Chicken Dijon

My fellow mustard lovers, this one’s for you. This recipe is another one from the French weeknight stew feature in the October 2011 issue of Food & Wine. In this feature, Melissa Clark led us to a fantastic way to make ratatouille, a cozy dinner of lentils with garlic sausage, and now this chicken dijon, which we’ve made several times since. Truly a weeknight stew, this chicken comes together in less than an hour.

After you crush the toasted coriander seeds, stop and smell them. To us, they smelled undeniably like Fruity Pebbles. I haven’t eaten that cereal in many years, but I recognized the smell like I’d just shared a bowl that morning with Lila. Tell me if it’s the same for you.

Sour cream, tarragon, coriander, and a generous amount of coarse ground mustard make this sauce pretty irresistible. Sometimes I eat an extra drumstick just so I can have a bit more sauce. It’s creamy, rich, and I need to serve the chicken in a pool of this mustard sauce. Crusty bread, not rice, is just the thing to go with this. It’s not the prettiest dinner, I know, but it will be such a delicious treat to make yourself on a cool Wednesday night. Trust me.

chicken dijon

This chicken is all about the sauce — mustardy, aromatic, and alluring. The anise-like flavor of tarragon, that ubiquitous French herb, is mellow and irresistible in this dish.

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 medium chicken drumsticks (about 3 pounds)
black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons whole-grain or coarse-ground Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons sour cream or crème fraîche
2 teaspoons chopped tarragon, plus a few sprigs for garnish
crusty bread for serving

Toast the coriander seeds in a large skillet over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and let cool before crushing coarsely with a pestle.

Use the same skillet to heat the olive oil. Season the chicken drumsticks with salt and pepper, and add them to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and crushed coriander and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Place the chicken drumsticks on a platter and cover to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk the mustard, sour cream, and tarragon. Whisk the mixture into the skillet and simmer the sauce over moderate heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet and coat in the sauce. Serve a couple drumsticks per person with plenty of sauce and crusty bread to scoop it up. Garnish each plate with a sprig of tarragon.

Serves 4. Recipe from Food & Wine.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Cider and Vanilla

We’re back from Miami, and the great Thanksgiving weekend eating fest is over. Right? It has to be. We ate huevos con tortilla, tres leches, gallopinto, pastelitos de pollo, my dad’s new recipe for chicken with sage, tostadas, pork buns, and so much more. My mom and madrina packed our car with more gallopinto, vaca frita, carne con papa, nacatamales, masas de puerco, and a slice of lasagna. The fridge is full and my freezer is at the ready! As a bonus, we returned to find our little herb garden is still alive and well.

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving break and that now you’re in the mood for soup. This is a butternut squash soup with apple cider and vanilla bean from Molly Wizenberg‘s memoir, A Homemade Life. The squash soup is brightened with the flavors of apple cider and pear. Yes, the cream is infused with vanilla bean, which isn’t as weird as you may first think if you remind yourself that after all it is a spice. The cream tones down the fruity sweetness, and the final addition of fresh chives adds a savory onion flavor that makes the soup even better.

That bright orange color is enough to make me happy, but then this soup just tastes so good. I kept wanting more. One more spoonful. One more bowl? It’s a very nice way to welcome yourself back home.

butternut squash soup with apple cider and vanilla

It may be difficult to have just one bowl of this soup. It’s creamy, light, and comforting, and you’ll always want just a bit more.

3 tablespoons olive oil
one 2-pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups) with seeds reserved for another use
2 ripe yet firm pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cream or half-and-half
1 vanilla bean
finely chopped fresh chives

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Stir in the squash, pears, and onion to coat with oil. Cook and stir occasionally until the onion is soft and transparent and the pears are starting to fall apart, 10 to 15 minutes.

Pour in the cider and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let simmer partially covered until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup until very smooth. (If using a regular blender, work the soup in batches and only fill the blender jar up to a third of its size because hot liquids expand). Add the salt and cook soup uncovered over medium-low heat until the soup reduces to about half or a third of its original volume. Stir occasionally. The soup’s ready when it’s a consistency that looks right to you, not too thin or thick.

