New Mexico Road Trip – Day Three

7.1.11 § 11 Comments

Day three of the road trip (Can you call it a road trip if you spend like three days in one place? I’m going to.) was supposed to be our last day in Santa Fe. I woke up in a great mood because I knew we were going to eat at my (up until then) favorite restaurant in Santa Fe, Tune Up Cafe. This place Rocks. My. Socks.

The first time I went there was with a then-boyfriend who was visiting New Mexico for the first time. He ordered the special of steak and eggs, and, like everything in New Mexico, it was smothered in chili. Christmas style. I had the rockingest breakfast burrito Of. All. Time. I know. It may sound extreme. But in my memory we were still happy in love (my boyfriend and me, not the burrito and me…we’re still happy together), and this breakfast was a moment when all was right in the world. So, needless to say I was excited to go back to my love. My darling. My burrito.

Burrito from Heaven

There are so many awesome-looking things on the menu here. My mom has tried a lot of them and assures me that everything is lick-your-plate good, but I was not to be deterred. The breakfast burrito, please. With bacon. And avocado. Smothered. Christmas style. It. Was. Bliss. I know. I’m still sounding a bit too enthusiastic about this burrito, but y’all, it is my second favorite burrito in the whole world, and I’m telling you, actually…I don’t know what I’m telling you…I lost my train of thought looking at that burrito picture.

Mom's Combination Lunch Plate

My mom had the combination lunch plate, which came with a chicken pesto quesadilla, a side salad, and, wait for it, chilled corn-avocado soup. The salad and quesadilla were pretty run of the mill, good, but not spectacular. But the soup? Oh the soup! I love all things avocado, but I was hesitant about eating it in soup form. I don’t know why. Avocado is always good. And the Tune Up kids know what they’re doing. This is where it’s at, folks.

So, after Tune Up, we walked around Santa Fe looking for something a friend had asked me to get for him. We couldn’t find what he wanted, but we spent enough money on…well, other things. Whoops.

The Shed

As we were getting ready to make the 1.5 hour drive from Santa Fe to our family’s cabin near Rociada, NM, I decided it would be prudent for us to eat once more before leaving town. We played the phone-a-friend card to get some more recommendations and ended up going to The Shed, which we were told had “the best red chili.” Turns out what The Shed really has are the best margaritas. Mom and I had one with our meal (which was great, we’ll get to that in a minute), and then, we decided to let fate decide our course. “Okay, we’ll call the inn (that we just checked out of this morning), and if they have a room available tonight, and if they give us a good price, we’ll order another margarita and stay the night.” They had a good room. At a good price.

Me, Mom, and Margaritas

The food was really good too. We started off with guacamole and chips. Now, when it comes to guacamole, my mom and I are tough customers. We’ve been known to ask for extra lemons to squeeze into the bowl, to add copious amounts of salt, etc. But this guac was pretty great, and it was spicy, which was a nice change. I didn’t ask what was in it…and I’m blaming that brainfart on the margarita(s).

Dinner at The Shed

For dinner we split a combination plate: a blue corn, ground beef enchilada topped with red chili, a chili relleno (which, for those of you who don’t know, is a chili pepper stuffed with cheese then breaded and fried) topped with green chili, beans, and posole. The meal was really good, as was the red chili, though I’m not sure I’d call it “best ever.” It is worth mentioning, however, that The Shed received a James Beard “American Classic” award in 2003. And it’s been around for like fifty years or something crazy like that.

Bottom line (well, my bottom line, I don’t pretend to be an authority on the matter), if you’ve got two days in Santa Fe, I’d say you have to haveto havetohaveto go to Tune Up Cafe. You can skip The Shed though, because the next morning mom and I did succeed in finding my favorite ever red chili. Thank god for that second margarita! Without it I wouldn’t be able to tell you where you have to haveto havetohaveto go for red-chili-smothered everything. Stay tuned.

New Mexico Road Trip – Day Two

6.23.11 § 5 Comments

I intended to post this a bit sooner, but I guess it’s pretty natural that during our road trip I got caught up in the road-tripping. Anyway, here is day two…better late than never! Right? (If you missed day one, it’s right here!)

