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Spring Crudités Platter with Aioli

Inspired by the “Poached Chicken Breast and Spring Vegetable Salad” in Martha Stewart’s Cooking School, I set out to make my own spring crudités platter. This would be a lovely way to entertain alfresco in the garden for Saturday lunch. Sparkling wine pairs nicely with this simple but elegant fare. I blanched the vegetables in boiling hot water and then immersed them in ice to make sure the color was preserved and the texture was still crisp. You could serve a herb vinaigrette but I went with a garlic aioli recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables for dipping. Soft boiled eggs rounded out the feast- also good for dipping bread or veg into.

When poaching chicken, it’s best to leave the meat on the bone for more succulence and flavor. The chicken should cook gently at what Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall calls the “tremulous simmer”; bubbles occasionally breaking at the surface. The comforting aroma coming from the kitchen is truly magical. How can it be so good? I don’t know . . . it just is.

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Storyboard: Spring Chicken

Chicken StoryBoard (c) 2011 LaDomestique.com

The Whole Bird

I believe in the value of the whole bird. It’s cheaper to purchase a whole chicken and break it down, making use of the legs, breast meat, thighs, wings, and eventually the bones for stock. Each part of the bird is delicious in it’s own way. Chicken thighs are great for braising, wings are crispy and lip-smacking good roasted, bone in chicken breast is moist and succulent when poached, and glazed drumsticks are great for gnawing on. When buying chicken, I try to purchase from local farms or small scale farmers and I avoid poultry from intensive farming. It’s important to make an informed decision when you spend your money at the grocery store. You can do this not only by reading the fine print and asking questions about your poultry products, but also by allowing taste to be your guide. Each week, try a bird from a different producer. Was one more succulent and meaty than the other? Blind acceptance is how intensive farming tactics and inferior products survive in our supermarkets.

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Cook in the Moment: Chicken Garden Soup

Chicken Garlic Soup (c) 2011 LaDomestique.com

It all started with “Green Garlic Soup” from Chez Panisse Vegetables, then it morphed into “Chicken Garden Soup”. I like to call this intuitive cooking- allowing a recipe to come to life in your kitchen. While the green garlic, onion, and potato sizzled in butter on the stove, I thought of the micro-greens I collected from my garden yesterday. The tiny radishes and salad leaves would add a pop of color to this golden soup. I could taste their bitter bite against the full bodied chicken broth and starchy potatoes. On a whim I tossed a bit of fresh thyme into the pot.  As the soup simmered the kitchen filled with an inviting aroma of herbs and garlic and chicken stock. At this point I remembered the leftover roast chicken in the fridge from last night and tossed it into the pot. I dipped in my spoon and tasted . . . the soup needed something. Cream? No, cream would dull the delicate spring flavors. A handful of grated Parmesan would add the body and flavor I was looking for. The soup was ready. I pulled out two shallow bowls and placed a handful of micro-greens in each one, ladling the soup over top. “Chicken Garden Soup” was good and satisfying. Was it because I made the stock from scratch? Maybe it was the micro-greens, the first harvest from my little garden plot. As we slurped up the soup at our kitchen table, the husband tried to figure it out, but never could pinpoint exactly what made the soup so tasty. I think I know the answer: when you give yourself time to prepare a meal and enjoy the journey, magic happens in the kitchen. The love comes through in your cooking.

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10 Ways Tuesdays: Chicken

I’ve come up with 10 ways to use chicken in your spring pantry:

1.  Roast Chicken

Everyone should have a house recipe for roast chicken. I say pick one way and stick with it. Practice roasting a bird to moist, succulent perfection. Don’t settle for a dry, overcooked chicken. Over time your roast chicken will become your family legacy. Your kids will grow up talking about “mom’s roast chicken” to their kids. At my house roast chicken is always rubbed all over with butter, generously seasoned with salt and pepper, then stuffed with garlic and lemon. However, I just came across a recipe in A Taste of France where the chicken is slathered with Dijon mustard and roasted. The recipe then calls for crème fraîche to be heated in a pan and poured over the chicken, which goes back into the oven for ten more minutes. I would have never thought of that, but it sounds amazing.

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Ingredient of the Week: Chicken

Ingredient Of The Week Chicken

Spring is in full swing here in Colorado- the days are warm and seedlings are poking their little green heads out of the garden soil. As I write this I’m wearing shorts, hoping for a bit of sun on these pale blue legs of mine. At the farmer’s market, produce is becoming more varied. The monotony of spinach and green garlic is broken by rhubarb and radishes, pea shoots and purple salad greens, beets and berries. In the kitchen I’m making salads and soups with fresh spring ingredients. For the ingredient of the week, I turn to my most valuable player- chicken. This protein is hugely important to spring cooking, from stock for soups to shredded leftover meat for salads. But I’m not preaching the practicality of chicken this week at La Domestique. Don’t look here for 10 ways to roast a bird. No, this week is about celebrating the simple elegance of chicken in spring cooking.

