Recently in Poultry and Game
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

harissa-roasted chicken with chickpeas and red onion

harissa-roasted chicken

Oh, chicken! You are so maligned sometimes. You’re the thing people probably order the least in nicer restaurants. And you’re easily relegated to boring and blasé. Sometimes you are cooked into dry oblivion, upon which you, at best, taste like pressed wood chips. To make matters worse, you’re far too humble to ever speak up for yourself. Instead, you wait. You wait for a cook to realize your true potential, and elevate you to your well-earned exalted position. Just as a concept, chicken, you are bland. Commonplace, even. But there are so many way to prepare you, that you possess the versaility other meats simply to not. You can be dressed up, or down, depending on the occasion. Different version of you have legions of loyal followers. Roast chicken. Chicken braised in Riesling. Chicken braised in milk. You can take on so many roles that it is, indeed, unfair to call you boring. Chicken, you are the Meryl Streep of food! There’s no one more versatile than you! [And thus, I end my ode.]

the magical ingredientsmarinading!

Despite chicken’s apparent versatility, writing excitedly about it, does present a bit of a problem. I think what makes or breaks a chicken dish, in particular, is how you make it. I know that this rule applies to just about everything, but I like think of chicken as the true, great, blank canvas. There’s an endless range of possibilities, but chicken generally needs a bit of direction, be is just a bit of salt and pepper, and roasting; or a more elaborate cooking process. And with a few great ingedients and some gentle prodding, what you can wind up with is nothing short of a miracle.

onion

I’ve been on a harissa kick lately, so much so, that I am thinking of just biting the bullet and making my own. Luisa’s recipe has been on my mind for awhile now, but as per usual, I am slow to get things done. Work, you consume me so! I made this a few weeks ago for a very special dinner. I’ll leave it at that, but suffice to say, I was trying to impress. I was intrigued by the marriage of yogurt, spices and harissa as a marinade for the chicken – I knew, in an instant, this would be fragrant, flavorful, intense. I wanted a chicken dish that wasn’t delicate with its notes; I wanted a bold, daring dish that would hold its own against the carrot salad. And the flavors worked beautifully. The yogurt added a lovely tang that took the heat of harissa and deepened its structure, all the while softening its heat just a bit. I wanted a slightly earthy aftertaste, so I mixed some cumin into my marinade – a decision I was particularly happy about once we tasted the final product. And because there were chickpeas in the salad, I opted to skip them this time around (fearing the mighty chickpea overload), but added some extra onions to roast and flavor the chicken.

onion, scattered
harissa-roasted chicken, ready for cooking

I’m always on a lookout for a chicken recipe that will be a real stand-out in a crowd of just-so recipes. I’ve gotten quite lucky with the Riesling one, and this apricot-Sriracha one (among a few), and this will take a place alongside my keeper recipes. If you think that making chicken is a snooze-fest, I implore you not to give the bird a chance – it will play any role you want and will transform itself so much so that you might just exclaim, “This is chicken?!?” and never look back. Except, maybe, to get second helpings.

harissa-roasted chicken

Continue reading harissa-roasted chicken with chickpeas and red onion.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

braised chicken and rice with orange, saffron, almond, and pistachio syrup

Braised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & Pistachios

Well. That was fun. I seem to have entirely missed April. And we’re into our second week in May and somewhere in there, I turned a year older. Happy Birthday to me, indeed. I must apologize for my silence – and tell you all, that work has swallowed me whole. It’s like the dog-ate-my-homework excuse. Except the dog here is my job and the homework, in this case, is me. Not a day went by that I didn’t think about you and this little wee space. Did you miss me? I hope so. Because, I have missed you. A lot.

onions always make things betterBraised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & Pistachios

Birthday celebration aside, not much else, besides work, has been going on. At least not in the kitchen. I’ve boiled water for tea. I’ve made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. One sandwich. I’ve ordered some pad thai and some Alaska rolls and I ate them standing in my kitchen while reading the Atlantic. I also acquired a whole lot of cookbooks, from which I am dying to cook, but haven’t had any time. Books like David’s new book and Ad Hoc at Home and Paris Sweets, among a few. If I could magically pull an extra week of vacation from the vacation hat, I would spend the week alone, in my kitchen, puttering around and making food. And then I’d invite my friends over and we’d have a feast. To me, nothing sounds more lovely right now. I miss my kitchen and I miss creating in it. I am hoping that work will calm down shortly. Please hope with me.

