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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #98

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

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Stop Already!

I'm no longer middle-aged unless I am destined to be the oldest living person (except for that Methusela guy—he was really old). However, it seems that life is zipping by at a faster and faster pace.

Just moments ago I saw this on Facebook:

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Can we please just stop the frantic pace for a few minutes? Let's be thankful for the here and now and count those darned roses. Life is a gift, don't wish it away in anticipation of the next big "thing."

Relax. Breathe in, breathe out.

Let's grab a cup of coffee and sort through the letters in the mailbox. I'm in no rush; let's just take our time and have some fun together. If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

I had several questions this past week from Flourish Anyway.

Recipe for Pollo Loco

My family loves pollo loco. Is there a recipe you can suggest so I can make it for them at home?

El Pollo Loco, Inc. is a franchise restaurant chain in the United States that specializes in Mexican-style grilled chicken. The first store opened in Sinaloa, Mexico in 1975 and by 1979 the chain had expanded throughout northern Mexico. In 1980 they opened their first USA location; as of January 2019, there are over 500 El Pollo Loco restaurants in the Southwestern United States. The company website explains that what sets their chicken apart from any others is that it is lime-juice marinated and slow-roasted for perfectly crisp skin, and moist, flavorful meat.

Although EPL grills their chicken, it is possible to achieve that crispy-skin in your kitchen, even in the dead of winter. Have you ever heard of “chicken under a brick?” Yes, you really use a brick (a clean one, wrapped in a double-thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil). While the chicken cooks on the lowest heat you place a brick on top. This ensures that the skin of the chicken makes perfect contact with the bottom of the pan—that’s where the magic happens.

I don’t know how Flourish’s fave chicken place cooks their chicken—do they grill a whole chicken and then whack it into pieces, or disassemble the chicken first and then do the grilling? I’m going to recommend cooking the chicken whole, but we’ll first remove the backbone so that it will rest flat in the cooking pan. (If you remember my cooking lexicon of long ago, this is called spatchcocking).

Equipment You Will Need:

  • Poultry shears to cut out the backbone of the chicken (or have your butcher do this for you)
  • Medium-sized mixing bowl
  • Wire whisk
  • Measuring cup and spoons
  • Large baking dish or zip-lock plastic bag large enough to hold the spineless chicken
  • Two large clean bricks
  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil to wrap the brick (see Note below)
  • 12-inch high-sided roasting pan (cast iron is best)
  • Instant-read thermometer

Note: If you don’t have bricks, you can substitute a slightly smaller (10-inch?) cast-iron skillet.

Ingredients:

  • One 4-pound chicken, backbone removed
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced jalapeno pepper (remove seeds; see Note below)
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt (Kosher, not table salt)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil

Note: If you don’t want a lot of heat, remove the membrane from the jalapeno—that’s where the fire is.

Instructions:

  • Place the chicken, skin-side up, on a sturdy work surface. With the palm of your hand, press down on the middle of the chicken to crack the breast and flatten the chicken.
  • Whisk together all of the next 8 ingredients (except for the cooking oil) in the bowl; reserve ¼ cup of the marinade.
  • Place the chicken in the baking dish or zip-lock bag and pour in the remainder of the marinade. Get your hands in there and massage the chicken, making sure that all of the surfaces are touched by the marinade. Refrigerate (covered if using the baking dish, zipped and placed in a large bowl if using the bag) at least 12 hours or overnight.
  • Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F.
  • Pour cooking oil in the 12-inch roasting pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Place the chicken, skin-side up, in the pan. Place the bricks or 2nd skillet on top to weigh down the chicken.
  • Transfer to preheated oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. The thickest part of the breast should register 150 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer.
  • Carefully remove from the oven and remove the weight on top. (Watch out, it’s hot!) Let rest 10 minutes, drizzle with remaining ¼ cup marinade, and serve.

Adapted from recipes by Serious Eats (Italian Roast Chicken) and Dinner Then Dessert (El Pollo Loco Chicken Copycat).

How to Use Up Grape Tomatoes

Second question — What should I do with too many grape tomatoes? They are running out of my ears. Can I cook them and use them in a recipe?

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Flourish, you can put those tomatoes directly into the freezer (removing the stems first of course). Whenever you want you can use them as you would canned tomatoes. If you don't like the skins, they will slip off easily after they are frozen.

You can also roast them first which makes them more flavorful (and eliminates the skins) and then turn into tomato sauce. Here's a link:

While we're on the topic, oven-dried tomatoes are flavor bombs. If you have the time, do this recipe. I love sun-dried tomatoes and always buy a HUGE jar of them at Costco.

Here are a few more ideas:

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Produce Stickers

Your garbage disposal is not a goat. (Actually, even goats aren’t goats, and by that, I mean that the cartoons depicting a goat is a tin-can chewing refuse collector are inaccurate and just plain wrong.) Don’t put things down there that are not food—twist ties, pull tabs, and cigarette butts (yuck) don’t belong in there. Add another item to that list, one that seems so small an innocent that even I must confess to committing this transgression a time or two—produce stickers.

