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Friday, May 29, 2009

Creepy Crawly Crabbies (and some chorizo too)

My husband loves his crustaceans. He loves shrimp and crab and lobster.

The only thing he doesn't like is the peeling and the cracking. He loves crab cakes (a trait he shares with Adam), but you're not going to see him going at whole crabs with mallets and nutcrackers. He loves shrimp scampi and shrimp cocktail, but he's not so keen on "peel 'n' eat" shrimp. He loves lobster ravioli and shrimp with lobster sauce at Chinese restaurants, but you won't see him dismember a whole lobster (although he will eat lobster tails in the case where the meat can easily be popped out). He doesn't like to work for his dinner.

I always thought he would enjoy soft shell crabs because of this. He could have a whole crab, but not have to work at getting the meat out. It seemsed like a perfect solution.

My problem is that I often have trouble finding them in my neighborhood. They have a short season and not all seafood purveyors stock them regularly. Occasionally I see them already prepared, which takes the fun out of cooking with them and experiments with recipes.

I lucked out eventually. I found soft shell crabs at the seafood counter at Stew Leonards yesterday. I eagerly approached the counter, hoping to snag some. Then I noticed something.

The crabs were still alive and crawling around their little niche in the ice.

Have I mentioned that as much as my husband loves crustaceans, I fear them? Yep. They scare me. They're ugly, bug-like beasts (insects are crustaceans too after all). They have sharp, evil claws. Ever since I was a child I never wanted to be too close to a crab. I remember crabbing with my grandparents in Cape Cod when I was younger. Whenever I caught a crab, I would have someone else pull it up because I was terrified of doing it myself.

I vividly remember a dream I had when I was 5 where I dreamed I was lying in bed and crabs were crawling all over the place. I don't like crabs.

(To be fair, I also vividly remember a dream I had where Dracula hovered threateningly over my bed, but "Dracula" was actually Morgan Freeman in his "Electric Company" vampire costume. As a grownup, I don't seem to fear Morgan Freeman.)

As I stood there and stared in horror at the display case the clerk behind the counter asked if I needed help.

"These crabs are still alive," I exclaimed.

"Of course they are. They are supposed to be," she said.

"How do I cook them?" was all I could ask.

She talked about coating them in flour and frying them in some butter and garlic.

"No," I protested. "How do I kill them? Am I supposed to kill them?"

"I'll clean them for you," she reassured me. I later learned on the internet while looking for more recipe suggestions that "clean" means removing their heads. I was glad I didn't have to do that, but I also hoped that while I was shopping on my lunch hour that they would still be reasonably fresh by the time I was ready to make dinner that evening. They didn't stink when I got them home, so I figured I was safe.


Ugly beasts. See the wineglass stem off to the right? I needed alcohol to deal with these things.

I dredged them in flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, and a little paprika. Then into a pan with some butter, olive oil, and garlic.

They got some squirts of lemon juice and were piled onto a a bed of lettuce. I really liked the coating I made. It was simple, but perfect. I managed to get the edges a little crispy.

Hubby was quite happy with them.

So what did I eat? I managed to actually prepare the scary food, but then there is the other part of my dislike of crustaceans. I don't like the taste. I had to make myself something different.

I trotted out the grill pan and grilled some red peppers.

Then some onions.

Then, the best part of all, some chorizo.

I don't do much grilling as you all know. My grill pan is the only way I can get a grilled taste on my food. I don't like using it because it smokes up the kitchen so badly. I have to turn the noisy vent fan to full blast and open all of the windows.

I piled it all on a ciabatta roll with machego cheese.

I must say this was the best sandwich I've had in quite some time. It was really really REALLY good. There are few things better than grilled spicy sausage and when you combine it with a really good cheese, magic happens. I am normally quite reserved and ladylike with my speech, but this sandwich turned me into a regular Michelle. "(Expletive) Me! This sandwich is so (Expletive) good. This is such a (expletive) good sandwich!" Perhaps I overdid the enthusiasm? Maybe it was just all that wine I drank to combat the crab fear.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another Risotto Recipe

Before I get into the actual point of my post, I have to say that yesterday I finally tried one of those famed NY institutions, the Shake Shack burger.

