This past Sunday, I was in a celebratory mood and what better reason to celebrate than our oven getting fixed? Turns out that it hasn't been working properly for years and I never noticed, because I had never had a gas oven before and simply put its poor performance down to the fact that it wasn't electric. Now, thanks to a visit from Paul at JBD Appliance, my darling comes to temperature in 5-10 minutes and never needs to re-ignite midway through baking something. O wondrous oven!
I decided that we would have a proper Sunday dinner, with candles and wine and skirts on the girls and nice shirts on the boys. Also, we would have dinner early so M'hijo, my 13-month-old, could sit with us the whole time. We typically eat late in the yellow house and M'hijo is often already abed by the time we manage to sit down for supper.
But candles on the table or no, I didn't really feel like killing myself over dinner, and didn't want to go grocery shopping, and furthermore, the real star of the day was Madam Oven, and I didn't want to show her up by doing a lot of fancy prepwork. Better that she do the majority of the work for this meal so that we could truly appreciate her talents. So, roast chicken and veggies it was.
Ever since I started making Anna del Conte's Italian pot-roasted chicken, nobody around here has wanted to eat an oven-roasted chicken, with it's potential for dryness. But despite the wonderful results, this must be said: making pot-roasted chicken is a pain in the ass. I have never mastered the skill of browning the skin on all sides on the stovetop without tearing the skin, and tearing the skin annoys me. So I was really hoping that I could emulate the pot-roastedness in the oven by being very diligent about basting. In my humble opinion, it worked. Tobias claims that certain segments of the breast meat were not as tasty as they could have been, but my portion was perfect: juicy and lemony and delicious.
I also roasted potatoes, carrots and garlic. Two heads of garlic which I had all to myself, my family taking the insane position that roasted garlic is not the food of the gods. I needed one more veggie, but the cupboards were looking bare. I had been using up my harvest box very nicely and had nothing green aside from a head of romaine, some celery and some frozen peas.
I wrung my hands briefly, then remembered seeing a recipe for braised celery in Appetite. I looked and yes, there it was, but I was skeptical. Celery is for chopping up fine and hiding in things like tuna casserole and bolognese sauce and chicken soups. Could it really be tasty on its own? Mais oui, mes amis, and oh so tasty. Of course, five tablespoons of melted butter in a pot is a great way to start any recipe, and then cooking in a little salted water over low heat doesn't hurt either. A little parmesan and lemon juice tops it off and I think I could, as Nigel Slater suggests, eat this celery as a main course for dinner, yes, quite easily I could.
Two great pairings
As for wine, I was in the mood for white, but was convinced by my spouse to try a Barolo as a pairing for the roast chicken, and it went wonderfully. Tobias did some proper tasting and tried to break down the aroma and flavour palette for the wine, but I felt too distracted by cutting up little bits of chicken for M'hijo and didn't participate. Sometimes I just want to drink a wine, not analyse it. This was definitely one of those times. It was just a great, easy to drink accompaniment for the chicken.
And now for the piece de resistance: the best dessert/dessert wine combo I have ever tried.
We first tried the 2000 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji back in December, for my spouse's birthday. It was our first ever Tokaji and it blew us away. It was head and shoulders above all the other dessert wines I've tried (which is admittedly not loads) It really was like drinking. Only not, you know, unpleasant. I paired it with lemon bread pudding and raspberry coulis: this was a mistake. The acidity of both the lemon and the raspberry clobbered the subtle apricot flavours of the wine.
The second time we tried the Tokaji was on my birthday, and this time we drank it with my mother-in-law's plain cheesecake, and this was a pretty good match. But it wasn't quite as lovely as what we had it with last.
The guys at the Mark Anthony Wine Shop in Cadboro Bay should have their own blog, but since they don't I will give you the recipe one of them shared with me here. I can't imagine anything better with Tokaji. We're talking nectar and ambrosia here, people.
Nick's Apricot Bread Pudding
500 mL whipping cream
pinch of cinnamon, dash of vanilla
demerara sugar to taste
1.5 cups dried apricots (or fresh, if you''re making this in apricot season), reconstituted in boiling water.
Rip up your croissants and put them in a glass dish. If you don't have a glass dish, any old casserole will do. The advantage of the glass is that you can see if your whipping cream is pooling in the bottom. You don't want this. Now pour in your whipping cream, going slowly. You want to thoroughly soak each piece of croissant so that it is sopping, but again, avoid pooling. Mix in cinnamon, sugar and vanilla, however much you like. Now mix in your apricots, chopped if you like. I prefer them whole. Sprinkle a little more sugar on top and pop it in a 350 oven. It should be done in about 45 minutes. Maybe put on the broiler for a sec to crunch up your top sugar. And don't forget to chill the Tokaji in advance.
So that's my idea of a great Sunday dinner: great food and wine, eaten early for the baby's sake, with everyone looking nice and candles. I hope we will make it a weekly event.
New Recipe Number 10: Braised Celery
New Recipe Number 11: Apricot Bread Pudding