February 2007

Win Back Your Loved Ones This Weekend With Chicken Breasts Braised With Hard Cider & Parsnips

You are about to read a record-setting post. This is the shortest amount of time that’s ever passed between a meal consumed and a post written. I just made this for dinner:

And everyone loved it so much they said, “You HAVE to post this on your website.”

It’s from Molly Stevens’ new book, “All About Braising,” which I finally broke down and bought the other day. I vacillated between this and Daniel Boulud’s new braising book and it took days to pick the winner. I chose this because I already have a Daniel book and I wanted to give Molly Stevens a chance. Thank God I did! This dinner is one for the ages: I’m going to make it again and again.

Now some might say, “Chicken breast? Blech. What am I, on a diet?” Fair enough, but somehow it works in this dish because of all the other components: the bacon, the rosemary, the cider. They all come together and work a miracle.

Don’t forget to brown the chicken ’til it’s truly golden brown. That’s key. And try to get the best chicken you can (organic, free-range is best. At least the foodies say so.)

Now, then, I’m going to treat you all and type out the recipe after the jump. I hope you make this over the weekend–let me know how it turns out! (Craig wants your leftover parsnips. “Those parsnips were amazing,” he reiterates.)

The Super Bowl Dinner of DEATH

People sometimes say to me: “Adam, you’ve been the Amateur Gourmet for three years. Are you always going to be an amateur?” As I consider the question I think of all my kitchen triumphs–my braised lamb shanks, my perfect roast chicken, my Amanda Hesser almond cake. I could very well answer, “No! One day I will graduate to something more than amateur, I’ll be the Perfectly Adequate Gourmet and change my website name and web address and my promotional t-shirt design.” Yet, every now and then something happens that knocks me off my pedestal, back to my humble place in the Amateur Pen. That’s precisely what happened on Super Bowl Sunday when I made this for dinner:

It’s a perfectly reasonable Super Bowl dinner. Some might even call it inspired. Sausages and onion rings: man food to eat while watching a PBS documentary about the history of the Broadway musical. The sausages were D’Artagnan wild boar sausages (available at Key Foods) and the onion rings were from an Epicurious recipe (you can read it here). The Dinner of Death began with the onion rings when I made the mistake that almost all cooks warn you not to make when frying in your kitchen… perhaps the most dangerous mistake I’ve ever made…

What Did Craig Get For His Birthday? (Answer: Blue Hill)

We were walking south on 5th Avenue and Craig was on the phone with his mom. It was 7:28 and he and his mom were guessing where I was leading him. “I think that might be it,” said Craig, responding to his mother’s guess. I just knew she had guessed Babbo so I said, “Whatever you think it is, you’re so far off you have no idea.” Then I pretended like my cell phone was buzzing and I answered it. “Hello?” I faked. “Oh really? Ok, that’s fine, not a problem. We can be there at 8.” Craig, off the phone with his mom now, looked at me quizzically. “What’s going on?”

“That was the restaurant,” I said. “The table’s not ready. They said we should come at 8.” We were outside the Washington Square Hotel. “We could go in here for a drink,” I suggested. The Washington Square Hotel is Craig’s favorite watering hole in New York. So he obliged and we navigated our way through the lobby, down the corridor, down the stairs and into the wide bar where Craig looked for a table. At the back he saw a large group that instantly yelled, “Surprise!” It was all of his friends, just like I’d arranged:

I think Craig was genuinely shocked because he brought his hands to his face and looked at me with a frantic, “I can’t believe you pulled this off” expression. Then he hopped over to his friends and spent the next two hours drinking and laughing and talking about how much he loved “Children of Men” which we saw a few hours earlier. It’s a brilliant movie and it’s brilliantly potent: I was still freaked out by it hours later.

After our two hours of drinking, I told Craig we had to get moving: part two of our evening was about to begin. Now Craig was totally convinced that we were headed to Babbo. The Washington Square Hotel is directly across the street from Babbo and as we bid farewell to his friends, I could tell he thought he’d figured it all out. I led him across the street and though it was drizzling I paused and said, “I bet you think we’re going to Babbo.”

“Are we?”

I laughed and shook my head no. Then I led him along Washington Square West to Washington Place and made a right. “Do you have any idea where we’re headed?”

“No,” he said.

“It’s a restaurant that you know exists,” I said, “but I don’t think you know it exists right here.” And since, after a few paces, we were standing in front of it I told him to look to his right. He did and expressed immediate delight.

“Of course!” he said. “Blue Hill!”

We’d gone to Blue Hill Stone Barns this summer and Craig absolutely loved it. I declared it my new favorite restaurant. So Bill Hill Manhattan was our inevitable destination. And once inside I could tell we were in the right spot.

“It’s so cozy in here,” said Craig. The host welcomed us and led us to a table in the front half of the room. We took in our surroundings and Craig said it was a perfect choice. I patted myself on the back.

