Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mustard Roast Chicken with Gravy

Just thought I'd let you know that I'm heading to D.C. today with my favorite friend and I plan on coming back with a few awesome restaurant reviews and plenty of photos.

I'm an anglophile. I admit it! My favorite teacher (in fifth grade) was British and he made me fall in love with the accent. I've actually got a pretty mean British accent; I 'ave a pri-ee good Essex accent, I can speak like a posh Londoner, and I 'fink my cockney ain't so bad, gov'nuh. I can remember to substitute "elevator" with "lift" and "cell phone" with "mobile" which I think is a pretty good start. I wish I were British, sigh.

But it's not just the accents that I love, you see. One specific thing I quite like about British culture is the traditional Sunday roast. I love the idea of having an almost celebratory meal (at least) once a week. I think it's just so sweet to gather your family to sit down and enjoy a well-prepared dinner together. Sunday roast is also known as roast dinner, Sunday dinner, and cooked dinner and it's a great tradition of making some sort of roast meat (beef, chicken, lamb) with lovely sides. I think it's a tradition I'd like to adopt.

A few Sundays ago, in the spirit of Sunday roast, I decided to roast a chicken. But instead of doing my usual rosemary and butter massage, I used a little mustard and thyme and lemon and it turned out really delicious.
Ingredients:
5 to 6 lb. chicken
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tablespoons coarse grain mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 + 4 cloves garlic
4 + 4 cloves thyme
1 lemon
1/4 onion

gravy
giblets
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 tablespoon butter
1-1/2 tablespoon flour
2 cloves minced garlic
salt & pepper
splash of cream
Mix together the dijon mustard, coarse grain mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, 4 cloves of garlic, the leaves stripped off of 4 springs of thyme, and lemon juice.
Give the chicken a bath (remove the giblets which are usually stuffed inside the cavity) and pat the skin dry. Shove a lemon half, onion, a few cloves of garlic, and thyme sprigs right up the chicken's ass, wait, no, butt, sorry, let's try that again, cavity and then give it a good massage with the mustard mixture.
I feel like this photo should be censored. It looks so... graphic. I'm sorry, chicken! I'm sorry!
Place the chicken in a 400F oven for 1-1/2 hours or until the internal temperature reads 165F. If your chicken starts to go too brown, cover it with a bit of foil.
If you're so inclined, you can also chuck a tray of vegetables into the oven to roast alongside the chicken.
While the chicken is roasting, you can make some delicious gravy.
Put the giblets in a saucepan with some water and bring to a boil. Let them boil until the giblets are cooked through and the stock is nice and flavorful.
Chop up the giblets into tiny pieces and mince up some garlic.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and add in the garlic. Let the garlic sizzle a little and then add in some flour and whisk until combined. Slowly pour in the giblet stock and whisk to combine and bring to a boil. Add the giblets back into the stock and season with salt and pepper. Finish off the gravy with just a splash of cream for richness.
Pull the chicken from the oven to reveal lovely golden skin. Serve it up whole or carve it before you bring it to the table. I prefer the latter, as it's so much easier to get yourself seconds and thirds and a dangerous knife isn't sitting on the table for anyone to grab.
Plus, if you bring it to the table to carve, you'll have to set the chicken on a platter or a cutting board and she'll end up looking not so cute (at least in my opinion) when she arrives whole instead of portioned into easy-to-serve pieces. I mean, would you look at that sprawled out, creepy-looking chicken? If that photo doesn't push you to carve the chicken, then you're weird.
So, carve that baby up. Then, all that's left to do is set the table and tuck in. The chicken is so tender and moist and flavorful, thanks to all that mustard and lemon. If you're looking for a spin on regular roast chicken, this is a great option. We had our Sunday roast with a peppery arugula salad, roast potatoes, wild rice pilaf, and a generous piles of peas and corn with butter. It looks pretty good, right? Not a bad way to finish off a weekend.
Here's the recipe page:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Inspired by my brunch experience at Isola, I was excited to make my own ricotta pancakes. I was so determined to make these super extra crazy delicious that I even made my own lemon ricotta to mix into the batter. I spent the better part of a Saturday morning researching several different ricotta pancake recipes in preparation. No one said food blogging was all fun and games, though honestly, doing research for recipes is fun to me (ahem, nerd alert). Some recipes used cake flour, some used all purpose flour. A few recipes used buttermilk. One recipe I found insisted on superfine sugar. But the step that seemed to pop up in almost every recipe was to incorporate whipped egg whites. Those whipped egg whites is what gives these pancakes a killer fluffy texture.

