I am an unabashed fan of the Canal House cookbooks. This series of individual, small and beautifully published volumes (now up to eight) is well-used in my home. Quite unexpectedly early last fall CANAL HOUSE COOKS EVERY DAY (Andrews McMeel Publishing; $45.00; ISBN: 978-1-4494-2147-2) arrived at my doorstep. Based on the popular Canal House Cooks Lunch blog by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, this big, gorgeous volume is stuffed with about 250 recipes and 130 drool-worthy color photographs. I was so busy with the publication launch of The Oregonian Cookbook, that a review of this wonderful book, book which I looked at night after night, got delayed. I hope that you'll go directly to your nearest bookstore and grab this cookbook because food this attractive, simple and flavorful belongs in the repertoire of every home cook.
One recipe in particular kept calling to me. Poached Chicken with Tarragon and Chive Mayonnaise read and looked like simplicity itself. For this recipe, I even made my own mayonnaise, though the authors gave their blessing to the jarred stuff saying, "When we are in a hurry, we just doctor up good old Hellman's or Best Foods mayonnaise." This poached chicken is ideal for a summer lunch or dinner (I tried it on a warm August evening). My guests loved it, and it provided me with lunch the next day.
Keeping it simple is a hallmark of Canal House cookbooks, so in addition to a really delicious recipe for Deviled Eggs, the authors offer "Buttered" Eggs, a splendid alternative. "We simply "butter" the cut sides of hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise, arrange the eggs on a plate, and drizzle them with some good olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper," they explain. "We often garnish them with something: chopped Preserved Lemon rind, or minced chives. Sometimes it's parsley, tarragon, or dill, or bacon thinly sliced ham, or chutney." It is this deliciously simple approach that makes the recipes so appealing. In summer, Poached White Peaches in Lemon Verbena Syrup look nearly too good to eat.
With farmer's markets and better products, locally available, CANAL HOUSE COOKS EVERY DAY takes its cues for what to cook seasonally. And with Christopher Hirscheimer's extraordinarily fine photography, each ingredient or finished dish is captured at it's absolute peak.
Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs with Little Zucchini are a perfect example of the Canal House philosophy. There are only eight ingredients in this recipe, yet the technique of pan-frying chicken thighs, with only salt, pepper, some butter, a little fresh thyme, lemon juice and olive oil, deliver flavor with huge impact. Much of the same ingredients can be found in Grilled Salmon, except parsley changing places with thyme. Bratwurst with Sauteed Caraway Cabbage works for a busy work night meal. The Apple Galette would dress it up for company on a Saturday night. Fancier meals for holidays don't mean slaving for hours in the kitchen. Roast Prime Rib of Beef needs only salt and pepper. Little Yorkshire Puddings are the perfect accompaniment. End this superb meal with a Ginger Spice Cake with Dried Cherries.
Looking ahead to the post-holiday winter period of stews and braises, I came across a recipe for Rabbit Stew I am dying to make. Rabbit, button mushrooms, tomato paste, white wine, poultry stock, carrots, parsnips and peas, might be the right combination to help get over our collective ambivalence towards rabbit, which not only tastes good, but it lean and healthy.
As pleasurable to read as to cook from, once again CANAL HOUSE COOKING is a big book to use over and over again.
Poached Chicken with Tarragon & Chive Mayonnaise
When we are in a hurry, we just doctor up good old Hellmann’s or Best Foods mayonnaise.
For the mayonnaise
1 large egg yolk
¼ garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup canola oil
½ cup good, smooth, “buttery” olive oil
½ cup fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
½ cup chopped chives, plus more for garnishing
For the chicken
4 bone-in chicken breast halves
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 rib celery, halved
1 bay leaf
For the mayonnaise, whisk together the egg yolk, garlic, a pinch of salt, and about 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Combine the oils in a measuring cup with a spout. Whisking constantly, add the oil to the yolks about 1 teaspoon at a time. The sauce will thicken and emulsify. After you have added about ¼ cup of the oil, continue to whisk and slowly drizzle in the remaining oil. Season with salt and thin with as much of the remaining lemon juice as suits your taste. Stir in the chopped tarragon and chives. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the chicken, put the chicken, onions, celery, bay leaf, and a big pinch of salt in a large pot with a lid and cover with water by 1 inch. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and poach for 15–20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and put on a plate to cool. When the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and bones. (Return the skin and bones to the pot and continue to simmer the stock until it is rich and flavorful; strain the stock and save for another use.)
To serve, cut the chicken into generous-size pieces and arrange on a serving platter. Spoon the mayonnaise on the chicken. Garnish with the chopped chives (and baby arugula, if you like.)
From Canal House Cooks Every Day by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer, Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013