June 1 – June 7, 2020
Monday: Alice Waters’s Grilled Chicken and Fingerlings with Aioli
Tuesday: Pasta Putanesca
Wednesday: Shrimp Fried Rice – App of Baguette, Cheese, Chorizo
Thursday: Pan Fried Pork Chops, Roasted Cauliflower
Friday: Niçoise from Provence
Sunday: Grilled Chicken, Grilled Potatoes with Aioli, Salad, Klondike Bars/App of Herbed Ricotta and Goose Pate with Toasts, Pickles, Olives, Cucumbers, Radishes and Calabrian Chilis
I resisted Alice Waters for a long time. To begin with, there was the whole Berkeley, flower-child thing. Then there was the sort of hushed, self-regard, nearly evangelic, about her vegetable-centric cooking. Finally, there was her own persona – platitudinous voice, angelic smile, slight instability above the neck, like a baseball bobblehead.
But I gave in, several years ago, during a trip Beez and I took to Yountville. I mean, here was the women who had focused America’s chefs on cooking with local, seasonal ingredients. And here was the owner and executive chef of Chez Panisse, which everyone but Tony Bourdain loved. Though I suspect Tony’s argument was with the persona, not the real Alice Waters.
(You can read about our visit to Chez Panisse and a handful of other restaurants in the area here: Napa, A Very Happy Valley (11/23/18))
Recently, Alice has produced a series of teaching videos for Master Class which contain sound advice and some brilliant recipes, though wading through her airy, beatific delivery can be a bit of a trial for the more Bourdain-like among us. However, her cooking, her own advice on the small things that make for a perfect dish and her recipes make this an outstanding tutorial.
(By the way, in some of the lessons, Alice cooks with her attractive daughter who has not inherited her mother’s platitudinous voce lento.)
We now turn to the question of whether you should cook Alice’s barbecued chicken. After all, she’s known for her salads and vinaigrettes, her apple gallettes, her soups and her lovely vegetable pizzas. I had, I thought, over the course of a decade, found the perfect recipe for spicy, crisp barbecued chicken. Sure, it took some time to make the sauce and the timing had to be right between cooking the chicken and finishing it with the basting so that you got caramelization without burning. Still – my family loved this.
But Alice’s barbecued chicken fascinated me – because she cooked it over a wood fire on a wonderful indoor fireplace with a wheeled contraption that allowed the grate to be raised or lowered, and because it was served with grilled potatoes and home-made aioli and lightly-dressed arugula. Really, I just wanted to dip one of those crisp, slightly-charred fingerlings into aioli. But, I thought, what the hey, why not cook the whole meal?
That was a serendipitous decision. Using just salt and pepper, a bit of olive oil, and brilliant technique, Alice Waters put a skin on that chicken that your family – even the divas who look askance at chicken skin – will fight over. And the potatoes and the aioli were just as good as I had imagined. The arugula – well, the arugula I considered an offering to Gaea which, you’ll agree when you see Alice Waters talk about food, may well be the goddess she worships.
The chicken, potatoes and aioli were so good that we cooked them again for Billy and Emily when they visited on Sunday. Alice’s chicken beats my go-to, flat. Since it is not spicy, I’ll return to my barbecue recipe from time to time. But Waters is my new favorite. And, I can assure you, that making a perfect aioli, will take you as long as making a great barbecue glaze, and a great deal more energy.
Try this wonderful, minimalist recipe from the slightly annoying, but very great Alice Waters. You’ll be hooked.
Barbecued Chicken and Grilled Fingerlings with Aioli
(Adapted, but not by much, from Alice Waters Master Class)
Timing: About 14 minutes to Grill Chicken and Potatoes
40 minutes to parboil potatoes and let them cool
40 min for aioli – 10 minutes to make, 30 minutes to cure – can make days ahead.
2 hours to bring egg to room temperature – or 10 minutes in hot tap water
(You may have to butcher your own chicken and, of course, you’ll have to heat up your grill. These take time.)
One skin-on, boneless chicken breast per diner. (If your butcher can do this for you, let him or her. If you’re going to do it yourself, remember, you want to keep the skin intact. Find a good video on the internet, or send me a check for $100 and a limo, and I’ll come and do it for you. Note: If you get really large chicken breasts, you may want to remove the ‘tender’ to create a more evenly thick piece of meat to cook.
3 or 4 fingerling potatoes per diner
1 egg yolk, room temperature
½ teaspoon water
1 cup olive oil
Pinch of salt
For more flavor:
2 or 3 small garlic cloves if you want to have garlic aioli (we didn’t use).
A good squeeze of lemon juice (we did use).
Make Aioli – without garlic:
Put egg yolk in medium-sized bowl and add a small amount of room temperature water (1/2 teaspoon – you can use more later, if you want to thin the aioli). Add the salt and whisk to mix well.
Now, begin to whisk in the olive oil, a drop at a time. The egg will begin to absorb the olive oil and turn opaque and thicken. As the aioli begins to come together, you can add a drizzle while still whisking vigorously. Take your time – your wrist will get tired – this is the only way to make good aioli. Note: you do not need to add all of the olive oil, and you can always add a little water to thin.
If you are using the garlic, peel the cloves and pound the garlic in a mortar. Add about half the garlic and the ½ teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt to the egg yolk and mix well with a whisk. Proceed as above with the olive oil.
Taste the aioli and adjust salt and/or the lemon juice at this time. You can leave the aioli sit a room temperature for a few hours. If you’re not going to eat within a few hours, refrigerate.
Parboil the potatoes:
Put the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Salt the water well and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until a knife goes easily through the potatoes. Drain, rinse under cold water and set aside to cool.
Grill Chicken and Potatoes:
Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken, liberally, and drizzle with olive oil, making sure the skin side, in particular is coated.
Halve the fingerlings and toss with olive oil and salt.
Fire up coals or heat your gas grill. You’re looking for medium heat.
Once the coals are ready, or the gas is on, let the grill grates heat up for about 5 minutes. Then clean the grates with an oiled rag or paper towel.
Place the chicken on the grill, skin-side down and cook for 7 – 8 minutes without moving. (Obviously, if you have very large breasts, cook a bit longer.)
After about 5 minutes, put the potatoes on the grill, flesh side down.
After seven minutes, check the chicken, and see if the skin is a dark, golden brown and crispy – if so, turn onto flesh side and cook for another 5 or 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, check the potatoes and turn them over when the flesh is golden and charred. Char the skin side of the potatoes.
Note: If the potatoes are cooking too quickly – move them to a cooler part of the grill. You’ll have time to finish them while the chicken rests.
When the chicken is finished, remove to a platter and let rest for 5 minutes.
Slice the breasts lengthwise or serve whole. Serve the potatoes on the side with a good dollop of aioli.
A bit of lightly dressed and salted arugula goes well with this dinner. Lemon wedges on each plate would not be out of place.