Posts tagged passover
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.

Continue reading roast chicken.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

cream braised cabbage with leeks

cream-braised cabbage with leeks

I know it’s a little strange that I’m that I am telling you about another cabbage recipe so soon after the first one, but I can’t help myself. It’s too good to keep from you a moment longer. Doing so would be selfish and wrong. And I’m anything but selfish. Besides in Russia households typically always have a head of cabbage on hand. I know in my family it’s always been the case.

Moreover, I wish I could tell you that I’m one of those people who cooks a new thing every night, who is constantly craving variety, and is always out trying new things. I don’t. Sometimes I go for weeks without so much as turning on the stove. Embarrassing, but true. So if I find a dish that truly strikes a chord with me – well, I will make it over and over and over. Like this one for instance.

big pile of cabbage - YUM cream-braised cabbage with leeks

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m very open to trying a new dish or a new flavor combination, but I am quite often finding myself ordering the same few things off my regular take-out menus. I could also very well make something and then eat it for several days and sometimes even longer. I’m a creature of habit to a fault. I like schedules and planning. Leftovers are just another way for me to continue eating what I like. Besides so many different things taste that much better the following days when the flavors have a chance to meld together: chili, soup, stew, and believe it or not – this cabbage. That is if it lasts that long in your household.

cream-braised cabbage with leeks

So this cabbage I want to tell you about. Well, I’ve recently fallen in love with braising vegetables in cream. You take something somewhat pedestrian, like cabbage for instance, and you add in some chopped leeks and then you sauté the whole thing for awhile until the leeks start turning yellow-green, closer to yellow; and the cabbage has wilted and began to look a little sad. This is where you swoop in and add some lemon juice, salt and finally cream and thus transform it from sadness into glory, like Cinderella going to a fancy ball. You let it thicken for a few minutes and then scoop it generously onto a plate. And then, as a pièce de résistance, you grate a tiny bit of Grana Padano over it (I know cheese sounds superfluous, but trust me on this one). Just try to have one serving of this and not eat the whole thing. You can consider it an open challenge.

cream-braised cabbage with leeks

Continue reading cream braised cabbage with leeks.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

curried carrot ginger soup with pepitas, cilantro oil and a homemade spicy marshmallow

curried carrot ginger soup

One of the best things about eating at a great restaurant is that in addition to eating a well-prepared meal, you sort of become inspired. You go home with the flavors still lingering on your palate and you wonder for days on end how to recreated it in your kitchen. There’s the kabocha squash with leek ravioli with my name on it brewing in the depths of my mind. And I will make it before the season is out, mark my words. Not a day goes by that I haven’t thought about those ravioli with the fried ricotta and pine nuts in brown butter. [At this point, I slide of my office chair and fall to the floor. THUD.]

So where were we? Oh that’s right restaurants, inspiration, recreating the food at home. Of course. Let’s get back to the matter at hand, shall we?

curried carrot ginger soup

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I went to check out this relatively new, well-reviewed restaurant in the East Village/Nolita area, whose focus was on Colonial influenced food. While our meal was nothing short of excellent, the highlight of the meal was this cardamom carrot soup we ordered as an appetizer. The carrot soup arrived, garnished with toasted pepitas (swoon), drizzled with cilantro oil (double swoon) and (takes deep breath) topped with a homemade chili marshmallow a little oozy and melty around its perimeter. [THUD] That’s me falling out of my chair again.

curried carrot ginger soup

Ok, so. The soup. By now, most of you reading this site, know that I possess a love for soup that runs so deep you’d be hard-pressed to find a comparison for it. I know soup is a little bit grandmotherly, like strained peas or oatmeal, but I love it unabashedly. Soup is warmth. Soup is comfort. Soup is a glorious thing that you spoon and taste and feel like you’ve a warm blanket on your lap. And since I so over winter at this point, soup makes me feel one day closer to spring.

curried carrot ginger soup

What can I say to you about this soup? Well, you must know I love it because I recreated it at home mere weeks after trying it at a restaurant. But I also added a few things – gave it a little bit more mystery and caché if you will, but adding ginger, orange juice and curry. The original soup was heavily focused on cardamom, which I loved, but I wanted a little more depth. I wanted cardamom and that secondary aftertaste you feel with a slight curry flavor. I liked it even better than the original soup and will definitely make it again before the season is out – it is unbelievably comforting and is a cinch to make. You can puree it in a blender, but I must tell you that my new immersion blender is a thing of beauty. That little gadget is SO powerful and easy to use, that you’d want to get this if only because you will be looking at fewer pots to clean afterwards. A sink that has fewer dirty dishes – to me, that’s the ultimate inspiration!

