Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whole Roasted Balsamic Chicken with Fennel and Brussels Sprouts

My husband requested balsamic chicken a couple weeks so this is where this recipe came from.  I used Giada's marinade as my base and I modified the recipe to accommodate a whole chicken.  I also wanted to show you guys a way to cook a whole chicken in half the time by removing the backbone and thigh bones because usually a whole roasted chicken takes 1 1/2 hours to cook through.  It is extremely useful to know how to do this.  If you are feeling a little ambitious, you can easily do this on a weeknight too. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings

for the chicken:
1 4-pound chicken (giblets and neck bone removed), washed and scrubbed
Coarse kosher salt

for the marinade:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

for the roasted veggies:
2 fennel bulbs, outer layers removed and chopped (keep the core in tact so the fennel chunks stay together)
2 cups Brussels sprouts, outer layers removed and cut horizontally in half
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

for the gravy:
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot

for finishing:
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Place the clean whole chicken in a large bowl or baking pan.  With sharp kitchen sheers, remove the backbone and thigh bones.

For the marinade, mix together balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub the marinade all over the chicken and let the chicken rest for at least 1 hour.  With a spoon, scoop the marinade over the chicken from time to time.  In the meantime, put the fennel and Brussels sprouts in a big bowl.  Lightly season them with salt and pepper and toss with a drizzle of olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On the bottom layer of the roasting pan, evenly distribute the fennel and Brussels sprouts.  Place the chicken on top of veggies and cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Reserve the leftover marinade.

Roast the chicken for 25 minutes.  Take off the foil and roast for another 20 minutes or so.  If you see the chicken browning too fast, place the foil back over the chicken.  The internal temperature of the chicken thighs should reach 165 degrees F.  When you take the chicken out of the oven, cover it in foil and let the chicken rest for 20 minutes before serving to let the juices redistribute throughout the chicken and finish cooking.  Sprinkle the roasted chicken and veggies with parsley.

In a small saucepan, add the reserved marinade and water.  Whisk in arrowroot and simmer the mixture for a few minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.  Serve with chicken.

To wash and scrub the chicken, I used coarse kosher salt to rub all over the chicken.  Rinse him off with fresh water.  Now to butcher the chicken I wanted to show a picture of the backbone.  I am cutting the backbone out with sharp kitchen shears.  This is the easy part because the backbone is easy to find.  

The harder part is finding the thigh bones.  The thigh bones connect the drumstick to the rest of the body.  In the left picture below, my thumb is pressing against the thigh bone.  You can see the top of the thigh bone in the image (I guess that is the knuckle).  I used my kitchen shears to carefully cut the flesh and remove the thigh bones.  There will be tendons and fibers you will have to cut away at but it is totally doable.  I reserved the backbone and thigh bones for later use.  These scraps are great for making chicken stock.

I marinaded the chicken at room temperature for about 1 hour but you can also refrigerate him for up to a day, if you don't plan on roasting right away.

I love a lot of vegetables but I adore fennel and Brussels sprouts so this was an easy choice for me at the grocery store.  You can use anything you want for example potatoes, onions, carrots, etc.

I poured the leftover marinade into a saucepan.  I didn't want all that flavor to go to waste!  When you serve the roasted chicken and veggies, drizzle some extra sauce on it to keep everything extra moist and flavorful.

I love me some roasted chicken!  I also love fried chicken but if a chicken is roasted well, it is super moist and totally delicious.  I don't know what I enjoy eating more.... decisions, decisions.... 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Featured on Unstitched

I recently did a kitchen comforts feature on the fabulous blog Unstitched.  Please go check it out here

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winning!!! This one is good...promise!

Happy Holidays!  'Tis the season of giving so I decided it would be the perfect time to host a giveaway.  Recently, I've received several requests from readers asking to try some of my recipes. That is why you will all be given a chance to win a box of homemade goodies made by yours truly... Hooray!  I've already brainstormed the yummy things I want to put in there.  Not to get you too excited but you may see a version of these mini meyer lemon olive oil cakes in there!

Think of it as an awesome holiday gift filled with yummy goodies from me to you.

For every 10 followers, (1) one small box of goodies will be given away. So the more followers... the more winners!!!

After winners are selected step-by-step pictures of the gift boxes and recipes will be posted so you can make them at home for your family and friends.  These sweet gift boxes make wonderful gifts.

How to Enter
1.  Become a follower of this blog ("Oh Sweet Escape").
*Please scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on the "Join This Site" icon.
2.  Leave a comment on this post with your email address.
3.  You have to do both #1 and #2.

1. Exclusions include Hawaii, Alaska, and any country outside of the US.  I am really sorry but the shipping costs will be up the wazoo.  
2. If you are already a follower, just leave a comment on this post so I know you want to be included in this giveaway.
3. You are only allowed to enter once.
4. The deadline for this giveaway is Friday, December 2nd, at 9 pm PST.  I will announce the winners shortly afterwards.
5. I will randomly choose the winners.  If you win and have any dietary restrictions (like celiac disease), I will adjust the recipes accordingly.
6. Box of goodies will be sent out the week of December 18th.
7. All winners must sign and agree to the Waiver.

