Videos

Speculoos Gnocchi

I adore speculoos, those spice-rich, snap-crisp cookies from Belgium.

They are made into a very popular and very decadent cookie spread — kind of like a speculoos incarnation of Nutella, i.e. undeniably palatable but nothing I’d want to promote from a nutritional standpoint — and I myself was inspired to turn them into sweet dumplings.

I love the idea of bringing that irresistibly sweet and spiced flavor to plump and tender little pillows, and I also like the North-meets-South twist of such a concoction, as the Belgian cookie and the Italian dumpling join forces in the same dessert cup.

Speculoos Cookies

You’ll find that it’s a really fun recipe to make, too, as you crush the speculoos with a rolling pin (stress reliever!), pipe little logs of batter to poach in simmering water, and sear the gnocchi in butter to give them a golden crust.

You can prepare the batter the day before if you like, but it’s best to poach and sear just before serving. Speculoos gnocchi are best eaten warm, with a dollop of crème fraîche that will slowly melt, and a light shower of freshly grated cinnamon.

Gnocchi in skillet

This is such a good recipe that my friend and super talented video journalist Katie Quinn suggested we create a video around it. It was a treat to do this with her, and the resulting video is now on her YouTube channel, which you must subscribe to this minute. It was also picked up by FWx, Food & Wine’s lifestyle site for millennials.

PS: Oh, and don’t miss my recipe for buckwheat speculoos, a wonderful treat any time of year, but particularly fitting during the holiday season!

About the cinnamon I use

I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.

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Spatchcocked Chicken “Under a Brick”

Sometimes you come across a disruptive recipe and your life changes forever. This is one such recipe.

It was recommended to me by a reader named Saudia, from Oregon, who answered my call for recipe suggestions to use my brand-new Lodge pan, a US-made cast-iron skillet that goes elegantly from stove to oven. I’d been coveting one for a long time without ever having room in my luggage to bring it back from my travels, but early this summer, I finally found out it was available in Europe.

Saudia pointed me to the recipe Mark Bittman had published in the New York Times in 1997 (so, yeah, nothing new), and when I went on a search for images of the finished results, I stumbled upon this more recent post by my friend Adam, who had merged Bittman’s recipe with Amanda Hesser’s. I mostly followed the instructions outlined by Adam, with a few minor modifications.

First, you spatchcock* your chicken, which sounds a lot more intimidating than it really is: all you need to do is cut the chicken on either side of the backbone — I use kitchen shears — then flip the chicken and press it down firmly so it lies flat. This allows the chicken to cook faster and more evenly. Here’s how you do it:

I’d done spatchcocking once before, inspired by an old Gwyneth Paltrow video, of all things, but the chicken had turned out pretty dry so I’d gone back to my standard recipes for whole chicken: Muriel’s chicken or, with a bit more time on my hands, salt-crusted chicken or chicken in a bread crust.

But this recipe introduces a clever trick: you start by placing the chicken, skin side down, in a hot and oiled skillet, and you use a weight of some kind — the traditional recipe uses a brick, hence the name of the recipe — to press it down into the pan so the skin will brown nicely. The whole thing is then transfered to a very hot oven, where the chicken will roast for 15 minutes with the weight still on, and 15 more minutes skin side up and weight off.

This creates a marvellously colored chicken with a crisp, crackly skin; perfectly cooked everything (including the breasts, which don’t dry out); and lots of delicious, garlic-infused cooking juices that drip into the skillet under the chicken and stay there without burning or evaporating. And all this in a mere 35 minutes! We’ve been so finger-licking impressed that the rôtisseries in our neighborhood might not see us quite so often.

For optimal flavor, the recipe also has you rub the chicken with olive oil, salt, dried herbs, and cumin (my own addition), and you should do this a little bit in advance, to allow the seasoning to be absorbed fully. For convenience, I like to spatchcock and rub the chicken the day before, and then keep it in the fridge until I’m ready to cook it the next day.

In terms of equipment, you do need a cast iron skillet — or any heavy skillet — that’s ovenproof, and large enough to fit your spatchcocked chicken. I use this 26-cm (10-inch) Lodge pan and a standard French chicken fits in nice and snug. You also need something to use as the weight: if you’re the kind of person who has ready access to loose bricks you’ll wrap one in foil, but failing that you can use a second cast-iron skillet or the lid of a Dutch oven. I use the lid from this adorable cocotte.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever spatchcocked a chicken? How did you cook it and how did you like the results?

* In French, a spatchcocked chicken is called by the cute term poulet en crapaudine, because the chicken is made to look a little bit like a toad, or crapaud. Croak, croak!

Spatchcocked Chicken

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Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad

Charred broccoli is fast becoming one of my go-to vegetable options, especially at lunchtime when I need something quick and low-effort.

My enthusiasm for it started as an offshoot from my beloved Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste, in which broccoli can be used with good results. But in truth, roasted broccoli isn’t an exact substitute for cauliflower: the tops of the florets become a bit drier and quite a bit crunchier when submitted to high heat, so roasted broccoli seems to call for a creamier treatment.

The trick to this salad is to not be shy about roasting the broccoli.

And what creamier companions than an herbed tahini dressing and a cubed avocado tossed in? Also: what tastier, more satisfying trio?

I usually eat half of this salad warm the day I make it, and try to contain my excitement until lunch the next day, when I can finally have the other half; it’s best to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before eating.

The trick to this salad is to not be shy about roasting the broccoli: you’ll get the most vibrant flavor and most interesting texture contrast from broccoli that is frankly black at the tips.

Mini Cookbook of Vegan Staples

The only damper on my charred broccoli enthusiasm these days is that is it harder than one would think to find glowingly fresh broccoli at the organic stores around me. You can tell broccoli is fresh when the heads are firm, with tight florets that take some effort to separate. Yet more often than not, a quick pat on the heads stocked in the produce bin reveals soft heads with distracted florets. I did learn recently that you can revive those heads by cutting a slice off the tip of the stem and putting it in a glass of water as in a vase, and I plan to try this next time, should my craving become too strong.

Join the conversation!

Do you share my love of roasted broccoli? What’s you favorite way to serve it?

Charred Broccoli Salad on Video!

My friend Katie Quinn filmed me making this salad, and you can watch the video on her YouTube channel!

Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad

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