Sunday, January 27, 2008

Winter Dinner Party

We had some friends over for dinner last night, so I got a chance to try some new recipes. When I started planning the menu this week, I knew I wanted to try something from the fantastic food blog, Last Night's Dinner. Jen does an amazing job both cooking and photographing her food - it's incredibly inspirational, and even more humbling.

To start, we had a basic antipasto platter with olives, some salami and dry sausage, and a few cheeses, including parmigiano reggiano and some fresh mozzarella.

The main course consisted of:

The main course for my dinner was this Hunter's-Style Chicken I found on Jen's blog. I changed it up a little bit, using red pearl onions instead of cipollinis, which I couldn't find. In place of the polenta, I made some large croutons that were coated in duck fat and rosemary and then baked for about ten minutes.

Hunter’s-Style Chicken

1 chicken (about 3 lbs.), cut into quarters, or an equivalent amount of skin-on parts of your choice
3 large garlic peeled garlic cloves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
Olive oil
1 cup dried porcini
1 cup hot tap water
12 small cipollini onions, peeled and trimmed
2 thick slices pancetta
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup white wine
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried oregano or marjoram
Several sprigs fresh thyme
Red chile flakes to taste

Arrange the chicken pieces on a platter and pat them dry. In a food processor or mini chopper, pulse the garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary, then add enough olive oil to form a thick paste. Rub the paste all over the chicken pieces and let them sit in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Place porcini in a bowl, cover with hot tap water and let them sit until the mushrooms are soft. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid and set aside. Strain the liquid to remove any grit and reserve.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat and add the chicken pieces in batches, allowing them to brown on all sides. When the last chicken pieces have been browned, remove them to a platter, discard the oil and any burnt garlic from the pot and return it to the heat. Add the pancetta and let it render and brown for a few minutes. Add the onions and porcini and a pinch of salt. Make a hot spot on the side of the pan and add the tomato paste, allowing it to cook for a minute or two before stirring it through.

Add the wine and let it come to a boil, then reduce the heat and add the reserved porcini liquid, the tomatoes with their juice, the oregano or marjoram, the thyme sprigs and the chile flakes. Stir well, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, then return the chicken pieces to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated on the platter. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 30 minutes or more, until the chicken is cooked through and very tender and the sauce is slightly thickened.

Serve chicken and sauce over soft polenta, garnishing with additional fresh rosemary or thyme if desired.

To go along with the chicken, I whipped up these amazing twice-baked potatoes. This was another idea from Last Night's Dinner, one that was made known to me when Jen commented on my steak night post and mentioned them. The key is the duck fat, which can be hard to find unless you've got a local butcher (something Clinton Hill really needs). I found mine at the Park Slope key food, after striking out at the Union Market on 6th.

What a Baked Potato
From Fergus Henderson’s “Beyond Nose to Tail”
Serves 4

4 large jacket potatoes
20 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
enough duck fat to cover the garlic
sea salt and black pepper

Bake the potatoes in a medium oven until soft to the squeeze. Meanwhile, put the garlic cloves into an ovenproof dish and cover with the duck fat. Cover the dish and put into a gentle to medium oven. Cook until the garlic is totally squishy, then remove from the oven and whiz the garlic and enough of the duck fat in a food processor to give a very loose paste.

Let the potatoes cool enough to handle, then cut them in half lengthways. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl and add the garlic and duck fat paste. Stir thoroughly. When they have combined forces, season and return to the hollow potato skins. Pop into a hot oven until golden brown.

The two vegetables were pretty simple recipes, the only really interesting bit being the pancetta in with the green beans.

Pancetta Green Beans
12 ounces green beans, trimmed

3 ounces pancetta,* coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon butter

Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water; cool 5 minutes. Drain. Transfer beans to paper towels and pat dry.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and sauté until crisp, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Increase heat to medium-high. Add butter to same skillet. Add beans and stir until heated through, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in pancetta.

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Olive Oil
2 bunches broccoli rabe
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
freshly ground black pepper (optional)
sea salt, to taste
Boil several quarts of water to boiling. Remove any tough or damaged outer leaves of broccoli rabe. Peel the thick, lower stems from the broccoli rabe. Tear the broccoli rabe into large pieces. Clean the broccoli rabe in a large amount of cold water until all dirt is removed.

When water is boiling, place broccoli rabe pieces in colander and pour boiling water over them to scald. Drain the broccoli rabe well and set aside. Meanwhile, heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper. Sauté the garlic until browned. Be careful not to burn the garlic! Add the broccoli rabe to the pan and toss to coat with the garlic/pepper mixture and heat through, around 2–3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

For wine, Mick made a run to Gnarly Vines and asked them to pick out a few bottles for us. With the antipasto, we had a Les Grandes Vignes Cotes Du Rhone 2006.

With the main course we alternated two bottles, a Palmina Dolcetto 2005 and a Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2006. Both were very good, the dolcetto especially.

The chicken was probably my favorite part of the meal, and it's a recipe I'll definitely be making again. There was plenty of sauce left over as well, and I'll be using it on some pasta very soon.


Color Me Green said...

This looks delicious! I wish I could have been at that dinner party. I agree that the Last Night's Dinner blog is fantastic, and your post has motivated me to try to make one of her recipes sometime soon.

Brian said...

Thanks! I wasn't too happy with the picture of the final plate, which I took in a rush because I was plating everyone's food while they were outside having a cigarette :) I wish I'd taken a shot of the whole table before everyone came back in as well.

Next time!

jenblossom said...

Yay! Sounds like a great night of food, drink and friends! So glad the recipes worked out for you!

Anonymous said...

I am really impressed. I think you are in the wrong line of work and shold consider starting aan underground restaurant.