It always impresses me about Meagan’s cooking: she can take a nearly bare pantry and make something amazing out of scant ingredients. (A handy skill when you live way out in the middle of the woods like we do.) She’s done it time and again, and this was no exception…
“Let’s see, we’ve got chicken thighs, some sun-dried tomatoes, a few veggies left in the drawer… no problem!”
An hour later, we’re eating a dish that rocked our socks, warmed us up on a cool winter’s eve, and one we both agreed: “Put it on the blog!” Continue reading →
Anytime we hit a Thai restaurant this is our go-to: one bowl of steaming, coconut-y soup please, two spoons, and don’t skimp on the lime!
It’s a filling soup that hits everything on the palate: the sweet, the spicy, the salty, the sour – even the umami! (Thank you, fish sauce.) Only problem: sometimes (often, let’s be honest) the chicken arrives at the table a little overcooked and sad in that piping hot soup.
Our version takes the usual tom kha gai (chicken) and replaces it with cod. And the results are… Continue reading →
Poor cauliflower. It’s the vanilla of the vegetable world, for sure. Dull, slightly sulfuric-smelling, usually boiled or mashed (which doesn’t improve matters). We’ll admit it—we used to be pretty unenthused about this colorless cruciferous.
Until this little gem of a recipe came along…
The mixture of the sausage and tomato with the al dente, slightly-roasted surface of the cauliflower is something special, and we’d wager this to win in a fight against any bowl of pasta. It certainly has the pasta beat nutritionally: the cauliflower is a dense source of potassium, Vitamin C, and other beneficial phytochemicals.
In any case, it’s so tasty, we think you might just add it to your regular cooking rotation. We actually get excited when we bring home a nice, big head of cauliflower now, because we know what’s coming. Cauliflower!!
A few notes…
1) This is a highly adaptable recipe. There are so many ingredients that if you forget something at the store, it’s still going to end up tasting great. The basics are the meat, some veggies, tomato and the cauliflower. The rest is just icing on the cake. If you don’t like anchovy paste, skip it. If you don’t have or can’t find anise seeds, fine. Don’t have the time or energy to zest the lemon, we get it! But we do encourage you to try to find the fresh fennel. It’s the one thing that really elevates this dish and makes it stand out. It’ll still be good without it, but it’s fun to try something different every now and again, right??
2) This is always better the second day… Yay, leftovers!
3) If you are running low on time, you can chop the cauliflower into florets, and it will cook much faster. (But you will lose out on the style points of serving it whole.)
4) If, from time to time, you have a hankering for some pasta, serve this over zucchini noodles (raw shredded zucchini), and you’ll get the same comfort food feeling!
5) It’s a great dish to make if you have mixed vegetarian/non-veg company. Just brown the meat in a separate pan and don’t put the anchovy paste in. You can serve the meat separate and let the meat eaters add meat into their dish!
Roasted Cauliflower in Italian Sausage and Fennel Bolognese
Active Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1.5-2 hours
Yields: 6 hearty meals (or 12-15 servings as a side dish)
1.5 lbs. bulk Italian sausage meat (spicy or mild)
1 large head of cauliflower, leaves removed
1 large onion, chopped
1 head of fennel, separate stems, bulb and fronds, chopped and divided
3 sticks of celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 large or 2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 24oz jar tomato puree
2 tablespoon tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped, divided in half
1/2 bunch parsley, separate leaves and stalks, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon anise seed
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (or skip it if you don’t like spicy!)
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 lemon, zested, fruit reserved
salt and pepper
You will need a large pot for this. 1 pot meal. We use a 7-quart Dutch oven.
Preheat oven to 475.
Add oil to Dutch oven over medium heat on the stove.
When the oil is hot, add sausage meat and brown.
Remove sausage from Dutch oven and set aside. Return Dutch oven to stove, adding more oil if needed, and increase to medium high heat. Add onions, stirring regularly to caramelize. When the onions are about halfway done, add chopped fennel bulb and 1/2 tablespoon of anise seed, and continue to stir frequently until the onions are done.
Add celery, carrots and fennel stems. Continue to stir regularly until carrots have softened a bit. (Don’t cook them all the way through, as they still have plenty of cooking to do in the oven!)
