I have always enjoyed PBS programs, and a while back I found Rick Bayless‘ show One Plate at a Time. Chef Bayless is known for making traditional Mexican food, and not screwing it up. Most of the “Mexican food” that we actually eat around here, and probably near you is Tex-Mex. Not that there is anything wrong with that, at all! It is just that Mexican food is a lot more diverse than you typically get to see.
Amy and I were looking for something to have for dinner, and I grabbed One Plate at a Time. As I flipped through my eye caught Red Chile Marinated Chicken with potatoes. This sounds like my kind of food. Looking through the ingredients there were only a couple of things we didn’t have. Amy and I went to the store and picked up a couple of things, and we were ready to go.
The chicken is going to get a ton of flavor from a marinade that uses chiles and a few spices. Really this is very simple. How much simpler can it get than roasted chicken and potatoes? The marinade is going to take this beyond a plain roasted chicken though.
3 oz dried ancho chiles stemmed, seeded and torn into pieces
3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 3 1/2 pound chicken
10 small red skinned potatoes, washed and halved
First, heat vegetable oil in a skillet and add the chile pieces, and lightly toast them. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was a little over excited and skipped the toasting. It was still fantastic, but it would have been better if I had done it.) Then place them in a bowl with two cups of water to rehydrate them for about 20 minutes. You might need to put a small plate on top of them to keep them from floating.
Place the chiles(and the water, there is lots of flavor in that!), garlic, spices, sugar, salt (to taste maybe a teaspoon), and vinegar in the blender. Puree until smooth. Set this aside.
Now for the fun part! Have you ever spatchcocked a chicken? I have, once, but I will do it again! Spatchcocking a bird refers to flattening the bird out by removing the spine and breaking the keel bone. To do this you will need a pair of kitchen sheers. A paring knife might also come in handy. Place the bird breast down on a cutting board, and using your sheers, cut along one side of the backbone. Then do the same thing all the way up the other side. I found it easer to start at the larger opening in the chicken. Once the spine is out, carefully open up the body. Turn the chicken skin side up.The next thing that you need to do is to break the keel bone from the ribs. The easiest way to do that is to just make a fist and smack the center of the breast. You may have to hit it several times. You’ll know when it breaks. The breast will be a lot more flexible.
Put the bird into a plastic bag or bowl and pour about half the marinade over the bird. You want to cover the inside and outside. Leave it in the fridge like this for at least an hour, and overnight would be great.
Preheat your oven to 375F. You want to tuck the legs back so that everything cooks evenly. Cut a slit in the skin between the thigh, and the breast, and tuck the end of the leg into the hole. I also tucked the wing tips under the thighs. (You can see this in the picture below.) Place the bird skin side up in your roaster. Toss the potato halves in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and arrange them around the chicken. Pour 1/3 of a cup of water in the roaster, but not on the chicken. Cover the pan. Our roaster has a lid so we used that, but foil will also work. Put the chicken in the oven. Every 15 minutes or so you are going to take the cover off, and stir the potatoes. This will help them cook evenly, and also get them coated with the chicken juices and adobo that you rubbed all over the chicken. Your total time will depend on a number of factors, but you will probably be looking at roughly an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. You should use your instant read thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. You’ll be looking for 160F.Once your chicken is at 160F, get the leftover marinade, and spoon some of it over the chicken, and potatoes. This will act as a bit of a glaze. Put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so, but leave it uncovered.Now we are to the hard part. Take the bird out of the roaster, and put it on a cutting board, and cover it with foil. Don’t touch it for about 10 minutes.
Did you make it? Cut the bird between the breast halves, and between the breast and thighs, and serve.
As the weather gets warm people tend to break out the grill more often. It is easy to just put a little salt and pepper on whatever we want to grill, and call it good. While that is ok, it is not all that interesting. I’ve been playing with various marinades and grilling chicken to make it more interesting. When I had some fruit I needed to get rid of, and some leftover wine I decided to combine them and make sangria. Since we had sangria I thought it might be nice to have sort of a Spanish theme for dinner!
