Frugal Plex

Sometime last week, before the heat wave, we had one of those perfect spring days that just makes one all giddy, what with all the fecundity and the burgeoning and the blooming and the sweet breezes and such. There was still a chill in the shade, though, so something roasty seemed appropriate, and firing up the grill to celebrate the season seemed pretty mandatory.

I spatchcocked a good chicken and gave it a rub of salt, pepper, and a few flavors I’m really liking on chickens these days: smoked paprika, cumin, and 5-spice. And on the fire it went (actually off the fire until it lost a little fat and the fire cooled down, at which point it went directly over the fire flare-up free.) Meanwhile I took the last of the Easter parsnips (this was a while ago, remember) and combined them with more freshly-steamed and mashed with a little yogurt and enough of the steaming water to reach a good smoothitude. It was brought to my attention that barbecue sauce would be a good, nay excellent idea, so I put a bunch of stuff in a pan and let it simmer. It was so long ago, I don’t remember anymore, but my BBQ sauce usually includes tomato paste, tamarind, cider and balsamic vinegars, soy sauce, maple syrup, random fruit juice, any leftover broth in the fridge, ditto with wine, and some spices of the 5- and 7- variety.
And last I chopped up some bok choy and gave it a quick sauté with garlic and lemon.

There’s nothing particularly special about a grilled chicken, but there was indeed something special about the first one of the year, eaten with perfect local vegetables and a funky homemade sauce. Even specialer still was the addition of a Prince Florent de Merode 1979 Corton Clos du Roi. Past its prime, no doubt, but I paid $20 for it- and at that price it was unbelievable. Fading octaves of dried plums, horses, and tobacco serenaded us while we ate.

As always, I made broth from the carcass. Then, flash forward to today, with some of that broth still in the fridge. It cooled off dramatically today- we might catch a hint of frost tonight- so soup was back on my radar. I made the quickest of all miso soup with the roasted chicken broth: brought to a boil, then taken off the heat and white miso whisked in. Freaking fantastic. Instead of the delicate smokiness of dashi, the soup had a sublime char-grilled undertone that really made us pay attention.

Our asparagus is in full effect, and there were leftovers of both brown rice and the quinoa-pesto thing I made with the venison, so I combined them, made mayonnaise, and rolled up a bunch of asparagus maki with sriracha-mayo inside for a little fatty decadence in an otherwise very clean meal. Last up was a perfect bowl of local, organic pinto beans pressure-cooked with onion, a smidge (seriously, like a teaspoon) of salt pork and the rest of the roasted chicken broth, then mixed with some of the pepper ketchup from TNS Reuben night.

The broth has gotten me all excited for grilling season, and not just for the normal reason; every bone that comes off of the fire in the coming months is going to be turned into some variation of this magic potion that makes everything taste just a little better.

4 comments to Frugal Plex

  • Zoomie

    To me, that chicken did sound very special and I love all the other things you made subsequently – frugality is in!

  • Heather

    I brought (comparatively, refreshingly) cool weather to California with me and brought sunshine home. Neat trick. It’s looking like time to clean up the grill around here, though these days I can’t muster to eat much but fruit and vegetables. Grilled cantaloupe with prosciutto sounds like a fine meal.

  • cook eat FRET

    splendid in every way

    and really – there’s nothing i don’t like about a chicken.

  • peter

    Zoomie: It’s the new black.

    Blanche: You’ll feel better soon.

    Claudia: Me neither.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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