Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Supper Club?

On a recent trip to the library, when I'd looked at all I wanted to in the children's section, Max and I were making our way to Literature, when he pointed out the cookbook aisle. A book caught my eye as we zipped past and I brought it home: The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper. I catch The Splendid Table on the radio sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, so I thought it might be fun to read. And it was! The layout of the pages was really eye-catching. Not enough pictures for my taste, but really good design with words. Quotes from chefs and other food notables, and many many tips & explanations of techniques. The recipes weren't just "Ingredients/Steps", but a little story about why the recipe is a favorite or where it came from, plus detailed descriptions of how to do each step. I actually read through most of the book in an evening, skipping the recipe details and just reading it like a book. Fun!

Three recipes in particular caught my eye:
  • Pasta with Chopping-Board Pistachio Pesto
  • Crisp Brick-Fried Chicken with Rosemary and Whole Garlic Cloves
  • Little French Fudge Cakes

I thought they'd make a super-yummy menu, but I didn't have time to try them all at once (and unless I've got people coming over, I just don't have the motivation to go all out like that), so they got split up over a few nights.
First came the chocolate, of course. I've always loved those little chocolate lava cakes, with the gooey chocolate center. This recipe made it seem fairly easy & straightforward. Bought myself a LOT of dark chocolate and gathered the ingredients, and made these little cupcake size cakes on Saturday. Lemme tell ya - super rich! Oh my. I followed the advice "For the kids add another 3 tablespoons of sugar." Whew. Can't imagine if I'd left it out! I ate one with a REALLY big glass of milk (so that's why they serve them with little pots of cream at the restaurants), Max tried a bit and went "BLEAH" and Colin just looked. Maybe he tried a crumb. Guess I should try again with milk chocolate for the sophisticated palates around here.

One of the fun quotes:

After eating chocolate you feel
godlike, as though you can
conquer enemies, lead armies,
entice lovers.

- Emily Lychetti, pastry chef and author

Next up, brick chicken! I've also had this at a restaurant (so long ago, I no longer remember where). The chicken gets a little bit flattened under the brick and develops a nice, crispy skin. Yum. And I love rosemary and garlic with my chicken. Didn't have a "brick", so again, their great instructions came with a recommendation: "use a heavy skillet, about 2 inches smaller in diameter than the skillet you are cooking in...Balance it on the bird and add heavy objects to weight the pan down, such as a can or two, or a 5-pound bag of sugar, or a rock."

I went with the pan and three cans of miscellany from the pantry.

The recipe calls for a whole bird, butterflied (with tips on butterflying a chicken). I went with chicken quarters, but I overbought and had 6 quarters and only room for 5 in the pan. So, I ended up with one on its own. This was not a good decision for the lone quarter - after it burned, I had to remove the "crispy/black" skin. Ah well. The rest turned out yummy, with crispy flavorful skins and meat nearly falling off the leg bones. Next time, I'm going for just thighs, they should flatten nicely and cook more evenly than a quarter or whole bird, even though they won't be as photogenic.

Finally, last night, I got around to the pesto. I'm not a huge pesto fan, at least not of the Cuisinart kind. But this "chopping-board" style looked yummy (I like "rustic"). You put a little pile of salt & pepper on a big chopping board, smash some garlic cloves into it, add some red & green onions, and basil and then start chopping it all up together (the onions are pre-chopped, but end up re-chopped). Finally, you add the pistachios and chop chop chop some more. Throw on some olive oil, warm it up a little, mix with pasta, toss in a little Asiago cheese, and you're done.

I loved the chop chop chopping. Way fun, and I liked the fresh bite of the results. Very green, very fresh, very light. Better eat it RIGHT AWAY though, because even 15 minutes later it's not as yummy. And, whoa, garlic! Plus red & green onions. Whew. Max dove in, 'cause Abbey's fed him pesto before, but this had a little more bite than he was used to and he passed on most of it. Colin gave it the fish eye but tried it and said it was good (but didn't eat much). I scarfed it down. Um, did I mention garlic? And onions? Whew. Sorry about the breath, folks.

I think it'd be even better with some red pepper flakes, but then, I don't know, would you explode when you ate it?

So, loved reading the cookbook, liked the recipes I tried, but out of the whole book, these were the only ones I actually HAD to try out, so overall I was glad it was a library book. I should try out some more. Who's up for a supper club?