So as fairly devout watchers of "Best Thing I Ever Ate", we here Chez Simmer were excited to see a new crop of episodes start appearing on the DVR back in June. And on one hand, you can sort of see how they're starting to stretch themselves thin, but on the other hand, there really are always new places out there, and the nicest thing about being a home cook is that you don't even necessarily have to travel to be inspired by the show. You can take inspiration from what they're doing, and bring it into your own kitchen.
So is this the chicken scarpariello that Anne Burrell raved about having at Rao's in Vegas? Not really. But is there now a chicken scarpariello we rave about having here at home? There sure is.
Seriously, I've made it about four times now, and unfortunately I didn't document every little step, so you're left with these pictures of one of the iterations, which was not the absolute final version we loved.
But it gives you the basic idea. Now, if you want the official Rao's version, you can find the recipe here, which involves bone-in chicken and a pretty large batch size.
What we ended up with in the final supertasty iteration:
surprisingly, boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into cubes instead of larger skin-on bone-in chicken pieces. Yes, the bone imparts some flavor, but it means a longer cooking time, less flavor penetration into the meat, and a much messier eating experience. Plus that whole health thing. And as long as the liquid isn't allowed to boil too vehemently, the white meat stayed decently tender.
regular sweet red peppers were $6.99 a pound at the store. Cubanelle peppers (mild, pale green) were $2.99. I bought cubanelles. They rocked.
cut up the cherry peppers instead of leaving them whole.
keep the liquid minimal, and go heavy on the brine.
actually, add extra brine at the end.
and then let it sit in the fridge an extra day. Seriously.
The sour tang of the cherry pepper brine really gives this a neat flavor profile, especially when it has that extra day to soak in. As you can tell, I thought serving it with quinoa and green beans was a fine idea, although it was also good served in a deep bowl as more of a stew.
Best thing I ever ate? Maybe not. Best chicken scarpariello I ever ate? Darn tootin'.
One of the most delightful and surprising aspects of getting published has been the whole whirlwind of foreign rights. Six different publishing houses have bought the rights to translate The Kitchen Daughter into six different languages and publish those versions. And yesterday I found out that the Dutch version will be hitting shelves in the Netherlands in November 2011.
And -- wow! Not only is there a two-page spread on De keukendochter, but they also used that beautiful cover image for the inside front cover of the catalog. And even for those who don't speak Dutch -- like me! -- it's an arresting layout. So exciting to see.
Monica Bhide is an incredibly talented writer and cook, and I'm so honored that she invited me to her site, A Life of Spice, for an interview! We talked about my writing process and advice for aspiring fiction writers, what inspired The Kitchen Daughter, and that pesky inner critic.
Okay, so, don't even worry about that "confit" in the title. That makes it sound all fancy. Maybe when you serve this, if you're trying to impress people, you trot out the fancy word. But if you're cooking it, it's more like "you take some peppers out of a jar and you cook them a long time without even touching them and something MAGICAL happens."
Thank you, Jose Andres.
So the only thing you need to worry about with this recipe is finding the piquillo peppers. Regular sweet red peppers just aren't the same. I usually track down my piquillos at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, and keep a couple jars on hand. And even though I absolutely love to make tapas (mainly because I love to eat them, and because I continue to be profoundly, persistently bad at estimating quantities) I had never turned to this recipe in Jose Andres' "Tapas" cookbook before, simply because I also like to stuff piquillos with goat cheese as a make-ahead appetizer-type tapa, and serving two different preparations of the same pepper didn't really seem like the right way to go.
But now, having made these? I will be making them again every single time the opportunity presents itself.
First, you just lay down a layer of peppers in an ovenproof dish.
Then you puree a couple more peppers with some water.
Chop up a few cloves of garlic, and spread half the puree over the layer of peppers, and scatter half the garlic over that.
Then you repeat: another layer of peppers, another layer of puree and garlic.
It's going well. And with a few iterations, a few experiments, it's amazing how quickly a just-okay dish becomes a real victory. Plus, with a few practice runs, I get faster and faster, so my weeknight repertoire expands to embrace things I might have previously considered too time-consuming or fussy.
Like, let's say, meatballs.
I love meatballs. The tiny little lamb meatballs I make as tapas, especially. And the more traditional kind, beef with breadcrumbs, that cook for hours in a Sunday gravy. But for health reasons and speed reasons, ground chicken is on hand more often than not, so that's what I've been experimenting with. And I've gotten it down to a science.
No binders, no breadcrumbs, no egg, no nothing. Just ground chicken mixed with a very generous helping of seasonings -- a mix of dried Italian herbs like basil and oregano, plus sriracha, garlic powder, black pepper, Worchestershire sauce, and red pepper flakes. And I mix it by hand right in the container it came in (take that padded lining thingy out first) and then pinch and roll the meatballs and drop them directly into the hot pan, working quickly enough that by the time the last meatball is in, it's time to turn over the first one.
The wonderful Allison Winn Scotch has a great post up on Ask Allison with a roundup of advice from four brand-new debut authors -- including yours truly. Click to read and find out why I say "Don't give up, and don't go it alone."
If you've read The Kitchen Daughter, you know that family protectiveness is a major issue for Ginny -- being sheltered all her life leaves her underprepared to handle the tragedy that opens the book. I explored this issue for the lovely Lynne Griffin's blog, Family Life Stories -- click here to read.
I'm gearing up for a mini-tour next week, so if you live in the Boston area (especially Concord) or Washington, DC (especially Arlington), I'd love to see you at a reading. Here are the details on where I'll be: