There are certain traditions that absolutely need to be honored. There is one that I hold dear and am thrilled to say that since it was created in early April, 7 years ago, it has been faithfully repeated. It's a weekend gathering of a group of friends. The first meeting took place in Marrakech. We walked, endlessly through the souks, ate intensely fragrant food from street stalls, breathtakingly beautiful restaurants, and from our own kitchen. You could say that we are a food-centric group. We haven't been back to Marrakech (for that particular event ) but have faithfully gotten together ever since either in upstate New York or in Provincetown, Massachusetts. This year it was Provinctown. In the off-season, the little town, curling back on itself, at "the end of the world" Cape Cod, resembles its past - when when painters set up easels on the beach, and scarved, coughing writers tapped out wordy works, and Eugene O'Neill founded the Provincetown Playhouse where his most famous works were performed. The charming, mostly grey, and white houses, crowded together, cheek by jowl, on short streets with names like Pearl, Law, and Snow whisper about the old days - non-stop.
Allegra &I arrived on Friday after a trip across the Mass Pike and down I-495 to 25 to 6. A stop at PB Bakery and Bistro is a new MUST destination - and it's right there off route 6 in Welfleet. The huge assortment of crusty bread and buttery pastries taste as good as they look. I picked up a croissant, a pain au chocolate and two tarts; assorted fruit, and pear which would be late afternoon pick-me-ups for me and my friend John - and dessert. We were alone on the first night. John made what has become the "welcome to Provincetown" meal - spaghetti all'aglio, olio, peperoncino E prezzemolo (parsley- a departure from the almost written-in-stone Italian favorite). John had slowed roasted some beets-covered in salt and wrapped in tin foil - for hours. The peeled and sliced beets with baby spinach leaves and crumbled Ewe's Blue (carried by me from the Hudson Valley) became our salad. Tarts for dessert. We ate dinner and played Scrabble in front of a blazing fire. Sometimes you just don't get the letters you want.
On Saturday morning John & I went back to PB Bakery for more dessert tarts, bread and the most delicious almond croissant this side of Paris. James and Mark, and their dog, Cicero arrived from New York. We almost immediately started to cook.
Lunch: CORONATION CHICKEN. A dish created, in 1952 by the Cordon Bleu for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation luncheon. It's a fancy chicken salad. The recipe has been fidgeted with ever since. But it has some basic components; mango chutney, curry, onions and a bit of tomato. Of course, chicken.
This is my recipe:
1- 1 1/4 cup canola oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Major Grey's chutney (mango chutney)
2 rounded tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon good-quality curry powder
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
chicken broth or water
white Vermouth or sliced lemons
4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts - 8 pieces
a few tablespoons julienned candied ginger
1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet over low heat, heat 1/4 cup of the oil and cook the onion until it has wilted. Stir in the chutney, tomato paste, curry powder, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and the salt. Cook for about 7 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Puree the chutney mixture in a food processor until smooth. (This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator -for months actually).
3. Add the egg and remaining tablespoon lemon juice to a food processor or blender. Blend the egg until creamy and pale yellow. With the motor running on the processor, slowly add the remaining oil until a semi-firm mayonnaise is achieved. You may not need the full cup oil - or you may need more.
4. Add the mayonnaise to a mixing bowl. Fold in the chutney puree until fully incorporated with the mayonnaise. Keep refrigerated until ready for use. The sauce can be made up to 3 or 4 days before use.
5. Fill a large skillet or saute pan with chicken broth and a splash of Vermouth or water and some lemon slices. Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and add the chicken breasts. Poach the breasts until tender. Use tongs to turn occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.
6. Thinly slice the cool breasts, on the diagonal and place on a serving platter. Cover with the curry chutney mayonnaise. Garnish with julienned candied ginger.
I served the chicken with PECAN-SCALLION RICE. To serve 6, cook 1 1/2 cups rice - your choice. Add the cooled rice to a large mixing bowl. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat a tablespoon neutral oil such as grape seed. Add 3/4 - 1 cup chopped pecans. Cook until you start to smell them cooking - watch carefully they will burn in a blink of an eye. Immediately add 1/2 cup chopped scallions to the pecans. Stir and remove from the heat. Add the mixture to the rice. Add a tablespoon of rice vinegar and salt to taste.
We had tarts for dessert. Heaven. Allegra and I walked on the beach. She splashed in the bay and all was just right.
James made a super tasty spinach and mushroom lasagne for dinner. We ate this by the fire - in another room. And played games. I've mentioned this in past posts. Games are always involved when John is around. Charades, Celebrity, Scattegories - and so on.
Sunday lunch was chicken sandwiches with Coronation mayonnaise and baby arugula, potato chips and pickles.
And dinner was an ode to our first gathering in Marrakech and a meal we ate that starred butter-tender lamb that was served garnished with almonds . So, I made SLOWLY COOKED LAMB SHANKS. This is how I prepared it (I haven't made it into real recipe form - yet).
. Sear the shanks in olive oil added to a large casserole pot. Remove the shanks from the pot.
. Add sliced carrots, chopped onions and garlic (lots), a few sprigs of rosemary, and thyme to the pot and saute for a few minutes.
. Add the shanks back to the pot. Cover with a whole bottle of robust red wine, a few tablespoons ground cinnamon, a tablespoon ground cumin, a teaspoon or two red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, and a cup or so pitted dates. Use two wooden spoons to turn the lamb and thoroughly combine all the ingredients. Lower heat to a simmer and cook and cook and cook. Turn the lamb occasionally. Add salt to taste about a hour before the cooking is complete. It's complete when the lamb is fork tender and just about falls off the bone 4 - 5 hours.
I served the lamb with artichoke risotto. James made a yummy salad with some of those roasted beets. He diced them and dressed then with zest of an orange, slices from the orange and juice squeezed out of what remained, extra virgin olive oil, some ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste.
James also made an outstanding dessert - Mark Bittman's Flourless Almond Butter Cake. He served it with whipped cream, strawberry sauce and blueberries.
We did not eat this meal around the fire. There were two more guests so we sat at a dining table decorated with pink snapdragons.