Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Heaven knows I can't make macarons at home

If you've come here looking for macarons -- the Daring Bakers October challenge -- well, have a look!

They're gorgeous. One is dark chocolate and one is olive oil and vanilla with a white chocolate ganache. They were delicious. Crisp, creamy, subtly flavored and absolutely perfect. And neither of them was made by me.

In fact, neither of them was made in this hemisphere -- they are products of the delightful La Renaissance Patisserie and Cafe, a shop located in The Rocks in Sydney, Australia. I enjoyed these macarons there in early September with Mom and the entire Nott clan (even little Madeleine, just born two days ago, was there in utero while her mom snacked on an apple tart). And it's a good thing I enjoyed them then, because heaven knows I can't make macarons at home.

I tried, oh I tried. I was so excited about it, too: I chose my macaron flavors based on the delicious chocolates we sampled at another Sydney-area sweet shop, Josophan's Fine Chocolates. I made four batches of macarons, each time (futilely) refining my method in hopes that the recipe would work. First I made chocolate filled with a semi-sweet ganache spiked with ancho chili powder. Then I tried chocolate filled with a delightful pistachio creme that Husband and I found on our travels through Little Italy in the Bronx. Then I made a macaron flavored with fresh lime zest and dried basil leaves, filled with chocolate ganache. Finally, a saffron macaron filled with a white chocolate-honey ganache.

I wanted them to work so badly. So so badly. I've always wanted to make macarons and I foolishly believed that there was no recipe that I couldn't make work. Well, Dianne: meet Claudia Fleming's macarons. Claudia Fleming's macarons, this is Dianne. She will be failing at you today.

My "macarons" never developed the trademark "feet," meaning, the little ring at the base of the cookie where the batter has risen, lifting the smooth top of the cookie into a perfect little dome. Come to think of it, my tops weren't smooth, either. And my confections were nearly impossible to extract from the Silpat in one piece. The result of my day-long effort and sad waste of several expensive ingredients (including saffron, argh!) was a stack of demolished little sticky, grainy discs that in no way, shape or form resembled macarons. There was cursing. And wailing. And gnashing of teeth, rending of garments.

(Saffron "macaron" with white chocolate-honey ganache)

(Lime and basil "macaron" with chocolate ganache)

Then Husband reminded me that they still tasted good. And I checked the Daring Bakers' forum to learn that many other bakers had similar issues with this recipe. So I talked myself off the ledge. Instead of using the challenge recipe, many of my fellow in-the-know Daring Bakers turned to one of Tartelette's many macaron recipes. I will undoubtedly do the same the next time I attempt these little devils.

And there will be a next time; the macarons must not win.


You will notice I'm not including any recipes here. I don't feel right posting a recipe that I couldn't make work. If and when I do master macarons, using a different recipe, I'll be sure to write about it here. In the meantime, my only suggestion is to get yourself to a patisserie for a macaron, stat. Because they are really freaking good. When made correctly.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming's "The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern" as the challenge recipe.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice 14/43: French bread

It was French bread that started me on this whole bread-baking odyssey in the first place.

I took the first step back in March, when I wrote about Dad's French bread:
"I can see why this recipe was one of his favorites: it is extremely simple -- fool-proof, even -- and utterly delicious. It's a great place for me to start on my Bread-Making Quest." I was determined to bake bread regularly, but I assumed that my quest would be my own quiet pursuit. I thought it would be something I did for myself and my family, maybe occasionally sharing a bread or two here in this space.

However, less than two months later, I found myself on an actual Bread-Making Quest: The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge. Which has taught me more about bread-making in 14 recipes (so far) than I ever imagined it would. When I vowed to make my own bread all the time, I didn't really think I'd be making complex artisan recipes week in, week out. But here I am: in a position to critique Dad's tried-and-true French bread against Peter Reinhart's version. In March I thought I'd be making modest sandwich loaves each Sunday; I didn't think I'd get to the point of comparing homemade baguette recipes. That seemed a tad hardcore, beyond the casual bread-baker I thought I'd become. What a glorious turn of events!

