Dear friends how are you?
Are you also looking back at this year that once again is almost gone, and thinking: wow, it’s good to be here.
I do, despite everything.
The economy, the crazy weather, the earthquakes (we had two major ones in the last 3 months), the politics, the floods and no olive harvest for the third year in a row. I do think it’s good to be here, in this world, in this life.
I love this life which is sometime painful and unsettling but also beautiful and in this moment in history it’s rich – more than ever – because of the connection among people. I love it because when I am tired at the end of a long day I can see you on my screen, somewhere else in the world, smiling, hugging your beloved, making funny faces, showing off your grandchildren or your bowl of granola.
Because of you, I can dream to show up at your door and one day it will really happen, you will open your door for me and I will be there with you in your kitchen. Because of you, I have the opportunity to keep doing what I love: share what’s beautiful and delicious and unique of my world and enjoy the same of your world.
And for this, before I even start with this month’s news, I thank you and I wish you all the best for a New Year of peace and connection.
And here are the news:
- I am self publishing! yes, I have undertaken the perilous challenge of keeping my cookbook project alive completely on my own. A second edition has just been printed and should be in stock on Amazon soon but meanwhile there are a few copies of the 1st edition available on the US website, please consider it if you still need gifts for friends and family! I can also Fedex a few copies which will arrive to you in about one week from order, please contact me for details.
- Several exciting culinary adventures based at Alla Madonna del piatto are in the works for 2017: our yearly Porchetta adventure for those of you who love pork in all its delicious forms, an early summer festival getaway offering a full immersion in a medieval feast of colors, music and gastronomic delights and our signature olive harvest celebration of the Umbrian liquid gold. Should you not find a date which suit your needs, please ask us about customizable Pasta and Vino experience offering the best of everything, – food, wine, the Umbrian countryside, the hill-towns and one or more cooking classes with me – whenever it’s best for you during the season.
- Last but not least, please don’t forget that even though the area of Umbria near Norcia has been hit by the earthquakes, the rest of the region has not been affected and it’s as beautiful and peaceful as always. If Italy is in your plans, do make a special effort to come to Umbria on holidays next year as a form of support to those who have lost their homes and business and will need jobs to re-invent their lives. The Umbrian economy depends largely on tourism and we need you more than ever
And here is the recipe:
This month’s recipe – which is adapted from my cookbook – it’s more about the fabulous herbed salt than the chicken.
This is a fragrant and spicy condiment, based on the herbs which easily grow on our green hills. You can use it on all meats and roast vegetables to impart an Umbrian character to your dinners, it’s wonderfully addictive.
In addition to using herbs, I follow my mum’s belief that the secret to a perfect roast chicken is to apply some pork. To make this easy and quick also for a weeknight dinner I use chicken pieces and toss in some good quality sausages instead of larding or wrapping. If you don’t eat pork, bake the chicken in a mixture of olive oil and white wine instead.
- 1.5 kg ( 3-pound) organic chicken, cut into pieces
- 2-3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon dark brown sugar or honey or maple syrup
- 2-3 small onions or 6 shallots, peeled
- optional: 1 Italian pork sausage per person.
Spicy herb salt:
- 30 gr (2 tablespoon) kosher sea salt
- 10 gr (2 teaspoon) black peppercorns
- 10 gr (2 teaspoon) small dry chili peppers
- 5 gr each bay (about 10 leaves), sage (a small bunch), thyme (leaves from 5-6 sprigs), rosemary (needles from two 5-inch long sprigs). My rosemary is still blooming so I added a few flowers too, just because it’s pretty 🙂 .
- 5 gr (1 teaspoon) juniper berries
Use fresh spices and herbs if possible, best if home grown or organic. Place all herbs and salt in the bowl of a food processor after removing any woody part. Pulse, grinding the salt to obtain a fine consistency. If you weight the herbs you will have more reproducible results but if you don’t have a scale, taste the salt once ready and add more of one or another herb to balance the aroma, it will be very powerful! Transfer in a glass jar and keep it closed and in the dark to preserve flavor and color. Use the smallest possible jar to minimize exposure to oxygen and volatilization of the aromas.
For the roast, rub the chicken with oil and vinegar or lemon juice; sprinkle with the herb salt. The salt is very spicy so use a modest amount initially, you can always add more at the table. Place the chicken in a roasting pan with a few sausages and the whole peeled onions or shallots. Drizzle with honey or sprinkle with the brown sugar. Add 1/2 inch water and roast for 30-45 min in preheated oven at 200 °C (400 °F), turning every 15 min. until golden and crispy. You might need to remove the sausages and onions if they are ready before the chicken and put them back for 5 minutes or so to reheat. You might also need to add a little more water or white wine if the juices become too sticky.
If your oven is large enough, bake a pan of potatoes in a salt crust to serve as a side together with a simple green salad.