This month’s issue of Bon Appétit magazine has four turkey recipes that look really good. Of course four whole turkeys are about three and a half more than the two of us consume in a year so I’ve made some compromises. Last week, when I made the Asian spice inspired cider-brined turkey, I cut back on the ingredients and used turkey thighs. This week I wanted to take a stab at the recipe for Tandoori turkey, but after a closer inspection of the ingredient list, which included at least 14 different spices that needed to be toasted and then ground, I opted to wing it with the Garam Masala powder I had in the spice drawer. Besides, it was mostly the technique of marinating the bird in an oven bag and using the same bag, marinade and all, to roast it in, that intrigued me. This time I used a whole chicken and a lot of improvising.
For some unknown reason I really want to like parsnips. I’m always amazed that they seem to be in every produce section of every grocery store despite the fact that nobody I know has ever mentioned eating them, I’ve never been to a dinner party where they have made an appearance, and I’ve only on rare occasions seen them on restaurant menus. Despite of all that every few months or so I come across a recipe that calls for them and I think to myself, “That sounds good. Maybe I should give parsnips another chance.” Then, when I take the first bite of the new concoction I usually think, “This would be better without the parsnips.” Today’s recipe is no exception. I got it from “Glorious One-Pot Meals” by Elizabeth Yarnell. The recipes are for a Dutch oven and can easily be adapted for solar cooking. If you like parsnips go ahead and include them, I’m going to say they’re optional. Placing the vegetables on top of the chicken, however, is a must; it keeps them from turning into mush.
Solar Braised Chicken and Root Vegetables
2 teaspoons ground ginger
The sun came out today and it looks like it’s here to stay for a while. I took advantage of the beautiful day to make a big batch of chicken that should be enough for a few meals. It depends how hungry Mark is when he gets home; he forgot to take his lunch today.
This recipe is a variation of one of our favorites – Solar Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Olives – and can be served with rice, couscous, or a good crusty bread. Now that the days are getting shorter it’s probably best to cook the beans a day ahead or used canned. I have to confess that I cheated and cooked mine in my pressure cooker early this morning so I could get the chicken in the Sun Oven as soon as possible.
Solar Braised Chicken with Butternut Squash and White Beans
1 cup dried white beans (Great Northern, cannellini, or mayacoba) previously cooked and drained.
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces
You can never have too many chicken recipes. This one is a nice change of pace and is made with ingredients that are common in most kitchens. It goes great with rice or couscous.
Solar Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Thighs
6 chicken thighs with skin and bone, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
I volunteered at the Arizona Humane Society today and here’s the lunch packed full of solar goodies that I brought with me. A Mac and Cheese Muffin, a Solar Lunchbox Drumstick, carrot and celery sticks, and a Solar Sour Cream Muffin with strawberries. Everything (except the carrots and celery) had been made in advance and was easy to put together before heading out in the morning. By the end of my shift six cats had gone to their new homes and one lunch had been thoroughly enjoyed. That’s what I call a good day.
Here’s another lunchbox idea that I got from our local newspaper. The original used something called “mini-drumsticks” which I assumed meant the meatier part of the chicken wing. I’ll admit, the miniature version’s cuteness factor made them very tempting, but they were almost double the price per pound as the standard drumsticks I used. Putting the chicken pieces on a rack keeps them out of their own juices and makes them crispier and more portable.
Solar Lunchbox Drumsticks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 soy sauce
Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to make everything from scratch, especially if I’m not feeling well, but I don’t like canned chicken noodle; the noodles are always way too soggy. This super easy recipe is a compromise. It uses canned chicken and broth, but if you have leftover cooked chicken and/or homemade broth on hand go ahead and use them.
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups canned chicken, drained and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
We all know that using a solar oven will reduce your household energy bill, but solar cooking’s savings doesn’t end there. When I adapt recipes for the Sun Oven I usually cut the amount of oil and wine by as much as half without any noticeable difference in flavor. This recipe is a perfect example, it called for 1/4 cup of oil and a cup of wine. Being able to use less of these expensive and high calorie ingredients makes solar cooking easy on both the wallet and the waistline.
Solar Chicken with Herbs and Lemon
1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken, cut into eight pieces (skin removed if desired)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 small lemon, cut into wedges
4 sprigs of rosemary, stems removed and needles chopped
Getting the timing right for cooking dried chickpeas is tricky even when using traditional cooking methods. The older they are the longer they take to cook. For this reason I like to get chickpea based dishes started early in the day. You can always wait until it’s closer to dinner time to add in the other ingredients, or, they might even be ready in time for lunch. In any case, the superior texture and flavor of dried chickpeas make up for the guess work involved.
Spicy Solar Chickpea Curry
2 cups dried chickpeas, picked over
8 cups baby spinach leaves
2 (15 oz.) cans petite diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Soak chickpeas overnight in a large bowl with enough water to cover them by two inches.
Set Global Sun Oven out to preheat.
Drain chickpeas, put them in a large pot with 1 cup water. Cover and cook in the GSO until tender, 3 to 4 hours. Stir in spinach, tomatoes and their juices, coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pepper. Return pot to GSO and cook for another hour or more. Remove pot from GSO, stir in cilantro and remaining salt. Serve with rice.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
This slow-cooked chicken doesn’t take any longer to cook in the GSO than it would stovetop. In both cases the cabbage is first cooked for about an hour before the chicken is added. Then they both braise together for another hour, until the meat is fall of the bone tender and the cabbage has transformed itself into a rich sauce that even the pickiest of eaters will like. It is typical of home-cooked Italian meals, a few simple, readily available, ingredients, prepared in a way that keeps everyone coming back for more.
When made stovetop the lid is left ajar and most of the liquid evaporates. I’ve yet to recreate this in the GSO, even with my tea towel trick so when the chickens ready I transfer the pot to the stove, remove the chicken, and reduce the sauce over medium high heat. It only takes five minutes or so.
Solar Braised Chicken and Red Cabbage
(Adapted for the GSO from Marcella Hazan’s ‘Essentials of Classic Italian Kitchen’)