Archive | April, 2012

My Month in Review

29 Apr

I know I’ve been a very bad blogging friend this month.  I promise I will make it up to you with a really good recipe and sewing pattern review soon.  Here’s a little taste of what I’ve been up to, though…

First, I made my niece, Sarah, a Minnie Mouse cake for her 3rd birthday.  I spent every evening for a week making the components of this two-tier vanilla bean cake with strawberry cheesecake filling, vanilla buttercream frosting, and fondant decorations. 

Then, Mr. Homemaker and I went for a sail aboard one of these little ships on a long weekend getaway.  We were pretty boring — no late-night dance clubs or theater shows — just relaxing on the deck and catching up on lots of rest.  In Cozumel we went scuba diving and saw all sorts of wonderful sea creatures.  The most excitement we experienced on the ship happened one afternoon while relaxing by the pool on the 10th deck.  We heard a loud commotion right around the corner from us so I peeked out our little window just in time to see a grown man’s lower body dangling over the edge of the ship.  Luckily, other passengers had grabbed the jumper and were pulling him back on board.  It was crazy because we had met the man the day before in the elevator and he seemed completely normal.  Not sure what happened to him after that but Matt and I speculated that they must have tied him in a straight-jacket and locked him in his cabin…

The next week my grandfather had surgery to repair a slow-growing aneurysm that his doctor had been following for about two years.  He did phenomenally well and is back at home and feeling much better now.

Finally, I got to take a two-day sewing workshop with world-famous sewing guru, Sandra Betzina, at a sewing shop in Mobile.  It was recommended that workshop attendees sew one of Sandra’s patterns but I had a hard time choosing one that suited me.  Finally, I decided on Vogue 1045 but decided to make it less structured and chose a lightweight Marc Jacobs cotton voile for the top and a silky-finished Vera Wang cotton for the skirt.  I never got around to the skirt during the class but I did finish the top and will be blogging the pattern review soon.  You’re getting a sneak peek of the unfinished top in the photo of me with Sandra, above.

Have a wonderful week, friends!

Impress Your Guests Roasted Chicken

23 Apr

I had planned to give you this recipe before Easter.  Sorry.  I had a crazy number of birthday cakes to bake and numerous other obligations that kept me from typing the last few steps of the recipe and clicking publish.  But better late than never, right?

I thought it would be a good idea to give you a recipe for a showstopping main dish — a dish that will silence your harshest critic, boost your kitchen confidence, and go from oven to table with minimal effort.

The method for this recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks that I have mentioned before, but I have modified the ingredients to suit my own tastes.  Originally, the chicken was cooked on a bed of root veggies such as rutabagas, parsnips, and turnips.  I have made the original version before, but we prefer my modified version.  So feel free to adapt it as you see fit.

There are a few steps that will ensure your chicken is top-notch.  First, plan ahead and leave your chicken uncovered in the fridge for a day or two.  This will give your chicken nice crispy skin once roasted.  At first you may be repulsed by the idea of leaving a bare chicken in your fridge.  I sure was.  Once you eat the naked chicken, however, you will start advertising your refrigerator as a nudist colony for poultry 🙂

Second, make sure your chicken is at room temperature before you put it in the oven — don’t put it in the oven straight out of the fridge.  Also, truss your chicken to help it cook more evenly.  See this video here for a great demonstration on how trussing is done (but please don’t let your hair hang in your chicken).

Make sure to cook the chicken to the proper temperature.  My chicken was a roaster and came with its own little temperature gauge that popped out when it reached 160 degrees (and it was accurate).  But it is definitely a good idea to invest in a meat thermometer like you see in the top photograph (for around $10).  Finally, be sure to let the chicken rest on the cutting board for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to redistribute.  This will ensure that every bite of your bird is extra juicy and moist.


Whole Roasted Chicken on a Bed of Vegetables

One 4- to 4 1/2-pound chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
6 thyme sprigs
8 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half
8 cipollini onions, whole (you could substitute 2 or 3 small, quartered yellow onions)
8 small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed
8 small Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
1/3 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  1. Let chicken stand uncovered in refrigerator for 1 to 2 days to dry out the skin.
  2. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.
  3. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  4. Remove the neck and innards if they are still in the cavity of the chicken.  Cut out the wishbone with a paring knife to make carving easier.  Generously season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper, add 3 of the garlic cloves and 5 of the thyme sprigs, and massage the inside of the bird to infuse it with the flavors.  Truss the chicken (see video link above).
  5. Combine all the veggies and the remaining garlic and thyme in a large roasting pan or iron skillet.  Toss with 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Rub the remaining oil all over the chicken.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
  7. Make a nest in the center of the vegetables and nestle the chicken in it.  Cut the butter into 4 or 5 pieces and place over the chicken.
  8. Put the chicken in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees and roast for an additional 45 minutes, or until the temperature registers 160 degrees in the meatiest portion of the bird — the thighs, and under the breast where the thigh meets the breast — and the juices run clear.  If necessary, return the bird to the oven for more roasting; check it every 5 minutes.
  9. Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let it rest for 20 minutes.
  10. Just before serving, set the pan of vegetables over medium heat and reheat the vegetables, turning them and glazing them with the pan juices.
  11. Cut the chicken into serving pieces, arrange over the vegetables, and serve.