First, before we can go any further, I need to talk to you about something really important: green chili. If you’re from New Mexico, feel free to skip ahead, you don’t need to read this. However, if you aren’t from New Mexico, read on, because I’m about to change your life. Green chili is magic that comes from Southern New Mexico, and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason that our little old state has earned the slogan “Land of Enchantment.” I won’t go into the long history of green chili (for some more info, click around this site), I’ll just say this: when I come home to New Mexico, it’s basically a requirement that at least 85% of my meals contain some form of Hatch green chili.

Mom fixing her coffee at Counter Culture

In Santa Fe, which is where we landed on day two of our road trip, that isn’t a problem. We started the day off at Counter Culture Cafe, an awesome little place that’s relatively new to the city. They have all sorts of breakfast items, sandwiches and salads for lunch, and great-sounding dinner entrees. If you are in Santa Fe looking for New Mexican food, I wouldn’t send you here, but if you’re just looking for a menu with great food and enough variety to make anyone happy, I’d say this is the perfect spot.

Huevos on the left, Lox on the right

My mom, who I dare say gets her fill of green chili because she still lives here, went for the lox plate instead of a New Mexican option, and it was very good, though, in my opinion, nothing to write home (or to the blogosphere) about. After debating between huevos rancheros and the smothered breakfast burrito (smothered in chili that is), I settled on the huevos. I ordered it “Christmas,” which means that it’s drowned in both red and green chili. I was not disappointed. For those of you who haven’t had huevos rancheros before, let me explain what you’re seeing. (It’s exceptionally difficult to take pictures of New Mexican food because everything is covered in chili!) Anyway, the basic idea is fried eggs served on top of corn or flour tortillas that are resting on a bed of beans. Usually, it’s refried beans, but in this case, they were black beans. Then, the eggs are covered with either red or green chili (or both) and any number of other accompaniments like sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, salsa, etc. It’s delicious.

Mom and Coffee

We spent a leisurely hour on the restaurant’s patio nomming on our breakfast and, obviously, discussing where we were going to get lunch. We also talked about how we might have to return to Counter Culture for lunch at some point, because their sandwiches and salads all looked tempting.

A few hours later, after writing a blog post and taking a nap, it was time to eat some lunch. We headed to Bobcat Bite. While I had never heard of this place before, it came highly recommended by more than one person, and since the phrase “best green chili cheeseburger in the world” had been thrown around, we thought we had better check it out. (I was serious about my commitment to eating green chili.)

Bobcat Bite

It was a tiny little place a few miles out of town, and despite it being nearly 2 pm, the parking lot was full of cars when we arrived. I was shocked at how small the restaurant was on the inside, and without even ceiling fans to keep it cool, I was kind of worried I’d be too warm to enjoy the food.

The counter, which accounts for about 30% of seating at Bobcat Bite

However, as soon as our burgers arrived, I forgot all about being uncomfortably hot and dug into a perfectly cooked, medium rare burger covered in green chili and cheese. As I mentioned before, it’s terribly difficult to capture the glory of food when one thing is covering up everything else, so I pushed some of the cheese to the side to get a picture where you can see the chili.

Green Chili Cheeseburger and Homefries

The burgers were huge, and while we were both afraid we wouldn’t be able to finish them, I’m proud to say that we did. It would have been more difficult to leave some on the plate than to force ourselves to eat until we felt sick – it was just that good. And of course, as I was googling later that afternoon, I found out that this burger was named as one of the 3 finalists for best burger anywhere in the US by Bon Appetit. Go, New Mexico!

Me attacking my burger. I won.

After a lunch like that, mom and I were hurting, and there was a definite need to walk it off. In an effort to do something cultural, instead of just bouncing from one food experience to the next, we decided to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe museum. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures (not allowed!), but it was really nice. The museum is pretty small, and I like that because it’s definitely do-able in just an hour or a little more. The exhibit we saw was about the interplay between photography and painting, and it was fascinating to see how many artists use one medium to help them with their work in the other. Anyway, if you’re in Santa Fe, I definitely recommend putting this museum on your itinerary. (I did wish that there was more of O’Keeffe’s work on display, but it was still pretty great. My favorite work that we saw is below. The watercolors are WAY brighter in person.)

Evening Star No. VI - Georgia O'Keeffe

When we felt that it had been an acceptable amount of time since our last meal, we still weren’t that hungry, so we decided to head to a tapas joint for dinner. Mom had a place in mind, but we had been told by a local that there was a different place that was a bit cheaper and, in his opinion, better. So, always opting to trust the locals, we headed to El Meson.

