Tuesday, October 23, 2007

All the Fixins

On Saturday night, overcome by a false nostalgia for some down-home cooking, I decided to make a "traditional" American meal. I say "false" nostalgia, because my family was never the meat-and-potatoes type. A normal meal at 7 Kings Pine Rd. in Westford, Massachusetts, usually took the form of a Chinese-inspired stir fry with bok choy and soba noodles, turmeric-infused rice with daal and chickpeas, or ubiquitous rice and beans (my favorite!).

For the most part, I have inherited my mother's inclination towards ethnic culinary experimentation, and keep the nearest pantry stocked with garbanzos, tofu, garam masala, cumin, plain yogurt, miso, and hot paprika. A former pesco-vegetarian, I am relatively apprehensive about preparing meat and tend to mix and match various vegetable dishes, soups, and mezze when serving a meal.

On Saturday, though, I was inspired to go completely New England-traditional. Ok, so I added a hefty sprinkling of cayenne to my pumpkin soup. And curry. And cumin. But for the most part, my meal was tame: salad with granny smith apple vinaigrette and walnuts, (spicy curried) pumpkin soup, and lemon-herb roasted chicken breast with potatoes and homemade stuffing. I will admit the potential for having been influenced by reading the latest issue of Bon Appetit (it was the Thanksgiving issue).

In particular, the magazine inspired my chicken: we purchased an entire skin-on, bones-in chicken breast, which afforded me the opportunity to mix some fresh herbs in some butter and rub it between the skin and the breast meat. I then slipped about 10 or so thin slices of lemon under the skin, and sprinkled the outside with some kosher salt and pepper. That was it. No stuffing the cavity, no kitchen twine, no giblets. I just popped that baby in a roasting pan alongside some quartered, oiled, and seasoned potatoes and some of the stuffing I had prepared (in copious amounts).

Speaking of the stuffing: I had originally intended to do an easy wild rice stuffing, which requires no bread. Upon returning from Whole Foods, however, I found half of a stale loaf of rustic whole wheat bread, ripe for cubing. And so it was that I reserved the wild rice for the pumpkin soup, cubed the bread, toasted it in the oven until dry, and then mixed it with the other stuffing ingredients:

Olive oil/butter
Dried cranberries
White wine
Chicken broth
Sage, salt, pepper, etc.

I haven't included measurements in this pseudo-recipe, but as long as you mix the above in rationally-devised proportions, you will come up with something delicious. As I mentioned before, some of the stuffing got prime seating next to the chicken breast, and the rest was baked in a separate pan. Simple, not outrageously unhealthy, completely delicious. Take a look:

I also mentioned a pumpkin soup with wild rice. It was quite tasty, incredibly easy, and beautiful, but I will withhold the recipe until I get the seasonings just right. This time around I think I may have overdone it with the cayenne. Stay tuned, but for now, a visual offering:

It should be noted that the morning following this hyper-American feast, I was visited by the insane notion of making a leftovers omelette. We had a few potatoes and a hefty helping of stuffing left, and I made an omelette for two using 4 eggs, a large frying pan, and an utter disregard for visual appeal. It may not have been pretty, but Jonathan and I agreed that it was one of the best omelettes we had ever eaten. Served with generous amounts of organic ketchup, of course. Why does ketchup make everything taste better? (This is not rhetorical, please post a response in the comments section, if you are so inclined.)


Naomi said...

Hi Mia! I also tried the Bon Appetit inspired recipe on chicken, as a tune-up for Thanksgiving. Although I wasn't inspired enough to make stuffing, I did surround it with carrots, potatoes and cauliflower. It was good enough to repeat, although as a garlic lover, I will probably add more garlic next time and make the herb butter ahead so the flavor is absorbed more. I am enjoying your food blog, and welcome you to come and use my kitchen anytime.

E said...

Mia - take Naomi up on her offer to use her kitchen...it's awesome (worth the trip to Minnesota)!