Then Dinner

Holiday Pork Tenderloin

Holiday_Pork_Tenderloin

I’m just back from spending Christmas with Santa Maria’s parents, in central Pennsylvania. I’ve always felt fortunate to have met Santa Maria, and when I married her my world expanded in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Life with her has been like stepping into a kaleidoscope, and among the many moving and dizzying points of light are her parents. They are remarkable people whose eccentricity is outdone only by their generosity. Whenever I visit, I try to pay them back in what little way I can, mostly by cooking for them.

It was a bit of a lightning fast trip, given school and work schedules, and I had only three meals to prepare. The first was for Christmas Eve, and I wanted to do something easy, tasty, and festive. The pork roast that I usually make, with apples, sage, and white wine, would have been perfect, but I couldn’t get that piece of meat at the coop. I was set on doing something with pork because I planned on serving beef for Christmas Day (I’ll get to that in a subsequent post), and I didn’t want to do turkey or another bird. Fish was out of the question because I was going to be on the road. Running short of time in the coop, I grabbed two pork tenderloins and started thinking about how I might need to alter my recipe to accommodate the different cut of meat.

I love my roast-pork recipe because it creates its own sauce as it cooks. I stack the meat atop apples and sage and add a bit of wine. As the meat roasts, the fat atop the pork dribbles down into the pan, the apples soften, and the wine reduces. It’s as delicious as it is easy.

Pork tenderloin, however, is very lean, and the ones I get at my coop tend to be small, too (though I saw some purported pork tenderloins at a super market in PA that were the size of Norse yule logs, and probably just as savory, so watch where you get your meat). Given their small size and lack of fat, I knew they would need a little help to be proper holiday fare. So I topped them with slices of bacon, which didn’t exactly crisp up like the skin on a fresh ham, but did lend the sauce a smoky essence. Everybody loved it.

Holiday Pork Tenderloin

  • 1-2 apples, the more tart, the better
  • 1 bunch of fresh sage
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 pork tenderloins (or one, depending on size; figure about 4-6 ounces per guest)
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1 cup of dry white wine

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Slice the apples and lay them in the bottom of a roasting pan.
Layer a few leaves of sage over the apples.
Sprinkle the garlic slices amid the sage and apples.
Place the meat atop the apples, sage, and garlic.
Top with more slices of sage, and tuck some of the garlic in the folds of the meat.
Drape the three slices of bacon over the top of it all.
Pour the wine around the apples and meat.

Roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the pork is 145 degrees.

Remove meat to cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm.
Reduce sauce on stovetop slightly, mashing the apples into large pieces.*

Serve by slicing the meat and arranging it on a platter, with a bowl of sauce on the side. Diners can dress their meat to their liking.

*Note: in retrospect at this point in the recipe I would consider adding a few tablespoons of butter to th wine and apple mixture and reducing further to create a more traditional French-style sauce, but that’s your call.


What do Pepper and Salt Bring to the Family Dinner?

Salt_and_Pepper_LR

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard after a day of cooking, commuting, working, commuting, and cooking to find things to talk about at the dinner table. I know that the family dinner is held up as an ideal, and that we should all gather around the table at least once a day to purify our souls and become whole as a family. And yet, I often find myself staring in disbelief at the state of things when we sit down. Someone is often whining about something. If, as Tolstoy has it, “Happy Families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” I would add, every family dinner is conversational disaster in its own way.

But tonight I stumbled upon a new gambit. Santa Maria was out of town, and I was on on my own with the kids. We were eating pasta with Bolognese (from the freezer), and the conversation was stalling, stalling, stalling. To pull it out of the nose dive, I grabbed the pepper grinder, which was on the table, and anthropomorphized it. 

Tipping it back and forth playfully, I gave the pepper grinder a voice, and it wasn’t a kindly dad voice. It was more of a PG-rated Andrew Dice Clay voice. The grinder wasn’t full of pepper, it was full of something that rhymes with “sloop” and makes elementary school kids laugh. 

As soon as I gave it this forbidden personality, Nina and Pinta’s faces lit up. They loved it. They ran with the scatological jokes, and then I made Pepper hate Salt. EventuallyI recanted, and Pepper admitted to liking Salt, if being a bit jealous (oceans and all that). Eventually, Pinta dashed to the kitchen and got the salt. I found them side by side on the table when cleaning up and they reminded me that the family dinner can be fun, with a bit of effort (and I'm not talking about the cooking).