So here I sit with three of Reinhart's French bread loaves: deep golden, crusty, fragrant. Apart from the misshapen loaf that I had to bend to make it fit on the stone (Husband nicknamed this loaf "Snakey"), these baguettes almost look like they came from a professional oven. Which is wild!

(Guess which one is Snakey.)

Reinhart's method involves making a
pâté fermentée, which is a pre-ferment that in this case is in a 1:1 ratio with the final dough (meaning the pre-ferment has the same amount of flour, salt, yeast and water as the dough itself). The pâté fermentée has to sit at least overnight, so this French bread is certainly more time-consuming than Dad's recipe (which can be made in an afternoon). Reinhart's loaves are hearth-baked, meaning baked on a stone with repeated blasts of steam during the first two minutes of baking. Dad's loaves are baked alongside a pan of boiling water and the loaves themselves are brushed twice with water. The science behind both loaves is similar, but the execution and the result (in terms of the crust's appearance) are quite different. Dad's loaves are paler, not as crusty, while Reinhart's loaves are golden and shatter when bitten. Mmmm...shatter when bitten....

Anyway. Crust appearance is important, of course, but the real test is taste. And on that, I have to give props to Dad. While I might look Parisian walking down the street with one of Reinhart's loaves in my tote, I'm much happier with the flavor of Dad's bread. For Dad's is yeasty and aromatic and just a teeny eensy bit salty. Reinhart's French bread is these things, too, but in smaller measure. It just left me wanting; I had hoped it would taste as complex and beguiling as it looked, and it didn't.

Mom and Dad came over the other night to deliver some olive oil-rosemary cake (yum) to me and Husband. I was in the middle of making Reinhart's French bread: the shaped baguettes were proofing on the counter and The Bread Baker's Apprentice was open to the recipe. I noticed Dad peering over at the pages and could see his wheels turning, comparing what he was reading to his own time-tested French bread method. I knew he was thinking, "My recipe is better than this. It tastes amazing and I don't have to mess with no
pâté fermentée. She thinks she is onto something here, but if she wants French bread, all she needs is that tattered old index card of mine." At the risk of inflating his ego, he is right. Though I like having Reinhart around, all I need -- in this case, at least -- is that old index card.

Advantage: Father. Well played. (And I'm not just saying that so he'll lend me his leaf blower.)


The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not share Reinhart's recipes. But since you all have the book by now, turn to page 168 and get going. Then go over here and try Dad's recipe. And let me know what you think.

Also check out some French breads made by other Apprentices:
  • Nicole from Pinch My Salt also baked a (slightly) misshapen loaf!
  • Michelle at Big Black Dog has great success with her baguettes and makes a delicious-looking cognac-flavored crostini.
  • Pete Eatemall eats three-quarters of one baguette while photographing it. I can totally get behind that.
  • Daniel from Ahrelich Gesagt compares his baguette to a Poilâne loaf, which is never a good idea.
  • Over at Italian Food Forever, Deb's loaves look gorgeous on her window sill.

Monday, October 19, 2009

With the same memories

I've always loved Halloween. Which is interesting, because I've never been a huge fan of dressing up. If someone hands me a decent costume, most likely I'll wear it. But come up with something on my own? Not so much. I'm in awe of those cool people who show up at parties dressed as Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction, over-sized syringe protruding gruesomely from the chest. (Did I just date myself? I know that movie came out in 1994; but still, that was a very memorable Halloween costume.)

But I do like bite-sized candies, and I love love love the fall, and my birthday is just a few days before Halloween. So there's not much not to like about October 31.

