It's that time of year again, when everyone is back from vacation. Fall is in the air and it's time to catch up with old friends. A Saturday night dinner is in order and we've got just the menu for you!
Today, I am going to share with you one of my very favorite menus. I have made these dishes numerous times. They always seem to bring out good conversation and a juicy story or two…
This menu presents a great blend of sophisticated flavors that are easy to prepare and serve. Plus, the meal will work served piping hot or slightly above room temperature, giving both hosts and guests ample time for that all important chilled glass of Processo (or other sparkling wine) before dinner!
- Carrot Parsley Salad
- Lemon Chicken
- Small Creamer Potatoes with Piment d'Espelette
- Spiced Roasted Pears
Carrot Parsley Salad
This salad is a staple for us. The nuts and carrots provide a satisfying crunch while the acidity of the salad dressing provides a nice contrast. This is a great starter dish and is loosely adapted from the Jacque Pepin cookbook, "Cooling with Claudine".
- ¼ pound of Carrots peeled and grated
- 1 ½ Cup of flat leaf Parsley, rinsed and chopped
- 1/2 Cup of raw almonds, heated and chopped into pieces
- ½ Medium Valencia Orange: cut into segments, chopped into small pieces
- Good Italian salad dressing (use enough to make a light coating)
In a large bowl, add the grated carrots, mix in the chopped parsley. Add the heated, chopped nuts and pieces of orange segments. Coat with the salad dressing and serve. The warm nuts bring this salad together. So serve it at room temperature.
Note: To avoid a bitter flavor, be sure to remove all the white pith from the orange segments.
I honestly don't remember where I got the idea for this dish. But, the one thing I do know is that lemon (if used correctly) can perk up an average set of ingredients and make them sing. This dish is a fine example of the lemon's remarkable culinary powers.
- 4-6 large breast meat pieces with bone and skin on (1 breast piece per person with an extra piece or two for the table)
- 2-3 pats of butter
- 2-3 medium sized yellow onions or 2 large onions
- 1 Large lemon or 2 smaller ones
- Kosher Salt
- Large baking dish or pan (A lasagna pan works nicely)
Preheat the oven to 425.
Rinse the chicken and trim away any excess fat. Place in a baking dish skin side up. Melt the butter. Pour a light coating of butter over the chicken pieces - it will help to brown/crisp the skin.
Cut up the onion into halves or quarters - halves look better on a plate
Take a good pinch or two of kosher salt and salt the chicken and onions liberally. The salt will draw the chicken juices while cooking, helping to flavor the onions.
Take one lemon and roll back and forth on the counter to stimulate the juice. Cut the lemon in half. Take one half and squeeze the juice over the chicken and onions. Make sure you get every drop out of the lemon so that the ingredients are well coated with lemon juice.
Tuck into the oven and cook for about 60-75 minutes. Half way through cooking at about 40 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and squeeze the other half of the lemon over the chicken. You will notice a fair amount of pan juices - that is what we want…flavor, flavor, flavor. Return chicken to oven and continue cooking the remaining 20-35 minutes.
The chicken will turn a nice brown when done and lose about 30% of its size.
Remove the chicken from the oven and pan. Let it stand. Do not leave it in the oven or it will get tough.
Ah, creamer potatoes are a wonderful medium for flavor. If for some reason your produce person doesn't have small creamers, (banish the thought) a buttery Yukon works just as well. DO NOT USE a starchy potato (like Russet) - the texture and flavor doesn't work here.
- 2-3 pounds of small creamer potatoes
- Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt
- Dash of Piment d'Espelette - Chile pepper
- Parsley for garnish
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Rinse the potatoes and remove any dings. Pat dry thoroughly
Place the potatoes in a pan and coat with olive oil. Roll in the pan to ensure that the potatoes are completely coated. Cook until the skins are soft and have turned a dull reddish brown (about 30 minutes). About half way through cooking, open the oven and shake the potatoes to ensure they cook evenly and do not stick to the pan.
After you remove the potatoes from the oven, let them stand for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with kosher salt and a dash of Piment d'Espelette. Roll the potatoes in the bowl to ensure they are well coated. Add a garnish before serving.
Tip: Because you are coating the potatoes in oil, they must be free of water - or else they will not cook properly.
Spiced Roasted Pears
This is one of those desserts that make a nice presentation. It creates a lovely aroma and provides a warm finishing note to any meal.
- 3 Bosh Pears
- Roasting Sauce, see recipe below
- Gouda Parrano Uniekaas
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the skins from 3 pears. Slice the round portion of the bottom off. Stand the pears in a shallow pan. Coat the pears with about 3/4 cup of the sauce. Cook until heated through about 18-20 minutes. Finish the pears by topping with the remaining ¼ cup sauce. Cut pears in half or quarters. Serve with sliced Gouda Parrano Uniekaas cheese.
- 1 cup Simple Syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part boiling water) stir until clear
- 1/2-1 ounce good brandy or cognac
- 1 heaping teaspoon Juliet Mae Pumpkin Pie Spice
Combine all ingredients.
About the Flavorist
Kathy FitzHenry is the founder of Juliet Mae Fine Spices, an artisan maker of fine spice blends and seasonings located in San Francisco. Known for her array of sophisticated, handmade products, Kathy has just begun to sell her blends nationally under the name The Occasional Gourmet. You can find her blends at select specialty stores and at all the Northern California Whole Foods Stores. For more information, please contact Kathy at 415-474-1633 or go to www.theoccasionalgourmet.com.