Roasted Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

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Over the years that I’ve been cooking food, one of my go-to favorites is roasting a good free-range or organic chicken to keep the kitchen warm, comfy, and well stocked for meals during the coming work week. I use a simple technique from Alice Water’s Simple Food Cookbook to almost always keep my roasted chicken cooked perfectly. First by roasting it at 400 F degrees breast side up for 20 minutes, then 20 minutes breast down, and finishing it a final 20 minutes by cooking it one more time breast up  to brown the skin and cook it through.  I put a little spin on this dish by adding chopped vegetables as a bed for the chicken to roast on a flat  hotel pan. This technique captures the essence of the chicken and any of the wonderful juices that drop into the pan can be absorbed into the vegetables. I think roasting the chicken with the vegetables add a  perfect balance of flavors to a dish that is perfect for the fall and winter vegetables and equally ideal with spring and summer vegetables.

  1.  One small to medium chicken (Preferably organic or free-range chicken for the best taste!)
  2. Vegetables for roasting. I used carrots, parsnips, onions, and red potatoes. I like to keep my vegetables seasonal. I usually roast  root vegetables in this dish. I sometimes add whole small tomatoes in the summer. Feel free to be creative!
  3. 2 large onions or 3 small onions
  4. Olive oil
  5. salt to taste
  6. pepper to taste
  7. Herbs (Rosemary, Sage, Thyme)
  8. Dry or stale bread. I usually keep my old bread in the freezer. It isn’t necessary to include the bread in this recipe.
  9. 1 fresh lemon if needed or desired for added acidity to the chicken and roasted vegetables.

First use salt and pepper to season the whole chicken and try to get the chicken to room temperature at least an hour before you roast it. During this time you can stuff the chicken with herbs in the cavity of the chicken or you can cut slits into the skin and put herbs under the skin.

Turn the oven on to 400 F degrees to preheat the oven for roasting.

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Clean and cut your vegetables into smaller pieces that will make the vegetables with the chicken cook equally. You can have a look at the pieces in the above photo that I cut to give you a sense of size.

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Cut the bread into small pieces close to equal size. Not too small because you can burn them but not too big because you want them to absorb the flavors of the chicken.

Combine the vegetables and bread in a large bowl. Season with salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and olive oil. You can decide how much olive oil you want but I prefer to go lighter with olive oil because the goal here is to get the juice and fat from the chicken to coat the vegetables.

Place the vegetables and bread on a flat hotel pan.

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Place the chicken on the vegetables breast side up.

When the oven is at 400 F degrees put the chicken and vegetables in the oven on the middle rung of the oven. If your oven tends to burn the tops of food place the pan with the vegetables and chicken on a lower rung. Close the oven.

Turn the timer on for 20 minutes.

After the first 20 minutes quickly pull the pan out and put it on a stable heat resistant surface. Quickly and carefully remove the chicken and place it on a plate. Take a spatula and move the vegetables around the pan. Pay attention to where the juices have dripped on the pan. Try to combine the drippings with the vegetables to coat them evenly. Don’t worry if there isn’t much sauce because you’ll get plenty as the chicken cooks for the next 20 minutes.

Quickly put the chicken back breast side down  on the pan with the vegetables and place it back in the oven to cook for another 20 minutes.

After the second 20 minutes pull the pan out again and repeat the step of carefully and quickly pulling the chicken off the hotel pan and stirring the vegetables to absorb the drippings from the pan. Be sure to try and scrape any of the vegetables that have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan. Do not remove them. Simply stir them. Also, if you notice any of the vegetables starting to cook faster than other vegetables you can place them under the chicken. Place the chicken breast side up and put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes.

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After the final 20 minutes, pull the chicken and vegetables out of the oven and investigate what you’ve cooked. You can tell that the chicken is cooked if you look at where the thigh meets the body of the chicken and see if it comes apart easily when you pull it. If it doesn’t looked cooked, put it in the oven for another 5 minutes. If the vegetables look like they will not take another 5 minutes, quickly take the vegetables off the pan and place it into a large bowl and put the chicken back into the oven.

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When the chicken is cooked place it onto a chopping board. Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes. During this time you can mix the vegetables and season them to taste. I like adding a little lemon juice for acidity.

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Carve the chicken when ready and plate the vegetables first and then plate the chicken on top. I usually make a little salad to go with this dish but in the photo I just added some arugula leaves for some fresh textures and flavors.

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Bon Appetit!

