Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Dad's 60th Birthday & Thomas Keller's "My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken" (5/24)

A few weeks ago, my family celebrated my dad's 60th birthday. In Korean culture, a person's 100 days birthday and 60th person are traditionally considered the most important. If you haven't figured out that I'm Korean-American by now, we should get coffee some time. I wasn't around to celebrate my dad's 100 days birthday, but fortunately, I was in L.A. to celebrate the big six oh.

Originally, my family wanted to do something big and crazy for my dad, or at least have a few friends over for dinner, but after reconsidering my dad's personality, we thought a low-key, family dinner would be more up his alley. I like to think that my dad's 60th birthday was just as much of a time for self-reflection for him as it was a time for his family to think about and recognize the amazing role he's played and continues to play in our family.

My dad loves healthy, simple, and clean food. These preferences are a pretty darn accurate description of his overall personality, too. He also loves Italian food, but I chose to stick with the first three preferences. With those in mind, I put together a menu that focused on what he likes to eat with, of course, a few twists.

First up were Quinn Hatfield's Parsnip Bacon, and my spinoff, Cinnamon Pear Bacon. The idea was to have something similar to breadsticks, but less starchy and more interesting.

I used a vegetable peeler to get thin slices of parsnip.

I used the same method to get thin slices of pear and sprinkled a good amount of cinnamon on top. If I hadn't served the pear bacon with the parsnips, I would have sprinkled on some salt.

The parsnip slices crisped up really well and the Smoked Maldon salt did a great job of attaching to the slices.

So did the pear and cinnamon.

The toughest part of this recipe was getting the darn things off the parchment paper. Next time, I'm going to have to use more oil. The ideal serving would have a batch of long strips of both types of "bacon," indistinguishable to the eye.

That's parsnip up top and pear on the bottom.

I also made my first crudo. I've had this combination in my head for a while now, but I was never quite sure of how it would turn out. I used some great sushi-grade tuna, a few sweet "sticks" of watermelon, intensely fresh mint, and some lemon to add some acidity. I was hoping to make a yuzu/sake sauce of sorts, but I couldn't find any markets that held any form of yuzu. With just the lemon here, I settled with topping it off with a little bit of sea salt. I liked the overall taste, but it could use some work.

I also put together a caprese salad, à la Pizzeria Mozza. I made some fresh basil pesto, plopped on some of that addictive Di Stefano Burrata alla Panna, briefly blanched some tomatoes to give the tomatoes some give without sacrificing all the crisp, and threw on a little Maldon salt. It's no comparison to the Mozza Caprese and its ridiculously ripe tomatoes, but I like to think it was somewhat close.

One of the most addictive parts of this meal was Scott Conant's Gingered Green Beans. These were ridiculously easy to make, and they were also some of the most delicious green beans I've ever had. I wasn't sure how the ginger would play out with the rest of the meal, but this side really brought a lot of clean and refreshing flavors. The amount of ginger was just right, with a light jab of ginger every time the previous jab drew back.

With my roast chicken project well underway, I found it appropriate to save Thomas Keller's "My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken" as the main entrée for my dad's 60th because, let's face it, Thomas Keller recipes are pretty special, and this recipe in particular spoke really well to being healthy, simple, and clean. Well, maybe not so physically clean (reviving charred skillets to their former condition is a nasty job), but definitely flavorfully clean.

After the typical roast chicken pat-down, I seasoned the cavity of the chicken with a heavy dose of salt and pepper.

I made sure to go a little crazy with the salt and pepper here because, other than trussing the chicken, there's really nothing else to prepping this chicken for the oven.

The only critique I would give of this recipe is that it didn't warn me, like Jerry Traunfeld's Bay Laurel Roasted Chicken recipe did, of the amount of smoke this bird would produce. I should have figured that there would be a lot of smoke because the chicken is supposed to roast at 450 degrees, but for some reason, I just didn't make that connection. Needless to say, make sure you have plenty of ventilation going when you're roasting this chicken. Another interesting part to this recipe is that it calls for the use of a roasting pan or a sauté pan. Drawing inspiration from a Mark Bittman recipe I had read, I went with a preheated heavy skillet.

While the skillet didn't look so pretty, the roast chicken itself was beautiful. The skin was perfectly crispy, and the meat was juicy nearly all the way through. The breasts were a little dry, but as far as simple chickens go, this does a great job. I don't think I prefer this chicken over, say, Tyler Florence's or Fabio Viviani's, but it was definitely a solid chicken for a special occasion.

My favorite part of this recipe is that it suggests eating the chicken with dijon mustard. Don't overlook this suggestion if you decide to try out this recipe. The combination of chicken with mustard is simple, but the flavors are classic and perfect. I can see why Thomas Keller sees this as his favorite, simple, roast chicken.

My brother also put together a mean set of garlic mashed potatoes. Smooth, yet chunky, and just the right touch of garlic to make it pop. He almost made a homemade pasta instead to add in some more Italian flare, but I think the mashed potatoes did a great job of really grounding the meal in something starchy.

A birthday is never complete at home without a cake from Viktor Benes Bakery at Gelson's Market in North Hollywood. Their cakes always have the right amount of sweetness and the perfect amount of lightness. We had this Opera Cake with a side of Lychee Frozen Yogurt from Pinkberry.

The combination was a little bit weird at first, but I really liked it. I thought the tartness of the frozen yogurt, the sweetness of the chocolate, and the brightness of the lychee went really well together. Okay, it was still a tad bit weird, but I really wanted to get some Pinkberry into the meal because my dad really loves Pinkberry.

Overall, the man of the hour really enjoyed the meal, we all had a great time talking about my dad, and I like to think that we all learned a little bit more about him too.

Since I haven't posted in such a long time, this seemed like the perfect, new-recipe-ridden meal to share. I hope you enjoyed, and expect to see more posts soon.


  1. Awww that birthday dinner looks great!! Happy birthday to your dad!! How'd those parsnip and pear bacon strips taste? They kinda do look like bacon...yum. :)

  2. The bacon strips were really good actually. I was surprised by how much flavor they had for such a simple preparation. The parsnip bacon tasted like a loose interpretation of a french fry.

  3. This is splendid. The chicken looks amazing, and the caprese is so pretty with that pesto peeking out under the burrata.

  4. Great post dude. Lots of heart and you clearly had a fun time cooking for la familia! Those parsnip and pear bacon strips sound really intriguing!!


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