Monday, January 10, 2011

Catching you up on my culinary adventures

Since moving out to Seattle last September, I have decided to commit to learning how to cook if it kills me. How can I be a wife and eventually a mother, if cooking means shaking some macaroni and powdered cheese out of a box and into a pot? Plus, being a Canadian living in the US and unable to work, has afforded me A LOT of time to read cookbooks and recipes, and go grocery shopping!

I was very surprised to discover that I really enjoyed planning and cutting, and mixing and stirring. Of course, it helps to have a kitchen that's wonderfully kitted out in wedding registry wonderfulness, making the process fun. (Who doesn't want to bake when they have a baby pink Kitchen Aid Mixer? I mean, really. Thanks Ate Joy!)

Eating good food has also always been high on my list of favourite things to do, so I guess cooking kind of just goes hand-in-hand with that. However, the sense of accomplishment I felt after cooking my very first roast chicken rather astounded me. Mostly because at first, I was so terrified of the dead, plucked animal in my kitchen sink. (I have to put my hand where and pull what out?! I have to look for stray feathers and pluck them?!) And because I wasn't sure that I could do it, and my poor new husband and I would be stuck eating some slimy, salmonella-ridden monstrosity for dinner.

Anyway, this blog (after some coaxing from friends & family) is to show you my accomplishments, because gosh darnit, I'm really proud that I went from Kraft dinners to boeuf bourguignon in less than four months!

Now for the delectable pictures, which, if you are my friend on fb, you may already be familiar with.

Could that really be a real, grown-up dinner? Why yes, I believe it is! Afterwards, my husband confessed that he was worried that I wouldn't know how to cook at first, but assured me that this was not the case any longer. He is a man who does not know how to lie.

I decided to make some real macaroni and cheese! I used actual cheese that I grated myself, who would've imagined? I tried Martha Stewart recipes for both the roast chicken and this baked mac & cheese. I love her cookbooks because they are basic and straightforward, and very non-scary for a kitchen novice. (Thanks Joan!) This also turned out great, except I made enough for twelve people! I was very gung-ho and neglected to read the "recipe may be halved" disclaimer. Oh well, neither one of us complained about eating mac & cheese for three days, twice a day. I have since made this recipe again, with rigatoni, and added a yummy dash of black truffle oil over top! DELICIOUS. I also learned not to drizzle truffle oil on top of the breadcrumbs before you bake it, because you will burn your bread. I didn't know it was a finishing touch. Now I know!

Since I have successfully made myself hungry, I must stop for today and continue again tomorrow!

Martha Stewart Roast Chicken Recipe for 4:
  • 1 six-pound roasting chicken
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  1. Let chicken and 1 tablespoon butter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove the giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Remove any stray feathers that might remain. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  2. In the center of a roasting pan, place onion slices in two rows, touching. Place the palm of your hand on top of lemon and, pressing down, roll lemon back and forth several times. This softens the lemon and allows the juice to flow more freely. Pierce entire surface of lemon with a fork. Using the side of a large knife, gently press on garlic cloves to open slightly. Insert garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and lemon into cavity. Place chicken in pan, on onion slices. Cut about 18 inches of kitchen twine, bring chicken legs forward, cross them, and tie together.
  3. Spread the softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place in the oven, and roast until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. When chicken seems done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, then the thigh. The breast temperature should read 180 degrees.and the thigh 190 degrees.
  4. Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let chicken stand 10 to 15 minutes so the juices settle. Meanwhile, pour the pan drippings into a shallow bowl or fat separator, and leave onions in the pan. Leave any brown baked-on bits in the bottom of the roasting pan, and remove and discard any blackened bits. Using a large spoon or fat separator, skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour the remaining drippings and the juices that have collected under the resting chicken back into the roasting pan. Place on the stove over medium-high heat to cook, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, raise heat to high, and, using a wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small bowl, pressing on onions to extract any liquid. Discard onions, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter until melted and incorporated. Untie the legs, and remove and discard garlic, thyme, and lemon. Carve, and serve gravy on the side. 
 Martha Stewart Mac & Cheese Recipe for 6:
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
  • 3 slices good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 8-9 ounces)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (about 4 ounces) or 3/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 2.5 ounces)
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni or pasta of choice
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 1.5-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Pour butter into bowl with bread, and toss. Set breadcrumbs aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute.
  3. While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
  4. Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 31 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, and 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano; set cheese sauce aside.
  5. Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes less than manufacturer's directions, until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce
  6. Pour mixture into prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese, Gruyere or Pecorino Romano, and breadcrumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.


  1. Yum, nothing beats home-cooked meals made from scratch! Good for you ;) Happy New Year!

  2. Love your blog Liz! I'll be stopping by often. I remember the kraft dinner days. You have come a long way. I'm proud.

  3. Thanks Anna Patricia, it feels good to be able to, and happy new year to you too! (great blog btw:)

    Oh Christine, I will never forget watching you cook while I ate my Doritos and looked on, completely baffled!

  4. I have to make up for lost time!
    Anything you touch turns to gold I know it because I have experienced your cooking first hand. :)