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My Summer Project 2013

Invite for Voices of Taraz Project

Throughout the summer I’ve been working on a project called Voices in Taraz in Kazakhstan. Above is the invite which has already past at this point in time. The exhibit was wonderful and we had a great learning experience. We had a blog for the whole project which was in Russian and English: http://voicesoftaraz.blogspot.com/p/the-idea.html House and Fruite tree Two Buildings in Taraz

Lots of incredible artwork came out of the exhibit! I made some video installations, took lots of photographs and most of all my love for watercolor was fully explored this last summer. I painted my favorite subject which are houses!

Watercolors

And people.
Opening eventVideo Installation and Artwork Viewing a video Viewing Art

We had a wonderful exhibition at the Central Exhibition hall in Taraz! There were all sorts of different people from the community who came! We were really happy to see all of the wonderful people who came to talk about their city and local history!

Gulnara, Daniel and Eva

The artist Gulnara Kospakova (Left) Me, and Anthropologist Eva Marie Debuisson on my right

Opening event

Farukh Badykhov and Sax Player

Event Opening

We got to collaborate with a bunch of really wonderful people too! That’s the real power of art when you can bridge the everyday with a project about their city and they can all contribute a little to the project to make it something really fun! 

Pinata and Children 2 Pinata and Children Pinata and participants in Taraz

My favorite part of the project may have been making a pinata for the kids as a memory of my own childhood to share with them. It wasn’t easy to do something like this because they had little idea how to play this game. I had to teach them plus I had to build the pinata. They had a great time and someone from the exhibit said they were going to build their own too!

I hope to make more projects in the near future! We’ll see what happens next!

Chez Panisse Restaurant and The Famous Bunya-Bunya Tree

Chez Panisse Restaurant

Most recently in the news, Berkeley California’s Chez Panisse Restaurant has been damaged by a fire. When I heard the news I was immediately shocked! Soon afterwards many of my friends contacted me to tell me the bad news. Of course I checked the news and there it was on the computer screen on Shattuck Avenue all cluttered with fire engines and news reporters.

I hear it will look different because they had to replace the front porches. I am sure something exciting is coming our way! I also hear it will re-open in June just in time for those wonderful summer salads.

Off the top of my head I would say my favorite salad is the butter lettuce salad with roasted beets and green goddess dressing. Oh but there are so many beautiful salads there! My mouth is watering from my memories! What’s your favorite salad at Chez Panisse?

I took the time to make an image of the restaurant and the Bunya-Bunya tree to meditate on the place,to remember all the wonderful staff meals I’ve eaten there and the great moments I’ve had there. I learned so much from this place and I am truly lucky to have been a part of it. In fact it’s still a part of me every time I make a vinaigrette for a salad, grill a hanger steak, or take half the day to make a cassoulet.  The spirit of Chez Panisse is still with me and I take it wherever I go.

Besides the food, the other great thing about Chez Panisse are the people that work there. They are the real heart and soul of the restaurant’s daily life. A most amazing group of people that I find myself missing here on the East Coast. If it wasn’t for this wonderful group of people that work there it just wouldn’t be the same place.

Tacos with Potatoes and Chorizo are as American as Apple Pie.

Tacos with Potatoes and Chorizo

I am a Mexican American. I was born and raised in California living in The Bay Area most of my life. My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were born and raised in the United States. In fact I have roots in this country before it was the territory of the U.S.!

Life hasn’t been easy for us Mexicans in the U.S. In fact our numbers were dwindling until the mid-twentieth century. When the Japanese were placed into internment camps because of their supposed threat to national security during WWII, this left the western half of the country without  farm laborers. So came The Braceros ( The Laborers) from Mexico which was a government guest worker program that started a shift in the trend of the declining number of Mexicans here in the U.S.

With this long history of Mexicans in the U.S., it always astonishes me that people still ask me where I’m from, where was I born or how long have I have lived in this country. In fact I am not an anomaly when it comes to being a Latino that was born in the U.S. There are in fact millions of us with roots reaching back well into the Spanish conquest that are primarily mixed race Spanish/European/African/Asian and American Indian blood lineage throughout the United States today.

Growing up, the taco was my sandwich. It’s not to say I didn’t have Bologna and cheese sandwich like everyone else here but luckily, my meals were interspersed with tacos made with flour tortillas often filled with scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes for my breakfast and fried corn tortillas with stewed meats for lunch and dinner. We always called anything made with flour or corn tortillas, tacos not burritos. We didn’t use the name burrito until the rise of the Taquerías in Northern California somewhere in the 1980’s.