As the soup continues to cook, pour the cream into a small saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with a small sharp knife and use the spine to scrape out the tiny beans. Place the vanilla beans and the pod in the saucepan with the cream and warm it over low heat until it steams, swirling occasionally. Do not let it boil. Remove saucepan from the heat and discard the pod. Whisk if necessary to break up any clumps of seeds.

Stir the vanilla-infused cream into the soup when it’s thickened enough to your liking. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Serve soup with a sprinkling of chives. Store any leftovers in the fridge knowing that it will taste even better in the next day or two.

Serves 4 to 5. Recipe from “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg.

Herb Roasted Delicata Squash with Pomegranate

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and I’ve really got to decide on a final menu today. I can’t believe this week is here! What’s on tap for your Thanksgiving table?

As for sides, we’ll do scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, something with brussels sprouts, and pie, I think. What kind of pie? These questions need to be answered. Today! Somebody hold me accountable…

We’ll probably also have another side or two, including this roasted delicata squash with pomegranate and herbs.

Delicata squash doesn’t get enough love. It’s so festive when cut into rings with its cute scalloped edges and striped skin. It’s a squash you don’t have to peel. The squash skin is thin, edible, and deliciously crispy when roasted.

This recipe ran in yesterday’s paper with the latest In Our Kitchen column. Check it out here.

I’ll be back later this week with another squash recipe, something lighter for after the big food holiday. Until then, would you share your thoughts for pie? My sister and mom don’t get too excited about pumpkin, and I’m wondering which direction we should take.

herb roasted delicata squash with pomegranate

Delicata squash is a great vegetable for the holidays with its beautifully striped skin, which you can and should eat along with the rest of the squash. If you have a roasted butternut squash seed oil to drizzle over this, it’s delicious, but extra-virgin olive oil works well. To stretch this dish, double the recipe or serve the squash over a simply dressed salad of arugula.

2 delicata squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped thyme, plus a couple of sprigs for garnish
olive oil
a big handful of squash or pumpkin seeds
a big handful of pomegranate seeds
a hunk of Parmesan or mild blue cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. Slice delicata squash into 1/2-inch thick slices. Use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds from the center of the rings. Wash the seeds under water to remove all the squash gunk and reserve to roast later.

Place the squash rings in a large bowl and toss with rosemary, thyme, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread the rings out on a large baking sheet (or two) and bake in an upper rack in the oven until tender and browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Flip the squash about halfway through if you’re using a baking sheet on the bottom oven rack to make sure the squash browns evenly. Meanwhile, drizzle the cleaned seeds with a bit of olive oil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place seeds on a small baking sheet and roast until puffed up, 5 to 7 minutes. Make sure to check on them often to be sure they don’t burn.

Arrange rings of delicata squash on a platter, letting some overlap. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and roasted seeds over the squash. Use a vegetable peeler to shave a few long strips of Parmesan cheese over the squash or crumble blue cheese over the dish. Garnish with a few small sprigs of fresh thyme and drizzle with olive oil. Season with a little more salt. Serve warm. You can roast the squash a few hours ahead of time and let it hang out on the counter before reheating gently in a 250°F oven just before serving with the pomegranate, seeds and cheese.

Serves 4.

Fragrant Herb Salt to Use on Anything

Fragrant is an understatement. This herb salt smells so intensely good, hitting you right in the nose with the alluring scent of garlic mixed with rosemary and thyme.

It’s very easy to make and will keep for months as you find new ways to use it. I’ve rubbed it onto pork shoulder before roasting, and I’ve sprinkled a tiny bit into salads for a quick boost of flavor. Roast your chicken or vegetables with this garlicky herb salt or as Schneider suggests, sprinkle some on your popcorn. It tastes as strong and flavorful as your nose would lead you to believe.

This is a pretty flexible recipe. I used rosemary and thyme, but you could use any combination of herbs you’d like. Pour this salt into a mason jar with a cute gift tag, and you’ve got a very nice DIY gift for the holidays. Thanksgiving is next week. I’m just saying.

The recipe below guides you through a method for chopping everything by hand, which I enjoyed. If you’d like a quicker method using a food processor, check out Sally Schneider’s recipe here.

fragrant herb salt

You can use any combination of herbs you’d like, which for me included rosemary and thyme. For a Tuscan herb salt, use an even combination of rosemary and sage. Use this herb salt on roasted meats or vegetables and pretty much anything else that could use a big hit of herbs and garlic. To make a lot more herb salt, Sally Schneider suggest to do so in batches instead of all at once. 

