Category Archives: Recipe

Chicken (or Turkey, or Duck, or Veal, or…) Stock

Before I started cooking, I considered broth and stock to be pretty much interchangeable. It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve realized there is a difference. The consensus seems to be that broth is made with meat, while stock is made with bones. Broth is suitable to be served as-is (to someone with a cold, for example). Stock, on the other hand, is usually used to make other things. Broth cooks quickly, while stock takes a long time to cook. If you put a whole chicken in a pot of water and boil it for an hour or so until the chicken is done, you have broth. If you roast a chicken, eat it, and then put the bones into a pot of water and simmer it for several hours, you have stock.

Some of the differences seem to run a bit deeper, but this seems to be a good place to start. The other thing that I should point out is that stock is insanely useful, and you should make some!

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First, you need some bones. Whenever we have chicken or turkey, we almost always save the bones. (The exception is when the chicken was used in something really spicy that could bring an off flavour to the stock.) When I roast a chicken or we barbeque some chicken breasts, the bones go into a freezer bag and into the freezer. Once we have enough bones to fill our stock pot, we’ll wait until a slow Sunday afternoon and make stock.

The good stock at the grocery store can run up to $3.50 or more for a quart, and it’s always over-salted. Making your own stock at home, using stuff that you would have just thrown away, can represent some significant savings.

Plus, you can store it in quantities that make sense to you. Rather than buying a quart of stock and only using a cup, you can store your homemade stock in one, two, or four cup quantities. We typically do a mixture of these sizes: one cup bags are used for sauces, two cup bags are used for rice, quinoa or other grains, and four cup bags are used for risotto or soup. Measure the amount you want into a labeled freezer bag, press out the air, and place on a baking sheet. The bag will freeze flat, which makes it a cinch to store.

More frozen assets.

This “recipe” is more of a formula than a measured recipe. Adjust to your liking and what you have available. To make your own stock, you will need:

  • Roasted bones from poultry, beef or veal (Collect enough to fill up your largest pot.)
  • Old vegetables (Traditionally this is mireproix – carrots, celery and onion – but you can use any flavourful vegetables you have on hand.)
  • Water

Put the roasted bones into your largest pot. (When we made stock from the carcass of our 22lb Thanksgiving turkey, we used my water canner.) Add the vegetables, cut into large chunks. Cover everything with water and bring to a boil.

Once the water is boiling, lower the heat until it just simmers. Keep an eye on the stock. If foam forms on the surface of the stock, skim it off and discard. Let the stock simmer for several hours. The longer it simmers, the more gelatin and goodness will leech out of the bones and into your stock.

After several hours, remove from heat. Place a large bowl into the sink, and put a colander inside the bowl. (If you want really clear stock you can line the colander with cheesecloth, but that’s a bit too fussy for me.) Pour the stock through the colander into the bowl. Remove the colander, and discard the bones and vegetables. Use or freeze the stock as desired.

Note: I do not add salt to my stock, although I will sometimes add a small handful of peppercorns. Since I usually don’t know what I’ll be using the stock for, I prefer not to salt the stock.

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Red Thai Curry Chicken

I admit that when I first moved to Canada my palate was pretty limited. Exotic meant Chinese, and Chinese meant chow mein and chicken balls. Japanese food was looked upon in suspicion because it sounded like it would be all fish, and Indian food was out of the question – too hot!

Fortunately, I married a man whose tastes were wide and varied, and I let him cook for me. Over time, he got me to eat a lot of different foods that I never would have considered before. One of the dishes that he made for me was his red Thai curry chicken.

Thai Curry Chicken

He’d been making this dish for a few years when I realized that I was slowly being conditioned. It is a spicy dish, but the spiciness can be altered based on how much curry paste you put into the sauce. When he started making the curry, he’d only put a smattering of curry paste in it. Gradually he increased the “dosage” until it was at full strength. Sure enough, I’d been habituated to eat much spicier food than I had been willing to try when we got married.

I’d sort of like to call this dish “Bachelor Thai Curry Chicken.” It’s not authentic by any stretch of the imagination, and a lot of the ingredients come out of a can. On the other hand, it’s quick (super quick if you do all the chopping the night before) and a bit of a crowd-pleaser. My instructions below are to serve the curry over couscous, which makes a really creamy base for the curry, but basmati rice or quinoa would work just as well.

