Friday, January 13, 2012

A Listless Best of 2011

At the end of every year, there's always a big flurry of "Best Of" lists.  The Top 10 Movies.  The Notable Books. The Must Read Blogs*.  The Coolest Apps.  The Best Meals.  

I read them all, avidly.
But my year wasn't like that.

There's no list.

My year was little wonderful moments, and big awful ones.  Plus all the ordinary moments in between. Some I'll remember and lots that I've already forgotten.  Very few came from movies, books, blogs, or apps.

But food?  Ah, yes.

Fancy meals with my husband, burgers with my niece, crab cakes with my sister and meatball subs with the FGs.

Teaching friends to bake bread, inventing sorbets from cider, savoring soup on a rainy night in Cusco, finding comfort in a casserole, or making Christmas magic from flour, sugar and a whole lot of butter.

Grilling cheese sandwiches with my daughter and interfering while my son made dinner as a homework assignment.   Folding fortunes for a funeral and celebrating a new job with a pan full of blondies.

Discussing books over salad, arguing with my mom over tuna fish, battling fiercely over bolognese sauce with my carpool.
Fretting over pie crust and my kids being far from home.

Making supper on a chilly weeknight, or brunch on a sunny morning.

Making people smile**.  

The smell of bacon, of a cake in the oven, of the slow cooker bubbling away.  The sound of the grill sizzling or the timer going off in the kitchen.

The taste of warm biscuits with butter and honey.

There's no way to list all of what was best about 2011, without recalling the worst of it, too. It was a turbulent, emotional, roller coaster year. But almost every day had a moment that was made better by the gift of good food.

Here's to a calmer 2012, but one that is quietly, tastily, memorable too.

Quietly Memorable Weeknight Roast Chicken
This recipe comes from Patty, a member of my mah jong crew, who made this for us on a chilly Wednesday night.  Do I remember if I won or lost, or what we talked about or why we were laughing so much?  No.  But boy did I remember her chicken.

1 whole roasting chicken, cut in half
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried oregano
Garlic salt (optional)
Paprika (optional)
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter

Crusty bread, for serving and scraping up the pan drippings

Preheat oven to 425.

Rinse the chicken thoroughly in cool water, pat dry, and cut in half along the back bone.  Place chicken in a large bowl, and coat completely with olive oil.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  If you like, substitute garlic salt for all or a portion of the regular salt.  Place chicken, skin side up, in a large roasting pan.  Sprinkle skin liberally with oregano, and paprika, if using.  Cut butter into large chunks, and place a few on top of each piece of chicken.

Roast for 45 minutes, or until skin is crispy and brown on top, and juices run clear in the thigh when pierced.

Set chicken aside to rest on a platter.   The pan will be full of yummy butter/oil/pan drippings.  Collect a good portion of those into a warm bowl, and serve along with the chicken and a loaf of crusty bread for dipping.

Click to print this recipe!

Equally Memorable Green Salad Dressing
I served the chicken with a simple salad, but even that was out of the ordinary, thanks to the salad dressing recipe that Amy, another of the mah jong ladies, brought for me***.

2 Tbs. each flat leaf parsley, tarragon, and fresh basil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. light sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth.


Click to print this recipe!

* Somehow Cheesy Pennies wasn't listed.  Must have been an oversight.
** Making myself plump in the process.
*** I admit that I'd been stalking her for it ever since she served it at her house one night.  I may have even said something like, "Don't even think of showing up to the next game without it," but that's one of those moments of 2011 that wasn't so memorable for me.

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