Sunday, March 23, 2014

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Amazingly tender chicken covered in garlic sauce. 
This recipe was another one from my new Gourmet cookbook--I'd been thinking about it for awhile. It was first published in Gourmet in 1967, and has been sort of a retro classic in the US ever since. I modified the recipe slightly to make it easier (no bouquet garni, no browning the whole chicken ahead of time).
I'd never cooked a chicken this way--essentially a slow semi-braise of the whole bird on the bone, then quickly broiled right at the end for crisp skin and color.

As the name implies--there are literally 40 cloves of garlic in this recipe (or more, I never count things). Two or three large handfuls of whole garlic cloves. Yet it doesn't taste remotely sharp or garlicky--it's very mellow, balanced, silky and rich. 
The chicken cooks very slowly in a covered pot--the garlic mellows and softens and sweetens and cooks gently in the chicken fat. You essentially make an on-the-bone chicken confit and loads of garlic confit all together at once. 
The chicken could be carved off the bone with a spoon--it's insanely tender, with crisp golden skin. You smother the chicken with the rich, lovely, garlic gravy. This was a perfect, satisfying Sunday night dinner. I made some bread and salad to go with the chicken--totally perfect. 
Not to mention--the ingredients for this added up to about eight dollars (chicken was on sale) plus seven for the wine ( Yellowtail is fine with me). 
Lovely end to the weekend. 
1 whole chicken
40 cloves of garlic (specifics are unimportant--a few handfuls of garlic cloves) 
2 springs of rosemary
1 lemon 
2 carrots
1 rib of celery
2 bay leaves 
1 cup white wine 
salt and pepper 

What to do 
Pat your chicken completely dry with paper towels. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Set aside. 
Place carrots, celery, one of the rosemary sprigs and 10 of the garlic cloves into the food processor and pulse into a coarse grind. 
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

This recipe calls for no chopping!
Then, place the chopped veggies into the bottom on your dutch oven or roasting pan. Add the bay leaves.
Stuff about ten garlic cloves into the chicken cavity. Cut a lemon in half--add the half lemon the the cavity, then truss the chicken (tie its legs together with kitchen twine). 
Full frontal chicken porn. 
Place the trussed chicken on the chopped veggies, and scatter the rest of the garlic cloves (leave them whole) and add the remaining rosemary sprig and half lemon. I also added the chicken neck to the pot for extra flavor.

Cover the pot and place into the 250 degree oven. Slowly bake, basting occasionally, for five hours. 
Carefully remove the chicken from the pot (it will be nearly falling apart) and place on a cookie sheet. Set aside.
Skim the fat off the liquid left in the pan. Use a potato masher to smash the garlic cloves. Add the cup of wine and reduce, whisking regularly, over high heat until the consistency of gravy. Taste for salt. 
Crank the heat up to 550. Put the chicken back into the over and roast until golden brown and crisp all over. 
Golden and falling off the bone. 
Pour the sauce over the whole chicken, and serve extra on the side. Carve the chicken, or just pull pieces straight off. 

This was delicious. I can't recommend it enough!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Slow Braised Leg of Lamb with Greek Salad, Raita, and Whole-Wheat Flatbread

Lamb, raita, Greek salad, and whole-wheat flatbread.  
Boneless lamb roast resting before carving. 

This fantastic combination of tender, flavorful lamb, refreshing raita, crisp, fresh salad and warm homemade flat bread isn't an easy weeknight dinner. It should be saved for a special occasion, and only undertaken if you're the kind of person who loves the process of cooking nearly as much as you adore the pleasure of eating at home.
In retrospect, I ought to have left this for a Sunday, but it was a really special occasion--the finale of The Bachelor! For the last couple years, some coworkers and my sister and I have gathered every Tuesday to mock the worst television event in America, drink wine and hang out. This is a great opportunity for me to practice my favorite pastime--cooking for a crowd.
Right after Christmas, I was in the grocery store and saw enormous legs of American lamb, reduced to scandalously low prices. A 13-lb leg was a mere sixteen dollars (the last, smaller one I bought was $80, albeit from Oliver's, who sells high-quality local meat). I couldn't pass up the bargain--I bought it and waited for an special occasion like the finale of a TV show that is everything wrong with America.
I decided to do a boneless, braised / slow roasted preparation for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the bone-in leg wouldn't fit into my biggest roasting pot. Secondly, even though I usually prefer a medium-rare preparation on any lamb (such as here), this lamb had dark-red flesh and was unusually large, so my guess was this was an older lamb. It's meat would be distinctly gamy. Having been frozen for months wouldn't help the flavor and texture, either. So braising in wine would tenderize the meat, and smearing the roast with copious garlic, rosemary and lemon zest would counteract the gaminess.
Seeing as the lamb came on the bone, my first step was to butterfly it--myself. I watched a few youtube videos, then started hacking away.
I based the rest of general cooking background knowledge and how I personally like lamb to taste. I didn't follow a recipe, so this post doesn't read like one.
Messily home-butterflied lamb
Then, I chopped a head and a half of garlic, four sprigs of rosemary, the zest of two lemons, and some salt and black pepper.
Rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest. 
Then, I rubbed half of this onto the inside of the leg, then rolled it up, and rubbed the other half onto the outside. 

