I’m shocked and saddened to learn tonight about the death of one of my favorite food personalities, Canadian host Ken Kostick.
As I announced with a mix of nerves and excitement back in April, I’ve returned to broadcasting -a big passion of mine, and a world I feel infinitely comfortable and happy in.
Among the many, many interviews I’ve done since then, there are a few that stand out as favorites. I’ll be posting a few of them in the next wee while. Here’s the first. It’s a chat with food journalist and educator Lucy Waverman and was originally aired on Take 5 in mid-May. There are some great recipe tips and tricks here, particularly with regards to yummy, easy method in preparing fresh fish.
Few things inspire me like a person new to the culinary world; it implies both a healthy curiosity and a concern for healthy eating. Anything homemade is always going to beat microwaved Frankenfood. So a recent note from a fellow Twitterati/ journalist felt like a call to inspiration, the way I painter is drawn to canvas or a musician to their instrument. Sharing food ideas and any help is my passion, because I love to cook.
I sent this fellow journalist a response, included a link to my last recipe posted (a hit with busy moms), as well as helpful book suggestions (listed below). I also promised myself I would starting posting recipes more often.
As it happens, I had a very hectic day: two blog posts, several phone calls, emails, a doctor’s appointment, and some running around. I wanted something fairly easy and effort-free, if also homey, flavoursome, and healthy. Ergo, meet my Oven-Roasted Herb-Garlic Chicken Breasts.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
You will need:
4 chicken breasts, skin and bone on
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves
1 sprig rosemary
1-2 tsps dried oregano
1 tsp sea salt
Pre-heat oven to 425F (use the convection setting if you have it, otherwise set at 450F).
Pour 1 tbsp of the olive oil into a large broad oven dish; you can use a large glass one or a nice square roaster, but keep it shallow, and make sure the breasts fit snugly together.
With clean hands, anoint the fresh chicken breasts with the butter; Nigella Lawson has a wonderful expression (from her basic roast chicken recipe) of spreading the butter around “like a very expensive handcream” -which is apt. Make sure every little bit of the chicken breasts are lubricated. Place in the oven dish, making sure pieces are snug but not busting.
Wash and dry your hands, and then carefully pick the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stalk. Using a very sharp knife, finely chop the needles, and sprinkle them evenly on the tops of the breasts.
Follow this with the oregano (again, use your fingers to sprinkle -much nicer distribution that way). Pour the other tbsp (or so) of olive oil on top.
Take your garlic cloves and peel, then half them. Place the flat part of your knife on top of them, and give a few good pounds, so you’re crushing the cut cloves (you may need to do this in stages, doing a few garlic pieces at a time -which is perfectly fine). You’ll find nice flat pieces of fragrant crushed garlic to scatter on top of the chicken breasts.
Take the half a lemon, cut it again in half, and slice into very thin pieces; scatter on top of the breasts. Sprinkle the sea salt on top (again, use your fingers) and drape a piece of tin foil on top, then pop the dish into your hot oven.
(You can use this time to throw a salad together, if you wish; a basic cucumber/tomato/mixed greens is good with a light dressing. I also happened to have some roasted potatoes already made, so I popped those into an earthenware dish, gave a glug of oil, a grind of pepper, and threw into the same oven for the chicken’s last 10 minutes.)
After 15 minutes, remove the chicken, and take off the foil. Things will be sizzling and fizzling, so mind you don’t stand too close or poke your nose in to inhale the fragrant, herb-garlic aroma.
Using a baster or a spoon, spread all those lovely chickeny/buttery/olive oily juices over the breasts a few times, then whack back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so with the foil off.
Poke a breast (pun unintentional) with a sharp knife after the ten minutes is up; the meat should feel solid, and the juices run clear. Take the chicken out (again, mind the sizzle), baste one more time, and whack back in for 5 to 7 minutes.
For a nice burnished top, turn the broiler on medium-high heat and leave the chicken breasts in (without moving the oven rack) for about 3 or 4 minutes after this (keep watch). The lemon slices and crushed garlic might be singed and blackened at their edges; this is perfectly fine.
Remove and… voila. Enjoy. Serve with salad and, if you like, starch of your choice.
