I hate cloves.
I mean I really, really, really hate cloves. And it’s all my fault. You see when I was 17, I was an idiot. That statement stands for about 75% of the stuff I decided to do at that age but in this case, I’m thinking about one specific incident.
At some point, I managed to procure a pack of illicit clove cigarettes. Which in the idiotic way that 17-year-olds think was WAY COOL. You know what was even cooler? For me and my friend, Amy, to drive to a monastery near us and smoke the whole pack on the grounds outside. Nothing says you’re hardcore like going to a nearby religious institution, sneaking around outside, smoking a whole pack of clove cigarettes and feeling like death warmed over. I spent the next week feeling like my lungs had melted & like my stomach was going to revolt at any moment. Clearly, not one of my brightest ideas and I swore never to repeat it. I think this was the only time I have uttered “I will never do this again” and I didn’t do it again. Such are the evil power of clove cigarettes.
I’ve occasionally uttered “I will never drink bourbon again”.Clearly, you can see from the picture above that that utterance has never come true.
My clover aversion has caused problems for the rest of my life. For example, I was a counselor at my college for high school debate camps. The first thing these 16 & 17 year-old kids would do was head down to Georgetown and buy fake IDs and clove cigarettes, because they were as stupid as I was. (Note – I never had a fake ID. Not because I didn’t want one but because the idea of my baby face being able to use a fake ID successfully was laughable.)
Since I was their counselor, I had to make sure they were in by curfew and try to ignore the fact that they all reeked of clove cigarettes. I tried to explain that by smoking clove cigarettes, they were melting their lungs but they tended to ignore anything that we counselors had to say. It’s also difficult to assert your authority when you’re gagging at the smell of your campers. I always thought that would be a good life lesson for them – see what happens when you smoke clove cigarettes? Your counselor throws up on you. That would teach them.
When I tell people about my clove aversion and why I have it, I usually get two responses. Most people snicker at how stupid I was. And then there are those who shudder because they too were idiots. This aversion to cloves has often gotten in the way of my love for good food. I have a low clove threshold and if a recipe goes over that line, I find it difficult to enjoy it. Cloves are my tequila of the spice world.
Melissa Clark’s roast chicken recipe from Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make has cured me of my clove distaste. I love this recipe. I want to marry this recipe. The first time my husband and I made it, we ate it straight off the roasting platter without bothering to transfer it to plates. It is easy to make, so comforting while still tasting new & exciting, and it’s wowed everyone I’ve served it to. The carrots caramelize in the chicken fat and the chickpeas get deliciously crispy while the garam masala gives it a little taste of exotic. And the crispy pieces of roasted lemon? So good.
I’ve taken to making the chickpeas and lemon mixture by themselves and I plan on adapting it this week by making it with chicken leg quarters rather than a whole chicken. I also made a very small change to the recipe. I added onion pieces in with the chickpea mixture. There’s something about chicken schmaltz and onions together that I can’t resist. I also have no roasting rack so I used a sturdy baking rack. I strongly urge grinding your own garam masala. We own a cheap coffee grinder and it couldn’t be easier to use. When you buy packaged garam masala, it oftentimes can taste stale and the flavors are muted. Take five minutes and grind your own.
Crisp Roasted Chicken with Chickpeas, Lemons, & Carrots with Parsley Gremolata
Adapted from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark
2 ( 15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, or 3 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 large onion (peel, cut into quarters and cut quarters in half)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala (recipe below)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 (3 1/2 lb) chicken, patted dry
4 thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed and cut into 1-inch rounds
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Quarter the lemons lengthwise and remove any seeds. Thinly slice 6 of the lemon quarters crosswise. In a bowl, toss them with the chickpeas, onions, olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
2. Season inside of chicken cavity with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fill the cavity with remaining 2 lemon quarters and thyme sprigs. Rub the outside of the chicken with the remaining tablespoon of garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Then rub the butter all over the skin.
