My Secret Foodie Crush

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January 10, 2013 by caitlinvaclark

It’s time to tell you about my love affair with Tom Aikens.

Before moving here permanently, Chris worked as a summer associate at his law firm, so we were able to get a three month taste of what life would be like as Londoners. We lived in Chelsea, which sounds glamorous and in many ways it was. But on a good day it was a 50 minute commute for Chris to get to the office, which was in fact only six miles away. And our temporary housing was less than pleasant. Remember how sterile I claimed the place that we stayed in this move was? Well, this was like staying in IKEA’s bastard love child.

But the neighborhood is beautiful, with gorgeous streets to stroll down, dangerously good shopping, and some really fantastic restaurants. Early into our stay we discovered our all-time favorite, Tom’s Kitchen, the first-rate casual outpost of the Michelin starred Tom Aikens Restaurant named for the chef himself (obviously).

At Tom’s Kitchen they focus on simple classic British fare cooked to absolute perfection. During our first dinner, seated at the gorgeous heavy oak tables, contrasted against crisp white subway-tiled walls, adorned so clean and simply with mirrored window panes, I found the atmosphere incredibly pleasing. After enjoying a unique, in a stellar way, mustardy mussels gratin dish, we ordered Tom’s Seven Hour Confit Shoulder of Lamb for Two. It was incredible. Honestly, this dish brought tears to my husband’s eyes. He was in food-heaven. It truly was so tender and succulent with a sweet, slightly tangy bite of balsamic onions, that as it melted in my mouth, I longed for the flavor to stay forever.

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Before we left, I picked up two of Mr. Aiken’s cookbooks (a great chef and good to look at?! Are you starting to see where this love affair stems from?) to recreate some of his flavorful British dishes while back in the States. And yes, I attempted the lamb, and no, my husband did not cry.

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For Christmas Dinner this year, I used the Roasted Root Vegetable recipe as a guideline for a wonderful side dish to our rack of lamb. (My friend, Kim, took this gorgeous picture of our simply roasted rack of lamb, which I just seared with salt and pepper and covered with a really good wholegrain mustard.)

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You could use whatever root vegetables are your favorite. I went crazy with carrots, parsnips, celeriac, swede/turnip, and shallots.

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Melt the butter onto the cookie sheet in the oven, then add all the veg and herbs, toss and return to the oven. Spread over two cookie sheets if necessary. You want to be sure to give each root some room to cook.

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At this point, I took them out, drizzled with honey and then reheated for 10 minutes just before we were going to serve.

Honey Roasted Root Vegetables

*adapted from Tom Aikens: Easy

Serves 4 with leftovers

1 lb. chantaney carrots (baby, or 1 inch chunks regular)

1/2 lb. parsnips, cut into 1 inch chunks

1 small celeriac, peeled and cubed

1 small turnip (swede), peeled and cubed

1/2 lb. shallots, peeled and halved

1 tbs. fresh thyme

1/2 tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped

Fresh cracked salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Place diced butter onto a cookie sheet and put into the oven to melt.

Once butter is melted, remove cookie sheet, add all remaining ingredients, and toss to coat evenly.

Spread vegetable mixture over two cookie sheets. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drizzle with honey.

Continue to bake for 10 more minutes.

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Not because this dish was lacking, just because we had so many yummy things going on on our Christmas plate, there were lots of leftover vegetables. So what to do… I actually froze the leftovers, and along with some butternut squash (leftover from my Boxing Day lasagna), made such a hearty and healthy winter soup.

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To make this into a soup, sauté small pieces of chicken in olive oil with garlic. Once browned, add the leftover vegetables and some weak chicken stock (3 parts stock to 1 part water).

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This soup comes together quickly, as the vegetables are already cooked, but do simmer it for about 10 minutes so that the flavors of the vegetables seep into the broth.

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Chicken and Root Vegetable Soup

Serves 3-4

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, small diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups leftover roasted root vegetables and butternut squash

3 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

Brown the chicken in a soup pot with olive oil and garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half, about 2 minutes.

Add the vegetables. Pour in the broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes and serve.

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