I hope you enjoy this wonderful and simple dish. It’s roots are in the American West and in fact just as American as apple pie!

Tacos con papa y chorizo

Tacos de Papa con Chorizo (Potato Tacos with Mexican Chorizo )

Mexican Chorizo (The Spanish Chorizo is a different sausage but it could work if it’s the only sausage available)

3 or 4 large Potatoes (I prefer Russets)

Corn Tortillas

Corn Oil (Any frying oil)

Cotija or Jack Cheese

Scallions or diced white onions

First put the a pot of hot water to boil. Taste the water. It should be salty like the sea. Place the potatoes in the water and cook until the potatoes are soft. Test the potatoes by sticking a fork into the potato. If the fork goes in all the way easily, the potatoes are cooked.

Take the potatoes out and let them cool. When cool enough to touch peel the skin from the potatoes by hand. It is important to cook the potatoes first because the Russets will fall apart in the water. After, mash the potatoes with a fork.

Take the chorizo and fry it on a pan. Pour the oil that comes from the chorizo from the pan into a separate dish and discard. Mix the cooked chorizo with the mashed potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Next fill a shallow frying pan with frying oil to about the depth of the taco being  halfway submerged. Heat the oil to less than medium. It is important to not let the oil burn!

Now take the  tortillas and fill them with about two tablespoons of potatoes and chorizo. Fold the tortillas and gently place the tacos on their sides into the hot oil. Be sure to watch the temperature of the oil. Allow the tacos to cook for about 4 minutes on each side. Pull the tacos out of the oil and be sure to drain the oil. Try to put as many tacos into your frying pan as you can fit on their sides that  your pan allows, this will maximize your cooking time. Cook all the tacos and then add the cheese and chopped scallions. Add salsa or hot sauce to taste.

Snug Harbor on Untapped Cities New York

Beautiful old architecture in Snug Harbor

Beautiful old architecture in Snug Harbor

I’ve recently published an article in Untapped Cities New York about the Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island. Check it out and leave a comment if you can. Here’s the link: http://untappedcities.com/newyork/2013/05/03/snug-harbor-staten-island/

A country lane in New York City!

A country lane in New York City!

The front entrance and gate house to Snug Harbor Cultural Center

The front entrance and gate house to Snug Harbor Cultural Center

Buildings on the grounds of Snug Harbor

Buildings on the grounds of Snug Harbor

A Simple Spicy Pasta with Tuna, Fennel, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Pasta with Pecorino

My wife and I are notoriously picky pasta eaters. We find it hard to go to restaurants and order pasta. With the price of food in restaurants it’s hard to justify a mediocre pasta dish. Therefore we tend to eat our pasta dishes at home. There is nothing more satisfying than a simple, spicy, and flavorful dish of pasta with the ingredients you can find in your own refrigerator.

Fortunately along the way in life I’ve been lucky to experience great pasta dishes working at Chez Panisse in Berkeley California. Still a young bus boy I was ordered to go on vacation not knowing I even had vacation from the office manager Penny Dedel. I decided it would be a good idea to learn little about where everyone said our food was coming from by taking my bicycle on a tour and eating everything I found along the way. Places like Italy, France, or the regions in and around the Mediterranean Sea were geographical locations that our menus pointed towards as an influence and it sounded like a great region to ride a bicycle. Soon after discovering I had a months worth of vacation I bought a ticket to Paris, France, purchased bicycle racks, panniers, sleeping bag, and tent then packed my touring bicycle in a box.

Soon after arriving in France I put together my bicycle and spent a good week eating my way through Paris.  I could have stayed in Paris riding along the narrow streets and wide avenues, eating every croissant and baguette in town but my real goal was to bicycle tour through Italy. After the first week in France I made my way by train to Rome.

Daniel in Japan on a bicycle

On a later culinary trip to Japan.

From Rome I rode my bicycle to Northern Italy meandering along the way and eating everything I could on my quest to understand Italian food and to stay nourished on my long rides.  Along the way  to and from small villages I quickly understood that Italian cooking was something bigger than I had experienced before and that seemed rooted in the region yet also not the stereotypical food that I had eaten in the Italian restaurants in my native home of the Central California Coast. I learned a great many lessons about food from this trip and one important lesson was to never truly follow the rules that food should be one way and nothing else. There are many guidelines to follow but when it came to Italian food I could see from my experience riding my bicycle that people ate what they had available to them and in season which reminded me of our dear old restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It made me smile when I realized how close the food we ate everyday there at the staff meal really came pretty close if not sometimes surpassed the real thing.

