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That chicken that I told you I buy every couple of weeks or so goes a long way. We bought a beautiful, free-range, organic bird last Sunday. On Monday I took it out to pieces, let the legs and breasts sit and marinate in the ice-box, and from the rest I made a big pot of broth.
On Tuesday, we devoured the chicken meat from the broth in the form of my Grain Medley & Chinese Flavored Chicken with Bok Choy. I used part of the broth to braise a cauliflower and the legs for our dinner on Wednesday. There was no need for starch, no rice, no pasta, no potatoes, no nuthin’. This simple, easy, inexpensive, light meal was all we needed and then some.
There were still two chicken boobies sitting on a shelf in our refrigerator last night, soaking themselves joyously in olive oil infused with garlic and thyme. Ah, chicken, more chicken, I sighed and heard Ina Garten’s voice in my head: JEFFREY LOVES CHICKEN, SO EVERY FRIDAY I MAKE HIM A ROASTED CHICKEN. BUT FRANKLY, I’M SLOWLY GETTING SICK OF IT. I am obviously paraphrasing Ina’s words, but chicken has always been big on her menu due to her husband’s love affair with poultry. I know it all, because I used to watch “Barefoot Contessa” on Food Network all the time. And then I got sick of it, too.
There’s no denying it, I also love keeping my man happy, hence I decided to make Jason’s favorite type of dinner–one he can build himself. There’s nothing that brings that boyish and exuberant joy to his face faster than a plate full of scrumptiousness he has assembled himself.
And so I sliced and sautéed onions, one red bell pepper, green sweet pepper and one more Anaheim pepper. The chicken breast roasted in the oven for about 25 minutes at 375°, after which I let it rest covered with a sheet of aluminum foil for another 10. When I finally cut into it, I heard a choir of fairies covering Wet Wet Wet’s hit song “Love Is All Around”, you know the theme song from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell.
(There was a time in my long life when I would listen to that song OBSESSIVELY. I hope you’ll appreciate my honesty knowing I’m risking getting a restraining order from my boyfriend, who, I can just see, will cringe in pain and gag when reading this. I WAS FIFTEEN AND BELIEVED IN SANTA BACK THEN, TOO.)
The meat was so incredibly moist and silky, I wanted to put it all in my mouth and run. But then I had a drooling man looking over my shoulder also wanting a piece of it. We set the table with whatever we found suitable for CHICKEN FAJITAS in our pantry and refrigerator: sour cream, Green Chili Sauce, a bowl of brown rice, little green salad dressed with cilantro, heated tortillas and the guest of honor–ROASTED CHICKEN WITH AN ENTOURAGE OF SAUTÉED VEGETABLES.
I wish I had taken a photo of Jason when he sat down to the table and began the construction. The only time a smile was amiss from his face was when his mouth opened to receive another ginormous bite of his fajita stuffed with goods. Then there was lots of excited bouncing on the chair and head swinging when the jaws were busy molding the food. In fact, if that were a twelve year old boy who just got his first Star Wars toy that would later turn into a significant collection, and not a thirty-six year old respected TV producer, you wouldn’t be able to tell.
At that point I no longer needed food. The mere sight of that free expression of bliss was more satiating to me than the actual meal. Don’t get me wrong, though. I got my share of that chicken last night as well. It was glorious!
Coming home from work at 9 or 10 pm leaves me only enough time and energy to bitch about it and not so much for writing, nor any other intellectually stimulating activity. I follow the feeding/wee-weeing routine with Cosmo and when relieved sleepwalk back home on a leash pulling me forward. Cosmo turns the key in the door, pushes it open and lets me into the bedroom where I crawl straight into my bed and roll into a fetal position, tail underneath my heiney.
My kitchen feels deserted. Hungry pots and pans line up on shelves, dust collecting on their ribs. Three neglected bananas rot away on the counter without a word. The refrigerator echoes EMPTY-PTY-TY. Except, there’s a chick.
On the top shelf of the icebox a whole chicken lounges, sunglasses on and all, anticipating the roasting party it’s been invited for. It’s the happy kind, organic and free roaming while munching on grains and grass. The BIG DAY, the R Day is Saturday. It’s TODAY!
