Garlic-Rosemary Chicken

Having barely posted over the last several weeks and now coming back post-honeymoon to a big project at work, I am struggling with the “swing of things.” I have many drafts, many posts circulating in my head but not yet drafted and, as of Wednesday, our wedding photos to edit and play with in Photoshop. I may have to schedule my blogging time in to my day like a job.

For now, I shall start simple. Saturday night, we decided to make some chicken but didn’t want buttermilk chicken as we had just done that a few days before. Chris found a recipe online for a garlic-rosemary rubbed pork loin which intrigued him but was rather time consuming with creating an oil infusion then letting it sit for several hours followed by cooking it in the oven.

I don’t know the source of the original recipe but basically, you mixed fresh rosemary and chopped garlic together with olive oil to infuse the oil, by letting it sit for several hours. Then this is mixed with salt to create a paste which is then rubbed on the meat. I knew that introducing heat to the equation would speed up the infusion process and I also knew we had some garlic olive oil from a store in Traverse City. Its a tasty oil but does not hold up to high heat cooking like a non-infused oil so we don’t use it a lot.

In a small saucepan or saute pan, mix 2-3 sprigs of rosemary leaves, finely chopped with 2 cloves fresh chopped garlic (okay, I used the stuff in the fridge) and 3-4 tablespoons of oil (use extra virgin if you don’t have flavored). Heat over medium-low until aromas fill your kitchen. Allow to cook at a medium-low or lower temperature about 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld without frying the garlic.

Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in enough salt to create a paste. I didn’t measure this but I’d estimate 3/4 to 1 tablespoon worked for me. Rub paste in to all sides of chicken breasts. Allow to sit about 10 minutes.

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add chicken breasts and saute 5-7 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through. We used thin cut chicken breasts, as usual, so total cooking time was about 12 minutes.

Served with sweet potato fries: 2 sweet potatoes, cut in to similarly sized chunks, tossed with olive oil and seasonings, baked 30 minutes or so in a 425 degree oven (watch these- they will burn).

To accompany the sweet potato fries, I had some sweet garlic mustard from Vermont. Yummy!

The chicken was incredibly easy and very flavorful; I expect to see a return engagement to our kitchen in the near future. Not really having to measure anything makes it very nice indeed.

Food Filled Labor Day

So, Saturday is the day. By this time on September 12, Chris and I will be arriving in our hotel room, hopefully soon to use the whirlpool part of the whirlpool suite although it will probably take me an hour to pull all the bobby pins from my hair (based on the trial run).

With a short work week and just 2 days left at home before we leave the cats in charge for 12 days, we decided to use up the fridge contents this past weekend, as much as possible (the dog is going to the kennel so the cats are bound to feel its their own honeymoon while we are gone).

This morning, I made the rest of the bacon I’d opened for the potatoes au gratin mentioned previously. I baked it, in two batches, in the oven at 400 degrees. This yielded some nice, flat, medium crispy bacon. it also yielded another 1 inch of bacon fat in our jar of fat. We had some (bacon, not fat) for brunch with omelets by Chris then I bagged the rest for sandwiches this week. I see a BLT in my near future.

After a brief break to do some laundry and talk to my maid of honor, I started in on the Fresh Peach and Candied Ginger Shortcakes recipe from Williams-Sonoma. Chris picked up the little booklet with this recipe during our crepes demo last weekend. I had been thinking about it all week then decided that with just a few fresh peaches, I could easily make this and use up the cream in our fridge. I did not make the caramel sauce listed at Williams-Sonoma because  I didn’t have corn syrup. Instead, I used this one at Simply Recipes. As indicated, it was really easy and it is really important to watch the sugar. I burned, only very slightly, the first batch. A comparison of the two jars shows the one is only marginally darker but it was definitely burnt.

I also got a great little, one-armed, workout in by whipping up the last of the cream to accompany our dessert. The final verdict is- the peaches were not that great, sadly, But, we both loved the shortcake/biscuits. I had plenty of dough left to make a number of small bite-sized ones which are quite lovely dipped in caramel sauce alone. I promised a few to the freezer for Chris but the caramel sauce and some cookies are going to the hotel with me, to be enjoyed by various wedding partiers. Okay, me but maybe some others too.

