Wednesday, October 29, 2014
I've always held a very special place in my heart for London. It was the first European city I ever set foot in way back when, and since then, I've returned again and again, falling a bit more in love with it each and every time. There are, after all, so many things to love: the moodiness of the seemingly perpetual grey skies, followed by the sharp surge of gladness that comes with an unexpected cerulean-sky-streaming-sunlight day; the parks that either sprawl in every which way with ramshackle rolling green lawns and trees, or tidy up nicely in uniform English gardens; the friendly pubs with floors covered in soft, threadbare rugs and filled with the sounds of cozy conversation; the pies and curries and roasts; the obsessive tea-drinking. It all adds up to a whole that soothes me into a happy little state of mind that the chaos of NYC can never quite manage.
I'm lucky enough to get there several times a year for work, and at least a couple of times in the fall. It's the best season for lots of reasons, one of which is the weekend tradition of roasts that feels just right for the crisp, cool days of October when I start to slide readily into my easy autumn uniform of jeans and Ralph Lauren cashmere cable knits, occasionally topped off with an old, favorite, hunter green Barbour jacket lined in plaid. Preppy for fall, bohemian and free-wheeling for summer--doesn't it just feel right?
The Sunday roast is really one of the best things in life, in my opinion, and a comforting tradition that everyone could benefit from adopting/stealing. Here's the latest version to come out of my little Brooklyn kitchen, taken from the beautiful, new Fat Radish cookbook. It's composed of a perfectly roasted bird with leeks, and a bubbling, crisp serving of cauliflower cheese, which is something you should make immediately if you've never had it. It's like mac and cheese minus the carbs, but no less delicious. In other words, it's something of a miracle.
Roast Chicken with Leeks
8 large leeks, cut in half crosswise, thoroughly washed
Extra virgin olive oil
2 (3-4 pound) organic chickens, trussed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the leeks in a large roasting dish, drizzle them with 1/4 cup of olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt. Rub everything around with your hands. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and roast until the leeks are beginning to soften, about 15 minutes.
Uncover the dish and then place the chickens on top of the leeks. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over each chicken, sprinkle aggressively with salt and the rosemary, and rub it in with your hands. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the baking dish, and place it in the oven. Roast until the leeks are well browned and the chickens are cooked through, about an hour. Remove the chickens and leeks from the oven and let them rest at least 10 minutes before carving and serving.
2 heads cauliflower (2 1/4 lbs in total), broken into small florets
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups coarsely grated cheddar or fontina cheese
A few drops of your favorite hot sauce
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the broiler.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the cauliflower. Cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the cauliflower, shaking it in the colander a few times to really get all the excess water out. Place the cauliflower in a 9"x13" baking dish and set it aside.
Meanwhile, place the butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. Once it melts, stir in the flour and cook until the mixture turns barely light brown and smells nutty, 5 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour in the milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and cook until a thick sauce forms, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese until melted, and season the sauce to taste with hot sauce, salt, and pepper.
Pour the cheese sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top of the dish. Place the dish under the broiler and cook until the cheese is melted and browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 5 minutes depending on the strength of your broiler. Serve hot.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
A few years ago, I was thinking of writing a cookbook filled with the most cherished home recipes from a collection of my favorite designers. In the process of building a book proposal, I emailed a few of those designers, asking for their recipes to see what sorts of things I would end up with. Mr. de la Renta quickly sent over this beautiful recipe for a tomato salad from his kitchen in Punta Cana. It arrived in my inbox typed out exactly as you see it above, and I took to my kitchen to test it out. As was the case with everything he designed, it was perfect.
I've made it every summer since then, and though the book never came to fruition, this special recipe gained a permanent place in my home, and has become part of many treasured warm-weather memories. I've never published it, although I've thought of doing so many times. I'm glad for that now, because today seems fitting.
I am so saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. de la Renta, who was, and will continue to be, an absolute legend in my eyes.