August-September 2023 COTM - THOMAS KELLER MONTH

The first two batches of brownies I baked in my mom’s countertop oven were really a failure from my perspective, even though others enjoyed them. Takes a while to get used to a new oven I think. I’m still learning this one (haven’t bought a thermometer yet to check temp accuracy, but it’s in been in the cart for a while… I do have one in my own countertop oven, which runs 50 degrees lower on convection of all things :woman_shrugging:t2:)

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Not so much not crisp as custardy bread which I would describe as soggy. I have textural issues with some things, but I love breadsauce which is essentially breadcrumbs in milk, so savory bread pudding would either fall into that category in my mind, or a texture I don’t enjoy, just trying to think through it before I invest effort and ingredients. (I don’t eat sweet bread pudding at all, though I grew up with it at home.)

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I have texture problems with custard type things like flan, rice pudding, or crème caramel, all that stuff. Not appealing to me at all no matter what.

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If there ever was a pretty close to perfect non-recipe recipe, this might be it. Chicken, salt & pepper, high heat, finis. It’s tied for my favorite with my mom’s simple pan-roasted chicken, but even my mother might have to admit this one is simpler. And yet, I might never have encountered this without a trip to The French Laundry: friends who accompanied me were so taken with the experience that they went on a quest and started cooking from his books; when I visited them post baby a few years later, they couldn’t stop talking about this non-recipe recipe, and so I made it as soon as I got home.

Well, it never disappoints. I made some changes for my current circumstances: spatchcocked the chicken (my first time ever doing this) because I wasn’t confident about vertical clearance in the countertop oven I was using, and put a layer of potatoes and onions under the chicken (which I do frequently).

Tonight the chicken took about 55 mins, which convinces me that this oven runs under-temp, because usually a 3lb bird takes me 40-50 mins at 450F. I ran the broiler a few times to get the skin crisp and brown (though not evenly golden like it has been in the past).

No matter, it was pretty much perfect. Moist, delicious, fully rendered crisp skin. The chicken itself always has a lot to do with the outcome, as this recipe simply showcases it without adornment.

I did have an unusual amount of juice and fat collected, so after removing the chicken, I drained it off and cooked rice in it, and returned the chicken-soaked potatoes and onions to the oven under the broiler to brown a bit in the meantime.

We enjoyed this meal very much.
(But tomorrow, I order an oven thermometer to prove my suspicions.)


Here’s the same recipe cooked in a full size screaming hot oven, on a rack (with potatoes under it in the first instance). Probably a 4lb chicken here.


Well after all that I forgot to make the bread, so bread salad or bread pudding will have to be another day!



I had planned to make mac & cheese, but caulilflower cheese happened first, so why not.

The main thing here is the bechamel (or mornay, once you add the cheese) which is more heavily flavored than usual with onion, cloves, bay leaf, and nutmeg. (This is similar to what goes into my English aunt’s breadsauce at Thanksgiving and I love that stuff, so this was not a stretch. If you have an aversion to cloves, leave them out, or just use 1 or 2 rather than 6, which is kind of a lot.)

He calls for gruyere, comte, or fontina, but the gruyere was deep in the freezer and we like cheddar, so that’s what I used along with some parmesan for a mix of flavor. And he calls for a whole pound of cheese, which I pared back on for my mom’s sake (I have actually made this before with exactly the proportions written, and it is ridiculously rich and decadent and absolutely delicious). Also, no breadcrumbs tonight – mixed feelings around here on crunchy top vs cheesy top on gratins.

This is very nice. What’s not to like about a cheesy gratin with lovely flavors in the sauce?


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