Our mornings go a little something like this: Either Max's alarm goes off first or Hugo wakes up chirping like the recently-returned bird who perches in the chestnut tree outside his window at the ungodly hour of 4:30 am and starts singing only to stop an hour later, the jerk, after our child has awoken and will not return to sleep come hell or high water.
When I heard, sometime last year or the year before, I guess, that Megan Gordon was writing a book on whole-grain breakfasts, I could scarcely contain my glee. I had once owned Mollie Katzen's whole-grainy breakfast book Sunlight Café, but in a fit of house-cleaning or cross-country moving, I can't remember, had passed it on to someone else. (I am still regretting that bone-headed move - oh, Crunchy Millet Muffins, how I miss you! If someone out there has a copy of the book, would you like to earn my undying gratitude and send me the recipe so I can post it here for posterity and eat those muffins again?)
Megan is the powerhouse behind Marge Granola, and has been blogging about whole-grain baking and breakfasts and wholesome eating in general for several years now, both at her own blog and at the Kitchn. And with this book, she's collected her best breakfast recipes into something that is so darn useful it makes me happy just to see it on the shelf. I call it my little kitchen buddy. (I wake up worrying about breakfast more often than you might think?)
I realized, while working on this post, that I have yet to even venture past the first chapter called Basics. It contains the master recipe for Megan's fantastic granola that is not too sweet (all three of us are obsessed with it), a method for oatmeal that was entirely new to me and resulted in the most wonderful bowl of oatmeal (you toast oats in butter, then add boiling milk and water to them and shut off the flame or stove and let the pot sit, covered, for 7-10 minutes before eating, winning the Least-Amount-of-Work-for-The-Best-Payoff Award and the Recipe-Worth-The-Price-of-The-Book Award), a whole-grain pancake mix that makes me feel like I've got money in the breakfast bank every day, to paraphrase Jenny, and the accompanying buttermilk pancakes (though I make them with half the amount of liquid called for).
But there's so much more in Whole-Grain Mornings that I can't wait to try, like the California Barley Bowls, any of the warm grain porridges, and the Peanut Butter Brown Rice Bars, Megan's whole-grain take on Rice Krispy Treats. It's such a home-run, this book, a total classic. I'll bet I'll still be cooking from it years from now.
(All the Amazon links are affiliate.)
(Before the photo police come a-calling, let me just put a disclaimer right up here at the front: I took this photo with my phone on Sunday evening, just before dinner, and I know it's sort of hideous, but I had absolutely no intention of blogging about it and so didn't think to pull out my real camera and anyway, even if I had, it is a proven fact of life that shooting meat is, shall we say, challenging and leave it at that.)
There! Now let's get down to brass tacks.
THIS CHICKEN. It may have the worst name in recipe-naming history (I'm renaming it Slow-Roasted Chicken), but that doesn't even matter, not one little bit, because OMG THIS CHICKEN. (Yes, I know with the all-caps, but this chicken deserves them plus several exclamation marks and a lot of underlining and four-letter words, too.)
The recipe comes from the current issue of Bon Appetit and even if you think that a new recipe for roast chicken is snoozeworthy, you need to know about this. Like, REALLY. (People, I have feelings about this chicken and they are not equivocal!)
Instead of roasting your bird at high heat or slathered with butter or barded with bacon, here you put together a little herb-spice rub (fennel, hot pepper, marjoram, thyme and salt), add some olive oil and then rub the bird all over with that mixture, sort of as if you were giving it a relaxing salt scrub. You stuff the bird with a whole head of garlic cut in half, a lemon cut into quarters and more marjoram and thyme. Then you put the bird on top of some thyme sprigs on a baking sheet, surround it with potatoes (I added carrots and parsnips) and put it in a low oven, 300° F, for two to three hours.
When the chicken is done (I put my oven just a little higher - at 160° C instead of 150° C - so it was done a little after two hours - but I had to take the vegetables out earlier, so definitely pay attention to what's going on in your oven around the 90-minute mark if you're going with the original temperature), it is meltingly tender and the joints have practically dissolved. The skin is irresistibly crisp, but you have none of the crazy chicken-fat smoking out of the oven that crispy skin usually requires. The roasted vegetables have shrunk and sweetened and are infused with herby, savory chicken fat. It's pretty much the greatest Sunday dinner ever.
But I'm not even done yet!
Because, believe it or not, this roast chicken, as delicious and perfect as it is freshly roasted, goes straight into the stratosphere as leftovers. I mean, cold roast chicken of any kind is tough to beat - it's just one of those home-run foods that everyone loves (right? RIGHT?) - but this cold roast chicken is unparalleled. A day or two of sitting in the fridge and it's pretty much the best thing ever.
Bonus proof-that-this-chicken-is-the-chicken-to-end-all-chickens story: This evening, while I was pulling the remaining meat off the carcass to repurpose as Indonesian chicken salad, Hugo literally grabbed the entire breast that I had just lifted off the bones out of my hands (I'd already put some shredded meat on his plate!) and proceeded to devour it, with his hands, like a very cute and yet slightly terrifying and hungry little caveman.
