Sunday, November 15, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go to Costco

Mama's been sick. And when Mama's sick, it's much less likely that a meal will be cooked. So, Mama picked up a giant chicken pot pie from Costco because all that had to be done was the baking. An hour and a half of baking, mind you! If you've never seen the chicken pot pies that Costco offers, they are HUGE! They also cost almost $17.00. They have perfect strips of dough latticed on the top. I have always wanted to try one, but couldn't stomach paying $17.00 for it. But, really, it fed our family of 4 twice so that's not so bad.

The crust baked up perfectly, even after so long in the oven. It didn't give a recommendation to put foil around the edges, so I didn't, and it turned out it didn't burn. The sauce and vegetables were really tasty, but the chicken is what I'm always most worried about. I hate, HATE, the "chicken" pieces that are in frozen chicken pot pies, even Marie Callender's. They are chewy bits of weirdness. So, the chicken in Costco's pie was quite the surprise - it was strips of real chicken breast meat and I never got one weird bite.

Everyone loved the pie, so it was quite a family hit. I want to attempt to make one myself that doesn't have quite so many un-pronouncable words in the ingredients. Mine won't be quite so pretty, I'm sure, but hopefully everyone will like it just as much. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I recommend stopping by the Costco deli when you are short on time or inspiration.

Here's a picture of the prettiness:




Peace, Love, and Convenience,

~ HD

Mom to Fred and Ginger
Wife to Mr. D
Connoisseur of Costco

Monday, November 2, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings - The Easy Way


First, let me apologize for the extreme delay in postings! We have had our share of swine flu, strep throat, and general crapola and I am ready to get on with it! Everyone is feeling at least 90%, which is better than we were. We had a good Halloween, although we didn't do as much as planned and I don't have more Halloween food to post. Sucky! I do have a few other things to post, so I will get more on here ASAP.

So what better than Chicken and Dumplings to help a family feel better? I make dumplings out of the smallest, cheapest canned biscuits - like the blue Pillsbury ones. They don't have a lot of extra flavorings or lumps of fat like some of the other canned biscuits, which would mess up the broth. They are plain and simple.

So, the supremely, superbly easiest way to make Chicken and Dumplings is to heat up a bunch of chicken broth to boiling - then, cut the little biscuits into quarters and drop them a handful at a time into the boiling broth. Take them out w/ a slotted spoon once they've cooked a little while and puffed up real good, and then repeat until they're all done. Then, add a can or two of canned/diced chicken breasts to the broth (depending on how much you're making) and also some frozen or canned carrots and peas. Put the dumplings back in, heat it all up real good, and there you go.

Last night I thought I would improve on this a bit and made it a little fancier but still super easy.

First, I melted about 2 T of butter in the bottom of a stock pot. Then I added 2 diced stalks of celery, some minced garlic (from a jar - even though fresh is better, it's not easier. Sue me.), some diced onion (from a bag of frozen diced onions, my favorite frozen vegetable), and some shredded carrots. I cooked those for a while until the onions were all transluscent and good.

Next, 3 boxes of chicken broth. Turned out I had a little too much broth, so next time either a little less broth or a few more dumplings. I brought the chicken broth to a boil. While it was heating, I added some (dried) parsley, thyme, and herbs de provence (just because that's what I had - would have rather had tarragon).

Then I did the biscuit dropping, a handful at a time. I did 3 cans of biscuits but next time would do all 4. While the dumplings cooked, I pulled apart the meat of a rotisserie chicken - yum, yum! Then, I added the chicken and the dumplings all back to the pot and cooked for about 5 minutes to heat all through. I also added about 1/3 cup of half and half to make it a little creamy.

Here are some pictures. It turned out really good. But, guess who didn't like it? The kids!!! They like the plain, non-herbed, non-onioned, boring version. Oh well...I will continue to try to improve their palates, but it didn't work this time. 


 The biscuits cut into quarters.


