It’s been six weeks since our stove and oven quit working. The saga of the long delay will have to wait for another blog – when and if the stove gets repaired. This time I will deal with how someone who likes to cook copes without a stove.
Six weeks is a long time to go without cooking for some households, at least ours. During this time, we have eaten some delicious meals at Carol’s house, and for that we thank her. We have eaten at some little neighborhood restaurants across the street. But we have also depended upon our supply of plug-in appliances, along with a slow cooker that we borrowed from Carol. Waffles with the waffle iron, panini from the George Forman grill, and rice from the rice cooker have all been on the menu. The main thing I have done, though, is to use the slow cooker. It works beautifully and confirms all of the enthusiasm for its utility for busy people. You toss some things in the pot, turn it on, leave it unattended for a few hours, and return to a delicious dish just waiting to be served. The only problem, in my hands at least, is that everything comes out looking and tasting like stew. I know that there are myriad cookbooks filled with interesting recipes. I know that there are even some enthusiasts who claim you can bake a cake! I have not succumbed.
The one appliance I haven’t used since the demise of household fire is our Sunbeam rotisserie. I have written about it in the past; it really does do a good job of roasting things as if they were on a spit. It’s my turn for Sunday family dinner, so I thought it would be a good time to get out the rotisserie. It also seemed like the opportune time to try out Sarah and Evan’s recipe for roasted chicken that appeared in this month’s issue of Food and Wine. (Check out “Winner, Winner” on page 46 of the October, 2017 issue.) Since Douglas fir trees don’t grow at this altitude in Southern California, I substituted rosemary. Also, since the original recipe was for oven roasting, I have made a few changes to accommodate the absence of the stove and the demands of the rotisserie. Otherwise, everything is the same. The chicken is brined over night in a bath of buttermilk, salt, sugar, garlic and rosemary with the secret ingredient of porcini mushroom powder. The mushroom powder adds distinct umami to the mixture. The final touch of roasted garlic oil is also an important taste profile. Without a stove, I had to use the microwave to heat the garlic slices in olive oil. Surprisingly, the garlic browned, although I am sure it could easily burn and become bitter. In any event, the process worked well, and the family had a pleasant Sunday dinner.
I will be glad when we get our stove back.
Buttermilk-Brined Roast Chicken
- Kosher salt
- 11 garlic cloves, 9 smashed and 2 thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 1 chicken, 3 to 5 pounds
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Combine ¼ cup Kosher salt, smashed garlic, sugar, rosemary and bay leaves in a large microwave-proof bowl. Stir in 2 cups of water. Heat in the microwave on high for 6 minutes. Remove from the microwave, stir to dissolve any undissolved sugar and salt. Add 2 cups of water and cool.
- Transfer the mixture to a large container big enough to hold the brine and the chicken. (I used an 8 quart plastic bread-proofing container.)
- Grind the porcini mushrooms to a powder using an electric spice grinder.
- Whisk the ground mushrooms and buttermilk into the salt and sugar mixture. Place the chicken in the mixture, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Be sure to remove any giblets that have been packaged inside the chicken.
- When you are ready to roast the chicken, remove it from the buttermilk brine, drain it well, and pat it dry with paper towels. With kitchen string, truss the bird: tie the legs together; tuck the wings behind the back and tie them firmly. You should wind up with a compact package that will fit easily on the rotisserie spit. Season all over with salt.
- Arrange the chicken on the spit so that it is firmly seated and will not come in contact with the heating element. Cover the rotisserie with the protective lid and turn on the spit.
- After 15 minutes, stop the rotisserie, brush the chicken all over with the softened butter. Restart the rotisserie, and roast for an additional 50 minutes or until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast reaches 165°F as measured with an instant-read probe thermometer.
- Transfer the roasted chicken to a cutting board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the sliced garlic and olive oil in a small microwave-proof cup or bowl. Heat the bowl in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. The garlic should brown. Check to make sure it does not burn. Remove from the microwave.
- Remove the trussing from the bird. Cut into serving pieces. Brush lightly with the garlic oil. Serve immediately, passing the remaining oil at the table.
Over the years, I have often written about the food adventures of my various family members. In particular, you have read about our daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Evan Rich, as they have gone from working in the restaurants of others to trying out a pop-up in a borrowed restaurant, Radius, in the Folsom Street area of San Francisco, to opening their own restaurant, not knowing if anyone would show up.
