For a few bucks and a minimal time commitment, you can roast this chicken and veggies and have a real crowd-pleaser on your hands.
Inspired by my favorite cookbook, Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, I decided to perk up the normal routine of just sauteing some chicken breasts and went whole hog (er, whole chicken, I guess) with it. The preparation for this bird is devilishly simple, and while it could probably benefit from some brining, it’s not totally necessary to get great results.
Start by pulling your bird out of the fridge and patting that thing dry, then set it aside for about an hour to let it come to room temperature to ensure even cooking. (I know what you’re thinking—oh the germs! The bacteria! Easy now, you’ll live. This is how Keller does it and and you don’t get to be one of the world’s best chefs by killing off customers). While the bird is set aside I start pulling together some of my favorite root vegetables. Here I did some red onions, carrots and potatoes. Some people would love to throw some Brussels sprouts in there maybe, but I’m not some people.
The use of root vegetables in this dish make it perfect for the Fall, especially when you can head over to the farmer’s market and grab this stuff cheap (pretentious and cheap in one sentence. Excellent.) After I do some scrubbing where necessary, I make sure my veg is chopped to roughly the same size to ensure we don’t have little pieces that are cooked to mush while big chunks are as hard as rocks. But trust me, none of this has to be pretty—making it look rustic is part of the whole deal, I mean we’re going more Ad Hoc than Per Se here.
I like to take some fresh rosemary, cracked pepper and a generous bit of kosher salt and give the whole thing a toss with some oil in a steel bowl, then empty it into my 12-inch cast iron skillet. This thing is an absolute beast, which will ensure even heat distribution.
At this point, I’ve got the oven cranked up to 475 and I’m eyein that bird again. I take some crushed garlic cloves, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper and fill up the cavity of my chicken. Really rub those herbs around in there with your whole fist up in it’s business. Don’t worry, it’s dead, it won’t feel a thing. I grab my butcher’s twine and truss the bird up. I could explain to you how to do it, but it’s much easier to check out this video from our friends over at CHOW, who give a nice explanation.
Why truss it? Well, you may be sensing a theme, but it’s all about making sure the chicken cooks more evenly. The truss gives the bird a more uniform, symmetrical shape and keeps the legs from drifting away from the carcass, which means they’d cook faster.
At this point, Keller likes to rub the bird with butter and stick some under the skin, whereas I prefer to sacrifice a little bit of flavor in order to keep this recipe a bit more lean. I then place the chicken over the veggies, which act like an edible roasting rack. Into the oven the whole mess goes for 20 minutes at 475, because that high, dry heat will give that skin a crisp golden brown. You don’t want to leave it at that temp too long though, you want to drop down to 400 degrees for about 45 more minutes to make sure it cooks all the way through to the bone.
Cooking times will really vary depending on the size of the clucker, so don’t go by the clock so much as your themometer, which should read 160 degrees in the meaty parts. Once it hits that (if you have a digital thermometer it’ll beep at you—myself, I use a little quick-read model), get out the bird and put it on your carving board. I then give the veggies another toss, then throw them back in the oven to get a little more brown.
It’s so important to let the roast rest after you pull it from the oven. When it’s hot, all the chicken’s juices are bubbling up inside, waiting to break free and cutting into it gives them the exit they so desire. If you let it cool, the juices will chill out and not flow out when you carve.
And that’s pretty much it, with pretty much no labor or effort whatsoever, you’ve got a good looking bird that is pretty tough to make not taste delicious.
I’m taking in this late Washington Husky football game (10:30 pm East Coast start—yikes) with fellow UW alum Kyle MacLachlan’s wine, Pursued By Bear. This is a pretty aggressive, full flavored cab that’s a bit hot with some serious tannin. Hopefully the Dawgs will be just as hot tonight.
This Mets game is about to get gluttonous. This better be worth me missing 4 innings waiting in line.
It’s kind of hard for the food to compete when this is the view for your brunch. However, the Salish Lodge’s famous multi-course breakfast more than lived up to the hype. My appetite was obliterated as Mary and I watched the mist from Snoqualmie Falls ensconce the outside of the dining room that’s perched near the ledge where the placid river falls away into the gorge below.
Inspired by the season finale of one of my favorite shows, I went retro for the dinner I served during the last episode of Mad Men’s fourth season. What’s been missing most of the year for Don Draper has been the comforts of domesticity and nuclear family, so I wanted make the traditional Sunday roast served with an iceberg wedge salad that he would be eating had his marriage not gone to shit. Who knew he was so desperate for a family that he decided to make one with the secretary after playing house for one weekend in California, but I digress.
For this cardiac-clogging classic pot roast, I started with 4 lbs of chuck tied with kitchen twine then liberally seasoned with salt and pepper and dredged in flour. In a heavy-bottom pan (a Dutch oven works best) pour a few tablespoons of olive oil and turn it on medium-high heat. Sear the beef in the oil for a few minutes on each side, giving the roast a nice golden crust. Remove the beef, set it aside and turn the heat on your pan down.
