Sunday, September 21, 2008

Good friends + good food = great weekend

This weekend Jeff came out from the city to help me do some long-overdue closet cleaning. The walk-in closet on the main level was such a mess that I was ready to scream. For some months it has been to the point that I am embarrassed for anyone to see it. I was so glad for the weather to warm up this spring so that visitors wouldn't have to hand me coats to hang up in there...because it would always work out that someone would be ready to leave and I wouldn't be right on hand, so they'd venture in themselves to try and retrieve their coat. How mortifying. So with the season starting to edge toward cooler weather, I decided it had to be addressed. And no one is a better organizer than Jeff. Thank God he's willing to help me out when I get into this kind of bind!

At any rate, Friday night, Jeff came out on the train and we all enjoyed an appetizer of chips and homemade salsa, and a nice dinner of crab cakes and baked marinated salmon with some green beans and carrots. Jeff and I also enjoyed some wonderful pear martinis that Jeff shook up. Wow, were those good.

On Saturday, I made pancakes for breakfast. Then we spent a good part of the day cleaning the closet while Jess went to the Bronx to photograph a rugby game. For lunch, we hit Chipotle because we didn't want to mess with cooking lunch and dinner. We did some shopping for dinner while we were out, as well as picked up some things we needed from Home Depot.

By Saturday evening, we were done with the closet and it looked fantastic. The only thing left to do was clean up the closet inside the closet, which is our pantry. That has also been a wreck for a number of months. It tends to get that way when you keep buying goods to put in it but run out of room, so you stack them wherever they fit. That job I saved for today, since I knew I could knock it out in about an hour with the larger closet cleaned up.

So Saturday afternoon, having eaten our lunch, we were working on shredding old documents and going through boxes. I threw a chicken on the stove to boil (salted water, 1 tsp. sugar, 3 ribs celery with leaves, 2 springs fresh rosemary, 10 peppercorns, two shakes of poultry seasoning, 1 medium onion, quartered, and two large carrots, cut in half lengthwise and then in half across). I have been craving homemade chicken and noodles for weeks (not soup - it's a thick dish of chicken with handmade noodles), and I had decided I would make those and a dish of puréed cauliflower "mashed potatoes"as a side. The cauliflower is a dish that Jess taught me to make a number of years ago, and it's really good. Once the chicken was finished cooking, I had a nice big pot of broth to work with. I drained off about 4 cups of it to cook the cauliflower in, and the rest would be used to cook the noodles for chicken and noodles. Jeff took the chicken off the bone while I made the noodles.

Throwing the finished noodles into the broth, they were boiled until they were almost done; then the chicken gets thrown back in and a flour slurry is used to thicken the broth to the desired consistency. When it's done, the chicken has fallen apart into thin shreds and the noodles are swimming in a delicious sauce.

Meanwhile, the cauliflower had finished cooking in the broth and was about ready to fall apart. Straining off the broth, the cauliflower went into the food processor and was puréed until very, very potatoes, except the consistency is a bit thinner. The purée was emptied into a small casserole dish, adding about a tablespoon of fresh chives and a pinch of rosemary and baked for about 30 minutes at 350 (which removes more of the water and gets them to a nice consistency). Jeff was very surprised by it..."it really doesn't taste like cauliflower!" You can dress it up with some sour cream, which we did, but it really didn't need it. The broth (esp. homemade!) gives it a nice flavor and creaminess that doesn't require butter or milk. You would never imagine puréed cauliflower would be good, but you'd be wrong.

While we were working on dinner, Jeff got creative with the bartending. As we had cleaned out the closet, we had to organize my rather large stash of Monin syrups, which included cherry, caramel, Sangria, peach and a few others. Side note: Monin makes the absolute best syrups you will ever use, for coffee, drinks, or whatever you're making. Do visit their store.

So Jeff shook up some cherry cosmopolitans using the Monin cherry syrup and some of my new favorite vodka, Tito's, and they were just killer. If you like vodka (Michelle, are you listening?) you have to try Tito's. I am a Ketel One and Grey Goose fan and Tito's beats them both hands down. And it's less expensive. What could be better? Don't believe me? Read the rave review at LiquorSnob and you will understand why you must try it. I am fairly certain you won't spend the money for Ketel One or Grey Goose ever again. Oh, and by the way, for you real snobs, it beats Chopin and Belvedere, too. Tito's is definitely the best.

The meal was fabulous as were the drinks, and we all came away stuffed. Plus there were plenty of leftovers of the chicken and noodles. The three of us ate our fill, with about two servings each, and still I had three quarts left, which I froze for another day.

Today, I sent Jeff home with a gallon of frozen chicken broth and a pint of homemade salsa. It was the least I could do for all his help!

Cherry Cosmopolitan
2 parts vodka
1 part Triple Sec or Cointreau
3 parts cranberry juice
twist of lime juice
1 part Monin Cherry syrup

Pour all into martini shaker with crushed ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glasses. Drink responsibly and always have a designated non-drinking driver.


At 5:48 PM, September 22, 2008, Blogger Michelle Ann said...

Hark? Did I hear "vodka" being uttered???? Me loves a weekend marked by cocktails. I will definitely have to take your vodka suggestion...after all, you can never have too much vodka.

At 6:59 AM, September 25, 2008, Blogger ATG said...

That meal sounds so delish!

I worked at a coffee shop in Chicago before where I was first introduced to the goodness that is Monin syrups. Totally love them! Way, way better than the Torani syrups that are too sugary.

At 7:36 AM, September 25, 2008, Blogger Marc said...

Michelle: you won't regret it!

ATG: Yep, I don't like the Torani syrups either. Too sugary and they just don't have the "real" flavor that Monin captures, esp. in the fruit flavors.

At 2:01 PM, September 27, 2008, Blogger Greg said...

Dang, got me all turned on with your narrative about chicken and sounds so freaking tasty!

I just love good basic foods like that!!

At 5:59 PM, September 30, 2008, Blogger Dantallion said...

I never thought that cauliflower could ever get my mouth watering - this I can't wait to try!


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