Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's Your Favorite?

The two most common questions asked of me during culinary events are: what are your favorite restaurants and when you cook at home what do you make? I've likened the first question to the query I always received while studying film: what's your favorite film? I can't answer either question with just one restaurant/film, maybe I could with ten, but definitely not one. However, the answer to the question about what I make at home when I cook is simple: Judy Roger's Chicken & Bread Salad from Zuni Cafe. People find it funny that the meal I most cook for my family isn't even my own recipe, but rather the signature dish of one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco (one off the "favorite restaurant" list). Created by Judy Rogers, a native of St. Louis who I've had the privilige of cooking for on several occasions, the Chicken & Bread Salad is quintessential comfort food for my tastes. A one roasting pan meal of perfect roast chicken, crunchy and chewy toasted bread, slightly wilted salad greens and a dressing made from the chicken's natural juices. It's the perfect simple Sunday meal in my book, or to paraphrase a line from a favorite film, it "smells like victory."

Zuni Cafe's Chicken & Bread Salad-

3# Whole, Fresh Chicken, Seasoned with Kosher Salt/Fresh Pepper & Fresh Thyme and Parsley Sprig under skin
½ Loaf (10-12oz) Crusty Bread, Slightly Stale/Crust Removed/Cut into 1” Pieces,
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Extra For the Croutons
2 Tablespoons White Wine or Champagne Vinegar
Kosher Salt and Fresh Black Pepper To Taste
1 Tablespoon Currants, Dried, Soaked in 1 Tablespoon Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Pine Nuts, Toasted in Dry Skillet on the Stove over Low Heat
3 Cloves Garlic, Slivered
4 Scallions, Julienned
2 Tablespoons Chicken Stock, Preferably Homemade
6+ Cups Mesclun Salad Greens, Such as: Arugula, Frisee, Oak Leaf, Etc.
Preparation Procedure-
Preheat oven to 475˚. Rinse chicken with cold water and THOROUGHLY dry with paper towel. Put a thyme sprig under skin of each breast section. Season completely with salt and fresh black pepper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes if time allows. Arrange cubed bread on sheet pan and cook in hot oven until some color develops, about 5-10 minutes. Turn bread chunks over so browning is even. Combine ¼ cup of olive oil with white wine vinegar and salt/pepper to taste. Toss bread with half of this oil mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. Soak currants in warm water and red wine vinegar.

Preheat a heavy bottomed skillet or roasting pan on your stove and heat until hot. Wipe and moisture from chicken and set it breast side up in hot pan. Place in center of hot oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the chickens onto breasts and roast another 30 minutes. Check to see if chickens are cooked, using thermometer or twisting leg sections (turn easily=done). Allow chicken to cool.

Place a little of remaining olive oil in small skillet and sweat garlic and scallions over medium-low heat. When cooked scrape onto bread and toss to combine. Place on sheet pan and bake bread until warm and golden, 10-15 minutes. Drain the dripping from the chicken into the chicken stock. Heat the roasting pan and add drippings/stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove tasty bits. Remove meat from cooled chicken, skin-on or off it’s up to you. Toss pan juices with crusty bread, pine nuts, drained currants, and greens. Nestle chicken into salad and add extra olive oil/white wine vinegar mixture as needed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Time for KTK's Panacea

The one constant of the parties, classes and events I've worked since the new year is not what you'd expect. The focus and menus have run the gamut, the participants as varied as the weather here in St. Louis (from corporate execs to very young pasta makers [see photo]), and I've rarely heard the words "diet" or "fast" uttered (although perhaps they've been replaced by "cleanse"). No, the constant, which shouldn't come as a huge surprise this time of year, are those nagging, sniffling colds which seem to be omnipresent right now. Now much to the dismay of our customers in the pharmaceutical industry, we here at the traveling kitchen subscribe to the age-old, cure-all for these annoying ailments: homemade chicken broth. And conventional wisdom to the contrary making this amazing cold remedy is just about as easy as running out to the pharmacy. In fact there are really only two important things to remember in making chicken broth, or any stock for that matter: start with cold water (it allows for a cleaner tasting, less "muddied" end product) and just cover the bones with water (we're going for a rich, delicious broth; not chicken water). Here is a great stock recipe, don't forget to freeze any extra broth in a ice cube tray or plastic container (3/4 full).

Chicken Broth/Stock
Makes 4 Quarts.

Chicken Bones, Rinsed with Cold Water
(should include leg and wings with meat) 6-7#
Water, Cold Just Enough to Cover Bones
Onion, Cubed 1 Large
Carrot, Peeled/Cubed 4 Medium
Celery, Cubed 4 Outer Stalks
Peppercorns, Black 10
Tomato Paste (optional) 2 Tablespoons
Kosher Salt 1/4 Cup
Fresh Thyme 2-3 Sprigs
Fresh Parsley (optional) 3-4 Sprigs

In a large stock pot, combine everything and cover with cold water, just to cover. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Strain and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Allow to cool completely to degrease or use a stale piece of bread to absorb fat residue that settles on top of broth.)