This has been one of the snowiest winters in my recent memory. Not only does it feel like it’s snowing endlessly, every snowstorm seems to dump another foot of snow on us. The banks on either side of our driveway and our front yard are four to six feet high. There’s really nowhere left for more snow.
During last weekend’s snow storm, I made this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie: Chicken Couscous. This warm and hearty stew was the perfect fare for a snowy blowy day. First, chicken thighs are sautéed with a fragrant spice mix made from turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, ginger, and cumin. The turmeric and saffron turns everything a lovely yellow hue. Then a slew of vegetables and broth are added to the pot to simmer until everything is tender. Chick peas are the finishing touch. The stew is served over couscous, which is cooked in the lovely-colored broth from the chicken pot.
The recipe is meant to serve four, but we typically eat small portions of meat. That means eight pieces of chicken translate to eight servings at my house. To ensure that every bowl made a meal, I doubled the vegetables and the chick peas. The balance was perfect for us. Also, I omitted the zucchini because someone doesn’t like that particular vegetable. I had the best intentions of making some quick harissa and adding some raisins to my bowl, but we enjoyed the chicken, veggies, and broth ladled over couscous with no further adornments.
Next time I make this, I will skin, bone, and chop the chicken into chunks. Because the chicken was braised, the skin was not crispy and so wouldn’t be missed in my book. Also, I really disliked having to cut the chicken off the bone as I ate. It would have been more appealing be able to eat this with just a fork (or a spoon) and not have to deal with the knife. Maybe that’s because I served the chicken couscous in wide shallow bowls, and I feel like knifes and bowls aren’t naturally compatible.
Last weekend, before the snowstorm, we saw The Second Girl at the Huntington Theatre and finally checked out Bar Boulud, which opened at the Mandarin Oriental hotel here in Boston last fall. This was our third attempt to go. We had to cancel our reservations the last two times we planned to go. Third time’s the charm, and it was well worth the wait. I adore bistro food. We started with a charcuterie platter with the chef’s choice of pâtés, sliced meats, and pickles. I think I’m glad I didn’t know exactly what was on it, because I tasted head cheese for the first time. It was delicious, though I doubt I would have willingly tried it if it had been clearly identified. It was our favorite item on the platter, so we asked what it was when we finished it off. Then we shared a salade Lyonnaise with sautéed chicken livers along with the traditional lardons and egg on top. We finished with cassoulet. Oh, and dessert. Howard had chocolate ice cream, of course, and I had a tarte Basque, garnished with brandied cherries. Oh la la!
As I write this, we’re waiting for yet another storm tomorrow. We were supposed to go to Maine, but now I’m looking forward to a weekend homebound with my sweetheart. I’ve laid in supplies for cooking a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner followed by other hearty fare for the rest of the weekend.
Wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day!
One of the highlights of the weekend at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle was the Saturday Surprise Supper sponsored by UrbanSpoon. Bloggers were randomly assigned to groups. We only knew the neighborhood we were heading to. Our actual destinations weren’t revealed until we were on our way in the bus.
Being from out of town, I am unfamiliar with the Seattle restaurant scene. I am aware of the Tom Douglas empire because I’ve browsed, bought, and cooked from some of his cookbooks. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue. If I were a local, I’d know that dining at a John Howie restaurant would be a special treat!
My group arrived at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle. John Howie himself welcomed us to dinner. We were seated in the elegant private dining room to enjoy our 5-course Chef’s Tasting Menu.
The meal started with an amuse bouche: a skewer of pickled vegetables: fennel, caperberry, and locally foraged chanterelles. A week ago, I’d never eaten chanterelles before, but after a week in Seattle, I’ve had them three times. Sauteed, roasted, and now pickled. I’ll always think of them as a Pacific Northwest delight.
I’m still learning about pairing wines with food. In a restaurant, I’d typically order a glass of wine I like and drink it throughout a meal regardless of what I’m eating. A tasting menu with wine pairings is a fun lesson to learn what really goes with what. At the Seastar dinner, the sommelier Paige introduced a different wine with each course. And so the tasting menu begins…
The first course was Pacific Northwest Albacore ‘Crudo’. This is the same fish that we’re all familiar with in a can, but because it was ultra fresh, the tuna was raw, in the style of sashimi, but sliced extremely thin. The fish was garnished with avocado, roasted and dehydrated corn kernels, sprigs of micro cilantro, and a chili vinaigrette. My favorite flavor in this dish was the intense nutty taste of the dehydrated corn. Accompanying this starter course, Paige poured us a glass of bubbly, in this case, Roederer Estate Brut from the Anderson Valley in California.
More fruits of the sea followed. We enjoyed a Seared Diver Scallop on a bed of golden beet carpaccio, topped with arugula and a black truffle vinaigrette. Beets are one of my favorite vegetables, and I loved the paper-thin sweet slices this dish was built on. To sip along with the scallop, we drank a glass of Joesph Drouhin Macon-Village from France. Unfortunately, my picture of this course was too blurry to do it justice, so you’ll just have to imagine it.
The middle course was a substantial piece of Alaskan Halibut wrapped in pancetta. The plate was coated with a tomato coulis topped with a bed of tiny Beluga lentils studded with roasted mushrooms. The roasted fish came next, with a garnish of micro basil and basil oil. This hearty course was accompanied by a glass of Stoller Pinot Noir from Dundee Hills, Oregon. The wine was light enough not to overpower the fish, but heavy enough to hold its own.
After a scoop of a cleansing sorbet made with berries and port, we moved away from the sea. Who can resist a filet mignon poached in butter? The tender steak was accompanied by a cheesy croquette and more mushrooms cooked in a cognac demi glace. A Mark Ryan Merlot from the Columbia Valley of Washington, which was made especially for John Howie, was hearty enough to stand up to the rich meat and potatoes.
Finally, for dessert, we enjoyed an apple turnover topped with a scoop of buttermilk ice cream, sprinkled with Beecher’s aged white cheddar, and drizzled with a maple caramel sauce. The apple pastry was more tart than sweet, bringing the meal to a comforting close. I was introduced to Sauternes for the first time. Again, though a dessert wine, it wasn’t overly sweet and matched the turnover’s apple flavors.
If you live in Seattle, Seastar should go on your list of restaurants for celebrating a special occasion. The elegant atmosphere, sophisticated food, and impeccable service worked together to create an unforgettable evening.
* Disclosure: Urbanspoon hosted my dinner at Seastar. However, the opinions expressed in this post represent my sincere and honest thoughts about my meal and the venue.