Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Well I want to be

The last time I took Nyquil I dreamed that I had been transported to the beginning of time and had somehow inadvertently caused the universe and all recorded history to collapse onto itself. There I floated, watching all of creation slowly condense into a single point, not really comprehending anything about the situation except that it was all somehow my fault. It was pretty traumatic. I woke up at 6:30 AM lying in the fetal position on the bathroom floor to hear Sam's Mom declare, "You are not going to school today."

Good idea, Sam's Mom. I didn't go to school today, either. Sorry that I have been absent from this blog for a couple weeks, but I've had an exceptionally busy time at work, a family thing at home that needed attention, and on top of all that I got a cold this weekend. I really, really don't like having a cold. So, last night, to help evict whatever it is that has taken up residence in my body right now, I threw together this beefy noodle soup, kind of a faux pho full of egg noodles, celery, and radish greens. Okay, on second thought, it didn't resemble pho at all, except maybe the broth, which I infused with charred hot peppers, onions, star anise, coriander seeds, and basil stalks. I let it simmer for a while, strained out all the flavorings, added some concentrated beef gelee and reduced it on the stove for a while just until it was coating my mouth with each sip. Forget the celery, forget the noodles. The broth is really what I wanted for my cold: steamy, hot, spicy, invigorating, slipping slowly down my throat and steaming open my sinuses. With a little soy sauce, lime juice, and sriracha stirred in it had just the right kick up front followed into a long, warming finish. I drank the whole potful.

Somehow Mondays have become the days on which I'm most predisposed to cook, even though Jeff and I both have (bell and nonbell) choir rehearsal and we usually don't make it home until 8:30 or 9:00. Maybe it's because I just get really hungry on Mondays and spend half of choir rehearsal and the entire bus ride home thinking about what's in my fridge and how I'm going to assemble it all into something edible within 45 minutes of stepping in the door. Two weeks ago on Monday I had come across this recipe for chicken in brown butter from the restaurant Corso in Berkeley, and the one-to-one ratio of chicken breasts to butter sounded so intriguing that I just had to stop by Bi-Rite on the way home and pick up a couple chicken breasts.

Luckily, it's pretty easy to control the amount of butter that you shower onto the final dish, and just a couple spoonfuls were sufficient for my version, which rested on top of a bed of rye berries, roasted brussels sprouts and an apple salad. The star of the dish really wasn't the chicken nor the chewy rye berries soaking up its buttery juices, nor the brussels sprouts flecked with little bits of pancetta. No, what really made the dish stand out for me was the celery leaves that I diced up and tossed in with the apple salad. It was beautiful. I can't even begin to describe how striking the pure bright green flavor of celery stood out against the deep, caramelized flavors permeating the rest of the dish. Well, maybe I can: you know the end of FernGully, when the evil smog creature Hexxus eats the good fairy Crysta and you think she's done for, but Crysta has brought with her an enchanted seed and after a few impossibly tense seconds, a new magic tree of life explodes out of Hexxus and imprisons him for another thousand years? That's how powerfully the flavor of celery leaf was exploding out of this dish.

Except, well, my brown butter chicken probably tasted better than Hexxus.


Recipe roundup...

Pollo al burro -- or -- brown butter chicken recipe from Corso in Berkeley as published in the San Francisco Chronicle

Roasted brussels sprouts -- Okay, I normally use Heidi's recipe, but this works too when you're too lazy to halve every single brussels sprout you're going to eat. Preheat oven to 400 F. Dice some kind of cured pork product into tiny pieces, cook in a cast-iron with a little peanut oil over medium heat until almost crisp. Toss some brussels sprouts, whole or halved, in with the pork. Stir to coat the brussels sprouts with the fat, add a little more oil if necessary, and a pinch or two of salt. Roast at 400 F just until the brussels sprouts are cooked through. You can hold this at room temperature and reheat just for a sec under the broiler if you need. I think I tossed in some oregano at the last minute too.

Apple salad -- Chop up some celery. Save the leaves if your celery came with them. If not, make a mental note only to buy celery with leaves on it from now on. Toss the celery with some salt and a pinch of sugar. Let it sit for 20 minutes if you have time. Your celery has evolved into Best Celery Ever. When you're ready to eat, chop up one or two apples and toss them in with the celery. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top. Chop up the celery leaves and some basil and add those to the mix. Season with salt and pepper.

1 comment:

  1. You know, Fern Gully was on TV a few weeks ago. Not as great on the whole as I remembered it being when I was 10, but that scene was still pretty awesome.