So I decided not to thoroughly document the meal because it would detract from our enjoyment. I focused on the most photogenic dishes, like this high-concept presentation Craig is showing off:


Those are olive oil macaroons and on the sticks, chicory. And now for my Chevy Chase moment: Craig removed the entire stick from the box to eat his chicory and so I decided to do the same. Only when I yanked my stick out the chicory shot into the air and landed under the table of the people sitting next to us. The waiter called it my Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman moment. (He then ran to the kitchen and immediately replaced my lost chicory.)

Here’s a revelatory dish: braised celery.


It looks deceptively simple, but it was wonderfully flavorful with the brushtrokes of yogurt and something that tasted like caramel on the plate.

Look, a scallop!


The scallop was gently cooked and the sauce perked it up with bright acidic flavors. (God, I never want to be a food critic.)

And now for the most beautiful plate. Please look at this plate and tell me it doesn’t look like a work of art that could hang in a musem:


That’s Berkshire pork with braised endive and pears but it looks like something by Picasso. And believe me when I tell you it tasted as good as it looks.

Finally, they brought out a chestnut crepe with chestnut filling and chocolate sauce. A candle was balanced perfectly on the plate:


Craig blew out the candle and I immediately became a woman. Just kidding! Craig told me it was one of his best birthdays ever and I believed him. And that, my friends, is what Craig got for his birthday.

Sunday Styles

Check out tomorrow’s NYT Sunday Styles section (or, for the impatient, see it here) and read all about me and my fellow New York food bloggers. I think the article has a bit of a negative spin (gossipy and competitive? Maybe a few, but not most) and I think it unfairly characterizes my Alain Ducasse experience (it says I wrote a letter “begging to be invited for free” when, in fact, I was responding to a P.R. e-mail asking me to promote their white truffle menu on my site). Ultimately, though, it’s very exciting to be showcased by the Gray Lady in the “newspaper of record” (and the one I read religiously each Sunday). To all new readers, welcome! To all the old ones, thanks for reading! Ok, time to roast another chicken.

The Little Chicken That Could, The Little Tart That Couldn’t

Alice Waters, I thought you were crazy. I’ve been roasting chickens for a long time now and when I flipped through my Chez Panisse Cookbook the other night and read your recipe for roasted chicken I couldn’t believe it. No fat! No melted butter brushed on the surface (like The Barefoot Contessa’s) or softened butter smeared around (like Grant Achatz’s). No olive oil massaged into the skin (like Marcella Hazan’s) or bacon laid gingerly across (like Nigella Lawson’s). Your recipe asks the reader to simply sprinkle on exotic seasonings (1 tsp crushed fennel seed, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 1 1/2 tsps additive-free kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper), to stuff the bird with thyme and then to place it in a roasting pan and roast for an hour at 400 degrees. That’s it. How could it possibly taste good without any fat? And yet look:

Alice, I think you may be a witch. A good witch, but a witch nonetheless. This bird was more flavorful and juicier than any roast chicken I’ve had before. How do you come up with recipes like this? Are you some kind of sorceress? Do you ride around the Bay Area on a broom like Angela Lansbury in Bedknobs and Broomsticks? Do you stare into a crystal ball and wait for words like “fennel seeds” and “cayenne pepper flakes” to appear? What are you, are you human? Well, whatever you are, I bow to your magnificent authority. Your roast chicken recipe may be my new staple.

Now bring out the other California chef, you know the one. The one I previously lauded as having written my favorite new cookbook. That’s right, bring out Suzanne Goin of “Sunday Suppers at Lucques.”

Suzanne, I love you. I love what you’re about, I love that your recipes are so complex and creative and dynamic. But I have to ask you a question: what’s the deal with this caramel tart!?!?


I spent lots of time and money making this! I made the pastry dough from scratch. I had to roll it out. I had to fit it into the tart pan. And then I had to make the caramel: scary caramel while Diana and Craig made popcorn because they’re impatient.

“You’ll see guys,” I told them. “When this tart’s done you’ll be sorry you filled up on popcorn.”

Well I followed your recipe to the letter. I used a candy thermometer and got it exactly to 310 before pouring it on to the nuts and adding the salt. After adding the filling to the pre-baked pastry, I refrigerated–like you said–for two hours. Do you know what kind of restraint that took?

And for what! I took it out, two hours later, and cut a piece and bit in and the caramel globbed on to my teeth like an alien creature from a Star Wars movie. Craig took a bite and said “blech! it’s too sweet.” Diana took a bite and said, “The texture’s a little weird.”

Back into the fridge it went and the next afternoon I was ready to give it another chance. So I cut in and nearly had to saw my through. I took a bite and nearly cracked a tooth. So now look where it is:


It’s in the garbage making love to a lobster carcass (leftover from a video I just shot! more to come!) I’m sorry you had to see that, but do you think I liked having to throw it away? All that energy and hope in the trash but nobody wanted to eat it! Oh Suzanne, how could you do this to me? We were so happy together.

I’m sorry, but Alice is moving in. I’ve packed your things and there’s a car service on the way. I hope you understand—it’s not personal. It’s just every time I look at you now, my teeth hurt. Please forgive me.

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