Monday, May 24, 2010

Chicken Bouillabaisse

When I get a paycheck I immediately go out and shop for food. I don't drop several hundred dollars on truffles or expensive wine nor do I buy fifty dollar olive oil. My bills get paid on time and I'm not going broke over a choice piece of pasture raised beef. And when I see a grocery store (cough, cough Eli Zabar's) charge two dollars more for a container of yogurt than anywhere else in Manhattan, I make note. However, when it comes to the basics, even on a modest income, price is not always my main concern.

You get what you pay for. Most of the time. And because we live in a free market economy, where you spend your money sends a message.

There is a scene from Food Inc. (or perhaps it's The Future of Food) in which farmer Mark Lilly drives organic produce into a low income neighborhood by means of a 1987 diesel school bus and explains to his customers this, and I'm paraphrasing, yes these vegetables are more expensive than a bag of potato chips or bucket of KFC but this squash will feed a family of four and I'll show you how. I will teach you how to cook it and how it will improve your health but you may have to give up smoking or cable or drinking in order to afford it. If you want to change, I will help you.

It is a crime that real food is so expensive, and while there are grass roots movements trying to change that, like Mark Lilly's Farm to Family  program, the food industry is a huge, messy problem that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. 

I like to think that by shopping at farmer's markets, staying away from processed foods, especially ones that have unrecognizable ingredients, and buying what's fresh and grown with care does more than just keep my husband and me healthy, it also contributes to a conversation about the way food is grown in a positive way. Shopping like this on a budget means doing a little extra research and knowing the difference between an overpriced luxury item and a simple bottle of milk that contains all the nutrients it should and none of the hormones or chemicals it shouldn't. But money speaks, and as consumers I believe we can drive down the cost of organic and mindfully raised foods getting corporations, shareholders and government subsidizers to listen to the need for real, good food by spending a little more for a better product.

If someone living off food stamps is willing to hand over a few extra dollars to a guy in a beat up old school bus selling rutabagas and zucchini in order to change the health of their family, then so can I.

I wanted to make something special on Friday night. Something that might have been a $100 check in a New York restaurant but that I can make at home for a fraction of the cost. I modified a Chicken Bouillabaisse recipe of Ina Garten's and it came out pretty great. I also tried to recreate a creamed spinach dish Chris and I love from one of our favorite restaurants, Blaue Gans, and got pretty close.

It was pay day after all and my pockets were full.

Chicken Bouillabaisse for two (modified from Ina Garten's, Back to Basics

4 chicken thighs
1 tbs. minced fresh rosemary
salt + pepper
olive oil
1/2 large head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/2 tsp. whole fennel seeds
1 1/4 cup tomato puree
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 tbs. Pernod (optional)
4 medium yukon gold potatoes cut into 2" pieces

Rub down the chicken with kosher salt, rinse and pat dry. Brown both sides in a skillet on medium heat with two tablespoons olive oil and season with the rosemary, salt and pepper, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a glass oven-safe baking dish with a lid and set aside.

Lower the heat and add the garlic, saffron, fennel seeds, tomato puree, chicken stock, white wine, pernod and 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper. Stir and simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the garlic is tender. Add a little more white wine as you go if the sauce gets too thick. When there are only about 10 minutes of simmering left, add the potatoes and cover to steam.

Remove the potatoes after ten minutes and set aside with the chicken. With an immersion blender, blend the garlic into the sauce until smooth and pour over the chicken and potatoes. Toss lightly, add a little splash of white wine or chicken stock if you think it needs it, cover and heat in an oven or toaster oven at 400 degrees for 55 minutes.  Serve hot.

Creamed Spinach
1 bag spinach
2 tbs. butter
salt + pepper

I heated up water to a boil in my rice cooker. In batches add the spinach to the boiling water and cook for about a minute or two until bright green and tender. Remove the spinach with tongs and set aside in a bowl. When all the spinach has been cooked, keeping the liquid in the bottom of the bowl, add two tablespoons butter, a pinch of salt and grind of pepper and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. 


  1. That sounds amazing! I am trying to love cooking (especially after watching Food Inc and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution), but so far I am not that good at it! Lol. I will keep trying though b/c you're right - it is important to feed ourselves and our families real food.

  2. oh man oh man, i would like to eat this now, please!

    ps: will call you once my mom leaves about pics and links and i know you were trying to make me jealous with your text about the game at citified, but jokes on you because i could only see the first few words--darn broken phone! expect call in next few days...

  3. sometimes i want to start eating meat again SOLELY from reading ina garten's amazing recipes. love her simplicity!

  4. I made this for dad and me for dinner tonight with sweet potatoes (the white ones- not orange yams) because I was out of Yukon Golds, and it was delicious! I served it with tender young broccoli raab right out of the garden. Thanks for introducing me to this great dish! xox