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Donna Deane's Overnight Coffeecake

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Today in reader-tested recipes, we have Sara, who conquers her fear of yeast! And comes away blessed with not one, but two 10-inch-round horseshoe-shaped, meringue-filled coffeecakes. (Donna Deane says they freeze well, thank heaven.)

"I had no idea what to expect with this recipe. For one thing, I have to admit to being a bit of a novice with yeast - I was discouraged once many years ago and have been slightly afraid of going back to it. I'm happy to report, though, that it seems to have worked out this time. The dough is sweet and a bit flaky, moist and not too doughy.

The cake's filling is unadulterated meringue, which is popping out of the cake's slits. It very much looks like meringue on the top of the cake, but on the inside, all those egg whites were absorbed into the dough and left the rolled layers very moist and lined with cinnamon and chopped hazelnuts. The hazelnuts add a nice flavor and crunch to the soft cake, and balance the sweetness well.

Two general notes: First, this dough doesn't rise the way bread dough does (at least it didn't for me); the recipe says it should double in size after it's rolled up, but I found that the shaped dough just became more schlumpy as it sat. Also, even after letting the refrigerated dough sit for a while, it was pretty tough to pry out of its bowl. It softened up easily and nicely (and rolled out evenly), but was definitely stubborn at first. Second, I think I overfilled these cakes a bit. Even though I didn't think there would be enough meringue to go around, there was possibly a bit too much, so don't be afraid to be conservative with the filling."

Could you, I wonder, turn that leftover meringue into drop cookies? Or a nutty pavlova? Oh, the possibilities.

Overnight Coffeecake
Serves 20 (8 to 10 per cake)

1 cup milk, divided
2 (1/4 ounce each) envelopes dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, cut up
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg yolk, divided
3 egg whites
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 cups chopped toasted hazelnuts, divided
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon dark rum (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a small saucepan, heat three-fourths cup milk to scalding. Remove from the heat and let cool to warm.

2. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir until the yeast is completely dissolved.
3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, one-fourth cup sugar and the salt. Work the butter in by hand or with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

4. Combine 3 lightly beaten egg yolks, the warm milk and the yeast mixture. Add to the flour mixture and beat at medium speed until completely blended and a soft dough forms, about one minute.

5. Divide the dough into two parts and shape each into a ball. Put each into a lightly buttered bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator; let it stand 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

7. While the dough is standing, beat the egg whites until light and foamy. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Beat in 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. Fold in 1 cup of the chopped toasted hazelnuts.

8. Take one of the dough balls, shape it into an oval and, on a lightly floured board, roll it out to form a 10- by 18-inch rectangle.

9. Spread half of the meringue mixture onto the rolled-out dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll up the dough lengthwise jellyroll style. Pinch the ends of the roll to seal.

10. Gently lift the roll onto a greased large baking sheet, seam side down, and form it into a horseshoe shape. Cut slashes halfway through dough at 2-inch intervals.

11. Repeat the process with the remaining half of the dough.

12. Invert a large bowl over each of the coffeecakes. Set aside to rise about 45 minutes or until doubled.

13. Lightly beat 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons milk. Brush each of the coffeecakes with egg wash, brushing the entire surface of the dough, but do not brush the meringue filling that shows.

14. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown, turning the baking sheet halfway through. Cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before glazing.

15. For the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, the remaining 2 tablespoons milk, the rum, if using, and the vanilla. Drizzle it over the coffeecakes. Sprinkle the cakes with the remaining one-half cup of chopped nuts.

Variations:

Orange:
Follow the master recipe, stirring 2 teaspoons grated orange peel into the filling. Replace 1 cup of the hazelnuts with toasted slivered almonds. For the glaze, substitute 2 tablespoons orange juice for the milk and stir in 1 teaspoon grated orange peel. After glazing, warm the coffeecakes and sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel over the top of each. Omit the nuts on top.

Pecan:
Follow the master recipe, replacing hazelnuts with toasted pecans in the filling. For the glaze, heat one-fourth cup butter over low heat until nut-brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Combine three-fourths cup powdered sugar, one-fourth cup firmly packed light brown sugar, the browned butter, 2 tablespoons milk, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and one-fourth teaspoon vanilla. Drizzle the glaze over warm coffeecakes, warming it in the microwave if necessary to maintain drizzling consistency. Sprinkle
with one-fourth cup toasted pecan pieces.

