Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two Family Favorites

Here are two recipes that my family asks for time and time again. And they feature two ingredients that are plentiful this time of year- cider and sweet potatoes.

The first is a cider brined roasted chicken. We roast chicken often in my house, stuffing the cavity with various things like citrus fruits, onion, garlic, and herbs. Not only does it feed all of us, but it makes the whole house smell fantastic and we almost always make soup from the carcass afterward. You can't beat a meal that produces another meal for the next day and beyond! This particular roasted chicken is our very favorite, and we don't have it terribly often because it does take a little planning ahead as the chicken sits in the brine overnight. But wow, is it worth the extra planning and effort! The chicken itself is moist and delicious, glazed during the last ten minutes with a cider reduction, but making it even more special is the sauce that is made from the pan drippings and additional cider reduction. So good you can hear "humming" at the table when we're all eating it! The carcass and leftover chicken make a very uniquely flavored soup that we get several meals out of throughout the week.

The second recipe is a twice-baked sweet potato. This one was found in the Country Italian cookbook I referred to in one of my first posts. Remember the cod with beans and tomatoes? Same book. These potatoes are very rich and decadent tasting and again, take some patience, but are well worth it. These are baked, scooped out and then mixed with a butter, onion and fresh thyme mixture, fontina cheese, egg, and more butter! Of course sweet potatoes are extremely healthy, and that's how I always justify the indulgence. Interestingly though, I left the extra butter that was to be added softening in the microwave and the mixture went in without it. Quite honestly, no one knew the difference, and they were thoroughly enjoyed without the extra fat.

We had both of these together in the same meal tonight followed by a loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread. Yes, I am still baking and eating pumpkin and chocolate things. I am a bit obsessed with that flavor combination. That recipe can be found on

Looking forward to some delicious soup tomorrow. Tim has it cooking on the stove as I type. Of course the meal will be followed by more pumpkin chocolate chip bread. If it lasts that long!

Cider-Roasted Chicken
(original recipe from Cooking Light Magazine)

3 qts water
1 qt apple cider
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 T black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 6-lb. roasting chicken
2 cups apple cider
1 large onion, peeled and halved
4 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves. Remove from heat; cool completely. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Rinse chicken with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Pour brine into a 2-gallon zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken, seal. Refridgerate 8 hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Bring 2 cups cider to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until cider has thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup (about 15 minutes). Set aside.
4. Remove chicken from bag; discard brine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place the onion halves, parsley and garlic into the cavity. Lift wing tips up and over back, tuck under chicken. Tie legs. Place chicken on rack of a broiler pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until thermometer registers 175 degrees (we removed it at 165). Remove from oven. Carefully remove and discard skin. Baste chicken with half of reduced cider. Return to oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; baste with remaining cider reduction. (Today, instead of basting with remaining cider reduction, we added the reduction to the sauce we made from the drippings. It's good either way!)
The rest of the recipe is missing so we just make a sauce from the pan drippings and a little slurry of whole wheat flour and water. Serve sauce with chicken!

Baked Sweet Potatoes With Taleggio
(Patate dolci al forno)

2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 1/2 T unsalted butter, plus 3 T extra at room temperature
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs
1 large egg
1/4 cup taleggio or fontina cheese, chopped (we use shredded fontina, and use more on top)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes on a baking paper-lined baking sheet until tender, about 45-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
2. Melt 1 1/2 T butter in a small frying pan over moderate heat. Add onion and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add chopped thyme and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Spoon out the flesh, leaving a 3/4 inch shell of flesh and skin. Place the halves on a baking sheet. Combine the scooped out potato flesh with the remaining 3 T butter (this is the butter I left out tonight... still delicious!), the onion mixture, egg, and cheese in a bowl and mash until smooth. Season with salt (I added pepper too). Pile mixture back into the sweet potato shells, top with additional cheese (my variation)and a few springs of thyme. Bake 20-30 minutes or until golden.

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