Salt and pepper have been old friends for a very long time
One thing that I remember my dad monitoring me about during mealtime when I was a kid was the amount of salt I liked to add to my plate. When I immediately picked up the salt shaker he would say, “Now be careful, not too much.”
Now that I look back on it, I didn’t even taste it first to see if it even required more salt and that is something, up until just a few short months ago, I was still guilty of.
When one gets a little older, and blood pressure could be an issue, one of the first things our doctors recommend is to limit the amount of salt (sodium) that we use. Our bodies need a certain amount of salt but when we overload, the kidneys (which flush the excess out of our bodies) can’t keep up, so the extra is absorbed in our blood stream.
Salt attracts water and more water increases the volume of blood which raises blood pressure. So the bottom line is that we don’t really need, for our health’s sake, any extra salt.
While cooking, I always start with a “pinch” of salt. Then I add as I go along, after tasting. As food cooks it absorbs the salt and this can change the flavor.
One thing I do not salt much at all while cooking is meat. Over salting a piece of meat while cooking draws the natural flavors out and personally, I want them to stay in.
Pepper is salt’s boyfriend. Think about it. How many times is salt asked for by itself, or sits on a table without its partner? Do you have just a salt shaker sitting on your stove by itself? Probably not. I like pepper but I am not a “blanketer.” (I cannot imagine eating cottage cheese without it.)
During my days in the restaurant business I watched many a man cover his fried eggs in a blanket of dark black pepper.
Within the last few years I have begun to use and appreciate the taste and texture of fresh ground pepper. Now I enjoy filling my pepper grinder with the peppercorns and grinding it each time I need it. The smell and the taste are superb.
These two “old faithful” companions of culinary history have adorned household kitchens for years and up until the last few years when food shows and new cookbooks arriving on the culinary shelves daily, have enlightened us on the advantages and wonderful experiences of other seasonings, they sat basically alone on our kitchen shelves and tables.
Oh, there were other seasonings occasionally, but they were bought because they were needed for a recipe we were trying then left to be pushed back on the spice shelf behind the cabinet door until we needed them again, at which time the expiration date had long since come and gone.
Hand in hand with spices are herbs, and I know that might scare some of you. I always wanted to grow my own, but the thought of big garden spaces and plants I never knew much about, plus the extra care I thought they might require, disillusioned me.
Two years ago someone introduced me to growing herbs in containers. (I use small galvanized buckets, but you could use anything that holds soil.)
Now I just buy a single plant or two of my favorites, like parsley, or rosemary, and plop them in a bucket of good dirt, place on my patio and snip from them when I need them for a recipe.
I actually planted two herbs that I use the most in my cooking, thyme and chives, in a permanent flower bed and they come back every year. That’s much cheaper than buying them at the grocery store.
Soon the local nurseries will be offering all kinds of fresh herb plants for sale. Allow yourself to buy a sprig or two of your favorite and plant it in a small container. Then later this summer invite friends over for a meal and just happen to mention that your homemade meal also contains fresh herbs.
Today’s recipe features thyme and chives, and our infamous couple, salt and pepper.
1 4-5 pound roasting chicken
1 stick butter softened at room temperature
3-4 teaspoons fresh chives, diced fine
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, diced fine
Approximately 3 cups chicken broth or stock
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Rinse your chicken and pat dry, set aside.
Mix together well the thyme, chives and butter in a small mixing bowl.
When the bird is dry, rub this mixture over the entire chicken as in giving it a bath, making sure to rub some under the skin as well.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Lay the chicken on a roasting rack in a pan and pour the chicken stock (or broth) in the pan. Make sure the broth does not touch the bottom of the chicken.
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 2 hours. (170-180 degrees on the meat thermometer)
I like to make a little extra of the butter mixture and brush on the bird about half way through the baking time.
The stock will make wonderful gravy when the bird is done or save for another dish.
Jeanie Merritt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.