Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Saucy, Spicy, & Sweet - Oscars

No, not the actual show - if you ask me - are you asking?  That Seth McFarlane, who showed a bit of promise at the beginning of the show very quickly turned into a real jerk. Or, am I lacking a sense of humor?   We had fun anyway - dinner was served, downstairs in the dining room -  saucy & spicy - and dessert was served in front of the TV in my bedroom -  sweet - the place where I keep a TV.  We were four humans and two dogs.

We started with a salad made with the best blood oranges that  that I've eaten since I was in Sicily, and insalata Trevigiano which is the radicchio-like large endive that you see around from time to time, especially in this season ( you can find both items at, where else, Lick the Market).  The two Italian products, one from the north, the bitter Trevigiano, and the tangy-sweet, slurpy blood oranges  from the south of the  country make for a perfect marriage.  They "complete" each other. Yup, it's corny Oscar time.

The blood oranges and Trevigiano were tossed with a dressing made with finely chopped shallots, Dijon mustard, lingonberry-apple vinegar (any fruity vinegar will do), extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground white pepper.  The salad was served on a bed of peppery greens and garnished with pistachios, pan-toasted with pink Hawaiian salt.

I had a concept for the main course which involved adding a little of this and little of that in order to achieve the flavor that I imagined.  Which means I don't really have a recipe.  However, I'll talk you through what I did to accomplish a kind of Chicken Puttanesca.  I sauteed whole cloves of unpeeled garlic, chopped, fresh hot peppers and sprigs of fresh rosemary in olive oil and a bit of butter (my new ingredient - duh - that every chef on earth uses to really transport, and enrich flavors) in a brazier (or a large skillet) over medium heat.  Meanwhile I cut up a chicken into 10-12 pieces (cut the breast in half or into thirds depending on the size of the breast - or as Seth McFarlane would so daintily say, boobs) and browned them, on all sides, in a bit of olive oil and added them to the saute pan.  I tossed them around to make sure they were coated with the fat then added about a cup and a half of chopped tomatoes, a cup and a half of red wine, 1/2 cup or so of pitted Kalamata olives and let it simmer until it tasted like I thought it should.  I added salt after the olives had cooked for awhile, and I added more hot pepper in the form of dried flakes.  I covered the pan and turned off the heat.  Done.  When I reheated it to serve - I  removed the peel from the garlic  and mashed the cloves into the sauce - I added copious amounts of freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley and tossed to combine with the sauce.  I served the chicken with polenta made with Nantucket polenta.


Dinner were served with Veuve Cliquot - it was the Oscars after all.   I wore Gap jeans, a blue and white striped long-sleeved T-shirt (label, long gone) , a navy blue Saint-James sweater, and bright, blue velvet Friulane (gondolier slippers), one guest looked very chic in an orange cashmere pullover and jeans, another kept his grey striped scarf wrapped around his neck all night, and yet another accessorised his lap with a very handsome white, French bulldog called Cicero.  Are you taking note, Joan Rivers?

At 8:29 pm we went upstairs to my small bedroom and made ourselves comfortable on the bed, and on a few extra chairs.  The comments started made a rapid run from "Hmmm, not so bad", to "What on earth is he saying?" to "Are they really that skinny?".    At about the 5th or 6th commercial I went downstairs to get dessert.   I made a blueberry shortcake.  I have about 4 quarts of cooked, frozen blueberries from last summer.  (Aren't you just feeling the need for some berries right about now?)
The shortcake comes from Roy Finamore's, James Beard award-winning book, Tasty....  I can give you that recipe.  You'll never look back - it's simple, and simply delicious.  You don't have to make a berry shortcake - use any kind of fruit with it; pineapple, sauteed apples, sliced poached pears, etc.  Make sure to use plenty of whipped cream with it and you'll be OK.


Roy says, "I've been baking this tender cake - almost cake, almost biscuit - for thirty years now.  When I lived in Vermont, I'd make it for breakfast, putting slabs of the cake into bowls, topping it with fresh-picked raspberries from the yard, and ladling in top milk, which we got from the dairy farmer down the road."
makes one 8-inch layer cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
Beat the butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until it starts to lighten.  Gradually pour in the sugar, beating while you pour, and continue beating until very light.  Beat in the eggs.
Now switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the dry ingredients and milk in batches: half the dry, all the milk, and the rest of the dry.  Beat for a moment or two with the spoon until the batter is smooth.  It will be stiff.
Divide the batter between the pans, and pat it into the pans with floured fingers.  Give the pans a rap on the counter top to release any air bubbles, then slip them into the oven.   Bake the cakes for about 25 minutes, until risen and browned in spots.
Let cakes cool on racks for  about 5 minutes, then turn them out of the pans and let cool completely on the racks.
Serving:   Set one layer on a cake plate.  Spoon some of the juices or syrup from whichever fruit you're using over the cake and then spoon on half the fruit.  Spread half  the whipped cream (1 cup, whipped) over the fruit and set the second layer on top.  Repeat, spooning over juice or syrup, then fruit, then cream.
Serve the shortcake right away or refrigerate for later. 

Oh yes, and there was a little coconut Lady cake from The Red Barn via Lick - just in case we were feeling peckish after everything else.  Geez - if anything was going to leave us wanting it could have been what we were watching.   Oy. But, it's always a good time.  Isn't it?  Something else to bitch about.
 This is the 2nd time I've had a little Oscar party in my bedroom (the first time was years ago in the City).  It works.  Maybe it will become a tradition.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:    Last week I attended a press conference to announce the kick-off of  Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (March 11- 24), at the CIA - Culinary Institute of  America.   Prior to the actual press event,  the attendees were given the opportunity to tour the just-opened Bocuse Restaurant in the space once occupied by the Escoffier Restaurant.  I was enchanted.  I'll be returning next week for lunch and will give you a full blog report afterwards.


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