Shake Shack is in Madison Square Park, across the street from 11 Madison Avenue, home of one of my biggest clients, Credit Suisse. I go to this building often, but if I'm rushing to a meeting, I don't have time to wait on Shake Shack's tremendous lines. The only exception is I was there for a meeting two weeks ago. While I didn't have time for a Shake Shack lunch, my coworker and I had time to stop there after the meeting for one of their "Concretes" (I can only describe it as the Shake Shack version of a DQ Blizzard) which was quite good.

Today I had 90 minutes to kill between two meetings, so I decided to wait on line and see what the fuss was about. I had no camera, so I have no photos, but there wasn't much to take a picture of. (Emily already did it anyway.) After waiting on line about 20 minutes to place my order, I had to wait another 10 minutes (beeper in hand) to receive my food. I had a "Shack Burger" with fries and and "Arnold Palmer", a mixture of iced tea and lemonade.

The burger, while good, was really not worth the orgasms people tend to have over them. I thought it could have been bigger. I also would have liked a sturdier bun. The meat itself was pretty flavorful. I knew the burgers weren't chargrilled when I ordered, but somehow I was sort of expecting that kind of flavor. It tasted like - meat - but pretty good meat. There was not much else in the way of seasoning though. The Shack Burger consists of the patty, lettuce, tomato, American chesse, and "Shack Sauce" which is some pale yellow stuff that seems to be a combo of mustard and mayo and possibly something else.

The fries were totally awesome. If I ever go back, I think I might just get an order of cheese fries.

Drink was 75% ice.

I'm not sure it was all worth the long wait, but I'm glad I did it. Shake Shack is one of those things you just have to try for yourself.

On to the main part of my post.

I'm sure any reader of this blog knows my love for making risotto. It's easy to make. It's very satisfying in taste and texture. It lends itself to so many creative variations. It's the perfect quick dinner.

I had about a quarter of a bottle of red wine left after the party this weekend. Kevin doesn't drink red wine and I knew I wasn't going to drink it all myself, so I wanted to put it to use in a way we would both enjoy it (in other words, no beef braised in red wine). I have had red wine risotto before and enjoyed it, so I decided to do it again.

I used mushrooms, broccoli, and onions for the vegetables, but I really wanted some kind of meat in there. I like having a nice salty/smoky element in risotto. Pancetta? Out. Bacon? Out! Ham? Out! All of these things supposedly irritate the delicate widdle tum tum of Sir Pickypants. I found the solution in some turkey ham. Perfect. I cut the ham in a small dice and cooked it with the onions and the rice, and then added the red wine.

I cooked the broccoli and mushrooms separately with some garlic and added them to the mixture towards the end. All in all it was an excellent dish.

Red Wine Risotto

Ingredients
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups aroborio or other short-grain rice
4 Tbl butter, divided
4 Tbl olive oil, divided
1 onion, cut in a small dice
1 turkey ham steak cut in a small dice(Feel free to use bacon, pancetta, real ham, or no meat at all as you see fit)
1 cup red wine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
8 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
Salt to taste
Copious amounts of parmesan cheese

Heat chicken stock to a simmer and keep it simmering on the stove.

In a pot heat 2 Tbl butter and 2 Tbl olive oil. Add onion and sweat it out a bit. Add ham and rice. Stir until rice is coated and begins to look transparent at the edges. Stir in wine and keep cooking and stirring until absorbed.

In a pan heat remaining oil and butter. Add garlic and cook till fragrant. Add broccoli and allow it to cook down a bit. Add mushrooms and cook until they begin to cook down and give off their juices. At this point, adjust seasoning with salt. You don't want bland veggies.

Add a ladleful of chicken stock to rice and stir. Cook until absorbed. When broth is absorbed, add another ladleful and stir until absorbed again. Keep doing this until all of the chicken broth is used up, rice is creamy, and just al dente. Add broccoli and mushroom mixture.

Stir in cheese and serve.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Kid In Town Part 4 - Red Plum Asian Bistro

On Memorial Day Weekend I finally tried the last of the new Asian fusion restaurants in my neighborhood. It's one of 5 new restaurants in the neighborhood, so I'm almost to the end of the list. (There is a good chance I may never eat at #5 due to it being a bad neighbor.)

