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Happy New Year 2010

Happy New Year 2010! I hope your year has started off well.

Howard and I shared a quiet dinner at home on New Year’s Eve. We had a few lamb shoulder chops from Chestnut Farms. I had never cooked this cut before, only rib chops and loin chops.

Browsing through a few cookbooks indicated shoulder chops needed a slower cook than the chops I was used to. I found a yummy-looking recipe that baked the shoulder chops on a bed of potatoes and onions.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the recipe all the way through. Around 6:00, Howard popped open a bottle of champagne, and I opened the cookbook. Uh-oh, the lamb needed to bake for almost 2 hours. I guess I was starting (or ending) the year with rather poor planning.

Howard looked in one of his ever-trusty Cooks Illustrated cookbooks and found that the shoulder chops could be simply broiled. I traded in the bed of potatoes for a pot of lentils and some roasted carrots and celery root. Dinner was ready in the half the time. Redemption!

While dinner cooked, we sipped champagne and nibbled on salmon caviar and crackers and some local oysters (Wianno, Wellfleet and Island Creek, all from the Cape, courtesy of Whole Foods).

After dinner, we watched a movie (Away We Go) and managed to stay up until 11:45 before dropping off to sleep. Seeing midnight no longer seems as important as it did when I was younger.

Our New Year’s Eve dinner was quiet and romantic. On New Year’s Day, we invited our friends Laury, John, and Isabel for dinner. We had a pork roast from Codman Farm. I made a spice rub from garlic, lime juice, cumin, and cilantro to go on the pork plus Cuban Sweet Potatoes and Braised Cabbage to go with the meat. The big hit was the sweet potatoes. It had similar flavors to the pork, and the whole bowl disappeared fast.

The year is off to a great start with two things that are really important to me: spending time and sharing meals with some of my favorite people, and eating food that has been sustainably and humanely produced, from local farms. I’m looking forward to more of the same in the year ahead.

Cuban Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

2 lbs sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into ½-inch slices. If the rounds are large, cut in half again (into half moons). Toss the potato slices in a bowl with olive oil. Spread them out on a baking sheet (or two) in one layer. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are nice and tender.

Combine the garlic, cilantro, and lime juice in a big bowl. Add the hot sweet potatoes and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Recovering from Autumn Yard Cleanup

21 Bags of Leaves Fall in New England means the beautiful foliage in warm autumn colors – shades of yellow, orange, red, brown. It’s an annual treat. Inevitably, those lovely leaves fall to the ground. And, we have to rake them up.

Sunday was the perfect day for the task at hand. It was Indian summer. The sun was shining, and the air was warm. We filled 21 bags with leaves. It was exhausting. As a reward, we went to the town center for pizza slices and beer at Upper Crust. We felt recharged.

I continue to look for inspiration for meals that use ingredients that we already at home. I’ve making good progress through this month’s vegetables (more coming next Saturday) and the meat in the freezer. I found a winner with the recipe for Chicken Bouillabaisse in the latest issue (November/December 2009) of Cook’s Illustrated. Wow! It was a hit. It was even better as leftovers today.

I used a package of chicken from Chestnut Farms, fennel, potatoes, and parsley from Shared Harvest CSA, and leeks from our own garden. All that I had to pick up at the store was an orange and a baguette. And, I got to use my favorite piece of cookware: a large cobalt blue cast-iron Dutch oven from Le Creuset (a gift from my sister Jane).

Chicken Bouillabaisse
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (Nov/Dec 2009)

  • 2-1/2 lbs chicken thighs & legs (or any kind of parts you want), seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large leek, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced thin
  • 1 small fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, cored, and sliced thin
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (I used my microplane)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, drained
  • ½ cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 3-inch strip orange zest
  • ¼ cup Pernod (anise liqueur)
  • ¾ lb potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 375. Using a large oven-proof pot, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, skin side down. Cook without moving until well- browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Flip chicken and brown the other side, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Add leek and fennel to the fat in the pot. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften and turn translucent, about 4 minutes. Add saffron, cayenne, flour, garlic, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, wine, broth, orange peel, Pernod, and potatoes. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Nestle chicken pieces into simmering liquid with skin above the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Move pot to the oven. Bake, uncovered, until meat temperature is 160F, about 20 minutes.

Remove pot from the oven and set oven to broil Once heated, return the pot to the oven and broil until chicken skin is crisp, and meat temperatures is 175F, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Rouille & Toasts

  • 3 Tbsp water
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads
  • 1 baguette
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Yolk from a large egg
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced (again with the microplane)
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup olive oil (plus extra for toasts)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Use a microwave-safe bowl big enough to hold about 2 cups. Microwave water and saffron on high power until water is steaming, 20 seconds. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Cut a 3-inch piece off the baguette. Remove and discard the crust. Tear the bread into 1-inch chunks. Stir bread chunks and lemon juice into saffron-infused water, and let it soak for about 5 minutes. Whisk the mixture until a uniform paste forms. Whisk in mustard, egg yolk, cayenne, and garlic until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in canola oil in a steady stream until smooth. Then slowly whisk in ½ cup of olive oil in a steady stream until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice remaining baguette into ¾-inch slices. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush toasts with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Bake until light golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Chicken BouillabaisseTo serve:
Remove chicken pieces from the pot. Stir parsley into the vegetable mixture in the pot. Ladle vegetable mixture and broth into shallow serving bowls. Top with a piece of chicken. Place a few dollops of rouille in each bowl. Spread each toast with a teaspoon of rouille, and float two toasts in each bowl,