You asked for it: Three recipes to kick-start your own month of cooking

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Baking your own bread can save you money, even if a batch doesn’t come out quite right. Photo by Addie Broyles.

A roasted chicken turned into three meals, including a chicken tortilla soup with extra tortilla chips. Photos by Addie Broyles.

In last week’s food section, I wrote about my monthlong home-cooking challenge and included an overview of some of the dishes I made. A number of you wrote, called and emailed to ask for specific recipes, including for that indispensable no-knead bread.

The other much-requested recipes were for the chicken tortilla soup and roasted chicken. Instead of writing those out in a traditional manner, I’ll explain how I made them because I cooked them on the fly. But I wanted to reprint the no-knead bread recipe in case you don’t have a clipping handy from when we originally published it several years ago.

For the roasted chicken, I rubbed butter between the skin and the meat and coated the outside with a random spice mix I pulled from the cabinet. Which mix? Well, I have a handful of “steak seasoning” blends because I just don’t cook steak that much, so I used one that included garlic, coriander, dill and black pepper. I’m a firm believer that those spice mixes can be used for far more than their labels dictate. I baked the chicken at 400 degrees for as long as it took for the internal temperature to reach close to 165, which was between 35 and 45 minutes. When roasting whole chickens, I rely heavily on the temperature, not the time, to tell me when it’s ready.

A roasted chicken turned into three meals, including this chicken tortilla soup. For the month of January, I tried to only eat home-cooked food. There were a few exceptions, but I cooked nearly every day. I baked bread and lemon bars, roasted vegetables and meats and tried totally new dishes, like a loose meat (or Maid Rite) sandwich from Iowa. Photo by Addie BroylesA few days later, I used some of the leftover meat from that bird to make tortilla soup. Start by sauteing a chopped onion, from 1/2 to a whole one, and then adding 3 to 5 cups broth or stock. I used a spoonful of Better than Bouillon because I hadn’t thawed any stock from the freezer. Add the chopped chicken and as many crumbled tortilla chips as you like — which in this case was a lot, because I was really craving a thicker soup — and top with cilantro. I also had half a can of green enchilada sauce in the fridge that I added, which gave the soup just the right tang from the tomatillo and a little extra heat and body.

No-Knead Bread

Baking your own bread can save you money, even if a batch doesn’t come out quite right. Photo by Addie Broyles.

Baking your own bread can save you money, even if a batch doesn’t come out quite right. Photo by Addie Broyles.

This recipe is based on Jim Lahey’s highly adaptable no-knead bread recipe, which uses roughly the same technique and amounts of flour, yeast, salt and water. I like to sprinkle Kosher salt on top of the loaf before baking, which is why I reduce the salt in the initial recipe. You could also add endless herbs, spices, olives or grated hard cheese — such as Parmesan — when mixing the dough or on top right before placing the loaf in the oven.

I’ve started to make this recipe entirely with a scale, which is why I’ve included the weight measurements. Some no-knead fanatics use a little more salt, 400 grams of bread flour and 300 grams water. A lighter hand measuring flour by the cup might only end up with 375 grams by weight and need slightly less water, which just goes to show that baking is rarely as exacting as we wish it were.

The good news is that 3 cups of flour costs less than 50 cents, even if you’re using the nice stuff, so it’s not an expensive mistake if your dough is too wet or dry and doesn’t turn out just right. After the first day or two on the counter, this loaf does start to get crusty, but that’s nothing that a quick stint in the toaster can’t fix. I can rarely finish an entire loaf over a workweek, but I don’t feel as guilty throwing out the last quarter because the loaf didn’t cost $4 in the first place.

3 cups (430 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 tsp. (1 gram) active dry yeast
1 tsp. (6 grams) salt
1 5/8 cups (345 grams) water

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and sticky.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at least 12 hours — preferably about 18 hours or, in the fridge, for up to two days — at room temperature. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball, tucking the folded parts underneath.

Generously coat a clean cotton dish towel (not terrycloth) with flour, semolina or cornmeal and place on top of the dough. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours.

When it is ready, the dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least half an hour before the dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enameled cast iron or ceramic) in the oven while it’s preheating. (Make sure that the lid of the vessel can withstand such high heat. Some Le Creuset models have plastic knobs that can melt at more than 400 degrees.)

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid. Carefully place the dough, seam side down, in the pot and cover with the lid. Bake for 20 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the loaf is browned. Remove the pan and cool completely on a rack.

— Adapted from a Jim Lahey recipe


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