Posts Tagged ‘Company’

Dinner tonight reconfirmed for me how badly misguided are the stereotypes about the military which are so firmly entrenched in my mind.  For the first 90% of my life the only exposure I had to people in the military was through the movies.  The image I still struggle to overcome is of a testosterone-charged, sports-loving, hard-drinking bully.  I am perpetually astonished when I meet a new colleague of my soldier-husband’s.  Without exception these officers are courteous, kind, empathic, smart, intellectual, well-read and deeply engaged with world around them.  Our dinner guest tonight was no exception, a mid-level naval officer (I think of roughly equivalent rank to my husband, although I’ve only more-or-less managed to get a handle on army ranks, navy ranks are still totally opaque to me) winding up a fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy school (see what I mean about smart?!). Nevertheless, for long stretches the conversation made me wish I’d picked a more complicated menu that demanded more time in the kitchen.  So often my husband’s chatter with his colleagues is about as comprehensible to me as that cab driver in Rome the day you step off the plane and try to dredge up something (anything!) you learned in your one year of college Italian 15 years ago.  “So this E7 said to the RL9 that if he didn’t get the PMX-81 to the J4 on the QT then the oodle-oodle-oo would be hugwhumped and we’d need a dozen P10s tomorrow.”   Unfortunately, the simple-but-delicious menu I’d selected afforded me no refuge in the kitchen.  I nodded and smiled and was eternally grateful that our very considerate guest stopped to translate for me now and then.

…Which brings me to the menu.  Marcella Hazan’s Lemon Roasted Chicken, pearl couscous, salad and chocolate mousse.  I love this menu because it requires minimal time in the kitchen, is elegant enough for guests, is delicious and everyone eats it (well…except vegetarians).  Substitute rice and even your gluten-intolerant friend can eat (and they’ll be so excited that you even made a dessert they can eat).

The couscous and salad are easy – no recipes required.  Cook couscous according to the instructions that come with it (you can use regular couscous if you can’t get the fabulous north African pearl kind).  I like to add a little salt and butter while it’s cooking.  Make your favorite salad and try the herb vinaigrette from my Snacking Around post or this simple mustard vinaigrette.

Recipe: Lemon Roast Chicken

Source: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

1 3-4 lb. chicken (works just fine with larger chickens which are much more readily available)
2 small lemons

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Remove the gizzards from inside the chicken.  Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water (inside and out) and leave to drain for 10 minutes or so (set it on a slightly tilted plate).  Use paper towels to pat it completely dry.  Sprinkle plenty of salt and fresh-ground pepper on the chicken (both sides and don’t forget the inside) and rub it in.  Wash the lemons in cold water and pat them dry. Press down hard on the lemons while rolling them against the counter several times to soften them and loosen the juices then pierce them several times with a fork (in 4-5 places to get around 20 little holes). Put the lemons inside the chicken.  Close the opening by pulling the extra skin over the lemons and pinning the edges together with sturdy toothpicks or a trussing needle (look for these at Thanksgiving – they look like little skewers and usually come in packs of 5, sometimes with some twine).  If you want you can tie the legs loosely together with cooking twine, but I usually don’t bother.  Put the chicken breast-down in a roasting pan.  You do not need to add any fat or liquid.  Better yet, you don’t need to baste.  Starting the chicken breast-down ensures that plenty of juices will flow into the breast and keep it nice and juicy.  Pop the chicken in the oven.  You are going to cook the chicken for a total of 20 minutes per pound, turning the chicken over part way through and turning the temperature up at the end (timing follows, but first how to turn the chicken over).  Turning the chicken over is very easy if you have silicon oven mitts.  Just put them on your hands, grab the bird and turn it over, then wash the oven mitts.  If, like me, you don’t have silicon oven mitts you have two options.  One is to use regular oven mitts, just wrap them in tinfoil to keep them clean while you grab the bird.  The other, which I usually use, is to use tongs in my right hand to grab the bird and guide it and a spatula in my left hand to provide heft and force.  Now for the timing.  Cook the bird breast-down at 350° for 30 minutes, then turn it over.  Continue cooking at 350° until there are only 20 minutes left in the total cooking time (the time for this stage will vary depending on the size of your chicken).  Turn the oven up to 400° and cook for another 2o minutes.  You know the chicken is done if the juice that comes out when you cut deep into the thigh is clear.  If the juice is pink, put the chicken back in for a bit (note that the dark meat will look a little pink even when fully cooked so check the color of the juices).  Carve the chicken in the pan, then pour all the juices from the pan into a small pitcher.  Pour off a little of the fat that rises to the top if you want, then serve the juices as a sauce.  They are fabulous poured over the couscous.  Pour any remaining juices in with leftover chicken when you store it.  Leftovers are best at room temperature.  You can save the bones and carcass for making stock.

Active time: 15 minutes (total time varies depending on the size of the chicken but is about 1 1/2 hours)

Recipe: Chocolate Mousse

1 c. (6 oz., usually 1/2 package) chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet)
5 tbs. boiling water
4 eggs, separated
2 tbs. dark rum

Blend the chocolate chips in the blender until they are ground up fine.  Add the water and blend until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Add the egg yolks and rum and blend again until smooth.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks.  Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites until no white shows.  Spoon the mixture into individual serving dishes (I like to use my grandmother’s crystal sorbet/champagne glasses, but you can use ramekins or small bowls) and chill for at least an hour.


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