I don’t know the origin of the expression, “Mind your own beeswax,” but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. Minding my beeswax, er business. The Universe has sort of forced me to. It’s easy for me to pour myself fully into the operational side of Plan to Plate, searching for creative ways to utilize fresh ingredients, planning yummy dinners for clients, cooking up brightly colored meals, and delivering happiness in the form of food. The process is exciting, empowering, and straight up fun.
More difficult for me, is nurturing the business side of things. With my hands busy chopping, stirring, and washing a billion dishes, it’s tricky to focus on website development, marketing, and meetings with professionals who can help me to grow. However, since my website was hacked earlier in the year, and several of my clients have been experiencing financial struggles, I have felt compelled to funnel my energy into such tasks.
Early mornings and long days, hard work, reflection, and two tech-savvy friends have afforded me the tools to rebuild my website alongside my blog. It’s not fancy, but I hope that a prospective client will be able to sense my passion for food, my warmth and enthusiasm, and my dedication to making life easier for folks, one dish at a time. The exercise of reconsidering what I want the world to know about me and Plan to Plate has been surprisingly cathartic. It’s interesting to assess how my business has morphed over time, how much I have learned, and how I define success. I’ve taken big strides, and I feel proud of my progress.
Figuring out next steps for Plan to Plate is a layered and slightly intimidating experience. If money wasn’t a blockade in so many ways, I’d have a store front- maybe a little cafe- where I could share my food with many, and still provide healthy meals for clients to enjoy at home. I could sell my chicken salad, dressings, sauces, etc. I’d always offer crazy delicious strange-grain salads, well-built sammiches, and soups that would blow people’s minds. I’d utilize only the freshest seasonal veggies and source the finest meats. We’d smoke our own turkey and pork butts, and roast our own super succulent chickens.
Ahh, I digress.
The reality is that money is a necessary evil. So, I’m taking it all one step at a time, tapping into friends and locals who are experts in business, law, marketing, web design, photography, accounting, and cooking. Knowing that I have a support system on hand is key to my survival and sanity. And I keep repeating my sage husband’s words of wisdom in my head. He reminded me that Plan to Plate has always ebbed and flowed. Every time I hit a low point and start to panic, loads of opportunities are on the horizon. He speaks the truth. This cycle has shown itself more than a couple of times over the past three years. This time around, I have deliberately chosen not to panic, but to invest my energy into exploring new avenues for success and growth.
I appreciate your patience with me, as my time to write has been limited. I think that after you make this meal,
you’ll believe that it was worth the wait. So, I give you Roasted Whole Chicken with Stone-ground Grits, Wild Mushrooms, and Brussel Sprout Leaves with Roasted Pepper and Sundried Tomato Pesto.
The chicken is based on this recipe from Barbara Kafka, which Adam stumbled upon one day. He sent the recipe to me in an email saying, “This almost looks too easy for great chicken. We should try it.” And try it we did. Thank the Lawd. It’s simple to execute and yields tender, juicy, mouthwatering results.
For the chicken, preheat oven to 500°.
1 whole chicken, room temperature, giblets removed, wing tips cut off. Ours was a little more than 4 lbs
4 T butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 lemon, quartered
4 cloves garlic
good couple handfuls of fresh herbs, whatever you have on hand will work
Season the cavity of the chicken well with salt and pepper. Then, start stuffing the cavity with your goodies. First some butter, a lemon wedge, some herbs, a garlic clove or two. Repeat this process until you’ve got the hole all plugged up with aromatics and butter. Finish with a lemon wedge or two as sort of the cap.
Because this kind of magic will ensue.
Then, season the chicken generously all over with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up, pop that sucker into the oven and let high heat do the rest of the work. After the first ten minutes, use a wooden spoon or spatula, as Ms. Kafka instructs, to move the chicken so it won’t stick. Ours took about an hour to become crisp, brown, and luscious. You want an internal meat thermometer to read 165° and the juices to run clear. Then, remove the chicken to a platter and let her rest for about 10 – 15 minutes before slicing.
While the chicken cooks, you can pull the rest of the meal together.
For the roasted pepper and sundried tomato pesto:
1 12 oz jar roasted peppers, drained (about 6 peppers)
6 sundried tomatoes
about 1/2 Cup pine nuts, toasted lightly in a dry pan over medium low heat, and cooled. 1/3 Cup would suffice- my bags of pine nuts always differ in size.
3 – 4 cloves garlic, depending on how garlicky you like your food
a good pinch of red pepper flakes
juice of a lemon
squeeze of honey, start with about 1/2 t
about 3 sprigs fresh basil leaves
about 1/2 Cup or a big handful grated parmesan cheese
1/4 C+ olive oil
Place the peppers, tomatoes, pine nuts, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, honey, and a good couple pinches salt and pepper. Pulse to combine.
