A couple of weeks ago, back when Milo and I were roughing it by ourselves, I made a super-simple, kid-friendly dinner that was inspired by my desire to mess with chicken in adobo. The sauce for the chicken was just ancho chile simmered with tomato paste, a little broth, herbs, spices, garlic, and vinegar until just right. I also pressure-cooked some pinto beans, adding similar seasonings, and steamed cauliflower. Reheated 10-grain risotto from the photoshoot completed the meal. It was good, and the chicken came out particularly well, though it was not really worth a post in and of itself.
Flash forward to last night, though, after a little time to think about it, and the sauce got some tinkering to become something much more compelling and complex. Again, ancho chile, but this time simmered with some oil-cured dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers (can you tell I’m aching for summer?) plus garlic, oregano, and a heaping dig of pimentón, then stick-blended into a red velvet worthy of Hefner’s smoking jacket. The chicken- just boring old thighs, not the whole legs I so prefer- had a rub of salt, pepper, rosemary, and 5-spice and went in the oven.
Meanwhile, I made some polenta, and when it was done I stirred a healthy dollop of our basil/nasturtium/sorrel pesto in to tint and flavor it pretty emphatically. I also made a quick side of bok choy sautéed with garlic and lemon. That, as is so often the case these days, was it: protein on starch, with sauce, and greens on the side. I just don’t have the time to diverge much from this basic formula right now. Honestly, it was excellent; this was one of the most harmonious plates of food I’ve eaten in a while. Everything just got busy with everything else in a most enjoyable fashion. Rich chicken, smoky sauce, vibrant polenta, tangy, crunchy greens- each bite vanished into a grin.
Said grin was enhanced by a 2001 Caro, which seemed a good choice for this old/new Hispanic mashup; it’s an Argentinean Cabernet/Malbec blend, and a collaboration between Nicolas Catena and Lafite Rothschild. Some combination of skill and terroir make this a pretty good deal- it’s about 40 bucks (it was a gift) but the high altitude of the vineyards seem to help it achieve a pretty delightful elegance that still has a lot of dirt on it. It’s the kind of wine that continues to impress through a whole bottle, without cloying or annoying.
But see all that liquid weeping out of the sauce? That’s called syneresis. And it pisses me off. If I had only thought to sprinkle some xanthan or ultratex in before blending, it would have stayed thick and shiny and perfect with no change whatever to the flavor. Deride my geekery all you like, but that shit matters, and it’s a perfect example of how the techniques of today’s modern, now, a-go-go chefs can help us make better food, often with no extra effort.