Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Chicken Hook

What the heck is this thing? How does it work?

Here's another view. Does that help?

So it 's like this.

I had a new grill on order. The old one hadn't been used in years. It was so badly rusted, I didn't want food near it, much less on it. And it didn't start without help. So there was a risk of kaboom, even before the rust problem.

I got an email from some folks who make a device called The Chicken Hook. For roasting chickens. Obviously. The hook suspends the chicken over the pan or grill, so the whole chicken gets time in the hot air.

Sure, why not, I said. I can try it on my grill.

Grill arrived (more on the grill at a later date), and I went out and bought a chicken to test the rotisserie.

Then the chicken hook arrived. Decisions, decisions. Rotisserie or hook?

I decided to test the hook, since I can cook other things using the rotisserie. Like roasts. Or other chickens.

The chicken goes on the hook breast down and butt (or tail, I guess) up. Then you put it on a pan in the oven, or in the grill. Of course I used the grill. It's hot out. No way am I turning on the oven. It looks kind of ridiculous, right?

I used indirect heat, so the bottom of the bird - which now was the breast - wouldn't cook too fast. I shoved some potatoes around it, thinking that the drippings on the spuds would be nice. Later, I moved the potatoes to a hotter spot on the grill. Indirect cooking was great for the chicken, but the potatoes weren't really amused.

After about 30 minutes, I had a beautiful golden skin, but the bird wasn't quite cooked all the way, so I let it keep on going until it was done. It didn't look quite as weird once it started cooking and wasn't sagging any more.

What would I do different next time? I think that at end of cooking, I might turn the heat on directly below the chicken to get that skin more brown. But other than that, it worked pretty well, although it looked bizarre as heck when I first put it on the hook.

The finished chicken looks pretty nice, though.

They also sent me three of their spice mixes. I've sniffed them, but haven't used them yet. All three look like they'll be pretty useful. Positano is an all purpose Italian mix, which is always handy to have on hand. Santa Clara is garlic-heavy. Yup, I like that. And Machu Piccho is a spicy Peruvian-inspired blend. Yum times three.

Who's it for: People who want to try a different way of cooking chicken.

Pros: Heat gets all the way around the chicken, and it's not as tall as with a beer-can style chicken that stands upright. Easier to fit in oven or grill.

Cons: If you put this thing away without the instructions and find it a year later, you might not have any idea what it is.

Wishes: There's really not a lot I can ask from a bent piece of metal.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Degustabox July 2018

Every month, Degustabox sends me one of these boxes of goodies (at no cost to me) so I can tell you all about it. This month was pretty easy to describe because I was familiar with most of the products already.

Maybe I was just hungry when this arrived, but I wanted to sample everything, as soon as I opened the box. But I waited until I got a photo. Dang. I wanted to bite ALL THE THINGS. Well, not the canned tomatoes ... but the snacky things!

So here we go!

Tickle Water
Okay, I'd never heard of this before, but it's flavored fizzy water. The name is cute, right? The can is quite different since it's clear plastic with a traditional metal top and pull-tab like a regular can. This drink is designed for kids, so it's a smaller can than usual, but it's a nice amount for adults who don't want to guzzle a full 12 ounces. I got the watermelon flavor and it was subtle, but tasty.

Walker's Shortbread
I've had these cookies quite a few times. They're good. What I find interesting is all the different shapes these come in, sometimes based on holidays or seasons. In any case, shortbreads are great for a snack or with coffee, but I've also used them as the base for cheesecakes. This is a cookie that's nice to have on hand, since it goes with pretty much everything.

True Citrus (True Lemon)
I actually wrote a whole blog post about this product ... a long time ago. It's basically crystallized lemon juice that you can add to water or tea, and it'a also good in recipes when you don't happen to have fresh lemon juice on hand. I like to add it to water that I carbonate. It's nicely tart and super-easy. Besides lemon flavor, you can get other citrus flavors as well.

That's It
This is a little fruit/snack bar. The one I got was the zesty version with apple, mango, and chili. There are other versions with other fruits and vegetables, as well as chocolate. This is a raw product that is kosher and vegan and has no preservatives. Seems like it's about as close as you'll get to fresh fruit in a super-compact form.

Goya Low Sodium Black Beans
I've been using Goya products for ... decades ... and I've always been happy with them. And black beans are something that I like to keep on hand. I've become awfully fond of black bean and corn salad, and they're also great for other salads, soups, and even black bean hummus.

