Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Truly Historic Night

What a night. Men and women who were clinging to hopes that things would turn out exactly as they prayed stood next to each other with anxious countenance. All of the preparation and hard work would culminate in this moment; a moment that I will not soon forget. This was Tuesday, November 4, 2008 and we were making history. We were having our first dinner at Michele’s house. I’m sorry. Did you think I was talking about the election itself? Well, I have yet to begin “Louis loves politics” dot com. In fact, I found the last month of the election to be superfluous; I voted by absentee weeks ago. The opportunity to change my mind with a moving TV ad or last minute campaign revelation was long gone. Instead, I cooked.

Michele hosted but was reluctant to have our group dinner at her house. Not because she was ashamed of anything. On the contrary, she has a fantastic little house in Narragansett, just rock throwing distance from the beach. Reminiscent of Ina Garten’s Hamptons retreat, it is a perfect example of what a New England house should be. She was worried that her place was too small and her kitchen too inadequate. I guess she doesn’t cook much. Well just to set the record straight, there was plenty of room for the 7 of us and there was an extra place setting for Tim, who had a late conference call with Asia and couldn’t make it. As far as the kitchen goes, it was just fine. There was plenty of room for both Noel and I to work; and work we did. A couple of months ago I asked Noel to help me with the chopping to save time. Little did I know, he was an accomplished kitchen steward but more on that in a minute.

Since Michele was concerned that her kitchen was too bare bones to cook and I had not been there, I decided for just simple ingredients and easy preparation. I started with the idea of Cornish Game Hens with Rosemary and Goat Cheese. Aside form salt, pepper and a bit of butter for basting, the entire ingredient list is in the title. I thought it was delicious and this photo makes me think Patty liked it too.

The origin of these little birds dates back only to the middle of the past century. While more than one farm claims responsibility for initially breeding these little chickens, we can safely say that sometime in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the first Cornish Game Hens came out of the Northeastern US. The idea was to get a fantastic tasting meat but cut the maturation age of the bird down dramatically. Mission accomplished. Now I’ve cooked with these several times and they work exactly like chicken at about half the size. I typically serve half a bird per person. That has always seemed to work out. So if you enjoy roasted chicken, I suggest giving this little fowl a try.

I placed the roasted hen atop a bed of tiny French lentils cooked with strips of carrot and red onion. They were amazingly delicate and together embodied the type of dish you might take in front of a fireplace and enjoy. Unfortunately though, I found my butter roasted potatoes to be bland and undercooked but no one complained to my face. I like my friends. I will not mention them again.

Look what Noel did? OMG was this good!!

Typically I would just share the recipe with you now and be done with my post. However, Noel’s salad commands discussion. He took it from and I’ll adapt it for you below. Like me, Noel lives far from the Rhode Island office and in the back yard of his Tucson, Arizona home there is a Pomegranate tree. Carting along a few of these fantastic fruit with him, he chose to contribute to our meal with this. It was just perfect. Citrus and Pomegranate were made for each other and the vibrant red arils (seeds) are natures sweet-tart. I loved this salad and I will make it at home. I am learning much from my vegetarian friend.

So here was our election night menu. A new day is truly dawning.

All recipes serve 4.

Spinach, Tangerine and Fennel Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
(Adapted from website )

For the vinaigrette:

¼ cup arils from 1 large Pomegranate
⅓ cup olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
⅛ tsp cinnamon

For the salad:

1 cup Pomegranate juice
3 tangerines, peeled and separated into slices
¼ cup granulated sugar (optional)
4-5 cups fresh spinach leaves
½ cup thinly sliced fennel
¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
Fennel ferns for garnish

Score 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate under water to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve ¼ cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.) Place tangerines in a bowl with 1 cup pomegranate juice and sugar if desired. Allow to marinate 30 to 45 minutes. Drain tangerines; reserve ⅓ cup of the marinade for vinaigrette. Mix ⅓ cup reserved pomegranate marinade with the other vinaigrette ingredients and shake together in a tightly covered container. Divide spinach, fennel and red onion on 4 salad plates. Divide tangerine slices on salad and dress with 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette per serving. Garnish with fennel ferns.

The website recipe describes an alternative by making fresh juice from the arils. That’s what Noel did with this salad and it was amazing. I chose to share the shorter version. I have cooked with Pomegranate juice many times and I find it wonderful. You choose.

Cornish Game Hens with Rosemary and Goat Cheese

2 Cornish Game Hens
6 oz room temperature goat cheese
6 tbsp fresh Rosemary, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp (½ stick) butter (for basting)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Blend the Rosemary and goat cheese together in a bowl. Wash the hens and pat dry. Salt and pepper generously both inside and out. Working with your hands, lift up the skin of the hen around the breast and thighs to form a pocket. Work the goat cheese and Rosemary mixture into these pockets. This gets messy. Do not work about any of the cheese that gets into the bird or on the outside of the skin. This will only enhance the flavor. Place in a roasting pan and into the oven for an hour to an hour and a half until a meat thermometer reaches about 160 degrees. About half way through the oven time, baste with the melted butter.

Lentils with Carrot and Red Onion

1 cup dried lentils
4 medium carrots, peeled and cleaned
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste.

To make the lentils, follow the package directions on the bag that you purchase because they can vary. I bought these beautiful small French lentils at a specialty store and simply boiled them in salted water for about 30 minutes. Using a vegetable peeler, I whittled strips off the carrots and added both the carrots and the onions in the last 5 minutes of the cooking process. This leaves the individual flavors of the onion and carrot more pronounced. I liked it that way. Season as you like with salt and pepper.


Anonymous said...

That is a funny picture of an empty plate! RFS

Louis said...

except for the onion