Thursday, August 31, 2006

Roasted chicken

"Man," he said. "You know how to cook chicken. It's just perfect. Our children will be so spoiled- I'm going to have to tell them- 'Look, this is the best tasting food you EVER eat!' just so they understand how good it is."

What a compliment, eh?

I wish I had a picture of the roasted chicken we ate for dinner, but it didn't even occur to me to take a picture! Chicken, huh, whatever, too easy. But after hearing the preceding comment from G, it dawned on me- some people eat dry chicken. I had forgotten how bad chicken tastes when it's overcooked. I guess I've taken my own skills for granted. Here is a quick outline for roasting a chicken, and also a marinade recipe.

1. Chose a small (5 pound) bird. Remove giblets and neck (if included). Save neck for stock. Rinse the bird with cold water and pat dry.

2. Place on a cutting board. Check the bird for remainants of feathers. If any are found, scrape them off with a knife.

3. Cut off the wing tips and discard.

4. With the chicken on it's back, slide your hands in between the skin and the flesh. If you are gentle, you can slide your hand in to the thigh and even the back. This is an important step, as it separates the skin from the flesh, allowing the marinade to contact the flesh.

5. Lift open the skin from the breast and sprinkle in your spice seasoning. Use your chicken hand to rub it towards to the thigh. Pour some olive oil under the skin and rub it in. Use more spices if needed.

6. Rub some more olive oil on the outside of the skin and another slight sprinkling of spice. Place breast side up in a roasting dish (two inches in height). Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 325. Remove the bird and turn it, placing it breast side down in the dish.

7. Continue cooking for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting a probe thermometer in three places: 1. The flesh of the thigh should be at 180-190 degrees. 2. The thigh joint should be above 170 degrees. 3. The breast should be at 170-180 degrees. If you do not have a probe thermometer, use this other easy (but less accurate) method. Insert a sharp knife into the flesh of the thigh and breast about 1/2 an inch deep. Remove the knife and gently press on the flesh surrounding the incision. If clear juice runs out, it is cooked. A pinkish coloured or milky discharge means it's not quite done.

8. Allow the bird to stand for 15 minutes, breast side still down, before carving. Gently remove from the pan and serve!

Flipping the bird over is essential to getting the dark meat to a higher temperature than the breast. The thigh and leg need to get up above 180 to be tender and not chewy, while the breast is best if cooked to around 170. By flipping the bird over, you are exposing the dark meat to more direct heat and protecting the tender breast meat.

When I made this for dinner last night, I used a great spice rub from Penzey's called Northwoods Seasoning. It is a blend of spices including salt, pepper, thyme, paprika, rosemary and garlic. I highly recommend it, but really any seasoning will do. A wet marinade also works well, and can be poured under the skin for maximum flavour exposure. However, a wet marinade must be prepared ahead of time ( at least 2 hours) while a spice rub can be put on the bird right before cooking.

Lemon-Thyme marinade for chicken

3 lemons, juiced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tb minced garlic
1 tb chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tb chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Place chicken in a large bowl and pour the marinade over the chicken and in between the flesh and the skin. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. When you are ready to cook, remove the chicken from the marinade and blot off the excess with a paper towel. Rub a couple tablespoon of olive oil onto the skin and sprinkle salt overtop.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging 62

This "food blog" is slowly becoming a 'kitty blog'!

I am leaving lala land today for a short trip home to Toronto, so here is a quick Tiggy fix!!! Also my camera broke (ahhh!) and I was hoping to add some pics of my mom's and sister's cats! Hopefully I can get it working. Anyway, I have about 400 pictures and 15 videos of Tiggy, so that should keep me going!

Anyway, here is a video that I took moments before my camera died.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging 60

Hello Kitty parents and kitty lovers! First off, an update on The War on Fleas. Tiggy got another dose of Frontline Plus, which killed all the fleas living in her soft fur, and we bombed the whole house with aeresol cans of flea-killing spray. So far so good, that was five days ago and she seems to be flea-free. I guess time will tell, but I figure this is only a cease-fire, and I'm still waiting to see if some troops survived the aeresol attack. I'm guessing if they did, they'll be back with reinforcements.

On a different topic, after bombing the house, then airing it out, G and I took off on a two-night trip to Las Vegas. Tiggy was alone in the house for most of three days, and when we got home she was SO happy to see us. She very hyper, jumping off the walls and playing with everything. Before we went to Vegas, she had been ignoring me a bit and sucking up to G, but now I'm back to being her favorite. Last night she kept me up all night because every hour or so she would rub her face against mine and knead my arm or chest. This was the first time she has tryed to rub her scent on me- so I was touched by it. She also loved this playmate I brought home for her: a small fuzzy giraffe. Here she is beating it up:

I tied a string around the giraffe and pulled it along the floor for Tiggy to stalk and attack. It made me think of a tiger catching a gazelle in the wild!

If you love the fluffy goodness, then go to Eatstuff and say hello to Clare and Kiri!

Culinary Adventures in Las Vegas: Fleur de Lys

Fleur de Lys

There are so many culinary adventures possible in Las Vegas. You would need weeks to visit all the top restaurants, buffets and casinos, but the truth is that everyone get sick of Vegas after about three days. There is so much to see and do, but trust me, a week is too long. I've visited Vegas on three separate occasions and I still haven't been to every casino. They are all essentailly the same, although some are more impressive than others, with lion habitats, or shark tanks, fountains or pirate ships. Each has it's own claim to fame. I suppose it is the same for the restaurants.

