Lessons from Culinary School, Main

Honey Brined Chicken

If you’re anything like me, then you love the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven. It’s comfort food, right?? But, if you’re also like me, you get into a rut – plain old chicken, but still that yummy smell!

Plain no longer! This week at chef school I learned (among other things) the secret to brining! So here we go!

300 ml Vermouth
240 ml Kosher salt
140 ml honey
1 onion sliced
1/2 lemon, sliced
6 garlic cloves, smashed
45 ml black peppercorns
15 ml celery seed
3 sprigs Rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs parsley
7 bay leaves (broken a bit)
1 chicken – about 2.5-3 lbs

Mix all the brine ingredients together

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Bring to a boil in a large pot with about 2L water

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Cool the brine mixture to room temp – hint, if it’s cold outside, just cover the pot and place outdoors!

Rinse the chicken, and submerge in the brine. I used a small bucket for this. Cover it!!!! Brine overnight, or 6-8 hrs. (Absolute minimum 4 hrs.) it’s important that you refrigerate the bucket of chicken while its brining…. If not, a trip to the ER is going to be in your future – can you say “food poisoning”?

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Thoroughly rinse the chicken and place it in your roasting an, or whatever you want to use! I massaged it with some delicious Olive Oil and a bit of salt & pepper. Feel free to add herbs!

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Roast it in your oven at 375 for 25 minutes, then lower the temp to 325 and continue for an additional 45 minutes (or until your chicken is cooked, the juices run clear). Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Here’s my chicken still in my LeCreuset. We gobbled up way too much and way too fast to get a good picture of it sliced so pretty!

Enjoy! And Happy noshing,

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on the road

Provence – Part 2 – Cooking!

Cooking.  In France. In a traditional Provence Farmhouse. Am I dreaming? Nope!  It happened.  Thanks to our wonderful trip coordinators (France Just for You) Emilie booked us a wonderful experience!  Leaving our B&B after breakfast on August 24, we took a leisurely drive (not really). We found Catherine’s farmhouse after driving by it and then doubling back.  Her house is set back off the street and unless you are really looking for it, you’ll miss it.  Nestled in the trees with vineyards all around, it’s a beautiful setting.

Catherine's beautiful farmhouse in the Provence countryside
Catherine’s beautiful farmhouse in the Provence countryside

While we waited for Catherine to get set up for us, we enjoyed some coffee in her garden. Her beautiful garden.

Hanging in the garden
Hanging in the garden

Everything set, we headed into her kitchen.  Catherine’s kitchen is beautiful. Gorgeous copper pots hanging from the traditional yellow walls with blue trim.  Beautiful blue and white ceramic tiles adorned the walls.  I felt like I was in a Monet french painting!  Just gorgeous! SIgh.

Catherine's kitchen
Catherine’s kitchen

Catherine led us through a three-course meal. First, a wonderful chilled zucchini soup. Second, a delicious stuffed chicken breast. Finally a finish with a wonderful light dessert.  So, let’s dig in and get started.  Catherine put us both to work. I was more excited to see Scott working in the kitchen and learning a new skill.  Now, before you get all “oh how sweet”, Scott is actually a very good cook. He’s made dinner for me on more occasions than I can remember.  We both work long hours and my commute is over 2 hours (each way), so by the time I get home, I’m often too tired to do much.  If Scott is home before me he often has dinner on the go before I get in!  So, on days when I do have time (and energy) I love to cook yummy things for him!  Okay, back to our lesson…

We started with the soup. Cutting up zucchini and adding it all to a pot with some chicken (or vegetable) stock and a handful of arugula, a bit of salt & pepper and simmer away!  Once it was all cooked, we pureed the soup and Catherine set it on ice in the fridge to chill.  At serving time, we ladled it into beautiful martini glasses, dropped in 3 whole cherry tomatoes and garnished it with fresh arugula.  Result? A refreshing, delicious chilled soup!  So yummy!

Our yummy soup!
Our yummy soup!

Meanwhile, while the soup was chilling, we started the dessert.  Again, with gorgeous glasses, we crushed some high quality cookies – a cross between arrowroots and shortbread… is that even possible? Oh yes it is!  So, with the cookies in the bottom of the glass, we added the next layer – we whisked together mascarpone cheese and…. something I cannot remember (I’m SO sorry!) this ended up being a light fluffy treat, topped with fresh sliced peaches.  I didn’t even take a picture as I was too interested in eating it!  On the bright side, I’ve emailed Catherine and asked her for the recipes!! Once I get these from her, I’ll make it again and take a picture hopefully before it gets eaten!  Let’s move on.

