Pique-Nique I – Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory

 

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Fat.  Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we?  Fat’s probably the best place to begin a discussion of Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory.  Au debut, as the French say, in the beginning, rillettes meant one thing – pork.  Or rather, pork and fat.  Rillettes was pork that had been salted, cooked slowly in pork fat, shredded, then preserved in the same fat, and served at room temperature, usually spread on toast.  Rillettes* are now found all over France, and while pork is still popular, in the Southwest, the Midi-Pyrenees, extending down to the Spanish border, the technique is more often seen with duck or rabbit.  Today rillettes of salmon, tuna or other fatty fish, or even mushrooms are not uncommon on pricey menus.  It’s hard to argue with that–what doesn’t taste good when cooked slowly in fat and salt?

Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives

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Ah, children.  If you append the name of one child to a dish, the other will someday ask, “Why didn’t you ever name anything after me?”  Our son Oliver’s mastery of Oliver’s Chicken Stew made him a culinary hero to his impoverished roommates.  Our daughter turned 18 this week – sob - and reminded us that she needed a dish that she could take with her to college, something within her skill set that might make her a culinary goddess to her future roommates, something with her name on it.  Ergo Roxanne’s Balsamic Chicken with Olives.

Chicken Under a Brick with Pan-Roasted Red Onions

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Chicken Under A Brick is a spatchcocked or butterflied bird (they mean the same thing) cooked under a weight so it remains flat and cooks evenly.  Part of the pleasure of spatchcocking is just saying it.  “Darling, we’re spatchcocking poussin tonight.”  Doesn’t that sound like heaps more fun than, “Sweetie, it’s butterflied chicken night,”?  I am not alone.   Spatchcock is one of those words that sets the hearts of etymologists aflutter, and propositions abound concerning its origins.  This much is certain: the English use spatchcock to indicate a chicken under six weeks old, the equivalent of a French poussin.  As a verb, on both sides of the Atlantic, it means to remove the backbone and  flatten the chicken, making it easier to grill or roast.  Its earliest appearance in print is in an 18th-century Irish cookbook, where it’s a recommended method of grilling poultry. But asking how the word came to be–who are its parents, aunts and uncles, distant relations–is to dive into a tangle of linguistic geneology.  One theory holds that spatchcock is a shortened form of “dispatch the cock,” with its multiple meanings of killing/prepping, and to happen quickly.   Another etymology sees it as a variation of “spitchcock,” an English technique for grilling eels on a spit (nobody can say where “spitchcock” comes from).  A particularly evocative Victorian version of the “dispatch the cock” school maintains that the word originated in the long sea voyages from England to India (posh passengers), when coops of chickens would be kept on board.  To relieve the tedium of the sea passages at sea and the monotony of a shipboard diet chickens would periodically be brought on deck and, to the amusement and anticipation of salivating passengers, partially deboned, flattened and quickly grilled.

Whatever its origins, spatchcocking chicken is simple and useful, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to cook.  All it requires is a pair of heavy-duty kitchen scissors or poultry sheers.  The result is a juicy chicken with the crispiest skin you’ve ever tasted.

Roast Chicken with Muhammara

What???!!!  There’s a Garum Factory post in my mailbox?  Boy, did this week fly by!  

I hate to break the news, but it’s still Wednesday.  We’re running a couple of days ahead of schedule because this weekend is the PanMass Challenge bicycle ride for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute–and Team Rialto-Trade is a big participant.   I wish I could thank each and every one of our contributors in persons–Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  

And now, back to the food…

Muhummara, a spicy ground walnut and pepper paste, has been on my post list for some time.  We’ve got some more grilled items coming up and I didn’t want the month of August to be all-grill, all-the time, so while Jody’s notes may suggest that this is more appropriate for December of February, ask yourself, When is a roast chicken ever the wrong thing to make?”   The answer is never.  

Still tart, after all these years

You can’t walk through a decent produce section these days without seeing bunches of crimson rhubarb stalks, the prettiest fruit in the aisle, begging to be taken home.  Here in New England rhubarb is the deepest red of its extended season because we’re getting hothouse rhubarb.  The field-ripened stalks are a paler color.  Color, by …