Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Eve: A Recipe

So you like fennel and want to eat a good chicken dinner at 6 o'clock tomorrow?  Have a plan.

Buy a loaf of country bread and a 3-4 pound Air-Chilled chicken today.  Take the chicken out of its packaging, insert 4 bay leaves and 4 thin slices of lemon under its skin, rub it with 1/2 tbsp ground white pepper, 1/2 tbsp kosher salt, and 1 tsp fennel pollen.  Put in a slightly-too-big container in your fridge, so it gets some air around the skin.  Let it stay there overnight.  Pick a white wine that makes you happy (like Palmina Sparkling Malvasia), and a cheaper sparkler (like Trader Joe's North Coast Brut), and throw them in, too.

At 3 o'clock tomorrow, take the chicken out of the fridge and out of its container so it gets room-temp air circulating around it, and turn the oven on to 450º.  Put on a good podcast or some sing-along music.  Tear up your bread into bite-sized pieces.  Drizzle the pieces with olive oil, put them in a single layer on a sheet tray.  Halve 24 oz of small yellow tomatoes, and very thinly slice 1/4 of a lemon, removing the seeds as you go.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and put them cut-side-up in a single layer on another sheet tray.  By 3.30, the oven will be hot, so the tomatoes go on the top shelf, and the bread goes lower.  15 minutes later, the bread should be nicely toasty and some of the tomatoes should be charred and/or bursty.  Remove them from the oven, dump the bread into your biggest mixing bowl, gently transfer the tomatoes/lemon slices (with all the juices) onto a plate to cool.

Dick around for a little while.  Delight in how wonderful it is that the winter holidays are over.  Make a mixer for your sparkling wine:  1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 2 tbsp maple syrup, and 1 tbsp bitters.  Add 1 1/2 tbsp of this concoction to each glass of sparkling wine that you pour, and you should have the right amount for the whole bottle.  Don't be skeptical:  this is delicious stuff.

It's probably around 4 o'clock, now.  Chop 2 fennel bulbs (reserving the fronds, if you have them), 2 medium onions or/and shallots into similarly-sized bite-sized pieces.  Together in a bowl, toss them with 4-ish chopped anchovies and a gentle glug of olive oil with thyme, salt and pepper.   At 4.15 throw the big cast-iron pan into the oven on the bottom shelf.

Make a vinaigrette.  Warm some moderately crushed fennel seeds and 2 chopped garlic cloves in 1/4 cup olive oil.  Remove from heat, add 2 tbsp nice white vinegar, 1 tsp dijon, and a lot of chopped tarragon.  Salt and pepper, maybe a pinch of sugar.  Set aside.

At 4.30, rub the chicken all over with olive oil, and remove the pan from the oven, remembering that empty cast-iron never looks hot. . . .  Dump in the chopped fennel/onion.  Lay the chicken on top.  Throw it back into the oven.

Do you need to refresh your drink?  Is the music striking your fancy?  Should you take a shower and/or go have a quickie?  There's time for these things, now.

At 5 o'clock, rotate the chicken pan 180º in the oven.  Chop big clumps of parsley and dill, and reserved fennel fronds, if you have them.  Are you supposed to call your mother?  Don't do that or anything else that might cause stress.  Have another cocktail.

At 5.15, turn off the oven.  At 5.30, take the pan out:  put the chicken onto a plate by itself, dump the juicy hot fennel/onion over the toasted bread and mix it up.  Get the flatware, wine glasses and wine onto the table.  Admire the chicken.  At 5.45, dump the chopped herbs and the vinaigrette into the bread/fennel.  Toss.  Load the dishwasher.  A few minutes later, add two big handfuls of arugula, the cooled tomatoes with their ooze, and whatever juice has accumulated under the chicken.  Toss gently.  Divide the panzanella between your plates, or plop it all onto a platter with the chicken on top.  Take everything to the table, and go to town.  Be proud of yourself, accept compliments, and taste the happy.

No comments:

Post a Comment