Tingle’s Greek Chicken

Friends, I don’t know about you, but 2011 is in no danger of being fondly remembered over laughter and glasses of champagne. There were some big changes in my life and they proved a little difficult to deal with. I rang in the New Year with the flu, and maybe even a few tears. I woke up the following day with a resolve to pick myself up by my bootstraps and get back to the things that bring me joy, or as a friend would say, get back in touch with my roots.

The biggest challenge I have faced during the past few months has been the complete and utter lack of passion in the kitchen. This is not to say that I didn’t want to cook – I did. I tried. I made a hot mess or five. I even made cookies that (gasp!) did not come out like the picture. I was ashamed to bring them into work. At some point I decided that I would stick to sandwiches, fruit, and handfuls of nuts – on really tough days it was Maruchan (oriental flavor). Recently I ventured into soups, which has proved successful in terms of edibility. It’s a word. Look it up. I’ll wait.

Finally, after a commiseration session over morning coffee, one friend voiced that he thought I might be ready to make the next big leap. He suggested that I keep it simple and not follow a recipe. This intimidated me. I needed to mull it over.

The first post I ever made on this blog was a recipe from a family I treasure, so it seems only logical that I re-enter the adventure with the same sentiment. This recipe comes from a very dear friend, and I can’t remember if it was her mom, or her who first cooked it for me, but it was always served with new potatoes from a can, a lemon wedge, and a side of Greek salad (mesclun or spring mix, feta, kalamata olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar).

Make no mistake, internet. This is supper. Not dinner. There is a difference, nebulous though it might be. The lemon and herbs make your taste buds burst into song and dance. The potatoes barely crunch beneath the pressure of your molars. If you decide to make a salad, it will satisfy your fatuous need to eat healthy in January. And, should you or a friend be needing a nice, firm tug on your own bootstraps, this will surely do the trick. You can also use it to impress someone who, to say the least, makes you want to start shaving your legs again. That’s what I’m doing – it’s called multitasking.

Tingle’s Greek Chicken
serves 4 (or 2, with awesome leftovers)

Note: I used a Kosher chicken, which comes brined. If you can’t find a Kosher bird, I can’t recommend brining enough. Well worth the tiny amount of extra effort and a great way to play with the recipe and make it your own. Ignore the fact that it’s about turkey, focus on the fact that it’s poultry and check out this really nerdy thing.

1 package mixed herbs OR 4 sprigs rosemary, ½ bunch thyme, 7 sprigs oregano
4 lemons
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and smashed with something flat
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 fryer chicken (approx. 4 ½ lbs)
4 cans whole new potatoes, drained
salt + pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425˚, place a rack in the center of the oven. Arrange the potatoes in a 9 by 13” glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt & pepper.

Finely chop the herbs from 2 sprigs rosemary, 3 sprigs oregano, and 10 sprigs of thyme. Zest one of the lemons. In a small bowl, combine the chopped herbs, lemon zest, and 2 tbsp olive oil. Whisk until combined and set aside. Quarter all the lemons and set aside.

Remove the chicken from the packaging. Rinse it under cold water and pat it dry. Place the chicken on top of the potato bed breast side up. Using your hands, gently separate the breast skin from the meat on the leg end of the chicken. Scoop up some of the olive oil and herb mixture and rub on the breasts and thighs underneath the skin. Repeat until the mixture is gone.

Place the garlic cloves, lemon quarters, and remaining herbs into the cavity of the bird. If you have twine, feel free to tie the drumstick ends together. Or not. It really doesn’t make a huge difference. Gently pat the outside of the chicken dry again. Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Place on the middle oven rack. Roast until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 160˚. My bird weighed about 4.5 lbs and took about an hour and 15 minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Dig in.

Lemon Honey Lavender Cupcakes

I don’t know about you but it seems like this time of year someone is having a birthday every other day.  This time, it was my own birthday cupcakes I was set out to make.  I wanted a cupcake that screamed springtime, and baby, I got it.

I will say this.  It was a slightly complicated cake to turn out.  I made the lemon curd and frosting one day, popped it in the fridge, and made the cake, filled, and decorated on the next.  The frosting and curd will keep fine in the fridge, just make sure you bring the frosting to room temperature before piping it on the cupcakes.  If you take it out when you start to mix the batter you should be fine.

The thing people raved about most was the frosting.  So pile it on.  This may require a double batch.  I just had enough.

fun fact : mini cupcakes fit perfectly inside egg cartons

Lemon Honey Lavender Cupcakes

adapted from Baked’s Lemon Drop Cake, makes about 24 regular size AND 24 minis…this is a party recipe.

Lemon Cupcakes

2 ½ c cake flour

¾ c all purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

¾ tsp salt

½ c unsalted butter, room temperature

½ c vegetable shortening, room temperature

1 ¾ c sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

Zest of one lemon

1 large egg, room temperature

1 ½ c ice cold water – before you start mixing, fill a measuring cup with water and pop it in the freezer until you need it.

