Friday, August 5, 2016

Cure for the Summer Cold
What’s cooking? Mustard-Ginger Chicken

Kitchen Goddess alert: This is the KG’s 300th post. You know what that means, don’t you? It means the Goddess is officially nuts. But we’re all crazy in some way. This blog is mine. Or at least one of them. This post is about another.

It seems almost inevitable. You handle 104 different decks of cards over four days in a row – 208 hands of 13 cards each. A total of 2,704 cards that have been handled by 104 other players. And it’s not like you can wash your hands after every round.

I’ve just returned from Washington, DC, where my hubby and I competed in the American Contract Bridge League’s Summer National Bridge Tournament. It’s a game dear to both of our hearts, but it has its share of health issues.

For starters, playing 8 hours of bridge a day is mentally exhausting, so it’s important to get enough sleep. I went into the tournament well rested, but didn’t remain that way long. Our hotel room faced East, and the blackout curtains worked really well... except for just that little bit at the top of the window, where the summer sun came in laser-like at a very early hour. The evening sessions at the tournament don’t end until about 11:15, so the very best you can do is to be in bed by 12:30 or 1a.m. As a result, there was hardly a night that I got more than 6-7 hours of rest.

Then you have the playing area, which for the first two days was a perfectly reasonable temperature. But the event for our last two days took place in what felt like a meat locker. So... hot outside, freezing cold inside, back outside to the heat, back inside to the North Pole – nothing more than the reverse of winter conditions, and a perfect recipe for immune system vulnerability. According to an article I read in the Wall Street Journal, extreme cold constricts the blood vessels in your nose and throat, which makes you more susceptible to viruses. Which takes me back to the germs.

That said, we still love the game, and the form of competition. So it won’t stop us from heading off to another tournament. Next time, maybe I’ll take a sweatshirt and wear gloves.

So here I am, with a summer cold. And as we all know, one of the best foods when you’re suffering from a cold – winter or summer – is chicken soup.

How do I love thee, chicken soup? Let me count the ways.

1. First, soups work well because nutrients are easier to absorb in liquid form, and even a small amount of oil promotes absorption of vitamins A, D, K, and E.
2. Hot liquids get all that nasty nasal mucus out of the body faster, thus easing congestion.
3. Organosulfides (found in garlic and onions) stimulate production of certain immune cells.
4. Carrots – big chicken soup veggies – help with antibody production.
5. Researchers at the University of Nebraska have found that the combination of vegetables and poultry in soup can help you feel better by alleviating respiratory tract inflammation.

So I had a chicken, and was preparing to roast it using just salt and pepper and a little olive oil, when I remembered a Silver Palate recipe that was one of my old reliables in the days when my kids were teens. The Silver Palate ladies called it “Bobbie’s Chicken,” after their friend who developed it; but I don’t know Bobbie, so I’m just calling it Mustard-Ginger Chicken. It’s ridiculously easy to make – though a bit more cooking time than a plain roast chicken – but the result is very long on flavor, and incredibly moist. In fact, the dish is almost more of a stew than roast chicken, so you’ll definitely want to serve it over noodles or rice; whatever you call it, it’s delicious and one of the most popular among Silver Palate fans.

If you want to summer it up, serve it with a nice, big salad of summer greens. That’s what I did, and the next day, I made soup from the leftovers.

Kitchen Goddess note: The ginger/mustard combination here is unusual but quite nice – you have to trust the recipe and its legions of fans. One of the best features of this recipe is its flexibility: you can use a larger or smaller chicken and simply adjust the spices and amount of time in the oven for each stage. Also, the original recipe calls for 6 onions. Well, folks, the KG doesn’t always have exactly 6 onions, and what size would that be in any case? The recipe didn’t say. So the Kitchen Goddess has used – at various times – 4 large onions, or 5 medium ones, or 2 large and 2-3 small onions. Pretty much whatever’s in the pantry, and that’s hardly ever 6 onions of the same size. And if they’re large onions, you may want to cut them into eighths. Use your judgment and don’t fret.

Mustard-Ginger Chicken (a.k.a. “Bobbie’s Chicken”)

Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook (Workman, 1989), by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

Serves 4.

1 young chicken (also called broilers or fryers or roasters), 4-4 ½ pounds, with giblets
1 lemon, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons dry mustard
4-6 onions, quartered (see Note, above)
bouillon cubes for 2 cups of broth (KG prefers Knorr, but use what you like)

Rinse and dry the chicken. [Kitchen Goddess note: The great chef Thomas Keller, of French Laundry fame, recommends doing this part ahead of time and letting the chicken sit uncovered in the fridge for at least an hour or up to overnight. That dries out the skin which makes it crispier in the cooking. Just a suggestion.]

About two hours before you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 475º.

Squeeze the lemon over the chicken and rub the juice inside and out. Place the chicken into a baking pan that allows room for 3-4 of the onions. Salt and pepper the bird (all sides) to your liking. Mix the mustard and ginger together and rub it all over the chicken. Scatter 3-4 of the onion pieces around the pan.

Put the pan into the oven and bake the chicken 30 minutes, undisturbed.

While the chicken cooks, rinse the giblets and put them – minus the liver, which adds an overly strong flavor – into a small saucepan with the remaining onion, 2 cups of water, and the bouillon cubes. Bring to a low boil and simmer 30 minutes. Reserve.

After the chicken has been 30 minutes in the oven, turn down the heat to 375º, and add ¾ cup water to the pan. Return the chicken to the oven and cook another 30 minutes, basting once or twice.

When the second 30 minutes is up, strain the stock (discarding the solids) and remove the chicken from the oven. Pour ¾ cup of stock over and around the chicken, and bake another 30 minutes, basting occasionally.

Remove the pan from the oven (leaving the oven on) and remove the chicken to a cutting board. (You may want to place the cutting board into a sheet pan, to keep from spilling any of that yummy chicken juice.) Cut the chicken into fourths, and return it to the baking pan. [A final KG note: This part is easier than it sounds, because the chicken will be so tender the bones can be cut through with almost no effort, and the KG says that as a person who really doesn’t like cutting up poultry. For presentation purposes, the KG recommends removing the backbone and discarding it or saving it for stock.]

Pour the remaining stock over the chicken and onions, and cover or tent the pan with foil. Put it back into the oven for 15 minutes. Serve over noodles or rice, and all else you’ll need is a simple green salad.


  1. Lee, this sounds fabulous but your Texas friends need dishes that don't spend so much time in the oven! It's hotter than hades down here. How about some cold dishes please!


    P.S. I would love to have your comments on all of the various salt options...sea salt, pink sea salt, Kosher salt, etc.

    1. I have just the thing for you, Helen. And I'll move it up in the queue for this week. I'd be happy to investigate the salts -- have more than a few of them myself with not a lot of knowledge on the differences. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I just got over a summer cold, this sounds like a perfect recipe to feel better. Love the combo of ginger and mustard.