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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, on September 18th, 2011.

roast_chicken_juiciest

Oh my, yes! Juicy. Tender. Perfectly cooked. Easy. Hooray for Cook’s Illustrated. They finally figured out how to do it and have given us the technique. I don’t know about you, but I never seem to be able to get a roast chicken to look or taste like the ones you can buy from the rotisserie at the grocery store, or Costco. Those always seem to be golden brown and juicy (unless they’ve been sitting there too long).

The recipe came from the most recent issue of the magazine (Sept/Oct 2011). Unless you are a subscriber to the online version (a different fee from being a hard-copy subscriber as I am) you can’t access this recipe online. So I’m going to have to give you a synopsis.

The short story is: heat a 12-inch frying pan in a 450° oven. Dry, oil, salt & pepper a whole chicken. Set chicken in the hot frying pan breast side UP with meat thermometer. When breast meat reaches 120° or thigh at 135°, turn oven OFF (yes, really). Leave in oven until breast meat registers 160° or thigh 175°. Remove from oven, tent lightly 20 minutes. Carve and serve.

Every time I read an article in Cook’s Illustrated I’m astounded at the creativity of the staff. They come up with innovative ideas to solve cooking problems that I certainly can’t. In this case it’s all about having the thigh meat get a jump-start in the cooking process, since it usually takes longer to reach 175° than it does to get the breast meat cooked to 160°. As we all know, if we wait until the thigh is done, usually, the breast meat is past its peak and dry. Why didn’t I think about putting the thigh meat in contact with a hot frying pan surface?

breast_meat_closeupThe preparation is SO simple. The baking is easy, as long as you have a good meat thermometer – one that will beep at you when something reaches temperature. You don’t want to go beyond the temps or you’ll end up with overcooked chicken. I had a really large chicken, so the approximate timing was a little longer in both parts of the baking process, but the results were fantastic. I’m so happy!

What I liked: how easy it was; hot delicious it was – tender, juicy. No question, this is going to be my new method of roasting a chicken. The leftover meat was tender as could be, both breast meat and thigh.

What I didn’t like: well, it wasn’t quite as golden brown as I’d hoped. But overall, it was fantastic, so I don’t want to complain that the skin wasn’t quite as brown as I’d have liked. We don’t eat the skin anyway.

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Weeknight Roast Chicken

Recipe By: From Cook’s Illustrated magazine, Sept/Oct 2011
Serving Size: 5
NOTES: The reason this works is because the thigh meat gets a jump-start when it comes in contact with the hot frying pan, so it ends up cooking about the same amount of time the breast meat does.

4 pounds chicken — 3 1/2 to 4 pounds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil — or grapeseed oil

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position, then place a 12-inch skillet in the oven and heat it to 450°.
2. Combine salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub the entire surface of the chicken with the oil, then sprinkle the salt and pepper mixture all over the chicken.
3. Remove pan from the oven and place chicken, breast side up, in the pan. If you have one, insert a meat thermometer in the breast, sticking the probe in at the neck end, fairly close to the breast bone, but not touching the bone. Alternately you can place the probe in the thigh, by pushing the probe inbetween the tip of the breast and the thigh and angle probe outward slightly so it enters the thigh meat in lower part of the thigh.
4. Place pan back in the oven and roast at the preset oven temp for about 25-35 minutes, until the breast meat registers 120° or thigh at 135°.
5. Turn oven OFF and continue roasting in the oven for another 25-40 minutes, until the breast meat registers 160° or the thigh at 175°.
6. Transfer whole chicken from pan to a carving board (with a moat around the outside, if you have one) and loosely tent the chicken with foil for about 20 minutes. Carve and serve.
Per Serving (assumes you eat all the skin too): 589 Calories; 44g Fat (68.3% calories from fat); 45g Protein; trace Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 239mg Cholesterol; 1311mg Sodium.

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  1. janice sanz

    said on May 7th, 2013:

    Thank you SO much for posting this recipe. I searched for it, but of course, America’s Test Kitchen won’t allow one to see it without paying for membership. I made the recipe this afternoon so my family could have dinner while I was at a meeting. It was wonderful. Thanks again

    You’re welcome! I’ve heard that Cook’s Illustrated sometimes asks bloggers to take down a recipe if it’s printed verbatim. So far they haven’t bothered me. But, I do think to read all the ATK recipes you just have to register with them (and then get their frequent emails), but there is no charge. It’s the Cook’s Illustrated and others that they charge for. Try it. . . carolyn t

  2. Cindy

    said on November 14th, 2013:

    To get a really good golden brown color, don’t turn the oven off until the skin is the color you want – this always takes me a bit longer than the suggested time in the recipe. The skin doesn’t get any browner during the “off” phase of the oven.

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