First there was Haiku. Then there was Ginban. Now I'm trying the lastest, Red Plum. I've been wanting to try this place for months, but it's always been so crowded that it was really hard to get a table. The place is a little bit of a "scene" for such a small restaurant. The bar is often busy till quite late at night. Last night we lucked out. I guess everyone was home grilling.

I always thought of all of the Asian places in town, Red Plum was the prettiest. Ginban is too over the top. Haiku is nice, but lacks a little kitsch. Red Plum has always drawn me in.

Here is the sushi bar. Unlike Red Plum's sister restaurant next door, Toyo Sushi, the sushi bar doesn't reek.


Here is the dining area. I like the glass waterfall at the far end.

We were seated very quickly and our waiter Chris immediately came over and introduced himself. He was very personable. We were given our menus and drink menus, which had a very extensive sake list. Kevin and I opted for fruity cocktails though. I had a Green-Tini and he had a Lychee Martini. I tasted his and liked his better. It was delicious.


Service continued to be quick and efficient (such a change from Ginban) when we ordered our appetizers. Chris said he works the kitchen at lunch, so he was quite knowledgable about the menu. I opted for a Vietnamese salad. Kevin had the crab cake special.



Chris recommended the Vietnamese salad, but I thought it was a little lackluster. It was too heavy on the peanuts and not enough mango to keep the flavor contrasts going. It was good, but had the potential to be so much better with a different balance of ingredients.


Kevin really loved his crabcakes. I tasted the sauce that came with it and I thought it was really good.


He loved the menu with its variety. There was Thai curry and General Tso's chicken along with all of the sushi and Japanese noodle dishes. I don't think it's all the different from the other fusion places, but Kevin noticed it more with this place. Maybe because the good service allowed him to actually relax and read the menu.


Next came the entrees. I had Thai chicken breast strips. I'm not sure what made them Thai, but they were perfectly crispy. The dipping sauce was a sweet-spicy blend with lots of coconut flavor. My guess is that is was probably Thai chili sauce mixed with coconut milk.


Kevin had shrimp in red curry sauce. It was spicy, but he asked for mild spice and was not disappointed.


The shrimp were as artfully arranged as my chicken.


We were offered a dessert menu, but declined because I still had chocolate peanut butter cake left over from the birthday party, so I don't know how that would have been. I'd say it was a nice restaurant and an enjoyable evening. The prices here were pretty reasonable too. They were more in line with what you would see at a sit-down Chinese restaurant.


So out of the three Asian fusion places, which one is the best? I'd say food-wise they're all about the same. I can't say that one place had more stand-out dishes than the rest. I think Red Plum has the best prices. Ginban is the most expensive and has the worst service. Haiku is in the middle price-wise, but the service is also pretty good. Their delivery is quite fast. I guess where I eat in the future will depend on cost and where I can get a table.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Annual Birthday Dinner (and not a single original recipe)

Saturday night I marked the birthdays of both my mother and her younger (by one year and 364 days) brother. Yep, two siblings were born almost two years apart to the day.

It was Memorial Day weekend and everyone is outside grilling, but I have to be different, and I was inside, cooking in the kitchen.

Sue warned me that my house - no, not house, apartment and don't you forget it - was going to be thought of as the family gathering place if I kept holding huge holiday dinners there. She really was right. I try to have a set guest list for family dinners and the next thing I know, there is someone else, some lost soul, some friend of a friend, who needs to come to the party. I can't say no and my party becomes bigger than I had planned for.

This party was no exception. I ended up with 11 adults and 3 children. At least the kids had already eaten by the time of the party. With so many people, I gave up on doing the plated dinner I had planned and scrapped it in favor of a big baked pasta dish.

My favorite baked pasta dish is Giada De Laurentis's Farmer's Pasta. I love this recipe. It's rich and creamy and cheesy and perfect. It's probably not the kind of thing you think of eating on Memorial Day weekend, but it feeds a lot of people, and that was really the key thing for the night. Too bad. I had wanted to come up with some kind of original recipe for this party.

It was also more chances to show how useful this book is to me. Two posts in a row using this book!


What else did I serve? I actually started this party on the Giada theme with her Vegetable Fritto Misto. I'm just a frying fool these days, no? I forgot to photograph it though.

