I've never been to Vermont and frankly I've only recently developed much of a taste for maple syrup. Though I receive a fair number of regional cookbooks I usually don't find them very interesting. So I really did not expect to fall in love with Cooking with Shelburne Farms Food and Stories from Vermont. But I did.
Shelburne Farms is a 1,400 acre working farm that was declared a National Historic Landmark and serves as a nonprofit environmental education center. The book is filled with stories about farmers and food producers in Vermont and recipes from the inn on the property. And it's the recipes that really speak to me the most. They are organized around food groups from the region such as Sweet Maple, Wild Mushrooms, Apples. They're a combination of old-fashioned, and new and appealing combinations.
Here are some recipes that really caught my eye--Beet, Apple and Radish Salad, Tomato-Cheddar Soup, Pasta with Sweet Peas and Morels, and Apple and Cinnamon-Sugar Pancakes and Maple Sugar Blondies. There is something cozy and inviting about all of them. Though not the focus on the book, some of the recipes are fairly healthy, using ingredients like yogurt and plenty of vegetables. It's a cloth bound hardcover book and there are chef tips sprinkled throughout and a handful of color photos. Like a good travel book, this cookbook makes you feel like you are there.
This recipe sounds perfect for a crisp Fall day...
Maple and Black Pepper Chicken
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 chicken, about 4 - 4 1/2pounds, cut into 6 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 bone-in breast halves with wings
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus more to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F with a rack set in the second highest position. With a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, coarsely grind the peppercorns and set them aside.
2. Pat the chicken pieces dry and season them well with 1 1/2teaspoons of the salt. In a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan or skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil 3-4 minutes until shimmering. Put the chicken breasts into the pan skin side down and cook for about 7-9 minutes, without moving, until the skin is golden brown. Remove the chicken to a baking dish or roasting pan large enough to hold all the chicken. Next, brown the thighs and drumsticks, turning so the skin is evenly browned, up to 10 minutes.
3. Add the thighs and drumsticks to the baking dish and put the chicken in the oven. (Reserve the pan.) Roast for about 30-35 minutes until the chicken flesh closest to the bone is opaque. An instant-read thermometer should register about 165 degrees F for the breasts, and 175 degrees F for thighs and legs.
4. While the chicken is roasting, make the sauce in the reserved pan. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and set the pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and thyme and cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes or just until the shallot starts to color. Add the vinegar and simmer 1-2 minutes, using a spatula to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the maple syrup and cracked black pepper and simmer for about 8-10 minutes until the sauce is reduced by about half. Adjust seasoning to taste. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.
Recipe reprinted courtesy of Viking Studio published by Penguin Books, 2007