Stay at Stove Dad Bolognese Sauce 

  •  1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 2 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white (or red) wine
  • 11/2 lb ground beef
  • 3 cans of peeled plum tomatoes, diced to bits with an immersion blender
  • Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

        Saute the onion, carrot, celery, and bacon until the vegetables are soft and the bacon fat rendered.  

        Add the beef and cook it until it is brown (crushing it with a potato masher, so there are no large clumps). 

        Add the wine and cook it off. 

        Add  the stock. 

        Add the tomatoes and the spices and simmer until thick (about three hours).

Note: This makes about three quarts, and it freezes very well. Do the whole batch, eat one quart for dinner (serves about four) and freeze the other two. That way you get at least three meals out of one cooking session.

 

A.1 Crispy Tofu Super Flatbreads

A1_Crispy_Tofu_Flatbread_LR2

School-bus lines have replaced tan lines, and fall is underway. Change is in the air, and not only around the Stay at Stove Dad household. I wasn’t aware, but A.1 steak sauce is now A.1 Original Sauce. It’s just a labeling change, though. They haven’t touched the recipe. I was told this by the fine folks at Kraft, for whom I’m working as a Tastemaker this year. They asked me to come up with a new recipe for the sauce. I’m always looking dinner ideas (one can only eat so much pasta, chicken breast, or pork), and I was excited by the challenge.

People like A.1 for its savory flavor, and wanted a way to deliver that classic taste without involving steak. Some folks can’t eat steak for financial and health reasons, but they should still be able to enjoy A.1, if that’s their sort of thing. And the good news about A.1 is that it will keep in the fridge, so even if there’s some leftover after making this recipe, the sauce will still be there, ready to go for it’s traditional use on a burger or piece of meat.

I wanted something quick and easy, too, so I started to play around with flavored crackers. Made with just water and flour and seasonings, crackers are incredibly easy to make at home, though a wise-guy friend of mine remarked, “You know, they sell crackers in stores,” when I told her what I was doing. Don’t listen to her—homemade crackers are a snap.

Using flour, semolina, salt, and olive oil, I made such big and wide crackers that they came out more like flatbreads. I enlivened them with a dollop of A.1, and then set out to make a meal out of them. I marinated tofu in A.1, and fried it up, and topped it with sautéd mushrooms, caramelized onions, and a bit of thyme, butter, and the like. Finished with fresh parsley, it was everything I wanted from an A.1 sauce recipe: tasty, quick, and satisfying. The recipe is here.


Eggplant Experiments

I once saw a poster that said something like “success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration.” I won’t argue with that, and I have developed a related equation: inspiration is 100% the product of failure. In other words, you can’t succeed unless you fail first. With that in mind, here’s one of my latest kitchen adventures. Perhaps it will inspire you.

I was in the store the other day and the eggplant caught my eye. I decided to make eggplant parmesan that night. I took the vegetable home, but before I left the store I picked up some ricotta and some fancy jar sauce. Also a bit of prosciutto, as I was in the mood to experiment.

At home, I decided to make some sort of eggplant parmesan/lasagna/napoleon. I wanted some extra flavor, and I didn’t have time to salt and drain the eggplant, so I decided to roast it under the broiler. I sliced it lengthwise, rubbed it with a bit of oil, and salted it lightly, before placing under the broiler until it looked like this:

Roasted_eggplant


After I roasted the eggplant, I layered stacks of eggplant, cheese, ham, basil, and sauce. Like this:

Eggplant_more


Until topped with a bit of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, it looked like this:

Eggplant_final


And then I baked it in the oven for about thirty minutes at 350 degrees, until it looked like this:

Eggplant_final_cooked

My mistake, as I learned later when I ate dinner, is that I didn’t roast the eggplant long enough. It didn’t taste right. None-the-less, the meal was tasty enough for me to try again. Next time, I will roast the eggplant longer. How might you improve this recipe?


Block Island Carbonara

Block_Island

We are just back from an exhausting adventure on Block Island, a tiny teardrop-shaped spot land with an outsized role in my life. I had my first job in journalism there, some two decades ago, and I later proposed to Santa Maria on its slender northern tip, where the roiling waters of the North Atlantic meet the rapid currents of Block Island Sound. The ten-mile square island is a paradise of rolling fields, endless beaches, and natural beauty. 

