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Friday Link Love

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This week started out so well! I distinctly remember feeling all aglow on Monday evening. Hugo and I had had the loveliest day. Nothing special happened, but everything just flowed and felt good and right. But, sadly, as the week progressed, things went sharply downhill, ending today in what might have possibly been one of the lowest points of mothering Hugo since the very beginning. Sob. My only hope is that tomorrow will (must) be better. (A propos: For the German-speakers among you who have small children driving you crazy, I guarantee this video will make you cry.)

As for the Whole30, in case anyone is wondering how it's going, I'm on day 18 and I'm ready for it to be over. My headaches and fogginess ended abruptly around day 9 and I feel pretty good. But my insomnia shows absolutely no signs of abating and the monotony of all the meat and fish is getting to me. I miss my grains and beans and yogurt. Still, I'm going to stick with it, if only to prove to myself that I'm capable of being consistent with something for 30 days (my friends who cut out things for Lent every year have a harder job!). I'll keep you posted.

Elsewhere,

Small-batch pulled pork, finally!

I loved reading about this obsessive tinkering with a classic French chocolate loaf cake.

The funniest video on children's first tastes of "strange" food.

Zoe Nathan's walnut-jam scones look like they redefine the term.

Well, this is terrifying.

Craving all three of these hot-weather drinks.

These pork meatballs in broth are pure comfort.

Talk about a picky eater... Ha!

Have you ever grilled your PB & J?

And, finally, if I ever get around to making my own corn tortillas...there shall be Chicken Salad Tostadas.

Have a good weekend, folks!


Cooking for Hugo: A French Food Education

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Hello! Don't think I've forgotten about this little series. It's just that for a while there, well, Hugo sort of went on a food strike. (In addition to the nap strike! I know.) And it was so strange and so frustrating that I sort of couldn't bring myself to write about it while I was in it. You know? He stopped wanting to eat my lovingly prepared vegetable purées, he stopped being interested in the food I made for myself and he threw everything I put in front of him to feed himself on the floor. A few times, he even reached inside his mouth after I put a spoonful of food in it and sort of clawed out the food, shrieking all the while in disgust. It was awful.

In retrospect, I think it was an unholy combination of teething and too many bottles and textural issues and also just plain babyhood and I'm very, very glad to say we seem to have worked things out. Now Hugo gets a big bottle first thing in the morning and another big one before bed, but the rest of the day, he eats three proper meals at the table. It's so satisfying and wonderful to see him digging in to whatever I put in front of him. Phew.

But some of my behavior while this was going on was giving me pause. When Hugo refused to eat something, I'd quickly prepare something else and offer to him instead. When that got thrown on the floor too, I'd look for yet another thing to give him, often resorting to buttered bread or pasta. After all, I couldn't very well let my almost 11-month old go hungry, could I? Those rules about not cooking things to order for your kids obviously were only meant for older kids, right?

Except then I was hanging out with my French girlfriend Marguerite and when I told her about what was going on and how I was dealing with it, she did one of those half double-takes backwards and shook her head gently. "Oh, no, Luisa. He refuses to eat? Then that's it. Don't make anything else for him." But, but, I protested. He's just a baby! Won't he be hungry? Won't he wake up in the middle of the night? Aren't I sort of then sending him to bed with no supper and won't I be judged cruelly for that and sent packing straight to Hades? "No! He has his evening bottle, right? He's almost 11 months old. He'll be fine." And, um, she was right.

So today, folks, I want to write about French rules for feeding children.

Continue reading "Cooking for Hugo: A French Food Education" »


Bon Appetit's Roasted Chicken Legs with Lemon and Oregano

Roasted chicken with lemon and oregano

Every so often a little recipe comes along that is just a sheer stroke of brilliance. I love recipes like that. I live for recipes like that. The most recent one to make me do a double-take of glee is this one, from Bon Appetit's December 2012 issue (and shot by my friend, Brian Ferry!)

