Those of us in the northeast are bracing for yet another storm. The inevitable flurry of activity that surrounds the dire “winter storm warnings” seem to always involve frenzied runs to the grocery store. Shoppers look harried - looking for just the right thing to comfort and warm their family on a cold blustery day. Pasta? Too a la minute - and who needs to carbo load after being stuck in the house all day! Stew? Good, but after the snack food binge of the Superbowl, maybe a bit too heavy. Allow me to recommend a recipe that is the easiest and best recipe of my entire aresenal. It seems just right for a snowy home-bound day - relatively healthy, absolutely delicious, simple and supremely satisfying.
1 Bell and Evans* whole chicken, gizzards etc. removed from the cavity
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 piece of butchers twine (if you don’t have this, don’t worry about it. It just makes it look a little more Martha and a little less Costco rotisserie chicken)
- the following is optional-
1 lemon, quartered
3 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
1 handful of fresh herbs - I like parsley and thyme
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
While the oven preheats, sprinkle the inside cavity of the chicken with some of the salt and pepper
Stuff the cavity with the lemon, garlic and herbs
Tie the legs together
Sprinkle the entire chicken with more salt and pepper, to taste. I actually do more of a rub down and less of a sprinkle so that the entire surface is coated.
Put the chicken on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven, close the oven door, and set your timer for 70 minutes. During this time, don’t touch the oven, open the door, baste the chicken - nothing! Hands off! That’s part of the magic : )
When the timer goes off, remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Carve and enjoy!
* regarding the Bell and Evans thing - any organic chicken will do, but Bell and Evans really is best.
I shouldn’t really call it a toy, and I’m not usually one to gush over the latest and greatest product - but this one deserves a quick mention. The Breville Smart Grill - offered online at williamssonoma.com, is really quite the workhorse. It has a grill on one side, a griddle on the other, and folds in half to function as a panini press. Since it was delivered on Tuesday, I’ve used it every day - french toast, pancakes, grilled asparagus, and paninis. Here’s the thing; my husband Matt is phenomenal on the grill and an absolute purist (Weber, never gas, cowboy charcoal). I’m completely spoiled and don’t even bother to touch the “real” thing in season - I just put in my orders and enjoy the fruits of his labors. But in the dead of winter, one can only braise, stew and roast so many times, and it’s just too cold to get the weber going. The Smart Grill is good enough to pass as a band aid grill until these temperatures break, and also functions as a great griddle and panini press. Plus, the thing looks great and is not too big to keep on the counter.
Incidentally, the grilled asparagus were phenomenal. Again, from Costco. This variety has thick stalks that are sweet and juicy - identical to the “Mr. Spears” asparagus sold at Balducci’s in Greenwich/Westport/NYC for a fraction of the price. I cut off the bottom inch of the stems, and then threw them in a big zip lock with some olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. I let them sizzle on the grill for about 10 minutes (check for doneness periodically).
Today I was thrilled to find Meyer Lemons at Costco, of all places. Nothing can compare to in season produce beautifully presented at our wonderful farmers market, but in the doldrums of winter, to stumble upon these ridiculously gorgeous lemons was a welcome shot of color and perfume on an otherwise frigid day. So what to do with them all (and there are many, I think we’re long over two dozen at the Callahan house)? A few years back I made a huge batch of Meyer Lemon Marmalade, compliments of Gourmet (RIP, by the way - so sad). I made a dozen jars and dropped them at the doors of friends and neighbors. It was fabulous - sweet and tangy and just sophisticated enough to merit using it as an ingredient in other desserts. It is quite labor intensive, but well worth the effort and time. Make sure your knife is sharp, and do be sure to keep the seeds - that’s key in order for the marmalade to properly thicken. So, get to Costo is you can and snatch some up. The season is short, but the result of your labors will bring you and yours many delicious moments! Enjoy -
- 12 Meyer lemons (3 pounds)
- 8 cups water
- 8 cups sugar
- Kitchen string
- 12 Mason jars, sterilized
Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds. I find that old baby spoons are a great tool to help this process along. Tie seeds in a cheesecloth bag. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a large heavy pot (a big stock pot is best) and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.
Bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 8 cups, about 2 hours. Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate gels, about 15 minutes.
Ladle hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids.
Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot. Add enough hot water to cover jars by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer with tongs to a rack. Cool jars completely.
We absolutely love the town that we moved to, and recently had the pleasant task of showing some friends of ours from the old stomping grounds the new digs in hopes of coercing them to make a similar move. After a morning of looking at neighborhoods and houses, a nice but casual lunch was in order. That morning, I threw together some clam chowder in hopes of seducing them with the promise of clams and other wonderful seafood that seems to be the rule around here. My clam chowder recipe is a bit different then most. First, I like to dig my own clams (and full disclosure - these were purchased from my beloved Star Market in Guilford), but I find that digging them makes the end product all the more rewarding. Second, most recipes will call for canned chopped clams - the horror! - or, slightly better, quahogs (also known, incidentally, as chowder clams). I say, go for the gusto and use littlenecks! They taste better and are more tender and delicious than the larger varieties. Third, I use Nodine’s black pepper bacon instead of the traditional salt pork. Again, the taste is heads above the old school method, and the black pepper really adds to the flavor of the overall chowder. Finally, I saute my potatoes in the bacon fat, rather than just add them to the broth and then cook them. I find that this gives them a bit more flavor and a better texture. Be sure that they are almost done before adding the flour, or you may end up with undercooked potatoes. This recipe definitely falls under the indulgent category, but can’t be beat as a shoreline lunch. Enjoy!
1 lb bacon (I recommend Nodine’s Black Pepper bacon), diced
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 T fresh thyme, chopped
4 potatoes, 1″ dice
2 pints heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 pounds clams (littlenecks preferred), scrubbed
4 T flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a large pot (All-Clad preferred so that the bacon doesn’t stick), over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and saute, stirring occassionaly, until the bacon is crisp and most of the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon from the pot and reserve in a separate bowl. While the bacon is cooking, in a separate pot, cover the clams with enough water to come up to the top of the shells. Turn the heat on medium high, and partially cover the pot with a lid. Cook until the shells open, and discard any clams that haven’t opened. Drain the clams, reserving the clam juice. Remove the clams from their shells and coarsely chop. Reserve the clams in a separate bowl. Back to the first pot - Leave the bacon fat in the large pot, and saute the onion over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic and saute, stirring, an additional 3 minutes. Lower the heat on the pot to medium low. Add the diced potatoes to this mixture and cook until they are fork tender, covering the pot with a lid and stirring ocassionally - about 10 minutes. Please be sure to check the potatoes often - they will be cooking both by the heat of the bacon fat and the steam that is trapped with the lid. This takes a bit of babysitting, so please be attentive! Sprinkle flour over the potatoes and gently stir for 3 minutes. Turn up heat to medium high and add clam broth, stirring vigorously until it thickens. Add the milk and cream, and bring the liquids up to a simmer. Gently stir in the bacon, clams and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with a crusty molasses bread or brown bread.
Matt and I love exploring new spots, and moving to a this area of Connecticut has allowed us to find new favorite destinations that are sure to become regular haunts. Tonight we ventured up to Clinton to the Lobster Landing. This lobster shack sits on the end of a street along the harbor, and really makes you want to rub your eyes to make sure that you weren’t somehow magically transported to a non-Connecticut destination (Cape Cod? Maine?) Inside the shack are some great lobster pools, which Cate and Caroline both got a kick out of. Just outside of the shack is what looks to be something akin to a hot dog stand. The menu is pretty basic - hot buttered lobster rolls, hot dogs and sausage on a bun. I’m wondering who would order anything but these lobster rolls? Total bliss - a hot toasted bun with freshly cooked lobster meat drizzled with hot butter and lemon. BYOB - we came prepared with some cold beers and juice boxes for the girls. I get the shakes thinking that this place is minutes from my house, it could become quite an addiction!
