These Quick-Pickled Cucumbers Finally Sold Me on Pickles

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Welcome to Never Fail, a weekly column where we wax poetic about the recipes that never, ever let us down.

When I was little, I believed with all of my heart that cucumbers and pickles were two separate things entirely. Some kids believed in the Tooth Fairy. Some kids believed in Slenderman. I believed that pickles and cukes were completely biologically distinct. (Kids say the darndest things, am I right?) After all, how could one of my favorite vegetables ever be reduced to the hyper-salted, bloated blobs I watched float in plastic tubs at my brother’s sweltering track meets? Did I eat the occasional pickle chip on a sandwich or a burger? Sure, I guess. But I was never going to seek out one of those rubbery, vinegar-y, seemingly-radioactive monstrosities. I wasn’t a pickle person. Or so I thought.

Brad Makes Crunchy, Half-Sour Pickles

To my seven-year-old mind, cucumbers were nature’s crisp and refreshing response to literally anything bad in the universe. Looking for something that will make you feel more hydrated than the woman constantly getting splashed in a Neutrogena commercial? Overwhelmed by the state of the world? Snack on some cucumber slices and think calming thoughts. The same could not be said for pickles.

Fast forward to last December, when Andy Baraghani’s recipe for spicy lightly pickled cucumbers came into my life. These juicy spears of cukes merged my love for the fresh snap of raw cucumbers with the bright pungence of pickling (without the rubbery texture I’d encountered at those concession stands), and I’m a better person for it. The keys to this recipe are its nuance and simplicity. You could probably find almost all of these ingredients chilling in your fridge on any given night. But if you don’t already have them, you’ll be sure to stock up after giving this recipe a go.

smashed cucumbers

Photo by Alex Lau

Smashed or sliced, pickled or raw, cucumbers are nature’s perfect food. But these quick-pickled cucumbers are a definite improvement on nature’s finest.

Just cut your cucumbers—ideally the cute little Persian guys—into spears and toss them into a large bowl with vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and salt. Then leave them alone for anywhere between one and six hours. Right before serving, toss them with a bit of chopped dill and lemon juice and you’re good to go. That’s it. That’s all it takes to create these quick-pickled cucumbers, an appetizer that’s going to elicit compliments all night long. They’ve been my go-to bring-along snack for any kind of gathering I’m attending, whether it’s movie night, a housewarmings, or even the potluck I hosted for my birthday.

The sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes combine to form a holy trinity of sweet, salty, and spicy, all three in perfect balance. Red pepper flakes add a light warming touch while a subtle sweetness and salinity keep you reaching for another spear almost as soon as you’ve finished the one you’re chomping on. In my book, that counts as a win.

Get the recipe:

spicy-lightly-pickled-cucumbers.jpg

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Mystery solved: We finally know how the snow bear got its belly button

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There is finally an answer to a mystery that captivated Canadians this week.

CBC News successfully contacted the artist behind the snow bear that appeared this week on Montreal’s Lachine Canal, and asked her the question everyone is wondering about: How did the snow bear get its belly button?

The bear was wide — at about 12 feet — making the jump from the bear’s outline to its belly button almost impossible.

Hundreds of Canadians have sent in theories as to how the bear got its navel — and very few of them guessed the truth.

It was five snowballs, lobbed successfully into the middle of the bear.

CBC News spoke via text message with Valérie Duhamel, the maker of the snow bear, who said she was surprised by the media attention her creation has received.

« Yes, it was five snowballs thrown in the same place. And I never would have thought my bear would be all over the media, » wrote Duhamel.

A number of people following the snow bear mystery reacted to her impeccable aim with awe, impressed that all five snowballs landed perfectly in the centre of the bear.

The bear was made on Tuesday night, and was located near Beaudoin Street in the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Henri. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the wind about 24 hours later.

A spokesperson for the Lachine Canal reminds Montrealers that walking on the canal is illegal in the winter because of safety concerns.

