Saturday, September 18, 2010

Comfort Food

Here's why I love to cook.  (Not that you asked but...)  It's a gift to feed and nurture someone else.  It says "I've thought about you the entire time I was making this."  "I chose the best ingredients, I tasted and seasoned all the while thinking of you." And that's why when someone has  a crisis, a loss or a health problem we bring them food.  We can't take away their pain, but we can comfort and feed their soul.

When I had my babies, bringing me a meal was the loveliest heaven-sent thing anyone could do for me. It was a huge help. And I didn't even mind that everyone brought pasta.  Every. Single. Person.  But really, thank you! 

Here's a perfect recipe that's not pasta, feeds a big group and has something for everyone.  I recently made it for a friend in crisis and there was something to like for each of her four kids.  It's got white and dark meat chicken, sausages, potatoes.  Try it the next time you're helping a friend in need and make a second batch for yourself.  The lemony mustard sauce you'll want to drink by the spoonful and it's a one pan meal which makes it one of the simplest recipes to toss together. 


One Pan Chicken and Sausage Bake
Slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson
Serves 6-8

2-3 large onions, peeled and cut into eighths
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
8 Italian sauages
1 pound baby white or fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean
1/2 c olive oil
3 t dry mustard
1T Worcestershire sauce
2-3 lemons
3T fresh sage, chopped finely, divided
salt & pepper

1. In a large plastic freezer bag, combine chicken, onions, olive oil, dry mustard, 1 tablespoon of the sage, Worcestershire sauce and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
2. Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice into bag. Then cut lemons into eighths and add to the bag.  Massage all ingredients together.  Seal bag, squeezing air out first and store in refrigerator overnight.
3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
4. Allow chicken and marinade to come to room temperature.
5. Arrange the chicken pieces in a roasting pan skin side up with the marinade (foil disposable roasters work great when giving this meal away) including the onions and lemons and tuck the sausages and potatoes around them. Sprinkle the fresh sage leaves over the chicken and sausages.
6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the sausages over half way through to color them evenly.

7. Serve the chicken, sausages, potatoes and onions with the sauce spooned over top.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

Beautiful, unsuspecting tomatoes

I would like to consider myself a culinary Jedi.  Brave, creative, trusting the force.  I tend to order the most unusual offerings on a menu.  I buy ingredients I've never seen before just to try them out.  But sometimes, the force is not with you.  Sometimes, you just need to say no.

I have discovered these things about myself:
1. I like lavender in potpourri, not food.
2. I love bacon. I love chocolate.  I do not love them together.  I've tried.  A lot.
3. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

The most recent example of #3 was a recipe for a Tomato Tarte Tatin in the August 2010 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  How intriguing, I thought!  A dessert with tomatoes!  I lovingly picked the plum tomatoes from my garden, blanched and peeled them then simmered them in sugar & butter.  Once the juices turned to a caramel I added the vanilla and a puff pastry topping and transferred it to the oven.  The preface to the recipe said "Be prepared to be blown away."  Blown away, I was not.  Peeved was I (said in my best Yoda voice).

There was so much sugar in the recipe that it was cloyingly sweet.  The vanilla was overpowering.  My biggest complaint however, was that you could taste none of the tomatoey-ness of the tomatoes.  It could have been plums for all I could taste.  The recipe killed the tomato flavor. And that is what killed me. 

When you have an ingredient at the peak of its season, sometimes you can pay it the most respect by leaving it alone.  Foams are cool. I am intrigued by new ideas and molecular gastronomy.  BUT, good food does not have to be labor intensive or contain 25 ingredients.  A sweet tomato with a little olive oil and sea salt is a beautiful thing to behold. 

So the next time you're tempted to reinvent the wheel, (I'm talking to you, Bon Appetit!) step away from the tomatoes and remember that just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD. 

The crime scene