Chicken Roasted With Bread and Lemon

by Anne Maxfield on February 19, 2015

Accidental Locavore Lemons and BreadEvery now and then the Accidental Locavore needs an undemanding dinner idea. This one with chicken, lemons, bread and caper berries looked interesting. The fact that you just tossed everything on a cookie sheet and popped it in the oven made it even more appealing. Serves 4:

  • 1/2 pound sourdough bread, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup drained caperberries
  • 2 lemons, washed and quartered lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 chicken thighs (with skin and bones)

Preheat oven to 400°. On a large baking sheet, toss the bread, shallots, caperberries and lemons in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the chicken thighs with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken on the bread and roast for about 40 minutes until the thighs reach 160 with an instant-read thermometer. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Chicken Thighs With BreadMy verdict: I thought these were great, but Frank wasn’t as enthusiastic. Could be because I took the roasted lemon quarters and squeezed it over the chicken and he didn’t. Could be because he’s not a caperberry fan. Could be _____. If you’re like Frank and not a fan of caperberries (or don’t have them taking up room in the fridge), you could use capers (I would sprinkle them in about 10 minutes before the chicken was done or else they might end up singed), or a nice mix of olives. One of the things I liked was that the bread under the chicken was soft, like stuffing, where the rest of the bread was crunchy. We managed to get a great loaf of Peasant French bread from Berkshire Mountain Bakery at the Millerton Farmers’ Market, which added to the taste. This is a recipe that you could easily play with to suit your taste, and the contents of your fridge. I used chicken thighs, the original recipe from Food and Wine called for whole legs, but Frank is not a leg man (where poultry is concerned). If you use whole legs or breasts, just increase the cooking time accordingly. A technical note – my baking sheets are the classic aluminum ones, which reacted with the lemon. Next time I’ll probably toss everything in a bowl with the olive oil and line the pan with parchment, it’ll be easier cleanup, too.

Accidental Locavore Chicken With Lemon and BreadMade this a second time and threw some broccoli in the mix. Tossed everything in a bowl and then on a parchment-lined pan. Again delicious! This time I didn’t use the convection setting on the oven and the skin of the chicken wasn’t as crispy, so if you have a convection setting, use it.

 

 

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Amazing 4-Hour Baguettes!

by Anne Maxfield on February 16, 2015

Accidental Locavore My BaguettesIf you’re looking for something to do this President’s Day, here’s a 4-hour project with a delicious result! Sometimes the Accidental Locavore comes across a recipe that just looks unbelievable enough (this can’t work, or taste good) to make me want to try it. Such was the case with the 4-hour baguette recipe I found on the Food52 website. Since I’m not a baker, especially of bread, this was even more laughable, but one Sunday I threw down the flour and yeast and went to work. Makes 3 small baguettes:

  • 1 ½ cups (12 ounces) tap water, heated to 115°
  • 1 teaspoon (1/8 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 ¼ cups (14 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (3/8 ounces) Diamond Crystal kosher salt (note: if using a fine-grained salt like table salt, fine sea salt or other brands of kosher salt, you will need to use a smaller volume)
  • Vegetable oil, for greasing bowl
  • ½ cup ice cubes

 

Accidental Locavore Bread for RisingWhisk together water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour, and stir with a fork until dough forms and all flour is absorbed; let dough sit to allow flour to hydrate, about 20 minutes. Add salt, then transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven or microwave. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and shape into an 8-inch x 6-inch rectangle. Fold the 8-inch sides toward the middle, then fold the shorter sides toward the center, like a T-shirt. Return dough, seam side down, to the bowl. Cover with plastic again, and return to oven. Let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Remove bowl with dough from oven and place a cast–iron skillet on the bottom rack of oven; position another rack above skillet, and place a baking stone or upside down or rimless sheet pan on it.

Heat oven to 475° F. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and cut into three equal pieces; shape each piece into a 14-inch rope. Flour a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet; place ropes, evenly spaced, on paper. Lift paper between ropes to form pleats; place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under long edges of paper, creating supports for the loaves. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

Accidental Locavore Baguettes BeforeUncover; remove towels, and flatten paper to space out loaves. Using a sharp razor, knife, bread lame or scissors, slash the top of each baguette at a 30–degree angle in four spots; each slash should be about 4 inches long. Pull out the oven rack with the stone or baking sheet on it and, using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone or pan. Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms). Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes; cool before serving.

My verdict: Amazing! While Maison Kayser has nothing to worry about (yet), these were everything you’d want a baguette to be—good flavor and a great crust. Much better than anything we can get locally. The texture of the bread itself needs a little work, and my slashes were barely noticeable (time to get a lame, my single-edged razor blade wasn’t cutting it – literally), but I’m really nit-picking now. Frank paid them the ultimate compliment, saying “we’ve had worse baguettes in France.” I’m not sure how you would do this without the cast iron pan, ice and pizza stone combo – it sounds weird, but it works wonderfully! I added the sugar to the recipe, it makes the yeast work better, but it’s not essential.