You will need:

  • 1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken (I like breasts but you can use thighs, too)
  • 2 400ml (13.5 fl oz) cans coconut milk
  • 2 284g (10 fl oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 227g (8oz) cans sliced bamboo
  • 1 227g (8oz) can sliced water chestnuts (optional)
  • 3 sweet bell peppers (we like using one each red, orange and yellow)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp curry paste (this amount makes a curry with medium to high heat; increase or decrease the amount of curry paste to your taste)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups instant couscous

A note about the curry paste: you may need to do some experimentation to find a type you like that’s available in your area. In Winnipeg, all the major grocery stores carry the Thai Kitchen brand curry paste, which is what we use.

Seed the bell peppers and slice them into thin strips. Set aside.

Dice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink inside.

Add mushroom soup and most of the coconut milk (retain about 1/2 cup). Stir to combine.

Mix the curry paste with the retained coconut milk. Mix it well and break up any lumps. (Even small lumps of curry paste can be a nasty surprise.) Add the curry and coconut milk mixture to the pan and stir.

Heat the chicken and sauce until the sauce is well combined and no longer lumpy. Stir in the sugar and fish sauce.

Add the sweet pepper strips and bamboo (and water chestnuts and baby corn, if using) to the pan. Stir.

Bring sauce to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Let cook until hot.

While the curry is heating through, bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. When the water is boiling, add the instant couscous to the water. Remove from heat and cover. The couscous will be ready in about five minutes. Note: This makes a slightly dry couscous, which allows it to absorb some of the moisture and flavour from the curry sauce. If you’d rather have your couscous on the side, use two and a half cups of water, and let the couscous sit for 10 minutes.

To serve, place a scoop of couscous in a bowl and cover with the chicken curry. Let sit for a few minutes to cool, and to allow the couscous to absorb some of the sauce.

This is also fantastic the next day, reheated for lunch.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that everyone is having a great, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving this year! We had our dinner yesterday, so today I have time to relax and tell you all about it!

Pre-dinner.

We decided to invite several friends over this year, and did a (mostly) 100-mile dinner. (“Mostly” because there was a demand for cranberry sauce, so I relented there. Also, the wine was not local, but I have an explanation for that. Most everything else came from the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market, so when I say “the market” in this post, that’s what I mean.

The menu I dreamt up was big. We had a LOT of food, but that way we made sure that no one went home hungry.

Turkey
Our turkey was from Silver Bridge Farm in Landmark, MB. We ordered it back in August so that we would commit to actually doing Thanksgiving. When I put our name down, we specified a “medium” turkey. When we arrived at the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market on Saturday to pick up our turkey, they had a sign asking everyone to get as large a turkey as your roaster would fit. Our roaster could hold up to 22lbs, so we ended up with a 21.88lb turkey. I’m not sure how to show scale on this thing, but here it was before it went into the oven:

Turkey

I stuffed it with onions, sage and oregano from the market, and rosemary and parsley from our garden. That’s it. No salt, no brining, no butter under the skin… All I did was roast it upside down, breast down. It was in a 425F oven for 30 minutes, then a 325F oven for another three hours.

Now, all the calculators I’d seen said that a bird this size should take about 5 hours. But after three and a half hours it was done. Like, DONE. We called everyone in a panic and got them here quickly while the turkey rested, covered in foil and towels. When we sliced the bird, the breast meat was incredibly juicy. I am converted: turkeys go into the oven upside down from now on!

Stuffing
I made homemade stuffing. I got wild rice bread from the Bread Lady on Saturday, and chopped it up into cubes to dry overnight. Other than that, it was a basic dressing: celery and onions from the market in lots of butter, broth made from the turkey neck, some sauteed sage from the market, and parsley from the garden. It all went into a buttered casserole dish and was baked, covered, at 400F for about 40 minutes.

Potatoes
There seems to be a problem with local potatoes this year! Despite looking and looking, we could not find sweet potatoes at the market. I also wanted to do my lavender-coloured mashed potatoes just for the colourful interest, but we couldn’t find the blue potatoes either! *sigh* So, I made smashed red potatoes, which worked just fine.

