Quick, before summer gets here I wanted to share an old school French recipe for cooking chicken that I adore. It is no secret to my avid followers that I love the classics, especially as I become one myself. This chicken dish is based on a recipe from the late great Paulette Blanc, mother to another famous chef you may have heard about, Georges Blanc….
I came across a huge display of fresh blood oranges at my neighborhood grocery store and it got me thinking about an old dish I used to cook several years ago. In the dish, blood oranges were caramelized with sugar then tossed with spicy grilled chicken wings and chopped cilantro. The original recipe came from Ghillie Basan’s lushly photographed book ‘Modern Moroccan’. I still had my epic Moroccan Salt and Pepper style Shrimp fresh in my mind when I decided to blend the two dishes together resulting in Harissa Fried Chicken Wings, which is surely destined to be a family classic.
If the van is a mo’ rockin’, don’t come knockin’ – Guy Fieri
Fall weather started in earnest today – the weather forecast which called for sunny and warm temperatures, instead turned out to be gloomy and grey all day long. That might sadden some, but for me it signalled the official start to the “stew” season. To celebrate, I made an old family favorite, Moroccan chicken and chicken pea stew made with just picked baby turnips I found at the PDX farmer’s market. A cherished recipe, stolen long ago from the pages of Paula Wolfert’s 1973 classic cookbook, “Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco”. It took about 15 minutes to prep, 45 minutes to gently stew and all of three minutes to eat. A perfect dish for nights where you don’t feel like cooking.
Chaga is one of the weirdest mushrooms you may ever see. A fungal parasite found on birch trees, Chaga is a hardened, blackened, crusty formation that looks like a bursting tumor. – Paul Stamets, Fungi Perfecti founder and president
I was nodding at my computer yesterday afternoon like I do most days around two. The obvious result of too many hours staring at a screen. I walked into our large, communal kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and stretch my legs. I bumped into John, our leader and the force behind Foods in Season, and started talking food as we so often do. He offered a cup of chaga he was brewing and proceeded to tell me about some braised chicken he prepared the night before. He marinated them in chaga tea overnight and it gave a very pleasant pheasant-like taste. I was intrigued. I only heard of chaga mushrooms and was familiar with their healthy beneficial qualities. No one ever talked about using them in a culinary sense….
As a recovering Chef and loving father I have serious reservations about my four year old’s aspirations to cook. On one hand, nothing could be more flattering then to have my son take an interest in what I did for 25 years and follow in my footsteps. As much as I have joked, I love cooking and thoroughly enjoyed my time in some of the best kitchens of the country. I made lots of great friends, learned a lot about different cultures and got to see the world one kitchen at a time. On the other hand, nothing can be scarier than to hand a small child, prone to being a small child, razor sharp implements. My dog has permanently crawled into a kitchen cupboard, completely unable to comprehend the madness unfolding around her. Sometimes I question my own sanity.
The Quest: A Simple, Perfectly Roasted Chicken. A humble, seemingly easy dish that unfortunately is as elusive as a unicorn or a five-leaf clover. I mean, how hard should it be to roast the perfect chicken? Let’s analyze what makes it perfect and figure out how to easily do it every single time.
My dog Lucy came to our bedroom in the dark of night and gave me the sweetest lick. Her tail wagged hard as she aligned her body close to mine. Beaumont was snuggled so tightly to the left that I couldn’t tell where he ended and I started. He was peacefully snoring, happily dreaming of princesses and far off purple kingdoms. Lucy looked so happy with a twinkle in her eye that just screamed I love you. The three of us were intertwined in the bliss of the moment. It truly was serene, though I still had one foot firmly planted in the realm of the Sandman.
As I laid between these two sleeping beauties I started thinking about what had to be done today. I grabbed my phone to see the time and Lisa woke long enough to ask what’s wrong. The problem was it was 3:30 and I was decidedly up. I walked downstairs, made coffee and dragged a comb through my hair. It’s thrown my rhythm off as I attempt to finish the first section of my book and put some semblance of order to my life. Rather than labor at the keyboard slightly buzzed on yesterday’s wine I decided to shoot tomorrow’s side dish, Claude Monet’s stuffed onions. I have been reading Monet’s cooking journals and came across his recipe for ‘Oignons blanc farcis’, stuffed white onions. Something about the classic simplicity struck me. Have these with a great glass of wine and a green salad!
Coq au Vin is as synonymous with French culture as hamburgers are with American. It’s a dish I grew up eating quite a bit and still find very soul-satisfying and comforting when I’m longing for my mother and France. The sauce is packed with flavor and begs for a starchy vehicle to soak it up. Classically boiled or mashed potatoes are served but I think a creamy spätzle, potato gratin or noodle work better. It’s important to let the raw chicken marinate overnight and let the wine and aromatics fully penetrate. Like all great stews, flavors continue to develop as they sit so resist the urge to eat it immediately. I let mine sit for a day or two. The obvious wine choice is a pinot noir with bright acidity. Birds and Burgs as my friend Peter often says….