Sunday, January 17, 2016

Battling the Post-Holiday Blues
What’s cooking? Parmesan Crisps and Roast Chicken Provençal

January is such a dismal month. Cold, gray days, and the bills for all that Christmas frivolity have replaced the jolly cards that only a few weeks ago were appearing in your mailbox. On the other hand, the days are getting longer (yes!), and the Kitchen Goddess is here to perk up your cooking.

If you’re like me, all that holiday entertaining has severely depleted the pantry. And since global warming doesn’t all happen at once, you’ll want to be prepared in the event of... WEATHER. (I don’t want to tempt the fates by mentioning the s-word.) So here are a handful of items you’ll want to be sure are on hand as we move into winter:

1. Fresh ginger – Freeze it whole or grate it and freeze it in teaspoon-sized knobs. The Kitchen Goddess likes it in Roasted Sesame Green Beans, Sweet Potato Ginger Soufflé, and Chestnut Ginger Soup, and she often tosses candied ginger into scones, sugar cookies, and muffins. Ginger is also a time-tested aid to congestion, so if you or a loved one has a cold, try making tea with honey and lemon and ginger.

Cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2. Parmigiano rind – That tough cheese rind you used to throw away? Never again. Just add a piece into any chicken soup or vegetable soup, and you’ll be amazed at the improvement in flavor. And – here’s a flash – it makes a great nibbler for your next dinner party. Would the Kitchen Goddess kid you? Take that tough-as-nails piece of rind, cut it into cubes about ½ inch square and microwave the little bits 30-45 seconds. Crispy, chewy, salty, cheesy. Also amazing. You’re welcome.

After microwaving

Parmesan crisps - ready for snacking

3. Parsley – For something so cheap, parsley adds impressive zip to soups, salads, and fish or chicken. And you can make it last longer than you’d ever have imagined. Cut an inch off the stems, then let the bunch swim around in cold water for 15-20 minutes. Dry it in a salad spinner, wrap it in a paper towel, and store it in a plastic ziplock bag with all possible air pushed out. It’ll last a couple of weeks. When I’m adding it to soup, I put some in early with the other herbs for the flavor, but I always add a bit more at the very end, to contribute color and that little extra zing.

herbes de Provence
4. Your spice cabinet – It’s that time of year to assess your inventory of dried herbs and spices. Specifically, do the smell test. Properly stored (in a cool, dark, and dry environment – not next to your stove), herbs and spices will last a year – two at most. Open each jar, and first take a look, as spices that are fresh will still have their original color. Take a toothpick and stir them up a bit; if the scent isn’t fresh and clear, replace them (and remember to date the new jars). If you’re routinely tossing big jars of herbs and spices, try buying smaller quantities. Penzey’s (my favorite source) sells ¼-cup jars of almost everything, so I buy large jars of dried thyme and dill and cumin because I use them so often, but small jars of odd fellows like turmeric and white pepper. And I’ve learned that it’s even better – for that one recipe you make that uses Chinese Five Spice Powder – to check the bulk aisle of your grocery. For today’s recipe, in fact, I turned to the bulk aisle for herbes de Provence. In all my years of cooking, I’d never come across a recipe that called for it. Of course, this one recipe is so perfectly perfect that I may take to buying large jars of the stuff.

5. Mirepoix – Onions, Carrots, Celery. The basics for 1001 soups, so you always want to have them at hand. To keep carrots fresh, I cut off any greenery and put the carrots in air-tight zip-lock plastic bags. For celery, I trim an inch or so off the top and bag them as well. (If I only have smaller bags, I just cut the celery in half before bagging it.) If the veggies seem limp when you go to use them, try cutting an inch off the ends and soaking them in cold water for 20-30 minutes. Most of the time, that will improve the crispness. Keep onions in a cool, dry place (not in the fridge) and away from light. Not in plastic bags and not near your potatoes. Potatoes need the same kind of storage conditions, but don’t keep potatoes and onions near each other – both give off gasses that increase the rate of spoilage in the other.

Crowdsourcing a Recipe

I love The New York Times. I’ve been reading it since 1969. And while I occasionally submit to the online version, I’m much happier with the physical paper spread out in front of me at my kitchen island. There, I can quickly scan the news of the world and the opinions of some of my favorite columnists and op-editors. And there are no brighter moments in my professional history than those days when I could open up the paper and see my own work splashed across a page.

These days, I wait most eagerly for the Wednesday paper and its Food section. Not long ago, in a year-end review, the food editors put together a list of the most popular recipes of 2015, based on the number of Times readers who saved it to an online recipe box. Now, the Kitchen Goddess is generally skeptical of crowdsourced information – except in the realm of recipes. And if NYT readers saved this recipe more than any other from the whole year, well, I had to give it a try.

Oh, my. It was the perfect dish for our family’s Christmas Eve dinner: ridiculously simple to prepare (one small bowl, and a single rimmed baking sheet) and a wondrous marriage of flavors for a winter night. The shallots and garlic were transformed by the roasting into sweet delicacies; even the lemon, after its warm bath in chicken juices and vermouth, was entirely edible. And the chicken went so quickly I didn’t even get a second piece. I can hardly wait to serve it at a dinner party.

The pan juices are not to be ignored, so you’ll want either crusty French bread or rice or noodles as accompaniment. All else you need is a simple green salad.

Roast Chicken Provençal

Adapted from Sam Sifton in The New York Times.

Serves 4.

3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup all-purpose flour
4 chicken legs or 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, quartered lengthwise
8-10 medium-large cloves garlic, peeled
4 to 6 medium-sized shallots, peeled
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
⅓ cup dry vermouth
Garnish: 4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 400º. Pour the olive oil into a large roasting pan (I used a rimmed half-sheet pan), and use your fingers to spread it evenly around the pan.

Put the flour into a small shallow bowl. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces all over, and dredge them in the flour, shaking each piece lightly so as to remove any excess flour. As you flour each piece, place it in the roasting pan, skin side up.

Cut the shallots in half lengthwise, and scatter them among the chicken parts along with the garlic and the lemon quarters. Sprinkle the herbes de Provence over all and add the vermouth.

Put the pan into the oven for 50-60 minutes, stopping halfway through to baste the chicken with any pan juices. The skin will be very crisp when done.

Serve in the roasting pan or a large platter. If you use a separate platter, be sure to warm the platter with hot water before use. Garnish with sprigs of fresh thyme.

Serve with rice or noodles or warmed French bread, and a simple green salad.

Bon appetit!


  1. Lee, you blog looks fantastic! And this recipe looks awesome! Gonna try it, for sure

    1. Thanks, Barbara! I feel sure you'll like the chicken -- it was a big hit with my family.