How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chipotle Orange Roast Chicken

This roasted chicken was among my most popular recent photos, and it did not disappoint in real life. It was, in fact, among the most delicious chicken roasts I have done. And it was quite simple, thanks to our increasingly favored recipe source, Meredith (Blue Jean Chef) Laurence's Comfortable in the Kitchen. We have cited this book quite a few times since my mother gave it to us, and it is among the first cook books to be added to my virtual Goodreads bookshelf.

As the author notes in the margin above this recipe, this chicken gets very dark on the outside because of the spice rub. Inside -- as she also noted -- it is especially moist.

The rub is made by mincing 2 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (even our rather pedestrian local grocery has this in a can) and mashing it (including some of the sauce) together with 1 tablespoon each of orange zest, ground cumin, brown sugar, and salt. I had somehow forgotten the cumin -- hard to believe, since this is a favorite spice in our house -- when I heard it named on a cooking show that was playing on the radio while I cooked. So I added it to the rub just in time.

The recipe calls for beer, wine, water, or broth to be placed in the roasting pan. Since I was using our upright roaster, I filled the center well with some of our recently-brewed pale ale. This is the main reason we use this funky roaster, and it was Step One in making this an exceptionally moist bird.

Step Two was the Blue Jean Chef's genius suggestion to cut the orange (from which I got the zest) in half and put it inside the chicken. It was a big orange, so I quartered it and put it in the chicken.

I then roasted this in the convection oven, starting at 425 or 450F and then turning it down. This chicken was bigger than the four-pounder called for, so the baking took longer than expected, a bit under 2 hours. As the Chef suggests, I checked it with a thermometer to ensure it had reached 165.

This was every bit as delicious as it looks. We look forward to even better results at some point when we try this in the Big Green Egg.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An easy (and tasty) dessert

Last spring James made a simple rhubarb compote with rhubarb, sugar, and water. We ate about half of what he made on top of some vanilla ice cream, and froze the rest. I noticed it again recently and then happened upon this recipe from the Christian Science Monitor for a fancier compote, so I took last year's creation from the freezer, dumped it into a saucepan and heated it, then added 1/4 t of cardamom, and some grated fresh ginger. We also had about 2 T. of agave nectar left in a squeeze bottle, so I added that as well, and then a dollop of honey to boot. I cooked it all until the original was completely melted, occasionally stirring. To serve, we mixed the new, improved compote in with some vanilla yogurt. The additional flavors mellowed the tartness of the rhubarb, making an especially delectable seasonal treat.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Balsamic Glazed Caprese Chicken

I love Caprese Salad. The taste combination of fresh basil (my favorite herb) with tomatoes and mozzarella is my favorite thing about summer. Although we are a bit out of season for this one, the recipe looked so tempting I didn't want to wait to try it, so we bought the necessary ingredients from the grocery store and were not disappointed in the outcome. The chicken was juicy, and the glaze made from garlic, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar provided a sweet and sour taste. The recipe came from Café Delites and can be found here. We served this with roasted, seasoned potatoes and paired with a Sauvignon Blanc.

Egg & Bean Soup - A not-as-good variation

This recipe comes from our Extending the Table cookbook. It seemed like a good choice as it comes from one of our favorite countries (Nicaragua) and it looked like a simpler version of the Company Egg Dish we made two months ago. Unfortunately it was not up to snuff. Although I put in more/different spices than called for, including our fail-safe (cumin), this turned out rather watery and bland. James didn't even finish his.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sweet Corn Cake Eggs Benedict with Avocado Hollandaise

Huffington Post says there are Only 40 Egg Recipes You Will Ever Need. This complex dish is one of them. There are several pieces that need to come together, but the end result is indeed sublime. The avocado hollandaise was the easiest part and involved simply putting avocado, lemon juice, water, and oil into the blender and mixing until smooth. I put it on high to create a super creamy sauce.

I cooked the bacon while I mixed the ingredients for the corn cakes. There was a bit of time involved as I had to dice onions, peppers, and garlic. I took the advice provided in the online recipe to cook the cakes in the oil from the bacon. I poached the eggs just as the cakes were finishing. The corn cakes were topped with the bacon and egg, and then the sauce was added. As a final touch dried Chipotle pepper was sprinked on the top. This created an eye-pleasing presentation, especially when complemented with a Caprese salad on the side. The meal was an explosion of tastes and textures and was well worth the time spent to prepare it. It paired well with Chardonnay from Westport Rivers Winery.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cedar Scallops

Libraries are important. VERY important. See my Just Read post for some thoughts on libraries and civil rights, courtesy of the remarkable John Lewis. See Pam's "Library" Books Blog for her reviews of scores of books that celebrate or at least mention libraries directly. Pam is a consummate librarian, having served in a bilingual environment as a reference librarian in the McAllen (Texas) Public Library and as an academic librarian at the Maxwell Library at Bridgewater State University. Currently, she is a candidate for election to a third term as a volunteer trustee of the Bridgewater Public Library as well.