3. Scatter the carrots in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place a wire roasting rack over the carrots and arrange the chicken, breast-side up, on a rack. Transfer pan to the oven, stirring the carrots once or twice, for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
4. Scatter the chickpea and lemon mixture into the bottom of the roasting pan. Continue to roast chicken until chicken comes to 165 degrees or thighs juices run clear when pierced with a fork, 45 to 60 minutes longer. Let chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
5. Meanwhile, combine the parsley, lemon zest and garlic in a bowl. Spoon the carrot-chickpea mixture onto a platter. Arrange the chicken on top and sprinkle the gremolata over the entire dish and serve.
Adapted from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey
1 tbsp cardamom seeds
1 tsp black cumin seeds(regular cumin works fine)
1 tsp whole cloves
1/3 of a whole nutmeg (I grate this into the grinder)
1 medium stick of cinnamon (about 2-3 inches)
Place in a clean coffee or spice grinder and grind as finely as possible.
Today, I’m considering turning my food blog into the only non-cooking food blog out there. I never want to cook again. I plan on living the rest of my life on cucumbers, sandwiches, sweet tea and frosty glasses of booze. Or at least until the temperatures in my kitchen fall below 90.
Living in an old house is a wonderful adventure. It also can bite the big one. Our kitchen has no walls and no A/C. So the only way we have to moderate the temperatures is to not turn the oven on and to only use the stove for short periods of time. We also keep it as dark as a tomb. Shades only get raised for pictures, then they’re closed again and we shuffle around in the darkness, praying that a cat doesn’t trip us.
I made pimento cheese the other day to post on the blog. It’s delicious. Two different kinds of cheese, piquillo peppers and all sorts of goodness. And it looks like it was made out of Velveeta, red construction paper and glue. It looks like a giant, gooey, orange hot mess. All because it is so freaking hot in our kitchen. So that recipe will come another day when I can make the pictures look as appetizing as they should. Instead, I want to talk about chicken. This delicious, amazing chicken.
It’s wonderfully moist and smoky and sweet and salty. The garlic, lemon, onion and tea add complexity to the brine that transfers to the chicken. It’s fabulous hot off the grill and it’s equally delicious when you sneak into the kitchen late at night, stand in front of the fridge to cool off and eat it like a thief in the night. It’s the perfect summertime recipe. You don’t have to heat up your kitchen and it is delicious. It also goes well with frosty glasses full of booze. What’s not to like about it?
Sweet Tea-Brined Chicken
Adapted from Southern Living
Makes 6-8 servings
2 family-size tea bags
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, halved
2 (6-inch) fresh rosemary sprigs
1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
2 cups ice cubes
1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb.) cut-up whole chicken
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for ten minutes. Discard tea bags. Stir in sugar, kosher salt, onion, lemon, garlic, rosemary and cracked pepper. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely (45min to an hour) and stir in ice cubes.
Pour mixture into a large zip-top bag. Add chicken to bag and let marinate in the fridge for 24 hours. Remove chicken from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Discard marinade.
If you are using a gas grill turn on the burners on one side, close the lid until the temperature reaches approximately 350 degrees. For a charcoal grill, place briquettes along one side and wait until they’re gray and no flame is present. Place the chicken skin side down on the grill on the opposite side of the lit burner or charcoal, away from the direct heat, and put the lid back on the grill. After 20 minutes flip them over and cook for another 40 to 50 minutes with the lid on. If you have a meat thermometer, the chicken should be at 160 degrees. Remove the lid and place chicken directly over the heat, skin side down to crisp the skin. Remove to a platter, let stand for 5 minutes and serve.
You know what’s awesome? Wearing a ‘Praise the Lard’ tshirt and warming up for a 5K while being surrounded by elite marathon runners. I loved watching all these hardcore athletes warm up knowing that they would be powered by Powerade while I would be powered by bacon.
Another thing that’s awesome? Running through campus early on a Sunday morning (through Frat Row no less) and seeing all the myriad walks of shame going on. There’s nothing like seeing college kids trudging along in various states of undress with obvious hangovers to make me feel virtuous (and old) as I jog by.
You know what’s made of awesome sauce? Finishing your first 5k while being smoked by a 6 year old. Watching him run was a treat. He started quite a bit ahead of us and this kid was bound and determined to run the whole thing, regardless of his parents’ plans. We caught up to him right before we entered the stadium and watching him sprint to the finish line while Marcus and I cheered him on actually made my heart squee.
