Saturday, June 22, 2013

One Mojito, Two Mojito...


You know what I did today?  Zip, nada, nothing… well I made awesome bacon ice cream but that’s another post… I chilled around the pool, worked on my tan and played teenage romance counselor (which is by the way quite exhausting).  I believe every truly relaxing moment is enhanced by a good drink, but as a dedicated wine drinker my options for hot weather are somewhat limited. 
I didn’t become an exclusively wine drinker by choice, I hate beer, and my teenage years have left me with profound hate of straight up hard liquor of any kind.  Too many nights have spent praying to porcelain god and now I can only tolerate the smell of tequila if I am cooking with it (by the way it makes a nice lime and tequila sauce).  I am not a fan of mixed drinks, the sweet ones make me feel like I am twelve, the stiff ones are too harsh and anything with an umbrella in it is just silly…
It would make for a sad story of girl who could not get drunk by the pool if it was not for one perfect mojito that has changed my life.  I still remember the first time I tried it, sitting in an outdoor bar in the  Wynn hotel in Las Vegas.  The terrace overlooked those beautiful Wynn waterfalls, Vegas sun was hot and the bar was open.  When my mojito was being made it looked too beautiful to drink.  Fresh limes and mint leaves dancing in around the ice cubes.  Bits of turbinado sugar like little crunchy crystals popping in your mouth with the fizz of seltzer… Not too sweet, not too harsh, fresh and crisp…I could drink this all day, I thought.  But after two I felt my legs wobble a bit, this drink had enough punch to actually make a dent… I found my one and only perfect cocktail.
Having an abundance of mint in my garden and enough citrus to cure the plague on hand, I decided to make today my mojito day… As wonderful as the classic is there is always room for a little experimentation.
Almost classic Lemon and Lime Mojito.
Almost classic because real mojito does not have lemon in it.  Limes are indigenous to the Caribbean islands so a classic is made with just lime.  I like the addition of lemon; it gives the drink some floral notes and some natural sweetness.
1 small lime cut up
½ lemon cut up
2 tsp of turbinado sugar
5-6 leaves of fresh mint ( plus more for garnish)
2 oz of Bacardi rum
4 oz of seltzer
Combine lemon, lime, mint and sugar in a glass and mash with a pestle or a wooden spoon.  Add ice, rum and seltzer and more fresh mint…
You may want to have a bit of simple syrup on hand to adjust the sweetness


A grapefruit mojito
Substitute lemon for pink grapefruit and 2 oz of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice for a part of the seltzer

A Pimms mojito

Now this one is a bit of a cheat… Pimms is that one great thing that comes from the right side of the pond, how the hell the Brits came up with a summer cocktail mix while having no summer, beats me.  When I was first introduced to it I was told it is to be enjoyed with lemonade while picnicking or boating (insert your best imagination of the British accent here).  I can just picture brightly dressed crowds picnic basket and Pimms cup in hand shivering under their umbrellas and discussing weather in the best of the English tradition.

Pimms is very sweet so no need to add sugar to this one.         
1 small lime cut up
½ lemon cut up
5-6 leaves of fresh mint ( plus more for garnish)
3 oz of Pimms
3 oz of seltzer
As you can imagine after all these mojitos I was quite relaxed… How does it go?  One mojito, two mojito…fall asleep on the desk with an unlikely partner?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pan roasted Herb and Lemon Chicken with a Tangy dipping sauce.

It has been a while since my last post and I can only attribute it to bad weather (I seem to go into super lazy mode with the nature) and a lack of true inspiration to come with new recipes.  I have accumulated a huge arsenal of “usual”, my go to recipes that I have no interest in posting.  I am in serious need of some fresh culinary inspiration and hopefully an upcoming trip to the land of California food and wine will provide just that.  In the meantime, I am contemplating all things chicken…
Why do we refer to being afraid of something, being “Chicken”?  Are chickens a particularity wimpy bird?  In my limited exposure to live poultry I never observed timorous behavior, quite the opposite, chickens are quite a fighters, hence the fighting roosters.  And if you follow that train of thought, why do we call a crazy head-on driving challenge a “game of chicken”?  Seems that you if you embark on such a stupid and dangerous path you are not only not afraid but are certifiably nuts.   I envy people who are not intimidated to make changes, who will dive fearlessly into anything from a new haircut to a different career, I am on the other hand will always chicken out…. 
Unless you have a particular fear of chickens (which by the way is called Alektrophobia, and believe it or not it is quite a common condition…) it is the number one consumed protein in this country.  It seems that on average, each American consumes over 85lbs of chicken a year.  It is a lot of birds and if you read “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by M. Pollan you will be horrified at where and how most of these birds come from.  The book, if it doesn’t turn you off meat completely, will certainly make you reconsider buying your chicken at the corner supermarket.  And considering how much chicken we eat we are always hungry for new ways to cook it.  I have dozens of ways to cook a perfect chicken but really there are only two that I go to time and time again.  For me, the best chicken is the roasted one, the kind that is as good just out of the oven as it is cold straight out of the fridge.  And it is that cold roasted chicken that I can eat whole, at midnight, picking on little bits with the fridge door open, meaning to take one more bite and put the damn thing back… never happens, this stuff is like cocaine…
This particular recipe is a favorite for the warm months when I have tons of herbs growing in my garden, and because the marinade works if you wanted to grill the chicken instead.

Pan roasted Herb and Lemon Chicken with a Tangy dipping sauce.
1 Whole Organic, Free Range chicken quartered bone-in.
A handful of parsley
A handful of basil
4 – 5 sprigs of thyme
1 tbs of fresh oregano
1 small spring of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
1 small hot pepper (such as jalapeno or another type of chili, not to spicy)
¼ cup of olive oil
Zest and juice of one lemon
A splash of white wine vinegar
1 tbs kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Vegetable oil for cooking
Marinate the chicken.  In the food processor combine all the ingredients (except the chicken) and pulse until smooth. 
Slater the herb mixture all over the chicken, cover and marinade in the fridge for a few hours or better overnight.

When ready to cook, let the chicken come to room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy bottom skillet (I honestly think that a cast iron skillet is a must here).  When the pan is very hot, place the chicken skin side down, cover and place something heavy on top, like another cast iron pan or a brick.  Cook the chicken for a few minutes, until the skin is golden and crispy, then turn and cook about a minute on the other side covering and weighting down. 
Take off the cover, flip the chicken so it is skin side up  and transfer to the oven.  Cook for about 20 -  25 min or until thigh juices run clear.  Let rest a few minutes before cutting.

I like to serve this with the Tangy sauce and Japanese vegetable pancakes, which I cannot get enough off these days.  Both are recipes of the Smitten Kitchen and can be found at this link -