Whenever we visit Jake's family in the Berkshires, we look forward to cooking them a big meal. Like us they are food-obsessed, and it only seems fair that we contribute, given their 18+ years of cooking for Jake and his two brothers.
This last visit was timed perfectly with the height of Jake's father's harvest- so we knew his huge collard greens would be a major component of the meal. From there we headed to our friend Sean Stanton's North Plain Farm where we picked out our protein. As we arrived, two of Sean’s apprentices entered the Farm Store carrying a full load of beautiful, yellow-skinned, pasture-raised chickens that had been slaughtered the day before- the evidence of which was in the driveway. Well, we knew we couldn't get much fresher than that. And talk about local! The remainder of the broilers were scratching around in the field right outside. We left with three chickens to roast, plus some of Sean's perfectly porky bacon to cook with the greens.
Jake’s parents always have a sack of potatoes laying around from their friends at Foster Farm in Sagaponack so we thought we might as well round out the meal with some creamy mashed potatoes. As we were busy foraging for produce, Jake's mother was picking hundreds of raspberries from their bushes for a TBD desert. With all our ingredients in order, we got cooking.
This was a simple meal to prepare and it couldn't have been more satisfying on a brisk early-Fall day after a beautiful morning hike and an afternoon of local harvest. The chicken was incredibly juicy and- unlike what you get from the supermarket- tasted really chicken-y. The collards were sweet with a strong irony flavor and delicious hints of porky goodness while the mashed potatoes were buttery, creamy and oh so filling. But the impromptu raspberry gallette was the highlight, with handfuls of peaked fruit tucked into a light flaky crust. But that's a recipe for another post!
Roast Chicken with Gravy
+ 1 3-4 lb Chicken, pasture raised with giblets
+ ¼ cup of butter, softened
+ a bunch of herbs: thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage or whatever you have
+ 4 garlic cloves, crushed
+ 1 medium yellow onion, halved
+ salt and black pepper
+ ½ cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat your oven to 500 with a cast iron pan or a clay baking dish in it. (If you don't have either, a large all-metal pan or a Pyrex baking dish will work.) Check to see if the chicken has any giblets in its cavity, hopefully it does. Take them out and set aside.
2. Dry off the chicken with a towel and make sure you immediately put the towel in the laundry basket. Try to gently separate the skin from the breast. You don't want the skin to tear, so don't force it. If you’re successful tuck a couple of cloves of garlic in the crevice between the leg and the breast (on each side), along with a few tablespoons of butter and some of the herbs.
3. Spread the rest of butter all over the top of the chicken then salt and pepper heavily. This is what give a roast chicken that great golden brown crust. Stuff the inside cavity of the chicken with half an onion a couple of garlic cloves the rest of the herbs.
4. Place the chicken, breast side up in the hot pan and put it in the oven.
Meanwhile- if you have them- brown the giblets in a small sauce pot with salt and pepper. After they are nicely browned add a 1 ½ cups of water, the other half an onion, and a pinch of salt and pepper. You can also throw in a carrot or celery stalk if you have them. Bring it to a boil and keep it at a hard simmer while the chicken roasts, adding more water if needed.
5. After 15 minutes turn the oven down to 350.
6. Check the chicken after 45 minutes. If you want to use a thermometer stick, it should read 165 when stuck into the breast. Our preferred method is shaking its leg. If it shakes loosely and clear juice runs out, it's done. When it's done take the chicken out of the pan, tipping it slightly so all of the inside juices can run out into the pan.
7. Place the chicken on a carving board and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Bring the giblets to a medium heat. Strain the the stock from the giblets into the pan and whisk together with other juices. As you whisk, slowly add flour to your desired thickness. Be very careful- you can't "unthicken" gravy.
Collards with Bacon
+ A bunch of collards - they cook down a lot
+ 8 oz bacon
+ ½ cup of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar - we almost exclusively use the Bragg Organic brand
+ salt and pepper to taste - red pepper flakes are good, too
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
2. Go through the collards removing the thick part of the stems. Blanch the collards in the boiling water. Take them out after 3 minutes and run them under cold water to stop the cooking.
3. Cut the bacon up to what ever size you like - as you've probably learned, we like big chunks.
4. Fry the bacon in a large saute pan. When the bacon is pretty browned and crispy, throw in the collards, the apple cider, and some salt.
5. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Some people like them with more bite then others, so just keep checking until they reach your desired tenderness. Sprinkle with salt or red pepper flakes and serve
Jake's Creamy Mashed Potatoes
+ 2 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered - we like Russets as well
+ ¼ cup butter, cut up in chunks
+ whole milk - non-homogenized or raw if possible - or cream
+ salt and pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and throw in the potatoes.
2. Meanwhile put the butter in a large bowl or the mixing bowl of a standing mixer.
3. After about 20 minutes check to see if the potatoes are tender by sticking a fork in them. When the potatoes are done, drain.
4. Add the hot potatoes to the butter. If you are using a standing mixing use your whipping attachment and start mixing on a low setting, adding the milk or cream slowly until you get your desired consistency. We like it chunky, but rich. You can just as easily mix everything together with a masher, big serving fork or spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.