Tapas at El Meson

Unfortunately, the menu was a bit disappointing. Usually, even when I’m not hungry, I order way more than I can eat, but nothing on the menu was really calling my name. We settled on grilled bread with tomato, garlic, and serrano ham; goat cheese-stuffed artichoke hearts that were friend and served with romesco sauce; and a special of roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with shrimp and crab and served with a roasted corn coulis. While the food was fine, I wasn’t impressed enough to suggest this restaurant to anyone. The best thing we ate was a salad with four different kinds of goat cheese, pine nuts, pears, and balsamic. Needless to say, if a salad is the best thing you have, it’s kind of disappointing.

El Meson Salad

Despite the lackluster food, the ambiance was nice. There was live music, which, I believe, happens nearly every night at this place, and the band was really fun to watch. However, unless you’re into the music scene, you can probably skip this one. Mom’s summary was, “The whole time, I just kept wishing we had gone to the other tapas place.” (Sad face implied.) I guess you need to make sure which local it is whose recommendation you’re trusting.

Band at El Meson

While the ending was less than fabulous, the day was a success overall. I’d say the burger was actually a highlight of the trip. If you’re within driving distance, you should probably go check it out. Like right now.

New Mexico Road Trip – Day One

6.16.11 § 5 Comments

Since I last wrote, I’ve moved to a new apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (kitchen tour coming as soon as I get all the boxes unpacked) and landed a new job (which I’ll tell you about later). Thankfully, that new job didn’t interfere with a plan that was already formed: to come home and eat my way through New Mexico. My mom and I have been talking about doing this for awhile now, but unfortunately, when we sat down to make a plan (which, let’s be real, didn’t actually happen until yesterday morning when we were getting ready to leave town), we realized it wasn’t realistic to try to hit six locales in six days. At least not without the ability to teleport. So, we’ve narrowed it down to the area around Santa Fe, including but not limited to Taos, Mora, Las Vegas, and some little tiny spots I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of. The following is a chronicle of our journey and most importantly, of the food.

    

We got waylaid before we even got out of my hometown (which is Clovis, for those of you that don’t already know). This happens to us all too often: “Oh, let’s stop and get taquitos at Foxy!” “How about some Taco Box for the road?” “I know it’s out of the way, but should we run by Bill’s and get a breakfast burrito?” We’ve got problems. Anyway, this time the trouble came in the form of Leslie Gibbs Candy Company – the candy factory right next door to our dog’s kennel that supplies peanut patties to most of the area’s distributors. Peanut patties are ubiquitous in New Mexico and other parts of the South, but for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to grow up eating them, a brief description: peanuts encased in a red candy made with sugar, corn syrup, and artificial coloring. Depending on how old the patty is, the temperature outside, and the humidity, the candy can be hard or soft, but it’s always delicious.

So, peanut pattie in hand, we hit the road. I love driving through New Mexico. It’s so flat that you can see for 50 miles, which is beautiful and also makes it pretty easy to speed. It only took us about 2.5 hours to get from Clovis to Clines Corners – not really a food spot but a pretty well-known stop on the NM portion of what used to be Route 66.

Once we got to Sante Fe, the really tough part was deciding where to get dinner. We’ve gotten tons of recommendations from friends in the area, and with so many options, it’s already proving tough to narrow it down. We finally settled on Restaurant Martín – the domain of Chef Martín Rios, a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef of the Southwest Award in 2011.

While we’d been advised to make reservations, we walked into a nearly empty dining room, which was a bit disconcerting. The host assured us that in Santa Fe the busy season doesn’t really begin until July 4 weekend, but it still made me worry that New Mexico can’t support fine dining restaurants and the prices that go with them. My inquietude quickly vanished as I looked over the menu. Everything sounded so delicious that I thought I’d never be able to choose. With our server’s help, we finally settled on two appetizers:

Chilled Spring Pea Soup with Mexican Prawn Salad, Meyer Lemon, Fennel Sponge Cake, Greek Yogurt and American Caviar

And Maple Leaf Duck Confit Cannelloni with Organic Coddled Egg, Pea and Spring Onion Fricassee, Sunchoke Veloute, and Red Wine Syrup

