(Belated) Feliz Cumpleaños, Señor P!

Steak and Hysteria

Today (when written) is the dashingly well-dressed Mr. P’s birthday, and a great man deserves a great dinner. We discovered our new favorite way of eating steak several weeks ago via Epicurious, and having served the slices over beds of spring mix or arugula several times, I’m ready to plate this bad Larry up piping hot. There’s a fifty per cent chance I’ll be laying the strips over Puerto Rican white rice, but if that fails miserably, which it does every other time I make it, I’ll pull out a box of Near East pilaf. I anticipate that the combination of glazed shallots over white rice will be silencingly delicious, and I know of three little mouths that simply must stop making noises simultaneously for a full ten minutes at some point soon, lest our family be spotlit during local news.

Logic suggests that twin one-year-olds would experience less separation anxiety than singletons, but my girls are determined to defy everything from sleep to the laws of physics, so it fits that I can’t cross a threshold without triggering a complex dual alarm system. Aside from the dimensional portal that clearly opens when I walk away from them into the kitchen, I have no idea what exactly they think I’m doing during my tiny increments out of their sight. I can run a stack of laundry up the stairs, calling to them for the entire twenty seconds, but their wails start even before I’ve opened the door to the hall. Lately the tone of their reproach has been more wrathful than fearsome, so I suspect they picture some sort of flash party takes place, with a drop-down disco ball, anonymous dancers, and my top drawer pulled out and spilling over with candy. Most baffling, they aren’t even confined most of the time they spend screaming at me to stay; all they need do to avoid theoretical abandonment is follow me. Alas, my children appear to be wealthy estate owners trapped in a middle-class household, but they refuse to accept they don’t get a paid staff.

Normally I try to tie everything up neatly in the third paragraph, but I have a cake to frost, a table to set, and Sally the Slugger’s hitting someone with her mallet while loudly working on her first phrase: “bring it me.”

I needed a win.

Stolen Chicken

Mrs. Pena is back in the saddle. I’ve been repeatedly browsing a site I stumbled upon a few weeks ago, and in spite of my recent and concerning spike in dinner misses, this evening I mustered up some fortitude, selected a recipe based on an attractive photo, and was indescribably relieved with the breathtaking final result. That said, some last-minute finagling and adjustments were vital, and I’ll admit it was touch-and-go at one point. My version did not resemble the referenced photo; it was darker with a richer sauce — more rustic (here I’m applying the ironic Pottery Barn definition). Obviously, I suggest you go with the following recipe versus the linked. I also concede that Mr. P is right; this web log does indeed need photos.

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 oz cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 C chopped shallots
3 tbsp finely chopped sage
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 1/4 C heavy whipping cream
1 C dry vermouth
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey (Mr. P saved the day with this addition)
salt and pepper

Pound the chicken with a meat tenderizer (a rolling pin works in a pinch, but get the disinfectant bath ready) to a thickness anywhere between 1/3″ and 1/2.” Salt and pepper the breasts on both sides, then put them on a plate, set it aside, and attend to the tiny chicken particles all over your counter and surrounding cupboards.

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat, add the shallots, and saute for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have softened, about 7 minutes. Evidently, cremini mushrooms have a much lower water content than the standard white button, so if you haven’t used them before, don’t freak out when they won’t caramelize the same way. Leave the burner on and transfer the entire mixture to a bowl.

Immediately put the olive oil in the pan, give it a few seconds to heat up, and add the chicken. If necessary, cook it in shifts and transfer finished breasts to a plate in the oven at 250. The breasts should take about 4 minutes per side, but always sneak a test-slice when in doubt.

Once all the chicken is relaxing in the oven (and I didn’t direct you to turn off the burner), pour in the vermouth and deglaze the pan with a spatula. Slowly pour in the cream while stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk until the color is consistent. Add the mushroom mixture back in, as well as the sage and honey, and bring the sauce to a moderate boil, stirring frequently. Don’t worry if it seems too boozy just yet, as it will reduce over the next 10 minutes, thickening nicely and losing a good deal of the alcohol taste. Wait until the sauce is basically done before adding salt and pepper, since you won’t get a real sense of the flavor until then.

Plate up the chicken and top generously; I find egg noodles to be fantastic vehicles for sauce supplementation. If it’s vegetable day, I’d recommend baby carrots steamed with butter and thyme. It was, in fact, vegetable day for us, and I found them wonderfully palatable.

Gooseneck Revisited

Better Late than Never Goose Gravy

I wasn’t going to share this with you before successfully executing it twice, but after slamming it right out of the polo field on Christmas, I’m going to introduce you to one of the most wealthy-tasting sauces you’ve ever experienced. Mr. S noted the absence of fruit from the goose gravy recipe after the introductory post. When Mr. S gives you a note, you would be well advised to read heavily into it. So I began digging, and found an encouraging recipe on epicurious for Roast Goose with Oranges and Madeira. My only knowledge of this Portuguese wine is that everyone’s out of it at Christmas. So, I substituted a Cabernet Sauvignon in the first round, which yielded a wincingly acidic and tart sauce. For the big day, I used a Port, and the resulting sauce was so enchanting that I doubt I’ll ever try with the elusive Madeira. I won’t include goose preparation in this entry, as I stuck to these directions. I don’t know how goose neck wound up being the most magical ingredient ever, but I do not suggest attempting this with any other gullet. I’ve altered the epicurean recipe slightly, since I stuffed my goose with pork stuffing instead of shallots and oranges. Otherwise, this would be embarrassingly redundant.

1 goose neck
3 shallots, sliced into thin rings
1 1/2 C + 1/3 C + 2 tbsp Port
1 small orange, peeled and sectioned
4 C low-sodium chicken broth
1 C freshly-squeezed orange juice (do it!)
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cornstarch
salt and pepper

In a medium pan, heat the butter over medium-high until frothing subsides, then throw in the neck. You want to cook it for 5 minutes, and turn it once halfway through; otherwise, don’t touch. Ding! Leave the neck in the pan and throw in the shallots, saute for a few minutes until they’re tender. Add 1 1/2 C Port and the orange sections, and boil it down to 1/3 what you started with. Then add the chicken stock and orange juice and boil it for about 45 minutes to end up with 2 C of stock. Pour it through a strainer into a medium bowl, wrap it up, and stick it in the fridge until a few minutes before your goose is cooked.

Pour the stock into a medium saucepan about 5 minutes before you’re ready to take the bird out of the oven and set it over low heat. Once you relocate the goose, put the roasting pan (fat poured off) on a burner set to low heat, and pour in 1/3 C Port. Stir it over the entire pan and scrape up any sticky bits, then add the contents of the roasting pan to the stock. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 2 tbsp of Port, then pour that into the saucepan and give it a good whip. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in 2 tbsp honey. Taste and adjust accordingly, then simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency; I gave mine 5 minutes.

A word to the wise: this sauce is extremely mauve, which is a lovely color given the right background. When selecting your tableware, try to stick with whites or eggshells; a bolder colored plate could result in a presentation misinterpreted as a dare.

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