Although I had met her several times before at dinners, about two years ago Nora Ephron invited me to lunch next time I was in New York. Lunch. With. Nora. Ephron. It was the first of several. I'm still in shock over the news of her death. To console myself, I reviewed our emails filled with recipes and plans for our next lunch in the Big City. I now know what we all know, which was that she was in a battle with her own blood, which makes her gracious invitations to me and our time together even more precious.
For the first one, she chose Le Petit Maison on West 54th between 5th and 6th. She was often early, a small figure sitting at the table before I arrived. I had just finished the first installment of a painting exhibition about fashion called "The Stylist Project" and she had just launched her play Love, Loss and What I Wore. Every lunch we'd fall into different crevasses of art, film, culture and fashion. I kept bumping into how many things HUGE things, pinnacle cultural moments things, that she had created. At any given moment, her unusual wit, humor and wisdom would just pop whatever bubble I'd be talking about and I would burst out laughing. I felt adopted by someone who had no ulterior motive but to have a friendship, which among women is so rare and special.
At that time I had recently become completely obsessed with cooking, clearing whole Saturdays to shop and make three to four adventurous recipes and making my family sit down to a gourmet meal whenever I was done -- sometimes as late as 10:00 at night. I was telling her about my misadventures. She casually reminded me about that little cooking movie she had just made with Meryl Streep. Of course! Then she started telling me about this chicken recipe that she had made the night before for a dinner party she threw. She had such a way of describing it-- the hot cherry peppers, the sausage and yukon potatoes -- all the reasons why she wanted certain tastes -- I begged for her to write it down. She emailed it to me the next day and I printed it out and wrote "Nora's Famous Chicken" on top. Now the paper is splattered with different juices and I've made it about four times with different twists. In honor of her memory, I thought I'd share it with all of you. Farewell, Nora. I'll miss you.
Nora's Famous Chicken
Oven at 450
4 legs & 4 thighs, salted and peppered
3 nice sized yukon gold potatoes, cut into big chunks, diced but not peeled
3/4 lb. ripe tomatoes. I used baby tomatoes but anything will work. If you use larger tomatoes, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 large onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves cut in half
2 hot cherry peppers seeded and cut into tiny pieces (optional)
1 hot Italian sausage in tiny pieces (optional)
1 red pepper from a jar of sweet red peppers in vinegar, cut into strips and some vinegar juice (optional)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 TB oregano
Put all the ingredients except cayenne into a large baking dish, and toss to coat with oil and oregano.
Remake by putting the chicken on top, skin side up. Put a little cayenne to taste on the chicken.
Bake 30-45 minutes and turn the chicken over.
Bake 20 minutes more.
Then remove from oven and turn the broiler on high.
Turn the chicken skin side up again, and broil for about five minutes.