Birthdays, Travel and Chicken

April 17 – April 23, 2023

Monday:                   Ina’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Tuesday:                   Turkey Burgers with Mock Frites

Wednesday:            Parmesan Risotto with Braised Onions, Sausage and Peppers

Thursday:                 Easy Gazpacho with Goat Cheese Croutons

Friday:                       Pasta with Tomato-Pesto (Beez’s Pesto)Sauce

Saturday:                  Hilda’s Birthday Party

Sunday:                     Roast Tarragon – Cognac Chicken, Green Salad, App of Steamed Artichoke with caper-tobasco-mayo dipping sauce.

Birthdays, Travel and Chicken

Last week we had the honor of celebrating Hilda (Ann) and Patsy’s birthdays with Tim and their extended clan and friends.  Tim had arranged a grand cocktail party and dinner in the wine room of our local club.  Guests drove and flew in from across the country and there were fine, heart-felt toasts and a good time for all in the presence of dear Hilda and Patsy.

Patsy and Hilda, the birthday girls

Among the many consolations of getting older, one of the finest is getting to see brothers and sisters and children and grandchildren on your birthday.  And Ann and Tim’s house, and Katie and Dave’s and Rosie’s were bursting with family and activity and happiness – and maybe a few spats, as well.

The Welsh kids (brothers and sisters), Rosie, Ann (Hilda), John, Katie, Patsy and Tommy

The Welsh kids (brothers and sisters l-r) Rosie, Ann (Hilda),

John, Katie, Patsy and Tommy


I had a fine dinner of oysters, Virginia Spots (another Pittsburgh area club favorite), Rosie’s homemade cheesecake, and a couple ice-cold martinis.  It was a sweet night.

Tim (center) with daughter-law Abby, Kathleen, Julie and Kathleen’s husband David

Peter, son of Tim and Hilda, with his Aunt Katie and Uncle John

And just two nights ago, we had dinner with Billy and Andrew.  Another sweet night.  We are all leaving town for a bit and won’t see each other for a while, so we had a send-off dinner with the same chicken we cooked last week, albeit with basil instead of tarragon.  I know that I keep moving the goal line, but I’m convinced this is the best way to roast chicken ever invented – in a skillet, in a hot oven, with lots of seasonings and butter in the cavity, under the skin and over the skin, and an admixture of brandy for both flavor and basting.


I never thought we could outdo the chicken at Petit Louis (a restaurant in the Roland Park suburb of Baltimore), because of its superbly crisp skin.  But this chicken beats it because it is also supremely moist (Petit Louis’s is always a bit astringent – I’m guessing they use baking powder to wick the moisture from the skin to achieve that crackling crispness), and because the tarragon (more elegant) or the basil (more fragrant) perfume the chicken wonderfully.  [Note to Barbara – we’ll need a zinc bar to compete with Petit Louis]


This is definitely the last chicken recipe I will offer – until the next one.  But do yourself a favor and cook this simple, delicious bird.  Serve it with potatoes and a green salad and you will feel that you’re on vacation in France at a local, very good, bistro (or, if you’re in Lyon – the heart of French cooking – a buchon).  Also, you will get simple comments from your family – “This is really good,” “Boy, what’s in this chicken” – that will remind you of why you spend so much time cooking for them.  If you don’t get those comments, send your family to Casa Stuarti for our ‘interpersonal relations with cooks’ seminar.


(adapted from Melissa Clark’s adaptation from

Christian Baumgartner, NYT Cooking)

Timing:                      Brine overnight – 1 hour, 10 minutes next day.  Note:  You can brine for 4 hours, in a pinch.

Ingredients:                                         Serves 4

1 Whole Chicken (about 4 lbs.)

1 bunch fresh tarragon, leaves and tender stems coarsely chopped (about ¾ cup – one of those plastic containers in your grocery store will do the trick).  You can substitute basil

2 tablespoons Cognac

6 tablespoons butter, softened

2 teaspoons coarse grey sea salt or 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper


One day before cooking, pat the chicken dry and salt inside and out and put on a rack on a plate or baking dish or sheet and refrigerate.  (Do this a minimum of 4 hours before cooking.)

On the day of cooking – preheat the oven to 400 F and bring the chicken to room temperature (remove from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking).

In a bowl, combine the butter, tarragon, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the cognac.  Rub this mixture inside the cavity and over and under the chicken skin.  (To loosen skin, work a finger under the breast meat from the neck side of the breast – opposite the cavity) until you have loosened the skin on the breast and over the thigh).  I tossed any excess butter into the cavity.


Place chicken in an ovenproof skillet (or on a rimmed baking sheet) and roast, breast side up, until skin is golden and juices run clear from thickest part of the thigh (temp should be 165 F) – about one hour.  A little more time won’t ruin the dish.

Turn the oven off – THIS IS IMPORTANT, IF YOU SPILL THE COGNAC IN A LIT OVEN YOU WILL CAUSE A FIRE – place the skillet on the stovetop and pour the remaining tablespoon of Cognac over the bird, then baste with some of the buttery juices.  Put the skillet back in the oven immediately and let rest for ten minutes.

Remove from oven, carve and serve.

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