Monday, September 21, 2015

Chicken-Sausage Bake

Captain's Log

New mother edition

Hi everyone! Remember me? I had a baby in July….
 …..and since then, well, cooking has not been a priority. I do still cook, but not in the slow, methodical, "let's document this on the internet" kind of way. 

But I haven't forgotten you! I photographed a recent cooking venture as an example of the sort of meal you can prep ahead of time, bake in the oven with minimal fuss, and then continue to enjoy it for a few days. So I present to you…

Chicken-Sausage Bake!

or "meat salad" as we lovingly refer to it.

You'll need:
  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (two packages)
  • Four andouille sausages (one package)
  • Maybe a few strips bacon? 
  • some potatoes (2-3 medium, one mesh bag of little guys. I like yukon golds!)
  • half an onion
  • two garlic cloves
  • fresh and/or dry herbs: favorites include thyme, rosemary, oregano, "italian blend"
  • dijon mustard
  • worcestershire sauce
  • hot sauce
  • olive oil
  • any other little seasonings you like, including smoked paprika, cayenne, soy sauce, sesame oil
I start by setting out two pans: a 9x13" glass casserole dish and an 8x8" dish. This makes a lot of food!  If you have a huge baking pan with edges at least 2" deep, use that! We're going to try and brown all this stuff in the oven, and you'll have better luck if the rubble is spread in a single layer, aka in a large pan or distributed between more than one pan. Make sense? You can also halve this recipe and just use one package of chicken. 

If I plan to bake this right away, I'll preheat the oven to 425°. 

Start by cutting up the chicken into bite-sized pieces. I don't know about you guys, but I've always been confused by boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The "grain" of the meat goes in all sorts of directions and it's hard to know how best to shape the pieces. Right? Anyway do your best with these mysterious cuts of meat. It's true what they say: thigh meat tastes better than breast meat, it stays tender longer, and it's way cheaper.
so far so good…
(note fat trimmings up top. I do this because I'm a little crazy about solid fat on meat. You do not need to do this.)
whaaat is this madness
Then I throw the pieces of chicken into my two pans, attempting to be distribute proportionally for the size of the pan.

Then I cut up everything else! And throw it in the pans.

It's important to use a strongly flavored sausage, like andouille, since it will contribute a lot toward flavoring everything else. If you have an uncooked sausage available, use it!
Onions, garlic, bacon…
lovely rubble
Then I prepare a sauce of sorts. You can come at this a few ways, all of them loosey-goosey in terms of measuring. For example, I think a honey mustard sort of deal could be awesome. (Mix honey, dijon mustard, maybe some thyme, salt/pepper.) Or even barbecue sauce. (Bottled sauce or mix tomato paste, brown sugar, soy sauce, liquid smoke/smoked paprika, garlic powder, splash ketchup.)  Or you could make it "asian" with soy, ginger, and sesame oil. Heck throw in a little pineapple. Or maybe italian dressing! Lemon wedges! Sundried tomatoes! The idea is to mix some stuff together that'll coat the meat/potatoes and lend some flavor. The sausage and bacon contribute a lot on their own, but I've tried this both with and without a sauce and sauce is definitely better!

I prefer "zesty" and "a little bit mustardy". I like to use worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, olive oil, dijon mustard, herbs (italian blend, fresh rosemary) and maybe a teaspoon of smoked paprika. I also add some salt and pepper. As you can see, my mixture totaled about 1/3 cup*.

* After eating this batch, I thought "that could have used more sauce." So… maybe 1/2 cup is a better goal for this quantity of food. 
When it's ready, I pour the mixture over the meat/potatoes and mix it up with my hands. Then I spread everything out so there is as little overlap as possible.
still a lot of overlap. I need a bigger casserole dish!
Now you can cover it in plastic and refrigerate until you're ready to cook it (maybe… 8 hours at most? Not sure of the upper limit here. Do not quote me.). This is a great way to go because everything sort of marinates. But, if you need to bake right away, this will still be awesome without the fridge time. 