And in recent years I've discovered yet another reason to love the holiday: the homey, delicious meal that Sister serves on trick-or-treat night, after my nephews have filled their bags and exhausted their little ninja or pirate selves. It's a tradition that stretches back to when Sister and I were kids, when I was dressed up as Gizmo or a space girl or a vampire in a coffin (Dad, of course, constructed the coffin). Mom always prepared a stick-to-the-ribs meal for us, something hearty to counteract the pounds of sugar. I didn't pay much attention to those Halloween meals at the time; I had a pillowcase full of tiny Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to occupy my mind. But in retrospect, they make me very happy. They were warm, and loving, and comforting, and everything that is good about blissful, carefree childhood.

(The back of this photo says, "Dianne - Halloween - 1979 - Space Girl.")

I suspect Sister cooks something special on Halloween night to provide her boys with the same memories that we have. Even though they totally don't know it now, maybe someday -- many years from now -- they'll remember fondly their mom's trick-or-treat meals. Sister always picks something robust, healthy and in season -- a soup flavored with autumn squash, turkey chili, stew. It perfumes the whole house, bubbling away, as the boys head out into the chilly air to collect their treats. By the time they return, the adults are full and happy. And looking to raid Nephews' haul for a sweet treat to end the meal.

This is where I step in, at least this year, with some pumpkin cookies. These rustic little treats feel right for fall, reliant as they are on their pumpkin flavor. They're also chock full of pleasing little nuggets like chocolate, toasted pecans and sweetened coconut. With all that, they're light, too: their texture is springy, almost spongy, which seems a contradiction with all those sweet bits suspended in the crumb. They're addictive. They're tailor-made for a Halloween night feast. And I know the adults will be grateful as they reach for a cookie (or three) to top off dinner.

Come to think of it, my nephews should thank me, too, for these cookies will save their trick-or-treat spoils from the paws of adults who (technically) should know better. Wait. Let me rephrase that. These cookies will save some of the boys' trick-or-treat spoils. I don't make any promises about the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.


Pumpkin cookie base adapted very loosely from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

1/2 c. shortening, at room temperature
1 c. light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 3/4 c. canned pumpkin puree (I like the organic stuff, but I bet the authors of the Cooky Book did not!)
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. kosher salt
3/4 c. pecans, toasted
1/2 c. sweetened coconut
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the shortening and both brown sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer. Cream together using the paddle attachment until the shortening and sugar is well-combined. Add the eggs and beat to combine thoroughly. Add the pumpkin puree and mix to combine thoroughly.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt into a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture in three additions, mixing well to incorporate each addition. Add the pecans, coconut and chocolate chips and mix briefly to combine.

Using a spring-loaded ice-cream scoop, drop the batter onto ungreased baking sheets. (The cookies don't spread very much, so you can fit lots on one sheet.) Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating the sheet 180 degrees half-way through the baking time. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sydney Cakewalk

When I went to Australia last month I spent a good deal of time visiting bakeries in the Sydney area. A girl has to have her priorities.

With the gracious help of Kerrie, Greg, Nicole and Matthew Nott -- my dear friends and local guides -- we ate our way through seven bakeries and a chocolate shop with some crazy cockatoos. I wrote about my sweet adventures for the excellent Cakespy in a feature for her "Cakewalk" series. You can check it out here.

Thanks to head spy Jessie for the opportunity to contribute to her site, thanks again to the Notts for driving me hither and yon in search of sweets and thanks most of all to the immensely skilled bakers of Sydney and environs. You ensure that New South Wales is a tasty, tasty place indeed!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Snapshots from a traveler #15

It's rare to find Uluru in your side view mirror.

My side view mirror usually only shows the passenger door of my green car, or Route 8, or the random Canada goose who has crossed the road behind me. What I don't typically see are awe-inspiring monoliths and kilometer after kilometer of semi-arid Central Australian desert.

Our recent vacation to Australia was such a massive and awesome endeavor -- and the post-holiday transition back to everyday life so hectic and harried -- that the whole trip seems like a dream. Looking at this photo even makes it feel like more of a mirage.

