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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Bird, and Two Food Gifts you Still have Time to Make!

Greetings!

I hope this season is bringing you the joy and peace that it's bringing me.

My mood is most certainly helped by the fact that I have the next three weeks off from work.  And that my family is happy with homemade gifts. And that my husband likes to shovel the walk.  Did I mention I'm off work?  I'm like a whole different (serene) person when the semester ends.

The extra hours have been spent in the kitchen as always.  I've gotten a few orders for Rosie's Best, some from brave etsy users who were kind enough to take a chance on me, and from some of my close friends and neighbors.  This is exactly the scenario I had hoped for, and I am very excited to see what this venture holds for me.

I have been a busy little bee in the kitchen getting ready for the holidays.  It really feels like Christmas time around here.  Check out the digs:





(The ariels are pretty much gone, sadly)

  

Winter





I wanted to make a meal that was homey and warming, so I decided on a simple roast chicken.  Here are the important things to remember about roasting birds for crispy skin and moist meat:

  • Brine if you have the time.  
  • Pat the skin dry with a paper towel, then rub it with butter, herbs, and seasoning on top of the skin and under the skin.  (I like lots of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper)
  • The bird should be as uniform in shape as possible.  A wing sticking out will get cooked too quickly, so, truss your chicken.  This is one of many things that are best explained through video rather than words.  God bless CHOW.
  • Pick the right pan.  I use  a shallow 1/2 sheet pan with just a few vegetables.  This is so the air in the oven is able to come in contact with the surface of the chicken.  
  • Stuff the cavity with aromatics to flavor the meat, rather than just the skin. 
Here's what I started with:




That's sage from the garden that I dried.  Here's everything roughly chopped to go inside the cavity.  I used a clementine because I love citrus with chicken and I always have them on hand this time of the year.  You can also see that I have some salt and pepper in that little tin.  I don't want to contaminate the rest of the salt, so this is a necessary part of mise en place.







This is before I rubbed the chicken with butter, sage, and salt and pepper.  I cut the veggies into large pieces so they would be done around the same time as the chicken.  This wasn't actually totally successful as I burned a few.   I started it at 450 for 10 minutes, then lowered the temperature to 425 and roasted for around 50 minutes.  The skin should be brown and the juices should run clear when you pierce the thigh.

Mmm. Crispy skin.  The meat was tasty and quite moist, and the veggies were flavorful because of  the chicken fat.









Deeelish.

Like last year, I'm making some gifts to give to my family.  I'm redoing that apple butter because it's SO easy and so totally delicious.  Check out this post for all the details.  I also decided to try something different this year.  I've been eating my own weight in clementines this winter.  They are portable, easy to peel, seedless, and at the peak of their season right now.  This is one case where I will totally advocate for a non-local food.  Oranges don't grow in Iowa, but my winters wouldn't be the same without them.  Frankly, these are also a food I'd consider not buying organic still an ok choice because the peel is removed before eating.

So, I decided to put together some marmalade with these little jewels.   I, like most people I think, had an extra bag of cranberries sitting in the freezer.  It occurred to me that cranberries are also a very tart fruit and might add something to the marmalade while still preserving its bitter nature.

Cranberry Clementine Marmalade


Rinse and scrub your clementines.  I started with around 11 because that's all I had.

Halve and juice a lemon.  Reserve the juice for later, and put the seeds and peels into a cheesecloth sack.  I got these great little bags for tea that I use to infuse spices.





In a pot, simmer the clementines and lemon in water.  I used this recipe as a rough guideline and ended up using 3 1/4 cups of water.  Simmer these for two hours.  The fruit should be soft. Aren't they just beautiful?




Rolling away



Let this cool until you can handle them.  I did overnight in the fridge, but if it's cold where you are, put your pot outside for a little while.

Remove the peels from the fruits.




Thinly slice up those peels.  Make sure you rinse your cranberries well.





Press the fruits through a strainer into a bowl with the leftover syrup from cooking and sugar.  I used 5 cups, again based on that recipe. (I'd estimate I had around 1/3 of a cup of juice left)  Here, add the lemon juice you made earlier.  Bring this to a boil.




Boil this until it reaches 220 degrees.  Then add the peels and the cranberries and boil.  I had to boil for a good 10 minutes to get the texture I wanted.  It really depends on the amount of juice you start with.  The syrup should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Here is mine after cooling.





Put this into jars and process for 20 minutes.  I found these jars and think they're a nice alternative to the usual half pint jar.

Voila! Presents!  The apple butter:



One of my favorite things about Christmas is putting cloves into oranges, so I decided to add one to the marmalade.  It's a beautiful and fragrant gift.



I hope you spend this holiday with the people you love and wish you all good things before the new year!







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