A Mid-Winter Family Dinner for 5

6/25/2007 10:58:00 PM

I made this meal for my family last weekend, putting together a menu from a few recipes which I had had my eye on. (Recipes published below). Because these recipes are not from my usual sources, I don't feel iffy about typing them up here. As a conscientious (hah!) university student, I'm very aware of the issue of plagiarism, and avoid publishing recipes from sources which I often use.

Sarah's Mid-Winter Family Dinner for 5

Chicken cooked with buter, white wine and porcini mushrooms (Epicure, May 8, 2007)
Sandra's super-duper creamy mushrooms
Pommes dauphinoise (Nigel Slater)
Boiled carrots
Sliced honeydew melon and mandarin segments

If you were feeling energetic, I think an astringently-dressed green salad or some green beans would go well. After preparing all of the above, I was not energetic enough to add greens.

The chicken (pictured above), is interesting in that it is completely cooked on the stove, and not in the oven. You brown the chicken in a casserole, add aromatic vegetables and cook until soft. Then you add garlic, herbs, wines, and soaked porcini mushrooms with their soaking liquid. Then it needs to sit on the stove for about an hour, making sure the pan never boils dry. As I used two chickens, it took a bit longer to cook, but it wasn't a huge deal. The chicken, being part grilled, part steamed in wine, became very flavourful, moist and tender.

Here we have Nigel Slater's famous pommes dauphinoise. I love the way it becomes so brown and burnished. Judging by the standards of my new hero, Jeffrey Steingarten, and his entertaining article, "Scraping By", in It Must've Been Something I Ate I think I screwed them up a bit. Apparently the ratio of liquid to potato should be so exact that by the time the potatoes are cooked, all the liquid is completely absorbed. As you can see in my photos, there was quite a bit of creamy liquid left over once the potatoes were cooked, but it tasted good anyway. Potatoes + cream will pretty much always be delicious.

Mmm... crisp-ay!
Too much liquid. *Sigh*... I will just have to keep on practising gratins. And eating them. It's a tough life.

These mushrooms were made by my friend Sandra, who joined us for dinner and is a bit of a mushroom fiend. They're a mixture of Swiss brown and regular button mushrooms. A Tip for budget-conscious students - if you want fancy mushrooms but can't afford them, head to the markets just at closing time. The traders generally choose to sell their goods a lot cheaper at this time, rather than throwing them out.

We really enjoyed the dinner, and it was a nice wintry meal which didn't go OTT on the stodge. Recipes follow. Enjoy!

Chicken cooked with buter, white wine and porcini mushrooms (Epicure, May 8, 2007)

"A nice way to cook chicken on the bone with aromatics and its own sauce"


1.4kg chicken
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and peper
1 small leek
1 stick celery
1 carrot
30g butter
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
some sage leaves and/or a few sprigs of thyme
about 1 cup white wine
2 tbs dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 1/3 c water

Heat a heavy casserole pot in which the chicken and vegetables will fit snugly.
Brown the chicken in the oil, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Cut the leek, celery and carrot into small pieces and add to the pot with the butter. Cook, stirring until the vegetables are lightly golden brown.
Add the garlic and herbs, some salt and pepper and a good splash of white wine.
Add the porcini mushrooms with their liquid.
Turn down the heat so the wine is bubbling steadily but not boiling. Cover with a lid slightly askew. There should always be 2.5cm of liquid, which will need top-ups of wine every 10 or 15 minutes.
Turn the chicken occasionally. Cook for about an hour or until the leg comes away easily from the bird.

Pommes Dauphinoise (Nigel Slater - adapted from Real Cooking and Appetite)

potatoes - waxy-fleshed if possible, about 1kg
garlic - 2 large, juicy cloves
butter - just enough to cover the baking dish thickly
double cream - enough to cover the potatoes (about 600ml - although half cream, half milk will work too)

You will need a moderate to slow oven, so set the heat at 160C. Peel the potatoes and slice them thinly. This, by the way, is one of those dishes where you really must peel: strings of brown, 'healthy' skin are totally at odds with the gratin's hedonistic overtones. The slices should be no thicker than a pound coin. If the garlic is really juicy, cut the cloves in half and rub them round and round an earthenware or enamelled cast iron dish, pressing down hard to release the juices. Otherwise it might be beter to slice it thinly and tuck the slicse between the potatoes.
Smear the dish generously with butter. Please don't be tight - you are only cheating yourself. Lay the potato slices in the dish, orderly or positively hugger-mugger, it matters not, seasoning with salt and black pepper as you go along. Pour the cream over the potatoes - it should just come to the top of the slices. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, until the potatoes are virtually melting into the cream.

Sandra's super-duper creamy mushrooms

This is more of a suggestion than a recipe; don't worry about exact quantities, just use your eyes and your common sense.

Sautée finely chopped garlic and onion in butter until soft and translucent. Add your mushrooms (chopped, sliced, whole, whatever) with salt, pepper, some curry powder and chilli powder. Cook until the mushrooms have collapsed and the juices have started evaporating. Add a large spoonful of cream to finish them off. Completely fabulous.

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  1. Sounds like a lovely Winter supper,it's SUmmer here but cold outside - so it'd be just right!

    I'll try those mushrooms next time, sounds yummy.


  2. One word - fabulous! That dinner ticked all the boxes for me.

  3. I feel you on the Jeffrey Steingarten love, 'The Man Who Ate Everything' is one of the best pieces of food writing I've read.

    To reduce the leftover liquid in the gratin you could try slicing the potatoes more thinly and layering them tightly, so there's less room for cream, but my boyfriend is always bugging me to leave MORE liquid, so your mileage with guests may vary :)

  4. This is perfect for dinner! I love everything you've put in here. I love the chicken and the mushroom. Absolutely wonderful!



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