Chocolate:
Follow the master recipe, stirring one-fourth cup chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate into the filling along with chopped hazelnuts. Omit cinnamon. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts and one-fourth cup chopped chocolate over the warm glazed coffeecakes.

Gusto's Pasta con le Sarde

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Summer is almost here, beach season is almost upon us. Have you tried on last year's bikini yet? Figured out what diet to use to whittle down those last few pounds of winter insulation before you slip into something a little more revealing?

Well, this is your last chance to change your life. How about the Total & Utter Disgust 'n' Despair Diet TM? It's remarkably effective. Why, all you have to do is read a couple of books, starting with Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma and ending with Bottomfeeder, and maybe watch a documentary or two, like King Corn or Super Size Me - yes, from the comfort of your very own couch! no movement required - and you'll lose your appetite, ensuring slimmer thighs and a chiseled face, guaranteed.

Protein will lose all its allure - poultry, beef, pork, even fish (shrimp!) will be entirely nauseating! Turn your nose up at rice - millions of people need it more than you do - and eye vegetables, both conventional and organic, with suspicion: the twin dangers of E. coli and murky ethics lurk everywhere, didn't you know? You'll find yourself grateful to have nothing but HFCS-free cereal with antiobiotic-free milk for dinner, and that can do wonders for the flabby, late-spring body.

The Total & Utter Disgust 'n' Despair Diet TM! There's simply nothing else like it.

(Side effects may include depression, rage, and hopelessness. But everyone knows you hate to eat when you're feeling like the world is coming to an end - so look on the bright side: You'll drop a dress size in less than a week!)

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Yes, folks, I seem to have lost my appetite. I'm 182 pages into Taras Grescoe's Bottomfeeder (which is a must-read, especially for people who like to eat fish) and it feels like the straw that broke the camel's back. About the only thing I feel good about eating now from the piscine world are a dozen oysters and a can of sardines. You might end up feeling that way, too. So in anticipation of that, here's a recipe for pasta with canned sardines that's quite delicious.

(Don't even try serving it to people who are avowed anchovy haters - the hate seems to extend to all small canned fish. Believe me, I tried. And failed. Miserably.)

Pasta con le Sarde
Serves 4

½ cup currants
¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs
½ cup plus 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fennel, bulb finely chopped, fronds chopped and reserved
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
Salt
1 pound canned sardines
1 pound bucatini pasta
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup capers, rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Combine the currants, red-pepper flakes and wine in a bowl; set aside. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl, stir in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and set aside.

2. In a heavy skillet, heat ½ cup olive oil over medium-low heat. When hot, add the onion, garlic, fennel bulb and fennel seeds. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender, about 25 minutes.

3. Add the wine mixture and the sardines, breaking them into pieces with a fork. Bring to a boil and gently simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Add enough salt to the boiling water so that it tastes salty. Boil the bucatini until al dente, 6 to 8 minutes; strain. Return the pasta to the pasta pot and set over low heat. Fold in the fennel-sardine mixture. Toss in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add 3/4 of the fennel fronds, the pine nuts, the capers and a quarter of the bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Divide pasta among plates and sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs and fennel fronds over each. Serve immediately.


Sara Levine's Duck Rillettes

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Our next recipe reviewer, Lynn at Spoon & Fork, sacrificed herself for the sake of the duck rillettes from the chef at Vertical Wine Bistro in LA. And I, for one, am quite glad she did.

"So my fiance and I are plopped on the couch in a duck fat-induced food coma.

Wow.

The duck rillettes were pretty fabulous. We ate them on top of toasted baguette slices, along with a salade nicoise. The spread turned out really creamy and delicious. The flavor was terrific, although we were just the tiniest bit bummed that the Dijon mustard flavor was so strong, because we felt like we didn't taste as much of the duck as we'd like. Next time I might tone that down a bit.

And there definitely will be a next time: our food-loving and Francophile friends would love these as a pre-dinner snack with a glass of wine or Champagne. It's a lovely dish for entertaining. A little decadent for a regular Sunday dinner, but hey, this was an assignment! The recipe was easy to follow.

Finding duck legs that weren't confit, on the other hand, was a little tougher. After a, uh, wild duck chase (ha) I eventually found them at Todaro's on 2nd Avenue and 30th Street. They were from Long Island. Meanwhile, the man at the meat counter at Garden of Eden on 23rd Street went in the back of the store and filled up a container of duck fat for me.

