Not to pat myself on the back too eagerly, but it takes a certain talent to adapt a fancy restaurant dish into something that you’d really want to eat at home. Years ago, when I was lucky enough to eat at Jean-Georges, I ate one of his more famous dishes: a thin sliver of cauliflower balanced on a perfectly seared scallop sitting in a pool of a delightfully exotic caper raisin sauce. That sauce was unforgettable: both sweet and briny and endlessly fascinating. I knew I had to make it for Sauce Week, but I didn’t want to do anything overly fussy with the cauliflower and scallops. What I ended up making is maybe one of the best weeknight dinners I’ve ever made, and the sauce is so easy, you won’t believe your eyes.
My life in New York was all about the newest and latest cookbooks, poring through them at The Strand and carefully calculating which ones were worth the price of purchase. In L.A., though, I’m all about finding old, tattered cookbooks at used book stores, both at Counterpoint Records in Franklin Village and Alias Books East in Atwater Village. At the latter, recently, I came upon The Campanile Cookbook which was written by two of America’s greatest chefs back when they were married: Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton. The recipe that sold me instantly is the one I’m about to share with you now.
You’re not going to believe me, but I’m telling you the truth: the dinner you see above? It’s cheap and easy.
Don’t balk! I kid you not. Last Monday, I made this dinner for less than $20 and it was one of the best things that I’ve made in a long time. I didn’t even use a recipe, I just whipped it up based on an idea I had. The idea went something like this: what if I buy chicken thighs and braise them in white wine vinegar with onions, garlic, olives, capers, and cherry tomatoes and serve it all on plain couscous? It seemed like a foolproof plan for deliciousness.
This post is a bit of a cheat because it’s really a combination of two posts that already exist on my blog: How To Cook Perfect Fish At Home and The Best Broccoli of Your Life. The only innovation is that I served these two things together on the same plate and instead of using cod, like I did in that Perfect Fish post, I used really good salmon (Scottish salmon, if you must know) and did away with the Parmesan on the broccoli because I don’t like cheese and fish together. Oh and one more thing…
There’s something thrilling about inventing a recipe. And though I’m not 100% sure that I invented this (it may very well have existed, somewhere, before me) let’s pretend that I am to this recipe what Isaac Newton is to gravity. No apple fell on my head, but garlic toasted in my head as I tried to figure out something new and different to do with couscous. Here’s how it all works.
Italians, please look away.
Everyone else, here’s something that I made up last week that was so good, I think you should make it too. I used leftover ingredients from the Haddock chowder I’d made the day before and, in using them, I did what Tom Colicchio’s always talking about on “Top Chef”–I developed lots of flavor through careful cooking. Let me show you what I mean.
This is it, kids. This has to be the last recipe I share from April Bloomfield’s new book, A Girl and Her Pig, or pretty soon I’ll look like that pig slung over her shoulder on the book’s cover (slaughtered for divulging too many cookbook recipes).
If you’ve tried any of the recipes I’ve posted (the porridge, the curry) you know that this book is a keeper. And this particular recipe isn’t just a keeper, it may become a new weeknight staple. Not only is it explosively flavorful, it’s really easy to make.
Three Chicken Dinners: Meyer Lemon Stuffed Chicken Breast, Italian Sweet & Sour Chicken & Chicken with Lentils and Marsala Gravy
If you cook the same thing over and over and over again, eventually you get really good at it.
That’s what happened with me and chicken: I’m really good at cooking it. And though there are many who find chicken boring, that’s usually because chicken, when stripped of its skin and bones, is, indeed, very boring. So the first rule is: never cook chicken without the skin or bones. The second rule is: be generous with salt. I’ve quoted this often, because I never forgot it; when Mario Batali had his old Food Network show he showered a raw chicken with salt and said: “No one ever says ‘this chicken’s too salty.'” He’s right–and that salt makes a huge difference.