Perfect Roast Chicken


Roast chicken is an ultimate comfort food, but also easy to prepare and affordable. It sometimes gets a bad rap for being bland or dried out. A perfectly roast chicken could never be described this way so if that's how you feel - you're doing it wrong.

I roast a chicken almost every Sunday night to use throughout week. Over time, I've come up with a rather fail proof method. My secret? Don't truss your chicken.

Ignore those fancy recipes and chefs who tell you to tie the chicken up for even cooking. It's just not true. It makes for a beautiful presentation, but when you tie the legs in close to the body, all you are doing is restricting airflow around the legs - the dark meat that takes longer to cook - which then increases the gap in cooking time between the light and dark meat. When you truss, you back yourself into a corner. You're always going to have either undercooked legs or overcooked breasts.

Let yourself be lazy for once, place the chicken on the roasting tray and let it be. 


The other tip I can offer which is more common in practice, is to start at a high temperature to help crisp the skin. After 20 minutes, I drop the temperature 100 degrees to finish cooking. 

When I'm roasting chicken just to have protein on hand for recipes throughout the week, I let the chicken rest until it's cool enough to handle and then I remove the skin. I place the pieces of skin back on the roasting tray, sprinkle them liberally with salt and return to the oven for 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown. 

Present most men with a plate of salty, crunchy chicken skin and they'll love you forever.

Not into skin? Not to worry. This recipe is delicious even without that last, optional step. 

Perfect Roast Chicken

1 4-pound chicken

1 tbsp ghee from pasture-raised cows

Kosher salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Let it come to room temperature.  

Place the chicken on a parchment-lined roasting tray breast-side up. Spread the ghee all over the skin. Sprinkle liberally with salt (use more than you think you should). 

Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. after 20 minutes, rotate the chicken and drop the temperature to 350. Continue roasting for 25 additional minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. If you're breaking down the chicken and saving the meat for later in the week, let it rest until cool enough to handle.

Optional: Once the chicken has cooled slightly, remove the skin. Place the pieces of skin back on the roasting tray, sprinkle liberally with salt and return to the oven for an additional 15 - 20 minutes.

Savory Leek and Coconut Milk Pudding

Know anyone who isn't the biggest fan of vegetables? Well, here's a sure-fire way to get them to eat their veggies - bury them under a fluffy, eggy soufflé mixture and call it a pudding. Not that I would ever try such manipulative tactics with anyone in my household, but my husband did love this dish. Just sayin'.

Coconut cream comes in a can and is a thicker, more concentrated version of coconut milk. If you can't find it or you're not a fan of coconut milk, try it with whole milk or heavy cream. I haven't tested the recipe using those substitutes, but you should get a relatively similar result. 

Savory Leek and Coconut Milk Pudding

Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish

Preheat oven to 375

1 16 oz bag of cleaned, sliced leeks (or 2-3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced and thoroughly rinsed) 

1 bunch spinach, thick stems removed

4 eggs

1 cup coconut cream

1 tbsp butter

3 sprigs tarragon

1 sprig thyme

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat a large pan over medium heat and melt the butter in the pan. Make sure the leeks are thawed if frozen and drained well, then add them to the pan. Sauté until soft and beginning to brown. Add the spinach to the pan and cook just until wilted. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

Beat the eggs with the coconut cream. Remove the tarragon and thyme leaves from their stems and roughly chop. Add the chopped herbs to the egg mixture along with the salt and nutmeg. Mix until just combined.

Butter or spray a medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer the leek and spinach mixture to the dish and pour the egg mixture over. Bake for 25 minutes until slightly browned and just set in the center. 

Omelette Aux Fines Herbes

When the Easter Bunny (aka my friend Caitlyn) brings you fresh eggs from the chickens she and her family keep in their backyard, you make omelettes. And, if you're a culinary school grad trained in classic French cooking, you make Omellete Aux Fines Herbes.

The French way of making omelettes is a far cry from what you'll find at a typical American diner. They are delicate, completely colorless (meaning no brown marks from a hot pan) and if they're filled, it's a dusting of ingredients, not a mountain of filling that prevents the omelette from being rolled (the traditional way of serving them).

The standard diner omelette does little for me, but a delicate, rolled omelette with a slightly runny curd is the definition of satisfaction.

The folds in a chef's hat are meant to represent the many varied ways he or she can prepare eggs. Master this omelette and you're well on your way to grasping the fundamentals.

Here are the keys:

1. Low and slow - be patient with your eggs. High heat is the enemy of a tender, colorless omelette.

2. Nonstick - I use stainless steel pans 99% of the time, but when it comes to working with eggs, use nonstick. It's what they were made for.

