Tag Archives: white wine

Mushroom Tarragon Rice and Not Enough Rain to Rinse the Corn Clean

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“The rain-heads dropped a little spattering and hurried on to some other country. Behind them the sky was pale again and the sun flared. In the dust there were drop craters where the rain had fallen, and there were clean splashes on the corn, and that was all.”  from Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I think there will be a lot of corn recipes from this book, and I noticed from the footnotes that there will even be Spam in my future.  I cannot express how much I love Steinbeck’s writing style.  It’s so straightforward and still so elegant.  I am just getting started and I’ve been introduced to murderer Tom Joad.  I can’t say I like him much, but I think that’s pretty much the point.

I roasted my chicken by rinsing off the brine and speckling it with more tarragon and a little salt and pepper. I poured about half a bottle of wine mixed with water into the bottom of my pan (but again, thriftier folk might just use water and a bouillon cube or water and some spices or bay leaf). I sliced up an onion and spread that in the bottom along with some whole cloves of peeled garlic.  I roasted at 350 until the juices ran clear and an instant read thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh read 165 degrees.  I also opened up a can of corn from my cupboard and heated that, and I made this delicious rice dish with some leftover mushrooms.  I didn’t actually spend any money on anything new for this meal so it definitely fits my budget.

Mushroom Tarragon Rice

2 tbsp butter

1/2 cup roughly chopped mushrooms

2 tsp tarragon (or to taste – fresh is better, but mine came from a jar)

1 cup of whatever rice you have in your cupboard (mine was Carolina white)

2 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the mushrooms and saute until they are tender and have started to emit their juices.  Toss in the rice and mix it into the butter, saute until the rice becomes translucent.  Toss in the tarragon, water, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, give it a good stir, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer according to the rice instructions (white rice is usually about 15 minutes).  When the rice is al dente, fluff it up and serve.

I learned from restaurant eating that mushrooms and tarragon make a wonderful marriage.  This dish was no exception.  The chicken was also amazing, the skin was crisped up lovely and the meat was moist and tender.  The onions and garlic that I fished out of the roasting pan were divine.  Because I served my chicken with rice instead of potatoes, I didn’t make a pan gravy.  Depressioners know that those who don’t waste don’t want, so I’ve got the pan drippings saved in the fridge and they’re earmarked for a gravy that will smother the filling in a chicken pot pie in the near future (another cheap meal to stretch this chick as far she’ll go without busting the bank).

As she was leaving my apartment last night my friend said, “Thanks for the magnificent chicken, yo!”


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Filed under Books, Cheaper Cooking, Cooking and Reading, Food, Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, The Great Depression

White Wine and Tarragon Brined Chicken to Spare

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I haven’t actually started reading Grapes of Wrath yet.  It’s downloaded on the Kindle and ready to go.  I will probably start reading it later tonight.

I thought I would start this portion of the cooking adventure off by retelling a story that my grandmother told to me.

My grandmother was born just before the start of the Great Depression.  She spent her young years on a chicken farm north of Boston.  Her father never owned a mechanical plow but as a farmer during those times, he was entitled to gas rations.  He sold them, possibly on the black market,  to make a little extra money to help the family through those dark years.  He hitched up his team of horses and drove them back and forth across the fields to make the straight furrows of his farm.  Family legend holds that it was the horses that kept the straight line those days as Grampa Hoop was mightily fond of his whiskey (or was it whisky?).

My grandmother remembered a day when a man and his son came knocking on the kitchen door to beg for a meal.  They had walked all day and were clearly in a desperate state.  Grandma told us that because of the farm goods and the money from the gas rations, her mother was able to give that man and his little boy a whole chicken to take away with them.  She was able to do this at a time when so many people had nothing for themselves, never mind enough to spare for strangers.

I don’t remember my grandmother ever roasting a whole chicken, though I’m sure she did.  By the time we had come around and technology had made things so much easier for women in the kitchen, she was in love with the skinned and sliced and neatly packaged chicken breast.  We sure enjoyed plenty of those.  But when money gets a little tight and the grocery bill starts to get a little steep, the best way to save is to buy the whole chicken and roast it off.  And because times are not so tough as all that, I can also afford to spread a little of the generosity that I learned from my family and invite some guests to share my dinner.

White Wine and Tarragon Brined Chicken

1 young roasting chicken (about 5 lbs, but any size will do)

Garlic Cloves

A bottle of the cheapest white wine that’s not completely disgusting

About a wine bottle’s worth of water (or enough to fill your brining container)

Tarragon leaves

1/4 cup salt

Fresh ground pepper

In a large ziplock or a large bowl or tupperware, combine all the ingredients and let them sit in the fridge for a day or two.  Many brining spills have taught me that no matter how sealed a ziplock may look, you should still give it a little support, so before tucking it in the fridge, I propped my bag up inside a large pan, just in case…  

Most of these ingredients I had around in my kitchen, but I would estimate that the whole cost of this adventure might be $15 and you’ll see that the payoff in creative leftovers will be amazing.  Add some vegetables and rice and you might be looking at $20-25 for a week’s worth of meals (creative leftover recipes to follow).  You can cut a lot of corners on this one too, if you don’t want to splurge on the wine (or “waste” it), you can use plain water and more spices, or up the ante and use beer, apple cider, or buttermilk; you can toss in some lemon juice or vinegar as well.  Just check out what’s in your kitchen, think about the flavors you like, and throw it all in the bag.  I’ve brined with maple syrup and brown sugar in the mix too.

Check back in a day or two to see how it comes out and what deals I can find on side dishes!

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Filed under Books, Cheaper Cooking, Cooking and Reading, Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, Literature, Recipes, The Great Depression