How to Roast a Chicken

>> Sunday, January 31, 2010

As you can tell from this picture above, my chicken turned out perfect. I normally wait and post the final pictures of meal at the end of the posts, but I just couldn't. Look at that thing, it's just beautiful!

Here's the deal: I was nervous. Roasting a chicken just seems like a big, big ordeal. So many questions arose - what if I overcook it? What if I undercook it? How long should this bird take? What do I do with afterwards? [Please read: I am roasting this chicken on a Friday night and ruining it would really make me a loser]

Luckily, I had my Tom to guide me. Although I don't write about it all the time - my Tom Collichio cookbook is an integral component in almost everything I cook. His book is filled with great techniques that allow me to be creative while understanding the process. The recipe for this chicken I took very literally from his Think Like a Chef cookbook, but now that I understand the steps I have already been brainstorming more creative approaches.

Let's get down to it. Here is how you roast a chicken:

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • a 3lb roasting chicken
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • butter 
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • shallots peeled and halved (optional - but they are mega delicious in this recipe)

Firstly, if your grocery store offers it, I would spring for the extra bucks and try to get a free range organic chicken. There's lots of reasons behind this, but just trust me - its worth it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then place your chicken on a cutting board and remove the inards (I have bought chickens where this is already done and some where they keep the inards inside the chicken - just remove them). Next wash your chicken under cool water then pat dry absorbing all excess moisture.

If you have very sharp scissors, cut the first joint of the wing. Tom advises this and I am guessing the logic is - it's not really adding anything and can burn, thusly it's out. Also trim an excess fat around the "butt" of the bird.

Once you chicken is dry and the front wing removed, heavily salt and pepper your bird. Go ahead and salt and pepper the cavity too. Then add your thyme and rosemary to the birds cavity.

After this Tom advises to truss the bird. I am going to be honest. Didn't do it. Didn't even try. I did not have butchers string and to be honest seemed like a lot of work. If you would like to truss your bird here's a video, but if you don't want to, and as you can see I didn't, it's fine. It's not going to ruin everything.

Now your bird is salted, peppered and stuff with rosemary and thyme. Next we need to heat an oven-proof skillet on medium heat with some olive oil. Once the oil slides easily across the pan, it's time to turn our bird on her side and start this cooking process. Do this on both sides for 7 minutes.

Once the bird has been seared on both sides, lay the bird flat so that the breasts are face up, add the shallots to the pan then transfer to the oven.

After 20 minutes, add in about two tablespoons of butter to the pan (or more if you want - I really love butter) then let chicken roast for another 30 minutes basting about every ten minutes or so.

Once the breasts reach a temperature of 160 degrees shes ready. Remove from the oven and cover the chicken with aluminum foil for 10 more minutes. Remove from the pan and serve with a sprinkle of sea salt. Viola!! Roasted chicken.

This recipe provides the most moist and delicious chicken I have had in my life. I know what you are thinking - do I only feel this way because I made it? Sure, but other people really enjoyed it too, so unless you are calling my friends liars - this is a great recipe.

Not to mention it's extremely cost effective. A 3lb chicken should not cost you more than ten dollars and will serve four - can't beat that!

I will be testing out some new variations on this recipe and of course will let you know if I find one I really like.


First Supper Club

>> Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Recently a group of five girls and I have all gathered to share in our love for food and created a supper club! What is a supper club you might ask? A supper club is simply a club where girls (sorry no boys!) gather together to share food, recipes, tips anything that you can think of related to food. Our club consisted of five founding memebrs: Kim, Mandy, Christine, Sara and myself. For this inaugural meeting we decided the theme was "signature dish" meaning that you should bring a dish that is your signature.

Everything about the night was just wonderful. Kim started the night off with roasted garlic and honey butter that we were to spread on a french loaf. At first I was thought - garlic and honey...hmm interesting combination, but then I tried it. For 24 years I have been a fool for not doing this all the time. It's so simple, yet sincerely delicious. This is going to be a staple at any dinner party that I have.

