Nom Nom Paleo

Easiest Roast Chicken Ever

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…especially if you live near a Trader Joe’s

TJ’s has been in California for almost half a century, but in recent decades, stores have been sprouting up all over the U.S. Each store opening has been met with rabid excitement, and it’s not hard to see why. As Fortune Magazine once put it, ”Trader Joe’s is no ordinary grocery chain. It’s an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience.”

The success of the chain is due in large part to its offerings: A tightly-curated selection of budget-friendly upscale goods, gourmet staples, and time-savers like pre-washed bagged kale, trimmed leeks, hardboiled eggs, you name it.

Of course, like just about every other big grocery chain, there’s plenty of super-processed Frankenfoods in the shopping aisles, too. Not everything that TJ’s carries is awesome (or awesome for you), but after two decades of shopping at Trader Joe’s, I still supplement my farmer’s market and CSA hauls with a weekly visit to the friendly workers at TJ’s. After all, there’s always something new to discover.

In fact, just last week, my super chef sister alerted me to one of TJ’s newest items: Organic brined whole chickens!

With this bird, it takes just ten minutes of hands-on prep time to make a complete supper that’s satisfying and flavorful. (A caveat: the chicken ain’t Whole30-approved ‘cause the brine contains some sugar.) While you’re waiting for the chicken to cook in the oven, you’ll have time to cuddle on the couch with your kids — or spend quality time surfing the interwebs. No judgment, I promise.

Here’s what to gather to feed 4-6 people:

  • 1 whole organic brined chicken (5 pounds)
  • 4 trimmed leeks, sliced
  • 4 organic carrots, cut medium
  • 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of softened butter or ghee, divided
  • Aged balsamic vinegar
Here’s how to get dinner on the table in an hour:
You can get all your ingredients at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s. If you don’t live in one of the 35 states where TJ’s operates, I’m sorry. Your dinner won’t be as quick and easy as this one, but you can always plan ahead by brining your own chicken and still follow along with the rest of this recipe.

The brined chickens at Trader Joe’s are about 5 pounds each, and will easily feed 4 to 6 people. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Although the instructions on the packaging tell you to rinse the bird, just blot it dry with a paper towel. (It won’t end up too salty, I promise.)

With a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut out the back bone…

…and trim away excess fat and skin. (Don’t forget to save the carcass and back bone for bone broth.)

Then, spatchcock the bird: Flip the chicken over and open it up like a book. Using a kitchen knife, cut a ½-inch through the cartilage on the breast bone and firmly press down with your hands to flatten it.

Next, prepare the veggies that will line the roasting pan.

Even though the trimmed leeks from TJ’s look clean, there’s still lots of dirt hidden in the folds. Keeping the root end intact, cut the rest of the leek in half lengthwise.

Give the leek a quarter-turn, and then slice it lengthwise again (at a right angle from the initial cut). Keep the root end intact!

Fan the leaves under running water to release the sand and mud.

Once the leeks are cleaned, flick off the excess water and slice ‘em crosswise.

Chop the carrots in uniform medium chunks…

…and toss them on a tray with the leeks.

Add the quartered mushrooms and toss on some salt and pepper. 

Dot the vegetables with half of the softened butter or ghee (2 tablespoons).

Lay the chicken on top of the seasoned vegetables, breast-side up.

Smush on the remaining two tablespoons of butter or ghee.

Roast the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes or until the breast registers 150° F on a meat thermometer and the thigh meat hits 170° F.

(As you can see, I cooked my chicken in my amazing toaster oven. Yes, my regular oven remains broken. Boo!)

Brined chicken skin doesn’t get as toasty and crispy as a dry-rubbed chicken — but I’ll trade perfectly bronzed skin for juicy meat any day. 

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving it. In the meantime, toss the vegetables in the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

While you’re waiting to cut the chicken, sauté some greens to go with your chicken and roasted veggies.

Voilà! 

Sous Vide Trader Joe’s Seasoned Frenched Rack of Lamb

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Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite grocery stores. I always find lots of cool, reasonably priced items such as Valrhona Le Noir Extra Amer 85% cocoa chocolate bars, Kerrygold butter, broccoli slaw, and ready-to-cook prepped produce. Once in a while, I find a dud but those are few and far between.

The other day while I was rummaging through TJ’s freezer section, I came across vacuum-sealed packets of seasoned Frenched lamb racks.

Not only were all the ingredients Paleo-approved but I bet I could dunk these packets straight from the freezer — and still in their packaging — into my SousVide Supreme. Score!

(No SousVide Supreme? No problem! Serious Eats shows you how to make perfect lamb racks with a DIY beer cooler sous vide contraption.)

Today, I finally tested my hypothesis. Before going to bed this morning, I filled up my water oven and set the temperature at 130 F (for medium rare chops). The night before, I’d transferred the lamb racks from the freezer to the fridge but they were still pretty solid. I asked my mom, who was babysitting the kids, to add the two packets of lamb racks to the SousVide Supreme at 4:00 p.m.

