Roast Chicken with Basil, Scallion, Lemon Butter, and Potatoes

Once upon a time, before the days of factory farming and $5 rotisserie birds from Costco, chicken was considered a special meal. After years of treating this ubiquitous meat as a boring, must-offer dish, chefs now exalt the whole roasted chicken—buying special breeds and bathing the birds with luxe ingredients, like foie gras. Even without the expensive embellishments, a lovingly raised, thoughtfully cooked chicken is truly one of the best tasting things you can ever eat.

This Valentine’s Day (or any time you want to celebrate something), I’d like to propose you roast one of these birds. It’s true: To buy a best-quality pastured bird that was free to roam and scratch and eat a natural diet of bugs and more is expensive. But the $20 you’ll spend on one of these birds will seem like a deal compared to the price of other Valentine’s Day favorites, including rack of lamb, steak, and lobster. Not only will you likely have leftovers (handy when Valentine’s Day is mid-week), but there’s something so cozy about sharing a single bird and eating it partially with your hands. And did I mention? Roast chicken pairs beautifully with Champagne. And it’s one of the more sustainable meats you can eat.

One of my favorite ways to roast a bird involves salting it at least 24 hours in advance to season the meat down to the bone and to create golden, potato-chip-crisp skin. I rarely think far enough ahead to do this, and well, now that it’s Valentine’s Day, we don’t have enough time.

If I don’t salt the bird ahead, I’ve now discovered my second favorite method, and really, it rivals the first. While paging through Mindy Fox’s excellent book, The Perfectly Roasted Chicken, I found her Roast Chicken with Basil, Scallion, Lemon Butter, and Potatoes. In this recipe, she employs a few simple techniques to take a classic butter-roasted bird with potatoes to the next level. First, she adds lots of herbs, garlic, and scallions to the butter; it’s more than you think you should add. Second, she preheats the pan, so the potatoes and chicken start cooking right away. Third, she flips the chicken twice during roasting to help the bird cook evenly and to keep the breast juicy. Finally, she squeezes lemons over the chicken during the last 20 minutes of roasting, which helps brown the skin and add a fresh, lemony tang to the juices. The result is the roast chicken of my fantasies, complete with a luscious pan sauce and potatoes that make me feel bad for vegetarians. (Forget bacon. Potatoes coated in chicken drippings would be my “cheat” if I ever decided to give up meat.)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Eggs baked in squash

As I mentioned in my previous post, Cooking Secrets of Adulthood, roasted vegetables make for an excellent breakfast. One of my favorite such breakfasts are roasted halves of small squash, like acorn, delicata, and buttercup. The squash are tasty enough on their own with a little maple syrup, or they can serve as a bowl for more substantial fillings, like porridge or yogurt and granola. I find warm squash in the morning to be a soothing start to the day and often easier to digest than my usual toast.

Because I could never hack open a squash pre-coffee, I tend to roast a few small squash on Sundays and refrigerate them to use through the week. Then I simply rewarm them in the toaster oven as my coffee drips into the Chemex. If I have a little extra time, I’ll bake an egg right in the cavity. (Think of this as a gluten-free egg in a hole.) I wrote up my method for the baked eggs below, but first, a few more topping and serving ideas for your squash halves.

  • Brush with maple syrup and dust with sesame seeds.
  • Put some wilted greens or other cooked mushrooms in the squash halves under the egg before you bake them.
  • Grate Parmigiano-Reggiana cheese over the squash before you re-warm.
  • Fill with warm lightly buttered farro, quinoa, or millet and top with sliced almonds and berries or crumbled bacon.
  • Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios.

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This cake is pleasantly dense, with a nice kick of bourbon. Last week, I ate scrambled eggs and take-out for dinner and plopped my daughter in front of the TV for longer than I care to admit to try to process the election results. My husband and I had lots of conversations about what we got wrong, how to be better citizens, and what, with the incoming administration, we both feared. Let’s just say, the list was long.

Bourbon Pecan Cake with Chocolate Chunks

Life must go on, of course, but I feel fundamentally different. I haven’t yet figured out how this will change my work, but I’m convinced it will. In my personal life, I’ve engaged with people who have different ways of looking at the world, really trying to listen and also respectfully share my views with the hopes of humanizing “the other side” and puncturing the echo chambers we often allow ourselves to live in.

Bourbon Pecan Cake with Chocolate Chunks

As I was writing this post, I found one little way to help the world today: A number of food lovers are donating to Share Our Strength inspired by Julia Turshen and her lovely cookbook, Small Victories. I gave a donation. Maybe you can as well?

Otherwise, what I can offer you is a listening ear and some cake.

The recipe here is from my own book, Modern Potluck and is something I’ll be teaching tomorrow at my class at The Farm Cooking School. It’s based on an Italian-style almond torte but relies on pecans instead. To continue the southern theme, it has enough bourbon to give it a boozy kick, which might be more necessary than usual this holiday season.

Bourbon Pecan Cake with Chocolate Chunks

Pecan Bourbon Cake with Chocolate Chunks
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This cake batter can be made entirely in a food buy modafinil india processor, so you don't have to dirty other bowls. If you don't have a food processor, you can substitute pecan meal for the ground pecans.
Serves: 1 hr 45 mins
Ingredients
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened, plus more for the pan
  • 9 ounces pecans (about 1¾ cups)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
  • Plain yogurt or sour cream, for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper.
  2. Sprinkle ½ cup of the pecans in the pan and dust with 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the remaining pecans with the remaining 1 cup sugar until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the ½ cup butter, the eggs, and bourbon and pulse until smooth. Add the flour and baking power and pulse just until incorporated. Add the chocolate and pulse just until incorporated (a few pulses). Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  4. Bake in the lower third of the oven, rotating the pan halfway through, for 40 to 50 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving plate or board and peel off the parchment paper. Dust the cake with the confectioners' sugar, and serve warm or at room temperature with yogurt, if desired.

 

Dungeness Crab and Cara Cara oranges come together in a simple winter salad.

I love eating locally and seasonally as much as the next cook, but this time of year, I’m grateful I have easy access to some of the West Coast’s incredible ingredients. Last weekend, I found freshly cooked Dungeness crabs. They’d be perfect with those pink-fleshed Cara Cara oranges I had just bought, I thought. I’ll add olive oil, some flaky salt. The first course for the dinner I was hosting was done and done. Except no.

At the last minute, I decided to warm the crab in a bit of butter and perk it up with a little lime juice, zest and chile. The next day, I had so much crab left over that I made the salad again, this time with Meyer lemon instead of lime. The contrasts in the dish—warm with cold and rich butter with bright citrus—were unexpected and brought this combo to a whole other level. This is now my go-to salad any time I’m lucky enough to come into some Dungeness crabs.

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