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December 2011 COTM: 150 Best American Recipes: Main Dishes

Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the chapter about main dishes.

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  1. Garlicky Baked Chicken, Pg. 130. (From Sara Moulton Cooks At Home)

    A winner right out of the gate. Crisp well flavored chicken, simply delicious. Just a few ingredients, easy to put together, totally doable for a week night dinner. I more or less halved the recipe.

    Heeding the advice of the side Notes from the test kitchen I first melted butter and chopped garlic in the microwave. I used a pie plate for this. Then I made breadcrumbs in the miniFP and put them into another pie plate and mixed the crumbs with grated cheese and S & P.

    Prep 8 chicken thighs, or 4 halved breasts. (I used 6 bone-in chicken thighs.) Coat a chicken piece with the garlic and butter then cover it with the crumb mixture. Place chicken on a roasting sheet. Repeat. If there's any garlic butter left in the plate drizzle over chicken. Roast for between 50 minutes to 1 hour. It took my chicken 1 hr. 10 min. to get crisp and golden.

    We loved this. Definitely something we'll make again. I served the beet/ horseradish/fried caper salad on page 82 to accompany the chicken...another winner.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      ETA: Chicken roasts in a pre-heated 350F oven.

      1. re: Gio

        So glad to hear it - hope Mr. G was happy to finally get something that wasn't bland! I have this one on my list.

        1. re: Gio

          Sounds super delicious! Skin on chicken?

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Yup, skin on. However if you don't like skin take it off. The crust is terrific enough. Also, I didn't mention that I removed the fat from the underside of the thighs.

          2. re: Gio

            How interesting to read the pedigree of this recipe as told on p. 130. I started making this in the '80s, when I was in high school, as found in the Garlic Lover's Cookbook (recipes from the Gilroy Garlic Festival), in which it is called Uncle Hugo's Chicken. It was a hit, of course, and it became, and remains, one of my stepmother's go-tos for company if she's not sure of their tastes, because it's a crowd pleaser regardless of people's adventurousness (or lack thereof). It's just delicious.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              You bet it's delicious. It's all the butter and garlic, of course. I admit I did toy with the idea of using half EVOO and half butter... but then quickly abandoned that idea. Love that you and the recipe have history, Caitlin.

              1. re: Gio

                It's in Jean Anderson's "American Century Cookbook" too. Now there's a woefully lesser-known but absolutely tip-top cookery writer for you.

                1. re: buttertart

                  I like her very much but Im not sure about the book - sure, lots of stuff I remember from my youth but little I wanted to cook.

                  1. re: jen kalb

                    I felt the same way about it, more of a history than a working book. I made that very chicken and a grapefruit cake that was quite good from it. The woefully lesser-known still stands.

            2. re: Gio

              We cooked this the other night... liked it very much but no one was sure they would do it again. I am not sure why. It was very good. I think we all love a regular roast chicken so much, it just did not seem as exciting. So I am actually excited now to try the Chicken with Lemon and Sage.

              I'll add this... it was much better the day after. If I ever did make it again, I think I would do it the day before and re-warm it the next evening. Much better (or, just know you will have killer leftovers)

              1. re: Gio

                I tried the Garlicky Baked Chicken this evening and it wasn't the unqualified success I had hoped for.

                One reason was because I used a whole, four-pound, Costco chicken, and they say specifically that a supermarket chicken has too much water in it and the bottom of the chicken will be soggy. It was. Next time I try it, it will definitely be with an organic, free-range bird. And a somewhat smaller one.

                My leftover garlic and butter thickened, and didn't thin out much even when I warmed it up. Maybe it was because I grated the garlic into the butter? Not sure. But since I couldn't drizzle it over the chicken, I sort of dolloped it on top expecting the butter to melt and spread over the pieces of chicken. It didn't. It just sort of sat there and and darkened up way before the rest of the breadcrumb topping did. Not a taste disaster, but not attractive enough for a company platter. Will add more butter if I have to next time.

                And finally, when I started eating it, the still-flabby skin pulled off in one fell swoop with all of the breadcrumb topping, so I wasn't getting a mouthful of that wonderfully tasty, crunchy, crust with every bite of chicken. Any suggestions on how to solve that problem? I'm actually thinking (horrors!) that I might try removing the skin the next time I try it.

                All that said, I will definitely be trying this again. Garlic? Butter? Parmesan? I'm gonna make this work if I have to put on another 10 pounds doing so.