In between making the shortcakes and the 2nd batch of caramel, Chris made chocolate chip cookies for his bachelor party 2-day fest (starts Thursday noon, ends Friday evening). We made about 40 cookies, will be interesting to see how many are left by Thursday. Chris has decided to set a career goal of mastering the chocolate chip cookie and selling them for millions. I have resigned myself to eating a lot of chocolate chip cookies. So sad.

For dinner, we had mango jerk marinated chicken breasts from Whole Foods. Good idea, mediocre execution. The meat counter worker gave us two completely different sized chicken breasts so the one was cooking much faster than the other. And I thought the jerk needed more jerk (i.e. heat). To accompany, left overs from the fridge- squash risotto.

On Sunday, a returning to law school friend’s parents took us out for brunch at Clara’s where I ate a good helping of bacon too- the really crispy kind. I think after Wednesday, I will have to go on a bacon diet like my fellow mid-Michiganian blogger after his visit to Tony’s for the mega-BLT. That is okay since we’ll be in Vermont and I can just eat a lot of cheese, glorious cheese instead- and some lobster in Boston.

Maple-Dijon Chicken and a bit of Buttermilk Chicken too

I don’t really have a recipe, per se, for this dish. And I don’t have any pictures because I was too tired to go get my camera and take pictures.

Maple-Dijon Glaze

 

Ingredients

chopped garlic
chopped shallots
dijon-type mustard (we used Grey Poupon)
real maple syrup
honey
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
olive oil

  

Directions

Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a small saucepan. Heat over medium. Add approximately 1 1/2-2 cloves chopped garlic and 1 chopped shallot (I used both from jars last night). Cook 60 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add 2-3 tablespoons of dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Whisk to combine. Add 1 cup broth and a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey (optional- depends on your maple syrup). Bring to a boil and reduce to the thickness of your choice. 

 I can not stress enough how easy and versatile this one is!! Last night, I made this as a thin glaze. You could keep cooking it down to a thicker sauce. You could also make it a basting sauce for baking or grilling. I used it on sauteed chicken (seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper and Italian spices) and onions but you could also make this for pork or shellfish. I don’t think its strong enough to stand up to beef but it would also work on some fish, especially salmon.


Buttermilk Chicken

We have a new go-to in our house. The buttermilk marinated chicken from last week has made repeat appearances and even received rave reviews from outsiders.

Over the weekend we went up to St. Helen for some campfire action with some friends. Chris went out four-wheeling with the guys. He returned covered in dust and keenly aware of some muscles he didn’t even know he had. I went shopping at the outlet mall in West Branch and returned with new-found appreciation of the messenger bag-style purse I bought in Puerto Rico. (note: did not intend to shop like that but we had to go in to town for internet access so I could post my homework- all in the name of good grades!)

Before we left on Friday, I tossed a few things in a cooler that I knew we’d need to use up. One of those things was the remaining jug of buttermilk. I also mixed up the spices and salt in a plastic bag, guessing on amounts since I didn’t think I needed to be precise. Saturday morning, I mixed the marinade up and marinated the chicken from 11 AM to 7:30 PM. Here is what I have discovered: you can do this marinade for 30 minutes or 30 hours (or even 48 hours) and it will still come out perfect! No panko crumbs to be found at the West Branch Wally World so I used some Italian seasoned breadcrumbs in the cupboard at the trouse (combo trailer-house, use your imagination). As a result, the breading was a little saltier than I prefer but everyone else loved it.

Gremolata

Gremolata!

I’ve been trying to remember that word since last night’s dinner.  It just came to me. Of course what I thought it described isn’t exactly right but I knew what I meant.

Gremolata is a mixture of parsley, lemon peel and garlic. Its often served as a condiment over fish.   At some time in the past, I had a recipe for gremolata mixed with bread crumbs then added to the top of the fish for the last few minutes of baking.

Last night, we made something sort of similar.  It started out as a breading gone bad. Chris had been marinating some chicken breasts in this barbeque sauce we found in Canada, Diana Sauce: Garlic Honey.  He was in charge of dinner last night and wanted to toss the marinated chicken in some panko crumbs for a crispy coating.  He mixed some grated cheese in with the crumbs and we tossed each piece of chicken in to a ziploc bag.  Even though this wastes crumbs, it generally works well and keeps messes to a minimum.