My girls are thankfully quite patient with us schedule-wise for most of the day. If lunch is on the early side or the nap is a bit late, they adapt without too much protest. But breakfast is another story. After the obligatory kisses and hugs, our kitchen becomes a flurry of activity to serve up something, anything, to stifle the demands of “Mommy, I SOOOOOO hungry!”. I want to introduce you to our favorite staple, the waffle. I know that you can buy the frozen ones and pop them in the toaster, but this version is great because with about 20 minutes of active time, you have a batter that can keep for up to a week in the fridge. Cook the waffles as needed as the week progresses. I promise you that the smell of waffles and a hot cup of coffee will make any morning much more pleasant for all involved! Throw some bananas and walnuts on top with a drizzle of maple syrup for “monkey waffles”, or top them with strawberries sliced and tossed with a bit of sugar for a summer treat. If you want to go super healthy, substitute the white flour for whole wheat flour. One note on the griddle: We use the Villaware Classic Waffle Maker (available at Williams-Sonoma), and it’s been a great investment. If you don’t already have one, spring for a better quality waffle maker - it will pay for itself once you start making your own batter and don’t have to be buying out the frozen food breakfast aisle at Whole Foods.
Active Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: About 4 minutes (your waffle maker should let you know when they are ready)
2 cups flour (whole wheat if fine)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat waffle iron. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour, milk, oil, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla until smooth. Ladle mix (about 1/3 cup depending on the size of your waffle iron) onto the waffle maker. Cook until golden brown.
As I write this, the temperature is steadily climbing, and the conga line of cars on the way to the beach is growing. Finally - it’s time to get serious about summer approaching. No need to waste too much time in the kitchen and waste this wonderful weather. So, I thought I’d share my absolute favorite and the world’s easiest grilled chicken. Now here’s the caveat - I like spicy. If someone in your family is not so keen on the spice, never fear. Once you get beyond the beautifully charred and spicy skin of the chicken, you have plenty of wonderfully moist meat that is quite mild.
A really easy side with this is a baked sweet potato. I’ve also served this many times with a kale salad with sunflower seeds and lime vinaigrette (email me if you’d like the recipe, I’ll post it as we get deeper into summer). Crack open a beer and you’re all set!
Total Time: 1 hr. 35 minutes (gives you just enough time to roast some sweet potatoes as a side)
Active Time: 35 minutes
1 chicken, cut into eighths, skin on
1 bottle of Texas Pete Buffalo Wing sauce, divided - reserve 1/4 cup of the sauce for dipping.
Marinate chicken in the sauce for 30 minutes.
Heat the grill to medium high (we always prefer Cowboy Charcoal on the Weber). When the chicken is first put on the grill, sear it on all sides over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium (or move the chicken to a less hot part of the grill), and cook, covered, for an additional 30 minutes, basting with the marinade and turning the chicken every five minutes. Serve the reserved sauce on the side for dipping.
I thought that we had bid adieu to the nasty bits left over from late New England winter. But alas, we’ve had the pleasure of a few more day of the cold, rainy weather that can be so tenacious in this part of the world. So, here’s my nod to an early spring/late winter meal that is warm and satifying. All poetics aside, this chicken dish is really a thing of beauty. Easy, uncomplicated and inexpensive. Don’t let the timing scare you - there is no need to babysit this dish while it’s roasting - quite foolproof. Both of my girls were big fans - Nothing not to love!
Roasted Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hrs
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hr 15 minutes
Best for: A cold rainy night when you’re craving comfort food but don’t want hassle or a big clean up!
3 lbs. bone in chicken thighs (Bell and Evans is best)
3 T vegetable oil, divided
7 boiling potatoes, washed but NOT peeled
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
1 T kosher salt
1/4 t nutmeg
1 t ground pepper
2 teaspoons dried ground thyme
chopped fresh chives, for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a roasting pan, swirl 1 T of vegetable oil around the bottom. In a separate bowl, mix the salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Place the chicken thighs in the pan, and coat them on both sides with the oil on the bottom. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with half of the salt mixture. Roast at 450 for 30 minutes. While the chicken is roasting, cut the potatoes into spears about 1″ in width….no need to get exact, basically just half them lenthwise and cut each half into thirds lengthwise (like steak fries). Peel the carrots and cut into thirds. In a big bowl, toss the veggies with the remaining 2 T of oil and the remaining salt mixture. After the thighs have roasted for 30 minutes, remove them from the pan and reserve in a separate bowl. Add the veggies to the roasting pan and roast for an additional 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, place the thighs back into the roasting pan and pour any accumulated juices over the veggies. Roast for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with chopped chives before serving.