Okay, so you know how most chicken recipes make you first brown the chicken and then remove it from the pan to do a bunch of other stuff, then you have to put the chicken back in and yadda yadda yadda, it's done? I don't know why they bug me so much, but these kinds of recipes do.

Actually, maybe I do know why:

1. I am lazy (but you already knew this).

2. Mess, mess, messy. I dislike spattering cooking fat. 

And 3. Okay, fine, in addition to being lazy, I am also impatient and never brown the chicken long enough, so it's always a little flabby instead of perfectly crisp and wonderful.

This recipe, the darling thing, is all about making sure that the skin never veers anywhere even close to flabby. What you do is put the chicken, skin-side down, in a pan with a little bit of oil and then let it cook for a good long while without touching it, over medium heat, so that the fat renders out, slowly crispening and crispening the chicken skin (yes, I did just make that word up).

Pan-roasting chicken legs

As it cooks, you can periodically get rid of the cooking fat, if too much of it renders out, but that actually never happened to my chicken. Once the chicken is halfway done, you throw in a whole bunch of lemon slices and stick the whole pan in a hot oven, where the lemons soften and the chicken roasts until the skin is perfectly crisp and of a deeply lacquered loveliness.

How lovely? SO LOVELY:

Roasted chicken legs

Then, all that's left to do is to remove that lovely chicken to a plate and scrape a bunch of different things (garlic, minced onion or shallot and oregano - the recipe calls for fresh, but I used dried and it was fine) into the pan that you cook on the stove top for a little while. In goes wine and broth, or just broth, if you'd prefer (which is what I did) and then you reduce this to a nice, saucy consistency and pour it over your lovely chicken and eat right away because oh my goodness it smells so good you simply cannot wait another second no sirree bob.

Lemon oregano sauce

The lemons mellow and sweeten in the cooking process, and the soft lemons and velvety sauce contrast beautifully with the shatteringly crisp chicken skin. This was seriously delectable chicken, people. I'll never brown a piece of chicken any other way again.

(Note: The original recipe calls for deboned chicken thighs but I made it with bone-in chicken legs, cut through at the joint, and just added a few minutes onto all the cooking times.)

Roasted Chicken Legs with Lemon and Oregano
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 3 to 4

1 lemon
4
large or 8 small skin-on, bone-in chicken legs, cut in two
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon
olive oil

3
sprigs oregano

1
small onion, minced

1 small
garlic clove, minced

1/8
teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4
cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
, optional
1/2 to 3/4
cup low-sodium chicken broth (larger amount if not using wine)

1. Heat oven to 425°. Very thinly slice half of lemon; discard any seeds. Cut remaining lemon half into 2 wedges. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

2. Coat a large room-temperature skillet with the oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Place skillet over medium heat and cook, letting skin render and brown, until chicken is cooked halfway through, about 10 minutes. If there is a lot of fat in the pan, pour off the excess fat to maintain a thin coating in pan.

3. Scatter half of lemon slices over and between chicken. Transfer skillet to oven, leaving chicken skin side down. Roast until chicken is cooked through, skin is crisp, and lemon slices on bottom of skillet are caramelized, about 15 minutes.

4. Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, and some of the lemon slices from bottom of skillet to a warm platter. (Leave a few softened lemon slices in the skillet.) Return skillet to medium heat. Add oregano sprigs, shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

5. Remove skillet from heat. If using, add wine; cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth; cook until reduced and thickened, 5 to 6 minutes. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over and season sauce with salt, pepper, and juice from remaining lemon wedge, if desired. Return chicken to skillet, skin side up, to rewarm. Serve topped with caramelized lemon slices.


Friday Link Love

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The huge news in our little household this week is that Max, my hero, got a job near Berlin and is moving back home this summer! It's all terribly exciting. Tomorrow we're dressing up for the first time since our wedding and going to the wedding celebration of our dear friend who married us - I can't wait. After months of wearing a mommy uniform, I'm thrilled just to put on a dress and high heels.

Elsewhere,

Have you ever had Indian coleslaw? Sign me up.

A fascinating piece on being an apple detective.

