Daily Archives: January 11, 2012

unpredictable, nonsensical, boulder weather: a peek at the last 18 hours

As I am fast becoming quite accustomed to, the weather here is absolutely batty. Yesterday I left the gym in nothing but a tank top, the 63 degree air felt quite comfortable on my bare shoulders and refreshing after a 3 mile run on the treadmill. I was in the midst of preparing to meet a couple of close girlfriends for dinner, when I realized our yard had a fiery pink glow cast upon it, made even more dramatic by the light dusting of snow that remained from last weekends mini-storm.

I hiked outside, camera in tow, to see the most gorgeous and electrically colored skies, illuminated by the sun setting over the mountains. From the top of our street it was truly stunning; the entire city was swathed in a bold warm hue, and the skies were surprisingly clear for miles. Today, we awoke to fat flakes falling from a decidedly gray sky – and they are piling up still. By my measurements, we are up to five and a half inches on our back deck – the perfect amount for a little Puglet to root and snort around in without getting totally consumed. How we go from near Summertime temps to a snowstorm, I have no idea, but apparently that’s the way Mother Nature rolls around these parts.

Here are a few snaps from the last 18 hours:

{purple skies above the treetops}

{casting color through the naked branches}

{a very pink chautauqua}

{the entire city was awash in pink for a few minutes}

{just a sliver of blue}

{watching the flakes fall from a cozy perch}

{the reaction i got to “do you wanna go out wins?” – wholly unenthusiastic}

{snow beards – all the rage this year}

{and look who won’t come inside now.}

more than in agreement: melissa clark’s chicken dijon

In a family, there are always those ‘knowns’ about each member that you dare not test.  I’m talking about those things you know you will never change; those personal tastes that are so fully ingrained in that person, there is no use in trying to coerce, force, or persuade.

James: Hates bananas.  Loves chicken liver on toast.
Cory: Hates chicken liver on toast.  Loves bananas.
Winnie: Hates to poop in the rain.  Loves car rides, sitting in the sunny spot, and pulling your socks off.

So, you see, in this house we frequently have a banana drought, and while dining out I usually win the argument against liver on toast when we are sharing an appetizer.  (“What?” You say, “Is chicken liver on toast really something you frequently encounter?”  Yes. Yes it is, and I can assure you, much to my half-Brit-offal-loving-husband’s disagreement, that it is indeed a vile thing.)  Oh, and our socks are always being ganked off by one cinnamon-bun-swirled-tail-of-a-nuisance.  Natch.

What I am really getting at here, is that it’s nice to have something in your pocket that everyone agrees on.  Chicken in cream sauce is one of those such things in this household, and when I spied this recipe in Food & Wine magazine a few months back I immediately dogeared it for later that week.  Later in the week became later that month and suddenly we were dancing around holidays, house guests, and hamper-fulls of laundry, and as it can happen to so many things, it was pushed to the wayside.

That is until I was bumbling about in my kitchen, thumbing through cookbooks and old magazines looking for inspiration to strike on something simple and comforting to make on a chilly night that would make us all swoon.  It’s not that finding something all three members of my little family enjoy immensely is all that hard – and, let’s face it, the one with the squashed-up face is not all that discriminating – but finding a simple recipe that we all love that will then be thrown into our regular rotation is cause for a bit of celebration.  For this particular night, I was envisioning something rustic; a dish that didn’t require a lot of time, but that also packed a wallop in the flavor department without being fancy or expensive.  Tough rules to follow, when you actually sit down to think about it.

When one talks about hitting the proverbial ‘nail on the head,’ they very well could be speaking directly about this chicken dijon dish.  This, THIS is a recipe to keep taped to your fridge for times when you want something delicious but easy.  The recipe calls for drumsticks, which I like not only because they are dirt cheap, but also because they become meltingly tender when simmered in the broth.  The onions, garlic, spices, creme fraiche and mustard come together to make a silken sauce that quite literally is pale yellow gold.  It’s zippy and bold, and the creaminess helps it cling to the chicken and support the confettied pieces of tender onion.

The great thing about this is that it is equally at home on the cozy Wednesday night dinner table as it is perched on a fancy platter at a chic dinner party.  The flavors here are at once complex yet also familiar, and are, at least in my opinion, agreeable with most.  It truly is that versatile, and adding to it’s appeal is the short ingredient list and time involved – about 30 minutes from start to finish.  I served this with a simple green salad of arugula and shaved Parmesan, some crusty slices of rustic bread to soak up the flaxen sauce, and a spicy bottle of Syrah. It truly was perfection.

So we’re not making any progress on the banana, liver, or outdoor-relief-in-adverse-conditions front, but at least we can all sit down to a big plate of this chicken dijon in hearty agreement.

Chicken Dijon
From Melissa Clark, Food & Wine
Serves 4

Melissa Clark toasts whole coriander seeds and then crushes them in a mortar and pestle; I only had pre-ground coriander in my pantry, and used the exact amount (1 tsp) of the ground type and found it to be lovely.  Moral of the story – don’t fret if you don’t want to toast and grind your own coriander here – the taste will still be lovely with pre-ground, and I suspect even with none at all (though a bit different).  The same goes for the tarragon – I particularly like tarragon, and would use the same amount of dried as I would fresh, even though dried herbs are stronger.  Start with a little and add more to taste as you like.

This recipe ‘Serves 4’ – but that is with two drumsticks each.  I am fine with 2 drumsticks, though the husband easily put away 4, so be sure to add in a few extra if you have big eaters, or make sure to have some hearty sides on hand (mashed potatoes or polenta would be particularly nice with the sauce).

Use creme fraiche over sour cream if you can find it; the texture and flavor works so well here.  The sauce here is dreamy – be sure to serve the chicken with heaping spoonfuls ladled over the top.  You won’t be disappointed.

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 medium chicken drumsticks (~ 3 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small white onion (or ½ of a large onion) finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons crème fraîche (or sour cream in a pinch)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon (or dried in a pinch)

Crusty bread, mashed potatoes, or polenta for serving

In a large skillet, toast the coriander seeds over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a mortar and let cool. Crush the seeds coarsely with a pestle.  Alternately, use the same amount, 1 tsp, of pre-ground coriander.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Season the chicken drumsticks with salt and pepper, and then add them to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning, until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Don’t skimp here – you want the chicken skin to be deeply browned and caramelized.  Add the onion to the pan with the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and crushed coriander and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter (leaving the broth mixture in the pan) and cover with foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk the mustard with the crème fraîche and tarragon. Whisk the mixture into the skillet and simmer the sauce over moderate heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste, and adjust salt & pepper to your liking. Return the chicken to the skillet and turn to coat and rewarm through.

Serve the chicken immediately and with big spoonfuls of the divine sauce – crusty bread is great to soak up the sauce, as are mashed potatoes or polenta.