Watch as Kate McKenna explains solving the snow bear mystery:

The bear was wide — about 12 feet — making the jump from bear-outline to bear-belly-button almost impossible. 3:01

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Has Bombardier finally run out of track?

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What was the death knell for Bombardier Transportation (BT), the rail division of Bombardier Inc.?

Was it the 2017 decision by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority to disqualify BT from even bidding on a landmark contract for as many as 1,800 rail cars? Was it the 2017 decisions in Bombardier’s home Canadian market by the transit systems of Montreal and Toronto to order their next-gen rail cars from China Railway Rolling Stock Corp. (CRRC) and France’s Alstom SA, respectively?

Or, finally, was it the decision announced last week by Via Rail, yet another firm in Bombardier’s home country, to award a $1-billion (Cdn) contract for railcars to Germany’s Siemens AG?

There have been many such setbacks at BT.

Always, BT’s record of unreliability in delivering glitch-free products on time is why it loses contracts. And each setback also costs BT lucrative after-sales service contracts.

You could say that it’s time for Bombardier to shed its arrogant incompetence (problems with faulty BT equipment are usually the buyer’s fault, in BT’s view), now that archrivals Siemens and Alstom are merging, with combined global market share more than twice that of BT’s approximately 4 per cent.

And BT has no realistic hope of holding off Chinese state-owned industry leader CRRC (13 per cent market share), a growing threat to BT in North America, where it already has planted its flag in Montreal, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.

You could say that.

But, as a still-bloated General Motors Co. has shown us in waking up one morning with the realization it needed to shutter seven North American plants including GM Oshawa, entrenched cultures of arrogant complacency that are decades in the making usually end only with liquidation.

Canada’s resilient banks

Two warnings last week of economic turbulence ahead should be assessed in a larger, favourable context.

The federal banking regulator last week ordered Canadian banks to tighten their lending standards, ahead of a possible economic slowdown in 2019 and a resulting rise in loan losses. And Citigroup Inc. warned of a possible “debt crisis” for Canada and, indeed, the world, over the next three years.

Consider, though, that three years is a long time, and that at least some of the troubles currently besetting the world are temporary. To wit, trade wars, Brexit, slumping commodity prices, the easing in China’s once-torrid GDP growth rate, and geopolitical instability ranging from Russian adventurism to severe economic distress in major economies such as Brazil.

But the trade wars will abate, since there are only losers on all sides. Europe’s economic crisis is waning. Brexit will resolve itself, perhaps not in ideal fashion but with the crippling uncertainly removed. Lower oil prices benefit emerging economies. China’s GDP is poised for a modest uptick, and Japan has just recorded its second-longest postwar stretch of GDP growth uninterrupted by recession. Add in continued U.S. buoyancy, and the world’s three biggest economies are robust.

Canada’s Big Six banks have bolstered their reserves to withstand above-average loan losses. Should those occur, the “contagion” we’re warned of – a jump in Alberta loan losses spreading elsewhere – is unlikely. For instance, Quebec’s much larger economy is posting unusually strong growth.

Preparing for the worst is wise. But there is such a thing as the Cassandra who has predicted seven of the last two downturns. This probably isn’t a time to go long on pessimism.

Making the internet safe

Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, in 1990, is waging a campaign to enable us to be online “freely, safely and without fear.”

So far, more than 50 organizations have signed up for his mission to create a “Magna Carta for the web,” rules of proper conduct devised by governments, business and individuals, who then adhere to them.

Ahead of the Magna Carta’s scheduled publication May 2019, you can monitor its development at Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation .

Among the early signatories to the Magna Carta project are Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. It only makes sense that these two firms, which dominate what was intended to be a public commons, be at the table.

Then again, the business model for Facebook and Google is the harvesting of intimate data of billions of people for sale to parties unknown, for use as they see fit. As such, they are prime candidates for transformation into non-profit utilities.