Next we moved onto the entree and sides. Despite the fact that I thought of the theme "signature dish" I went out on a limb and tried something completely new: djion-sage crusted pork loin with a dried fruit red wine sauce. Um. It was heavenly (see recipe here). I was really proud of this recipe since I took initiative and combined several different flavor profiles that I thought would work. Christine made this spicy and sweet corn casserole that literally left me eating the crumbs off my plate (not to mention that I have hoarding the left-overs) and Sara made a delicious pasta salad with onions, olives and feta that was light and refreshing.

For dessert we essentially had homemade Frosty's and they were AWESOME. I have never been able to figure out what makes a restaurant milkshake better than the ones at home and Mandy provided the answer: malted milk.

This was a great success and I am very excited for the next meeting. I will post the recipes to these delicious treats described soon!


Djion Sage Crusted Pork Loin with Red Wine Sauce

>> Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This recipe comes as a combination of several recipes into one. Here are things I know:
1. Djion and pork just go together
2. Sage is one of my favorite herbs
3. I like dried fruit and wine

Knowing all of these things and looking through some recipes I was inspired to create a djion sage crust with a dried fruit red wine sauce. The combination was delicious and everyone cleaned their plate (always a good sign!)


  • 1-2 lb pork loin 
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup djion mustard
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped sage
  • 1 cup dried fruits such as cranberries
  • 2 oranges 
  • 2 cups red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon - which was sweet but good)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl mix the mustard, white wine vinegar and chopped sage then set aside.

On a cutting board salt and pepper your pork. Heat a skillet with some olive oil on medium heat. Sear the pork on one side for about 5-7 minutes, then on the other side for 5-7 minutes. Once both sides are seared, turn off the heat on the stove top and take our mustard mixture and coat both sides. Really lay it on there - it's not going to hurt anything.

Place in oven for 20 -25 minutes or until internal temperature is 140 degrees (this will give you medium).

About ten minutes before the pork is finished cooking, add the wine, juice and zest of both oranges, dried fruit and sugar to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once the mixture has started to boil, then reduce to low heat. Occasionally stir the sauce and once it is reduced to about half of when it started remove from the heat.

By that time your pork should be done. Remove it from the oven and let it stand for ten minutes. I am bolding this because its so important to not cut into the meat to early as you will release vital juices that will make the meat tender and moist.

After the pork has rested slice and spoon sauce over pork.

This recipe, is easy, cost efficient (this loin feed 5 people easily with left overs for about $3 a serving) and most importantly delicious. I would highly recommend if you are cooking for a large group.


Fun Fact: How to stop water from boiling over!

>> Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So here is a little tip that my grandma taught me: to stop water from boiling over when cooking pasta, add just a little drizzle of oil (olive, vegetable, whatever). This will a) keep the pasta from sticking together (a huge pet peeve of mine) and b) create density in the water so it will not create a mess on your stove. Furthermore, it allows you to keep you boiling water on high heat thus reducing cooking time.

I've read some message boards that disagree with me wholeheartedly (something about adding extra calories - it's less than a teaspoon and then is drained, so, um, get a life) but I have been using this tip forever and have never had any issues.

Have you done this before? What did you think about it?


George's Ocean Terrace - La Jolla, CA

>> Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This previous week I ventured out to Pasadena, California to support my alma mater, Alabama, in their quest for the National Championship. Luckily for me not only did they win their 13th title, but the Tide took me to one of the most beautiful places I have been - Oceanside, CA. 30 minutes north of San Diego this delightful little beach town provided the perfect background to all around great vacation. I was reunited with my former roommate Leah, and once the foodies were back together, good eating ensued. We started off with spicy shrimp and macaroni and cheese and then ended the trip with fresh guacamole and fajitas, but in between our two amazing meals, we went south to eat in La Jolla at George's Ocean Terrace. 

