Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chicken, Barley, Rice Soup



Here in the central Piedmont area of North Carolina outside of Charlotte, between the mountains to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the ground is still saturated from the devastating deluges of hurricanes Florence and Michael. As such, if there is a silver lining from such disasters, our autumn has been extended.

By this time in late November, our trees have already shaken off their mostly-colorless dry and itchy leaves. Instead, those same trees still harbor and cling to washed-out hopes of green! The pleasant, pink-repeat azaleas have lasted weeks longer than those which initially blossomed in the spring and which are usually wizened and wiped out in one 90-degree May afternoon. Their Crayola-color of "carnation pink"makes me happy. 

Surprisingly (and wonderfully unexpectedly), trees are radiant with autumnal color. This is rare in the South. The combination of moisture, sun, and cold nights is the perfect sugar recipe for vibrant, electrifying hues and sparks of orange, red and yellow.

It has been a long time for this old Northerner's eyes to be amazed, to remember and to appreciate such dreams of color!

I have planted the Southern ritual of pansies. Half a dozen pots filled with joyful colors to help me survive the expectant months of sunless days.

I travel miles and shop for weeks to find the most unique pansies.

The nights here are unusually cold for this time of year. Shiver! This morning, my birdbath was frozen over. I want soup! Hot soup ladled into hand-thrown ceramic bowls. Artisan bread. 

Enter this recipe. It was too easy. Too delicious. It is one I will make again and again.

Enjoy.


  • For the broth:
  • 2 pounds chicken cut up, skin on, bone in, preferably, thighs, legs, wings (actually, I used a Cornish Hen cut up into pieces)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 rib celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium garlic clove, smashed

  • For the soup:
  • 1, 14.5 oz. can chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup diced onion ( a bit less than 1/2 cup)
  • 1.5 teaspoon Kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/4  teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme leaves 
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon pressed or finely diced garlic 
  • 6 tablespoons pearled barley
  • 2-3 tablespoons raw, long-grained rice

In a large stockpot, prepare the broth. Breasts have little flavor for broth. Bring just to a boil then lower to simmer for about one hour. If you boil your broth it will turn cloudy. Remove meat to cool. Strain the broth and then return to the pot.


The more bone and cartilage you have, the more flavorful your broth.


Add the soup ingredients. Taste for salt. Bring just to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until vegetables and grains are tender. Taste for salt before serving. Ladle into bowls and, if desired, sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan or fresh dill.












Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Easy Macaroni and Cheese in Bacon-Onion Broth




Macaroni-and-cheese is an iconic American staple lovingly melted within our hamburger-and-hot-dog history and culinary landscape. Do not forget that thick-sliced staple of meat loaf served with mashed potatoes in greasy spoons across the country, especially during the Depression. Fried chicken? Barbecue? We are talking the national fingerprint of food. And, that cozy, all-American slice of apple pie!

My all-time favorite mac-and-cheese is Martha Stewart's recipe. Whenever I prepare it, people rave. The topping of toasted bread cubes is brilliant. But it is complicated. Time consuming. Gordon Ramsey also has a great recipe. But it uses cauliflower. Hmmmmm .... More work!

I revere the macaroni and cheese from my grandmother's old cookbook. It is more of a custard than "cheesy." I have since updated it a bit .... She would have loved it! http://www.kitchenbounty.com/2008/09/craft-macaroni-and-cheese.html



Truth-be-told, I probably make the following, simple recipe the most often. Why? It is easy. And, most importantly, you actually taste the cheese! The cheese is not lost or dissipated in a flour-and-milk paste sauce called a Bechemel. It uses no dairy other than a bit of butter. The water, flavored with bacon and onion, is all it needs. Well, maybe a bit sour cream on the side!

  • 1 slice smoked bacon, cut in half
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped dried onion (not fresh)
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1-3 teaspoons table salt
  • 3-4 ounces dried pasta of your choice
  • 3-4 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter

In a 2-quart saucepan, add water, salt, onion and bacon and bring to a boil. Lower heat a bit and allow to simmer briskly for about ten minutes to fully flavor the water.

Raise heat to a boil and add pasta. Follow package directions until done. 

DO NOT DRAIN.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer pasta to a bowl. Whisk in the butter. While hot, sprinkle on the cheese. Add as much of the bacon-onion broth to bring to a creamy consistency--and then a bit more. The pasta will release its starches to thicken it up a bit. Add some of the bacon if desired.

Enjoy!






Friday, August 24, 2018

One-Pan Baked Chicken with Potatoes and Onions



Delicious! Easy! One Pan Clean-up!