Green Bean Casserole
This dish worried me, since my standard, classic green-bean casserole involves cans of cream of mushroom soup. Well, Alton Brown to the rescue! I made Alton’s from-scratch green-bean casserole with green beans from my garden, onions from the market, and mushrooms from Loveday. It was a huge success, and my husband has already requested that I make it this way from now on.

Veggies
Our veggies were corn from the market that I’d frozen earlier in the summer, and honey-glazed carrots. Both the carrots and the honey were from the market. (I used this super-simple recipe.)

Rolls and Cranberry sauce
The rolls were butterhorns from Mum’s Country Bakery in Landmark. (Incidentally, if you’ve never tried their cinnamon buns, you must!) I got both regular and multigrain, and they were both great.

The cranberry sauce… *sigh* Well, the cranberries were from Safeway. I was going to do a tart raspberry sauce using frozen raspberries from a friend’s garden this summer, but there was pouting and whining. In the interests of peace, I conceded on the sauce. My husband made a nice lemon-scented cranberry sauce with a touch of allspice.

Wine
Now, I could have gotten local wine. Manitoba has some very nice fruit wines that we could have used. But while we were back home visiting my family earlier this year, we picked up a bottle of Pink Catawba from Heineman’s Winery in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. It was a bit sweeter than I like, but everyone else seemed to like it.

Pumpkin Pie
I am blessed with a husband who makes the most amazing pumpkin pie. He starts with a sugar pumpkin, roasts it, purees it, makes the crust, and bakes them all together. Mmm.

Pie

So, that was our dinner! We have an obscene amount of leftovers (including 8lbs of turkey – we weighed it!), so tomorrow I think I’ll be making some turkey pot pies to freeze.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Cucumber and Bacon Sandwich

Up until this week, the hot, humid weather we’ve been having has created a bit of a boom in our garden. Most vegetable plants love hot weather – the hotter, the better. So long as you keep everything watered, the plants are in heaven.

Bacon and cucumber sandwich.

One of our plants that has done better than expected is the cucumber. I planted one – ONE! – cucumber plant on a whim to fill in an empty spot. It’s now growing in a very weedy patch, and thriving. I think we’ve picked about 10 cucumbers from it so far this summer, from one plant.

What to do with all these cucumbers? Last night I had a bit of a brain storm, and came up with this idea: cucumber and bacon. Add in some lettuce for filler. It’s a BLC instead of a BLT! My husband made his a BLCT, so you could do that, too. This is dead simple, but if you want to make your own, you will need:

* cucumber, sliced about 1/2″ thick (about four slices per sandwich)
* lettuce (one or two leaves per sandwich)
* bacon (about two slices her sandwich)
* bread (we used whole-grain oatmeal bread)
* fresh ground pepper
* mayonnaise
* Optional: tomato slices

Toast your bread. Cook your bacon to the desired crispiness (I like mine crispy but not burnt).

Spread a thin layer of mayo on the toast. Assemble the sandwich: lettuce, bacon, cucumber, pepper, and tomato if you want. (I didn’t add salt because bacon is salty enough).

Eat.

An interesting conundrum came up with this meal: how do you photograph a sandwich and make it look good? I tried several different ways before finally just holding the sandwich up in front of me and snapping a photo. I love the website Scanwiches, where they scan the cut edge of a sandwich using a flatbed scanner, but I didn’t feel like digging out our scanner, plugging it in, finding drivers, etc etc. Anyway, I think this worked!

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Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

If there’s one thing that I love, it’s ice cream.

I think I learned my love for ice cream from my dad. I remember going for ice cream in the summer. We’d all get cones, and he would always finish his first… And then selflessly volunteer to “help” us with ours. (I did sometimes let him help a bit, especially if it was a hot day and the ice cream was melting faster than I could eat it.) These days, though, I’m perfectly capable of finishing my ice cream all by myself. A little too capable, actually.

Chocolate ice cream.

A while ago we decided to get an ice cream maker. This was a surprisingly hard task. We found one at Sears that was really tiny. I also liked the idea of the ice cream maker bowl and paddle for our Kitchen Aid mixer, but the price was a bit steep.

