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Just finished 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 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 parents were 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 a old 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.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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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