Along with the antipasto I served a special birthday cocktail as people walked in. This was a combination of POM juice and proseco. Excellent combination. Some of us couldn't stop drinking these.

The official dinner portion began with a recipe I pilfered from a blog. This was Peter's Spring Salad with Warm Dressing. I love just about anything with pine nuts and the dressing was delicious. (Yes, there were pine nuts in here but somehow they just didn't come through in the photo). I received tons of compliments on it, which I pass along to Peter. Everyone wanted to know what was in it.
Then I served dinner. Gooey, cheesey goodness. My family pretty much ravaged this (except for poor, lactose-intolerant Sir Pickypants).

I pilfered a recipe once again and made Emily's Peanut Butter Marble Cake. My mother had originally asked me to make her favorite Tres Leches cake, but after all that cheese in the entree, I feared I might kill Sir Pickypants.
I always have trouble getting even layers in the cake pans, so my layer cakes tend to be lopsided, still it was a pretty cake once you cut it.
The frosting on this cake is to die for. It's both creamy and buttery. It's intensely rich without having that too-sweet dense frosting texture many people don't like. The cake was well received and Kevin said it was among my "better cakes". The way he said that almost implied my cakes aren't that good. I hope that's not how he meant it!


It was a very good party. We had great food, lots of wine, and good company. Still, Kevin and I have decided that until the day that we can afford an actual house, we're going to limit our parties to the number of adults who can actually fit around our dining room table. No more mega-Thanksgivings at the Pickypants-DisOrderCook condo. Our place just can't take the wear and tear.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seriously? You Can Do That?

I've said before that I tend to ignore my cookbooks. I usually only buy cookbooks for two reasons. The first is that I am sometimes seduced by a beautiful cover or a famous name. The second is that I find myself going back and downloading and printing the same favorite recipes online over and over, so I might as well save a tree and just buy the cookbook. That way I will always have those recipes in printed form. One example of the latter is when I bought this cookbook.

I know all of the praises and criticisms of Giada. Whatever one can say about her, good or bad, I love her Garlic and Citrus Chicken and her Farmer's Pasta and I was a little tired of dealing with the slow, pop-up-infested Food Network website whenever I wanted to print up the recipes. It was much more convenient to just buy her book.

I do use the book for other ideas though. One recipe has been haunting me for the longest time. It's her recipe for Pollo Fritto: Italian fried chicken. Fried chicken isn't what I think of when I think of Italian food, but Giada prefaces the recipe saying that she and her family love it and she has put her own spin on it.


Giada's take on fried chicken is to marinate it in olive oil and lemon juice (I usually use buttermilk and sriracha). It is dredged in flour as you would normally do with fried chicken, and then - and this is the part that made my eyes bug out - fried in olive oil.

What? Fry chicken in olive oil? Can you do that?

There are arguments against cooking in olive oil, particularly of the extra virgin variety. One side says that it imparts too strong of a flavor to what you are cooking in it. The other side seems to say the opposite and says heating olive oil destroys the flavor, so why waste your money on expensive oil? Most importantly though, olive oil has a lower smoke point than vegetable oils, so it's not wise to cook at high temperatures with it.

But Giada made a critical distinction. She listed extra virgin olive oil (less stable in heat) for the marinade and just plain old olive oil for the actual frying. I even wondered if that was safe, but she said I could do it.

I had to go to two stores to find such an olive oil. It seems that thanks to Rachael Ray and her EVOO obsession and also thanks to Ina Garten and Emeril Lagasse and their constant emphasis on "good" olive oil, everyone just goes for the olive oil that has never been kissed. The more refined versions are very hard to find. I couldn't even find just the plain old "virgin" without the "extra" olive oil (rumored to have gone to third base, but claims it only went to second and put up a fight the whole time).

I had to go to two stores, but I did have eventual success. Behold the slutty olive oil!

Chicken in marinade the night before. Here goes nothing.

This is the juice of two lemons plus a quarter cup of that prudish olive oil and some salt and pepper.

My finished fried chicken. I served it with potato wedges (coated in that sweet innocent olive oil and sprinkled with Penzeys Northwoods Fire seasoning and roasted at 400 degrees) and creamed spinach.

