Come find yourself...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Roast Chicken Without The Shtick

"Any time a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies."
Milton Berle

When I first moved to New York, I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed Irish/French Canadian kid from Seattle. The most exciting culinary adventure I ever took part in was putting fresh pineapple in cottage cheese. We considered it a delicacy.

Six months after arriving in Manhattan, I dated Hank Weinberg, a sweet and adorable guy from the Bronx. Every time we finished having sex he would look at me with this expression both oddly curious and amused. He'd mess my hair and say, "Who knew I'd be dating such a cute goy?" I thought goy was Yiddish for gay. I would walk up to people at theater parties and say, "Hi, I'm goy and from Seattle. How are you?"

Hank didn't correct me until the night he broke up with me to date Anne Rosenthal, a nice Jewish girl he met in synagogue. I guess I wasn't that cute of a goy after all.

One thing Hank did introduce me to were what he called the 'Top 10 Foods Jews Kill For'. Some day I'll post all of them, but the one I'll never forget was my first pastrami on rye. It was at Carnegie Deli. I remember the overwhelmingly large sandwich and the look of sheer boredom on the waiters face as he served me. I was reluctant to take a bite. I had one in Seattle when I was a kid, but it was on whole grain bread with some sort of chutney mayonnaise. Don't ask.

You know the ending to the story. I took a bite and fell into a food coma for three full days. All I could think about was that damn sandwich. I went back and had two more over the next week. Everything about the sandwich was so right. The bread with the pastrami...unreal.

That is how I feel about chicken. There is a way to make roast chicken which is right and there is a way which is insulting to all chickens everywhere. Follow me as I show you the right way.

And Hank, if you're reading this? Thanks for introducing me to my first true pastrami and rye sandwich. You were a real mensch.I'll detail how I spread this over three days. This is designed to serve two people; if you are serving a family of four, this will easily spread over 2 meals, but it won't be enough for 3 meals.

Let's cook!

What you'll need:

  • 1 4 1/2 pound organic roasting whole chicken (try to get organic and try for Murray's brand)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large lemon
  • 16 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, diced into golf-balls sizes
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced into same golf-ball sizes
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch skinny rounds
  • 2 turnips, peeled and cut the same size as the carrots
  • 2 large butternut squash, skins shaved off, flesh diced same the potatoes
  • 1 very large bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 very large bunch fresh rosemary, or fresh sage which works very nicely
  • 1/2 fresh French baguette, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 cup of the roasted chicken (dark and white meat)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 diced chipotle peppers, plus 1 tablespoon chipotle sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup black beans, if canned, rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry
  • 2 tablespoons hot chili powder, avoid the blends with salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup Manchego cheese, or extra-sharp cheddar
  • 4 medium-sized flour tortillas
  • 1 cup roasted chicken
  • 1 cup per person roasted vegetables from chicken
  • 1 package fresh greens, rinsed (even if the packages says it's rinsed, you need to do it again)
  • 1/2 fresh French baguette, chopped into cubes for croutons
  • 1 teaspoon no-salt garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon no-salt onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt-substitute
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • Balsamic Vinegar, or packaged low-sodium dressing
  • 2 cups washed and diced radishes
  • 1 large Hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise and diced into small pieces
  • 2 large plumb tomatoes, seeded and diced small
  • Pam Organic Olive Oil spray
LET'S COOK!Many people love the convenience and taste of rotisserie chicken (myself included!). But what most people don't know or don't want to know is the reason Boston Market and Perdue chickens are so tasty is because they are brined or seasoned with whopping amounts of sodium and fat to make the chicken moist and tender.

My recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of salt at the most. No one listens to the CDC's recommendations for sodium until they are hit with a physical illness. Why are we such a stubborn race?

The CDC says the recommended daily allowance PER DAY of sodium is 2,400 milligrams. This is one teaspoon of salt.

One. Teaspoon. One serving of a typical Boston Market breast (ha, ha) with no sides, just the meat, clocks in at almost 1,000 mg of sodium. ONE PIECE. Get three legs of dark meat and you're at almost 2,000 mg.

The national average of sodium American's consume according to the National Heart Association is nearly 5,000 mg per day. Is it really worth it to watch your sodium? I mean, really, what is the big deal, right?


According to a report on WebMD in 2007, even tiny reductions in salt can dramatically lower heart disease risk. I know, I know, you've heard this all before but yet you still refuse to stop eating fast food and you won't put down the chips.

Until you have a stoke or a friggin' heart attack. Think I'm being dramatic?

In the WebMD study, people who reduced their sodium saw 25% reductions in heart disease and stroke risk 10 to 15 years later, compared with people who ate their usual diets.

Nancy Cook, a research scientist in Birgham, had this to say: "This was not salt restriction, it was salt reduction. These people ate normal diets, but we taught them how to look out for hidden salt and avoid it."