 The procedure was simple. You rub the duck with herbs and spices (the recipe was a little unclear about some things; for instance should the parsley be chopped or left in whole leaves? I left it whole. Is the mint dried? I figured yes). You refrigerate it, loosely covered, overnight. Some fat drains out during that time. You sear the duck in a dutch oven, add veggies, then wine, and let it reduce. It goes into a very low oven with chicken stock for about 3 hours, and then you set to work emulsifying the meat with melted duck fat and mustard. At that point, though, the consistency isn't quite right for spreading on bread--too gooey. I put the rillettes in three small custard cups, and after about 20 minutes in the refrigerator they were ready. 

I definitely recommend this for a dinner party. You'll get about 45 servings from the whole recipe. I'm freezing one cup--will let you know how that turns out."

Okay, duck rillettes are all fine and well, but what's this about the butcher at Garden of Eden filling up containers with duck fat? Somehow I'm stuck on that alluring detail.

Oh, also, Lynn - what did you do with that miraculous-sounding braising liquid (Step 3)? I'm having visions of some kind of stewy soup of rice and asparagus built off that base of braising liquid and let me tell you: the meal of roasted asparagus and scrambled eggs with ramps that I've been looking forward to all day suddenly seems a whole lot less interesting now.

Duck Rillettes
Makes about 2 cups

2 duck legs
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 small bay leaf, broken
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon mint
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 white onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cups white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup duck fat
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1. Place the duck legs on a rack on a baking sheet and rub them with the salt, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, coriander, mint and sugar. Cover loosely with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cure for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

2. Heat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, sear the duck legs in one tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high heat until you get a bit of color, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the white wine and reduce by half, about half an hour.

3. Add the chicken stock and braise the duck legs in the oven, covered, until the meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. (If it begins to bubble, turn down the heat.) Allow the meat to cool, then remove from the braising liquid; the braising liquid can be reserved for another use such as for a soup base.

4. Remove the meat from the bone and place it in a bowl. Place the bowl of duck meat on top of a bowl of ice.

5. In a small pan, heat the duck fat over medium-low heat until it's melted. Slowly pour the duck fat over the duck meat, using a fork to emulsify the duck meat with the duck fat until fluffy and smooth. Add the Dijon mustard and adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer to a serving dish or container; the restaurant serves rillettes in a French canning jar.


Zarela Martinez's Chicken with Orange Juice and Vanilla

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I made this chicken last night and thought it tasted just like garlicky chicken bathed in a sauce made of melted hard candy. (Well! Anyone still out there?)

Ben and our dinner guest, Seb, didn't agree, but now that I think about it more carefully, Ben really didn't say anything about the meal at all, and I think it's possible that Seb might have just been protesting out of politesse. The silly thing is that when I first read the recipe, I just knew I shouldn't even try it. There's just something about vanilla's cloying perfume that I find difficult, even in luscious sweet recipes. So in a savory chicken dish? I thought it best just to steer clear.

But Elaine Louie's One Pot column has a special little place in my heart and I've had success with the dishes I've tried from it so far (these noodles and this curry - which I'm just realizing I never told you about...delicious, it was!). So somehow I let myself be convinced to try it.

To think, I used two more chicken thighs than called for, a little more cayenne, and only half of the vanilla bean, and I didn't even strip out the seeds - I just split it and let it boil in the syrupy orange sauce. Oh, that orange sauce, so saccharine and sticky, even with the cayenne and vinegar and garlic, and such a strange, unpleasant combination of savory and sweet. Ooh, I'm suppressing a shudder just thinking about it again.

Thank God we had salad.

Chicken with Orange Juice and Vanilla
Serves 2 to 3

6 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cider vinegar, Japanese rice vinegar, or other mild-flavored vinegar
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1 vanilla bean, split
A few sprigs of cilantro, for garnish
Cooked rice or tortillas for serving (optional) 

1. Season chicken with the salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces skin side down, and brown until golden on both sides, turning once, 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

2. When chicken is browned, pour off any excess fat from skillet and return to medium heat. Sprinkle cayenne and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper over chicken, turning pieces to coat evenly. Taste a pinch of the skin, and add more cayenne if additional heat is desired. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add vinegar, butter and orange juice. Scrape in pulp of vanilla bean and add bean. Stir liquid to blend.