The below pasta recipe is pretty simple. I’m writing in general terms when it comes to this recipe and you can add whatever you want or subtract what you want to the recipe. Make sure you keep yourself aware with what is going on when cooking. Every pasta dish is a little different and that makes it fun. Take note what you like about this dish and what you don’t like. The most important thing about this dish is to enjoy the food that  you make.

Pasta with Pecorino Romano

Spicy Pasta with Tuna, Fennel, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

First chop the onions, carrots, and fennel to near equal size or shapes.  I generally use a heavy bottomed iron pan.  I add a generous amount of olive oil to the pan to evenly coat the vegetables.  Turn the stove on to about medium high. Add the onions, carrots and fennel to the hot oil. Make sure the oil doesn’t get too hot because it will burn.  I also make sure that I watch that the there’s enough oil for the vegetables to cook evenly. Stir the vegetables occasionally so they do not burn and then lower the heat to above medium. I wait for at least 10 minutes till the onions, carrots and fennel start to caramelize but try not to cook them too long because you still want a  little life in them and not over wilted vegetables that all taste the same. Often more than not add more olive oil along the way to continually bring out the flavors of the food I’m cooking. Next I add hot pepper flakes, capers, and sun dried tomatoes to the pan. I let this cook for another 3 minutes and then I add minced garlic and let it cook for a couple of minutes longer. Try to time the pasta  to go along with your vegetable cooking. I usually get a big pot of salty water boiling (the water should taste like the sea!) with a splash of olive oil in it as soon as we decide that we want to eat pasta. Add the canned tuna with the olive oil to the pan. When the pasta of your choice is finished cooking pull it from the water and add it directly to the pan and mix. If your pan is too shallow, transfer everything to a large bowl and mix. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper,  and more olive oil to taste. Transfer the ingredients to pasta dishes and add a firm cheese (we used Pecorino Romano) to finish it off. Garnish with more lemon juice, more hot pepper flakes, chopped fennel fronds if available and chopped parsley. I’m notorious for adding a ton of olive oil so it’s not unheard of for me to add more olive oil to the dish at the very end. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients:

1 Canned Italian tuna in olive oil.

1 small fresh fennel bulb cleaned and sliced. (Save the small fronds on the top to chop and garnish the pasta like you would with chopped parsley)

1/2 a package of pasta of your choice

1 medium sized onion chopped

1 large carrot or two small carrots chopped

A pinch of dried hot pepper flakes

1 tablespoon of capers

1/4 cup of Olive Oil

4-5 sun dried tomatoes chopped

2 small cloves of garlic minced

A small sprig of parsley chopped and fennel fronds chopped to sprinkle on top

1 teaspoon of lemon

Black pepper

Salt

Morningside Park in Harlem, New York

Morningside Park

A Polaroid Land camera photo I took of the park from above.

Morningside Park may be one of the most overlooked parks in Manhattan  because it sits next to one of the greatest parks in the world Central Park. Unlike Central Park which occupies a large mostly flat part of Manhattan, Morninside Park is partly on a hill which can give you some great views of the city of Manhattan.

Morningside Park was built by those same landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux that built Central Park and it is located a couple of blocks from the north western corner of Central Park and divides lower West Harlem from the Morningside Heights neighborhood that encompasses Columbia University.

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A well manicured park with just the right amount of wilderness in an urban setting. Lots of hills to look out toward Harlem.

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Lots of comfortable places to sit in and around the park. In the warmer months you will spot many locals sunbathing and barbecuing.

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Handsome stately architecture and many cultural institutions in and around Morningside Park

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A small path that follows the hill above Morningside Park gives you the feeling of solitude much needed in a big city.

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I spotted this beautiful bottle halfway submerged in the ground in one of the trails here. It made an excellent greenhouse for some local flora.

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A basketball court full of children. Note there are plenty of well managed bathrooms in the area.

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Some early spring flowers

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The ground cover is well on its way for spring!

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Another beautiful old apartment building facing Morningside Park


Morningside Park is a wonderful place with a shaded dog run, a children’s recreation center, several basketball courts, a small pond filled with turtles (seen in the warmer months), a track for running, small trails for walking and wonderful views of the city from the top of the hill above the park.  A must visit for those who are interested in beautiful hilltop views of Harlem and a pleasant peaceful walk in a shaded, green park setting.

For more information click here: The Friends of Morningside Park