Tarragon Chicken

I have vague memories of my mother making this a long time ago, when we lived in British Columbia.

The combination of fresh tarragon and lemon and salt permeates every inch of the chicken and it’s lovely and moist.

So take your whole chicken.  This little baby is a local Newfoundland chicken, one of the few forms of livestock produced in-province.  You can tell that they haven’t used any growth hormones because of how small it is.  And they taste really good.

Remove all the giblets and cut off the excess skin.

Work your fingers under the skin to make room for the herbs ‘n’ such.

In a small bowl, mix together some tarragon leaves and some sea salt.  Squish up the tarragon a bit.

Work it under the skin of the chicken, and then tuck in a few lemon slices.

Put extra tarragon and lemon inside the chicken.

Put the chicken in a roasting pan, or a baking pan with a small rack underneath.  This keeps the chicken out of the juices it will leak during cooking and prevents it from getting soggy.  I trussed the chicken up a little bit to give it some shape.  Just tie a bit of kitchen string around the legs and tuck it under the wings to hold everything in place.  Just keep in mind that trussed chickens don’t cook as evenly as untrussed chickens.

We’re going to do a one-dish meal here, so I’m also roasting some potatoes, together with some carrots.  Slice them up and toss them in the pan around the chicken, with a drizzling of oil and some salt and pepper.

Roast at 375°F until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 180°F.  Stir up the vegetables once or twice to make sure they brown evenly.  Stick a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (without touching the bone) for this reading.  We have a digital thermometer from Lee Valley that beeps at us when the chicken is done.  Also, if you cut into the chicken at this point, all the juices will run clear and the meat will be white, not pink.  I’m going to turn the carcass and leftovers into chicken noodle soup.  Stay tuned.

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Newfie Miso

I have been craving miso soup for forever and a half.

From what I’ve read, miso soup is characterized by a stock of dashi, which is composed of dried fish and/or seaweed and/or mushrooms, into which softened miso, or fermented soybean paste, is suspended.

The rest of the ingredients are up to you, really.  Traditionally the ingredients are limited to two or three items, chosen for their contrast: items that float versus items that sink, contrasting colours, textures, shapes, and flavours.   But you can put in whatever you want.I had a fun time at the Magic Wok Grocery this afternoon and I went a little crazy with possible ingredients. In this case, though, I wanted to limit myself, so I picked out preserved turnip (rather salty and crunchy), which I cut into slivers:Kai-lan, or Chinese broccoli, which is both sweeter and more sour than regular broccoli, if that makes any sense.  It’s called ‘broccoli’ for that little vestigial flower thing at the top.Also it’s nice and crisp.  I chopped it into small pieces and sort of julienned the stalks:Dried mushrooms.  Nuff said about those.  I bought all sorts of weird fungus, but I decided to take it easy on my first try and went with a western medley:A nice dark soba (buckwheat noodles) which I broke in half for easier eating:Dashi is non-existent here, so I decided to McGuyver up my own.  I used a combination of powdered vegetable stock and dulse flakes.  It’s the dulse that makes this recipe into a Newfoundland recipe, as the stuff is harvested right off the coast here.  The dried mushrooms I added to the stock early so that their essences could mingle as well.

Here is what I did.  I’ll try to quantify things for you, though I mostly just went with “some” and “a little”.

Start with about 4 cups water.  Add in 2 heaping tablespoons powdered vegetable stock and bring to a boil.Reduce heat, plop in about 3/4 cup dried mushrooms and 2 tablespoons dulse flakes and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.  This is so your mushrooms can absorb all the water they need.Add 1/4 cup slivered preserved turnip.  It gets less salty once it’s in the soup.About ten minutes before serving, chuck in a small bunch of soba.Five minutes before serving, add in about 1 1/2 cups chopped kai-lan.Dissolve about 1 1/2 tablespoons miso (I used the hatchi variation) in the broth (it’s easier to do this if you scoop out some of the broth and mash it into that first) and serve hot.

Miso is meant to be made up fresh each time, but I hear that leftover soup is also good cold.  I  could be wrong but I’m taking it for lunch tomorrow so we shall see.

Hash Wednesday

The title for this recipe comes from the Pie, who is a very punny guy.  Yeah. Ha ha.

The recipe itself started to come out of Martha Stewart, but then we changed  it so I think we’ll call it our own.

Cube up 2 large potatoes (we used PEI Russets) and boil the crap out of them for about 15 minutes.

You have two options here when it comes to the chicken.  You can either take a chicken breast with the bone in and the skin on and bake it for 35 minutes at 450°F, or you can take a boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut it in half horizontally, and fry it up in about 15 minutes. Either way, sprinkle some thyme, salt, and pepper on the chicken as it cooks.

However, you do it, cut the resulting cooked chicken into cubes and set aside.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet (use the one you fried your chicken in, if you did that), and sauté half a large onion, diced, until tender.  Use a wooden spoon.

Add a teaspoon of garlic in a jar and heat for 30 seconds.

Add your potatoes and cook, stirring often, until browned (about 7 minutes).  At this point, add in 2 tablespoons water.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with the spoon to bring up all the good stuff that’s starting to stick and keep cooking those potatoes for another 5 minutes or so. 

Add in your cubed chicken, together with about 1/4lb baby spinach (I’d say about 5 loosely packed cups).  Stir it up until it’s all wilted, about 2 minutes.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Serves two.

Go-to Garlic Basil Vinaigrette

Salads here in Newfoundland is a rare t’ing, b’y.  At least for us.  It’s hard to get vegetables that you want to look at that closely.

What this means is we don’t buy those huge bottles of salad dressing, which are usually too strong, too full of extra stuff we don’t want to put in our bodies, and last for way longer than you like the flavour.

We make our little vinaigrettes instead.

The trick with a good vinaigrette is in the emulsification of the olive oil with the vinegar.  You can do this by shaking it vigourously in a closed container, or by whipping it to a frenzy with a whisk.  The choice is yours.

Here we’ve got about two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, three tablespoons vintage balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon dried basil and another teaspoon minced garlic.  But you can put whatever you want in there.

Shake it up good and stick it in your fridge for up to two weeks.  The flavours will actually improve the longer you leave it in there.

Freezing Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are rather expensive here in Newfoundland, so I’m rather loath to let them go bad if I’m not going to use them right away.

This trick I got from my mother, who, I think, got it from Martha Stewart.

Make sure your herbs are still unwashed, or very well dried.
It takes some THYME to de-stem these leaves!

Take your unwashed herbs to be frozen and remove the leaves from the stems.

Remove the leaves from the stems

Place the leaves in a resealable plastic bag and suck out all the air.

Chuck them in the freezer.  Now you will have fresh herbs on hand when you want them.  Simply grab a handful of frozen herbs and crumple them in your hand.  No need to chop!

Chopping Herbs

Instead of blindly stabbing your chopping knife into a pile of herbs, ending up with bits of leaf everywhere and uneven pieces, try this trick next time.

Put the herbs you need to finely chop in a close pile.  Scoop them over themselves so that you make a folded mass.

Fold the herbs over themselves and hold on tight.

Hold the leaves tightly with your hand and hold a sharp knife with the tip touching the cutting board with the other.

Using the tip as a fulcrum, start your chopping, making sure to always hold the leaves tightly but not, of course, to cut your fingers off.

Carefully chop the herbs while still holding on tight.

You’ll find this way is a lot quicker and you can mince the herbs more easily from this stage, if needed.