4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup kosher salt
about 2 cups of loosely packed fresh herbs (use any combination you’d like, including rosemary, thyme, savory, sage, and small amounts of lavender)

Cut each garlic clove in half lengthwise. Dump the salt onto a cutting board with the garlic, and use a sharp knife to mince the garlic and blend in with the salt as you go.

Create another pile of your herbs (just the leaves removed from the stems) and give them a rough chop. Add the herbs to the garlic salt and chop everything together until it resembles the texture of coarse sand.

Spread the salt onto a baking sheet and leave near an open window for a couple of days to dry. Store the salt in jars and it will keep in your pantry for months.

Makes 3/4 cup. Recipe from Sally Schneider via The Splendid Table.

Goat Cheese, Roasted Grape, and Walnut Bruschette

You weren’t supposed to see this here. Neither was Danny. Not yet. The book that provided this recipe for goat cheese bruschette with roasted grapes and toasted walnuts shipped to our front door on a day he got home before I did. Curiosity killed my Christmas present.

But it’s not so bad. I didn’t have to wait more than a month to make this bruschette (plural for bruschetta, btw) and share it with you. And as my mother and sister like to remind me, I’m a very bad wrapper anyway.

The book is Polpo, and I forgot how I came across it, but I knew he’d love it. It’s a beautiful book with interesting binding exposed on its spine and a stunning cover with a 19th-century illustration of an octopus. I could not resist.

Polpo is a restaurant in London built around Russell Norman’s fascination with the food of Venice. That includes a lot of small plates known as cichèti, which is served in the backstreet bars of the real Venice; they’re called bàcari.

The food in this book celebrates simple and honest food presented in recipes with few ingredients. Norman is guided by the well-known mantra, less is more. It’s the kind of simple food I like best, and it’s worth being reminded of. Get the best ingredients you can find and don’t do too much to them, he urges.

He calls it a Venetian cookbook (of sorts) because it also offers a few recipes from elsewhere, including a recipe for a whole roasted sea bream (a freshwater fish native to Europe) that reminds him of a meal he shared with his wife in Greece. I love a whole roasted fish but have yet to serve one from our kitchen. Consider it added to the list.

I want to make almost everything in this book. Almost is an important clause in that claim because I can’t say I’m eager to seek out pigeon breasts, and then actually cook and eat them. Ham hock terrine is also nowhere near the top of my queue of things to try and make at home.

Still, all the pictures and recipes are lovely. There are several pages with scenes of Norman’s real Venice, and a map. Here are a few things on my list from this book: cod cheeks with lentils and salsa verde, warm octopus salad, fried stuffed olives, tiramisù pots, a blood orange and campari cake, and a light pink drink of lemon sorbet and Prosecco called sgroppino.

In the end, I’m glad Christmas came early.

goat cheese, roasted grape, and walnut bruschette

Soft goat cheese with roasted walnuts and grapes is a fantastic combination made even better with the addition of thyme. These would make a great weekend snack with a little wine.

16 grapes, any seedless variety
1 small handful of fresh thyme leaves
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
10 walnut halves
2 thick slices of good sourdough or soda bread, each cut in half
1 small garlic clove
goat cheese

Heat oven to 375°F. Scatter the grapes on a small baking sheet with almost all of the thyme, a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and shake to coat. Roast in the oven until the grapes are starting to blister and color, 10 to 15 minutes. Coat the walnuts with a little olive oil and roast on another small baking sheets until fragrant and toasted, 5 to 6 minutes.

Set the oven to the broil setting and toast the slices of bread until browned and crunchy, just a couple of minutes. Flip the bread about halfway through. Take the cut side of the garlic clove and rub it over the toasted slices of bread. It’ll melt into the hot bread. Drizzle the bread with olive oil.

Crumble the goat cheese on the toasted bread. Top the slices of bread with the grapes and walnuts. Drizzle bruschette with honey and garnish with the rest of the thyme leaves. Serve warm.

Makes 4 bruschette. Adapted from “Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of sorts)” by Russell Norman.