Uluru as seen from a hired Toyota, Northern Territory, Australia, September 2009.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice 13/43: focaccia

It's been a long, long time since Peter Reinhart and I have spent any quality time together. Almost two months, in fact. I used to go weeks and weeks and weeks between bread-baking; not making homemade bread for two months was a rather normal occurrence. That is, of course, until I started baking with Peter. Peter alters your perception of what is "normal" regarding the amount and frequency of home bread-baking. In a good way.

I was totally on schedule through the first 12 breads of The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge: one per week, truckin' right along. But then I went to Australia, and my three-week vacation turned into a six-week yeast hiatus. Yes, yes, there was significant jet lag when I arrived back in Ohio. But there was also the somewhat pathetic fact that it just took me longer than usual to pick up with my real-life habits and routines. Case in point: it took me at least a week and a half to feel like cooking dinner (thank goodness for Husband and his mad culinary skillz). And I was making these incredibly easy and utterly lame to-do lists, like Monday: go through the mail. Tuesday: pick some of the ripe tomatoes. Wednesday: clean the kitchen in an extremely cursory fashion. Thursday: unpack socks. And when I'd accomplish the day's task, it was sofa time. I was physically unwilling to do more than one chore on any given night.

Did I mention I still haven't put away my suitcases? Yeah. I haven't exactly been focused on picking back up with The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge.

But there is one thing I have learned: there is safety in numbers. I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I was feeling very guilty about my bread-baking break. I was hoping that my co-challengers still loved me. Within moments many of them (including our fearless leader!) chimed in that they were behind schedule, too. I exhaled and prepared to make the next bread -- focaccia -- this weekend.

And? This focaccia is good. Damn good. Shouldn't-have-waited-so-long good. Why-put-away-the-luggage-now?-you'll-probably-need-it-over-the-holidays good.

Reinhart's focaccia method is a lot like his ciabatta method: that is, a wet dough that involves much stretching and folding. As with my ciabatta, my focaccia dough could have been wetter, because the holes in my finished product weren't as large as they could (should) have been. Regardless, it's an exquisite bread, awash during its several rises in a copious amount of herb-infused oil. When making it you will think, Really? This much olive oil? Certainly I am about to cause a fire in my oven. But no! The bread miraculously absorbs all the oil that gets "dimpled in" with the tips of your fingers, resulting in a flavorful, crisp-around-the-edges and rich bread. Reinhart offers many suggestions for toppings, but I went simple with a rough chop of the herbs that are still alive on my Northern Hemisphere mid-October back porch: rosemary, sage, flat-leaf parsley. I also added a little garlic powder, gray sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.

Husband is out of town for work this weekend. I sent him a photo of the cooling focaccia and he called me, breathlessly, saying "I want your bread" in a hushed, vaguely creepy tone. Normally an 11" x 17" slab of bread would stick around for a few days, at least until Husband gets home. But with this focaccia I'm thinking: not so much. It will be gone long before "Glee" airs on Wednesday. Sorry, dear.


The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not post the recipes from Reinhart's book. But if you've taken a recent bread from flour, yeast and water, I can't think of a better time to dive back in. Turn your copy of the book to page 159 and rediscover how awesome it is to have home-baked bread in the house.

Additionally, you may wish to turn your attention to some of my fellow Bread Bakers and their excellent focaccia:
  • Carolyn at Two Skinny Jenkins also thinks this is the best focaccia she's ever had.
  • Way More Homemade's Donna experiments with freezing Reinhart's focaccia dough.
  • Flour Girl Heather wants to make a focaccia topped with dried cherries and scallions. Intriguing!
  • Jeff at Culinary Disasters tops his focaccia with an enticing mix of several varieties of caramelized onions. I'm having a Pavolvian response just thinking about it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Already miss it

OK so tell me if this ever happens to you. You're doing something fun, and/or you're with someone special. It can be someone you rarely see, or someone you see all the time. You are having a wonderful time. So wonderful, in fact, that before said event or time with that person is even over, you already miss it. The nostalgia kicks in prematurely. You find yourself wistful for an occurrence that is still ongoing.