The chicken was good, but not extraordinary. I could taste the lemon permeating the meat somewhat, but not as much as I had hoped. In the end, I'd say that this tasted pretty much like any other fried chicken. It really didn't justify the expense of making it this way. Next time I made fried chicken, it's back to the buttermilk and sriracha marinade.

Did I ever give you my creamed spinach recipe? I should. I made a version that tastes rich, but is reduced in fat. I did this by taking the advice that diet books and women's magazine articles always tell you to do. I use evaporated skim milk. There is still butter in there, so it's not a low fat dish, but it's a lot lower fat than it could be.

Short (dis)Order Cook's Creamed Spinach

Ingredients
Fresh spinach leaves
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl flour
1 onion finely diced
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 can evaporated skim milk
Salt
White pepper
Pinch of nutmeg


Heat butter in a saucepan. Add onions and cook until sweated out. Add flour and cook until it loses that raw flour taste. Whisk in milk and stir over medium heat until thick. Add salt and pepper to taste and add nutmeg. Stir in spinach leaves. Cook in the sauce until cooked down.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An Indulgent Springtime Meal

Some days you just want a big fat steak. When the craving hits, I go with it. It was one of those nights. I was having steak - a NY strip! It's an indulgence of the best kind.


What about Sir Pickypants? How about a nice chunk of halibut for him?
It's also springtime and there aren't many local vegetables available, but there are a few here and there. One of the things you can get is fiddlehead ferns.

They look like alien insects, don't they? They're a very scary vegetable.


I made a compote of fiddleheads and mushrooms once before. I had hoped to be able to replicate it exactly last night, but unfortunately, spring onions don't seem to be available. Regular onions would have to suffice. White wine and cream should be part of such a compote, but I had no cream.

Steak, seared in a cast iron pan and finished in a 400 degree oven for 7 minutes. I often like to rub these with a fun seasoning, but salt and pepper were all I required this night.

I was more creative with the halibut. I used rosemary, white wine, and capers. For someone who doesn't eat fish, I don't do too badly cooking it.

Mushroom-Fiddlehead Compote

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbl butter
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 10 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3-4 cups fiddleheads
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wash your fiddleheads well. Then wash them again. When you think they're washed enough, wash them again. These suckers are full of schmutz. Place in a pot of simmering water for 10 minutes.

Heat butter in a pan. Add onions and cook until softened. Add mushrooms and fiddleheads. Cook until mushrooms are soft. Add wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper as you see fit. (Optional, add a touch of cream at the end)

A Fish Dish Just for the Halibut

Ingredients

  • 2 large halibut fillets
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbl fresh rosemary chopped
  • 1 Tbl capers roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbl butter

Spinkle fillets with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a pan and cook fillets on each side until flaky and firm. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Pour white wine into pan and add rosemary and capers. Scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan. Allow wine to reduce slightly. Swirl in butter and pour sauce over fish.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New For Lunch: MexiMillet

A while back I mentioned in a post that I had made an unsuccesful attempt to make millet cakes . It ended up in an emergency phone call to the Chinese delivery place. Although the cakes failed, I still had a lot of millet left over.

Millet is one of those exalted substances known as "whole grains". It's good for you, fairly easy to cook, and it's said to be extremely digestible. Digestibility is a big thing with me because the saintly quinoa gives me bad reflux issues.

The problem with millet? It's birdseed. Come on. Look at it. It's totally birdseed. This is the stuff they use as filler in those bags of seed you put in your bird feeder. You probably feed it to your canary too.


Anyway, I had it, and I needed some creative inspiration for a nice nutritious lunch. I get tired of sandwiches. I get tired of ordinary salads. I needed something new. I decided to see what I could do with the millet.

Oh look. More colorful heirloom tomatoes. I'm so obsessed with multicolored tomatoes, aren't I?

I sauteed some green pepper and onion just enough to soften them a bit, but not till they were mushy. I added the tomatoes, all diced up along with a can of black beans.

Everything got mixed in with the cooked millet. Then I tossed it with lots of cilantro and a dressing made of lime juice, honey, and cumin.

Some chunks of queso fresco made it a meal. Nice Mexican flavors and very satisfying. Sort of pretty too.

