Thursday, October 13, 2011

A friend asks for a recipe, I post

I'm trying to make it a new policy that when a friend asks for a recipe that I post it here. I could be saying "if I had a nickel..." it happens so often, but instead I'm trying to find a system that binds me to my original goal with this blog- to write about the foods that I'm inspired by right now and give recipes.

This recipe is one I used to pull out all the time when I wanted to have duck but was too poor to buy. I found a version of it in an old cookbook I dug up at one of my favorite old bookstores, Powell's, about a hundred years ago when I was first cheffing for a living. I served it up at my first secret restaurant dinner so many years ago in San Francisco and was met with the hearty approval by my guests. Add a little lump of quickly braised greens and you have a minimally laborious meal.

I hope that my friends continue to ask me for recipes- I do love giving them out.

The only downside to this new plan, is I don't really have pictures of the food I'm advising you to make. But since I like pictures so much, in honor of the impromptu Farmer's Market Blackberry-Raspberry Jam I made tonight- here's something to drool over.

Now onto the recipe (pardon the format, a small hat tip to some of my cookbooks from the 20s and 30s, hope it's legible enough to follow):


Well, first you have to buy a ton (well, 5 pounds) of rock salt. The kind for ice cream works best. Now buy a whole chicken. Take out the neck and gizzards and whatnot. Clean her all up, pat her dry and leave her overnight in the fridge, on a rack, uncovered (air circulation). If you had a very cold protected place to hang her up that's ideal, but who has that?
Now, it's been at least 12 hours and you're ready. Take an orange, pierce little holes in it, about 10 total. Drop a bay leaf inside the gal, then shove the orange in and some scallion whites, cut to 3-4". Sew it up if your feeling fancy (call it dressing her if you're feeling really really fancy). Let her rest.
In a good sized wok, heat up your 5 pounds of rock salt, covered works well, over medium high heat is best. This will take a while and you'll hear hissing and popping when it's ready. Have a large bowl or pan nearby.
Spoon out about 2/3 of the rock salt into your spare pan/bowl, leaving a decent valley in the bottom of the wok, making sure you have about an inch of depth. Place your dried, dressed bird on top and quickly (but carefully, very hot) spoon the salt you removed back onto the bird. Try and make sure you have completely covered her back up. It should just look like a little hill of glistening, piping hot salt.
Cover with the lid and cook over medium low heat for 1 hour.
Remove the bird from the salt and then let her rest for 10-15 minutes. Get your cleaver ready. This is your chance to work on your best tough guys poses with the cleaver. If you're anything like me, you won't look so tough when you're actually trying to perform carving magic on that bird.
Now that the bird has rested, chop into halves (somewhere around her waist. Now half those end to end. Chop the breasts into halves and the leg joints as well.
Serve with hoisin sauce mixed with hot chili oil and some finely chopped fresh scallion.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Autumn is my favorite- Soup season!

Now that the weather has changed to a lovely pallid hue and I've pushed every bit of summer I could get my hands on into jars to bring sunshine into my winter, it's time to turn on the oven and leave it on.
This is the time of year I dream of having an AGA, buy a cord of wood and hunker down indoors (okay, there's an occasional rain soaked hike).
Soup season officially started today with a little pot of Three Sisters- white bean, corn and squash. Shared with another mom and three pre-schoolers in the midst of games involving every pillow in the house thrown on the living room floor and something to do with mermaids and magic crystals.
Here's the recipe. I hope to be posting more soups, soon. Or at least cooking them!

Three Sisters Soup
2 ears corn, husks still on
2 lb kabocha squash
1 cup cannellini beans
1 bay leaf
3 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 T kosher salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 400°
Put the beans into a 1 quart tight sealing pot and fill with water to cover by 2". Add in 1 T olive oil and bay leaf.
Place this and the kabocha squash in the oven for an hour. In the last 30 minutes, toss the corn in as well.
Once it is cool enough to handle, cut the squash in half, scoop out and discard seeds, then scoop out the flesh and set aside.
Remove the kernels from the corn cobs and scrape them with the dull side of the knife to remove the rest of the pulp. Set all of this aside.
In a large stockpot, heat the remaining 2 T olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute over medium heat until softened. Then toss in the corn, squash and beans, plus the salt. Fill with water  to cover plus 2". Bring up to a gentle boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Correct seasonings and serve with crusty bread and kale salad.