Monday Braised Carrots with barley and dill
Tuesday Veal Scallopine with Spinach
Wednesday Bacon, spinach and goat cheese frittata, Tomato Scumble
Thursday St. Patrick’s Day at the Ford’s – Patsy’s Irish Stew and Tadhy’s Bar
Friday Pizzas – Lemon, Mozzarella – Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella, Red Onion
Saturday Noshing through March Madness with SWMBO, crudites, toasted baguette, reheated pizza, and guacamole.
Sunday Daniel Boulud’s “Bill Blass Chicken”
Begorra. I am torn between my Irish mentality and my amateurish French cooking technique. So, like a good politician (think Tip O’Neal or Ronald Reagan, not Ted Cruz), I will start with the wonderful St. Patrick’s Day Party at Stephen and Patsy Ford’s and segué into the best possible roast chicken you ever set your unworthy fork to.
At the top of the post you see some of the spectacular crowd at the Ford’s party. The beautiful young Regan’s, Caroline and Sean, Billy Stewart, Rosie Welsh, beautiful Molly Ford and in the background, by the window, waving like a veritable Pope, is himself, the proprietor of Tadhy’s Bar, Stephen. Above the Thursday listing is a picture of Patsy’s wonderful, restorative stew, braised in the hair of the dog that bit most of us last Thursday (Guinness).
Since my marriage on St. Patrick’s Day 37 years ago, my celebrations have been more discreet than the pub crawls of earlier years. But with Beez out of town on business and a little encouragement from friends, I came close to reliving the old days. All of which made getting up on Friday morning no easy task; but the night before made it all worthwhile.
So what, me bucko, is this French chicken all about? I mentioned in last week’s post a book by Daniel Boulud,* and in that book he offers his favorite recipes, most of them simple and country-style. The recipe in question is not formally mapped out in the recipe appendix, but mentioned casually in passing in his letter on ‘The Trinity of Heat’: “The fundamental method of transforming food through heat is . . . roasting . . . not a fast process . . . You must stay connected to the food when you roast. You need to touch, smell and baste every so often. . . add vegetables and garnishes at certain times so that they are finished just when the roast is finished. . . At home, a great roast –say, a chicken – becomes the centerpiece of the day . . . let the chicken dry in the refrigerator overnight . . . season inside and out . . . add garlic, shallots, parsley and thyme . . . throw in a pound of potatoes and cippolini . . . ten minutes later some meaty mushrooms. “
We figured we could reconstruct that or create a reasonable semblance. With mushrooms, potatoes, onions and a crispy roast chicken – how could we miss? On the other hand, we weren’t expecting to add to the great roast chicken recipes that have become our staples (Ina Garten, Thomas Keller, Jacques Pépin). Boulud’s chicken surpasses them all – crispy, supremely juicy and with the addition of the herbs and the bacon a more earthy taste than all of the others. On a cold (snowy!) night, it was the perfect meal after a day of NCAA basketball watching. The recipe we worked up is below. And below that is a short “Extra” on cheese by which, alone, man does not live, but without which life would be so much the poorer.
*Letters to a Young Chef What the hey? What qualifies a geezer home cook to read that book? If you ever get to taste this chicken, you will eat those words, Boyo, but only after finishing off this chicken.
Daniel Boulud’s Bill Blass Roast Chicken and Vegetables
(“I call this Bill Blass Chicken, because Bill . . . used to order it frequently . . . at the old Le Cirque”)
Supplies (Serves 4, 5 or 6 depending on the people and what else you’re having)
1 and ½ heads of garlic
Butter (or olive oil for a less rich taste)
1 lb. small German butterball potatoes (if using medium-sized Yukon Golds cut in quarters)
1 lb. Cippolini (or spring onions) – we used spring onions which are now at a peak
½ inch cubes of bacon or pancetta (we sliced up thick-cut bacon)
1 lb. porcini or other meaty mushrooms (we used Baby Bella)
Timing (Prep chicken one day ahead – 2 minutes)
– Prep and Cooking time about 2 hours)
1 day ahead purchase, wash and pat dry chicken and allow to dry overnight in refrigerator. This allows the skin to dry so that it will crisp up when you cook it.
Normal cooking time for chicken plus 20 minutes rest (4 lbs., about 1 and ½ hours plus 20 minutes resting)
Season inside and out and add garlic, shallots, parsley and thyme in the cavity and truss. Put two pats of good butter (you may need more to create a basting liquid) on top of the chicken and place in a pan larger than the bird (you’ll be adding all of the vegetables). Place in the oven for half the cooking time, basting with butter 3 or 4 times. Then throw in 1 lb. of potatoes, 1 lb. cippolini and a half-head of garlic peeled and separated into cloves, a small bundle of fresh thyme and parsley stems and the cubes of bacon or pancetta. 10 minutes later add the mushrooms and lower the heat to 375 and let the chicken finish to golden brown juiciness.
Let chicken rest for 20 minutes and finish cooking the vegetables if they need it. Finally, toss in the parsley leaves.
Extra – Cheese
I know as much about cheese as . . . the next guy and not much more. But this is not about cheese per se. Rather, it is about how to serve and what cheeses to pair with each other on appetizer boards or platters. Having a couple of good cheeses, some pickle and 2 or 3 good vegetables to serve as crudités, along with some crackers or good bread means that you will always have the fixings for a quick appetizer that folks can attack as you cook or finish the meal.
You can go for a variety of different cheeses, as we often do (a great blue, a nice hard cheese like Manchego or Pecorino, and succulent softer cheese like a brie or fresh goat) or, as I am more and more inclined to do, for a range of similar cheeses – try some Manchego alongside an Idiazabal, or some Gruyére next to a Jarlsberg.*
There are at least 2 keys to putting together a good cheese board:
1. Complements – either crudités or bread (or crackers) or both. When it comes to vegetables, I’d consider a good pickle (think about pickled cauliflower and other uncommon pickles, not just cucumber), a halved cherry tomato (lightly salted), halved or quartered radishes, celery or Belgian Endive – but it’s up to you.
2. Condiments – we usually put a dollop of good mustard right on the cheese
Board, and I often add some chutney or fig jam or sour cherry preserves or
figs, raisins, almonds or walnuts. Just make it pretty and tasty.
Of course, I know that you already know this. But, if you’re like me, you may find, as you get older, that reminders (of people’s names, where you live, your own name) are quite useful.
*Personally, give me a good flake of pecorino, an aged provolone, a serious triple-cream or a fragrant Taleggio, and I couldn’t be happier. The revival of cloth-bound cheddars makes that cheese worth considering – a far cry from the gummy mound of cubes that used to be the staple of wine and cheese parties. I crave blue cheeses, but except on burgers or in salads I prefer them at the end of the meal with some fruit, walnuts and a beaker of Calvados or Grappa or, if I’m recovering from St. Patrick’s Day, Vin Santo.