Time for glitter and jewelry. A whole garlic head sliced in two horizontally and four quarters of a whole lemon roll inside the carcass. Three rosemary spears push through right behind. Olive oil for moisture and that California golden tan is applied to it’s whole body. Celery seeds, pepper corns, thyme, salt, paprika, all get smashed and crashed in a pestle and mortar, then rubbed into the dry skin of the chick, all the while the oven rushes to raise its temperature to 425°.
A big sweet onion gets peeled and sliced into half moons, which are scattered all around the chicken inside the roasting pan falling as snow flakes on top of Pikes Peak. A couple of potatoes and a bunch of naked garlic cloves join the company. Can you hear the music?? Low-sodium chicken stock floods the pan. Bay leaf, one and two, float its stream. Wings get tucked underneath, while legs are handcuffed with a strip of twine. That Chicken Boat of Love is ready to set sail.
Into the oven they go for one full hour and another 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bird will have reached 175°. Then, a silver sheet of aluminum dress wraps around the roasted meat, hugs it tight, and they bond. Fifteen minutes of such splendid rest allows for the best spa treatment any chick can ask for. All the juices get locked inside the bird thus ensuring a perfectly moist bite every time.
S H O W T I M E !
It’s the best thing ever to touch your lips.
IMMACULATE. SUBLIME. PERFECTION.
WE MADE IT! It’s January 2010. Dear New Decade, here we are!
Mama, thank you for those beautifully embroidered pillow cases with our monograms. May the world learn about your talents.
Now back to the kitchen.
Have I ever mentioned my fascination with Jamie Oliver, the British chef and an author of gazillion cooking books? He’s a man of many assets. However, it’s not the superb chopping skills, or the teeth loosely arranged in the mouth of that alleged heartthrob (He has a speech impediment, but who cares when he lisps with a British accent?) that got my interest. I’ve yearned for Jamie Oliver to be my homie ever since I learned of his organic vegetable gardens that he plants around his house in rural England. He has a love affair with rustic cooking, just the way our great-grandmothers used to do. In his kitchen he wants organic produce, healthy fish, beef from grass-fed cows, and cage free chickens. In other words, he does it Agi Style and chooses the best for himself and his family. Jamie also tries to convey to the masses the importance of going back to our roots through his various TV shows and books he’s published.
I own a couple of those. I’ve also been known to stalk the above-mentioned CHEF online (Youtube, Apple podcast, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook…) to suck out more tips and culinary techniques HE NEEDS ME TO KNOW.
I want to start this BRAND NEW BABY YEAR 2010 with a recipe inspired by Jamie Oliver that I spotted on his TV show called “Jamie at Home”. He made those crispy and sticky CHICKEN THIGHS WITH POTATOES AND TOMATOES* I later recreated on my own stove. Not only is it an ideal comfort food (just wait till your teeth sink into the tender and juicy thighs), but also it’s packed with fireworks of flavors (the sweet and tart tomatoes with basil). It is a painting bursting with colors on a plate. It is an invitation sent to SPRING to hurry over. It is also silly cheap, aha!
Today, you be inspired. Get yourself those few elements and bring out the inner artist:
– 6 chicken thighs (boned, skin on, ideally free range and organic)
– 1-1.5 lbs potato medley
– 1 pound heirloom cherry tomatoes (medley of colors)
– red wine vinegar, a splash or two
– fresh basil, a bunch
– sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
– good olive oil
Clean the potatoes and cook them whole in a pot filled with boiling water seasoned with salt.
Sprinkle a few drops of olive oil all over the chicken, then bang-bang with salt and pepper, and cut each thigh into 3 strips. Toss them onto a sizzling hot sauté pan and stir-fry on high heat for about 5 minutes on each side until almost cooked. Make sure the pan is not overcrowded and each of the guys has enough room to kick around. If need be, cook the meat in two batches.
Wash the tomatoes and toss into a bowl. Boil some water and pour it over the tomatoes, then drain after about 2 minutes. This little trick will allow you to easily remove the skins and expose the sweet flesh of the fruit. Prick each tomato open with a sharp knife, gently season with salt and pepper and mix with fresh basil leaves torn into chunky scraps. Lots and lots of them!