You know what’s really, really awesome? Realizing that beer and margaritas work so much better to soothe away post race pain than Bengay.
You know what is amazingly awesome? Getting through months that have seemed like one sucker punch after another and knowing that we never quit running. Through all the frustration, anger and sadness we kept putting one foot in front of another and we never stopped. Shinsplints tried to slow us down but we persevered. And what was our reward? Waking up at 6am to get ready to put one foot in front of the other. And doing it surrounded by people of all ages, athletic ability and body types. And knowing you’ve got friends out there in that race sucking it up and running/walking until the end. And crossing that finish line located on the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium. That, my friends, was awesome.
You know what’s else is really, really, really awesome? This chicken.
Read Lobel’s Meat and Wine for more wonderful recipes like this
Oh sure – I thought it would be tasty just based on the ingredients list alone. Chicken is browned in butter until it’s golden brown. Onions and shallots are browned into a gorgeously caramelized allium mix. Wine is added to deglaze the pan and get all the fondy bits of goodness mixed into the sauce. The chicken finishes cooking in this sauce so that the shallots, onions and wine soak into every crevasse of each piece of chicken. Then, creme fraiche and mustard are combined at the end and whisked into this mixture to make a sauce that’s smoother than a satin dress. If that wasn’t enough, sprinkle the whole delectable mess with Gruyère cheese.
All of those ingredients are things that I would gorge on by themselves but when you combine them together? This is a recipe where the sum is greater than the parts, so great that I was briefly rendered speechless when I tried it. Trust me folks – that’s about as common as a day in Tennessee where no one bitches about the football coach.
I have the hottest sous chefs – my husband and this gorgeous creature.
This is not a recipe for those of you counting calories. The skin stays on the chicken. Creme fraiche is no diet food and sprinkling cheese all over it certainly does nothing to slim down its nutritional profile. But I’m a big believer in eating real food that tastes good, even if it has to be in smaller portions The gluttony you may feel before you dig in will quickly disappear, alleviated by the rapturous sighs you make while eating it. It’s that good.
Chicken Gratin with Onion Sauce and Gruyère
- Kosher salt
- One 3.5 to 4lb chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 yellow onions, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
- 1 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 5 ounces Gruyère Cheese, coarsely grated
- Cut the chicken into 8 serving pieces.
- Generously salt the chicken on all sides. In a large saute pan, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Work in two batches if needed so you don't overcrowd the chicken pieces, cook the pieces for 5-6 minutes per side until golden brown for a total of 12 minutes. Remove the smaller breast pieces after 4 minutes per side to make sure they're not overdone. Remove the chicken to a plate loosely tented with foil and put them into a 200 degree oven.
- Drain the oil from the pan leaving 4 tablespoons and turn the heat to medium. Place the onion and shallot in the pan and saute until the onion pieces start browning on the edges, around 10 - 12 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the wine simmering for two minutes while scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Return the legs, thighs and any juices to the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes per side for a total of 10 minutes. Add the breast pieces and cook for 5 minutes longer making sure all the chicken is cooked through. Remove the pieces from the pan to a plate and keep warm.
- Whisk the creme fraiche, mustard and a teaspoon of salt into the pan. Preheat the broiler. Spread half the cheese over the bottom of a casserole dish large enough to hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer. Place the chicken over the cheese, and then pour all the onion sauce evenly over the chicken. Spred the remaining cheese over the chicken and sauce. Place under the broiler until the cheese is starting to brown.
Note: When cutting up the chicken, you’re going to end up with eight pieces. First remove the entire wing on both sides and set those aside. Cut off the leg quarters on both sides (leg and thigh) then separate them. You’re going to filet off the breast and tender on one side, and then repeat on the other side. You will then cut the breasts in half cross ways. That will give you your eight pieces. You can use the back and wings to make stock.
We’re not big Valentine’s Day celebrators in our house. It’s not that we don’t celebrate it but Marcus and I don’t usually make a big deal out of it. A lot of that is intentional – I’m not really fond of the crass commercialism that fuels this holiday. We usually get one another cards and sometimes we exchange small gifts. One memorable Valentine’s Day I decorated his car is a most embarrassing manner. (Hint – it involved giant granny panties.) Sometimes I went the DIY route.
