Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Basic tomato sauce, yum!

At my fiancée’s request, I made some “Italian pasta sauce”.  Since I’m a big fan of Chef John, I searched his blog for a basic tomato sauce . . . and as always, the man delivered.  I compared his recipe to the other two I have tried before, and of course, it’s like comparing dry apple pie to orange zest infused cobbler.  What, to lame of an analogy?

Unfortunately, I was NOT able to get my hands on neither the main ingredient (San Marzano tomatoes) nor the secret ingredient (anchovy paste).  I drove all over town looking for the tomatoes and paste, and nothing.  Giant, Safeway, Trader Joes, you all suck!

Fortunately, however, the sauce tasted great despite my substitution and omission.  I used regular canned tomatoes as the main ingredient instead of canned marzanos.  And since I was already replacing the star of the show, I figured it was ok to not even bother with the anchovy paste.  Also, I used 5 leaves of fresh basil from my garden even though the recipe did not call for any. I have so much basil in the garden, I’ll put it in anything.  One more thing, since I prefer my sauce chunky, I didn’t mash it to a paste as recommended.

So I used:
  • 2 cans (28-oz each) whole peeled tomatoes (the regular cheap-brand)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 tsp dried celery (I didn’t have the fresh celery it called for)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • water as needed
The sauce was damn good, despite my use of “generic” tomatoes and no secret ingredient.  But because I’m dying to taste anchovy paste, I am driving 20 miles today to my nearest Wegmans to get it and try the recipe one more time.  I’m glad I made it this way first because now I have something to compare it to. 

Here is the video for making this sauce.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My first roasted chicken

After thinking about it for a few weeks, I finally decided to try the roasted chicken recipe from Julia Child’s, Cooking With Master Chefs.  This being my first roasted chicken ever, I was a bit intimidated.  I’m not sure why, but I was. 
Whenever I try a new recipe, I follow it to the letter.  But since I don’t like Thyme, I substituted it with fresh basil and parsley from my garden. Since basil and parsley are more subtle than thyme, I added 3 short celery sticks as aromatics to the bed of onions.  Oh, and I couldn’t find a 5 lb roaster, so I used an 8 lb bird. 
I was amazed by how delicious this recipe turned out.  The skin was cripsy and the breast meat was so tender and fragrant.  Yes, you could actually smell the sweet aroma from the lemon rind.  I see now why lots of recipes call for lemon zest.  Another thing that surprised me was how NOT salty it was despite sprinkling it with a generous amount of kosher salt.  I’m guessing some salt washed off with the steam, some got observed in to meat, and the rest stayed on the skin. A very good balance I say.    
In retrospect, I don’t see why it took me so long to roast my first chicken.  It was so easy.  In fact, I went out and bought a large metal mixing bowl for the next time I make it.  As for next time, I think I will go with the 5 lb roaster, cus 8 lbs is a lot of bird.  We have so much left over, I’ve had it for lunch 2 days in a row and I’m making tacos tonight.  A few people suggested I rub butter on it next time. But this recipe tastes so light and healthy, I don’t want that buttery taste. I use butter in plenty of other dishes, this one will have to stay as is.
Once I transcribe the recipe to paper, I’ll come back to this post and add it as an image. In the mean time, here is a link to the recipe I followed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Wk2cYarjOI.