Many people my age are in the process of purging - streamlining the “stuff” we have accumulated over the years. I’m no different, but cookbooks, well...they get a bit of a pass.
One of my favorites (ok, they all are), is Edna Lewis’s The Taste Of Country Cooking. This woman is amazing, and so is her food. The granddaughter of former slaves, she lived in Freetown, Virginia, a small farming town that had been settled by freed slaves.
If you look at cookbooks published when this was in the 70’s, you’ll find a lot of “pre-fab” type food - cans and boxes, etc. But not this one. Edna cooked with the seasons and did it for years, receiving many accolades back home and in New York society.
This is not an Edna recipe, but it incorporates two techniques I learned from her. Pan-roasting and flavoring the fat. Both totally worth the effort.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced shallots
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
1tablespoon minced parsley or chives
1teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
In a bowl, mash together butter, shallots or garlic, herbs, lemon juice, pepper and salt.
Spoon the butter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, form into a log and wrap well. Chill for at least 3 hours before using.
4 chicken thighs
3 tablespoons compound butter
1 onion, diced small
6-8 sage leaves
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup half & half
salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450.
In a cast iron skillet on high, melt about 2-3 ounces of the compound butter.
Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs.
Lay them, skin side down, into the pan with the butter.
Sear them hard until the skin browns well, then turn them over.
Turn the oven down to 425 and put the chicken in the oven.
Cook for about 30 minutes until a thermometer reads 165.
Remove the chicken to a platter and using a spatula, scrape up all the fat and cooked bits on a medium heat.
Add the diced onion and whole sage leaves.
When the sage has wilted and the onions start to brown, add the flour and mix quickly.
Add the half & half and incorporate into the “roux.”
As it thickens, add the chicken stock slowly.
Turn the stove to medium low and allow the gravy to cook down until it reaches the right consistency. Salt & pepper to taste.
Serve the gravy alongside the chicken, since pouring it over the meat will make the wonderful crispy skin too soggy.
Keep that compound butter - it works for a million different things. Try putting a slice on top of a great steak after it cooks.