I’ve been MIA a bit in the past few months.
Partly because of summer, partly because of my kitchen being renovated — by us — and partly because my health took a mid-season nose dive.
I’ve haven’t let this keep me from tracking what’s new and upcoming in the cookbook world. That would be negligent.
I’m back with two summer reads that transition easily to fall. One with art — hello, back to school. One on chicken — hello, curl-up-with-a-hot-drink read.
“Pen &Palate: Mastering the Art of Adulthood, with Recipes,” by Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen.Grand Central Life &Style $26
Art by Tram Nguyen and stories from Nguyen and Lucy Madison, with recipes. Sort of like “Sex and the City” with food, but with characters that better reflect my own life. The friendship is palpable, the recipes full of love and I feel like one of the girls. Minus the requisite Cosmo — just drink whatever’s on hand.
“Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America’s Favorite Bird,” by Emelyn Rude. Pegasus Books $27.95
In my 20s I worked as a server in a Cajun/Creole restaurant here in the Northwest. I recall trying to explain the flavor of alligator or frog legs to non-Southern customers.
“It’s like swordfish meets chicken.”
“It’s like a fishier version of chicken. You can taste the mud.”
No one minded the fish or the mud, that’s all in the adventure of eating a leg of frog. But it always came back to chicken. That white meat barometer.
Emelyn Rude takes it a few steps further, giving history on items like the Chicken Wars of New York City — I missed those in my history books. And the transition of the American diet from beef and pork to one heavy with chicken and eggs. She keeps it interesting with light writing and scandalous chicken tales. She also provides recipes, making this an easy cookbook to pack for a light historical read.
Simple white wine roast chicken
From “Pen &Palate.” The author writes: This is the chicken recipe I tried (and failed) to make when I first moved to Chicago. With more experience under my belt, I’ve learned a few things. It doesn’t take much to cook delicious food. You just need to start with good ingredients and know how to treat them well. A meat thermometer is not a bad idea either. In this recipe, I spatchcock the bird, which cuts down the cooking time dramatically and results in a remarkably moist, evenly cooked chicken with wonderfully crisp skin.
Serves 3 to 4
Active prep time: 10 minutes; 2 to 24 hours to marinate; Cook time: about 40 minutes
2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as desired
½ cup dry white wine
1 (3½ – to 4-pound) chicken (preferably organic and air-chilled)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon of the salt in the white wine. Using kitchen shears and with the chicken breast side down and the legs facing you, cut along the spine to remove it. You can save this piece for stock if you prefer. Add the chicken to the brine and, using tongs, flip to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. A few times during the marinating process, turn the chicken over so the bird is evenly coated in the brine.
At least 45 minutes before cooking, take the chicken out of the refrigerator so the meat can come to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 450.
Pat the outside of the bird and the cavity with paper towels so that they are as dry as possible. Discard the brine. With the bird cavity side down, press down hard on the breasts to flatten the chicken. Cut a little slash in the thickest part of the legs so they will cook more quickly. Rub the outside of the chicken and the cavity with butter and a generous amount of kosher salt, about a tablespoon. Season with pepper. Arrange a wire rack atop a roasting pan or a large baking sheet. Put the bird on the rack breast side up and roast in the center of the oven for about 40 minutes. The chicken is done when the skin is golden brown and crispy and the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees. Take the bird out of the oven and let rest, lightly tented in foil, for at least 10 minutes before carving.
Recipe and artwork excerpted from the book “Pen &Palate” by Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen. Copyright © 2016 by Lucy Madison and Tram Nguyen. Reprinted with permission of Grand Central Life &Style. All rights reserved.