Victoria’s Maple Syrup and Garlic-Roasted Chicken with On-Ke’s Coconut Oil-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Seriously good food.
No one likes to admit weakness, but I will here: after years of heavy teaching loads and graduate school stress, I am prone to burn out. I used to think that I was invincible, a survivor who overcame those horrible stretches of apathy by plowing straight through them. In reality, I was only papering over my needs and making the situation worse.

Today things are different. I recognize the signs of burn-out more easily, those dark twinges that hang just outside of my metaphysical peripheral vision. Unlike then, I realize now that if I don’t take care of myself, I’m no good to anyone: family, friends, students, and colleagues alike. So I draw boundaries at the end of each semester, knowing that I need to take some precious time to recharge my batteries so to speak.

One thing that always helps me recuperate and regain my joie de vivre is food, particularly cooking. When life gets hectic and the stacks of papers that I need to grade grow higher, I pretty much cease to cook at home — an obvious mistake as cooking calms me and the food that I prepare nourishes both my body and spirit. I love trying new recipes and cooking from new cookbooks, but when I am really aching for something soul-sustaining, what I love most are recipes from family and friends. Those recipes and dishes are the ones that are really special because they make me feel as if that person is in the kitchen with me even though they may be thousands of miles away.

I’ve been spatchcocking a lot of chickens lately. Partly because I’ve finally invested in a good pair of very sharp, spring-loaded shears, and also because I like how evenly and quickly the chicken cooks. The white meat emerges tender and moist from the oven, the dark meat is rich and succulent, and the skin comes out crispy, burnished, and golden.

For this particular chicken, I finally got around to trying a maple syrup-kissed rub/marinade that Victoria over at Bois de Jasmin mentioned in the comment thread of her post on Hot and Spicy Cranberry Sauce. Many people think of Bois de Jasmin as a perfume blog, but I always consider it much more than that: a celebration of life and of all things fragrant, including food and drink. Given that the olfactory and the gustatory are so intimately intertwined, is it surprising that many perfume lovers happen to be fine gastronomes as well?

Victoria calls this chicken an improvisation, but I call it genius. The chicken feels infused with a terrific depth of flavor. The maple syrup caramelizes to a sticky, burnt sugar-like glaze. Victoria uses a mortar and pestle to render the garlic cloves into a smooth paste. I would have done the same if I had one. However, as I do not, I made do with a garlic press. Regardless of which technique you choose, the garlicky chicken roasting in the oven will make your kitchen smell mouthwatering good. I used a pinch of cayenne pepper in place of a pinch of paprika, but Victoria also suggests a little bit a garam masala added to the mix — a delicious idea that I look forward to trying as soon as I get back to NYC.

As for the coconut oil-roasted sweet potatoes, I never would have tried a so-called Paleo recipe if not for On-Ke, who had recently completed 30 days of eating Paleo along with her daughter Siobhan and her family. I had initially gotten to know Siobhan through her wonderful blog Garden Correspondent. When we finally met in person, it was as if I had known her for years. Laughing and chatting animatedly over Italian coffee and pastries, Siobhan decided that she needed to introduce me to her mother, another “culture vulture” who lives rather conveniently around the corner from me. Needless to say, we hit it off right away and have spent this past fall terrorizing the city in a good way: museum visits, perfume sniffing outings, theater performances, and always food, glorious food! Siobhan, you are missed!

One afternoon, On-Ke served me a roasted and roughly cut up kabocha squash that was rubbed with coconut oil, seasoned with salt, and studded with cracked black peppercorns. Super classy woman that I am, I devoured what must have been half a pumpkin in one sitting. I couldn’t help it; there was something about that subtle coconut flavor that made that roasted kabocha squash even more irresistible. Ever since that afternoon, this has been my preferred way to cook just about any squash or yam. As I thought about a perfect complement for Victoria’s chicken, I couldn’t come up with a better one than these sweet potatoes roasted in the same way.

Special Equipment:

A good, sharp pair of cooking shears

One half-size sheet pan

One wire rack to fit the sheet pan

Ingredients:

For the sweet potatoes:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons of coconut oil (I prefer unrefined coconut oil because the coconut flavor is stronger)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the roasted chicken:

1 whole chicken

1 tablespoon of dark amber maple syrup

3-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced or even better, pulverized using a mortar and pestle with a little course salt

2 tablespoons of good olive oil

A pinch of cayenne pepper, paprika, or garam masala

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

How to prepare:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°.

