Friday, August 15, 2014

Favorite Roast Chicken

Fridays can only mean one thing at my house.  It's roast chicken night!  Roast chicken is something I really love to eat and it's something I really love to make, because it is comfort food at its best.  The aroma that wafts from the oven as the plump, juicy bird roasts is unlike any other.  This recipe is one that I turn to every single week because my family loves it.  The bird always comes out juicy and succulent, never dry or tough. 

One thing I strongly recommend is that you buy a free-range, organic chicken from a reputable butcher or supermarket.  I'm lucky to have several sources, including my local Whole Foods.  However, any good chicken that's humanely raised will undoubtedly make a delicious main course. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be customized to your family's liking.  Add some spices to give it some zip, tuck in some herbs underneath the skin or change the citrus to a lime or orange if you wish. 

Make this tonight!

 The Ingredients
  • Organic free-range chicken (3 1/2 to 4 lbs.)
  • One large onion peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 4 sprigs of Italian flat leaf parsley or other fresh herbs
  • 1 lemon well washed
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • salt and pepper
Fresh Herbs: flowering oregano & basil.

Favorite Roast Chicken How-to
  • Pat the chicken dry and let it sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 350° F.  Line the bottom of your roasting pan or other oven-proof dish with sliced onions and place the chicken on top.  Lift the skin from each breast and tuck a teaspoon of butter on each side, along with some salt & pepper.  Massage it in very well.  Salt and pepper the cavity and tuck in the sprigs of parsley or other herbs.  With the heel of your hand, roll your lemon on the counter back & forth (this helps release the juice) and then pierce it about 20 times with a paring knife.  Stuff it in the cavity. 
  • Rub the remaining butter all over the chicken (if it's at room temperature it will smear nicely). Salt and pepper well.  Truss your chicken and tuck the wing tips underneath.  Don't forget to salt and pepper the onions.
  • The chicken is ready to be put into the preheated oven.  I'm using a 12" stainless steel All-Clad frying pan for this.
  • As soon as you put the chicken in the oven, set your timer for one hour.  After the hour is up, immediately raise the oven temperature to 400° F  and set your timer for 20 minutes.  The higher temperature will brown & crisp the skin beautifully. 
  • Remove the chicken & test for doneness.  An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should read 180° F according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  I take it out at 170° F because it will continue to cook as it sits.  
  • The chicken should rest for 10-15 minutes before you carve into it.  

I hope my family's favorite roast chicken soon becomes a favorite of yours.  You really can't beat having this once a week, because it is always welcomed at the table.  What I love about roasting whole chickens is that there are inevitable, tasty leftovers which can be made into a number of dishes like my Fried Rice or some chicken salad.  When you're done picking the bones clean, place them in a freezer bag and save them for making my Chicken Stock 101.  You'll be glad to have a few of these carcasses in the freezer for stock.

Cheers and bon appetit!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dear David: Mosser vs. L.E. Smith Cake Stands

Dear David:  Are Mosser glass cake stands the same as the ones that were sold through Martha by Mail when the catalog was around?  They look the same to me, but I’m not so sure.  Thanks for your help.

~ Amber S.

Dear Amber,

I’m glad you brought this up because there seems to be some confusion out there about the Mosser Glass cake stands and those made by L.E. Smith for Martha by Mail.  The differences between both styles of cake stands are very subtle, yet the hallmarked areas along the stem of the pedestal tell you what’s what when you take a closer look at them.  Once you pick up on those differences, it is very simple to determine who made what cake stand.  You will never make the mistake again of confusing both of these styles of cake stands from two of America’s premier glassworks.

The jadeite glass, milk glass, pink glass, delphite glass and clear glass, which seem to follow traditional colors from the 1950s, makes it rather problematic for some people to see beyond the spectrum of these shades.  It’s the silhouette of the cake stands one needs to pay close attention to. 

This is what I mean. 

I think we can agree that the cake plates themselves, meaning the flat rounds where cakes sit, are pretty much the same on both the L.E. Smith and the Mosser.  It's the stem of the pedestal where the contrasts begin to tell a different story.  

  • Both cake stands have a band halfway down the stem.  The Smith stand has a wider band that barely protrudes from the stem.  The Mosser stand has a very thin ring which protrudes noticeably.
  • The base of the L.E. Smith stand is cupped, rather like a plunger.  The Mosser base is 'bell-shaped' and curved.  Also, the Mosser base is more substantial. 
  • The foot of the L.E. Smith stand has a flat lip, whereas the Mosser foot is rounded and smooth.

Can you tell the difference now?  Remember, the band along the stem, the base and the foot of the cake stands will tell you which is which.  

