Showing posts with label Whole Foods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Whole Foods. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Roast chicken with Almost Never-Ending Pesto

My first cousin, Misty, came to visit from the spiritual home of food lovers, Louisiana.  (You want to refute that and nominate your hometown or state or country for the position, write me a comment. I have to admit that Malaysia is close behind.)  She loves to eat, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at her.  Fortunately, I love her so I can overlook that enormous fault.

Her first night here, I decided to roast a whole pastured chicken from Olde World Farms with pesto stuffed under the skin, since I still have homemade pesto.  (The Olde World Farms website is sadly out-of-date, but, if you are in Houston, you can buy their products at the Eastside Market of a Saturday morning. Looks like the Urban Harvest website is a bit out-of-date too but at least you can still get directions. What’s with these people?)

1 whole pastured chicken
1/2-3/4 cup or 120-180ml pesto
Sea salt
Black pepper, freshly ground

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Clean the chicken thoroughly and cut off all extraneous fat.  

Slip your finger under the skin at the point of the breast, up to the wishbone on both sides.  Spoon a large scoop of pesto under the skin and use your fingers to push it up towards the wishbone. 

Add another scoop on the other side and do the same.  Turn the chicken over and make a small slit in the skin of the thigh and run your finger around over the thigh meat. Add a little pesto and stuff it under the skin. Do this on both sides.

Pop the chicken into a roasting pan, breast side down and liberally sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper, making sure to get some inside the bird as well.  Turn the chicken over and liberally salt and pepper the top of the bird.  Put it in the oven.  After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350°F and drizzle a little olive oil over the bird. Return him to the oven for about one hour or until a thermometer stuck into his thigh reaches 190°F.

Upon reflection, I decided that we probably really needed some extra breasts to roast alongside the first bird since a couple in our party won’t eat anything but breast meat and I wasn’t sure about the rest of them.  Leftovers never go amiss when they are roasted chicken so off we went to Whole Foods to choose some breasts.

I was gratified to see that Whole Foods has a rating system for showing the treatment of their butchery items, including chicken.  The chicken breasts were rated at a lowly two, while the whole chickens were a pastured four.  The choice was simple.  I would roast two whole chickens.

At that point, while I had plenty of basil, I was out of already made pesto.  I decided to do something different with bird number two: Sun-dried tomato pesto.

1 oz or 30g Alessi sun-dried tomatoes
1 3/4 oz or 50g Parmesan
 1/4 cup or 56.7g butter 
2 cloves of garlic
Enough olive oil to loosen into a basil pesto-like consistency

Soak the tomatoes for about 15 minutes in enough hot water (from the tap hot, not boiling) to cover.  

Drain the liquid.  Add the garlic, the butter and a glug of olive oil and mix with a hand blender.  

Grate your cheese with a fine grater and add to the container.  Mix again with the hand blender, adding a little more olive oil if necessary.  This is going to be a thick paste, like the basil pesto, so you may have to keep removing the paste from the hand blender blades and bearing down upon it again in the container till everything is smooth.   

Now you follow the directions above for putting the pesto under the chicken skin and roasting the bird.

I put them both in the baking pan together and the juice they created as the basil pesto bird and the tomato pesto bird roasted was sublime.

The finished chickens were lovely and juicy and delicious.

Side dishes seem like such an afterthought now, but, I can assure you, they were not. I made Johnson Stuffing from Baked Bree with help from younger daughter.  We also made a simple salad of tomatoes, bell pepper, feta cheese and romaine. 

And roasted golden and purple beets.

For the beets
3 purple beets with greens
3 golden beets with greens
2 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper

Cut the greens off the beets and trim the stalks, leaving just the leaves. 

Rinse the leaves several times in a full sink of water until you are sure all the dirt and sand are gone.  Scrub the beets and rinse as well. Any dirt will make for a gritty mouthful so you want to clean these suckers longer than you would think necessary to make sure.  Cut the beets in half and put them in a bowl big enough to allow stirring and/or tossing.  

Drizzle with olive oil, white or dark balsamic vinegar, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  By stirring or tossing, make sure the beets are completely coated.  

Grease a baking tray with more olive oil and tip the beets onto it. Turn them to expose the cut sides and roast them in a preheated oven at 400°F or 200°C.  

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a skillet and gently fry the sliced garlic. Add the beet greens and let them cook just a few minutes until they wilt. Add a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook a few minutes more.  Spread the greens around on the serving platter and put the garlic slices on top.

After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350°F or 180°C and cook the beets until they are fork tender, turning halfway through so that the cut sides face the pan.  I ran out of time for the beets because my chicken needed to be on a middle shelf.  It was browning much too quickly up higher, with the beets down below, so I ended up taking the beets out after about 45 minutes and putting them back in their mixing/tossing bowl which was glass and microwaving their already well-roasted selves into fork-tenderness.  Then I arranged them lovingly on the bed of greens. 

I am a lover of purple beets but had never tried golden beets. They reminded me of parsnips and I would definitely buy and cook them again. And roasting seems to bring out the best in both colors. 

For dessert, we had two special recipes, made by younger daughter, quite a whiz in the kitchen from a young age:  Divinely moist brownies and chocolate-dipped strawberries.  Words are not necessary with photos like these.

It was our wonderful pleasure to have Misty over and we hope she comes back soon!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rigatoni with Homemade Pesto

One of the first things we did when we arrived in Houston was to buy fresh herbs in pots for the back deck:  Rosemary, basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley and thyme. We are fortunate to have Buchanan’s Native Plants in the neighborhood with their great selection of wonderful plants.  All of the herbs are healthy and growing but the basil has really taken off!  Which only means one thing: pesto!

2-3 big branches of overgrown basil
1-2 large cloves of garlic , peeled and coarsely chopped (I only had one but would have put two if it had been available.)
45g or 1.6 ounces of raw pine nuts
100g or 4 ounces of Parmesan
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
500g or about 1 pound rigatoni pasta

Special Equipment
Hand blender

Toast the pine nuts in a dry non-stick skillet.

Pick the leaves off of the basil branches and finely grate the Parmesan. 

Put 100ml or 4 ounces olive oil in the hand blender container. Add the toasted pine nuts, half the basil leaves and half the Parmesan.  Blend for a couple of minutes and then add the balance of the basil and the Parmesan and a few good grinds of fresh black pepper. If the pesto is too thick, add more olive oil, starting with another 2 ounces. Blend until the pesto is smooth and of even consistency.   This will make enough pesto for two or three meals.  It keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It can be frozen and will still be tasty but it is most delicious fresh.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Save some pasta water in a cup before draining in a colander.  After draining, pour the pasta back in the hot pot and add a great dollop of pesto, according to your taste. 

Mix thoroughly and serve.  (If you are not serving immediately, wait to add the pesto until you are ready. Loosen the pasta with some reserved pasta water first and warm through before adding the pesto.)

Serve topped with extra Parmesan.  This can be a complete meal on its own or it also makes a great side dish.   We served ours with a small fillet each of single-hook-caught wild salmon from Whole Foods, simply pan-fried in a non-stick skillet with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a touch of olive oil.