I realized today that it is entirely possible that we either have new readers, or readers who still don’t know certain information about me. In the interest of bringing people some new stuff, or at least some new information, here we go with a few fun facts about the Improviser that you may not have known.
#1 – I really DO improvise a lot. Most dinners at our house are the result of me reading a recipe, thinking “wow, that sounds good” and proceeding to forget half of the procedures and just going with the ingredient list. I cook by feel, and I’m working really hard to train myself to use my senses more in my daily life, including cooking. This means that things may burn a little more often because I’m not setting timers. It also might mean that I have to guess how long something baked for – but if you cook my recipes frequently enough, you’ll get the hang of it.
#2 – I do not drink anything even remotely close to the recommended amount of water every day. Or at least, I didn’t, until this baby came into my life. Who knew that all it would take to make me drink water was a cute orange metal water bottle with a sport bottle top? I’m actually thinking about getting an even BIGGER KleanKanteen soon, because I love the little one, but I have to get up and refill it ALL THE TIME. The good thing about drinking this much water during the day is that when it’s time for hot yoga class, I don’t feel like I’m going to die. This is seriously the best.
#3 – My favorite comestibles are, in no particular order: chicken fingers, bourbon, french fries, chocolate chip cookies, macaroni & cheese, pizza, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, lobster, spicy tuna rolls, strong dark coffee, chocolate croissants, and cookie dough ice cream. Oh, and buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy. And Gie’s Mince & Tatties. And Jaffa Cakes. And Diesels and Guinness and Vino Verde. And Riesling. And cheese in its many wondrous forms. You may have noticed that a lot of these things are the same foods that 9 year old boys love. That’s totally cool with me, since they’re also freaking delicious.
#4 – If I’m going the boneless-skinless route, I will from now on be choosing ONLY chicken thighs. No more boneless, skinless, textureless, TASTELESS chicken breasts for this girl – give me a little more fat, which means a little more flavor, and a little more *snap* in the texture. Give me more. If I’m paying the same money, I’m taking as much as I can flavor-wise out of it.
#5 – I have no problem, at all, with plunging a lobster into a pot of boiling water, clamping down the lid, and cooking the sucker.
#6 – I forgot to mention that one of my favorite things to eat is my dad’s Red Beans and Rice. And that by mashed potatoes, I mean my mom’s. By biscuits I don’t mean from a can. I love curry and chickpeas, and risotto (I forgot to mention risotto) and things that involve pumpkin, sausage, stock and cream. I also love cold leftovers, topped with a fried egg, for breakfast. Basically, anything topped with a fried egg.
#7 – I do not consider white chocolate to be chocolate.
My friends, I am back with another recipe for Gourmet, Unbound. IN case you can’t remember, a few food bloggers started a project where bloggers from around the world would cook and write about a recipe from Gourmet’s illustrious back catalogue, once per month. I missed out on the January submissions because hey, the holidays happened, and my life went crazy for 2 weeks. But I’m back with a February Submission that screamed out “COOK ME” as soon as I came across it on Epicurious.
Roast Chicken with Mashed Potato Stuffing and Roasted Vegetables — Gourmet February 1994.
When this issue of Gourmet ran, I was 9 years old. I was working my way through the 4th grade, and I was blissfully unaware of what would someday become my passion. Well, sort of. My favorite passages in the Little House on the Prairie books were the ones where Laura Ingalls Wilder described the food they would cook and serve. I would grudgingly endure back-to-back episodes of This Old House and New Yankee Workshop in order to get to The Frugal Gourmet on PBS on Sunday evenings. I knew there was something about food that was enthralling to me, but I had no idea that its actual creation would one day have so much meaning and importance to me. The most I did at 9 in the kitchen was set the table, and occasionally flip the French Toast. I was just reaching the “terrifyingly clumsy” stage of my life, where letting me crack an egg was bound to be a mess, I bruised my hip on every doorknob in the house, and I knocked over everything in my path.* So cooking, and reading Gourmet, were not on my radar, so much.
A few notes about this recipe:
#1 – I believe that the supreme being of the universe created potatoes SOLELY so they could be turned into mashed potatoes. I would rather eat a potato mashed than any other way there is, including in latke form and in soup. There is one supreme mashed potato in my life, and that is my mom’s mashed potatoes. All the rest are a distant second best, and I just need to take one more chance to shout out how great they are, and thank her for making them for me when I’m home. I love you Mom, AND your tatoes.
#2 – I love roast chicken and very rarely follow a “recipe” when I make it. I’m more of a “method” kind of gal. But whenever you are stuffing the cavity of a bird with something you intend to eat, it is very very important to follow all guidelines for cooking times and temperatures, and also to make sure that your bird is fully defrosted before you stuff it.
#3 – My grocery store doesn’t carry parsnips, or celery root. So I roasted my chicken on top of my 12 shallots, and 2 heads of garlic, along with 4 cut up carrots, 3 or 4 cut up celery stalks, and some turnips. And it was great. I’m going to use the leftovers to enrich some stock that I’m making later today. I also didn’t have a shallow roasting pan with a rack. So I just sat the chicken in the pan for the first 30 minutes, breast down. Then I sat the chicken on top of the veggies for the rest of the cooking time, and it all went fine.
#4 – This is not your go-to weeknight roast chicken. That chicken is the one you rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stuff some butter and herbs under the skin, shove a lemon and half an onion and some rosemary into the cavity, and roast breast down in a hot pan for 20 minutes, breast up in a hot pan for 20 minutes, breast down again for 10, and then until it reaches temperature breast up.
This chicken takes time. You have to make garlic mashed potatoes by boiling garlic and potatoes together and then smashing them with milk and butter and herbs and yum. And then you have to stuff them into the chicken’s cavity, and roast the chicken breast down in a cold pan, and then add some root veggies and sit the chicken on top of them and roast until the thigh makes your probe thermometer beep at 180.
And then, you get to eat the chicken, and the chickeny garlicky mashed potatoes. And the veggies. And everything else. And it. is. goood.
*Somewhere along the line over the last 16 years, I grew up and mostly out of the clumsy stage. And I would love the chance to head back to where my clumsy dropsy skinny 9-year-old self sat, and tell her not to worry, sweetheart. You’ll figure it all out. And you’ll find something you love, that truly fulfills you. Just hang on. And don’t worry about the bruised hipbones. That stops too.