10 July, 2007

summer cooking














No, we're not serving up groundhog, at least not yet! But I couldn't resist posting a picture of darling Gary, the groundhog. Or it could be his offspring, who Avery has christened Canteloupe (guess why). It's hard not to just buy fruit and take it straight out to them. I hope they don't give up on us while we're away for a week in Iowa, and Minnesota.

Yep, we leave tomorrow morning to visit John's parents in Iowa, then drive up (over? I'm unclear) to Minnesota for our niece Sarah's exciting bat mitzvah (my first!), then back to Iowa, then back here in a week. I'm trying not to remember my last trip back from Iowa, in a snowstorm in a tiny four-seater plane. What a bad memory! But tomorrow will be entirely large commercial planes flown by, presumably, professionals, and I'm taking plenty of Bach's Flower Remedies anyway, just in case I get nervous. I am really not much of a traveler.

I just have to tell you about my latest rediscovery: Cornish game hens. In a childhood singularly untouched by events of a noteworthy gastronomic quality, we did eat, for whatever reason, Cornish game hens. Just Perdue, nothing exotic, but I think I discovered them in high school and had some success. Well, yesterday I was planning barbecued chicken, when I was visited by an inspiration. Why not buy some of the little guys and try my invented sauce on them? And it was sublime.

Barbecued Cornish Game Hens
(serves four)


3 Cornish game hens

equal parts (about 3/4 cup each): ketchup, honey, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce
peel (but not bitter pith) of 1 lemon or lime
3 cloves garlic
half a red onion, cut in chunks

Place all the marinade ingredients in your Cuisinart and whizz till nicely mixed, but with chunks of onion left.

Now here's the trick: split your hens down the back, choosing one side or the other of the spine and cutting the spine away when you've thoroughly split the birds. Throw the spines, with the neck and kidneys from the giblet bag, in a pot and cover with water, salt thoroughly and simmer for a couple of hours. There's a nice pot of chicken stock for you.

Now line a big baking dish or cookie sheet with foil and lay the hens out, then slather with the marinade. Leave as long as you can, but at least an hour.

Fire your grill (we have a propane Weber, thank you Jill and Joel) up to nearly its hottest, about 400 degrees internal temperature. Grill the birds skin side up for 15 minutes, then skin side down for another 15 minutes. Perfection!

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And, can I also report a very nice alternative to traditional vinaigrette?

White Balsamic Dressing with Celery
(make however much you like)

3 parts olive oil
1 part white balsamic vinegar (in nice supermarkets, next to the dark sort)
juice of 1 lemon (if making at least a cup total)
1 tsp celery salt
handful celery leaves, chopped coarsely
handful flat parsley leaves, chopped coarsely
1 tsp prepared horseradish
pinch Maldon salt

Place all these in jar with a tightly-sealing lid, or in a bowl to whisk, and mix thoroughly. It looks very delicate and pale, but has a nice kick.

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Lastly, I replicated with fair success one of Avery's favorite dishes from our beloved Mandarin Kitchen, in Queensway, London.

Fried Noodles with Sprouts and Onions
(serves four)


1/2 package dried Asian noodles (labelled "for stir-fry")
2 tsps peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced thin
2 cups bean sprouts
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce

Boil water for noodles while you mince the garlic, then cook the noodles as directed and drain thoroughly. Toss in several paper towels. This step is very important as you do not want them to render the dish soggy at all.

Saute the garlic and onion in the peanut oil until soft. Add the noodles and stir fry at as high a heat as you can without burning the garlic. Add the bean sprouts and toss to mix, then pour over the sesame oil and soy sauce, toss to blend. So simple and tasty.

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More from Iowa! Is it hot where you are?

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