                1. re: JoanN

                  Have a look at the recipe in the American Century cookbook by Jean Anderson, maybe? Not sure if the method differs but it worked for me from that iteration.

                  1. re: buttertart

                    That may be the only book of hers I don't have. She does, though, have basically the same recipe in The New Doubleday Cookbook. Maybe I'll give that a shot.

                2. re: Gio

                  Garlicky Baked Chicken, p. 130.
                  My turn to make this easy and succulent chicken dish, which my family liked a lot. Everyone else has already described it so I can only state that I concur: this recipe produces extremely tender and moist chicken from being baked in an abundant robe of garlic-butter soaked fresh bread crumbs. I used chicken breasts rather than my usual preference for chicken thighs, because my (unenlightened) family prefers white meat. The result was still flavorful and perfectly tender. I followed the recipe exactly, except I used "Sarah Molton's latest version" as presented in the notes. This specifies a bit more butter (well, half a stick, upping the quantity to 12 TBS), 1 fewer garlic cloves (3 instead of four; can't tell if this makes any difference) and half as much fresh grated Parmesan as in the original recipe: only 1/2 cup rather than a full cup. ( I was hoping that using more butter was offset, fat-wise, by using less cheese. I know; dream on.) I also baked my coated chicken on a rack placed over the baking pan as advised in the "tip," and the result was evenly crispy chicken. Left the skin on; it only added to the flavor of the coating.

                  This is in not a complicated dish, but rather one which tastes of chicken, butter, and garlic, with the savory Parm adding a salty hint as well as helping the crumbs to brown. I didn't baste once (didn't need to with 12 TBS of butter! ) but just stuck the pan in the oven and took it out 50 minutes later, when the crumbs were golden and the chicken was tender when pierced with a fork. The 6 and 8-year-old at the table ate their whole portion, appreciating the crunchy texture and simplicity of flavors. I think the adults felt the same way. Yes, the chicken wouldn't say no to a saucy addition and/or some fresh chopped herbs added to the crumbs, but it's just good as it is.

                  1. re: Gio

                    Garlicky Baked Chicken, Pg. 130. (From Sara Moulton Cooks At Home)

                    Finally getting around to cooking from this book. My second recipe in two nights. Not much to add to the many reviews of this dish except to say we loved it and I will be flagging it for cooking classes with my kids this summer. So easy and so much flavor. We used GF breadcrumbs and it was still wonderful.

                  2. Spicy (Tri Tip Steak) with Cilantro Relish, page 153.

                    The recipe calls for sirloin, I thought I had one hanging out, turned out it was a tri-tip steak. Not quite as tender, but flavorful. The meat was marinated in a mix of rice wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar. While the meat marinates, cilantro relish goes together. Chopped cilantro, vegetable oil (I used peanut), lime juice, red chile, nam pla, sugar, and pepper are stirred together. The steak is quickly seared in a grill pan, and finished to taste (ours went to medium rare).

                    The recipe calls for serving this with steamed white rice and snow peas. I did serve the snow peas, but I have been wanting to try Vietnamese garlic noodles, so I substituted that for the rice. I also served the Asian Cucumber Ribbon Salad from Gourmet Yesterday.

                    All in all, a very tasty meal. We liked the flavors of both the marinade and the cilantro relish. The relish is just that, I might have preferred it a bit more emulsified into a sauce, at least for aesthetic reasons. And, as mentioned in the book, it would also be great on seafood.

                     
                    4 Replies
                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                      I had the relish in particular noted as something to try - over seafood as both you and the book suggest. Think it would be too strong over scallops? Should I stick with fish?

                      That cucumber ribbon salad has been a standby around here for years and years.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        To my taste, scallops would stand up to it just fine. I'm likely to try that too.

                      2. re: L.Nightshade

                        Cilantro Relish, Pg. 155. (Bill's Open Kitchen/Bill Grainger)

                        I made only the relish component of the steak recipe that LNightshade reported on. The full recipe was made as written. As LN states the ingredients are: chopped cilantro, oil (I used EVOO), lime juice, red chili (I used 2 red serranos), nam pla, sugar, freshly ground black pepper. I agree the relish is more sauce than relish. One quarter cup of oil is called for and I think that may have been too much. Also, next time I make this relish I'll reduce the amount of the fish sauce a tad. Curiously, my serranos were Very hot. Much more so than my jalapeños which are alternatives.

