025: Concessions Part 2
How to roast those chickens you've since counted and hatched
(JS) Sweet readers, how good it feels to be back in your inbox after two week’s rest (SB: With rest like this who needs work, amirite). I write to you from my recently reluctantly resurrected 2014 Macbook Pro, as my current POS computer decided to stop recognizing any and all chargers yesterday and there is nary a Genius Bar appointment in the entire city of New York until next Tuesday. I think there is perhaps a messy analogy to be teased out here for the current state of our politics, but the more I type the more this machine starts to sound like a Boeing 737 Max preparing for takeoff (American made, baby!), so I think I’ll keep it brief.
After a decidedly unproductive election week followed by a real emotional roller coaster of a weekend (rest easy, king), I’m officially back on my bullshit, trying to keep my head high and my stomach full. The internet remains simultaneously the source of my anxiety and its cure. Temperatures are soaring here in New York and text banking opportunities for the Georgia senate runoffs abound! Suffice it to say, we’ve still got a coup-le crazy months ahead of us, so stay focused, stay strong, and stay hungry. We’ll keep the recipes coming, and some other fun things, to boot.
Here’s what I’ve been eating lately (besides an entire moussaka):
Samin Nosrat’s (vodka-and-)beer-battered fish from Salt Fat Acid Heat with Smitten Kitchen’s easiest fries (dare I say, chips). I’ve fallen into a semi-regular outdoor deep frying routine with friends of the newsletter Adam and Kidist, using the criminally underrated side burner on their grill. Previous hits include Maanghi’s twice-fried wings and Alexa Weibel’s pickle-brined fried chicken sandwiches.
(SB) Dear readers, does anyone else have the sinking sensation that it’s just about time to get back to a routine, against the odds? With my democracy-dies-in-mid-November-warmth related excuses starting to feel a little threadbare despite remaining valid, the first days of this week have been about trying to approximate something like accountability. Where do the hours go? To Twitter you say? It’s possible.
Instead of tackling it all, I’m focusing on small tasks: responding to long-forgotten emails, unsubscribing from as many promotions as possible, and hopefully cleaning out my freezer carcass stash and making a stock. Many of you have noted the importance of taking a daily walk, and I think I’ll finally begin to take heed and make sure to leave my apartment a few times a week. It is certainly time to rekindle the “phone a friend” energy that ran strong in earlier months. As the days grow shorter and I gear up to spend this year’s festival of lights solo, I’m wishing you all some sweetness in the midst of the looming darkness.
Here’s what I’ve eaten:
For election night? A sheet pan of nachos, replete with radishes and a sour cream. For election week? Chilaquiles (or something like it) with the leftovers.
Rick Martinez’s chile colorado, willfully turned into a posole with the addition of Rancho Gordo hominy
Gussied up frozen pelmeni from Food Palace: sour cream! Mushrooms and onions! Chili crisp!
‘TIS THE SEASON TO ROAST CHICKENS
(JS & SB) With the noted exception of the past four days, the falling temperatures here in the northeast mean that we can comfortably crank up our ovens, and there is nothing we look forward to working back into our rotation more than roast chicken. The flavor alchemy of a simple roast bird is sublime down to the leftovers, including the carcass, which makes for an excellent and easy quick stock. Many of us have a standby roast chicken, a tried and true version we can throw together with our eyes closed for an easy weeknight meal or a dependable dinner party main (RIP dinner parties). We wanted to share those recipes with you, but thought to ourselves, why stop there? With more and more meals consumed at home these days (and presumably smaller Thanksgiving tables, should you choose to celebrate), it’s nice to have some backup birds, alternatives to break out of the mould and try something special. A chicken for every week of winter, if you will. Allora...