2. While the oven is warming up, you can begin to prep the chicken. To spatchcock any bird, flip the bird over so that its breast is facing down on the cutting board and its back is facing upright. Using a good, sharp pair of sturdy kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting along either side of it. Remove any excess skin that is dangling from the neck hole. Turn the bird breast-side-up. Remove the wishbone with a sharp knife. Now with the heel of your hand, press directly down on the breast bone until you hear a crack. Congratulations! You have just spatchcocked a bird! To finish, tuck the wings behind the breast. For the legs, you can make small slits in the skin on either side of where the tail used to be and push the ends of each respective leg through them. You can also leave the wings and legs as they are. Your chicken will taste the same either way, but as a firm believer in trussing, I like to have everything looking neat. To help visualize this, here is a video.

3. Combine the maple syrup, garlic, olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the mixture evenly all over the chicken. Lay the chicken out on a rack-lined sheet pan and let it marinate uncovered on the counter for about 40 minutes to an hour.

4. While the chicken is marinating, use your hands to rub each piece sweet potato with coconut oil. Season the pieces liberally with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper, and spread them out in an even layer over another baking tray or in the bottom of a cast iron pan. I like my roasted sweet potatoes to be on the very roasted side, not exactly burnt, but just so that the surface sugars are caramelized. This should take about 40 minutes or so. If you prefer yours to be less roasted, you can remove them from the oven when they are softened and can be easily pierced with the point of a sharp knife.

5. When the sweet potatoes are done, remove them from the oven. Put the chicken in the oven and carefully pour about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of water into the bottom of the sheet pan. The water should not touch the bottom of the wire rack. Roast the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°, this should take between 1 hour and 1.5 hours depending on how big your chicken is. If at any point you notice that the garlic is beginning to burn, you can loosely tent the chicken with a sheet of aluminum foil, removing it when the it is almost done so that the skin can brown. When the chicken is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10-20 minutes before carving.

Serve the chicken with the roasted sweet potatoes.

Mustard-Butter Chicken and Roasted Savoy Cabbage

Thank you, Hannah!
I cannot take credit for this meal; that distinction belongs to the amazing Hannah over at Inherit the Spoon. For about a year now (or maybe it has been longer — I’m getting forgetful), I have been following this her adventures in life and in the kitchen. I have admired her commitment to eating local, and providing a nutritious and delicious table for her family.

Recently, she published recipes for roasted Savoy cabbage and mustard-butter chicken. The minute I read them, I knew that I had to make them soon.

The meal was incredible and incredibly easy. If I wasn’t smitten with Hannah’s blog before, I definitely am now!

As I cannot write better than Hannah herself, I will direct you to her post here for step-by-step instructions on how to prepare both the cabbage and the chicken. I agree with Hannah that you should take your time and let the cabbage get dark and crispy; it really is best that way.

Thank you, Hannah!

Simple Roast Chicken and Yotam Ottolenghi’s Parmesan Rice with Buttered Almonds and Fresh Oregano


The past few weeks have been insane schedule-wise. First of all, I had a slew of administrative concerns that needed to be sorted out. Never fun. Secondly, I had to take a Foreign Language Proficiency Exam. In Spanish.

I don’t speak Spanish.

So why did I have to take it? Well, long story short, for my degree, I basically needed to show that I can do research in a language other than my native one if necessary. Since I am in a French department, French doesn’t count even though it is not my native language. English doesn’t count either because it actually is my native language.

Yes, I agree; it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either that I had to pick something else.

What is really embarrassing is that I have actually known about this requirement for years. Why did I put it off for so long? Well, it kept getting superseded by more pressing things like students who needed final grades, or coursework that needed to be completed. Silly things like that!

I think that I also had these pleasant daydreams of jetting off to Buenos Aires to learn Spanish while sucking down copious amounts of Malbec. Or learning Spanish in Madrid with a dictionary in one hand and a tapas in the other. Or going to Lima and eating chifa until I exploded. You get the idea.

In any case, it just got to the point where I couldn’t avoid it anymore.

And that is how I found myself in a situation where I had to teach myself advanced-level Spanish in three weeks!

