Food writer Christiana Roussel joins us today as our guest author:
My mother is an extremely accomplished woman.
I am not.
She graduated from Stanford University, Phi Beta Kappa, and went on to earn her Masters degree.
I attended three different colleges and took five years to eek out one degree, a B.A. in Spanish.
My mother is well-read and beautiful. Perfectly coiffed, she’ll pepper a conversation with words like ‘verboten’ and ‘erudite’, ‘salacious’ and ‘dearth.’ What’s more, she can sew and knit and darn and make quilts. In my house, hotel mending kits are the only source of needles and thread.
My mom is a fantastic cook, too; I grew up watching her recreate elaborate whole meals from the pages of Gourmet Magazine. Fortunately, I learned enough from watching her that I can cobble together a few ingredients and make dinner for my own family.
And that is how this whole barter thing came about.
Children grow – as they do – and my son, Jack, was in need of a new Cub Scout uniform. No problem. Our local Boy Scout store is terrific. They have everything curious little outdoorsmen could ever want. The problem arose when I learned that old patches would have to be added to the new uniform. And they needed to be SEWN on. This was tantamount to being a deal-breaker for me. Sewing is just NOT in my repertoire of skills. So, as I am wont to do (way too often, I admit), I turned to Facebook for a solution to my situation.
I posted the following:
“Birmingham friends: I have a proposition for one of you. If you will (neatly) SEW the patches onto Jack’s new scout uniform, I’ll make you dinner for four. I think there are about 6-8 patches.”
Within a few minutes, I had several responses and, in the spirit of fairness, I felt obligated to go with the first offer. What gave me pause was that it was from the father of one of my daughter’s school friends. Now, I’ve never met a man who volunteered to sew. This was a first! And, Bernard’s an accomplished attorney, to boot. Not that gender or profession would preclude one from being able to, or wanting to sew, but it did prompt me to ask the question again, followed with “Bernard, are you SURE you want to do this?”
My friend Kimbellee stirred the pot with her comment: “You people have no idea what a rotten deal this is. Christiana is a fabulous cook, but those patches are made in hell and never meant for human hands to attach!” Bernard was staunch in his determination and did not waiver, which meant I had better be prepared with one helluva meal in return. After determining that he and his family had no food allergies or aversions, I searched for something that met the following criteria:
- Can be prepared in advanced, but delivered hot.
- Would feed a family for more than one meal (not wanting to appear stingy)
- Something my own family would enjoy as well so I could double
- Something delicious and failsafe.
Roast Lemon Chicken
Individual key lime pies with graham cracker crust (made from the recipe on the Nellie & Joe’s key lime juice bottle!)
(adapted from Katie Workman’s The Mom 100 Cookbook, published by Workman Publishing, 2012)
Serves 4 to 6
cut-up chicken pieces, skin-on, totally about 2 ½ pounds
kosher salt and fresh pepper
1 tablespoon organic lemon zest
1 cup organic fresh lemon juice
¾ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
¼ cup minced fresh herbs (such as oregano, thyme, flat-leaf parsley)
garnish: more minced fresh herbs of your choice
- Preheat your oven’s broiler (medium, if you have that option) and move the rack so that it is 8-10” away from the heating element.
- Line a large broiling pan or jelly-roll pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and grease lightly with a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
- Place the chicken – skin side down – in the pan and season with kosher salt and pepper. Broil for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven, flip, season and broil again for 12-15 minutes.
- While the chicken broils, make the sauce: in a large Mason jar, combine the zest, juice, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and minced herbs. Shake vigorously to combine.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and gently pour the sauce over. Turn pieces to coat and return the pan to the oven. All chicken should be skin-side down again. Broil for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from oven, flip and finish with another quick 3 minute broil with the chicken skin-side up.
- Remove from oven and let rest at least five minutes before serving over rice with pan juices poured over. Garnish with additional fresh herbs.
- Note: This recipe works best when the chicken pieces are somewhat uniform in size. We love chicken thighs but recognize that some folks love a leg or breast meat. A good butcher can de-bone your chicken breasts while keeping the skin on. In Birmingham, we trust Derrick Wilkerson at Whole Foods Market to sell the best chicken, trimmed just the way we like it.
- If the chicken is done cooking and you are ready to serve dinner, go for it! But, if you are like me and not everyone is home from their respective practices, etc. this is the perfect dish to transfer to the slow-cooker and keep warm. The chicken just gets more tender and the sauce more flavorful.
I am pleased to say that this ended up being a win-win situation for everyone. Jack got a great looking uniform (Bernard is da bomb!) and everyone enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal.
Of course, I just had to call my mom and tell her everything…
Passionate about Southern food and culture, Christiana Roussel enjoys writing about life below the Mason-Dixon line, especially when it involves bacon. Her work can be found in Taste of the South Magazine, Birmingham Magazine, Relish, Village Living, BourbonandBoots.com and on her blog ChristianasKitchen.com. When not enjoying the occasional biscuit festival or bourbon tasting, there are four chickens, three dogs, two children and one husband who keep her plenty busy.