Roast Chicken with Wasabi Goat Cheese and Tart Cherries and a Free Long-Winded Post!

Woof. I mean, like, really, woof. Emphasis on the woof part. If you came to the site for the insightful commentary on food, history, charming personal anecdotes about DH and the kids, and artful photography, get the hell out. For the next three years, I’m going to be complaining about Connecticut, law school, gluten, and home decor!

For the remaining three of you, Mom included, you’ll be pleased to know that my roving bachelor lifestyle has allowed me plenty of time to cook and study in equal amounts. It was refreshing to come back from a study session after a beast of a contracts case in anticipation of the meal I’d planned for The Bedfellow and I. I’ve finally finished my first week of law school- just 150 more of them, and I’ll officially be an attorney. Cool, right?

On another note, I’ve been trying to find ways to cook and interact with this new change in diet. As of this moment, I’ve cut approximately 98% of gluten out of my diet. It’s really difficult, but the change is positive and just makes me feel much better than I’ve been feeling. I’ve tried to take a centrist approach to it, in that I’m not eating gluten unless I’m presented with something so incredible, ephemeral, and perfect that the benefits outweigh the risks. Then, I can work around the crippling headache, chills, itchiness, tightness in my skin, sweats, general fatigue, and muscle aches.

As a note, and for clarification, I don’t profess to have any official gluten allergy or celiac’s disease. I have not been diagnosed by a doctor, nor have I made any other significant changes other than realizing the issue at hand- namely, that when I eat gluten, my body feels awful almost immediately after. It’s as simple as that, and I’ve been working to alter my diet to reflect this new need. Don’t think that I’m not trying to resist it, either. I broke the other night and ate a cookie and paid for it in physical ramifications severe enough to force me to lie down for a few hours until they subsided. It’s hellish and strange, but I’m working through it. I won’t stop looking for the best brownie until I’ve exhaustively worked through the long list of gluten-free products. And you’ll still see plenty of gluten-ridden products on the website, but The Bedfellow will be tasting them and relaying her notes to me instead. This isn’t so bad. Hopefully, it will encourage me to make healthier changes, and the ensuing energy and good feelings will help me maintain them.

So, last night, I made us roasted chicken roulades with wasabi goat cheese and tart cherries. The recipe was easy, and came from an abundance of food in my new apartment. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) I had a little round of chevre from Capri that I was excited to use, and The Bedfellow brought some powdered wasabi over. I pounded the chicken flat, and added the cherries, which I’d roasted with lemon salt and olive oil, to the cheese and stuffed the breasts with it. I roasted them in the juices leftover from the cherries, and topped them with wasabi powder and a little more lemon salt.

They were delicious, filling, and pleasantly spicy. This rambling, of course, is both to let you know that I haven’t overdosed on ramen noodles in a fit of panic with school, and also to announce Cookbook Week, which I’ll be starting next Friday. I have seven cookbooks, and I’ll be cooking a recipe from each, all gluten-free, to share with you and give you thoughts on my results. This one was my own, of course, but my trials and tribulations will be broadcasted as they come.


(Bonus GF Gratify pretzel and smoked almond chicken tenders with hot mustard pic!)

Dole Fruit Crisps Apple Cinnamon

Does the idea of following through with a recipe send you into a shock so cataclysmic that you enter a catatonic state? Are you so fearful of measurements and temperatures that your psyche literally shuts down? If so, Dole Fruit Crisps may be diagnostically appropriate for you. Filled with chunks of real fruit, a delicious oat and brown sugar crisp, and the comforting, calming effect of a Valium placebo, these innovative instant desserts allow you to escape to a blissful, premade fantasy world both inside your mind and mouth.