Since the sangria will take more time than the chicken I’ll start with that. It is kind of a free-form thing (for me, anyway). A little leftover wine, some fruit, some more wine, a little sugar, some juice, and let it sit. That is literally what we did. We had quite a few cherries (We pitted them before they went into the jar.) that we needed to get rid of before they turned to mush, some blue berries, a couple of oranges that we cut into wedges. All of that went into a glass jar with a quarter cup of sugar. We had some leftover merlot, and some riesling in all totaling maybe a bottle’s worth of wine. Then just a little bit of orange juice. We put it in the fridge and let it sit for a few days.
On our quest for something different to do with grilled chicken we went looking in one of my books for a marinade. This is what I found! It originally called for saffron, bloomed in hot water, but I don’t have any at the moment so I left it out. It is very tasty with nice bright fruity flavors.
zest and juice of 3 oranges
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sherry
2 TBSP soy sauce (obviously gluten-free)
2 TBSP sherry vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 TBSP cracked black pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
Combine all of the ingredients, and marinate the chicken breasts for 4 hours or so. I used my vacuum sealer to marinate mine, but you can use a zipper bag just as easily. This marinade would work quite well on shrimp or pork as well.
While I waited, I decided that I wanted to make some roasted potatoes as well. A while back I went to a tapas bar and had a very tasty dish that had grilled baby octopi and roasted potatoes in a sherry bacon vinaigrette. I decided that I would do something similar with our potatoes. I made up a quick sherry vinaigrette with sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, dry mustard and cayenne. Then quartered some red skin potatoes and popped them in the oven. When they were ready I poured them in a bowl, and tossed them with the dressing. It was very easy, and very tasty. Keep in mind that the sherry vinegar will get pretty potent as a smell when you pour it over the hot potatoes!
When I was about ready to cook I started the fire. When the fire was ready I sprayed the chicken with cooking spray and put them on the grill. Remember, when you grill if you start moving the food around it will stick. Leave it alone for a bit, and it will release. Then you can turn it or flip it. Once the chicken is done bring it inside and get ready to eat.
We had some asparagus that we sautéed, the chicken, potatoes, and a nice salad. With the sangria it made for a very nice summer supper, and we didn’t even have to travel to Barcelona! (Not that it wouldn’t be nice to go there at some point!)
Last night I was thinking, what would make a really good dinner? Something warming, tasty, simple, and filling without being too much. I decided soup. I ran down a few choices for Amy, lentil, potato or black bean.(I pretty much had everything on hand for any of them.) She picked potato. I delivered what is probably her new favorite soup! Loaded baked potato soup. It is very simple, and very satisfying. We both have some leftovers, and she’s even got some to run to her mom.
So, what do you need? I can’t really give you quantities on a lot of this, because it wasn’t measured.
Potatoes, I had seven, peel them, and cut them into small-ish pieces
bacon, 2 slices, split lengthwise, and then cut into small pieces
1 red onion diced, you could use a white onion here
1 TBSP vegetable oil
chicken broth and water
2 bay leaves
cheddar cheese, I used about 4 ounces
heavy cream (whole milk would work too, or both which is what we had)
First, in a large pot heat the oil over medium heat, and add the bacon. You’re looking to render the bacon, so you want to brown it, and cook down a large percentage of the fat. This will give you a nice flavor. Once the bacon is browned, add the onion, a little salt, and cook until the onion is translucent. Next add the potatoes, broth, water, bay leaves, and bring up to a boil. I used roughly 50% broth. Basically what I want to do is to cover everything, but that is it. Once you have a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover it, and let it go for about 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t need to cook the potatoes until they are mush, basically you want them to be tender.Once the potatoes are tender turn off the heat. You have a few options at this point. You could strain the soup, reserve the liquid and process the solids in a food processor, puree with a hand blender, puree in a blender, or use a potato masher. However you do it you want to end up with a smooth soup. I used a potato masher, and really liked the results. It was a bit more rustic than a blender would have turned out, but it was also a lot less mess, and hassle. You may also want to fish out the bay leaves at this point. They aren’t poisonous, but they are not a lot of fun to eat.
