July 6, 2015

What We Cooked Last Week:

Monday: Chicken salad (we still have left-overs) with app of ribs
Thursday: Cece e Pesce Soup, toasted bread*
Friday: Guacaomole, Grilled soft-shell crabs, grilled fingerlings with rosemary, romaine salad
Saturday: Pizza and salad
Sunday: Brined, smoked chicken, collard greens, grilled fingerlings
App of ricotta, crostini and crudités

A very chopped-up week, with Beez out of time and me under the weather, but the Cece e Pesce (Beans and fish) we cooked on Thursday was a keeper. It was a rainy night (they had all been rainy recently) and this savory fish soup was the antidote. It takes comfort food well beyond sloppy joes and grilled cheese. It achieves its creaminess through blending cooked chickpeas into the broth (She Who Must Be Obeyed frowns upon cream). This comes from Lynne Rosetta Kasper’s The Splendid Table, which I was working my way through before the grilling season set in.

On Friday it dried up and we had the great fortune to find some good soft-shell crabs at Whole Foods. We grilled them with nothing but a little melted butter into which I tossed some Old Bay seasoning for a baste. With grilled fingerlings and a green salad superbly dressed by Beez (and boy, is she a good dresser) this was a perfect preparation for Gerrit Cole’s gritty win over the St. Louis Cardinals (the Chinese hackers of MLB). It is difficult to cook for two people, but grilled foods and salads make it easy to avoid cooking too much, as we did with the Cece e Pesce which lasted through two dinners, an appetizer, and two lunches and became less comforting and more annoying by the day.

On Sunday, after the Pirates fantastic, 14 inning, tough-as-nails victory over the Cardinals and the umpires, the night before, and groggy from staying up until 12:30 to watch the game, we took another step toward learning the technique of smoking. This involved brining, then air-drying, and finally, smoking a chicken. Orthodpaedic surgery patients don’t require this much attention.   Billy declared that this was worth the all-day ordeal to produce it (but then, he didn’t cook, just ate). If you don’t live within easy-driving distance of Fette Sau in Philadelphia, you must cook this. If you do, what the hell are doing you smoking your own chicken? Let Joe Carroll’s minions do it for you.

And then there was the Pirates second come-from-behind victory against the Cardinals last night. I can’t stop smiling.

Extras:   This e-mail is too long, but I wanted to include some details for the interested. We cooked collard greens to go along with the smoked chicken – going all-in Southern hillbilly on this one. These take a long time, though not nearly so much attention as the chicken, but they are worth it. And the plant used to make them is tough enough to shingle your roof. This dish is a tribute to the ingenuity and skill of the slaves and poor whites in the South who couldn’t afford high-priced protein. With the fish soup we had some toasted bread, but not just any bread. Jean-Marc Chatellier moved from France to set up a bakery in Millvale and we are lucky that he did. You cannot get bread with this combination of crust and airy pith anywhere else on our side of town.

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