Dinner Party Fun: No Oven, No Problem

86 oven! #fail

About 2 hours before guests arrived to my mother’s dinner party last night, her gas range broke. The simple, delicious menu she had planned was a nimble one though, and with the manageable guest count of 10, was a success.

With her (also dying) electric oven still available, the vegetables that had been roasted earlier in the day could be tossed and re-heated in parsley sauce, made from the recipe in the MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD cookbook. What was to have been home-roasted garlic chicken thighs became store-roasted whole birds after a quick trip to Fresh Market. Expertly carved by brother Kevin, I swooped in with a homemade dressing of what was around the house: oranges and their juice, capers, a whole clove of smashed raw garlic, shaved wished-it-was-red white onion, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, rice wine vinegar, mixed olives, Teena’s Pride Farm CSA orange mint and fire sorrel, chaat masala, and Elizabeth’s amazing extra-virgin olive oil (Castillo de Tabernas) from Spain, to be spooned cool on top of the warm pieces of dark and white meat at plating.

Chateauneuf de Pape Millésime 2008 in our Burgundy glasses and in great company, all in all it was a fantastic meal!

Roasted winter vegetables with parsley sauce and arugula tossed with evoo, S&P and topped with shaved Cypress Grove "Midnight Moon" aged goat cheese.

Amazing peeta from a guest, with whole roast chicken and homemade orange dressing.

Bradley Ogden's Baked Persimmon Pudding with Mandarin Orange Curd.

Hand Drawn Noodles

It ain't a pretty scene, but it was damn good eating. Thank you Israel for Michael Solomonov.

Last week was all about Philadelphia, and its last impressions — a new taste of Israel and Chinatown’s hand drawn noodles.  I was there with Chef for two events, and true to form, we followed our noses to eat good food off the clock. In early May, we had booked dinner at Zahav (‘gold’ in Hebrew) immediately after Michael Solomonov won Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. After meeting him on his home turf, he insisted we change our reservation for later Thursday evening so he could be there. So at 9:30 we arrived to Society Hill in a light drizzle to drink Israeli sauvignon blanc and feast on salatim (a rainbow of small salads and pickled vegetables,) mina (beef brisket with crisp matzoh and coffee,) and the chef’s fall-off-the-bone lamb shoulder. The meat was tender and juicy, lacquered with pomegranate glaze and slow roasted whole for three days until it was rested atop crispy Lebanese rice dotted with nutty chick peas for us to devour.  And then Solomonov really did it. I’m not speaking of the other dishes paraded out of the kitchen nor of the genuine hospitality that had Arak (an anise flavored aperitif not unlike ouzo) flowing over ice-filled glasses in front of us. Though these gestures were beyond generous and appreciated, it was his recommendation for lunch before leaving the following day that really did us in, in the best of possible ways. With hot chili oil, pig ears, and hand drawn noodles! We were to head to 9th and Race to find it, although he couldn’t remember the name of the noodle shop. So the next morning, luggage safely in hotel storage, we set out due northeast following Solomonov’s trail of crumbs. They led to Zan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House and this awesome, humble lunch.

Dinner with Nanny: Chef Michael Schwartz’s Whole Roasted Chicken

My first whole roasted chicken.

It’s still hard for me to believe how many things I have not cooked before.  I’m finding this out as I make my way through my boss’s new cookbook, MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat.  Deviled eggs, homemade pickles…  Maybe it’s because I tend to wing it in the kitchen with ingredients and methods that are improvisation-friendly.  When specialized techniques are involved, and I don’t have them in my repertoire, it takes a good recipe to get me through.

I found a great one last night in Michael’s Whole Roasted Chicken with plumped raisins, toasted pine nuts, and arugula.  I made it for a roasted chicken connoisseur, my grandmother Lucille aka Nanny.  After a quick stop at her neighborhood Publix on the Beach for groceries, I was making myself at home in her circa 1950s kitchen.  The procedure is the epitome of Michael’s cooking, starting with very few high quality ingredients that when simply prepared produce nothing less than a magical result. It could not have been easier to make, even without the conveniences and equipment of cook’s kitchen.  Luckily she had just the right pan (the only possible one that could have worked!) and hot as hell old oven, the kind that overhang the stove top, in the spot where my Salamander is at home.  Aluminum pans did the trick for the plumping of raisins with rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil, and water, and the toasting of pine nuts (and some bread, borrowing from another recent heavenly chicken experience at Zuni Cafe with Michael.)

This was one serious bird and one bangin’ accurate recipe.  I know I nailed it because the crisp-skinned result, perfectly cooked and running with clear chickeny juices, incited such comments as “Chicken doesn’t taste like this.” and “This bird is just delicious. Incredible!” The raisins (which didn’t taste like raisins either – haha) and toasted pine nuts scored equally as high with my discerning grandma, a woman with impeccable taste in matters more than culinary.

So thank you Michael; I now have a new one for my can-do arsenal!  Nanny and her nurse now have lunch and dinner for the next few days, plus extra raisins and raisin-rosemary infused oil for drizzling on toast or tossing in chicken salad.  I am going to try plumping apricots the same way next time, for my next whole roasted chicken, which will no doubt happen soon.