It happens to me all the time. For example, this past weekend while I was eating a Windy City Bird Dog at the Shake Shack in NYC with Husband, I missed the whole scenario even before the last bite of chicken sausage was gone. Recently, on a cruise of Sydney Harbour with Mom, I was enjoying her company and the day so much that I wished to stop time, so I wouldn't have to be nostalgic for it later. Then a few weeks ago, Husband met me for lunch at our local apple orchard. He brought me a turkey sandwich from home and we snacked on apples and ice cream as we sat on a bench next to a pile of pumpkins under a sunny blue late-September sky. You guessed it: I was nostalgic for it before we stood up to leave.

That day at the orchard -- in addition to purchasing many apples and behaving like a gigantic, embarrassing, emotional sap -- I also bought a whole bunch of plums. They were so pretty and jewel-like and purple that I couldn't bear to leave them on the shelf. I had it in my mind to make a rustic plum tart with a homemade, crunchy dough folded loosely over the lightly sweetened fruit and dusted with sparkly sanding sugar. I wanted it to accompany the baked chicken I was making to send Husband off on 24 hours of fasting for the Jewish holiday, but silly me didn't plan properly and thus the tart was still in the oven as the sun set and the pre-fast eating window closed. Which was sad for Husband, but good for me and Mom and Dad, who, unbound by dietary law, tucked into the tart with appropriate gusto. Sometimes it's good to be a Gentile.

Husband did share leftover tart with me the next day, after the holiday ended, his atoning was complete and he was allowed to eat. And I'm nostalgic for that moment, too. The moral of this story is: I am embarrassing and corny and, really, you can't take me anywhere. Except for somewhere that sells farm-fresh plums.


Shell adapted from Baking Illustrated, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine

For the shell:

2 T. sour cream
2 T. ice water
5 oz. (1 c.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c. coarse stone-ground yellow cornmeal
2 t. sugar
1/2 t. kosher salt
7 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For the filling:

1/2 c. hazelnuts
2 T. all-purpose flour
4 T. sugar, divided
1 lb. plums, pitted and sliced
1 McIntosh apple, cored and sliced
3 T. unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 T. whipping cream
Sanding sugar

First, make the pastry. Stir together the sour cream and water in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside in the refrigerator.

In a food processor, process the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt until combined, about 4 one-second pulses. Add about half of the butter pieces to the flour mixture and process to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is about the size of small peas, another 4 one-second pulses. Add the remaining butter to the mixture and pulse again until most of the butter is incorporated (it's OK if some pea-size bits remain).

With the food processor on, stream in the sour cream mixture until the dough just comes together around the blade. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a 6-inch disk and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

While the dough chills, make the nut filling. In a food processor, combine the hazelnuts, flour and 2 T. of the sugar. Pulse until the mixture takes on a sandy texture; some big nut chunks are fine. Set aside.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Unwrap and place it between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll the dough into a 13-inch round. Slide the dough, still between the parchment, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To assemble the tart, remove the dough from the refrigerator and pull off the top sheet of parchment. Spread the hazelnut mixture in the center of the dough, leaving a 2 1/2-inch border of dough. Pile the plums and apple on top of the nut mixture as rustically or as artfully as you like. Sprinkle the remaining 2 T. of sugar over the fruit, then dot the fruit with the chunks of butter.

Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, using an offset spatula to release the dough from the parchment if it's sticking. Using a pastry brush, brush the dough with whipping cream and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake until the crust is golden brown and the fruit filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow the tart to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer the tart only to a wire rack to cool an additional 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sleepiness forced my hand

There is something interesting that happens when you leave the Northern Hemisphere in late August, travel to the Southern Hemisphere, then return three weeks later in late September. You get tired. Really tired.

And I'm not talking jet lag-tired. I'm talking confused, hit-by-a-train tired that clearly has nothing to do with time zones and everything to do with seasons. You see, when I left Ohio back in August, it was still quite warm and the sun was setting, as the late-summer sun does, a little past 8:00 p.m. It still felt like summer; flora and fauna were still exhibiting their summertime behaviors. I had nary a thought of a jacket.

