Food for Thought: Andrea

Andrea, author of the blog Andrea the Kitchen Witch, was one of my earliest followers. Her blog is a great resource - full of great, made-from-scratch meals that taste delicious and look great, but aren't so fancy that they are daunting to a novice. To date, I've made both her Goat Cheese and Zucchini Galette and her Chicken Tikka Masala - both with tasty results. Once you've read her Q&A post below, go check out her site for more inspiration.

Hi Readers, this is Andrea the Kitchen Witch. Jess offered me a chance to guest post for her and I was delighted to say yes!! I love Jess' site - her photos are awesome and the recipes she posts makes me want to get into the kitchen & create. My bookmarks bar is filled with ideas from The Saucy Kitchen!   

Why do you enjoy cooking?
Whats not to love? I really like everything about the cooking process (except the dish washing!) from the shopping for ingredients, the creative process of deciding how to handle and prepare the ingredients, the sounds and colors of the prep work, the smells of the cooking, the changes in texture and taste, it all intrigues me. I really enjoy the science of cooking as well and like to play with different techniques. Its fun for me to see how a simple tomato can go from a sandwich topper to a sauce with a few simple steps.

How long have you been cooking (what is your cooking experience, who taught you to cook)?
My cooking history is long. I was a cooking show addict from a very young age. PBS in the summer was great for me, Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Lidia Bastianich, Caprial Pence, Rick Bayless and Jeff Smith educated and entertained me with their cooking and food knowledge. I loved to hear the history of foods, ingredients, preparation methods, and they way they define cultures. Intently I watched these greats make food, simple and delicious dishes, before my very eyes. I'll never forget watching the Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, make balsamic glazed cippolini onions and drooling, even though I'd never tasted a drop of balsamic, heck we couldn't even find it in those days, and I was an onion hater! Something in me knew that if ingredients were handled with skill and love, deliciousness could happen.  

These early cooking show pioneers were the ones I learned from. My parents were from the school of thought that food should be easy and fast and taste like the box it came from. It was hard to work on a gourmet recipe only to hear "boxed would be better." I really honed my skills when I became a stay at home mom. It was then that I had the time available to really pour my heart & soul into my food. I began experimenting with food, techniques and flavors. A lot of things I saw being prepared in the early days on PBS were finally found on my table. Turns out Jeff Smith was right, slow roasting sweet cippolini onions in a good balsamic vinegar is outstanding, just as I always knew it would be.

Who do you cook for?
My family and myself.  Its my goal to put a healthy nutritious and delicious meal on the table that everyone will enjoy. I enjoy cooking for my extended family and friends as well.  

What is important to you when it comes to food (homemade, local, vegetarian, etc. )?
Homemade, from scratch is my specialty. I use as few boxed and processed goods as possible. In my kitchen we have 2 ingredients that are strictly off limits: trans fats also known as partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup. After my daughter was born I took a long hard look at the foods we were eating. It wasn't good. Most everything was processed, junk food. Boxed dinners, fast food, pizza, junk, junk and more junk. This was NOT the food example I wanted to set for my child! I started to educate myself about what goes into our foods and was disgusted and dismayed at what I had been eating for 34 years. Did you know that partially hydrogenated oil is 1 atom away from being plastic? Can you imagine what that does to your arteries? While high fructose corn syrup might be okay in moderation, according to the corn growers, take a look at your labels and you'll soon find that HFCS is in EVERYTHING. How can you have moderation if its in 90% of the food you eat?  90% is NOT moderation! Its in bread, coffee creamer, cereal, prepackaged fruit cups, yogurt, jelly and jam, ketchup, you name it, its got HFCS in it. It was then that I decided that the easiest way to handle things was to eliminate the offending items from our diets and make things from scratch with REAL ingredients. I had always said that if I were lucky enough to be a stay at home mom I'd make everything from scratch, from pudding to bread, if you can get it from a grocery store I can make it from scratch.

