Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken

Look at that beautiful bird!

It might surprise some of you to know that I don’t have any problem admitting when I am wrong.

I like being right well enough, but if someone has a better idea or a better way or convinces me to try something new or different, I’m all for it. Bring it on.

So, if you remember when I declared that Smothered Chicken was the best roast chicken ever, I may have been slightly wrong because Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken is so ridiculously easy and so ridiculously juicy and so ridiculously good that I am hard pressed not to change my Best Roast Chicken vote in its favor.

This recipe came to me last year when my friend Roz sent me a link to a great “Tournament” on Buzzfeed for the Best Roast Chicken Recipe. They did a Final Four Style tournament with all the heavy hitters like Julia Child and Martha Stewart. After all was said and done, Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken came out on top.

I made it then but wasn’t totally convinced at the time. However, my friend Cody tried the recipe and raved and raved and raved and raved about about it and proceeded to launch a campaign to get me to reconsider. There were photos…many, many photos…

So I tried it again and I’m here to say what Cody, Buzzfeed, and the internets have known all along…


And, it couldn’t be easier!

Here’s what you need:

Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken Ingredients

Whole Chicken, Salt & Pepper. Optional but highly recommended are chicken broth and some fresh herbs like thyme and/or rosemary.

Mr. Keller suggests butter (yes, butter) and Dijon mustard for serving with the chicken. Mr. Keller is correct.

Click here for Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken Shopping List

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Yes, that is extremely hot but that’s what makes this bird so good.

That is also what will totally smoke out your kitchen if your oven is not completely & pristinely clean. Even with a clean oven, you will still have a fair amount of smoke but is this chicken worth it? YES IT IS!

First you need a nice chicken. Sometimes they call them roasters and sometimes they call them fryers. The only difference is size so buy the best looking bird you can find. Mine is about 4 pounds.

Be sure to take any innards out of the cavity of the chicken…sometimes the neck is in there too.

Rinse the bird if that’s your thing (the science keeps changing on that one…I’m a rinser but I’m also a clean-out-my-sink-er too) and pat it dry INSIDE and OUT.

Drying the bird is essential to having crisp skin.

You will also need a roasting pan, a rack if you have one, and some clean cooking string for trussing.

Half Assed Chicken Trussing

Speaking of trussing, I don’t really do it.

I know, I know…I own the Julia Child instructional video but I don’t have a trussing needle.

So, I present to you my Half Assed Trussing Method which works just fine.

Take 3 toothpicks and stick them through the skin to close up the cavity of the chicken. Then tie the legs together with some kitchen string to hold the chicken in shape and also protect the breast meat.

Perfect? No. Workable and easy? You bet!

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Mushroom & Pea Risotto

Risotto, in any form, is one of my favorite dinners to make.

It’s another one of meals that you see in fancy restaurants but until you make it at home, you don’t realize how easy it is.

Basically, risotto is plump Italian Arborio rice that is cooked slowly in broth until it is tender and thick. Unlike conventional rice that you pop in a pan with a bunch of water, risotto is cooked, and more importantly stirred constantly and slowly so that the starches can develop into a delectable creamy consistency.

Once you’ve got the hang of making risotto your options are endless.

You can start with any kind of broth (veg, chicken, beef), add some veggies, and some protein (shrimp & scallops are my favorite risotto guilty pleasure).

Every now and then, I like to go with all veggies like Mushroom & Pea Risotto.

Here’s what you need:

Mushroom & Pea Risotto Ingredients

Mushrooms (Shiitake & Crimini), Arborio Rice (Risotto Rice), Frozen Peas, Shallots, Garlic, Fresh Thyme, Olive Oil, Butter (not pictured), Vegetable Broth, White Wine, Pecorino Romano Cheese, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Mushroom & Pea Risotto Shopping List

The only absolute MUST with risotto is the rice. You must use ARBORIO rice. Regular long grain rice is not the same thing and will not work. 

Arborio rice has plump, short grains with more starch so it cooks down into an incredibly creamy broth. Most stores carry arborio rice so if you don’t find it, be sure to ask.

You could make this with regular white button mushrooms, but I don’t think they offer the most bang for your mushroom buck.

Instead, I would go for some of the “wild mushrooms” that are available in the store. They’re not really wild anymore but they’re more interesting and flavorful than the old standard shrooms.

I have about 8 ounces of shiitake mushrooms and 8 ounces of crimini (or baby bella) mushrooms.

Wash, rinse, brush off, or clean your mushrooms to your liking then remove the stems. The stems of the shiitake are not great eating so I cut them off. I also remove the stems of the criminis because I don’t think they add that much to the flavor and they’re often tough.