Dole sent over a selection of their new Fruit Crisps, along with a pair of fluffy socks, a cozy scarf, and an aromatic candle specifically for this purpose. I’ll admit, I was confused at first- did they want me to eat the Fruit Crisp or seduce it? But on a more serious note, I’d like to personally thank Dole for rescuing me from the brink of this existential suicide. I, too, was afraid to cook or bake because I saw no point in the exhaustive motions and eventual, self-hatred motivated caloric binge, but now I don’t have to. Not only does each Fruit Crisp only have 120 calories, it actually tastes like dessert.
As many critics drink water or eat a neutral food so their palate is objective and cleansed, so did I with the supplemental comforting clothing, stripping down to nothing but the scarf and comfortable socks. I observed both to be very cozy and was immediately lulled to a relaxed state, as they reminded me of beds and grandmothers, with the notable exception of my lonely nudity. I lit the candle, too (from a local New York candlemaker, which I wholly commend) and within mere hours, my studio was filled with the tantalizing scent of fresh apple crisp. Bam, it smelled like I actually did something for three hours. I felt accomplished and very cozy. With that in mind, I highly recommend setting the mood in such a fashion.
Then, I cracked open the Fruit Crisp. I decided to try Apple Cinnamon, as I was feeling frisky and spicy from all of the new things I’d done.Dole recommends trying their Fruit Crisps warm—personally, I prescribe them that way. Frankly, there’s no other way they should be eaten, as the difference in heating is the difference between crying yourself to sleep and writing a motivational Tweet. They taste awful when they’re cold. But warm, these are fantastic.  
The fruit is soft, and the base sauce, though weirdly gelatinous, is filled with spices and lets the flavor of the apples shine through without overpowering them. The crisp is heavily spiced in this – I can’t speak for the other flavors, but in this one, it was perfect, with a heavy cinnamon and nutmeg flavor. Dole nailed all of the aspects of a crisp in bite-sized, two-minute form. Both my hunger and mental stability are back to a maintained, relaxed state. Thanks, Dole! Remember, do not use Dole Fruit Crisps if you are in any way sensitive to delicious fruit, dazed with ennui, or allergic to fluffy, fuzzy socks.

Roasted Nectarine, Riesling, and Bacon Panini

Excessive? Nah. Not here. There’s a world of foie gras and French fries out there to explore. In comparison to the rows of éclairs at the bakery down the street and the wafting scent of waffles rising up to my apartment, this sandwich almost seemed pedestrian, or dare I say, healthy- in comparison. To celebrate completing most of my law school applications (!!!) I made dinner at home tonight, using up some nectarines and chopped bacon and part of the Poilâne loaf I’d purchased earlier in the week. My mission? A killer panini.

You wouldn’t expect to see panini in Paris, but they’re as common as croissants in some areas and street corners. While doing some photoresearch for my latest blog, Dogs of Paris, (check it out!) I got a craving for the filled baguettes and savory sandwiches and decided to go home and make one of my own. I started out by tossing sliced nectarine in cane sugar, salt, and pepper, then caramelizing it in rendered bacon fat. Deglazed the pan with a little Riesling, and smashed the whole thing between two pieces of Polaine’s famous brown bread and a few slices of Cousteron cheese. Nom.

Roasted nectarine and bacon panini
Ingredients (serves 2)
Four slices of brown bread
Two tablespoons of butter with sea salt crystals
Three ounces of Cousteron or other soft cheese, sliced or shredded
1/3 lb of chopped bacon
1 nectarine, sliced
1/2 teaspoon of cane or brown sugar
1/4 cup of Riesling or other white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Spread the butter on the bread and sprinkle cheese on each slice. In a medium-sized saucepan, start frying the bacon over a low heat, rendering the fat out and crisping it. Sprinkle the nectarine with sugar, salt, and pepper, and let sit for five minutes.
2.  Put the bacon on a plate, leaving the fat in the pan, and cook the nectarine over medium-high heat until soft and caramelized. Toss with the bacon and deglaze the pan with Riesling until it is reduced and forms a pan sauce. 

3. Spoon the toppings onto the bread and sandwich together, grilling until outside is toasted and cheese is melted. Serve warm with sauce on the side for dipping.

Riesling won’t know what hit it! And neither will you.

