Stuffed Cabbage with Farro, Mushrooms and Chicken Livers

Stuffed Cabbage with Farro, Mushrooms and Chicken Livers-2-10930

For once I’m going to disagree with my wife (really, this is a first).  Stuffed Cabbage with Farro, Mushrooms and Chicken Livers may not be quick, but it is easy.  One foot in front of the other, that’s it, then before you know it, you’re done.  Hey, if you were part of the road-happy hoards who made the Bicycle Spring Rolls this past summer then stuffing your own cabbage leaves will be a snap.  Crowds will acclaim you umami king–or queen,your choice–because of the amazing thing that happens when tomato and liver and dried mushrooms meet, especially in a beautiful package.  There’s an olfactory tug of war in your brain as it tries to discern whether what you’re tasting is sweet or savory.  It doesn’t matter.  Trust me on this, it tastes good.

Chicken Under a Brick with Pan-Roasted Red Onions

Chicken Under A Brick -2

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.

Littlenecks with Fava Pod Pesto

LIttlenecks with Fava Pod Pesto-1

Like any worthwhile relationship, Littlenecks with Fava Pod Pesto has its easy bits and its tricky parts.  The easy bits are the littlenecks. Lord knows, they seem to shoulder their way onto our blog with yet another clam recipe–Pick me! Pick me!–every three months or so.  There’s a reason we eat them so often – no prep to speak of, and they share.  Coax them open with a little heat and they leak their ambrosial juices into whatever else is in the pan.

Tagliatelle with Shad Roe, Pancetta and Spring Peas

Tagliatelle with Shad Roe, Pancetta and Spring Peas-1

The swallows of San Juan Capistrano return to their California mission home every March 19th, one of the natural world’s cyclic wonders.  Nature, however, may have had something rather less dependable in mind with the annual spring running of shadfish.  Last year we posted about shad roe on March 31st.  This year, we’re only a couple of weeks shy of June.  Shad roe is an ephemeral treat, briefly available on short notice, then vanishing, so when the season arrives you have to stay on you toes, prepared to swing into action at a moment’s notice.  I found three seafood stores had the roe… yesterday.  A single purveyor* had it the day I wanted it, one day before blogging.  So if you’re inclined to make this weeks’s  Tagliatelle with Shad Roe, Pancetta and Peas, finish reading this and immediately pick up the phone.  If your favorite fish vendor doesn’t have the roe today, he may be able to get it for you tomorrow.  Next week you might still get lucky, or not.  That’s the way shad rolls.   

POLENTA WITH PANCETTA, SHAVED ASPARAGUS AND AGED GOUDA

Polenta with Pancetta, Asparagus and Shaved Gouda-25

Last week Jody and I were treated to a delicious dish of broiled polenta with mushrooms at the home of friends and we immediately began thinking about a spring variation. Our first impulse, topping it with chicory and fava beans, didn’t work out because fresh favas – or a good substitute – aren’t in stores yet. What is available now is asparagus – and pancetta, and for a new wrinkle on the cheese, Aged Gouda.

Flash in the Pan – Pork Scaloppine with Prosciutto, Capers and Sage

Pork Scaloppine with Prosciutto, Capers and Balsamic Vinegar TGF-1

Tackling your first scaloppine recipe is a bit like being handed the car keys for your first night driving solo, an event occasioning braggadocio tempered by  a gruff fatherly warning, Don’t screw this up.  Your skills are on display.  Since the dish is cooked just a few minutes before eating, it necessarily involves a bit of brinksmanship.  If it doesn’t work, well, there’s always pizzaphone.  The thing is, despite appearances there’s not much chance of that happening.  The risk is illusory.  This week’s Pork Scaloppine with Prosciutto, Capers and Sage is guaranteed to have you home by midnight.  Plus, you’re going to look really good.

Oliver’s Chicken Stew, in a pressure cooker

Oliver's Chicken Stew - 119 - 1

After this week you might be forgiven for thinking that we’ve changed our name to Mastering the Art of French Carroting, or perhaps Babette’s Carrot.*  The prominence of carrots in the last three posts  was pure happenstance, answers to the question: What do we like to cook in the pressure cooker?  Turns out carrots figure in a lot of what we like, including this week’s recipe, Oliver’s Chicken Stew.

Pressure Cooker Risotto with Kale Pesto

Risotto with Kale Pesto-TGF-20

Something discordant this way comes.  It happens in every kitchen, if you cook together long enough.  Jody and I did a Dagwood and Blondie over today’s post, Risotto with Kale Pesto, made in a pressure cooker.  My willingness to fudge things a bit for a weeknight dinner versus the cruel exactitude of a restaurant chef.   As Jody not so delicately summed up our contretemps: “You’re the photographer. [Ouch!]  I’m the chef, and my reputation is on the line.”  Guess who got the broom in the back of the head? 

Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron

Pressure Cooker Lamb Stew with Chickpeas, Preservred Lemon and Saffron-1

What would winter be without snow?  (The Bahamas, that’s what.)  Winter with snow is what made Currier and Ives famous, what gives New Englanders character, and what causes some people to regard year-round Maine residents as a bit dotty.  I, for one, was happy to see the snow a couple of weeks ago.  I want at least one weekend when walking down the sidewalk in front of my house resembles McMurdo Station, when everyone exercises the exquisite protocols that dictate who first steps aside, and who passes.  This week’s recipe is what all of us hope to find when we come inside from shoveling,  a dish that fills the air with aromas as good as a back rub,  Lamb Stew with Chick Peas, Preserved Lemon and Saffron.