I’m fortunate to still have an old friend on the island, and we stayed in his converted barn and windmill. He introduced us to two friends of his, a couple with girls the same age as Nina and Pinta. One night, when we were at their house having cocktails, the hour grew late. By the time we left for home, we needed a quick dinner. Santa Maria and I had snacked on the fresh ceviche and hummus provided by our hosts, so we weren’t too hungry. Nina and Pinta, however, had eaten only chips and lemonade. 

In cases like this, an easy default is to make breakfast for dinner. A couple of scrambled eggs later, and Nina and Pinta were off to bed. By this time, though, Santa Maria and I were hungry. Scrambled eggs might have been fine for our little ones, who were so tired after running around with their new friends that they could have gone to bed without eating anything, but I wanted something more.

Breakfast for dinner got me to thinking—I had bacon and eggs in the house, and I had pasta. Like the steady breeze of Block Island, a thought whipped its way into my head: carbonara. The classic egg and pasta dish was never something I liked, but I was willing to try it. I don’t know why. Maybe I wanted to do it for the same reason I kept dragging myself back to that wacky island. The promise of something good outweighed the effort required to experience it. 

I mentioned carbonara to Santa Maria and she was thrilled. She had a recollection of having it in Rome once, and she loved it. I had no idea. My only experience with “carbonara” had been in a fraternity-house kitchen, where a friend would sometimes make himself dinner by boiling a pot of spaghetti and then throwing an egg in it.  

I Googled the recipe, and came up with the Pioneer Woman’s take on it, which looked good enough to get me started. I fried up three pieces of bacon, sweated some onions, and tossed in a bit of garlic. I reserved the pasta water after I drained the cooked spaghetti, and I heeded her advice to combine the eggs and cheese very carefully, under a low heat. I tossed in a bit of baby spinach, to give mine a sharp and healthy counterpoint to the richness of the sauce, and I was rewarded by a delicious dinner. Santa Maria had her’s without the spinach, and she liked it so much that it was a highlight of the trip for her. 

Block Island Carbonara

  • Pasta of choice (spaghetti, in this case)
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup baby spinach (optional)

Put a large pot of water on to boil, for the pasta, and salt it heavily.

Start cooking the pasta as soon as the water boils.

In the meantime, fry the bacon in a large frying pan until crisp.

Set the bacon aside, and leave the bacon fat in the pan.

Sauté the onion in the bacon fat until it is soft and clear, about ten minutes.

While the onion is cooking, whisk the eggs in a bowl and add in the grated cheese and salt and pepper.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, being sure to reserve the liquid.

Once the onion is soft, add the garlic, and cook for a few minutes more, until fragrant.

Toss the pasta into the frying pan and slowly stir in the egg-and-cheese mixture.

Under a low heat, keep stirring the pasta-and-egg mixture as it cooks. The goal here is to make a creamy sauce, and to keep the eggs from scrambling. Add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water as needed.

While the egg-and-cheese mixture is cooking, toss in the spinach.

Continue to combine until the egg is cooked, a few minutes more. 

Serve with slices of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serves 2 to 4 to 6, depending on appetites.


A-Team Chicken, Spinach, and Tomato Pasta

Spinah_Tomato_Chicken_Pasta

Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to watch much television, but I somehow managed to lose myself in  “The A-Team,” the the eighties adventure series. It turned Mr. T in to a celebrity, putting his face on lunch boxes (a key metric of popularity when I was young), but my favorite character was the team leader Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith. The best moment of the show came for me when he muttered, “I love it when a plan comes together.”  It was usually mayhem at that point in a given show, and he was having a great time with the chaos.

It was excellent training for parenting. Plans often go awry, but things still work out. The important thing, is to have a plan. Last Tuesday, I came home from work a bit late, and needed dinner. Santa Maria, who got out of work earlier than I did, had fed the kids black beans, but I had eaten those for lunch recently, and wasn’t in the mood for them.

I had an overripe tomato, a tired bag of spinach, and a pack of chicken thighs that all needed cooking. What could I do with those, I wondered. I needed something fast, so a pasta came to mind. It’s easy to make a sauce in a pan by reserving the past-cooking water, so I was confident I could come up with something. There was just one catch—the kids were not yet in bed.

Bedtime is nothing like it was when the kids were young. We have a routine, and it’s mostly easy. But it takes time. Toothbrushing, hair combing, face-washing, book reading, etc. I needed to make dinner, but I wanted to be with the kids.

So I broke down the recipe into stages that I could stop at will.

  Chicken_thighs

I sautéd the chicken thighs in a bit of oil until they were very brown.

