Colu Henry

Colu Henry is a writer, recipe developer, and New York Times Food contributor. Her first book, Back Pocket Pasta, was published by Clarkson Potter in spring 2017. Her writing and recipes have appeared in publications such as AFAR, Rachael Ray Every Day, Cooking Light, Cherry Bombe, and Food52. Colu lives in Hudson, New York. For more information, please visit coluhenry.com.
Call it loaves and fishes, but for poultry.
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October heralds the start of my favorite dinner party season. After months of standing outside, getting nipped by mosquitoes, a condiment-heavy hot dog in one hand and smeared rosé glass in the other, I look forward to sitting and eating around my dining room table with a knife and fork. The guest list doesn’t change, merely the location and what’s on the menu.Cooler weather taps into my cravings for heartier fare, and I’m happy to turn on the oven again. Of all the fall vegetables, it’s the return of my beloved cauliflower and its elegant florets that I celebrate the most. I adore cauliflower in all of its preparations, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be roasted. There’s a nuttiness that is coaxed out during its time in the oven that brings me to my knees. For a crowd-pleaser at any party, I combine sheet pan–roasted cauliflower with pasta along with some crispy capers for salty crunch; anchovies (just a few) for umami depth; sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes for oomph, and lemon zest for brightness.This recipe calls for the standard white cauliflower, but if you happen to see the purple or orange “cheddar” variety, by all means grab them for presentation’s sake. (I’ve also used half the traditional amount of pasta here, which I know some of you might question, but please trust me here. The pasta is a vehicle for the vegetables and the sauce—not the other way around. Plus, now you can add garlic bread back to your menu, should you choose.) Since it’s acceptable to drink red wine again, I’d pair this dish with one that is light and bright with good acid, such as a Pinot Noir from Oregon or a Gamay, which are both reliably food-friendly. So sit back, settle in, build a fire, and have some good friends over.Fall is here, and I’m here for it.
Pesto alla Trapanese
Rating: Unrated
2
For some reason baffling to me, Pesto alla Trapanese flies a bit under the radar in comparison to its northern Genoese cousin, which is deliciously laden with perfumy basil, salty cheese, and grassy olive oil. But I promise you this Sicilian-inspired pesto is just as noble and worthy of recognition. Not surprisingly, tomatoes, which grow bountifully all over the Italian south, are the foundation of this herb-driven sauce. Native to Sicily, the Pachino tomato varietal that’s typically used for this dish is small and round (and most reminiscent of what we call cherry tomatoes). In Hudson, New York, these petite, orb-like jewels start to arrive at the market towards the end of June, and aside from buying pints to pop while I shop, I know just what to do with them—this recipe is their time to shine.This no-cook sauce swaps almonds for pine nuts and comes together quickly with the help of a food processor. The pesto can be assembled while the pasta water comes to a boil, enabling you to get dinner on the table in no time. While basil is traditionally used, I like to add mint and parsley for complexity. You can certainly also use herbs such as oregano or rosemary, but I recommend treading lightly if you do; they can be overpowering. The best part about this dish is that it works just as beautifully warm as it does at room temperature, so it’s great for summer entertaining. I find it works well as a main course but makes an equally good companion to grilled chicken, fish, or pork.To drink with it, I recommend something red and chillable, preferably from the same region. We are in Sicily, after all, so why not stay awhile? Try wines from Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the only DOCG on the island, which is a strict blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato. Or a straightforward Frappato, which is juicy with great minerality and sips best after a 30-minute ice bath. Whatever’s in your glass, I hope you’re sitting outside somewhere in the sun and toasting the fact that summer has finally, finally arrived.
A clam injury? I know it sounds improbable. They don’t have pincers, like crabs. Or claws, like lobsters. And yet, there I stood, at last year’s Memorial Day picnic, my shucker in one hand and the other raised over my head, bleeding into a makeshift tourniquet made from my hosts’ ornamental kitchen towel, attracting a lot of the wrong kind of attention. The wound healed, but I don’t shuck clams any more. It feels too risky.As the anniversary of my clam encounter drew near, I began to wonder, how was I supposed to cook clams this summer without shucking them? But then, an inner voice reminded me of the generosity of the clam—namely, its willingness to be steamed open.This recipe starts by cooking down some cherry or grape tomatoes in garlic oil in a Dutch oven until they take on a jammy consistency, which intensifies their sweetness. The clams go into the pot with some white wine (use a good one, and drink the rest), where they are slowly coaxed open until their briny, sweet juices run free and mingle with the tomatoes. Finish the dish with a fistful of perfume-y basil, or whatever tender-leafed herb you have on hand. There will be plenty of brothiness to soak up, which I recommend doing with bread that has been grilled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic just as it comes off the heat.I like rolling up my sleeves and serving the clams straight from the pot, which invariably turns the meal into a communal affair of bumping each other’s elbows out of the way to get to the bottom where all the good stuff generally lies.As you’ll clearly need more than the wine you’ve cooked with, I recommend moving on to a light- to-medium-bodied red such as Pelaverga—Castello di Verduno is one of my favorite producers. Pelavergas are reasonably priced, bright, and pair well with just about anything. There are only a handful of producers who grow the varietal—whose DOC is located right outside Barolo—so you can enjoy your glass even more knowing that you’re getting a Barolo-like wine for a fraction of the price.
