Monday, July 26, 2010

Dinner: Improvised - Help the Cootie Laden

Ever have a friend who is havin' a bad week, and you're not quite sure what to do to cheer them up?

A good friend of mine has Cooties.  It's actually kind of serious, terribly annoying, and, sorry Tugar, not very pretty to look at.  Couple this affliction with the swamp-like summer heat of Memphis, and you have one unhappy camper on your hands.

Mission:  provide comfort (or at least distraction) through food using what I have in my kitchen and bring a smile to a friend's face.

What's in the fridge:  a whole chicken, spinach, red cabbage, some tired turnips, carrots.

Cootie Boo's fave is Thanksgiving food, and I just saw the movie Salt.  Why not brine the chicken?!

Spice Brined Chicken

I usually brine a turkey for Thanksgiving, but I have used this method with chicken or pork throughout the year.  It's time consuming, but so worth the effort.  It gives the meat an incredible spicy flavor, and keeps it moist and juicy.  I tend to raid my spices and throw in what sounds good at the moment;  just stick to your earthier spices.

1 4 lb. chicken

For the brine

1 medium yellow onion, unpeeled and quartered
1 head of garlic, slice in half
2 turnips, cut into thirds
2 carrots, cut into thirds
1 2" piece of ginger, sliced
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbl whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups water

In a large stock pot, combine ingredients and bring to a boil.  (I like to give the mixture a good stir to dissolve the salt and sugar a bit before turning on the heat, otherwise you will have some crustiness on the bottom of your pot that is a bee-otch to get off.)  Let the brine cool completely.

Once the brine is at room temperature, place your chicken breast side down in the brine and add enough water to cover.  Cover and put it in the fridge for six hours.

Preheat oven to 400.  Remove bird from brine and rinse thoroughly under cold water.  Pat dry and place in a cast iron skillet.  Here is where you can play around.  I make a butter mixture to rub over the little chicky with a half a stick of butter, cumin, cayenne, orange zest, and pepper.  Again, play with whatever you think sounds tasty.  Slather the bird with the butter, under and over the skin.  Shove an onion in the cavity with maybe some citrus and fresh herbs.  Cover with foil and roast for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and roast for an additional 20-25 minutes uncovered to brown that sucker. 

Let that baby rest for 10 minutes and carve.

Sauteed Red Cabbage and Spinach

The balsamic make this side tangy and slightly sweet, and it looks kind of like Christmas with the bright red and green.

1/4 head of red cabbage, shredded
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 oz baby spinach
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
2 Tbl olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add sliced onions and cook for 5 minutes.  Add cabbage and saute until it begins to wilt, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and vinegar, and cook until vinegar reduces by half.  At the last minute, add in spinach and stir it around until just wilted.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

I am not a dessert man, but what sort of Thanksgiving-ish dinner is complete without a sweet bite?!  I made a Rhubarb Tart with Orange Glaze (thank you, defunct Gourmet magazine...we miss you!) and I added some fresh figs I had picked up at the Memphis Farmer's Market.  A fantastic dessert that was super easy to make!

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