Once the pureeing is done, return everything to the pot, and turn the heat back on. You’re going to finish the soup. Start by adding the cream. I add it until I get a nice color, and flavor from it. Next add the cheese. How much is kind of up to you, and how much you like cheese with your potatoes! Taste the soup, and adjust the seasoning with salt, and white pepper. Bring the soup up to a boil, and serve. That is really all there is to it. You could easily adapt this to be a vegetarian soup by dropping the bacon, and using veggie broth or all water, and since the potatoes do all of the thickening this soup will ever need the gluten-free situation is well in hand.Bowl it up, and enjoy! Also, keep in mind if you have leftover potatoes that you want to use up, this is a perfect place for them! In that case, all you have to do is get them hot, and soften up a bit. That will save you some time. This soup is very easy and perfect for dinner on a cold night! OK, maybe you CAN handle the soup!
I spend a lot of time thinking about soup. Its not so much that I eat soup all the time, or have some unnatural fascination with the stuff. It is more that soup is one of my biggest tasks at work, and that I try to have a wide variety of soups through the week. Things get repeated because they work well. (In this case “work well” can have a few meanings, durable, taste good, easy and quick to put together would be chief among the meanings.) At work I pretty much have free rein to do what I want, and generally nobody has a problem with that. There have been a few missteps along the way though. I have really grown to enjoy soup, both eating and making it. Up to the point where I had to actually make soup I never really got it, but that is probably because most of my experience was with canned soups.
Now that it is colder I am starting to think about heartier soups. I love potato soups! There is so much room to vary them, and although potatoes taste great they kind of work as a blank canvas in soups. Generally these are pureed soups, but I have made soups that are not. The trick to a lot of my soup making is leftovers. When there are little scraps of food that don’t really have a purpose they tend to end up on one of my shelves in the walk-in. That is where I keep soups, scraps, and items that I need for my station. Today I’ll talk about one of my favorites. I like to call it baked potato soup! There is no actual recipe as such, it is just a general idea. This is NOT the delicate pure white potato soup that you generally see, it is certainly not vichyssoise (although I really do enjoy vichyssoise.), and it is better than anything Campbell’s has ever put in a can!
Give this a try sometime. I’m not going to give you quantities because I just don’t have them, and if I told you what I do at work you’d end up with more soup than you could possible eat!
oil or butter
leftover roasted potatoes (I end up with red skinned potatoes, but I am pretty sure you could use whatever you have.)
cooked bacon, diced (less than the onion, it’s just there to give you a nice flavor)
liquid (chicken stock, veggie stock, water – clear-ish is what you want, tasty would be nice too)
a bay leaf or two
shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
That’s all that goes in the soup. You’re going to need a way to puree this one. A blender or food processor will be your best bet here. First heat your pot and add the oil or butter, and get that hot. The add the bacon and onions, add a little salt too, sweat this until the onions start turning clear. Dump in your roasted potatoes. I like to kind of mix things around, although I don’t really have any idea if it does anything in this case! Add your liquid and bay leaves. My only advice here is to just cover everything. Make sure all the potatoes are in the water (or whatever), but you don’t have tons of extra liquid. I’ll try to level them out and then add the liquid. Bring this up to a boil, and then turn the heat down and simmer until the potatoes are nice and tender. They don’t have to be mush, just tender.
Once you’ve got your potatoes tender, your going to need to strain this. Obviously, keep the liquid. Spoon the potatoes, onions and bacon into your food processor. Skip the bay leaves though, and either toss them in the trash or add them back to the pot. Puree the potato mixture until smooth working batches. (Make sure you have the lid on whatever you are using tightly, you do NOT want to wear potato puree!) Return the potatoes to the pot, and add the liquid back, and stir. Return the soup to a boil, and back to a simmer. Add your cream, again, no real guide here, I just stir it in until I like how it looks, and I can taste it. Cheese I just put some in, and taste for it. You’re not going to need a huge amount. Adjust everything with salt and pepper, and enjoy!
The great thing about soups like this is that they have nice body, and don’t need any kind of thickening, because the potatoes do that for you. So, gluten-free, thick, tasty, hearty, warming soup for a cold day!