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
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.
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.