Thanks for reading!!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

For Thanksgiving this year,

I cooked the Thanksgiving meal with my mom....

enjoyed the peaceful view from my parents' backyard.....

ate lots of jjamppong (my mom makes the best)....

got constantly videotaped by my paparazzi dad (yes he videotapes even in his pj's too).....

and snuggled with my favorite cat....he is the best.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

top 5 things I am thankful for

I'm gonna take a break this week because #1, we are going out of town for Thanksgiving and #2, I just need a little break!   In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought of the things I am thankful for this year.  Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and have a reason to be thankful too!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Meyer Lemon Cured Preserves

These should be called magic lemons.  I received them as a gift from my dear friend, Vicki, a while back and I ran out because I used them in almost everything.  They perked up any dish that was savory (meats, fish, pasta, sandwiches, sauces, potatoes, tapenade, you name it).  They are the best condiment ever especially if you want to add a lot of great, lemony flavor to a dish.  The lemon infused oil from this recipe is also very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes.  

Preserved lemons are a Moroccan delicacy and really expensive if you buy them at a specialty store (usually between $7 to $15) so I wanted to share this recipe from my friend.  I bought all my beautiful, fresh meyer lemons from my neighborhood farmers market.  They have just begun their growing season in California. 

Makes 8 lemons

8 organic meyer lemons (3 to 4 ounces each), scrubbed
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Boil a large pot of water.  Blanch the lemons in the boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds.  Cool the lemons in a big bowl of cold water.  Cut off the ends of the lemons (about 1/2 inch) and slice into 1/8-inch rounds.  Remove the seeds as you go.  

Combine the sugar and salt in a large bowl.

With sterilized mason jars, scoop the sugar mixture into the bottom of the jars so it is generously covered with the mixture.  Place a slice of lemon into the jar and cover it completely with sugar mixture.  Keep on alternating lemon slices and the sugar mixture until it fills the jar.  Push down the slices to make room for more lemon slices as you go.   Fill the jars and top with olive oil (I used about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil per 1 pint jar).

Refrigerate for at least 2 weeks to 1 month before eating.  The preserves should be soft.  Remove any excess sugar and salt before using.  I like to mince them before I put them into a dish. These lemons should last up to a year or longer in the fridge. 

Note:  It is better to use too much of the sugar mixture instead of not enough because mold can grow on the exposed areas.  

I used a clean toothbrush to scrub down my precious meyer lemons and I used the oven method to sterilize the mason jars.  For the oven method, preheat your oven to 250 degrees F and heat your jars and lids for at least 15 minutes.  Fill the jars once they have cooled.   For me, it took about 3 lemons to fill a pint jar.  I like using the wide mouth mason jars for these lemons.  They fit perfectly in there.

For extra measure, I quickly blanched the scrubbed lemons in boiling water to kill off any bacteria remaining on the lemons.

Use a sharp knife to cut the lemons into thin slices.  You don't have to be perfect.  A mandoline would be great for a task like this.


Now is the waiting period.  Preserved lemons remind me of kimchi.  It tastes better if you let them sit for a while.  Some people let them sit on the counter but I prefer to let them the preserves sit in the refrigerator. In a couple days, I plan on giving each jar a shake so the sugar and salt evenly distribute throughout the jar.  These make the perfect gifts so I'm planning to pass them on to friends.  Since I originally got these as a gift so now I'm passing it on and sharing the love!  These will be perfect just in time for Christmas cooking.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I've been doing this blog for 7 months now and it is slowly evolving.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it in the beginning.  But now that I have more readers than before, I'm trying to get better at presenting the images for the recipes (and not shooting in bad lighting.... not my best) and editing my material more so I hope you like the change!  I'm totally a visual person and I like making things easier on the eye.  This takes more time to do so I don't know how much additional time I'm going to spend editing my material or if this means I will be posting less often.  We shall see! 

I have been cooking with a lot of squash lately.... pumpkin, delicata squash, spaghetti squash, etc.  I guess it is that time of year but I couldn't forget about my good ol' friend, the butternut squash.  This is probably the most popular of the squashes and for good reason.  It is sweet, has a slightly nutty taste, and is relatively easy to cook with.  If you ever want to know how to cut and peel a butternut squash, I already have a tutorial here in a past recipe.  This soup is light and comforting at the same time.  It's perfect for a side, lunch, or light dinner.

Adapted from AllRecipes
Makes 4 servings

2 cups raw butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup carrot, peeled and diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 quart chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Lay out the butternut squash evenly on a baking pan.  Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes on 1 side.  Take the pan out of the oven, toss the squash and roast for an additional 10 minutes on the other side.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add onion, carrot, celery, and cinnamon stick to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook the veggies for about 5 to 6 minutes 'til they have softened (not browned).  Add the coriander and stock to the pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 7 to 8 minutes so the flavors meld.  Add the roasted butternut squash and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Remove the cinnamon stick.  With an immersion blender, blend the soup 'til it is smooth and creamy (you can also transfer the soup to a blender and puree it that way).  

