When you cook together, it’s always a feast

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.

It was a lovely day for baking sourdough bread!

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.

Tony happily volunteered to make the salad, while I put the beans on to steam. The oven was doing the rest of the work.

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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60 Comments Add yours

  1. Jovina Coughlin says:

    Delicious looking feast

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks, Dorothy! Another great advice. But if i am myself around most of the incredients need to be pre-tested, so at least a lot of these were eaten before the meal is produced. Lol Best wishes, Michael

    1. You’ve got to watch those little snacks Michael!

  3. Chef Mimi says:

    I have loved cooking with friends, but honestly, I’m so glad my husband doesn’t cook. First, he always seems to be in my way even when he just comes in for a glass of water! “Can you tell I’m cooking???!” And also I think it would be tough to have a critic. I’ve heard lots of stories from other couples who both cook. My mother didn’t let us in the kitchen at all, so I started feverishly on my own when I married!

    1. Although I cook with lots of folks, my husband doesn’t cook either, and we like it that way! He does the cleaning up, and for that I am truly grateful. He has also gotten pretty good at the hunter/gathering!

  4. NativeNM says:

    Most of my favorite memories with family and friends revolve around the kitchen. Whether it’s helping to make special meals or just enjoying the meal together around the table. Great post Dorothy!

    1. Thank you Jan! Happy cooking!

  5. Ronit says:

    Cooking is indeed such a great skill to have!
    Cooking with friends is enjoyable, but, having worked in restaurants for years, I’m always delighted when I can cook on my own, especially when experimenting with new dishes!

    The recipe sounds great (have you posted it before? For some reason, it felt familiar), as orange marmalade is a favorite of mine. It’s definitely on my list to try soon.

    p.s. Maybe I’m missing something, but tI hink you’ve omitted the step of adding the marmalade.

    1. Thank you Ronit, i fixed the very important omission!
      I did not post this recipe before, but I did a post about Hilda so that is probably what you were remembering. I will link to it.
      Oh, there are lots of times I like to be alone in the kitchen. Sometimes when I’m worried about something, I’ll bake bread, or putter around just to channel my mind somewhere else.

      1. Ronit says:

        It always amazes me, how it’s easier to notice such small mistakes on other people’s posts, while not in mine! 🙂

        I guess I remembered your story about Hilda, so that why it seemed familiar. I hope to try her recipe soon. 🙂

      2. Hope you enjoy it!!!

      3. Ronit says:

        I have just posted my version for this wonderful dish, with a link to your blog.
        Thanks again for sharing! . 🙂

      4. Thank you Ronit, I’m headed right over to give it a sample!

  6. Bernadette says:

    Your post makes my heart sing. It is filled with the wonder of and joy of friendship and food and cooking.

    1. Thank you Bernie! That’s what it is all about for me. So often, making, and recreating the recipes of others, keeps memories alive and passes them along.

  7. A full kitchen, filled with laughter and good food! There’s nothing better! Loved this post! I’m playing catch up! Missed you! 💕C

    1. Ditto what Bernadette, above, wrote: Your post makes my heart sing. “It is filled with the wonder of and joy of friendship and food and cooking.” Cooking/feeding/eating together: it’s about bonding and not just nutrition or survival. I would absolutely loooove to cook with you – who knows? Maybe one day in the not too distant future!!! 🙂

      1. You know, I have so many blog friends that I would absolutely love to cook with! Maybe one day ai will have an open house and invite everyone! It would be such a blast.

    2. Thank you! It’s the best!
      Missed you too!

  8. Joni says:

    Dorthy, I’m wondering when you add the marmalade?

    1. Sorry I left that part out Joni! I have fixed it, you add it once all the chicken is browned and ready for the oven.

  9. CarolCooks2 says:

    I think we are all wondering when to add the marmalade but it proves we read the recipe-smile- it does sound like a wonderful dish I like the addition of marmalade to a dish 🙂

    1. Thank you for carefully reading Carol! I can’t believe I left that out, but it is fixed now. You simply smear them with the marmalade once they are all nestled in the roasting pan!

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        Its easy done Dorothy..I’ve done it myself…Thank you for clarifying this lovely easy to cook recipe 🙂

      2. You’re very welcome!

  10. I love to cook with family. My kids when they were little and now they’re grown with my grandkids. My son and daughter always cook the family Christmas meal together. Sometimes people are shocked when I tell them. Don’t they argue? No they don’t and it’s a highlight of the celebrations for them to do this together. Great to see and enjoy.