Slow-Roasted Herbed Chicken
1 teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram; plus 4 sprigs, divided (I used dried and skipped the sprigs)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme; plus 4 sprigs, divided
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 3½–4 pound chicken
1 lemon, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, halved, or quartered if large
1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150 C°). Mix the fennel, red pepper, chopped or dried marjoram, chopped thyme, 1 tablespoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and 3 tablespoons oil in a small bowl. Rub chicken inside and out with spice mixture. Stuff chicken with lemon, garlic, 2 marjoram sprigs, and 2 thyme sprigs. Tie legs together with kitchen twine.
2. Toss potatoes with remaining oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Push potatoes to edges of baking sheet and scatter remaining 2 marjoram and 2 thyme sprigs in center; place chicken on herbs. Roast, turning potatoes and basting chicken every hour, until skin is browned, meat is extremely tender, and potatoes are golden brown and very soft, 2-3 hours. Let chicken rest at least 10 minutes before carving.
Helloooo, fellow cooking-for-small-children-ites! It's been a long, long, long, long time, hasn't it? I'm going to be that mother and place the blame for this unintended hiatus directly at my beloved child's feet. Those sweet little feet attached to the, er, obstinate son I seem to have birthed who sometime around 15 months decided that he wasn't going to eat anything but pasta, boiled rice and, maybe, on some days, yogurt anymore.
Those scrambled eggs he used to hoover up like a pro? NO. The bananas he used to eat, slice by slice? NO. The little cubes of cheddar cheese he used to delicately pluck from my fingers and then eat like a gourmand? NO. The bowls of blueberry oatmeal he used to down in an instant? NO. Steamed broccoli he used to gobble like it was going out of style? NO! Segments of sweet juicy clementines he used to eat like candy? NO NO AND NO.
And for good measure, to all of it: NO.
I'm going to be real honest here and say that February was a doozy of a month. From start to finish (with the exception of a weekend in Paris with my girls), it was just the worst. And you know what? I'm going to go ahead and blame it on stinking Mercury Retrograde, even though that may make me sound like a hippie nut. I can take being called a hippie nut, just as long as I get a little bit of a reprieve now from planetary movement. Yes, Universe? Thank you.
Things are looking up, though. For one, spring has sprung over here in Berlin. There are crocuses in the park that we pass every morning on the way to Hugo's daycare. the sun shines almost every day and I even saw rhubarb at the grocery store yesterday for the first time this year, long pink stalks full of promise. Second of all, sweet Hugo now calls hippos "appas", has started taking weekend naps in our bed with us, and has discovered the wonder of apple wedges, which he also calls "appas". Thirdly, Max thinks I'm superwoman because I can tell the difference between Hugo requesting an apple or Hugo looking for a hippo. Like I said, things are looking up!
And funnily enough, in the muddy mental swamp that was February, I did a lot of good things in the kitchen. These scones, found on an old 3191 post, were particular gems. They're regular old cream scones bolstered with the inspired combination of sticky prunes and little crescents of caraway. They, as their creator says, walk the line between savory and sweet very well, plus they bake up into gorgeously craggy wedges. It's sort of impossible not to start picking at one the moment the sheet comes out of the oven.
We ate our scones spread with sweet butter at brunch and Hugo kept coming to the table for big chunks to cram into his mouth (Hugo may be many adorable things, but a dainty eater he is not). Max declared them his new favorite breakfast food (he'd never met a scone before, to my disbelief) and I felt very good indeed.
Whenever people ask me why I like to cook, when so many people find it stressful and complicated, I wonder how to put into words that feeling. You know what I mean, right? The sense of providing your loved ones with edible comfort and happpiness? That's only part of the equation, though. The rest is, to me at least, more ineffable. But even if the words to sum it up elude me, I'm so glad I get to feel it. And I'm so glad I get to share it, with you.
Prune and Caraway Scones
Makes 16 small scones or 10 large scones
2 tablespoons caraway seeds (plus more for sprinkling on top)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and diced
2 cups coarsely chopped prunes
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 large egg
Flaky sea salt (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the diced butter and using your fingers, pinch the pieces into the flour mixture until you are left with a crumb-like mixture with some larger butter chunks still remaining. Add the prunes and the caraway, tossing the prunes in the flour mixture so that they don't clump together.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the 1/2 cup olive oil and heavy cream. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and stir to incorporate, just until the dough starts to come together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured parchment sheet. With lightly floured hands, start to press down and out on dough, forming a large rectangle, about an inch and a half think. Cut this rectangle in half the short way, and then the long way. You are left with 4 smaller rectangles, which you will then cut into 4 even-sized triangles each. Alternatively, shape the dough into a circle and cut into 10 triangles. You could also cut these into small-ish squares.
3. Place the scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Beat the egg and mix in the remaining olive oil. Using a pastry brush, coat the tops of the scones with the egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining caraway and sea salt, if using. Bake for 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, until scones are golden-brown. Serve warm.