Saturday, January 13, 2007

One Resolution Keeper, One Resolution Buster

Sigh...what to do with that regular, old mid-week chicken for dinner? It's the culinary conundrum that plagues the nation on a daily basis. And I got some beautiful bone-in, skin-on breasts at the grocery store recently that were buy one package, get one free...yippee! So I was reading through some recent posts on the Cooks Illustrated message boards, as I am wont to do, and someone started a thread about the most popular recipes on those boards. One that came up was the so-called Cornell Chicken. According to a very informative post on, the recipe was created in 1946 by a young professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Bob Baker, for a dinner in honor of the governor of Pennsylvania at that time, Edward Martin. A few years later, Professor Baker joined the faculty at Cornell, and eventually, the recipe was printed in a university publication, and from that point forward became known as "Cornell Chicken." This is the same chicken that is served up to thousands of patrons--presidents included!--every September at Baker's Chicken Coop Barbecue Stand at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. But you can make it yourself at home. At the fair, they grill up chicken halves, and I made bone-in, skin-on breasts myself. But if you've made some health-related New Year's resolutions, this would also give excellent flavor to boneless, skinless breasts, not to mention, the brining function of this marinade would help keep them moist. Now keep in mind, this is not a quick fix, as you'll want to marinade your chicken for at least a couple of hours, and up to 12. Actually, I ended up marinating mine even longer than that, and it was fine. It will taste stronger of the marinade, of course, and I confess that I was worried that it would be pickled with all that vinegar! But interestingly, it ended up tasting like it was flavored with white wine. The next time I make this recipe, I think I will also add some dijon mustard to the marinade, and of course, some garlic, as is my way. Professor Baker just died this past March at age 84, but it is great to think that this delicious recipe is his legacy.

To serve with the Cornell Chicken, I decided to make my very favorite potato dish on this earth called Melting Potatoes from Barbara Kafka's definitive cookbook, Roasting: A Simple Art. Be forewarned, this is certainly NOT a low-cal dish, and I don't want to play a role in derailing anyone's diet resolutions. So if need be, I admonish you to walk away from the computer now before it's too late. Don't even look at the recipe! Just walk away! Ok, for those naturally-thin or fearless chubby people who are still reading, let me assure you that, if you make these potatoes, you be a hero--nay, a god--to your family, friends, or whomever you choose to serve them to, IF you can bring yourself to share them, that is! The technique, while a little time-consuming, is easy, and the results, simply divine. The potatoes come out crispy on the outside and so tender and flavorful on the inside that they almost melt in your mouth--hence, the name. Along with the Cornell Chicken, all you need to do is throw together a green salad or your favorite veggies as a side dish, and that's a dinner worth crowing about!

Cornell Chicken
(Source: Professor Bob Baker, Cornell University)

1 egg
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups cider vinegar
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper
chicken (this makes enough for ten halves!)

Put egg and oil in blender, blend to emulsify. It will have the consistency of mayonnaise. (Note that if there is any water at all in the blender, this will not happen.) Add vinegar, continuing to blend. Add seasonings and blend until dispersed throughout. Marinate chicken for at least three hours and up to 12. Grill as usual. You may also use the marinade as a basting sauce.

Melting Potatoes
(Source: Roasting: A Simple Art, Barbara Kafka)
Yield: 8 -10 servings

3 tablespoon butter cut in 6 pieces, plus 1 tablespoon reserved in the refrigerator
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 large baking potatoes (about 3 pounds)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly-ground black pepper
2 cups chicken stock (homemade is best, but you can also use low-sodium canned)

Place rack on top third of oven. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Put the 3 tablespoons of butter into an 18-by-12-by-2-inch roasting pan. Set pan over medium heat just until butter has melted. Remove. Add olive oil. Peel potatoes. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut each in half again. Cut each quarter into 3 wedges. Put in roasting pan. Roll wedges in butter and oil until evenly coated. Arrange so they touch as little as possible. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn wedges with a pancake turner. Roast 10 minutes more. Turn again. Roast 10 minutes more. Remove pan from oven. Turn wedges again and making sure to turn white sides on each wedge face up. Add stock. Return to oven for 15 more minutes. Dot wedges with small pieces of reserved butter then serve.

*Note: After the last fifteen minutes in the oven (before adding the last pat of butter), the potatoes can be held for 4-6 hours if necessary. When ready to serve, add the butter and roast for another 15 minutes if the potatoes were at room temperature, or for just five minutes if the potatoes were still warm.
**Another Note: This recipe also works well with the broth from a braised pot roast. And throw some chunks of carrots in there to roast along with the potatoes--they come out SO sweet! YUM!

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