To those who say that Spanish is “easier,” I say that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

I have spent many, many, many years teaching French to undergrads. That is a lot of experience breaking language down into manageable chunks and patterns. Believe me when I say that, comparatively, Spanish has a lot more verb forms than French does. It also has more than one verb for “to be,” a crazy, confusing thing called the “a personal,” and imperfect past, past perfect and future subjunctive tenses that actually get used.

I would guess that people say that Spanish is easier for two primary reasons: Americans tend to have more exposure to Spanish than any other foreign language, and Spanish-speakers, in general, seem to be much more tolerant of badly-spoken Spanish than French or Italian speakers are of badly-spoken French or Italian.

Needless to say, I was so stressed out I wasn’t eating very well. However, at a certain point last week, I just couldn’t take it anymore. My body would not accept any more slices of pizza,  any more handfuls of almonds, or any more weird juice drinks in an effort to have my fruit and vegetables in a speedy, non-chewable way.

I just had to cook something. It had to be warm and comforting. It had to be interesting too, but in as fuss-free a way as possible.

A roast chicken fit the bill beautifully. Trussed tight, massaged with butter, and showered with salt and pepper is all the effort needed to turn out a beautifully golden bird.

But woman cannot live by poultry alone!

So I paired it with this fantastic Parmesan rice recipe that I adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi — which was equally as easy to make, as well as being elegant to look at and eat. Is the dish Middle Eastern-inspired? Persian? Moorish? Italian? Turkish? Who the heck knows, but it was delicious.

As for the exam, I hope that I passed! I find out in 4-6 weeks. Fingers crossed that I don’t have to take the gosh darned thing again!

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons of butter (divided into 2 tablespoons, and 3 tablespoons)

1 1/2 cups of basmati rice

3 cups of water

Salt and white pepper

1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan

1/2 cup of raw slivered almonds

The juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon of fresh oregano leaves

Sumac (optional)

How to prepare:

1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Toss the rice in the melted butter until the individual grains become translucent. Add 3 cups of water and a good pinch of salt. Raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the rice to a boil uncovered. Cover the pan, and lower the heat about as low as it can go. Cook the rice until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender.

2. When the rice is done, fluff it with a fork. Evenly sprinkle the rice with the cheese and stir everything together. The Parmesan should be evenly distributed throughout the rice. Adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper. Cover the rice again while you prepare the almonds.

3. In a small frying pan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium to medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the almonds. Turn the almonds in the foamy butter until they begin to brown and turn golden. Remove the pan from the heat. VERY CAREFULLY add the lemon juice by pouring it over the back of a wooden spoon into the almonds. Stir in the oregano leaves. Adjust the seasoning.

4. Mound the Parmesan rice in a large dish. Spoon out the almonds and pour the sauce evenly over the rice. Sprinkle with sumac and serve with roast chicken.

For the Roast Chicken:

This is not a recipe per se, but more like a set of guidelines that I have used over the years for cooking perfect poultry.

1. Buy the best bird you can find. Organic, all-natural, free-range, no hormones or antibiotics, humanely-raised and processed if you can.

2. Take your chicken out of the fridge about 30 minutes to an hour before you want to cook. Your bird should be on the cool to touch (like the cooler side of room temperature), but not refrigerator cold.

3. Dry your bird throughly with paper towels, inside and out. Let it sit on the countertop uncovered. The dryer the skin, the crispier the chicken.

4. Pre-heat your oven to 425-450°. Give yourself some time for the oven to come up to temperature. This generally takes 15-20 minutes, but can take up to 30 minutes depending on your oven.

5. No stuffing. This is the secret to perfect chicken. I find that by the time the stuffing is done cooking, you have overcooked your lovely bird. I like just a few things in my chicken: one lemon (cut into wedges if your chicken is small), one onion, a few cloves of garlic and fresh thyme. If it’s Meyer lemon season, please do use one of those.

6. Use the best butter or olive oil. In Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, How to be a Domestic Goddess, she writes that when roasting chickens, you should anoint your chicken with the highest quality butter or olive oil the same way you might apply very expensive hand cream. I always liked that image.

7. Truss your bird tight. Like a compact little football. I really do think it helps your bird cook more evenly. Moreover, chicken just looks better without its legs all akimbo.