If the caps are small you can simply cut them in half. Slice any larger caps.

shitaki mushrooms

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Mmmmmmm! Picadillo…Cuban Comfort Food.

You might not know that I’m a big fan of Cuban food. It helps that I now live in Florida and get to visit and work in Miami somewhat frequently. However, one of the best and most memorable Cuban meals I’ve ever had was in the not so tropical location of Minneapolis, Minnesota!

What makes that even more interesting was that it was breakfast…one of my least favorite meals of the day.

Honestly, breakfast sucks when you can’t eat eggs or bread. Don’t even try pawning off those egg & gluten substitutes on me. I’ll just pass.

Going out to breakfast with me is often an entertaining but odd mix of cobbling together “extras” from the menu to make a meal…homefries, fruit, veggies if they’re available, grits if I’m really lucky, etc.

Well, when my friend Larry and I went to Victor’s 1959 Cuban Cafe, a funky little (very little) joint in South Minneapolis last summer, I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that I was served a breakfast that almost made my eggless gluten free self weep with joy.

I was picking through the menu trying to oder the breakfast hash without the egg, maybe a side of something else when the nice waitress who also happened to be GF and allergic to eggs said that if it wasn’t too weird for me to eat black beans at breakfast, why didn’t I just order the Picadillo from the regular lunch/dinner menu.

Breakfast at Victor's 1958 Cafe

This plate of food made me sooooo happy! It also makes me wonder why we don’t all eat plantains for breakfast. Yum!

So when I received TWO Latin/Cuban cookbooks for Christmas, Picadillo was one of the first recipes I had to try at home.

Picadillo is basically a savory beef hash usually served with black beans and rice. It can also be used as a base filling for empanadas, tamales, fritters, etc. Even breakfast!

Here’s what you need:

Picadillo Ingredients

Ground Beef, Onion, Green Pepper, Garlic, Parsley, Diced Tomatoes, Green Olives, Capers, Raisins, Olive Oil, Sherry Vinegar, Tomato Paste, Cumin, Oregano, White Wine (not shown), Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Picadillo Shopping List

If you want to serve this with black beans and rice, get the rice started right away. (I’m still working out the black bean recipe…the ones I made were good but not great.)

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Perfect Chickpea Salad

It’s a new year so it’s time to add a new favorite funky salad…

Perfect Chickpea Salad is that salad!

How good is this salad?

Usually I have a couple of recipes in the pipeline for Idiot’s Kitchen and make choices depending on what we’ve had lately. For instance, we just featured Beef Stew so I wouldn’t want another beef dish right away. Getting carried away with cookies? Try something loaded with veggies. You get the idea.

Well, this recipe is a new league record for Idiot’s Kitchen because I just made, and happily ate it less than an hour ago and here I am posting it without delay.

It is SO good, you do not want to wait even one day to try this one!

Light, Healthy, Quick, Easy, EXTREMELY Tasty…this salad has it all going on. And don’t faint, it’s gluten free, vegetarian, and even vegan if you sub out the mayo.

What does it have? FLAVOR GALORE!

Here’s what you need:

Chickpea Salad Ingredients

Chick Peas, Celery, Bell Pepper, Pickle, Green Onion, Lemon, Mayonnaise, Fresh Dill, Dijon Mustard, Salt & Pepper

Click here for a Perfect Chickpea Salad Shopping List

What I love even more about this recipe is the story behind this cookbook…

I was joking on Facebook that it felt like I received “ALL the cookbooks” for Christmas. You know how much I love cookbooks and thankfully I have friends and family who feed my addiction.

Well, minutes later, my lovely friend Barb says, “Well, you don’t have ALL the cookbooks yet…I’d like to send you my favorite.” AND she did!!!

This fabulous gift arrived at my doorstep and hours later it was bookmarked and post-ited within an inch of its life. Sooooo many recipes I can’t wait to try!

New Cookbooks!

Go visit Barb’s blog and you’ll see one reason why we are friends. She has a cat named Edward who looks EXACTLY like Henry! Twins!

Perfect Chickpea Salad is the second Oh She Glows recipe I’ve tried (the first, a soup is coming soon) and it is a lunchtime game changer!

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Beef Stew with Brandy & Dijon

Beef Stew with Brandy & Dijon is the dish I WISH I had made for Christmas dinner.

Yes, this beef stew is better than prime rib.

In fact, it blows prime rib away.

I’m a big fan of stews and braises and slow cooked foods. It’s usually pretty simple to get some good ingredients together in a pot and let them cook away on their own. Not too fussy. Not too demanding.