Crunchy, creamy cucumber avocado salad.

An incredible food memory of a family reuniting after the Vietnam War.

The very funny Nicholas Day on sweet potatoes.

I could watch Jean-Georges cooking all the live-long day.

Dreaming of attending this week of cooking classes on Kea in the Cyclades.

Love that April Bloomfield's pea soup calls for frozen peas.

Selling ground poultry is almost unheard of in Germany; after reading this report, I'm glad to hear it. Stay safe, people!

And finally, a little interview on date nights I did on Loop de Luxe (plus a discount code for 25% off if you're tempted by the gorgeous store: WEDCHEF).

 

Have a good weekend, folks!


Deborah Madison's Shaved Fennel Salad with Celery and Egg

Deborah Madison's Fennel and Celery Salad

These are good times to be a vegetable-lover. Not because it's springtime, though that certainly doesn't hurt, but because everywhere you look these days, vegetables are getting all the attention. New cookbooks on vegetables are coming out of every corner, from the River Cottage, from Clotilde's Parisian kitchen, from vegetable goddess Deborah Madison, all the while giving "nose-to-tail" cookbooks the boot.

Deborah Madison's publisher sent me a copy of her latest book, Vegetable Literacy, a few months ago and the reason I'm just posting about it now, honest to goodness, is because I was too busy reading it to cook from it. It's just fascinating. Deborah has structured the book around 12 different groups of vegetable families (the sunflower family, for example, includes artichokes, endives, tarragon and chamomile, just to name a few) and has outdone herself with recipes that feel fresh and new and exciting (beet salad with star anise, sweet potato soup with asafoetida, chard with sesame and yogurt, broccoli paired with tomatoes - though I'm still wrapping my head around that one). And a word of warning: if you, like me, are not in possession of a garden of your own to plant things in, reading this book will give you a bad, bad case of vegetable envy.

(Also, it will make you want to leave olive oil behind forever and become a full-time convert to ghee. How does she do it?!)

The funny thing is, I'm not even all that good with plants. My mother has the greenest thumb of anyone I know, but me, well, I can barely keep alive the hardy old palm that Max left here when he took the job in Kassel. But still, there's little that I enjoy more than reading the Seed Saver's Exchange catalogue (don't know it? Welcome to your new obsession). And Vegetable Literacy is sort of like that catalogue, but with delicious recipes and gorgeous photos and nice stories to boot.

Chopped egg white and parsley

When my friend Dervla started raving about Vegetable Literacy's recipe for braised fennel with saffron and tomatoes, I thought I'd make that from the book first. (I was feeling awfully torn - there are so many things I'd like to make from the book right now.) But when I opened the book to that page, something else caught my eye: a little salad of shaved fennel and celery with a sieved egg on top.

Doesn't the phrase "sieved egg" make your heart sing a little? It does mine. The papery crunch of the thinly sliced vegetables paired with that creamy egg is just lovely. And Deborah has you add a bit of lemon zest and a sprinkle of truffle salt, if you've got it, to the salad for a little special zip, turning what is usually a winter standby in this house into something celebration-worthy.

Much like everything else in the book.

Deborah Madison's Shaved Fennel Salad with Celery and Egg
Serves 4
Adapted from Vegetable Literacy

1 large egg
1 fennel bulb
4 inner celery stalks
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Small handful of finely chopped herbs (fennel fronds, celery leaves and/or parsley)
Fennel pollen or toasted fennel seeds, optional
Truffle salt, optional

1. Boil the egg. Trim the top of the fennel bulb and slice off the thick bottom. If the outer leaf of fennel is bruised, remove it and use it for something else. Using a very sharp knife or mandoline, slice the fennel paper-thin. Do the same with the celery stalks. Toss the vegetables together with the lemon zest, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Arrange on a serving plate.

2. Peel the egg and finely dice the white. Toss the chopped herbs and white together and scatter over the fennel salad. Rub the egg yolk through a sieve over the top of the salad. If using, sprinkle the fennel pollen or seeds and truffle salt over the top and serve immediately.