Continue reading curried carrot ginger soup with pepitas, cilantro oil and a homemade spicy marshmallow.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

glazed pearl onions in port

port braised onions

Honestly, if someone told me I had to go and live on a uninhabited island and could bring one vegetable with me, it would be an onion. My kitchen feels oddly empty when I run out, which is why I buy loads of them at once as if the great onion famine is going to set in any day. I always wonder about the folks in the check-out line with a singular onion – why just one? Can’t you just chop up a great deal of them and make caramelized onions, spread them on bread with a little fleur de sel and you have a meal fit for a king?

Consider the onion – it is a humble thing. It’s subterranean, for one, growing in the dirt. It isn’t all sweet and welcoming like a carrot is, for instance. It’s never been serenaded, unlike, say the plum. Songs have not been written about it unlike beans for example. It’s got a smell, a bite, and it makes you cry. It’s cheap, fairly pedestrian and socially maligned (just try ordering a salad for lunch with onions and see what happens). And yet, what sandwich would be complete without it? What soup wouldn’t get more depth if you took on onion out? Making stock? Better have an onion on hand.

port braised onionsport braised onions

And when I say I can be giddy with a piece of hearty bread, topped with slowly caramelized onions and fleur de sel, I’m not lying. As a child, it was one thing my mother could make at any time and I would eat it. All of it. Without leaving so much as a little onion piece behind. I would have turned down chocolate and cookies just to sit down with a bowl of caramelized onions. And I might be the only one out there who swoons at the word “allium” – I once name my goldfish that. Unfortunately the goldfish lived an additional three hours and then decided it was time to go belly up. Perhaps it was offended at the name, but I meant it in the highest of compliments.

port braised onions

So let me just warn you before I give you the recipe for this. If you’re an onion fan and if the thought of slow-cooking an onion gives you weak knees like it does to me, run to the grocery store and get the ingredients to make this. Go now, don’t wait. As a side dish this is perfection. Roasted in port, these are luxurious, earthy, fully developed flavors. While peeling them is time consuming and is a pain, the end result is so worth it. Besides, roasting the onions in port makes the dish anything but pedestrian.

Continue reading glazed pearl onions in port.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

roasted cauliflower with indian spices and yogurt dressing

roasted cauliflower with indian spices and yogurt dip

Sometimes, I operate under the delusion that I have excellent time management skills, that I can multi-task and that no goal is unattainable. Take this roasted cauliflower, for example. I wanted to share it with you before I left for my vacation to L.A., but I got a bit distracted and failed to do much of anything. And then I thought I might even write about this while on my vacation, but who was I kidding? Not that I didn’t have an opportunity – L.A. was rainy for the 4 out of the 6 days. So much for their eternal sunshine.

Continue reading roasted cauliflower with indian spices and yogurt dressing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

cream braised brussels sprouts

Braised Brussel Sprouts in Cream

I must first apologize for the ugly picture above. No matter how hard I tried, these sprouts refused to look sexy for me, and instead you get this washed out, glib picture. I’m sorry for that, I really truly am. But as disgusting as this picture looks, that’s how good these sprouts are. Better even, they’re stunning, operatic, grand. Sure, they may not seem like a big deal, but trust me, braised in cream this is a royal dish. One that is perfect on its own, or as as side to some hearty roasted meat. Or maybe even, say turkey?

Everyone is probably counting the days down to Thanksgiving, I know I am. Menus have been planned, dishes have been discussed, shopping lists drawn. And yet, in my emails with friends from here and there, I keep hearing the same sentiment - I just need more sides. Well, if more sides is what you need, here, use this one. Because, let’s face it, the green beans have been overused to the point of delirium. They could use a break from all this pressure to perform on the foodiest of all the food holidays. Here, give Brussels sprouts a go.

the glorious brussels sprouts leeks

Disliked by many a child, I am almost positive that he (or she) will gobble this up in minutes. And maybe even ask you for seconds. I think that the trick here is cream, which in my opinion, makes most things better and elevates them to a status fit for a feast and not just an everyday side. Lemon juice, too, makes it sparkle even more so. And seeing as this is really easy to make (I know, here I go with this easy stuff again!), you won’t even feel taxed adding one more side to your Thanksgiving menu. And it’ll look that much more impressive!

my newfound favorite vegetable -- the humble leek!

Honestly, whatever yield I give you below, I am lying through my teeth. This was devoured in one sitting by three people and quite honestly, we would all have gone for seconds. Or, in my case, I probably would have had three helpings if that were an option. This recipe, which was adapted from Molly, is a true stunner and one to be made over and over this cold wintry season.

In case this is not an appealing side dish for you – I’ve compiled a few Thanksgiving dishes that should be pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. And will post it tomorrow!

Continue reading cream braised brussels sprouts.