I let the lamb racks cook for about 2 hours and then I removed them from the bath and dried them off with paper towels.

Then, I heated a couple of tablespoons of lard in a large cast iron skillet over high heat and seared off each rack.

I sliced them up and they were uniformly pink and moist throughout.

The seasoning wasn’t bad but it was a little heavy-handed with the rosemary. Also, unlike roasting or grilling, the blobs of fat don’t render away when you sous vide so I just eat around them.

Enough bitching already! Overall, the results were great because you can get perfectly-cooked yummy lamb chops on the table with minimal work! I’ll definitely keep a rack or two in my freezer as emergency back-up protein.

Fridge Staple: Trader Joe’s Southern Greens Blend

Trader Joe’s ready-to-cook bags of Southern Greens Blend are a handy staple to stock in your fridge. I love me some hearty dark green leafy vegetables, but it can be a pain to remove all the stems and wash and chop the leaves prior to cooking them. And I’m all about shortcuts in the kitchen!

Tonight, I dumped two bags of the ready-to-cook greens into a pot of salted boiling water and let them simmer, covered, for ~5 minutes. Then, I drained and rinsed the greens and squeezed out as much liquid as possible. (Yes, it’s crossed my mind that I’m boiling out all the nutrients, but the fine folks at Cook’s Illustrated insist this is the best way to cook tough greens).

Normally, I’d throw in some bacon or ham, but since they’re off limits while on the Whole30 program (which ends TOMORROW!), I slowly caramelized a thinly sliced onion in melted lard before adding the blanched greens. 

The result? A super-easy and delicious accompaniment to a big plate of pig!

Braised Chicken Legs with Artichokes and Pearl Onions

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I was in the mood to experiment tonight. By early evening, I was exhausted, so rather than planning an elaborate meal, I raided the kitchen and threw together a bunch of stuff I had in my freezer, fridge, and pantry to see if, perchance, an easy and yummy one-pot dish might materialize.

I’m happy to report that an investment of just 15 minutes of hands-on time yielded a savory dish that an entire family can happily scarf down. Well, 3 out of 4 members of the Nom Nom Paleo household enjoyed it. Our three-year-old, Lil-O, is always the sole holdout. “I want eggs,” he says. Every. Single. Night.

Where was I? Right: Ingredients.

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s and I always read the chain’s wackily illustrated Fearless Flyer so I can strategically plan my next shopping excursion. Some of TJ’s new items are misses, but most are hits. I recently found two things in the freezer section that piqued my interest: frozen artichoke hearts…

…and peeled and prepared pearl onions.

Despite being an anti-processing Paleo freak, I love prepped frozen veggies ‘cause they help accelerate the time my dinner gets to the table. On the one hand, they’re a little pricier, but on the other hand, I can get away with doing less work. And Nom Nom Paleo is all about the lazy.

Here’s what I scrounged up:

  • 2 whole Kosher chicken legs, split into drumsticks and thighs (you can definitely double the amount of chicken)
  • 2 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sigona’s Green Poultry Seasoning (contains thyme, sage, pepper, coriander, marjoram, & parsley)
  • 12 oz bag of Trader Joe’s frozen artichoke hearts
  • 16 oz bag of Trader Joe’s frozen peeled & ready to use pearl onions
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and trimmed
  • 3/4 cup organic chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp Banyuls vinegar

Here’s what I did:

I preheated the oven to 325 F and I assembled all my ingredients.

I didn’t bother defrosting the artichoke hearts or pearl onions because I knew they’d quickly cook in my skillet. (Skeptical? Fine: The real reason I didn’t defrost them is that I was too lazy to add another cooking step. Happy now?)

My favorite chicken cuts for braising are bone-in, skin-on thighs. At my local TJ’s, they carry whole Kosher chicken legs so I just cut them into thighs and drumsticks (cut through the cartilage and not the bone or you’ll eff-up your knife). I seasoned my chicken with green poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Next, I heated 2 tablespoons of avocado oil over medium high heat in a 12-inch, oven-safe, lidded skillet and I seared my chicken parts until they were browned on each side.

After removing the browned chicken to a plate, I threw the frozen pearl onions into the empty skillet and seasoned it with some salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Once the onions were caramelized, I tossed in the frozen artichoke hearts and the garlic cloves (along with more salt and pepper). I sauteed all the vegetables until they were nice and toasty. Then, I nestled in the chicken parts and poured in the chicken broth and vinegar. After bringing it up to a simmer…

…I put on the lid and popped it in the oven for 45 minutes. The results were pretty tasty for the minimum amount of effort I put in.

The artichoke hearts are a wee bit acidic so you can back off on the vinegar or use a sweeter vinegar like balsamic. Also, the amount of chicken legs can definitely be doubled because I had a bunch of leftover chokes and onions that I’ll be pairing up with other proteins in the next few days.