I set them aside and checked on the kids.

Sauted_Onion
 I sliced an onion in sautéd it in the chicken fat.

While the onions were sweating, I made sure teeth were getting brushed.

  Plain_Pasta

I put on a big pot of water and made pasta.

I ran to get the kids washcloths for their faces, and ironed out a squabble over sharing the batthrom.

Pasta_Water

And when was done, I reserved its cooking liquid for later.

I made sure the kids were brushing their hair, and sorted out some squabbles over sharing the bedroom.

  Tomato_Garlic

I diced a bit of garlic, and cut up that over-ripe tomato, and set them aside until I was ready for them.

I went and check on the kids again, to make sure they getting dressed for bed.

The spinach was pre-washed, so there was nothing to do with it. I chopped the tomato, cut up the cooked chicken, and then I turned everything off.

I went to tuck in the kids. 

Everything was going to plan. It was perfection.

I returned to the kitchen to assemble the final dish, heating the onions. Tossing in the tomatoes. Then adding the garlic, spinach, pasta, pasta water, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Santa Maria was just kissing everyone goodnight. Dinner was moments away. It was all coming together wonderfully. 

Then boom—something went awry. There were tears. There were howls. Someone was upset, and dare we say overtired (and I’m not just talking about myself). There were words between Santa Maria and myself. Dinner would have to wait. Appetites were fading. The dish sat on the stove. And sat.

After everyone settled down, we ate. And it was delicious. A quick, flavor-rich sauce. A one pot-wonder of spinach, tomato, and chicken. I have to say it was the Parmigiano-Reggiano that brought it all together. Roll Credits.

A-Team Chicken, Spinach, Tomato Pasta

  • Pasta of choice
  • One pack of boneless chicken thighs, about a pound
  • Half an onion, sliced lengthwise, and then cut in half again, once.
  • One very ripe tomato, diced
  • Three cloves of garlic, halved and sliced
  • A few cups of clean baby spinach
  • Grated Parigiano-Reggiano 

Put a pot of water on for the pasta.

Cook the pasta, reserving the water

Sauté the chicken thighs in a bit of oil until fiercely brown.

Remove and set a side.

Sauté the onion in the chicken fat, slowly, until golden brown.

Add the tomatoes, cook until they collapse; a few minutes.

Add the garlic, cook a minute.

Add the spinach, cook until the spinach collapses.

Add the chopped chicken, cooked pasta, and a few spoonfuls of the reserved pasta water to create a bit of sauce.

Finish with copious amounts of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Serves two to four, depending.  


What's Your Secret for a Perfect Hamburger?

Hamburger_plate

The New York Times recently ran an article on how to make the perfect hamburger indoors, and I was stunned to learn that I’ve been doing it correctly all along. Here’s the rub, though—my burgers have been far from perfect. I could never get them cooked properly inside (they were either too raw or completely overdone), until I came up with a trick of my own.

First, though, let me go over what I’ve been doing right. According to the Times’ Sam Sifton, whose authoritative voice on food matters is never to be doubted (except once, maybe), the right way to do it is to cook the burgers on “heavy, cast-iron pans.” It has something to do with the way the fat pools and cooks the meat. My trusty cast-iron frying pan is never far from my side, so that was the easy part. I’ve always used it to cook my burgers. 

The article goes on about getting your butcher to grind the beef for your burger, and I haven’t gotten that part right, yet. Still, I always use grass-fed beef from the Park Slope Food Coop, and it’s pretty good. The article talks at length about the proper ration of meat to fat—80/20—and from the looks of it, I’m doing okay on that account.

Sifton seems to be a purist about the beef patty. No flavorings or fillings for him. I differ on this, and the nice thing about cooking for one’s self is there’s no one to say otherwise. I use two things to flavor my burgers:

Onion

Onion, but not too much (and scallions are even better).

 

Diced_onion

Diced, as small as possible. And again, not too much (I used about half of what’s shown here, in a pound of ground beef).

  Anchovies

And, drum-roll please, anchovies. Yes, just one or two, chopped very finely and mixed into the meat. no one will know they are there, but they will say you make a mighty savory burger. Anchovies are salt and umami bombs.

And the way I get them cooked properly is to use an instant-read meat thermometer. I char them nicely on one side, flip them, and then cook until they are 125 degrees in the center. It takes the guess work out of it for me.