    1. I bet they have their divisions of labor too. That cuts down on bickering, those long established little things that we do year after year, like my son doing the carving.

  11. lisinmayenne says:

    This is a lovely post (and recipe), Dorothy, and I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments – cooking with others is one of life’s greatest pleasures and yes, definitely teach the children so they can create wonderful meals for your visits!!!! Our kitchen has always been the heart of our home and we have purposely designed / rejigged several so lots of people can cook together in a sociable space. We have high bar chairs that tuck under a worktop so even if folks just want to sit and chat with a glass of wine, they are still part of the action . . . and they can always shake a salad dressing with their other hand! 🙂

    1. I love that image! A glass of wine in one hand and salad dressing in the other, as long as the brain doesn’t mix it up!
      You are so right; even those not cooking, love to sit at the island to be part of the activity and conversation!

  12. It definitely looks like you not only had a delicious meal but a fun time with friends and family. Nice.

    1. Thanks Judy. It’s always fun to get together and enjoy a meal.

  13. Rehoboth says:

    Nice Post

  14. Nancy says:

    Cooking together with my Mom and sister are great memories… and then with later on my boys. Because of that my Boys love to cook!
    Another delicious recipe. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Nancy! It’s always a great way to keep those family memories alive!

  15. Suzassippi says:

    A lovely story and the food looks luscious and so colorful! It reminded me of how much I missed my Texas friends. We would get together often to cook. I did the main dish, and they helped with prep work or putting things together to go into the oven, making sauce, etc. It was always a fun time.

    1. I have several friends who come in and just say “Put me to work!” always glad to be my sous chefs!

  16. Jenna says:

    You know I love easy Dorothy and this sounds great and family friendly too~ I have made chicken thighs with a marmalade glaze that was cooked on the grill, but I can’t wait to try this oven version. I enjoyed your stories about food memories and cooking with your friend, the more cooks in the kitchen the better!

    1. On the grill sounds great Jenna, I’ll have to give it a try!

  17. sunisanthosh says:

    Dorothy, wonderful memories with family and friends in kitchen. And the food looks great.

    1. Thank you! We always have a good time, especially when food is involved!

  18. Ally Bean says:

    The chicken looks delicious. I like the idea of orange flavor with chicken. I also like the idea of cooking together for the fun of it, not the chore of it.

    1. Cooking together creates so many moments, new and old. Plus, it is really nice to have someone volunteer to slice those onions (teary eyes!).

  19. Angela says:

    I love this post, Dorothy, and I can’t wait to try this recipe! Sounds so yummy!! Thank you for sharing it with us :).

    1. Thank you so much Angela! It was delicious, and fun.

  20. Christy B says:

    I’m good at being my husband’s “sous chef,” so it works out that way! Plus, I usually clean up after dinner. He loves to cook so I say all the power to him 😀

  21. Over the years I’ve been moving more and more from cooking FOR friends to cooking WITH friends, and passing on my experience in the process. This does not only make the cooking more fun, but it always thrills me when afterwards they cook more and/or better than before. In another words, I agree completely with your post.

    1. Thanks Stefan! It is a lot more fun to cook with others, and everyone adds their own little spin on things, or comes up with a really good story!

  22. nancyc says:

    This chicken sounds wonderful—recipes from family and friends are the best! I loved making cookies with my mom as a child and have lots of special memories of those times! 🙂

    1. Cookie making is particularly fun and rewarding, isn’t it! Keep those memories alive.

  23. What fun it would be to cook with friends. That bread can find it’s way to my house anytime it wants! I have never cooked chicken at so low of a temperature for so long. What is the advantage, Dorothy, is it to keep the marmalade from burning? It sure does look moist and delicious!

    1. When you cook the chicken low and slow, the fat renders out, but all the moisture stays in the bird so everything is fall apart tender. The marmalade loses its bitterness and blends with the chicken juices to make a fabulous sauce in the roasting pan. It’s kind of a magic recipe!

  24. Americaoncoffee says:

    Absolutely! 💞😋

  25. I loved your article, so true: cooking and baking in company is good but teaching and sharing memories is so much better!
    I liked Hilda story and I’ll try to cook some of her dishes, even if I’m not sure about using marmalade on chicken… 😉😂🤔

  26. So yummylicious!

    1. Thank you! We had a blast!

      1. Yes I can see that 😄

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