Sunday, January 13, 2013

MPM--Well, That Didn't Go Well At All

Well, that didn't go well at all--theme of the week, if you read last week's post. If you know anything about football, you know how Monday night ended. Then Wednesday, I pulled the lunches out of the fridge, saw how empty it was, and thought, huh, I forget what we're having for dinner tonight. But I know I did a meal plan, and I know I knew it had to be easy, so I'm sure it's ... somewhere. And then of course I looked at the blog so I could see if I needed to pick up anything and voila--I knew all that and STILL did not, in fact, actually make a plan. DinnerFail. Even my snarky comment about the walk-to-school day? Undeserved--it was over 40 degrees, sunny, and no breeze, so the kids had a great time.

So much for my great prognostication.

On the other hand, my "try new things" resolution (I know--it's an awful resolution, nothing definite or plannable) is going well; the Wednesday Spaghetti was followed up by doing the online Jeopardy! contestant exam. They will not call me (who knew Grover Cleveland was elected twice? I knew *someone* was, but my ability to name him went somewhere up the Mekong River--another answer I didn't know). But I'm glad I tried, and on to the next. The kids want to learn to ski and I want to learn to let them. And archery might be a fun family plan as well. And the kids started a karate class last week and loved it, so that's new for them. Finally, we tried a new-to-us pizza place (Venice Pizza, if you are local); it was yummy, but not very different, except that they had a delicious gnocchi bake that worked perfectly with my post flu shot exhaustion. (I am such a wuss--thank goodness I just got the shot and not the flu, I'd be a wreck.)

I know, it's getting late in January for resolutions. But that's how we roll. And I'm not resolving to change--just trying, little by little, to get better at this in real life, and not to care too much about it on the blog.

This week:

Monday:  Ok, Dinner A Love Story, you win. I'm not sure I'll try seven new dishes in 14 days, but I'm adding some to the rotation this week. Apple cider chicken, rice, asparagus.

Tuesday: Back to Taco Tuesday. Ahhh.

Wednesday: Moroccan Chicken Stew, thanks to Two Fat Als (I miss them but I totally get the not posting), rice, maybe a salad.

Thursday: Apple sausage bake, broccoli.

Friday: Hoping for leftovers. Otherwise--back to the freezer, which is fine!

Go check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more inspiration...or keep reading for my thoughts on chicken, below.

So it wasn't new, but it was a revelation all over again: I don't think I make a better anything than the Armagnac Chicken. So I was horrified to learn that the link I have the recipe tied to is now firewalled. I rescued it and have it here now. The one change: I now have a larger enameled pot and will use it to quintuple the veggies. Oh, I kid, but really? I would cheerfully skip the meat and sop up the veggies with some crusty bread and call it a day. I about doubled the potatoes and carrots (I used baby carrots and threw in 12-15) and it was not even close to enough--and this is without kids who eat them. So next time--at least a half pound of baby carrots, lots of potatoes, and at least double the onions to keep them proportionate.

M. Jacques’s Armagnac Chicken
Serves 4.
From “Around My French Table,” by Dorie Greenspan.
This recipe, une petite merveille (a little marvel), as the French would say, was given to me years ago by Jacques Drouot, the maître d’hôtel at the famous Le Dôme brasserie in Paris and an inspired home cook. I’ve been making it regularly ever since. It’s one of those remarkable dishes that is comforting, yet more sophisticated than you’d expect (or really have any right to demand, given the basic ingredients and even more basic cooking method).
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
8 small thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and thickly sliced on the diagonal
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 thyme sprig
1 rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 chicken, about 3½ pounds, preferably organic, trussed (or wings turned under and feet tied together with kitchen string), at room temperature
½ cup Armagnac (Cognac or other brandy)
1 cup water.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. You’ll need a heavy casserole with a tight-fitting cover, one large enough to hold the chicken snugly but still leave room for the vegetables. (I use an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.)
Put the casserole over medium heat and pour in the oil. When it’s warm, toss in the vegetables and turn them around in the oil for a minute or two until they glisten; season with salt and white pepper. Stir in the herbs and push everything toward the sides of the pot to make way for the chicken. Rub the chicken all over with salt and white pepper, nestle it in the pot, and pour the Armagnac around it. Leave the pot on the heat for a minute to warm the Armagnac, then cover it tightly — if your lid is shaky, cover the pot with a piece of aluminum foil and then put the cover in place.
Slide the casserole into the oven and let the chicken roast undisturbed for 60 minutes.
Transfer the pot to the stove, and carefully remove the lid and the foil, if you used it — make sure to open the lid away from you, because there will be a lot of steam. After admiring the beautifully browned chicken, very carefully transfer it to a warm platter or, better yet, a bowl; cover loosely with a foil tent.
Using a spoon, skim off the fat that will have risen to the top of the cooking liquid and discard it; pick out the bay leaf and discard it too. Turn the heat to medium, stir the vegetables gently to dislodge any that might have stuck to the bottom of the pot, and add the water, stirring to blend it with the pan juices. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens ever so slightly, then taste for salt and pepper.
Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetables and sauce.
You can bring the chicken to the table whole, surrounded by the vegetables, and carve it in public, or you can do what I do, which is to cut the chicken into quarters in the kitchen, then separate the wings from the breasts and the thighs from the legs. I arrange the pieces in a large shallow serving bowl, spoon the vegetables into the center, moisten everything with a little of the sauce and then pour the remainder of the elixir into a sauce boat to pass at the table.
I can’t imagine that you’ll have anything left over, but if you do, you can reheat the chicken and vegetables — make sure there’s some sauce, so nothing dries out — covered in a microwave oven.
Bonne idée
Armagnac and prunes are a classic combination in France. If you’d like, you can toss 8 to 12 prunes, pitted or not, into the pot along with the herbs. If your prunes are pitted and soft, they might pretty much melt during the cooking, but they’ll make a sweet, lovely addition to the mix.

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