Whisk in Whimsy: Random Thoughts and Recipes
Charlie’s Mud Fudge Pie
January 28, 2011
Rich, dark, and instantly satisfying, chocolate is a salve to the senses. For headaches, a steamy cup of hot cocoa revitalizes. For a small party of friends, brownies are most comfortable. For birthdays, my mom’s Death by Chocolate Cake is the best. In my experience, however, the most loving gift to friends is Charlie’s Mud Fudge Pie.
January 26, 2011
First, you gently take four tender chicken breasts. Roll them until they are long and slender. Massage them gently with salt, pepper, and garlic. Brown them in a pan of olive oil. For extra flavor, pour in some lemon juice.
Next, you slice up the tomatoes and garlic. Brown the garlic in the olive oil until the scent paints your eyes with visions of the south of France. Add twenty-four pitted black olives. Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle on finely chopped bay leaves.
Voilà le poulet à la Provençale!
We all know that I am no Julia Childe. However, it would be a lie to say that this was not a sensual pleasure. Since my trip to Meylan last year, my appreciation for French food has deepened into a wonderful love affair.
Meals are beautiful rituals comprising of fruits of the spirit-love, joy, peace, and patiece. Maybe that is why French food is loved around the world and held in such holy reverence! Carefully, the chef touches his ingredients with respect, patiently organizing and, best of all, tasting. He is not abrupt, nor distracted. His full attention is focused on the art of his cuisine.
He may or may not follow the recipe to its exactness. He is an artist, a master at his trade. Allowing texture and taste to guide him, even the chef is subject to the mystery of his masterpiece. His sole desire is to bring pleasure to the diner.
The diner, especially one with a meticulous palate, waits patiently for the chef. There is no hurry. Life is good. He either enjoys the conversation of a good friend or simply basks in the sweet art of doing nothing. He knows that the preparation of his meal is a delicate matter, and he will wait leisurely for the satisfaction of having a meal perfected to his personal enjoyment.
The meal comes. It is beautiful. It is exquisite. The meat is tender and moist. The diner does not even need to use his knife. Contentedly, he takes the first bite.
The savory juices linger in his mouth, exciting his tongue. And he knows without a doubt that he will be having dessert.
COQ AU VIN
A proper supper takes careful preparation. This is a fact which the French know well.
After dad resigned and mom took on extra work, I began cooking supper. At first, I prepared a very simple meal which consisted of grilled chicken, buttered and seasoned in cinnamon and nutmeg. There were mashed sweet potatoes as a side and some other vegetable which has escaped my memory. I would go on to make pork chops, fried chicken, and my own special spaghetti.
Then yesterday evening, under the haze of Benadryl, a long stretch of blue caught my eye. It was dad’s French cookbook, the one he has yet to use. If there is not something magical about a clean book of recipes, photographs of Coq au Vin tempting the chef-daring, teazing-then I don’t know what is.
I have had French food before. We had eaten crêpes in Paris. I once ate ratatouille with my French tutor and his family. A French friend had once prepared a remarkable dish of braised potatoes, or something to that effect. There’s something warm and sweet about French food. There’s a pinch of garlic, a dash of nutmeg, a drop of wine, and fresh butter or cream. It is absolutetly tantalizing.
France is known to have the finest cuisine in the world. Every chef wants to study there, every artist wants to work there. There is something about the food which makes everything so romantic.
Yesterday evening, then, I decided to prepare Coq au Vin. I will be going to the French Alps in a few weeks, and I thought that I should get into the French spirit.
Americans make food. The French prepare it. Their cuisine requires articulation, carefulness, patience, and intuition. If cooked for too long or too short amount of time, the food loses its flavor.
It is exceedingly easy to fry a chicken the way we do in the South, until it is crispy and golden, but it was not as easy to gently cook the cuts of chicken over the stove until it was a light champagne color, and take it away from the heat. At the same time, I sautéed chopped onions and potatoes in olive oil and butter. Then I combined them all into a large, blue casserole, and poured three cups of cooking wine on top, covering the casserole to let the juices simmer together for an hour.
The result was one of the most delicious things which I have ever put into my mouth. The meat was wonderfully tender. Of course, and the flavor was exquisite. A pinch of garlic. A dash of nutmeg. A drop of wine. And fresh, creamy butter.
Today, I woke up with full intentions on spending the day doing the thing I love most, writing. Yesterday, I had gone to Starbucks, sat in a shady corner next to a lady in a tulip yellow dress who was reading Saints of Africa. I wrote into my new story and noticed my friend make the sign of the cross every few minutes.
I can’t brag of doing much today. I made pancakes for breakfast, not the kind that you pop into the microwave after rummaging through the freezer until your fingers go raw, but the real pancakes. I mixed in the flour, and the salt, and the baking powder, and the sugar, and the milk, whisking it into a thick cream until it was ready to be poured onto the gridle.
For the rest of the day, I did nothing, much to my annoyance. Nothing fancied me. Nothing amused me. After watching a documentary on Japanese culture, I realized that I had finally become pitiful.
We ate crawfish pie for dinner, and I fixed a delectable-if I do say so myself-blueberry buckle. Do you know what that is? Well, I shall attempt to describe it to you.
It began with me mixing sugar, slightly melted butter, and egg together into a silver bowl. The sweetness was so strong, I could smell it as the colors turned into a warm orange. Then came the earthy smells of flour and baking powder, salt, and milk, forcing my little creation into a nicely thick dough. Folding blueberries gently into the dessert, it was ready for the seal of heat that would grant it perfection.
Fifty-five minutes later, I had started the dishwasher, noticed the stains on my apron, finished off the glaze which was to be drizzled atop my masterpiece, and read a chapter of a book.
Mmm. Do you smell it? That delicious aroma of hot blueberries, butter and sugar, along with the tantalizing temptation of bread? Well, perhaps I could have accomplished more today, but, now, I think it was very well indeed.