Have you ever made a friend that you feel like you’ve been waiting your whole life to meet? I’ve been fortunate to make several of those friends, and one of the Houston friends who fits this category is someone I’ll call SuperWoman. She’s a partner in a law firm, also a clergy spouse, an amazing cook and baker, and she’s also hilarious. Plus, I like her kids and her husband. Win-win-winning. I would hate her for being so talented and gorgeous, but she’s way too nice for me to envy-hate. THE NERVE.
SuperWoman shares my love for the Smitten Kitchen blog, but she also re-introduced me to the wonderful recipes on the New York Times’ Cooking site. I had known about it for some time, clipping recipes when we received a print subscription, and occasionally meandering to the site by clicking on Facebook links, but I hadn’t paid as much attention to it as SuperWoman does. I think she’s even a beta-tester for their recipe site, because she’s Just That Awesome. Also, she knows the difference between the different NY Times food writers, and knows which ones she prefers. Meanwhile, I never remember if I read something in the NY Times or the Washington Post, or maybe it was in a magazine? SuperWoman remembers all of these things, and puts them to good use. Every meal we’ve had at her house has been fantastic, and they almost always lead back to the New York Times.
About a year ago, she started raving about Melissa Clark’s Feta Brined Roast Chicken. I believe she called it “the best yard bird” she’d ever eaten. The combination of cheese and chicken kind of squigs me out, and my jaw clenches up a bit if I start to think about it too much. They just don’t play well together, in my opinion. (Chicken cacciatore is enough to send me into hiding.) And so maybe that’s why it took me a year to make this. But it isn’t so much cheesy as it is just deliciously brined. The recipe uses a very small amount of feta mixed with a large amount of water, combined make what might look like medical waste. But don’t be turned off by that, because the brine is so worth it. I used two 2.5-gallon plastic bags to seal everything up and let it marinate overnight.
Non-food-related aside:The 2.5-gallon plastic bags, by the way, are one of my very favorite things. You can fit an entire puzzle or board game into them, or an entire change of clothes for swimming lessons, or a leaky gallon bag of something else. These, along with kitchen timers, may be my new gift for new parents. The plastic bags, for the reasons I mentioned, and the kitchen timers, because 1) your children will break your existing kitchen timer (“but I didn’t mean to do it!”), and 2) timers are useful for everything from taking turns to clean-up time.
Back to the chicken: after brining overnight, you cover it with a gorgeous combination of oregano and lemon zest, giving the whole thing a Greek flair. I bought two organic chickens from Costco, and made one with this recipe, and one with just a little bit of salt, because the gorgeous Greek flair is completely lost on my children. I’ve eaten a lot of roast chicken, and this was by far the best. The recipe says to serve it over greens with some crumbled feta and some of the pan juices. We did one better and added some cucumbers and kalamata olives. This goes in the “make it again – SOON” category in our house.
I made chicken stock from the carcass, also using some greens from our farm co-op box (carrot tops, etc.). The result, because of the herbs on the chicken and the greens in the stock, was a sort-of-green stock, but still rich and delicious. I made Mark Bittman’s risotto the next night, using the stock, and we’re still talking about it.
In conclusion, check out the New York Times Cooking section, and get to know the wonderful food writing there. Also, find yourself a SuperWoman to inspire you to new levels of awesomeness yourself. If she’s a true SuperWoman, she’ll build you up and encourage you to be a SuperWoman, too.