Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mid-week Fabulous Corn with Lime and Manchego Cheese.

Corn with lime and manchego cheese!
Roasting corn is both easy and flavorful.  You simply put the corn, with husks and all on a baking sheet into a 450 degree F oven for 15 minutes.  Let it cool and you will find it simple to pull away the husks and strings.  What better way to trap the flavor of fresh corn than cooking it in it's own "house".  Boiling corn in water simply extracts too much of the vitamens and flavor into the water instead of leaving it on the corn.

Last night - I roasted 4 corn on the cob - cooled them, removed the husk and then cut the corn off the cob by placing it on the center piece of a bundt pan. Then, slice down the side, the corn falls into the pan instead of flying around your kitchen. Easy.
Corn cut off the cob
This corn was reheated later - in frying pan with 1-2 Tb olive oil until heated thru and light golden.  Off heat, add 1 Tb butter, salt and pepper.  To give it some kick - I added a finely chopped jalapeno pepper (wear gloves and do not touch your face until you have washed up after chopping it!), 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, zest from 1 lime, juice from same lime and finally 1/2-3/4 C shredded Manchego cheese.  Mix and finish with a sprinkle of chives (easiest to simply cut with scissors) (see top pic).  Delicious!

If you have not used Manchego cheese, you are in for a treat.  It is likely the most famous, and therefore most readily available, cheese from Spain. It comes from the milk of Manchego sheep raised in the La Mancha region.  This cheese has an amazing buttery, nutty flavor.  If completely unavailable to you,  the best substitute would be Pecorino Romano.

I hope you will try this simple take on corn - you can leave out some of the spicy aspects if necessary for the kids - but in every case, leave the lime!!!  It really brightens the corn.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sunday Night Football - Zuni Roasted Chicken & Olive Oil Braised Vegetables

Here is one of my favorite comfort meal dishes....perfect for a football Sunday!
Zuni roasted chicken and bread-arugula salad
Zuni Cafe in SF is most famous for their Roast Chicken and Bread Salad...this will be my interpretation. Most important for the chicken - is SIZE - its gotta be small. (3 -3 1/2 lbs)  Not so easy to find in your typical grocery store as they are often cut up for chicken parts.  Besides - its gotta be farm raised, free range - so off to the Farmers Market.  Gratefully - we have several - this week I picked up two from SonRise Ranch in Carmel Valley. (yes, up by Monterey!)  They drive on down every weekend and supply many southern California Farmers Markets. Why small? Because they flourish at high heat, roast quickly and evenly, and, with lots of skin per ounce of meat, they are virtually designed to stay succulent.

Begin a day early -  salt & pepper the bird 24 hours in advance.  I use only Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper. - Just sprinkle it liberally all over the chicken - and inside, cover and refrigerate overnight.  I never use table salt for anything any more.  The iodized versions just seem to have a metallic or medicinal taste.  Sea salt - a medium grind would work as well. See pic below.

BTW - there are several schools of thought on washing the chicken in advance of salting.  I do wash them carefully - the ones from the Farmers Market are FRESH -much fresher than chicken from the grocery store -so bits of clumped blood, etc....may still be attached.  But, do it carefully.  The biggest downside in washing chicken is splashing the raw juices all over your kitchen.  Clean everything carefully immediately after with hot water and soap.
Salted chickens ready to go!
BRAISED VEGIES. I decided to make the braised vegetables this morning so that I can watch the games during the day - the Zuni chicken with it's scrumptious bread salad must be done just before serving. Why braised vegetables?  I am intrigued by this notion.  I have braised numerous meats, even fish - oh and asparagus.  But, never a pot of mixed vegetables.  This is a new recipe - we are experimenting together!

I have a natural aversion to mushy vegetables and have completely subscribed to the crisp crunch of flash cooked fresh vege - shock 'em in ice water and crunch. But I figure Saveur magazine would not steer me wrong. They describe a mellow unctuous creamy state that is reached when the vegetables are braised - well past al dente. Protein certainly takes on a new quality with braising - why not vegetables!?

