written by Theresa Collier, Publicity
Nigel Slater, prolific cookbook author, food writer, cook, and film muse, has been hailed in the U.K. as a “national treasure” and is indeed a proper Brit himself, yet I’m convinced that he wrote his book Real Fast Food while living in a tiny NYC apartment, complete with galley kitchen, shallow cupboards, and approximately two square feet of counter space. Or perhaps that thought just proves his universal appeal and the accessibility of his food that has made him such a star. Packed with quick, healthy recipes arranged by ingredient and easily adaptable for 1 or 2 or 10, Real Fast Food speaks to this NYC dweller’s soul. With over one million copies in print and endorsements from celebrity chefs like Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver, I think it’s safe to say Slater is as much a kitchen staple as the olive oil and chocolate he hoards in his pantry.
You can imagine my excitement, then, for Overlook’s paperback edition release of both Real Fast Food and Real Fast Desserts, two essential cooking tomes fit for the accomplished chef and novice alike, available next week, April 24. Especially for the occasion, I have tested, tasted, and documented one recipe from each volume and am here to share the recipes and results with you, our loyal Winged Elephant readers. I’ll start today with my entrée of choice and hope you will stay tuned for Friday’s dessert and book giveaway for two lucky readers!
After perusing Slater’s invaluable kitchen tips and shopping suggestions, it was difficult to choose just one dish from the wide selection of chapters and recipes: Eggs, Fish, Pasta, Vegetables and Salads, Grains, Cheese, and more. On first glance, I was drawn to the minted peas, a sophisticated alternative to the mushy peas I devoured alongside oily fish and soggy “chips” at a tourist trap during my inaugural London excursion. And then to the Welsh Rarebit—a sort of elevated toasted cheese sandwich—which an old flame's mother once made for me on rainy Saturday mornings. I finally settled on a recipe that evoked family memories, something that called out to my Sicilian heritage: Chicken with Orange and Black Olives.
I should preface this with the fact that I am a person who believes in making things from scratch; shunning store-bought pie shells and making my own mayonnaise on the rare occasion that I let it pass my lips (BLTs are one welcome exception). As you might imagine, this kitchen ideology typically forces my cooking habits to weekend-only affairs. With this is mind, I was pleasantly surprised when I found the time to run to the market for chicken legs and fresh herbs, and still pull together a scratch-made, aromatic, and visually stunning dinner, all on a Monday night after work. Oh, did I mention it was delicious? And that my dining partner saw to it that there were no leftovers for my Tuesday lunch? My weeknight meal routine has been revolutionized. Yes, Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater is indeed a genius.
Chicken with Orange and Black Olives
The sweet, briny combination of oranges and olives is one that I typically reserve for
Summer salads, but served warm in a velvety sauce atop braised chicken that falls off the bone, it is superb dish for any season.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 whole chicken legs (leg and thigh)
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (I used fresh)
12 black olives, pitted
1 orange cut in half and then into thin slices
1 tablspoon freshly chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper
Directions from Nigel Slater:
Heat oil and half the butter in a shallow pan. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides, then add the chicken stock. Stir in the thyme, olives, and the orange slices. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Check that the chicken is cooked—when pierced with the point of a knife the juices should run clear—then remove the pieces to a warm serving plate. Taste the sauce, add the parsley, and season with pepper and very carefully, if at all, with salt. Turn up the heat and reduce the liquid by bubbling down to 2/3 cup, then whisk in the remaining butter. The sauce will be shiny and slightly thickened when it is ready. Plate the chicken pieces and pour over the sauce. Serve with a starch accessory, such as wide noodles or steamed potatoes or, even better, with the quick bulgur wheat and lamb. *
*I whipped up his simple Bulgur Wheat with Mangoes and Mint (pictured above, also found in Real Fast Food). It was bright and fresh and plated well with my chosen entrée.