"Hidden Salt."

Participants were between the ages of 30 and 54. All had slightly elevated blood pressures, but none had heart disease at recruitment.

During the initial trials, roughly half of participants were taught to identify, select, and prepare low-salt foods and asked to reduce the salt in their diets. The rest were not asked to lower the salt in their diets. One study lasted for 18 months and the other study lasted for 36-48 months.

Ten to 15 years after the end of the original trials, participants in the intervention arms of the two studies were found to have lower cardiovascular risk and a slightly lower risk of death from all causes than participants who ate their usual diets.

Have you seen anyone with a stroke? Do you know how heart disease can ruin you life?

One of the reasons I cook so much is because I have seen the effects food has on my life and my husband's life. We are what we eat. When we cook at home we control what goes into our food and into our bodies. It is the ultimate healing.

Rotisserie chickens are a staple for many people at least once a week. Up until six months ago, I would swing by my local food store and get a Perdue chicken and cut it up and put over lettuce greens and think, Wow. So easy and healthy!

Wrong!The reason those chickens are so tasty is because they are loaded with salt which preserves the meat and softens the tissues. Add on any 'barbecue' or 'lemon pepper' seasoning and these Salt Birds are through the roof!

One word on low-sodium salt - yes, these are viable alternatives, but just make sure you are not on a diet or diuretic which would be threatened by potassium chloride, the primary ingredient in 'mixes' of low-salt diets. Do your research. It is best to simply lower natural salt.

Remember, tasting salt is a learned behavior. Reduce your use of salt and you will soon be unable to tolerate salty foods.




For the bird, you want to get a nice, plump organic bird. These birds are fed an all-grain diet so their muscles are much more lean and tender. They are not pumped full of antibiotics and steroids, resulting in a natural and lean protein. Check to make sure the expiration date of the bird is at least one week from purchase.

This recipe is one I've had handed down and one I adapted from the brilliant Jamie Oliver. Jamie has no fear. He simply cooks. It's fantastic. He has freed me up as a cook and hopefully, as I detail how to make this, I will free you up as well.

Rinse the chicken inside and out. You need to remove the 'giblets.' It's totally gross. I'm sure Martha Stewart would have a whole thing on how to use them in some stock, but I throw them out. Make sure the cavity (ew) is very clean. Put on a large roasting pan or Pyrex glass dish.

Pat it dry. Why? Because dry skin results in pepper and oils to be absorbed more readily into the meat.

Take one tablespoon of butter, microwave it for 15 seconds so it gets a bit moist. Measure out one tablespoon of oil and put it in with the butter and mix it up.

Now, this part is totally disgusting, but fun. On the top side of the bird is where the breasts are (this is the closest I come to touching breasts, like, ever). You want to gently push you fingers UNDER the skin and lift if from the breast. It's like a membrane. I know, gross, gross, gross.

But you need to do this. Why? Because the skin protects the meat from getting overly dry when you cook it and serves as a natural moisturizer. You'll see it comes up fairly easily. Once the skin is detached, take half of the butter/olive oil mixture and rub it over breast meat.

The chicken pre-roasting:

White breast meat is extremely lean, so it needs a bit of oil and fat to make it moist when it cooks. This adds hardly any calories and will serves as the drippings (DOUBLE 'EW!) for the vegetables which will roast alongside.

Massage half of the butter/olive oil mixture into the bird breast and then the rest over the outside of the bird.

Pepper the breasts and the outside of the bird. DON'T ADD SALT. Unnecessary.

Now, dice up all of your vegetables, but put the garlic cloves, potatoes and onion in a separate bowl. Bring a pan of water to a boil, enough to cover the lemon, potatoes and garlic. Once the water boils, throw in the potatoes, garlic and lemon and boil for 8 minutes.

You want the potatoes a bit underdone. Drain, reserving the garlic and the lemon. Now, this is the fun part. You want to STAB the lemon 8-10 times and then SHOVE it inside the cavity of the bird. But be careful - it is very not and lemon juice will spurt out.

The lemon juice does two things - it moistens the bird AND it starts it cooking BUT adds no calories or salt. Nifty, huh?

Now shove the garlic cloves in the bird, as well as all of the bunched thyme. Leave the partially cooked potatoes in the now drained pan.

Crank up the oven to 375 degrees. Pop in the bird for 45 minutes. This is round 1 of the cooking.

Now, throw all of your veggies into the pot with the potatoes. Dice up, very finely, the fresh rosemary and some pepper in with the vegetables and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Mix well.

After 45 minutes, take out the bird. It will smell so lovely. There will be drippings on the bottom of the pan (double EW). Toss all of the veggies in the drippings (ewwwwwwwww) and roast for 20 more minutes.

Take out the pan, mix the veggies up some more, roast for 20 more minutes. How can you tell it's done? If the leg pulls of easily, you are good to go.