We eventually stumbled upon a huge cache of ice cream makers at Home Outfitters. We bought the Deni Ice Cream Maker (with candy crusher!) and brought it home to try out right away.

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It took some trial and error to find a recipe that we liked. I didn’t want to have to bother with recipes with eggs (and besides, that’s not ice cream – it’s frozen custard), so we set about figuring out the best combo of ingredients for our tastes. One recipe was too crunchy – it was more frozen milk than ice cream. Another tasted like sugary butter – very, very rich, and not really to my tastes.

Finally my husband broke out an Excel spreadsheet to figure out the optimal percent of butterfat that our mixture should have (gotta love being married to a geek!) The resulting flavours and mouthfeel are just perfect. Now that we have a good base down, we’re set to experiment!

To make my husband’s vanilla bean ice cream, you will need:

* 1 whole vanilla bean (look in a gourmet food store or the baking section of a well-stocked supermarket)
* 1 1/2 cup whole milk (3.25%)
* 1 1/2 cup whipping cream (35%)
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 pinch salt

Mix the milk, cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan over low-ish heat. You want to be able to control what temperature the milk gets to, and if it heats too quickly it may scald.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center and flatten it out. With the back of the knife, scrape the inside of the vanilla bean out. (You’ll get lots of seeds and pulp. It’s good, good stuff.) Put the seeds and pulp into the milk mixture as it heats. Toss the emptied vanilla bean husk in too, why not!

Carefully heat the milk mixture to 170°F. My husband uses his handy-dandy touchless IR thermometer from Think Geek, but you can also use a candy thermometer. Constantly stir the milk so that no hot patches form in the liquid. As soon as the milk mixture reaches 170°F, remove it from the heat.

Allow the milk mixture to cool a bit, then pour it into a container with a lid. Store it in the fridge overnight to let the mixture chill completely and the flavours mature.

When you’re ready to make ice cream, remove the ice cream maker bowl from the freezer (you did remember to freeze it overnight, right?) and assemble the appliance. Remove the vanilla bean husk from the milk mixture. Turn the machine on and slowly pour the milk mixture into the machine.

It usually takes about 20-25 minutes for the ice cream to reach soft-serve consistency. Using a spatula, pour the ice cream into a freezer container. Freeze the ice cream for a few more hours to give it a more firm texture.

Scoop and enjoy.

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Ham and Orca Bean Soup

I think it was at the last farmers’ market of the season. It might have been the second-to-last one. Anyway, all of the vendors were selling out the last of their stock, and there were some great deals. With the shelves clearing out, we also found things that we may have overlooked on our previous trips.

At the booth for Windy Ridge Gardens, a little splash of colour caught my eye. They were selling one pound bags of dry beans. The orca beans especially intrigued me.

Orca beans

These beans are well-named, because they really do look like roly-poly killer whales. Picture a wee dorsal fin and a tail on each one, and you could mistake them for teeny weeny stuffed animals. I’d never heard of them, so of course I had to try them!

The beans sat in the cupboard until just after New Years. We got ourselves a shank-end ham for our New Years dinner. After gorging ourselves on sliced ham and cutting off a lot for leftovers (ham sandwiches, ham and cheese omelets, scalloped potatoes, ham ham spam and ham, etc), we still had a rather meaty bone left. I tossed it in a bag and stuck it in the freezer. A few weeks later, while we were in the throes of the cold blast, I decided we needed ham and bean soup.

I love my crock pot. It’s an old Rival model that my parents got for me before I was married. It isn’t fancy: it does high and low, has a removable crock, and will hold 5 quarts. (It also came with an awesome insulated carrying case, which has served us well for pot lucks.) There’s nothing like coming home to a hot meal that’s ready to eat.

One thing that’s held me back from using it as much as I could, though, is that I am really pressed for time in the morning. Err, let me rephrase that: It takes me forever to get going in the morning. Crock pot recipes that require prep (say, browning meat, cooking onion, etc) just aren’t going to get done in the morning here. However, when I realized that a lot of this could be done the night before, it opened a lot more recipes for me.