Berners-Lee is confident that the likes of Facebook and Google feel a moral obligation to clean up their vast ecosystems. “People in the big companies are concerned about truth and democracy,” he has told the U.K. Guardian.

That is a strikingly naïve proposition.

Fact is, civility and the profit motive don’t easily mix, not online, in medicine, and many other realms.

But if Berners-Lee can galvanize the forces required to clean up the Web, he will be owed a second debt of gratitude. Gordon Brown, the former U.K. prime minister and an early signatory to the Magna Carta, has put it well: “Tim Berners-Lee has pinpointed one of the great human rights issues of our time.”

David Olive is a business columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @TheGrtRecession

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‘It’s finally over’: Frank Ostrowski elated to have murder conviction quashed

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Frank Ostrowski is relieved to finally have his first-degree murder conviction off his back, allowing him to travel outside Manitoba and enjoy his freedom after decades of maintaining his innocence. 

« It’s finally over, » he told CBC News Wednesday morning. 

The Manitoba Court of Appeal released its decision Tuesday on Ostrowski’s case, saying the 1987 conviction for the killing of Robert Nieman should be quashed.

The decision goes on to say that given the amount of time that has passed, and the years Ostrowski has already spent behind bars, no new trial should be called at this time. The decision instead calls for a judicial stay of proceedings.

However, the court did not go so far as to acquit him. 

‘The strings are cut’ 

Ostrowski was fighting for an acquittal and said the court was « on the wrong track. »

Still, he said he’s just happy to have a new start at life. 

Ostrowski was released on bail in 2009 following 23 years behind bars, after the federal Justice Department began reviewing Ostrowski’s case as a possible wrongful conviction.

His freedom has been hindered by the conviction, he said, and he lived under a number of conditions. 

« The murder’s off my back. I can now take my passport and go to Cuba and enjoy myself, without asking the Crown and my lawyers if I can go, » he said. 

« I can go to Kenora fishing, which I couldn’t do for nine years. I couldn’t go out there because it’s outside of Manitoba. I have to ask permission every time I go. Where are you going, what are you doing? The strings are cut. »

Failure to disclose evidence

At the crux of Ostrowski’s appeal was whether key evidence was disclosed to Ostrowski’s defence. That included a deal the Crown struck with its key witness to stay his drug charges if he testified against Ostrowski, and testimony from an officer that contradicted the witness’s testimony.

In its decision, the appeal court found that the Crown’s failure to disclose this evidence impaired Ostrowski’s defence, because his lawyer could have used it to challenge the credibility of important details in the case against him.

However, the decision goes on to say that this does not render the witness’s testimony totally unreliable, and that a jury could still reasonably find Ostrowski guilty if a new trial were ordered.

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WWII sailor denied spot at Halifax veterans hospital finally gets a bed

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After decades of helping veterans receive proper care, Gordon Smith has finally won his own battle. 

Smith was told Monday there’s a bed for him at Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Hospital in Halifax.

« When he called me, he was very excited, » said his granddaughter Sabrina Smith. « I could tell by his voice when he called that he had good news. »

Gordon Smith initially applied for a bed in May, but was denied because he wasn’t a Canadian when he served in the Second World War. The 91-year-old was with the British navy at the time, but immigrated to Canada after the war and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a firefighter for 18 years.

Upon retiring from Canada’s air force, Smith volunteered for another 20 years with the Royal Canadian Legion, visiting veterans in long-term care to ensure they were getting the care they needed.

When he was initially rejected from Camp Hill, his family thought it was an isolated case. Sabrina Smith said they never imagined his story would spark national public outcry.

« I think for me, and for my family, and especially for my granddad, it was really heartening to know that Canadians still value what had been done so many years ago, what they had gone through, and what they fought for, » she said. 

Gordon Smith, second from left in the back row, after a mine-sweeping operation in the North Sea in 1945, when he was with the British navy. (Submitted)

Veterans Affairs reversed the decision in mid-November, opening up more than two dozen beds to allied and modern-day veterans. At the time, there were 30 people on a waiting list, so Smith wasn’t guaranteed a space in the hospital.

