Eva Kosmas Flores is a Portland culinary whirlwind, blogging about seasonal Pacific Northwest cooking, hosting elaborate pop-up Secret Suppers and leading food-photography workshops to destinations such as Croatia and, planned for spring, Appalachia. She's just published her first cookbook, "Adventures in Chicken" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co.).
Which turns on a bit of irony. The VIP tenants at Flores' home on the Portland/Gresham border are Maris, Gertrude, Diane, Lillith, Alice, Bebe and "leader of the pack" Daphne, providing "a constant supply of eggs rather than a brief supply of meat," Flores writes in the introduction. Yes, the seven lucky, vigorously foraging hens — each a different variety and personality — were chosen for the color of their eggshells: blue, olive green, shades of tan, dark brown.
Flores knows her meat chickens, too, and serves up 150 enticing recipes from cuisines around the world. The book builds confidence with its thorough all-things-chicken orientation, including range of techniques — because once you've checked out trussing and tenting, you definitely want in on spatchcocking. Are your kitchen surfaces awash in antibacterial soap? Do you repeatedly poke your chicken with an instant-read thermometer? Check out the prep, cooking and storage safety guidelines.
Flores's answer to "Why pastured poultry?" may persuade you to try ready-to-cook chickens from Charlotte Smith Pastured Meats in St. Paul, Marion Acres in Hillsboro or other local grower/retailers. Investigate sourcing at specialty markets, farmers' markets, food co-ops and buying clubs. If you're picking up nonpastured chicken at the grocery store, Flores strongly recommends organic.
"Adventures in Chicken" is rather provocatively gorgeous. The Hillsboro native styles her often atmospheric photos like still-life paintings straddling the Old World and 21st century. Plated flightless birds have rarely looked more appealing.
Chicken, Pistachio, and Caramelized Fennel Salad
Prep: About 30 minutes | Ready in: About 1 hour 20 minutes (excluding chicken cooling) | Average
"I love fennel with its bright, intense flavor," says Flores. "When cooked, its natural sugars start to caramelize, muting the raw anise. This subtle nuttiness combines well with rich, dark-meat chicken and the goat cheese adds a tangy kick. A lot of juicy fat locked under the chicken's crispy skin is released when you bite down. Toss in some shallots and pistachios and you have yourself the most savory salad of them all."
Tip: To deliver more flavor than ground pepper, place whole peppercorns in a plastic bag and smash with a meat tenderizer — or use a mortar and pestle — until just crushed but not powdery.
Chicken, Pistachio And Caramelized Fennel Salad
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1-3/4 pounds chicken thighs (about 4), bone in and skin on
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 large fennel bulbs, fronds removed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled*
- 1/4 cup chopped roasted, shelled, unsalted pistachios
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
*Flores recommends fresh chèvre
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- In a small bowl, mix together 2 teaspoons of the salt, 3/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, and the onion powder. Coat the chicken with the olive oil and spice mixture and place on a baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the skin is golden and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Set aside to cool completely.
- Once cooled, remove the chicken thigh meat from half of the chicken thighs by reaching underneath the thigh meat and gently but firmly pulling it off the bone. Cut the removed meat into roughly 1-inch-thick strips and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large shallow Dutch oven over medium heat. Add about half of the sliced fennel to the pan in a flat even layer and arrange half of the diced shallots around the fennel. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is golden on each side and softened, 8 to 10 minutes per side. Transfer the fennel and shallots to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining fennel and shallots.
- Sprinkle the caramelized fennel and shallots with the remaining teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper. To the caramelized fennel, add the chicken strips, goat cheese, pistachios, dill, and lemon juice and toss. Place the remaining whole chicken thighs on top and serve immediately.
Excerpted from "Adventures in Chicken," copyright 2016 by Eva Kosmas Flores. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.