Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weekend Food

Fall flavors are my favorite, especially on cold days. This weekend was definitely cold so I spent some time in the kitchen cooking up some fall favorites.

Saturday night~
Over the years, many people have told me that they make the best roast chicken. Well, I'm pretty sure they're all lying. As far as I'm concerned there is only one way to roast a chicken and that comes from Thomas Keller. If you're not familiar with Chef Keller, he's considered the celebrity chef to all other celebrity chefs. His Simple Roast Chicken is error proof and the results are perfect. The butter is decadent but I omitted it this time though I never omit the Dijon mustard, it's the best part. Follow his recipe to the letter and you will never look at boring old chicken the same way. It is divine. I have to credit my friend Donna's husband Jeff for turning me on to this recipe a few years ago.

I love winter squash and acorn squash is my favorite. I experimented with my own version of stuffed acorn squash to serve alongside the chicken and came up with something I'll definitely be making again.

I sliced a medium acorn squash in half lengthwise, scooped out the seeds, brushed the flesh with a bit of Land o' Lakes light butter and sprinkled it with pumpkin pie spice. I baked it face up until it was tender at 400 degrees. After 30 minutes or so, I lightly covered the squash with foil so it wouldn't get too brown and dry out. Meanwhile I prepared Trader Joe's brown rice medley. I sauteed half a small onion in a bit of extra virgin olive oil then added the meat from one hot Italian sausage and cooked it until it was crumbly. I stirred in 3/4 cup of the rice medley and then added about 1 and 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock and ended up adding 1 and 1/2 cups water as it cooked. Brown rice needs lots of liquid and lots of time to cook. The directions are pretty useless, I started off with the chicken broth and had to keep adding water and keep checking it until it was the right texture. I like it toothsome but not crunchy.

When the squash was tender, I scooped out most of the delectable innards, being careful to leave enough to make sure I had a sturdy cup to stuff. I mashed up the squash and stirred into the rice mixture. I filled the skins with the rice, sausage and squash mixture. No need to bake again unless you're making it in advance and putting in the fridge.

The dish was very tasty but I'd omit the sausage next time. It didn't need it and despite using low sodium broth cut with water and adding no additional salt, it was a bit too salty for my taste. I liked the spice the sausage added so I will try adding some crushed red pepper to the oil and onion mixture when starting the rice.

One of the first cookbooks I ever bought for myself was The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. I purchased when it was first released in the UK in 1999. Tray Baked Pork Chops with Herbey Potatoes, Parsnips and Pears from the original Naked Chef book is an old standby and a household favorite.

I love parsnips and used a pound to just one Idaho potato and two pears. I cut everything into same size wedges but start the parsnips and potato about 25 minutes before adding the pears and pork chops to the tray. This way the parsnips get all caramelized and potatoes get a nice crust on them. Once everything is in the oven, start checking the pork for doneness at 20 minutes, 30 can be too long depending on the thickness and heat of the oven. Nothing worse than overdone pork.

I enjoyed every bite of food this weekend. Despite devouring half a roast chicken like some sort of fat werewolf who stumbled on to a chicken farm on a full moon, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's weigh in.

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