Back in mid-May, I made what very well may be the last meal I cook in my home of 16 years. My parents are selling our house. Just like baking chocolate or revenge, it’s bittersweet. After living in five different states all while under the age of 10, we finally landed in New Jersey, where I did most of my growing up and where I learned how great bagels really are. In that house, we’ve said goodbye to dear pets and we’ve welcomed new ones. On our street, I learned how to drive in a car that was recently, after 17 years, traded in for a pick-up truck. (I’m still laughing about how my dad parks his new truck behind his cream-colored Mini-Cooper with racing stripes.) Through the years, I’ve left our pretty, grey house for multiple adventures to Europe and across the U.S. Over almost two years in Brooklyn, I’ve gone back often to spend quiet weekends in the suburbs with my parents and my pets. And, in our home’s kitchen, I’ve learned how to cook.
Eventually, my parents will be relocating to New Hampshire, where they are building another wonderful home. It’s good. I love New England and my grandparents are also there. I am old enough to rent a car and the drive isn’t so long. Yet it’s sad. I like being just a short train ride away from my pets, my parents, and the heavenly bed my parents put in my room after I moved out. What I’m trying to say is change is good and necessary, but it’s hard and I mostly hate it.
I’d never heard of Laurie Colwin until I volunteered to participate in Food52’s newly introduced Cookbook Club. Colwin was an author who was also an enthusiastic home cook. She wrote two non-fiction books about it, in fact. You could define them as memoirs or as cookbooks, but really, they’re both. Her recipes aren’t what I’m used to reading in most cookbooks. The way she writes them reminds me of recipe cards from old family friends who I never got the chance to meet. They’re not perfectly laid out for you. Colwin has faith in you as a home cook. It’s as if she’s saying, “You know what you like, you’ll figure it out, and if you don’t – there’s always next time!” To see more of my thoughts on Colwin, see Food52’s post about it (linked above).
The beauty of Colwin’s recipes, or sometimes lack thereof, is that she gives you freedom to alter a dish to your liking. The recipe for this chicken has no measurements, so the taste is entirely up to the cook. The recipe for biscuits offers a little more guidance, but there are still several options to choose from.
I can’t say all of her recipes appeal to me as much as other recipes do. In fact, one of her devotees has said, “You have to know her tastes are weird.” But who doesn’t have some unique combinations that work perfectly for their own tastebuds? Has my dad ever told you about how he used to mix black beans and broccoli for dinner? No? Well, you must not have met him yet.
What I do share with Laurie Colwin is a passion for home cooking, for passing on recipes that I think are simply satisfying, and for entertaining my family and friends with meals that bring me, and I hope brings them, joy.
Family and friends are what is important. As long as they’re around, it’ll be home cooking no matter where I am.
Plus, the kitchen in New Hampshire is going to be bigger and better, so that doesn’t suck.
Laurie Colwin’s Mustard Baked Chicken
Home Cooking, page 100
“The chicken is cut up and coated with mustard into which some garlic has been grated, along with a little thyme, black pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon. It is rolled in fine bread crumbs, dusted with paprika, dotted with butter and cooked at 350 degrees for about two hours. It can be served hot or at room temperature and will never let you down.”
That is all. Don’t question the length of time it takes to cook. It was juicy as can be. One thing I am curious about: what if I swapped out a cup of mustard for a cup of mayo…hmmm…
Below is what I did, guided by the New York Times. Though, of course, I took my liberties.
Serves: 3-4 people, with the possibility of leftovers
1 4-5 lb. chicken, separated into parts, plus one more chicken breast, split
1 cup Dijon mustard
½ whole grain mustard
2 large garlic cloves
A pinch of dried thyme and some fresh lemon thyme
½ teaspoon cinnamon
A good grinding of black pepper
Kosher salt, to season
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
5 tablespoons butter
Sweet paprika, as needed to dust over the chicken
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a medium sized bowl or shallow baking dish, add the mustards, the thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, a pinch of salt, and the garlic, grated.
- In another medium sized bowl or shallow baking dish, add the panko breadcrumbs.
- Piece by piece, cover the chicken in the mustard mixture, shake the excess off, and cover in the panko. Place on a large, shallow baking pan.
- Once you have all the chicken coated, dust with paprika and dot with the butter. Bake the chicken for about two hours, or until the crust is a deep golden brown and crispy. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Laurie Colwin’s Biscuits
From More Home Cooking
Yields about 12 biscuits, depending on the size of the cutter
2 cups flour
½ a stick of butter (or margarine)
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup buttermilk (or regular whole milk, or maybe even some yogurt)
A pinch of salt
A handful or parsley, chopped finely
A handful of thyme
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and herbs. Add chunks of butter, and using your hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients.
- Once the butter is blended, add the milk until the dough is only slightly sticky.
- Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times.
- Pat the dough out to about an inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter, or even a drinking glass or just go free form with a knife, cut out your biscuit and place them on the baking sheet.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, until the biscuits reach whatever golden color you prefer and take them out to cool.
3 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
A drizzle of honey
A pinch of Maldon sea salt
- Put the butter and honey in a small bowl. Using a spoon, mix the two together until they become incorporated.
- Add the salt and stir some more. Serve on one of those fluffy, warm biscuits.