3. Cook chicken skin side up, uncovered, basting occasionally with sauce, until sauce is reduced to a syrupy glaze, 20 to 25 minutes. If interior of chicken needs further cooking (it should be 170 degrees when tested in center with an instant-read thermometer), cover and cook over medium-low heat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or as needed. Garnish with cilantro. Serve hot, with rice or tortillas, if desired.


Julia Moskin's Golden Apple Triangles

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The first results of my Role Reversal experiment are in! Bonnie Small, of Savoir-Flaire, did us the honors of trying Golden Apple Triangles, published in the New York Times a few years ago, along with an article on quick and easy Thanksgiving desserts.

Bonnie says,

"Golden apple triangles were easy to make and good to eat. How wrong can you go with a list of ingredients that includes puff pastry, apples and sugar? 

As I was getting the bits and pieces together to begin, I admit I was a bit perplexed by the amount of apple to use. The ingredient list indicates “1 cup peeled and grated apple – about 2 apples” but those two calculations didn’t add up. One grated apple is roughly equivalent to one cup, so I stopped there, figuring, in typical schoolyard fashion, that my apple was bigger than their apple.

Freshly grated, one cup of apple would certainly be sufficient to fill 12 turnovers, however the recipe calls for the grated apple to be mixed with the sugar, salt and lemon juice and allowed to macerate for five minutes. The resting time draws out the majority of the juice from the fruit, leaving a large amount of reserved juice and a greatly reduced volume of apple - barely half a cup to be exact. So I just quickly grated the second apple, tossed it in with the rest and moved on.

The filling for these tasty tri-corners diverges from a typical apple turnover in a couple of ways. Firstly (and as noted above), the apples are grated rather than diced or sliced; secondly, instead of pre-cooking the filling ingredients, or quickly tossing the apples and sugar together before scooping them into the dough triangles, the apples are left to extrude their juices pre-assembly.

While the reserved juices are used both as adhesive for the edges of the dough and as finishing glaze, I can’t help feeling that almost a cup of the all important flavor (juice/sugar/lemon) went unused. Not to mention that with all of the liquid removed, one tablespoon of limp apple gratings seemed out of proportion with a 4.5 inch square of puff pastry.

Once assembled, quickly frozen, and finished with cinnamon and turbinado sugar, they baked up beautifully and were eagerly devoured by all.  My husband (not a fan of copious fruit fillings) thought they were just right, but I couldn’t help thinking about the yummy apple flavor still sloshing around in the bowl."

Hmm. I rather like a copious fruit filling. I think I'd probably make smaller pastry squares if I tried these, or I'd double the amount of filling and then have leftover puff pastry with which to make cheese straws or something (Like these Cheese Puff Pastry Strips, which I made long before this blog existed and which were totally delectable, plus easy, though also tragic because I made them for a dinner party, tried them fresh out of the oven, then packaged the rest up to take on the train out to my friend's place - in Forest Hills! Where I live now! Oh, life - and ended up leaving them on the subway platform at 53rd and Lex. Sob.) I would also suggest boiling that remaining apple juice-sugar concoction down into a syrup and drizzling it on oatmeal or stirring it into iced tea. Genius? Terrible?

Oh, and one more thing. There is a serious drawback to this Role Reversal game. I am without my own Golden Apple Triangle. Must have my own Golden Apple Triangle.

Golden Apple Triangles
Makes 12

6 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup peeled and grated tart apple, like Granny Smith (about 2 apples)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Flour for rolling out pastry
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed overnight in refrigerator
2 tablespoons coarse sugar like Demerara or turbinado (optional)

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and cinnamon; set aside. In another bowl, mix apples, remaining granulated sugar, lemon juice and salt. Let sit 5 minutes, and drain, reserving juice.

2. On a floured work surface, roll out a sheet of puff pastry to a rectangle roughly 9 by 12 inches. Cut into 6 squares, and place 1 tablespoon apple filling in center of each. Lightly brush edges with reserved apple juice; fold into triangles, and seal edges by crimping with a fork. Repeat with remaining puff pastry and filling. Transfer turnovers to freezer, and freeze until firm, at least 15 minutes. Turnovers can be kept frozen in zipper-lock freezer bags up to 1 month.

3. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick pan liners. Brush tops of frozen turnovers with apple juice, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and arrange on baking sheets. (If reserved apple juice is no longer available, use commercial juice or water.) Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until well browned, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time. Let cool slightly before serving.


How to Roast Peppers

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Okay, everyone, tutorial time! Gather 'round, gather 'round.