My Perfect Burgers (with apologies to The New York Times)

  • 1/4 or less of an onion (or three or so scallions) diced as finely as possible.
  • 1-2 anchovies, diced  
  • 1 pound ground beef

Combine the beef and the onions and the anchovies in a bowl, and mix with well with your hands.

Fashion the pound of beef into four or five patties.

Heat a cast-iron frying pan on a medium to high flame.

Place the burgers in the pan and flatten a bit with the back of a spoon.

Cook undisturbed for about four minutes, until the char starts to creep up the side of the burger.

Flip and cook on the other side until 125 degrees internal as measured by an instant-read thermometer.

Note: I served the burgers tonight with the Fly Sky High Kale Salad, an oldie but a goodie. The kids even like it now. That's the green in the background on the photo at top. Enjoy.

 


Looking for a Quick Dinner Idea? Try Scrambled-Egg Tacos

Egg_sandwich_dinner

I just spent three days in Los Angeles with friends, living out of a suitcase and eating out all the time. Last night’s dinner, of local little-gem lettuce and medium-rare rack of lamb at Church & State, which the critic Jonathan Gold recently called, “the closest thing to a first-rate French bistro that Los Angeles has seen in years,” was noteworthy for its flavor, but the others stood out for a different reason: portion sizes.

I know I’m a bit behind the curve on this, but when did three eggs become a standard offering for a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, and who thought it was a good idea to make a common omelet the size of a throw pillow? And if I wanted a seaside lunch of tacos, does it have to fill a platter large enough to hold a suckling pig? It’s no wonder that nearly 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. This has real consequences. For example, the medical costs related to obesity now exceed the costs associated with smoking. Being overweight is more than just a personal problem.

I don’t have a grand solution, but I have a small one. Learn to cook, and make meals for yourself. That way, you can control the portion size and what you put on your plate. 

Cooking does not have to be complicated. Take a basic dish like scrambled eggs. If you don’t know how to prepare them, here’s a link with an easy-to-follow recipe. Here is my even easier way of making them: I crack two eggs in a bowl, add a bit of salt and pepper, combine the eggs and their yolks thoroughly with a fork, and cook the mixture in a buttered frying pan on a medium-high heat, moving the eggs about with a spatula, until they are the consistency I like. It takes about two minutes. One of the nice things about eggs are their versatility. Best known as a breakfast food, they can also become a dinner by making a few additions. 

The other night, before my trip to LA, I came home late from work. The kids were in bed, and Santa Maria was out of town. I paid the babysitter, and gave some thought to dinner. I wasn’t that hungry, because I’d had a late-afternoon snack at my office, but I needed something. In the refrigerator, I spied half an avocado left over from earlier in the week, and there’s always a jar of salsa on my shelves. The carton of eggs caught my eye, and a package of soft-corn tortillas called out to me: I could make scrambled-egg tacos. I whipped up two eggs, laid them out on two warmed tortillas, topped them with slices of avocado, salsa, and some fresh cilantro, and I had dinner made in about ten minutes. 

As I sat down to eat the tacos, a funny thing happened. I couldn’t finish them. They were delicious, but I had overestimated my hunger. Because I was at home, it was easy for me to control my portion size. I ate one, and put the leftovers in the fridge. 

Scrambled-Egg Tacos

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 soft-corn tortillas
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • jar salsa
  • fresh cilantro to garnish

Warm the tortillas in a frying pan.

Scramble the eggs.

Assemble by putting eggs on tortillas, and topping with avocado, salsa, and cilantro.

Serves one (or more, depending).


How Is an Egg Poached in Olive Oil like a Good Marriage?

Olive_oil_poached_egg

If a poached egg is is like being engaged, then an egg poached in olive oil is like being married—a bit more effort, but infinitely richer and more rewarding. I was first introduced to the idea of an olive-oil poached egg a few years ago, when I interviewed Tamar E. Adler, the author of “An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace,” but much in the same way it took me some thirty years to get married, I only recently tried poaching an egg in olive oil.

I don’t really know how to describe how good an egg poached in olive oil tastes. It’s like asking me to tell you what’s great about my marriage. You’ll probably lose your appetite before I can get to the second sentence. Just trust me, and try it. If you don’t like it, it’s not as if you’ll have to pay for a divorce. We’re talking about a relatively small commitment here.

One thing that did hold me back a bit was the relatively large amount of oil that’s needed. I didn’t want to waste it, but as I recently learned, you can save the oil after you are done with it, and use it for cooking over the next few days. Like in a marriage, a little information can solve a lot of problems (and I won’t charge $150 an hour for that advice).

