Monday, May 3, 2010

a dash of this...a pinch of that...

i love food blogs.  always have.  always will.  the trouble is, it's just me right now.  1 person.  so, i never make any of the food that looks so incredible, because it seems a little excessive to make such gourmet food for 1.  [speaking of food for 1: my friend, trey, posted this on his blog recently.  it makes me laugh and cry at the same time] well, lucky for me 3 of my favorite things have combined to create a tri-fecta of happiness!  1. friends 2. BABIES! 3.  good food.   many of my dear friends are having babies- and with their hands so full, it is a great joy to get to serve them by cooking dinner while they get their sea legs.  last week, i was blessed to be able to provide dinner for my dear friends, the mason's and their newest edition: maelee marguerite.
the mason's are trying to stay healthy in this hectic time- and as you know, vegetables are NOT my forte.  after much recipe research i decided on herb roasted whole chicken (found on one of my favorite sites, the pioneer woman), provencal summer squash gratin (found in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, the food network's how to boil water), and a yogurt/granola/fruit parfait.  i had so much fun making food that i never get to make!  thanks for the opportunity masons!  :)

let's get cookin'!

for the herb roasted whole chicken...
1 whole chicken (recipes says 3-4lbs- mine was closer to 5)
canola oil
rosemary, thyme, sage (or herbs of your preference)
aromatics- feel free to be creative!  i chose an onion, lemon, and some garlic
kosher salt
ground black pepper
not called for in the recipe, but i can't live without it:  my food network digital remote thermometer (or any type of food thermometer- undercooked chicken is a huge fear of mine!)

take your herbs and remove them from their stems, then give them a good chop.  you'll need a couple of tablespoons of herbs (about 2 teaspoons per herb)

put your herbs in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper.
next, add 2-3 tablespoons of your canola oil.
give it a good mix.

now, find the ingredients you chose to use as your aromatics...
...and give 'em a rough chop.  you're not going to actually eat them, so it can be large chunks.

important step that i forgot:  you want to pat your chicken with paper towels and make sure it's completely dry.  i got out my paper towels, but in the excitement of getting to chop onions and lemon and garlic (oh my!) i completely forgot to do it! (it's the little things in life that get me excited...obviously.)  patting the chicken down helps to ensure that you'll have a nice crispy crust on the skin.  i was so worried, but i think my skin came out fine...right, masons?  ;)

okay, stuff all of the aromatics into the nether regions of your chicken.  don't forget to remove the gizzards!  gross, i know- but it must be done!  

those are the gizzards on top (blegh!)  i tried using a "garbage bowl" for today's cooking extravaganza.  i have made fun of them in the past, well- mainly rachel ray's (because she sells a normal mixing bowl and calls it a "garbage bowl" and people spend $20 for it!).  i have to say, it was invaluable.  basically, the idea behind a garbage bowl is to have a bowl on your countertop for anything you would throw away- paper towels, skin of an onion, gizzards, extra herbs. the idea is you don't have to trek back and forth to the trash while your hands are all gross- and while i think it's kind of silly- it was also kind of great.

now you're ready to rub the canola oil/herb mixture on the chicken.  make sure you get it everywhere- even underneath!

optional:  i inserted the probe from my digital thermometer into the chicken.  you're supposed to insert it into the thickest part of the thigh.  i think i did it wrong.  i must have put it in the leg?  b/c 10 minutes into the cooking process, it said it was ready!  yikes!  however, this is normally a really great tool!  you set the meat you're cooking (beef, chicken, fish) and if it's beef, set the done-ness desired (rare, med. rare, etc.) and then it beeps at you when your meat reaches the acceptable internal temperature.  so cool!

after an hour-ish in a 450 degree oven- voila!  you've got a beautiful herb roasted chicken!
 (when taking to friends, it's always nice to put food in disposable containers- this is a casserole container i found that i thought would be perfect!)

now, for your side dish
provencal summer squash gratin
3 zucchini or other summer squash
1 eggplant (optional, i added for extra color)
3 ripe plum tomatoes
thyme (or herb of your choice)
extra virgin olive oil
2 onions
kosher salt
ground black pepper

heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a pan.
chop your onions and garlic.  remove about 4 sprigs of thyme from the stems.  toss these in the pan and cover for about 5 minutes (stir occasionally).

side note:  sorry!  there are less pictures of this dish- once it starts, it's very time sensitive-so i had to move!!
after 5 minutes uncover it, turn up to high heat and let it cook for about 10 more minutes- but don't let it brown (i think this pic is from right when i threw the onions in the pan, they should be more wilted after the initial 5 minutes of cooking)

mine started to brown well before 10 minutes, so i removed from heat and soldiered on.

while your onion mixture is cooking, slice your zucchini/squash/eggplant/tomatoes.

after that, toss it all in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, and pepper to taste.
isn't that gorgeous?
helpful hint:  only about 1/2 of my vegetable mixture would fit in my pan.  if you're trying to save a little $, only buy 2 tomatoes and 2 zucchini- maybe still buy the eggplant for color- it's too gorgeous to leave out!

unfortunately, those are all the pics i got.  next, i spread the onion mixture in the bottom of my pan.  i then covered it with a layer of my zucchini/squash/eggplant/tomatoe mixture- i layered it in a color pattern- remember, baking is a visual art!
finally, you sprinkle 1/2 cup of your grated parmesean cheese over the whole dish.
cook for 30 minutes covered with foil at 375 degrees.
after 30 minutes, uncover and let cook for another 30ish minutes-until cheese starts to brown.
voila!  another amazing dish- it smelled wonderful!
special shout out to my amazing friend, katy- she let me take over her oven so that i could cook the chicken and the squash at the same time.  she's such a lifesaver (and all around great friend!)

yogurt/granola/fruit parfait
disposable cups (when taking to friends)

so super easy!  fill your cups about 2/3 full with yogurt.

add granola ( i like A LOT of granola, so i sent some extra in baggies- nothing's worse than soggy granola!)

now, add the fruit of your choice.  

done!  that was easy!!

but the best part of this meal was definitely...

getting to meet maelee!  she's perfect!  (me- not so much....remember!  i had been cooking in a very hot kitchen!!!)

thanks for reading!  i hope you have as much fun cooking as i did!  bon apetite!

(pictures of maelee "stolen" from the mason's blog- go check it out!)


  1. So sweet. That looks like such a yummy meal!!

  2. Let me officially say that everything was incredibly delicious! The chicken was flavorful yet very juicy, and I had no idea a vegetable medley could be quite so good. Thank you so much for the time and effort that went into the meal:)

    Let me know if you ever want to cook again!

  3. Oh my, I have to give a shout out, too. This dinner was A-MAZING!!! So super yummy!!! And so incredibly thoughtful of you. Loved reading this and getting to be active participants in this delicious effort! You ROCK! :)

  4. Wow!! Murph, that's awesome! You really were branching out with the vegetables and it looks like you did a beautiful job!
    I'm inspired to cook something that seems difficult now.