COM­FORT (FOOD) AND JOY

’Tis the sea­son – to need a no-fuss sup­per for friends and fam­ily. We ask a few top-notch chefs to give us a hand in the kitchen

ZOOMER Magazine - - ENTERTAINING -

IT TOOK A TRIP to Paris to turn Toronto-based chef Cory Vi­tiello on to the joys and won­ders of a per­fectly cooked chicken. Those mem­o­ries linger, and last year the head of culi­nary de­vel­op­ment at the Cac­tus Club and for­merly of the award-win­ning the Har­bord Room and the Drake Ho­tel opened a chain of ro­tis­serie chicken coun­ters in the city called Flock Ro­tis­serie + Greens. Us­ing qual­ity free-range chick­ens sourced from small farms in On­tario – and raised free of hor­mones – he cooks whole birds ro­tis­serie-style and serves them up in a va­ri­ety of ways, from sand­wiches and soups to whole birds with clas­sic sides like roast pota­toes and green sal­ads.

“When a chicken comes off the ro­tis­serie or out of a good oven, it’s my all-time favourite meal,” he says. “It’s vis­ually ap­peal­ing, for one, and noth­ing gets me sali­vat­ing like a per­fectly roasted chicken.” A cooked chicken, be it take-out or cooked at home, is an in­fin­itely ver­sa­tile base for a meal, Vi­tiello adds. He likes a 2-1/2 pound bird – just the right amount of meat and per­fect size for roast­ing – rubbed with a dry mix­ture of herbs and spices and left for 24 hours to cure. Then, one hour in the oven fol­lowed by 10 min­utes rest … et voila! The per­fect chicken.

“You don’t want to get in the way of this dish. Pay as much re­spect as you can to the in­gre­di­ents. Don’t overwork it. Let it speak for it­self.” Here, three of Vi­tiello’s favourite ways to trans­form a cooked bird into a de­li­cious meal.

1 CA­SUAL: A CHICKEN AND SALAD LUNCH

“For a quick, healthy, beau­ti­ful lunch, take the meat off the leg and thigh bones and break it into quar­ters. Use a par­ing knife to make an in­ci­sion in the leg and slip off the meat. Make a small cut along the breast­bone and pull the meat away with the skin in­tact. Lay the pieces on a plat­ter with a lightly dressed green salad [for a clas­sic Tar­ragon Vinai­grette, go to www.ev­ery­thing zoomer.com/recipe-tar­ragon-vi­nai grette]. It’s a beau­ti­ful light lunch for two to four peo­ple.” Bonus: Make a stock us­ing the bones and car­cass.

2 WEEK­DAY DIN­NER: CHICKEN AND ROAST VEG­ETA­BLES

“In ad­vance, start roast­ing a pan of un­peeled rus­tic fall root veg­eta­bles with some smashed gar­lic, rose­mary, thyme, olive oil and salt. The chicken comes home, cut it into quar­ters and serve it on top of the veg­eta­bles straight from the oven. Put your money into or­ganic [pro­duce]: get nice, skin-on veg­eta­bles, like baby beets, car­rots, turnip, that sort of thing. A whole roasted chicken on top … that’s ready-made for Gourmet mag­a­zine!”

3 EN­TER­TAIN­ING: QUICK ONE-POT MOROC­CAN VEG­ETABLE STEW WITH PULLED RO­TIS­SERIE CHICKEN

“This is one of my go-to meals at home. It’s dead easy to prep. You cook and present it in one pot. It’s great for us­ing left­overs. Es­pe­cially in colder months, this dish is

warm and sat­is­fy­ing and just gets bet­ter af­ter a day or two in the re­frig­er­a­tor.

This is not an ex­act recipe per se, just a tem­plate that opens it­self up to end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties. Use what you have on hand and put your own spin on the dish. It’s rus­tic and ad hoc in na­ture. Don’t get caught up in specifics.”

Prep time: 20 min­utes Cook time: 30 min­utes Diced onion Minced gar­lic clove Canned toma­toes, diced with juice Diced carrot Chopped kale Cauliflower flo­rets Smoked pa­prika Ground cumin Ground fen­nel seed Ground turmeric Cayenne pep­per Bay leaf Canned chick­peas Cooked lentils Chicken or veg­etable broth Pulled ro­tis­serie chicken Salt

Gar­nish (op­tional): Dried cur­rants Greek yo­gurt Harissa Fresh cilantro leaves

Use your com­mon sense on quan­ti­ties, de­pend­ing on how many peo­ple you’re feed­ing. Go easy on the spices at first. Al­low the flavours to cook out and then read­just, adding a lit­tle more as your own taste de­sires. You’ll be sur­prised at how for­giv­ing this recipe is. Sea­son your dish with salt lit­tle by lit­tle along the way to bring all of the flavours to­gether. It’s also a great ex­er­cise to build your own palate and learn to cook with­out recipes. Make a cou­ple mis­takes along the way and ad­just. No big deal.

In a heavy-bot­tomed pot over medium heat with a lit­tle olive, add onion and gar­lic. Cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 5 min­utes or un­til they are trans­par­ent. Add toma­toes, car­rots, kale, cauliflower and spices. Cook 5 min­utes longer. Add chick­peas, lentils and broth to cover. Cover and sim­mer for 15 min­utes. Check the spice and sea­son­ing, ad­just and then add the pulled chicken to the pot just to warm through. Gar­nish and serve straight from the pot.

