Home Sweet Home: Perfect Roast Chicken

The first meal I cook in any new kitchen is roast chicken. It’s a genetic thing, I can’t escape it. A house is not a home until a roast chicken has been made and consumed therein.

Which is to say, we have moved. And I have made roast chicken. So we live here now.

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(Confession: This picture is actually of the roast chicken I made when we finished renovating the kitchen in our old house – the first meal I cooked in that new kitchen, of course. I was not organized enough to take a picture of the chicken I made here in the new house, but rest assured it looked very similar. And was delicious.)

Moving was chaotic, as moving always is. A snafu with the utility company wound up forcing us to postpone our move by a week literally the day before we were to move – there were many panicked phone calls to movers and childcare and the like. Fortunately, it all worked out – we moved out of our old house and into the new one, and spent a hectic week or so cleaning and touching up paint and getting the last projects done at the old house once it was empty. Then our renter moved in, paid her rent, and we took some deep breaths and turned our attention to unpacking the first priority: the kitchen. (Although we did find a fantastic Italian takeout place five minutes away. New York style pizza and fresh pasta, be still my heart!)

With roast chicken in hand (or in fridge, as the case may be) and a few more rooms unpacked, we’re starting to finally settle in. The babies’ room is nearly done – just a few pieces of artwork to hang and it’ll be even better than their old room. The office is finally unpacked, thank goodness, as I need to get back to writing Duncan’s story – I left the poor Earl of Kilgoran deep in an argument with a very pretty witch the day before we made an offer on this house and haven’t written a word since! More on that at a later date, I suspect.

In the meantime, if you’re needing some comfort or just a way to feel like you belong, here’s my roast chicken. Loosely based on Ina’s, of course.

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Vietnamese Chicken Salad

This is one of my favorite light summer lunches. It’s really easy – particularly if you have leftover cooked chicken around (or if you are lazy like yours truly and buy the big bag of rotisserie chicken meat from Costco…). It’s also a fantastic way to introduce toddlers to complex flavors, if you’re doing baby led weaning or just want to try some new things.

The original recipe comes from the domestic goddess herself, Nigella Lawson. I’ve adapted it to make it a little simpler, so I don’t have to shop for anything I wouldn’t normally be buying anyway. I’m also not too strict about the amounts I put in, as usual, so feel free to improvise.

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This is amazing served as I did here, just with some cut up mango (my kids love mango!). If you’re feeling even more inspired, you can make up a cold glass of fancy limeade or cucumber water and pretend you’re in a spa. At least until you have to help your toddler with his fork again. 

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Hunter’s Chicken

Chicken cacciatore translates basically to ‘chicken the hunter’s way.’ It’s a recipe that comes from the Italian countryside, where hunters and farm wives would use provisions that didn’t require refrigeration to turn the day’s catch into a meal that would feed a lot of people. Like many country recipes, it benefits from a lot of flexibility; you can play fast and loose with the amounts of pretty much anything in here, or substitute things for other things you haven’t got on hand, and it will still be delicious. You can even cook it over a campfire, if you’re so inclined.

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This recipe is also fantastic for feeding kids, particularly if you’re doing baby led weaning like we are. It expands to feed an army inexpensively (I cook double what the recipe calls for in order to have some hope of feeding our little bottomless pits). It also includes things kids like: chicken, beans, and tomatoes. Once our babies mastered the pincher grasp, they became deeply interested in beans.

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Easy Roasted Salmon

Here’s a confession: for all the cooking I do, I’m still sometimes a little leery of cooking seafood. I grew up in a landlocked area, so the wealth of seafood we have here on the coast still sometimes astonishes me. Here’s what we did have where I lived: salmon. The best salmon in the world, actually; but still – salmon, and salmon alone. For years, I avoided it, because I was tired of it. Why have salmon when there’s so much else out there?? But eventually I came back around, and this recipe is a big reason why. It is so easy, and practically foolproof. If you’re afraid of screwing up fish, try this. It’s a great confidence booster.

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My favorite place to buy salmon is (of course) Costco; I usually buy large fillets that are about 2 pounds, sliced from one side of the salmon. When it goes on sale, I buy several and stick them in the freezer. Right now, one package is enough to feed our family, but leftovers are growing scarcer as the babies’ appetites grow!

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How To Make A Construction Cake

My husband’s first kid birthday cake was, I have to say, an unqualified success. Not only was it delicious – vanilla cheesecake mousse filling! – and decorated to the nines with tiny excavation equipment in a very realistic scene, but it had a major surprise inside.

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The inside of the round part of the cake was diagonally striped in yellow and black, just like construction caution tape! It was a huge hit. I thought I’d do a quick writeup on how we did it.

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Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions

For years, I made pork tenderloin in a certain way. It was always good, but I struggled with the balance of keeping it from drying out while still cooking it and its veggie or potato underlayment all the way through. Last year, however, I stumbled upon a simple technique for cooking it, and haven’t looked back. It’s SO much better.

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The secret is very simple: sear the pork first, then let it sit while you sauté the veggies, then put it all back together and roast it at a very high heat for a short period of time. The pork comes out tender and juicy every time. And it’s a one-pot meal, which is a delightful bonus.

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On Baby Led Weaning

When the time draws near to start babies on solids, you’ll start getting a lot of questions about how you’re going to do it. You’ll also get a lot of opinions about how what you think is wrong. Just some fair warning.

I hadn’t heard about baby-led weaning until I started doing research on introducing solid foods; I was concerned about the constipation factor of baby cereals, which is the current “standard” method of introducing solids at the very beginning. Quite frankly, poop is a motivating factor in many baby-related decisions in my life.

I won’t go into a ton of detail here; I’m not any kind of professional anything, and there are a vast number of great resources for any type of solid food progression you choose. Here’s what my understanding boils down to.

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