Our standards: We both hail from the hot and fast school of chicken roasting, and our favorite recipes make a compelling case that less really is more. Jody Williams’ poulet rôti from Buvette is my (JS) everyday pick. A decidedly minimalist take, her recipe requires no trussing or basting, and a mere three ingredients besides the chicken itself: salt, fennel seeds, and herbs de provence, blended to mimic the intoxicating whiff of fennel pollen. Season your bird generously and let it rest for an hour at room temperature, then roast at 425° for about an hour (I like a bird in the 3-4 lb range, especially these guys). Sometimes I’ll throw a half a lemon in the cavity or smear a bit of butter under the skin to gild the lily, but to me this chicken is supreme for its simplicity. It tastes best after a bit of rest (Jody says ten minutes but I’d give it at least 30) and the leftovers work wonders in soups and salads. Should you prefer a WAB (bird? brine? Idrk, sorry), my (SB) current favorite is Samin Nosrat’s slightly more planning intensive buttermilk-brined chicken. The beauty of this recipe is in its simplicity and specificity: brine a whole chicken (I echo Jake’s size preferences) in salted buttermilk for at least 24 hours. Be sure to let your marinated bird come to room temperature for at least an hour before cooking (or risk eating… very late, as I have), tie the legs together with some twine, and then roast with legs facing the back left of the oven at 425° for about 20 minutes, then reduce to heat to 400°, tilt the legs to the back left of the oven, and roast for another 30. The results are so beautiful they feel fake: a crispy-skinned and juicy bird at home perfect for almost any sauce or side. Let the chicken sit for a little while (I say 15-20) before digging in.
Spiced girls: For those seeking something a little more Flavor-Blasted™, we have a few suggestions that riff off the hot and fast method. Friend of the newsletter Eric Schwartz hates P*t*r Me*h*n, but loves the Lucky Peachfive-spice roasted chicken, noting the leftovers are excellent for a noodle soup heavy on ginger and scallion. Upping the ante on the cultured dairy approach, Meera Sodha marinates her masala roast chicken in a bit of whole milk yogurt seasoned with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and turmeric, which she then bulks up with some ground almonds and grated onion (SB: The yogurt really tenderizes the meat; It’s kind of like a tandoori roast chicken). If you’re looking for something greener, take a tip from Olia Hercules, who blitzes creme fraiche with herbs, garlic and salt for a marinade that melts into a lush pan sauce. She’s partial to a combination of parsley and dill, but has also thrown in extra cilantro and basil to no ill effect.
Low and slow: We’re not coronating any new queens at this newsletter, but will begrudgingly admit Alison Roman knows her way around a chicken. Her slow roasted oregano chicken with buttered tomatoes works just as well with thyme and cherry tomatoes, though we’d implore you to throw in the suggested anchovies for some extra umami oomph. Start checking on your bird around the two hour mark, to be safe.
For the crispiest skin: Restaurant Renaissance woman and friend of the newsletter Dani Dillon offers her method for extra crispy roast chicken skin (or any poultry, for that matter): “The day before you plan to cook, rinse the whole chicken and thoroughly pat dry. Salt the outside of the chicken all over with Diamond-brand kosher salt (hot take: honestly the only salt you should be using for seasoning). Put the chicken on a plate (or if you have the luxury of fridge space, a whole ass roasting pan) and put it in the fridge, naked. Do not cover the chicken. You want the cold air in the fridge to do its magic and dry that skin! No plastic wrap, no tin foil, nuthin’. The next day (ideally a full 24-hours later), take the bird out and let it come to room temperature. It might seem antithetical to what you learned about food safety, but it's gonna be fine. The skin should look a little leathery from being in the cold fridge overnight, and that's good, because that's gonna be **CRISPY**. Roast according to your recipe! Boom.”
Seeking crispy skin but don’t have a day to spare? Friend of the newsletter Rachel Brody offers a spin on the Thomas Keller roast chicken: “The combo of high heat and drying the bird well with paper towels creates a balloon-like environment in which the meat steam-cooks. The result is salty, crispy skin and juicy bird. I feel dirty writing this!! First, get a good chicken. You're hardly doing anything to it and the rest of the meal components are cheap, so err on the spendy side of things. Let the bird come to room temp before you start. Next is key: Pat it dry with paper towels. TK says to truss the bird at this point but I think this is WRONG. A free-limbed bird allows you to salt more evenly imo. Salt the bird liberally! Shower it over all parts, including inside the cavity. TK says about 1 tablespoon (yup!!), but I normally just eyeball it. Add some black pep’ if you're feeling it. NOW, truss the bird. It's not just for show! This helps everything cook evenly. I highly recommend watching any of the many trussing videos available on the internet, as I am almost certainly going to confuse you. Put the bird in an oven-safe sauté pan or roasting pan. Roast at 450°F for 50 to 60 mins. Remove from the oven and rest for 15 mins. If you have some thyme, chop some up and sprinkle on top but it’s not necessary. Truly important: eat with a slab of butter and DIJON.”
