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    Mario Batali

    A couple of months ago, I had the great pleasure of being invited to Mario Batali’s house for dinner (Yes, I am a lucky motherf***er!). Emeril Lagasse was also there as a guest, so I was curious to see what the great Batali would serve to dazzle a fellow super chef. The meal did not disappoint, and as Mario said it was an incredibly easy endeavor, I asked him if I could share it with you. To begin with, Mario served a beautiful Spanish cheese, Torta del Casar, with grissini (Italian breadsticks), crostini with tomato and boquerones (Spanish anchovies prepared in vinegar), and cold white wine. Then we sat down to an incredible meal and a brilliant Elvis impersonation by Emeril’s six-year-old son.

    Love,
    gp

    Menu

    • Chicken with Onions, Lemon and Saffron
    • Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
    • Grilled Homemade Flatbreads

    Chicken with Onions, Lemon and Saffron

    This chicken dish is easy to make but has complex flavors. Finishing it with the preserved lemons and cilantro garnish is inspired.

    Serves: 4
    Time: 1 hour

    • 1 whole chicken, cut into 12 pieces (leave skin on)
    • coarse salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour seasoned with 1 tablespoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 3 large Spanish onions, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
    • 2 whole lemons, cut into paper thin slices
    • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced 1/4" thick
    • 12 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
    • 1/2 cup green olives
    • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
    • 1 teaspoon hot pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika, available from www.tienda.com)
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 cup dry white wine (such as Albariño)
    • 1 bunch cilantro, washed
    • 1 whole preserved lemon, flesh removed and rind sliced into paper thin slices (available from www.kalustyans.com)
    • 1/4 cup pomegranate pips

    1.Preheat oven to 425°F.

    2.Rub the chicken pieces with coarse salt, rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Aggressively season chicken pieces with salt and freshly ground pepper all over and then dredge them in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large, wide, heavy pot over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Place half of the chicken pieces skin side down into the hot oil and cook for eight to ten minutes or until golden brown and crispy, swirling the oil and rendered fat around the pot every minute or two. Turn the chicken and cook for two minutes on the second side and remove to a warm plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

    3.Add the onions, fresh lemon slices, fennel, garlic, olives, saffron, pimentón and cinnamon to the pot and cook until softened and golden, about eight to ten minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Place chicken pieces and drippings from the plate into the onion bed, pushing them so that they’re almost covered with the onion mixture, but with the skin still above the surface of the moist and delicious morass. Place the whole pot, uncovered, into the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

    4.Meanwhile tear the cilantro into 1" pieces, toss with the preserved lemon slices and pomegranates and set on the table in a nice bowl. Remove the chicken and serve immediately from the pot, pinching a bit of the cilantro salad over each portion.

    Fennel and Blood Orange Salad

    Mario served the chicken with a version of this succulent, fresh salad. I used my imagination to copy it and it turned out just right.

    Serves: 4
    Time: 5 minutes

    • 2 fennel bulbs, shaved thinly on a mandoline or with a vegetable peeler
    • 1/4 cup fennel fronds (the wispy green leaves that look like dill from the top of the fennel)
    • 3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
    • 4 blood oranges, skin and pith discarded, cut into thin circles
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • coarse salt
    • freshly ground black pepper

    Toss everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Don’t let this sit too long before serving or the fennel will lose its nice crunch – best to make it while the chicken is in the oven.

    Grilled Homemade Flatbreads

    I thought a chewy, flavored flatbread would go fantastically with this meal. I made them with six different toppings and they were all amazing, but you can tailor them to your tastes. The lesson with this dish is that you can do whatever you want.

    Note: The dough recipe comes from a Bill Granger piece that appeared in Bon Appétit.

    Serves: 4 (generously)
    Time: 2 hours (mostly unattended)

    Flatbread:

    • 1 1/4 cups warm water
    • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
    • 3 cups flour, plus more for kneading and rolling out
    • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the bowl

    Toppings (Variable):

    • olive oil
    • coarse salt
    • sesame seeds
    • roughly chopped fresh cilantro
    • pimentón
    • olive oil heated with a clove of minced garlic
    • crushed, toasted fennel seeds
    • whatever ingredient you want!

    For The Flatbread:

    1.Combine the water and yeast in a small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast dissolves.

    2.Meanwhile, whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and two tablespoons of olive oil to the flour and stir together with a wooden spoon – the dough will be sticky and wet. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for six minutes or until smooth and quite elastic, incorporating extra flour as needed.

    3.Oil a large bowl (about a tablespoon of olive oil should do) and place the dough in it, turning to coat. Cover with cling film and let it sit in a warm spot until it’s doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

    4.Preheat your grill to medium-high. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each out until it’s quite thin (about 1/8") on a floured surface. Grill the flatbreads for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until cooked through and slightly charred in spots.

    To Finish:

    As each flatbread comes off the grill, you’ll want to brush it generously with olive oil and top it either simply with salt or get a bit creative by sprinkling with sesame seeds, brushing with garlic-infused oil and tossing some chopped cilantro or another fresh herb on top, or heating a few spoonfuls of olive oil with a bit of smoky pimentón and brushing the richly colored oil generously on the bread and finishing with a few flakes of coarse salt…you get the idea.

    The goop collection

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