Scrape down the sides of the food processor and whir your ingredients while you stream olive oil in from the top. You want the consistency to be kind of loose, because you’ll be adding cheese to the mix, which will thicken it up a bit. So, you’ll add between 1/4 Cup and 1/2 Cup or so of oil to the pesto while the food pro runs.
Stop and taste your product. Adjust seasoning to your liking, but remember that the cheese will add salt too. I added a touch more honey at this point to balance out the tang.
Then, add your basil leaves and parmesan cheese. Whir to combine. Taste again and make last minute adjustments in seasoning.
This recipe yields about 3 Cups of pesto which can be used in a multitude of ways- certainly as a sauce for pasta, a spread on a wrap or sandwich, in place of red sauce on a pizza, as a flavor booster for simply cooked veggies, a base for a salad dressing, a dip for pita chips or crudite, as a beverage, or to bathe in.
Pesto tends to be somewhat thick in texture. Typically, when you mix pesto with pasta, you add some starchy pasta cooking water to the pot as you mix the pesto with the noodles. In that same vein, we wanted to thin it out a bit to utilize it as our sauce. We used my mom’s brilliant idea, and about 1 Cup of the pesto with chicken broth. We stirred in broth until we felt the consistency was thin enough to spoon over the chicken. Just be careful with store-bought chicken broth. Always use the low-sodium version, and you may even want to use mostly chicken broth and a little bit of water. When the sauce seems to be loose enough to drip gracefully from your spoon, you’re good to go.
For the grits:
1 T butter
2 cloves garlic pressed
2 Cups milk
2 Cups chicken broth or water
1 Cup stone ground grits. I love the yellow ones.
1/2 Cup shredded Parmesan cheese
In a medium sized pot, place your butter and garlic, stirring as the butter melts.
As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, add your liquids to the pot. Then, WHISK in your grits slowly to avoid clumping. Bring the pot up to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat back to medium low, so the grits can simmer. Then, you can add a few hefty pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. You want to stay close to your stove, stirring now and again as the grits come together. This process takes about 15 – 20 minutes. As they begin to thicken, taste your grits and adjust seasoning to your liking. Grits love salt. Once your grits are thick enough,
add your cheese to the pot. Stir to incorporate the cheese. Taste again and adjust seasoning to perfection.
For the veggies:
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
A good smattering of wild mushrooms. I used oysters, shittake, and shimeji or brown beech mushrooms, tough stem bottoms removed, and big caps sliced.
2 cloves garlic, pressed
8 – 10 brussel sprouts, ends cut off, outer layer of leaves removed
Melt butter with olive oil in a medium-sized pan. Add mushrooms and allow them to soften, tossing occasionally.
Once they begin to release their juices, you can add your garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper.
While the mushrooms are softening, pull the leaves off of your sprouts. Yes, one by one. I thought this was kind of an insane method, but I love the leaves used on their own, and I was inspired, so we made it happen. Continue gently pulling away the leaves until you are left with a tight core. You can roast those or use them another way. If your leaves seem difficult to pull as you’re going along, cut a bit more off the bottom of the sprout itself.
Next, add your sprout leaves to the pan of tender shrooms.
Toss them to let the heat do its thang.
Pretty quickly, the leaves will soften and gently wilt. Check your seasoning and a bit more salt and pepper if necessary.
And that is it!!
Once your chicken has had time to rest, use a sharp knife to carve her however you see fit. We reserved about half of the meat to use throughout the week in other dishes.
Ladle some creamy grits into the bottom of a bowl or onto a plate. Top with sliced chicken breast or a leg/ thigh combination.
Scoop some of your brussel sprouts and mushrooms onto your grits and drizzle or pour sauce over any and all parts you like.
Sprinkle with fresh basil and parsley, and get ready to feast.
This meal was soul-satisfying, comfort food greatness. It’s the type of dish that prompts you to mix all of the components together on your fork. The grits are stick-to-your-ribs kind of good, so full of flavor from the chicken broth and the sharp Parmesan cheese. The pesto plays perfectly against that creaminess by adding a bit of tang from the sundried tomatoes and lemon, tempered by a touch of sweetness from the peppers and honey. And the nuttiness provided by the pine nuts is bolstered by that of the brussel sprout leaves. Add to that the tender, juicy chicken and the earthiness of the mushrooms, and it all just sings together. The bits of fresh basil were a pop of anise-y joy. It’s the kind of meal I could eat every day. The leftovers were stunning as well. Surprising, even. I love it when I take my first bite of lunch, and I am bowled over by the flavors as if for the very first time. Slam dunk.
I can’t wait until I can make this dish again during the summer time with fresh-outta-the-ground peppers and roasted local tomatoes. Oh my. Swoon.
I hope that you are well and enjoying every bit of this spring-like weather. I sure am. We’ve got homemade focaccia in the oven and are about to fire up the grill. I gotta run!
Happy cooking and eating to you,