It is a mix of sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, Yukon potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower - cooked in a full one cup of olive oil (a lot!!) seasoned by anchovy paste, red chile flakes, garlic (of course), lemon and rosemary. I will be pushing the envelope on this one, push through the just-cooked state and hopefully arrive at the sweet complexity described by others.  Or, we will hate it and toss it.

My modified ingredients: 1 C olive oil, 1 Tb anchovy paste, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 10 sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise, 6 cloves garlic, minced, 4 Tb rosemary chopped, 1 1/2 lemons sliced crosswise, seeds removed - put all in 6-qt pan  over med-hi heat, cook 5 min.
Add 2 zucchini cut into 1 1/2 " pieces and cook 5 min, flip over and cook another 5 min.  Add 1# baby Yukon gold potatoes,  1 head broccoli cut into florets with 1-2 " stem, 1/2 cauliflower, cut similarly- mix to coat in oil. Cover pot and cook without stirring  30 min.  Gently stir vege, replace lid, reduce heat and cook an additional 60 min.

Remove from heat, add chopped parsley and marjoram, salt & pepper.  YUMMMMMMM.  It really looked awful because it lost much of its color -  but it tasted great.  It is creamy!!! surprise!  Set it aside and focused on cooking the chicken.
Braising vegies!
BREAD SALAD- Can be done ahead - I did mine in the morning during the first game.  There cannot be enough bread for this salad - use 8 -10 oz of a plain day-old French or Italian bread - cut roughly - then brush with a bit of olive oil - put under broiler to toast the bread until dark brown (and even a little burnt).  Then tear it up into bite-size chunks. This becomes sort of a extramural stuffing - a warm mix of crispy, tender and chewy chunks of bread with a little slivered garlic, scallions and scattered currants & pine nuts. Oh so very good and earthy.  This is all mixed with several handfuls of arugula just before serving.  The bread salad is optional to the recipe - but I would never do without.

Take Chicken out of frig -about 10 minutes before half time.  Set a convection oven to 450 degree F.

Completely dry the chicken - inside and out - this is critical to keep it from sticking to the pan.  Heat the dry pan before adding the chicken - also critical for the same reason.  Once all ready - add chicken, breast up to frying pan, or roaster, (it should sizzle) - and place in oven for 30 minutes.  If oven looks all smokey - turn the temperature down 25 degrees.

While the chicken is cooking - prepare the bread salad.  Tear into large chunks. Combine 1/4 C olive oil and 2 Tb champagne or white vinegar, salt and pepper.  Toss about 1/4 C of this vinaigrette to bread. If bland, add extra salt and pepper. Toss. Place 1-2 Tb currants in a few Tb red wine vinegar and water into a small bowl.  Set aside. Toast 2-3 Tb pine nuts in oven or stove top. Set aside.

Remove chicken from oven.  See picture.   Carefully turn over and put breast side down.  Use a flat spatula if needed to carefully lift from pan should it stick.  Replace in oven with convection off -at 450 degree - for 15 min.

While chicken is cooking, add 2 Tb olive oil to a clean pan, heat and add 3 garlic cloves thinly sliced and 1/3 C slivered scallions - heat gently until softened but not browned.  Add to bread salad.  Drain plumped currants and add to bread salad. Mix all and put all into 1 qt baking dish. Dribble some salted water or chicken stock over bread salad if needed to moisten.

Remove chicken, flip once more time - now breast up. Put back into the oven.  Cover salad and add to oven.  Cook both about 5 -10 minutes.

Remove chicken - check internal temperature - looking for about 160 degree at the thigh.  Place chicken on cutting board, tent with foil and let it rest 15 min.

How the chicken looks after 30 min.
Meanwhile, remove fat from roasting pan, and reduce juices. Remove salad from oven. Add chicken juices to bread salad. (OH - so good and flavorful).  Add several handfuls of arugula to salad - mix, test seasoning and place on a serving platter.

Cut the chicken into pieces - pile on top of and nestle into the bread salad .  Serve and sit back taking in the compliments. See pic at top.

Hope you enjoyed it! Post comments for questions or suggestions.