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Artichokes, Provence, & Rosé

It’s Friday! What better way to end the week than the cocktail hour? Today I’m inspired by Patricia Wells’ book, At Home in Provence. The south of France is home to the poivrade, an artichoke known as the “Violet of Provence”. The very first recipe in the book is “Anne’s Goat Cheese Gratin”. Patricia Wells refers to a friend and neighbor who “shares my love of simple, big tastes”. Big tastes are a hallmark of Provencal cuisine, which resembles Mediterranean cooking more than French. Robert Freson, the author of one of my most treasured books, The Taste of France, writes that “Provence’s air is laced with intermingling scents, stronger and more clearly defined than anywhere else, of herbs that grow wild on the stony hillsides- thyme, oregano, mountain savory, rosemary, fennel, wild lavender- bringing aromatic support to the food of Provence and, mysteriously, reflected in the bouquets of the local wines…”

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Storyboard: Artichokes

Artichoke Storyboard (c) 2011 LaDomestique.com

The Artichoke

According to Alice Waters in Chez Panisse Vegetables, artichokes were brought to America by Italian immigrants who settled in California in the early 1900′s. This prickly thistle has been cultivated by Sicilians for thousands of years. The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion references the artichoke in ancient Greek and Roman literature. This plant prefers a sunny Mediterranean climate, and today it is mostly grown in Italy, France, and Spain as well as California.  Available year- round, artichokes enjoy a place in the spotlight during their peak season of spring. They range in size from the small, tender “baby” artichoke to the large, big-hearted globe artichoke. There are many varieties and colors of artichokes as well. In Provence, the poivrade is a petit violet-colored artichoke prized for it’s complex, nutty flavor. Artichokes are both a wild plant and a cultivated crop, and after thousands of years, they are still mysterious- both ugly and beautiful. The thorns are painful to touch and prehistoric looking, but their brilliant colors and endless layers are captivating. Artichokes are full of contradiction: delicate and meaty, bitter and sweet, tangy and earthy. I think the artichoke’s complex nature is behind the difficulty in wine pairing.  It’s like finding a match for your best girl friend: she’s uniquely beautiful, worldly, speaks several languages, loves theater and history as well as football.  It’s gotta be the right guy.

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Cook in the Moment: Braised Artichoke Pasta

Artichoke Pasta Recipe Board (c) 2011 LaDomestique.com

Braised Artichoke Pappardelle with Thyme

This recipe was inspired by Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times, “Artichokes Take a Dip in a Pool of Stock”. Mark Bittman suggests browning artichokes in butter, then braising them in stock for twenty minutes. His method was straightforward and the results so tasty I decided to use it to make my own recipe. That’s what intuitive cooking is all about, peeps. In my “Braised Artichoke Pappardelle with Thyme”, the artichoke is the star. Homemade chicken broth adds soul. Garlic and earthy thyme are good friends of the artichoke, and their aroma envelopes the kitchen. Though there is some effort in preparing the artichokes, if you give yourself the time this recipe is uncomplicated and stress free. Open and bottle of wine, turn on the tunes, and peel some artichokes. Serves 4.

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10 Ways Tuesdays: Artichokes

Artichoke

I’ve come up with 10 ways to use artichokes in your spring pantry:

Need guidance preparing artichokes? Not sure how to eat them? Find it here.

 

1.  Simply Steamed or Boiled

The most popular way to enjoy artichokes is by steaming or boiling it whole. Then peel off the tender inner leaves and dip them in aioli, melted herb butter, or vinaigrette. Scrape them through your teeth to remove the succulent flesh. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? Except it’s REALLY good.

2.  Raw in Salad

Fresh artichokes can be prepared as usual by cutting away the inedible outer leaves and the choke, then sliced paper thin and used raw in salads. In Patricia Wells book, At Home in Provence, she suggests tossing the sliced artichoke in a lemon vinaigrette and pairing it with arugula, prosciutto, and shaved Parmesan. In Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters suggests a raw shaved artichoke salad with white truffle!

3.  Marinated

Though I enjoy a jar of marinated artichoke hearts on the antipasto platter, I’m tempted by Martha Stewart’s invitation to make my own.  In her book, Cooking School, she shares a recipe for marinated artichokes that keeps for a week in the fridge. The lovely ladies from Canal House include a recipe for “Artichokes Roman Style” which uses garlic and mint, in Volume 3.

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Ingredient of the Week: Artichokes

Artichokes

After spending last week on the ancient grain, farro, I have slow food on the brain. Slow food- ingredients with a history, unique flavors that have been cultivated for centuries, labor intensive and slow growing. This week at La Domestique I turn my attention from farro to an ancient thistle: the artichoke. This thorny flower could be the slow food mascot. Not only does it meet the above criteria, but the artichoke requires us to slow down and put a little work into eating it. For many, the artichoke asks too much. Thorny scales make it difficult to pick up and handle.  The flesh rapidly oxidizes, turning brown while you work as fast as you can to trim it. Inner leaves are edible and delicious, but require the effort of pulling them through your clenched teeth to savor a minute amount of flesh. After all this, the delicious heart is hidden behind a hairy, inedible choke which must be scraped out. Why bother?

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About Jess

Jess O'Toole is La Domestique

Hi, I’m Jess, aka La Domestique. No matter how busy or cooking-challenged you are I can help you live the good life and enjoy fresh, healthy meals at home every day. Find out more

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