Cooking with friends and family is one of the delights of the kitchen. When you share making a meal with someone, the enjoyment of eating it together is increased.
There’s often an extra person in the kitchen with you, at least in memory – a mother or grandmother who gave you the recipe, a friend you traveled with, a restaurant experience you recreated after begging the recipe from the chef. These are special guests at the table, and there is always a story attached!
Start young, but if not, it is never to late to learn to cook
My mom taught me to cook when I was very young. I struggle to remember a time when I wasn’t cooking. The tasks at first were simple, but it wasn’t long before I was flipping pancakes and confidently, although probably messily, frosting a cake. If you didn’t learn to cook from a young age, it is never too late!
Many other teachers came my way. My Aunt Jeanette was a magnificent baker, and she loved showing others her many secrets. I treasure her fresh dill bread recipe, and her health loaf which used a lot of wheat germ. She also made the first sourdough starter of my experience, a love affair I continue to this day.
A little help from my friends
Friends taught me lots of tricks from their own families. I learned to make great pasta sauce and lasagne (yes, with an ‘e’) from my Italian friend Marie; Meile offered her family’s traditional Swedish pancakes that delighted my own children; and, my friend Barb’s Hungarian grandmother’s Christmas cookies are colorful jewels that bring back wonderful memories. My mother-in-law Pat left me not only the legacy of many fun cooking adventures, but her entire cookbook collection as well. I will certainly never want for any recipe!
Pass it on
In turn, I taught my kids and now my grandkids how to cook, because if you cook, you get to eat good food! If you don’t, it is unlikely you’ll eat food that is both delicious and nutritious, and you get to control what is in your food. With this skill, a world of possibilities awaits.
Approach with fun
I’ve taught lots of people how to cook along the way, and one of the things I like to emphasize is that rather than being a chore, the process of making a meal is fun, especially if you share it with someone. Even better if the food has a personal history. That story.
The wonder of baking bread
One of the things I love the most is teaching someone how to bake bread. While I might lean more toward cooking than baking, the exception is breadmaking which is part of my life routine. There is something really soul satisfying about the whole process of kneading, fermenting, and baking a luscious loaf of bread, and then sharing it and eating it! There’s no better aroma to have in the home. I’ve taught many folks the delight of baking bread, a process that has fed us through the ages, and although it takes some time, it is extremely rewarding. It always feels a little like magic when the bread starts to rise.
We love to share
There are a few recipes that I’ve shared over and over with others, and they became a part of their home cooking standards. Often, these are simple recipes that have great results, perfect for a beginning cook. June Cleaver toasts, a four-ingredient appetizer, that most people fall in love with, and serve up themselves at any chance. Socca, a chick-pea flatbread, that is simple to make, also with few ingredients, and has a unique flavor like nothing else.
A perfect dish for the beginner and experienced alike
But the dish that people delight in making again and again is my late friend Hilda Birrell’s Marmalade Chicken. It is a perfect beginning cook’s dish that uses low-and-slow baking to enhance simple flavors. It is extremely juicy, flavorful, and addicting. After putting them to work, the oven does all the work while you enjoy your guests. The result is an extremely juicy piece of chicken with delectable flavor and aroma.
Cooking with friends is always a blast!
Last weekend, I enjoyed cooking with my friend Tony who I had not seen in years. He is giving me a hand in redesigning my garden, and we had a great time catching up on old times and new, shopping at the farmers market, and cooking our wonderful finds. It was like old times. He kneaded the bread, and I showed him one of my favorite recipes that many have adopted as their own – Marmalade Chicken! It is one of my husband’s and family’s favorites, too, and our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter were also coming for dinner, so we made a big batch.
Make each ingredient count
I hesitate to even call this a recipe; it is more of a technique. With so few ingredients, you want the best you can afford. I used a local organic chicken, mostly nice plump thighs but a couple of breasts for those who prefer. Yes, it is more expensive than supermarket chicken, by a lot. But a local free-range chicken will have more flavor, considerably more, less fat, and has a much smaller carbon footprint. We don’t even need to talk about the living conditions here, you know already. Make extra, you will want the leftovers, if any. Here I used my favorite Dundee Marmalade because it is nice and bitter along with the sweet. It does mellow in the baking, so don’t be put off is you are not a fan of bitter. Any good quality marmalade will work here. Use what you like. Note: I’ve tried this with other fruit jams, but it just isn’t the same, so stick with marmalade. I do admit to a light addition of cayenne once in a while, but the basic is really the best.
Not a fancy cook, but a good one!
We talked about Hilda while making the chicken, and I told the story of this quirky lady who spent much of her working life cooking for “some of the best families” in New York. She wasn’t a fancy cook, but a really good one, and she had lots of tricks up her sleeve. This recipe is one of them. She later moved to Vermont to keep a large garden and serve dinner to younger friends every week, delighting in having a full table. She liked younger folks around because they weren’t as likely to die on you, as she said! She collected cows ornaments, that’s how she became The Cow Lady of Randolph. She often won the prizes in the local garden club for her floral arrangements, but was really best known for her cooking. Quite a person! Follow the link to the post on June Cleaver Toast for a bit more about Hilda and a photograph.
If you try making her chicken recipe, you will make it again and again. That’s a promise. Then, it will become yours, with your own story attached. Cook together, it’s always a feast, and don’t forget to mention Hilda.
Hilda’s Marmalade Chicken
- 8 to 10 plump pieces of bone-in, skin-on local organic chicken
- Dundee, or marmalade of choice, more bitter is better
- Flour for dusting
- Olive oil for browning
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Over medium-high, heat about a half inch of oil in a cast-iron or other heavy frying pan.
Dust the chicken with the flour, salt and pepper each side lightly, and place skin-side down in hot oil. You will need to do this in two batches. Fry until lightly brown on the skin side, then turn and lightly brown on the second side.
Place in a roasting pan (not a baking sheet, there will liquid accumulating) skin side up. Sprinkle with just a touch more salt, and smear the top of each with the marmalade, probably a little more than a tablespoon each.
Seal tightly with foil, and bake for two hours. That’s it. Make a salad, prep some veggies to steam, pour a glass of wine with your friends.
Remove from the oven and plate. Pour the juices from the pan in a bowl to serve alongside.
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