James Beard’s Piquant Chicken

When I was making out the menus this weekend, I decided to consult James Beard for some chicken ideas, and the first one that caught my eye was his recipe for Piquant Broiled Chicken Halves.

Then, today happened. It started with a squirrel running under my tire and dying tragically. I hate it when that happens. Poor squirrel. Later on I bought groceries and even though I had my usual compulsively organized (by aisle and type of container) list, I kept having to backtrack for that one stupid thing that was under something else on the list and then there was this…child…I guess it was a child, but it sounded like some kind of electronic sonic weapon used by the government to incapacitate enemies…and I don’t think the child took a breath for 15 minutes. That was a little icing on the squirrel doughnut.

Then there were Highly Charged Issues with a certain son (no longer a child) of mine, involving parking at the Race coming up this weekend (NASCAR, baby!) and the apparent (to him) inability of people who handle these things to know what to do with all the cars that will be showing up there and how we need to get there the day before and stake out a place. O HAIL NO. That was sprinkles on top of the icing of the squirrel doughnut.

So, I decided what was needed was some serious pouting. I pouted. With vigor and the honed skill of a 47 year old Southern Housewife. After shedding a few tears of deep self pity, it was time to focus on something productive, and today’s menu featured this lovely chicken recipe.

James Beard’s recipes tend to be rich…and that was just what was called for since I wasn’t willing to drive the 3 miles to Daylight Donuts and get a chocolate frosted with sprinkles.

Also- I’d never split a chicken before. I can carve one like nobody’s business, but the whole split-it-in-half-take-out-the-backbone thing sounded…complicated. Until I remembered those Marvelous Kitchen Shears (heretofor used only for cutting roses) that my brother gave me for Christmas a few years ago, and sort of recalled having seen something on TV of someone cutting a chicken in half and that was all there was…easy as pie. First,, you cut up either side of the backbone and remove it, just chomp on through the ribs. Then, you fold the spineless bird open and cut through the breast bone. And there it is. No pictures because I had my hands full of raw chicken.

You know, I hate having chicken goop on my hands. I dislike any sort of goop, really. Slimy sticky wet stuff on my hands is gross and when I am working with chicken parts I have to wash the hands several times or become unable to function due to the grossness. I suppose I could wear gloves but that’s just as bad.

Ok anyway, the ingredients are simple and easy to find in any grocery store. That is another thing I like about his recipes. They’re interesting and delicious, but don’t require living in a large city to find the stuff.es

James Beard’s Piquant Broiled Chicken Halves
1 cup ground walnuts
6 shallots, finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter (I used olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt (I’ll use 1/2 tsp next time, it tasted salty to me)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Tabasco sauce
2 small chickens (2-1/2 pounds or so), split in half with backbones and necks removed
2/3 cup melted butter (I used olive oil)
1 teaspoon paprika

Combine the nuts, shallots, 4 tablespoons olive oil, salt, parsley, mustard, and several squirts of Tabasco to make a paste.


Loosen the skin on the chicken by siding your fingers between the skin and the meat (then compulsively wash them after each half), and stuff the paste under the skin (again compulsively washing your hands, and make note of the can of Badger Balm on the shelf for later when you realize how chapped your hands are). Put the chicken on a roasting pan, bony side up.

Combine the melted butter (Olive oil), paprika, and several dashes of Tabasco, and brush all over the bony side of the chickens. Put under a broiler for 15 minutes,4 inches from the heat, brushing once or twice while cooking (actually, I didn’t…and it was fine)

Turn them over, brush with the basting mixture, and broil for another 12-14 minutes.

Daisy guards the oven. Good dog.

mmmm that’s skin what needs to be picked.

The skin gets delightfully crusty, the shallots sweeten up, and the nuts are an amazing rich flavor and texture that go so well with the tender small birds. I used the amounts of Tabasco he recommended, and I think it could stand a bit more. Next time I might use half again as much. If you are not fond of spicy-heat, cut back on it a bit, but definitely use it, because the flavor is good in there.

It improved the quality of the day, especially served with a heap of buttery homemade mashed potatoes.


granola bars
August 21, 2012, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Breakfast, Easy but not quick, Fruit, Grains, Nibbles, Technique | Tags: , , ,

I have a son who is very health conscious. He rides his bike 25-30 miles every morning before he goes to class (he’s studying to be a computer engineer), and likes to eat whole-grain high quality food with plenty of protein goodness that doesn’t have anything in it he can’t pronounce.  Like me, he thinks store bought granola bars taste stale and weird.

