By Nancy Newberry
As I write this today, it is sunny, but the wind is fierce, and not particularly warm. March is a bit of a dud in the food event universe. Mardi Gras is past, and this issue will arrive a little late to help you plan an Oscar party, unless you’re only making popcorn, which I think you can handle on your own. You can all feel free to dye your food (and your beer) green on the 17th of March, of course. For my taste winter is lingering a bit long, but this gives me a chance to share three recipes I really love with you. I hope that these recipes will get you through winter’s last blast.
Let’s begin with a two-potato chicken soup. In the last few years, I’ve tried recipes for two-potato salad, using both yams and white potatoes, and it’s delicious, so when I was short a white potato or two and elbow-deep in making chicken soup, I thought, why not? And it was a complete success. I will probably make it this way forever. The prerequisite for this recipe is that you roast a whole chicken first, or buy a rotisserie bird from the grocery store. The bones are essential, and besides, real chickens come whole, not as bland boneless parts, and chicken broth is basically free if you have the bones.
Next, I’ll share a basic recipe for no-knead bread that works well for me at our high altitude. This recipe is adapted from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois’ book “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.” I know many of you have tried no-knead breads, but I would like to make you aware of this one. It truly takes about 5 minutes to mix a wet dough, which you stash in your refrigerator. When you want fresh rustic bread, you turn on the oven, flop some dough into a baguette or loaf pan, or shape it into a free-form loaf. Let it sit while you drink your first cup of coffee, bleary-eyed and muzzy-headed. Slash it, pop it into the oven.
Then you go take a shower. Well, you don’t have to, but let’s assume you’re on your way to work and you want fresh crusty bread to tear apart while you drive down Sedillo Hill or out to the Plains of San Agustin. By the time you’re dressed, it will be ready.
The greatest advantage of this technique is that you do not have to calculate rise times at all. This bread lives by your schedule. The second great advantage is that you can bake only what you will eat fresh, and it’s no trouble to bake off more later. I realize that I’m telling you how to live here, but really, that’s my job. Cooking is life.
The third recipe in the group takes some labor, but is well worth the effort: Ruby Marmalade. Ordinarily I don’t think of winter as canning season, but it is grapefruit season, so it is time to make marmalade, the cheeriest thing on the winter table. I’ve worked from both traditional English recipes, and followed the method in Edon Waycott’s “Preserving the Taste,” a book I highly recommend for learning to make intensely flavored preserves. I’ve found a technique that falls somewhere in between that works very well for me.
You will be disappointed that all this work only yields five or so jars of marmalade—until you taste it. Then you will understand why truly great preserves cannot be bought for any price. You have to make them yourself, or have a really great friend who gives them to you.
Chicken Yam and Yukon Soup
I like to make soup that is generous with vegetables and light on meat and broth.
Makes: 4-6 servings
Time: 1 hour
The remains of a whole roast chicken with some meat left on the bones
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped celery
1 large onion, chopped
2 white potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s, or to taste
Pick any remaining meat from the chicken and chop into ½-inch chunks; set aside. Place the bones, and skin into a deep saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to prepare a light broth.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot, and cook and stir the celery and onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Strain the broth into the pot, discarding the bones and skin.
Add the white potatoes, sweet potatoes, thyme, garlic, and reserved chicken meat. Add a little water if you prefer a greater proportion of broth to vegetables. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Season with Creole Seasoning to taste.
Crusty Rustic Bread
Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)
Makes: 4 1-pound loaves
Time: 5 minutes active time plus 3 hours in refrigerator and 50 minutes to rest and bake loaf
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
Stir yeast and salt into water in a large bowl or plastic container. Stir in flour all at once, until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite shaggy. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Immediately place the dough into the refrigerator until ready to use, at least 3 hours (the original recipe, for sea level, rises on the counter. You will have better results if you place the dough into the refrigerator right away).
To bake a loaf, place a shallow pan on the lower rack of oven. If you have a baking stone, place it on the middle rack of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Sprinkle flour on your hands and onto a dough blade, and cut off a grapefruit-sized lump of dough. Lightly form the dough into a free-form loaf by tucking ends underneath to form a smooth ball, or flop a length of dough into a floured baguette pan. Place loaf on a pizza peel or baking sheet without sides, and let rest 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it. (I often sprinkle the pans or pizza peel with cornmeal, sesame seeds, or flour.)
Deeply slash top with serrated or very sharp knife. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool for as long as you can resist temptation.
Adapted from “Preserving the Taste” by Edon Waycott (Hearst, 1993)
Using a vegetable peeler gives just the right proportion of skin to pith, and creates an agreeably bittersweet marmalade. Ruby Reds provide a gem-like color.
Makes: 5 8-ounce jars
Time: 7 hours
6 large grapefruits, preferable organic Ruby Red grapefruit
2 cups sugar
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the outer layer of grapefruit and lemon skin in approximately inch-wide strips. Using a sharp knife, slice stacks of strips into fine strips, about 1/16-inch wide.
Bring 2 cups water with sugar to a boil. Add the strips, and cook over medium heat until the strips become translucent and darken, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, score 4 grapefruits and carefully remove the remaining pith. Separate the grapefruits into sections, and separate the grapefruit pulp, working over a bowl to catch any juices and the pulp. Squeeze any remaining juice from membranes, then discard them. You will have about 4 cups of juice and pulp.
Juice the remaining 2 grapefruits and lemon, and add water if needed to measure 2 cups. Pour the juice into the bowl. Pour in the sugar syrup and peel mixture, and let stand 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Place the mixture into a large, non-reactive, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer until the mixture begins to thicken (This may take 1-2 hours). To test for readiness, perform the “wrinkle test.” Place a small plate in the freezer. Add a small spoonful of the marmalade to the plate, return it to the freezer for a few minutes, then pass your finger through the marmalade. When it wrinkles as you run your finger through, it is ready.
Pack the marmalade into sterilized jars. Wipe rims clean with a damp towel. Seal tightly with new lids and metal rings. Process jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove to cool completely.