When I first banned these ingredients I HAD to make most everything from scratch, processed and convenience foods are filled with these no nos.  Now a days make all of our breads, including buns for burgers, crackers, stocks & broths, not to mention baked goods.  I garden and preserve what I grow.  Someday I hope to own chickens for eggs as well as meat birds.  I love to add a gourmet flair to your old standby comfort classics. 

What inspires you in your cooking?
Ooh tough one!  Seasonality is the first thing I though of, using fresh produce at their peak is wonderful.  Nothing tastes quite as good as a red tomato fresh plucked off a vine still warmed from the sun that helped it to grow.  But then again, I'm a very frugal Witch, so getting a screamin' deal also inspires me!  Most of my menus are planned around the sales at the local grocery, which also happen to be seasonal sales.  My final answer would have to be screamin' deals on good seasonal items.  

What is your favorite food or meal?
Great question!  I don't know that I have one favorite food or meal.  I love Mexican food and could eat that all the time.  But then again I love Asian food and make it often.  However there's nothing quite as delicious as a meal of roasted chicken with baked potatoes, a seasonal veggie and salad.  And that's the dish I want to share with you all today!

This recipe I found from cooking great Thomas Keller.  It simply could NOT be easier or taste more delicious.  Don't let the simplicity of this dish fool you into thinking it needs a fancy sauce or extra sprucing up:  the hot oven renders the fat out of the chicken skin, basting the bird and leaving you with a delightfully crispy skin.  The meat is tender, juicy and bursting with roasted chicken flavor.  The jus (pan juices from the roasted bird) are the perfect sauce for the bird, stock, a bit of acid and butter round out their flavor and elevate it from drippings into a luscious jus that really makes the dish.  

Roasted Chicken
recipe courtesy of epicurious (Thomas Keller)

1 roasting chicken, 3-4 lbs
lots of kosher salt
few grinds of pepper
1-2 sprigs thyme

Wash chicken, removing giblets and neck.  Pat chicken very dry with paper towels inside & out.  You want this bird dry, the less it steams the better the result will be.

Truss the chicken.  If you need instructions on how to truss let the Witch know.

Sprinkle the chicken with kosher salt liberally.  I mean lots of it, like 1T worth.  Sprinkle from high above the bird, it creates a better scatter pattern on the meat and you get better coverage.  The salt is important in flavoring the chicken as well as the crispy skin so don't skimp!  Cover all sides of chicken with salt, add salt & pepper to the cavity as well.

Put the chicken in a skillet and roast at 450 for 45-60 minutes, or until the dark meat temperature reads 180*F.  Remove chicken from pan, sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and allow to rest for 5-15 minutes before carving.
You can make a pan gravy from the drippings if you wish, simply bring the drippings to a boil and whisk well to loosen the fond from the bottom of the pan.  Add 1/2 c chicken stock and allow to reduce.  Add 1t lemon juice or wine and 2T butter to the reduced sauce.  Serve with the chicken.
Nutrition Facts 
provided by SparkPeople Recipe Calculator
4 Servings

Amount Per Serving
  Calories  226.0
  Total Fat  4.4 g
       Saturated Fat  1.1 g
       Polyunsaturated Fat  1.0 g
       Monounsaturated Fat  1.2 g
  Cholesterol  129.2 mg
  Sodium  145.4 mg
  Potassium  478.8 mg
  Total Carbohydrate  0.0 g
       Dietary Fiber  0.0 g
       Sugars  0.0 g
  Protein  43.6 g

5 lovely comments:

  1. I am so glad you featured Andrea! She is one of the first food blogs I followed when I started my own, and she always prepares such delicious meals. Jess, I am loving this idea!

    Angie @ Cocina Diary

  2. I SO need to roast a chicken. I've been so intimidated because I once made a disasterous turkey. I love Andrea's blog and I am loving these guest posts Jess!

  3. Jess thanks so much for the guest blog opportunity! It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the Q&A part :)

  4. We always love ourselves a roasted chicken with potatoes and veggies too! Yours looks beautiful. I agree with your food philosophy and I'm off to check off your blog.

  5. Andrea is a genius in the kitchen! Love you, witchy-poo and loved learning more about you and your process.

    Thanks for introducing me to this cool blog too - I can't wait to read more! :)