Although my student status technically remains, as I am not yet gainfully employed or anything normal like that, I no longer function as a student in the classic sense of going to class, writing papers, and taking tests. No, no, I am now done with that. Now I am essentially “playing house” as a speech pathologist, tagging along with a real speech path in a public school, working with students, dabbling in the paper work, and trying to soak up every last bit of knowledge I can before I am expected to fend for myself (and get a pay check). Unfortunately, I am essentially paying tuition to work 40 hours a week, but there are some bonuses that come with it. Like free time at night and on the weekends. That is huge. And even better: snow days!
On Monday afternoon, I received the information that school was cancelled for Tuesday. Imagine my elation of having a surprise mid-week mini break, when the bona fide weekend had ended not even 24 hours earlier. School was cancelled due to extreme cold temperatures, basically because children can’t be expected to wait for the bus with a wind chill of 35 below zero. Some criticize this decision, but I have no complaints. I prefer children to be safe (and time off).
That evening, I went out for a drink to celebrate, but I immediately started plotting and scheming the perfect menu for frigid temperatures. It had to involve the oven blaring at high temperatures for a few hours. My apartment is poorly insulated, and thus quite cold (I am currently wearing wool socks, two pairs of pants, 2 shirts, and a scarf). Not surprisingly, my ancient oven is also poorly insulated, and it not only cooks food, but it belches heat out into the apartment. It’s great for winter, not so great for summer, but summer is not of great concern right now.
Alas, I decided to make lemon-dill roasted drumsticks, which I find so comforting. My love of chicken on the bone runs so deep that it is slightly disturbing. In hindsight, brisket would have been a good choice since it takes at least 4 hours in the oven, not including preheating time, but I spent too much time out of the house to pull it off. So, after fighting through the wind and cold to Whole Foods to get my chicken (8 drumsticks), I whipped up a marinade, consisting of loads of fresh lemon zest and juice (2 lemons to be exact), about 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh dill, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, a heaping teaspoon of honey, about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a generous shake of Lawry’s seasoned salt, and freshly ground fresh pepper. I whisked the ingredients together, and put the mixture and the chicken into a large Ziploc bag to marinate for an hour or so. (See picture below, and try not to be too grossed out by the raw chicken).
In the meantime, the oven was preheating, and heating my apartment, set to about 400 degrees (375 would probably do on a functional oven). After they marinated, the drumsticks went into a foil-lined pan with an extra dusting of Lawry’s and pepper, and into the oven for about 45-50 minutes. I like to rotate the pan occasional for even cooking.
While the chicken became browned and blistered in the oven, I proceeded to make one of the coziest side dishes known to man: risotto-style orzo pasta. It consists of orzo, delicate, rice-shaped pasta, cooked slowly in chicken stock so that it releases its starches to make the end product creamy and luxurious. The chicken stock makes it so flavorful, and onions sautéed in butter at the start of the dish don’t hurt the flavor factor either.
First, sauté a half of an onion, diced, in 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft, but not browned. Season the onions liberally with salt and pepper at the start of cooking, and stir frequently.
Then add 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta, stirring for about one minute until it is evenly coated with the butter, and starting to toast a bit.
Then add two cups of chicken stock (I buy one 14 oz. can of stock and make up the difference with water). Bring the mixture to a low simmer, then cover, and allow it to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can always add more water if it starts to look dry or too thick (just a tablespoon or two at a time). When it’s done, douse it with freshly grated Parmesan (about ½ cup) and ¼ cup of chopped flat leaf parsley. Frozen peas are also a nice touch, especially if you don’t have parsley on hand, but it definitely needs something green at the end.