I somewhat blithely assumed in this post that you all knew how to roast peppers. But it was brought to my attention after the fact that perhaps a little guidance would be appreciated and I'm happy to oblige. Plus, I'm on a one-woman mission to rid the world of the misconception that "roasting" bell peppers over a gas flame is somehow an acceptable substitute for when you think you don't have time for roasting peppers in the oven.

Ahem. Not acceptable. Not at all. At least not in this household.

Roasting a pepper held with tongs over an open flame simply chars the outside of the pepper. This is fine if you like eating semi-raw peppers that are singed in spots, but it's not fine if your goal is to get a silky-soft pepper that slumps on a plate, sweet and aromatic. To achieve that, follow these directions:

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1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating, line a half-sheet pan with aluminum foil. Wash 4 bell peppers. (I use exclusively red and yellow peppers. I suppose I could be convinced to try the orange ones every once in a blue moon. But you could not pay me to eat green ones. No way. No how.) Leave their stems on, you'll use them as little handles later in the roasting process. Place the four peppers on the sheet, leaving a bit of space between them. Place the sheet in the oven.

2. Every 20 minutes, open the oven and, working quickly, turn the peppers using their stems, so that they aren't lying on the same side throughout the entire roasting period. You'll notice each time you move the peppers that their skin has started to wrinkle and blister, even turning brown and puffing up in spots. Try to make sure that the peppers rotate evenly throughout the process.

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3. After an hour, your home will be redolent with the scent of roasting peppers. People will be knocking on your door and asking if they can come over for dinner. You will bask in the glow of roasting success. Along with a proper roasted potato, little can make you feel as capable in the kitchen as a beautifully roasted pepper. Open the oven and check the peppers. They should be evenly browned and blistered, collapsing in on themselves a bit. Place the sheet on a cooling rack and let the peppers cool. Don't try to fiddle with them just yet - the liquid inside the peppers is amazingly hot, even for someone with asbestos fingers like myself. Be patient.

4. When the peppers have cooled for about 20 to 30 minute, start to peel them. The peel should generally slip right off, but the peppers themselves will be quite slippery, so you'll need to do this with some care. I like to gently split the peppers and work with large sections at a time, simultaneously dumping out any of the interior liquid and, of course, ridding the peppers of all their seeds. This can get messy - I suggest working over a lipped cutting board and having a clean plate ready for the cleaned, peeled pepper segments.

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So! You've got yourself a nice clean plate filled with roasted peppers: now what?

Cut them into strips and lay them in small casserole dish. Sprinkle them liberally with chopped flat-leaf parsley, soaked and drained salted capers, good-quality olive oil, and a generous pinch of coarse salt. Eat with crusty bread. (If you're feeling adventurous, add to this dish a small handful of slivered, oil-cured black olives and a few anchovies. Some folks even like adding a layer of homemade breadcrumbs.) This is a classic Italian dish and should be committed to memory. It improves if left to sit and stew together for an hour or two.

I suppose it should be noted that these peppers are also far, far superior to any roasted pepper that comes in a jar at the supermarket. Those will never do.


Liz Pearson's Yogurt-Rubbed Roast Chicken with Red Pepper Sauce

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Let's start things off with a big, happy, declarative statement, shall we? It's Monday and it's awful out and despite being almost mid-May, we're dealing with March-like winds and rain instead of flowers and sunshine. I need something to cheer me up, perhaps you do, too, and I'm thinking this might just do the trick:

I may have found my new favorite way to roast chicken.

There. Things feel like they're looking up already, wouldn't you agree?

I'll always love the high-heat, Judy-Rodgers sanctioned way of roasting chicken, but the last time I did that we ended up having to live with the stench of scorched chicken fat in our apartment for nigh on a week. Since then, I've been banned from preparing chicken that way. Apparently, until we have a little elf living with us whose sole purpose is to run around silently behind me, cleaning up in the wake of my cooking endeavors and periodically scrubbing the inside of the oven (and while little elf is at it, also mopping), I won't be roasting at high heat again.

(Tragic, I know. How do I stand it?)

But over the weekend I found myself repeatedly coming back to a recipe printed in the LA Times a few weeks ago that has you stir Greek yogurt together with some herbs and spices and then massage big handfuls of the stuff onto (and into) a chicken, before letting it marinate for an hour and then roasting it at relatively average heat until cooked through.

See, doesn't that sound good? Something about spiced yogurt and marinating chicken... and I'm bewitched all over again.

