The Weekly Ration: Vol. I

Philadelphia is food heaven. We have a plethora of delicious small, often times family owned, restaurants and no lack of variety. But one of the best things about the Philly food scene is an ancient thing called Blue Laws. Those blue laws make it next to impossible to get a liquor license in our city, unless you are a chain restaurant (and it’s tough even then), which makes it very possible to have a tasty, reasonably priced meal, with whatever your heart desires to drink for FREE!

Dream and I are on a tight budget. Always trying to save for our next trip, or piece of furniture, and I guess…OK….for practical things like retirement. That said, we try to cook at home most of the time, but usually make it out to one of our old standard restaurants or to check out something new on a weekly basis.

This weeks rations consisted off….

Crab Shack!!! This place is by far the divey-est of divey places, and therefore amazing. Dream and I wait all freezing winter long for the seafood at this New Jersey beach town sleeper. (I won’t even say what town it’s in because I’d be so sad if people found out about this place.) We love it for so many reasons. 1. It’s a BYO 2. We never run in to anyone we know there so it feels like a real vacation even though we’re only an hour from home. 3. They charge you the same price to cook your food as they do to sell it to you in their seafood market in the front, so it’s cheap!

We tend to keep our orders pretty simple. This time, a whole steamed lobster and 50 steamers. No, we did not order any veggies or starches. We go by the buffet rule at this restaurant: Go for the good. expensive stuff and skip the salad bar.

Two days later, we ate dinner back home at our favorite BYO in the city Kanella. Before Dream came along I lived in an adorable, yet teeny tiny apartment right above this restaurant. I used to be able to get a reservation at this super popular neighborhood spot just by calling and saying “hey it’s Sam from upstairs, I want to come down now.” But times have changed as they usually do with all really great restaurants. Kanella is moving on up out of its neighborhood spot into a bigger space with (gasp!) a liquor license. Dream and I wanted to get one last hurrah in before they closed for the summer and moved (and before we couldn’t bring our own wine anymore of course!)

We started off with a seasonal salad of feta, watermelon, radishes with a tangy lemon dressing. We devoured it in 2.3 seconds and then realized that we probably should have taken a picture…woops. It was the perfect start to a meal eaten outside on a hot day.

IMG_4530For entrees, Dream ordered the Stuffed Roasted Goat. Marinated in garlic, it was perfectly tender and juicy, and paired so nicely with the salad of potatoes, onions and peppers. I ordered my go-to, Whole Grilled Branzino. I make this at home a lot too, but in the summer I just find myself wanting it everywhere I go. (I lived in Colorado for a long time before moving back to Philly and I always missed whole fish when I was out there. I could never find anyone who would serve it whole and simply grilled.) Kanella’s whole fish, is the cream of the crop. The Branzino comes wrapped tightly in grape leaves and mixed with the crispy skin is absolute perfection in your mouth. There isn’t much to say but they just know how to pick a good fish and cook it to perfection.  It came with a lemon and kale salad on the side that paired so well with the fish and was still crispy enough to have lots of flavor. We skipped dessert this time because we were desperately craving gelato, but if you like Baklava, this one can not be missed!

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Friday nights, we usually try to cook at home. After a long week it’s good to be able to just chill and catch up and I usually make a whole roast chicken and veggies. This meal is so simple and so satisfying. IMG_5144Sam’s Whole Roast Chicken
1 3-4 lb Whole Chicken, giblets removed
1 bag of Baby Rainbow Potatoes (I love the purple ones!)
1 bag of Rainbow Carrots
1 large yellow onion
Handful of Thyme, removed from stems and chopped
Handful of Rosemary, removed from stems and chopped
Kosher Salt or Pink Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Olive Oil
and the secret ingredient….Duck Fat

What to do:
1. Preheat your over to 400°F. Clean and pat dry the chicken. Make sure you get it REALLY dry. Salt the chicken with the Kosher salt and leave it to come to a room temperature for about 30-minutes. (If you have more time, you can put the chicken back in the fridge for 2-4 hours to really allow the salt to do its job. I just never have that kind of time)

2. Take a paper towel and remove most of the salt into the sink. Use the paper towel to thoroughly dry the chicken once again. (This is key to getting the skin crispy.)

3. Chop up all of the veggies into large chunks and put into a bowl with rosemary, thyme, and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix it all up.

4. Put your hands between the skin of the chicken and the breast and gently pull it up. Take a spoonful of duck fat and with your hands rub it between the skin and breast (not on top of the skin!)

5. Put the chicken in a large roasting pan. Sprinkle the chicken with the fresh black pepper and any leftover herbs. Scatter the veggies all around the chicken.

6. Put the chicken in the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes and voila! you have a hearty meal with lots of leftovers.

Tips: 

If you like an extra crispy skin turn your broiler on high for about 5 minutes after your timer has ended. This will crisp up the skin and the veggies without sacrificing any of the juices.

For lemon pepper chicken, squeeze half of a lemon on top of the chicken about halfway through the cooking process.

Try to turn the veggies at least once during cooking, but if you forget don’t worry. This is such an easy set and forget recipe. They will still turn out great.

To make the most of this meal you really have to use all the parts. I generally use the leftover chicken to make a curry chicken salad that’s great for our weekend lunches. I use the chicken carcass to make a delicious bone broth that’s great for cooking with and even better when you’re feeling under the weather.

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Sam’s Whole Roasted Chicken
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Cutting in! Get yourself a good pair of poultry shears.