David Sedaris + Jell-O = True Love Forever
I dare you not to love this week's podcast guest
“When I cook, I want to put everything in the oven, and then I want to take a bath for half an hour, and then when I get out of the tub I want everything to be ready.”
The one, the only David Sedaris is this week’s guest on Food with Mark Bittman. David is hilarious, as you probably know, yet, somehow, quite poised. He has a new book out this week called A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003-2020), and he, to my great pleasure, said yes when I asked him to chat with me. Since he was in New York, we actually got together in person — shocking! — in a studio, just like the old days, and we had fun, as I hope you’re able to tell.
Fun fact: David tells a joke in this interview that went completely over my head. I was embarrassed and wanted to edit it out, but my colleagues told me not to. Let’s see if you miss it, too, or if you’re much quicker than me. (My guess is the latter.)
Anyway, the recipes featured in the episode are below. Please listen, subscribe, and review! And remember to call us on 833-FOODPOD (833-366-3763) with all your food-related questions.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
Simplest Roast Chicken
Time: About 1 hour
David Sedaris’s longtime partner, Hugh, allegedly makes the best roast chicken in the world. (Fingers crossed for an invite, guys!) We chatted about it a little, so of course, I was inspired to post this recipe.
Putting a whole chicken on a heated skillet cooks the thighs faster than the breasts, which are exposed only to the heat of the oven. So you get solid browning without drying out the breast meat. If at any point during the cooking the pan juices begin to smoke, add a little water or wine (white or red, your choice) to the pan. This will reduce browning, however, so don’t do it unless you must.
1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
A few sprigs fresh tarragon, rosemary, or thyme (optional)
5 or 6 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
Chopped fresh herbs for garnish
1. Put a cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet on a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Rub the chicken with the oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and put the herb sprigs inside the cavity if you’re using them.
2. When both oven and pan are hot — start checking after about 15 minutes—carefully put the chicken, breast up, in the hot skillet; if you’re using garlic, scatter it around the bird. Roast undisturbed for 40 minutes, then check for doneness; an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh reads between 155° and 165°F. Remove from the oven or continue roasting until it’s done.
3. Tip the pan to let the juices from the chicken’s cavity flow into the pan; if they are red, roast for another 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. If you like, pour the pan juices into a clear measuring cup, then pour or spoon off some of the fat. Discard the herb sprigs. Reheat the juices if necessary, quarter the chicken, garnish with chopped herbs, and serve with the pan juices.
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 20 minutes, plus time to chill
During the course of my conversation with David Sedaris, he said some hilarious things about Jell-O, and his fondness for it. I told him that it’s probably not worth making Jell-O from scratch (which, for the record, I think he agrees with), but I’ll tell you a gelatin-based dessert that IS worth making from scratch, and that’s Panna Cotta. If you can start with good cream, this is one of the best desserts there is. Lovely with a fruit sauce (recipe below) or macerated fruit.
Good quality vegetable oil for greasing
3 cups heavy cream or 1 ½ cups cream and 1 ½ cups half and half
1 ¼-ounce envelope (about 2 ½ teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1. Use a towel and a bit of oil to very lightly grease the insides of 4 large or 6 small custard cups.
2. Put 1 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it; let sit for 5 minutes to soften. Put the saucepan over low heat and whisk until the gelatin dissolves completely, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a sharp knife; add the seeds and pod to the cream mixture, along with the sugar and the remaining cream. Increase the heat to medium and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and steam rises from the pot, another 3 to 5 minutes. (If you’re using vanilla extract, heat the cream, gelatin, and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then add the vanilla.) Let the panna cotta cool for a few minutes.
4. Remove the vanilla bean and pour the panna cotta into the custard cups. Chill until set, at least 4 hours (or up to a day). Serve in the cups, or run a thin knife along the sides to loosen the panna cotta, dip the cups in hot water for about 10 seconds each; invert onto plates and serve.
Fruit Sauce, Two Ways
Makes about 2 cups
Time: 5 to 10 minutes
I believe in options. The first fruit sauce, which is no work at all, gives you pure, straightforward flavor and a very saucy consistency; it works well with soft fruits and berries. The second, which is thicker, more luxurious, and wonderful with apples and pears.
Raw Fruit Method
2 cups berries or other soft ripe fruit (peaches, cherries, nectarines, mangoes, citrus), picked over, washed and dried, peeled, pitted, and chopped as necessary
Fresh orange or lemon juice or fruity white wine (optional)
1. Purée the fruit in a blender. If you’re using raspberries or blackberries, put the purée through a fine-meshed strainer to remove the seeds.
2. Add confectioners’ sugar to taste. If necessary, thin with a little water, orange juice, lemon juice, or fruity white wine. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Cooked Fruit Method
2 cups berries or other ripe fruit (apples, pears, bananas, peaches, cherries, nectarines, berries, mangoes, melons, citrus, pumpkins), picked over, washed and dried, pitted, and/or peeled as necessary
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1. Chop the fruit or cut it in wedges. If you’re using citrus, cut it into segments.
2. Combine the sugar and butter with 1⁄2 cup water in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, swirling the pan or stirring, until thick and syrupy but not colored, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Toss in the fruit and cook over low heat until the fruit begins to break up and release its juices, about 2 minutes for berries, longer for other fruit; some fruits, like apples, may require the addition of a little more water. Press the fruit through a fine-meshed strainer or run it through a food mill to purée and remove skins (if you left them on) or seeds. Serve warm, or let cool to room temperature. This sauce keeps well, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to a week.