The most important ingredient of any homecooked meal isn’t food
In our home, music permeates everything we do. In the deluge of a morning shower or the lake of bubbles from a late evening bath, there’s music. Above the din and roar of vacuuming, in the whisper of dusting and the gathering of clothes to launder, there is music. Especially in our kitchen, the second most important room where love is made, there is music. Music creates the mood of a meal. It makes cooking and eating better.
Riz’s Roasted Chicken
1 3–4 lb. chicken
¼ cup olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Chinese five-spice seasoning to taste
Julian Bream’s Bach guitar recital
Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and In A Silent Way
Rufus’ Ask Rufus
Put on the Bream and wash your chicken inside and out. Dry your chicken with paper towels thoroughly, again inside and out. Wash your hands. Let the chicken sit and warm up to room temperature, until the Bach is done.
Put on the Davis track “Blue In Green” from Kind of Blue and heat oven to 500 degrees. Oil and season your bird with all the spices and set in a roasting pan. When the song is over, put the chicken in the oven.
Wash your hands and put on “So What.” When that’s over, check on your chicken and brush it with the oil in the pan. Put it back in the oven and put on In A Silent Way. When the tempo changes—about five minutes in—turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
Near the end of the track, when the tempo changes again, check your chicken and brush with oil in the pan. Put it back in the oven, let In A Silent Way finish, put Kind of Blue back on and play “All Blues.” When that’s done, check your chicken again and brush with oil in the pan.
The chicken should be just about done, but you do not want to eat pink chicken (a rule for life). Check for doneness by using a meat thermometer in that spot between the breast and the thigh (but not touching the bone) and the temperature should be no less than 165 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, stick a long fork into this spot and make sure the juices run clear.
If you need to, put the chicken back in and play “Blue in Green” again. When you’re sure the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and put on “Freddie The Freeloader.” Do not touch the chicken, don’t even taste a little of the skin, not even that crispy part of the booty. (Well, maybe just the crispy part of the booty…but nothing else.) Let that baby rest at least until the end of “Freddie” then put on Ask Rufus and bring your bird to your table.
Once we get our chicken to the table, we spruce it up further with condiments like hot sauce, a quick mayo and Dijon mustard sauce or a squeeze of lemon. Sometimes I combine all three.
On The Side
Since people cannot live by chicken alone (God knows I’ve tried), your sides should be as tasty as they are good for you. Here are two of our simple favorites.
Flash Fried Collard Greens
1 bunch of collard greens, rinsed
1 medium onion diced
5 anchovies finely chopped (Yes, anchovies, not bacon. Bacon is the gateway drug to pork belly and chicharróns)
5 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
Roll up one bunch of greens as tightly as you can and thinly julienne from one end to the other. Wash them, let sit in a colander and set aside. Heat pan or wok until droplets of water began to dance on the surface. Add oil, then onions and stir for about 3 minutes. Add anchovies and pepper flakes, and quickly stir for 1 minute. Add greens in batches. Lightly salt and stir until greens wilt slightly but remain bright and crunchy. Remove and serve.
Cumin Coconut Mashed Sweet Potatoes
2 medium sized potatoes per person
2 tablespoons of coconut milk per potato
1 teaspoon of cumin or curry powder per potato
2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil per potato (optional)
Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake the potatoes for an hour until soft. Let cool enough to handle and scoop the flesh. Put flesh in a large bowl, add remaining ingredients, mash until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, and serve.