Monday, March 23, 2009

Beware of Food Columnists Bearing Recipes

Yesterday, I had a dinner party at my house. I invited all the boys, and proceeded to prepare some recipes that David Hagedorn had suggested last Wednesday in the Washington Post column, "Real Entertaining." This month's column was all about chicken, and I saw that roasted chicken on the front page of the food section, and I was hooked.

I had to have a dinner party. I had to cook a chicken. I had to read the recipes. They were seductively simple: full of promise. Chicken in a Pot, how homey! French Lentils, peppery, flavorful! Saffron Fennel, oh exotic! and Peach-Apricot Cobbler, simple, tasty, easy. I thought.

The challenge was not in the fine print. I suspect that Mr. Hagedorn presented his recipes with the very best intentions to his readers. I imagine his kitchen is more suited to food preparation than mine.

My biggest challenges were the bird and the cobbler. The chicken is first seared, then roasted for 50 minutes in a 250ºF oven. When I checked the chicken at 50 minutes, it was no where near the necessary internal temperature. I baked the chicken an additional 20 minutes, finally raising the oven temperature to 350ºF for the last 10 minutes or so. That did the trick, and the chicken had a wonderful flavor. You should check Chef Hagedorn's method for carving a chicken. It's easy!

On to the Peach-Apricot Cobbler. The recipe indicates that the cobbler should be baked in a medium cast-iron skillet. I didn't know how big medium is, and I guessed too small. The resulting cobbler didn't look very elegant, but none of my guests seemed to mind, and ate the whole thing. It's a very tasty comfort food recipe. I realized as soon as I added the batter to the (9") skillet that I was courting disaster. I stuck a baking sheet under the skillet, and it caught the overflow batter, which my guests also ate. Next time, I'll bake this cobbler in my largest (10-1/4") cast-iron skillet.

The party was a success. The food was fantastic. The guests were sent home fat and happy. I'll continue to read the Food Section. And I'll continue to have dinner parties.