How To Roast A Chicken

Of all the dishes in my repertoire, this is the one that gets the biggest wows, the one that Craig requests the most often, the one that never fails to impress: it’s the roast chicken from the Chez Panisse cookbook with a few touches of my own (namely: potatoes and garlic). This video will show you how easy it is and then, after the jump, I’ll post a recipe and a few more tips.

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Polenta Power

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In the Chelsea Market, on 9th Ave., there’s an Italian goods store that features rows upon rows of imported treasures from Italy. There you’ll find salt-packed anchovies, genuine San Marzano tomatoes, even white truffles for several hundred dollars a pop. Every time I go in there, I marvel at the goods and then I leave empty-handed: I never know what to buy.

Recently, though, I was determined to buy something. I toured around the store and there, in the back corner near the meat counter, I spotted it: real, Italian polenta. When I say “real” polenta I mean not instant polenta. Everywhere else I’ve ever bought polenta–Key Foods, Whole Foods, Union Market–only sells instant. I wanted to experience the real deal, the kind that cooks for 45 minutes. And so I left the Italian goods store with not one but two packs of genuine Italian polenta.

I wish now to describe to you the difference between instant polenta and “real polenta.” If this were the SATs, it would go something like this:

1. Instant polenta is to regular polenta as…

(a) Care Bears are to polar bears;

(b) sitting in a massage chair at the Sharper Image is to spending a week at an Arizona spa;

(c) table for 1 at the IHOP is to table for 20 at The French Laundry.

(d) All of the Above.

The answer is D and if you haven’t yet made REAL polenta at home you get a D in my book. It’s such a shocking thing–it’s so much creamier, sultrier, sexier than instant polenta, I feel like a polenta virgin who just spent a night with Sofia Loren in a bordello. What? I don’t know. Polenta power!

So the dish you see above is polenta for breakfast. It comes from Lidia Bastiniach’s book “Lidia’s Family Table” and it’s as hardy a breakfast as you could want, especially as the weather gets colder. You cook the polenta for 40 minutes with 5 cups water to 1 cup polenta and a pinch of salt, plus a few bay leaves. Lidia has you stream the polenta into the water when it’s cold, whisking all the way, and then turn on the heat–I’m not sure what that does, but it certainly produced excellent polenta. You must stir as it goes–every few minutes or so–or it’ll stick.

Once it’s cooked through, you add a cup or two of grated Parmesan (yum!) and half a stick of butter (double yum!) And here’s the real smacker (smacker? Adam what kind of word is smacker?): once in the bowl, put an egg yolk on top and the residual heat will cook it. Grate over more cheese, some pepper too and you have a breakfast of champions. Italian champions. Like Rocky—cue Rocky music.

If you want polenta for dinner, do as Alice Waters says to do in her new book “The Art of Simple Food.” Get a baking dish, layer in polenta, tomato sauce, fresh mozarella, and Parmesan and make a polenta lasagna. Bake in the oven til golden brown on top, like here except this didn’t get really gold:

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But what a dinner. Diana came over that night (remember Diana? She was my old roommate) and all three of us dug in with abandon. It was messy–it was hard to make pretty on the plate–but it was oh so good.

And so, I hope I have convinced you of the power of polenta. Real polenta, not that mamby pamby instant kind. If you’re going to make polenta, make the real thing. It’s worth it.

Ssam Bar Brussels Sprouts

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“This is a coup,” said Craig, eagerly chewing a caramelized, spicy, salty, and sweet Brussels Sprout. “This could get kids eating Brussels sprouts all over the country.”

The recipe comes from superstar chef David Chang and it’s a knock-out. It’s a knock-out at his restaurant and it’s a knock-out at home. The components marry in such a way that you’ll start tap-dancing up your wall and moon-walk across the ceiling. I skipped the Rice Krispies bit because I couldn’t find Japanese five-spice powder, but it still came out fantastic.

The recipe was printed in last month’s Gourmet and you can read it online here. I also tried his recipe for the apple salad with bacon but that didn’t fare as well. The bacon I used–which actually wasn’t bacon at all, but a D’Artagnan cured pork belly that I sliced into my own lardons–didn’t produce enough fat to make the dressing. But the peanuts were a tasty snack later. And honestly, if you make a ton of those Brussels Sprouts no one will want anything else. They’re a meal–a feast–unto themselves.

How To Make Your Guests Love You In Five Short Steps

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1. Buy Medjool dates, remove the pits.

2. Stuff each date with a square–or stick–of real Parmesan (1- by 1/4 inch)

3. Wrap each date with 1/3 a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick.

4. Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 5 minutes, then turn with tongs and bake 5 to 6 minutes more (until the bacon is crispy).

5. Serve to your very happy guests.

[Based on this recipe.]

Truffle Butter Chicken

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I had a dream. No, not that kind of dream. This was a dream about chicken and truffle butter. For the past year, every time I bought a chicken from Key Foods I’d see D’Artagnan truffle butter sitting higher up on the shelf. The price didn’t intimidate me–it was only $7–but its use did: what could I do with it? How does one use truffle butter? And then the other day it came to me: I could rub it all over a chicken (a D’Artagnan chicken, as a matter of fact), put some under the skin, and roast it. And that’s exactly what I did.

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