So when Pam has a library-related achievement, we need to celebrate. And recently we got news of just such an achievement. Starting in 1997 as a part-time, adjunct librarian, she has been promoted through the ranks of Assistant Librarian, Associate Librarian, and Librarian. The recent news is that she will next be promoted to the highest ranks of librarianship in our system: SENIOR LIBRARIAN. This is based on years of active service in committees, public service, outreach, and scholarship regarding information literacy.

This was a big deal, which called not only for a nice, bubbly wine from Westport Rivers, but also for a special preparation of one of our favorite foods: New Bedford scallops from Kyler's Catch. Wanting to take some time with this, I turned to the Big Green Egg Cookbook, where I found a nice recipe that called for wrapping scallops in cedar papers.

Unfortunately, we could not find such papers -- neither at Kylers nor at our trusty Big Green Egg local supplier in Fairhaven, But Kylers did have cedar planks -- which careful readers will remember I used with salmon last year -- so we decided to improvise.

Timing was tricky -- grilling outside while putting together a sauce inside. I soaked the cedar plank a couple hours ahead of time. This is essential unless the cedar is to serve simply as a way of burning the scallops.

Then I started the coals, and after that the sauce. It involved sauteeing shallots, fresh thyme, organge zest and a bay leaf in some butter, then simmering with white wine, and finally adding cream and then reducing. It looks like a fascinating soup is under way, but none of this ended up on our plates. Rather this was sieved and then poured over the scallops (see below).
Meanwhile -- literally running back and forth to the grill -- I planked the scallops. This meant removing the cedar plank from its pan of water, and putting it on the grill for a couple minutes on one side before flipping it and brushing it lightly with oil. I then arranged the scallops on it and grilled for about five minutes on each side -- Big Green Egg lid closed of course -- being very careful with the turning of the scallops.
The result was worthy of such an occasion -- smoky scallops with a savory, complex sauce over fettucine with a nice local bubbly. 

And the best part about Pam's promotion: it is recognition for what she has already achieved: no new obligations attached. Now that was worth celebrating!

Moroccan Braised Chicken Thights

A few nights ago, I realized I would have a bit of time to make a nice mid-week dinner; it seems that this year so far our weeknights have not allowed for a lot of leisurely cooking. Pam found a package of frozen chicken thighs in the freezer, so I asked her to start thawing then, while I committed to finding a new recipe that would make good use of them.

Image -- of a somewhat different dish:
Cooking School of Aspen
I went first to Meredith Laurence's Comfortable in the Kitchen, which regular readers will recognize as a gift from my mother that has proven quite a popular source for this blog. I quickly found a recipe featuring our main ingredient -- Moroccan Braised Chicken Thighs.

Preparation of this dish begins by heating some olive oil in a Dutch oven (or other large pan) over medium high-heat. As I heated the oil, I seasoned the chicken thighs with salt (very little) and pepper (a bit more). I then browned the chicken on all sides, and transferred it to a warm zone on the stove top, using our indispensible cooking tongs.

The recipe calls for pouring off excess fat, but there was none, so I added:

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diagonal slices

I cooked these a few minutes until tender and then added 2 cloves minced garlic and cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and ground coriander. The book has quantities, but I just applied each liberally. I then deglazed the pan with 6 ounces of beer (always a good thing in a recipe -- cook with half a beer and use the other half as a treat for the chef). I simmered the beer with aromatics and spices for 4-5 minutes and then returned the chicken to the pan.

I then added:
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries (not called for in the recipe, but we are in Massachusetts so we always keep some in the kitchen -- NOT Craisins)
16 dried apricots, quartered
28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock

I omitted the 1/2 cup of pitted green olives called for in the recipe, because it is known the world over that PAM HATES OLIVES.

I simmered, covered for a half hour (should have been 45-60 minutes, but we were getting hungry). I then topped this with some fresh parsley and served it with noodles (instead of the called-for rice).

The result was not very photogenic -- hence the photo boosted from a cooking school above -- but it was delicious!

Scallops with Lemon-Basil Sauce

This one showed up on my Facebook feed over the weekend. Since we were at our beach house and, therefore, near our fishmonger, and because basil is my favorite herb, we decided to try it immediately. The FB post had a video with it that made it look super simple, and the written instructions said the prep time was only 3 minutes (with a cook time of twelve) so it seemed like it would be an easy weekend dish. Overall, I would say it was, although the prep time was longer than indicated, and it made a way bigger mess than it did in the video. There were a lot of dishes to wash afterwards as well. It was quite delicious though, and will be worth making again. It also made for fabulous leftovers. Find the written recipe here. I followed the recipe as presented, except I used fettuccine instead of angel hair pasta.