Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Like Granny Used to, But With More Booze...

It's funny -- SND has a huge email list. Some people come all of the time, some come occasionally, some come just a few times a year, and some have never been to dinner, but just like reading our emails. Then there are those who come for specific dishes.

Like Banana Pudding.

The mention of Banana Pudding in a Sunday Night Dinner invitation sends some of our invitees (who shall remain nameless) hurtling towards Astoria on the N train and sprinting to our door. I wonder why that is? Were we all separated from our birth families and their respective Sunday Dinners too soon?

And frankly, what could improve the super-comfort food that is banana pudding better than... bourbon?

Here's the invite:

Hello again Hungry Kiddies! Is it cold enough for you yet?

I never really had a Sunday Dinner tradition until I started dating a preacher's son. My family had special family dinner (read: my absolute favorite family member of all time, Great Grandma Joy came over with Papa Howard) on Monday nights because my dad was a chef and that was the night he had off. Sundays were reserved for time with dad-- he would do inventory at the restaurant and I would tag along, propped up at the bar with endless salted Peanuts and Shirley Temples. When you are 5 or 6 that is some sophisticated entertainment, let me tell ya.

Monday nights were dinner at our house, mom cooked and dad stood over her shoulder, not cooking but telling her what to do until she got so infuriated that she had to leave the kitchen, all burners on full bore, and my dad would finish it. (I hope I learned something from that) As she got older (she lived to 96!) Grandma Joy started insisting on peeling the canned green beans she brought, so that tended to keep her occupied. After dinner there were cups of hot tea with Grandma Joy, in china cups with little sugar lumps. I shudder to remember how many I used to put in. (five, anyone???) When I met Brad his family did the full on Sunday After Church Meal. Dona would toss the beef or pork roast and scalloped potatoes into the oven right before they left for church, and how burned it was when you got home depended on how many people insisted they had to talk to you at coffee hour.

Ahhhhh..... Sundays. Well this Sunday, we will have an old school Sunday Dinner, with foods you most likely grew up eating on Sundays. (or if you were me, Mondays). Please note that it is an early one-- that is easiest for you kids who have real jobs to get up the next morning bright eyed and bushy tailed.


Brandied Chicken Liver Crostini (Ok, so we didn't have this growing up, but it is gooood...)
Artichokes and Greens Stew
Commando Style Roast Chickens Rubbed with Salt and Garlic
Potatoes Fried in the Dripping Chicken Fat
Escarole Salad with Garlic-Ass Lemon Dressing (I had this at John Dory last week and am a woman obsessed)
Green Peas With Mint and Butter
Stewed Spicy Chick Peas (ok, we never had this either, but it reminds me of something GH used to make at Prune and it sounds really good right now)
Karl's Banana Pudding... with Bourbon!

The initial plan was to cook the chickens "Commando Style," an ingenious method that Peter introduced to me years ago. It involves cooking a chicken (or duck) directly on the oven rack with potatoes slowly roasting into crispy goodness in a pan below, as the chicken fat (or duck fat, good gawd) drips over them. Of course, Karl had been telling me all along that there was "no fucking way" I was going to get four chickens to fit on my oven rack.

I kept blithely putting him off, saying, "Oh, of course they'll fit!" and truly believing it. Visionary or crazy? Uh... this may have been the watershed moment when I gave up all hope of being called visionary... Indeed, Karl's prophecy was fulfilled, and my plan for Commando-style Chicken for twenty went into the quagmire, with no exit strategy in sight...

But wait! Duck fat to the rescue!

I tossed the potatoes in duck fat, sliced lemons, garlic and rosemary leaves, and roasted them until crispy brown.

The chickens went into roasting pans, and the last straggler who couldn't fit was poached on the stovetop. Hooray for improvisation!

Even the lonely little poached chicken got as much love as the crispy skinned ones.

There was Brandied Chicken Liver Paté.

(Hint -- LOTS of butter, and more brandy than I thought there would be.) I was trying to recreate the insanely delicious stuff at Convivio. I came close, (it was great!) but it wasn't as good. I think they must finish it with a sweet dessert wine? Chef White? Want to weigh in?

The dressing for the escarole was tossed in the blender like an aioli. Start with one egg and 1 additional yolk, a handful of garlic cloves and a pinch of salt. Blend. Squeeze in a little lemon, a few anchovies, pour in olive oil and blend until it makes the mayonnaise sound. (See: Fergus Henderson listening to the mayo.)

The Artichokes and Greens Stew was straight from Gourmet magazine. Fucking Excellent idea and super springy tasting. Baby artichokes, trimmed slightly and braised with bitter greens in stock with lemon and garlic.

Chickpeas stewed with spices and tomatoes was also out of a magazine... Food and Wine? Gourmet? Saveur? Hmmm... why can't I remember? Anyway, it ROCKED.

Heat olive oil, add ground coriander, cumin, ginger and cinnamon stick and cook until fragrant. Add chili flake, can of tomatoes, and stew for 20 minutes, then add a can of chickpeas. Finish with chopped mint and parsley.

The bowls went out to the slavering masses and returned empty again less than 3 minutes later! Talk about a hit! I ended up making it twice more the following week.

And, finally, Karl's Banana Bourbon pudding, replete with off-brand, ghetto Nilla Wafers. Somehow, even better than the "real" ones... Enjoyed by all.

Apparently, they're a Southern Baking Tradition...

Just like your granny used to do it.... but with more booze. And, on a Sunday.


beebe said...

Best meal I've had in Queens hands down. Brooklyn too. And probably Manhattan as well. Certainly the best hostess.

Zora said...

That's funny--I had been wondering how you'd fit all those chickens in there...

Tamara Reynolds said...

Thank you much Jeff! And indeed, the max # of Chickens you can fit in my oven, on one rack is 4, and even then they are pretty tight.
Maybe I should have paid more attention in geometry?