So,a while back (maybe a year ago?) in the interest of making it myself, I took to investigating recipes. I’d never made granola bars before. The recipe I like is Alton Brown’s (seriously, I never met a recipe of his I *didn’t* like!), so I made them.

Gonna make me some GRANOLA BARS!

Only…too much honey. We’re not fond of a heavy honey flavor. Also…butter. Animal fats are supposed to be bad for you. I needed a non animal fat that wasn’t shortening (thus hydrogenated). Also…I didn’t have any sunflower seeds. A seed is a seed is a seed. How about a grain instead? I know! Quinoa! it gives a great crunch and it’s high in protein!  And…I don’t have enough sliced almonds. I’ll used 1/2 sliced almonds and 1/2 whole. Who doesn’t like whole almonds?

So, I ended up altering the bejeejums out of his recipe and totally kind of almost made it my own.  So be it.  Also? I doubled it. A 9×9 [an of granola bars would last about 10 minutes here. And I used a jellyroll pan, which makes for kind of thin bars, that bake nicely. And cranberries, because that’s what I had. And 1/4 cup of chopped hazelnuts left over from something else because WHY NOT!?

Granola Bars

preheat the oven to 350 degrees

4 cups rolled whole oats

1 cup quinoa, rinse (quinoa has a naturally occurring resin-like coating that rinses off. It’s not poisonous, but has a bitter flavor)

1 cup each sliced and whole almonds (or 2 cups sliced, or any other assortment of nuts. Walnuts would be lovely!)

grainy nutty goodness

Mix all this together in a big bowl. Put on a couple of cookie sheets or roasting pans or whatever, and bake for 15 minutes, until it all starts to smell a little toasty.

Reduce the oven to 300 degrees.

In a pot, mix together

1 cup dark corn syrup*

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup coconut oil**

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

tasty sweet syrupy stuff!

Bring this to a very slight simmer over medium heat on the stove- just so it’s starting to bubble around the edges and the brown sugar is dissolved.

In a great big bowl, mix together the toasty stuff from the oven, and 2 cups of dried fruit. I used cranberries. Raisins would be nice, so would dried blueberries, or apricots, or cherries, or a blend of stuff. 2 cups worth, tho.

Daisy, ever hopeful that something will be dropped, so she can assist in the cleanup. Good dog.

Pour the liquid sugar mix over the oats and stuff, and stir it in so everything is well coated and you don’t have any dry things. It will be lovely and sticky!

Smells GREAT!

Use a bit of coconut oil to grease a big jellyroll pan. I used a 10×14 stonewear pan, but metal or glass is fine. If you don’t have a pan that big with a lip,you can pat it out on a flat cookie sheet, since it won’t spread while it’s baking.

This is a Pampered Chef stoneware jellyroll pan.

Dump the mixture in the pan and spread it out evenly. Press it down with greased hands or a spatula.

Mash it in good. (That’s Southern for “press it in firmly”)

Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, until it starts to brown and smells lovely.

remove from the oven and press it down again. I used the flat bottom of a skillet to mash it, it’s hot so you probably don’t want to use your hands.  Let it cool for about 5 minutes, then carefully flip it over onto a piece of foil and it *should* drop onto it (if the pan was well greased). Let it cool a while longer then cut it into bars.

All bagged up!

*I used dark corn syrup this time. Then I made another batch and didn’t have enough corn syrup, so I used 1/2 cup of corn syrup (all I had!) and 1/2 cup of plum jelly. I like the jelly idea and will probably use it again, because I get many jars of plum jelly every Summer and we aren’t really jelly eaters around here.
**coconut oil adds a nice delicate coconut flavor to the bars. You can also use plain vegetable oil or butter. I wouldn’t use olive oil. Wrong sort of flavor.

If you like, add a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

Use any sort of nuts! Play around with the fruits, add MORE if you want to! In the second batch, that I used the plum jelly in, I scrounged the pantry and found many bags of dried fruits that didn’t have enough of anyone kind for a recipe of anything, but all together made about 3 cups worth, so I made extra fruity bars with walnuts and no quinoa…they have currants, cherries and cranberries.
The main thing is the technique and proportion of syrupy stuff to dried oaty stuff. Mash it all firmly into the pan before and after baking, let them cool before cutting, that sort of thing.