I really, really love Fall. It’s my favourite. I love the crispness in the air, the changing leaves and the cooler, darker weather with the promise of the holidays and then shortly after, spring. Mostly though, I love cooking in the fall. I love the farm to table inspiration of the harvest, I also love slow cooking where the bulk of the work is done by the oven or a heavy, simmering pot. For me, Fall and Winter are the most ‘traditional’ seasons for cooking, not surprisingly because of the holidays and the ideas of big family meals garnished with tradition and steeped in expectation. Hmmm, there’s good stuff there, but also, a colossal amount of pressure. Shouldn’t cooking be a fun and rewarding activity? I tend to think so. We have to do it, so we may as well make the most of it. If the prospect of a ‘traditional’ family meal centers around a turkey, (not everyone’s traditions are the same, I realize), then I might have just the thing for you: a departure from what Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners of yore may have looked like, but also a nod to the classic turkey and every good feeling that comes from slow roasting meat with herbs and serving it with finesse.
My Dad told me recently that my stepmother has taken up a new strategy when it comes to entertaining and having friends over: she doesn’t tell him until the day of the dinner and springs it on him without warning. If you knew my Dad and how introverted he can be, this tactic would no doubt sound cruel. But in fact, it’s a merciful approach because, in his words, it gives him “less time to worry”.
When it comes to having guests over, I am very much my father’s daughter. Ultimately, much like him, I always enjoy myself, but in anticipation, I make myself a bit crazy. I tell myself it’s simply a deep-seated desire to make others comfortable, to provide a congenial and pleasant experience for them. That is partly true, but it’s also an exercise in neurosis; the house can never be tidy enough, the food will never be quite good enough, et cetera, et cetera, when in fact, no one notices these things but me. (more…)
Lately we have found that the most economical way to buy quality fresh chicken is to buy the whole bird and break it down ourselves. (By “ourselves”, I mean Rob. He is a whiz with most butchery and given the chance will regale you with tales of bygone summer jobs as a much younger man, in an abattoir. Delightful.) When disassembled, a whole chicken will yield you up to 10 portions of meat, which is great, but if your family is like ours there is a dark v. light debate and a boneless v. bone debate. Not surprisingly, those who much prefer the white meat also prefer boneless. Oh, and skinless, lest a wibbly scrap of skin disturb the dining experience. I joke, but I am not exactly a “nose to tail” eater of meats either and I do definitely appreciate the safe sterility of boneless, skinless, shapeless, no-longer-resembles-a-living-creature meats. What I’m not willing to compromise on is flavour. (Not to get political, but also in a perfect world, all meats would be local, free-run, organic, completely affordable and humanely raised and slaughtered. Until then, let’s all just do our best.) If you are a cooker and consumer of meat, particularly poultry, you will be familiar with how much better the end result of a bone-in, skin-on piece of chicken will taste. You’re also likely familiar with the shortened cooking time and reduced fat of boneless, skinless chicken. So how do you strike a happy medium, and if, like at our house, you have a variety of palates to please?
In a single word: marinade.
Yogurt Marinated Chicken
10 pieces of chicken ( a whole chicken’s worth)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 a cup of plain yogurt
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
leaves from a sprig each of rosemary and thyme
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Marinate in a glass or plastic (non reactive) dish for 1 hour or up to overnight in the refrigerator. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 mins. before cooking.
Bake at 425° for 35 minutes or until crispy and fully cooked. This also turns out beautifully when barbecued! Enjoy!