Taste the soup and adjust for salt and pepper.  Stir in the heavy cream.


The coriander and cinnamon are great additions to this soup.  They create really subtle flavors and this soup would have been totally different without them.  If you haven't used coriander before, it smells similar to lemon and it smells very earthy.

I like roasting the butternut squash long enough so it caramelizes and creates the yummy sugars.  And whoever created the immersion blender is pretty genius.  I like using it because it is way easier than bringing out the blender and washing all the parts after you use it.  I bought mine at Costco.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

McDonald's Style Baked Apple Pie

This recipe is a play on the McDonald's baked apple pies but I put a gourmet twist on it with fresh ingredients.  I was totally craving the little apple pies over the weekend but I always refrain from getting them mainly because I do not know what are in them.  But I did look it up (I'm very nerdy like that) and I found the link here.  The list of ingredients for a baked apple pie is 40+ ingredients long!  Sounds very overly complicated to me and a good chunk of the list is filled with artificial ingredients.  I believe food should be simple.  Here is my recipe for these delicious little snacks.  I made them so I can bring them to work in the mornings and munch on them.

2 sheets (1 package) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (Recommended:  Trader Joe's)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon of water, for egg wash
4 apples, peeled, de-seeded and sliced (I used a mixture of gala and braeburn apples)
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Raw cane sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a saucepan, combine apples, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt.  Simmer apple mixture on medium heat for 11 to 12 minutes.  Stir frequently.  Cool the apple mixture to room temperature.

Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and roll it out to 10 inches by 12 inches.  Place it on a sheet pan and top it with the apple mixture, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge.  Brush the border with the egg wash.

Place the second sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and roll it out to 10 inches by 12 inches.  Place the second sheet of puff pastry on top of filled pastry.  Make sure the line the edges and lightly press down on the edges.  Brush the top of the pastry with the egg wash and with a sharp knife, cut diagonal lines across the pastry for the steam to come out.  Sprinkle the top with additional cinnamon and sugar (maybe 1/4 teaspoon for the cinnamon and 1/2 tablespoon for the sugar...just eyeball it).  

Bake for 15 minutes and rotate the sheet pan half-way through so the pastry evenly bakes.  Cool the pastry on the sheet pan and use a pizza cutter to cut the pastry into wedges.

I used gala and braeburn apples because they are sweet and tart at the same time.  If you use any other kind of apples, adjust the sugar accordingly.  For example, if you use granny smith apples, use more sugar and if you use fuji apples, use less sugar.

I roughly peeled the apples.  I think it makes things look more rustic and homemade.  The fresh lemon juice adds a fantastic zing to the apple pie and balances out the sweet apples. 

When you cook the apples, the liquid will start to come out but don't worry.  The sugary liquid will thicken as the mixture cools to room temperature.  The apples are partially cooked over the stove and finished cooking in the oven.

I love the Trader Joe's puff pastry because it does not contain any trans fat it in or weird artificial ingredients.  Be sure to read your labels for items like puff pastry, pizza dough, pie dough, biscuits, etc.  It is really easy to pick one up with preservatives if you do not read the label (particularly the list of ingredients).  I would also like to mention that puff pastry is definitely one thing I do not make from scratch from the sheer amount of labor.  It is really difficult to make so I will gladly buy it in the freezer section.

This imitation of the McDonald's version tastes awesome.  The puff pastry is light and flakey and the apples inside are beautifully sweet and slightly tart.  I could really taste the freshness from the ingredients.  Don't you wish you were my neighbor?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Miso Dressing

This is my favorite like my fav-or-ite salad dressing.  You will thank me for sharing it after you make it.  Yes, I am very confident that it will be your favorite too.  This recipe is so simple but I feel like I have unearthed a secret because it took a few tries to figure this dressing out.  This is a perfect dressing for a tofu salad, steamed veggies, and put it on top of fish right before you roast it for a miso glaze.  I make quite a bit of this dressing because Mat and I eat so much of it so feel feel to cut this recipe in half.   It lasts at least a week in your fridge.

Makes 2 cups

2/3 c hawaiian sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
1/2 c canola oil
1/2 c red miso
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1/4 c mirin
1/4 c water
Pinch of black pepper

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender.  That's it.

I love having miso in our fridge at all times because it is great for making a quick soup with water, tofu, green onions, and whatever veggies I have on hand (you could use mushrooms, broccoli, or bok choy). 

Are you getting sick of seeing mason jars in my posts?  I use them all the time.  You can find them at Target, Wal-mart, Stater Brothers, etc.  And, I used the dressing to put on top of green lettuce, tofu, green onions, and roasted sesame seeds.  It is great for a healthy snack, side, or for lunch. 

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