Remove pot from heat. Add tomato puree, tomato paste, zucchini, 1/2 of the chopped garlic, chopped parsley stalks, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, lemon zest and an inch or so of anchovy paste. Mix all ingredients well. Salt and pepper to taste. The sauce may seem quite thick at this stage, but while it’s in the oven, the vegetables will release a lot of moisture, making the consistency more like a marinara sauce.
Press the whole cauliflower (stem side down) into the sauce. About half the cauliflower should be covered in sauce and half uncovered.
Drizzle the cauliflower with olive oil and rub to coat evenly. Place a lid or foil over the pot, and put in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Check cauliflower with a fork, and when it starts to become tender, remove the lid, and return pot to the oven for another 20-30 minutes. Remove when the cauliflower is completely tender and golden brown.
You can finish it under a broiler to crisp the top a touch if you’d like. Squeeze lemon over the cauliflower and sprinkle remaining garlic over the sauce.
Cut whole cauliflower into 6-8 sections like a pie. Ladle sauce and cauliflower into bowls. It’s quite an impressive looking dish, so impress the family or friends and plop the whole Dutch oven down on the dinner table and serve from there. Top with chopped parsley leaves and fennel fronds and enjoy!
If you only learn how to make one thing in the kitchen, this should probably be it. There’s nothing like a crispy, juicy bird right out of the oven. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be fighting every instinct to savagely claw into the thing and devour it down to the bones before it ever sees a plate.
But roasting a chicken to perfection may seem like an intimidating and time-consuming task. Why not just reach for the grocery store rotisserie birds and call it dinner?
A) Roasting a chicken is ridiculously easy. Really, really, stupidly easy.
B) When you eat those store birds, do you really know what you’re consuming?
Some of them are time-stamped, so at least you know how many hours it’s been sitting there under the heat lamp. Some of them. But do the stamps contain any info about whether the bird was raised in a factory farm? Was it fed antibiotics? Or genetically engineered grains, like corn and soybeans? Was it exposed to arsenic? Was it gobbling down pesticides its entire life? Or did it enjoy an idyllic existence of chasing down and chomping on insects in an open field?
Roasting your own chicken puts you in charge. Find a quality bird from a source you trust. Then follow these simple instructions and sit back as your magic oven gnomes perform a miracle and dish you up some perfectly roasted yummy yardbird!
Perfectly Roasted Whole Chicken*
Active Time: 10 mins of prep
Total Time: 1 hr.
1 whole organic chicken
generous, heaping amounts of:
sea salt of choice
ground thyme (optional)
any other herbs or spices you desire
Make sure chicken is removed from the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. (If you cook a cold bird it will be pink and chewy next to the bone.)
Preheat oven to 450.
Remove the giblets from the cavity of the bird (if your butcher includes them)
Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place in your Dutch oven or roasting pan (we sometimes use the cast-iron skillet and it works great!) Getting the skin really dry here is what is going to give it that perfect crisp when it comes out.
Rub salt, pepper and herbs over every portion of the skin. Be very generous and really try to coat the thing in spices.
Place it in the oven, breast down, for exactly 60 minutes.
And that’s it. Seriously.
The oven does all the work and it comes out looking like this, every time. No basting, no checking every ten minutes, no thermometers.
The keys here are using a room-temperature bird, getting the skin really dry, and being generous with the spices. Do these three things and the skin will crisp up perfectly, the bird will cook all the way through, and the meat will fall off the bone and swim in its own juices. (Which you’re going to want to use for dipping the meat into. MMMmmm.)
Speaking of bones… you’re not done with them. Throw them into a pot for bone broth. (Stay tuned for our broth recipe). Add whatever juices are left (assuming you haven’t dipped them dry) to the broth and enjoy an extremely nutritious, gut-healing, brain-soothing hot drink!
*This recipe is basically cribbed from renowned chef, Thomas Keller. The only thing he recommends, which we leave out, is to truss the bird before it goes in the oven. We’ve found it comes out just as good without the trussing, and makes it one step simpler.
Let us know how your chicken turned out in the comments below!