So, I did a wee bit o' experimenting and the following recipe is the fruit of my labor. It uses relatively non-fussy ingredients (except for maybe the homemade lemon ricotta) and it's a pretty simple recipe to follow. Though these pancakes are not necessarily ideal for one of those super lazy weekend mornings, they're not terribly hard to whip up. I mean, look at that photo right there; even if you're feeling kind of bum-ish, I think the idea of these entering your hungry tummy would provide enough motivation to break out a mixing bowl or two, right?
Ingredients [serves 2 extra hungry people or 4 normal humans]:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar (packed)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (I like whole milk for this recipe but 2%, 1%, skim, almond, any of these would work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons melted butter (cooled)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
butter for cooking
+ maple syrup
+ powdered sugar
+ fruit

*You can certainly use regular store bought ricotta. I would mix in about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into the ricotta and then let it drain. You could skip the lemon juice bit, but I find that store bought ricotta tends to be quite wet so I would still drain it for a few minutes to get rid of the excess moisture. Use a wet paper towel draped over a sieve set over a bowl and dump in the ricotta. Leave it alone for 20 minutes until a good amount of liquid has dripped into the catch bowl. Another alternative is to buy fresh ricotta from the store; I know my Whole Foods sells fresh ricotta.

A little note about the photo below: with the sun coming up earlier and earlier, my usual food photography spot (the kitchen island) gets flooded with bright light and dark shadows from the windows and trees outside during my usual blogging hours. I couldn't wait to eat breakfast so I just crowded all of the ingredients to the edge farthest away from the window to take the ingredient photo. I struggled with the lighting for about 10 minutes until the sun got high enough to stop the weird lighting issue. I threw away many of the photos I took because they looked so crappy. Part of the problem could be that we don't have any curtains on the windows. Note to self: get curtains.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt. Most of the recipes I discovered during my research called for regular white caster sugar. However, I went for the brown as I thought it would add a subtle layer of that caramelly, molassesy rich flavor to complement the maple syrup that most people want to drown their pancakes in.

It's always a little weird to sift brown sugar because it's slightly sticky. But, since brown sugar also tends to clump, it's a good idea to push it through a sieve.
In a separate bowl, combine the milk, egg yolks, ricotta, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and melted butter. The melted butter should be cooled, by the way. Whisk just long enough to get the ingredients mixed together. If there are some clumps of ricotta, that's okay, just leave them be. A few ricotta clumps never hurt anyone.
Dump the dry ingredients into the milky, cheesy, buttery, lemony mixture and whisk just until combined. Lumps are okay! You don't want to overwork the dough, as it will result in a tough pancake. The batter should be slightly thick and goopy.
Set the half-made batter aside and whip the egg whites in a clean and dry bowl to stiff peaks. The clean and dry bowl is essential to this step. Any hint of oil or grease in your bowl and your egg whites will not whip up. Once the whites are fluffy and stiff, you should be able to hold the bowl upside down without the egg whites falling out.

Also, be careful not to over whip the whites. Over beaten egg whites look chunky, almost curdled, and will plop out of the bottom of the bowl if you flip it upside down. To avoid this disaster, periodically check the egg whites - try tilting the bowl - and as soon as you reach the stage where you can flip the bowl without the whites plopping out, stop beating. If you somehow end up over beating the egg whites, you can save them. Crack open and separate another egg. Add the new, unbeaten egg white to your bowl of ruined egg whites and whip the egg whites again. It'll almost be like a restart button. Similarly, if you ever over beat your whipped cream, you can save it by adding a little more heavy cream.
Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula. To make the process a little easier you can dump in just a half cup of the egg whites and mix a little haphazardly to lighten the batter just a bit and then fold in the remaining whites carefully. The egg whites will add a ton of air to the batter and make the pancakes extremely light and fluffy. You'll notice that the goopy, dense batter becomes lovely and almost foamy after the egg whites are mixed in.
Heat up a griddle pan or your favorite nonstick skillet and swirl a little butter around.
Use a 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup measure to scoop up the pancake batter and pour it onto the griddle. Using a measuring cup will allow you to make all of the pancakes the same size.
Let the pancakes cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until they start to bubble in the center and then give them a flip and cook them for another 3 to 4 minutes. My pancakes look slightly "ombre" because the griddle doesn't always heat up v. evenly but they still look delicious, right?
Plate up your pancakes - I think a stack of 2 is a nice portion size for most - and serve immediately. If you're making these for a brunch with guests, you might want to play fry cook and hand them out as they're made because although these are still quite yummy once they've cooled, they're at their best when they're fresh off the griddle. Set out some toppings so everyone can serve his or herself as he or she pleases.

I dusted mine with a little powdered sugar, topped with a dab of butter, sprinkled on a few raspberries and blueberries, and drizzled on a little maple syrup.
Doesn't this look delicious? Don't you just want to crawl into your computer monitor so you can eat these for real? Well, you can't. But what you can do is go and make these yourself.

These pancakes have an amazing texture, which I owe to the egg whites and the ricotta cheese because they're somehow dense and fluffy and chewy all at the same time. There's so much lemon flavor from the zest and the ricotta which reminds me of summer time. These are so delicious that it's almost like eating dessert for breakfast but there's a decent amount of protein in each serving from the ricotta so I don't feel too guilty. I mean, how could you say no to a plate of these? I know that my willpower isn't that strong. So go on, make a stack, pour yourself a cuppa, and tuck in.

And although Isola serves up a pretty mean pancake, I think mine are better.
Here's the recipe page:
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