Baking Basics

The Basics for Perfectly Cooked Chicken and the Bon Appetite / HSN Launch

All it takes is a few simple steps and one awesome sautee pan...

I’m not shy about the equipment that I love.  I’ve practically written sonnets to my Le Creuset 6-quart Dutch oven.  I sing along with my 8″ Hammer Stahl chef knife.  I swear by industrial baking sheets and Emile Henry bakeware.

But I can type so freely about those items because I’ve purchased them.

So, full disclosure, I was invited to the HSN launch of the new line of Bon Appetite Collection cookware, and walked away with a 10″ fry pan, a belly full of delicious food and some info on their entire new line.  I wouldn’t be blogging about it were I not completely comfortable in saying that I am impressed and am now a fan.

Yep, it's all in the details people.

At the launch Chef Ryan Scott walked through some of his favorite things about the line which I took into appreciation when making this dish.  Two layers of steel wrap around a core of aluminum, providing incredibly even heat to the entire pan, even with my slightly tilted stove.  The design is practically seamless, so oil comes up to temperature perfectly.  The little hook in the handle is an appreciated touch when you have little hands and a heavy pan.  And the weight is incredible, sturdy and even, and feels so hearty that my roommate mourned that we don’t have cheating husbands on whom to fully test its potential.

Pros:

  • Can trust it from stove to oven as it heats perfectly.
  • Little hook in handle adds extra comfort.
  • Three layers of aluminum and steel gives it the weight and durability of my favorite All Clad pals.
  • The cost is incredibly affordable for such classic and trustworthy elements.

Cons:

  • No cheating husbands on which to test its bat-like potential.
  • I don’t have a full set of pans and a hanging rack to suspend it on.

As far as the rest of the line goes, my wish-list item would be the counter-top pressure cooker.  I use my old-school, $20 from a Portuguese supply store pressure cooker for grains, beans and nada else.  The pulled pork that they cooked in 42 minutes flat in their pressure cooker… incredible.  Juicy and flavorful it contained less sodium and fat because when you pressure cook food more flavor stays in it and therefore you don’t have to add as much into the pot.  It’s got a timer, a sleek design and I can see myself using it in many, many ways.

Check out the HSN for pricing:  I’m impressed by the quality of these products for the prices listed. And each piece of equipment is tested and approved by Bon Appetite and includes some recipes specific to the machine that are incredibly rich and delicious.

Now, onto this “recipe”.

I recently interviewed Chef Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shops in NYC for an Easy Eats magazine feature coming out in March, a side-tip of which was, when cooking chicken in skillet, not to get impatient and move it around when it sticks.  It will, Holzman affirmed, loosen its grip on the pan when it’s browned properly.  In general most chefs I interviewed were aligned with their advice to keep things simple and use top ingredients (check out Easy Eats for some stellar recipes and interviews).

So, I have this great new pan, some inexpensive free-range organic chicken thighs and legs, and a new tip to play with.  With just a few ingredients and proper technique, here’s how to make flawless, flavorful, juicy chicken… every time.

Chicken cooking, not sticking.

Ingredients:

  • Top-quality chicken thighs, drumsticks or breasts  at room temperature / not straight from the fridge (I had about 1.3lbs of skinless organic drums and thighs)
  • About 2-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 400°.
  • Heat skillet on medium heat for about 5 minutes while you chop onion and garlic.
  • Lower heat to medium/low and add olive oil, swirling to cover pan.  Bring up to heat but don’t let it thin / smoke (think medium/LOW heat).
  • Pat the chicken dry and salt and pepper one side.
  • Add onion and garlic to pan and saute for 5 minutes or until just slightly soft.  Move onions and garlic to the side of the pan.
  • Add chicken, seasoned side down, in a single layer and brown for about 3-4 minutes.  Do not move the chicken until browned up the sides a bit.  Season top side with salt and pepper, flip, and brown on the other side.
  • When chicken is just browned, pile garlic and onions around it and throw it into the hot oven.  Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the onions and garlic are golden and toasted and the chicken is thoroughly cooked.

There, easy peasy.  Add garlic and onion powder, lemon pepper, a dash of good vinegar… basics.  The result is juicy, perfectly cooked chicken where the poultry sings.

Basic Gluten-Free Pie Crust (and 3 ways to make it!)

Oh my goodness! I have been here, there and everywhere this past week, with blogging and reading other blogs a very missed activity.

Not that I haven’t been baking.   The kitchen has been plenty dusty with vegan cheesecake, gluten-free vegan mesquite graham crackers (for the cheesecake, but then I had to sandwich them with homemade marshmallows and Kallari dark chocolate…had to, really), the first draft of gluten-free maple cakes for a recipe swap, gluten-free cranberry walnut scones, and more hot chocolate recipes than is good for anyone’s blood sugar.

Then there’s been interviewing (on both sides of the table), invoicing, prepping for a photo shoot, doing some research for Easy Eats magazine (a gorgeous digital gluten-free magazine, check it out!) writing scripts for some final episodes of something really fun, seeing friends’ shows, putting my dog into a costume for Halloween (yes, I’ve become one of those people who exploits their defenseless animal for their own amusement), and catching up with a pal on his way to India (not jealous, nope, not at all).