Bake at 425° (or even 450°) for 45 minutes, tossing halfway through. This is what it looks like after 45 mins:
By now the meats should all be cooked, but the potatoes, depending on how large you cut them, may need more time. So taste a potato! Keep baking until the potatoes are tender. If it takes a lot longer than 45 minutes, maybe cut the taters smaller next time.

When everything is properly cooked, turn on your broiler for some awesome browning action!

I like to broil this for about 10 minutes (cook for 5, toss it, cook 5 more) or until everything looks browned and crisp to my liking. I did not photo-document this because while it was happening, I was actually on the couch nursing our little one, and I was coaching my husband through it.

Here's what a finished serving looks like:
Not a great picture, but you see the toasty potato on the left? The browned sausage and chicken? 
Prepare a green vegetable for the side and you've got an awesome almost-one-pot meal that should cover your food needs for at least three dinners! Maybe more like six. Depends on the number of eaters and their appetites, of course.

What I like best about this meal is the versatility. All you really need is some meats you like, onion, and potato, and then dress it in flavors you like, then cook it up til it's ready. No pressure! No precision!

Here's a sleeping baby. You've earned it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nutella-stuffed Browned Butter Blondies

Captain's Log

If there's one thing my fella loves more than Nutella, it's blondies. Or maybe frosting. I reserve things like blondies for special occasions because they are so rich and delicious, and it just so happened that a couple of weeks ago there was a special occasion. Time for a treat! For those of you not in-the-know, a blondie is sort of like a brownie in the sense that it's a chewy-fudgy textured-baked bar, however they don't have a chocolate base like a brownie. Blondies are, essentially, chocolate chip cookies in bar form. I found this recipe for Nutella-stuffed browned butter blondies a few months ago, made it once, and knew it was a real winner. They're oopy-goopy, sweet but not too sweet, and the browned butter, for all its annoying fad-ness, lends the bars an amazing butterscotch-caramel flavor which you just can't get from regular butter.

So here we go! The original recipe comes from The Food Charlatan and I'm pretty sure I made little-to-no changes to her method. I just took more photos.

You'll need…
  • a small container of Nutella (10oz), to be divided and almost entirely used
  • 10 T unsalted butter
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 4 oz softened cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lemon Blueberry Cake

Captain's Log

Late is better than never?

Two months ago I got together with one of my oldest friends and we made a cake. We took photos, we laughed, we gorged. I promised to blog that experience. And now I'm doing it, okay!? I've been a little preoccupied lately because, as most of you already know, I'm pregnant! Seven months now. And yadda yadda I've been cooking but not feeling like blogging, more introspective than outgoing, etc. And now this dear friend of mine, the friend with whom I made the cake, has moved to Seattle! It was a very fast thing, I think she herself only had maybe ten days' notice, so we didn't even get to say a proper goodbye. I'm so grateful for the weekend we had together back in February, and that we were able to make something together that I can now document for all of [internet] history to see. 

The recipe was lifted from Sally's Baking Addiction and, I don't know about you, but this cake looks like the ray of sunshine most all of us need by late winter. It's fresh, it's fruity, it's tangy, and just the right amount of sweet so you can eat pretty much more than you intended without noticing. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Whole Roast Chicken with Veggies

Captain's Log

Hello again!

And now for a return to the savory: roasted chicken! A chicken is actually the first item that I blogged a few years ago, but I was still figuring out my blog methods, and I've had a lot more practice at chickens since then. My hubs loves this chicken so much. He requests it maybe once a week? I need more variety than that, so, we eat this probably close to 1-2x/month.

As an overview, my strategy is to keep it simple and let the chicken just taste like an amazing chicken. I don't flavor it much beyond salt, with aromatics inside the chicken which may or may not have any influence at all. I like the skin browned and crispy and the inside juicy flavorful. I cook veggies in the same pan as the chicken so they can soak up those delicious juices. I have a SUPER AMAZING method for roasting potatoes, but I'll save that for another day---today's blog shows potatoes cut up with other veggies around the chicken, and they're pretty darn good that way as well.

