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Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.
Today: A weeknight chicken recipe with a kick.
Our babysitter, Donna, was quite modest about her cooking abilities when we interviewed her for the job a couple of years ago. It turns out she was selling herself short. Donna has a sixth sense when it comes to lean proteins and pasta -- chicken and fish are supple and tender, penne and fusilli perfectly al dente -- and she knows exactly the right moment to stop adding salt.
For a while, Donna shied away from taking the helm in the kitchen, which she saw as my turf. Over time, she's found her footing, and we've discovered a mutual respect for fresh, seasonal ingredients. We're simpatico.
And I've learned a thing or two from Donna. She has some tricks up her sleeve, like boiling eggs so vigorously it nearly gives me a heart attack -- I'm convinced they'll crack, or break open to reveal green-tinged yolks, but they're always perfectly hard-boiled. And she doesn't even use a timer!
I have a go-to braised chicken recipe that I make frequently. One morning I was running short on time and Donna offered to make it. She had seen me put the dish together a dozen times, so I was confident she could pull it off.
My husband and I tasted some when we came home that night, and we were blown away by her version. We could see that she'd added some chopped red pepper, which had slackened and half-melted into the tomatoes, but there was a tanginess to the sauce that we couldn't put a finger on. I asked her the next morning, and she told me she'd added a couple spoonfuls of yellow mustard.
She had taken a dish I was already pretty proud of and made it sing, just by adding two simple ingredients. I'm pretty sure I'll never make it my way again.
2 tablespoon olive oil
8 large chicken drumsticks, or a mix of thighs and drumsticks (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
Photos by James Ransom