April 27 – May 3, 2020
Monday: Leftover Strata with Hot Sausages
Tuesday: Andrew’s birthday – Chicken with Morels and Cream Sauce, Rice Pilaf, Asparagus, Beez’s Chocolate Mousse
Wednesday: Linguine with Chickpeas Broccoli and Ricotta
Thursday: Roasted Carrots with Crunchy Quinoa
Friday: Roasted Salmon with Peas and Radishes
Saturday: Smashburgers with Coleslaw and Oven Fries
Sunday: Julia Child’s Chicken and Rice Soup with Homemade Bread
Look, I wanted to grill goat on Tuesday for Andrew’s birthday, but I’m not allowed to butcher a goat on the kitchen counter. Beez just won’t have it – and she isn’t nicknamed SWMBO for nothing. Moreover, when do you remember seeing a whole goat or a half or even a leg thereof in the meat case at the Giant Eagle? (You can, of course, go to Salem’s in the Strip District who will supply all your needs goat-wise.)
Most of us home cooks are domestic in more ways than one which is not to say precisely that we are wimps – but to hint in that direction. We make do with traditional meats and, in our day and age, that means, above all, chicken. Nor is this a bad thing. Than a well-cooked chicken, there are few things more pleasing on earth – though Sophia Loren, back in the day, would have given any poulet a run for her money.
And chicken gives mid-level home-cooks like me, a vast canvas for artisanship and artistry. You can – and you should – learn how to butcher a whole chicken.* You can roast, sauté, braise, fry, smoke, grill the bird, or toss it into some hot broth and make a soup. There are a thousand sauces and gravies to serve it with, as well as mashed potatoes, rice, polenta, every sort of vegetable, myriad salads, toasted bread, flatbread . . .
*Let’s get real – we’re just cutting up chickens that have already had their heads, feet and innards removed and their feathers plucked. The most doddering of grandmothers in the 19th and early 20th centuries knew more about killing and cleaning chickens than most celebrity chefs do, today.
By now you have the picture – ‘le poulet’ is one versatile food item: Easily available, easy to cook in multitudinous variety, and satisfying to eat. And, over the last five years we’ve shared, I would guess, upwards of 30 chicken recipes with you. And we’re going to do it again.
A recipe in the WSJ Saturday edition caught SWMBO’s eye. [There was a time, thank God, when I caught SWMBO’s eye.] It was about marrying the omnipresent chicken with the rarely present Morel mushroom. Morels are available for a short time, every spring. I had a version of this at a dinner in New York arranged by our late college roommate, Dan Cunningham. It was spectacular. And served with the superb Riesling that Dan supplied, one of the finest dinners I have ever eaten.
Sorry, but we didn’t cook anything quite like that, nor should you, unless you have found Morels yourself or care more for mushrooms than for your bank account. But we did make a passable variation with simple Crimini mushrooms in a cream sauce. And we used a new technique to cook the chicken that we feel the need to share with you: Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, well salted and peppered, are roasted on a sheet tray in the oven – first, at high heat, then at a lower heat to cook through. This creates a juicy chicken with gloriously crisp skin – and you won’t need to butcher anything. Marry this with a rich mushroom-filled cream sauce – put the chicken on top of the sauce, to preserve the skin’s crispiness – and you will have a dinner that SWMBO will approve of any day of the week. And that’s all that matters to me.
Final note: We often have appetizers and rarely picture them. But at the bottom of the recipe, you can find two of the appetizers from last week: Camembert with Toasted Baguette and Duck Sausage and Provolone with crudites and baguette.
Final, final note – picture of Roast Chicken platter which should have preceded the recipe below was left out of initial post, but if you google ‘whatwecookedlastweek’ it will be there.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH MORELS (CRIMINI) AND CREAM
(adapted from WSJ, Sat/Sun, April 26, 2020)
Timing: 2 hours (includes 60 minutes to bring chicken to room temperature)
Ingredients: Serves 4 – 8
How can this serve 4 – 8? If you get the fairly giant chicken breasts purveyed in American grocery stores and if you have light eaters, such as SWMBO, who will only eat half a breast, you can stretch 4 breasts into a meal for 8.
4 half-breasts of chicken, bone-in, skin on
2 large shallots, chopped
1 lb. crimini mushrooms (you can substitute white)
1 – 1/2 cups heavy cream
½ cup fine Sherry or good Marsala
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons good olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 F
You got that chicken out an hour ago, right?
Arrange chicken on sheet pan.
Season generously with salt and pepper and thyme (you may need more than 2 tablespoons)
Rub the chicken with olive oil.
Cut the crimini into quarters or halves for smaller mushrooms.
Put chicken in oven and roast for 25 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 and roast until chicken is nicely browned and cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes more.
While chicken is roasting at 375 F, make the sauce:
In a large skillet, over medium, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and cook for about 6 minutes, then add the shallots and cook for another three minutes.
Now increase the heat just a bit and add the wine and simmer until reduced by half – maybe 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook another 4 minutes or until reduced by one-half again.
Now lower the heat and pour in the cream. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until sauce thickens – about 10 minutes. Season to taste.
Note: if you’re going to use real Morels, you’ll want to cook the shallots first, then add the Morels and cook for another three minutes. Note: you’ll want to wash, then dry and halve fresh Morels before cooking.
Cut each chicken breast in half.
Spoon the mushroom sauce onto a plate and place one or two chicken breast halves on top. Some rice or noodles to soak up the sauce with be a nice side. (We used rice.) Garnish with chives. Serve with extra sauce on the side.
Camembert with toasted baguette
Duck sausage and provolone with crudites and baguette