"You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients." Whether Julia Child ever uttered these words, I count them worthy of mantra.
More so since picking up my weekly bag of vegetables from the Summit County CSA. Comparing the taste of locally grown foods to those that have traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to reach us has proven Julia's quote and provided me with a new philosophy on cooking.
When we use the freshest, best, ingredients we can afford, we can eschew complicated sauces or techniques and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Vegetables that are farm fresh need only salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. The same applies to quality meat: Salt, pepper, olive oil and roast at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Best of all, you can throw the vegetables and meat onto one baking sheet, into the oven, adjusting the cooking time for the meat and vegetables, as needed.
Here's a delicious example: This weekend I made Melissa Clark's peachy pork recipe from her new cookbook, with exactly these ingredients. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Toss pork chops, and chunks of a red onion with olive oil, salt, pepper. Spread chops and onion chunks on a baking sheet and roast for eight minutes. While they're cooking, slice a big peach into half-moon slices, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Turn on the broiler, add the slices of peaches to the baking sheet with the pork chops and onions, broil all until you have a light char. Simply delicious!
This idea sparked the farm-to-table theme for the Applause! Cooking Class and Luncheon I led at Peg Roedel's house. I wanted to share recipes a novice cook would feel confident to make, yet worthy of inviting a few friends over for a casual dinner party. Each recipe takes 10-15 minutes to prepare. Corral the friends, who've wandered into the kitchen searching for wine to help stuff the squash or the bird. Then pop both dishes into the oven, and join your guests for a glass of wine while the meal cooks.
Which is exactly what we did: While the food cooked, Christina Holbrook, author of "The Winelands of Colorado," led us in an instructive and delightful wine tasting. For dessert, Maggie Ducayet demonstrated how to make a delicious pear tart.
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I hope you'll call a couple friends this week and try both these recipes.
Spatchcock (Butterflied) Chicken
Hands down, this butterflied chicken is my favorite, fool-proof way to roast chicken. The skin is crispy, the meat is moist, and no more soggy bottoms!
Yield: 2-4 people
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Roasting chicken | 3 to 4 pounds
Butter or olive oil | 3 tablespoons butter
Seasonings | salt, pepper, lemon pepper, rosemary sprig
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut the chicken's backbone out. Lay the chicken breast-side up, and using the balls of your hands, press and flatten the breast bone so that the chicken lays flat.
2. Place the chicken on the baking pan or baking dish breast-side up. Gently separate the skin from the top of the breast, creating a small pocket with your fingers. Insert the seasoned butter and herbs into this pocket, then massage the outside of the bird with the rest of the seasoned butter. If you are in a hurry, you can skip this step, sprinkle the outside of the bird with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Either method produces a moist, tasty bird with crispy skin.
3. Roast the chicken for one hour, or until the juices run clear when the bird is pierced. Take the bird from the oven and let it rest for 5–10 minutes before carving.
Stuffed Individual Pumpkins (or Acorn Squash)
Think of this as the new pot pie. The perfect dinner to enjoy in front of the fire on a snowy winter night. Best of all, the variations are endless, it takes about 5 minutes to assemble, and you can use pumpkins or acorn squash.
Yield: 1-2 people depending on the size of each squash
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 45-55 minutes
1 small pumpkin (or acorn squash) per person
bits of your favorite cheese, sausage, bacon, cooked vegetables
¼ cup heavy cream or half and half
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the top off each pumpkin, but save, because you'll be using it as a top while the pumpkin bakes. Then scoop out the seeds of the interior of the pumpkin so that the cavity is clear and ready to stuff.
2. Stuff the pumpkin with small bites of your favorite ingredients: cheese, meat, vegetable, bread (or rice) add enough cream just to dampen the ingredients.
3. Cover the cavity with the 'lid' you cut off. Roast the pumpkin for 40-45 minutes or until the pumpkin can be pierced easily with a knife. Take the pumpkin from the oven and let it rest for 5–10 minutes before serving.