June 19, 2009

I've moved!

Got myself a home on the web. Please visit me at TideandThyme.com.

June 11, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

There is nothing in this world like homeade soup. In fact, it was really one of the first culinary tasks I decided I had to have just right. My mom always made the best soups...chicken and rice, vegetable beef with barley, turkey noodle. All of them were simple in ingredients, yet completely rich and robust. My first attempts were mute. No flavor. After a few varied attempts I got it though, and have been happy as a clam with it ever since. The key is a good stock. A store-bought broth will be okay here. But, like everything else, homeade is so much better! This makes a large batch..but not HUGE. A dinner and a couple of lunches worth.

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 lb shredded or diced chicken (white or dark meat)
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 lb pasta (I like "homeade-style" egg noodles)
3 quarts chicken stock (recipe follows)
2 tsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat until shimmering, 2 minutes or so. Add carrots and onion, and saute for 3 minutes or until onions are translucent. Slowly add in the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the chicken as well as the pasta. Lower heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

* I usually just pull the meat off the chicken carcass before I make the stock to use in soup. If there isn't enough leftover, do not fret! Just roast a couple of bone-in breasts or thighs in the oven (rub with olive oil, season with salt and pepper...425 for 40 minutes) and use that instead.

Chicken Stock

carcass from chicken (meat reserved)
1 large onion, quartered
4 carrots, halved
3 stalks celery, VERY roughly chopped
2 tbsp kosher salt
8 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/2 bunch parsley leaves and stems
2 tbsp olive oil
4 quarts water

Heat olive oil in large dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add in onion, celery, and carrot. I do not bother to peel anything, celery leaves are cool, and for the parsley - use those leftover stems! The beauty of stock is that you turn trash into treasure. Saute your veg for about 5 minutes or so, a little color on them is a good thing.

Nestle the chicken carcass, and any additional scraps, bones, etc. into the vegetables. I will add leftover pan sauce or gravy if I have that as well. Slowly add enough water to cover the carcass. Add salt, peppercorns, bay leaves and parsley. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook as long as you can, stirring occasionally. 8 hours is preferable, but you have a pretty decent result at 6.

Strain into a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. I actually use a pitcher. It fits into the fridge better, and it's narrower at the top so it's easier to remove the fat that has settled at the top. The next day, use a large spoon to remove the fat layer from the top before using or freezing. This gives the stock a much better flavor, in addition to removing unnecessary calories.

June 4, 2009

Rotisserie chicken

Now that summer is here, I usually cook whole birds on our rotisserie attachment for our grill instead of heating up the whole house roasting a chicken. If you have a gas grill, you should really look into buying the attachment. They are pretty affordable...anywhere in the range of $50-$100. The flavor and juiciness is stupendous!

Earlier this year I bought a bottle of BBQ 3000 from Penzey's. This was my first time using it. I cannot say enough good things about this seasoning. It really penetrated the flavor of the meat, with very minimal effort. I diddn't even let it sit very long before I "rotisserized" the chicken, maybe 15 minutes. Needless to say, this mix will be on my spice list for a long time to come. I love trying new spices. And, with specialty spice retailers you get such a better bargain for your money, not to mention a better product. I've also heard really good things about The Spice House. Which, I believe, is run by Bill Penzey's sister. Either way, stop by one of those sites and browse around. Or, better yet, if you live in the "big city", chances are you have an actual store close-by. I haven't yet had the pleasure - but I'm looking forward to visiting the Manhatten location when we head up that way.

I'm not going to bother posting a "recipe". I seasoned the chicken (4.5 lbs) with the BBQ 3000 seasoning, as well as kosher salt and black pepper. Cooked over medium-high heat on the grill, for about 1 hour 20 minutes. I will be posting the chicken noodle soup I made with leftovers later on. Homeade soup is one of my favorites!

June 2, 2009

Strawberry Picking

We are very fortunate to have a wonderful orchard right around the corner from our home. Their season kicks off with strawberries, and this weekend we took a trip there for the first time. I cannot wait to go back later in the summer to reap more rewards! The peach and apple trees are just beautiful, and you can tell that they have been there for a very long time.

There aren't many places left on this Earth that are like Vessey's Orchard. We drove down a long driveway that ends at a beautiful, old colonial home. An ancient man came out, asked us how many quarts we'd be picking that day (at $1 per quart, we bought 10!), and told us where we'd find the strawberry fields. You could just tell that he'd done this many times before, and I don't know, it was just comforting.

Needless to say, we had a wonderful time picking these little red gems. We were a little late I think, next year I'd like to go back in the middle of May...when you don't have to work so hard looking for pristine berries. No strawberry bought in the produce section of any mega-mart could ever come close to the flavor! I wish I had taken more pictures. But, picking was alot of work. And, the baby was ready for lunch. So I just ended up snapping a few in a rush!

If you get an opportunity to go out and harvest your own of, well, just about anything...do it! Even though it's a little bit of work, the rewards you will reap are well worth the effort.

June 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday #1

I'm participating in Menu Plan Monday for the first time this week. I plan two weeks worth of meals at a time, so new and different ideas are always welcomed. I don't think I'm alone either... so, here's hoping I find some there, and maybe help a few as well!

Weekly Menu #1 (June 1, 2008 - June 7, 2008)

Monday: Chicken on rotisserie, smashed sour cream and chive red potatoes, corn on the cob

Tuesday: Fried pork chops w/pepper gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans

Wednesday: Chicken tortellini soup, crusty bread, green garden salad

Thursday: Seared scallops with citrus risotto

Friday: homemade pan pizza with pepperoni, onion, and black olives

Saturday: Bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato sandwiches

Sunday: ancho-marinated chicken burritos, cilantro-lime rice, guac, and pico de gallo

May 29, 2009

Steamed Shrimp

The essence of summer. Although, very hard to do right. Luckily, I have just the formula...and it's so simple! My mother learned this simple technique from a local fishmonger years ago, and it's not failed us yet.

2 quarts water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
black and white peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Old Bay (or any seafood seasoning)
Lemon wedges, for garnish

Combine water, vinegar, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once water comes to a boil, add shrimp. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the water comes back to a boil. Remove from heat and drain IMMEDIATELY once water returns to boil. Remove bay leaves and toss shrimp with seafood seasoning. Serve with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.