Chicken with Charred Cauliflower and Peppers

Previously I used this cookbook (Chicken and the Egg) to muse upon the dear friends that I have.  I like this cookbook a good deal (in part because it was a gift from one of those friends), and it boasts a delightful little blog by its author, Janice Cole.   In fact, this cookbook tempts one to suddenly garner a chicken coop for one's backyard, and I know many of you already have one for your own.  If that's the case, I recommend picking this cookbook up to complete your home.  And even without a chicken coop, if you have access to good chicken and eggs, this cookbook will please you.

This week, I have been thinking a lot about home.  Such thoughts come from two places.  The first is that I have been running again, and I listened to Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk about Love" on a pod cast.  I love this story of Nick and Laura and Mel and Terri, who are sitting around a kitchen table, drinking gin, and talking about love.  I always imagine them in a space like my grandfather's kitchen, a little too close to one another, perhaps their knees touching under the table.  The light goes down as they look out over the backyard.  And Nick at one point says, "We lived in Albuquerque then. But we were all from someplace else."  I have, for the past 23 years, been from someplace else. But ten years ago, we moved to the Bay Area, and I felt as if I had come home.  Many people in the Bay Area are from someplace else, and we have flocked here and made new homes. So what makes a home, then?  A sense of belonging, a smell in the air, the right bend of light?  For me, it includes the smell of the ocean (which I never knew would mean home, but it does), the fog, the hills, and the colors of blue and white reflecting off the city as I drive to my house.

The second reason I am thinking a lot about home is because this past week someone tried to break into that house.  Luckily it was during the day, no one was home, and the burglar wasn't able to actually get inside.  He or she just broke the back window.  However, it shook both the husband and me.  We don't really have anything of real value in our house.  But the thought of someone rummaging through what we do have is troubling. The thought of someone entering our home without our knowing makes us realize (again) how fragile all of this is and how grateful we are to have it.  Yet, of course, the idea of home goes well beyond the material.  It is an elusive and sometimes illusive sense of security.  A sense that what you have and where you are is protected.

So how does all of this connect to cooking, or more specifically with this dish?  Cooking always makes a place feel more like home.  It makes me feel as if I am building a home where I perhaps was once only a visitor.  It makes me feel as if I am gathering around me those whom I love and who make me feel safe.

This chicken dish is extremely simple, and we have actually made this dish twice in the past week.  It's easy enough to make on a weeknight.  You can switch up the veggies (maybe Brussels sprouts or even broccoli) or the spices (I did one round with paprika and turmeric, but the cumin was wonderful).

And this week, the husband and I sat to eat it, enjoying being in our home.  It's a perfect winter dish to make you feel cozy, and hopefully secure, in your home.

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash Oatmeal Rolls

Two Years Ago: Stir-fried Rice Noodles with Chicken and Shrimp
Chicken with Charred Cauliflower and Peppers
Adapted from  Chicken and the Egg

Serves 4

1 head cauliflower (about 4 cups)
2 large red bell peppers, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 pounds.  I used thighs and drumsticks)
2 teaspoons ground cumin (I made this a second time, and the second time, I used turmeric and paprika.  But the cumin is good, too).

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly oil a large, rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  Toss the cauliflower and red bell peppers with 2 tablespoons of the oil and the lemon juice in a large bowl.  Add 2 of the garlic cloves and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and toss the vegetables to mix.  Arrange on the baking sheet.

2.  Toss the chicken drumsticks in the same bowl with the remaining garlic, salt, pepper, and the cumin.  Arrange the chicken around the vegetables (I used a separate baking sheet).

3.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center and the vegetables are tender.


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