A Fine Dish

dish (v) to emit a ready flow of inconsequential talk... babble, blab, burble... chatter, dither... gab, lallygag... natter, patter, prattle, rattle on... yammer, yawp...also...chew the fat, shoot the breeze, sling the bull.... and (n) a container to serve food -or- the food contained in the dish ....(archaic slang) a hot mama

Location: Rock Creek Township, North Carolina, United States

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Credit is Due

What you are looking at here is Chicken Curry with Fruit. Since I credited Sam with his marvelous lasagne I felt that equal time was owed to Chris who made this lovely dish for dinner tonight.

The clay baker belonged to his great grandmother Helen, my mother's mother. I have the original cookbook with her notes, but made up this recipe to suit the season. This morning while I was on a break at work I sent Chris the basics on using a clay baker and suggested ingredients for him. He called me a little later for some clarification and then got busy.

Chris soaked the baker for 20 minutes and preheated the oven to 325. Then he gathered chicken thighs, 6 cloves garlic, 10 sliced dried apricots, and dried curry powder. He decided to forego the diced onion because he couldn't find any. When the baker was ready he arranged the chicken on the bottom then layered the rest of the ingredients. He put in a cup or so of homemade chicken stock and orange juice to cover. Then he lifted everything slightly so that the liguid would seep under the chicken preventing sticking. He covered the baker and put it in the oven. After a couple of hours he added a handful each of golden and regular raisins and a cup of jasmine rice. He put it back into the oven for another half an hour.

The apricots and raisins were plumped with orange juice and broth; the rice absorbed the excess liguid. Actually quite a simpe dish and it makes the kitchen smell really good.

Just a note, he could have put in coconut milk instead of the broth. I didn't suggest that to him because I like to use coconut milk for my vegetarian curries and I think that the minerals in the broth are good for the family.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

No Need for Reservations

This time when the phone rings it is not a client or a student or a colleague but the anxious voice of my youngest, "but what does bacon look like when it's done?" One of the great accomplishments this summer was getting the boys in the kitchen to rattle the pots and pans. Now that I am working later it's very difficult to provide nourishing dishes every night from whole foods. Pre-processed foods provide convenience but at what cost? Nutritional deficits, empty calories, unnecessary chemicals. Besides, I don't know how to use them. I wouldn't know what to do with a lean cuisine.

Luckily the boys have stepped up to the platter and either start dinner or with some on the phone coaching complete whole meals. This has been a blessing. On Sunday, one of the boys will go shopping with me and suggest menus. Then when we get home, we put up the weekly 'specials'--
As you can see, I don't put specific days up. Although some meals are based on ingredients from other meals (for example following roast chicken with chicken salad plates and soup), I like for the boys to have some flexibility in what days they get to cook.

Today was very exciting. Last week Sam made a double batch of tomato sauce with sweet Italian sausage and meatballs which he served on thin spaghetti. Now this is one of his standards, nothing big about that. What made it exciting was that the leftovers were to go into his first attempt at lasagne. We decided to do it today since this didn't seem like a good dish to coach over the phone. While lasagne isn't difficult, it is intensive and he felt that he could use a back up right in the kitchen in case anything went wrong.

Now what you see here, besides my sweet handsome boy, are several bowls holding the prepared ingredients. The large stainless steel bowl has tomato sauce to which he added some chopped tomatoes to thin it a tad. Behind that is another bowl with the left over meatballs and sausage which he used a potato masher to squash. You can just see the food processer in the back which he used to shred mozarella cheese to which he added a handful of grated parmesan. There is also a bowl with ricotta cheese with shredded mozarella and one huge double yolk egg, well blended. Oh, and right in front that is not Irish Cream Liqueur. In order to discourage mice, I put all of our pastas, grains, rice, and cereal in metal containers. In it are (yes, it is premade) lasagne sheets because we didn't have time to zip up some pasta this morning.

One of the reasons that Sam added chopped tomatoes to the sauce is that rather than parboiling the pasta, he used it from the box. This works as long as there is enough liguid in the dish. He put two ladlesful of sauce in the bottom of a rectangular casserole dish than fit in three sheets of pasta and 1/2 ladleful of sauce. He than alternately dabbed meat and the ricotta cheese mixtures and tamped them down lightly. Then, because it's summer and its fresh, he put on a layer of spinach leaves. He repeated this then on the top layer put sauce and the mozzarella/parm cheese mixture. The whole thing was covered with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in then popped into a 350 oven for an hour. Sound good? Looks good, too.