« Hopefully we’ll hear more stories of people who have moved off the list in the future, » said Sabrina Smith.

Gordon Smith and his family will visit the hospital on Friday and make arrangements for his move. Sabrina Smith said the family is grateful for all the public support.

« It was really heartening to see the population could move the government so quickly, » she said.

Once her grandfather is settled, she fully expects him to continue advocating for veterans. 

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‘Finally!’ Third time’s the charm for Stampeders in Grey Cup victory

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Edmonton and Calgary football fans set aside their long-standing rivalries Sunday to celebrate bringing the Grey Cup back to Western Canada as the Calgary Stampeders beat the Ottawa Redblacks in the 106th Grey Cup.

“Finally,” said Wayne Anderson, dressed in his Calgary Stampeders jersey while watching the game at Hudson’s on 109 St. on Sunday, “after three years, finally.”

Calgary Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson a champion’s shower after his team defeated the Ottawa Redblacks in the 106th Grey Cup in Edmonton on Sunday.
Calgary Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson a champion’s shower after his team defeated the Ottawa Redblacks in the 106th Grey Cup in Edmonton on Sunday.  (Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press)

For Calgary Stampeders fans watching their team make a third attempt at taking the Grey Cup home in three years, the third time proved to be the charm as they defeated the Redblacks 27-16.

“We deserve this,” said Estaban Sein, a Stampeders fan living in Edmonton while he studies business at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. “It’s our turn to win.”

Cold weather and frozen turf didn’t seem to dampen any spirits during the 106th Grey Cup, the pinnacle of the CFL season, as both teams delivered explosive plays and fans huddled in the stands, at bars and around televisions to catch the action.

Sunday’s win marks the Stampeders’ first Grey Cup victory since 2014. The Stampeders lost 39-33 in overtime to Ottawa in 2016 before dropping a 27-24 decision last year to the Toronto Argonauts.

Read more:

West is best as Calgary Stampeders capture Grey Cup

Key moments from the Grey Cup

Running back Terry Williams played a vital role in helping Calgary win the CFL title in its third straight appearance, ending their recent Grey Cup misery.

Williams had a record 97-yard punt-return touchdown on a slippery Commonwealth Stadium turf.

Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell — the CFL’s most outstanding player this season after tossing a league-best 35 touchdowns — was the game MVP with two TD passes but also two interceptions. Stampeders receiver Lemar Durant of Vancouver was named the outstanding Canadian with four catches for 30 yards and a TD and a 22-yard run.

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was named the most valuable player of the Grey Cup. He had two touchdown passes and was 14-of-21 passing for 182 yards.
Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was named the most valuable player of the Grey Cup. He had two touchdown passes and was 14-of-21 passing for 182 yards.  (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Ottawa — in its third Grey Cup competition in four years — appeared to score on Greg Ellingson’s acrobatic one-handed grab in the fourth quarter but replays showed the ball hit the turf. The Redblacks ended up turning the ball over on downs at the Calgary 7-yard line with just over eight minutes remaining.

After Ottawa turned the ball over on downs again, Calgary’s Jamar Wall and Tre Roberson followed up with interceptions on consecutive Redblacks possessions. Roberson’s pick came with just 1:22 left in the game.

On top of bragging rights and accolades from fans, Calgary players will receive a $16,000 winner’s share while the Redblacks go home with $8,000 apiece.

Despite declarations of “ABC,” shorthand for the Edmonton sports fan’s mantra of cheering for anyone but Calgary, some Edmonton Eskimos fans who didn’t get the chance to see their home team in the championship adopted their rival team as their own, even just temporarily.

Calgary running back Terry Williams (38) celebrates a punt-return touchdown against Ottawa with defensive back Tunde Adeleke (27).
Calgary running back Terry Williams (38) celebrates a punt-return touchdown against Ottawa with defensive back Tunde Adeleke (27).  (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

One family of Edmonton Eskimos fans loyal enough to live in a house painted green and gold was just happy to see a Western Canadian team take back the Cup.

