hens provencal Doesn’t it sounds so much classier when I call them “hens”? They’re chickens. Whatever. This recipe represents one point on a epicurean function to which I’d like to introduce you. This function takes the form
Dinner = chicken + olive oil + salt + pepper + x
In this case, we’re solving for x = Herbs de Provençe.

Serves: 4 leisurely Frenchmen
Total kitchen time: the French don’t care, why should you?

Shopping list:

  • 1 large chicken (though you could just as well use cornish hens, a duck, pigeon, or my dad’s rooster Lucky)
  • 3 tbsp good olive oil
  • 2 tsp Herbs de Provençe (I could tell you what’s in it, but you’re gonna buy the pre-made stuff anyway. No harm done)
  • Salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Side note: Since we don’t have a lot of ingredients working here, I thought I’d take a moment to comment on the importance of salt and pepper. Please, please, please don’t settle for table salt and pepper that looks like gunpowder. IMHO, they’re not the same. If you’re only going to buy one “specialty” salt, pick up a box of Kosher Salt. You don’t have to be Jewish to buy it and the checkout clerk won’t ask you about Passover. Then, get some fresh black pepper (it comes in bb-sized balls) and a grinder. Some spice isles even have a small grinder preloaded for like $6 bucks. Your tongue will thank you.

  1. Anyway… Preheat your oven to 425F. Set the rack to the middle position.
  2. Quarter the chicken. Season the pieces with olive oil, salt, pepper and Herbs de Provençe.
  3. Heat a large, heavy, oven-proof skillet (may I suggest cast iron) over high heat until it is pretty rocket-hot. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, making sure you have enough room to fit them all in. Cook over high heat for about a minute. This is our crisp skin insurance.
  4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the fattest part of the breast registers 150F. Flip the pieces over so they are skin side up. Raise the heat to a broil and cook about 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and let rest several minutes before serving.

Not feeling completely French yet? Try adding some savory carrots, a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine. Viva la gastration!

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sweet and savory carrots I grew up on these carrots. Adding depth to a naturally sweet vegetable, this recipe will make you think twice next time you reach for the steamer. As a variation, puree the carrots at the end of the recipe and sprinkle with fresh sage.

Serves: 4 smugly-sarcastic rabbits
Total kitchen time: 20 mins

Shopping List:

  • Carrots (a-duh? But seriously, a note here. Try to find beautiful carrots. For your sake and mine, don’t buy a pre-packaged bag of those mini carrots. Those are for 5-year olds to dunk in Ranch Dressing. You want the big boy carrots.)
  • 1tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups water
  1. Clean up your carrots with a vegetable peeler. Get rid of the tough outer skin, but try not to go all mechanical pencil sharpener on them. That’s food you’re wasting.
  2. Arrange the carrots in a single layer in a large skillet. Sprinkle over the cloves and cinnamon. Toss to coat.
  3. Add the water and honey and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until carrots are fork-tender, about 20 minutes.
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grilled pizza With equal parts hunger and bravery, you’ll find that your grill cooks much more than burgers. This recipe is a summer staple for me; as soon as the weather warms up, I start to crave pizza on the grill. Be creative with your toppings – choose 2 or 3 veggies, a cheese and a meat. When I recently made this recipe for some friends, I went overboard (7 veggies was just too much) but the result was still delicious.

Makes: 4 10″ pizzas

Shopping list:
Dough:

  • 2 packages (2 oz total) active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup + 3/4 cup warm water (105F- 115F)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Toppings:

  • 1/2 cup goat’s cheese
  • 1 dz fresh figs, halved
  • 2 Vidalia onions, cut in 1/4 in circular slices
  • 1 lb fresh chicken and apple sausage
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, torn into small bits
  1. Proof the yeast in 1/4 cup of the warm water for 5 minutes.
  2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, yeast and remaining water. Mix until combined, but don’t over work the dough. Roll into a large ball and coat with olive oil. Cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
  3. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll out into ovals (or circles or hearts or whatever shape you like) about 1/8″ thick. These will be really thin, but try to make sure there are no holes or weak spots. Lightly brush each of the doughvals (get it?) with olive oil and set aside until you’re ready to grill.
  4. Preheat your grill on medium. Add the chicken sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until they look right. The cooking time depends on a lot of things, but trust me, you’ll know when they’re done. Slice into 1/4″ pieces and set aside and keep warm.
  5. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook the onions until brown, soft and sweet, about 10 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Grill the figs, cut side down, about 3 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
  7. Turn your grill down to low and wait for the heat to dissipate. Grill the doughvals until set, about 1 minute per side. Add the goat’s cheese, onions, figs and sausage. Sprinkle on the mint and top with really good olive oil, if you like.

Cut and serve the pizzas. They pair great with a dry white wine and a platter of sliced, preserved meats. Also try any of the following for toppings: {Stilton, apricots, pork sausage}, {Manchego, pesto, shrimp}, {feta, lamb, cucumber}, {mozarella, bell pepper, eggplant}. If things have gone well, you’ll have a whole new admiration for your grill.

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