I know, the holiday season is over. This post is more about simple recipes we prepared while away at the beach house -- in other words, when we didn't have a lot of ingredients handy.
Herb Infused Roast Chicken
This recipe idea originally came from a cookbook and I have tried lots of variations. This version is the result of about 10 years of experimentation. It is simple and delicious!
(1) Finely chop about 2 sprigs rosemary & 2 cloves garlic, or grind into a paste using mortar & pestle. Tip: sprinkling the pile with a bit of salt helps stop the pile from flying away while you chop or grind. Note for absolute beginners: don't include the twiggy stem of the rosemary!
(2) Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels. Gently loosen the chicken skin over the breast and break through to the area over the drumsticks as well.
(3) Spread the rosemary-garlic paste evenly between the skin and the flesh where you have just loosened the skin. Also insert a few fresh basil leaves here and there.
(4) Rub the chicken all over with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and salt. Insert half a lemon into the cavity. Place in the oven at 180C (or 350F) or 160C for a fan-forced (convection) oven. If you don't have a convection oven, I highly recommend you use a vertical roasting dish.
(5) Halfway through cooking, squeeze lemon juice all over the chicken. Tip: the chicken is done when the legs feel quite loose when you wiggle them. Note for absolute beginners: timing depends on the chicken's size, of course, but usually an average chicken takes at least an hour to roast.
Simple Chicken Burritos
My husband has occasionally yearned for Mexican food, but I tend to avoid preparing it because I don't want to sully my memories of the Mexican meals I had in LA. However, to satisfy his craving I recently made up the following.
(1) Toss chunks of chicken in seasoning mixture. You don't need to buy special "burrito seasoning" -- you can just use a blend of Cajun spice mixture (something we always have to hand), chili powder, all-purpose seasoning, and/or paprika.
(2) Fry up the chicken pieces -- approx 5 minutes on medium-high heat.
(3) Serve as a buffet for "roll your own" with tortillas, lettuce, chopped tomato, shredded cheese, refried beans, sour cream, sliced capsicum (bell pepper), and avocado. Tip: it's nice to spread the tortilla with the warm items (chicken, beans & cheese) and heat briefly in the microwave before adding the fresh ingredients and rolling together. Alternatively you can place rolled burritos (without the sour cream) in a bakinng tray, sprinkle with cheese, bake to heat through, then garnish with sour cream and salsa upon serving.
This sounds odd until you taste it. I often order a local pizza caffe's version of this and decided to try making it at home.
(1) Make your pizza dough (very easy!) or use a good pizza base.
(2) Thinly slice one potato, place in cold water in a pot, and boil for one minute. Lay slices around the bowl of a colander to drip dry.
(3) Spread your pizza with the following, in this order: tomato paste; shredded cheese (I like a mixture of cheddar & mozzarella); finely chopped rosemary & garlic; finely sliced onion; slices of potato; shredded ham or Pancetta; more cheese to cover lightly (how cheesy do you like it?) and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan (optional).
(4) Bake at 180C (or 350F) on the lowest rack of your oven until cheese looks melted and crust is quite firm. Move to the top rack to brown the cheese and finish. If you have a fan-forced (convection) oven then you can probably just place it in the middle!