January 15, 2013
I’m back from California to dreary, rainy Paris.
I know. I have no right to complain. But my two-and-a-half weeks in LA really highlighted the differences between my two cities, and what I had taken for granted while living in Santa Monica. Also what I have been missing here, more than 70° weather in January.
And but so I’ve decided (not resolved; I don’t do that) to do more things like this: invite a friend over for a simple lunch of roasted chicken, perhaps pepped up a bit with spice. Because what I’ve been missing here more than anything else is a sense of community. The kinds of friends who you don’t have to make elaborate dinner plans to see. Just come over. We’ll watch some things on YouTube and drink wine and eat too much.
December 13, 2012
This is one of the most versatile dinners I know. Basically, it follows the concept of “slather it in béchamel sauce and/or top it with pie crust and it’ll probably be delicious.”
Originally, I was going to call this “leftover pot pie,” because I took these photos around Thanksgiving when leftovers were all everyone was talking about. And honestly, the way I usually make it is with a mess of leftovers, but leftovers pot pie doesn’t sound that appetizing.
My point is that you can make this pie with pretty much any kind of vegetables or protein in the filling. Got some leftover chicken from that one you roasted earlier this week? It’ll work perfectly. A few herby carrot sticks that you didn’t finish from today’s afternoon snack? Chop ’em up and chuck ’em in. Some garlicky greens hanging out in your fridge? Naturally. You can also make this in almost any oven-safe vessel: a deep dish pie pan is traditional, but feel free to mess with individual mini-pies (like I did), 8-inch square baking pans, or cast-iron skillets.
November 28, 2012
And just like that, I’m back in Paris.
I know, I had just arrived in Nice when I posted, and I had been intending to stay for at least another month. So what caused my precipitous departure from the French Riviera?
My apartment was robbed.
It happened while I was out at a café, leeching off their wifi and posting about salmon. I came home and saw that drawers were open and things seemed messier than how I’d left them… and the windows were all open… and the closets had been rifled through… and there were muddy boot prints leading from the tiny window in the bathroom, which I saw now had a broken latch.
On the one hand, I was grateful that I wasn’t home when the break-in happened. Intellectually, I knew that the last thing a robber wants is for residents to be home when he’s about his thievery. On the other hand, I was still scared. Scared that whomever it was would come back for more (since I’d taken almost all of my electronics — anything of decent value — with me), and this time I’d be around for them to hurt. I called the gentleman and the friend from whom I was renting the apartment, packed up my things, and found a hotel room. Only after I got into the room did I see that my mascara had run and I looked like the star of a bad 90’s music video featuring a pop star with a no-good cheating boyfriend.
I felt violated. I had started to make a home for myself there, albeit a temporary one, and good homes are extensions of ourselves. I had even roasted a chicken in the kitchen the day before. Is there anything more homey than roasting a chicken on an Sunday?
So now I’m back, sooner than expected, trying to create some normality around me. Maybe I’ll roast another chicken tomorrow.
November 9, 2012
I’ve been craving fried chicken for weeks. The problem is, I know that a proper fried chicken involves buttermilk, and I didn’t know where to get buttermilk in Paris.
Sure, I could have used the usual trick of mixing a spoonful of vinegar into milk, but that’s really just an acidity adjustment. I wanted the actual flavor of cultured buttermilk. I was bemoaning my fried chicken-less state to a friend when she mentioned that some crepe places sell a drink called lait ribot, which tastes a lot like buttermilk.
I had known about lait ribot and seen it on some menus, and I knew that it was cultured, soured milk, but I don’t know why I didn’t connect it to what Americans call buttermilk. Well suffice it to say I immediately went to my fromagerie and asked if they carried lait ribot, to which the nice lady handed me a liter with a “… vous connaissez lait ribot?” I guess it’s an acquired taste here, too.
The problem with fried chicken is that usually, I want it now, but good fried chicken takes a day or so of prep. You let it sit in an herby, oniony brine that saturates the chicken, flavoring it all the way through and ensuring that the cooked meat will be perfectly seasoned and juicy.
Ruhlman’s brine is so simple and so effective — I’ve never had a more tender piece of chicken in my life, and it took so little effort that I’m tempted to use it on every piece of poultry I bring home. The breading here is exactly what you want from fried chicken, with baking soda that reacts with the buttermilk to create that fluffy, crackly lift and paprika and cayenne for a low buzz of spice. And of course, it’s excellent cold as well as hot out of the fryer.