Yogurt tenderizes chicken, don't you know, and the herbs and spices infuse the meat subtly. The marinating time and then the relatively long, slow roasting ensure an incredibly juicy bird. And to gild the lily - but this gilding I found absolutely necessary - the recipe has you roast shallots and red peppers beneath the chicken. After the roast is done, you gingerly peel the peppers (watch your fingers, they'll be hot!) and then puree them with the shallots and a disc of puckery goat cheese into an ochre-tinged sauce.

The original recipe has you do a fancy pan sauce with drippings and stock and flour and whisking, but is it a surprise to any of you at this point that I was far too lazy to follow suit? It was late, we were hungry, and that burnished bird was sitting on its platter making our stomachs growl. So I scraped up the pan drippings, separated the fat as best I could and dumped the drippings into the creamy sauce before whizzing it one last time.

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And it was fabulous. Sweet and savory and with the faint funk of goat cheese about it. We slathered the sauce onto our forkfuls of chicken, dragged the chicken through great puddles of the stuff on our plates. If we hadn't been in the presence of dignified company, I might have even taken a spoon to the bowl. Best of all, while the chicken disappeared in a flash, there's sauce to last us another night at least.

I'm planning on using this yogurt-marinade technique over and over again - committing it to memory, even handing it over to the lamination files, if you will! The chicken was dreamily moist and juicy and would make fantastic leftovers.

This is the perfect Sunday supper - one you can start as the sun starts its slow descent in the late afternoon and can have on the table by the time the light is gone, but the birds are still out doing their early evening calls. I love this time of day in spring and especially where we live now, where we can actually hear the birds over the sounds of the city. If I go out on the balcony, I almost feel like I'm back in Berlin again - close enough to the city that I see the sunlight sparking off the buildings in Manhattan, but far enough away that I hear more birds than sirens; birds and the rustling of leaves in the trees around our building.

And there we go! Suddenly this cold, gray day doesn't seem so bad anymore. I have red pepper sauce, Ben, and a movie waiting for me (how to choose: Scarface on DVD or Iron Man at the theater?).

Happy Monday, folks. I hope it's a good week for you all.

Yogurt-Rubbed Roast Chicken with Red Pepper Sauce
Serves 3 to 4


Note: I made a half-recipe - the original makes two birds, and enough sauce to last for a week's worth of sandwiches, I think. Also, I omitted the steps and ingredients for the pan sauce. Click here for the original.

1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (3- to 3 1/2 -pound) chicken
1/2 pound (about 8) shallots, peeled and left whole
3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 red bell peppers, halved, cored and quartered
1 2-ounce piece goat cheese, softened

1. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the dry mustard, thyme, coriander, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Loosen the skin around the breasts and thighs, then rub both chicken all over (beneath the skin and inside the cavity, too) with the yogurt mixture. Refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for 1 hour.

2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the shallots, carrots, peppers, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste into a large roasting pan and toss well. Arrange a rack over the vegetables.

3. Arrange the chicken on the rack, breast-side up, and roast, basting occasionally with pan juices, until the vegetables are very tender and the chicken is deep golden brown and cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Transfer the chicken to a large platter and tent with foil; set aside.

4. Drain the pan drippings into a bowl, then skim off and discard the fat; set aside.

5. Remove and discard the skin from the peppers (it should peel off fairly easily), then transfer them to a food processor. Add half the shallots and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the goat cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and pan drippings and puree until smooth.

6. Carve the chicken and transfer to plates. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of the red pepper and goat cheese sauce over each serving and serve with the remaining roasted shallots and carrots on the side.


Role Reversal

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Isn't that the cutest little globe you ever did see? (Muir Glen tomato can standing there for size comparison.) I found it this morning at the Brooklyn Flea and have decided it is already my most favorite possession. I might snuggle with it tonight, in bed. Little globe! I think I love you.

Okay! Moving on. As I type, a chicken is marinating in spiced yogurt in the fridge. It will be our dinner tonight and I have high hopes for it. Let's all hope there is good news to report tomorrow. In the meantime, however, I have to tell you about an idea I had earlier, when I was sorting through some more recipe print-outs (unfiled! loose-leaf! gah!) and was suddenly overcome with a desire to Purge! Purge! Purge! Because, honestly, people, sometimes the recipe collecting feels a bit out of hand. I had a hard little talk with myself (sotto voce, natch) and then plucked out a nice wee stack of recipes I know that I will never - in my heart of hearts - make. Ever. I marched them out to the recycling bin, dropped them down with a satisfying thwap, and felt all clean and good for a few minutes.

