There was a recipe, pulled from an issue of Saveur, that I’d been wanting to try out since December. It was the name that got to me: Dolores’s Brokenhearted Chicken, so-called “because it tastes so good it makes you hungry even if you’re heartbroken.”
It sounded like a dish that could cure any life woes — the very essence of comfort food. The chicken is cooked somewhere inbetween being roasted and braised in a sauce made of stock, sherry and butter. It’s topped with parsley to brighten the flavors and served with crusty bread. And while the chicken is good (very good in fact), it’s the luxurious sauce that is the true winner. It soaks into the bread making it almost like a custard — full of flavor and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
In other words, this was the perfect meal for me to make before I left on vacation a few weeks ago. I had been running around so much that I was mentally and physically exhausted. In fact, I was so rushed that I ended up making this after I ate a dinner of ramen, so that my husband could have dinner ready when he came home.
See, the thing with being married to a chef and having a day job means we are often like ships passing in the night. I’m asleep when he gets home, he’s asleep when I leave for work. I try to make his late nights a little better by having a plate of food waiting for him when he gets home. Having cooked professionally for years, I know the last thing you want to do at the end of the night is eat anything you’ve cooked yourself. It’s just so much better when someone makes it for you.
So while this chicken is supposed to be made to comfort the lovelorn, I like to think it better expresses my attempts at being a good wife. (In return, since marriage is a two-way street and all, my husband makes sure my kegerator is never empty. That’s love.)
The alternate title to this post was something along the lines of “the amazingly delicious dessert I could make in my sleep.” It might have been a little wordy (and less punny) but it would’ve been entirely accurate. I have made Food & Wine’s Mixed Berry Spoonbread Cake for family reunions, barbeques, holidays and even (all by myself) for a crowd of 75-plus people at a kind-of-crazy pig roast last summer.
In fact, I had a different dessert all picked out for Easter Sunday (I wanted to try making this Blueberry Slump) but at the last minute, I changed my mind. I didn’t want to take the chance of it being ‘meh.’ Given the rather stressful week, I wanted to make something that I knew everyone would love — and so I turned to my old standby.
There are several reasons why this is my go -to dessert recipe:
When in doubt about what to cook for large family gatherings, I’ve found that anything combining cheese and potatoes is sure to be a hit. My favorite crowd-pleasing side dishes include twice-baked potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes and creamy potatoes au gratin, all made with copious amounts of cheesy goodness.
Keeping that in mind, I decided to make this gorgeous-looking upside down potato onion tart to go with last Sunday’s Easter ham. That decision was a difficult one as I had never made the recipe before and cooking something for a group of people without a trial run is a little unusual for me. I’m a firm believer in trying recipes out before subjecting people to them!
But this recipe looked fairly simple to make and just reading the ingredient list gave me confidence: potatoes, onions, cheese, butter, herbs. With such humble and tasty ingredients, how could it not turn out delicious?
Happily, it was everything I wanted it to be — the potato layers were sandwiched between caramelized onions and sharp pecorino, making this a truly decadent dish. The edges (my favorite part) were crisp and cheesy and the center was creamy and luxurious. Surprisingly though, for all that flavor, the recipe used only a bit of butter and didn’t even call for cream!
Spring Asparagus Panzanella Salad with Radishes, Eggs and Pecorino
Two weeks ago my Easter plans were pretty loose — mainly revolving around the couch, a cat on my lap and maybe some bubbly in my hand. But things can change quickly. My grandfather, who was six months from his 98th birthday, suddenly became very ill and passed away last Thursday. Now I rarely get overly personal in these posts and I certainly don’t intend this one to get weepy, but I will say it’s been a very difficult week.
Luckily, I live close enough to my grandparents that I visited them as often as I could. And so after I heard the news, I packed up a bag and headed north to see my family. Many family members had made the pilgrimage, first to visit with him, and then to help plan the memorial. This was how I ended up cooking Easter dinner for nine last Sunday.
It was actually the perfect way to spend the day. For me cooking is a peaceful endeavor and it was nice not only to have a distraction but also a sense of purpose. And being surrounded by family as everyone traded stories about my grandfather (and discussed how people get famous from YouTube videos) was undoubtedly the best place to be.
Losing people you love is always hard. It was especially devastating for me to say good bye to the man who taught me to play cribbage, made me learn to use the brakes on my bike (long story!) and walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. But we honor these people with stories, recalling their memories to help continue their legacies.
To lighten things up, I’m going to tell you one of the more amusing stories being passed around over the weekend: