Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sticky Lemon Chicken and Champ

Okay, so the initial Ramsay recipes were good but not absolutely outstanding. The good-yet-not-absolutely-outstanding ones were quick ones, as far as time spent on recipe execution. And then I struck upon the time-consuming-ish stuffed chicken legs recipe which was exceptional. I'm not sure where this one will lie - it's straightforward and quick and maybe not so great? OR it's straightforward and quick yet totally awesome. As with all recipes, there's only one way to find out. Let's roll.

As usual, I had to Americanize the quantities in the ingredients list before I got started.

Sticky Lemon Chicken and Champ
adapted from Channel 4
click to print

1 large chicken, jointed into 8–10 pieces
sea salt
black pepper
3–4 tbsp olive oil
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
Few thyme sprigs
Splash of sherry vinegar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
1 lemon, finely sliced (ideally with a mandolin)
Bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped

2.2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled
sea salt
black pepper
2 tbsp butter
 6–8 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
100 mL heavy cream
100 mL whole milk, plus extra if needed

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Brown the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) with the garlic for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
I did two batches, reserving the first batch on a plate. The garlic went into the skillet with batch two. The splatter screen is definitely a good idea.

Return all the chicken to the pan, add the sherry vinegar and bubble until reduced by half.

This just took two minutes.

Drizzle the soy sauce and honey over the chicken, add the thyme, and shake the pan to mix.

The thyme was supposed to be added to the skillet with the chicken when it was browning. I goofed up and when realizing my error, threw the thyme in ASAP.

Pour in a good splash of hot water and add the lemon slices. Let the liquid bubble and reduce down until syrupy, which will take about 10 minutes or so. By now the chicken should be cooked through.

Meanwhile cut the potatoes into similar-sized chunks and bring to a boil in salted water for about 10 minutes, until tender when pierced with a small sharp knife. Drain well.

2 lbs of potatoes in my 3.5-quart saucepan.

Mash the potatoes while still hot, using a potato ricer if you have one.

Stir through the butter and spring onions.

Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan and bring just to the boil.

Oh poop, the milk and cream boiled over within 4 minutes. Keep an eye on this!

Gradually pour the warmed cream on to the potatoes, mixing well. If the mash is too thick, add a little extra milk. Season generously.

I used only about half the cream mixture.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and sprinkle over the chopped parsley, serve with the champ and green beans.

Crap, I didn't do the green beans.

Excellent! I learned that champ is mashed potatoes with green onions in it I'd call them mashed potatoes with green onions (or in the case of colcannon, cabbage) but they actually have names.

The chicken is nicely browned, glistening, lemon flavored, and juicy. The skin though, is a little too wet and rubbery for my preference so I wound up removing it before eating the chicken. Skin notwithstanding, the chicken is awesome! The only thing I regret is that I didn't have the green beans on the side like the original recipe suggested.

Just an FYI, I used 2.36 lbs of potatoes (mass before peeling) and only half the cream/milk to make the champ. Consider this if you try it.

One last thing, in case you're wondering how this compared to the stuffed legs. Didn't come close. Definitely second. Well, I did like the rice. And the wings. And the orechiette even though it was salty. Let's just say it wasn't as good as the stuffed legs.

  • chicken: $12.02
  • olive oil: $0.24
  • garlic: $0.36
  • thyme: $0.50
  • sherry vinegar: $0.47
  • honey: $0.36
  • lemon: $0.53
  • flat leaf parsley: $0.59
  • Russet potatoes: $1.63
  • butter: $0.14
  • spring onions: $0.49
  • heavy cream: $0.41
  • whole milk: $0.15
Total: $17.89 for about $4.47 for each of four servings.

Grocery List, 072813

Last week, Sunday, the PM's sent an email saying they were going to proceed with the eviction process if I didn't submit a rent check. So I did and I emailed them telling them it was in their box.

Monday the Code Enforcement guy showed up, took photos, listened to me ramble. He'll send a letter with an expected completion date to the owner/PM and will follow up to ensure the work is done. Finally! I'm getting somewhere!

Tuesday I received a 24-hour Notice to Enter so that contractors could see the apartment. I learned from a PM subsequently that ServPro was here and they are waiting on a bid from them. This is actually looking promising.

Meanwhile, the PM's have been trying to rent out a vacant unit for over a week and they are just spamming the shit out of Craigslist. They jacked the price up by about 10-15% over any other 1-bedroom in the complex and keep offering different "incentives" like the OC Register for a year, or they'll waive the credit check fee if you decide to move in that day, which just reeks of desperation. However, I did learn through their multiple postings that they've changed their No Pet stance to Cat Friendly. That's convenient for those of us that have had cats for years. *eye roll*

In the food world, I am not really in the mood for more chicken but I have to go to Costco to get my cigarette fix anyway and well, this next chicken recipe should be straight simple. Enough so that I can jam out a couple of desserts! Fruity ones!