While dessert was sitting in the fridge to stay cool, we started our main course.  Catherine gave us wonderful plump chicken breasts.  We slit these open making a pocket in one side. These were stuffed with a goat cheese mixture – yes, I don’t have the recipe for that either… it’s coming, I promise!. Suffice to say everything was smelling wonderful!  I love the smell of anything savory cooking!  So, once the chicken breasts were stuffed, each was then wrapped with prosciutto and ‘tacked’ shut with a toothpick.  After taking about a medium sized white onion and slicing it thinly, Catherine pulled out a large skillet.  With a good splash of olive oil in the skillet and getting it heated up, we added the onions to the sound of that wonderful sizzle.  The chicken breasts were placed on top of the onions and we let the chicken cook. Once cooked, the chicken and prosciutto became one (oh yes, oh yummy, oh so yummy) and the onions were caramelized.  Catherine put on the polenta and got that going.

Prepping, with our Aussie cooking mate Kathy!
Prepping, with our Aussie cooking mate Kathy!
Under Catherine's watchful and expert eye!
Under Catherine’s watchful and expert eye!

 

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cooking the chicken!
cooking the chicken!

 

Scott, Kathy (our Aussie cooking mate!) and I got set up outside in the garden and were eagerly awaiting our zucchini soup. Mostly we were looking forward to the chicken.  As you can see, below, the chicken looked AMAZING, the side of caramelized onions were sweet, and the polenta was amazing!

The final result!  Looks yummy doesn't it?  It was!!!
The final result! Looks yummy doesn’t it? It was!!!

Over dessert and coffee, we talked. We compared cultures. And despite the differences and language barrier, we all agreed on one thing – neither KFC nor McDonald’s is REAL food!  We really couldn’t sit around all day, well we could but we didn’t want to wear out our welcome, and so goodbyes were said and we headed out to find Gourdes.

This cooking time in France was a real highlight for both Scott and me. Scott learned something new about using fresh garlic (darn, all my secrets are getting out!) and I learned a new way of doing chicken that was moist (from cooking over the onions) and delicious.  I’ll be making this recipe the next time we have guests for dinner.  Start to finish.

Thank you Catherine!  Nous avons eu un très bon moment et j’ai vraiment apprécié vous rencontrer!

I hope I said this correct: We had a very good time and really enjoyed meeting you.

Happy noshing!

Eating Clean!

Cuban Papaya Salad…. so yummy, and clean!

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The weather is so hot out here, I haven’t cooked for awhile so I needed to get back into the kitchen!  So, what could I make that was ‘home made’ but wouldn’t heat my kitchen up like crazy! (By the way, SO thankful for central a/c!)

Going through some past issues of Clean Eating magazine and came across this gem from June 2011.  I’ve made it a few times, but it’s funny how you forget how wonderful it tastes – and how easy it is – until you make it and taste it again, like it’s the first time.

Rich tastes, fresh ingredients, filling.  What could be better?  So, are you ready?  Let’s get started!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

2 TBSP slivered unsalted almonds
1 TBSP olive oil
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (5-6 oz)
pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup Israeli couscous
1 cup diced red onion (about 1 small) (divided 3/4 + 1/4)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water (use the broth! so much better!)
1 cup cooked black beans rinsed and drained – I use President’s Choice Blue Menu – yummy!)
2 packed cups fresh baby spinach
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp raw honey
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp cumin
1 1/2 cups diced papaya
1 lime cut into wedges, optional

Let’s start with the almonds – in a large non-stick skillet on med-high toast the almonds, not too long, just until they are fragrant. Remove them and set aside.  Add the olive oil to the skillet and cook the chicken breast (season it with salt/pepper on both sides first).  Be careful not to overcook the chicken, you don’t want it tough… just so it’s not pink anymore – so about 5-6 minutes per side.  Remove it, set aside. When it’s cooled a bit, shred it using two forks, and set aside.

Add the couscous and 3/4 cup of the red onions.  Toast the couscous lightly and the onions are soft. Add the broth and cook until the liquid is all absorbed (about 4 minutes or so).  Add the black beans and cook for another minute. Add the spinach and stir in until it’s a bit wilted (1-2 minutes)  Stir the chicken into the mixture, as well as the cubed papaya and the dressing. Toss it all together with the toasted almonds and the remaining onion. Serve… while still warm and enjoy!!!   You can put the lime wedges on the top for a visual appeal.

**Dressing: mix the lime juice, cumin, red pepper flakes and honey together**

This makes about 6 cups….  it’s very filling so you can serve it between 2-3 people as a main dish, or as  delicious 1 cup sides, perhaps, for a bbq’d dinner?  For my husband and I… it’s a full meal, with enough left over for my lunch the next day!

Thank you – and acknowledgements to “Clean Eating Magazine”, and Tosca Reno for being my inspiration!

So until next time – happy noshing!