I’m always skeptical of dishes with so many components if it seems as if they can’t possibly blend, but both appetizers were completely harmonious, and we scarfed them down with many “mmmms” and “oooohs.” The coddled egg with the duck cannelloni was an especially nice touch, the runny yolk mingling with salty duck in each bite. We took our server’s suggestions for our main courses as well:

Maine Diver Sea Scallops with Yukon Potato-Shallot Puree, Heirloom Grape Tomatoes, Wild Mushrooms, and a Chorizo-Tarragon Foam
and
Prime Beef Tenderloin with Potato Terrine, Asparagus, Fennel Puree, Shallot, and a Red Wine Sauce Mignonette

    

Again, we were blown away by the flavor combinations. The scallops were perfectly seared, and the roasted tomatoes added a just the right amount of acidity to the richness of the scallop-mushroom-foam combination. And, not to go on and on and on, but the tenderloin was such a beautiful medium rare that the meat seemed to melt in my mouth as easily as the scallops.

Thankfully, we had a chance to heap our admiration on Chef Rios, who came by the table as we were finishing up our entrees. He and his wife Jennifer were both so lovely, and we greatly enjoyed getting a chance to talk with them. It was especially fun to hear about their recent trip to NYC for the Beard Awards and to learn of their time living in both New York and France. Before Chef left our table, he gave us a few more restaurant recommendations, counseled us to sit on the patio for our next visit, and of course, advised us about to order for dessert. I oh so sweetly asked our server if we might have our dessert on the patio, and the migration to semi-darkness is what accounts for the decreasing quality of my photos:

Soft Chocolate Ganache Tart with Almond-Chocolate Pain de Mie, Peanut Butter Creme, Peach Sorbet, and Crispy Lime Meringue
and
Caramelized Apricot Panna Cotta with Lemon-Poppyseed Cake, Coconut Milk Foam, and Hibiscus Sorbet

    

By this time, I had put my hesitations about crazy flavor combinations aside, knowing that Chef Rios has definitely got it going on, and dessert didn’t disappoint. There were also small meringues floating in the foam around the panna cotta, adding a surprising little crunch to the soft texture of the panna cotta and accompanying sorbet.

All in all, it was quite a magical evening. I’m so glad that such a fine chef has made a place for himself in New Mexico, and I can only hope that others will follow suit. If you have a chance to eat here, definitely do. And if it’s warm, go for the patio seating. The view of the full moon from our table was unbeatable.

Pea Shoot Pesto

5.19.11 § 5 Comments

Hi bloggy world! Hi, hi, hi! Sorry, I’m really excited to be writing a post. I’ve missed this! And I know, I know, we JUST covered pesto like two posts ago, but this is different. Really. I promise! First, let me rewind a bit.

Pork Chops with Pea Shoot Pesto, Creamed Potatoes, and Asparagus

This past week and a half, my mom has been visiting me. We decided to hit ‘em up style this trip, so we basically ate our way through my dream restaurant list in the NYC area. My favorite meal by far was up at Blue Hill Stone Barns, where I became absolutely giddy with food-love-joy. Why the giddiness? Because this place is basically the coolest restaurant ever. It’s on a huge farm near Westchester, and before you eat you can walk around and see the greenhouses and the animals, etc. All of the ingredients are locally sourced. You don’t order from a menu; instead, you simply specify five or eight courses for the “farmer’s feast,” which is composed of dishes based on the day’s harvest. (Obviously, we went with eight courses. For the record, that is a lot of food.)

Mom and Me at Blue Hill Stone Barns

We’re talking homemade ricotta from chef Dan Barber’s family farm, heaped on top of ramp jam, which is smeared on brioche made from red fife grain (which, incidentally, was ground into flour the very same day). Three kinds of butter, each from a single cow in the same herd, all with distinctly different flavors. A selection of greens arranged on a huge palette with smears of homemade yogurt. Oh god, it was like being in heaven. I don’t even remember it all, it was so good I think I blacked out. (That was probably aided by the wine expertly recommended by the sommelier, who was awesome.) One of my very favorites was the pea shoots. They were brought to the table still in the soil in which they were grown with clippers on the plate to snip the shoots off before dipping them in a lemon vinaigrette and eating them. It was just so very, extremely, unbelievably cool.

