For my second post of the year, my husband suggested a New York Times recipe that had caught his eye and was made more appealing since we had all of the ingredients on hand: James Beard’s Farmer’s Chicken. The recipe first appeared in a feature story on James Beard by Julia Moskin that was occasioned by the publication in 2020 of a Beard biography The Man Who Ate Too Much, by John Birdsall.
Moskin attributes the recipe to a son of a member of Beard’s circle, chef Andrew Zimmern, who told her about his childhood experiences in Beard’s kitchen and “encountering tastes there for the first time, like a braise of chicken with olives, almonds and raisins, a dish with roots in Spain and California that Beard made often.” Beard claimed to have “adapted the recipe from Spanish immigrants who worked on ranches in California.”
However, having gleaned from Birdsall’s book a better understanding of Beard’s showmanship, I have to question the chef’s attribution of his dish to migrant farmers. The recipe’s bend of ingredients, currants, almonds, olives, paprika, seem more Moroccan to me; and after preparing the dish, I found the flavors quite similar to those of a tajin.
After last week’s disappointment with my venture into “retro American,” a plethora of chicken drumsticks found in the freezer along with another retro recipe, this one from the New York Times “Cooking” website, led me to attempt another American dish from 30 years ago: “Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.” It’s an adaptation by Marion Burros from Jane and Michael Stern’s 1991 cookbook American Gourmet.
At the end of yet another stressful pandemic week, I was once again seeking comfort food. Something homey, simple, and familiar. My search led me to the top shelf of my bookcase and Ina Garten’s Modern Comfort Food, where I found a recipe for skillet-roasted chicken and potatoes.
Watching the latest episode in Stanley Tucci’s CNN series, Searching for Italy, which focused on Roman cuisine, led me to a more serious and scholarly treatment of the subject, Oretta Zanini de Vita’s Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds.
While sheltering in place during the pandemic, I find myself watching more cooking videos on YouTube than I’d like to admit. Many are a waste of time, but some, like the one that influenced today’s post, are inspiring. I discovered the video through Alison Roman’s “A Newsletter: Recipes, Stories, Unsolicited Advice.” Read more
When I moved back to New York from Cambridge in 1982, I found an apartment on Columbus Avenue down the block from the Dakota and across the street from a take-home gourmet shop called the Silver Palate. Their window was always filled with delicious fare, most of which I couldn’t afford but nonetheless aspired to recreate.
Back in graduate school, when my friends and I began to set up our new apartments and started to entertain and have one another over to dinner, one friend in particular stood out from the rest. She had a certain sense of style. I used to describe her as being “VSFA,” or as the store’s advertising campaign would add “Very Saks Fifth Avenue.”
As a graduate student in the mid-seventies, I was living in a fifth-floor walk-up studio on New York City’s, not-yet-gentrified, Upper West Side. The apartment was on the top floor of a converted brownstone and consequently had a tiny kitchen, my very first, maybe 6-feet long by 3-feet wide. Yet it was here that I began to take a serious interest in cooking.
Perhaps many of you who are sheltering in place during this pandemic are like me and are often faced with produce about to go bad or with other products nearing their use-by dates. I can only attribute this situation to my buying more food items than necessary for fear that when I need something, it won’t be available.