Biscuits boiling in the broth.

 
 The finished product! It was goooood!

Peace, Love, and Chicken,

~HD

Mom of Fred and Ginger
Wife of Mr. D
Dumplinger of Deliciousness

Why Do They Call it Pork Butt if it's the Shoulder?

Pork Butt (Shoulder?) roast is a huge hit around here. I really thought it was the actual "butt" part of the pig until recently - shows you what I know. It's actually the shoulder and it has the big shoulder blade bone in it. It's not something my mom ever cooked, and I had probably never had it up until a couple of years ago. A friend fixed it, with her secret marinade which I'll get to in a minute, and I was/am completely hooked. It got even better when I made it and both kids loved it - a rarity! Of course Mr. D liked it - he'd eat a shoe if you covered it in BBQ sauce. And, while I make fun, I actually appreciate that about him.

I like to get a roast between 5-8 lbs, but I've made some bigger than that. You definitely want a bone-in roast. I got a pork butt that was boneless and had twine, or whatever that string is, around it holding it together and it was awful. I think it was just a bunch of pieces stuck in there together. We fed it to the dog. Anyway, you can find pork butts on sale pretty often for around $1.49/lb.

When I make one, I let it sit in the fridge and marinate for at least 2 days, but I've done it up to 4. My mom would probably die - she doesn't let anything sit in the fridge very long, cooked or not. I usually marinate it in a stock pot, or if it's small enough, in the insert for my big crock pot.

The base of my marinade is sherry. DRY sherry, not the sweet kind of port sherry or whatever it is. My friend that cooked the first pork butt I had told me "sherry" and I mistakenly got the sweet kind and I thought my friend was batty. But, you get the dry sherry and all is well. Then - the rest of my marinade does not have measurements or rules. It is a kitchen sink sort of thing - throw it in and I promise it will be good. I use varying amounts of:

brown sugar
pepper
marjoram
rosemary
cinnamon
seasoned salt
garlic - minced, powdered, probably both
any kind of BBQ spice blend
mustard

Really, this list seems short - I put so much crap in there, you wouldn't even believe it. It always turns out great.

To cook it, I have occasionally used the crockpot, which works fine, but it isn't my favorite method. I like to truly roast it in the oven. I put it in a roasting pan (mine is the kind with a shallow bottom and a big lid/top) and cook it at 275 or 300 for hourrrrrrrrrrsssssssssssssss. I usually go by 30 minutes per pound, and then add a little to be sure.

When it's done, I let it rest for at least 30 minutes-1 hour. Then I put on latex gloves (I have boxes of them in the kitchen - I hate touching raw meat, or - in this case - getting all greasy) and I start tearing the roast apart by hand. I have a big bowl for the good pieces and the trash can by me for the ick. And I tear through the whole thing and get rid of as much fat as possible, etc. Then I pour the pan juices over the meat in the bowl. We eat our first meal from it like this when it's hot. Then, after it cools enough for the fridge, I put the covered bowl in the fridge and the next day, the fat from the juices has risen to the top and hardened and I spoon it off and throw most of it out.

We eat on it for a couple of days and I also make freezer baggies with enough for 1 meal. It lasts a really long time and it is so good. In fact, it's so good that we were so busy eating it that I forgot to take pictures!!!!!!!!! I'll be making another one soon and will post some then.

The kids like to eat the roast just plain with a fork, but Mr. D and I like to make it into sandwiches. We use hamburger buns with a thin layer of mayonaisse (keeps the juices from soaking the bun so bad), then we top the bun with meat and then some BBQ sauce. Sometimes I make the sauce, sometimes we use bought sauce. We never have tried topping it with cole slaw, though I know lots of people do that. I personally don't want to screw up my pork butt with cabbage.

Peace, Love, and Shoulder-Butt,

~HD

Mom of Fred and Ginger
Wife of Mr. D
Ravishing Roaster of Pork Butt