This recipe, however, takes beef stew to a whole new level…tender chunks of meat, delicious vegetables, and savory sauce that is comforting but also tasty and fancy enough to serve to any dinner party or holiday gathering.

Here’s what you need:  (feline sous chefs optional)

Beef Stew with Brandy & Mustard Ingredients (plus cats)

Beef Roast, Bacon, Onion, Shallots, Carrots, Mushrooms, Butter, Flour, Dijon Mustard, Whole Grain Mustard, Red Wine, Brandy, Beef Broth, Salt & Pepper

Click here for a Beef Stew with Brandy & Dijon Shopping List

Also, you will want to make something like mashed potatoes, rice, or egg noodles to serve with the stew. You’ll need something to catch all that good sauce.

This recipe has a lot of ingredients and a few steps, but once it’s all in the pot, you are good to go about your life only coming back occasionally to stir and marvel at how wonderful your kitchen smells.

Cut ¼ pound (about 4-5 strips) of bacon into small pieces.

Place them in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and cook slowly until the fat renders out of the meat and the bacon becomes crispy.


Click HERE, there’s more!

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Steamed Crab Legs

Steamed Crab Legs

Looking for something festive for the New Year?

How about some Steamed Crab Legs?

Crab legs were part of our Christmas dinner compliments of our neighbors Darrin & Jody. It was Jody’s suggestion to add them as an appetizer and boy am I glad we did!

Crab legs don’t have to be something that you just have at restaurants. In fact, you can get a lot more bang for your buck by making them yourself.

It’s easier than you think to make these at home. All you really need is a big pot, steamer basket, and butter.

Don’t forget the butter!

The crab leg/turkey cooker!

As you can see, we have repurposed the turkey frier that was languishing unused and unloved (at least unloved by me) in the garage.

Instead of the turkey pot which is really huge, I used my big stock pot. Just find something big enough to accommodate the crab legs without having to bend them.

You don’t have to cook the crab legs this way, but I will warn you that they can get just a little stinky in the house.

Jody suggested using a big pot on the side burner of the gas grill as another option.

Or, go ahead and put the big pot right on the stove and buy some nice scented candles to deal with the crabby smell.

Since these are steamed rather than boiled, you need a steamer basket to keep the crab legs out of the water.

A little one from the grocery store (I bought this for steaming broccoli) works great and only costs a couple bucks.

Steamer basket

click HERE, there’s more! (plus a cute dog!)

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Cranberry Chocolate Cake

Cranberry Chocolate Cake is the answer to your last minute holiday baking issues.

Issues is putting it mildly around here. Prior to making this cake last night, I’d done NO baking.

None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Not a Christmas cookie in sight. Completely pathetic.

So when my friend Roz gave me this recipe and I saw cranberries and chocolate, I knew it had to happen ASAP.

The fact that this starts with a cake mix is something for which I don’t feel the slightest need to apologize.

There is a time and place for baking completely from scratch. There is also a time and place for knowing a good thing when you see it and taking the less stressful road.

This cake is moist, delicious, tangy, and packing a major chocolate punch. Just what the holidays call for.

Here’s what you need:

Cranberry Chocolate Cake Ingredients

Devil’s Food Cake Mix, Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, Coconut Oil (or Vegetable Oil), Water, Eggs, Orange Extract, and Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.

Powdered Sugar is optional for a garnish. Also recommended is vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Click here for a Cranberry Chocolate Cake Shopping List

You will also need a bundt pan and either baking spray with flour like Baker’s Joy or Butter/Crisco & flour for preparing the pan.

I don’t use a ton of cooking spray but Baker’s Joy is the real deal. It makes greasing all those nooks and crannies of the bundt pan extremely easy.

Bundt Pan & Bakers Joy Spray

Spray your pan thoroughly being sure to include the tube in the middle. If you are going old school with butter or crisco and flour, take your time and be SURE you get every surface oiled and floured well or your cake will stick.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To save time I made this in my big mixer. However you could also use a little elbow grease, a big bowl, and a sturdy whisk.

Dump the cake mix into the mixing bowl and add 1¼ cups water.

I’m using ½ cup of coconut oil that I have microwaved for about 20 seconds to liquify. You could also substitute canola or vegetable oil.

The coconut oil adds a little extra flavor so if you have that in the pantry, I would recommend using it.


Click HERE, there’s more!

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Shrimp Bisque

Shrimp Bisque

My family has a tradition of having soup for Christmas Eve Dinner.

Usually we have Kansas City Steak Soup (recipe from the Plaza III for those of you KC folks) but this year we celebrated early and in Florida.

