I took the kid to Italy for his thirteenth birthday; we just got back a few days ago. I realized when we arrived in Rome that it had been fifteen years since I was last there, an inconceivably long time given the crucial part Italy played in forming who I became artistically and culinarily. The visual influences became apparent immediately in my paintings, and that continued until I left figuration behind entirely a few years later. The culinary influence proved to be even more durable, and increased in importance as I began growing and cooking food all the time when we left Brooklyn for the country. Now that I write about food for a living, the Italian approach to ingredients—the simplicity, the honesty, the glorification of peasant frugality—remains one of my touchstones.
There has to be a special circle in Hell reserved for people like me who go to the trouble of marinating chicken in whey for 24 hours and then can’t be bothered to make proper fried chicken with it the following evening. I look forward to seeing what delights await me; I imagine it’s like that scene in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich himself goes through the door except that everybody is Paula Deen and they speak only in emoticons. Probably the frowny face ones with the tears, on account of it’s Hell and all.
I made some pretty good chicken pho last night. Muggy heat notwithstanding, the Kid wanted chicken noodle soup because he wasn’t feeling well. So I dutifully trudged off to the weekly market, procured a bunch of chicken wings, and trudged home. Wings make good stock. Normally, I make, you know, wings with them, saving the tips, and then cook the cooked second and third segments with the raw tips to make a wonderfully flavored but still gelatinous stock later on. This time there was no time, so in the pot they went, whole and unjointed, with all the pho-requisite flavors.
And not the computer, neither. I know it’s Sunday, but I just discovered a trove of pictures on the camera that I had completely forgot about, and I thought of you, poor readers, frantically anticipating my next post with the impatient fervor of Ree Drummond praying for Paula Deen to stroke out on national television. So I wrote this because I feel your pain.
When I imagined this meal, it was rather a lot like the poulet fermier aux morilles I had back in Paris on the night I got plowed tasting Burgundies at the huge agricultural fair. While that meal was a perfect drunk-thirty chilly March comfort food home run, this iteration ended up being a pretty perfect conclusion to a rainy yet balmy May Saturday.
By the end of the last post, I had figured out that one of the prominent flavor notes in lovage is quite similar to fenugreek. If you cut some, or, better, tear it, your hands will become insistently perfumed with the persistent aroma of the plant. When people dismiss it with variations of the “it’s like celery” line, that’s a cop-out on par with the “tastes like chicken” descriptor so loosely applied to things as different as mushrooms and alligator. Lovage doesn’t taste like celery, though it approximates it visually, up to a point. It’s much closer to fenugreek, with a whiff of caraway and a citrusy tang.
I do enjoy a vacation from blogging sometimes. There has been no shortage of cooking, both here and in Vermont, but not so much documentation. Among other memorable events, I taught a bread class, cooked for 75 or so people at a charity benefit, and fed my family daily as is my wont, but just wasn’t feeling the writing about it part. With an average of a post every other day for six and a half years, I don’t feel bad about taking a break. So now, as regular content resumes—subject to an impending deadline and how well I stave off the cold that Milo caught right before his birthday, torpedoing a weekend’s worth of fun—I’ll begin lazily simply with a few shots of How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Read the Post I’ve Seen Fire And I’ve Seen Sauce
I smoked a couple of chickens yesterday, and as I was prepping them (pulling the necks and organs out, salting them) Milo walked over and pointed to the offal.
“Ew. What’s all that?”
“Is it edible?”
“Of course,” I said. “You love chicken liver pâté and we had beef heart tacos a while ago.”
“Oh yeah. Can I eat these hearts?”
“Of course you can.”
Yesterday I was out all day for a story—90 minutes each way in the car, three hours of chatting, 375 pictures taken, stop at farmers’ market on the way home—so dinner was not in any danger of being a complicated endeavor. Circumstances conspired to make it another one in the seemingly infinite series of “chicken parts cooked in a vaguely winglike manner” meals that I’m sure you’re all thrilled to read about on a regular basis. But bear with me; this technique works a treat and is dead easy with any bird parts you might have laying around.