Que up Louis Armstrong’s version of La Vie en Rose. If I were a better storyteller I would seduce you solely with my words, but since that’s not the case, pour yourself a great flute of Champagne and feel the love. I currently am drinking a bottle of Agrapart et Fils 2004 bubbly and life is just fine and dandy. Spending time with your family and loved ones is vital to the health of your soul, PERIOD. It is what gives the rest of your week meaning and clarity. I love cooking professionally, but I also love to see my wife and son. My son Beaumont is at that perfect age where he is trying his best to copy me cooking imaginary works of edible art. He sits on the counter, next to my heavy butcher block with his wooden knife and vegetables mimicking my every move. Priceless.
This Sunday was the best day ever. It started bright and early with Beaumont giggling as he poked first maman than daddis, his current name for me. 6:30 came quick on my day off considering I went to sleep well past 1:15 am. A single short shot of Espresso would have been my preferred wake up method but the giggle of a precious little boy did well in a pinch. The sun shined into my morning and life. Today was just going to be a special day.
We breakfasted on strawberry buttermilk pancakes, Millionaire’s bacon and farm fresh eggs. While eating we had the brilliant idea to drive to Idyllwild, California to play in the snow. Yes my East Coast friend’s probably would laugh at our paltry 10 inches of fresh snow considering they just just three feet. I laughed that it is 70 degrees and sunny in my driveway and 32 degrees and snowy a mere hour’s drive away.
Buy the best applewood smoked bacon you can find, rub it with brown sugar and red chili flakes and cook on a silpat at 350 degrees till it is brown and crispy. The bacon gets a crunchy texture by allowing the caramelized sugar to cool. I suggest refraining from drinking cold ice water and eating the bacon simultaneously, coagulation of fat in your arteries could occur.
We arrived to a winter wonder in Idyllwild an hour and a half later Snowflakes decorated the bushes, trees and streets giving us the feeling that we were nearer to Christmas than Spring. We took Beau for his first sled ride at the Nature Park. I think he was a bit confused by the snow and perhaps Lisa and I enjoyed the sledding part a bit more. For lunch we stopped into a rustic little restaurant and dined on roasted garlic soup (Beau absolutely adored this), Roasted Polenta Cake and a bodacious meatball sub. Delightful. Sometimes, especially given that I cook for others in my career, it is utterly fantastic to go out and eat.
We drove through Winter and back into Spring with Beaumont happily snoring in the backseat. Little babies have the cutest snore. I try to instill in our family the custom of having at least one day a week where we gather together around the table, drink and eat something special. I bought a beautiful chicken from De La Ranch, an organic farm in this region, some asparagus from another small farm (I still cannot believe that asparagus season has started and that heirloom tomatoes are still in the market). I made a rotolo di patate e spinaci to accompany the chicken.
Little Beau sat contentedly on the counter next to my butcher block playing with old baby milk bottles as I seasoned up the chicken. I stuffed the cavity with a fresh Eureka lemon, thyme from the garden and Espelette sea salt I bought in Provence last year. While the chicken roasted I cooked a tomato confite and olive focaccia with a new dough I had been experimenting with. Lisa and I drank our first glass of Agrapart et Fils 2004 and let the bubbles work their magic. While the chicken roasted I got the rotolo di patate ready.
This is not my recipe and I cannot remember exactly where I poached it…
Rotolo di Patate
1 pound of Russet Potatoes – boil till soft, peel then run through your food mill, season with sea salt and reserve to further in the recipe.
1 sweet onion, chopped – saute in olive oil till golden brown.
2 pounds of spinach – add cleaned spinach to your onions and cook till the spinach releases it’s water and wilts, about five minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
pinch of nutmeg and black pepper
1 egg yolk – add the ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg and black pepper and egg yolk to the spinach mixture and reserve.
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup 00 flour – Mix the whole egg, baking powder and 00 flour into the reserved potato mixture, turn out onto a floured surface and roll to roughly a 14 by 10 inch rectangle.
8 ounces of Speck (smoked Prosciutto) – lay thin slices of speck across the potato then spoon the spinach mixture evenly across the top. Roll into a giant tube shape, wrap in cheesecloth, tie with string and poach in simmering water for 30 minutes. This is almost like a giant deconstructed gnocchi.
After poaching, remove string and cheesecloth and cut into eight thick slices. Lay in a buttered ovenproof dish, dot with butter, cover with a copious quantity of grated Parmesan and bake with your chicken for 30 minutes. Sit down, enjoy more Champagne. Have a fantastic day with your family, this is why we work hard and it is well deserved!