I feel compelled to comment on a wonderful dinner we had last night at Restaurant du Village in Chester, CT. First, if you haven’t been to Chester, I highly recommend it - it is an absolutely quaint (in the best sense of the word) village that is home to some wonderful restaurants. Restaurant du Village is classic french bistro that is just a joy to experience. We hadn’t been for several years, but now that we’re back up in this area, we were able to take advantage of our newfound proximity to celebrate my husband’s birthday. The food was outstanding - and is a wonderful example of how to use great local ingredients. For example, we started with a salad of dandelion greens in a vinaigrette with outrageous lardoons, tiny croutons, and (the best part) a perfectly poached egg from a local farm with a yolk that was an intense orange. Really really wonderful….and so simple! It is true that the best dishes are those that highlight the best ingredients, simply. What can I take from this when planning meals for my own table? Well, one of the easiest ways to choose what to make is to choose what’s abundant in that particular season. And figuring that out is quite simple - choose what is on sale - less expensive means there’s usually plenty of it which means that it’s most likely in season. A $6.00 tomato in February is only a reflection of how arduous it is to get a tomato to your grocery store in February - and the product is certain to be a let down. So today, when I think about what to make for dinner, I’m going to let abundance be the deciding factor. I’ll let you know what I come up with - and count the days until I can get back to Chester.
P.S. At one of our visits to Restaurant du Village, we were introduced to a wonderful after dinner drink to compliment my favorite dessert of all time, the Passion Fruit Gratin (a MUST order). The drink is called Douce Provence, and is a mixture of French Cognac and Poire Williams. They recently changed the name to Belle Paire, but it’s the same product. Crillon Importers sells it. A little tricky to find, but worth the search. It’s like biting into the most wonderfully ripe pear at peak season. Fabulous and a perfect way to end a meal - but consider yourself warned, it’s very smooth going down;imbibe too much and you may find yourself “deuced”!
We had to finally bid adieu to the Easter Ham, but the question was, what to do with it? It seems the meals following any major holiday call for something that is somewhat of an antidote to the heavy buttery feasts that seem to define the menu of these events. Ham seems to lend itself to cheese and cream, but I had had enough of that. So, what follows is a recipe with a bit of spice and a ton of flavor. Feel free to add and subtract based on whatever you have on hand (some wine instead of chicken broth, more veggies, less….); it’s very adaptable and a good way to clear out the fridge. This recipe also would be wonderful made the day before and reheated the next day. Leftovers of the leftovers! Now, if I could only figure out a way to get rid of the Peeps….
Bunny Blues Spanish Stew
2 T olive oil
2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts, if that’s what you prefer)
4 cloves garlic, pressed
3 cups ham (or whatever is left), diced
2 onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 package pre-sliced mushrooms
2 T tomato paste
2 T smoked paprika (can be found in most grocery stores of online at Penzeys.com)
1/8 t cayenne pepper
3 cups chicken broth
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or pot until hot but not smoking. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, and cook in oil until golden, about 6 minutes per side. Once cooked, remove chicken and reserve in a bowl. In same dutch oven/pot, saute onion until golden. Add garlic and saute one minute. Add mushrooms and saute until they loose their liquid (about 5 minutes) and then add peppers and tomato paste. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Sprinkle cayenne pepper and smoked paprika over vegetable mixture, and then add chicken broth. Cook, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil. Taste and check for seasoning, add salt and pepper accordingly. Add cooked chicken and ham to the mixture and simmer over medium low heat, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer an additional 10 minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley when serving. Serve with rice, bread, or whatever you happen to have on hand.