Oh, and those book suggestions: I recommend these for both newcomers and seasoned home cooks, for the breadth of their ideas, accomplishment of their respective authors, and overall ease. They are:
- Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Jamie Oliver (Hyperion, 2009)
- A Year In Lucy’s Kitchen, Lucy Waverman (Random House, 2009)
To this I would only add one other book: How To Eat, (Random House, 1998) by Nigella Lawson, which provided inspiration for this recipe in the first place.
All of these titles are perffect for the cook who’s harried, hurried, and not entirely familiar with the culinary arts. Bon appetit!
I’m writing this from my kitchen -my place of refuge, my studio, my laboratory, all rolled in one. It’s funny how such a simple change of locale -from upstairs to down -can drastically alter the way one approaches one’s work. No wonder coffee shops are so filled with people on laptops; what is sometimes lost in personal interconnection in such circumstances is often gained in the field of inspiration and initiative (though I’d argue one is deeply connected with the other).
So, after much thought -and a joyous session in roasting beets (more below), I’ve decided to include simple recipes as part of Play Anon. Rather than watering down its content, I feel it will add to, and complement it. Food is as much a part of culture as theatre, dance, painting, sculpture, electronic art, and so on -though it is also vastly more immediate, and I feel, intimate in its nature. Food is what we share as humans. We cannot live without eating. And like all cultural things, it provides needed nourishment -not only to our bodies, but on spiritual, mental, and emotional levels.
Right now, I’m typing with hands softened by good olive oil, just used to anoint the beets which now roast in the oven. I love beets, and always have done, ever since I was a child, standing beside my mother, hands stained purple, carefully peeling, apron firmly tied. I grew up thinking there was only one way to prepare them -that is, my mother’s method: boil to death, messily peel, drown in butter. While I’m not immune to the charms of butter and salt (though now, I’m finding good quality in each harder to come by), I feel treating such a beautiful vegetable so heinously borders on the sinful. Basic rule: if the vegetable is good, it should stand on its own. Period.
So while I applaud Lucy Waverman integrating beets into various dishes to tempt the palette of any beet-hating President, I prefer my purpley root veg straight-up. Antony John understands this. I had the wonderful fortune of visiting his beautiful farm, Soiled Reputation, last month. Sitting just outside the town of Stratford, Ontario, the farm grows organic vegetables which are then used in many restaurants across the Southern end of the province. Jamie Kennedy, the activist-chef (and one of my very-favourites, for his food and his ethos), uses Soiled Reputation’s veg, including their lovely, feathery greens, filled with sweet and bitter tastes.
One of the things I brought back from my trip was a bag of beets. Though pink on the outside, they’re white on the inside. They yield a sweeter flavour than regular beets, and I am wagering, roast up deliciously.
Roasting is, incidentally, my favourite method, though I have also experimented with marinating sliced beets in good balsamic, and then barbequing, both with foil and without. But there’s something awfully comforting about the smell of roast-anything wafting through the house, particularly as temperatures drop and the season turns. With the advent of autumn, root vegetables come back to prominence at my table.
Depending on the size of the beets, you may wish to slice them (I chopped a few bigger ones in half width-wise) and i always take the top off (the part where the greens sprout), though I tend to leave the “tail” -there’s something so merry about them, even if you can’t (or won’t) eat that portion.
Roughly 12 beets, small, or 8 small, 2 medium, 1-2 large, all very well-scrubbed.
- Leave the small beets whole; chop the medium beets in half width-wise; chop the large beets in manageable chunks.
- Pour good olive oil on top -about 3-4 tsp should be enough, but use your judgment; you don’t want them swimming or dripping in it, but you want enough to lubricate the beets and the casserole dish they’re sitting snugly in, rosy cheek to pale jowl.
- Sprinkle salt on top: sea, rock, red, whatever you wish.
- Toss with your bare hands.
- Cover with foil, loosely; pop into a pre-heated oven (400F) for about 15 minutes; check after that to see if they’re done how you like, or if you need to add more oil.
I’d leave them in another 15-20 minutes. Prick with a fork if you’re really not sure but they’ll be making little sizzley sounds to indicate they’re cooked.
And… that’s it.
Really, wasn’t that easy?
Addendum: 30ish minutes did the trick. Delicious, succulent, sweet, and rich. I said it before, I’ll say it again: beets are beautiful. Take that, Mr. Obama.