After you’ve taken out the roast, there will still be olive oil and some rendered fat left behind. To that you’ll add six smashed cloves of garlic and your mirepoix, which is really just a fancy frog way of saying a trio of chopped onion, carrots and celery. I like to leave some of the carrots pretty chunky to serve along with the roast. Make sure all the ingredients get an even coating of oil and let them go on low for about 15 minutes until your onions are translucent and fragrant, not brown. Once your mirepoix is ready, add 2 cups of hearty red wine, a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes, a cup of stock (chicken, beef or vegetable—whatever’s handy), a few twigs of fresh rosemary and thyme, a bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste.
Bring the pot to a boil, chuck the chuck back in for a swim, put a cover on it and throw it in your oven that’s been preheated to 350 degrees. After an hour, drop the temp down to 250 and let that beast cook low and slow. That’s the key anytime you have a cheap cut of meat like chuck or pork shoulder or anything from the working group muscles in an animal, cook low and slow to break down all that connective tissue and collagen. It takes longer and requires a bit more work than a filet or porterhouse, but the flavor you get for the money you pay is second to none.
After 2 ½ to 3 hours, when the beef is tender enough to pull apart with a fork, yank it from the sauce and set aside on your cutting board. There’s going to be some fat floating at the surface in the pan, so you’ll want to grab a spoon and skim that grease off the top. Sift some flower into the sauce and whisk it in to thicken it up like gravy and add any salt and pepper if needed. Don’t forget to pick out the bay leaf and twigs.
The classic wedge salad, which nowadays you can probably only find in old-school steakhouses, is extremely simple to make. You start by cutting a wedge out of a head of iceberg lettuce, drizzle it with blue cheese dressing, croutons, bacon crumbles and if you’re so inclined, the great chef Thomas Keller suggests oven roasting some roma tomatoes to give the salad a little bit of acidity to cut through the rich, creamy dressing.
So there’s your traditional Sunday roast. I served mine with a baked potato because that felt old school, but you could just as easily have boiled or mashed potatoes to serve along with the gravy you’ve made from the roasts braising liquids. I’m sure this is the type of meal Don expects Megan to make him once they tie the knot, but honestly, he barely knows the chick, so we probably can’t assume the gal can cook.
Baking has a bad rap. It’s seen as the ladylike side of cookery—devoid of flames and flurries of seasoning and showy flicks of the wrist that effortlessly flip food in the frying pan. It’s agrarian and precise and almost scientific. You can’t really see the mad genius chef Marco Pierre White patiently waiting for dough to rise. He was too busy reinventing English cuisine, throwing hot risotto at Mario Batali or making Gordon Ramsay cry.
But my sweet tooth and unhealthy carb addiction drove my early experiments in culinary dark arts toward learning basic versatile bread recipes that I could tweak to give me endless variety. The very first I learned was this recipe below:
Here’s a cartoon I animated as I traveled from ranch to factory to stand to follow the journey of Chicago-style hot dog from farm to plate.
Starbucks can’t do it anymore. Their baristas can’t accomplish even the most basic task of their jobs: frothing milk. They charge $4 for a cup of scalded milk poured into a shot or three of espresso slap a lid on it, fit it with a post-consumer brown sleeve and throw it up on a little counter. So they’ve left us to do it on our own at home. My home espresso machine ain’t great. It does the job, but doesn’t really generate enough pressure to pull an optimal shot and spit out a strong flow of steam. Yet, listening to this guy about the simple basics of frothin my milk and putting his instructions into action nearly covers all of the machine’s ills. Watch and learn kiddies:
While the pointless embargo still keeps US-Cuban relations strained, no such prohibition exists between me and Cuban food. I love the citrusy pork, the garlicky chicken, and the black beans and rice. There’s a freshness to the Cuban food’s flavors, that make them great for eating in the summer. And because I recently saw chicken legs and thighs on sale I decided I’d tackle some of these dishes at home.
I started with a 4:2:1 ratio of orange juice to lime juice to lemon juice then added to that a ¼ cup of oil a few cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tbsp of ground cumin, 2 tbsp of oregano, salt and pepper. After whisking those guys up in a bowl, I add the marinade to a large Ziploc bag filled with the chicken quarters. I throw that into the fridge with all the air removed from the bag so the liquid totally covers the chicken and let it all soak overnight.
They say a great craftsman doesn’t blame his tools. Well, ‘they’ are both right and wrong. They’re wrong because if you have a piece of shit, cheap, stamped, unbalanced blade, then you can blame that thing for a lot of your poor knife skills in the kitchen (far be it for me to judge your knife skills in the bedroom). However, they’re right because if you have one of those terrible Target-brand knives, you, sir, were never a great craftsman to begin with. But fear not, one step closer to become a better home cook is as simple as plopping down $75 on a nice knife.
Now you’re probably thinking, “why would I spend that much?” Listen, I can be a cheap bastard. There are times in life when going for the value choice and saving money is totally worth it, but a good knife isn’t one of those times. You’ll end up just burning through those cheapo ones, buying new ones every few years and you’ll NEVER actually be happy with it. You’re not blowing $75 needlessly here, you’re buying proper tools.