"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Judy Rodgers

easter . . .


French macarons . . .

French macarons . . .

G. and I are enjoying a quiet, sunny day today. The kids are visiting in-laws and so we will have a quiet day and a simple supper tonight. Right now, I am listening to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and feeling like snapping my fingers to the music–it’s so much fun to listen to it! Earlier, I went to the piano and played the 2nd movement of the C minor Fantasie by Mozart. The makeshift wooden board that G. placed over the pedal worked well with my leg that still has a heavy cast on it.

Last night, with absolutely nothing to watch on TV (unless you wanted to tune into a four-and a half hour view of the “Ten Commandments”,) we decided to watch “Amadeus” the 1984 movie which won 8 Academy Awards. It’s a little grating to me with the Mozart character’s neighing all the time (from Tourette’s Syndrome)? But F. Murray Abraham (who won an Oscar for best actor in this best picture) plays Salieri, a rival court composer whose works are banal compared to Mozart’s and who is obsessed both by God’s gift of talent to Mozart and his equally strong belief that God has shortchanged him of same. This assignation of “blame” to God for Salieri’s shortcomings is one of the amusing conceits of the film. Reading about Salieri online, he is purported to have taught the likes of Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt so he must not have been as lightweight a musician as the movie, “Amadeus,” makes him out to be.

Anyhow, seeing the period instruments (since G. specializes in all things piano) is a treat to watch. I was also reminded again hearing excerpts of Mozart’s great Mass in C minor with its rousing opening “Kyrie” how great a composition it is. So, I listened to it this a.m. before segue-ing to the more upbeat and laid back jazz of Dave Brubeck’s quartet and Paul Desmond playing saxophone. Did you know that it was actually Desmond who composed “Take Five?” I didn’t until recently when I watched Clint Eastwood’s masterful biographical DVD of Dave Brubeck which we saw on PBS a couple of years ago.

For lunch today, I’m going to heat up some frozen Korean dumplings with chives and make a piquant dipping sauce of Chinese black vinegar, Japanese seasoned rice vinegar, Ohsawa soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped scallions and grated fresh ginger root. Afterwards, we’ll try a tiny sliver of the dark chocolate sour cream cake that I made yesterday afternoon. I had to bake it ten more minutes than the recipe called for and even then, the beautifully rounded middle sunk when cooled so it looked like a miniature tube cake!

I also had difficulty broiling a miso eggplant dish for dinner last night–you couldn’t chew it and it felt and tasted like wet cardboard. I even tried frying it afterwards but to no avail. Then, I remembered the pizza stone the other night didn’t seem hot enough even though heated to 500 degrees. And that instead of the pizza taking 3-5 minutes to cook, it still wasn’t done at 15 minutes and I had to turn on the broiler to finish it. So, dear reader, it occurred to me that perhaps my stove/oven isn’t heating up properly. (DUH!) It’s about a dozen years old and I cook a lot, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s losing its legs, heat-wise that is.

So, I dug out my oven thermometer and will be double-checking whether it preheats to 425 degrees when I get ready to roast the rack of lamb that we’re going to have for dinner tonight. I use Julia Child’s recipe for a mustard (Grey Poupon Country Dijon), olive oil, soy sauce, fresh rosemary chopped and lots of minced garlic–the marinade coating applied for the room-temperature lamb before going into the oven. The lamb on the rack looks miniscule so I’m hopeful that there will be something tasty there when it comes out of the dubious oven.

better nomaYesterday, I don’t know what came over me–perhaps it was re-reading a cohort of British cookery books in the last few days–I decided to cull out and reorganize my bookshelves, one whole section of which is dedicated to food. One of the shelves now includes a set of Terence Conran, Roald Dahl, Jane Garmey and Time-Life volumes on making galantines, terrines, meat pies, trifles and aspic with eggs. In this group, I rediscovered the absolutely wonderful simple and yet appealing recipes in Nigel Slater’s cookery books. Slater’s recipe for roasting chicken wings suffused with fresh lemons and cracked pepper until the wings are caramelized to the baking sheet is one I’m going to try next week, I think. SLATER

Even though they were somewhat pricey, I went through some books yesterday that had recipes I know I would never try (too conventional, complicated or took too much work/ingredients) so they went into the carton that will be donated to our local library. That is the only way I can justify ridding myself of books–which is to recycle them at an institution that will either catalog them or sell them in their bookstore.