Pea Shoots in Soil with Clippers!

When my mom accidentally got to spend an extra day in the city due to flight delays, we decided to seize the chance to make a meal at home, which we really hadn’t done the entire time she was here. We ventured to the Union Square Greenmarket where we picked out asparagus, potatoes, and finally, pea shoots! I’m kind of obsessed with them since the Blue Hill Stone Barns experience, and right on the booth was a recipe from the NYT for pork chops with pea shoot pesto, so my little heart was sold. We snagged half a pound of those babies, and after a brief stop at ABC Kitchen to get a snack (the goat cheese, spinach, and herb pizza is divine by the way), we headed home with our bounty.

Pea Shoots from Union Square Greenmarket

The meal was amazing. Pan-seared pork chops with pea shoot pesto, creamed potatoes, and asparagus quickly sautéed in butter. So simple and delicious after a week and a half of rich restaurant meals. And now I have pea shoot pesto left over! I’ve been eating it on sandwiches, spreading it over roast chicken, and I hate to admit, occasionally nomming on it by the spoonful straight from my refrigerator.

Pea Shoot Pesto - In Process

If you haven’t yet discovered the wonderful ingredient that is pea shoots, I suggest you get on it. And if you live in the NYC area and you haven’t yet eaten at Blue Hill Stone Barns, I suggest you stop what you’re doing and make a reservation. Seriously, do it now…you’ll get a table in approximately two months, and it will totally be worth it. If you don’t live in the area, maybe you should plan a trip around a visit to this restaurant. And invite me, okay?!

Pea Shoot Pesto

Pea Shoot Pesto
adapted from the New York Times

1/2 lb (about 3.5 or 4 cups) of pea shoots
3/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
3 good-sized garlic cloves
1/4 cup cilantro
1/2 cup parmesan
salt to taste
olive oil

Like the last pesto recipe I posted, this one requires lots of chopping unless you have a food processor. However, it’s really easy.

Throw down a handful of pea shoots, then start chopping. When they’re getting small, throw in some pine nuts and chop some more. Throw in part of the garlic and chop. Add some more pea shoots and chop. Next, add pine nuts and chop. Then add your cilantro (or part of it) and some more garlic. Just keep repeating until it’s all chopped up into a chunky, paste-like mixture.

Grate the parmesan over the top and then chop some more to mix it in. Generously sprinkle the whole thing with some sea salt. Transfer all of it to a bowl and stir in a drizzle of olive oil. I think I probably used between one and two tablespoons. Taste it and add more salt if needed.

Basically, add, chop, add, chop until you’ve used everything up. Enjoy!

Advice

5.6.11 § 4 Comments

Oh man, I’m so embarrassed about how long it’s been since I’ve written a post. I’ve been feeling all down on myself about it, but that’s silly, I’ve been incredibly busy. I just got back from an amazing trip to Bali, and today, my mom is coming into town to visit for a little over a week. Then, I’m moving to a new apartment. So, it’s been hectic to say the least.

But, as always, Sugar has made me feel a little less down on myself. No, not sugar that goes in cookies, Sugar at The Rumpus, who gives advice so good that more often than not, I feel as if she is talking directly to me.

Since I don’t have time to write my own post right now and make it what I want it to be, I’d like to share a few pulled quotes from this week with you, just in case you haven’t already stumbled upon this gem of a column. Context? It’s her version of a graduation speech to a bunch of English majors who have no idea what they’re going to become in “the real world.”

Read it. Because, who couldn’t use a bit more sugar in their life?

Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far, guide you onward into whatever crazy beauty awaits.

*****

You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score.

You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.

But that’s all.

*****

When I say you don’t have to explain what you’re going to do with your life I’m not suggesting you lounge around whining about how difficult it is. I’m suggesting you apply yourself with some serious motherfuck-i-tude in directions for which we have no accurate measurement. I’m talking about work. And love.

*****

The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.

*****

For the whole post, click here. For my other favorite Sugar column of all time, click here. I hope to be back writing soon, but in the meantime let me just say to you little bloggy world: love love miss love.

Homemade Pesto

4.14.11 § 10 Comments

Pesto, Pea, and Parmesan Pasta

I grew up hating pesto. Like, with a passion. I remember one time I was out to what I thought was a super fancy dinner, and I ordered pesto on my pasta. I didn’t know what it was, but I thought it sounded cool. It. Was. Disgusting. I didn’t even eat my pasta – just pushed it to the side and picked at everyone else’s food.

