Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pig and Chicken ...

So, do you recall a couple of weeks back, I told you about that slowly braised foreleg of pork, in a bath of soy sauce and wine and spices? I was actually quite pleased with that, so imagine my disappointment when I found this. Thought I'd had an original idea, kind of sad to find out that I was just anticipating someone else's blog.

Some sort of temporal loop, I suppose, such as happens all-too frequently around here. Bummer. Must shout at Jeremy about leaving crumbs in the control panel of the time machine, again. Also, I did not think to put cinnamon in there, nor the fennel seeds (and Margo would have gagged on them anyway) but let the five-spice powder be counted as a mitigating circumstance.

Hoping that I won't see this one come up in a few weeks (or that I am not channeling someone's future inspiration), I shall tell you about last night's dinner, which turned out to be an Italian-inspired job, creamy lemony chicken. (Twas a tossup between that and the old favourite honey chili chicken, but I had no fresh ginger. Inexcusable, I know, but what can I say?)

You start off by slowly sweating a large sliced onion in butter, and when I say slowly I mean about fifteen minutes, till soft and golden but not, please, brown. If you like that sort of thing - and I do - you could add some sliced poivron rouge, for the colour if nothing else. When that's ready you need to add as many chicken thighs - skin off, de préference - as you think you're likely to need, and add a few extra for the yoof, then turn the heat up a bit and let them brown on all sides, heaping the onions on top so they don't burn.

That should take another ten minutes: profit from that time to open a bottle of white (because you will need it for the cooking, you understand) and chop four cloves of garlic, more if you prefer, and a tbsp of rosemary. And have a drink. Or two, it's not as if you're going anywhere. Now when the chicken is looking nicely browned you need to strew the chopped stuff on top and sprinkle with pepper, then roll it all around a bit before sploshing in a glass of white and letting it reduce a bit, at least until the alcohol has burnt off.

At which point you should pour on the juice of a lemon, cover the pan, and let it simmer for a while, turning occasionally and, if it looks like drying out, adding water - or more wine, your choice. After half an hour of that the chicken should be tender: add more lemon juice if you like but you definitely need to add a good dose of cream and stir that in, incorporating any nice brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Heat until thickened, as they say.

Serving it with salad and buttered pasta is a Good Idea: personally I feel there's no need to salt it as the lemon juice adds quite enough tang but do feel free if that floats yer boat, also a bit of chopped parsley on top would not go amiss. Or chives.

And whilst we're on the subject of food, I made those croustades florentines again the other day, for Jeremy and I - Margo being off on the other side of France, eating pizza. He looked at it dubiously, and finally forked a mouthful in before making a noise, which sounded like "mmmm". Falling slowly on the last syllable, this is a Good Sign. Then the rest disappeared, in fairly quick order.

From which I deduce that he actually rather liked it.

And there's another thing: I found myself alone the other night, with only an aubergine and a left-over half tin of chopped tomatoes for company: how to spend my solitary evening? The simple answer is, you slice your aubergine lengthwise into thin slices which, if you happen to have the time (and the oven going) you can oven-roast or, if not, fry in olive oil and butter until they're golden and soft.

Then you use each slice to line a silicone muffin tin - they should be long enough that you have a couple of cm flopping over the sides - and then you put a couple of tsp of the tomato pulp (if the tin is brown around the edges that's OK, but it should not be actually furry) in, and then a big hunk of mozzarella on top, and a bit more tomato. Fold those floppy ends over the top to cover, and into the oven with them, to keep the quiche company.

After twenty minutes or so they should be ripe and the aubergine just ever so slightly caramelised, and with any luck they'll just slide easily out of the mould (thank you, silicone!). Had I thought about it, I suppose I could have sprinkled vast quantities of grated parmesan on the base of the moulds before putting the aubergine in, and that would have glazed rather nicely I suspect, but what the hell, it didn't actually need that. Although Margo would probably beg to differ.

Still more or less on topic, have you noticed how food photography has changed over the years? And I'm not talking about Victorian food-porn lithographs here. It came to me as as I was checking out Smitten Kitchen the other day, and then a post on The Sweet Life on that very subject, just how much the photos emphasize just the single recipe, set in a very minimalist decor. And in what appears to be natural lighting.

(Confession: I will not use a flash. I'm sure that people who know how to use them get marvelous results, but I am way too tight to pay for a decent flash and I refuse to use the built-in one on the camera, on the grounds that it's crap. I may be wrong, but then I won't use the camera in my phone either, because that too is crap.)

Contrast that with my treasured copy of Pellaprat, wherein the photos are full of food on silver salvers on tables groaning under the weight, like a room full of Mr Creosotes in club armchairs, but under harsh lighting. Or back in the 80s (remember those?) when it was apparently de rigeur to shoot anything but the food: the photos were of happy laid-back people, enjoying themselves enormously around a picnic hamper in the middle of a field. Peace and love, people.

Also, I should probably stay away from supermarkets when they're having specials on pork. We whipped into Intermarché last night to pick up an emergency bottle of fresh milk (yes, that's one way we know that Jeremy is back with us, the way the milk supply takes a hit at midnight) and came home with a 9kg fresh ham. Which is, right now, sitting on the kitchen table waiting for me to remove the shoulder-blade, which will happen once I've checked out Ruhlman (Charcuterie, by Ruhlman & Poncyn, and personally recommended, by me, as more or less indispensable for anyone serious about food) and decided exactly how I want to do it.

If I happened to have some treacle it would be an easy choice, but I'm just going to have to think about substituting golden syrup and masses of brown sugar. Won't have quite the same taste, nor the same deep colour, but I think I shall try, just to see. I'll let you know how it turns out, in six months or so ...

Orbz, for SC
... well, that's out of the way. A dry rub of gros sel, saltpetre, brown sugar and golden syrup, cayenne pepper, juniper berries and a cup of rum, and now it's sitting in the cave under about 20kg of bricks, where it will stay for another two weeks before I wash it, soak it, and hang it up to dry. Ideally I should cold-smoke it, which'd cut the drying time back to eight weeks or so, but sadly I am not really equipped for that. And while I was at it I checked out the bacon, which is about ripe, and brushed all that with maple syrup again before I hang it up tomorrow to await the call of duty.

Anyway, Jerry went off and got a job. A hotel-restaurant at Montmelian had posted an ad on the ANPE website ten days ago: when he went to check it out the ad had disappeared but it seemed like a reasonable idea to get his long-suffering mother to take him through anyway, just on the off-chance, and so that's what happened. So he waltzed in, and the actual chef got called out to have a chat, and they said they'd call back ...

So he did get called, to see if he couldn't go past on Tuesday: it was not made clear to him that this was not a second interview but a meeting to sign the contract, and he started on Wednesday. A one-month trial and then, si affinité, a CDI (that's contrat durée indeterminée, ie long-term). So far he's enjoying it: there's but he, the lowly commis, and the sous-chef most days so he actually gets to do a bit of real cooking. And as he gets lunch and dinner (left-overs, I guess) there, the food bill has stayed reasonable. Apart from those midnight snacks.

Whatever, the wind is howling, the stream is roaring, and it's sleeting bitterly outside, so I for one am headed off to bed. Enjoy your summer whilst it lasts, mind how you go.

No comments:

Post a Comment