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

Tag: roast chicken with bread salad

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.