Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, when most people are preoccupied with trying to figure out what they’re going to give up for 40 long days. Me? I am home, cooking. Not for any particular reason, but just because I’m in one of those moods that require total tranquility and what better way to do that than cooking?
I opened my freezer, saw some chicken and decided to go with that. Then to my fridge and discovered some veggies that mother dearest had brought me a few days ago. Other than the fact that I am trying to incorporate more veggies into my diet, I thought that it would do me well to use these up before they go bad. (I can hear mom’s voice in my head scolding me for wasting food.)
And off we go.
Chicken (Cook time: 50 minutes)
I started with marinating the chicken. If you know me, this is usually a mental battle to decide on what spices I should use. (I have a barrage of herbs and spices in my kitchen; I’ll do a post on this some time hereafter.) This is what I decided on:
six pieces of your favourite cuts of chicken (about 3 lbs)
one medium potato, cut in 1/2 inch medallions
two cloves of garlic, finely chopped
one small onion, finely chopped
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper, to taste (I recommend de-seeding these if you’re not into scorching your tongue)
1/2 tsp each of dried herbs: oregano, basil, thyme
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
Sandburst brand annatto with pimento
Rinse chicken with water and pat dry. Add rest of ingredients and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. Overnight is better. Remove from fridge 10 minutes prior to cooking time and preheat oven to 400°F.
Cover with aluminium foil and cook for 30 minutes at 400°F then remove foil and lower heat to 350°F and cook for 20 minutes more, or until juices run clear (not pink) when a sharp knife is inserted.
I’ll explain the sauce separately (see below). After chicken is finished baking, add sauce to coat chicken and return uncovered to broiler for 3 minutes.
Honey BBQ Sauce
3/4 cup red wine (If it’s not good enough to drink, it’s not good enough to cook with)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup tomato paste (ketchup will do)
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp mushroom-flavoured dark soy sauce
In a saucepan add olive oil and allow to heat for a minute on medium heat. Combine tomato paste, honey, basil and soy sauce and stir to combine. Then add red wine, stir, and allow to reduce to a third, stirring constantly to ensure sauce doesn’t burn. Reduce heat if necessary.
Herb-Infused Baked Potatoes
I love potatoes, and even more so when they’re still in their skin. I almost never remove the skins as they add colour, flavour and texture to the dish. These aromatic, tasty, soft-to-the-centre potatoes make a perfect side dish.
3 medium-sized potatoes
3 sprigs of thyme
additional dried herbs: rosemary, basil
S&P to taste
Cut down the middle of the potato without cutting it in half. Insert sprig of thyme, sprinkle with olive oil, and add dried herbs and S&P. Wrap in foil and bake for 30-45 minutes or until potatoes are tender to the touch. (Of course, this is done simultaneously with the chicken).
Blanched String Beans and Carrots
This is one of my fave veggie combos; it’s really yummy and simple to prepare. The hardest part is prepping string beans and carrots.
1 lb string beans, de-stemmed
2-3 medium-sized carrots, peeled, cut to 1/4 inch thickness and 3 inches in length
1 tbsp olive oil
Dried herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp lime juice
Large bowl with ice cubes and water to shock veggies after blanching
(Blanching: A cooking process wherein the food substance is plunged into boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and usually shocked in an ice bath.
Shocking: A preparation technique that “shocks” the food item by exposing it to ice water after the food item has been blanched. The process is undertaken to immediately stop the food from cooking and to preserve the flavor, the food color and the texture at the point when the shocking occurs.
End result: bright-green, crisp string beans as opposed to nasty, soggy, dark grey green; and bright-orange carrots that crunch to the bite).
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add carrots and blanch for 1 1/2 minutes. Add string beans and blanch for an additional two minutes. Remove, drain, and IMMEDIATELY add to ice bath to stop cooking.
Remove after about 2-3 minutes and set aside. Coat with olive oil and add salt, dried herbs, S&P, and lime juice. Mix to coat. Serve as a side.
The finished product looked a little like this:
Of course, what better way to wash this down than with a nice glass of Merlot. No, it is not too late to send in your Valentine’s request. I’m still open.
Looking forward to those requests 🙂