HAPPY NEW YEAR!
January 2, 2009. A new year, new possibilities. We are not holiday people in the traditional sense; no big family gatherings, no feasts surrounded by neighbors and friends, no tables groaning under the weight of delicacies whipped up year after year from heirloom recipes. Now that the boys are old enough to go their own way, all-night parties with friends, we are like 2 old people, snug at home, cuddling up together in front of a good film on tv with a platter of whatever catches our fancy at the local market in the morning. And lways a good bottle of wine.
New Year’s Day! I finally succeeded in watching my favorite holiday movie, Christmas in Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck. I convinced my brother to order and send me the video several years ago but sadly I am forced to watch it alone since none of my men appreciate this classic holiday romantic comedy.
New Year’s Eve! A plate of oysters – we live in oyster territory after all – accras (spicy, deep-fried Portuguese cod balls), a salty Italian cheese wrapped in salty Italian speck, smoked fish blinis, Indian-style shrimp with nan breads, squid salad, accompanied by a wonderful Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Followed by tangerines and handmade chocolates from Débotté, my favorite local chocolatier. Curled up watching Alan Partridge on dvd. Perfect!
Christmas dinner, if it can be called that since we don’t really celebrate Christmas, came on the 27th, late as JP had decided to take a few days off, go to an island off the west coast of France to Zen out, empty his head, walk and take photos. Clément had decided, oddly enough, to make his amazing Tiramisu the day after Christmas on, what is called here, a “coup de tête” – an impulse, a whim. So I thought that it would be nice to offer a delicious, home-cooked, Christmas-y type meal for JP’s homecoming. Clem was not happy with the enforced wait on cutting into the Tiramisu, but holiday spirit won out over gluttony in the end.
I hadn’t made my brother’s Cranberry Relish recipe in literally years! It is a known fact that I am a cranberry freak, so why wait all these years? I had a fresh supply of Oceanspray – not the easiest thing to find in France – and decided to dive in, make the relish and create the rest of the meal around it. A beautiful corn-fed chicken from the Landes region, potato pancakes and salad. Accompanied by a white Clos de la Carizière from the Domaine of Joe Landron, a local vigneron producing organic wines. And of course the Tiramisu, la pièce de la résistance.
For Hanukkah this year, I received my wonderful new MacBook from JP (after my old computer had mysteriously just curled up and died the week before), a great Italian cookbook from Clem and the second tome of the Stieg Larsson trilogy from Simon. The above-mentioned box of chocolates from Débotté was my much-deserved gift to myself.
MICHAEL’S CRANBERRY RELISH
1 ½ cup (350 ml) water
¼ cup (@35 ml) honey
3 cups fresh cranberries (I used one 12 oz/340 g bag)
1 juice orange, preferably untreated
1 tsp ground ginger
dash ground cinnamon
dash ground cloves
dash ground cardamom
Heat 1 cup (250 ml) water in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the cranberries and bring to the boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, uncovered for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, grate the zest of the orange and set aside. Peel (discard) and cut up the orange into chunks, catching all the juice you can.
Add the orange chunks and juice, the orange zest, the remaining ½ cup (75 ml) water, the honey and the spices to the cooked cranberries. Continue simmering, stirring often, for another 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool until the relish can safely transferred to a bowl. Allow to cool completely, then chill before serving.
The strong, bitter taste will go away as the relish cools and it will become tart and sweet. I don’t need to tell you that this Cranberry Relish is perfect with roasted chicken, turkey or any other kind of poultry but it would be equally tasty with any kind of roasted or grilled meat.
Several cloves of garlic (ok, I did forget the garlic in my ingredients photo)
A lemon, though this is optional
A selection of your favorite dried herbs; thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, for example
Salt & pepper
Prepare the bird for the oven:
I shove a lemon, sliced in 2 halves, up her, well, cavity, then salt and pepper generously inside.
Peel and thickly slice a few cloves of garlic.
With a small, sharp knife, make slits in the skin, even in the meat itself, in the legs, thighs, breasts and underneath the bird for good measure. In each slit, push a small pinch of butter then a thick slice of garlic.
Rub the bird all over with olive oil. Salt and pepper the chicken all over, then sprinkle with dried herbs.
Oil the bottom of a baking dish. Lay slices or chunks of stale bread, then either drizzle more olive oil over the slices or drops small knobs of butter around and on the bread. Toss on a generous handful of peeled garlic cloves, thickly sliced or simply halved. Place the prepared chicken on this bed of bread. Pour about half a cup of water around the chicken and she’s ready to go.
Now, as I have gotten in the habit of buying spit-roasted chicken at the market instead of making it myself (it saves time and the oven is cleaner at the end of the day), I asked my professional bird man – a “Volailler”, a fowl-monger? – from whom I bought the chicken, for his cooking advice. He told me “a chicken, or any white meat for that matter, should be cooked “à froid” – placed in a cold oven to start the cooking process. I followed his advice to a tee :
Place the chicken in a cold oven – NO PREHEATING – then turn the oven on to 325°F (160°C). Put your timer on for 1 hour 35 minutes.
When the buzzer goes off, turn the heat up to 350°F (180°C) and leave for an additional 10 minutes or until cooked through.
If needed, add more water to the dish as you go and halfway through the cooking brush the chicken with more olive oil.
I did this, and although the outside was browned, when we pulled a leg away it was still too pink inside, so we put her back in the oven and left her to cook for another 20 minutes or so.
Total roasting time :
1 hour 35 minutes at 325°F (160°C)
30 minutes at 350°F (180°C)
My advice? Just check your bird starting part way through the second time period.
I served the chicken with Michael’s scrumptious Cranberry Relish, potato pancakes and a salad. In addition, the bread that the chicken sat on turned into a garlicky stuffing-type side and the roasted garlic was divine. The bird got rave reviews from JP – he found it moist and tender and the meat was delicately and beautifully flavored.
Followed, of course, by Clem’s Tiramisu (you will find his recipe on an earlier post).
Lovely memories and a Happy New Year!