3 large egg whites, room temperature

¼ tsp cream of tartar

Cupcake Method

Preheat the oven to 325þ and prepare your cupcake or cake pans.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until creamy (3-4 minutes).  Add the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat on medium speed until fluffy (3 minutes).  Add the egg, beat until just combined, and reduce speed to low.

Start to add the dry ingredients, alternating with the ice water in three additions, beginning and ending with flour.  Scrape down the bottom of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  Do not overbeat or the cake will have a tougher texture.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Fill the cupcake tins about ¾ of the way.  Did you see how many rising agents are in this cake – baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar.  It will rise, and it WILL over flow and make ugly cupcakes.  I used my cookie scoopers for the job, it gives the perfect amount.

wanna-bes

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack let cool completely.

Lemon Curd Filling

¾ c lemon juice (from about six lemons)

Zest of 2 lemons

2 large eggs

7 large egg yolks (save the whites and make an omelet!)

¾ c sugar

4 tbsp (or a ½ stick) butter, room temperature

Lemon Curd Method

In a small bowl, pour the lemon juice over the zest and let stand for a while to soften the zest, about 10 minutes or so.

In a nonreactive bowl (don’t worry, you’re bowls are probably OK) whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until combined.  Add the lemon juice and zest to the egg mixture and whisk until combined.

Place the bowl containing the mixture over a double boiler.  Stir continuously until the mixture has thickened to a pudding like consistency, about 6 minutes.  The key here is to never allow any of the egg mixture to be on the bottom so long that the yolks cook through and harden.

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter until emulsified.  Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove lumps (you will have lumps no matter how hard you tried).  Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd so that a skin doesn’t form.

If refrigerating for later use, allow the curd to come to room temperature first.

Honey Lavender Frosting

1 ¼ c sugar

1/3 c flour

½ c honey

¼ c lemon curd

1 ½ tsp lavender extract

1 1/2 cups milk

1/3 c heavy cream

1 ½ c (3 sticks) butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces – I brought the butter to room temperature, then as soon as the milk and sugar mixture started to boil I stuck it at the very back of the fridge where it’s coldest.

¼ tsp Wilton purple gel food coloring

Honey Lavender Frosting Method

Whisk flour and sugar in a sauce pan to combine.  Add milk and cream and place over medium heat.  Whisk occasionally while bringing to a boil.  Cook until mixture has thickened.  Baked says 20 minutes, I’m positive mine didn’t take that long.  Just keep an eye on it.

Once it has thickened, transfer to a bowl and whisk on high speed until cool.  If you are using a hand held mixer this will take a while.  Reduce speed to low and switch to paddle attachment, then add the butter and mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Increase speed to medium high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy.

Add lavender, honey, and lemon curd, and food coloring if you’re using it, and continue mixing until combined.

Assembly Line

To fill the cupcakes, use the smallest size round cookie cutter you can or a paring knife, remembering to press as gently as you can so the cake doesn’t get compressed.

Pipe lemon curd into cake cavities.  Pipe frosting atop the cakes.  To ensure the frosting doesn’t slide off while dipping into sprinkles, refrigerate to firm it up, about 20 minutes or so.  Gently hold the cupcake by the paper end and dip and roll into sanding or sparkling sugar.  I used a mixture of white and lavender sparkling sugar.

cavities can be good for you

so stuffed

they fit right in

Enjoy!

Sticky Lemon Buns with Cream Cheese Glaze

Ever since the last time I made cinnamon buns, it set my mind spinning with all kinds of different filling possibilities – cheese, dried fruit, spices – lots of things.  But I got caught up in all this other life and never got around to experimenting.  It seems, however, that the lovely people at TheKitchn.com did.  I guess great minds think alike.

These are for the rainy spring morning what the cinnamon bun is for a snowy winter morning.  Warming, bright, gooey, and surprisingly light in the tummy.  It makes you totally forget about the drizzle outside and brightens your kitchen with thoughts of sunny summer days to come.

don't blame me

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
Makes 12 large breakfast rolls

Lemon Roll Dough
1 envelope (0.25 ounces, or 2 1/2 teaspoons) yeast
3/4 cup milk, warmed to about 100°F or warm but not hot on your wrist
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, very soft
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 lemons, zested
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling

1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 lemons, zested and juiced *
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup powdered sugar
1 lemon, zested
Method
In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a couple minutes. With the mixer paddle, stir in the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and one cup of the flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Stir in the eggs and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and pliable.

Spray the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise until nearly doubled – about an hour.

clear glass bowls might make for better photos and someone has a birthday coming up

In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger, then work in the lemon zest with the tips of your fingers until the sugar resembles wet, soft sand. Stir in the juice of 1 lemon. (Reserve the juice of the second lemon for the glaze.)

sugary, lemony

Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface pat the dough out into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10×15 inches. Spread evenly with the softened butter, then pour and spread the lemon-sugar mixture over top. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls, and place them, cut side up, in the prepared baking dish.

ready to roll

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (You can also refrigerate the rolls at this point. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake the rolls, remove the pan from the fridge, and let them rise for an hour.)

this is pre-second rise, if you can believe it. these puppies were HUGE

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into a center roll reads 190°F.

While the rolls are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small food processor (or with a mixer, or a sturdy whisk), whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and blend until well combined. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

When the rolls are done, smear them with the cream cheese glaze, and sprinkle the zest of 1 additional lemon over top to garnish. Serve while warm.

for some reason "When the rolls are done" just doesn't seem to cover it

piping hot, gooey, and sweet as hell

I think the next time I make these (which will be the near future), I will swap the lemon juice in the filling for raspberry puree, and toss in a sprinkling of some chopped fresh mint.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.  If anyone does this before I get a chance to, please let me know how it comes out!

Lemon Ginger Lozenges, and an Anti-Valentine to Alton Brown

Folks, the equation is simple.

Sugar + Equal Amount of Water + Heat = Candy

Yup.  With no flavoring though, you might as well suck on a sugar cube.

The first time I made this recipe, I gave it as a gift, which was brave considering I had no idea what they would taste like, if they would ship well, or hell, even if they would pack and store well.  They didn’t, by the way.  Because the majority of sugar in AB’s recipe was honey, it still didn’t quite set at hard crack stage, and actually ended up chipping the tooth of a friend who tried to chew on it (whoops!  Her dad’s a dentist though, so it turned out to be OK).

Then, shortly after my mom requested the recipe, I came across this Instructable…And I was so angry with Mr. Brown.

You see, his instructions at the end said to spoon teaspoons of the liquid candy onto parchment paper.  They looked fine in his pictures; in my kitchen, not so much.  And on top of that it was counter to EVERYTHING I had ever learned from him – there might be a process, but if there’s an easy way with the same resulting taste go that route.

Oh, AB.  How could you let me down like this?

Needless to say, this new method not only is much easier in terms of portioning out the candy, but also in storing it.  I love simple solutions, but this one has made me call my favorite TV chef into question.

Lemon Ginger Lozenges

Ingredients

2 c. water

4 tea bags (doesn’t have to be Lemon Ginger, just pick a good flavor of good tea)

2 c. sugar – I used 1 c. turbinado and 1 c. honey

Zest of 1 lemon

Powdered sugar

Method

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a high sided sauce pan and steep the tea bags for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add sugar and turn the stove back on medium low heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to a boil, occasionally washing the insides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

    process shot! see I told you I was working on it

  • The mixture needs to read the hard crack stage without the sugar burning, which is between 300 & 310 degrees.  Grab a book, this is going to take forever, but keep a watchful eye on your stove.
  • Before the mixture reaches 310, prepare your candy mold!  Oh my, you don’t have one?  Me neither.  Here’s the handy trick I was talking about.  Get out a pie pan, or a cake pan, or a casserole pan…any shallow-ish pan with sides.  Put some powdered sugar in it, enough to make indentations in, about a half inch to an inch oughta do it.  Then, get out some sort of roundish bottomed thing (like a food coloring bottle, or a glass tube that your vanilla beans came in)…are you seeing where I’m going with this?instant candy mold
  • Go around the pan, making indentations in the sugar, making sure they’re about 1/4 inch apart.  I needed 2 pie pans for the amount of candy I made.
  • When the mixture reaches hard crack stage, remove from heat and add the lemon zest, stirring just to combine.
  • Pour mixture over the mold slowly and watch the magic happen.

    pour slowly to make sure this doesn't happen, but if it does just leave it and break it apart later

  • Allow mixture to cool and harden, about one hour.  Toss the candies with the powdered sugar in the pans, making sure each one is coated thoroughly.  Sift the excess sugar off the candies (or not), and store in a container of your choosing.

HOW EASY WAS THAT?  No parchment paper, no sticky teaspoon…  Alton Brown, why, oh why, did I have to see this on Instructables and not in your book with your recipe?  As I type this I’m finding it very hard not to use caps and unnecessary punctuation.  I am that upset about it.

That being said, I think this would also be good with lemon extract , cinnamon, or any number of flavor combinations.  Just be sure to add them at the end right before pouring into your nifty molds.  Here are some suggestions:

Lemon + Ginger – I would actually add some grated ginger to these next time, as the tea didn’t really carry the ginger flavor through all that well.

Cinnamon + Chai

Ginger + Peach

Black Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Orange

Black Tea + Orange

Mint + Raspberry (think fresh mint and raspberry extract…mmm)

The possibilities really are endless.

Oh and here’s a tip for the dish-doers in the bunch:  To clean, fill the pot with water and bring to boil.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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