 

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This Beef Chili Recipe Makes a Spicy Bowl of Red

by Anne Maxfield on February 12, 2015

Accidental Locavore Chiles ToastingAlthough the Accidental Locavore is no football fan, sometimes events like the Super Bowl are a good excuse to play with recipes like chili and guacamole. Since we had beef chuck and all the chiles, I thought I’d give this a shot. Don’t let the list of ingredients scare you – it’s easy prep. Makes a big pot of chili:

  • 4 ounces dried ancho chiles (about 9 chiles)
  • 2 ounces dried guajillo chiles (about 7 chiles)
  • 2 ounces dried pasilla chiles (about 10 chiles)
  • 2 ounces dried chipotle chiles (about 8 chiles)
  • 8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 pounds beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved into ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup unsweetened chocolate, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • Lime wedges, sour cream, chopped onion, cilantro, (optional) for serving

Accidental Locavore Bowl of RedHeat a large skillet over high heat and toast chiles in batches, until browned in spots but not burned, 30 to 45 seconds per side. Toast garlic cloves in their skins in the same skillet, tossing, until browned in spots, about 3 minutes.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise; remove stems and seeds. Place chiles in a large heatproof bowl. Pour 4 cups of very hot water over chiles and let soak for 30 minutes, placing a plate on top to keep them submerged if necessary

Peel garlic cloves and place in blender. Add the soaked chiles along with the soaking liquid. Add 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and honey. Purée until smooth (you can run the mix through a strainer if you’d like).

In a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add 1/3 of the beef, salt and pepper and lightly brown the meat, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a bowl, reserve, and repeat with remaining 2 batches of beef, and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Lower the heat to medium and add 1 more tablespoon of oil. Cook the onion with a big pinch of salt until soft, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add the chile purée and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the purée has lost its raw flavor, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups broth, oregano, and cornstarch mixture, stir. Add the beef and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook on very low heat uncovered, until meat is tender and broth is thickened, about 3 hours.

Add sugar and vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time, along with salt, and pepper to taste. Allow the chili to sit at least an hour and up to overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with lime wedges, sour cream, onion, and/or cilantro.

My verdict: Incredibly hot (and we like spicy food)! The original recipe called for chiles de àrbol and cayenne but I never used them (or the jalapeno garnish) and it was still unbelievably hot. I also cut down on the guajillios (because I ran out of them). To combat the heat, I added some cider vinegar to the chile mix when I was blending it and used all the brown sugar and vinegar at the end. I also added about 1/4 of unsweetened chocolate for fun. The meat was tender and delicious and the texture of the sauce was silky and smooth. I cooked it the day before which was a good idea because it takes a while (although it’s easy enough to make) and it gave the sauce a chance to meld. I’m not really sure how you could get this to a significantly less spicy state, especially as the heat scale of chiles is so variable. The jalapeños I used to make the chipotles this past summer were very hot–yours might not pack such a punch. Maybe if you tasted a small bit of each of the chiles after they were toasted and softened, and then went easy on the hot ones, you could control it better. Using water instead of the soaking liquid to puree them would also help.

 

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A Tale (and Taste Test) of Two Cornish Game Hens

by Anne Maxfield on February 9, 2015

Accidental Locavore Cornish HensBecause of the size of most chickens, unless you’re having a major dinner party, it’s not very often that the Accidental Locavore gets to taste-test poultry head-to-head, but I wanted to try a recipe from Persiana with Cornish game hens, and when my local store had two different brands, it seemed like the perfect time to see if Bell and Evans was significantly better than Perdue. And when I say significantly, at Adams where I bought the birds, there was a $2/pound price difference between the two.

Straight out of the package (both in shrink-wrapped plastic), there was a big difference. As you can see from the photo, the Perdue bird was bright yellow and the Bell & Evans a blue-pink. The Perdue hen had a tiny packet of giblets (which would make it a clear winner to the dog, who was the happy recipient) and it was a bit bigger.

Both of them were marinated together and cooked together. I cut the wing tips off of the Perdue bird, in case they were difficult to distinguish after cooking, but that turned out to be unnecessary as it retained its sunny yellow color even after roasting. When we were eating them, they were referred to as pink bird and yellow bird, since I didn’t want Frank to be influenced by knowing which was which.

Accidental Locavore Cornish Hens With Harissa and LemonIt was an easy recipe with good results – both birds were delicious, moist and tender. There really wasn’t any difference in taste, which could have been because the marinade I used had a strong “flavor profile.” Possibly, if they were simply roasted or grilled you might have been able to taste a difference, but it would have been subtle.

Where there was a noticeable difference was in the tenderness and texture of the meat. Surprisingly, the Perdue hen was more tender and the texture of the white meat was better. The texture of the Bell & Evans bird was a little gummy and not as tender as the “yellow” bird. I’m not sure why that was, and quite honestly, I pretty much assumed that the Bell & Evans bird would be far superior (and not just because of the additional cost).

So now, I guess we’ll have to wait until spring, invite a bunch of people over, toss some chickens on the rotisserie and see how chickens compare.

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