Goya Sazonador Total
The label says this is the perfect seasoning. I have to agree that it's pretty much an all-purpose seasoning for most Mexican foods. Like, you know, that black bean and corn salad I mentioned earlier. Since this has cumin in it, it won't be appropriate for your spaghetti sauce, but it would be lovely on grilled meats, added to tacos, sprinkled onto quesadillas, or ... you know, a black bean and corn salad. I also used it as a sprinkle on popcorn, which was fun.

Goya Corn Tortillas
I always have tortillas on hand, so I'm more than happy to get a package of corn tortillas in one of these boxes. Leftover chicken, pork, and steak often turn into tacos, and I particularly like corn tortillas for quesadillas. I've bought Goya tortillas quite a few times, and I've always been happy with them. Yum. Tacos.

Mutti Whole Peeled Tomatoes
I never paid attention to the Mutti brand of tomato products before I started getting these boxes, but now I'm quite fond of them. They're good quality, with lovely flavor. I've tried quite a few different products from them, and I'm more than happy to have more. I'm not sure yet what I'll use these for, but I can guarantee that they won't be hanging around here for very long.

Lundberg Family Farms Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips
I'm most familiar with Lundberg Family Farms because of their wide variety of grains and rices, so I was a little surprised to see the name on a bag 'o chips. And now I wonder why I've never seen cinnamon sugar tortilla chips before. It makes so much sense!

I got a few pops along with a coupon for a full-size package. These are candies that have an ingredient that's supposed to be good for your teeth, which is kind of a neat idea. A little candy after dinner now makes a whole lot more sense.

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but every box comes with a sheet that shows what's on the box, and then there's something on the back - like a word search puzzle, a recipe, or something else of interest. This time, there's a recipe and an announcement about a context for Degustabox subscribers. Fun!

In case you missed it, I get these boxes for free from Degustabox. Yay, free.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Made In Cookware

First of all, Made In is kind of a weird name, right? But, hey, it's also memorable.

The nice folks at Made In sent me their new saucier (coming soon!) as well as a small nonstick frying pan so I could test and review them. So, that gives a pretty good idea of what the rest of the cookware like is like, yes?

The first thing I noticed with the frying pan was how well balanced it was. You hear that a lot about knives, but it matters with a lot of things - pens, swords, cookware, flaming torches, chain saws - and it means that when you're using it, you're not struggling to maintain it at a good angle for use. When you lift a pan off the stove, you don't want it to feel like it's going to tip downwards and spill all over the place. When you're juggling flaming torches, you don't want to accidentally grab the flaming end.

Of course, what you put in a pan is going to affect that balance. A full pot of water will feel different than a pot that's full of air. But still, that balance is important. It makes using the pot much easier.

Second, I've been using that 8-inch nonstick frying pan as often as I have a use for a small pan, and it shows very little wear. The bottom is getting a little discolored from the heat, but I'm not the type who scrubs cookware until it looks new, and particularly not on the bottom. I mean, I don't let them get caked with goo, but if there's a little heat-staining, I don't fret. I own pans because I use them, not so I can show them off.

I have no idea what the nonstick interior stuff is, but it's definitely not old-style Teflon that flaked off. This stuff is sturdy and very slippery. While the pan is 8 inches across the top, the sides have a pretty steep slope, so the bottom surface is small. Which isn't a bad thing. It's a great pan for cooking one or two eggs and not having them spread all far and wide. Particularly nice if I'm planning on an egg sandwich. Or an egg on a sandwich.

And then there's the saucier.

I have to say that I'm rather fond of that shape in general, but this one is a bit different than other sauciers I have.

In a good way.

The sides on this are tall enough so you can fill the thing with a decent amount of sauce, but the magic in a saucier is that instead of a sharp corner between the bottom and sides, there's a rounded edge. The idea is that if you're stirring with a whisk or even a spoon or spatula, you can get right into those corners so your sauce will blend evenly with no burned or overcooked bits at the edges and less chance of burning.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but I like the shape of this one better than others that feel more like slope-sided frying pans with taller sides. Whisking in this feels more like whisking in a bowl. And that's a good thing.

Like the little frying pan, this had good balance and a comfortable handle, so it's easy to hang onto and when it's time to pour stuff out, it's not a juggling act.

Overall, I like both of these, and I'll be keeping them in regular use, along with the other cookware that I'm fond of.

OH! And the Made In folks also sent me some of their cleaner for stainless steel cookware. I haven't needed it yet in the saucier, but I have used it on other stainless steel and it works really well.

Who's it for: People who are looking for better cookware without breaking the bank.

Pros: Nice stuff.

Cons: Sold direct to consumer, so you can't put it in your Amazon cart.

Wishes: Colors! Oh, wait. They just recently introduced colored cookware.

Source: I received this from the manufacturer for the purpose of a review.