I must say that I am a very lucky girl. That beautiful dish you see above is courtesy of my boyfriend, Jack. He is, by all accounts, a fantastic cook. I almost can attribute my love of cooking to him – but I won’t because he’ll gloat and rub it in. But frankly, before I met Jack, my idea of a good meal was one piece of turkey and one piece of American cheese on dry whole wheat bread… with relish. I never knew the wonders of simple flavors, like salt or lemon zest, that heighten the flavor of a dish, or the earthy taste of rosemary, the “foresty” (Jack’s adjective) scent of thyme, the wonders of roasted garlic, or the sweetness of sautéed onions.
I just finished reading Molly Wizenberg’s (Orangette) book, A Homemade Life (buy it - seriously). In the book, she mentions that her boyfriend at the time (now her husband), Brandon, is the more experimental cook of the two. Where Molly is “hunched over a cookbook, hanging on every word, he’s at the stove with his fingers in the pot.” If I weren’t paying attention, I would have thought Molly was talking about Jack and me. There were many times I would read this book and smile, thinking of Jack. I must admit, I sometimes envy his ability to pick up a few ingredients and create something without relying on a recipe, but at the same time, it inspires me to think off the page and trust my instincts.
Sometimes, he’ll work with a recipe to learn about the flavors and then the next time, he’ll wing it, eyeing measurements and adding his own spices and touches. His mind is always churning. We both absolutely love Alice Water’s the Art of Simple Food, because her recipes are a canvas to make it your own. If my boyfriend does work with a recipe, it is from her book. Her recipes are like color by numbers – there is a guideline, but no one is forcing you to color within the lines.
Just so he doesn’t get a big ego, I tell him the food sucks, because I’m a big baby. He often knows I’m lying from the smile that I try desperately to hide, the sighs that leave my lips, and the clean plate that sits in front of me.
The fact of the matter is I’m a better cook. So there.
EDITOR'S NOTE: After writing this post, I asked my boyfriend to read it, thinking that he’d appreciate my acknowledgement of his talents in the kitchen. He instead edited my post as if he were Editor-in-Chief of Random House and then proceeded to tell me I know nothing about ingredients.
This is why I have to tell him his food sucks.
BLECH! Don’t make this recipe! (Ok, ok make it.)
Braised Chicken Leg and White Beans with Rosemary and Garlic adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
4 chicken legs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 onions, sliced thick
5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 bay leaves
2 rosemary sprigs
4 tomatoes, diced large
1.5 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 cup dried white beans
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped rosemary leaves
For the Chicken:
Season the chicken a few hours before with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a heavy bottom pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and place the chicken legs into the pan skin side down and cook until crisp and brown, about 12 minutes. Turn and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove the chicken an add onions. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves and cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze with white wine, scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Arrange the chicken in the pan, skin side up, and pour in any juices that have collected. Pour in chicken broth. The liquid should reach halfway up the chicken; add more if needed. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook at a bare simmer or in a 325 degree F oven for 45 minutes. When done, pour the braising liquid into a bowl and skim the fat. Discard the bay leaves and rosemary stems. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.
For the Beans: Soak beans overnight in 4 cups of water. Drain and transfer to a heavy pot. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and skim off any foam. Simmer gently for 2 hours or so, until the beans are tender. Add more water if necessary during the cooking. Season to taste with salt.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan or skillet, warm olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and cook just until the garlic is soft, about 2 minutes. Stir into the beans, taste for salt and adjust as needed. Let the dish sit for a few minutes before serving to allow the flavors to marry.