lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

crisp roast duck

Roasting a whole duck, so that the skin is crispy and the meat is still moist, is actually a very simple, classic process. I love to make this at the holidays, but I also make it once or twice in the summertime by using our grill instead of the oven. This is a “wow your friends and relatives” recipe that’s fun and easy to make. Here in Rockford, IL, the only way I find duck is frozen, which is fine, and typically they’re 5-7 pounds on average. You may need to adjust the cooking time on this recipe, according to the size of the duck and, of course, make sure the duck is fully thawed before beginning. how-to-make-whole-roast-crispy-duck-recipe-lola-rugula

whole crisp roast duck recipe

  • 1 5-7 lb. Pekin duck
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 425° Remove any giblets from the duck’s cavity. (the ones I buy also usually come with an orange sauce packet. I’ve never used it, but feel free) Also, remove any excess fat from the duck.

Prick the skin all over with a sharp-tined fork and then place breast-side up on a rack inside a roasting pan. Tuck the long flap of neck skin under the duck and also tuck the wings under the duck.

Pour the boiling water over the duck – you’ll see the skin tighten up, and that’s good! Let the duck cool for a few minutes and then pour the water from the cavity into the pan (you’re going to cook the duck with that water in the bottom of the pan, so leave it there!). With paper towels, pat the duck dry, inside and out, then season inside and out with salt and pepper.

Roast the duck, breast-side up, for 35 minutes. Then, using a pair of tongs, or a couple of spoons inserted in the cavity, turn the duck over and roast breast-side down for 40 minutes. Then, flip the duck back over to breast-side up cook for a final 40-45 minutes.

Remove duck from oven, cover loosely with a foil tent, and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Ta da! Isn’t it beautiful? Oh, and it’s so, so delicious! In the wintertime, I like to make a whole cranberry sauce to serve with it; the tartness is a perfect foil to the richness of the duck. In the summertime, I often just pair it with a beautiful salad tossed with balsamic vinegar. I’ll admit that when I do it on the grill, I don’t use a pan with a rack – I just put the whole duck into a throw-away aluminum pan and use offset heat. The duck sits in the little bit of water with this method, but on the grill, it tends to evaporate quickly, so it still works beautifully.

On a final note, feel free to pour all of the pan drippings into a clear glass container and refrigerate overnight. Then you can scoop off the duck fat and make some fried potatoes in it. Yum!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

braised chicken with lemon, sage and milk

It’s pretty rare that I come across a recipe that I’ve never heard of, or at least some semblance of, before. So when I came upon a Facebook post from The Kitchn, stating that Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk is probably the best chicken recipe of all time, I clicked through to read the article.

I’ve never heard of cooking chicken in milk. Ever. From anyone. The fact this recipe from The Naked Chef calls for such an odd mix of milk, whole cloves of unpeeled garlic, a cinnamon stick, fresh sage and lemon zest truly had me intrigued. Considering I’ve never been a huge fan of Mr. Oliver, I was a bit dubious about trying this. But then I Googled “Chicken in milk recipe” and, lo and behold, it seems the folks at The Kitchn are not the only ones who rave about this particular dish.

It almost makes sense to me, cooking chicken in milk because, once you add the lemon zest to the milk, you’re creating a homemade version of buttermilk. Now, most of us have had buttermilk fried chicken and can attest to the fact that it’s delicious. So, without giving it any more thought, I decided to try it.

I picked up a whole chicken on my next trip to the store, plucked fresh sage leaves from one of my many bushes and, on a cool, dreary Sunday, the cooking commenced. Is this the best chicken recipe ever? Hmmmm. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’ll tell you this: It’s pretty damned delicious.

