Last week I had a vague hankering to make a chicken cacciatore-type thing, but after taking stock of what we had lying around I decided on a kind of chicken saag instead. Our turnips are getting really big, so I took chopped leaves and root and cooked them with onion until soft, then added some leftover bitter green pesto, yogurt, and a little wine and puréed it until smooth. The root really helps thicken the greens, making for a wonderfully rich texture without using much at all in the way of fat. I simmered the thighs in the green sauce until all was lovely and tender. The leftovers made for a great lunch. We saved the bones, and the next day I made a curried chicken pho with the bones, onion, ginger, clove, cinnamon, coriander, and star anise, then strained it and put it in the fridge for another time.
This next meal from the following night was good, but unremarkable: broiled salmon, sautéed pak choi from the garden, whole-wheat couscous, and a sauce. The sauce was the beginning of something pretty interesting, though, which is why I’m posting this. It was basically a hybrid of a chimichurri and a gribiche, with mustard, olive oil, garlic, parsley, cornichons, capers, and lemon. It was delicious with the oily fish, but it wasn’t quite all the way to where I wanted it.
Then, on Sunday, entertaining some friends, I had a chance to try again for the result I had envisioned, and also make another idea that had taken shape over the course of a couple of days: coconut borscht. Initially, I was just going to purée beets with coconut milk, but then I remembered the pho made from the curried chicken bones and it all came together. I pressure-cooked cubed beets with coconut milk, curried chicken pho, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, then removed the rhizome and blasted the rest smooth. Strained through a tamis, and adjusted for seasoning, it was a silky fuchsia indulgence of a first course. The sweetness of the beets really meshed with the tropical overtones of the lime leaf and galangal, and the creamy coconut elided those bright treble notes with the earthy bass of beets and the woody spices from the broth. Our friends brought a bottle of Susana Balbo’s Torrontes, which is a lovely, tropically perfumed white that turned out to be perfect with the soup.
Next up was softshell crab tempura, made using Hank’s batter recipe. To go with them, the gribichichurri 2.0- similar, but with lecitihin added to emulsify it (see? no oil seeping out like on the salmon plate) and with a healthy pour of homemade lime pickle salsa: last year’s vinegar-pickled serranos, carrots, and lime wedges with coriander, fenugreek, mustard and cumin seeds all blended together into a green glop that looks like salsa and tastes like lime pickle. (Thanks to Cookie for the idea.)
And last, from a recent trip to a farmers’ market, boar ribs rubbed, smoked, and mopped with the latest iteration of the ongoing barbeque saga, served on more pommes écrasées (because all people love them) with our guests’ beet greens and radicchio salad. Somewhere during the crab we switched over to one of the 2002 Cheze Condrieus I got for half price, and MAN is that a chewy, sexy, profound glass of honey-yellow bliss. It even handled the ribs, though a fat red would have been the obvious choice (had it not been a school night.)
So the Viet-Thai borscht and pickle sauce go in the repertoire, and the ribs will become a luscious BBQ pork broth for using in miso or rainy-day split pea soup, or with udon, or as the base for an even more insane barbeque sauce to use in pulled pork. As the garden unfolds- strawberries are arriving, peas and favas impend, baby carrots are about 2 weeks off- it will be fun to see what else gets added into the mix.