Sticky Lemon Chicken and Champ
Cherries with Almonds and Mint
Roasted Peaches with Vanilla, Spice and Honey

  • organic chickens: $24.05
  • chocolate chips: $6.99
  • TOTAL: $31.04

Grower's Direct:
  • nectarines (4): $1.72/1.93 lb
  • cherries: $4.36/2.19 lb
  • lemons (2): $1.05/0.88 lb
  • green onions: $0.49/bunch
  • russet potatoes: $1.63/2.36 lb
  • Italian parsley: $0.59/bunch
  • mint: $.29
  • whole milk: $2.79/half-gallon
  • TOTAL: $13.92

  • peach brandy: $12.99
  • amaretto: $19.99 (on sale!)
  • TOTAL: $32.98

Grand Total: $77.94
Total for the year: $1140.65

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cantine Florio Marsala

Normally I post about new ingredients BEFORE I use them. This time around, it's after. There was just too much going on and I didn't squeeze these photos in.

I have no idea what makes for a good Marsala. And I'll be honest, I have no idea what prompted me to select this one. The description isn't horrible though, but sales and marketing people are paid for that.

The only thing I can tell you with certainty is that the cork is one of those stubby ones. Is there a cork shortage or have wine/liquor makers learned that you don't need two inches of cork to plug the bottle sufficiently?

My lack of knowledge means I need to look this up in the Larousse:
A Sicilian fortified wine, made around the town of the same name. It is produced in a type of solera system (see sherry) and the finer examples are matured for some while - the type described as vergine must be at least five years old. Marsala tens to be full in character and brownish, and - which will surprise many - it can be dry as well as sweet. There are also Marsalas that are flavoured with almonds, coffee, chocolate, tangerines, and other fruits. Marsala all'uovo is a rich sweet drink consisting of Marsala enriched with egg yolks. Marsala is used in various recipes, notably veal piccata and zabaglione.
Of course, I had to follow up and look at sherry. Here's the excerpt about solera systems specifically:
The rather complex procedure whereby it is fortified with brandy and matured takes place in bodegas and is known as the solera system. This varies from firm to firm, but essentially consists of a series of casks graded by age. When a consignment of sherry is required, wines are drawn off from the casks according to age and character and then blended. The arrangement and proportions in which the wines are drawn off and the casks refreshed from other wines is both complex and individual to the particular sherry house concerned. The name solera is given to both the process and the casks.
Cantine Florio Dry Marsala, $11.99 a 750 mL bottle when on sale at BevMo!.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cost of Take-Out Lunch, Week Ending 072613

Monday: PTO
Tuesday: chicken and risotto
Wednesday: Sushi Plantation on the boss
Thursday: chicken and risotto
Friday: Buffalo Wild Wings on a coworker

Played golf after work Friday and while I started off really shitty, I did manage to par three holes including the last, ending on a nice note!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Legs on Risotto

First I started watching videos on how to bone out whole chicken legs. I know the Pepin method, which would leave the legs boned out and hollow, but I wanted to add another technique to my repertoire. I wanted to see how best to cut through the flesh and remove the bone. There are a few good videos but of those I watched liked this one the best. He explains well, has nice technique and the work is clean. When I did it, it looked more like this. Essentially the same thing, but, well, watch and you'll see.

The bones went into the freezer for stock.

And then I watched this video a couple times, the reason why I decided to make this dish in the first place. It only takes Gordon 3 minutes to make! *wink*

Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Legs on Risotto
adapted from Channel 4
click to print

6 boned-out chicken legs
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 lb bacon
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp Marsala
dark chicken stock

3/4 lb mild Italian sausage
1/3 c pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
4 thyme sprigs, leaves only
3/4 c chopped Italian parsley

400 g Arborio rice
4 c dark chicken stock
3/4 c shelled broad beans
3/4 c frozen baby peas, thawed
50 g freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra shavings to serve
2 tbsp butter
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

To make the stuffing, mix the sausage with the pistachio nuts, thyme, and parsley.

Open out the chicken legs or thighs and divide the stuffing between them. Roll up to enclose.

This took about a minute per leg.

Cut a very large piece of foil. Oil, salt and pepper the foil. Lay about four bacon slices on the seasoned foil, overlapping them slightly.

Put one stuffed chicken portion on top and wrap the bacon around to cover completely by wrapping each chicken parcel tightly in foil, twisting the ends to seal. Roll back and forth to even the shape. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
This took about 2 minutes per leg. The first one I had to start over because the foil ripped. I started getting frustrated since the bacon was flopping around but once I got the hang of it found it wasn't a completely horrible task. If you have thick foil, use it.

Poach the chicken parcels, two or three at a time, in a large pan of boiling water for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.

Allow to cool in the foil, then refrigerate for 30 minutes (this helps the bacon to 'set' around the chicken).

Within a couple minutes of cooling, I noticed water pooling on the plate. I let them cool 30 minutes before putting them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and pat dry to remove any excess moisture.

It started getting dark and the kitchen light had to come on. :(

To make the risotto, wash the rice in cold water and strain off. Put into a pan with 500ml of chicken stock, 500ml water and a generous pinch of salt.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and blanch the rice for 7 minutes.