I also had to say goodbye to a dear friend – my macro camera lens.  It was a loaner, one that I fully intended to accidentally keep.  But it had to go home Friday.

While I was sad to say goodbye to the lens, this is what it created, so it was a worthy sacrifice:

It’s a trailer for a friend’s newest novel.  Yes, evidently books get trailers now too.  She’s an incredible writer and a lovely person, so if you have a young-ish lady in your life, grab the book when it comes out in January.

And while I’m at it, here’s another friend’s amazing creation:

This puppet marched alongside a 40-foot Brooklyn Bridge and NY Stock Exchange Bull in the NYC Halloween parade on Monday with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  My buddy Joe is quite a beautiful artist and just one of those people that makes this planet so fascinating and full of love.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by inspirational friends, those involved with and aside from food!

Speaking of which, now that Halloween is over can we officially start baking for the holidays?  Please, please, pretty please?!  I’ve already rough-drafted my Thanksgiving menu and pondered the new cookie recipes I’ll be gluten-freeing for Christmas.

After I spent a few hours in a senior center kitchen on Saturday morning (felt a bit guilty that other Meals on Wheels volunteers were out delivering in the snow and I got to stay in nice and cozy and make whipped crean), I hunkered down with my recipes in my home kitchen and forced myself not to put on Christmas music.  That’s what a snow storm in October will inspire in you.  Well, in me, at least.

But now it’s officially November, so here it is: the perfect gluten-free pie crust, ready for your apples or pumpkins or sweet potatoes or whatever it is that means holiday to you.  Shortly I’ll have a gluten-free, vegan pumpkin pie up here for a lovely reader who requested the recipe.  Until then, I’m going to make this crust over and over and toss whatever I have around in it.

Incredibly easy, insanely buttery, delightfully flaky… they’ll never know it’s gluten-free.

Ingredients:

  • gluten-free flour blend: 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 cup tapioca starch OR arrowroot starch, 1/4 cup millet flour, 1 tsp xanthan gum, 2 Tbsp sticky rice flour.
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp palm, sucanat or white sugar
  •  1 stick unsalted butter (higher fat the better)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Method:

If you have a standing mixer, place the flours, salt and sugar in the bowl and fix with a paddle attachment.  Mix flours to combine thoroughly.  Cube or thinly slice the butter, add to the bowl, toss to mix.  Then mix on low until the butter is just incorporated into the flour, making it look like cornmeal or buttery flakes.  Make a well in the center, add the egg and lemon juice, and mix on low until just combined, to the point where it doesn’t pull into a ball but is about to.  Gather with your hands, wrap in plastic, flatten to a disk and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

If you have a food processor, use the directions above but pulse the butter into the flour, and then the wet ingredients into that mixture.

If you have neither, don’t despair!! You have ten awesome little kitchen gadgets at the ready!  Use the tips of your fingers to blend the butter into the flour, being sure not to use your whole palm or the fleshy part of your fingers (you want as little of the heat from your hands transferring to the dough).  Then use a fork to pull the egg and lemon into the mixture.

Once the dough has been chilled to where it’s not sticky but not too hard to roll, flour a pastry board, parchment paper or Silpat with rice flour, and roll to desired thickness.  Fit into a pie plate, tart plate or slide onto a baking sheet for the perfect galette crust!

I filled this galette with:

  • 4 Asian pears, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 2″ piece of ginger root, grated with microplane
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

Then brushed the top with egg white and baked it for 35 minutes until the edges were lightly browned.  And then I ate it.  The whole thing.  Ok, I shared a little and it took a few days, but someone may have seen me walking to the subway, eating it with my fingers.  May.

Easy, Homemade Clarified Butter (Ghee)

Beautiful Golden Ghee!

The other night I was faced with a predicament – a need for Ghee for a Carob Cupcake recipe and nowhere open to get it.  I did, however, have a pound of organic unsalted butter in my fridge.  My only option – make my own clarified butter.

Which I did.  Rather simply.

Ghee (Indian clarified butter) is delicious – a pure form of butter with no milk solids which therefore doesn’t affect some people with milk allergies.  Some Indian and Hindu cultures use ghee both medicinally and spiritually.

I use it in everything.  On eggs, in baked goods, on gluten-free toast.  It is truly medicinal and spiritual.

Here’s how to make it.  Don’t forget to save the solids for sauteing vegetables or adding to hot cereal.

Clarified Butter!

Directions:

  • Use as much butter as you want or have on hand, but remember it will shrink by 1/4 – 1/3 in quantity, so if you have a need for a specific amount make extra.
  • Place a heavy-bottomed saucepan on LOW heat, as low as possible.
  • Add butter and let melt – don’t touch it!
  • Heat for about 25 minutes.  The butter will start to bubble and eventually the solids will rise to the top.  Let it continue to make a crackling noise, bubble and separate.
  • Skim solids from the top continually (reserve and use them in something else!)
  • Heat until the crackling stops.
  • Use a metal coffee filter or two layers of cheesecloth in a colander set over a heatproof bowl and pour butter through. I do this twice.
  • Reserve clear, golden-hued ghee in a clean glass jar and enjoy on everything.

Bubbling away

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