Speaking of dijon: The Prune cookbook has a recipe for a bread heels and pan drippings salad that begins with a delightfully dijon-slathered roast chicken. Squeeze a lemon over your bird (a heftier 4-5 pounds, per Gabrielle Hamilton’s rec), leaving the spent halves in the pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper, smear with two tablespoons or so of dijon, then scatter a head’s worth of garlic cloves and the leaves from two sprigs of rosemary on and around the bird. Drizzle with olive oil, massage the ingredients “into, around, and all over the chickens” (JS: is this our h*rniest feature to date?), and roast at 350° for about an hour, turning and basting once. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, pull the bird apart over the pan, picking the meat away and catching any juices in the pan. Discard your lemon halves but save the bones for stock. Place a few leaves of bibb lettuce in a large salad bowl and slightly overdress with your favorite mustard-forward vinaigrette. Add torn bread heels or crusts and pour over a generous soaking of the warm pan drippings, allowing the greens to slightly wilt. Enjoy with a sense of moral superiority for presenting roast chicken and fat-slicked bread as a salad.
Cabbage fat kids: Ah, schmaltz — it’s more than just our writing! Ever the chicken aficionado, Eric also reminded us of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen by way of Helen Rosner, a favorite in his kitchen during the dark days of early quarantine. He told us that the “thought of this chicken-fat-caramelized cabbage reminds me of a time where it felt like all of our efforts re: social distancing were for some purpose” and we reckon its revival is right on time for the second (third? What’s happening?) wave threatening to crest in the city. Ever the glutton, I (JS) have also used this technique with duck, producing a cabbage so deliciously rich it may have outshined the main event.
Whole bird anxiety: For those a little reluctant to commit to a whole chicken, friend of the newsletter Ian Marshall generously shared a (life changing, he says!!) recipe for an eight-pack of skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs that can also be used for cauliflower, “or anything that you want to have a tangy, roasty, smokey flavor.” Vers; we love to see it. Simply “preheat the oven to 375° F and mix together roughly a tablespoon of salt, a heaping teaspoon of smoked paprika (ride or die greatest spice), and about a half cup (maybe more?) of apple cider vinegar. Once you have your sour orange goo prepped, coat the chicken thighs and let them sit in a big bowl while the oven preheats. One by one, take out the thighs and try to wrap the skin all the way around to make little parcels about the size of a bar of soap (JS: always a great metaphor for food), and spread them out on a baking sheet. Cook for around 30 to 40 minutes — when done, the chicken should have a crispy skin and rich interior. I've also had really successful results doing this with two to four thighs in a toaster oven.” Enjoy a couple out of the oven and save the rest for leftovers, which Ian recommends serving “over rice with cilantro and hot sauce, or with rice and beans, or by itself as a pervert's breakfast.”
Aspirational chickens: Friend of the newsletter Anna Sido reminded us of one of the most romantic and storied roast chickens we’ve come across, from San Francisco’s Zuni cafe. She recommends it “mostly for the salad underneath” but I (SB) plan to make this one the next time a special occasion calls.
Rotisserie: There’s no shame in going out and buying yourself a fully cooked bird. I (SB) like to do so every now and then when I want to channel my inner Costco mom (JS: I’m playing the role of Fairway dad, replete with coffee breath and a tendency to kvetch at no one in particular). More elegant and refined friend of the newsletter Becky Hughes saves precious oven space for roasted veg and crispy chickpeas and instead grabs a bird from Poulet Sans Tête in the West Village or Daily Provisions, which she spruces up with some flakey sea salt and fresh herbs (“Cancel :) me :),” she adds). If you’re looking for a West Coast solution, official designer and friend of the newsletter, and recent LA transplant Mari Fierro is partial to the Kismet rotisserie chicken, but we’d personally kill for Zankou (and an obligatory vat of thoum) right about now.
