The following recipes from Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton’s latest cookbook, Cook Something, reflect the flavors of Canal House Station.
A perfect French omelet is oval-shaped with tapered ends; a smooth sponge; tender, delicate, and slightly custardy. It should not have any color from the cooking. But that omelet is not our preferred style. We like ours with a little more character: tender and delicate, of course, but less spongy, its shape more relaxed, with a bit of golden brown color for flavor. A country omelet, if you like. It’s more forgiving to make but equally delicious.
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup grated or crumbled cheese (like Gruyère, Cheddar, Monterey Jack or Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Freshly ground black pepper
Crack the eggs into a medium bowl. Add the cream and a pinch of salt. Melt the butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, swirling the pan to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Using a whisk or fork, beat the eggs and cream until well combined.
When the butter is foaming, pour the eggs into the skillet. Quickly swirl the eggs around so they evenly coat the bottom of the skillet. Tilting the skillet, use a spatula to pull the lightly set eggs halfway toward the center of the pan, allowing the raw eggs to flow back to coat the bottom of the skillet. Repeat on the opposite side.
Reduce the heat to low. Let the omelet cook, undisturbed, until the eggs have set on the bottom, yet are still loose on top, about 1 minute.
Scatter the cheese over the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking the omelet until the cheese begins to melt and the eggs are just soft on top and a pale shade of brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes.
Using the spatula, fold the omelet into thirds (as you would a business letter), toward the center. Tip the omelet out of the skillet, folding it onto itself, onto a plate. If the omelet is misshapen, as ours often is, and you want a neat, oval shape, use your fingers to tuck in any stray edges.
Serves four to six
The traditional herbs used in porchetta, the famous Italian pork roast, are wild fennel, rosemary, and garlic — big, bold flavors we think also go well with chicken. We gild the lily and add sage and lemon.
1–2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, leaves chopped
1 large sprig fresh sage, leaves chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
One 3–5-pound chicken, spatchcocked (see technique below), rinsed, and patted dry
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Crush the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle. Add the garlic, rosemary, sage, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and crush to a paste. Stir in the lemon zest.
Use your fingers to loosen the skin from the chicken breast and thighs, taking care not to tear the skin. Rub the herb paste under the skin all over the flesh. Season the bird all over with salt and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour. Or, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Set the chicken skin-side up on a wire rack set in a roasting pan and rub all over with the olive oil. Add 1–2 cups water to the pan. Roast the chicken until golden brown and the thigh juices run clear when pierced, 40–45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for 10–15 minutes before cutting up and serving with lentils and mint (see recipe below).
Note: if you’re feeling ambitious, take the juices from the roasting pan and reduce with the juice by half with the squeeze of half a lemon. Remove from the heat and swirl in about 4 tablespoons of cold butter to make a light sauce.
Traditionally, a spatchcocked chicken or small bird is grilled. The bird is butterflied, or split open so it lays flat, like an open book. It makes the bird easier to handle and carve, and helps it cook more evenly. We spatchcock chicken for roasting and broiling, as well.
To split a whole chicken or small bird open, use a pair of sturdy kitchen or poultry shears, or a heavy, sharp knife or cleaver. Place the chicken breast-side down on a cutting board. Use the shears to cut out the backbone. Open up the chicken like a book and press on it to flatten it. Save the backbone for making stock.
LENTILS WITH MINT
Serves four to six
1 pound French green lentils
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1/4 preserved lemon rind, diced
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and cracked black pepper
Rinse and pick over lentils to make sure there are no stones. Add finely diced carrots to the lentils in a pot and cover generously with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook until lentils are firm but tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Drain and toss with preserved lemon rind, mint leaves, olive oil, cracked black pepper and salt to taste.
Note: other aromatic vegetables and herbs can be added to the lentils to deepen flavor — a chunk of onion, whole garlic cloves, hard herbs like thyme or bay leaf — but are not necessary.
Serves six to eight
Mildly hot guajillo chiles carry the flavor in this stew. The leathery skins, after soaking and puréeing (along with spices, nuts, and raisins), are transformed into this intensely flavored, velvety mole.
12 whole guajillo chiles, wiped with a damp paper towel
5 cups hot chicken stock
⅔ cup blanched almonds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
10 black peppercorns
1 cup raisins
3 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil
6 pounds boneless pork butt or Boston butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
½ bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
Large handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Remove the stems from the chiles and shake out the seeds. Heat a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Toast the chiles in the skillet, pressing them down with tongs and turning once or twice, until they are fragrant and turn slightly darker, 30–60 seconds. Transfer the chiles to a medium bowl. Pour 2 cups of the hot chicken stock over the chiles and set aside to soak until soft and pliable, about 30 minutes.
In the same skillet, toast the almonds over medium heat, stirring frequently, until pale golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool completely. Add the cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and peppercorns to the skillet and toast the spices over medium heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add to the almonds. Finely grind the almonds and spices with 1 teaspoon salt in a food processor or blender. Add the chiles and their soaking liquid, raisins, and garlic. Purée to a smooth paste.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the spice paste and fry, stirring to keep it from burning, until it becomes a shade darker and is very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
Dry the pork with paper towels. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy large pot with a lid over medium heat. Working in batches, brown the pork all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and set aside. Add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.
Return the pork and any juices to the pot. Add the spice paste. Add 2 cups of the stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer the stew over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender, 2–3 hours. Add a little more stock to the pot if the stew begins to dry out. Serve the stew garnished with scallions and cilantro.
4 tablespoons butter
3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, trimmed, thickly sliced crosswise, and washed
3 russet potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
8 cups whole milk
1 pound smoked whitefish
Lots of chopped fresh chives or scallions for garnish
Melt the butter in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often to prevent them from browning, until softened, 10–15 minutes. Add the potatoes and pour in 6 cups of the milk. Bring to a simmer (do not let the milk boil or it will curdle). Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, carefully remove the skin and bones from the fish without breaking the pieces up too much. Place the fish in a medium pot, add the remaining 2 cups milk, and heat over medium-low heat until warm.
Carefully add the fish and milk to the pot with the potatoes. Serve the chowder warm, garnished with lots of chopped fresh chives.