You can add or subtract all sorts of things to this. Some chorizo would be nice. Some avocado would be awesome. Swap out avocado for the cheese and this dish is vegan.

Mexican Style Millet Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup millet
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 large green pepper diced
  • 4 Tbl olive oil, divided
  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
  • Queso fresco or other cheese of your choice, cubed (as much as you would like)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 Tbl honey
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Copious amounts of chopped fresh cilantro
Bring water to a boil and add millet. Cover and simmer 20 minutes until water is absorbed. Let stand 10 minutes more and fluff with a fork.

Saute onion and pepper in 2 Tbl oil. Don't let it get too soft. Add tomatoes and black beans. Allow tomatoes to soften slightly as well, but again, you want everything intact.

Mix together lime juice, cumin, honey and cilantro. Adjust seasoning.

Mix together the millet and the vegetables. Toss with lime juice mixture. Garnish with the cheese.

Monday, May 11, 2009

How to Handle a "Food Block"

"Food Block". It's like writer's block, except you are stuck with new ideas for what to make for dinner. This is a big deal if you're a food blogger and need meals you can blog about!

Do I remedy that by going through cookbooks and magazines and reading blogs and looking at websites? I should shouldn't I?

Instead I just said, "Take lots of pictures and try to jazz up an ordinary recipe with a splashy blog.

Start by drawing your inspiration from some colorful tomates you see in the store.

Roast them at 400 for about 10 minutes until they're soft and a little wrinkly.

Cook some minced garlic - I'd say between 2 and 4 cloves - and a few red pepper flakes in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Add your tomatoes. Add a handful of fresh basil leaves and some white wine. Cook a few minutes more so tomatoes soften and flavors blend.Toss with cooked ravioli and garnish with some toasted pine nuts.

I'm not unblocked, but I had dinner and a new blog post!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Special One for the Mother in Law

I've been slacking in reading and posting again (notice how your blogs blogs have been lacking my novel-length comments lately?) . Mostly it's because I'm not online much for the past few days. I've been having a special guest at my house. My mother-in-law has been staying with us while they repair the elevator in her building.

The spare room where the home computer resides is also the room where she is sleeping, so out of respect to her, I don't go in there much. That means I haven't been online at home very often. I did cook something over the weekend that I meant to post about, but I realized it wasn't that interesting anyway, so I skipped it. (I took the leftover ketchup from last week's burgers, added honey and chipotle powder, smeared it on chicken and called it "barbecued" even though I just cooked it in the oven on a low temperature - no biggie. Fine, if you insist, I'll post a picture of it. I made zucchini pancakes to go with it.)


I didn't think what I cooked over the weekend was particularly special, but I wanted to do a special dinner for her at some point. I wanted it to be made up of one of her favorite foods - cornish hen - and I think this one was worth blogging about.

I found a recipe for a lime-honey chicken glaze in this month's issue of Eating Well. I changed the lime to lemon and created a flavoring for my hens. Knowing she doesnt' have a huge appetite, I cut then hens in half for more petite portions. The flavor I ended up with was quite interesting. It was tart, but not unpleasantly so. The hens were very fruity.


Remember last week's duck fat? Well, I finally made duck fat poatotes with it. I diced some yukon golds and cooked them in about a 1/4 cup of duck fat with rosemary. They were good. I had to fudge a bit when both Sir Pickypants and his mother asked how they were made. I...um...sauteed them with rosemary - duuuuhhhhh! Mother-in-law asked, "So you just sauteed them with a little oil."

"It was more than just 'a little oil'," I confessed.

I must say duck fat potatoes rock! Duck fat is one of the most beautiful substances on earth.

On the side was just roasted asparagus. MIL said she has only just recently discovered that she likes asparagus and was quite happy to see it on her plate last night.

Lemon - Honey Cornish Hens

4 cornish hens - cut in half
Juice of two lemons
2 Tbl honey
1 Tbl soy sauce
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tbl neutral-flavored oil (I used sunflower)
Salt and pepper

Mix together juice, honey, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Place hens in a dish and pour the marinade over them. Allow to sit at least a half an hour.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place hen halves on baking dish or sheet. Pour marinade over them. Place in oven for about 45 minutes, or until internal temperature is 170. Baste them occasionally with drippings so they get nice and browned.