Best Roast Chicken Legs

One thing is for certain: I feel much better after a meal. I know, I know. We’re not supposed to eat our feelings. Someone once said to me “Don’t reward yourself with food. You are not a dog.” All the same, I can’t help but think that the world just appears a more possible place once I’ve eaten something. My favourite people feel the same way.

I am struggling with a chapter of my dissertation. And though I have luxurious amounts of time on my hand, I don’t have a single interesting thing to say. So this evening, I closed my word document and embarked on something delicious in the hope it might spur something wonderful on the page.

Of late I’ve been making simple meals: five ingredients at the most. Simple marinades; roasting in the oven; braising on the stove; a drizzle of olive oil or pepper to finish. These days when I’m itching to embark on a 4-hour meal I tend to get under my covers and open up one of my favourite cookbooks to live vicariously through the cooks I most admire, thick of waist and sharp of tongue. So much more wonderful to read about the details of the perfect way to have a cut of beef retain its juices from the safety of cosiness. Or maybe that’s just my mother in me. She is a phenomenal cook, but refuses to be a slave to ingredients or technique. Pleasure should be pleasurable.

This is what you should do for the perfect, comforting plate of dinner: Marinate chicken leg(s) with salt, pepper, paprika and oil, making sure to rub the marinade under the skin of the chicken. Arrange in a baking dish and sprinkle over 5 un-peeled cloves of garlic. Bake in a 400 F oven for about 45 minutes. 20 minutes in, take the chicken out of the oven and deglaze the roasting pan with wine (either white or red, whatever you have in the fridge). Turn the chicken pieces over and cook for another 20 minutes. To test if the chicken is done, using a fork and knife, cut into the chicken to the bone. If it releases a clear liquid, it is done.

I roasted some asparagus spears alongside. Again, a simple salt and olive oil drizzle and 9-11 minutes in the oven at the same temperature.

The best part of this meal is undoubtedly the moment you pierce the garlic cloves with your knife and have gooey deliciousness ooze onto your chicken, which is  already perfect, sharp (paprika), balanced (salt + pepper) and crisp (skin + oil).

I happily never made it back to my chapter.


Best Birthday Dinner

My favourites, K. and J., made me a *spectacular* birthday dinner this weekend. French onion soup to start. A crisp salad. Then, a delicious steak smothered in bearnaise sauce and french fries. And then for dessert: the most delicious sea salt and caramel chocolate cake. The perfect meal. And the most wonderful company.

Buttered Pumpkin Soup

I realize that pumpkin soup is not ‘buttered’ in the way that noodles are. But, well, I love the sound of buttered noodles. In her book Julia Childs is constantly recommending to serve things over ‘buttered noodles.’ I can’t bring myself to do it; it feels bland and starchy. But I love the adjectival form of butter. And so here it is. Buttered Pumpkin Soup.

I’m not being totally disingenuous. There is butter in the soup, and its what makes it so good. I recently read a post on home-made pumpkin pie on Reading My Tea Leaves. And there is this striking picture of two pumpkin halves charred and dripping on a baking tray. I thought: I’ve got to do this.

I bought a small sugar pumpkin. Preheated the oven to 350 F. Cut it in half. Scooped out the seeds. Lined a baking tray. Drizzled some oil on it. Placed the pumpkin (cut side down) on the tray. And baked it for about 30-45 minutes. THEN, I took the tray out of the oven. I was a bit apprehensive that I’d undercook the pumpkin or burn it. But it was soft, and melting, and I took a spoon and scooped the roasted pumpkin flesh out of the two shells. It was like scooping ice cream out of a tub.

Now that the most pleasurable part of the activity was over, the soup was a bonus. I sliced a quarter of a vidalia onion and mashed three garlic cloves. I heated some BUTTER in a pan, and caramelized the onions and let the garlic flavour the butter. It smelled divine. Then I added the mashed pumpkin, some vegetable stock and some water. One big pinch thyme. A small pinch of cinnamon. And a dash of nutmeg. Then a good bit of sea salt. Once the mixture was well combined, I blended it all together.

The soup has a hint of sweetness, but the butter, garlic and melty onion shine through with a savoury note. Best with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.

Winter Parsnip Soup

Parsnips look like ivory carrots. They are my absolute favourites. They’re delicious in root-vegetable roasts, sprinkled with a hint of nutmeg and plenty of cumin. I recall a recipe that calls for chopped, fresh mint mixed in at the end to add a bursting note.

I had a spectacular weekend. Katherine and I won our matches, though our team lost overall. What I wanted for dinner tonight was something warm and delicious to ease myself back into the work week. As you can see in the out-of-focus photograph, I was clearly more eager to eat the soup than photograph it. In my mind a very promising sign. The soup is a mix of roasted garlic, parsnips and some vegetable stock (salt + pepper to taste). When I blend the mixture, I like to keep it thick, somewhere between a soup and a puree. That way I can still get the nutty texture of the parsnips. Follow the same principle as this recipe. I rustled up an open-faced sandwich to go with the meal: toasted grain bread, avocado, prosciutto (leftovers from my tennis lunch). And then I had two squares of my current favourite peppermint, dark chocolate, for dessert.

Ok I lied. I absolutely had 4 pieces of chocolate while I was making the soup. Oh and there is a cheesy love poem in each wrapper. Makes the chocolate eating experience exponentially more entertaining.