Crazy Apples Bubblegum Flavored Apple

As a food writer whose primary purpose is to highlight and comment on the insults of the food world, there are certain protocols to what makes and does not make sense to review. Limited edition products, new fast food items, and strange foreign products are all fair game. Things like Oreos and Cool Ranch Doritos are as much a part of any child’s body now as their pinkie fingers and appendices are. Nobody needs me shouting out into the internet about cream viscosity or flavor powder. Likewise, it’s silly to select things in the produce section. Like I’m really going to derail the kale industry by claiming that it tastes like grassy vomit. At least in the case of the new products, sometimes the commentary can be used as useful feedback or at the very least, quote fodder for later ad spots. Hint, hint.

Sometimes, though, there’s an anomaly in the sections I’ve vowed to not pick from. In today’s case, it’s Crazy Apples. There are products that define me as a food writer. This terrible, Dr. Moreau-inspired abomination is one of them. This is what separates the beasts from the bloggers, folks. An apple that science and God deigned to taste like Bazooka effing Joe. Why do they always take the healthy ones? Why, baby Jesus, why?!
Okay. So, following the success-ish of the Grapple comes Crazy Apples in three quease-inspired flavors, pomegranate grape, tropical fruit, and bubble gum. Being the masochists we are, bubble gum it was. Let’s start by getting the elephant out of the room, or in this case, the bubble gum out of the apple. This thing stinks to high hell. It smells like junior high school and organic co-ops. It’s housed in a manically advertisement-forward bag, quotes, trademarks and registered symbols slung all over the place.

Outside of the bag, the apple is ominously normal. It even has a Fuji sticker on it to assure you of its legitimacy. A likely story. This exterior appearance and promise of inner flavor brings to mind the classic suburban legend of strangers tampering with candy by injecting them with poison. But there’s no need to worry here. This time, a corporation is injecting them with love, so it’s all good. In actuality, Crazy Apples denies any injecting or prodding of any sort. We’re convinced they gas and/or soak them in bubble gum solution. Your guess is as good as any.
Sliced open, they still smell cloyingly sweet. Close your eyes and you’ll swear you’re in an old-timey candy store or drowning in a real-timey gum factory, dealer’s choice. Sliced open they look like all other apples but somehow appear as though they’ve absorbed just a little more water than your average fruit. A quick bite confirms that. They have a slightly, yet noticeably looser texture than other apples. The flavor isn’t too syrupy or sweet but it’s astringent from the thick, bitter skin of the Fuji apple. A middle piece yields the powdery-sweet flavor of bubble gum. Slightly grapey, mainly mild, but distinctly not apple.

I think the creepiest thing about these is that they masquerade as normal apples but taste somewhat tainted when taken out of context. At least when you’re eating a Mrs. Prindable’s you’re obviously comfortable and well aware of your ranking status as a certified hambeast. With these, you don’t know what you’re doing or when you’ll be kidney-free in an ice-filled bathtub. It’s not worth the price.

McDonald’s Blueberry Banana Nut Oatmeal

I reeled back like I’d been shot. “What did you say?”
He tipped the brim of his visor and smiled out at me. “I have to go find the blueberries. Not to insinuate that I’ve lost them, but I just don’t know where in the refrigerator we have them.” 
He smiled again. “We know three-syllable words, too!”
At first glance, this might sound normal- if you were at a diner, or a regular restaurant, or at home. But this was around 11:30 last night, and I was idling in front of a McDonald’s. The visor-bedecked speaker was my server, and I’d just been handed a promise of Bizarro-world proportions. Fresh blueberries? In my oatmeal? At McDonald’s, it’s more common than you think.

Oatmeal isn’t a new item here- back in 2010, McDonald’s debuted its Fruit and Maple oatmeal, a version that, though better than the McGriddles of the world, still had some nutritional and textural kinks to work out. I’m pleased to report that this new version is vastly superior. Last year’s version felt like two dollars’ worth of Quaker in a bowl and a lifetime’s worth of bragging rights to your significant other or sibling. I counted no less than sixteen blueberries in my oatmeal before I smacked myself in the head for being such a nerd about counting blueberries. Let that sink in. Sixteen fresh blueberries! There were at least two in each bite and they were plump, fresh, and tangy, a wonderful contrast to the sweet, nutty oatmeal.

