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Friday, June 6, 2008

Up on the Mountain

It's such a pleasure to break the routine and get out of town. A long weekend out of LA revives my spirit. Right now I'm at Robert Redford's Sundance Resort in the Wasatch Mountain Range, just below Mount Timpanogos.

On the mountain all signs point to summer. Wild flowers have started to bloom; the sky is bright, blue and sunny; the meadows are covered with lush green grasses. And yet winter hasn't given up entirely. A week ago there were snow flurries. Two days ago rain pelted the mountainside.

Coming up from LA, what a pleasure to enjoy the cool air and quiet of the mountain. The reason for the trip is to visit my wife, Michelle, who works at Sundance several months out of the year heading up the Feature Film Program. Every June she's on the mountain for most of the month. I'm here for a connubial visit. While she works I can catch up with old friends, read, write, and--of course--cook.

The food at the resort is exceptionally good, from the upscale Tree Room to the casual and rustic Foundry Grill Room. But after several weeks of eating all her meals in a tent with a group of 100 director fellows, creative advisers, staff, and crew, she appreciates a break from the buffet table. At least while I'm here she can have some home-cooked treats. The great thing about liking to cook is that it's not only fun for the cook, it's good for the person who gets to eat.

As a man who likes to cook, I pride myself on taking a few ingredients and maximizing them efficiently. For this trip I asked Michelle to buy 4 chicken legs when she stopped at the supermarket in Orem. When I came up I brought an onion, garlic, rosemary, a carrot, flour, parsley, sea salt, baking powder, mushrooms, and my traveling knife set. From the resort I would be able to get butter, half and half, and olive oil.

Chicken Stock

You can buy chicken stock in the supermarket but I recommend making your own. It's easy, tastes better, doesn't have the high salt content of packaged stock, and only adds one simple step.

Yield 2 cups of stock
Time 1 hour
Ingredients

4 chicken leg bones & skin
Olive oil

Method

Debone the legs, reserve the meat for another dish, put the bones and skin into a stock pot and sauté with olive oil until lightly browned. Add 4 cups of water and simmer 30 minutes. Strain and discard the bones and skin. Refrigerate so you can skim off the fat.

Dumplings with Vegetables

Yield 2 servings
Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

1 carrot (washed, peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 yellow onion (washed, peeled, finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
4 mushrooms (washed, thinly sliced)
1 rosemary sprig (washed)
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sweet butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup half and half
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Sauté the carrot, onion, garlic, rosemary, and mushrooms with the olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan until lightly browned. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the rosemary sprig and discard.

In a bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, sugar, season with sea salt and pepper. Finely chop the butter, add to the flour and mix well. Slowly pour in the half and half, stirring until the batter has a thick consistency. Using 2 spoons make dumplings and ease them them into the hot liquid. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Chicken with Parsley

Yield 2 servings
Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 chicken legs (skinned, deboned, meat only; bones and skin used to make stock)
1 bunch Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped)
1/2 yellow onion (washed, peeled, thinly sliced)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
2 cups chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon sweet butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Chop the leg meat into bite sized pieces and marinate an hour or overnight with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. In a medium sized sauce pan, sauté the chicken pieces until lightly browned, add the parsley, onion, and garlic, stir frequently, cook until browned, add the stock or water and butter. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until the liquid has thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

Add capers and pitted black olives.

Add cherry tomatoes to the sauté.

Use rosemary instead of parsley.

Top with homemade croutons.

Serve on pasta.

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