Last weekend was dinner #2 of the eight nice meals I pledged to my parentals as a Giftmas present. For this one I wanted to build in some sweet zip of springtime, even though I admit not every ingredient was strictly seasonal.
Breadbowl Fondue - My father was skeptical. What's the point of a breadbowl? Well, if it's a pre-fab thing full of wilted iceberg lettuce and mealy winter tomatoes or some reheated processed cheese soup, I'd say the point is to just layer on the sadness. However, if it's a fresh-baked loaf, carefully hollowed out and filled with a creamy hot dip spiked with salty dried beef, sweet onions, and fresh green parsley, that's another story. Then, I would have to say, the point is that the only thing better than the toasted innards of said loaf dipped into that creamy goodness is that super-crispy, chewy hunks of the bowl itself, torn apart and devoured. Maybe that's just me. I doubt it, though. They barely had room for dinner.
Roast Chicken with Orange Honey Glaze - I used my new vertical roaster, a tallboy beer can a la drunken chicken would work just as well, and prepped the bird for a super-crisp skin by drying it thoroughly and applying a rub of salt, pepper, and baking powder. The increase in the ph of the skin promotes crisping. I also loosened the skin around the fattiest areas and poked holes for rendered fat to drain. I roasted it in the oven at 325 until nearly done, then pulled it out, applied a simple glaze of reduced OJ, honey, and a few adjuncts (some garlic, red pepper flakes, a bit of mustard), cranked the oven to 500, and tossed the bird back in to finish. A careful eye and a cup or so of water in the pan is necessary as any sweet glaze, both that on the bird and that dripping into the pan, will look to scorch swiftly. The finished product was beautifully lacquered and aromatic. While the bird rested I drained the fat from the roasting pan, deglazed with some broth, and mixed the resulting juices with the remaining glaze for a sauce to pass at the table.
Risotto with Spring Vegetables - I love making risotto. The constant, gentle stirring is almost meditative to me. Normally in a dish like this I would have wanted green peas and asparagus, but for the simpler palates at the table I went with some fresh organic carrots, leeks, and broccoli cut into minute florettes. Trying for a fresher vegetable flavor, I infused the broth that I would be stirring into the rice with parsely stems and used it to blanch the veggies. This was a mistake as the carrots and broccoli lent too much color to the broth and the whole dish took on a muddy hue that did nothing next to the chicken. It received rave reviews for flavor, however.
Lemon curd tart with raspberries - In a favorite cookbook of mine entitled Pie Every Day is a recipe for plum tart with lemon curd, a nice, easy dessert with good sweet/tart flavor contrasts. Once, when I couldn't find plums ripe enough in time, I discovered that the simple lemon curd in a sweet tart crust could be enhanced with almost any sort of soft fresh fruit and raspberries became my favorite. Once the curd was smoothed into the crust I placed whole, fresh berries one by one in a spiral pattern. The result leans toward the tart end of sweet-tart, but I find the buttery crust makes it work perfectly. I guess zippy tartness says Spring to me.
Once again I was really the only person there with an interest in wine and had I not wanted some for the risotto i would have skipped it. As it was I took the opportunity to grab a bottle of one of the few Vinho Verdes I've ever seen in PA. What could be more Spring than that? I love the crispness and the faint sparkle of these wines.
Next up I tackle a Baja favorite - fish tacos! No fried fish for me, though, I'll be firing up the grill for an early summer treat.