Braised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & PistachiosBraised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & Pistachios

However, I’ve been trying to do this thing on Sundays – cook a supper, invite friends over and eat and laugh while sharing the food and a few bottles of wine. All the while their kids try to destroy my apartment, in the nicest way possible. This kid here, he loves to take dried fruit and nuts out of pantry and sometimes, he likes to sprinkle them around the floor. And the best part? I adore him so much, I don’t mind one bit. Not even a smidgen. And this one here – well, he gave me the most amazing birthday hug ever. I mean, this kid can hug. I think it might just be my favorite present this year. I know, I’m giving you all cavities right now. I’ll find my inner snark again eventually.

Braised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & PistachiosBraised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & Pistachios

So a few Sundays ago, for one of these Sunday suppers, I wanted to make this braised chicken. Afghan food speaks to me with its layers of flavors, fragrant spices, delicately cooked meat. I grew up eating a lot of Uzbek food, which my grandmother learned to make having grown up in Samarkand, and while Uzbek and Afghan food aren’t the same thing, they are closely related. It doesn’t hurt that they share a border. My childhood was full of slow-cooked fragrant plovs, Uzbek manty (which are very different from the Turkish ones – in that they are like big dumplings, they are steamed and full of marinated chopped lamb – tasting a lot like merguez) among other dishes. And this chicken dish, while not a straight-up throwback to my early years, reminded me of spending time with my grandmother, in her kitchen, while she turned out one amazing dish after another. Let me tell you – that woman could cook like no other. To this day, I’ve yet to meet a better chef. Nothing, and I mean, nothing ever went to waste. And her repertoire was seemingly endless. I’ve never seen her reference a recipe, never saw her look something up. And while she doesn’t cook much these days, her legacy lives on.

Braised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & PistachiosBraised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & Pistachios

Back to this chicken though. It is a keeper. And I mean – a keeper. I can’t tell you how good this is and how much my friends and I enjoyed it. Even this little monkey got all primitive and ran around the apartment with a drumstick in his hands. As an aside, finding pieces of chicken under my pillow – bonus! But. Oh, there’s a but. This dish here? Takes a lot more time than you’d think and is actually trickier than comes across. So my advice to you before you venture forth – take a deep breath. Also, note to yourself, out loud if need be, that this will involve many steps. This isn’t one of those, throw everything in the pot and just let it do its thing. This is a multi-step, multi-pot, sequenced affair. It requires patience and love and a strong desire to eat Afghan food that night. Oh and a sense of humor if you happen to realize that you have no idea what a “large pinch of saffron” really means. How large is large, really? Do I need a vat of it? Can I take out a second mortgage on my house? Will it take me a full month of April to cook, thereby preventing me from writing anything for four weeks straight? It’s all possible. However, I promise you, what you will wind up with is a dish that is comforting yet seductive. And while it doesn’t excuse my absence for four weeks, at least I am giving you something really worth trying out. Forgive me my silence? I promise to be better going forward.

Wait! Wait! I have an announcement! [Warning: Shameless braggery ahead!]
This upcoming Monday, May 10th, yours truly will make a small appearance on the CBS’ The Early Show about a segment on what people eat when they eat alone. In the spirit of true Russian-ness, I talk about herring, potatoes, onions and pelmeni, among other things. Tune-in and check it out!!

Braised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & PistachiosBraised Chicken with Rice, Saffron, Orange & Pistachios

*Photos of kids coming later – my wireless connection is moving at snail-pace today so I can’t upload them.

Continue reading braised chicken and rice with orange, saffron, almond, and pistachio syrup.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

chicken in riesling

chicken in riesling

Of all the fancy kitchen terms, “braise”, I think, just might be my favorite cooking word around. And one of my favorite words in the English language. It’s a slow and lazy word, luxurious, full. To braise is to have something utterly amazing in the end that yields results far exceeding this unfussy, simple way of cooking. Braising is the antithesis to dry and boring; it is comforting and welcome no matter the season. When I see the word on a menu, I know that time has eased my food into something that falls off the bone, comes apart with a simple pull of the fork, something that’s been coaxed into a delicate state.

