Katie Lee Biegel Gives Us a Recipe Inspired by Nancy Meyers
Watching your all-time favorite movie is not complicated. Cooking a meal that might be eaten in a scene of your all-time favorite movie seems, to those of us who are disaster artists at the stove, immensely complicated and doomed to fail. But not all of us have chef and culinary personality Katie Lee Biegel’s wild, dexterous, down-home food skills. Her new cookbook, It’s Not Complicated: Simple Recipes for Everyday (Abrams) was inspired by her love of that master filmmaker of the chic, beating-heart domestic, Nancy Meyers. Specifically, Lee Biegel homed in on Meyers’s 2009 romantic comedy, It’s Complicated, starring Meryl Streep (as a baker), Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin, designing a delicious spread of starters, salads, entrees, desserts, and cocktails that might compliment so many of the film’s food-centric scenes. We get so many of our best ideas from cinema—fashion, interiors, attitudes, jargon, music, political, and social cues; why not inspiration for our dinner menus? Lee Biegel, who splits her time between New York City and the Hamptons with her husband and newborn daughter, talked to us about Meyers as inspiration and shares a recipe that even a disaster artist can follow.
INTERVIEW: How did Nancy Meyers films inspire the book?
KATIE LEE BIEGEL: She’s my all-time favorite director. The worlds that she creates are comforting in every sense, and I love the warm fuzzy feeling I get when watching her movies. Her set design alone is a feast for the eyes—soothing shades of neutrals and whites and crisp-clean kitchens. I always say I wish I could live in one of her movies.
INTERVIEW: How did you translate cinema to recipes?
LEE BIEGEL: Cooking is the way that I can make my small corner of the world into a warm, comforting space. When I started writing this book, I wanted the recipes and aesthetic to evoke that same feeling of a Meyers film. To me, there is nothing better than a perfect stack of pancakes with good maple syrup, a steak simply seasoned with coarse salt and pepper, or a chocolate chip cookie, hot out of the oven. There is a scene in It’s Complicated with Alec Baldwin and all of the kids in the kitchen, raiding the fridge for leftovers of their mother’s cooking. They all want “that noodle thing.” In another scene, over a table filled with platters of food, Alec says to them, “Mommy is the best cook in the world.” My wish with this cookbook is that these recipes become those dishes for my readers, the ones that they crave, the ones that I hope become their own—my turkey meatloaf to be the one that they turn to over and over again, my prime rib to be on the holiday table, and my chocolate croissant bread pudding to be the go-to dessert for a dinner party.
INTERVIEW: Give us a recipe that we can try while watching It’s Not Complicated.
LEE BIEGEL: In the film, roast chicken was Alec’s favorite dish of Meryl’s, and it’s my husband’s favorite dish of mine. This recipe for Roast Chicken with Croutons is the first thing I ever cooked for him. It’s the simplest dish to make, yet it always feels like a special occasion whenever we have it, even on a random Tuesday night.
Katie Lee Biegel’s Roasted Chicken with Croutons Recipe
If there is only one recipe you make from this entire cookbook, make it this one. I think this dish is the reason Ryan first fell in love with me. We were pretty early on in our relationship and we spent the day watching—what else—Nancy Meyers movies. We had a fire going and I had bought some Gruyère cheese bread from the local bakery, Breadzilla, and we drank Aperol Spritzes. That evening, I roasted this chicken with croutons. I served it with a simple bistro salad and a good bottle of red. It was pretty much the perfect day.
2 hours (includes resting time)
For the chicken and croutons:
One 4- to 5-pound (1.8 to 2.3 kg) roaster chicken
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 head garlic, sliced in half
½ yellow onion
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Dijon mustard, for serving
For the bistro salad:
1 head Bibb lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
Handful of chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as chives, tarragon, and parsley (about ¼ cup/13 g)
House Dressing (recipe follows)
Make the chicken and croutons:
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). When hot, put a cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat for about 5 minutes.
Dry the chicken with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Generously season the chicken inside and out with the salt mixture. Stuff the chicken cavity with the thyme, rosemary, garlic, and onion.
Slice the baguette on the bias into five slices, each 2 inches (5 cm) thick. Spread some butter on one side of each slice. (Note: you may be tempted to use more than five slices, because you will have room for more. Resist the urge, because you want the bread to become fully soaked with the juice of the chicken. More slices and there won’t be enough juices, leaving you with rather lackluster croutons.)
Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and arrange the baguette slices buttered side down in the center of the skillet. Place the chicken on the baguette slices, making sure all of the bread is covered by the chicken. Roast until the chicken is golden brown, an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F (74°C), and the juices run clear, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Remove the baguette slices from the skillet and set aside.
Make the bistro salad:
Combine the lettuce and herbs in a medium bowl. Toss with dressing to taste. Carve the chicken and serve with the baguette slices, mustard, and salad.
House Dressing (Dijon Vinaigrette)
About 1½ cups
This is my go-to salad dressing. The ratio to remember is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil. You can use white wine vinegar, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar—any acid you like to any oil you prefer—olive oil, avocado oil, you name it. I like a little honey to balance it out, but a pinch of sugar or maple syrup works as well. If you want to make a single serving for one big salad, just do 1 tablespoon vinegar to 3 tablespoons oil, with Dijon and honey to taste.
1/3 cup (75 ml) red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup (240 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, mustard, and honey until emulsified. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil as you continue to whisk. Whisk until completely emulsified. Season generously with salt and pepper and whisk. Store in an airtight container until serving.