I cheated a bit here. I have roasted a chicken before, but I wanted to know if I followed a recipe by Daniel Boulud if I would get better roast chicken.
My usual recipe for roasting chicken is to chop rosemary and combine it with butter and shove as much as possible under the skin of the chicken, then roast at 350 until done, basting with butter as desired.
This recipe was much more complicated and involved brining the chicken for 18 hours, plus drying it out for 12 hours before roasting it.
In the end I got a tasty chicken with crunch skin. I would definitely do it the same way and then still cram butter, rosemary and thinly sliced garlic under the skin.
Nick helped me make Roblochon potatoes to go with it and I sautéed some broccoli rabe.
The recipe finished by saying to let the bird rest for 20-30 minutes at which point it would finish cooking. Mine didn’t tho and Nick got raw bird juice on his plate, blech! He was very nice about it though and after 10 more minutes in the oven, it was ready!
Pre Oven, Post Brine, Post Drying
After Baking at 450 for 15 minutes.
Dinner! Finally! (I ate most of my rabe while waiting on chicken to finish cooking.)
Buccatini w/ Bacon and Tomato Sauce.
Once again, I began this process with the desire to improve, to be a better, more patient cook. I came off the rails real fast on this one, reminding me that old habits die hard. I blame Nick because he wasn’t here to tell me to quit shoe-making.
I found a recipe that sounded good by Lidia Bastianich, I bought the ingredients listed, except the grocery store didn’t have buccatini so I used rigatoni. I didn’t really read the recipe until I was ready to start cooking. (mistake #1)
That’s when I discovered it included cooking the onions in water, which sounded weird to me. So I decided to deviate (classic Molly) and cook them in olive oil the way I always do.
Then I read that she had the bacon cooked on one side of skillet while the onions stayed on the other side. When I looked at the pan I had picked out, I thought “who is she kidding?” I’m not cooking on a restaurant flat top, I don’t have room for that. So I just added the chopped bacon while the onions were cooking (mistake #2)
The water that came out of the onions while cooking prevented the bacon from fully cooking, which I didn’t really realize until I tasted the sauce after I had added the fancy tomatoes. It simply wasn’t bacony enough. So I decided to try and add more bacon flavor by separately cooking some bacon, chopping it and adding it in.
But I didn’t want to dirty another pan so I microwaved the bacon (Shhhh! Don’t tell Nick!) Needless to say that was mistake #3. The bacon was fully cooked and crisped, but I lost all that good bacon grease in the process.
In the end, the pasta tasted pretty good, but I know how I’m going to do it better next time. (Cook the onions and bacon in separate pans and combine them once they are both done and use lots and lots of bacon!)
Lesson learned. (Hopefully)
This is Nick’s favorite dish when we eat at Sotto Sotto, which is why I chose it as my first cooking project. Just like Nick w/ the Fermented Potato Bread, I am trying to copy someone else’s restaurant dish.
There are only four ingredients in this dish: pasta, cheese, pepper and pancetta. Now some folks would think, “Four ingredients? That must mean it’s easy to cook.” They would be wrong. With only four ingredients there’s nothing to hide behind when you fuck it up. Also those ingredients should also be the highest of quality. The truth is, however, I work a lot and do not have time to travel to Star Provisions for cheese and the Spotted Trotter for pancetta, so I grabbed from the fine offerings of the Kosher Kroger in Toco Hills and hoped for the best.
I had Nick review the recipes I had procured from a hasty internet search and he said, “No, No, No.” They involved making a paste with cheese and water, and adding the pancetta separately. Nick says “Just cook the pasta, cook the pancetta, toss them together add a ton of pepper and top with cheese.”
It definitely sounded easier than making a cheese paste, but that was one less thing to hide behind.
Nick then doubted my claim that it was hard to find a recipe for Cacio e Pepe e Pancetta. I found plenty of recipes for Cacio e Pepe, but not so many w/ pancetta. Luckily when Nick searched on his ipad he too found similar results including one horrific version by Guy Fieri that was more like alfredo sauce than anything.
Cooking pasta properly is one of the hardest things for me. Mostly because I don’t mind it a bit overdone and I hate it underdone and I never know how much more it will cook once out of the water.
Luckily Nick took over. His first observation is I never salt the water enough. I thought a tablespoon or two of salt was plenty. Apparently you want it almost ocean salty and more than ocean salty if you were going to blanch vegetables.
Once we got the water salinated and boiling, Nick added the pasta. I had partially cooked the pancetta when Nick pointed out the pan was not big enough to hold the pasta. So I transferred it to a bigger pan, but Nick said to not cook the pancetta any more. It looked a bit sad and raw so I began to worry I had bought the wrong kind of pancetta.
As the pasta got close Nick urged me to start cooking the pancetta again to “crisp it up.” Relief flooded through me as the pancetta began to resemble what it looks like at Sotto Sotto. Disaster averted.
As we began to add the pepper Nick warned me to not go all the way and add all the pepper in one go, but rather add some, mix and taste and then add some more. He is so good at this, it’s like he’s a professional or something.
Nick said it was “just as good” as Sotto Sotto’s version. Success!
While Nick is out of town I am going to try and make my favorite pasta dish the buccatini w/ bacon and tomato sauce from Bocca Lupo. So stay tuned for more cooking fun!
I have something to shameful to admit. I have hidden it for years, but now in this world of full admissions via social media, I feel that I can be honest with my tiny (probably non-existent) blog audience. I can’t cook.
Yes, I worked in the kitchen of several acclaimed restaurants for short periods of time, and yes I cooked for my family quite often as a teenager. I can follow a recipe, I know what most of the basic cooking terms mean and I am serve safe certified (like that has anything to do with cooking.)
Ask me to make a red sauce, though, and I’m likely to pull out a jar of Classico. Ask me to fine dice and you’re likely to get cuts in a variety of shapes and sizes.
When I worked in restaurant kitchens it was because I wanted to be a food writer. I was there to learn how restaurants were organized and functioned; I was not trying to climb the culinary career ladder.
Like most things becoming a great cook comes with practice and discipline. Practice allows you to gain the muscle memory to become confident in your actions. Discipline allows you to work on achieving the same results each time and not cutting corners for speed or laziness.
While I am not lazy, I am a get-it-done kind of girl. I do not have the patience for fiddling about and searching for perfection. While this attitude has mostly served me well in life, this kind of impatience makes for a terrible cook.
Now at age 34 I am for the first time in my adult life going to have a kitchen that’s conducive to cooking. Nick and I are renovating our tiny 1920 craftsman bungalow into a slightly less tiny bungalow with a Viking stove.
You might ask, why doesn’t Nick just cook? After all Nick is a great cook and has all the necessary skills to make the perfect dinner every night. That’s true, but Nick is a Chef, he cooks all day long and it is not relaxing for him to come home and have to consider dinner. Also when you are a chef anyone’s food that is not your own tastes better because it tastes different.
While we are gutting our house, we are staying in my mother’s home which has a fully functioning kitchen. My goal is to be able to cook six dishes perfectly by the end of the 6 month renovation (might be longer, but let’s be optimistic shall we?)
So stay tuned as I update you next week on Cacio, Pepe, e Pancetta.