Salad for Dinner

October, 2012 Monthly archive
This post is dedicated to our sister, Rachel, who will one day learn to roast a chicken.

Some people start a blog because they’re bored; others do it to spark change in their life. I have tried to start a blog many times over the past few years. One, I successfully wrote for most of my nine months of pastry school. For others, I have taken the requisite pictures, written drafts, and even dabbled in creating a website.

I am hoping this blog will be different, because today (well next week, actually) marks a new chapter in my life. And possibly not just a new chapter—it has the potential to give me a new chance at life. Today, my health insurance company approved me to take Kalydeco, the first gene therapy drug to target the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis.

This news could not have come at a better time for me. The last four months, my health has taken a sharp turn for the worse. I am on my second IV course and second prednisone burst in the last four months. My lung function went from sitting in the 42-45% range down to the low to mid 30’s. A trip to the grocery store this morning was all I could muster for the day. And then this news. I am hoping Kalydeco works for me. There is good reason to hope that it will change my life, but I am trying to temper my hopes.

Back to my trip to the grocery store. Whenever I am sick, I crave the most basic meal: roast chicken. Not just any roast chicken, though. I crave the roast chicken from Zuni Café, a San Francisco staple. No matter how long I’ve been in NYC, you can’t get the California out of me.

What better way to start this new chapter of my life than with my favorite comfort food.

I didn’t take the time to let the salt soak in. The chicken only had a few hours in the fridge instead of the overnight it deserves, but it should still hold up.

My goal for this blog is to chronicle my life through food. I want a forum with which to relay my health news, but that is not focused on my health. It is also a blog about sisters. Robin will be posting with fresh, seasonal cooking from California while I blog about living and eating in NYC.

Roast Chicken and Big Health News
type: Entree
author: Judy Rogers
prep time: 30 mins
cook time: 1 hour
total time: 1 hour 30 mins
serves: 2-4
I did not have time to let the chicken season overnight, and it was just as delicious as it is when I let it sit for a day or two. I also added a lemon and a few cloves of garlic to the inside of the bird to give it a brighter flavor.
  • 1small chicken, 2-3/4 to 3-1/2-pounds
  • 4 tender sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary
  • Salt
  • 1 lemon, pricked all over with a knife
  • 5 whole cloves garlic
  • About 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  1. (One day ahead) Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken. Rinse the chicken and pat very dry inside and out. Approaching from the edge of the cavity, slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making 2 little pockets. Now use the tip of your finger to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using your finger, shove an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.
  2. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity, on the backbone, but don’t otherwise worry about seasoning the inside. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Place lemon and garlic cloves inside the cavity. Cover loosely and refrigerate.
  3. Preheat the oven to 475. Depending on the size, efficiency and accuracy of your oven, and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 500 or as low as 450 during the course of roasting the chicken to get it to brown properly. If you have an oven thermometer, use it. I know my oven runs 20 degrees hot, but I have the thermometer in there to double check every time.
  4. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan or dish barely larger than the chicken, or use a 10-inch skillet with an all-metal handle. I used my 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Preheat the pan over medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the pan. The legs should be raised in the air, opposite of how you usually see a chicken on a platter. It should sizzle.
  5. Place the bird in the center of the oven and listen and watch for it to start browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce temperature by 25 degrees. If you are me, and you live in a small NYC apartment with a 20-year-old oven, your smoke alarm will go off. I had to open all the windows and door to my apartment to get it off and had many neighbors peeking in to see what was cooking!
  6. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over — drying the bird and preheating the pan should keep the skin from sticking. Roast for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to recrisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45 minutes to an hour.
  7. Lift the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a plate. Carefully pour the clear fat into a heatproof container, leaving the lean drippings behind in the pan. Add about a tablespoon of water to the hot pan and swirl it.
  8. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting pan to drain the juice into the drippings.
  9. Set the chicken in a warm spot and leave to rest while you finish preparing the rest of your meal. The meat will become more tender and uniformly succulent as it cools.
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Today we have a guest post from my sister, Molly, who’s a pastry chef in New York City. Here’s Molly:

I spent a spring—or Spargelzeit, as the Germans call it—studying abroad in Berlin during college. If you’re in Berlin in the spring and you don’t like white asparagus (“Spargel”), well, you’re going to have a tough time finding local, seasonal, delicious dishes.

Take it from me: I couldn’t stand the stuff when I first arrived. This was problematic. Every single restaurant, didn’t matter the cuisine, had a special Spargel Speisekarte—a menu featuring white asparagus. The time of year even has a name: Spargelzeit or Spargelsaison. Fortunately, I came around to it by the end of the season. Spargel is traditionally served with hollandaise sauce, but my favorite presentation is in spargelcremezuppe.


In this light creamy soup, the asparagus is simmered in stock with onions until tender, then blended. It is traditionally garnished with finely chopped chives, which enhance the onion-y flavor. I didn’t have chives on hand, so I garnished mine with balsamic vinegar instead.

Many recipes call for the addition of heavy cream or milk, but it’s not necessary. The asparagus is creamy enough on its own that it doesn’t need the extra dairy. Many also called for sugar, which I omitted because the onions add enough sweetness for me.

For a little bit of extra flavor and New York spring flare, I used ramp butter for both the soup and the crostini. The recipe for the ramp butter follows.

type: Soup
author: Molly,
prep time: 15 mins
cook time: 30 mins
total time: 45 mins
serves: 2
A lightly creamy, traditional German soup made of white asparagus.
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 bunch white asparagus
  • 2 C fish stock
  • tsp black pepper
  • 1ish tsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Melt the butter in a heavy pot. Add diced onion and celery and cook over low heat until fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the asparagus with a veggie peeler, starting from just under the buds. This removes the tough outer layer and will make for a much more tender soup. Trim both ends, reserving the buds for later use. Dice the remaining asparagus and add to the pot.
  3. Add in the fish stock and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender.
  4. Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.
  5. Bring back to a boil until thickened to the desired consistency.
  6. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh cracked pepper and balsamic vinegar.

Based loosely off the recipe found at Almond Corner:

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Ramp butter

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes ½ cup

5 ramps
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tsp salt

Blanche ramps in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into ice bath. Finely dice white and red stems. Reserve greens for another use (ramp pesto?).

Mix ramps and salt into butter with a fork until well incorporated.

Roll into a log in wax or parchment paper. To get a nice round log shape, place dollops in a line in the middle of the paper. Fold the paper over it towards you so that the top is an inch or so shorter than the bottom. Gently form into a log with your hands. Then, place your right hand perpendicular to the counter just next to the butter. Using your left hand, carefully pull the bottom layer towards you. The butter will roll and create a perfect log from the tension.

Freeze and enjoy all year round, long past ramp season.


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