that I have to seriously hold myself back from eating the entire tray of it in under 5 minutes. Kale? What kale? If it does stick around long enough to make it onto a serving platter, I generally give it a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for a little zing. It’s also quite magnificent to hold the leaves up to the light before popping them in your mouth – a visual and a taste sensation.

Meal seven of the challenge is somewhat of a winter standby for us – and one of our favorites. We always get a few extra packages of chops with our pork share, specifically with this recipe in mind. The original rendition came from a neighbor and friend of ours, Tony Thier. His is a skillet based version, but we generally prefer to cook our meat outdoors if we can. So we salt and pepper the chops and throw them on the grill. But instead of taking them off onto a serving plate, we put them in a pre-warmed heavy skillet and loosely tent them for a bit so some of the juices run of into the pan. The chops get moved to a warm plate and the pan juices are gently heated with a few generous spoonfuls of homemade sauerkraut. And to really knock it out of the park we stir in enough plain yogurt to make a creamy, tangy slurry to spoon back over the chops. Add in some warm buttered mashed potatoes and garlicly roasted brussel spouts and suddenly a 7 degree winter night doesn’t seem so bad.

Here’s to more darks days ahead!


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