If you’re ready for some adulting in the kitchen*, you have got to learn how to spatchcock (a.k.a. butterfly) a chicken.
This simple technique consists in opening the bird like a book, so that it lies flat in a roasting pan or on the grill.
In this configuration, the chicken cooks faster and more evenly — a double win — and it is much easier then to achieve the amazingly flavorful, perfectly roasted or grilled meat you are longing for.
A really fun recipe to put the technique in practice is this chicken “under a brick”, which I make often, but you can also simply marinate the chicken and roast it straight in the oven (see picture of the finished product below!).
But before you get to that, here’s a video I made with Anne to show you how to spatchcock a chicken — much simpler than it sounds:
I strive to master simple dishes. I don’t aspire to be a person of whom one says, “What an ambitious cook!” or “She should really open her own restaurant!”
No. I want to be someone who can be trusted to prepare a good, well-rounded, home-cooked meal. A meal that has personality, yes, but one that doesn’t try too hard, and relies chiefly on good taste and good technique.
This is why I had long been frustrated by my limited potato roasting skills. Oh, I’d roasted my share of potatoes, but I had never been able to make perfect roasted potatoes, golden and generously crusty on the outside, moist and tender on the inside.
By the time the chunks had developed enough of a crust, the flesh had begun to dry up inside, and I was left with something a bit cardboard-y. Not inedible — it takes considerable effort to render a potato inedible in my book — but not my platonic image of the roasted potato, either.
And then some years ago, my friend Pascale* shared the recipe she uses for pommes de terre rôties, which she learned from her British mother-in-law. I have blind kitchen faith in Pascale — she has never steered me wrong — and I was very excited about her technique, a classic in British cooking that was unknown to me at the time.
You are looking at my current breakfast bliss. Green smoothie bowls have become a favorite of mine, and starting my days with these nutritious, delicious, energy-filled bowls shines a bright winter sunlight on my mornings.
Surely you’ve heard about green smoothies and how they’re taking the Internet world by storm. The idea is to add greens and various superfoods to your fruit smoothies to make them extra good for you, and to give you a headstart on your daily consumption of fresh produce. Beyond the inherent nutritional benefits of the green smoothie, aficionados report a halo effect that steers them toward healthier food choices throughout the day.
I was very tempted to get on board, but I’ve always been more inclined to eat my calories than drink them, so I could never quite warm up to the green smoothie. That is, until I discovered the concept of the green smoothie bowl, wherein you give it a thicker consistency so you can eat it with a spoon and — perhaps more important — sprinkle on all kinds of goodies for added texture.
How to build a green smoothie bowl
There are endless ways you can make a green smoothie bowl, but I typically build mine like this, with an emphasis on immune-boosting ingredients:
I adore speculoos, those spice-rich, snap-crisp cookies from Belgium.
They are made into a very popular and very decadent cookie spread — kind of like a speculoos incarnation of Nutella, i.e. undeniably palatable but nothing I’d want to promote from a nutritional standpoint — and I myself was inspired to turn them into sweet dumplings.
I love the idea of bringing that irresistibly sweet and spiced flavor to plump and tender little pillows, and I also like the North-meets-South twist of such a concoction, as the Belgian cookie and the Italian dumpling join forces in the same dessert cup.
You’ll find that it’s a really fun recipe to make, too, as you crush the speculoos with a rolling pin (stress reliever!), pipe little logs of batter to poach in simmering water, and sear the gnocchi in butter to give them a golden crust.
You can prepare the batter the day before if you like, but it’s best to poach and sear just before serving. Speculoos gnocchi are best eaten warm, with a dollop of crème fraîche that will slowly melt, and a light shower of freshly grated cinnamon.
This is such a good recipe that my friend and super talented video journalist Katie Quinn suggested we create a video around it. It was a treat to do this with her, and the resulting video is now on her YouTube channel, which you must subscribe to this minute. It was also picked up by FWx, Food & Wine’s lifestyle site for millennials.
PS: Oh, and don’t miss my recipe for buckwheat speculoos, a wonderful treat any time of year, but particularly fitting during the holiday season!
About the cinnamon I use
I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.
If you’re a Chocolate & Zucchini reader, there’s actually a high chance that you have a blog of your own, or are thinking about starting one.
And whether you’re just in this for the fun of it, or have ambitions to turn your talents into an occupation that pays the rent, I’m sure your number one goal is to grow your food blog: blogging is such an engrossing, time-consuming activity that it’s natural to want the greatest number of eyes on the fabulous content you strive to create.
This means working really hard to hone your craft and put out content you’re excited to share (if you lie sleepless because you can’t wait to hit publish in the morning, you’re doing it right) but it also means staying in the game in terms of social media and, for those with professional goals, monetization.
But when it’s just you and your computer, these considerations can easily throw you into overwhelm mode. There are dozens of avenues you could explore and research and experiment with, but you only have so much time in your day (or your nights and weekends, if you have, you know, a regular job) and these strategies take time to put in place and evaluate, so it can all feel very spin-your-wheels frustrating and discouraging. Analysis paralysis, anyone?
I know. I’ve been there. Multiple times. Twelve years of food blogging certainly don’t mean I have everything figured out, so I try my best to devote time and resources to the site’s growth. And I’ve recently found something that has made the process considerably easier, more efficient, and more fun.
Clotilde Dusoulier is a French food writer based in Paris. Her focus is on fresh, colorful, and seasonal foods, making room for both wholesome, nourishing dishes and sweet treats.
An enthusiastic explorer of flavors and observer of culinary trends, she leads private walking tours in Paris, contributes to international food and travel magazines, and writes cookbooks and guidebooks. She lives in Montmartre with her husband and their two little boys. Learn more »