Like the soup! There’s no picture of the soup, sorry. But hey, it looked like soup! Use your imagination. I knew this would require some prep, so I figured that all out a day in advance. You will need:

* a meaty ham bone (ours had about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped ham left on it)
* 1 lb dry orca beans (these are also called calypso beans, or you can substitute white beans)
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 celery stalks, chopped
* 1 carrot, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* salt and pepper
* thyme
* bay leaf
* olive oil
* water

The night before, put about 2tsp olive oil in a frying pan and heat over medium. Cook the onions, carrot, celery and garlic until the onion is just soft. Sprinkle with just a bit of kosher salt (remember that the ham will have salt in it!) and as much ground pepper as you want. Transfer all of this into your crock pot crock, cover, and put in the fridge.

Put the beans in a bowl of cold water and let soak overnight. Remove the ham bone from the freezer and put in the fridge, if necessary.

In the morning, while you’re making your coffee, drain the water from the beans. Put the beans in a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Bring to a boil, and then let them simmer, uncovered, for about 1/2 an hour.

Remove the crock from the fridge and let it come back up to room temperature. Drain the beans and add them to the crock. Put the ham bone in the crock. Add about 1/2 tsp of dried thyme and the bay leaf to the crock. Add enough water to cover everything; be aware that the beans might soak up a bit more water. Don’t overfill the crock!

Turn the crock pot on to low and let cook for 8-10 hours.

When you get home, remove the bone from the soup. Remove all of the meat from the bone and chop it into bite-sized pieces. Add it back to the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve it on a bitterly cold winter night with a loaf of crusty bread.

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Russian Blue Smashed Potatoes

So, remember those Russian Blue potatoes that we found at the farmers’ market? (And the vendor still has lots! I can’t remember their name, though; they are usually along the southernmost row of stands at the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market.)

Anyway, I’ve made a lot of things with these blue potatoes, just to see how they look in different formats. The steak fries were really interesting, although the browning they got sort of muted the blue colour. Making potato and leek soup was – well, it tasted great, but the soup turned out an odd greenish-brown colour.

But! When I made smashed potatoes, I think I have found my most favourite thing to do with these potatoes. I just love the lavender colour.

Smashed Russian Blue Potatoes

I never make mashed potatoes anymore, by the way. Peeling a potato just feels like I’m sending the best part to the compost pile. And who has time to whip potatoes into smooth submission anymore, anyhow?

I also don’t use a recipe, typically, and prefer to eyeball things. So here’s how it usually goes, with amounts estimated. Adjust everything here to your taste!

* About 1lb Russian Blue potatoes
* 1 to 2TB butter
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream
* less than 1/4 cup milk – maybe a few tablespoons
* salt and pepper

Wash the potatoes and cut out any eyes or soft spots. Cut the potatoes into 1/2″ chunks. In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are soft. Drain.

Put the pot back over high heat for about a minute. Flip the potatoes around in the pot to dry them off just a bit. Remove from heat. Add butter, sour cream and milk, all to taste, while mashing with a potato masher. Mash them good! You’re looking to break up all of the big chunks of potato, and to make sure the butter, milk and sour cream get thoroughly mixed through. You are not looking for silky creaminess. If you wanted that, you should have peeled the potatoes! :)

Add salt and pepper to taste. If you want, add some freshly chopped chives as well.

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Chanterelles on Toast

Remember those chanterelles? I’m here to tell you their fate!

I did massive searches for recipes that used chanterelles. Boy, there sure are a lot out there! But I already had an idea of what I wanted. I wanted the mushrooms to stand on their own, and not have to compete with a cream sauce, for instance, or a strong-tasting cheese. I also wanted simple, because our schedule has been a bit hectic lately.

In the end, I found exactly what I wanted: a fresh-tasting dish that highlighted the taste of the chanterelles, but without a lot of fuss.

Chanterelles on Toast

This was so simple and easy, but my husband summed the taste up when he said, “Wow. This tastes like something you’d get at a really expensive restaurant.” If we can find more chanterelles at the market this weekend, I’d like to pick more up so I can try this again. So good!

You will need:
* a loaf of crusty french bread
* 1/2 lb yellow chanterelle mushrooms
* 1/2 an onion, diced
* olive oil
* 1 TB cream (I just used half-n-half)
* about 1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley (or four sprigs or so)
* salt and pepper

Slice four nice, thick pieces of bread from the loaf. Don’t use the heel! In a large frying pan, heat about 2 TB olive oil over medium heat. Toast the bread in the frying pan. When one side is golden, add more olive oil to the pan and flip the toast pieces. (Watch them carefully – some of mine got a bit *too* toasty, if you know what I mean.)

