Archive for April 2016

A Kitchen Interlude

April 16, 2016

Hey all.  You may recall that roast chicken is an object of obsession in the Levenson household. It is the one true votive food, as far as I’m concerned, comfort and connoisseurship and all that.

Still_Life_of_a_Roast_Chicken,_a_Ham_and_Olives_on_Pewter_Plates_with_a_Bread_Roll,_an_Orange,_Wineglasses_and_a_Rose_on_a_Wooden_Table

Since that earlier post (it’s only been ~4 years and all that), we’ve played around a lot with the Melissa Clark recipe that prompted it.  Our standard fast variation on that (given that ramps (a) aren’t that much of a favorite in our house and (b) are only available for about twenty minutes a year) is to replace the original vegetable medley with a couple of leeks and a mixture of mushrooms — usually shiitakes with creminis or oysters or whatever’s on hand — together with capers, garlic and lemon rind.

A wonderful change up on that has been to use this recipe for curried cauliflour instead of leeks and mushrooms, whilst still following Clark’s basic method. (We add these to the cauliflour dressing: 3 papadew peppers, sliced; ten coarsly chopped garlic cloves; and 1 tsp baharat spice mix (or any kind of random flavorful spice mix lying around).We start the splayed chicken breast side down for ten minutes, and then add the dressed cauliflour at the turn.  For a 3.5 lb chicken, allow for roughly 40 minutes total — and when you’re done you get this lovely curry – esque roast chicken.  Not the crispest of skin, but very tasty.

But all that’s prologue to two new-to-me roast chicken recipes I made this week, both of which rocked my world.  Given that I’m really trying to spend a whole weekend without writing about politics*, I’m offering these up as both a gesture of peace to both the Bernistas and  Hillarions that may visit this site — and as a displacement activity to ensure I don’t start talking the relative benefits of Glass-Steagall vs. rigorous capital requirements and so on.

First up — this lovely recipe from an old NY Times column on what chefs like to eat when they seek a meal they didn’t cook.  It’s dead simple, and very quick:  a 3.5 lb chicken** roasts in just over half an hour.  The only even mildly tricky bit is the removal of both the back and breastbones:  two different good knives help (a big chef’s knife and a robust boning knife).  Other than that, it’s just a matter of basting the thing a lot and making the green sauce.  My only change-up on first trying it was to add some sherry vinegar to the salsa verde; the capers alone didn’t give it enough bite.  But allowing ten minutes for prep, the whole meal takes about three quarters of an hour and the result is a simple, clean chicken with a lovely spring-summer sauce for counterpoint.

And second, from a chef who’s work has really shifted the palette in our house, this not-quite-roast chicken turned out beautifully this Wednesday.  It’s Yoram Ottolenghi’s Chicken Sofrito, slightly modified to avoid the occasional pitfall of Jewish cookery, the felt need to make sure the damn thing is really, really done.

Our amendments:  no potatoes.  Only about four or five good sized garlic cloves, roughly chopped, instead of his twenty five (sic!).  I butterflied a 3 lb. chicken (I like the smaller birds), rather than quartering it.  Having seared it as the recipe calls for, I pulled it and sauteed on large white onion, sliced, and then added sliced up yellow and red sweet pepper — a half a pepper of each — then the garlic.  Cooked those down for a few minutes before returning the chicken to the pan.  Most important — I substituted pimenton — Spanish smoked paprika — for the sweet paprika Ottolenghi specifies.  Takes it to a whole different place.  And I squeezed just a little lemon in, because I always do.

This is another quick-cooking dish. The chicken was above refrigerated temperature (I pulled it from the icebox about an hour before cooking), small, spatchcocked, and seared pretty good.  Cooking time after reassembling the chicken and vegetables was around a half an hour.

The result was simply fabulous.  Where the first recipe was the essence of simple, clean, chickeny-ness, this had a lovely sense of secret knowledge and the romance of the East and all that.  Both dead easy; both fast enough for mid week.

I know, I know — I’m babbling.  But while I’m no evangelist in most domains, roast chicken in almost any variation, done right, is as near as I get to heaven in this vale of tears.  So I hope y’all won’t take it amiss if I spread my poultry gospel.

And even if you do, take solace in finding in this post something to kvetch about that doesn’t involve scalp ferrets or the proper way to consume pizza.

Now — over to you.  Talk about the essential foods for your tables or anything else you damn well please.