                        All that aside, we loved the relish as we served it over the left over slow-roasted chipotle pork so you can imagine the many flavors going on. A piece of fresh Northern Portugal bread, Saloio, was grilled then slathered with a bit of relish, sliced pork was placed on top. More relish over top gilded the lily.

                        1. re: Gio

                          I used the leftover cilantro relish the next day on pressed, grilled sandwiches with sliced pork (from the Island Pork Tenderloin recipe in Gourmet Yesterday). I agree, it worked very well with pork. The Island Pork has a lot of sweetness, which was a great compliment to the hot chile and tart lime flavors.

                      3. Tagliatelle with Crème Fraiche and Arugula

                        This won't be a fair review, because 1) I used pumpkin fettuccine, and 2) I left out a main component, the lemon. Did that because I am apparently unable to keep a thought in my head for longer than 4 seconds, and so deciding to pass by the very expensive organic lemons at the co-op in favor of the not-so-expensive ones just ahead drove the whole lemon need right out of my head. Until I got home and began tearing apart the bags, looking for those two lemons I was sure I'd purchased.

                        Regardless, since I was serving it with highly seasoned pork chops adobo, I decided to proceed without the lemon.

                        Preparation. The night before I cleaned and de-stemed the arugula leaves with large stems, to get ~5 lightly packed cups' worth. Stored it in our now cold sunroom overnight with damp paper towels. No need to tear the leaves into smaller pieces.

                        The same night I also made the cream fraiche. Added 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to two cups of heavy cream in a Ball jar, and let it sit out (loosely covered) overnight and all the next day. It was nice and thick by the time I came home from work and was ready to start dinner.

                        From that point on, the preparation was super simple. Just boiled and drained the pasta in lightly salted water, and grated my one heaping cup of Parmesan while it was draining. I used half Parmesan Reggiano and half Eau Galle (WI) Private Reserve Parmesan. Which reminds me: has any one tried Sartori's SarVecchio Parmesan? I love others of Sartori's, so am curious about that one.

                        Tossed the hot pasta with the arugula till the leaves wilted, then added the grated Parmesan. All of it, even though the recipe said to hold back 1/2 to serve on the side. Then 1 cup of the cream fraiche, and a good dose of coarse ground pepper. It was one beautiful looking bowl of pasta, what with the cream, the mellow golden pasta, and the bright arugula.

                        Verdict: My husband and I both loved it and thought the richness of the cream coupled with the arugula was brilliant. My daughter absolutely despised it, but I suspect that's just because she doesn't much like arugula, and this is not a dish in which the arugula takes a backseat.

                        Since it's rich and caloric as heck, it's best served small plate style; we'll get at least another two meals out of it, I'm guessing. It's also not at all cheap, as 5+ cups worth of arugula is quite pricey if you're buying instead of growing. All in all, an excellent accompaniment to the more complex flavors of the pork. But next time I'm definitely not leaving out the lemon.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: clepro

                          If I remember correctly, this recipe comes from Patricia Wells (gosh, I hope I'm remembering this right). Made it during P. Wells month with the lemon, and ended up finding it a bit one note. Good, but samey after a while. So maybe leaving out the lemon wasn't *totally* a mistake (although it does sound like a totally different pasta).

                          1. re: clepro

                            Tagliatelle with Crème Fraiche and Arugula, Pg. 102 (From Italian Easy/Rose Grey & Ruth Rogers)

                            We made this pasta recipe last night with all the proper ingredients ... except... the Tagliatelle; had to use linguine. Can't summerize the procedure better than Clepro has. I will say though, I liked the dish very much. G, OTOH, "was not thrilled." He said the lemony flavor was too pronounced. I didn't think so. Harumph. Since he's been helping in the kitchen he's become harder to please. Culinarily speaking, that is...

                            I also served the Crunchy Cucumber, Celery, and Red Bell Pepper Salad with Cumin and Fresh Mint on page 69.

                          2. Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread salad p. 136

                            Here are the reviews from when it was the COTM in 2007 and 2008. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3559...

                            I’ve made the roast chicken before, but never the bread salad.

                            We used a 3.5 lb chicken (the smallest I could find) and dry brined it with salt and pepper for 2 days. We inserted rosemary and garlic under the skin of the breasts and thighs. We cooked this at 500 F, flipping as directed. Thankfully, we did not suffer from excessive smoke in the kitchen. Crispy skin, moist interior. With this recipe you get a great return on such minimal effort.

