My Pandemic Diary, Entry #37

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #37

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

Today is Wednesday and it’s a gray day with the threat of drizzles. Mark and I got out early for our walk because it’s a busy day for each of us. Our usual route was largely vacant so we were able to set a good pace, ignoring the occasional spits of rain.

Looking at the day ahead of me, I need to finish some things I started yesterday because as is often the case, I am greedy for all the things I want to do and I simply ran out of time.

But most of all, this is the big day for me to re-install the operating system on my Mac and I will spare you more details about that because it’s tiresome, or at least I think it is. But I wanted to share the kindness I received from my niece, who lives in New Hampshire and is an amazing person and a talented graphic designer, and whom I love very much. She reached out to help me after reading yesterday’s diary entry with my computer trouble rant, because unbeknownst to me, she is among other things, the Mac network administrator for her company. It’s a rare thing when someone can be so talented with both the right and left sides of a brain. Anyway, she vetted my Mac plan and assured me that I’m right to proceed, which hugely relieved much of my anxiety.

This morning Mark has his last class for the semester but expects to be starting up again in late June, and still remotely. He is a lifelong and keenly curious learner and I admire his enthusiasm for subjects both familiar and brand new, plus I get the benefit of hearing about his latest deep dive.

And a website update: the very smart people who built and help me run TheCityCook.com have made some durable changes in my Contact portal and we’ve been able to re-open it without any more inflows from those obnoxious trolls. Such a waste of time and effort but that’s the world we’re in.

Cooking and Groceries

Yesterday my bread turned out fine, with good flavor and a very crispy crust, although I think I could have baked it a bit longer. It’s a challenge to know if one of these no-knead loaves is done because they’re baked in a deep cast iron pot which is blazing hot so it’s not like you can just lift a loaf off a baking sheet or pizza stone and tap the bottom, which is the way I was taught to listen for the bread’s doneness. You’re listening for a kind of hollow sound and if it’s instead more basso profondo, you need more baking time to raise the pitch of the taps. Next time I’ll do better.

Despite yesterday being so busy, we had a good dinner that featured a new-for-me recipe by Gordon Ramsay for Roast Chicken Stuffed with Chickpeas. Here it is at The Daily Mail. I primarily followed the recipe, but made a few changes: I seasoned the bird itself by rubbing a little cayenne and dried Greek oregano on the skin (a trick I learned from Diana Henry’s fabulous book, From the Oven to the Table), as well as some salt, after drizzling it with olive oil. To the chickpea stuffing, I added generous pinches of more dried Greek oregano and red pepper flakes instead of the sliced chilies and fresh thyme Ramsay calls for (neither of which I had), plus about a teaspoon of finely minced garlic. I did not roast the chicken on top of halved garlic heads, although I did scatter about six large peeled and halved garlic cloves around the bird which I thought would do the job of adding flavor without using up three whole garlic heads which seemed extravagant at a time when I’m harboring certain ingredients. And finally, I completely skipped the step of adding the herbed butter under the skin; I’ve never thought doing this really improves a chicken because in a hot 400° F oven, most of the butter quickly melts into the pan and given how I’m managing my pantry and other ingredients, to use nearly two sticks of butter on this chicken seemed wasteful. Plus I didn’t have fresh tarragon.

Despite all my recipe tinkering, I was really pleased with the result. The chicken was juicy, which is always more likely to be the case if you cook it faster at a higher heat, the skin was crispy with a little kick from the cayenne, and the stuffing was full-flavored and a nice contrast to the chicken and broccoli rabe that I made to go with it. There are so many ways to roast a chicken and simple is usually best, but sometimes it’s fun and appetizing to try something new. I will absolutely make this recipe again with all of my amendments.

Tonight’s dinner will depend upon how much time I have.  We will either have leftovers -- chicken from last night and lamb from a few days ago, maybe served room temperature with some grainy mustard, plus a salad. Or if I have more time, my weekly schedule had planned for veal burgers and blistered green beans. I saw the ground veal at my market on Monday morning and thought it would make a nice change for chopped meat. I’m planning to do a recipe from Craig Claiborne that is reminiscent of Veal a la Russe, which generally means something served with a cream sauce. There will be no cream sauce on my veal burgers, although Claiborne’s recipe does call for a little cream added to the meat and breadcrumb mixture. Anyway, that will be dinner either tonight or tomorrow.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough 

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