Birthday Breakfast, Lunch & Movie: On Friday, I met Cheryl and Saundra for a birthday lunch at Laurus, Blackhawk. While we were perusing the menu, Jennie, Laurus' manager, sent us a sampler of their Crab/Lobster Sliders. Wow...definitely worth ordering if you go there. In the end, we chose the chicken panini and the burger -- both good choices. Before we could add up the calories consumed, the waiter arrived with a birthday treat: a scoop of what tasted like hand-churned vanilla bean ice cream and a cinnamon cookie, holding a lit candle. Just the right size for my Weight Watcher guilt to be appeased. For part two of my birthday gift, Cheryl treated me to a movie -- "Jumping the Broom" -- at Hacienda IMAX theater. To our surprise, we discovered that a "Five Guys" Burger joint had opened in the mall. The junior cheeseburger and cajun fries provided a light post-movie dinner, although it did not satisfy my Weight Watchers guilt. This month of birthday meals is starting to add up...to unwanted calories!
My friend Angie met me at La Boulange, Danville, for a Saturday birthday breakfast. My egg and bacon sandwich on croissant, complemented by a cup of fresh fruit, was delish. Angie's french toast casserole was equally tasty. I love the ambiance of La Boulange; it evokes an authentic Parisian feel and the diners tend to be friendlier than your average Parisian. What a great way to launch a perfect California spring weekend.
Gourmet Dinner Group: My gourmet dinner group met on Saturday and my assigned dish was Beef Brisquet. The dish was quite complicated, involving 2 different marinades and work over three days. It was probably the most involved meat recipe I had ever made and I was unsure how it would ultimately taste because, after almost 3 hours of roasting, it required 40 minutes more on an outdoor grill at the dinner gathering that evening. I added to the challenge in a big way -- in transporting the meat to the grill, I missed a patio step and took a running fall into a dinner table. One hour later, after the fire department guys had taken my life statistics, after I determined that I could not stand because of the excruciating pain in my left hip, after the ambulance crew had driven me to the local hospital, after someone had rescued my brisquets and put them on the grill, the dish was finally complete. By all accounts, the brisquets came out great, with lots of flavor and melting with tenderness.
I didn't get to eat anything that night but we enjoyed the total meal on Sunday evening, thanks to the generous "doggie bags" compiled by my fellow dinner mates. The brisquet was as good as reported but, I have to admit, I'm not sure I'd put that much effort into repeating the recipe. I think I can make a decent brisquet without committing to 3 days of culinary work, unless I was required to. Even then, I might negotiate for a different recipe. Some dishes are just not as valuable as my time. However, if you'd like to try the recipe, email me and I'll send it to you.
Alas, Mother's Day arrived with my weekly points in the gutter but I was determined to enjoy the day despite the penance I knew I would pay this week. The fellows -- my hubby, my son-in-law and his father -- prepared a wonderful Mother's Day brunch of chicken and waffles. The origin of this tasty combo is not totally clear but there are multiple versions and explanations. One familiar story is that newly-freed slaves, traveling North, fried chicken for breakfast before a day's journey and often added whatever bread was available along the way. Another version is that in 1938 in Harlem, a popular all-night club served the combination in the wee hours when it was too late for dinner and too early for breakfast. That version sounds the most credible. Warmed-up chicken from the previous day's dinner menu added to freshly-cooked waffles reflects the work of a resourceful/creative chef. I want to do a blog piece on various Bay Area locations where you can get the chicken-waffles meal. Stay tuned for that.
The fried chicken cooked on Sunday was especially good, made from a recipe that calls for marinating the chicken in buttermilk overnight, a typical Southern approach. Here's a recipe worth trying...
Buttermilk Fried Chicken (serves 4 )
3.5 pound chicken, washed and cut into 8 pieces
1 quart buttermilk
3 cups flour
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1. Place chicken pieces in a non-reactive pan and add the buttermilk. Cover pan and marinate the chicken at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, in the refrigerator.
2. Combine the flour and seasonings in a large plastic bag and shake to mix well.
3. Add 3/4" peanut oil to a cast iron skillet and heat to medium high. While the oil is heating, add each piece of chicken to the plastic bag and shake to cover well.
4. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the chicken, skin side down and largest pieces first. Cook chicken in batches, turning once. until pieces are golden brown and crispy, 12-15 min. each side. Drain pieces on paper towels. Serve while hot.
If you try the recipe, let me know if you think the buttermilk step makes a significant difference in taste!