A busy weekend

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When Gil’s traveling, I like to take advantage of my time alone to tackle projects I just never seem to get done when he’s around — things like cleaning, winnowing down my enormous stack of magazines, and outlining design/photography/home projects I want to do over the next few months. So when he left for Vegas yesterday afternoon, I got right to work. Literally. I offered to help a friend with a design project, so I spent some time brainstorming while cooking and cleaning and whenever a good idea hit me, I took a break to jot it down or do a little work on it.

Somehow, I’ve gotten a LOT done this weekend, even though I watched a ton of football, finished the last Harry Potter book, and even squeezed in another viewing of American Splendor after LSU’s 20-bazillionth turnover to Alabama. So I felt I’d earned a nice dinner this evening.

My weekend cooking experiment was supposed to be a smoked chicken, but I dry cured it instead of brining and wimped out when the time came to fire up the smoker. I thought it might be too dry without the extra moisture from brining (and trust me, smoking meat is too much work to attempt if you have doubts about the outcome), so I oven roasted it instead, using my grandmother’s time-honored technique: One hour at 500 degrees. After 15 minutes, I added some water to the pan and at about 30 minutes, covered the chicken with foil because the skin was starting to burn from the sugar in the cure. This cooking method never fails to deliver moist, tender chicken, so I knew it would be a winner, and set my sights on other parts of the meal I hadn’t yet tested.

Earlier in the week, I saw a recipe for cherry barbecue sauce on epicurious and thought that would be a good match for the chicken. Why is it that homemade barbecue sauces always surprise me? I’ve made them often enough to know they’re usually greater than the sum of their parts, but I always find myself making surprised “Oohs!” and “MMMMMs!” when I try them. And this one was no exception. Alright, it was maybe just the teensiest bit too sweet for me (I might try sour cherry jam next time), but it didn’t stop me from going back for seconds.

Rounding out the meal, I made wild rice with cherries and porcinis to tie it all together. And so at 5pm, I finally poured myself a glass of wine, put my feet up, tucked in, and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment that comes from Getting Stuff Done.

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recipes after the jump

Cherry Barbecue Sauce from epicurious

I added a little veal demi-glace to the sauce at the end and I think it really made a difference, but if you don’t have any on hand, please don’t let it stop you from trying this.

1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
1/3 cup cherry preserves
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup ruby Port
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon ketchup
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine chicken broth, cherry preserves, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon peel, cinnamon, and cloves in heavy medium saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until broth mixture is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 6 minutes.

Whisk Port and cornstarch in small bowl to blend. Whisk Port-cornstarch mixture, orange marmalade, and ketchup into reduced broth mixture. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Simmer until flavors blend and sauce thickens slightly, whisking frequently, about 5 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature or rewarm over low heat before using.)

Wild Rice with Porcini Mushrooms and Cherries

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups wild rice, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
1 green onion, thinly sliced

Pour two cups of hot water over dried porcinis and soak for 10 minutes. Remove mushrooms from soaking liquid and chop, reserving soaking liquid.

Heat olive oil in heavy pot until almost smoking. Add onions and garlic to pot and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent. Add mushroom soaking liquid (being careful not to add the residue from the bottom of the bowl) and remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover pot, and cook for 40 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.

Top with sliced green onion before serving.

3 Replies to “A busy weekend”

  1. beautiful! the combination is perfect and the presentation is spot on. Anything with dried cherries makes me very happy.

  2. imagine how that plate woulda looked w/o the green onions… kind of like my last few posts although the red does look pretty! but still… the power of the garnish…

    this dinner looks amazing. i’ve got to do the whole chicken roasting thing sometime soon – i’m always afraid to dry it all up. the meat looks perfect – plump even.

    perfect flavor combo. impressive as usual. really nice.

    ps – thank you so much for being so warm and willing to help me on your already busy weekend. i am very lucky…

  3. Thanks, you two!

    Alec, I’m right there with you. LOVE dried cherries. They’re great for snacking, too, with some cheese or even … dare I say it? Dark chocolate.

    Claudia, it was my pleasure. I really enjoy spreading my wings a little, design-wise. Except for the past few weeks, I rarely get the chance to do so at work. And try the roasting trick I mentioned here. I’ve never once had a chicken dry out on me cooking it that way.

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