There’s something about braising that calms me as well. When my mind is racing and unquiet, when I am over-thinking (which is something I do a lot), braising somehow makes me slow down and take a breath. There’s something soothing about having a pot in the oven slowly applying heat to whatever it is being cooked, patiently transforming it into a dish. Time and heat and patience. And the smell that fills the house with a sense of home, as if saying “Welcome, here food is cooked with care and love. Stay awhile.” I love that feeling. If I could bottle it, I would give it out to everyone I know. There’s no feeling like it.

chicken in rieslingchicken in riesling

Could it be that making a trans-Atlantic move at the age of eleven did it? That sense of childhood home is something I can’t even recall. And moving around so much with boarding school and college and then in New York – home is something you make and create, especially in our fluid world of transient apartments, shifting jobs, career changes, or just a desire to pick up and go somewhere new. What anchors us and makes us feel safe, or at least for me, are meals we make at home. Somehow and apartment, devoid of furniture and pictures and personal mementos, becomes a home the minute you turn the stove on, the minute you set a place setting for yourself, or for others. Home is something you carry with you and the memories you make yourself.

chicken in riesling

Last Sunday, I had friends over for a Sunday supper. I like these Sunday suppers. They are our way of easing into the work-week. They let us talk and laugh and share. I wouldn’t trade these supper for the world. But in addition to the warmth and joy of these suppers, last Sunday was a meal to be remembered. In fact, the consensus was that this might have been the best thing I’ve ever fed my guests. I made twice the amount for our company and there were no left overs. Even my friends’ kids – who are ever the picky eaters, couldn’t put this chicken down.

chicken in riesling

Dear readers, this chicken is a thing of beauty. It is something that I implore you to make this weekend. Well, maybe you have Easter menus planned out, but please do it soon. This is something I’ve been meaning to cook for quite some time. And lovely Maggie and ever-so-talented Jeanette have made it and raved about it; so this was destined to be a home run. But I had absolutely no idea just how amazing this dish was. Which is why I am being so persistent in telling you to just please make it. I think you will love it. And I think you will want to make it again and again, the same way that I do. You might lick your plate clean, even if there’s company present.

Continue reading chicken in riesling.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

wings: honey-mustard wings & teriyaki wings

teriyaki wings

It’s hard to remember where my love for the American football began. It is an improbable love, sandwiched between my Russian heritage and my sports-apathetic family. In Russia, sports fans watched either soccer or hockey. They also read chess-match play-by-play summaries in the paper (yes, chess was considered a sport in Russia – I kid you not). My family, on the other hand, couldn’t care less. If it wasn’t opera or ballet, my father wasn’t paying attention. And if it wasn’t being broiled, fried or braised – my mother instantly would lose interest.

teriyaki marinadehoney mustard

So it begs the question why I’ve become such an avid football fan, replete with an arsenal of game-friendly foods in my repertoire. While I’ve certainly made my efforts to assimilate better, sports fanaticism is a hard one to fake. You actually have to understand what’s going on. And football comes with a lot of rules at its disposal, so it’s not a late-comer friendly game. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Bill Belichick and I share the same high school alma-mater.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

roast chicken

classic roast chicken

There are plenty of stories that I could share with you about roast chicken. My memories of eating it as a child, as an adult, and in-between – are plentiful. But that’s really neither here nor there, and would be distracting to the missive – you need to make this. Soon. As soon as possible, in fact. And I want to tell you that there is a way to get your roast chicken perfect every time. In fact, this chicken sort of just cooks on its own with very little hands-on work. You know, I am having a hard time writing this post. I think what I want to say to you is this.

