How did we get here? In October 2010, I joined a new cooking group, French Fridays with Dorie, a group taking up the challenge of cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. Each week, each member of the group cooked the same recipe and wrote about it on their blog on Friday. Week by week by week, here we are over four and a half years later cooking and sharing our last recipe from the book. We saved the cover recipe, Chicken in a Pot (the Lemon and Garlic version) to mark the milestone.
Looking at the cover photo week after week, year after year, the whole chicken with its burnished skin lying on a bed of vegetables, I always assumed chicken in the pot was a variation on roast chicken. Appearances can be deceiving. On reading the recipe, it turns out this is actually more of a braise. Either way it was delicious.
And easy! First, you brown the vegetables. Sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and FOUR HEADS OF UNPEELED GARLIC broken into cloves! I thought I had baby onions in the freezer, leftover from the Marengo, but I couldn’t find them. I did find two leeks in the refrigerator, so I halved them lengthwise and cut them into 1-inch pieces to stand in for the onions. The vegetables are transferred to a Dutch oven along with sprigs of herbs and some diced preserved lemon. (Did you know that Trader Joe’s now sells sliced preserved lemon in a jar?)
Then, you brown the chicken. I had thawed a whole chicken from the freezer in anticipation of making this version of a “roast” chicken, but when I realized my error, I ended up cutting it into pieces before browning. Much easier to manage on the stove and then the plate. (And there’s the added bonus of sautéed giblets for the dog.) The chicken pieces are nestled on top of the bed of vegetables.
A bit of liquid is poured over the top. I was out of chicken stock, so just used water instead, plus some white wine and olive oil.
Now comes the fun part! You make a simple flour and water dough, sort of like a soft Play-Doh, just like when we were in preschool, and roll it into a long sausage shape. The dough is pressed along the edge of the Dutch oven, and then the lid goes on top. The dough closes the gap between the pot and its lid, sealing in all the moisture as the chicken in the pot cooks in the oven for almost an hour.
I never tried this dough technique before, but it was definitely fun. The best part was popping it open with a screwdriver when dinner was ready!
I really enjoyed this recipe. The chicken remained moist. I had perched the chicken on top of the veggies, so the skin, while not crisp, wasn’t as soggy as it can get in a braise. The very best part was the sauce. While baking, the liquid in the pot created the most delicious gravy. I had to resist eating it all with a spoon. The chicken was good the first night and then afterwards as leftovers. It’s even company worthy. How perfect to finish up with a winner!
We aren’t quite done with this book. There are a few recap posts coming up over the next few weeks. I’ll wait until the “AMFT Grand Finale” to share my reflections as I look back on this unexpected journey. I might even try to fit in a few makeups for the handful of recipes I didn’t get around to.
For now, I will say that I joined the group for the personal challenge of actually trying every recipe in a book I owned. I was surprised to become part a community that I suspect will outlive the project we’ve just completed. The FFWD community has touched my life in ways I never could have anticipated with a wealth of learning experiences in the kitchen and out plus the added bonus of real-life friendships with people around the world who I would never otherwise have met. I am so proud of what we collectively created.
As a side note, on a solo road trip from Boston to Philadelphia and back this weekend, I was thrilled to share dinner with Tricia and Nana and lunch with Diane. I’m just sorry that, in the excitement, we forgot to take any pictures of us together.
The internet hosts a wealth of high quality recipes and other content about food, for free. And yet, a steady stream of cookbooks are published, season after season, year after year. Cookbooks are sometimes entirely new content, but some repeat, in hard-copy form, content already available on the web. This raises the question of: When is it worthwhile to add a cookbook to your bookshelf?
As an avid home and collector of cookbooks, I’ve thought about this question often. I’ve noticed that many recent cookbooks are filled with enticing photographs to accompany the recipes and text. This food porn elevates the books to “coffee table book” status and serve as food’s answer to “armchair travel”, allowing the reader to salivate and satisfy a hunger without ever entering the kitchen.
When in browsing mode, to me it feels more relaxing, leisurely, and even practical when turning the pages of a book in my lap and inserting scraps of papers to mark dishes I’d like to make than clicking and bookmarking web pages for the same purpose.
Books also benefit from structure and the application of less instantaneous editing. Books launched from or derived from websites or blogs improve the original by taking a big step back to reflect and distill the content down to its essence and organizing the information into a cohesive whole.
Food 52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore is a shining example of all the reasons that a book is worth adding to your collection.
I’m a huge fan of Food 52. I even occasionally follow Kristen Miglore’s Genius Recipes column on the Food 52 website. With the sheer volume of new posts on just this one website, I find I can’t keep up with it all. The book is not just a collection of the columns in bound form. About half of the recipes in the book were featured in the on-line column, but the other half are newly identified genius recipes. Yet genius recipes are not original recipes, developed by the author, amplifying the question of why this book when the content is already available from other sources.
Taken as a whole, this book is not simply a compendium of great recipes as identified by the author. Miglore’s criteria for a genius recipe start with a great recipe, but each one offers a new twist, sometimes a combination of ingredient combinations but more often an unexpected technique. For each recipe, Miglore offers an extensive head explaining why she considers this recipe to be “genius”. In addition, each recipe is accompanied by at least one gorgeous photo by James Ransom, in the spare, elegant style you’ve become accustomed to if you visit the Food 52 site.
Many of the recipes she has identified as genius are ones I’ve previously discovered on my own and wholehearted agree with. Marcella Hazan’s Tomato sauce with butter & onion has been a favorite in my house for more than a decade. And I make Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread almost every week.
Others are new revelations. I made three recipes that were new to me though there are so many other recipes in the book that I can’t wait to try.
Daniel Patterson’s Poached Scrambled Eggs quickly boil eggs for 40-seconds in salted water with no added fat. This one was fast and magical to watch. I think I under-salted the water as they were a little bland. Patricia Wells’ Green lentil salad was simplicity itself and made a wonderful accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken and eaten on its own for lunch. My favorite so fair is Roberto Santibañez’ Classic Guacamole where you pound the onions to a paste with cilantro and jalapeño and fold this into diced avocado for the purest taste. I’ve made the guacamole several times in recent weeks.
This book is a winner, and I heartily recommend it!
A Plateful of Happiness Rating: 5 plates (out of 5)
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions expressed are my own.