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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Stretching my wings, so to speak

When I was sixteen my family moved to warmer climates and I got a job working at a little health food café. We sold things like tofu and made fresh carrot juice every morning. We had herbal teas and essential oils on the shelf. Our friendly cook made rice and beans everyday. The popcorn-y smell of basmati rice still brings back memories to this day. All this to say, it rocked my world.

I grew up in a house that valued (and in fairness, I suppose it had to) eating to live rather than eating to enjoy food. We ate a lot of staple foods: potatoes, beef, broccoli, and corn. When I began working at the health food store, I met people that viewed food and the act of eating very differently than me. I tried tofu smoothies to start (delicious), then smoked tofu on pizza (heavenly), eventually moving along the spectrum to a full out vegetarian.

Turns out I didn't like tofu enough to eat it as my main protein source though, and I hadn't yet been won over by other legumes, so I ended up going back to meat a few years later. I couldn't stomach pork or beef and seafood grossed me out, so I went back to chicken. Good ole chicken. Not with bones though. Or skin. Or dark meat. It had to be boneless skinless chicken breast. I just couldn't deal with it otherwise, I would start to become faint even walking through the red section of the meat aisle, and bones in anything were a dealbreaker. No matter how good it was, I didn't want to be reminded that I was eating an ANIMAL!

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, I have never entertained the idea of cooking a whole turkey or chicken. Ugh. The skin, the bones, the cavity! There's no pretending it's something else other than a dead animal. So. Accept it. Move on. Right? Well, yes. Right.

When my friend L brought a gorgeous herbes de provence bread to my attention and Mr. Man brought home some recipes for roast chicken, I figured it was time to face my chicken fears. At the grocery store, I just bought the first package I saw. It happened to have two chickens, so be prepared for another recipe once I've dealt with this one. I also figured that if the first one was a complete disaster, at least I could try again. If the second one went the way of the first, I'd be comfortable saying that at least I gave it a fair shot and I could walk away from the chicken with a sigh of relief.

Turns out, I'm a half decent chicken cook. Leaving aside that given my one experience, I'm not sure how it would be possible to screw up roast chicken, I was very pleased with how well I had fared against my nemesis. Here's the breakdown.

P.S. I apologize in advance that I don't have any fully finished photos of the bird, we ended up eating over at my in-laws' house and I forgot the camera. D'oh! Next time!

Caramelized Onion and Apple Stuffing - KM styles


1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 tbsp. of unsalter butter (divided)
2 small heads of bok choy or about 2/3 c. of celery, sliced
1.5 local apples (I used Spartan), cored, peeled, and chopped
1 tsp. dried ground sage
2 or so c. of old (but not mouldy) bread (I used 3 day old baking powder biscuits)
30 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar


In large sauce pan, melt half of the butter over medium-low heat; cook onions and half each of the salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

In same skillet, melt remaining butter over medium heat; fry bok choy/celery, apples, sage, and remaining salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 15 minutes. Add to bowl.

Add bread, stock, and vinegar; mix well.

Olive Oil and Herbes de Provence Bread

This comes from my friend L who had great results.

1 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope yeast (1 tbsp)- I used QuickRise
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups flour, more if needed
1 tablespoon herbes de provence


Stir the sugar, yeast, oil and salt into the water, and set aside for 10 minutes to dissolve. Fluff with a fork if need be, it should be quite foamy.

Put yeast mixture in your stand mixer. Beat in 1-1/2 cups/285 g of the flour, until smooth, along with the herbs. Work in the remaining cup/125 g flour, until you have smooth, springy dough.

Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise to double, about 45 minutes. I always use my oven with just the oven light turned on for a bit of heat. Works like a charm, even when it's -30 outside!

Punch the dough down and shape it. L made a really nice round artisan type loaf, and I made buns.

Let rise again 45-60 minutes and bake at 400ºF/200ºC for 25 minutes until done. I took the buns out after 20 minutes, and they were baked perfectly.

Let the bread cool a little before slicing to serve.

Roast Chicken - KM Styles


1 2-3 pound fryer chicken
a lemon
some Herbes de Provence (see a theme?)
olive oil


Preheat oven to 450F.

Basically I just washed, then stuffed the chicken. Put it in my dutch oven, then patted it down with a mix of lemon juice, oil and Herbes de Provence. I had ground the Herbes de Provence quite fine in my coffee grinder because I hate those whole rosemary pieces. I sprinkled a bit of the regular stuff over top though since it looks nicer.

Roast chicken for 15 minutes. Baste. Turn down to 375F and cook for another 50-60 minutes or until juices run clear and temperature registers 180F. I had the lid off most of the time.

FYI - For you experienced chicken roasters, you'll have likely looked at the times quoted and had a good chuckle. Yes, it takes about 2.5 hours at 375F to cook thoroughly when stuffed. I'm sure if I had left the cavity empty, an hour and a bit would have been enough.

As you can see I added potatoes because I love me some roasted potatoes.

This all comes down to:

Miss K: 1
Chicken: 0

Re-match next week!

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