Santa Maria wasn’t interested an olive-oil poached egg, and my kids didn’t care for one either. Still, I made the egg for myself the other day—taking care of one’s self is important in a marriage, for how can you take care of another, if you haven’t cared for yourself? I wanted a break from my standard daily-cooking fare, and I also wanted a taste of simple luxury. A quarter cup of olive oil on an egg provided that with ease.

Olive_oil_Butter_Pan

I started with a pan full of oil, and added a touch of butter for some more luxury. The more traditional recipes for olive-oil poached eggs use garlic, peppers, bay leaves, and other ingredients to flavor the oil. Seamus Mullen, the New York City chef, has posted a nifty video that shows just how to enhance your experience with poaching in olive oil. He also has a good tip about getting the oil to the right temperature—keep the heat low, and get it to a point where you can stick your thumb in it for a moment without burning it which somehow sounds a bit like marriage to me, but I’ll skip that.

Olive_oil_poached_egg_In Pan

Most recipes for poaching an egg in olive oil show instructions for a soft yoke yolk. One of the advantages of this way of cooking is that the edges of the egg take on the characteristics of a fried egg, but the yolk comes off more as poached. Many people like it this way. I, on the other hand, like my yoke yolk cooked all the way through. This is a good example of why one should learn to cook for him or herself—you can make the food the way you want it. I encourage you to play around—not with your marriage, but in the kitchen.

Olive_oil_eggs_pan_three

Therefore, I flipped my eggs and cooked them all the way through. This is not traditional, but it’s what I wanted.

I served my eggs on toast, dressed with slices of Parmesan, a garnish of fresh parsley, and a dash or two of Tabasco. But eggs poached in olive oil are extremely versatile, and are good for far more than breakfast. They make for a nice salad with chicory and speck (as Samin Nosrat shows on Food52.com); they go over flatbreads (as Oh Joy! does, with chicken mole), and Tamar E. Adler puts hers over pasta. Like a good marriage, an egg poached in olive oil will take you all kinds of wonderful places.

Olive Oil Poached Eggs

  • 1/4 cup or so of olive oil
  • 1-2 eggs

Heat the olive oil in a small pan until you can hold your thumb in the oil for just a moment, without burning it.

Slide the egg into the oil, using a spoon to ladle the hot oil over the yolk.

Cook as you like it, and serve over toast as mentioned above.


How to Properly Test the Temperature of a Roast Chicken

Roast chicken thermometer jpg copy

Sometimes it can feel as if all of life is tied up in a roast chicken. Cook enough of them, and you’ll get to experience everything, from savory triumphs (long ago I helped a friend cook about eight birds at once for a big party) to silly setbacks (those birds took much longer than I had planned) to plain old boredom (we have them about once a week, in the winter, and I’m looking forward to the summer).

If you are just starting to cook, a roast chicken is one of the easiest things to do, and if you’ve been cooking for a long time, they are one of the easiest things to obsesses over doing right. The Internet is full of advice about keeping the breast meat moist and getting the skin perfectly crisp.

But one thing the Internet is lacking is a decent video about how to properly use a meat thermometer. I know because I’ve been looking for one for longer than it takes to roast a chicken, serve it, and clean up afterwards.  This came up because the other day, Santa Maria, who is often at home roasting a chicken for the family while I’m at work, asked me if there was a good video showing how to use one.

I was sure that a good video would be easy to find, but I’ve been proved wrong. Unlike this excellent video showing how to cut up a chicken, I have not been able to locate any decent videos. If you know of any, please send me a note.

In the meantime, I’ll go over the basics, in case anyone is like Santa Maria, and unsure about what to do.

  • Get a good meat thermometer. I use a simple instant-read one, but there are countless options. Here is a list of the types.
  • Know what temperature you need to cook the meat to in order for it to be safe. The government says 165 degrees for chicken. Here is their chart.
  • Place the thermometer in the proper part of the meat. The best practice is to insert it into the thickest part. In the chicken, the thigh is recommended. Here are the USDA’s tips. Worst comes to worst, you can check multiple places, which is what I did when making a standing-rib roast for the first time).

And here are my a few of my favorite recipes for roast chicken:

But keep in mind that if you have a quality bird, sometimes all you need is salt (which is Santa Maria's favorite way to make it). Remember, if you know of a good video on how to properly use a meat thermometer on a chicken, please let me know.