I liked that it was slightly creamy and very smooth, tasting more like a baked oatmeal than your standard microwave job. I was a little disappointed to find neither fresh banana nor pieces of walnut, but the flavor remained. It had a great, wholesome flavor, malty and sweet, with a healthy dose of spices to keep the sugar and touch of maple syrup in check. It’s exceptional.

Opponents of the new oatmeal, Mark Bittman among them, have criticized the oatmeal in the past for its caloric value and needless additives. While it’s true that the new oatmeal, along with the humble pie I’m eating, doesn’t exactly need light cream and food starch, it’s a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to get here than to make. Why? Well, in the case of the previous oatmeal, which had mainly dried fruits and oats, it was a bit of a cop-out. I could easily make that. However, fresh blueberries are currently $5 per half pint, or roughly a cup of blueberries. And because this is Western Massachusetts, they’re organic to boot.

When I want breakfast, I don’t want to make a $20 investment to do so. Buying the exact ingredients it takes to make one serving of this- banana oatmeal ($5, for a banana and container of oats) walnuts ($5 for six ounces) light cream ($3/quart) and blueberries ($5/half pint) already has me out $18, or nine servings of this oatmeal at Mickey D’s. This version is easier to get, equally as delicious, and still one of the most nutritious hot breakfast items on the menu. 

Burger King Peach Granola Sundae

Soft serve ice cream at fast food restaurants is no astounding aberration from the Holy Grail of All Things Caloric. Restaurants like Shake Shack and Culver’s have turned it into a feat for the stomach and palate, with gourmet flavors of frozen custard and seasonal offers. And yet there’s nothing so quintessentially paired such as the classic hot fudge sundae from McDonald’s. Burger King has recently gotten into the soft serve game and sent me a gift card to try all of their new sundaes and shakes. Lacking the resources and time to write a fudge-stained suicide note, I decided to try them throughout the month and report my findings.

Burger King’s peach granola sundae is the last and latest of the big three to do their own spin on a seasonal sundae, following the success of the Wendy’s caramel apple Frosty and McDonald’s caramel apple sundae. Peach granola may not quite reek of fall as much as the other two, but it carries its own special place in the dwindling days before autumn really sets in. It bridges the gap between autumnal flavors and the last days of summer, a season that New England really seems to want to hang onto.
The composition of a sundae is key, as evidenced not only by the confusion in my server’s voice when I ordered this, as though I’d come from the King’s HQ and made it up on the spot to test her, and also when she made it. While I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo of her fatherly manager guiding her hands as she constructed it, trust me when I tell you it was worthy of an after school special. For $1.49, this is a neat little innovation on the part of the King. I think this is the first time BK has used peach as an ingredient, and it proves itself to be a worthy contender to more traditional sundae toppings. However, eating this is not an easy feat. If you’ve eaten frozen fruit before, whether before making a smoothie or just as a snack, you know how agonizingly cold it is to bite into one of those mushy, sweet pieces. It’s the same case in this sundae. Each bite had to be held in the mouth for no less than a chilly twenty seconds before the peaches began to thaw and the ice cream melted. The toppings retained the chill for much longer than they should have.
In this sense, it is worth noting that this is exactly the reason why a hot fudge sundae is so palatable. The counterbalance of hot and cold elements is comforting and adds a bit of variety and when it’s lacking in either, it ceases to be. With this, the balance was thrown off, and while the peach sauce had nice chunks of fruit and a sweet, jammy flavor, it was all ignored as I tried to diffuse the cold. Heating this up would be much tastier. The granola, applied in abundance, provided a nice crunch to the sundae, but lost its honeyed nuances in the sweetness of the ice cream and peaches. Eaten alone, it was fairly plain and bland. There never seemed to be enough granola to maintain a strong presence in each bite.
Overall, with a few slight changes to the sundae, I think this could be a strong contender for the upcoming fall season. I liked it enough to try it again, and as a die-hard chocolate lover, my endorsement for anything containing fruit is ground-breaking within itself. At the very least, it’s an innovative and different sweet treat than the standard sauce-drenched sundaes, and makes for a delicious seasonal dessert.

