Saturday, August 28, 2010

go on an adventure, ya' chicken.

As conveyed in a previous post,
I've been trying to get away from food that's fake -

you know, food that is made with fake ingredients,
especially food that's more fake than it's real. 

so when I got going on this kick i've been on lately, 
I've cut out things like "sugar-free" when they really do use
fake sugar.
Fake food with notes on the ingredients that say 
"Warning: Contains "XYZ" 
doesn't really ring my bell.  

That said,
if I forget to read labels, 
as I often do,
I will eat anything tasty that's in front of me. 

So, in an effort to eat more naturally
(not all organic, however, though our overzealous garden thinks it has to provide us 
with enough jalapenos to last us through a nuclear holocaust),
I am trying to cook more at home. 
It's been working alright, and this meal I'm about to show you was more or less a success. 

So here it goes: 

Lemon Basil Chicken & Brown Sugar* and Cinnamon Acorn Squash

*except that I forgot the brown sugar...and a couple of other things. 


1 whole chicken 
1 lemon (rind and all)
10 leaves of basil, blooms removed*
1 to 1 1/2 tsp of cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried or fresh basil, finely chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp of butter

Acorn Squash
1 squash
2 heaping table spoons of brown sugar

*If you grow your own basil, remove the blooms to keep the plant growing.
I have neglected that tip this past summer. 

Chicken -
1. Read the heating instructions on the label of your chicken and
preheat your oven to the specified temp.  
If you don't have instructions, heat that sucker to 350°. 

2. Zest your lemon so you have about 1 tsp of zest.   Place zest into a bowl with about one tablespoon of salt and one tablespoon of pepper.  This is an estimate of what I used, but adjust the proportion according to your own taste. 

3. Add cumin and chopped basil*.  Mix the ingredients together. 
Tip: I found that dried basil worked well with this, 
especially because I just didn't want to run back outside my apartment 
to get some more fresh basil.  I'm sure fresh would be good, 
but I knew that dry basil would work for a rub.  

4. Prepare the chicken by rinsing it and cutting away excess fat, if necessary [The Just Bare brand of chicken I used didn't require this.  No junk in the trunk (giblets) , either].  Place in a baking dish that has enough room for the hot oven air to circulate around the bird .  

5. Rub the mix of seasoning, herbs, and zest under the chicken skin.  A little can go a long way, so make sure you get every other part of the chicken, too!  There will be a lot of leftovers here!  I also put the rub on top of the skin, too!  

6. Quarter the lemon and place it and the whole basil leaves in the cavity of the chicken. 

6.  That tablespoon of butter?  Put it right on top of the breastbone.  I added a little more to the legs, wings, and any other place I thought may not get the delicious butter action. 

7. Pop that baby in the oven for 50 minutes, or whatever your chicken's label tells you.  Once that's done, check to make sure that the chicken is at the right temp (165° internal temp), or check to see if the juices run clear.  If it's pink, put it back for another 10 minutes.  Make sure you don't overcook the bird, though; tough chicken isn't that great! 

8. Gently pop some aluminum foil over that baby while you cook your acorn squash 

Acorn Squash
This could be done simultaneously with the chicken.  If it's done separately, then put the chicken in the oven for a few minutes to warm it back up.  Not too long, or else the chicken will be overcooked.

Recipe - 
1 acorn squash
1 Tbsp butter (more or less as desired)
2 Tbsp of brown sugar
Really easy.  You can do this in fourths instead of two halves, but make sure you do the following:
  a. Don't forget the brown sugar (unless you don't want it, then fuhgetaboutit, but it's better with it).
  b. Doing the quartered style of squash requires about the same amount of cooking time as the 2 halves.
  c. Be prepared to lose more of the tasty goodness to dripping and melting.
I've made this for two servings before (just cutting it in half), and it was AWESOME.  What you are about to read is a rendition of that recipe, and the above tips are what I realized I forgot to do during this recipe. 

1. Chop the squash in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds.  
2. Spread the butter around the squash cavity.  Some recipes I've seen slice the inside of the squash so it can get more tender and more of the flavor can get in.  Sometimes I put the butter and sugar on the top so it seeps into squash's outer rim.  

3. Spread around the brown sugar and sprinkle on the cinnamon, salt, and pepper as desired.  Don't stray away from the salt or pepper, ok?  It adds complexity to the squash. 

4. Place in a low-rimmed cooking dish or a rimmed cookie sheet, cut side up.  Cook on 350° for 50 minutes.  Check when the 50 minutes are up to make sure the chicken is fork-tender.  It shouldn't be hard like a crisp apple, nor mushy like an old one.   Let it cook a little bit and then dig in! 
            Info:  Some recipes call for baking these guys at 400° and cut side up.  Some call for baking them for 30 minutes and cut-side down, then you'd take them out them out, put the butter and sugar, etc. in it, and then bake them cut-side up for another 30 minutes.  Some people don't put any butter, sugar, or anything else in the squash.  Some put all of the above AND add maple syrup.  It's your call.

So that's the gist of what I made.  I hope you like it if you decide to make it!  Let me know how it goes!


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