"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Grilled Lemon-Herb Poussins and Vodka-Spiked Cherry Tomatoes with Pepper Salt

What the heck, you may well be asking, are poussins?

They are, Readers, baby chickens weighing a mere 3/4 to 1 pound, falling into that elusive category of Ingredients that Exist Only In NYC (or perhaps on chicken farms).

Fortunately Cornish game hens make an able substitute.

The trickiest part of making Grilled Lemon Herb Poussins for me was the grilling part. As you may have surmised, I'm not fully comfortable (or capable) with grills yet. I'm still discovering that if you do something like put a platter of chicken thighs on the grill skin side down, when you come back out in 17 minutes they will be incinerated because the fat creates a mighty bonfire (a lesson I learned last summer while cooking dinner at work for many hungry people)

So I approached this grilling exercise with extreme caution. One thing I'm learning about gas grills is that they get hot. Really really hot. If you think you need to cook something at 700 degrees, just set it down after you've been preheating the grill on high.

Now this recipe says to cook the birds on "moderate heat", and I wouldn't consider 700 degrees moderate so I actually ended up turning the grill down to almost the lowest setting after preheating it. Once the temperature gauge started hovering around 400 I was happy.

And guess what? They came out great. Next time I would take them off the heat a little bit sooner (I don't subscribe to the USDA recommended temps for meat--it makes for woefully overcooked food). The skin was a lovely dark crispy brown (only incinerated here and there) and it got raves at the table.

I actually first heard about Vodka-Spiked Cherry Tomatoes from my hairdresser, who made them for a party. At the time I was baffled about how tomatoes with a peel could absorb a marinade, but he said that he made a little X in the bottom of each one. When I actually found the recipe in the book, I realized that the X was supposed to be your preparation for blanching and peeling the tomatoes.

Now this is a royal pain in the ass, especially if you are, as the recipe suggests, doing 3 pints of cherry tomatoes. Stephen's report as I recall it was that he marinated the tomatoes overnight, so perhaps that time period is enough to let the tomatoes get soaked with that little skin break--much easier than the blanching and peeling.

I only did a handful. The recipe errs on time spent blanching the tomatoes--three seconds isn't near enough time to loosen up that skin. Try 30.

The tomatoes themselves were pretty tasty--I let them soak for an hour and they had enough of a kick that I only sampled a few for fear of getting too much of a buzz-on during the dinner hour. Oddly, Dr. and Mrs. S didn't detect the vodka, even after I pointed it out, but that could be because I usually run on an empty stomach about that time and they had recently had tea (and many cookies).

I would try this recipe again the way Stephen made it, but I definitely would not go to the trouble of preparing it as written in the book.

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