Sunday, March 25, 2007

Liquid Refreshment for Four, Oh, And Dinner Too

Barefoot Contessa - Dinner and a Movie
Frozen Blood Orange Margarita
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Ice Cream Bombe
Moroccan Couscous

For recipes:
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Ina's preparing dinner for some guy friends, before they watch a fabulous French movie. Je voudrais venir.

I.G. starts with an ice cream bombe – Ooh, one of my all time favorite desserts from “From Julia Child’s Kitchen” days. This is when that set of stainless steel mixing bowls will come in handy. Or for LK, my sister-in-law, that adorable set of melamine gorgeously colored bowls I gave her would be perfect too. (Oh, how I wanted to keep them).

Ina’s making her own mango sorbet, do it, you’ll like it. If you just can’t face it or you’re in a time crunch, use Sharon's Sorbet. Ina finishes the mixture and then refrigerates it. When it’s fully chilled, she will put it in her ice cream machine. Should you go out and buy one just for this recipe? YES! They are great fun to have and then you won’t have to live your life saying, “I can’t make this, I don’t have an ice cream machine”.
You may think that you’ll use it once and it will just take up valuable cupboard space. Well, you’re a grownup and it’s up to you to use it more. How about making every Sunday HOMEMADE SORBET DAY? How about for their birthdays the kids get to choose what kind of ice cream they want to make? How about when Granny comes over, you remind her of her Georgia youth and serve freshly made peach ice cream? How about….You get the idea. Get one and USE IT.

Cocktail Time!!! It is 8 in the morning, but never mind. Just look at the color of the blood orange juice, she’s using. One of her guests said let’s have blood orange margaritas and Ina was happy to oblige. I imagine that if they said let’s have scrambled egg martinis, she’d find a way to do it. Our Contessa never crossed a cocktail she didn’t like, or couldn't improve upon with some fabulous fresh squeezed juice. She proceeds to blenderize the drinks. I like that she gives an actual measurement for the ice. So much handier than “fill up to the top with ice.” (And she wouldn’t want to dilute the booze too much.) “Blood orange margaritas are ready, whenever we are, which is always.” Wadge yuuuu say, Cahntessa, I’m a feelin’ a lil woozy.

The chilled mango mixture goes into the ice cream machine to be transformed into sorbet. Ina has a particularly nice ice cream machine. Mine is from the 20th century and still requires ice and salt. With Ina’s, you just put the mixture in the container and you’re all ready to go. THAT’S the kind to get.

She’s molding the sorbet in a GLASS bowl. I always bombe in stainless steel (notwithstanding the advice to LK about using those stunning bowls.) ALERT: For some inexplicable reason, Ina doesn’t tell us to line the bowl with plastic wrap before putting in the mango sorbet. And at the end she has to dip the whole thing in hot water to unmold it. Save yourself that heartache and possible heart break. Line the bowl with plastic wrap and then put in the mango sorbet. All that will be required at the end is to unleash the bombe using the plastic wrap. If you think the outside has a wrinkled appearance from the plastic wrap, just use a hot knife to go over it.

Chicken gets started. We all know James Beard’s
Chicken With 40 Cloves Of Garlic. Yes, he really did use 40 cloves of garlic and so will Ina, and so should you.

We have a momentary time-out from Ina’s kitchen. Friend Jack has been assigned the task of buying popcorn. How nerve wracking! Jiffy Pop won’t exactly do. He’s buying MICROWAVE popcorn!!! Sacre Bleu! I wanna see Ina flip her lid, especially after she’s had a few of those cocktails ... as if…

Back to the chicken. She dries it and salts and peppers it. Browns it in butter and oil. 40 cloves go in. Cooks it for 10 minutes on low. 2 tbls Cognac are added. I approve of that. Cognac is yummy. 1 ½ cups of white wine. She advises us to only cook with wine we would drink. (Read this article. I always cook with crummy wine I have in the fridge or really good wine that I never finished.) Chicken goes back in and she cooks it on top of the stove for 30 minutes. This is a change from James Beard’s method. He made a big deal about covering the pot tightly with foil and THEN the lid and cooking it undisturbed in the oven. Of course, his recipe calls for 3 times the amount the fat and only dark meat and takes 1 ½ hours. I would highly recommend that sometime in your lifetime, you try BOTH of these recipes. They are a revelation about how sweet garlic can become after being braised without a hint of browning.

The bombe must be dealt with. The mango sorbet has been freezing in an 8 inch bowl with a 6 inch bowl pressed on top of it. Remove 6 inch bowl and put in the raspberry sorbet as second layer. Cover with plastic wrap. Now press in a 4 ½ inch bowl to keep the bombe shape. Refreeze and we’ll be adding the last layer soon.

Couscous is up. To tell you the truth, I don’t like the idea of couscous with this dish. JimB always said to serve it with French bread, which you can squeeze the luscious sweet garlic onto. Ina says the couscous will absorb the flavor of the dish. Ok, maybe, but I’d like something heartier – the bread or Giada’s Smashed Parmesan Potatoes (without the parmesan).

The chicken is cooked. Ina removes it from the pot and sets it aside. Takes ½ cup of liquid from the pot (with garlic cloves or not) and adds 2 tbls. flour to it. Stir VERY WELL. We cooking types call this a
slurry. It’s a very useful technique to know when you’re trying to thicken anything from a beef stew to the Thanksgiving gravy at the last minute. Make sure to bring the mixture up to the boil for about 3 minutes after adding the slurry. Ina adds another tablespoon of cognac, so we can really taste it in the finished dish. Yay! And 2 tbls. of cream. I have never met a tablespoon of cream I didn’t like, but I just don’t think this dish needs it. She HAS relinquished a lot of fat that James uses at the BEGINNING of the recipe, so I guess she’s just adding it at the end, but feel free to include it out. The way James finished his Chicken with 40 cloves of Garlic was to open the pot … and … serve.

Last layer of bombe gets added, strawberry ice cream. Back in the freezer.

The guys have arrived. The margaritas gets served. “Ooh, some chicken with our garlic”, as the main course is unveiled. Dessert is unmolded. It looks extraordinary.

Ina gives the boys a choice. They vote for poker in lieu of a French film. Bon idée. They better watch their hostess carefully. Why do I think that the Contessa, so clever in culinary matters, will pull a full house out of her back pocket, just when she needs it?... Kind of like a bombe from the freezer in a moment of gastronomic crisis.

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