There is nothing more perfect than a perfectly roasted chicken.

classic roast chicken

Nothing more sublime. Nothing more attainable, accessible, every-day-comforting and yet luxurious and decadent. It’s the alpha and the omega of meals. It’s a meal fit for a regular-weeknight supper or a festive, celebratory feast. It’s like that amazingly, fabulous pair of jeans hanging in your closet. An every day must-have, that’s also great for a fabulous night on the town. And just as a pair of jeans is an essential wardrobe staple, roast chicken is its kitchen equivalent. It’s a classic everyone should master. And it is easier to make than you think.

classic roast chicken

I have, in my lifetime, attempted my hand at roast chicken with as much success as failure. I finally figured out a few things that, I think, make a nearly fool-proof system of getting your chicken just perfect every time. Besides this method, what it takes is just a few times’ making it. Getting a feel for the bird, for the roasting process, getting some courage in calling it when it’s done. Courage is huge here. I mentioned once that pie crust smells fear. I think it’s kind of true for cooking food in general. Or attempting something new. That something will intrinsically know your fear, so I suggest just charging on. What’s the worst think that can happen? You will eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner – and is that such a bad thing?

classic roast chickenmaking gravy

Here are some of my thoughts on roasting a chicken.

First off, you want your chicken to be on the smaller side. You want that magic perfect proportion of skin to meat, i.e. fat to leaner meat. More fat equals tastier chicken. Also, more moist chicken, since this fat will guard your chicken from drying up. Larger chickens are, well, larger, and so somehow that fat distribution doesn’t quite work. So aim for a chicken between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 pounds.

Secondly, it would help you a great deal if you prepped the chicken one to two days in advance. This means, salting it, putting appropriate herbs and whatnot, and letting it sit in the fridge, covered, absorbing this lovely salt. It’s really worth it.

Third, high temperature, is your friend. In fact, it is your right hand man when it comes to roasting a chicken. Don’t fear it, thinking that it’ll render your chicken dry. It won’t. I promise. In fact, you’ll be amazed what blasting your chicken with such high temperatures will do for the bird. It will melt in your mouth. It will not taste like pressed wood composite.

classic roast chicken - resting

Fourth, you want to make sure that before you place the chicken in the oven you want to make sure it is as dry as possible. Dry chicken means it will get crispy and sizzle. Wet chicken means, it’ll steam and steamed chicken isn’t nearly as exciting-sounding or tasting as roasted chicken. Don’t you think?

Finally, and just as importantly, once your chicken is done, you want to let it rest. Give it about 15 minutes so that it absorbs the juices and hangs out for a bit. Besides, after pulling it out of the oven, you’ll be compelled to pull up a chair and admire it – it will be terribly pretty to look at (and even better to eat, when you get around to it)!

classic roast chicken

But don’t admire it too long – you’ll have hungry guests and a meal is best admired when it is consumed and savored.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

apricot glazed sriracha ginger chicken

apricot-glazed sriracha chicken

I was going to write about roast chicken. I had it all planned and figured out. I was going to tell you of a glorious weekend on the North Fork, and wine tasting, and meeting Claudia Fleming (swoon). But all this must wait. Because I have to tell you about the chicken I made Monday night for our monthly book club. We ate it up and licked our fingers. Well, I licked my fingers, and I think the other ladies in the book club were better behaved.

It’s not often that I find a recipe I like so much that I am thinking about it non-stop and so much so that I would be willing to serve it to my guests again. I’m quite fanatical about not repeating dishes as I try to always cook something new and different and thus maybe have something new to write about, but in this case, really, this will be made over and over and over again.

apricot-glazed sriracha chickenapricot-glazed sriracha chicken

Particularly for dinner parties and more particularly for those dinner parties hosted on a weeknight, when I have roughly an hour and a half to pull dinner together. Because what comes out of your oven is, well, nothing short of stunning. I would even dare say, celestial. I know, I use superlative language here, but if you know me, and I think by now you do, I’m not prone to descriptions that don’t live up to expectation. I’m all about meeting those expectations, folks.

apricot-glazed sriracha chickenapricot-glazed sriracha chicken

And they will be met. Because a slurry of garlic, ginger, apricot jam, soy sauce and the recently written about Sriracha – does something to the chicken that makes it somewhat irresistible. You know it the second you take it out of the oven and smell it that you will be licking your fingers. And the plate, and whatever is left of the sauce. And when your guests go to get seconds and praise your cooking prowess, you might be tempted to tell you that the whole thing took mere minutes to put together. But you won’t. Because you’ll be too busy licking the sauce off your fingers to talk.

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