The good news is that my dinner cooked with recipes from the Alice B.Toklas cookbook was a success. The bad news is that I have no photos. The lighting was non-existent and besides I was to busy tending to guest and making merry to take any.
We started with drinks based on sloe gin(see yesterdays post).
The entrée was one of the many salads included in the book; I went with “Salad Port-Royal” but they are all rather similar in that they contain large amounts of mayonnaise and should be garnished with hardboiled eggs cut in half. In fact mayonnaise(togehter with bacon and alcohol) are some of the main ingredients in this book. It was a different time then, or maybe not. I’ve had plenty of salades like this when visiting France and coleslaw is universally loved I think which is a variation on that theme.
For the main course I went with “Chicken Comtadine”. I had to choose wisely; several dishes are supposed to be cooked on an “asbestos tray” which was probably very hip in in 30’s but is now regarded as a health hazard. And there was a guest who doesn’t eat pork which meant that a good half of the recipes went out the window. And there was consideration taken to the pregnant woman so nothing drenched in uncooked alcohol or raw seafood. I also had to make a change because I couldn’t find tomato jam, only a tomato marmalade made with green tomatoes and so went with white wine instead of sweet vermouth.
A part from that it was pretty straight forward; fry the chicken pieces in a bit of butter, when browned all around put in a big pot and add a pinch of cinnamon,a pinch of cayenne pepper, 2 tablespoons(cirka) of tomato marmalade and a generous amount of white wine. Then simmer until cooked through. That is not her exact recipe, that’s how I made it, but instructions are written in about the same way. Alice B. Toklas writes more to inspire and a Julia Child like motto of “scientific workability” is nothing she adheres to. Many of the recipes in the book are not in fact something she has cooked,although she was skilled in the kitchen, but comes from friends,maids and chefs she met. They also have the most wonderful names like “pigeon in pyjamas” and “lamb cutlets in a coat”. That usually means they are wrapped in bacon. Not a bad idea as such, just not suitable in this case.
Chicken Comtadine tasted great : the sweetness from the marmalade,a bit of warming spice and the acidity from the wine came together really well and the chicken was tender to the bone. I did let it cook for about 45 minutes. Salt to taste.
With that I served potatoes boiled in butter. No,that is not a typo; I boiled potatoes in butter. They didn’t turn out exactly as intended(but very very tasty nonetheless). I have learned from my mistake that firm potatoes should be used and they shouldn’t be interfered with too much. I was anxious(as is my wont) and lifted the lid and stirred one to many times and they just fell apart. I had to make a few slices in the oven to mix it up with so it wouldn’t look so bad. But as I said; they did taste divine. Will make it again absolutely, and hopefully manage to get it right and take a photo.
Served some spinach leaves on the side for a bit freshness to the rich potatoes and the chicken.
Desserts is nothing I excel at but I did my best. In my edition the notorious recipe for “Alice B.Toklas hash brownies” was not included, the translators point that out. There was however instructions for a Sacher torte and as I have been meaning to make a “Sacher torte-trifle” I let that be my inspiration. I did not however bake the actual torte; I baked regular brownies(one of the few things I do know how to make) and then made a purée of conserved apricots in syrup mixed with fresh ginger. In glasses I put the brownie in the bottom, covered it in the purée(in a Sacher torte you use apricot jam for glazing) and a generous dollop of whipped cream on top. Not exactly a trifle, more like a mess, but a very good one. Chocolate,apricot,ginger and cream is a delicious combination. And it was very easy to make, and can be prepped ahead of time which is the kind of dessert I like.
Another thing to stimulate appetite and laughter was continuously reading out of the book during the evening; it’s a regular conversation piece this one. If the food won’t bring a smile to your face the stories will.