Suzi's Blog

Three Things to Do After the Chicken Comes Out of the Oven




Congratulations. You’ve just cooked a chicken. You may be carving it up, prematurely because you are eager to get to the table. What’s the next thing you do?

Clean that roasting pan while it is hot and before things begin to “clunk” on the bottom and sides?

The Veggies

No. Leave the pan. Using that pan, which is a treasure trove of flavors, is your first step. Your chicken should rest before you can carve it up anyway. So, put the roasting pan on your stove top. Stir the juice there with a wooden spoon. Break up the solid bits that are “flavor piles” lying there. Now, add something. Peas, beans, corn, onions or a combination of some or all. How much to add? It depends on your chicken but easily two or three cups of veggies is fine. You may want to add a little butter for flavor and additional liquid. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice. Some salt, some pepper. Stir over medium heat for 3-7 minutes until thoroughly cooked. If you wish, add some white wine or even sparkling. Keep in the pan on low heat to remain warm as you finally do carve up that chicken. Then serve as your side dish, adjusting the seasonings to your taste.

You’ve just made a one pot meal in two stages.

The Carcass

Now for step two. After dinner, return to that carcass. Strip it of the remaining meat. For a normal size chicken that has been carved up before to serve 2-3 people, the carcass will still have nearly a cup of scraps on it. After all, when you are carving and want to begin eating, you really have not focused on stripping off all the meat. Now you can. Except, except, you don’t want to get every last scrap of meat off. Get rid of the skin, but leave the ultimate final bits of meat on the bone. Then crush the carcass into pieces, and put the mess into a plastic bag. Put the bag in the refrigerator or refrigerator.

You’ve just made the protein component for a terrific stock. The next day, the next week, plunge those bones with vegetable scraps into cold water and heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for hours. Indulge in the fragrant scents. The resulting broth, once you have removed the chicken pieces and any veggie chunks, is perfect by itself for a simple meal. Or add noodles. Or make risotto.

The Chicken Salad

And now for step three. When you did strip off the carcass, you got some meat, perhaps up to a full cup. Place the meat into a metal bowl. Add mayonnaise, in the ratio 3 parts meat to one part mayo. [Or, if your wife is not going to eat it, make the ratio 2 to 1]. Add some lemon juice to taste, plus salt and pepper. I like to add about a quarter cup of chopped candied jalapenos for heat and sweetness. Or you can add pickle. When you were making that roast chicken and perhaps a salad, there may have been some onion pieces or herbs that were chopped up. You have to clean your kitchen up anyway. Don’t treat those goodies as trash. They are finishing components.

Mix it all up and refrigerate.

You’ve just made some wonderful chicken salad. Not the manufactured goop you find in your store. But, real home-made chicken salad. It’s ready to be scooped onto lettuce, put in a sandwich or used top off your favorite crackers.

You roasted a chicken, but then you accomplished a great deal more.

Photo credits: Canon T21 with 18-55 mm Macro lens, first shot at F/4.0, 1/60th second, ISO 400 and the second at F/5.0, 1/50th second, ISO 3200.












To Weigh Or Not To Weigh, That Is The Questions

cropped and resized IMG_2518



“Can you weigh that, please?” Suzen asked me.

We were making a cake. I had the cup already filled with brown sugar. There were two ways to think about her request: pain in the ass or a wise measure.

Since it was my wife asking me, it was a wise measure. And it was. I had too much sugar in the cup of “tightly packed” brown sugar because I pack really tight. I have incredibly strong thumbs from years of messaging her feet. That may be too intimate for you, but it is a fact of life.

More and more cookbooks provide quantities of ingredients both by volume and by weight. I know, it is a effortto drag out your scale and measure each of the dry ingredients. But, you did buy that scale, right? You did intend to do this, right?

You need to weigh. Especially flour.

Why? From the same manufacturer, the same brand of flour from two bags can differ in weight by volume depending on it was sifted, how the bag has settled on the shelf, the humidity, ..

There is, in fact, no standard for how much a cup of flour should weight. The USDA says a cup of flour is 125 grams [or 137 or other numbers because different people quote the USDA differently] Just to clear that point up, I went to the USDA site but could not find the number And, prominent bakers have their own numbers. Peter Reinhart says 127 grams, but Rose Levy Beranbaum says 157.

If you work in ounces, not grams, then on the web you’ll see quotes ranging from 3.5 to 5 ounces per cup of flour. It’s a mess.

So, I did an experiment this morning. I measured out a cup of flour, 4 different ways. Yes, how you put the flour in the cup makes a difference. Here’s what I found:

Scoop and Shake

I used a big scoop to overfill the cup, then held it to eye level and physically shook the cup until it was level [level “over” the top and not “under”]. The result: 145 grams.

Scoop and Shake

I filled with the scoop and then leveled the top of the cup with the rounded edge, not a straight knife edge, of the scoop. The result: 135 grams.

Dip and Level

I ran the cup measure — a metal cup for measuring dry ingredients, of course — down into the flour and then lifted it out and leveled it off with a knife. The result: 137 grams.

Hard Dip and Level

I ran the cup through the flour and pressed it hard into the side of the flour container compacting the flour, then scraped it level with the knife. The result:160 grams.

So, the range here, from low to high, is 25 grams or just about one ounce of flour. If this was a recipe calling for, say, 6 ounces of flour, it would add up to a considerable difference, one that must affect the outcome of the recipe.

What to do? First, look for recipes that do have ingredient quantities measured in grams. Use those gram values. Second, if the recipe calls for a volume measurement, pick your number for how many grams in a cup and weigh it out. Suzen and I settle on 140 grams of flour per cup.

What about sugar? Granulated sugar will not compact as much as flour. Running the same experiment on granulated sugar, I found a range of only 15 grams, or ½ ounce, between the different measurement techniques. What to do? Again, use the gram measurement if it is available in the recipe or use the figure of 210 grams per cup.

What about brown sugar? This is a debacle. We’ve given up on buying brown sugar far ahead of time. If what we have is dried out, we toss it. None of the techniques to “restore” dried out brown sugar work for us. For example, if you microwave and then attempt to crumble, you get a gooey texture that could be used for tires. So, we buy fresh. We use fresh. When cooking, use the gram weight if possible. If the recipe says “tightly packed” do not act like a superhero. Be reasonable.

Again the age of the sugar, how it was made, and the moisture content will affect your weight. You best solution is fresh out of the box. At the store, lift the box and squeeze. If you encounter hard resistance, move to the next box.