USE A CONDIMENT: Soft Tofu Dressing
(SB) Though I’m loathe to credit P*t*r Me*h*n twice in one letter, I tried my hand at the tofu dressing from the Lucky Peach cookbook to use up some extra silken tofu and have no choice but to recommend it to you. It’s a creamy, spicy, and strangely addictive combination of tofu, vinegar, sambal, and oil(s) run through a blender which allegedly made its debut on a “late-summer salad of barely cooked beans” in the early days of Má Pêche. I’ve been drizzling it on roasted vegetables and warm lentils for lunch all week. I bet it would taste great with roast chicken, now that I think about it.
TMYK: Pumpkin Mutabbal
(JS) Should you find yourself somehow seeking additional gourd solutions on top of our rather innovative and inspired pumpkin issue, allow me to introduce another recipe to tide you over: Joudie Kalla’s pumpkin mutabbal, an autumnal spin on a Levantine classic picked up from her aunt in Amman. Traditionally mutabbal is an eggplant-based affair. Wafa Shami explains the name stems from the Arabic verb tabal, meaning to season or flavor (which triconsonantal root will we explore next week?), though precisely what is added to the 🍆🍆🍆aubergine🍆🍆🍆 varies by region. The dish can be as simple as roasted or smoked eggplant, garlic, and lemon juice, though some may choose to swap in pomegranate molasses for the citrus. Others swear by the addition of tahini, and may insist the dish be called baba ghanouj (FWIW, Tanoreen’s Rawia Bishara grew up eating a tahini rich version in her native Nazareth and never heard the name baba until coming to New York).
In place of eggplant, Joudie swaps in roasted pumpkin and garlic scented with fresh thyme, which she blends with tahini, lemon juice, and a hefty dollop of Greek yogurt for a one two punch of acid and fat. She garnishes this with pomegranate seeds and mint for a decidedly fresh finish — lacking both, I went with olive oil, a bit of pomegranate molasses, and za’atar. I enjoyed my mutabbal with homemade man’oushe and some quick marinated feta, but I imagine it’d make a nice addition to a pared down Thanksgiving appetizer spread alongside pita chips and/or crudites.
PERMANENT ROTATION: Krysten Chambrot’s peanut butter miso cookies, the perfect balance of crispy and chewy and perhaps the best use of demerara sugar we’ve encountered yet. Feel free to play around with the balance of PB and miso, as well as the refrigeration time — the original recipe suggests at least two hours for the flavors to mellow, but I don’t find the miso to be especially bracing and wouldn’t mind amping it up. Non NYT Cooking subscribers can head over here, where “The Misanthropic Hostess” successfully subs in doenjang and notes the cookies make excellent ice cream sandwiches.
(SB) A few times this quarantine, I’ve been blessed with a meal and some sweets from Tagmo Treats, a small Yonkers based business that employs, trains, and empowers women of color while turning out delicious treats. They deliver meals as well, but I highly recommend their selection of creatively packaged and beautiful Diwali sweets if you’re celebrating the holiday this weekend far from home and family.
(JS) Another week, another internet ceramicist plug from yours truly; I’m nothing if not consistent. I audibly gasped when I saw this Marian Bull mug on friend of the newsletter Tavo’s instagram story (check out his zine!). Turns out it was a special he snagged at a GLITS fundraiser over the summer, but Marian does take commissions via email...
(SB & JS) Not only does Amy Coney Barrett have the gall to try and further limit abortion access, but she does so with the uncanny affect of a young Sarah Michelle Gellar — a modern day anti-slayer, so to speak. We’re making donations to the Yellowhammer Fund, an abortion fund and reproductive justice organization serving Alabama and the Deep South.