Birthday Sriracha Nectarine Crisp

Good news- I’m no longer MIA!

Bad news- I don’t think I have any readers in the immediate vicinity of this awesome kitchen. Because if you were, I’d hand out steaming bowls of this beautiful birthday crisp, of which we have leftovers, from Tuesday’s birthday bacchanal.
It’s been a whirlwind of a week for us. My new website is in its final stages of development. We’ve been spending some good quality time with family and friends, too. We started off last weekend by taking a trip down to my mom’s to start my birthday celebration and celebrate my father’s wedding, and throughout the week, extended the partying for a few days here and there.

On my actual birthday, we relaxed and hung out, and I made this beautiful crisp. Easily the best part of the weekend, tied for first place with today’s purchase of a Fur Real kitten to boggle our own kitten.
This recipe is from Budget Bytes, and it’s anything but budget-looking. Sriracha and nectarines seemed like a no-brainer, that is, in a marinade. In a crisp, though, I was skeptical. Using a sauce of honey, cinnamon, and sriracha, which, again, wouldn’t be out of place slathered on some chicken, humble nectarines are transformed into a fun dessert.
In this sense, it reminds me of the talking stuffed kitten. It’s a fun experiment with whimsical results and wasn’t a huge risk to take. I made a few changes to the recipe from the original version. I used a special apricot honey creme, courtesy of Honey Ridge Farms and their PR firm. The honey’s rich, deep flavor boosted the nectarines, and used about twice the amount of sriracha as called for in the recipe. I didn’t feel like the original featured the heat and prickle enough, but my modification really drove that point home. I added some hot cayenne pepper for color in the streusel part, but it disappeared while cooking.
The best part of this recipe was that it made a ton of crisp, and each 1/4, 1/3 cup serving was just enough to enjoy without going overboard. It wasn’t overly sweet and the heat made it easier to gauge when I wanted to stop eating rather than eating too much of it at once. I think next time I’d cut down on the butter and use about twice the cornstarch or tapioca to thicken it. It was a little soupy. It was an incredibly unique dessert, though, and paired perfectly with a Thai dinner and a spot of birthday wine, a poised yet quirky 2006 Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim. Delicious and filling, and a fantastic way to kick off another year. After all, what better dessert for a Riesling and Gewurz fanatic is there?

Trader Joe’s ¡Mango! ¡Mango! Fruit and Yogurt Gummies

After I work out, I reward myself with something small to eat. Usually, it’s gummies. Today I rewarded myself not for working out, but for sitting through the entirety of Ree Drummond’s premiere episode of her new show on The Food Network. Is there nothing that ginger buffoon can’t infiltrate? Even my sacrosanct workout ritual is now sullied with her pinched grimace. Soon, the grocery store. Soon, my sex life. So after my G ritual, as my pasty Swedish skin refuses to tan and laundry is for people with lives, I took a brief jaunt to Trader Joe’s to check out the latest goods.

Little did I know, of course, that the path of Hurricane Irene, mere incontinence when I arrived at the store, would lead me directly to the bombardment of bumper stickered Prius cars and corn oil powered bicycles hinting at the frenzy inside for the last cases of organic tofu chili and free range bottled kombucha. We escaped with a few necessities (read: frozen pizza) and these gummies, half of which we ate in the car on the ride home. These are new from Trader Joe’s, at least in our area, and are surprisingly made in Germany. Regardless of their provenance, they are exceptionally good. Their bite in relation to Sharkies or Haribo fare is very, very stiff, with an almost meaty, substantial chew. One gum takes about six or seven good chops to macerate it into oblivion.

