Italian-style weeknight chicken dinner

This is a super-easy dish requiring little effort or talent.  It comes from chef David Tanis, who is a wizard at combining good flavors with little fuss.  The best NYT food writer in my opinion.

Here’s the idea of this: Roast then braise chicken thighs. Takes just a few minutes of work/prep time. Then oven time of 1 hour. Flavors are complex and harmonious. Good enough for company.

Accompany with roasted asparagus and perhaps some roasted potatoes. Or buttered noodles if you’re feeling indulgent carb-wise.

David Tanis’ Braised Chicken with Olives and Lemon

Serves 2 people.  Double recipe for 4 or leftovers.


4 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in

3 garlic cloves, minced

scant ½ t fennel seeds, crushed

scant ½ t red pepper flakes

½ T rosemary, rough chopped, or less if using dried

½ T olive oil

½ c olives, about ½ # with pits. I like Castelvetrano. You can use black in a mixture.

1 lemon – regular or Meyer lemon (preferably), cut into wedges

½ c chicken broth

chopped parsley for garnish at end


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Pat chicken dry; season with S&P, and put in earthenware baking dish in one layer, skin side up.
  3. Mix together fennel, red pepper, rosemary and olive oil. Use mortar & pestle if using dried rosemary. Sprinkle onto chicken, and rub in. Cut lemon into wedges and tuck in among chicken pieces. Let sit out for 15 minutes.
  4. Put chicken in oven and roast uncovered about 15 minutes. Turn on broiler and broil for 5 minutes to brown skin slightly. Remove dish from oven, switch oven back to baking, scatter olives over chicken, and add chicken broth. Cover tightly and bake for 55 minutes or so, until meat is tender.
  5. When finished cooking, pour sauce into saucepan and reduce over high heat by half. Spoon sauce over chicken, sprinkle with parsley and serve.


While chicken is in the oven, prepare vegetable accompaniments: a nice salad, and roasted asparagus and/or roasted potatoes or buttered noodles.

Chop some parsley to sprinkle on chicken before plating.




Boiled potatoes

Buy your best new potatoes — fingerlings if available, or like I did, new Maine Yukon Gold (in later April).  This is an excellent accompaniment to a highly-flavored meat roast (like pork shoulder with garlic and rosemary).  Very handy technique for a dinner party since it does its thing pretty much on its own while you cook other parts of the dinner or chat with your friends.  When done, you can cover the pot and hold them for a bit.

Scrub and place taters in big pot with water to cover by an inch or more.  Cut in half or more if large.  Add salt.  Bring to boil and cook uncovered until barely tender.

Drain most of the water from pot, leaving 1/2 inch or more.  Add several cloves of garlic and slices of butter.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until water evaporates.

Roasted asparagus

I think roasting is the best way to cook asparagus.  Roasting at high heat concentrates the flavor while dehydrating a bit so the asparagus flavor is not diluted by water.

Prepare your asparagus:  Break off bottom ends where they break naturally, and rinse.  If very thick, peel bottom half of stalks.

Heat oven to 425-450 degrees.  Cover sheet pan with aluminum foil if desired.

Dump asparagus spears on baking sheet in a pile.  Drizzle with olive oil and soy sauce.  Mix together, then spread out spears to single layer and separate.

Roast for about 15 minutes, until tender with poked with knife or fork, stirring once.  Can sit in pan out of oven and can even be served at room temp. while waiting for remainder of meal to be finished cooking.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake is a classic summer dessert when berries are in season.  It is often somewhat disappointing with not-full-flavor strawberries.  Here, I added Rose Levy Beranbaum’s brilliant idea of creating a concentrated frozen strawberry purée to the cake-strawberry-cream combo.  The cake is sweet but not overly so.  It is a rich, sturdy platform for the strawberry menagerie.  The fresh strawberries are only lightly sweetened to bring out their juice and flavor.  The puree is sweet, but not cloyingly, same with whipped cream.  Together you get a strawberry delight that is like fresh strawberries to the max!  Even more flavorful in my view than a plain berry.

There are often delicious organic strawberries from California available late April to early May, perfect for this early foray into summertime treats, especially with the flavor boost of the purée.  A treat, indeed!

There are four parts to this dessert:

Golden yellow layer cake – 1 9” cake, prepared day before

Frozen strawberry purée

Sliced fresh strawberries with a bit of sugar

Whipped cream with confectioners sugar


Strawberry purée:


1 5-oz bag of organic frozen strawberries

1-2 T sugar

2 t lemon juice

  1. Put strawberries in a colander, and set over deep bowl. Leave on counter for several hours, allowing juice to drip down. Press on fruit to extract juice.
  2. Reduce juice by boiling until reduced to ¼ c.
  3. Put strawberries in food processor, and puré
  4. Put into bowl and mix in sugar and lemon juice.
  5. It should be very delicious. Adjust sugar and lemon as needed. Refrigerate.