Start with a whole chicken. I try to get the organic ones, which at my store are usually about 5lbs. You'll need to add cooking time if yours is larger and, you know, vice versa.

Actually, here's the whole ingredient list:
  • 5lb chicken
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • few sprigs thyme (3-6 will do ya) (dried herbs are fine too)
  • a lemon if you like lemon with chicken
  • 4-5 carrots, more/less depending on the # of people you're feeding. Here I actually used those little baby carrots because they're what I had in the fridge.. maybe two handfuls?
  • potatoes, ideally Yukon Gold. 2-4 total should be enough.
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • salt (highly recommend kosher or coarse)
  • pepper

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Key" Lime Pie

Captain's Log

So, it seems I've run out of savory dinner food items that I make well and haven't posted about already on this blog. I could do a roast chicken redux, since I've tweaked my recipe since the original post. I could also talk a little more about pulled pork because I've found an amazing new method which is simpler and more amazing than you can imagine. (Darn, the ideas start pouring in once I get going…!)

But when you get down to it, I've found myself with lots of free time, and thus the ability to indulge myself when I feel like a treat. This has led me to make homemade desserts more often, despite the fact that my fella is completely and totally content with store-bought ice cream. I think I'm averaging about one homemade dessert every ten days… for a Golden Globes party, I made chocolate chunk oatmeal cookies.  For a get-together with an old friend after that, I made mini cupcakes with my grandmother's chocolate icing. Last week it was Smitten Kitchen's Key Lime Pie, and oh boy, it's a goody.

Smitten Kitchen's writeup for the recipe describes it as a dietary salve of sorts for the wintertime blues. I agree with her! This pie is fresh, cool, tart, and refreshing. It tastes like summertime and is an instant mood booster. I didn't tweak the recipe or method at all, so you can always visit the source for the original recipe and you'd miss nothing but, you know, L Flava.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Best Brownies

Captain's Log

New Look! What do we think?

In other news, this is the third apartment from which I've blogged. Can you believe it? Hopefully we'll be settling down soon.

Here's the new kitchen, before we were really moved in:
Always with the spotlights!
And look! We got a real, adult, not-used couch!

Now, back to food. I have this brownie recipe, and I want to share it with you. It's not my own recipe, technically, nor is it a family recipe. I actually got it from… another blog! I feel a little weird about blogging an already-blogged recipe, but on the other hand the original source doesn't show photos of each step so, I mean, I'm bringing way more to the table, right? Right!

These brownies are fudgy and hefty, with a nice crinkly crisp crust on top. They're pretty much what everyone wants out of a brownie, in my opinion. (Conventional brownie discussions claim there's a group that likes "cake-like" and a group that likes "fudgy," but, honestly, who wants cake-y brownies? The gloopy factor is part of the definition of brownie. Just have cake instead!)

Here's the recipe, from
  • 1 1/4c flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2T cocoa powder (the darker the better)
  • 11oz coarsely chopped dark chocolate (I think hacked-up choc chips would be fine!)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder (I used instant coffee and.. more on that later)
  • 1 1/4c sugar
  • 1/2c brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla
 To start, preheat the oven to 350° and grease a pan. The original recipe calls for a 9"x13" pan, but, well, the only pan I have that meets these specs is glass and a little sloped on the edges, making the edge pieces thinner than the inner pieces. I don't like that. Instead I chose to use a wedding gift, a 9"x9" pan, and hope for the best. I tried to use parchment scraps along the bottom so I could "lift the brownies out" when they were cooled, but, well, it didn't work. DO NOT follow my lead here:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Just Checking In

Hi everyone!

So, I'm not dead. We just moved across the country (two week road trip!) and are just now getting settled back East. We should have internet in our apartment pretty soon, and asap thereafter I'll start blogging again.

After all, I'm just about back to where I was when this blog was launched, which is to say: New City, No Job. Progress!