I was cleaning out my photo file, cause it’s that time of year…from closets, to camera…I’m cleanin’ it up. I ran across this shot and remembered that I’d forgotten all about making it a post. Not really a recipe, an ingredient. So, here it is.
Special meals here usually involve massive pieces of meat on a slow roast. That’s just how I roll. Turkey…rib roast…haaaammmm. All of which require spices and herbs to make their lusciousness sing. I confess, I have an entire cabinet devoted to these botanical wonders. I know I have at least 5 kinds of salt. I’ve been known to make an entire meal to use just one new spice I’ve found. I also enjoy mixing them up at will. It used to be, that the grocery store had a section of little tins (yes, I remember them) a few feet wide and if it wasn’t there, you didn’t need it. Not to say that there weren’t any ’spice shops’ – there have been spice shops since pepper was currency! It’s just that the average cook (in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania) got by with the basics and really didn’t look beyond. The world has changed. Have you seen the spice section lately? It must be half an isle! Although, like the pickle display, it’s full of repeats and pre-mixed concoctions. Expensive ones at that! It’s really hard for me to buy a $4.00 rub when I know what’s in it and can do it at home (so, I don’t). One of my favorite mixes is Herbes de Provence. Hmmm – it just sounds like a vacation doesn’t it.
That gem used to be on my ‘Big City’ shopping list because I could only get it from Williams-Sonoma in the little French crock dispenser and it is wonderful! I’ll let you guess at the price. I will tell you that a compound butter made with it was the key to a fabulous Thanksgiving bird. The little crock without a seal made sure I’d have to replace it often. Later, I started storing it in baby food jars – with the rubber seal, best re-use ever! This product came FROM FRANCE, so I trust it’s authenticity. This year at Thanksgiving, I forgot to check my stash before heading south and it failed to make the list. Oops. I pulled out the crocks ingredient list and kept it on the ‘local list’. Nowhere was Savory to be found…nowhere. Savory isn’t an adjective, it’s a cousin to mint and a main ingredient in Herbes de Provence. Don’t tell the grocery-store-spice-mix-kings that, if there was even a bottle of Herbed de Provence on the shelf, most of them didn’t include savory OR lavender – gasp! What’s more French than lavender! Oh, I get it – we’ll just leave it out because it’s expensive and they’ll never miss it. After a while it becomes an Americanized mix of rosemary, oregano,…Oh, no – not in this camp. I scoured the labels and found a McCormick variety that seemed close, and it had Savory, but no fennel or lavender. That’s ok, I do. Yes, I have lavender in my craft cabinet for scented oils and soaps – same thing. Check your health food store bulk section for a good price. In fact, check them for all kinds of odd spices. I dumped out the bottle into a bowl, added in a pinch of fennel seed, and lavender (about a teaspoon each) mixed it up and put it back in the bottle. No, it didn’t all fit. The extra was added into the compound butter. What’s that? Well, it’s room temp butter mixed with herbs or spices, mashed together and let sit for the flavors to meld. I add a little pressed garlic to mine for meats. OMG – so good! You’re allowed to use it on your morning toast too, or a bagel – gasp, no I meant croissant.
Have I mentioned that herbs and spices are fat free. Spice up your dull diet foods to bring them back to life. Don’t be confined to the store mixes.
Get your herbs together and lets make a Compound Butter – this is unbelievably simple. If you’ve never done it, it’s one of those head-slap, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that things!
Room temp/softened butter + herbs and/or spices = Compound Butter
I add in a touch of raw garlic for use with meats. Careful, a little garlic goes a l o n g way!
That’s it – Compound Butter. Put it in a special little jar, or butter keeper.
Since we’re talking chicken here,…or Thanksgiving or Easter…here’s a super easy and super tasty chicken. Soooo simple. Soooo good. Don’t believe me – YouTube Thomas Keller and he’ll tell you how a simple chicken is one of his favorites – and he’s the King of Complicated Food!
Set out a chicken to ‘temper’ it. That means let warm to almost room temp – no, you’re NOT gonna die. Like any mass of meat, it should start warm (meaning, not fresh from the fridge cold) so that it cooks evenly. Yes, Organic chickens taste better. Sorry, they just do. But, for this demo, I’ve got my fave Perdue roaster (slightly bigger than a fryer, bigger breast, and less cooperative wings – as the video will prove). It looked great and was on sale. I just can’t say no.
Preheat that oven to 450deg and roll that video. There’s just too much typing. I don’t truss my birds, sorry, I’m lucky to tie my shoes. So I’ll show you what I do with those drumsticks.
One bird in a pan – yes, you can use a skillet. I said it wasn’t fancy. Don’t even cover it. Get that bird in the hot box for about an hour. It’ll be golden brown delicious!!! If you coated the skin liberally with salt, it’ll be crusty…mmmm.
See, no fancy pan or twine, or anything. Those wings stayed in place, and aren’t burnt. The drummies tore thru their bindings, mainly because I fuzted with them for the video, but still evenly golden. Simply good. That skin is crunchy and herby, the guys will love it ! My dieting friends and I will be removing that layer of chicken rind to reveal a moist and tender meat underneath. It holds in the juices because you roasted it with the skin on. It’ll be yummy because the butter helped the herbs soak into the meat – not just in the skin you just pulled off.
Now, carefully, cut that bird into sections and put on a platter. Way easier without that wishbone, weird, huh. Wow – now, if you don’t care about the fat in the pan, make a gravy. Or, even back this up, and set the bird on top of a layer of veggies. Just a coarse chop of some carrots, celery and onion – you know, the usual suspects. Then you can serve them along side the bird. But that’s too much fat for me. So, I’ll separate the fat off and make a pan sauce we can all enjoy a bit of.
Compound Butter is your new friend – and yes, it’s regular butter. Just don’t eat a ton of it and you won’t weigh a ton 😉
Be adventurous – be thrifty – be healthy.
(Whew – all that over one photo! What can you find in your old files?)
Michelle Beal Badzoot.com