They’re small but (good grief) they are not biodegradable (why not, but until I become Czar this probably won’t change) and in time they will accumulate, little by little, clinging to the cutters of your disposal and/or the interior of your pipes. By the way, because they live forever they also should not go from kitchen to compost pile or yard waste recycling bin.

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: lindalum52@gmail.com.

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2019 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 20, 2019:

Eric, I think you get the prize for stumping me. I've never considered how to "elevate" a bologna sandwich. So, let me make sure I understand--you want to add a little of this and a little of that rather than one big wallop of something, right? I'll see what I can come up with. Maybe flavors and/or textures that play off of each other. Contrast.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 20, 2019:

Sorry for bugging you so much. I make one mean bologna sandwich (of course my sunny side up sandwich is award winning) But I want to buff up that bologna sandwich. OK that is part of it but, I am trying to into using a "whiffs" of things. Is there a general rule to this as I often cook things with too much of one thing.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Eric, it's not crazy at all and reminds me of something we did in grade school 101 years ago. (OK, it wasn't really that long ago but might as well have been). If you can wait, I'll answer next Monday. If you need it sooner you can email me.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 19, 2019:

Linda I keep you on my notifications no matter what you write.

The comments reflect your love.

I want to make homemade buttermilk. Is that crazy?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Doris, it's not difficult if you have poultry shears. You can get them on Amazon or (if you have one in your area) Bed Bath and Beyond.

Your poor little rooster! I hope you were able to reassure him that he's safe because he has the job of eating excess tomatoes.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on August 19, 2019:

I've never heard of El Pollo Loco in my neck of the woods. Sounds interesting. I'm not much on eating chicken skin and even peel KFC, which I would do anyway to get rid of the flour coating. Removing the backbone from a chicken seems complicated. As I was reading this article, I heard my rooster in the pen crowing "not me, not me!" He is a very spoiled boy and was raised on our excess of tiny tomatoes (Sweet 100s). LOL

Good article though. Maybe I'll make it west someday to try some EPL.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Hi Lori, no the closest (?) one is in Sparks, Nevada. Guess we'll just have to make our own.

Lori Colbo from United States on August 19, 2019:

Hi Linda, I perked up when you mentioned El Pollo Loco. I lived in California for 20 years and enjoyed their chicken like no other. I have never seen one up here in the Pacific Northwest. Do you know if they have any here?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Sha, those little tomatoes are just like eating candy (well, almost) and guilt-free. Wish that I could grow them.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Good morning Mary. It was Flourish Anyway who was asking about the crazy chicken, so you and she must be on the same wavelength. Beercan chicken has been a source of entertainment (and a great conversation starter) at backyard barbecues for quite some time. There is disagreement throughout the culinary world as to whether it really does anything positive for the chicken.

Soggy cookies? I'm on it. Same time, next week.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 19, 2019:

Great tips for what to do with an over-abundance of grape tomatoes, Linda. I love grape tomatoes - they seem to be sweeter than other varieties, plus they're bite size. Now I know what to do with them if I don't eat them fast enough.

Thanks, Linda!

Mary Wickison from Brazil on August 19, 2019:

I think it was just a week ago I mentioned El Pollo Loco to my husband. I must have been reading your mind!

I have only been a few times when I visited the States, I did enjoy it though.

Interesting about cooking with a brick. My sister uses a can of beer in her chicken's wazoo when she barbecues but a brick is a new one on me.

This week I bought some oat-type cookies and when we opened the pack they were soft (normally these are crisp). Is there a way to make them crispy again?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Well Bill, you and I are on the same boat. I'm just a couple of years behind you. Have a great week my friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Eric, if you really must know (about onion skins) I'll answer that next week. As for the age thing--age is just a number. Pay it no heed.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Pamela, you just never know what you'll find happening in my kitchen.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on August 19, 2019:

Flourish, I was happy to help. I've never eaten at a Pollo Loco (I don't even know if we have them in my part of the world).

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 19, 2019:

I'm all for slowing down! I'm in no rush whatsoever to get to the next month, let alone Christmas. One thing about being seventy: you want every single day to last as long as possible. :) Have a long, satisfying Monday, my friend.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 19, 2019:

Well are Onion "skins" bad for disposals also?

I have so many tomatoes we cannot eat them fast enough. Fantastic advice on those. I am roasting freezing roasting and sun drying today. Thanks.

Last time I checked down here in border town Pollo Loco meant crazy chicken. Stay away, probably a crazy chicken just may be sick ;-)

I still have issues with age. About 50 I turned 30. I am having to rethink everything again. Our last night sans light fight was brutal but I won, but his tuck and roll shooting is getting me. I just cannot figure age.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 19, 2019:

Happy Monday Linda. The picture of the Pollo Loco looks delicious. I have never cooked chicken under a brick, but I see the point in doing so. Thanks for all the good information today.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 19, 2019:

Well, thank you, thank you for these answers. My family loves pollo loco so much I had to know what the secret was! And I hate to see those little tomatoes go to waste bite I don’t like them in my salad. Great column!

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