8. Season liberally. In his Bouchon cookbook, Thomas Keller writes that he never butters his bird because the moisture in the butter creates steam that will ruin the integrity of the skin’s crispiness.

I’ve never found that to be the case.

I did once try Keller’s approach sans butter and found the skin to still be tasty, but less glossy and appealing overall. I do like his salting technique though: “I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it’s cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.”

So by all means, hold your hand high and shower that bird with seasoning!

9. 20-20-20-15 or 15-15-15-15. I don’t always follow this but when I do, I like the results. Inspired by Patricia Wells’s Roast Lemon Chicken recipe in her Paris Cookbook, I start the bird in a super hot oven on one side. After twenty minutes (or 15 if the chicken is small), I turn it on the other side for another twenty. After that, I drop the oven temperature to 375°. I turn the chicken breast-side up for yet another twenty minutes — a total of 1 hour.  I continue roasting it until the chicken’s internal temperature reaches 165°. When the chicken is done, the juices should run clear when you pierce the thickest point of the thigh with a paring knife or skewer.

Sometimes, I will just put the chicken in breast-side up at 425-450° for about half and hour to 40 minutes before dropping the temperature to 375° for the remainder of the time. I know it sounds weird, but I think you can start to smell when you should turn down the heat. I find the results to be almost as good.

10. Remove from oven and let rest for 10-30 minutes before carving. Such an important step and essential for serving a juicy bird. Plus, you don’t risk burning your fingers!

Tips:

No basting.

A top-knotch carving knife is always an asset in the kitchen.

Keep the carcass and the juices! They are worth their weight in gold.

High Point Farms Buyers Choice CSA! Sign Up Now!


As many of you know, one of the major inspirations for this blog was High Point Farm’s Meat CSA — my very first CSA ever.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The basic CSA model is that you become a member of the farm, pay for a certain amount of food up front and come to pick up your “shares” at designated times throughout the season. CSA’s have all kinds of benefits. First of all, you support local agriculture, sustainable and environmentally- sound farming practices, and small farms. Second of all, you are able to form a relationship directly with your farmer. You learn about how your food is raised, how it is harvested, how your food gets to your table.

Most importantly, you get the best quality food for your money.

The meat is from our CSA absolutely amazing. All the beef is grass-finished, which means that the cows are fattened by grass — hay and baleage in the winter — not grain. The flavor is deep, rich and incredible.

I actually can’t have steak in restaurants now because it just doesn’t taste like meat!

I had always wanted to do a CSA. However, the only kind of CSA that I ever knew of before hearing about High Point Farms was either a vegetable or a fruit CSA. As someone who hates to waste food, I feared having to throw out more food than I could prepare or eat at any given moment — which is precisely what made a meat CSA so appealing.

Our farmer gives us our meat frozen. It is vacuum-packed in super thick plastic so that it keeps in the freezer really well. For anyone who claims that fresh meat is superior to frozen, I would say that this is really spoken from a place of ignorance as so much of the “fresh” meat sold in markets (even high-end butcher chops) was frozen — it just got defrosted by the shop or the butcher instead of by you!

You can go on the farm’s facebook page and see what a happy and wonderful life the animals have. If you are going to eat meat, wouldn’t you want the animals to be raised with love and care, and humanely slaughtered with deep respect and appreciation? To the argument that eating animals is “unhealthy,” I have to say that what is really unhealthy is eating pesticide-covered vegetables imported from Chile or some other South American country with horribly lax labor and safety practices — not to mention the carbon-footprint!

Some other vegetable CSA’s in the City offer meat through partnerships with other farms. However, I have to say that though I found High Point Farms almost by accident two years ago, getting involved with them has been one of the best and most rewarding things that I have ever done in New York City.

As I live close to the pick-up site in Manhattan, I am able to help the farm out on the distribution end by helping to coordinate the CSA’s bi-monthly pick-ups. Thanks to Tina and Bob MacCheyne, the farmer-owners of High Point Farms, I have learned so much. Not only have I discovered new cuts of meat and how to cook them, I have learned so much about being a better eater, consumer, and food advocate.

High Point Farms will be starting its next CSA season next week. There are still membership spaces available. The farm will be moving to a new model for this time around called a Buyers Choice.

