When I was in high school, I realized an essential fact about myself. I am not a perfectionist. I am entirely satisfied with a job done to the point of being good enough. I like to work hard and derive a great deal of pleasure at a task done well, I just don’t like making myself crazy over the minutia.
A good example of my tendency to accept “perfectly good” over “aggressively perfect” is in my attitude towards the classic French dish, Coq au Vin. Truly, it is a marvel of a dish, requiring you to brown and then remove onto a plate a parade of ingredients. The Julia Child recipe even instructs you to blanch your bacon slivers before introducing them to the party, lest it bring too much smokiness to the table.
My version is far less work and still manages to taste quite spectacular (and it’s just perfect for this Whole Chicken Project of mine). It might not be a perfectly divine as the classic dish, but it is one-tenth of the work and that satisfies me down to the bone.
I roasted my first whole chicken when I was 21. A senior in college, I lived in a little house off-campus with two friends. We took turns cooking and ate together most nights. That first chicken was a sad, scrawny little thing that I managed to first under-cook and then, in an attempt to correct it, overcooked it mightily. My kind housemates suffered through that meal with me, but we all knew it was not my best work.
In the 10-plus years that have followed, things have improved. I cook whole chickens on a regular basis and have a reliable method for making a tender, juicy bird. (Low, slow cooking is the key.) It’s my go-to for dinner parties and busy weeks, but lately, I’ve found myself longing for something more. MORE
During the summer months, I’m not particularly interested in soup. I am happy to eat my weight in salads, quick pasta sauces and other fresh, crunchy things, but bowls of warm, creamy things have no appeal. Since the cooler days of fall have arrived, my home soup operation is in full swing once again.
Right now, I’m most in love with root vegetable soups. They are quick to make, incredibly filling and quite cheap. Paired with a few whole grain crackers or a hunk of bread, they make such a good lunch. For dinner, I add a salad for a bit of extra greenery.
There’s a basic formula to root vegetable soups. Once you master it, you can easily transform whatever roots your garden, CSA share or local farmers’ market provide into batches of creamy soup (you can also apply these same techniques to winter squash, should you feel so moved). MORE