Chopping - The Early Stages

But, then I got older, and I got into food, and I eventually saw a recipe for pesto. Basil, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil. What’s there not to like?! So, tentatively, I started letting pesto back into my life, and it wasn’t so bad. I tried it out on pastas and sandwiches at relatively nice restaurants, and you know, things were going okay for me and pesto. We were getting along just fine, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I had hated it so much as a kid.

Chopping - The Middle Stages

It wasn’t until a friend offered to make me a sandwich with pesto on it that it clicked: I hate pesto that comes from a jar! Hate, hate, hate. I ate my sandwich (I didn’t want to be rude), but now, I’m that annoying person that always asks “Is it fresh?” anytime someone offers me pesto, regardless of if it’s at a restaurant or someone’s home.

Chopping - The End Stages

But let’s be honest here: fresh, handmade pesto rocks. Really. It’s just so damn good. I didn’t even realize how good it was until I made it for myself one night and had one of those “Oh my god this is the best thing I’ve ever made!” moments. Even better? It’s pretty easy. Yes, it requires lots of chopping, but for me, lots of chopping is therapeutic. (Unless I’m dealing with a dull knife. Then, this amount of chopping makes me want to pull my hair out. (I was going to say it makes me want to stab someone, but there’s really no need for violence here. Right? Especially with a dull knife.)) Another great thing about making pesto, at least for me, was that it is something it had never occurred to me could be made at home! (I know, eye roll.) I kept saying to my dinner guests, “Look! I’m making pesto! Like, making it!” (I’d like to mention that I had had a glass of wine at this point. But still.)

Pesto!

Anyway, listen. If you can get your hands on a fresh bunch of basil, you’ve really got to try this. Especially if, like me, you’ve been on the fence about pesto at some point in your life. Once you’ve made this, and have fallen absoluuuutely in love with it, you can spread it on sandwiches, mix it into pasta, serve it on crostini, etc. And you can feel proud, because you just made pesto.

Basil Pesto
from 101 Cookbooks

Heidi over at 101 cookbooks says that the way she learned it, the best technique is “chop a bit, add some ingredients, chop some more.” She was taught by an Italian grandmother and her guess at the reasoning is that “some things get chopped into oblivion, while some not as much – it encourages spectrum of cut sizes throughout the pesto contributing to the overall texture.” And, it takes awhile. It probably took me about 25 good minutes, with breaks to sip my wine.

Also, note that this recipe has no salt in it, so you will need to adjust the seasoning for whatever you’re using with the pesto. If it’s pasta, make sure to salt the cooking water for the pasta, and then you’ll probably need to salt to taste.

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
5 medium cloves of garlic
one small handful of raw pine nuts
roughly 3/4 cup Parmesan, loosely packed and FRESHLY GRATED
A few tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

Start chopping the garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil leaves. Once this is loosely chopped add more basil, chop some more, add the rest of the basil, chop some more. The trick is to chop for a bit, then scrape it all together, then add a bit more, chop some more, and scrape it all together again. (Just don’t use the blade of your knife! It dulls it!) At this point the basil and garlic should be a very fine mince. Add about half the pine nuts, chop, then add the rest of the pine nuts and chop some more. Add half of the Parmesan, chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan, and chop. When the ingredients are fine enough, you will be able to mold them into a little loaf-type thing, and the ingredients should hold together. Cover the pesto with a bit of olive oil, it doesn’t take much, just a few tablespoons.

It’s ready to eat! Either set it aside or stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it, giving it a quick stir before you add it to whatever you’re making (to incorporate the ingredients).You can set this aside or place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Chez Panisse Roast Chicken

4.11.11 § 8 Comments

Chez Panisse Roast Chicken

I’ve become obsessed with roast chicken as of late, which is kind of funny, because unless I’m going to a place that is famous for it, I usually steer away from chicken on restaurant menus. Chicken is so often boring, and in my opinion, if it’s dry or poorly cooked, it’s not worth eating. However, I’ve discovered that it’s laughably easy to make a roast chicken at home that will knock your socks off and impress the heck out of any dinner guests. And there is definitely more than one way to do it.

