Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Sabbatical Chef rides again!

No, silly, I do not mean bull-riding on the bull in downtown Durham.
And I absolutely do not mean taking on this black bull either.  Absolument pasPas moi.  I will leave that to the cute young mecs dressed in white who chase them around the arenas in southern France in the courses camaguaises.
I mean that I was recently back in the kitchen, someone else's kitchen actually, disguised as the Sabbatical Chef, wrapped in my white-ish apron.   This evening had been in the works for a while, but it's just not easy to get a group of busy adults together for dinner.  It finally came down to a group of senior parents on prom night.
Look at these handsome boys!  Just had to slip that one in...  especially since three of the parents were at the dinner party, two in the kitchen and one a "real" guest.
Anyway, Chef Doug finally found one night when his guests could come for dinner.  Let the planning begin!  First an initial planning session at Wine Authorities.  Then a second one at Bull City Burger and Brewery.  You can't just let these things happen by chance, you know.  It takes planning, with a nice glass of wine or a freshly brewed beer thrown in for inspiration, n'est-ce pas?
Shopping day was my kind of fun.  (It involved great food and spending someone else's money!)  We started out at the Saturday Durham Farmers' Market where we bought goat cheese from Dave of Elodie Farms.  I only sampled twice-- oui, only twice, I promise.  He had fresh bread and his creamy fresh goat cheese-- who could resist? (certainly not a certain Frenchie I know who had a sandwich for breakfast from Dave's tome a couple of weeks ago) We bought tomatoes, too, from Sunny Slope and salad greens from another vendor.  We needed chickens, but it was a bit too early for Dave's and Fickle Creek was out by the time we got there.  After a few turns around the market, it was off to Whole Foods on Ninth Street for some serious shopping.  We filled our cart with haricots verts (or mange-tout as one of the guests who grew up in Montréal called them), cheeses, freshly baked bread, mushrooms, black olives, chicken breasts (bone-in), onions, potatoes, garlic, pink lady apples and anchovies.
Final stop-- Wine Authorities where we bought all colors-- white Picpoul de Pinet, red 2009 Domaine de Brau Pinot Noir and pink Domaine Pinchinat Rosé.
We met in the kitchen around 4:00 pm to get going.  But in the meantime, Chef Doug sent several photos to my phone of the prep work.  How I love technology!
Chopping onions, putting the olives, capers and anchovies through the food processor, steaming the haricots verts, peeling and slicing potatoes, slicing tomatoes (and sending Chef Doug's wife out to the supermarket for more when I realized I hadn't bought enough... thanks, ET), toasting the sliced baguettes, chopping bunches of parsley and cloves of garlic.  These were my tasks.  I was so happy.  Me and my favorite knife. And my trusted assistante and BFF.

Chef Doug was master of the chicken.
He slid this wonderful concoction under the skin,
grilled it and finished it off in the oven.  Heavenly.  Seriously moist.
But I am getting ahead of myself...
We started with tapenade à la Fanny,
champagne (after all, we were celebrating the pending graduation of our young'uns) and rosé.  My tomato tart looked pretty, but the crust turned out kind of soggy and it was hard to get it out of the baking dish.  Hélas

Need to keep working on this.  (Not a problem--  I can live off the trial and errors this summer while tomatoes are in full season.)
The call to à table brought the finished plates, filled with Chef Doug's chicken,

haricots verts au persillade,
gratin dauphinois potatoes covered with cream, freshly ground nutmeg and gruyère cheese,
and tomates farcies.
In true French fashion, next came the salad course, chèvre chaud, warm goat cheese, my personal favorite, with a simple vinaigrette and Provence lavender honey drizzled on the goat cheese.
Cheeses were next.  Brie, affinois, bleu, and Bloomin' Decadence from Hillsborough Cheese Company.

Dessert time.   My assistante is becoming quite well-known around town for her tarte tatin.  She just happens to have the perfect pan and perfect plate to make this.  And she did learn to make it in Chef Érick's kitchen in Arles in 2007.  Served with freshly whipped cream, it was a great way to finish the meal.
The parents stayed up almost as late as the prom-goers, sitting outside on the patio with a fire roaring in the fireplace.  We didn't say our goodnights until around 1:30 am.  Quite honestly, I didn't stay up that late after my senior prom back in '76.  What an evening.
It reminded me of cooking lessons in Arles... and the painting in Chef Doug's living room made me feel right at home.

Bon appétit et merci, Chef Doug!

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