Now pluck off the meat, put the dreamy veggies in a side dish, throw out the whole carcass (lemon, garlic, thyme and all) and there you go! Meal #1!

Now, Let's Cook:


The trick with this meal is you want to try and buy dry Chipotle Peppers. I know they are hard to find, but you can buy them online via the amazing Penzeys Spice. Go to this link and you'll find a great introduction to dry peppers AND how to order them:

Go. Now:

Rehydrating dry peppers is the trick to all good and truly tasty dishes requiring peppers. You put dry peppers in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes and PRESTO. Instant chili! No added preservatives, salt or calories but AMAZING FLAVOR. God, you don't understand - dry chili's are amazing.


Back to the recipe...

In an empty skillet toast your corn until a bit darkened. Put into a medium sized bowl. Carefully wipe the skillet (the corn gunk can remain and burn). Heat up one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until smoking.

Add the onion. Cook 3 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin. Cook 1 minutes. (one big trick for all good dishes - TOAST all SPICES). Throw in the beans. Heat up for 2 minutes. Add the corn back into the pan, mix.

Dump all of this into the bowl which held the corn, add the lime juice and perhaps a tiny sprinkling of salt and loads of pepper and TASTE, TASTE, TASTE.

Put aside.

Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel. Put in a tortilla and toast over medium heat (not medium-high; it will burn) until nicely brown on one side, flip over and do the other and take it out of the pan and put on a flat surface.

Fold into a taco shape, then unfold and add 1/4 of the bean/corn/onion mixture and add a tiny sprinkling of cheese.

Do this for three more.

Once you have for folded over portions, put them back into the skillet, butt side to butt side (hope that makes sense). Spray very lightly with Pam Olive Oil Spray (with the flame OFF OFF OFF) and then turn the flame on and cook, 5 minutes, each side, until toasty and the cheese is melted.

Goes nicely with a side of the Extra Credit Salsa and a salad, or a tiny handful of chips (no-salt, of course).

Let's cook meal #3!

This one is as simple as pie. Andy and I eat this often when we don't want to be bothered with a ton of cooking or a mess in the kitchen.

So simple. The only real think we 'cook' is the croutons. We never buy croutons from the store anymore. There is no reason. If you dice up half of a baguette, spray with Pam spray, add a healthy dash of loads of salt-free and calorie free seasoning and bake in an oven for 15 minutes, you have instant croutons with no preservatives and they taste SPECTACULAR.

So do that - get a white baguette (whole wheat and multi-grain work great as well), dice up to even sized cubes, spray with a heathy does of Pam Olive Oil Spray, add the garlic powder, the onion powder, the salt-substitute (if you wish; just a tad), loads of pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Watch as they can burn.

As they bake, cut up your veggies, get out the salad and rinse and dry. Put heaping mounds of salad on the plate, top with some chicken and serve with a side of the roasted vegetables.

Take out the croutons, transfer to a plate and VOILA! Tasty, healthy and filling meal!

(Extra credit - For an amazing salsa you can mix directly into the chicken before you make the quesdillas, here is what you do.

I adapted this from the king of all things Mexican, chef Rick Bayless. This is just so unreal it boggles the mind: Get five large tomatillos (green tomatoes) - this is what they are and look like:

Some you buy have the outside membrane removed (it's very thin, like soggy paper); some have already done so for you. Before you cook with them, you must remove the 'soggy paper' membrane.
Broil them in your broiler until all sided are black. Will take about 10-12 minutes, maybe a bit longer if you are farther than 4 inches from the flame. They will be very juicy so make sure you line your broiler pan with foil to catch the tomato juice. Very important.

Then take ten UNPEELED garlic cloves and put them in a large frying pan and toast on all sides until black. Takes about 15 minutes. Watch so they don't burn. Put them aside and let them cook.
Then take 5 Penzey dry chipotle chili's (after they've been rehydrated) and press them on the now empty and hot skillet for 3 minutes or so on each side, or until you smell them cooking.

What are chipotle peppers? Here you go:

Unpeel the garlic (it will be mushy). Put in a blender. Throw in the blackened tomatillos with the juice. Roughly chop up the rehydrated chipotle peppers, throw those in the blender as well.

Put in one tablespoon granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, blend until thoroughly mixed and VOILA! Unreal salsa. Just unreal. Hardly any sodium, very few calories and INTENSE flavor. Just like nature intended. You have not tasted real salsa until you've tasted this.)

xoxo Your Food Therapist!

1 comment:

  1. Ya know, I don't take kindly to the bursting of my illusions. As I munch away on that store-bought, warm chicken I just knew there was some unhealthy reason it was so tender and tasty....I'm bummed....but enlightened! I'll try your chicken and love the fact it can be used for 3 meals! How long should it take start to finish to roast the chicken...not that I trust such times (see my own blog) but just to give me an idea. Rock on Brother Chef!