Category Archives: Back to Basics Cooking
JeffreyW plates up a good-looking Pot Roast Dinner
I love to cook in my pressure cooker – rice, beans, soups – they all get their start in my pressure cooker. But my favorite thing to do is that quick dinner that tastes like it’s been in the slow cooker all day, even though I completely forgot to even take the meat out to thaw.
My usual meal is to add about 1 cup of water to the pan, add a bunch of spices and herbs to the water, put the tray in and then layer halved potatoes, FROZEN skinless chicken breast or thighs (boneless or not, doesn’t change cooking time much), throw a couple of halved carrots on top and pressurize. Twenty minutes later, dinner is ready. The spices and herbs in the water infuse everything with flavor. It’s not as complex as roasted chicken, but for a quick dinner, it’s great.
Today I was wandering through the freezer, reorganizing to make room for holiday stuff and counting my bags of cranberries – which I stockpile in case there is a great cranberry shortage in the future. I pulled out a nice chuck roast I bought on sale a few weeks ago, half of which I used for the beef stew last week, half I tucked away for a nice pot roast dinner. I thought it would be nice to make tomorrow. Then I decided I wanted it today.
So I pulled out the pressure cooker. This would be a first, starting with a frozen roast. It was either going to work or I was going to end up with one tough piece of beef. But I wouldn’t know if I didn’t give it try. (I do these things so you don’t have to).
I put the roast on the tray, poured a little bourbon over it (since it worked so well with the beef stew) added water, bay leaf, salt, pepper, onion, halved potatoes and carrots. I pressurized it for 55 minutes. I was guessing at the time because I wasn’t sure with it frozen how much extra time I should add.
At the 55 minute mark, I turned off the heat and let it depressurize slowly (instead of cold bath method). When I opened it, the beef was perfect. Again, the flavor was not as complex as if I had been able to brown it ahead of time. But it was tender and moist.
The carrots and potatoes were good, although if I did it again, I would probably add them at the twenty or thirty minute mark and re-pressurize for another twenty minutes.
So I’ll mark this down as a win and know that if I need a quick dinner, I can put pot roast on the list of recipes that will go from frozen to dinner in an hour.
They are predicting a quick hitting snow storm for tonight and tomorrow with some locations having blizzard-like conditions. Seemed like a good time to make a batch of soup.
Because I have a vita-mix, most of the soups I make start with a thick vegetable broth. It gives a great depth of flavor. It’s also chocked full of nutrients and anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t eat enough vegetables, so I do what I can to up my daily veggies. But you may not want to go to that trouble, so you can substitute 4 cups of chicken broth for the vegetable broth in the recipe below.
Cream of Chicken Soup
- 1/4 tsp rosemary
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp basil
- 2 stalks celery (with leaves), rough chopped
- 2 medium carrots, rough chopped (or frozen sliced)
- 1 cup cut green beans (I use frozen)
- 4 cups of water
- 2 skinless chicken breasts (bone-in or boneless, doesn’t matter it will be shredded)
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
small saucepan, dutch oven or large saucepan, blender
Stock: In the blender, add rough chopped carrots, celery and green beans, spices, 2 cups of water and blend until smooth. Add to dutch oven or saucepan.
Add chicken breasts and 2 additional cups of water to the saucepan. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Add diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper to the liquid and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender crisp.
While the chicken is cooking, melt butter in the saucepan, add onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent. Whisk in flour and cook about 2 minutes or more. Turn the heat up to medium-high, slowly stir in milk and bring to a low boil, whisking until thickened. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally.
While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken. The easiest way to do this is to use two forks and pull across the grain of the meat in different directions. You can then use your fingers to break apart any large pieces.
Once the vegetables are tender crisp, whisk in the white sauce and then stir in the chicken. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve with parsley garnish.
Makes about 6 cups.
I stashed away a frozen turkey just before Thanksgiving and when I had fully recovered from the family festivities, I decided I would try the braising method found here. I did not brine it first (I’ve made it no secret I do not understand brining – extra work and messy for not much reward IMHO).
This method is fairly easy to do. You need to have a sharp knife to separate the leg/thighs from the bird and I also removed the backbone and wings before cooking to use for soup stock.
I can’t say that it was any better or worse than the cooking in a bag method, but it did make the best gravy ever. So I might do it again.