(Needless to say, Marcus has held on to this for a while. I also wanted to note the disclaimer that this coupon could only be redeemed at the store of Kristina)
But big presents, flowers and expensive chocolates? That’s not us even if we had the money. Which we don’t because we spent it on Valentine’s Night dinner.
The Valentine’s day feasts that Marcus and I make usually involve at least a bottle of wine. A fresh loaf of bread, preferably homemade is always in attendance and usually the entire thing is eaten over the course of the evening. Dinner tends to be a bacchanalian affair, involving large quantities of cheese and at least one kind of cured meat. Good olives are a must and if we have any left, we always eat my marinated sun-dried tomatoes. If there’s arugula in the garden, I make a simple vinaigrette and serve it as a bruschetta topping. By this point, we’ve usually finished the bottle of wine and the preparation of dinner flies by in an alcohol-infused haze involving half the dishes in our kitchen. It always is the best meal we’ve ever made that can never possibly be replicated again. Dessert is usually more wine along with the chocolate bars I bought as an ingredient for a luxurious chocolate dessert that requires too much fine motor control to attempt. Sometime we whip the heavy cream and dip the chocolate into that. If it seems like it might be too dangerous to involve power tools in this process, we just dip them in peanut butter. Then we act out the “You put peanut butter on my chocolate/You put chocolate in my peanut butter skit”. Then we drink more wine.
For breakfast the next morning, we have hangovers and Advil. Seriously – you can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day better than this.
Except for the fact that I’m getting old as dirt. And drinking copious amounts of wine doesn’t make me feel any younger. In fact, the older I get, the worse I feel after a night of even moderate drinking which is depressing as hell.
My pants also don’t fit which is wholly unrelated to the amounts of bread and wine I consume, I’m sure. It’s really hard to bring the sexy back when you’re lying on your bed, sucking your gut in so that you can zip your pants shut. It’s also hard to be sexy when you can’t breathe wearing said pants. Of course my husband’s suggestion is to just quit wearing pants but every time I do this the FedEx and UPS guys that come to the door look at me weird. My neighbors are used to this sort of behavior from me but I’m getting tired of being known as the crazy woman on our block.
Marcus and I are dieting right now because I want to fit in my pants again. For us, the easiest way to do this by following the South Beach Diet which greatly restricts the amount of carbs you can eat during the first two weeks. It’s not Atkins strict but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t cut someone for a slice of bread. In order to keep myself from assaulting random bread-carrying strangers, it’s important that we make delicious South Beach Friendly food. You can’t go wrong with a good steak and shiitake mushrooms – it doesn’t seem like diet food and it always feels like celebratory food to me.
For the record, filets aren’t necessary for this dish – any good steak will do. You also don’t have to use shiitakes. If money is tight, do what we do which is to combine button mushrooms with a few shiitakes. Make sure to drink this with wine. Followed by lots of water and an Advil chaser.
Filet Mignon with a Shiitake, Red Wine & Shallot Sauce
Feeds 2 crazy kids in love
2 4-ounce filet mignons (1 1/2-inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 shallot, minced
1/2 pound shittake mushrooms, remove stems & slice
1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
Put a 10-inch heavy bottomed pan over medium to medium high heat (We set our temperature right in the middle of those two settings). Add 1/2 tablespoon butter. When butter is bubbly, add shallot to pan. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times, until shallots soften. Add shiitake mushrooms to pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the edges of the shallots and mushrooms start to turn brown. Add broth, wine and soy sauce to pan. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about ten minutes. Remove this mixture from pan and set aside. Wipe pan out with a paper towel.
Add 1/4 tablespoon butter to pan. Allow it to become bubbly and add filets to pan. Cook for four minutes – once the filets are in the pan, don’t touch them. Flip steaks and cook for four minutes. Remove steaks from pan and keep warm. Add the mushroom sauce mixture back to pan and bring this mixture to a low boil. Stir in the remaining 1/4 tablespoon of butter. Turn heat down to low so that mixture is simmering. Add filets back to pan and cook for 3 minutes (This will give you a filet that is rare to medium-rare. If you want your steak more well done, cook longer. If your filet is not as think, reduce cooking time.)
Please click here for a printable recipe!