Immediately George's Terrace will take your breathe away. Situated on top of a bluff, the restaurant looks north, over the Pacific. The sun had just set and the stars were peaking their way out. Honestly, I don't think I could have asked for much more...until the mussels passed me by...

Thirsty and starving this crew of 10 got down to business. My lovely date, Elizabeth (and college roommate!), and I split everything we ordered to maximize our options. We/Leah started out with:

  • Charcuterie plate with la quercia prosciutto, pecorino cheese, fig mustard and grilled bread
  • Seared raw tuna with soba noodles and a wasabi soy vinaigrette
  • Mussels baked in their natural juices and butter served with grilled bread

The charcuterie plate was my favorite. The prosciutto was paper thin and an excelled blend of creamy fat and meat. The fig mustard was sweet and tangy and once you put it all on top of the grilled bread. It's over. The pecorino was fine, but in my opinion not really necessary. The raw tuna was tasty, but I feel like the proportion of soba noodles to tuna was off. Soba > Tuna. There were so many noodles and not enough pieces of fish that I was confused about what the focus of the dish was. Should I eat the noodles or the fish? It was fine, but in the end didn't come together for me. However, I thought the mussels were great! Smokey, fresh, tender, all the things you look for in a good mussels dish. Leah said she thought they were a bit bland, and I can see that, if there were a little bit of spice I would not have complained. 

For the main course Elizabeth and I again split our meals:
  • Grilled swordfish with braised leeks, roasted fingerling potatoes and romesco sauce
  • Niman ranch pork chop with panchetta roasted brussel sprouts, soft polenta, honey-molasses glazed apples

The majority of the table ordered the swordfish and seemed to really enjoy it. I will agree with them, the dish was certainly light and pleasant. Was is the greatest swordfish dish I have ever had? No. Would I order it again? Sure. The romesco sauce was really the star of this dish. It was very flavorful and fresh and created a lot of depth for the swordfish. If you tried the swordfish on it's own, it was pretty bland, however with the sauce it was delightful and added not only flavor but color to the plate. Fingerlings are my favorite potato and again, nothing was wrong with them, but they were quite literally just roasted fingerlings, no herbs or any additional flavor. A little garlic and those would have been dynamite. 

The pork dish was actually the opposite, where the protein was ok, but the other components were outstanding. The panchetta roasted brussel sprouts are making my mouth water as we speak. Fork tender and packed with flavor, these could have converted the most holy of brussel sprout haters. The polenta was so soft and really sucked up all of the honey-molasses goodness that was seaping down from the apples. The apples were stellar if you ate them with the pork. Then the pork. Honestly? It was a little tough. Maybe it's because we were using butter knives, but even still it was chewy. I rarely order pork, but when I do, I want it to be succulent. I am not afraid of the fat so I would cut a piece with fat to try and rejuvenate some moisture, but sigh, nothing. The pork was slightly tough and dry. Going back, I would probably choose something different. 

Overall, the atmosphere is worth it alone. Normally when you have a view this good the food suffers worse than one can imagine, however the food here was delightful and reasonably affordable. The steaks looked the best out of all the plates and next time that what I am ordering. Sincerely, I would go back in a heartbeat and recommend to people in the La Jolla/San Diego area. 

Georges was a great find! Perfect for large groups or a date :)

Also - Thanks to Leah and Carson for their stellar photog skills! 

1250 Prospect Street
La Jolla, CA 92307


Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

>> Tuesday, January 5, 2010

As part of my New Years resolution to eat healthier, I have been on a real soup binge. Soups are a great way to incorporate vegetables into your diet and making your own is much better than reheating something from a can (remember canned soup were among the top 10 WORST foods to eat!)

Straight up: this soup takes a while, however I find in the end its so much more rewarding to create something truly healthy, and delicious for yourself. If I can make it after a long day of work and gym, so can you!


