Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #98
I'm no longer middle-aged unless I am destined to be the oldest living person (except for that Methusela guy—he was really old). However, it seems that life is zipping by at a faster and faster pace.
Just moments ago I saw this on Facebook:
Can we please just stop the frantic pace for a few minutes? Let's be thankful for the here and now and count those darned roses. Life is a gift, don't wish it away in anticipation of the next big "thing."
Relax. Breathe in, breathe out.
Let's grab a cup of coffee and sort through the letters in the mailbox. I'm in no rush; let's just take our time and have some fun together. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.
Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.
I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.
I had several questions this past week from Flourish Anyway.
Recipe for Pollo Loco
My family loves pollo loco. Is there a recipe you can suggest so I can make it for them at home?
El Pollo Loco, Inc. is a franchise restaurant chain in the United States that specializes in Mexican-style grilled chicken. The first store opened in Sinaloa, Mexico in 1975 and by 1979 the chain had expanded throughout northern Mexico. In 1980 they opened their first USA location; as of January 2019, there are over 500 El Pollo Loco restaurants in the Southwestern United States. The company website explains that what sets their chicken apart from any others is that it is lime-juice marinated and slow-roasted for perfectly crisp skin, and moist, flavorful meat.
Although EPL grills their chicken, it is possible to achieve that crispy-skin in your kitchen, even in the dead of winter. Have you ever heard of “chicken under a brick?” Yes, you really use a brick (a clean one, wrapped in a double-thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil). While the chicken cooks on the lowest heat you place a brick on top. This ensures that the skin of the chicken makes perfect contact with the bottom of the pan—that’s where the magic happens.
I don’t know how Flourish’s fave chicken place cooks their chicken—do they grill a whole chicken and then whack it into pieces, or disassemble the chicken first and then do the grilling? I’m going to recommend cooking the chicken whole, but we’ll first remove the backbone so that it will rest flat in the cooking pan. (If you remember my cooking lexicon of long ago, this is called spatchcocking).
Equipment You Will Need:
- Poultry shears to cut out the backbone of the chicken (or have your butcher do this for you)
- Medium-sized mixing bowl
- Wire whisk
- Measuring cup and spoons
- Large baking dish or zip-lock plastic bag large enough to hold the spineless chicken
- Two large clean bricks
- Heavy-duty aluminum foil to wrap the brick (see Note below)
- 12-inch high-sided roasting pan (cast iron is best)
- Instant-read thermometer
Note: If you don’t have bricks, you can substitute a slightly smaller (10-inch?) cast-iron skillet.
- One 4-pound chicken, backbone removed
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon finely minced jalapeno pepper (remove seeds; see Note below)
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt (Kosher, not table salt)
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
Note: If you don’t want a lot of heat, remove the membrane from the jalapeno—that’s where the fire is.
- Place the chicken, skin-side up, on a sturdy work surface. With the palm of your hand, press down on the middle of the chicken to crack the breast and flatten the chicken.
- Whisk together all of the next 8 ingredients (except for the cooking oil) in the bowl; reserve ¼ cup of the marinade.
- Place the chicken in the baking dish or zip-lock bag and pour in the remainder of the marinade. Get your hands in there and massage the chicken, making sure that all of the surfaces are touched by the marinade. Refrigerate (covered if using the baking dish, zipped and placed in a large bowl if using the bag) at least 12 hours or overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F.
- Pour cooking oil in the 12-inch roasting pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Place the chicken, skin-side up, in the pan. Place the bricks or 2nd skillet on top to weigh down the chicken.
- Transfer to preheated oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. The thickest part of the breast should register 150 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer.
- Carefully remove from the oven and remove the weight on top. (Watch out, it’s hot!) Let rest 10 minutes, drizzle with remaining ¼ cup marinade, and serve.
How to Use Up Grape Tomatoes
Second question — What should I do with too many grape tomatoes? They are running out of my ears. Can I cook them and use them in a recipe?
Flourish, you can put those tomatoes directly into the freezer (removing the stems first of course). Whenever you want you can use them as you would canned tomatoes. If you don't like the skins, they will slip off easily after they are frozen.
You can also roast them first which makes them more flavorful (and eliminates the skins) and then turn into tomato sauce. Here's a link:
While we're on the topic, oven-dried tomatoes are flavor bombs. If you have the time, do this recipe. I love sun-dried tomatoes and always buy a HUGE jar of them at Costco.
Here are a few more ideas:
Your garbage disposal is not a goat. (Actually, even goats aren’t goats, and by that, I mean that the cartoons depicting a goat is a tin-can chewing refuse collector are inaccurate and just plain wrong.) Don’t put things down there that are not food—twist ties, pull tabs, and cigarette butts (yuck) don’t belong in there. Add another item to that list, one that seems so small an innocent that even I must confess to committing this transgression a time or two—produce stickers.
They’re small but (good grief) they are not biodegradable (why not, but until I become Czar this probably won’t change) and in time they will accumulate, little by little, clinging to the cutters of your disposal and/or the interior of your pipes. By the way, because they live forever they also should not go from kitchen to compost pile or yard waste recycling bin.
Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.
Here's a link to that Table of Contents.
I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.
Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.
© 2019 Linda Lum