Um. And then. I felt sort of bad! (I clearly need to get out more.)

So I had an idea: What if I told you folks what those abandoned, discarded recipes are and if any of you are enterprising folks or just have different taste than me, you send me an email or leave me a comment telling me which recipe you'd like to make, and then I send that recipe over to you and you make it and tell me/us all about it? Doesn't that sound like fun? Or am I totally losing my mind?

I don't mean to be entirely pathetic, but I actually went back to the recycling bin and pulled the recipes out. They're sitting here now, looking up at me dolefully and I'm feeling sort of foolish. So for that reason alone, don't let me lose face, intrepid readers and cooks! Maybe there's one in here for you right now! Let's play.

1. Pommes Dauphine taken!
2. Duck Rillettes taken!
3. Salad of Yellowfin Tuna Confit with Cannellini Beans taken!
4. Golden Apple Triangles taken!
5. Pumpkin Pots de Creme with Amaretti-Ginger Crunch taken!
6. Caramel Coulant - taken!
7. Pumpkin Panna Cotta - taken!
8. Overnight Coffee Cake (with variations!) taken!


Rancho Gordo's Giant White Lima Beans

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My beans have arrived! With their cheeky packaging and glossy little hulls, they are simply gorgeous. Giant white limas, Good Mother Stallards, Ojo de Cabras, and Christmas limas. Speckled and smooth and a delight to behold, I've quite literally not been this excited about something in my kitchen in a long time.

Ben and I had a plate of gigantes in Astoria this winter, so good we licked the plate clean, so I thought I'd just scrounge up a recipe for that stewy Greek dish, fragrant with tomatoes (and sometimes polluted by dill). But then I got sidetracked by a dish from Diane Kochilas's book on meze that combined the giant limas with roasted peppers and promptly changed my mind. I guess I sometimes have a short attention span.

I did a lot of things differently from the original recipe, which didn't seem to make much sense (1/4 pound of beans for 4 to 6 people?). I'm not sure you should necessarily attempt this on a weeknight, unless you get home far earlier than your eating partner, because it takes a little more than 2 hours to get this on the table.

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But it's such a delicious pay-off. The beans are creamy, yet still pleasingly firm. The ones at the top have a chewy little crust that is browned in spots. The peppers and onions are stewy and sweet, and the vinegar gives the dish just the right amount of acidity. You could swap out the bay leaf for oregano, scattered throughout, or sage could also be a nice choice. We ate our beans with fresh slices of country bread and murmured delightedly through bites that we should eat nothing but beans and vegetables (steamed asparagus with a mustard vinaigrette) forever and evermore.

To further the conversation about sustainability and locavorism, it's true that buying Rancho Gordo beans is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you're supporting a small business that aims to keep heirloom beans alive and well and in our tummies, and that supports small farms. On the other hand, the beans are expensive (relatively speaking) and need to be shipped all the way across the country, if you live on the East Coast. Not exactly great for the environment.

I loved these beans and I can't wait to cook the rest of them, but I'm not sure how often I'll be able to justify ordering them. What do you think, readers? Am I overthinking? Not doing enough? And all that heavy stuff aside, what else should I be doing with beans? Recipes, please! Links! Ideas! We have a lot of beans to get through.

Giant Lima Beans with Roasted Peppers
Serves 2 amply as a main course    

1/2 pound giant white lima beans
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 roasted red bell peppers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste    

1. Put the beans in a pot with ample water to cover (enough to come about 3 inches above the beans). Let sit for half an hour. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the flame to low and simmer the beans for approximately 1 hour, or until al dente. About 15 minutes before removing the beans from the heat, season with salt. Drain and reserve the boiling liquid.

2. As the beans simmer, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove the peppers from their oil and finely chop. Add them to the onions and garlic, and stir over medium heat for about 3 minutes to meld the flavors a little. Remove from the heat and add the beans to the pepper mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir gently to combine.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Scrape the bean mixture in an ovenproof glass or ceramic baking dish. Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved bean cooking liquid. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the beans. Tuck a bay leaf into the center of the dish, covering the leaf well with the beans. Cover the dish and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the beans are very tender and their centers creamy.

4. Five minutes before the beans come out of the oven, pour in the vinegar. Remove from the oven and serve. You can let the beans cool to room temperature as well and serve the next day.