Even when planning ahead for a meal you need to be fast on your feet because if your luck is like mine then you will need to be ready for some cooking curveballs. Saturday would be no different. I get a text from my good and great friend The Sasquatch asking if I want to watch the hockey game that night. I’m once again alone with the kids so I tell him to head over. Normally, we’ll just order a pizza or something on game night but the Habs are playing at 22h and I hate myself so I decide that cooking a fancy meal alone with the kids makes perfect sense. I was hoping his main squeeze The Fancy Actress Lady would be joining us since she classes up the place much more than he and I do but alas she was off being fancy. Alright, now to figure out what to make.
Sasquatch likes himself some nice wild meat so I figure I’ll go with one of my classic salads to start; smoked deer with arugula, dried cranberries and toasted almond slivers. I’ve been dying to try a recipe from the I ♥ NY book from the brilliant talents of Daniel Humm and Will Guidara so I start perusing through it for some inspiration. I stumble upon a stuffed chicken dish that looks fantastic and a quick peek at the ingredients has me thinking that aside from fresh chestnuts I can find almost everything at my local store. I thought that because I am stupid. I make my list and head to the store with that excited anticipation that comes with trying a new recipe. And then everything fell apart.
I am on a tight time schedule in the store like most days since i have to get back home before my lady friend splits for work. That means if I can’t find things I need to make snap decisions, like in a snap. Luckily for me I found every single thing I needed, right? Wrong. I was only missing one thing for the smoked deer salad which doesn’t sound too bad until I tell you what was missing was the smoked deer. So there goes the idea for that plate entirely. As I grumplily stomp through the store I see that one of my favorite brands of smoked salmon is 50% off! That’s like nearly two thirds the normal price! Fine then, I’ll improvise a smoked salmon salad.
Now to get everything I need for the chicken. Not bad, I find nearly everything required. I was right about not finding chestnuts but I am surprised, saddened, disappointed, and a little bloated to find that they also don’t have canned chestnuts. I see however, that they’ve got water chestnuts in a can and say to myself,”Well, that’s not the same at all. Let’s give that a try!” Lastly, I swing by the fresh herb section and it shouldn’t surprise me anymore but from thyme to thyme they will be out of a pretty standard herb(see what I did there? foreshadowing!). Of course, no thyme today. That makes no sense to me at all. Now, I can’t just randomly grab at any other herb to switch up this dish. I’ve never made this dish before so I can’t say with certainty what it will taste like and what other herb besides thyme can work. I opt for one of my favorites that works well with chicken; sweet sweet tarragon.
I arrive home with a few hours before The Sasquatch shows up so I decide to stuff my bird while I have the chance. This isn’t some exciting metaphore or anything. I really am talking about the chicken. This recipe calls for the stuffing to go betwixt the skin and the breast and also under the skin of the legs rather than in the cavity of the bird. You wanna stick stuff in fowl cavities go right ahead. I won’t judge you, you sick weirdo. First thing I do is remove the spine, neck and wings with kitchen shears(keeping them for stock of course!) and open that bird up. The beauty of getting the stuffing under the skin is that it adds flavor directly to the meat and ensures that your breasts don’t dry out. Well, not your breasts, the chicken’s. Seriously people, I thought that was obvious. And trust me, if there is anything that makes Sasquatch lose it, it’s dry breasts. Am I right? This stuffing consists of some finely diced apple, water chestnuts thanks to the crap store by me, bread crumbs, some fresh parsley, and 1 glorious cup of butter. As I am prepping I see a bag of pistachios on the counter and figure why not crush some pistachios and throw it in the stuffing? Cause you know, pistachios! Oh baby that is gonna be rich and sexy! Sautéeing of the apples and chestnuts complete I then fold in the butter and breadcrumbs and allow to cool to room temperature. While that’s cooling I work on gently peeling away the skin from the breast and legs of the chicken. This is delicate work here so be kind and patient. It isn’t like waxing a Kardashian. Oh God, I even just grossed myself out. On that note bird is stuffed and ready to go.
Sasquatch arrives and after a few beverages I begin to throw dinner together. This is a delicate act. A bit like dancing on broken glass. One cannot make any sudden movements around the sasquatch nor make too much clamor. This is a more docile city Sasquatch now thanks to his Fancy Actress Lady but still I don’t want to provoke or frighten him. Being hugged by a shivering Sasquatch is not for the feint of heart.
The salad will take no time so first I get the chicken ready. I preheat the oven to 475f and heat a large, heavy cast iron pan on medium high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. I halve 5 or 6 green apples, two vidalia onions and two head of garlic along with a dozen peeled pearl onions and place them all face down in the pan for 3 or 4 minutes to get a good sear on them. I place the chicken skin side up in the middle of this for 2 minutes and then put it in the oven for 35 minutes. Once those 35 minutes are up I will toss in some rosemary and tarragon and let it roast for another 25 minutes or so, until the internal temperature of the breasts are 150f.
A good, simple salad can come off way fancier and sexier than the work you need to put into it. This is the case here. I combine 3 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, and the juice of half a lemon. Season to taste. I whisk this up with wistfulness and mild regret. Then I toss some arugula in the dressing and plate it. I lay out some smoked salmon on top, some thinly sliced vidalia onion, some capers and a lemon wedge. The smokiness of the fish and the sweetness of the onions balances out perfectly with the nutty lettuce and the tart dressing. Sasquatch is a bit bored that the fish is not still alive for him to catch so I move the plate around on the table as he tries to eat it and this amuses him greatly. As we finish the salad I catch him looking at me like I am a nice juicy steak. While I do admit that I am easy on the eyes I think it is the smell of the chicken that has caught his attention.
Good God! I have roasted me many a bird but this may be the best one yet! The meat is perfectly juicy, succulent and infused beautifully with the flavors of the stuffing. Now, far be it from me to tell cooking goliaths like Humm and Guidara what to do but I think both the pistachios in the stuffing and the tarragon in place of the thyme are both keepers. The onions and apples underneath this heavenly fowl were blissfully carmelized and sweet. Don’t let that garlic just sit there either. It pops right out of the skin so grab some baguette and spread it on there for some sexy rustic style garlic bread! One of the better dinners I’ve knocked out if I do say so myself. I wish I could say that The Sasquatch liked it so much that he proceeded to hump my leg. But he is like 4 feet taller than me so that was definitely not my leg. And thus another night with Sasquatch ends as it should, with a trip to my therapist.
Categories: Phood Philosophies