“Keep it in the West,” said 79-year-old Myrna Greene, who was cheering on the Stampeders from the comfort of her living room inside her Edmonton Eskimos themed house near 93 Ave. and 92 St.

Regardless of the result, most fans left happy just to have been a part of the Grey Cup experience.

“We love the spirit of an Edmonton party,” said Patricia South, cheering on the Redblacks from The Pint on 109 St.. “Edmonton is a great city. People are friendly. We love it. We love coming to Edmonton.”

In the lead up to the 106th Grey Cup championship, Edmonton shut down a section of Jasper Avenue downtown to host a Grey Cup Festival, featuring tube slides, a zip line, bungees inviting all to take part in Grey Cup revelry extending well into the night.

Hours before the game, the Edmonton Eskimos Football Club announced that the 106th Grey Cup had sold out all 55,819 tickets for the championship game.

“This is a situation where words cannot express how we feel,” said Len Rhodes, Edmonton Eskimos president and CEO and 2018 Grey Cup co-chair in the release.

“Edmonton and the entire nation have set a new standard of how to celebrate the Grey Cup together.”

Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was the CFL's most outstanding player in the regular season, as well as the Grey Cup MVP.
Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was the CFL’s most outstanding player in the regular season, as well as the Grey Cup MVP.  (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Organizers estimated 500,000 CFL fans from coast to coast arrived in Edmonton to take in the big game, festival, awards and other fantastic events. It is expected to bring an economic boom of approximately $80 million to the local economy by the end of the festivities.

Next year, Calgary will host the 107th Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium.

With files from Kashmala Fida, Nadine Yousif and The Canadian Press

Claire Theobald is an Edmonton-based reporter who covers crime and the courts. Follow her on Twitter: @clairetheobald

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I Finally Got a Cast-Iron Pan, and It’s Everything It’s Cracked Up to Be

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I’ve taken a lot of shit in my life. I’ve taken shit for my potato preferences. I’ve taken shit for my pizza preferences. I’ve taken shit for having red hair. I’ve taken shit for my Philadelphia sports allegiances. And I constantly take shit for walking a mile out of the way to go to the small coffee shop, instead of whatever Starbucks is on the corner. I’ve taken shit from friends. From family. And from strangers. But in all my life, I’ve never taken as much shit as I have from my coworkers, a year ago, when they learned I didn’t have a cast-iron pan.

Yes, me, an editor at a food magazine and website. I didn’t have a cast-iron pan. Sacrilege! Blasphemy! Betrayal! How could someone who works for a publication that preaches the cast-iron gospel like it’s law not subscribe to the belief? Well, I didn’t think that I…needed one.

Quick Pan-Roasted Salmon with Miso-Honey Sauce

And to be fair, I was right. I didn’t need one. I was living my life just fine, but shortly after divulging this lifestyle secret to my coworkers, I acquired a cast-iron pan. And that pan showed me that while I wasn’t wrong about being able to function without a cast-iron, I certainly wasn’t right. Once I got a cast-iron pan, my life (and my food) got better.

After I got my cast-iron pan seasoned, which you can learn about over here, I stared at it, wondering how this heavy piece of metal was going to change my kitchen habits as I knew them. Then, over the next few days, it just kind of did.

0317 ba basics lemon garlic roasted chicken 9

Roasting chicken in a cast iron is a no-brainer.

It became quite clear that the cast-iron pan was the most versatile piece of kitchen equipment that I owned. I could fry eggs, make crispy-skinned fish, caramelize onions, roast a chicken, stir-fry vegetables, and sear a pork chop all in the same pan. It’s applications were that of a roasting pan, a stainless steel skillet, a wok, and a non-stick all in one.