Now, one thing left open for interpretation with this recipe is that Jamie simply calls for “1 good handful of sage”, so I may have gone a little easy on it. I also used a larger chicken than what he calls for, along with using a whole stick of cinnamon instead of a half stick. One of the interesting things that The Kitchn article points out is that Jamie’s recipe originally called for browning it in butter, but has since updated it to olive oil. Also, the Kitchn noted that covering the chicken for half the cooking time results in a more flavor-infused chicken. That made a lot of sense to me, so here’s how I made my rendition of this dish:

chicken braised in milk, sage and lemon zest recipe

chicken braised in milk, sage and lemon zest recipe

  • 1 whole chicken, 5 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Kerrygold butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-size cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 12 cloves unpeeled garlic
  • 10 leaves fresh sage
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 375°

Season the bird with salt and pepper. In a pan just large enough to fit the whole bird in, add the butter and olive oil. Brown the bird well on both sides. (I also used a pair of long tongs to hold the bird and brown the leg/wing sides a bit)

Remove chicken from pan and drain excess fat. Place chicken back in pan, toss in the rest of the ingredients and bake for 45 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and continue cooking for another 45 minutes. (total cooking time: 1 1/2 hours)

That’s it! What you’ll find when you open the oven door to remove the bird is a bubbling cauldron of deliciousness. I squeezed in 4 whole small red potatoes to the pan at the beginning and they cooked beautifully (and tasted wonderful).

One other thing Jamie’s recipe doesn’t specify is whether to cook the bird breast side up or down. I did mine up, so that the caramelization happened on top. But, after the fact, it appears The Kitchn cooked theirs upside down, immersing the breast in the sauce. (I’m judging strictly by the photos in their article) This would certainly add to the moistness and flavor of the breast meat, though even breast-side up, it turned out great.

Will I make this again? You bet! It was very easy to prepare and the results were terrific. Next time, I’ll add some more fresh sage and try it breast-side down, though.

Have you ever cooked chicken in milk? I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for stopping by.

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

oven roasted cornish hens

This recipe is proof that food doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated to be delicious. One of my favorite ways to do Cornish Hens is to rub them down with minced garlic, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper and fresh lime juice; the hens end up with a deep, intense flavor this way. They’re even better on the grill when they’re prepared like this; the grill amps up the flavor even more. But the easiest way to cook Cornish Hens, of course, is just to roast them in the oven with a bit of good oil and some salt and pepper. If you’re not afraid of using real butter, it will add a bit of richness to your hens and also aid in the browning process.

I like to halve my hens before roasting; they cook more evenly this way and brown up a bit nicer. To cut a hen in half, simply cut along the backbone on both sides with a very sharp knife and remove it. You can then press down on the hen to flatten it and cook it just so – you may also hear this preparation called butterflied or spatchcocked, depending on where you live, but it all basically means the same thing. The hens will cook more evenly this way.To , do the above step but then also cut the hen down the center of the breast bone.  This is usually the best way to serve them, as they make the nicest presentation and it’s also the easiest way to eat them.

For a nicer presentation, I do the above step but then also cut the hen down the center of the breast bone, cutting the hen completely into 2 parts.

easy roasted cornish hen recipe

Easy Oven Roasted Cornish Hen Recipe

  • 2 Cornish Hens, fully thawed if frozen. Be sure to check for any giblets stuffed into the cavities and remove them – these, along with the removed backbone, are great for stocks, gravies and other things, if you’re so inclined…I hate for anything to go to waste. 
  • 2 tablespoons good oil, such as olive or grapeseed; even canola will be fine. Or go crazy and use real butter – even a tablespoon of butter will help with browning and add a richer flavor.
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°

  • Prepare the hens as directed above, cutting them in half. Rub down with oil (or butter), salt and pepper.
  • Place in shallow roasting pan and roast for approximately 45-50 minutes
  • A few times during roasting time, spoon or baste hens with rendered fat from the bottom of the pan
  • If hens need a bit of help with browning, place pan with hens under broiler for an additional 5 minutes

That’s it…that’s all there is to it! I served mine on a bed of baby spinach for a light dinner. Sometimes it’s good to remember to not over-think your food – simpler really can be better.

easy roasted cornish hen recipeEnjoy!