We are all on the hunt for the perfect hack. Come on, you know what I’m talking about and if you don’t; you should. A hack is one of those clever little tips or tricks that save time, money or both. Some hacks work. Some don’t. For instance, placing a wooden spoon on top of a pot will not keep it from boiling over. However, perhaps you have trouble unrolling the duct or packing tape. Next time, slip a toothpick under the end before tossing it back in the junk drawer. You’ll always find the end with ease.
Probably my favorite hack of all time is the little black dress. It’s simple and, at least in my vivid imagination, elegant and slimming. Not to mention that it works no matter what the occasion; cocktails, dinner, funerals, even weddings. Yes Mom, even a wedding. If you’re old enough to have been around awhile, you remember when women didn’t wear black to a wedding. Considered inappropriately somber at best and a passive-aggressive protest at worst, it just wasn’t done.
Of course, a few of us might be extrapolating the little black dress thing a bit too far. I’m also a fan of the little black skirt and black jeans, t-shirts, turtlenecks, sweaters, jackets and, and, and …
Anyway, enough of that. When it comes to hacks, kitchen tips and tricks are always in great demand. Since the wooden spoon thing doesn’t work, I guess I should offer up a few that do. Like onions …
Unless you are in need of a good cry (and who isn’t from time to time), there are a couple of tricks to avoid tears when cutting an onion. First, use a good, sharp knife for a clean cut. Dull blades release more onion fumes. In addition, a sharp knife will make short work of the onion, giving you less time to cry. While you’re at it, breathe through your mouth instead of your nose and open a window or plug in a fan to send the fumes in another direction. Alternatively, kitchen gadget lovers can invest in a pair of onion goggles. If your kitchen already has way too many gadgets, slip on your swim goggles or your kid’s snorkel mask.
While garlic doesn’t make you cry; peeling it can be tedious and stink up your fingers. The easiest way I know to peel garlic is simply to smash it. Place a clove of garlic under the flat side of your favorite chef’s knife and give it a whack. The papery skin pops right off and you are ready to chop.
Speaking of smashing things, do you love olives but worry that one of your guests or kids will break a tooth on a pit? You can pit olives in a flash. Place the flat side of a chef’s knife on top of the olive and hit the knife with your fist. The pit pops right out.
Not comfortable hitting a sharp knife? Take a can – whatever you find in your cupboard that easily fits in your hand and has a little weight behind it. Carefully clean the lid and then crush the olive or garlic clove with the can. Again, the papery skins pop right off and pits slip out easily.
Yes, yes, I know you can buy garlic powder or jars of minced garlic but your dish will not taste the same. As for those cans of pitted supermarket olives? Sure, they’re easy but you’ll miss out on a lot of variety and flavor.
Okay, one last quickie. Avoid a crumbly mess by cutting soft cheeses with dental floss or nylon fishing line. Worried it will somehow taste funny? Please, use new, unused fishing line or plain dental floss, also unused.
That’s it for now but the list goes on and on. Bon appétit!
8 chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 red onions, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and then in 1/4-inch wedges
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2-1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup your favorite olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons butter (optional), cut in small pieces
Garnish: fresh, chopped parsley
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken, skin-side down in the hot roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chicken at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, put enough olive oil in a large skillet to lightly coat and heat on medium-high. Add the onion and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, toss to combine and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Stir in 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, 1/2 cup wine, the mustard and herbs and bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives, capers and cognac.
Turn the chicken and, adding more stock and/or wine if necessary, spoon the vegetables and sauce in and around the chicken. Return the pan to the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue roasting until the chicken is cooked through and golden, about 30 minutes more. Check the chicken after 15-20 minutes and add more stock and/or wine if necessary.
Transfer the chicken to a platter or individual plates. Add the butter to the vegetables and stir until melted and well combined. Top the chicken with a spoonful of onions, olives and sauce, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
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Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
What about you? What’s your favorite kitchen hack? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2015