To change things up a bit (which I’m allowed to do since I’ll probably still make soup on actual Christmas Eve), we made luxurious Shrimp Bisque with beautiful pink Florida shrimp.

I first had this recipe at my friends Colleen & Nikolay’s house but it comes from Ina Garten’s cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home.

This has a few special ingredients (hello…Brandy AND Sherry) but is well worth a little extra effort. It’s also worth the effort to seek out really good shrimp. They are, after all, the star of the show!

Here’s what you need:

Shrimp Bisque Ingredients

1 pound shrimp, Leeks, Garlic, Olive Oil, Butter, Flour (GF is fine), Half & Half, Fish Stock*, Brandy (or Cognac), Dry Sherry, Tomato Paste, Cayenne Pepper, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Shrimp Bisque Shopping List

Peel and devein 1 pound of lovely, large shrimp. SAVE THOSE SHELLS!!! They are going in the stock for extra flavor and we will strain them out later.


When I was making my list of Gifts for the Cook, I should have included one of those handy Shrimp Peelers. I bought mine at my local grocery store (look near the seafood counter) for a couple of bucks. Makes a great stocking stuffer if you like shrimp!

Click HERE, there’s more!

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Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Mexican Stuffed Peppers  – One of our favorite weeknight dinners.

Colorful and sweet bell peppers hold a variety of savory and spicy ingredients which you can customize to your own tastes, preferences, and what you have on hand.

I was never a big fan of traditional stuffed peppers because cooked green peppers tend to have a bitter taste. Adding hamburger and rice just really didn’t do it for me.

My husband, however, loooooves stuffed peppers so I tried to figure out a way to make us both happy.

Swapping out the green peppers for the sweeter red, yellow, and orange variety goes a long way. Adding anything with Mexican flavors, and of course melted cheese got me right on the stuffed pepper bandwagon.

Here’s what you need:

Mexican Stuffed Peppers Ingredients

Bell Peppers, Onion, Ground Turkey*, Olive Oil, Black Beans, Frozen Corn, Diced Green Chiles, Salsa, Tomato Sauce, Chili Powder, Cumin, Pepper Jack Cheese, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Mexican Stuffed Peppers Shopping List

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

As I mentioned, you can totally customize these for flavor or for what you have on hand. The first time I made Mexican Stuffed Peppers I happened to have some leftover yellow rice in the fridge so I threw that into the mix.

For this batch, I didn’t want to have to make rice so I just left it out and didn’t miss it at all.

*Also, feel free to use any kind of ground meat that you like. I’m using a little over 1 pound of ground turkey but ground beef, ground chicken, or even ground pork would be fine. In fact, I think you could use the filling for Tropical Pork Tacos and have a whole other delicious stuffed pepper option.

Start by browning your choice of ground meat in a large skillet. Since turkey is pretty lean, I added about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to my pan and browned the meat over medium high heat.


Click HERE, there’s more!

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Let's Give Cookbooks!

More Favorite Things. This time – Let’s Give Cookbooks!

Here are a few handy suggestions to get you in the gift giving AND in the cooking mood!

As you know, I am a cookbook addict. I love them. I like to read them like novels, mark the pages with sticky notes, etc. so e-books just don’t do it for me.

I like them big and hardbacked. Stackable!

Here is a short sampling of some of my favorites plus a couple of reader friendly gadgets…

1.) I think everyone needs a few good, general cookbooks for reference. Back in the day it used to be the Joy of Cooking or the big red plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book. (Both of which I would advise you to scour garage sales & second hand shops for early editions.) Now we have the ginormous The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook that pretty much covers all the bases. The folks at Cooks Illustrated get seriously specific and sciency about their cooking. Sometimes they have a bunch of extra steps, but the recipes I’ve tried have ALWAYS turned out great. Another option from Cook’s Illustrated is their (also ginormous) New Best Recipe cookbook. (Best French Toast recipe ever!)

2.) The Big GREEN Gourmet Today cookbook is another good all-round resource. As opposed to the Big YELLOW Gourmet Cookbook which (what a surprise!) I also own, the green book has more contemporary recipes featuring lighter and fresher ingredients. Once again, the book is huge but everything I’ve tried so far has been a keeper.

3.) So, if you’re more of an e-reader these days or if you want to be able to access a particular cooking website (ahem) on your tablet while you cook, this Kitchen Tablet Stand is the way to go. Jim gave me one of these from Williams Sonoma last year and I use it all the time. If you want to spend the big bucks, you can get a stereo speaker to go on the bottom to play your iTunes while you’re cooking your iDinner. Or you can just crank it up from the living room like I do. Worried about splattering on your screen? There’s a handy screen protector sold separately.

Click HERE, there’s more!

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