Sunday, January 16, 2005

My First Dinner Party

After dad & I were married, I joined a cookbook of the month club. The first book I received was a huge book entitled "Great Italian Cooking" by Michael Sonino. Back in those days I 1) didn't know how to cook, 2) didn't know that I didn't know how to cook, 3) wouldn't eat onions, mushrooms, or make anything which contained said items (I soon realized that if the onions were pureed, and I couldn't see them, then they were OK), 4) didn't know anything about ingredients including where to find them, 5) didn't know that I could ask someone in the supermarket about where to find something (I used to wander around the market and leave without finding an ingredient), 6) thought that the best dish was long and complicated, and 7) vigorously sought out such a dish to make for a party.

I would literally go through the cookbook page-by-page rejecting dish after dish. I was not an adventurous eater in those days, liking only chicken, steak, sole, roast beef, lamb chops, canned string beans, potatoes, corn, and bread. And all of them had to be prepared in a relatively plain manner without suspicious ingredients. I would not eat onions, beans, peas, salads, or anything in which the ingredients were not plainly visible.

Now the cookbook I received was not your run-of-the-mill type; it was for professional cooks, who had knowledge of Italian cooking. It is full of very strange names and even stranger-sounding dishes, many of which I have never nor would ever prepare or eat.

The recipe I selected and made from this cookbook was No. 1306: Pullet in Casserole with Spring Vegetables. It had some pearl onions in it but I'm sure I either omitted them or thought them somehow harmless since they were easily picked out owing to their discrete shape.

I had no idea what salt pork was or where it find it; I had a minimal set of light-weight, Paul Revere pans, which included one 5 quart casserole; I didn't know the meaning of "parboil" and wouldn't have known where to go to find out what it meant; and I certainly had never clarified butter or flambeed anything. Fortunately this book did have a "gastronomic dictionary" in it which enabled me to look up these terms although I'm not sure I fully comprehended their meaning.

But this was a spectacular dish with flames and smoke everywhere, and I made it a number of times without ever batting an eye, clueless that I had no idea whatsoever what I was doing and no equipment with which to do it, and I never had any doubt or fear about what I was doing. I set my table with a green checkered tablecloth--the only one I owned--and my Lenox plates--I only had four at the time--, and I always served our favorite wine: Mateus Rose (at some point we had made the jump to Mateus; we used to drink Boon's Farm). We always had a good time, owing, no doubt in part, to the large amount of liquior we consumed. We usually never did the dishes or even cleared the tabled, until the next day. I have a photo of this party; we invited the captain of Dad's ship, Captain Watkins. We bought a 5th of scotch or bourbon for this party and Captain Watkins finished it off.

1306. Pullet in Casserole with Spring Vegetables

1 3-pound roasting chicken, cleaned
6 sprigs parsley
6 tablespoon Clarified Butter (No. 102)
1/4 cup brandy
1 pound carrots, cut into the shape of olives
12 white onions, parboiled 5 minutes
1/4 pound salt pork, diced, parboiled for 10 minutes
1 pound small "new" potatoes, parboiled 2 minutes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Chicken Stock (No. 3)
1 pound string beans, parboiled 3 minutes in salted water
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper, stuff it with the sprigs of parsley, and then truss in the manner described in the introduction. Heat the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat until it is golden and brown the chicken on all sides, being careful to adjest the heat so that the butter does not burn.

Heat the brandy in a ladle over medium heat, ignite, and pour over the chicken. Shake the pot until the frlames subside.

Add the carrots, onions, salt pork dice, and potatoes. Baste all of the vegetables with the butter and juices in the pot.

Add the wine and stock, season with salt and pepper, cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then place the pot in a moderate (350) oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting occasionally with the jiuces in th epot.

About 15 minutes before the chicken is fully cooked, add the string beans.

Remove from the oven when the chicken is tender and, if desired, serve in the pot.

Serves 4

3. Chicken Stock

Prepare a White Stock (No. 1), using 1 additional pound of chicken meat, bones, or giblets

1. White Stock

1/2 pound lean veal
3/4 pound veal shin (bone and meat), cracked
2 pounds chicken necks, backs, or wings
8 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
2 large onions, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
2 stolks celery with leaves, sliced
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 egg whites
2 eggs shells, crushed

Place the meat, shin, and chicken in a large soup pot, add the water and salt, bring slowly to a boil, and reduce the heat. Stir meat occassionally. As scum rises to the surface, skim frequently until the liquid is clear. Add the remaining ingredients, except the egg whites and shells, and again skim until clear. Simmer tgently for 3 hours., remove from fire, and strain grhough a fine sieve or cheesecloth-lined colander. For extra clarity, return stock to the pot and add the egg shells and egg whites, beaten until soft peaks form. Bring to boil, stirring constantly, then strain again through clan cheesecloth. Before using the stock, fat should be carefully removed from top. If it has been kept in refrigerator, the fat will have solidified and is easy to remove. Stock keeps better if crust of fat is not broken.

Makes about 1 quart.

Note: Carcasses of roast or fried (but not boiled) chicken may be substituted for the chicken parts, along with gizzards.

102. Clarified Butter

Melt any given quantity of sweet butter in a heavy saucepan over very low heat (or in a low-200-oven) until white foam rises to the top. Skim off the foam and continue cooking until no more foam rises and all particles in the butter sink to the bottom of the pan. Be very carefully not to allow the butter to color too much, especially when using for cakes or pastries, as it will acquire a nutty flavor. Pour off the clear, purified butter from the top into a container or remove it with a bulb-baster. The residue may be used as a final enrichment for sauces and soups. Both may be stored for as long as a week in the refrigerator or kept frozen for several weeks.

Clarified butter may be used as is, or with the addition of lemon juice, salt, and pepper, as a simple sauce for a wide variety of vegetables.

1 comment:

Heidi & Joe said...

Post the photo please.

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