This is how it works: there are different share options, beginning with a Trial Membership at $225 and going up to a Gourmet Share for $1000. That money goes directly to the farm, and is also your credit at the farm store for the season. Every two weeks, you go to the online store and load up your shopping cart with what you want: steaks, osso buco, oxtails, ground beef, roasts, chickens, eggs, cheese, pork chops, sausages, bacon. You can order as much or as little as you want. You can even skip that pick-up and wait for the next one. If you run out of credit, you can add more to your account. You come, you pick up your meat, you go home and cook it. And then you shiver with delight because it tastes soooo good.

And look, you just supported local agriculture and not evil giant agro-business.

The Deets:

• Our CSA season will run from March to December. You do not have to pick up something every pick-up., only on the days when you have ordered meat for pick-up.

In New York City, we have three pick-up locations this season:

East Village: Jimmy’s 43 (on East 7th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)
Williamsburg: Crossfit Virtuosity (221 North 8th St, between Driggs and Roebling)
Brooklyn Heights: Sweet Pea CSA (you must be a member of Sweet Pea Vegetable CSA to join this group)

• For the season’s delivery dates, click here.

• Membership Share Prices:

Trial Share: $225.00 (buys $225.00 of Farm Store Credit)

Single Share: $350.00 (buys $350.00 of Farm Store Credit)

Medium Share: $500.00 (buys $515.00 of Farm Store Credit + priority on limited items)

Large Share: $700 (buys $735.00 of Farm Store Credit + priority on limited items)

Gourmet Share: $1000.00 (b $1050.00 of Farm Store Credit + first priority on limited items)

There is a $25.00 Membership fee at sign up. ne time charge per CSA Season to offset the farm’s administrative and shipping costs.

For more information and to sign up, click here!

PS. See all that nice food pictured at the top of this blog post? You too can make all that awesomeness with High Point Farm’s meat!

Classic Southern Fried Chicken


This recipe is not for the faint-of-heart.

Your mission, should you choose to undertake it, will require Crisco. Lots of it. More, probably, than you have ever felt comfortable using. Gobs. Of. Crisco.

But the payoff is huge: the crispiest fried chicken you could possibly imagine. Chicken so shatteringly good, it explodes and leaves a healthy dribble of juice running down your chin.

Prior to this endeavor, I had never fried with Crisco. Previous experiences with hydrogenated soybean oil were either a scant quarter cup here and there while baking, or a light smear to periodically re-season my cast-iron pans.

That was before getting James Villas‘ amazing cookbook, The Glory of Southern Cooking, in which he makes a very cogent and convincing argument for Southern Cooking being one of the great regional cuisines of the world.

The book is a wonderful introduction to Southern charm and Southern hospitality, portraying the American South as a world of genteel manners and local thrift where casseroles are always given, silver chafing dishes abound, and Crisco is used liberally.

Very liberally.

This is not meant to diminish the value nor underestimate the diversity of Southern cooking, but simply to point out that at its heart, the bottom-line is that good food has nothing to do with calorie-counts or percentages of saturated fats. Good food is food that tastes good, like light and fluffy cakes, gooey and melty macaroni and cheese, and Crisco-fried chicken.

Villas’ recipe is less a recipe and more a series of guidelines to perfect frying. To attain perfection, you must:

1. Cut up your own bird (on High Point Farms’ website, there is a link to a Gourmet Youtube clip that must be the best one I have seen for teaching you how to do this).

2. Use cast-iron.

3. Use Crisco.

4. Never crowd the skillet.

5. Maintain the heat of the fat, except when the chicken is obviously burning (in which case, turn down the heat).

6. Never, never, never cover fried chicken after it is drained, unless you want soggy chicken.

And though frying an all-natural, pasture-raised chicken in fully-hydrogenated fat may outwardly appear to negate all the health benefits of eating free-range in the first place, at least you have the comfort of knowing that your chickens lived very happy lives before becoming crazy good and super delicious fried chickens.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces

Buttermilk

2 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Crisco

1 tablespoon  of bacon fat

How to prepare:

1. Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl, and add enough buttermilk to just cover them. Let the pieces soak for about 30 minutes.

2. In a heavy brown bag, or a large Zip-loc bag, combine the flour, the salt, and the pepper together. Add the chicken pieces to the bag, one or two at a time depending on the size of your bag, and shake the bag vigorously so that all the pieces are evenly-coated with flour. Tap the excess flour off of each piece, and stack the pieces on a large plate.