L.E. Smith for Martha by Mail

My Cake Stands

I hope this easy tutorial helps you decipher the differences between these two makers of American cake stands.  The L.E. Smith cake stands that I own are used throughout the year for celebrations and holidays, and they are cherished indeed.  Although I don't own any Mosser glass (yet!), I greatly admire the silhouette of those beauties.  Both Mosser & L.E. Smith glass cake stands are gorgeous and deserve a place in our homes.  Whether you use them for display or for desserts, cake stands make a charming addition to one's kitchen & dining room.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Organizing My Jadeite

It’s no secret that I love collecting jadeite and that I enjoy using it on a weekly basis.  Although I have gathered several pieces throughout the years, I still consider myself a budding collector of it.  What pieces I do have I cherish immensely for many reasons.  A few of them were gifted to me, while most were lucky finds from antique shops and flea markets, or were purchased from Martha by Mail many years ago.  As much as I pride myself in organizing the spaces in my home, I honestly did not have a dedicated area for my jadeite up until now.  

After clearing out some Wedgwood from a cabinet, I decided that the beautiful tones of my vintage and contemporary jadeite would look wonderful against the ‘Peale Green’ cabinets in the kitchen.  This historic color from Benjamin Moore will sometimes be a rich, deep green and at other times will reveal a different shade giving off a lot of gray undertones.  It all depends on the time of day and what kind of weather we're having.  The color combination is a good one to my mind, because it is not jarring or unpleasant to look at if I happen to be in the kitchen.

What I tried to create was a bit of harmony with these miscellaneous pieces since I don’t have two or more of everything.  Sectioned between three shelves on a glass-fronted cabinet, I went about dividing up the jadeite based on height and numbers.  You’ll see what I’m talking about when you look through my cabinet.  

At the very top of the shelf I have some enamelware canisters (these are powder-coated steel) and some little jadeite buckets.  The canisters and the little buckets were exclusive to Martha by Mail.

The middle shelf has Fenton flower pots, both large & small.  The versatility of these pots has me reaching for them quite often when I'm setting a table. The L.E. Smith 8" cake stand in the middle has a McKee 5" mixing bowl sitting on it, while the scalloped cake stand with the intricate underside has a citrus juicer from the 1940s.  The cake stands & flower pots are Martha by Mail.

The lower shelf is also a mix of old & newer jadeite.  The stacks of Restaurant Ware dinner plates are 1940s Fire King, as are the two double-egg cups.  The covered melon compotes, covered bunny dish sitting on a 10"cake stand, as well as the bunnies with baskets are Martha by Mail.

This overview shows you what my jadeite looks like at the moment stored in the kitchen.  As you can see, the larger 12" L.E. Smith cake stand is too large to fit in the cabinet, so it sits on the counter.  

Hopefully I’ve created something which does a bit of justice to this wonderful American glass that so many people collect. With my budding collection all housed in one area, I am going to use it more often than in years past. I am a firm believer in using and enjoying what one collects rather than keeping it stored for that 'rainy day'. Why not bring a bit of joy into your life by displaying the jadeite that you collect in a coherent arrangement or in a controlled chaos, and then using it every day or on special occasions? I guarantee you will be reaching for this green glass regularly if you do display it.  


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Nordstrom Bear Cookie Cutter

A superb addition to anyone’s existing collection of cookie cutters, the Nordstrom Bear made for Martha by Mail is worth taking a closer look.  This particular cutter has always baffled me because of the lack of information in the collector's market.  I don’t recall it ever being sold through Martha by Mail, and yet, the decorating card clearly says it is from the catalog.  After contacting the original manufacturer of this adorable teddy bear, we now have the answers to your questions about the limited-edition single cutter.

I’ve always loved this copper cookie cutter because of its versatility and its charming silhouette.  It can be used for so many special occasions such as baby showers, a child’s birthday, the winter holidays and even for weddings (think of dapper teddy bears in tuxedos and lady bears in wedding dresses!).  

This is what the coppersmith had to say about his creation from 1998.

"Nordstrom teddy bears were designed by Martha's team to be sold at Nordstrom stores in the spring of 1998.  Although 10,000 boxes and colored inserts were delivered to Michael Bonne for the project, only 2,500 bears were actually ordered and made. 

Martha teams went to individual stores and put on baking & decorating demonstrations or mini-seminars using the bear.  The special bear displays, copper cleaner, a few other Martha by Mail items and bears were only available for a short time in the stores, perhaps 30 days at the most.

This is the only closed-backed cutter of Martha's that was sold singly, that is, not part of a set.

Only one other set of Martha's "giant" backed cutters had a lower production run.  This would make these bears among the most scarce of her backed cutters.

Because "Nordstrom" is stamped on the handle some confusion is out there as to the origins.  But I can tell you Martha's design team, Martha herself, and the Michael Bonne Coppersmith Shop made this cutter for this special promotional deal with Nordstrom.  I think Martha herself did at least one of the cookie demos in person.

On a personal note, I always thought this was a great design and was a "sleeper" on the secondary market due to so much misinformation and lack of marketing. Nordstrom promoted it, but I don't think the word got out at the time to Martha's fan base adequately. 

It was speculated at the time that more promos were in the works, but nothing like it was ever done again."

Nordstrom Bear Cookie Cutter

The Handle

Martha by Mail Stamp

The Nordstrom Bear Cookie Cutter is not only a very collectible cookie cutter in my opinion, it’s also a very affordable piece of history that is always available through online auctions.  Look for one to add to your collection if you don’t already have one and create lots of adorable bears.  You're going to love having this cookie cutter in your home.