3. Fat is your friend - you don't have to use a lot, but the pan should be slicked with fat. Since the temperature stays low, butter and coconut oil are great options.

4. Move and then don't - after you add your eggs to the pan, use a spatula to move the curd around occasionally for the first minute or so and then stop. Let the eggs set for the remaining cooking time.

5. Undercook - the best omelettes have an ever-so-slightly runny curd on the inside. Once you roll the omelette the interior curd will continue to cook from the carryover cooking so trust me and pull it off the heat before it's completely finished.

The step-by-step recipe and image tutorial should get you started, but as with all things in the kitchen, practice makes perfect. Try it a few times and you'll get the hang of it. As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Omelette Aux Fines Herbes

Serves 1

2 eggs

2 tsp butter or coconut oil

2 tbsp mixed, chopped herbs (traditionally parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives)

Kosher salt

Preheat a nonstick pan over medium-low heat.

Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk until no white streaks remain. Add a pinch of salt or more to taste and stir.

Melt the cooking fat in the pan and add the eggs. Use a rubber spatula to stir the eggs as they cook, pushing the cooked egg off the bottom of the pan and allowing uncooked egg to fill in the space (as in the image below).  Stir in this manner for the first two minutes of cooking, then tilt the pan from side to side to make sure the base of the pan is fully covered and let the mixture cook, undisturbed until almost set (see note above about undercooking).

Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle most of the herbs down the middle of the omelette.

Use the spatula to fold a third of the omelette over the center.

Then continue to roll the omelette onto a plate. Sprinkle with remaining herbs and a touch of salt and serve. 

5 Secrets for Perfectly Seared Salmon

Learning how to properly cook protein is one of the most crucial and beneficial steps to becoming a better cook. Once you master the fundamentals, there are countless ways you can experiment with ingredients and flavor to update a recipe. 

I usually opt for a quick stovetop searing, followed by a few minutes in the oven to cook individual servings of protein. It's the way I was taught in culinary school and the default method we used in the restaurant. However, I like to keep salmon on the rare side so starting and finishing on the stovetop makes sense.

My barometers for a perfectly cooked piece of salmon are a golden, crispy crust, sufficient salt, a rare center and no white albumin on the surface of the salmon. 

Here are my five secrets to achieving that perfectly seared, rare piece of salmon:

1. Use a large pan - when cooking multiple pieces of fish, make sure you're using a large enough pan. If you crowd the fish, they will steam instead of sear and you will never achieve a crust. Also, use stainless steel, not nonstick. 

2. Cooking fat - be sure you're using a fat appropriate for high temperature cooking. For health reasons vegetable oils should be avoided and anything with a low smoke point is out too. I'm currently cooking with ghee from pasture-raised cows. Its high smoke point and nutrition profile make it an ideal option. Please note that regular butter is not an acceptable substitute. The milk solids in butter will burn if the pan gets too hot. 

3. Pan temperature - you want the pan hot enough to create a nonstick surface, but not too hot that the fish cooks too quickly. Have you ever noticed a white chalky substance on your salmon? That's called albumin - it's a protein and when it's overheated and loses its moisture, it gets pushed to the surface. It's harmless, but not the most appetizing and it can be avoided. On my stove, that perfect temperature is right around a medium flame. On yours it may be higher. If the pan starts smoking when you add the cooking fat, it's a sure sign the pan is too hot.

4. Leave the fish alone - remember when I mentioned getting the pan hot enough to create a nonstick surface? If your pan is heated to an appropriate temperature (medium to medium-high) and you have enough fat in the pan, the protein will stick to the pan at first and then release once your beautiful, golden crust has formed. Be patient and resist the temptation to jam your spatula under the fish to force it to release. It's worth the wait.

5. Undercook rather than overcook - the worst atrocities I have witnessed in the kitchen have always included a dried out, overcooked piece of protein. In the restaurant we used to call well-done meat, "why bother?" By cooking the crap out of a tender piece of meat or fish you lose every wonderful nuance. Texture and flavor? Ruined. Unless you're cooking for the elderly, children or someone with a compromised immune system (the times when food safety is a major concern) err on the side of underdone rather than overdone. Remember, there's always a little bit of carryover cooking as food continues to cook even after it's removed from heat. 

Now, take these tips, try the recipe below and let me know how your salmon turns out. 