As recipes go, this could not be easier. Why? Because it is more of a process than an actual recipe. It is easy to adjust the amounts. (Below, I have outlined the original recipe with my changes. Below that is the easy-to-follow ingredients if you only want a single serving or eight servings)!



Mmmmmm ........ Fluffy roasted potatoes ... sweet baked onions ....


I have now lived in the South for almost one decade. If there is one thing I have learned about cooking in this part of the country, it is this...SAVE YOUR COOKING FAT! Chicken fat. Bacon fat. Beef fat. Pork fat. Olive oil. Corn oil ... Canola oil. Butter. Any oil! It is liquid gold!

Strain it. Save it. Put it into a container ... Refrigerate it. For this recipe, I used chicken and bacon fat.






  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, (I prefer legs and thighs)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter and/or chicken grease or bacon grease
  • 1 package Lipton dry onion soup mix
  • Garlic powder (optional)
  • Dried rosemary leaves (optional)
  • Dried thyme leaves (optional)
  • 6 medium potatoes cut into one-inch rounds then each round cut in half
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, root left intact, cut into quarters. (Keeping the root end intact prevents the onion layers from separating while cooking.)
  • Salt and pepper




Preheat oven to 350F.

Arrange chicken in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Tuck in the potatoes and onions. Drizzle butter and or bacon/chicken fat over the chicken and vegetables and then sprinkle all with soup mix. If using, lightly sprinkle with garlic powder, dried rosemary and thyme leaves. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with lid or tin foil. Bake 50 minutes. Remove from oven. Discard tin foil or lid. Baste with juices and return to oven, uncovered, to bake an additional 10-15 minutes until chicken is browned and potatoes are soft.

For added crispness, place under broiler for 1-2 minutes. Do not walk away as it will brown very quickly.



Individual portions: for each chicken piece, use one tablespoon melted butter, one tablespoon dried soup mix, 1 medium potato, one-half onion. Adjust seasonings to taste.






Friday, June 1, 2018

Braised Chicken Leg Quarters with Sunday Pan Gravy



I could probably eat this easy, every-day-recipe once a week and not regenerate into food fatigue. In fact, I made it four nights in a row! It's all about that rich and creamy pan gravy. Spoon it over mashed potatoes, rice, or a simple stuffing. Sop it up with a biscuit! Serve with a side of cranberries.






Prepare it a day ahead and pop it in the fridge. Bake the next day and you have a great meal befitting company. There is no need to saute the chicken, but do use a metal pan, not ceramic or glass, since you need to put the pan on the burner to create the gravy.
Leg quarters, consisting of a leg and a thigh, are the least expensive parts of the chicken. I can usually find a pack of three for about three dollars! That's a bargain! They also often come in ten-pound bags, but they are rarely uniform in size, so be wary.

This is more of a "process" than a recipe. I highly recommend Bell's Poultry Seasoning. I think it is the best out there. Do try to use the wine. It's easy enough to find a cheap bottle of white wine in any grocery store. You do not have to use cream. Evaporated milk would work just as well. I love Wondra flour for making any kind of gravy. If you do not have access, mix equal tablespoon parts butter and all-purpose flour. Add by the teaspoon until you reach the desired consistency of your sauce.






  • 1 chicken leg quarter
  • 1/2 red onion, diced (about two ounces)
  • 1 thinly-sliced carrot (about one ounce)*
  • 6 tablespoons chopped celery (about two ounces)
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, needles removed
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 medium clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • Chicken stock
  • Dry white wine
  • Cream (2-4 tablespoons)
  • Butter/olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons Wondra flour** 


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Liberally season the leg quarter well on both sides using poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Scatter the onion, celery, carrots, and garlic on the bottom of the pan. Place seasoned chicken on top. Drizzle with oil and put a few pats of butter on top. Surround with rosemary needles and thyme sprigs.

Pour in enough chicken stock to cover chicken by 1/4. Pour in enough wine so total liquid reaches about 1/2 the height of the chicken (not the height of the pan!).

Bake,  uncovered,  for 30 minutes. Liquids will have evaporated.  Add a bit more chicken stock to attain original level the of liquids. Return to the oven and continue to bake another 30 minutes or until the meat just begins to pull away from the bone on the leg. See photograph.

Remove from oven and place chicken on a plate and cover with foil. Remove the thyme and rosemary. Place the pan on stove over low heat.  Add a bit more stock followed by cream. Stir in Wondra flour until desired consistency is reached.


*If you prefer soft carrots, you may first want to microwave them for 30 seconds or so.
**The rule of thumb is one tablespoon thickener per one cup liquid.