3. Place a large cast-iron skillet over moderate heat. Melt together the bacon fat and a huge amount of Crisco. You want the skillet to be about half-full of melted fat. Continue to heat the oil until it comes up to temperature, about 350-375°, or when a drop of water flicked into the pan sputters loudly.

4. Start frying the dark meat pieces first. Arrange them in a single layer, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry them until they are golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes per side. You should turn the pieces only once. Drain the pieces on paper towels, and fry the white meat pieces last.

5. Transfer the pieces to a large serving platter (how Southern!). Do not cover the chicken pieces at all. Serve them warm, or at room temperature.

Meat Week NYC Starts Today!

Organized by our friends over at Jimmy’s 43, Meat Week NYC kicks off today with a Meat and Cocktails party at City Winery. General tickets are $45, but include lots of goodies like duck liver-beef brisket boudin balls and beer, and crispy pan seared polenta crostini topped with braised buffalo short ribs and Cabernet Franc. A complete list of nibblies and drinks can be had here.

There are also tons of other great events going on throughout the week, should tonight not work out for you.

Go to Meat Week NYC’s official site for more information.

I’ll be at the event tonight, as well as at the Sustainable Meat Panel and the Film Screening at Jimmy’s to represent High Point Farms!

So that means you should definitely come out 🙂

Sign-up for High Point Farms Winter CSA!

High Point Farms still has space for more members! Sign up today for their Winter CSA, beginning December 14 and running until February 22.

This is a fantastic opportunity to plan ahead for delicious dishes for the holidays, Valentine’s Day (nothing says lovin’ like red meat), and the Superbowl (mini-meatballs? nachos? chili?).

Plus, you get that warm, wonderful feeling knowing that you are supporting sustainable local farming and Earth-friendly agricultural practices!

This season there are three pick-up locations:

In the East Village:

Jimmy’s 43 (43 E. 7th Street between Second and Third Avenues)

In Williamsburg: 

CrossFit Virtuosity Williamsburg (221 North 8th St, between Driggs and Roebling)

In Fort Greene:

Five Spot Soul Food (459 Myrtle Ave)

The pick-up dates for this distribution cycle are:

• December 14
• December 28
• January 11
• January 25
• February 8
• February 22

Pick-up time:

4:30PM to 7:00 PM, every other Wednesday

Two share options are available:

• Beef, chicken, and pork
• Beef and chicken

There are also absolutely amazing eggs and cheese too!

Sign up and come meet your meat! Also, download our flier and help us spread the word about the farm! Click, print, and get the word out!

High Point Farms: Fall CSA Membership Drive is on!


CSA sign-ups for the fall have begun!

The upcoming distribution cycle will run every other Thursday from September to November.

Pick-up dates are as follows:

• September 8
• September 22
• October 6
• October 20
• November 3
• November 17

Pick-up will run from 4:30 to 7:00PM.

There will be two pick-up sites this round:

Manhattan (with yours truly):

Jimmy’s 43 (43 East 7th Street, between First and Second Avenues)

Brooklyn (with awesome Sam):

CrossFit Virtuosity Williamsburg (221 North 8th St, between Driggs and Roebling)

Sign up to meet your meat here.

Chicken Fried Rice


Comfort food brings up all kinds of dishes: macaroni and cheese, meat loaf, casserole, matzo ball soup. French fries, ice cream, chocolate. These foods are comforting for lots of people. But comfort food is so subjective. What comforts someone, might be strange and unappetizing for someone else.

What makes food comfortable and familiar is oftentimes a complex interplay between memory, taste, nostalgia, personal history, ethnicity, and emotion. There is no existing formula to make things comforting; they either are or they aren’t.

Despite the subjectivity of comfort food, I do think that in order to be comforting, there are certain qualities that must be present:

1. The dish is usually warm. Sno-cones, for example,  evoke nostalgia. You can crave a Sno-Cone. Do you want a Sno-Cone to comfort you when you have had a disaster day at work? Probably not.

Ice cream maybe, but ice cream has enough fat to have a luxurious mouthfeel, negating the fact that it is cold.

