Wednesday, December 21, 2011

high stakes meat and potatoes

So the title sounds a little oxymoronic, no?

Let me explain: for whom was I making this meat and potatoes?

Boyfriend’s parents.

First time cooking for boyfriend’s parents.

Guys. Cooking for people is what I DO. Without making people food they like, how can they like me? They cannot.

So.

I prepped. I like… chopped things in advance, not when the stove was smoking (though full disclosure, I did put a kitchen towel on a hot burner and it did catch on fire… Steve was a boyfriend and ran outside with it so as to prevent a smoke alarm situation).

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I also, as is often helpful in stressful situations, made a to-do list. Erin (yo girl) and I last year would both not only have epic to do lists, we’d have multiple to do lists. The holy sh** I have to get this done TODAY to do list and the Long term things that cause me stress but may never get done list.

This was all doable :D (Guys, in case you haven’t picked up on it, there is some sarcasm. I still like cooking, promise!)

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Furthermore, Steve was exceedingly helpful at getting me anything I might need (we were cooking at his place).

Anything I might need, wherever it might be.

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He also suggested that I join him for a hot cocoa break, which I respectfully declined, but did take note of his rather interesting, some might say risky methodology which involves mixing cocoa and water together cold, then putting the marshmallow on top, then microwaving everything.

I was sure of a microwave explosion, but just as I was mildly taunting him about his marshmallow looking like it was going to blow over the top, he threw open the door and pulled out perfect hot cocoa. So there you go.

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Also, if like Steve you are an avid environmentalist and are reluctant to use any sort of climate-altering machinery in your apartment (which is why I’m RAWTHER cold when I’m there these days), it means that in the steamy summer months, the marshmallows you bought for a spring camping trip will cease to be individuals and instead become a molten marshmallow mass.

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Okay, so let’s talk meat and potatoes.

Steve’s dad is the kind of person who likes his steak with salt and pepper. That’s it. Steak seasoning is pushing it. Chimichurri would be heresy. I sort of admire that kind of purity in cooking. Get a good raw ingredient and don’t mess with it.

So, okay, I didn’t have the confidence to make a steak but I can make a damn good roast chicken thanks to the Zuni Cafe method (just Google it!).

You salt or brine the chicken overnight (I prefer to brine it, in a ratio of 4 cups water to 2/3 cup salt), then pat it dry, season it with pepper (I like fresh herbs at this point but the guest is king so I omitted them!), and preheat a cast iron skillet. You sear it on down in that skillet, chuck it in a hot oven, flip it periodically, and wait til it’s done.

And it’s per.fect. It’s the best roast chicken ever.

Being rather frazzled by the cooking, I told Steve he was a boy and therefore it was his job to carve the chicken. He did pretty well!

They also got a drizzling of the pan juices, slightly (but not excessively) defatted. Steve requested that I save him the chicken fat… since he loves it for cooking fried rice :D Though that was unfortunate cause then my elbow knocked over the chicken fat can and it was a whole… situation.

Anyway, beautiful chicken:

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All you young lovers seeking to impress the parents of your beloved, Zuni Cafe roast chicken is your best friend.

For a side dish, Steve had requested roasted kohlrabi but we couldn’t find any at any normal grocery stores (and hadn’t had the foresight to buy it at the farmer’s market a week earlier). Then he’d wanted me to make my brussels sprouts (which frankly made me more than a little nervous since hello?! So many people hate brussels sprouts!) but those were out too. So then he got asparagus. And I was like “Uh, I’m trying to cultivate an autumnal thing here.”

But he’d also bought potatoes, because he wanted a nice safety vegetable that he knew his parents would like. Meat and potatoes.

So I smiled sweetly, cut up potatoes, drizzled on some olive oil (from Steve’s toddler-sized container, good grief!), and just salt and pepper. While I was doing this, Steve nervously went, “Don’t add rosemary or anything, okay?” Yes, okay!

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They were good. Potatoes with… salt and pepper. Kind of nice to eat something so plain and comforting. And roasting potatoes is great because you get the richly flavored crispy outside and the tender inside.

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When the meat and potatoes were completed, I finally, FINALLY, got a little chance for some self expression. A constantly going hot oven meant space to roast, in batches, sliced butternut squash; sliced apples; and squash seeds soaked in Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder.

Over bitter greens, they made a pretty gorgeous salad.

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I also made a dressing that included olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire, soy sauce, honey, dijon mustard, and cinnamon. It was quite lovely.

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Annnnnnd because though I was cooking for meat and potato people, I myself am not actually eating meat right now for Advent, so I cooked up some tempeh, with onions and mushrooms and more of the butternut, and what I thought was a good idea, some leftover red wine. It was a terrible idea! It was OLD WINE! You have to TASTE THE WINE BEFORE YOU ADD IT! It almost ruined it but tons and tons and tons of ketchup helped get rid of the grodiness. It was not my finest work though.

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And so the table was laid; salad, dressing; leftover roasted butternut; sliced baguette; meat and potatoes, and tempeh.

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Wine to wash it all down: what the Trader Joe’s guy said would be good with chicken. (Actually, after tasting something and mentioning how I love wine from countries where they speak Spanish, we talked about the “cena para los padres de mi novio” and wine that is “buen con pollo”. I love when strangers speak Spanish with me, it’s so helpful!)

It is from a country where they speak Spanish, appropriately. I thought it was lovely. (And like $5!)

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Finally, for dessert, in keeping with the autumnal thing, apple crisp.

Steve had never had apple crisp before and had also never made pastry, and is a boy, so the whole “light touch” thing didn’t totally happen with making the crisp. More like “smash the butter into submission.” So the butter kind of melted through everything… Fortunately, this was fantastic!

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Unpictured: Vanilla Haagen Dasz :D

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Steve’s parents had just spent a bunch of time putting furniture into a trailer to move his sister’s stuff home from college and then driven from Philadelphia to DC, ultimately not arriving til around 10:30 at night. Honestly, I think anything would’ve tasted good! However, they seemed totally jazzed to eat this stuff :D

And, I can make some dang good meat and potatoes.

6 comments:

Colleen @ Jimmy Choos on the Treadmill said...

Sounds like quite the process, but I'm glad it turned out well! Crisp is my favorite for dessert!

Astra Libris said...

I'm sure Steve's parents were super impressed!! What a gorgeous feast!!

marie said...

I absolutely love apple crisp. And thanks for the chicken tip, I will have to check out that method.

Steven Alexander Heathcliff Basil Bert said...

Ileana, my Dad just read this with me and was laughing out loud, especially during the Tempeh retelling. It was a Captain Kirk, out-of-this-world incredible sort of meal. We finished every scrap of the chicken leftovers the next day for lunch.

By the way, the reclaimed chicken fat was oober amazing in a fried rice batch I made three days after your glorious meal.

Corrie Anne said...

Congrats!! What a beautiful meal!! :) That IS high stakes!

Doreen said...

We WERE impressed! It was a gorgeous & oh-so-delicious meal!! Anything BUT plain. Some of the tastiest chicken I've ever eaten, excellent salad & sides, and the apple crisp was a perfect finish.

You probably could have served us anything after our pack & drive experience, but you didn't...it was truly a delicious feast, with great food, great wine & great company. Thank you so much! We enjoyed it immensely!