A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood — the newest cookbook from Diana Henry.
Chicken has become the rather unsung bird of our kitchen. The sort of go-to protein portion of the meal, that, while tasty, hasn’t much going on besides a good roast with some salt and pepper. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Throw in some root vegetables or maybe fennel to roast along side and call it a day.
But always in this, the chicken feels more like just another ingredient, and certainly not the star.
Not so with the doted upon birds from Diana Henry. After a couple of recipes from A Bird in the Hand, it became clear that even the simplest of recipes called for the table cloth. After little prep work and dutifully following her instruction, the home soon smelled of cooking success. I brought each bird to the table feeling I’d provided more than just food for my family, but a true meal.
My daughter exclaimed at dinner: “Mama! Chicken is supposed to be plain!” Not so! Gone are the days of over-cooked dry chicken breasts with no bones or skin, and so little flavor the kids are smothering each bite in BBQ sauce. We’re getting retrained, kiddos. That bird has flown the coop.
While there are a few recipes in A Bird in the Hand that may be familiar, this is a book of practicality blended with creativity. Even the “familiar” dishes have an inventive twist that works to highlight the bird as it should be; as Henry writes, “Honor that bird.”
Henry has divided the book into sections to help you select a meal to fit “every mood” and interspersed bits on how chicken loves cream/citrus/herbs. The last particularly tasty portion makes use of our scraps — should there be any leftovers.
If there is anything to warn you about in this book, other than its addictively tasty recipes, is that it is written in a style home cooks may be unaccustomed to reading. There is no “total prep time” or “dinner in under 30 minutes” listed at the head of each recipe. Instead, Henry writes in a more traditional cookery style, giving instruction in separate inserts, keeping the recipe specific as needed. This is the sort of cookbook to read through, and one worth doing so.
Henry encourages intuition and common sense in the kitchen, and that we must know our oven’s proclivities. “Cooking chicken is basically easy and there’s no reason to complicate it. I just wanted to give you as many recipes and new ideas as possible,” Henry writes. She holds our hand through the delicious spices and flavors of her recipes, but lets us do the cooking. When you deliver that dish to the table, you’ll feel you’ve made that bird sing.
Unless you’re vegan or vegetarian or just don’t care for chicken, this cookbook needs a place on your cook-shelf. Henry’s book is refreshing and new. In bringing us her home repertoire, she assures us that, “If you have chicken in the fridge, a good meal is never far away.”
Who should buy this: Anyone who eats chicken. Give this as a wedding gift. A gift for yourself. Find a copy and get cooking, you won’t regret this purchase.
Want to cook more from Diana Henry? Diana Henry is the author of several other amazing cookbooks, one of which was released just this past year — A Change of Appetite. For more on Diana Henry, visit her website.