Friday, April 5, 2013

Chefs Collaborative

by Sheila Connolly

Chefs Collaborative is a national network of chefs that promotes sustainable foods in a variety of ways.  I first heard of them when they offered an apple-tasting workshop at a Boston restaurant, back when I had just begun to write the Orchard Mysteries, and the guest speaker was the food historian from Old Sturbridge Village.  She came supplied with a range of heirloom apples (the ones you won't find in most markets), and a group of twenty or so attendees munched happily away.  

My second exposure to the group was at an event in Cambridge, where Boston chef Jamie Bissonette presented what was billed as a "pig fabrication breakdown." Translation: he walked in with a 140-pound pig (gutted but otherwise whole) and reduced the thing to recognizable, edible portions in front of a standing-room only crowd. It was fascinating to watch. (He also served a pate made of pigs ears—crunchy!)

The results

Now the Chefs Collaborative has produced its first cookbook, using recipes from a wealth of member chefs, and I bought it immediately.  It is both functional and beautiful—the photographs are amazing.  It's also a bit schizophrenic:  there is much valuable information about what kind of ingredients are available to the home cook (if you know where to look), but there are also a lot of recipes that are a bit beyond the reach of most of us.

I'm adapting one of the simpler recipes, and even for that one I was scratching my head and saying "huh?" about some of the ingredients. But I hope I've stayed true to the spirit of the dish.

Roasted Chicken with Beans, Pancetta and Kale a la Chefs Collaborative

(the original recipe was contributed by Ethan Stowell of the Staple and Fancy Mercantile Restaurant in Seattle, WA)

The Chicken

1 whole chicken, about 3 lbs
1 head garlic, cut in half
1 lemon, cut in half
1 bunch fresh thyme
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place a rack in the center of the oven.

Wash the chicken inside and out and pat dry.  Season the cavity and loosely stuff it with the garlic, lemon and thyme. Rub the outside with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Put the chicken on a V-shaped rack in a roasting pan and cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours.  The juices from the thigh should run clear; if you're worried, a thermometer in the thigh joint should read 165 degrees.  Remove it from the oven and let it rest of 20 minutes.

The Bean and Kale Stew

This part called for controne beans, and lacinato kale.  According to Internet sources, both are popular in Italian cooking—in Italy.  Not exactly available in my supermarket, so I allowed myself some leeway and used white beans and regular kale.

2 Tblsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta, diced (you may substitute bacon, but blanch it first to remove some of the smoke and salt)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tblsp unsalted butter
2 bunches kale, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups white beans, cooked (or—gasp!—canned) with one cup of liquid
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium-sized pot, heat the olive oil and pancetta/bacon until the meat is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic is soft.  Then add the butter, kale, beans and bean liquid and mix with a wooden spoon (scraping up any of the tasty bits in the bottom of the pan).  Simmer until the kale is cooked, 5-10 minutes (add water if the mixture looks too dry).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut the chicken into serving-size pieces and serve with the stew.


  1. why did I think the first picture was the chefs boning a body?

  2. Oh, Dru!!!!! LOL!

    I receive emails that include recipes from chefs and find that they're often not for, um, mortal cooks. Sometimes the ingredients are just way out there, and sometimes they're so complex that only someone who really spends the whole day cooking would want to tackle them. I was very excited when one of my favorite chefs put out a cookbook, but one look at the recipes, and I backed off. Just strange combinations of food that I wasn't sure about.

    This sounds delicious, though. Lacinto kale is, oddly enough, one of the things I see a lot around here. I'm surprised that you don't have it. We're very fond of it. Love this recipe. It's simple enough for a home cook, and I'm sure it's very tasty!


  3. That dinner looks wonderful! I love lacinto Kale--much better than the curly kind. And white beans too--delish.

    Can't wait to dive into the new book!