Part of that versatility comes from the material. And part comes from the treatment. Cast-iron is a metal that distributes heat beautifully. That means that when the pan gets hot, it spreads the heat evenly throughout the metal, giving insurance for a more even cooking experience and fewer hot spots. It’s also extremely talented when it comes to retaining heat. Once a cast-iron skillet gets hot, it stays hot, even when you take it away from the flame. This means that can cook fish with residual heat or keep food warm before serving.

And the layer of fat that covers the surface of a well-seasoned cast-iron pan (again, more on that here) acts as a kind-of non-stick surface. It won’t be as non-stick as your non-stick pan, but it release food much more easily than your stainless steel skillet. It’s a happy medium that makes everything easier. (I don’t do scrambled eggs in my cast-iron though. I still use my non-stick for that.)

cast iron season

Photo by Alex Lau

Read all about seasoning a cast iron right here.

And finally, maybe my favorite thing about a cast-iron: It can take as much shit as I can. I’ve dropped, scraped, banged, and slammed this pan, and it still works just as good as it did on day one. Cast-iron can take a serious beating and continue to perform.

So if you’re like the old me, and I’ve done my job in this article, you might be thinking, Okay, I think I’m going to buy a cast-iron. Which one do I get? Great question! There are tons of cast-iron pans on the market, but it’s really about what you can afford. If you want to spring for something fancy, a Le Creuset or Staub cast iron is a fantastic choice. (I have both now, LOL.) But if you’re the budget-conscious type, there’s still options. Lodge is our go-to for high-quality, affordable, and dependable cast-iron pans of all shapes and sizes, and will definitely get you where you’re going..

Please, be better than I was. Don’t be so stubborn for so long. Buy a cast iron pan, because sometimes, when people are giving you shit, you should listen to what they have to say.

And if you need a recipe to convince you…

no-fail-roast-chicken-with-lemon-and-garlic.jpg

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The Wildair Restaurant Salad Is My Favorite Salad in NYC, and I Can Finally Make It at Home | Healthyish

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The first time I ordered this dish at Lower East Side wine bar Wildair, it appeared as a light green shell, barely visible under creamy squiggles, with pebble-like pistachios and wayward herbs sticking out the top—it looked more like a terrarium than something I was supposed to eat.

The terrarium turned out to be one of the most well-composed restaurant salads I had ever had. The dish—which is served at both Wildair and its sister spot next door, Contra—ticks all of the boxes; Two kinds of crunch (lettuce + pistachios), creaminess (the BUTTER-based dressing; more on this soon), freshness (chives and chervil), and a lingering hit of acid (lemon). And the whole thing is presented on a sturdy bed of Little Gem lettuce, giving it both visual appeal and hand salad convenience. The Wildair menu is riddled with hits (see: pork milanese, chocolate hazelnut tart, fried squid), so the fact that this salad is the dish I think about all the time feels like a feat.

So imagine my delight when I received a copy of A Very Serious Cookbook, Wildair and Contra chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske Valtierra’s hit list of recipes from their restaurants, and found the Little Gem salad recipe right there on page 50. Even better, I discovered that the recipe was super simple, and I already had 95 percent of the ingredients (lemons, butter, an egg, olive oil) at home.

Von Hauske Valtierra says that the dish was born from leftover leaves they had after picking out the hearts of Little Gems for another dish and a desire to serve a self-contained starter that could be eaten with your hands (though you can use any kind of sturdy lettuce as a base).

The secret ingredient, of course, is the butter, an ingredient that you rarely see in salad but that plays a pivotal role in this one. To make the dressing, some of the Little Gem leaves are cooked in butter, a technique the two chefs discovered at Noma in Copenhagen. “You just get a little more depth and roast-y flavors from cooked lettuce,” says Stone. Second, the residual butter from the pan is blended with the cooked lettuce, along with an egg yolk, salt, and pistachios, to make a dressing that’s thick and rich but still tastes clean. Stone says the butter, as opposed to mayonnaise, “has a little more texture to it, and gives the dressing a starchiness” that goes nicely with the juicy lettuce.