                            Now on to the bread salad. I thought about eliminating the currants because of my loathe for raisins, but decided to try it as written (good choice). Toast bread that has been painted with olive oil under the broiler to crisp and toast lightly. Break into bite size chunks, season with a dressing made of olive oil, champagne vinegar, and s & p (I did not use nearly all of the dressing ). Then add currants (that were plumped in red wine vinegar and water). Next add scallions and garlic that were gently cooked in a touch of oil just to soften. Lastly, one adds roasted pine nuts, tent with foil and bake 15 minutes. Once out of the oven, add some of the roasting juices from the chicken and arugula. This was surprisingly delicious. It had a crispy, chewy texture and peppery, tart, nutty, savory, and sweet flavors. Mmm, so tasty. My husband genuinely liked the salad too. He ate this with gusto. A great meal that I'd gladly make again.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: BigSal

                              Great write up. Makes me think maybe I really should try that bread salad.....

                              1. re: qianning

                                The bread salad was a surprise hit for us. Carby goodness hits the spot in this colder weather.

                                1. re: BigSal

                                  I love the bread salad more than the chicken itself. I leave out the currants.

                                2. re: qianning

                                  Yes, you definitely should. Have made this several times in the past, and the bread salad is what puts it over the top.

                                3. re: BigSal

                                  Thanks for this write up. I am planning on the Zuni chicken one night this week. I didn't know that the recipe was also in this COTM! After reading your review, I think I'll make the bread salad too!

                                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                                    Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

                                  2. re: BigSal

                                    I loved the bread salad, more than the chicken. I baked a no-knead bread for this salad and it was outstanding!

                                    1. re: BigSal

                                      The bread salad! I wonder if someone invented it , or it just evolved, or what.

                                      I hope your description ("...surprisingly delicious. It had a crispy, chewy texture and peppery, tart, nutty, savory, and sweet flavors. Mmm, so tasty. ") inspires others to try it, and don't leave out the currants.

                                      1. re: BigSal

                                        Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread, salad p. 136.

                                        I noticed that there are differences between the recipe here, and the original in the Zuni cookbook. Assuming that the recipes in this book were tested for the home kitchen, I followed this recipe, which BigSal describes above. I did revert to the Zuni cookbook for the dry brining time. My chicken was also 3.5 pounds, and I left it curing in the fridge for the full three days that Rogers suggests. I used an oven-safe skillet to cook the chicken. I had no issue whatsoever with smoke from the oven.

                                        I had planned on making only the chicken part of this recipe, but thanks to BigSal's glowing review, I also made the bread salad. The dressing was not enough to moisten the bread very well (too much or too dry bread, I think), so I tossed in the reserved spoonfuls of liquid that the currants soaked in, which made it perfect. At the end, I tossed in quite a bit of arugula, as I was craving more greens.

                                        This was a wonderful meal! The chicken was flavorful, the meat juicy and the skin crispy. The bread salad was a perfect accompaniment. In retrospect, it was a little too time-consuming for a workday dinner, but it will definitely be repeated on a weekend.

                                         
                                         
                                          1. re: BigSal

                                            Thanks BigSal! And thanks for giving me the push I needed to try that great bread salad.

                                        1. re: BigSal

                                          Zuni Roast Chicken w/ Bread Salad

                                          Ever had one of those nights in the kitchen? You, know, the kind where you think you've got a fabulous meal planned, and the results turn out to be, well in Mr. QN's kindly phrasing, a solid B; in mine, scraped by with a C. I ended up with a very pretty looking but thoroughly overcooked dry bird (3.5 lbs, cooked for a total of 55 minutes), and a salad where the flavors just didn't meld.

                                          The question is how much of this was due to the cook (based on earlier reports from others and a few transgressions on my part, my hunch is 90 plus %), how much the recipe (nah, this is a pretty well written recipe), and how much personal taste (the remaining 10% ?).

                                          So, to spell out my errors, in hopes that it saves others from the wrong path. As I often do when cooking at high heat, I preheated the oven with a baking stone in it. Bad idea! The chicken cooked too fast, and all the juices evaporated, there was plenty of salty fat in the pan at the end, but zero jus. Having no pan juice to play with messed up my bread salad, which turned into an hodge-podge of damp-ish bread and dry arugula.

                                          Oh well, at least there was no company involved, and now I know, when it comes to whole birds, be it turkey, duck or chicken, I'm just a low and slow kind of a cook.

                                          1. re: qianning

                                            Sorry to hear that it was a lackluster meal for you. I've had those nights in the kitchen. It's almost worse when expectations are high.