Back to the reorganization, the revised bookshelves also hold a section of what I call “Celebrity Chefs”: David Chang’s “Momofuku”, Rene Redzepi’s “Noma”,Thomas Keller’s”French Laundry”, Daniel Boulud, Stanley Tucci, Jane Grigson, Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Cafe Cookbook and the River Cottage series by that guy who has an un-spellable name.

On the top shelf (for most usage) are short stacks of cookbooks featuring Asian noodles, tofu, dim sum, Chinese snacks, Bento box and Japanese Zen/Temple cookery. There’s also a smaller section down below on macrobiotic and raw vegetable ideas. Right now, I think I’ll be cooking more recipes out of the Nigel Slater books than anything else. Not only are the books now better organized, there’s now room for more!better asian

The photos above and below are of an order of French macarons that I made and had sent to C. and her husband for Easter. She teaches high-school French so these little treats seemed like the perfect thing for Easter. She’s going to share them with her in-laws after their luncheon today. The funny thing about them is that I ordered them from a baker on Etsy (one of my favorite places to find homemade things,) and in finalizing the purchase, I noticed a Chinese name in their email address. Sure enough, she was trained in France to bake these macaron specialties but like me, she’s Chinese. I meet many artists who are Asian on this site. And in the oddest of places too–like with these macarons. They’re made of egg whites and an almond paste filling–somewhat like marzipan, I think. They arrived in time and C. said they shared one macaron before bringing them to the Easter luncheon and it was delicious!macarons 2

rack of lamb with mustard, rosemary, garlic glaze . . .

rack of lamb with mustard, rosemary, garlic glaze . . .

In addition to the mustard/rosemary rack of lamb medium rare (hopefully,) we’re having artichokes with a curry mayonnaise as a starter, the lamb, small yukon potatoes crisped in butter and garlic salt, and parsnips (G.’s favorite vegetable.) And for dessert, the dark chocolate sour cream cake with chocolate frosting.

So, here’s hoping you have also had an enjoyable day filled with reading the paper, Easter egg hunts and some nice wine and tasty food!

Judy Rodgers postscripts . . .

Please see “Judy Rodgers” post which described how we decided to make her famous recipe, “Roast Chicken with Bread Salad.” Here is a photo postcript  (taken by C.) of the dish which we prepared and ate for Christmas Eve Dinner.

roasted birds just out of the oven . . .
roasted birds just out of the oven . . .
testing doneness . . .
testing doneness . . .
bread salad . . .
bread salad . . .
roast chicken on bread salad . . .
roast chicken on bread salad . . .

December 26, 2013 postscript: As intended, we followed Judy Rodgers’s recipe to the letter: I bought 3 birds: 2 1/2 to 3 pound fresh organic Bell and Evans chickens at Idylwylde Farm (the ONLY place that had them); brined with Maldon Salt along with fresh marjoram, rosemary and thyme sprigs slipped between the skin of the breast and thigh of each bird beforehand; left to rest in refrigerator for 24 hours covered with paper towel and clean dishcloths. Taken out two hours before roasting; my daughters, Megan and Caitlin read the bread salad recipe which said, “begin several hours ahead” in the 2nd floor kitchen. I had bought three different loaves of bread, hoping to find one with the kind of open and chewy crumb “without being sourdough or Levain bread which would have had too strong a flavor.” The last loaf bought the day before, a crusty large Italian bread loaf turned out to be perfect. The crusts were cut off, the bread torn into bits, brushed with olive oil, browned in the oven, dressed with Champagne vinaigrette; the currants soaked in red wine vinegar, mixed with fresh rocket and mesclun after it had been steamed in the hot oven after the birds were taken out; pan drippings added to the bread salad and spooned over servings of light and dark meat servings of the roasted chickens. I am giving this detailed description because every step and ingredient was worth it.

Everyone agreed that the dish was spectacularly delicious and distinctive, festive and just plain wonderful for our Christmas Eve dinner. As with many things, we don’t think the experience will ever be the same the next time we make it, but will certainly be added to our best meals ever memories!