Meanwhile, clean the chanterelles with a damp cloth. Quarter them lengthwise, and then chop into pieces about 1″ wide or long.

Heat a medium frying pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, toss in the chopped chanterelles and stir, stir, stir! You can add a bit of salt at this point if you’d like.

Doing this dry saute will drive a lot of moisture out of the mushrooms. You can spoon off the water if you’d like (apparently it makes awesome mushroom stock) but I didn’t get enough to bother saving. I just left my water in the pan – it was probably about two tablespoons or so.’

Once no more water is cooking out of the mushrooms, add the onions and stir. Cook the mushrooms and onions until the onions start to get soft. Add a sprinkle of salt and a few twists of fresh-ground pepper. Add the parsley and stir to combine. Add the cream and remove from heat. Continue stirring until the cream is completely incorporated.

Spoon the mushroom mixture over your toasted bread. Serve hot.

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Grilled and Butterflied Chicken

Like I said earlier, I’m not the grillmaster in our house. That title belongs to my husband. However, I do enjoy coming up with interesting things for him to grill.

We really like doing roast chicken during the winter. One chicken will get us about two meals, plus 6-8 cups of rich, homemade chicken broth. But it’s way too hot during the summer (well, usually) to think about turning on the oven for the length of time it takes to cook a chicken.

So when I wandered across an episode of Good Eats in which Alton butterflies a chicken, I was intrigued. The concept is simple: instead of leaving the chicken all “bunched up” (you know, looking like a regular chicken), you could speed up the cooking process by “spreading out” the chicken so that the heat was more evenly distributed.

A little Googling found me a video that explained very clearly how to make a chicken lay flat (even better than Alton’s explanation. Whoa!). A word of warning about the video: it’s not for the vegetarian. You are doing a bit of custom butchering on your bird, and that involves crunching kitchen scissors through bones.

(Man, he makes it look easy. I always forget that part about cutting through the gristle at the top of the keel bone.)

Anyway, once you have the chicken flattened, it becomes a dream to grill. Now, our experience with the chickens had a fair amount of trial and error in it. Our biggest lesson is evident in this photo.

Butterflied Chicken

This bird? Tasted awesome, but it was a bit charred. The grease from the bird caused some flare-ups. After a trying a few different things, my husband eventually hit on using a lower temperature (increasing the cooking time a bit), and using a syringe filled with water to knock down any flare-ups. We’ve ended up with one perfect bird so far: perfectly crisped skin that isn’t burn, and moist, juicy meat. Unfortunately we were hungry that night, so I didn’t get a photo.

Butterflied chicken, ready to grill

What you put under the skin is really up to you, but we have found a favourite.

What you’ll need:
* olive oil
* salt
* coarse ground pepper
* 2 tsp dried rosemary
* 1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
* one chicken (3-4 pounds is good for two meals for two people.)

In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, the rosemary and garlic. Add enough olive oil to form a nice paste. Set aside.

Prepare the chicken. Remove the back and keel bone, and lay flat. Salt the inside of the bird and rub with olive oil.

Loosen the skin over the breasts and thighs. Spoon the rosemary mixture under the skin. Sprinkle the skin with salt and rub with olive oil. Massage the rosemary mixture around under the skin with your finger tips.

Heat grill to 325-350°F. Carefully lay the chicken on the grill, skin-side down. Cook for 20 minutes. Use a syringe (or a baster) filled with water to knock down any flare-ups from dripping oil or fat.

Using two wads of paper towels, grab the legs and flip the bird skin-side up. Be prepared for flare-ups! Cook for another 20 minutes.

Using a tip-sensitive thermometer, check that the chicken has reached 160°F in the breast and 170°F in the thigh. Remove the chicken from the grill, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. (The internal temperature should rise to 165°F in that time.)

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Grilled Salad and Bruschetta

In our short summer, nothing beats pulling out the barbecue and getting your grill on.