This time we stayed only two nights in Vegas, so our culinary opportunites were limited. On the first night, we went back to the buffet at Paris, since we enjoyed it so much last time. It was mostly the same, and the food as quite good. However, the dinner location for night #2 was hotly debated. As the three of us were walking through the MGM Grand (which is huge, BTW), we stumbled upon Joel Robuchon's new restaurant. I would have loved to eat there, but $375 each was just too much for our budget. However, at L'Atelier next door, (Robuchon's lower-cost restaurant) the prices were more reasonable. Paul was a few meters away, standing in front of Nobhill. We had a dilemma- who gets to pick the restaurant? We had to leave it up to G, who was having a hard time deciding between his wife and his best friend. Arguments ensued. We narrowly avoided acting like sulkly babies when I put my foot down and picked a totally different restaurant in a casino down the strip: Fleur de Lys in Mandalay Bay.

The room was just beautiful. Hundreds of fresh roses decorate one wall. The service was fantastic. G and I had the three course tasting menu and Paul decided to go with four courses. The nice thing about the tasting menus, was that you could choose any appetizer, main course and dessert to put it together yourself.
My Menu:
Oven Roasted boneless Quail, with "fondant" of celery root and hazelnut, foie gras torchoon and mushroom compote.
Colorado lamb loin and lamb shoulder cannelloni with eggplant caviar, atrichokes Barigoule and oriental lamb jus.
Fruit minestrone with basil sorbet and orange jus.

G's menu:
Chilled Maine lobster salad with watermelon granite, balsamic vinegar reduction, and vannila oil.
Kobe beef Fleurburger Rossini
Sauteed foie gras, Black perigord truffles, truffle sauce on a shallot and truffle brioche bun
Pistachio souffle

Paul's menu
Artisan foie gras au torchon with rhubarb-rosemary compote, rhubarb chips, honey grenadine.
Slow roasted Alaskan King Salmon with parmesan herb crust, artichkoes, lemon, capers and beurre noisette.
Filet mignon with braised ox tail tortellini, potato gratin, baby spinach and red wine reduction.
Pistachio souffle

The food was excellent, with only a couple comments to make. My quail dish and Paul's filet were under-seasoned. G's Kobe beef burger was a little dry. Other than those few comments, we enjoyed the food immenesly. Our bill, with one glass of wine, one espresso and one tea came out to $380 after tip. There was also an extra cost for the kobe beef burger in addition to the $79 cost for three courses. I highly reccommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Las Vegas. I shouls also mention they offer a 5 course vegetarian tasting menu for $75. Here are a few pictures of the meal, the camera flash was on the fritz, so not all the pictures came out well.

Amuse bouche of smoked salmon in a fennel cream sauce.
My menu:

Roasted quail

Lamb loin

Friut minestrone

White rose tea

G's menu:

Lobster salad

Kobe beef burger

Pistachio Souffle

Paul's menu:

Foie Gras au Torchon

Alaskan king salmon

Filet Mignon

Culinary Adventures in LA: Part 2: Ode-San

Ode-san is located in Koreatown in Los Angeles. It serves Korean-style sushi/sashimi and it got a great review by one of LA's prime critics, Jonathan Gould (of LA Weekly). It was high on Paul's list of "restaurants to eat at" and so we went. G was disappointed that there was no Kalbi on the menu and that we were pressuring him to forgo the regular-sushi menu and order something that was Korean-style. We ended up ordering a "crunch" roll to share (mock crab, cucumber, avocado and crispy tempura bits), three fresh shrimp, sushi-style (they were swimming in the restaurant's tank minutes before we ate them), and each order a "bowl" dinner. Paul and I ate the sashimi bowl and G ordered the barbecued eel bowl.

The typical Korean side dishes arrived first.

We all love these little plates and dug into the kimchi, garlicky broccoli, bean sprouts, sweetened potatoes and dried fish. Shortly after we demolished most of the side dishes, the bowls arrived. I have to say I was a little disappointed with my "sashimi bowl". It was a big bowl full of lettuce (no detectable dressing) topped with all the scrappy end pieces of fish. It is known that the shape of a piece of food contributes to the taste on your palate. Some foods are more sensitive to the shaping than others. Sashimi is one of those sensitive foods. The fish can't melt on your tongue if it's a big chunk of fish rather than a delicate slice. I suppose the price reflected the use of scrappy end pieces, but honestly I would rather have had less fish that was cut well. Those end pieces could have been excellent inside a roll. Anyway, I ignored the salad and ate most of the fish with the bowl of rice provided.

G enjoyed his barbecued eel dish, which was over rice, not salad.

The shrimps arrived next, having just moments before sacrificed their lives in the kitchen.

They were ok, rather bland, and I'm not sure they were worth the $10 price tag (per shrimp!). Once we ate the shrimp, the waitress swooped by and grabbed the plate on which the shrimp heads resided and brought them back a few minutes later, tempura-fried and golden brown. It was my first time eating a shrimp head, and although I was hesistant, it tasted good.

The crunch roll was tasty, especially with the myterious brown sauce that was squirted over top of it.