Postscript 5 January 2014: I wanted to add a note that because the chicken had been brined (I think,) the leftovers were still appetizing to eat for lunch today, the very last bits cut up in chunks, a tender sprig of celery or two chopped finely and Hellmann’s mayonnaise to bind it together for about a half hour before putting together sandwiches with toasted oatmeal bread accompanied by split pea soup.

Earlier, we had transported leftover roast chicken for sandwiches on the 27th of December to Brewster on Cape Cod, accompanied by a big pot of hearty soup made of stock from the carcasses, onions, carrots and barley. For frugality, I’m amazed that these three little birds fed and nourished us over the course of, what, eleven days!?  

judy rodgers . . .


This morning, inside the back of the second section of the New York Times was an obituary for Peter Graf, the tennis father (read ogre) of Steffi Graf who escaped her tyrannical father by marrying Andre Agassi.

Then, I glanced at the opposite side and gasped (literally) to see that Judy Rodgers had died. It’s not as though I ever met her, you see. But I have her beautiful cookery book called “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook” which won the James Beard Award when it was published in 2002. In the article, her cooking was described as “refined simplicity.” Her famous recipe for roast chicken with bread salad has circulated far and wide and was even published at the bottom of the page of her obituary today.

Still stunned, I went to the bookcase looking for her book and found her large, thick volume with the beautiful cover photo of nuts, nectarines and ham. THIS, dear reader, is why it is so gratifying to have a large library of books that I love, ever flowing throughout the house, in stacks on the floor, in old baskets, on the credenza waiting to be put away. To me, these books are like old friends who awaken to have a conversation once again.

Although my family eschews red meat for the most part, most of the time, somehow, I”ve had it stuck in my mind that we should have something beefy, English or some type of roast in order to feel “Christmas-y.” Last year, I roasted a filet of beef which was delicious although it’s not my favorite cut of meat. It also fed my granddaughter and her boyfriend the next day too. To be honest, I thought the homemade beef gravy was what made the meal so tasty. The depth of flavor entailed hours making homemade beef stock, offsetting the supposed benefit of being able to roast the filet in a short amount of time.

But this morning, struck by Judy Rodger’s untimely death (she was only fifty-seven,) I read more about her life and about her work. At the age of sixteen, living in St. Louis, she somehow ended up on a student exchange to France and was assigned to live at the home of the best chef in France: Jean Troisgros, “who happened to run one of the greatest restaurants in the world, Les Freres Troisgros, in Roanne.” As though Fate and Destiny had anything to do with her life’s calling?

Then, I turned my attention to looking through her cookbook, marvelling at the gorgeous photos of dishes. Paging through the book to the roast chicken and bread salad recipe,  I resolved, or settled my mind at least, to make it for our Christmas dinner this year. Although it may seem like a sentimental gesture (it is) and although I didn’t even know her, nor especially cooked from her book prior to this (I didn’t) my strong feeling today is to honor her memory by creating a very different kind of menu for this year’s Christmas Eve repast. I can’t wait to go looking for small, organic chickens under three pounds that are a requisite for this recipe. Brining them a day ahead with salt is an essential step. I think I will roast three birds in my beautiful old French copper roasting pan. And I will serve them placed on top of the bread salad with the vinaigrette recipe she suggests.

As a starter, her recipe for “Prosciutto and White Rose Nectarines with Blanched Almonds” sounds like a lovely beginning to the evening. Kale, prepared with garlic, onion and red pepper might be a robust side vegetable to have alongside the roasted chickens and bread salad. A modest cheese plate, according to Judy, and then a dessert such as “espresso granita with whipped cream,” (who cares if we can’t fall asleep, there are still plenty of presents to wrap, right?) Or, a toasted almond panna cotta with saba (whatever that is!) or a fresh peach crostata, served warm from the oven?

Perhaps I am reacting over-emotionally to the surprise of reading about her death, and I am kind of surprised at the intensity of my reaction to it all. I feel strongly that a menu of her recipes is just the kind of food that I would like to serve as a celebration of Christmas this year.

Godspeed, Judy Rodgers. And thank you!

Note: for a follow-up photo essay and description of how the roast chicken with bread salad turned out, please click here.