Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Been A While, But I Finally Have A New Recipe

Dear Muffins, I’m so sorry I have been so MIA.  I worried that there are readers out there who don’t hang out with me offline and aren’t friends on Facebook, and thus they have been left hanging about my Thanksgiving.  I let an entire month go by without as much as a “How I’m doing” update let alone a recipe. 
For those of you waiting with bated breath about whether or not I made it to Chicago for Thanksgiving, I have good news.  The weather, while hardly mild and gentle, was not so bad as to ground all flights.  We made it to Chicago in good time and celebrated Thanksgiving as planned with the Pickypants family.  (Whenever I complain that my husband is a picky eater, I just remember his brother and nephew who are so much worse).  We had dinner as per usual at Lovell’s of Lake Forest.  My brother-in-law admitted he's boring because he always wants to have Thanksgiving at the same place. (I forgot my camera, so please forgive the photo quality as it all came from my phone.)

 What did I eat?
Yummy lamb shank in a sauce lightly flavored with cinnamon and served over orzo.  Once again, I bucked tradition and didn’t order the turkey.  I admit this year I was tempted.
We ate at most of our other usual haunts, so I don’t have much to report on new restaurants.  I did enjoy one particularly tasty experience at the Drake Hotel, consuming a traditional afternoon tea. 
We had cranberry scones and gingerbread madelienes, turkey salad sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, and salmon sandwiches, and some pastries.  I washed it down with pear caramel tea and a mimosa or two.
The spreads were as delicious as the foods themselves.  We had clotted cream, lemon curd, and a jam whose component fruit I couldn’t recognize. 
Upon my return I haven’t done much creative cooking.  I have fallen back on traditional recipes like chili, chicken cacciatore, and spaghetti with turkey meat sauce.  I have become so boring.
This week I realized it was time to get out of my rut already.  I just needed the right inspiration.  I needed that idea, that ingredient, that would shake me into cooking a new way.
I found today’s inspiration in a novel.  There was a chapter that had its doomed hero cooking a chicken for his girlfriend.  He roasted it with cherries.  The story took place during cherry season, which made imitating that idea a little tougher for me, but that wasn’t an issue for long.  Once the spark is lit in my brain, I can take it in whatever direction it needs to go.  So I thought, “What about dried cherries?  What about some other dried fruits?  What goes nicely with dried fruits?” 
I found adorable little Baby Chickens at the Amish Market in Manhattan.  They were most definitively called "baby chickens" and not cornish hens.  Whatever they were, I found them too cute not to buy.
 I stuffed them with a mixture of farro, caramelized onions, dried cherries, and dried apples. I mixed the pan juices with brandy, cream, and thyme.   I had my own version of the book recipe and it was the perfect recipe for this time of year.  It was sort of festive-  as if I were making my own Christmas dinner for two. 

Stuffed Baby Chickens
  • 2-4 baby chickens, 1 pound each (the recipe makes a lot of stuffing, so even though I only made two, there is more than enough stuffing to go around)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 Tbl olive oil plus more for rubbing on the chickens
  • 1/2 cup  farro
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried apples, chopped
  • 1 Tbl pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper for sprinkling
Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small pan, heat 2 Tbl olive oil over low heat and gently cook onions until very soft and sweet. 

Meanwhile bring water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add farro and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook about 15 minutes, until they are semi-tender.  Drain the water.  

Mix farro with the fruit, onions and pine nuts.  Gently spoon the mixture into the cavities of the chickens.  Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook at 350 for 55-60 minutes.

Remove chickens from pan.  Place pan over the burner of your stove and add brandy to the pan juices.  Scrap up any brown bits from the bottom.  Add thyme and bring to a boil.  Add the cream and boil another minute.  

Serve chickens with pan sauce.