Wow. It's been a long time since I last blogged! Life has been very busy recently; busier than I could have ever imagined, despite the dog days of summer! (To see what I've been up to, check out my website landing page).
I recently attended a goodbye party of a previous colleague of mine. It felt odd. All of the people I used to work with - my old team - and all the wonderful families and donors couldn't have been friendlier and nicer. Sometimes it feels a little strange to be down to a team of one. While I do enjoy working for myself and primarily in homes/schools/at home, I do at times miss the atmosphere of an office. The coffee runs and quick desk gossip sessions. Or the hustle and bustle of a big event.
But then, all I have to do is make one stellar meal - or teach a class that really hits home with the students laughing and smiling the whole time - and I know I've made the right decision.
It's hard not to feel puffed up sometimes. Usually, when someone asks what I do (and I answer), they always respond with joy and curiosity. But yes, while my work is 'cool' and 'fun' - I do work hard. Working with my hands is incredibly satisfying. Working on my feet instead of sitting at a desk feels right to me. But cooking and teaching can stretch me, even if both of these things happily wake me up in the morning.
On a quick vacation up to Maine recently, I purchased a Gourmet Magazine book of 109 Simple Summer Classics. It was sitting on the magazine stand and jumped right out at me. If you see this booklet at the grocery or drug store, I really encourage you to pick it up. So many delicious recipes - like Asian Lamb Meatballs (delicious), Vietnamese Chicken Salad (mouthwatering) and my favorite: Spatchcock Chicken.
Have you ever had Tuscan roast chicken? Or chicken under a brick? That's what you're seeing up above - but much more simplified. I taught an adult cooking class recently and the two women in my class wanted to focus on chicken and how to make the dish several quick ways with one result: NO more dry or stringy chicken! So I showed them a stove top technique (ask me about this sometime!), baked chicken breasts in a marinade, roast chicken pieces and of course, spatchcock chicken.
Spatchcock is an old English technique. You take an entire chicken, remove any excess skin and interior bits, and use poultry shears to cut out the whole backbone. You then use your hands to break the breastbone by flattening the chicken into one relatively-flat piece. This is called butterflying. And the best part is that you can ask your butcher to do this for you, if you'd prefer not to take the risk of using very sharp (they cut through bone!) poultry shears.
I then preheat my oven to 425 degrees. At this point, you can sear the chicken, breast-side down, for about 3 - 5 mins in a saute pan, if you wish. But why not just keep it easy? I layered some diced Yukon potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet and then poured a simple marinade (smoked paprika, chopped rosemary, thyme, salt, garlic, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil) over the chicken, rubbing it in. I placed the chicken breast-side up over the potatoes and let it roast and do its own thing for about 45 - 50 minutes.
That's it. The fastest, quickest and a very flavorful way to roast a chicken in under an hour. And much, much easier to carve. I've already made this dish a couple different times and know I'll make it many more times in the future.
Recipes like this make me again joyful about what I do. And sharing them with others certainly beats hanging by the water cooler.