Since then Sarah and Evan and their restaurant, Rich Table have become successful. The restaurant is busy, and Sarah and Evan have had the opportunity to create some delicious food like their sardine chips, porcini donuts, deconstructed ice box pies, and tagliatelle with strawberry-braised pork Bolognese.
Along the way, they have been recognized by the San Francisco food scene along with Star Chefs magazine, Food and Wine, the James Beard Foundation and others. They have been invited to cook in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Shreveport, Louisiana, Mumbai, Hawaii, Mexico, and Yosemite.
If you watch Top Chef, Iron Chef, or Chopped, you know that professional cooking has become a competitive sport. Not surprisingly, Sarah and Evan are in the competition. Right now, they are competing in Food and Wine magazine’s annual competition, in contention for People’s Choice for Best New Chef, 2015. If you want to read about the contenders (or even vote) check out the web site. Voting ends April 8.
It’s summer, and the perfect time for a refreshing salad. In our family, recipes for panzanella, the traditional Italian bread salad, are currently all over the place. Sarah and Evan made a version for their cooking demonstrations in Shreveport that included pork from their pig-butchering demonstration. Now they have a recipe in the July issue of Food and Wine (pages 172-173) for a version that uses rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and fresh strawberries. Carol in Los Angeles made her recipe for us during our recent visit there. Hers was a more classic rendition that was equally delicious and went well with barbecued pork ribs.
Here is my spin. It contains Romaine lettuce and salmon, which are not included in traditional recipes, but I think they add to the flavors. I know, I know -salmon doesn’t even sound Italian, but Marcella Hazan has two salmon recipes and a commentary in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1992). I felt justified in using salmon. Try to use wild-caught fish if you can, but farmed salmon will also work. If you don’t like salmon, then shrimp or shell fish would probably also be tasty.
As well, don’t even bother trying the recipe if you don’t have a good quality artisanal rustic loaf of bread, or the end result will be a limp dough ball. The bread in this recipe was the farm loaf from a wonderful local artisanal bakery, Sage Bakehouse.
Artisanal bread cut into 1 inch cubes
Using a mortar and pestle to make a paste of garlic, anchovy fillets and capers
Santa Fe Grande peppers
Thinly-sliced red onion
Ready to serve
- 4-6 ounces salmon fillet, pin bones removed
- fish stock, enough to cover salmon
- ½ cup coarsely chopped dill fronds
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 3 anchovy fillets, drained
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 1 large Santa Fe Grande pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼ inch rings (any sweet yellow pepper may be substituted)
- ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1 small red onion
- 4 cups 1-inch bread cubes (4 1-inch slices of a good artisanal rustic loaf should yield about 4 cups. Remove crusts if you like)
- 3 large, ripe tomatoes
- 2 small snacking cucumbers cut into ½ inch rounds
- 1 Romaine heart washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a saucepan large enough to hold the salmon, bring the fish stock to the boil, and then reduce to simmer. Add the prepared salmon and poach for 5 minutes or until cooked through, turning once. Remove the salmon to a plate to cool
- Remove the skin from the cooled salmon, and with a fork, pull the fish into bite-sized pieces. Place in a covered dish, salt to taste, and add the chopped dill. Chill in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to add to the salad.
- Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, anchovies, and capers into a coarse paste. Transfer to a small bowl and add the pepper rings along with ¼ cup of olive oil and the vinegars. Mix well and let stand at room temperature until ready to assemble the salad.
- Slice the red onion into rounds, preferably suing a mandoline, and place in ice water until ready to be drained and added to the salad.
- On a small rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the bread cubes with the remaining olive oil, and place in the middle of an oven preheated to 350° F. Toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. When the bread cubes are lightly browned, remove from the oven to cool.
- Place the bread cubes in your serving bowl. Cut one of the tomatoes into large chunks and squeeze over the bread, using a food mill to release the juice and bits of pulp, leaving skins and seeds behind. Stir the bread cubes so they absorb the juices and let stand for 10 minutes. (Actually, I used a potato ricer, which is much easier to clean than my food mill)
- Blanch the remaining 2 tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds. Cool, peel, seed, and cut into ½ inch chunks.
- Assemble the salad by adding the peppers and their marinade, drained red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce to the bowl of bread cubes. Gently stir in the salmon and chopped dill. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Toss and serve immediately.