February 17 – February 23, 2020
Monday: Olive Oil – Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Carrots
Tuesday: Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes and Kale
Wednesday: White Bean and Sausage Stew
Friday: Shrimp Scampi over Orzo
Saturday: Katie and Dave’s for Veal Marsala
Sunday: Brandade of Salt Cod with Toast, Beef Stroganoff, Chocolate Mousse
One of the difficulties of growing older – along with hair disappearing from where you want it and growing where you don’t, having to give up full-court basketball, having no clue about popular music, and being upset by the half time entertainment at the Super Bowl – is cooking for so few people.
Most recipes are written for at least 4 people. And most of us have been cooking for 4 or more for some time. When we made the simultaneously liberating and saddening transition to empty nesters, we found our refrigerator filling with leftover dishes which were promptly forgotten and turned, over time, into unrecognizable substances that probably had significant medicinal uses but could not be eaten.
So – you are saying – why don’t you just cut the recipes in half? Well, sometimes that’s possible, sometimes not. Stews and soups simply don’t work when you cut them in half – the ratios of wet and dry don’t work. Some need to be cooked in Dutch ovens and other large pots which would quickly boil away the liquid in halved or quartered recipes. Sauces for pasta and, heck pasta itself (you want to leave a half or quarter box of spaghetti lurking in your pantry, ready to spill onto the floor as soon as you remove the item which is propping it up?) resist diminution. And why would you make chili or Irish stew for two? Make a batch – have leftovers or grow penicillin.
There are, however, some recipes which work wonderfully for one or two people. And, since SWMBO and I are often by ourselves for dinner, we promise to bring you these recipes from time to time.
We were working our way through the NYT annual mini-cookbook insert last week and came across a delicious recipe which left us with no leftovers, did not junk up the refrigerator and, generally, made us feel that we were not squandering the resources of the planet. The recipe was for four people – but it was easy to reduce the main ingredient (whole chicken legs) to 2 or 1.
Olive Oil-Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Carrots
(adapted from The New York Times Cooking Insert, 2/16/20)
This is as close as you’ll get to chicken confit in one hour. And the caramelized carrots are as good as the chicken. Nice comfort food for a cold, rainy night.
Timing: 60-70 minutes
Ingredients: Serves 2 – can be doubled
2 whole chicken legs, bone in (you can split into thighs and drumsticks if you wish)
½ bunch of small, thin carrots with their green tops
Head of Garlic, unpeeled and halved through its equator
1 lemon cut into thin slices with seeds removed
4 sprigs of oregano
½ to 1 cup olive oil (you need to not-quite-cover the chicken and vegetables – so the size of your pan will dictate how much oil). The chicken will not be oily, and the oil can be strained and used again – in fact, it will be perfect for frying or roasting potatoes or sautéing croutons because of the schmaltz it will contain.
Set the oven to 400 F (the recipe calls for 325, but my chicken – the big chicken from Giant Eagle – wouldn’t finish cooking in the time called for at that temperature)
Pat the chicken dry. Season with Kosher salt and pepper.
Leave about ¾” of the green tops on the carrots (put the rest of the tops in a glass of water and use it for garnish). If the carrots are not particularly thin, cut them in half, lengthwise.
Note: you’ll have to carefully, with your fingernail, clean the area between the
stem and the top of the carrot.
Cut the garlic and slice the lemon.
Measure out the other ingredients.
Arrange the chicken in a baking dish or shallow pot so that it is snug and nestle the carrots, garlic, lemon and oregano in. Pour the olive oil over everything.
Season again with salt and pepper.
Place in the oven, uncovered and roast until chicken almost falls off the bone – about 60 minutes.
Build a fire in the fireplace.
When the chicken is done, let cool for a minute or two, then divide the chicken, vegetables and lemon onto two plates. Scatter with some of the carrot tops, a nice sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and some more oregano.