*I’m not sure if spending manic hours gutting David Brooks most recent two risible attempts at rise-above-it-all civic moralizing/thumbsucking would count, but my nearest and dearest are.  Let me thus say here only my now-standard reaction to BoBo:  intercourse yourself ninety-degrees-off-bilateral-symmetry-axis with an oxidized farm implement.

Image:  Osias Beert and workshop,**  Still life of a Roast Chicken, a Ham and Olives on Pewter Plates with a Bread Roll, an Orange, Wineglasses and a Rose on a Wooden Tablebefore 1623

**better known for artistic craftsmanship than originality of titling.

Palate Cleanser

April 14, 2016

Here’s some tunes I reached for this afternoon, all to get the texture of Kasich’s narishkeit in Brooklyn out of my brain.

First up: Itzhak Perlman’s got some swing:

 

Next, for a bit of joyous culture mixing, check out the Barcelona Gypsy Klezmer Orchestra, here doing a killer take on Djelem Djelem:

And last, because where would we be without people with too much time on their hands constructing glorious improbabilities, enjoy this (h/t @joi_the_artist):

And with that: top of the evening, all!

Point And Laugh

April 14, 2016

Yes, the Democratic primary has entered its manic and ugly phase.  Yes, I’d dearly love to see Bernie show some sign he truly cares about getting either Democrat into the White House before any other ambition.  And damn-straight I’m ready to just make it all stop.

But it could be worse.  We could have to face this from one of our own candidates:

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful holiday for our friends in the Jewish community – the Passover,” Kasich told reporters after emerging from the matzah bakery, a box of the fresh-baked stuff in hand.

Yes, Jews are known to love The Passover, almost as much they love The Pre-Election Drop-By from vote-seeking politicians.

…Kasich then launched into a brief appraisal of the links between Passover and, um, the blood of Jesus Christ.

“The great link between the blood that was put above the lampposts” – er, you mean doorposts, governor — “the blood of the lamb, because Jesus Christ is known as the lamb of God. It’s his blood, we believe …” [forwarded by a valued reader]

Putz doesn’t even begin to describe the schmendrick who would say such a thing.  Putz is too grand a word, to expansive.  Kasich is a schmeckel, a schtickl, a petseleh, someone of so little use as to be barely worth noticing.

'A_Fool's_Fool'_by_Thomas_Shields_Clarke

But oy gevalt is this dumb.  I got two words for Kasich’s advance team:  blood libel.  There’s no bottom to the evil that comes from associating Jewish rituals with the blood of Jesus — and no limit to the stupid it takes to wander into such a thicket.  Ignorance is a pathetic excuse — to the point of being disqualifying (at least for any Jewish voter I know) in a would-be president.

It gets better, which is to say not so much worse as more bathetic.  Before hitting the matzoh bakery, Kasich tried to hang with some yeshiva bochers at a bookstore who told him that they were studying Talmud, specifically, the laws of the Sabbath.  Kasich’s comeback?

“You know who I like?” Kasich finally said. “Joseph. You guys like Joseph?”

Yeah, John.  Just like we enjoy the top ten commandments.

It is to laugh.  And to mutter a little blessing:

Thank the FSM this guy is their problem, not ours.

Image:  Thomas Shields, A Fool’s Foolc. 1887.

This’ll Hurt…Preceded by Thanks

April 8, 2016

First — thanks again to everyone around the social-media-verse for all the kind thoughts thrown my way on my Guggenheim news.  I’ll post on the sweet/bittersweet backstory to that when I get back to the computer that has the photograph I need.  Here, I’ll just say that yup, it’s been a good week, the more so because there is no gift I value more right now than that of time.

Antonio_de_Pereda_y_Salgado_-_Allegory_-_WGA17166

That said, on to the fun stuff:  cheering the discomfiture of our foes (while regretting any collateral damage) — and hoping against hope that this kind of news will, in not-too-long-a-time, have the right effect.

What news, you ask?

This:

The Boss took no prisoners in explaining his decision:
To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress. Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10th. Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them.

It does suck for NC Springsteen fans — many-t0-most of whom I’d bet loathe this law as much as Bruuuuuuuuce does.  But public and bitter consequences are the only way I see of driving the point home.  The legislative assault on civil rights led by Republicans all over the country is exactly the kind of crap up with which we will not put.

So, to celebrate Mr. Springsteen — and to give just a little salve to our North Carolina pro-E-Street-anti-bigotry cohort, here’s a little something from 1978:

Image:  Antonio de Pereda, Allegory, c. 1654