It became obvious quite quickly that the breading wasn’t sticking.  And the pan was a little too hot so the butter was burning the coating. I turned the heat down and we got the chicken finished then I used a little water to clean the pan before melting two tablespoons of butter along with one mashed garlic clove.  After the butter was done foaming, I added 1 chopped red onion along with a little salt and pepper.  After the onions got nice and soft and most of the butter was absorbed, I took the bread crumbs that would otherwise have been lost and mixed about 1/4 cup in to the onions.  The crumbs started to turn light golden brown and get crunchy.  I still had some crumbs left so I pushed the onions to the side and spread the rest of the crumbs in an almost dry pan.  And they toasted up beautifully.

We served the chicken topped with the onions then I sprinkled the plain toasted crumbs over the garlic pasta we also had.

Courtney to the rescue!

Corn-ucopia: Camping, Mazes and more

We went camping this weekend, just Saturday night.  Pretty much our last hurrah as its really getting too cold to camp without proper equipment like sleeping bags.

Our “plan” was to stick close to home and we picked Ionia State Park, ostensibly because we already have the yearly pass so we just have to pay the site fees. And Chris agreed to stay at a campsite with hot showers (I knew that this “luxury” item would grow on him eventually).  So, we got there about mid-afternoon after driving around the area a little bit and picking up groceries for dinner.  And they were completely booked.  Some Harvest Fest apparently. As it turns out, the yearly pass is on Chris’s windshield so it didn’t much matter where we went now.

Fortunately, we had the very handy Michigan Gazetteer with its listing of private campgrounds to help us out.  We found two within a reasonable distance of the Park and picked the one on a river.

The Double RR Ranch

Located just south of Smyrna (which is just south of Belding which is a little south of Greenville), the Double RR has a 9 hole golf course, driving range, horseback riding, canoe rentals and RV or tent camping and more.

When we arrived, the manager let us go back to the camping area and pick out our site. It wasn’t much of a sales pitch but they had a number of sites along the Flat River and it was pretty quiet back there.  Scattered throughout the park but mostly in a section away from the river are a number of permanent RV dwellers. They had decks and lawn decor and even satellite TV and some pretty junky looking yards in some cases. Many of the empty sites were littered with trash and we even found a pair of okay-looking boots in the firepit at one site.  We picked a flat site with dirt covering, a clean fire ring and a nice view of the river then went back up and paid the fees, got firewood, etc.

After returning to our site, we set up the tent but decided to go look for something to do before making dinner. While still in Ionia, we had seen a sign for a corn maze, something neither of us has done before.  On our way back through the very very small town of Smyrna, we saw a different sign, for “Carlson’s Crypt” which promised both a corn maze and a haunted trail. And it was only 3 miles down the road. SOLD!

We might not have done the Haunted Trail at all but I could tell Chris was excited and they had a deal for that night.  $10 for both and we could do the corn maze twice, once in daylight once after dark, if desired.  It was the first weekend for the Trail so they still had some kinks to work out.  When we arrived, it was still too early for the Haunted Trail so we did the corn maze first.  As it happens, a group arrived just before us. A group of 6-8th grade girls.  Oh joy.  We entered the maze right before them but within 50 feet, they blazed past us in a squealing herd of excitement.  We took our time, I shot some pictures and without really trying, we found our way out within about 20 minutes.

The cryptkeepers have a little store set up with snacks and drinks but as they only had Pepsi or RC Cola, we decided to go back in to Belding and pick up Coca-Cola products and kill some time until it was dark enough for the Haunted Trail.  When we got back, the gaggle of teen girls was getting ready to enter the trail.  Fortunately, there was a nice little bonfire going and we could wait until they finished their trip.

I’m not going to say much about the Haunted Trail. It wasn’t the worst experience of my life but um, I, er, am uh kind of afraid of the dark and not really a big fan of haunted “stuff.” Last weekend, Chris picked up the Fright List or whatever they call the paper with all the haunted houses, trails, etc in the area.  I kept my fingers crossed that we wouldn’t just find ourselves at one of these places some random night.  The Haunted Trail was do-able and I confessed my fears to Chris so I think I both earned props for doing it and got a pass on future events.  I did however constantly think I heard people outside our tent later on.

