Beat the Wheat! Date-Night Chicken
AKA He Drank Beer, But I Got Sick: The Curse of His Kiss
When I'm not playing politics here in Washington, I'm eating good gluten-free food and writing about it. Equally happy dining in a Michelin 3-star as I am standing in line at a pupusa truck, I'm also a pretty damn fine home cook. Living with celiac disease isn't always easy, but spending time in the kitchen with great ingredients and a healthy sense of humor helps me bring big flavor to life, love, and work.
A few months after I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I went out on a date. He was careful to pick a restaurant where the chef could work around my needs. We had a great meal – chicken with roasted winter vegetables – I drank wine, he had beer, and we walked back to his place. He'd just come back from New Orleans, and wanted to tell me all about the bands he'd seen, the places he'd eaten, and the oystermen he'd met. I had another glass of wine, he cracked open a beer, and a little making out led to some more making out and a half-hour into it, I started feeling sick. Something was going desperately wrong: My fingers felt tingly, and my elbows and knees felt like they were in a vise grip – symptoms I hadn't felt in months. I'd been accidentally glutened.
I asked him to call the restaurant and make super-duper sure there had been no gluten in my food. They reassured him my food was safe ... that the chef had cooked it himself, off to the side, so he could be extra-careful about cross-contamination. Still, I drove warp-speed back home so I could suffer in the comfort of my own home [this is a food blog; I'll spare you the details].
I called my doctor the next day to ask him what happened, and he said, "you got cross-contaminated by the guy, not the food." Doc said my future kissers should brush their teeth or rinse with some mouthwash after eating or drinking so I'd be fine. So now, when I'm starting to date someone I like, instead of going out I have him over for dinner – roast chicken and vegetables are an easy go-to. You can put it in the oven ahead of time so your house smells amazing when your crush walks through the door. And, less time in the kitchen means more time getting to know each other (wink-wink, nudge-nudge). Cooking at home means I can be totally sure the food, and drink, are gluten-free. I already gave up gluten; I'm not giving up kissing. No way, no how.
My friends looooooove to toss around ideas for roasting chicken — lemons and herbs in the cavity; duck fat or butter under the skin; filling it with mushroom stuffing. Then, they come over for dinner and have my roast chicken. "What in the WHAT did you do to this bird to make it taste so good?" they ask. I make them guess. I shake my head no at every response. I tell them: You're eating chicken. Plain old chicken. Heat and salt do amazing things to bring out what a really good bird already gives you — great flavor.
- Preheat oven to 475F.
- Pour 2 T salt into the cavity of the chicken.
- Truss chicken, and place breast up in a roasting pan, then evenly coat the outside of the chicken with the remaining 2 T of salt.
- Roast for 1 hour.
- Let rest on countertop for 10 minutes before carving and serving.
There are three things I love about this dish: 1) You don't have to peel the squash if you don't want to; 2) your house will smell amazing as this is cooking; and 3) you can serve it so many ways! Most times, I like to serve it as a side dish with chicken or lamb. But, you could toss it with pasta, serve it atop a kale salad dressed with light vinagrette, puree it for vegetarian lasagna filling, or even top scrambled eggs with it as a special breakfast-in-bed treat. One thing, though: Don't use low-fat coconut milk. I made that mistake once, so you don't have to. You definitely want the full monty here.
2 pounds red kuri, Hokkaido, or butternut squash, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Place the squash and jalapeno slices in a 3.5-quart enamel pot (I use my trusty Le Creuset) or an oven-safe casserole dish.
- Stir together all remaining ingredients -- or just pulverize them in a blender at high speed for a few seconds to bring it all together quickly.
- Pour coconut milk mixture over squash and stir to coat evenly.
- Place in oven for 30 minutes, covered with lid or foil.
- Uncover, stir gently, and return to oven uncovered for 15 minutes.