But then I hopped on a big Qantas jet that took me to Sydney, where it was the very end of winter and the sun was setting, as the late-winter sun does, at about 6:30 p.m. Even after I got over the jet lag I found myself routinely exhausted at 7:30 each night. Like, need-to-go-to-bed-right-now exhausted. I finally pinned it down: my body, used to darkness at a later hour, simply thought it was close to bedtime by virtue of the lack of daylight outside.

See, normally you'd casually evolve from the late-setting sun to the early-setting sun, you know, over the course of fall. But this was a shock to my system.

I returned to Ohio three weeks later to a 7:30 p.m. sunset, blustery winds, scattering fallen leaves, sideways rain, perishing annuals and a sore throat. I had to think about where I'd stored my coats. I busted out the slippers and used the seat heater in my car. On September 24 I recorded the first seasonal use of a blanket while watching TV at night. I didn't even have to hose off the horses any longer after I rode them: they just weren't hot. Where Husband and I once had to close the windows and suffer a stifling heat because we were playing The Beatles: Rock Band at significant volume and didn't want to disturb our neighbors, we found ourselves last night playing "And Your Bird Can Sing" happily and cozily with shut windows.

OK, so why the dissertation on seasons and the internal body clock? Because all this confusion and sleepiness forced my hand in the kitchen, where I was inspired the other night to cook a hearty casserole of chicken, potatoes and the last of the summer garden's tomatoes. Husband was getting ready to observe Yom Kippur and wanted something filling but relatively healthy to sustain him over the next 24 hours' fast. It had been raining all weekend and I had no desire to leave the homey cocoon of the kitchen. I wanted only to make something that would warm and nourish us as the squirrels feverishly buried their acorns outside the living room windows.

This dish hit the spot. It's simple yet wonderfully flavorful, rustic and unfussy. Just the sort of thing you might want to ease you into the imminent colder months, or at least usher you back into the kitchen after weeks of vacationing and not cooking. Most important of all: Husband loved it. And there's nothing better than cooking something a little special, no matter how simple and no matter the season, for someone you love.


Adapted loosely from Jamie Oliver

This dish really isn't much of a looker, just a heap of perfectly roasted ingredients on a plate. But it tastes really, really good. Serve with with some crusty bread to sop up the wonderful juices!

1 3/4 lb. red-skinned potatoes
2 lbs. fresh tomatoes
2 T. + 1/4 c. olive oil, divided
Sea salt
4 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1/2 c. fresh oregano leaves, divided
Freshly-cracked black pepper
1 T. red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the potatoes, whole, into a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, cut a small "X" into the bottom of the tomatoes.

When the potatoes are cooked, leave them in the pot of water and add the tomatoes. Cook for 1-2 minutes, enough time to allow the tomato skins to loosen. Drain the potatoes and tomatoes into a colander and allow to cool slightly.

Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet and add the chicken. Season with a pinch of sea salt. Saute over high heat to sear the chicken and brown it slightly; don't worry about cooking the chicken through because it will finish cooking in the oven. When the chicken is browned, turn off the heat and set aside.

Smash the potatoes using your thumb or a fork, then place in an oven-proof casserole dish.

Peel the tomatoes, discarding the skins. Cut the tomatoes into chunks and add to the dish with the potatoes. Add the reserved chicken.

In a mortar and pestle (or a food processor), combine 1/4 c. of the oregano with a generous pinch of sea salt. Bruise (or process) until the salt begins to break down the oregano leaves. Add the remaining 1/4 c. olive oil, a pinch of black pepper and the red wine vinegar; mash/process to combine.

Pour the oregano mixture over the chicken and vegetables. Scatter the remaining 1/4 c. fresh oregano leaves over the top of the casserole. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the potatoes get a bit crispy on the edges.

Makes 4-6 servings, depending on whether or not you're about to fast for 24 hours.