My slightly-botched, spatchcocked roast chicken

Take for instance, spatchcocked roast chicken. It’s not the prettiest presentation, but using this technique is sure to give you an evenly cooked bird every time. Click on over to my previous post to read more about spatchcocking. Or click here to learn about why it works so well.

Yogurt-Marinated Roast Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Or, there’s yogurt-marinated chicken with roasted red pepper sauce, which I found on The Wednesday Chef and made about a month ago but never got around to posting. While this recipe requires a bit of forethought (the marinade needs to sit on the chicken for a awhile), again, the end result is a tender, juicy chicken, and the roasted red pepper sauce is absolutely to die for. Seriously, I could eat it with a spoon.

Spice Rub for Chez Panisse Chicken

And last but not least, the star of today’s post: an incarnation of the roast chicken served at Chez Panisse, which I adapted from the version I found over on The Amateur Gourmet. This chicken doesn’t require any advance preparation. You simply throw together a quick spice rub (pictured above), massage it into the chicken, tie up some strings, and throw the chicken in the oven. Walk away for an hour, and when you come back, you have a succulent, flavorful meal that looks absolutely gorgeous on a serving platter.

Filling the chicken cavity with thyme

The most amazing thing is, unlike many other recipes for roast chicken, this one has no added fat! I’m not usually one to advocate for low-fat cooking, but due to an upcoming trip to tropical paradise, I’ve been thinking I should cut back on the butter. Okay, that’s not really true. But I guess that every once in a while, it might be nice not to kill dinner guests with butter, right? (I don’t know, you’ll have to tell me the answer to that one…) I guess the bottom line is that I never would have imagined that something made with no added fat could be so good! Really! It’s like magic! The entire chicken is so tender and juicy that you won’t believe there’s no voodoo involved.

Chicken covered in spice rub

And the very best part?! (I know, I know…it’s unbelievable that this gets any better…) You can make two of these at once (or one will suffice if you aren’t cooking for a crowd) and use the meat to make meals all week! I’ve been noshing on chicken quesadillas, chicken salad, chicken sandwiches…the list goes on. This is really awesome when you’re making lunches during the week and you don’t have tons of time to cook. If fact, I think I’ll go make a chicken sandwich right now! My new favorite is chicken with jalapeno hummus, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, and avocado mash (pictured below).

It’s pretty easy to get creative when the protein is taken care of. Man, this lunch rocks.

Chez Panisse Roast Chicken
adapted from Amateur Gourmet, where it was adapted from Chez Panisse Cookbook

3 to 4 pound whole chicken (I try to get close to 4 pounds)
cooking twine
fresh thyme
3 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
handful of red potatoes
1 head of garlic
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees farenheight. Remove the giblets, which are usually in a sac in the chicken’s cavity, and wash the chicken under cold water. Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry. You want to get it really dry so the skin will crisp in the oven. If not, it will just steam. Stuff the cavity with a handful of fresh thyme.

In a small bowl, mix together the salt, fennel seeds, and cayenne and black peppers. Sprinkle some of the spice mixture into the chicken’s cavity, and then rub the rest all over the chicken. You want to get it both on top of and under the skin. You may have to use your fingers to loosen the skin a bit before you can get the spice rub in there.

Get your twine ready. Pull the legs together and tie them at the feet. Next, use a larger piece of twine to go around the top section of the bird, tying the wings closely to the body. Trim the ends of the twine and place the chicken into a roasting pan or large dutch oven.

Now, cut your red potatoes in half, toss with a little bit of olive oil, and place cut-side down around the chicken. Finally, separate the cloves of garlic, but don’t peel them! Sprinkle the cloves in with the potatoes.

Place it in the oven and roast for about an hour. Remove the chicken from the oven, and if you made it in a dutch oven, put the lid on and let it rest for about 15 minutes before you carve the chicken. If you used a roasting pan without a lid, you can cover it with foil.

If you’d like to make a pan sauce, pull the chicken and potatoes out onto a platter and then use a bit of white wine to deglaze the pan over medium heat, scraping the brown bits off the bottom and allowing it to simmer and thicken a bit.

Cut the strings and remove them, carve the chicken and serve. The roasted garlic is great squeezed out of its peel onto some toasted bread or just eaten with the chicken and potatoes.

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