This was a great article, so I thought I would share:
BY NATASHA GARDNER SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 9:07 AM
Frozen food doesn’t have to mean blocks of spinach or chicken nuggets. Instead, cooks in-the-know fill their freezer with stocks, farm-fresh produce, and ready-to-eat, healthy meals. Here, tips for making your freezer your grocery store.
1. Pace yourself: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t overbuy the first time you head to the butcher. (A family can only eat so many grass-fed steaks.) Stock up on basics over time by buying two of something at the store. Plan to roast chicken? Buy an extra bird and tuck it away. Want to grill salmon? Purchase two pounds, cook one and freeze the other. You get the idea.
2. Cook for a crowd: I grew up in a large family and have always had trouble downsizing recipes. Now, though, I greedily look at a recipe to see if I can double it (this works well for baked goods, like cookies) or make two (think: lasagna).
3. Take stock: Create a freezer inventory….
(You know the drill, click on the link and read the whole thing, there are some nice additional book recommendations at the end.)
I’m an avid freezer user – mine is stocked full of frozen veggies, meats, meals, leftover – ice cube sized – tomato paste, wine, juices. I also freeze leftover lime and lemon zests – I never waste a fresh lemon or lime peel. For more tips, head to the Meal Planning Page at the top of the blog.
Ok, put down the bird. I’ve been hearing this for a while, but didn’t think much of it. I generally don’t wash my chicken, though I do pat it dry after I thaw it. I do however, always wash my turkeys. This seems to be the definitive word on washing your bird. Don’t. Here from NPR’s THE SALT blog, is the explanation on why the change:
Julia Child Was Wrong: Don’t Wash Your Raw Chicken, Folks
by MARIA GODOY
It seems almost sacrilegious to question the wisdom of Julia Child.
First with her opus Mastering the Art of French Cooking and later with her PBS cooking show, the unflappably cheerful Child helped rescue home cookery from the clutches of convenience food. She taught us how to love — and take pride in — making something from scratch.
And yet, in at least one important kitchen skill, Child got it dead wrong: rinsing raw poultry.
“I just think it’s a safer thing to do,” Child tells viewers in one clip from The French Chef in which she shows us the ins and outs of roasting chicken.
“Oh, no!” says Drexel University food safety researcher Jennifer Quinlan when I inform her that Child was in the pro-bird-washing camp. “I don’t want to take on that.”
Yet take on the doyenne of TV chefs she must. For Quinlan is on a mission to get America’s home cooks to drop this widespread habit of washing poultry before cooking.
“There’s no reason, from a scientific point of view, to think you’re making it any safer,” she says, “and in fact, you’re making it less safe.”
That’s because washing increases the chances that you’ll spread the foodborne pathogens that are almost certainly on your bird all over the rest of your kitchen too, food safety experts say. We’re talking nasty stuff like salmonella and Campylobacter, which together are estimated to cause nearly 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness in the U.S. each year.
Some studies suggest bacteria can fly up to 3 feet away from where your meat is rinsed — though you can’t necessarily see it. If that thought alone doesn’t give you pause, perhaps this slimy “germ vision” animation will do the trick:
Quinlan and her collaborators at New Mexico State University’s Department of Media Productions have created a new public health campaign to get the word out about why washing poultry is a bad idea. Her focus-group surveys, conducted as part of a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, suggest as many as 90 percent of people rinse their raw birds — even though the USDA has advised against it for years. The practice is slightly more common among minorities, she says, but pretty much everyone does it.
And Quinlan expects some people will continue to cling to their bird-rinsing ways. Some people, she notes, just do it because they think their chicken is slimy. “If your chicken is so slimy that it needs washing, something is wrong,” she says. “Other people say, ‘That’s just how I was taught to do it.’ ”
It doesn’t help, she says, that many celebrity TV chefs (not just Child) and cookbooks call for this as a first step. But science, says Quinlan, is really giving the lazy a free pass — nay, animperative — to cut out this step.
And some people for whom raw-chicken-meat baths have been a source of marital strife may welcome Quinlan’s message wholeheartedly.
As my colleague Dan Charles told me (sorry, Dan, I’m outing you here): “I never did [wash my chickens], but then my wife* forced me to. So as soon as this thing is posted, I’m sending it straight to her.”
* Footnote: Dan insisted I note his wife is lovely.
So there you go. Don’t wash your bird, but do wash your hands thoroughly when working with poultry. Head on over to THE SALT for more video and an audio clip of the entire piece.