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Putting together a fancy meal doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to source hard-to-find ingredients and design dishes that are meant to be showcased in a museum. In fact, crafting elevated plates can be as simple as dressing up a few key ingredients. 

Related Reading: 9 Spins on Chicken Salad That Go Way Beyond Basic

That’s the goal of the cookbook “How to Dress an Egg: Surprising and Simple Ways to Cook Dinner,” by Ned Baldwin, chef and owner of Houseman in N.Y.C., and food writer Peter Kaminsky. The book explores how easy it is to transform simple ingredients into extraordinary meals that can be simply prepared for a weeknight dinner or serve as the spotlight for a party. 

How to Dress an Egg: Surprising and Simple Ways to Cook Dinner, $22.44 on Amazon

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The book is flush with recipes like pot-roasted beet caponata, hanger steaks swiped with housemade compound butter, and crispy-skin fish fillets paired with a fava mint mash. Dessert is just as imperative, and you can whip up things like decadent chocolate ganache, perfect for dunking fresh fruit and shortbread cookies. Ned and Peter also provide ample instruction on important techniques, like how to properly grill a steak and take a salad from bland to delightful. 

Cooks Standard Stainless Steel Roaster with Rack, $49.99 on Amazon

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Ahead, Ned and Peter share a recipe for a roasted chicken with sweet potatoes and cashew brown butter. The chicken is deboned or butterflied, roasted in the oven until wonderfully crispy and brown, then crowned with a showering of cheese shards. It’s an elevated take on the classic roasted chicken recipe, and one you won’t be able to stop making.  

Excerpted from HOW TO DRESS AN EGG: Surprising and Simple Ways to Cook Dinner © 2020 by Ned Baldwin and Peter Kaminsky. Photography © 2020 by Hirsheimer & Hamilton. Illustrations © 2020 by Gerardo Blumenkrantz. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Cashew Brown Butter, and Shards of Cheese Recipe

Sweet potatoes and cashews share a certain quality of sweetness. Together with nutty-tasting browned butter, they make for a harmony of flavors and textures that can only be described as downright pleasing. Everything in this dish except the chicken can be made well in advance, so it is an ideal make-ahead option for a Sunday lunch or family dinner.

Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes, Cashew Brown Butter, and Shards of Cheese

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 organic chicken (21⁄2 to 3 pounds), deboned or butterflied
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1¼ pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1⁄2 cup cashews
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces aged sheep’s-milk cheese, such as Manchego
Instructions
  1. Salt the chicken and refrigerate it.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Fit the sweet potatoes snugly into an ovenproof pot and cover tightly with foil and then a lid. Roast until very soft, 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes. (The sweet potatoes can be cooked ahead and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)
  3. Chop the cashews into smallish pieces. Strip the leaves off the rosemary sprig and chop them. Set a sieve over a small heatproof bowl.
  4. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cashews and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until the butter has mostly stopped foaming and has browned. Pour the cashews and butter into the sieve and then return the butter to the saucepan. Add the rosemary and cook over medium heat until the foaming dies down, then cook for another 30 seconds and pour over the cashews in the sieve. Transfer the cashews to a plate, salt them, and reserve the butter.
  5. MAKE the brown butter vinaigrette: Combine the butter with the vinegar and salt.
  6. Roast the chicken. Dry the bird, heat the oven, and roast the chicken.
  7. Slice the cheese into thinnish slices; don’t worry if it crumbles. Rewarm the vinaigrette in a small pan. Reheat the sweet potatoes if necessary.
  8. Cut the chicken and sweet potatoes into manageable pieces and place on a platter. Scatter the cheese, cashews, and rosemary all over and spoon the hot vinaigrette over everything.

Roast Chicken Recipe

I can get a raw chicken from fridge to table in under thirty minutes by taking advantage of a skillet on the stovetop to start. Then I resort to a rarely, if ever, used part of the oven—the floor. In most ovens, the heat comes from a burner or heating element underneath a metal sheet on the bottom of the oven. The oven bottom acts as a diffuser and functions as a burner underneath the skillet, allowing the skin to continue to crisp while the ambient air temperature of the oven roasts the bird. The only part of the bird that ever needs to touch the pan is the skin side. The skin acts as a barrier between the tender, moist flesh and the hot cast-iron pan. Me, I’m not too fussy about how the interior of my oven looks, but be forewarned that over time this foolproof technique might scuff the oven floor a little.

I remove the backbone as well as the ribs and breastbone before cooking the chicken. This speeds the cooking and makes it easier to slice the breast meat. You can make the chicken without doing this, but it will take longer. Deboning the breast gets the best and quickest results. If you don’t know how, ask the butcher to do it for you (supermarkets are often happy to oblige). Failing that, you can butterfly the chicken at home (this is also known as a spatchcocked chicken). To do it yourself, remove the backbone by cutting down along both sides of it with a pair of kitchen shears (don’t worry about the ribs and breastbone). After removing the backbone, lay the chicken skin side down on a cutting board and press down hard to flatten it.

Roast Chicken

Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 organic chicken (21⁄2 to 3 pounds), butterflied and, if possible, breast bone and ribs removed
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • A few tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
  • A lemon wedge or two (optional)
Instructions
  1. Salting the chicken in advance ensures that the seasoning is evenly distributed throughout the meat. This method results in meat with salt in it rather than on it.
  2. Put the bird in a large metal bowl, sprinkle the salt evenly all over it, and rub the chicken around the inside of the bowl until all the salt adheres.
  3. Note: Food geeks like me with a gram scale will find that a 21⁄2-pound chicken, after deboning, weighs 1,134 grams. Depending on your taste for salt, you’ll need between 1.1 percent and 1.4 percent of the chicken’s weight in salt (12.5 to 15.8 grams). Let the salted chicken rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours before cooking; the chicken is good to go for at least 24 hours after salting.
  4. Dry the chicken and heat the oven.
  5. About 1⁄2 hour before roasting the chicken, turn the oven to 475°F and let it heat up (this may take a while). You want it plenty hot in there. Meanwhile, take the chicken from the fridge and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

Header image by Hirsheimer & Hamilton.

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