I practically sabotaged this by letting it boil, rather than simmer, for a few minutes too long (i.e., double the time) as I tried to figure out what the hell to do about the fava beans.

Drain well and spread out on a lightly oiled tray to cool down.

I don't know with certainty that I oiled the baking sheet first.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan.

Carefully sauté the chicken parcels until the bacon is brown and crisp on all sides. Transfer to a warm platter and rest in a warm place.

I had run out of bacon and didn't wrap every single boneless leg. Quite honestly, I was glad to have run out.

Deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar.

Add the Marsala and stock. Let bubble to reduce by half, then skim off excess fat and check the seasoning.

What, exactly, is the technique to skim off the fat from such a small volume? I skipped that part. 

To finish the risotto, place the blanched rice in a shallow pan and pour in just enough chicken stock to cover. Bring to the boil quickly and cook until nearly all of the stock has evaporated. Taste the risotto to see if is al dente, adding a little more stock if it needs a bit more cooking.

Since my stock was still partially frozen, I considered this enough to cover the rice. Looking at it now, I have my doubts. However, since I cooked the bejesus out of the rice earlier, it was very nearly done already so I didn't sweat it. The texture was just fine when tasting it.

Add the broad beans, peas, Parmesan and a few knobs of butter. Cook for a further few minutes until the beans are tender.

Season to taste. Finally add the fresh chives if desired.

Cut the chicken into thick slices and arrange over the risotto. Pour over the Marsala mix and serve immediately.

As if a metaphor for my life, the final picture is out of focus. Doh!

My kitchen is a freaking wreck with dishes stacked in high piles, tasting spoons all over the place; the soles of my shoes are slick with chicken and bacon grease which the carpeting gradually soaked up as I traversed to the bathroom (for obvious reasons) or my computer for impromptu Googling. Of the Ramsay recipes I've tried so far, this one really shines - this is what I've been expecting from him. I was starting to wonder about these recipes after last nights spaghetti.

The chicken is delightfully juicy, perfectly tender, yet not at all soggy like one (I) might expect after boiling in water 25 minutes; the stuffing tantalizing, and the crispy bacon delectable. I'm just astounded and cannot put into words just how marvelous this truly is. As Ramsay might say, it's "A-bsolutely spect-A-cular". Now my interest in doing a stuffed whole boneless bird has been revived and the dude has a recipe for that. The only one critique I have is about the bacon. Some of the strips were so long it wrapped around the chicken and overlapped itself. The overlapped part didn't crisp and I ended up picking the rubbery bits off. I should have used regular thickness bacon rather than the fancy-pants $11.99/lb thick-cut bacon.

Considering I nearly killed the rice, it turned out quite well. I was looking at email when blanching the rice and didn't realize I was boiling the fuck out of it until I realized the sounds I was hearing was the rice gurgling like mad. Luckily, I rescued it before it was overcooked but it was definitely more than blanched. I sort of wondered about just adding the beans and peas in right then, but Google taught me I needed to prepare the fava beans, that it wasn't just a matter of taking them out of their pods. When finishing the rice, I basically added a little stock, heated the whole thing up and added the finishing ingredients, stirring everything to melt the butter and cheese as well as warm the beans.

Overall, the chicken and rice were worth the effort. I have four more foil-wrapped chicken legs in the fridge, ready to poach. I'm not sure if I want to freeze a couple or just charge ahead with poaching them tomorrow night. I'll be eating rice for a few days anyway, so...

I labeled this post with 3 hours which includes my Googling and fava bean prep. You can expect it to take less time but there will not be much in the way of idle time if you follow each step continuously. You'll be hustlin'.

Total: $32.53 or about $5.42 for each of six generous and hearty servings. Quite honestly, it's about $2.71 for each of 12 normal-sized, yet still filling, servings.

Ok, so I kept a couple of chicken parcels in the fridge. The last two did go into the freezer and I'll update this post when I dig them out and learn how they fared.

I boiled about 5 quarts of water in an 8-quart Dutch oven. That volume probably was not necessary. A chicken parcel was added and allowed to cook 25 minutes.

The chicken parcel was removed from the hot water and then refrigerated for an hour. NOTE: I made it a point to leave the foil opening side down to allow any excess water to drain. It didn't seem to make a difference.

The chilled chicken parcel was removed from the foil wrap and dried by rolling on paper towel. The bacon stuck to the chicken like glue as it did day 1, so no worries about unraveling.

Oil was heated until hot in a cast iron skillet. The bacon-wrapped chicken parcel was placed in the skillet and rotated until the bacon was crisped, about 7 minutes.

This time I wised up and dug out the splatter screen.

The chicken parcel was allowed to stand about 10 minutes before it was transferred to a cutting board for carving.

Cut the chicken into thick slices and arrange over the risotto.

The lack of Marsala sauce should tell you how much it meant to me. The chicken is so good, you really don't need it. A nice touch, it is not a necessity. Don't get hung up on the wine if it's a deal-breaker!