Mon: Guacamole / Roast Chicken with Fennel and Carrots / Caprese / Bread Pudding
Tuesday: Lentil Salad with Gorgonzola and Walnuts (M. Street)
Wednesday: Out of town
Thur: Buccatini with Swiss Chard and Bread Crumbs, Green Salad
Fri: Dinner – Slavishes – Happy Birthday Beez and Tim
Saturday: Escarole and Cannellini Stew
Sunday: Chicken and Mushroom Casserole with Cider (River Cottage) served with rice and green beans with lemon zest
Well, strictly speaking, the title of this post is incorrect. But those of you who follow the blog will recognize that we rarely speak strictly. Indeed, all that we say should be taken with a grain of salt and several ounces of good Scotch or Bourbon. Moreover, now that we think of it, the exigencies of producing a weekly post often push us to the boundaries of good sense and taste and sometimes very close to the edge of the earth (you can’t convince me it’s round). Add to this that at my age (but not Beez’s) the memory is neither what it once was, nor entirely neutral, tending to romanticize and gild the past in an attempt to justify the present and give hope for the future. Well . . . Lord knows where all that came from.
But we do know where all the food and recipes for this week came from, and we feel a great need to share them with you. I’m going to, at some psychic cost to myself, ignore my favorite new way to roast chicken (with vegetables in a preheated cast-iron skillet in the oven)*, skip over the astonishing, but definitely twenty-first century lentils** we had on Tuesday, push aside the great bucatini*** from Thursday, pass over the spectacular dinner and party Anne threw for Tim and Barbara on Friday night,**** and go straight to the casserole that Rick, Beez and I had last night to assuage our bruises after the disastrous Steelers game.
*All you have to do is add some salad or rice or potatoes and you have a spectacular dinner – we’ll get back to this in a future posting.
**A spectacularly flavorful dish that even those who eschew quinoa, lentils and such can enjoy – it involves blue cheese
***How can pasta and bread crumbs taste so good – you’ll have to figure this one out on your own.
****We finally discovered a way to cook cauliflower that makes it not only palatable, but actually prepares it for a starring role on any antipasto platter.
CHICKEN AND MUSHROOM CASSROLE WITH CIDER
(Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Every Day)
How, you are no doubt wondering, does a man with a name signifying a country estate, a villa in Cannes, a staff of tens, if not hundreds and only a vague knowledge that somewhere, um, you know, in the back of the palace, is where they make the food, know how to create a soul and body-warming casserole? And what does all this have to do with the 50s?
Well, regarding the 50s, this dish just feels like the 50s, like getting home after a cold football game and a few too many beers, to where Mom had warm food and a welcoming smile. As for Hugh’s cooking chops, the proof is in the pudding (casserole) and for all I know he was the son of some Scottish crofters whose mother was a feminist and liked the hyphen.
But trust me, you will want to cook this dish again and again. And it is as good on the second day as on the first.
About 2 hours and 20 minutes, most of the time (1 ½ hours) the chicken is in the oven and you have nothing to do.
Ingredients: Feeds 4
1 Chicken (3-4 lbs.) cut into 8 pieces (Whole Foods now sells whole chickens, cut up in this way – though you’ll have to cut the breasts in half, yourself. But why not learn to butcher your own chicken. If you’re doing this for the first time, add about 15 minutes to the timing.)
3 or more tablespoons flour (seasoned highly with salt and pepper)
3 or more tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil (you may also use olive oil, as Hugh notes, but it’s liable to burn before you have the chicken browned, since it’s burning point is much lower than canola or grapeseed)
1 ½ cups or more of dry or medium cider (I have no idea what dry or medium cider is. I used Martinelli’s cider. I would not use Apple juice – too sweet.)
16 ounces mushrooms, cut into large slices or chunks – you want meaty mushrooms in this dish.
1 bay leaf
1 large sprig of thyme
5 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons English Mustard (again, no idea about English mustard – we used Maille, which is French)
Tablespoon or so of chopped parsley
Cut the chicken into 8 pieces (halve each breast) and pat each piece dry.
Season the flour and put it on a plate for dredging
Dust the chicken pieces with the flour and shake off the excess
Slice the mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 300 F)
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high or slightly lower and brown the chicken (you want a dark-gold) in batches if necessary. Keep an eye on this – you don’t want the oil or chicken to burn, but you do want some brown, burny bits in the pan. NOTE: There will be lots of spattering and grease on your oven top and elsewhere – live with it.
When the chicken pieces are brown, transfer them to a large casserole or Dutch Oven
Add 1 cup of the cider to the frying pan to deglaze. Let it bubble for a minute or so as you scrape up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Now pour this over the chicken and add as much more cider as needed to bring the liquid halfway up the chicken.
In another pan, heat the butter, add the mushrooms and cook until their juices begin to run, then add the mushrooms, juices and butter to the pot with the chicken. Tuck in the bay leaf and the thyme and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered in the oven for about 1 ½ hours, until very tender. Turn the chicken pieces over about ½ way through the cooking.
Now pour the juices off into a pan, leaving the chicken and mushrooms in the casserole. Whisk the cream and mustard into the juices and bring to a simmer. Taste, adjust seasoning, then pour over the chicken. Bring the whole shooting match back to a simmer and you’re ready to serve.
Sprinkle parsley on top of each serving.
Note: We served the chicken over rice with just-cooked green beans seasoned with lemon zest and sea-salt – a perfect accompaniment to the rich chicken and mushrooms.
Sous-chef, Rusty the Wonder Dog, displaying his typically energetic assistance