                                            1. re: BigSal

                                              You are right, expectations have a lot to do with it. Of course, my cooking wasn't exactly on either. Oh well.

                                        2. Chicken Thighs Baked w/ Lemon, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, pg. 133

                                          An easy to make baked dark meat chicken recipe with garlic & lemon plus sage rosemary & thyme, what's not to like? A nice weekday dinner hit here, we've had it twice in the past few weeks, once made with fresh lemons, as called for in the recipe, and once with preserved lemons, just as nice if not better.

                                          So, the recipe, make a garlic, salt, o. oil allioli in a mortar and pestle, smear it on the thighs and marinate for at least 2 hours to over-night (around 10 hours the first time, 4 as the thighs were defrosting the second time I made this, with no major difference in flavor).

                                          When ready to cook, slice lemons into rounds, set the rounds in a roasting pan, add a piece of rosemary, sage, thyme to each round, put the chicken thighs on top, roast at 425 for 45-60 minutes (45 was easily enough in my oven). Crispy skin, moist chicken meat, good herb flavor, and a nicely cooked piece of lemon for each thigh as a counterpoint relish.

                                          Since chicken thighs are pretty much the staple last minute weekday meal in this house, this dish is already in the "what the heck am I making for dinner" file.

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: qianning

                                            I had this on my list. Thanks for the report.This and the Garlicky Baked Chicken will be on the menu for the weekday menu this week.

                                            Did you have any difficulty with the alioli emulsifying? When I've made large amounts of it without egg, I've had it break on me on occasion.

                                            1. re: BigSal

                                              First time I made it, no trouble; second time I was rushing, not a good thing, and it broke. But honestly as a marinade I don't think it matters too much, I just used it "broken" (on still pretty frozen thighs, too boot) and the chicken was still very good.

                                            2. re: qianning

                                              Did you refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight?

                                              1. re: angelsmom

                                                First time I refrigerated for around 8-10 hours, second time I didn't refrigerate at all, as the thighs were still defrosting.

                                                FWIW, I think the main thing is to get the garlic mashed into a pulp (not chunks, chips or even very fine dice) as this gets the flavor into the oil & the chicken, and keeps the garlic from burning when baking.

                                              2. re: qianning

                                                Made this tonight. We really liked the super-crispy skin. The thighs were rather large, so baked for an hour. Served with Double Corn Polenta, p. 203 (will post review on the Side Dish thread).

                                                1. re: qianning

                                                  Chicken Thighs Baked w/ Lemon, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, pg. 133

                                                  Nothing to add to the excellent reports. This is a great, quick and absolutely delicious. The skin crisped up beautifully and the flavorings all subtly infused the meat. Because of this recipe, I just bought this cookbook.

                                                  1. re: qianning

                                                    We made this for dinner tonight, and it is fairly similar to something my husband calls 'Scarborough Fair Chicken,' which is a roasted chicken made with parsley, sage, rosemary, and, you guessed it, thyme. The addition of lemon was a very nice touch, and although the chicken was slightly overcooked due to having begun with thighs that were still slightly frozen. Nonetheless, this was very tasty with delicious, very crispy skin and meat perfumed by the herbs and lemon. The pan juices were a bit too over caramelized (cook-speak for burned) to be of use, and we served this with some rice and a very fresh salad. Very tasty.

                                                    1. re: qianning

                                                      Made the Chicken thighs with Lemon, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme tonight. Had a friend to dinner, and luckily she's the best guest in the world and always understands if things don't work out. But this time around it was not an issue at all. We LOVED this. Crispy, tasty skin, tender dark meat chicken. Everyone else has already described the making so well that I'll just say that I'm another huge fan. This is definitely going into heavy rotation. Served it with baguette and the green bean creme fraiche chive salad from the book.

                                                      1. re: qianning

                                                        My turn on this one. Nothing much to add other than another vote for easy and delicious with perfect crispy skin and good flavor. Will definitely repeat.

                                                        I'm also very pleased with myself, since it has been a very long time since I've managed to make 3 or more COTM recipes in a given month. Hoping to keep the participation going in the new year!

                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                          I made this recipe a number of times with various results. I think that putting allioli under the skin is key as well as letting it penetrate the chicken flash over time. The lemon become almost a pickled lemon after baking for a while. I never had sage when I made it and musy try as written once my daughter's garden produces fresh sage:) Good recipe to keep in your back pocket - one of my friends asks now - are you going the make THE chicken?:) My grandboys do not like it all because there is no sauce...