16 March, 2008

paprika wins on Sunday

Goodness, I often feel that too much is going on to absorb without just falling down. The latest is that Avery was given an envelope from her acting school with a million forms to fill out as to her eye colour ("green-gray," "blue-brown," who could say?) and teeth quality ("suitable for toothpase advert"? not really), and skin tone ("fair" or "golden fair" or "milky fair"? couldn't possibly say). Heavens. So we filled out the forms as best we could and got her photographed as for a passport, and then began the preparations for the... audition DVD. Anything further I ever have to hear about "Princess Esme and her abandonment on the island awaiting rescue" will be too much, too soon. Maybe this stage mother thing is not for me.

Importantly, tomorrow we leave for three days in the Cotswolds, in a Landmark Trust house that we've stayed in many, many times, from our days as newlyweds lo these nearly 20 years ago, to just a few years ago on our "shall we move to London" trip with Avery. What will bring tears to all our eyes will be our memories of Grandpa Jack in that house, on those grounds, tramping about in his sturdy walking boots, helping me track sheep I might hug, looking for the proper footpath and carefully observing the kissing gates with my mother in law. How we wish either of them we were with us tomorrow. The memories of the meals cooked and eaten, the baths negotiated and hot water doled out ("Just once: if you could think of me FIRST!" being our favourite holiday legend ever), the lambs petted and the rabbits lured with vegetable remains, the trawling through Chipping Campden antique shops and butcher stalls, the cocktails drunk by a small but valiant fireside. It will be so wonderful and yet so difficult at the same time. That's the point of memories, I guess: to comfort you and also tempt you. To go back...

But we don't really want to! Tonight was a lovely evening with Becky and her girls: she brought them all, two plus our one, filthy from the stable, and her own perfect teenager, to have dinner. Becky brought her fabulous but by no means diet "Cheesy Potatoes," which I complemented with my own by no means diet:

Chicken With Pojarski Sauce (adapted from a terribly complex recipe from a 1949 New York Times)
(serves eight)

4 tbsps butter
3 tbsps flour
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 tbsps sweet Hungarian paprika (NOT smoked, too strong)
2 tsps dried thyme leaves (or 1 tsp fresh thyme)
8 chicken breast fillets, cubed
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups sour cream
salt to taste

Melt butter in heavy saucepan and add flour. Stir and cook until frothy but not brown. Add garlic and onion and cook over low heat until soft. Add paprika and thyme and brandy and stir until thick. Add chicken breast chunks and stir until chicken is coated thoroughly. Cook until chicken is no longer pink and remove chicken to a resting bowl.

Into the stockpot, pour in chicken stock and sour cream, whisk thoroughly and simmer for 25 minutes. Puree with a blending stick (a handheld pulveriser). Add chicken chunks and simmer while you prepare the side dish (in case you're not fortunate enough to have Becky bring her cheesy potatoes): rice, mashed potatoes or noodles, and a nice colorful vegetable (broccoli, beets or red peppers) because it is a pale dish on its own.


With this bounty we had broccolini with asparagus sauteed in olive oil with sea salt, a fruit salad of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple ("guess why?" I teased Anna, and she said "because it's my favourite?") and bananas, and Becky's special dessert of peanut butter Rice Krispies treats with chocolate icing. A fantastic evening of just being together: the teenager, so charming and grownup, yet vulnerable, the middle girls being sweet to the little one, and just appreciating being together. How we missed Mark. He'll be home soon! In the meantime, have a great week, everyone, while we slosh through Oxfordshire...

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