... in the preparation of this dinner.
We originally planned to make this dinner on Sunday evening. Our choice to delay until Monday was entirely based on its long cooking time; it is only a coincidence that our presentation at church Sunday morning had been about our real-life journey to Transylvania, where we encountered no vampires but developed an intense interest in them!
The coincidence came to mind as this slow-cooking meal cooked slowly this afternoon, and the house filled with garlic. We use a lot of garlic in our house, usually a clove or two at a time, either fresh or frozen from our organic summer harvest. I usually avoid recipes that are as garlic-forward as Slow-Roasted Garlic and Lemon Chicken turned out to be, but the recommendation of a fellow foodie convinced us to try. The ease of preparation was also an enticement.
Earlier today, we had been invited to speak to students in a nutrition course about several areas of our shared interest, including coffee, chocolate, and food in general. This very blog was among the topics we discussed, since those with an interest in eating better -- especially students without much time or money -- can use all the help they can get.
Prior to the presentation, I had spent about a half hour tidying the kitchen and getting this meal ready to cook later in the day. Instead of one bulb of garlic, I used about 3/4 of a bulb of elephant garlic. The individual cloves were so big that I chopped them into big chunks, so that they did not retain their paper husks. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as described.
After the presentation, I had just a few minutes at home before my next class, but it was enough time to transfer the covered roasting pan from the refrigerator to the convection oven. Since our oven lives in the United States (Burma and Liberia are the only other countries where this would be a problem), I had to convert the temperatures in the recipe to our pre-1799 Farenheit system. I put it in the oven at 325 (the real number is 320, but we are used to working in increments of 25) and send a note to Pam about the timing of the second phase. After two hours, she uncovered it and kicked it up to 400 (392 is the actual equivalent).
When I returned from my class, Pam was steaming some beans from our CSA. As we had told our students earlier, Colchester Neighborhood Farm is a very important part of how we approach healthy, sustainable eating in our house. These had been frozen in season, and today were ready to provide some fiber, crispness, simple flavor and complimentary nutrients to balance the succulence and rich flavor of the chicken.
Food photography is a special skill that I do not possess, so I will spare readers the shabby photograph, but will ask that doubt be set aside when I report that the huge chunks of garlic turned green in this slow-roasting process. As Pam exclaimed early in the meal, this is company dinner -- especially if we want to share a savory treat on a day when we have no time for cooking. We had this incredible meal -- and will have leftovers -- for less than the cost of a fast-food "meal" and for about as much effort as mac & cheese.
We paired it with one of the last bottles of our first batch of Chardonnay -- adding about $3 to the cost of the meal. That is, for the cost of two soft drinks, we had two glasses each of pretty decent wine.
Just as important as preparing a good meal is taking the time to enjoy it together, using real plates, real place mats, and real napkins to reduce waste and add elegance. Even more elegance was provided, courtesy of the class we had visited earlier in the day. At the end of our talk "Coffee, Cacao, Campus, and Comida," we were very surprised to receive a nice note and very thoughtful gift from the students who had invited us. The candlestick they presented certainly enhanced the meal. Moreover, the star, sun, and moon evoke one of the coffees we had discussed with them. The family of Byron, the "Poet of Coffee" we had mentioned, sells its coffee in Nicaragua under the name Sol & Luna (Sun & Moon). Many of my coffee students tell me it is the best coffee they have ever had, and this candlestick will always remind us of one of our very favorite coffee growers.