So I think we may have cracked the formula for not-fried-chicken-but-looks-and-tastes-like-fried-chicken-heaven. Or rather, not-fried-yet-seems-fried-guinea hen, which is what we tried at dinner the other night with our buddies Tim and Alina. The key is to wash and pat dry your fowl thighs (always thighs!) very thoroughly, then add to a hot, hot, hot skillet shimmering with a good amount of melted duck fat. Adam seared the thighs until golden brown and crisp (be patient, don’t peek) and then finished them off in a moderately hot oven (about 375 degrees) until cooked on the inside. The hens emerged with crackling, golden skin, and moist, tender insides — exactly what we were looking for.
Of course, the meal was really a lame excuse to open a bottle of knock-your-socks-off-good Aloxe-Corton burgundy that had been burning a hole in our pantry since Adam bought it last year, and we fleshed out the rest of the meal with other autumn-appropriate side dishes, like roasted Jerusalem artichokes (scrub them well, keep the skins on, and cut into very thin coins); stewed red cabbage with roasted chestnuts (so bready and delicious), guanciale and juniper berries; and the baby fennel confit that I once made for Cool Fest and is extracted from an old issue of Gourmet (the original recipe can be found here). It’s a very popular dish of which I never seem to tire— full of deep flavor from the saffron and coriander seeds, plenty of crunch from the chopped almonds and fennel fronds, and the pleasing plump and chew of raisins puffed up by olive oil and orange juice.
Though I love traveling, one of the most challenging aspects of it is not being able to cook. Luckily, on this trip I will be able to spend time in the kitchen, at least for a few days, because we’re renting a small apartment! (I even packed a few of my most favorite French cookbooks!) I’m already fantasizing about making meals just like this one — one small roast chicken, swiss chard dotted with cherry tomatoes and fresh garlic, and crisp jerusalem artichokes, peeled and roasted until golden and fragrant.
Internet dating is nothing strange, but how many people make friends over the internet? Getting to know rad people through this blog has to be the best reason ever for blogging. In this instance, it was finally meeting one of my favorite bloggers, Joyce, and her awesome husband Ben, in a kind of blind-double-date.
When I found out they were making an impromptu visit to Montreal, a dinner party meet-up was clearly in order. And what a pleasure to discover the overwhelming semiotic overlap, from musical tastes to California childhood to academic lifestyle (Joyce is a historian — just like my dad!) to love of cats (Wallace, duh!).
We chatted over tarragon roast chicken, oceanic goodies from Kamouraska, Paul Legault’s famous strawberries, and a slightly fizzy biodynamic gamay from Morgon (one of my favorite grapes!). “Grape juice!” Joyce exclaimed. “Dangerous,” she added. Dangerous, indeed — we polished off that bottle in record time. The internet is an awesome place, but nothing beats sharing a bottle of wine with friends in real life.
I think it’s finally getting too warm for me to be that excited about roast chicken anymore, so expect this to be the last roasted bird until it starts getting chilly this fall. The usual sides: purple kale with guanciale, garlic, and lemon, and roasted new potatoes with rosemary and drizzled with truffle oil. Something new, too: Belgian white asparagus. My first time. A treat.
I wish I had taken better photos when I was in Ithaca last week, but four days crashed by, and no more than a handful of blurry, haphazard photos to show for it. But from Sasha’s chickpea stew and marinated carrots to 2am quesadillas with Kathryn, I got exactly the relief I needed from a week of restaurants in Portland.
A roast chicken, spotted with sage, stuffed with garlic and quartered lemons, and served over scarlet carrots, was an impromptu dinner party no-brainer; but marginally more delicious were the supremely fragrant wild leeks that I folded into a purple potato and fennel gratin. If you haven’t cooked with wild leeks — also known as ramps — take advantage of their brief spring season to experiment with them in your meals. They’re expensive (Around $25/lb at Wegman’s), but the slim, tender shoots yield the most extravagantly spring-like bouquet of flavor.
What’s more, they happen to be illegal to purchase in Quebec — apparently, ramps are overforaged to the point of extinction in this province, so people tend to drive to Ontario to stock up — so I was beyond stoked to cook with them in New York. (Side note: while ramps are illegal to buy in Quebec, it is not against the law to forage for them yourself. Future field trip!)
For this rich gratin, thinly slice purple fingerling potatoes (I love their mildly sweet, nutty flavor) and one fennel bulb. Alternate layers of each in a buttered baking dish, fanning out the shapes into green and purple spirals, pausing to add a glug of heavy cream and chicken stock, which splashes and soaks into the vegetables in the most decadent of ways. (Other variations: I love veal stock in a potato gratin; it would also be nice to add minced garlic, a splash of white wine, or some chopped herbs like thyme or sage in with the mix of vegetables).
Mince the ramps as you would a bundle of scallions, and scatter on top. The garlicky smell should be bracing, and intoxicating. Finish with half of cup of grated Parmesan and a few pats of butter, and pop into oven for 45 minutes, or until tender, golden, bubbling, and irresistible. I know my photo doesn’t look like much, but trust that it is the most spectacular explosion of flavors, thanks to the wild leeks.
