Today it snowed. Not a lot mind you, but enough to remind us that he is indeed still coming. However, I plan to welcome Sir Winter with wide open arms. Thanks to my incredibly stimulating retail job at the outdoors store, I have outfitted myself for 75 % off and will have little to complain about when those glacial winds come tearing across the city. Plus, I'm going to perfect my skating technique, buy a stick and become an expert hockey player. Nothing better than roaring across the ice on skates!
This fall I have become obsessed with the art of cooking chicken. It's a terrific sort of meat, one that can be used for a multitude of delicious recipes, from roasted and salt-rubbed with herbs, to one elegantly stuffed with chestnuts, mushrooms, thyme and cream, and to a rich broth made from the bones: the essential base for a killer winter soup. The rents cooked too many roast chickens with potatoes while we were growing up, and my sister Katherine developed a violent aversion to the bird. But now she appears to be coming round. Why would they torture us like that? It's damn easy, super satisfying, and a sure way to always have a good source of protein around for a couple of days, not to mention the reliable cup of soup stock in the freezer, ready to pour into thick gravies or to braise winter greens with.
Chicken Marbella was our go-to recipe from the Silver Palate Cookbook and probably a saving grace for my parents as they balanced symphony concerts with the chaos of two little girls at home. Originally a deli and food store that opened up on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the Silver Palate wanted to facilitate good eats and people who didn't have time to cook themselves. It has since become a cook book and one that I have spent many a breakfast reading. However, beware, the revised editions aren't quite the same. Our "need" for "healthier" dishes resulted in the reduction of cream and butter in many of the recipes. But, older editions are still available and the carrot and banana cakes are to-die-for. There are also great meal ideas, a terrific brunch section and quotes from Alice in Wonderland.
I've been wanting to cook this dish for a long time and finally searched the recipe on the Internet (a clearly well-loved recipe by everyone), bought myself a whole chicken, bought the olives, prunes, and capers, (the rest of the ingredients were in the cupboard) and set to work. I did not plan to have company and although this never deters me from making things, it's kind of hilarious to find myself alone at the table grinning, chewing, tasting, lip-smacking, swinging my legs and laughing about how DELICIOUS my meal is. So, I jumped at the chance to invite two friends I have hardly seen over the last five years. Both people I know from my first year at McGill, they appeared back in Montreal around the same time, and I must say, it's terrific to have become reacquainted with such fine folks.
As adapted from our loyal cooks at the Silver Palate
Most recipes for chicken require a slightly longer cooking time than is required. This can be avoided by checking the chicken after 40-45 minutes of cooking. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer is inserted into the thigh and reads 165 deg F. Or, what I usually do is pierce the thigh and then push on the meat to release the juices: if they run clear, you're ready to go. And then due to some (small) level of paranoia, I usually cut into the breast to make sure she's not drying out or too pink. I find people shy away from cooking meat because they don't know how to. But there are simple guidelines to follow and once known, they relieve a lot of the pressure. I suggest you put on some John Lennon, in particular the album Walls and Bridges (which I've been head-bopping around to for the past 24 hours) and do a little of this and a little of that, keep your head about you, and love that chicken to a delectably, eatable state.
1 1.5 kg chicken
one huge clove of garlic, or a couple smaller ones
1 TBS dried oregano
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/8 C red wine vinegar
1/8 C olive oil
a generous handful of prunes
a generous handful of pitted green olives
1/8 C capers with a bit of juice
2 bay leaves
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C white wine (or red)
1 TBS fresh parsely
- Cut up the chicken
- Place in a large 9 X 12 baking dish
- In a separate bowl, mix together the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives capers and bay leaves. Mix well and pour over the chicken. Cover and refridgerate.
- An hour before you want to eat, preheat the oven to 350 F and sprinkle the chicken with the sugar, add the wine and fresh parsely. Uncover the chicken and slide the pan into the oven.
- Baste frequently throughout the cooking (every fifteen minutes or so). I did this by turning the chicken with tongs. I am NOT YET the proud owner of pastry brushes. Some day, some day.
* If you take the chicken out a couple hours before you cook it, it will warm up to room temperature and cook faster.
* I cooked my chicken for about 45-50 minutes in total.
And then someone said, these are the best prunes I've ever tasted.... They really were very good.