The gummies came in three flavors, all incorporating mango into the chew. There was a plain mango gummy, a mango and yogurt, and a mango and passionfruit. Personally, I would have liked to see a mango chili as well. The molding was decent and did a good job at mimicking the rough shape of a mango. The texture wasn’t filmy or overly oily, but slick and smooth. Each flavor replicated the flavor of a mango, with a tangy, creamy, somewhat mild peachy flavor. They were quite jammy, with a richness similar to fruit leather with the sweetness coming mainly from the fruit without relying on too much extra sugar. The yogurt flavor added a sweet creaminess to its gummy, but didn’t really taste like yogurt. Of the three, our favorite was probably the passionfruit and mango as the tartness from the passionfruit complimented the mango beautifully. Unfortunately, there were very few of these in the bag. It was roughly 60% plain mango and 20% each of the yogurt and passionfruit gummies.

These were phenomenal and very well made. The chew of these was enough to tire our jaws out after half the bag and we finished the bag over the course of an afternoon. For a mere $1.99, these were not only an excellent value, but were a sophisticated way to enjoy a classic childhood treat. I’ll definitely get these again, and am hoping that Trader Joe’s continues to tinker with gummies.

Avocado week: Beverage

Riding on our Limered-induced addiction to bubble tea, Keepitcoming and I decided to try our hand at copying the avocado boba that Joe and co. have been churning out.

Needless to say, our prototypes for an avococktail were trashed and the avocado boba wasn’t quite the right texture, so we wound up making an avocado milkshake. Know ye, a judicious application of avocado will save you headaches later on from trying to slurp it out of the glass. The mixture gets extremely thick!

Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken Salad

Last night, Swagger, FF, and I took a jaunt in the jalopy so I could bribe them into eating some of the fast food world’s newest offerings. I ended up eating this one myself, the new Berry Almond Chicken Salad from Wendy’s along with their new Wild Berry Tea. The press release came in a scant three hours before I tried the salad, and boasted a plethora of things I love, including an exhaustive array of one specific component of the salad. Or so I thought. What with the recent mayonnaise-based chicken salad popularity in the Subway and Arby’s markets, I expected a similar coup from their female counterpart with the advertising focused on the trendy acai and fruit additions, but it turned out to look like most of the salads on the commercial market today.

All of the components of this salad were represented differently than how I’d expected them to be. With an absurd $6.99 price tag, I inwardly groaned. Not because I’d also just bought Swagger twenty five spicy chicken nuggets, but because I’d never willingly spent so much on a vegetable based salad before. From the get-go, the salad distinctly separates itself into two categories: ingredients that work well together, and ingredients that just fall short.
This being the first day of the salad’s nationwide debut, I was disappointed, but not surprised, that my local Wendy’s employees got the chicken wrong. Instead of the grilled chicken, one of the spicy chicken fillets was diced up in the salad. Oddly enough, this combination worked. With the nutty creaminess from the parmesan, the chicken’s spice was toned down and I found myself enjoying the different play of textures within each bite. The salad appears to give you your money’s worth in the parmesan department. The entire upper third of my bowl was filled with curly parmesan slices. The berries, though obviously fresh and juicy, came few and far between with each bite. The blueberries erred toward the anemic side and ended up uselessly rolling into the nether regions of the bowl, but the strawberries were the real star of the show, providing less flavor than the more powerful proteins, but a sweetness that balanced the dish out. The lettuce, some pieces clearly leftover from crappy iceberg salads and others, leafy and earthy, brought it all together with an interesting textural distinction and vaguely healthy air.
Honestly, if the salad had just stopped at chicken, cheese, berries, and a little arugula on top, I’d have been happy right there. With the addition of more textural elements, like the raspberry-acai vinaigrette and the toasted almonds, the salad took an irritating spin toward the overloaded. Both the nuts and the sauce completely disappeared behind the wakes of the more powerful flavors. The sauce left a wet, acidic aftertaste behind and the nuts acted as though they weren’t there at all. It bothered me that elements that definitely bumped the price and calorie level of the salad played no integral role in improving the flavor.
Overall, I was pleased that Wendy’s, in attempting to go beyond the traditional constraints of limp, over-dressed fast food vegetal fare, provided a good prototype for its imitators, but could not find enough to enjoy about this salad that justified its price tag and uniqueness. In a fast food market, this is an anomaly, but for home cooks, Wendy’s isn’t reinventing the wheel.