Perfect Seared Salmon

Serves 6

1 1/2 to 2 pounds center cut salmon filet

1 tbsp pasture-raised ghee, more as needed

Kosher salt

Let the salmon sit on the counter for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Slice the salmon into six even portions, taking care to make the thinner pieces larger so each portion size is about the same amount of salmon.

Heat a large pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the ghee to the pan, salt the salmon liberally with Kosher salt and place presentation-side (not skin-side) down in the pan. Do not crowd the salmon. If your pan is not large enough, cook the salmon in two batches adding more ghee to the pan as needed.

Don't disturb the salmon until a crust has formed. You will know this has happened when the meat releases from the pan and can be flipped without having to force your spatula between the fish and the pan. Flip the salmon and continue cooking skin-side down until salmon is done, about 4 to 6 minutes more, though it could be longer depending on the thickness to f the salmon piece and pan temperature.

Remove from the pan and let sit for a few minutes before serving. Serve with Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Zucchini Pasta


Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Zucchini Pasta

Pesto is one of those dishes that heralds the start of warmer days and the short march into summer. It's a traditional pairing with tomatoes - the quintessential summer produce - and I used to make gallons of it when I grew basil in my old garden.

I've updated the traditional recipe by replacing the main ingredients with watercress and pumpkin seeds. Watercress is one of the most nutrient-dense greens available. It can, however end up tasting a little grassy. If you can, get the young leaves (pictured below) as opposed to the thick overgrown stems. Either way, I counter the grassiness by adding in some of the traditional basil.

I don't put garlic in my pesto (I know, the horror). Raw garlic gives my husband headaches and frankly, it does something horrible to my breath - way beyond the normal garlic breath one would expect. This is a new development for me and one that's very disappointing as I love garlic. Feel free to add it in if you must have it, but I don't think it's necessary here. 

I serve this pesto with zucchini noodles. If you don't have a spiralizer, you can also try this julienne peeler. It won't give you the same noodles, but it will give you zucchini threads and for a lot less money. 

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

1 bunch watercress, stems removed

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (shelled; also known as kernels)

1/4 cup walnut oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Squeeze of lemon juice

Place all the ingredients aside from the walnut oil in a cuisinart and pulse until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until combined.

Serve with zucchini pasta, as a dip for crudités or any other way you would use regular pesto. 


Cheat's Duck Confit

I may be trained in classic French technique and let me be clear, I put a high value on my culinary education, but I love a good shortcut in the kitchen.

Between my day job, this job and the many commitments I have outside of work, it's hard to find time for some of my favorite cooking projects - cheese making, preparing stock from scratch or something like duck confit.

This past December we ordered two ducks for Christmas dinner. I roasted one whole and then decided to see how many different ways I could prepare the second. I first broke it down into legs and breasts. I then collected as much of the remaining skin as I could and rendered it. That left me with about 1 1/2 cups of glorious duck fat (aka cook's gold) and some delicious duck cracklings for the masses to munch on while I prepped the rest. I knew I was going to sear the duck breasts on the stovetop, but what was I to do with the duck legs? I had neither the time nor the quantity of duck fat necessary to complete the process for duck confit, but how could you do anything but when prepping duck for a special Christmas dinner?

Enter Cheat's Duck Confit.

It turns out it is possible to get similar results with neither the time nor the precious resource (duck fat) commitment, though it is helpful to have a bit of duck fat to get you starter. If you are a normal human being and don't spend your days rendering duck fat, you can pick up a container at most grocery stores. I got mine at Bristol Farms for $12.99 and when you're finished with this recipe, you'll actually have more duck fat than when you began - not less.

The process is relatively simple for this easy duck confit recipe. Like traditional duck confit, you start by salting the legs, but unlike the traditional technique, you'll have a finished dish in just a few hours (with almost no hands on work). That's what I call a shortcut.

Cheat's Duck Confit

Serves 2 (though easily doubled or tripled) 

2 duck legs

1/4 - 1/2 cup duck fat

Kosher salt

A few sprigs of thyme

Prick the skin of the duck legs all over with the tip of a knife. Sprinkle the legs liberally with salt - use more than you think you should. Let the legs sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. 

Select a baking dish just large enough to fit the duck legs when nestled closely together. Slick the bottom with duck fat to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4-inch, depending on how much fat you have to spare. Place the duck legs in the dish and tuck in a few thyme sprigs. Place the dish in a cold oven and turn it on to 300. Cook for two hours and voila easy duck confit.

If the skin has not browned and crisped up the way you would like, raise the oven temperature and check every five to 10 minutes until you're happy with results. 

Remove the duck legs from the dish and serve as desired, reserving the rendered duck fat for later use.