What to drink “I like a good strong cider with my chicken,” says Vi­tiello. “But my ul­ti­mate, if I’m in Paris, is a white Bur­gundy with a roast chicken, salad and some pomme frites. A good Provençal rosé is also good – any­thing on the lighter side, with more vi­brant flavours. A bub­bly cider, sparkling wine or Cham­pagne – the whole meal should feel light and bright.” —Dick Sny­der For more drink sug­ges­tions, turn to “Tip­pled Pink,” page 54.

GO­ING MEAT­LESS

When there’s a crowd to be fed, there’s also bound to be a veg­e­tar­ian or two in the mix – as well as those of us who might want to cut back on our red (or white) meat in­take by choos­ing fish in­stead.

We turned to two ex­perts for their ideas. Martha Ste­wart shares her recipe for Poached Salmon –

pre­pared in a slow cooker. Ste­wart’s recipe al­lows the chef to so­cial­ize while this bit of coun­ter­top tech­nol­ogy does all the work. But even the DIY maven won’t aban­don all the work to her cooker. Read on, and you’ll see what we mean.

Martha Ste­wart’s Poached Salmon with Salsa Verde It’s of­fi­cial; the Grand Dame of home­mak­ing has en­dorsed slow cook­ing. Not just for chili and pulled pork – al­though she’s per­fected those recipes, too – Martha Ste­wart’s Slow Cooker el­e­vates the tech­nique to spe­cial oc­ca­sion-wor­thy with her tips on prep and serv­ing with “panache,” like the salmon dish fea­tured here.

The slow cooker’s value has as much to do with what it doesn’t do as with what it does, says Ste­wart. In the case of fish, that means not over­cook­ing it. It’s a com­fort to know you can poach a whole fil­let with­out the risk of dry­ing it out, she adds.

Per­haps to be ex­pected, Martha’s method does re­quire a lit­tle more fuss and muss. No. 1 of Ste­wart’s Slow Cooker Com­mand­ments is to aban­don the set-it-and-for­get-it men­tal­ity. In­stead, take a peek and even lift the lid for a stir on oc­ca­sion. And rather than just load­ing up the cooker with raw in­gre­di­ents, take the time to sauté veg­eta­bles and brown meat first.

Also, she says to forgo pro­cessed and pack­aged for fresh in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing herbs. Ste­wart says slow cook­ing is ideal for times when you’re “in and out of the house on er­rands” – or say, pre­par­ing for guests. —Tara Losin­ski

Voula Hal­l­i­day’s Roast Veg­etable and Orzo Soup Cana­dian foodie Voula Hal­l­i­day, a Le Cor­don Bleu-trained chef who

reg­u­larly ap­pears in the me­dia, has just launched Eat at Home, a col­lec­tion of 150 recipes cre­ated to take the fuss out of cook­ing at home. Though tar­geted at vege­tar­i­ans, Hal­l­i­day’s one-pot pleaser works for ev­ery taste­bud.

“When I want to feed my fam­ily and friends a soup that is brightly flavoured, presents beau­ti­fully and is sooth­ingly com­fort­ing, this recipe for roast veg­etable and orzo soup is what I rely on,” she says. The wis­dom of re­duc­ing waste, buy­ing only what you need and learn­ing to even love the left­overs are all in her book but, here, she shares this flavouradding tip: “Roast­ing the veg­eta­bles be­fore­hand caramelizes them and adds a depth of flavour that rounds out the tangi­ness of the tomato so nicely. It’s an easy recipe to pre­pare that can be dou­bled and made ahead. Serve with gar­lic bread or fresh slices of crusty sour­dough bread for those who like to dip into their soup un­til the bowl is wiped clean. “This soup is jammed full of flavour­ful roasted veg­eta­bles,” writes Hal­l­i­day in Eat at Home. “The ad­di­tion of pasta, oregano and thyme gives it a Mediter­ranean touch that’s oh-so-com­fort­ing.” —Vi­vian Vas­sos

VOULA HAL­L­I­DAY’S ROAST VEG­ETABLE AND ORZO SOUP

4 cloves gar­lic 3 zuc­chini, cut in rounds 2 large car­rots, peeled and cut in chunks 2 red bell pep­pers, cut in chunks 1 large yel­low onion, cut in chunks 2 tbsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 2 tsp dried 1 tbsp dried oregano 2 cups dried orzo pasta or mac­a­roni noo­dles 4 cups veg­etable or chicken broth 1 can (28 oz) crushed toma­toes ½ tsp ground black pep­per ¼ tsp salt

In large roast­ing pan, com­bine gar­lic, zuc­chini, car­rots, bell pep­pers and onion. Driz­zle with oil and toss un­til evenly coated. Sprin­kle with thyme and oregano. Bake in 450 F oven just un­til the veg­eta­bles are ten­der and be­gin­ning to brown, 20 to 25 min­utes.

Mean­while, bring a large pan of wa­ter to a boil. Add orzo and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til al dente, about 8 min­utes. Drain and set aside.

In saucepan, com­bine broth, toma­toes, pep­per, salt and roasted veg­eta­bles. Bring to a boil, re­duce heat, cover and sim­mer for 15 min­utes.

Work­ing in small batches, trans­fer soup to bowl of food pro­ces­sor fit­ted with steel blade and pulse un­til creamy. Re­turn to saucepan, stir in cooked orzo and heat un­til warmed through. La­dle into bowls and serve. (Soup keeps well in an air­tight con­tainer in the re­frig­er­a­tor for 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.) Serves 6

For Martha’s Poached Salmon with Salsa Verde and oth­ers from her book, go to www.ev­ery thing­zoomer.com/ slow-cooke­drecipes-marthastew­art.

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