  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 medium carrot in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1-2 stalks of celery diced
  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • About 2-3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar (this will really be to taste)
  • 2 tsps of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (this is 100% optional - mine was a little too spicy tonight so it had to be added :) )
  • EVOO
  • 1/2 tbsp butter 

This is going to be a little lengthy but its not hard, so just stay with me. Firstly, get a medium size sauce pan going on medium heat. Add in a drizzle of EVOO and add about 1/2 tbsp of butter. The olive oil and butter is a great combo. The oil prevents the butter from burning while the two distinct flavors just mingle together.

Next, add your onion and lightly salt and pepper (don't need to go overboard on seasoning now). We are just going to "sweat" the onions. After about 5 minutes its time to add our diced celery and carrots. Basically we are forming a mirepoix which will become the flavor base for our soup. That is really all a soup is, chapter, after chapter of flavor building, until you reach the end and the story is complete :)

Stir the mirepoix every couple of minutes to make sure there is no burning or sticking to the sauce pan (remember we are still on medium heat). In the meantime, peel, quarter and slice the sweet potatoes into 1/2 cubes. Take into account that we are attempting to cook these pieces on a similar time schedule. Once the potatoes are cubed add to the pot. Fill up the pot with just enough chicken broth so that it barely covers the tops of the potatoes. Add in your brown sugar and cayenne pepper and mix with soup. Bring the mixure to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, clean your kitchen, load the dishwasher, fold your laundry, drink a glass of wine, there is no need to stand by the pot and watch the soup cook. It may be time consuming, but that doesn't mean you can't do anything else while you wait!

After 30 minutes, open the lid and smell the fruits of your labor. Try your broth. Is it too sweet? Too spicy? At this point its not too late to change the flavor profile, so adjust as you see fit.

Take your soup in batches and puree in either a blender or a food processor. Once the mixture (however now its really looking like soup!) is done blending place over a sieve and into a separate bowl or sauce pan. Sieve? What's a sieve? A sieve is basically a strainer that we are going to use to help our soup become velvet. If you like your soups more like a stew, then simple finish pureeing and return to the pot! Viola! However, if you are like me and love a smooth, creamy soup there's just one more step...

Once you have the puree poured in the sieve over a bowl, let the liquid seep through. Eventually this will leave you with a mess of potatoes, carrots, celery and onion...take a wooden spoon and push the contents from the sieve through to the bowl. Once the content have been pushed through you are left with a velvet like concoction that will make your mouth water. I am not going to lie, this is very time consuming and may not be for everyone. I hate it. I hate it so much. However, now that I have started to use this technique there is no way that I can go back. I just love the texture that it brings! Repeat the sieve process until all the puree is gone.

Return the strained mixture to the sauce pan and reheat on medium-low heat. If you feel like it, here is your chance to add your cream, if not, dinner is served!

I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as I have. It's so tasty!

Will any of you be trying this? How do you feel about sweet potato soup? Let me know!


New Years Resolutions

>> Monday, January 4, 2010

I hope that everyone had a very happy New Years! In the spirit of the season I have a couple of resolutions that I want to make publicly so I can make sure that I keep up with them.

1) This could be the most important: I want to eat better. When I say better, I don't mean cutting fat or calories, but I mean eating better quality of ingredients. Organic butter, turkey with no nitrates, pure olive oil, things that just make sense...
2) I would like to follow through and cook at least one recipe per month from my Tom Collichio book. It's been a challenge, not because the book is hard, but because I have been having so much fun creating my own recipes
3) Lastly, I want to make sure that you dear foodies, always have some delightful and inspiring to read. I can't express how much joy I feel when I get comments or emails from people who have tried my recipes or learned something from the blog, it makes all the time and sacrifice worth it :)

Moving forward into 2010 I hope to live a healthy, fulfilled life, with family and friends always near :)

What are some of your resolutions for the upcoming year?



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