West Stockbridge — When Andy Potter moved from Seattle to the Berkshires 23 years ago, he did so in a pickup truck without ever looking at a map. His ability to navigate cross-country without a map may be akin to his ability to cook up a storm without any recipes. Potter arrived here “visibly unattached,” but that did not last for long. He met his wife Julia Erickson at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art’s bookstore after an opening there. Seven months later Erickson moved here, and that was that.
Potter came here to develop the National Archives training program. He’s still there, but is now its supervisor. Besides cooking, Potter’s extracurricular activities include hiking and playing the guitar. “I go to the woods whenever I can,” he says, and is doing some work with the Appalachian Trail organization. Both Julia and their son Cedar often hike with him.
His penchant for cooking began when he was single. “I was in my early 30’s and I like to eat,” he says, “and besides, cooking is a good way to impress a woman.” He did get more formal training from weekend courses at the Culinary Institute of America. He attributes his ability to skip recipes from those classes. “When you understand the chemical components, you don’t need recipes.” This training enabled him to remedy accidents and to make a pan sauce on the fly. “I’m not a slave to a recipe.”
Currently, he is focusing on cooking proteins. He has a new Big Green Egg smoker that he uses for a wide variety of food, including four pounds of almonds for a recent party he hosted.
Potter likes to read recipes to get an understanding of a particular dish, ingredient, and preparation. Once he’s got that down, he “just goes with it.” But for inspiration, Potter consults recipes in Saveur, Epicurious, and the New York Times.
I interviewed Potter the day before the annual party he and his wife host in mid-December. I watched him prepare a chicken for the party, the recipe for which is below.
4 Tablespoons Hungarian paprika
4 Tablespoons Cumin
1 Teaspoon or to taste Serrano or cayenne pepper
1 or 2 Teaspoons sea or kosher salt
Juice of one lemon
1 onion, sliced
Make the paste: Add some olive oil and the juice of a lemon to the seasonings mixture to make a paste for the chicken.
Rub the chicken all over with the paste, being sure to get the paste under the skin. Potter takes his time with this step, making sure the paste coats the chicken.
Place chicken in crockpot: Potter is a fan of crockpots, which is where he cooked the chicken. Before putting chicken in the pot, roll up some balls of foil and put them in so they will keep the chicken above the heat. Finally, place the onion slices and place on top of the chicken.
Cook in a covered crockpot on low on low for six-seven hours, or on high for 4-5 hours. Once you take it out of the crockpot, put the chicken under a broiler for 5 minutes to crisp it.
And voila! There you are.