Thursday, January 21, 2010

Snow Days

After two days of pouring rain down here in the Bay, I couldn't stand it anymore. Late Sunday night I drove to Tahoe. It was just as I'd expected: a painstakingly slow drive in a snowstorm. More than a foot of new snow had fallen since I'd last been up and the magic of Tahoe was in full force: pine trees seemingly dipped in white frosting, pristine white snow covering the homes and a ski village full of happy people, drunk on fresh powder.

I had a lazy Monday grocery shopping, reading and visiting with our neighbors, most of whom were heading back to the Bay that night. On impulse I decided not to cook dinner and instead went to Mamasake, my favorite restaurant in The Village. There I ran into Dan, just back from his year in Iraq, and his family. What were the chances?! It was great to catch up with them and a huge surprise to us all.

Tuesday I spent working from the couch, watching more and more snow fall. Late in the afternoon I drove to Rebel's house, played Scrabble and made dinner there. Dorie Greenspan's Chicken in the Pot recipe is both simple and delicious, and so I'm sharing it.

Rinse and repeat Wednesday without the dinner. The storm was still in full swing and the mountain was closed. The happy residents of Squaw Valley turn grumpy when there is fresh powder and no easy way to the top. Not wanting to be dragged down by them and also seeing the forecast of heavy snow for the rest of the week, I packed up the car and drove home in the same slow manner in which I drove up.

I'm irritated as I type, however, because the storm changed course and this morning turned out to be clear and crowd free. My brother taught me this one: it was a There-Are-No-Friends-On-Fresh-Powder Day. Bummer for me.

CHICKEN-IN-THE-POT
Makes 4 servings
  • Approximately 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 heads of garlic, broken into cloves, but not peeled
  • 16 shallots, peeled and trimmed, or 4 onions, peeled, trimmed and quartered, or 4 leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise
  • 8 carrots, peeled, trimmed and quartered
  • 4 celery stalks, trimmed and quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 chicken, whole or cut-up
  • 1/2 small (2 lbs or less) cabbage, green or red, cut into 4 wedges (try Savoy cabbage)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine, or another 1/2 cup chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 450F.

Set a large skillet over high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss in the garlic cloves and all the vegetables, except the cabbage - you might have to do this in two batches, you don't want to crowd the skillet - season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned on all sides. Spoon the vegetables into a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid - you'll need a pot that holds at least 5 quarts. Stir in the herbs, lemon zest and prunes, if you're using them.

Return the skillet to the heat and add another tablespoon or so of oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown the chicken on all sides. Put the chicken in the casserole, nestling it among the vegetables. Fit the cabbage wedges around the chicken.

Stir together the chicken broth, wine and 1/2 cup olive oil and pour the mixture over the chicken and vegetables.

Cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil and the lid. Slide the pot into the oven and bake for 70 minutes. If you need to keep it in the oven a little longer because you're not ready for it, don't worry - turn the heat down to 325F and you'll be good for another 30 minutes or so. If the chicken was whole, quarter it and return it to the pot, so that you can serve directly from the pot, or arrange the chicken and vegetables on a serving platter.

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