How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Phear Not the Phyllo!

We prepared a meal together for James' 49th birthday, using A Taste for Love, a book we mentioned -- appropriately enough -- last Valentine's Day. More than just a recipe book, A Taste describes entire meal scenarios, each with a theme. We chose just three of the items from a tableau entitled Hollywood Nights.

Making our first foray into phyllo, we prepared the Studio Chicken in Phyllo for our main course. We began by cutting up two small chicken breasts and coating them with a mixture of flour and seasoning salt, then sauteed in olive oil. The chicken was removed from the skillet and kept warm in our warmer drawer. Meanwhile we added 1/8 c of Dijon mustard to the skillet, and some dried tarragon, then whisked in 1/3 c heavy cream.  Once the sauce was thick, the chicken went back into the skillet with it.

Using a small casserole dish, we used melted butter to coat the bottom and then placed 5 pieces of phyllo (each brushed with butter in turn) in the dish. The chicken/sauce mixture went on top, and then another 5 pieces of phyllo (again, each buttered after it was added). The dish baked at 350 for about 15 minutes (using convection) and came out golden brown. It had a delicious tangy-ness, and a crisp texture that you can only get with phyllo.

Our side dish was a modified version of Oscar's Potatoes. We began by mashing the potatoes and adding some parsley flakes, then chilling the spuds for 2 hours. After they had cooled, we scooped out portions of the potatoes and shaped into pancakes. Each was then dipped in flour, egg, and crushed almonds, then grilled on the stovetop until crispy. These were absolutely fabulous. The crunchy almonds gave them texture and flavor. The recipe actually calls for making balls out of the potatoes, and deep frying them; it also calls for bacon. While we're sure this would have been quite delicious as well, it seemed like overkill.

We found the recipe for James' birthday cake (Mexican Chocolate Honey Cake) in the May 2 edition of the Enterprise newspaper. James was immediately drawn to it for the combination of coffee, spices, and mango. This cake is sweetened with honey only, no sugar. (Our honey came from the Golden Stage Inn in Proctorsville, Vermont - run by two of the best innkeepers ever, Julie and Mike Wood.) The cake is made in a bunt pan, and is quite dense. It does not rise much at all. The only leavening agents are 1/2 t of baking power, 1/2 t of salt, and two eggs. The glaze called for instant coffee to be used with 3T water, and 1 t vanilla extract, and 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar. Bah! Instant coffee will not be used in this house! We made and then strained a very strong Turkish-style coffee instead, but then had to add a lot of confectioners sugar because we did not adjust the amount of liquid, and had far too much. It all turned out delicious though, and now we have a glaze for other uses. We cut the cake, then added the glaze to each slice, and topped with a slice of mango and a mint leaf. It looked beautiful, and tasted spicy, and not too sweet. All the flavors blended together perfectly.

 Frugal to a fault, we keep reusing the same numeral candles year after year. It is a good thing we are almost done with our 40s. We had no number 9 candle, so we had to make due with "6+3".

For the mango garnish, we used the indispensable mango slicer we mentioned in an earlier post. The mint leaves came right from our garden.

Back to the third item from A Taste for Love. We had planned to have a Chardonnay with this meal, but then noticed that the scenario calls for Sauvignon Blanc. Heading to the wine department at our local grocery, we were momentarily distracted by the Cinco de Mayo display, sangria tasting, and photo opportunity, but quickly refocused and browsed the Sauv Blancs. Not seeing any local varieties (I had spoken with the wine manager about this yesterday, and knew it was a lost cause), we went into the usual evaluation of the prices (not too low; not too high) and labels. Always a sucker for a map label, as it implies geographically literate vintners (actually, all good vintners have to know some geography), we settled on a Line 39 Sauvingon Blanc 2010 from  from Cechetti Wine Company in Sonoma, specializing in the wines of Lake and Mendoncino Counties. The result was a crisp, bright wine that was a perfect pairing for the dinner and for our viewing of the witty and luscious Barcelona afterward.

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