June 28 – July 2, 2015
This post has been hanging over my head for a few weeks now. When the kids were here in late June and early July I took a LOT of photos. And when you take a lot of photos you have a lot of weeding to do. It was also a crazy awesome fun time meaning I didn’t get time to do that weeding. Finally, I had some technical difficulties with a couple of the cooks that impacted the quality of some of my pictures. Nevertheless, the food was tasty enough to share with y’all.
On June 28 Andrew’s friend Al left and our great friends Tom and Nancy arrived. Nancy bought tickets on the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Portland for Tom’s milestone birthday. We were delighted they wanted to spend the night with us before they headed back home to Boise.
I figured Italian-style grilled chicken would be a nice dinner for us. I also found a Cook’s Illustrated recipe for grilled portobello mushrooms for the vegetarians. The first step with the chicken is to spatchcock it: cut out the backbone, flatten it, season it, and roast it. The seasoning is simple: olive oil, lemon, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and red pepper flakes.
We mix it up, simmer it for a while, then separate the solids from the liquid. After cooling, the solids go under the skin of the chicken and rest in the refrigerator a few hours. The infused olive oil will be a sauce to pour over the finished dish.
The Amtrak train schedule caused a bit of a problem for this dish. The train, as is often the case with long distance Amtrak trains, was late. As it proceeded north it gained a bit of time but there would be no telling exactly when it would arrive in Portland. Suffice it to say we knew it would mess up our dinner schedule one way or another. I prepared this dish back in April 2011 and the pictures, descriptions, and accounts are much better than what I had available for this go-round. So use that link to get the full idea of what this dish can be. My updated recipe can be found here.
When it’s done it looks like this (photo from 2011).
The portobello mushrooms wouldn’t cause a timing problem because after a simple marinade they are on the grill for only 10 minutes.
Combine olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt as a marinade. Put it all in a sealable freezer bag and marinade the mushrooms for an hour.
While the mushroom marinate, create a tarragon sauce.
Olive oil and garlic are key ingredients of our Mediterranean diet. I’m using the word “diet” to convey what makes up a big part of our day-to-day eating – not to convey a strict regimen to lose weight (though that would be nice!).
The recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated; but I had a problem with the process. The original recipe calls for wrapping the mushrooms separately in individual aluminum foil packets and cooking on the grill for about 10 minutes before grilling the tops. It took too much time to build the little containers and much too long to extract the mushrooms after cooking. They only need 30 seconds bare on the grill; by the time I got the last mushroom out of its container the first three were burned on top. When I cooked these the next weekend I put them together in a disposable aluminum pan and covering the pan with foil. That made it much easier to get the mushrooms out of the sealed environment and onto the grill.
Carla and Henriët made cheesy orzo and a salad to round out the meal. Notice the singed tops of the mushrooms on the right side of the picture.
My marked up version of the recipe can be found here.
We found a day the following week where we could get some of the extended family together for dinner. That gave me a chance to try my adjusted process for the mushrooms as well as another of our favorite grilled chicken recipe: brined grilled chicken. The twist on this recipe is that the chicken is cooked bare after a brine – no rub or sauce. After the cook you toss the chicken in a yummy sauce of olive oil, garlic (there those two ingredients are again), lime juice, mint, fish sauce and red chile flakes.
You may either have never used fish sauce or find it incredible gross. It is very strong for sure, but just a touch mixed with other ingredients produces a flavorsome dish. I think fish sauce is made by stacking small fish, like anchovies, dosing with a large amount of salt. Then this mess is pressed for a while and the resulting liquid is the aptly named fish sauce. If you weren’t grossed out before, you probably are now; but put that aside and try it. Or not, the recipe provide an alternate tossing sauce where the mint is substituted with rosemary, limes are swapped out for lemons and the fish sauce goes missing. But my advice is try the fish sauce sauce.
I’m guilty of burying the lead. The real hit of the meal was the raspberry and lemon sorbets we had for dessert. We have had a very warm, even hot, summer here in Portland; we have already set a record for the number of days above 90 and it’s only early August as I write this! That heat called for something light and refreshing. We were expecting a crowd so I made double batches of two sorbets. The raspberry sorbet was excellent; the Cook’s Illustrated [paid subscription required] recipe is here. The tough ingredient to find is the “Sure-Jell for Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes”. I looked all through the pudding and jello aisle and came up with nothing. A courtesy clerk pointed me to the right section of the store – alongside the canning supplies.
The real hit was the lemon sorbet – perfect for eating on the deck on a hot evening (or afternoon).
No olive oil here; just lemons, sugar, water, a pinch of salt and a small bit of vodka (optional). If using vodka make sure it has been stored in the freezer – the best place to keep your vodka in my opinion. As with pie crust, where vodka helps keep the butter from melting too quickly, the bit of below-freezing liquid helps bring the sorbet together quickly.
We make the most of the lemons by incorporating some of the zest with the sugar.
After the zest, sugar, and pinch of salt are thoroughly integrated, we add a combination of water and lemon juice.
If you don’t have a high capacity food processor, mix this in a blender. I had sticky, sugary liquid leaking out of places in my food processor.
Then pour the mixture and a Tablespoon of freezing cold vodka (if using) in your ice cream freezer and churn until it looks like soft-serve ice cream.