Recentlywe had something really wonderful to celebrate, so I knew it was time for roast chicken (I have a hard time waiting longer than a few weeks for roast chicken, anyway). This bird was extra special: we tucked truffle slivers, alongside the usual fresh sage, into tight pockets of skin, a handy trick we had picked up from a friend. The roasting smell as the truffles were marrying the chicken was indescribable. Truffles. After I pulled the bird out of the oven, smoking and sizzling, we dressed it with even more truffles. Served with two of my favorite sides — roasted purple potatoes and carrots, and kale with lemon and garlic — and one of my all-time favorite roast chicken wines, a juicy 2001 Joseph Roty bourgogne.
Another day, another roast chicken.
You’re probably sick of seeing roast chicken on this site at this point, but I’m not quite sick of eating it. It’s such simple, humble food, and I never tire of its juicy perfection — especially when you nestle potatoes underneath so that they poach in the dripping chicken fat).
So this time I focused my attention on the other dish of the night: a creamy spinach-leek gratin blanketed with homemade breadcrumbs and pecorino. I love how the milky jade hue of the leeks looks mixed in with flecks of dark emerald spinach, and the flavors mingle just as happily.
I tried to keep this “light”, too; saute two chopped leeks in a pan with (only a bit of) butter, olive oil, garlic and some shallots. fold in three huge cups of chopped spinach and let it wilt down (aided with a splash — I promise just a splash — of luscious heavy cream) in a small pool of lemon juice and homemade chicken broth. Pile the tangle of vegetables into a (lightly) buttered baking dish and top it all with a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, grated Pecorino, minced parsley, salt and pepper. I let my gratin bubble away in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees, but I have to admit that even writing about how I did it feels counter-intuitive; it’s exactly the kind of dish that shines without a recipe.
These photos — from our last major trip to Jean-Talon market — are at least a few weeks old, but I thought they were fitting for today, American Thanksgiving. Looking at these images fill me happiness but also wistfulness — definitely can’t buy Jerusalem artichokes or Roma tomatoes or fresh marjoram anymore!
This fall, I found myself anticipating Thanksgiving with less glee than usual (it’s widely known that it’s my favorite holiday). At first it was puzzling, but I think understand: I live with somewhere where blow-out dinners similar to Thanksgiving feasts happen at least once a week. Why wait a whole year to have dishes that you want to eat year-round?
At first, eating so well was overwhelming; now it just feels normal + right. Roast chicken dinners are a breeze (this one above was cooked Thomas Keller style — with no oil, at high heat and sprinkled with thyme — and was one of the juicest birds I’ve ever eaten); lamb shanks bubbling away for five hours are manageable, too. We eat bone marrow with red wine vinegar and parsley for a snack, and broil scallops in brown butter to perch atop creamed rutabaga puree. I bake at home more than I have in my entire life, and learned to incorporate it into my daily routine in an effortless way. (There is an apple tart bubbling away in the oven as we speak).
I’ve learned to appreciate the incredible richness of my life, and revel in the love we share for food. This Thanksgiving I’m reminded that living spectacularly can happen regularly.
On our final night in NYC, we stormed my friend Alison’s apartment for an impromptu roast chicken dinner party. It’s fast becoming one of my signature dishes, but there are worse things of which to be known, I suppose. It truly is my go-to dish for something impressive looking + results in large quantities + is super easy to make + relatively affordable.
I stuffed the 5 lb monster with rosemary, garlic and lemon and roasted at 425F for about 90 minutes. I always chop up a bed of vegetables that basically poach underneath the chicken fat — this time it was the contents of Alison’s fridge (diced celery, carrots, fingerling potatoes and quartered red onions). I forgot to tuck rosemary sprigs underneath the breast skin (sage + thyme so good for this too), but dusted the skin with plenty of smoked paprika, which gave it such a nice amber, golden glow when pulled out of the oven.
We served the bird with roasted purple potatoes and carrots, and a salad of sauteed sugar snap peas, diced avocado, halved cherry tomato and red leaf lettuce (dressing made with chicken fat drippings, of course). I completely spaced on taking any photos, or else I surely would have documented the perfect apple crumble I made for dessert — dice four Empire apples and toss in a few tablespoons granulated sugar, teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1/4 cup honey. Top with cup of flour cut with stick of butter and brown sugar and sprinkle on top of the apples. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbling and caramel golden, about 45 minutes. Alison! Thank you so so much for having us — such a satisfying, complete meal.
[All photos by Alison Leiby]
I adore roasting whole chickens if only for the copious amounts of leftovers that litter my refrigerator for the following week. I roasted a small 3lb chicken the Ina Garten way — with softened butter + a cavity stuffed with lemon wedges, garlic and thyme — and served it with a mixed green salad and a handful of roasted vegetables, including some beautiful purple baby potatoes and quartered carrots. It was delicious, but now that I seem to make it all the time, also felt a little bit boring.
Far more fun was the lunch I had the next day — shredded leftover roast chicken sauteed quickly with fresh summer corn, halved grape tomatoes, ribbons of basil and minced garlic, tossed with whole wheat penne and a light white wine vinaigrette. I inhaled the contents of my plate, and then served myself a second helping. I’m intrigued by this savory corn pesto with bacon that I saw at Lottie + Doof — will be making that next!