Our dad loves to eat. I’ve never seen him refuse food. Ever. The man ate a three-course meal an hour after undergoing major surgery. When we were kids, he used to head up to bed with a stack of contraband Oreos in his shirt pocket. The staff at the Arby’s near our house knew him by name. You get the idea. He’s also increasingly difficult to buy gifts for. Not because he’s ungrateful, but because he has everything he needs. He just wants to hang with his kids, eat food, maybe watch the game. It’s taken us years of buying shirts and books and DVDs to figure this out. For his 69th (and holding!) birthday this year, he was treated to a surprise visit from his eldest son and a lunch made by his
stunning, talented mild-mannered, unassuming daughters.
The Chicken, Fennel and Artichoke Fricasee in the April issue involves cutting up a whole chicken, which is traumatizing for everyone involved. But hey, whole chickens are an economical choice! A fresh, 4+ lb. Bel and Evans was just $10 at Ellwood Thompson’s and provides enough for 5 people, if two of those people eat like birds. (Ew. Weird, gross pun. Sorry.)
Once in pieces, you brown it along with some artichokes, fennel and onion, then add stock and braise for 20 minutes. Add a little red wine vinegar and parsley, and you have a lovely little dish fit for lunch in the French countryside, or in our case, Bon Air.
Meanwhile, the crowd can snack on the Fava Bean and Goat Cheese Dip with Radishes. RADISHES, for which I now have a new level of respect. They work damn well as chips. What doesn’t work well is finding fava beans in Richmond, so we took Martha’s suggestion to use edamame as an alternate. (Pesky onlookers can be pressed into service shelling the beans once they’re boiled.)
The end product is totally worth the effort, although we found it needs a tad more oil than the three tablespoons for which Martha calls. (Always skimping on that EVOO like a good New Englander, eh Martha?) The resulting dip is a pretty green color that looks great in dainty white china, of which our mom has plenty.
Our major failure, because we always have to have one or we are required by our nonexisting contract to set all of our Living backissues on fire, was the Potato and Leek Galette with Watercress. It was an equipment issue, as we’d neglected to bring a non-stick skillet. “I do not have one of those,” Mom said (pretty haughtily for someone who keeps her grater in the garage, if you ask us). So the stuff on the bottom browned just fine, but the rest of it became a tangled, bland mass, unable to brown due to the thick crust of burnt material between it and the heat. Surely it’s all doable without the gross magic of Teflon, but Martha was not willing to lead us in that direction.
The dessert with this meal is supposed to be Poached Rhubarb with Elderflower Sabayon, but did we mention this was our dad’s birthday? He doesn’t want some lily-livered rhubarb thing; he wants chocolate cake with chocolate icing and ice cream. I don’t know if he knew or cared if it was store-bought. If he could have put it in his shirt pocket, he probaby would have. (We like lily-livered desserts, however, so we’ll give this a try some other time and make our husbands eat it. )
Happy Birthday, Dad!