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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


30 pounds of chicken, 75 pounds of plump prime rib, 22 pounds of pencil thin asparagus, 20 pounds of jumbo shrimp, 10 pounds of applewood smoked bacon, and 230 miniature Hot Browns. We had one week to plan, prep, and cook everything before packing it all out to a gorgeous Woodford County horse farm for a spectacular off-sight event.
Volume. Big numbers. Big event.

Peppered with a little organized chaos, everything went off without a hitch. Long after the sun dipped behind the trees and rolling meadows, guests meandered  the grounds, spilled from terraces, dined, drank,and  reveled in the festivities. It was a fantastic night. I had an absolute blast.

When the dust settled, I needed/wanted to dial back the volume  for a quiet weekend away from the madness.

After a lazy morning stroll through the farmers' market, I bagged a few Casey County zucchinis, a handful of green beans, 5 baby celery root bulbs, and a couple of small Jessamine County purple sweet potatoes.

Safety in numbers.  Small numbers. It was enough for a weekend of simple cooking. On the way home from the market, Michael and I turned the volume down further by picking up a supermarket rotisserie chicken.  No apologies.

Celery Root Puree.
Typically, I use celery root to enhance and deepen the flavors of other foods:braises, soups, purees, or potatoes. I wanted  pure celery root flavor.  After plucking the gnarly spindles from the outer skin, I peeled the bulbs and diced them into 1 inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)  before boiling them in 2 cups chicken stock until they were fork tender and the stock reduced by half.  Working in batches, I pureed the soft celery root pieces with  2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, and a splash of cream. When the puree was the  consistency of firm whipped potatoes, I scooped it out of the blender and spooned it into an oven safe dish.

Skewered Zucchini Ribbons.
I pulled my mandolin from the cabinet gadget garage and thinly sliced the zucchini into pliable soft strips before threading them onto skewers, creating loose pleated green and white zucchini ribbons. Undulating zucchini waves.

The Chicken.
I didn't have to do much at all. I sliced the cooked bird in half and  placed one half flesh side down in a casserole dish. After dabbing the skin with butter, I splashed the chicken with 1/4 cup chicken stock, covered it with aluminum foil, and slid it into a 350 degree oven to bake.

After Michael and I finished off a bottle of crisp chardonnay, I slid the celery root puree into the oven to warm through, cranked a grill pan over a high flame, brushed the zucchini skewers with olive oil,  and grilled them until they were tender with crisp caramelized tips.

I spooned the celery root puree onto the center of two large plates, fanned a few pieces of chicken around the puree, and tumbled the zucchini skewers to the side. Simple. Clean. Lazy.

Green Beans and Potatoes.
Although I adore long simmered green beans with new potatoes (those wonderfully drab army green  potluck beauties), I took a different approach. I cooked the green beans and potatoes separately before combining them at then end for a final roasting period.

I brought 6 cups of water to a rolling boil, heavily salted the water, and blanched the beans for 5 minutes before plunging them into an ice water bath.  After peeling the gorgeous purple sweet potatoes, I sliced them in half before tossing them with 2 sliced green onions bulbs, olive oil, salt, and cracked pepper.

 I tented and sealed the potatoes in aluminum foil (en papillote-ish), placed them on a sheet pan, and slid them into a 350 degree oven to bake/steam for 45 minutes. After 15 minutes, I repeated the drill with the remaining halved rotisserie chicken.  During the last 15 minutes, I cranked the oven to 400, pulled the potatoes from the oven, split open the foil parcel, and added the reserved green beans to roast/char along with the soft purple sweet potatoes.

Sunday Supper: roasted purple sweet potatoes, green beans, and chicken with pan gravy.

Less volume.
White noise.
Simple chicken and market vegetables.

The calm after the storm.

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