Then, I placed this into my dutch oven, poured half a bottle of chardonnay around the outside, and covered it. I cooked it at 225 degrees for six hours. 
This is not going to be done for six more hours, and lamb, though it cooks best in white, really eats best with red. Feel free to enjoy the rest of that bottle while you clean the lamb viscera off your kitchen ceiling. 
Then, I removed it, cranked the heat up to 550, and blasted it for about 10 minutes to get a crisp, bronze finish on the outer layer of fat. 
Roasty-toasty brown and smelling phenomenal. 
 Crunchy burnished fat crust
I then allowed the lamb to rest for 25 minutes. During that time, I took all the liquid that had accumulated in the pot while the lamb was cooking. I skimmed as much fat off the top as I could (there was quite a bit--lambs are fatty), then I pour the liquid into a sauce pan, put it over the gas, and let it boil and boil to reduce. 
I spooned a bit of the reduction over the resting lamb to make it glossy and juicy-looking, then put it in a bowl for people to spoon over their meat as they served themselves. 

To go with this, I made whole-wheat flatbreads (I cooked on our cast-iron, stovetop grill), cucumber mint raita, and Greek salad. 

Greek salad.
To make the Greek salad, I combined two clamshells of little red grape tomatoes (the only tomatoes that tasted good this time of year), two cucumbers chopped into rough chunks, two chopped red onions, a quarter cup of drained capers, a few tablespoons red wine vinegar, and a quarter-ish cup of olive oil, some black pepper, then mixed everything together. 

Soon it will be Easter, and soon after that, you too can find a discount leg of lamb in your neighborhood Albertson's or Safeway's. I cannot recommend this "recipe" enough--it is fantastic. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Massaman Chicken Curry

A bowl of sweet, creamy, spicy, peanut-studded, herb-topped perfection.

Sometimes, around Denver or in the ski towns, one sees restaurants advertising themselves as "Colorado Cuisine." Generally these fall into three categories.
1. 'Colorado-style' pizza. 
I'm from California, where there also exists a bullshit regional pizza style--'California pizza' sometimes has avocados and grilled chicken breast on it. Or pesto and shrimp.
So Californians have no legitimacy when criticizing another region's pizza. But I'll say it: California-style and Colorado-style pizza both suck. From what I can tell, Colorado pizza means it has a thick, bread-y crust and a soggy, saucy middle, and you're meant to pour honey over the leftover crust and eat it as dessert.
Not a fan.
2. Anything smothered in pork green chili.
I have no idea why all burritos purchased in this state come covered in gray-green, not-spicy, slightly viscous sauce. Why do you want your burrito soaking wet?
3. "Colorado Cuisine".
These restaurants tend to be more expensive. Usually this means there is Colorado lamb and trout on the menu, bison steaks, and various food that connotes the mountains, like juniper berries. These restaurants seem more like a gimmick---the flavors are more about the theory than the taste, and nobody eats this way at home. You see restaurants like this near the gondolas at Vail or Beaver Creek, catering to rich gapers from Dallas.

So as far as I'm concerned, there is no existing definition of Colorado cuisine worth respecting. Thus, I think I have as much claim as anyone to define it myself.

So, in my opinion, true Colorado cuisine must meet two criteria--
a. Something you'd want to eat in a blizzard. Warm, hearty comfort food.
b. Something you'd want to eat when you're really high

That's it!

A wide range of things would qualify---French-style wine-braised short ribs, chorizo black bean soup, shrimp etouffee over rice, etc. Something delicious, comforting, unpretentious. What you want to share with the people in your ski house and eat in your socks and thermals, while everyone is utterly and legally stoned.

Well, this massaman curry is a shining example of the genre. Very rich and sweet from the coconut milk, salty and funky with fish sauce, a slight burn from chilies. The sauce is studded with crunchy peanuts, and the potatoes soak up the sauce, becoming soft and lush and completely, totally delicious.

I got this recipe from BonAppetit, but altered it. My version is certain to be better--theirs, egregiously, omitted peanuts.

This is so, so fabulous.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1½ lb.), cut into smallish pieces 
  • 2 medium red onions, chopped into large pieces
  • 4 large carrots, chopped
  • ¾ cup Massaman Curry Paste (click for recipe)
  • 12 oz. Belgian-style wheat beer
  • 3 13.5-oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
  • ½ cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons palm or light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 hot chilies (I used thai chilies, but any kind is fine. Or you could use chili oil or chili powder)
  • 3/4 cup whole unsalted roasted peanuts
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Cilantro, scallions, and cooked rice (for serving)

  • Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and cook in batches until golden brown (do not turn), 8–10 minutes.
  • Add onion, carrot, chilis, and potatoes to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes (everything will simmer to doneness once the liquid has been added, so things don't need to be cooked through now)
  • Add curry paste to pot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add beer. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half, 5–7 minutes. Add coconut milk, peanuts, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is very tender and potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and mix in fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar, and soy sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Top with cilantro and scallions. Serve with rice.