which just happens to talk about Gail's influence on my cooking). And, when I logged onto Facebook, there she was! Like I'd conjured her somehow with my words.
Gail and I met each other in the late nineties, and we were dedicated email pals for years. We wrote, exchanged cooking tips, and talked about life. For the past few years we'd fallen out of touch. And it made me pretty sad. I missed her wit. Her way with words. Above all, I missed her recipes.
We may have differed in our opinions about food (she preferred rice where I favored potatoes), but I think we shared an appreciation for "the good stuff." I'd brief her on my day's events and tip her off to the recipe for duck that I'd made for Thanksgiving dinner -- the one with the seriously crisp skin and the meltingly tender breast meat. She'd amuse me with stories of her Aunt Gerda, who entertained with gusto, and share recipes for mango bread, empanadas, and ginger cookies (a staple around the holidays... one of those fantastic cookies that seriously gets better with age).
Gail taught me a great deal about cooking. She taught me how to make a killer clam sauce with canned clams. She reminded me that planning large events is a snap -- as long as you keep a list of what to do when. Most of all, she gave me an appreciation for the little things that go into a dish that make the final product truly outstanding. One of my favorite "Gail recipes" is a simple, roasted chicken. It's not fussy. But, it's seriously fabulous. And it never fails to make me smile when I make it.
It starts out innocently enough. With an ordinary chicken. A big knife. A bit of garlic. You'd never really suspect that violence would ensue.
But it does. At first, you're a little bit uncomfortable stabbing that poor chicken. But, eventually, you kinda get into it. And the soundtrack to the movie "Psycho" starts playing in your head. You might start feeling the tension of the day wearing off. And you might end up going a little bit overboard with your hacking. But, somehow, that's alright. Becuase you know it's going to pay off in the end.
You mix together a bit of apple cider vinegar with a healthy dose of garlic and some thyme leaves.
And you rub it all over the chicken -- being sure to get it on the inside of the carcas and into all those little nooks and crannies that you made with your knife. I like to stuff a half of a spent lemon into the cavity if I have one; but, everything turns out just fine without it.
When you're ready to put the chicken in the oven, you'll want to open a nice bottle of dry white wine. Yeah -- some of it is for drinking; but, you also want to baste the chicken with a bit of the wine every 20 or 30 minutes while it's in the oven.
When the chicken comes out, it will be lovely and browned, and it will smell so incredible that you'll be just dying to taste it. But, be patient.
I like to rest my chicken for a bit after he comes out of the oven. Cover him up with a nice piece of foil, if you like. He'll stay plenty warm.
Gail would always say that the most important part of the recipe is in the carving. If the chicken is cooked properly, it should flow with fantastic, flavorful juices as you carve. Dredge each slice of meat in the juices before you serve the chicken -- that's where all the lovely garlicky flavor is. And if you miss this step, you've missed the point.
Best chicken ever. We served this particular bird with some sauteed kale and a bit of red wehani rice pilaf.
Thanks to Gail, I learned that early on.
We all have people like Gail in our lives -- who inspire us and leave us with a little something that expands our repertoire and improves our cooking. Who's your "Gail"?
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