In my opinion, cod is highly underrated and overlooked. Often relegated to being fried and served with chips doused in malt vinegar (which is perfectly fine and delicious), this flaky white fish doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s buttery, unassuming, and incredibly versatile, which, as I enter my fourth year full-time in Hudson, New York, has made it all the more appealing.When I lived in Brooklyn, I had access to everything food-wise imaginable. Oysters on a Tuesday night with some bread, butter, and wine? Sure! Beautifully marbled meat from our fantastic butcher The Meat Hook, accompanied by vegetables I snatched up at the Union Square Farmers Market? Yes, please! Delicate, fresh noodles from the artisan pasta shop across the street? Why not? Any craving I had could be fulfilled on my commute from midtown. These days I get to work by walking to my office (it’s next to my bedroom) and dinner is more often than not about using what I’ve got on hand, which in some ways can be more fun. I love a challenge.I’m very lucky to live surrounded by the incredible farmland of the Hudson Valley. I know who grows my vegetables and where my dairy, eggs, and meat come from—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also belong to a farm share, which inspires me to look for joy and inspiration in whatever happens to be in my bi-monthly box, even if it is beets ... again.Similarly, the fish I prepare is also determined by what’s readily available, and in this case, cod has gone into regular rotation. Other fish come and go at my local fishmonger’s shop, but I can always count on cod (especially Alaskan cod, which is sustainably caught). In this dish, cod is quickly cooked in a skillet then given the elegant upgrade it deserves: Leeks take a quick bath in a broth composed of white wine and chicken broth; snap peas get the briefest of simmers so they maintain their fresh texture. Butter is swirled in at the end to slightly thicken up the sauce as well as some lemon juice for brightness.I’d pair this dish with a wine that’s equally as dignified, such as a Chablis, which is located in northwest Burgundy and known for having good minerality from the limestone in the soil. Domaine Bersan produces a very nice one. Served all together you’ve got quite a refined meal. And while yes, you could also make this dish with sea bass or halibut, for the love of cod, why would you?
April in the Hudson Valley is unpredictable. Yes, it’s technically spring, but I’ve seen snow this time of year more often than I want to think about. While much of the country has started enjoying warmer days, things here are still bleak, cold, and damp. It’s around this time that I find myself manically seeking out anything that’s not beige and dusty, pale orange, or named something fairylike such as a “Gilfeather,” which as lovely as it is to say, is still just a turnip—you can’t trick me!After months of braised pork shoulders, roasted root vegetables, baked pastas, and stews, I want dishes that offer comfort but aren’t necessarily heavy. Enter this brothy Pernod-braised chicken thigh recipe, which offers the satisfaction of a slow-cooked meal but comes together in about 45 minutes. Here, bone-in chicken thighs are browned then braised with fennel, leeks, and bit of Pernod, which intensify the snappy licorice-ness of the fennel. After braising the chicken thighs, the whole dish is finished with a showering of fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon for brightness. A hunk of good, crusty bread for sopping is all you need to round out this meal.I like to drink wine when I cook and when I eat (also, whenever I can) and thought a medium- to full-bodied Italian white would work well to sip on. Because there are florally, aromatic notes in the dish from the fennel and Pernod, I supposed that something on the drier end would be wise so the two don’t compete for attention.Because I do drink a fair amount of wine, I have a very good relationship with my gem of a local wine store Hudson Wine Merchants. I always ask their advice on wines and love hearing what they have to say, which I fully believe everyone should be doing. (Talk to the people at your local wine store. Trust me—you’ll learn so much!) Luckily they were in agreement with my parameters and pointed me toward a wine from Campania called Cantina di Lisandro Alabranno, which is made from 100% Fiano grapes. This bottle is bright and lively and has fresh but not aggressive acidity, which cuts nicely through the delicate richness of the braise. It’s like sipping on sunshine—and as I impatiently wait for spring to be sprung, this will have to tide me over. With the wine and this beautiful brothy, braise-y dish on my side, I think I might just make it.