At the restaurant, the dressing gets generously scrawled with a squeeze bottle (or you can just spoon it) on top of pieces of Little Gem lettuce that have been drizzled with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. The salad is finished with some pistachios and fresh chopped chives and chervil to complete that forest-y look.

But the salad’s bucolic appearance also plays a very practical purpose. Because of the way the salad is structured, every bite brings the perfect ratio of greens to dressing to nuts to herbs.

That’s why Stone says the dish is so beloved. At first glance, it appears very high-concept, like a plating gimmick in a fine dining restaurant. “But it’s actually pretty straightforward,” he says. At the end of the day, it’s just a well-dressed salad. “It doesn’t really look like how it eats.”

Get the recipe:

little-gem-salad-with-pistachio-cream.jpg

The best part of this dish is that the leaves here are intact, so they don’t get dressed in a conventional way—kind of a more elegant wedge salad. Plus, we snuck butter into your salad, so be grateful.

SEE RECIPE

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Attention: It’s Finally Roast Chicken Season

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Every Monday night, Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport gives us a peek inside his brain by taking over our newsletter. He shares recipes he’s been cooking, restaurants he’s been eating at, and more. It gets better: If you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll get this letter before everyone else.

It’s finally roast chicken season

And just like that, it was fall.

First, my wife texted me on Saturday, asking if we should roast a chicken. Then she wanted to know if she should build a fire. Definitely, to the former; we’re not quite there yet, to the latter.

So, around 6pm, I unwrapped a plump, 3 ½-pound bird, and I rained kosher salt all over it.

I had decided to make BA’s Cast-Iron Roast Chicken. It’s a dead-simple, genius recipe, the kind you literally can’t screw up. It’s so good, in fact, that it served as the centerpiece to an eight-page service package that earned Bon Appétit a 2018 National Magazine Award nomination.

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The premise is as basic as can be:

  1. Season the bird well.
  2. Pat down the skin to get it as dry as possible (it crisps up much better this way).
  3. High heat.
  4. Set the chicken directly into a pre-heated cast-iron skillet.
  5. And then, here’s where the flair comes in: flank the bird with any manner of vegetables, which luxuriate and roast in all that generous fat.

Inspired by the lead image for the recipe, I opted to partner the chicken with fingerling potatoes. I sliced them into coins, about a third of an inch thick, and then tossed them with a bit of melted butter, salt and pepper, and chopped, fresh rosemary from our garden. I nestled the coins all around the chicken, popped it in a 450° oven, and set the timer for just under an hour.

This is basically what the recipes prescribes, but not exactly. Chris Morocco, who developed the technique, slices his potatoes a bit thinner, and shingles the entire base of the pan like an edible mosaic tiled floor. Either way, what emerges from the oven is a beautifully burnished bird with crackling, crisp skin, and a pan full of nicely browned potatoes, all glossy with chicken fat.

At this point, I like to do two things.

First, I let the bird rest, a good half hour. When a roast chicken hits the cutting board, it is steaming hot. Give it time to mellow. Just make sure your board or platter is able to collect all the flavorful juices pooling about the chicken.

And then I like to put the potatoes, or whatever root vegetables I’ve opted for, back in the oven. Sometimes, I set them under a broiler for a quick blast. On Saturday, I cranked my oven to 550° and gave the potatoes a few minutes to get all sizzley and evenly browned. I made a basic green salad, which is all a nicely roasted chicken needs. And we opened a bottle of gamay, the perfect match.

adam roast chicken nl

Finally, because this is the modern world, I photographed all these steps in portrait mode with my new phone. To which our associate social media manager Emily Schultz immediately made fun of me on Instagram, calling me out for being all fancy.

Whatevs!

All I know is that my wife said it was the best roast chicken and potatoes she has ever had. And that is a fact.

Get the recipe:

Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Crispy Potatoes

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