Fresh Strawberries: Rinse and hull 1-1/2 # organic strawberries. Slice thickly and put in bowl. Stir in gently 1-2 T sugar. Refrigerate until needed, removing from refrigerator in advance to warm to room temp. Best sugared less than one hour before assembling/eating.



Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Golden Butter Cream Cake, from The Cake Bible (p. 34)

This is best made one day ahead, wrapped in aluminum foil and held at room temperature. Keeps for up to 3 days this way, or 2 months frozen.


150 g cake flour, sifted

150 g sugar

6 g baking powder

¼ t salt


Butter, softened 150 g and cut up


3 egg yolks

116 g heavy cream (1/2 c)

3 g vanilla (3/4 t)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9” round baking pan: Grease pan, add paper liner and spray with pan spray with flour.
  2. Sift flour into mixing bowl. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.
  3. Mix together gently: yolks, 2 T cream and vanilla.
  4. Add butter to flour mixture with remainder of cream (6 T). Mix on low speed until moistened, then increase to medium for 1-1/2 minutes.
  5. Scrape down bowl and add egg mixture in 3 batches, beating 20 secs after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  6. Put batter into pan, and even out with spatula.
  7. Bake for 25-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cake will spring back when pressed lightly in center; should just be starting to shrink from sides.


Whipped cream: Whip 2 c heavy cream on medium speed. Add couple T confectioners sugar, and increase speed to high. You want just lightly sweetened. Whip to soft peaks. Cover and refrigerate until needed.



Roast pork shoulder

I made this with a beautiful piece of pork from happy free-ranging heritage local pigs from Lover’s Leap Farm.  I recommend sourcing from a humane farm.  The cut of meat I used is called a Picnic Shoulder (vs Boston Butt) — it has the skin and a bone.  It is ideal for roasting low and slow because the thick layer of fat under the skin bastes the meat while it cooks.  And it yields fantastic chicharrones, cracklings, or pork rind (depending on where you are from!).

For a dinner party in late Spring/early Summer, try potatoes, asparagus and strawberry shortcake as accompaniments.

If frozen, you will need to allow at least one day to defrost in refrigerator.  Then season meat 24-48 hours prior to starting to cook the morning of your feast.

It is very, very easy to make.  The most difficult part is sourcing it, and maybe too cutting into the skin.  It cooks by itself all day while you do something else, with the alluring aroma of garlic and rosemary wafting through your home.  Mangia!


Pork shoulder roast, with skin and bone-in, approx 7#

8 garlic cloves, minced

1 T kosher salt

4 t chopped fresh rosemary

4 t chopped fresh sage

2 t fennel seeds

1 t freshly ground pepper


  1. Mix flavoring ingredients:  With mortar and pestle, mush together garlic and salt. Add in other ingredients, and mush to combine. Alternately, use spice grinder or mini-chopper.
  1. Slash pork skin with a razor (box cutter or Tinkle will do), in lines about ¾” inch apart. Rub in garlic/herb mixture, massage in, and put in refrigerator uncovered for 1-1/2 days. (Leaving uncovered rather than wrapped allows skin to dry out.)image
  2. To cook, remove meat from refrigerator and put on counter for 1-2 hours. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and set rack on lower third of oven.
  1. Put pork on rack in roasting pan, and roast at high heat for ½ hour. Turn heat down to 250 degrees, and roast for another 8-9 hours.
  2. Check after a few hours and if browning unevenly, move pan around in oven, and perhaps move to lower position in oven.
  3. After 8 hours or so, check to see if meat is falling off bone, or take its temperature. You want temp of at least 175-185 (can go up to 200), or until meat pulls away easily. Remove from oven and leave on counter for up to 2 hours.
  4. Crisp up pork skin/to make chicharrones: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Slice off top skin and some fat, and put on clean baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, until crisp.
  1. To serve: Tear or cut off large chunks of meat, and slice thickly against the grain. Serve with variety of pieces with fat, seasoning, etc, and a couple pieces of chicharrones. Vegetables are nice too.

Gilding the lily: Pour off fat from roasting pan (save for potatoes later if you’d like), and deglaze pan with stock, add flour, cook whisking for 10 mins, add more stock, S&P and serve in gravy boat.

Credits/Inspiration: Molly Stevens, All About Roasting; Bruce Aidells, The Complete Meat Cookbook.