Okay, so we got back to the site and started our campfire. Which took forever; I don’t think we ate until after 10pm.  While Chris indulged his pyromania, I chopped up a sweet potato, half a red onion and a red bell pepper.  We bought a spice rub at Wal-Mart so I used that on 1/2 a package of boneless chicken thighs.  It was dark out and I was trying not to get too close to the lantern with all the bugs.  So I trimmed a little fat off the thighs but I didn’t look real close.  Chris heated up a cast-iron dutch oven with a bit of vegetable oil inside then I added the veggies and we let those cook a few minutes, just to get some carmelization going.   Then I added the chicken thighs, we put the lid on and let it cook.

Meanwhile, I quartered a couple of Campari tomatoes amd mixed them with some fresh basil, corn and olive oil in a ziploc bag- easy salad!

Considering we had no plan and it was late and very dark, the food turned out well. But the chicken thighs had a lot of fat on them and it kind of annoyed me. I didn’t get to buy my usual, well-trimmed brand.  We shopped at the Ionia Super Wal-Mart and only after found a local farm market a’ la Horrocks.

I brought better sleeping clothes this time but it was still really freaking cold by 3am.  We snuggled closer together but neither of us slept wonderfully.  Our plans to maybe hang around the campsite in the morning were changed when we realized that we’d used all the firewood the night before. It was pretty though.

I think we’d come back to this place. It was a little off-putting to see the permanent residents that were not keeping up their homes but the sites were big and the river view was nice.  Anyhow, we packed up our gear and went looking for breakfast.  Oh, except first we had to follow the airport signs.  This is Chris’s thing- driving around looking at airstrips and airports.  The airport sign I followed led us in to Greenville.  I’ve been to Greenville, back in high school we had a track meet there.  Before Saturday, if you’d asked me where Greenville was, I would have guessed north, up by Saginaw or Midland.  Hey, we slept on the bus back then.

So, airport observed, we went through downtown Greenville on our quest for breakfast food.  It appears that Greenville once had a bustling downtown but there are now lots of empty storefronts.  We noticed a family restaurant in one block then a place called Huckleberry’s in the next.  The sign out front of Huckleberry’s indicated they had a breakfast buffet so that is where we went.

Huckleberry’s is owned by a guy named Huckleberry who happens to be running for State Senator of the area we were in.  I wish Huck well on his political endeavors but if it doesn’t work out, he might want to pay a little closer attention to the restaurant.  Chris opted for the buffet and I decided to have French Toast. The Danish potatoes caught my eye but they use American cheese, not a favorite.  Besides, this was not just any French Toast- Caramel Pecan French Toast.  And a side of bacon.  The first bite of toast, I got a little worried. It was dry, very very dry, even with syrup.  But after that it got better.  I never did find Caramel though.  Chris’s initial experience with the buffet wasn’t much better: He found eggshell in the eggs.

The place proclaims itself smoke-free and has some Clean Air sticker on the front door. Excellent- except only 1/2 is smoke free and its just a partial wall that separates the two sides.  At 11 AM on a Sunday, no one was in the smoking side which definitely felt more bar-like so we couldn’t determine if the wall was really all that effective.

When we left, we both decided we probably wouldn’t go back.    And really, when would we be in Greenville again anyhow?  Upon returning home, I looked the town up.  I was curious to know the story behind this place as they were obviously in a real economic downturn. Like all of Michigan but this seemed more pronounced.  In 2006, Electrolux moved their refrigerator factory from Greenville to Mexico.

Greenville was also the home of the first Meijer store (they have sign for this) and during WWII, they built combat glider planes at the Gibson Refrigerator Plant (later, Electrolux and now for rent).  There is a museum there, the Fighting Falcon Museum, that chronicles the history of this famous aircraft.  Now we might have to go back.  The museum has almost finished restoraton of one of these engine-less planes. Even I think it would be cool to see a glider built large enough to carry a jeep!

After breakfast, we drove back to Lansing via back roads and finally saw some real color change.  No pictures though- I was the driver.