2. It’s usually filling. True comfort should relax you. It should be full of soft middles and rounded edges. It should warm you from your core, and make you feel full and satisfied. It should make you feel safe, cosseted in familiar smells and textures.

3. It’s usually full of salt and fat, or fat and sugar. Despite efforts to negate our very human attraction to calories, millions of years of biology and evolution have made us creatures who crave fattening foods simply because they are fattening.

4. Comfort food should above all taste good. It should hit all the sweet spots, and tick all of the boxes.

If you had to say something about comfort food, it makes you happy to eat it. It takes your stress away. It transports you to a simpler, less complicated time. Recently, there was a NYT article about Filipino cruise ship workers who pull into Red Hook when their luxury liners dock in New York City. It’s really a great little story about how food can connect you, and make you feel closer to home.

And that is precisely what fried rice does for me. My mom would make fried rice for me after school, after long speech meets, after coming home too late, after long hours at summer jobs, after exhausting semesters at college, after months abroad. She would use leftover rice, and whatever else was in the fridge. It didn’t matter if it was some extra pork, or beef, shrimp, or chicken from the night before. Sometimes she had some broccoli, some carrots, some peas. Sometimes she just had some scallions, which — let’s be honest — she always has.

Left with some extra soy-poached chicken and steamed rice myself after dinner with Tomoko, I decided to do the same.

Fried rice has no recipe. What I do when I am just making it just for myself is I scramble two eggs in a skillet, breaking up the curds into smaller bits. When they are done, I remove them from the skillet and set them aside. I add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the same pan, and set it over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, I add the rice, the chicken, and the eggs. I let the everything begin to brown and sizzle, stirring and tossing the ingredients together all the while. I add a few splashes of good soy sauce, continuing to move all the ingredients around with a spatula. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, I add a handful of chopped scallions. I toss everything together so that the scallions are evenly distributed throughout the rice. Then I eat, and think of home.

Chicken Salad with Tarragon

It’s hot out. It’s over 90°. The heat just saps my energy and makes me want to laze around the house until nightfall. I was eating celery sticks all afternoon, thinking that this was a healthy lunch. It probably wasn’t.

Maybe for rabbits, but not for me!

So I decided to do something with the extra roasted chicken that I had in my fridge, and make chicken salad.

You could use store-bought mayonnaise, but I prefer to make my own. It’s really easy once you get the hang of it. I’ve whipped mayonnaise together with a fork, with a whisk, with a hand mixer, with a food processor, and with a blender.

I used a hand-held immersion blender this time. The most important thing is to make sure that your egg yolk is fresh, and it is at a cool-ish room temperature — not ice cold, and not too warm either. Be sure to add the oil very slowly in the beginning. Don’t worry if your sauce separates, or breaks. If this is the first time you are making it (or even if it’s the hundreth time) there are things you can do; you can easily save it multiple ways.

Properly made mayonnaise takes practice, but it’s not rocket science. I’m not Harold McGee, so I won’t expound on why the egg yolk emulsifies. However, I will say that when it does, it feels like magic.

Ingredients:

1 cup of roasted chicken, chopped

1 stalk of celery, chopped

1 small shallot, minced

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped

1/2 cup of mayonnaise*

The juice of one lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

How to prepare:

1. Combine all the ingredients, except for the lemon juice, in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice a little bit at a time until the chicken salad is loose enough to be spread out easily, but not so loose that it is watery.

2. Spoon the salad on top of toasted bread and enjoy.

For the mayonnaise:

2 teaspoons of freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

1/2 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 large egg yolk at room temperature

1/2 cup of grapeseed oil, or any neutral oil

How to prepare:

1. Whisk the lemon juice, salt, and Dijon mustard together in a medium-sized bowl.

2. Measure out the grapeseed oil into a cup with a pouring spout.

3. Whisk the egg yolk into the mustard mixture until it is well-incorporated and creamy. Continue whisking while you add a few drops of oil to the mixture. Whisk until completely incorporated before adding a few more drops. Try not to add too much oil, too quickly in the beginning, or the mixture will not emulsify. As the mixture begins to thicken, begin to add the rest of the oil in a thin and steady stream while whisking constantly.

If using a hand-blender, hand-mixer, or food processor, just start slowly adding the oil in the beginning, before adding the rest in a steady stream.

To help you visualize how mayonnaise comes together, here is a really good video clip.