Now, I’m not the grill-meister in our house. That title belongs to my husband. To be honest, I’m a little afraid of our grill. It’s a gas grill with a broken ignition switch, so there’s a bit of a trick to getting it lit. But, as Dave says, there’s something primal about a man playing with fire to cook his food. That, and he really enjoys doing it, so I leave it to him.

I’m not sure where I first saw this as a suggestion, but a few years ago I learned of a way to grill a salad on the barbecue. I was intrigued. When I realized that the recipe called for actually placing lettuce on the grill, I knew we had to try it. And after we tried it once, we knew that the maxim cited by grill-meisters everywhere was true: Everything can be grilled.

(I don’t have a picture of this recipe, since – well, it isn’t terribly photogenic for one thing. It also should be eaten warm, which precludes spending ten minutes arranging wilted lettuce leaves on a plate. If I do happen to get a photo of it, though, I’ll update this post with it!)

This recipe will serve two for a dinner salad, or four for a side dish. You will need:

* one head of very fresh romaine lettuce
* a pound (or so) of fresh asparagus
* one medium eggplant
* two large portabello mushroom caps
* 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* about 3 TB balsamic vinegar
* olive oil
* freshly ground pepper

It would help if you have two people working on this: one person working the grill, and the other person prepping stuff and keeping things warm inside. After everything was cooked and chopped, it went into a big bowl covered with foil.

1. Wash the head of romaine lettuce, keeping it intact. Rinse down between the leaves. Wash the rest of your produce too, since the sink will be occupied in the next step.

2. With a large knife, slice the head in half lengthwise, from the top down through the root. Place both halves face down in the sink to drain.

3. Slice the eggplant into round slices, about 1/2 thick. Brush with olive oil. (I tried drizzling it, but the oil just seeped right in. Pour the oil into a separate dish and brush it on.) Grill the eggplant over medium heat, 3-4 minutes a side. Remove from heat and quarter. Keep warm.

4. Snap the hard ends off the base of each asparagus stalk. Drizzle the stalks with oil, and roll them around to get them well-covered. Grill the asparagus for about 3-4 minutes total, just until they are tender. Remove from heat and slice into 1″-2″ pieces. Keep warm.

5. Drizzle the cut sides of the lettuce with olive oil. Turn face down on a plate, and brush on more oil on “backs.” Place face-down on grill. Timing is critical here: you’re looking at 1-3 minutes per side for the lettuce, or just until the dark green bits are wilted. Grill on all sides, watching it carefully so the lettuce doesn’t turn into a soggy lump. Remove from heat, and slice into 1″ pieces. Keep warm.

6. Brush portabellos with olive oil and grill, about 4 minutes a side. Remove from heat and slice. Add to the salad.

7. Once everything is in a big bowl, toss with Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, pepper, and more oil if needed. Keep warm while you toast the bruschetta.

And that’s it! Grilling the romaine gives it this rich, almost cheeseburger-like taste. Also, the variations on this are endless, depending on what you have on hand and what’s seasonal. We have replaced the portabello with chicken breasts (marinated in lemon juice and garlic, grilled and sliced), and the eggplant and asparagus could be replaced with any grillable vegetable: zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, bok choi, sweet onions, etc.

Anyway, back to the dinner! While I’ve made bruschetta before, that was more of the Western style: toasted bread topped with stuff. At it’s most basic, bruschetta is just toasted bread with garlic and olive oil. Served with the salad we just made above, this was sort of like making our own, gigantic croutons.

Bruschetta to Be

You will need:

* one large baguette (the kind you always see poking out of shopping bags in illustrations)
* a clove of raw garlic
* olive oil

1. Slice the baguette into slices that are about 1″ to 1.5″ thick. I cut on the bias (diagonally) to make it look pretty, but that’s not necessary.

2. After cleaning the grill, place the slices on the grill over medium heat.

3. Keep a close watch on your slices! You’ll want to grill them for about a minute to a minute and a half a side. If they start to blacken it’s time to flip!

4. Peel your garlic clove and slice in half (either way, whichever is easier.)

5. After they are toasted, rub each slice on both sides with the cut side of the garlic. Then drizzle the slices generously with olive oil.

You’ll have certainly gotten your daily requirement of olive oil from this dinner, but it’s so good. None of it makes for very good leftovers, though, so plan accordingly.

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