The reason I just had to go home to see my family is that my parents finally moved into the house they have been building for about a year now. It was an exciting process, but also very stressful--my mother has an incredible eye for detail, which means that she has excellent taste (though she would never praise herself like this, it is true)...and that builders' mistakes do not slip by her. Consequently, they were daily battling these guys about things not done the right way (or not done at all; it did not always require an eye for detail to see what was going wrong). I am pleased to report that the result is really beautiful. Too, I am pleased to report that Becca and I convinced them to break in their kitchen while I was home.
Some people are not fans of Ina Garten, I suppose, but we are not those people. We fondly recall buying the first Barefoot Contessa cookbook because the picture on the front was so appealing. As I remember it (though I suspect I am conflating two memories), we went straight home and made that Nicoise salad on the jacket, which made us believers. My mom appreciates how straightforward and trusty her recipes are. So it was only natural that we would turn to Barefoot in Paris for our first new-house meal; we decided on Lemon Chicken with Croutons and a coeur a la creme.
You will think I am exaggerating, but this meal was rapturously yummy. The bed of onions on which the chicken roasts becomes almost a thick onion gravy, and since you pile everything on top of the croutons, it is a meal in which using bread to sop up juices is built right in. I urge you to try it! And lest you also think we break out the champers every time we cook: this lovely bottle of champagne was a housewarming gift from the builders. Given their fraught relationship with my parents, we worried that it might be poisoned, but so far, we're all still kicking.
the doctor at work
LEMON CHICKEN WITH CROUTONS
As so often happens with Ina Garten, this recipe is mysteriously perfect. I kept checking on the browning chicken, worried that the top would burn by the time the whole cooked. Instead, it cooked in exactly the amount of time she said it would. I don't remember that the meat itself was the juiciest, best I'd ever tasted, probably because the onions and croutons were so good that it was hard to notice anything else.
-Preheat oven to 425.
-Slice 1 large yellow onion; I did thick slices. Put it in the roasting pan and toss with a little olive oil.
-Take your four pound chicken; remove giblets, wash bird, dry thorougly.
-Place chicken on top of onions in roasting pan. Salt and pepper cavity and stuff with 2 quartered lemons. Brush outside of bird with 2 tbs. melted unsalted butter; sprinkle with more salt and pepper.
-She says to truss, but we did not. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes
-While the bird is roasting, prepare your croutons.
If you are at all like us, you will pull out a ruler to cut a small country boule into 3/4 inch cubes, thereby making six cups of bread cubes. My mom apologized for handing me the ruler when I began this task, but the truth is, I would have used a ruler even if she wasn't there.
-When your chicken gets out of the oven, let it rest while you make the croutons. Heat 2 tbs. olive oil in a large saute pan until very hot. Lower heat to medium-low and saute the croutons until they are browned--about ten minutes--adding more oil as needed. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.
-Put the croutons on a platter and top with sliced chicken, onions, and pan juices. Try to save room for dessert.
COEUR A LA CREME WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE
This is a dessert my mother has wanted to make since she clipped a magazine recipe for it as a girl. She bought the mold years ago, but we didn't make it until just now. I have always been curious about it, too, since I of course cannot resist anything that requires special equipment; special equipment shaped like a heart--forget about it! I did not suspect that it would be so heavenly--it is like a crustless cheesecake, thick and sweet and beautifully vanilla-y. I want to pile it on gingersnaps to make mini-cheesecakes. Ina made raspberry sauce, but we made strawberry. You have to make it the day before you're going to eat it, because it sits in the refrigerator overnight; theoretically, it is draining, but ours released barely any liquid at all.
-Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, beat 12 oz. room temperature cream cheese with 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar for 2 minutes at high speed.
-Scrape down bowl and change to whisk attachment. On low spead, add 2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream, 2 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp. grated lemon zest, and the seeds of 1 vanilla bean. Then beat on high spped "until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream." Now, I don't think of whipped cream as "very thick." Ours definitely got thicker than whipped cream--peaks held themselves indefinitely--which may have been too thick, but the result was amazing.
-Line your heart-shaped mold (or a 7-inch sieve) with cheesecloth and pour in the mixture. Put it over something to drain (as you can see, ours came with a heart-shaped draining dish--fancy).
-Refrigerate overnight, unmold, and serve with...
-Put 1/2 pint of strawberries, sliced, into a small saucepan with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for four minutes.
-Pour the cooked fruit into a food processor or blender with 1 cup strawberry jam and mix until smooth.
-This makes more than you will need for your coeur. It is also quite sweet, which did not bother me one bit.
so I'm not a food stylist! trust me, it tastes great