Drain the potatoes and cut them roughly into halves and thirds. Toss them into a large baking dish along with the chicken thighs and tomatoes. Spread them flat-ish if possible.
In a separate cup or a small bowl whisk together about 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil with a few splashes of red wine vinegar, and a tad more of the salt and pepper bang-bang. Taste and add more olive oil and/or a touch of honey if the dressing is too tart. Pour over the meat and veggie mixture, stir around, and get the energy flowing and the small talk going. Into the oven they go. Bake in a preheated oven (400°F) for about 40 minutes, or until golden!
Taste…. AW-MAH-GAWD! That is so GOOOD! Pair your beautiful entrè with a simple green salad, dressed with a basic lemon vinaigrette, pop open a bottle of wine, sit at the table facing someone you give a damn about, and eat straight from the dish. And, oh, it’s hot, remember? So watch out. You’ll fight for the last bite, it’s a given.
* Possible Side Effects: overwhelming happiness, subconsciously letting the inner monkey off the leash, jeans button popping, uncontrollable LOL and consequently sprinting water/wine through the nostrils, food coma, money savings, orgasmic satisfaction.
HOLY FUCK is the best running music I’ve listened to by far. This electronica band from Toronto has successfully established its presence on the independent music scene since their creation in 2004.
Check them out on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrtQEaeGaZY
Make sure to TURN UP THE VOLUME!
After a weekend of various festivities and loving life while indulging on some luscious treats, I finally drove my self to the gym to bring the discipline back and regain inner balance.
What you take in, make sure to extract in some other form. Keep it forward. Don’t think about calories. That is just as bad for you as smoking – both deeply affect the quality of life, and shorten it. Whether it’s the toxin of a cigarette, or a toxic thought that brings you down, stresses you out, and keeps you in the clutches of guilt, both are just as destructive to your system. If you see your body as a car engine, you’ll know exactly how much gas it can take to run smoothly. If you flood it, the engine will cough and stall on you. Stay in tune with your body; it will tell you exactly what it needs whether it’s a slice of cheese or pastrami, a crunchy carrot, a steaming bowl of soup, a brownie oozing with chocolate, an earth shattering orgasm, or breaking a sweat during a high energy run.
It was HOLY FUCK that filled my head space allowing my body to chase free thoughts while treading on gym equipment, and – believe it or not – to completely relax. The old truth has proven itself once more – everything in nature thrives when in balance.
The weekend was officially launched with a Thursday Night Picnic in a park with a bunch of Leslie’s friends, and friends of friends, and then some. Each one contributed to the potluck on a patchwork of blankets. There was a jar of divine potato salad with a secret ingredient of grated pickles. We had tortilla chips and red snapper ceviche, quinoa salad and chunks of watermelon. Someone else brought a package of cheese nuggets made from REAL milk. I took a bite and was startled at how much the taste resembled flavors I remembered from home. It tasted like…hm… cheese?! Yes, the real deal…
I grew up in a small city in then still very agricultural Poland. Even though the town was surrounded by the industrial chimneys of power plants, we still lived close enough to farms and the countryside. Fresh milk straight from a cow, farmer’s cheese, large eggs, and grass fed beef were easily accessible. It was cheap, and yet organic. When I first came to America and had a bowl of cereal with “milk”, I couldn’t finish my breakfast. It tasted nothing like milk I ever knew. Frankly, it was pretty disgusting. It’s saddening to see the “food-like products” – to quote Michael Pollan – filling up hundreds of food stores’ shelves all over the States. Those items are tempting for their price, I understand, but the quality is just as low. I am convinced our society would be a much healthier one had it nourished itself with the pure foods produced by our planet.
My decision to take a vegan route was more complex than just based on the taste of food, but that was one of the important elements. I lasted about 7 years. However, now, living as a recovered omnivore, I still drink almond milk, I pick my veggies from local farmers at a market, I choose organic meats, eggs from cage-free hens, and beef from happy cows fed on grass, and not corn.
At the picnic we shared wine, stories and laughs. Hours later it was the chill of the night that drove us away. We packed Cosmo and went home.
To be continued…