Ottolenghi Update…

When we found ourselves suddenly hosting last night after the evening’s original hosts took ill, we decided that our main priority was to not have a gazillion dishes to wash at two in the morning. The best way to avoid this? Enlist the help of others before they leave for the night. And roast things: two dishes, two pans. I turned once more to Ottolenghi.

The first dish was the one that I mentioned in my previous post, the chicken roasted with clementines and Arak. I wish I had taken pictures, as this is a really beautiful dish. And though the chicken is cooked with the skin on, the juice that gathers in the bottom of the pan is somehow much less fatty than expected. Is there something scientific going on here, something to do with the amount of alcohol in the dish?

I went to the market in the afternoon to pick up some ingredients, but could not find a small bottle of anything anise-y at the liquor store. Then I remembered this undrinkable 69 proof absinthe that friends gave me a few years ago for my birthday–undrinkable because I was afraid of having it come in contact with my internal organs after seeing what it did to the finish on our hardwood floor. And though I could not find anyone on the internet to approve my substitution, I gave it a try and was pleased with the results, though I must warn you: let some of the alcohol burn off before you stick your head into the oven to see how things are looking. It was hard on the eyes.

Again, because you can find the recipe here, I will just summarize the steps: a few hours (or up to a day) before, make up a marinade with 3 tablespoons of clementine juice and 3 of lemon, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 6.5 tablespoons of absinthe, 2 tablespoons of grainy mustard, 2 teaspoons of smashed fennel seeds, and salt and pepper. Pour it over some cut-up chicken parts (bone-in, skin-on), some thickly sliced clementines and some large chunks of fennel. When it comes time to cook, preheat the oven to 425–the recipe says to cook it at 475 but I wanted to put the eggplant (see below) in at the same time. Roast for about an hour or until the fruit is gorgeously charred and the chicken cooked.

The recipe says to remove the chicken and vegetables from the pan and reduce the liquid, but I could not be bothered. There was plenty left in the pan, along with a few pieces of fennel, and I am planning to turn them into some kind of New Year’s day soup.

The second dish was lamb-stuffed eggplants, but I wanted to modify it for the vegetarian in our group. This is an equally straightforward dish, and one that goes surprisingly well with the chicken, even though the flavours do not seem so complimentary.

For this, you simply cut a few medium eggplants in half lengthwise, lay them skin side down in a baking dish, brush them liberally with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper. They roast in the oven at 425 for about 20 minutes while you make the stuffing.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan. While it heats, make a spice mixture of 1.5 teaspoons of ground cumin, 1.5 tablespoons of sweet paprika, and 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon. Add half to the oil along with about 2 cups of chopped onion and saute for about 8 minutes, adding water if the mixture starts to stick too much. When the onion is browned, add about 1/4 cup of pine nuts  and about a 1/2 cup of smashed walnuts.

The recipe calls for you to make a kind of sauce that you put in the bottom of the roasting dish, but I forgot this step and simply added the remaining ingredients to the saute pan: a few teaspoons of sugar, the juice of one lemon, a chunk of tamarind paste softened in 1/4 cup of water, and salt and pepper. I also added 1/4 cup of currants to add more sweetness, and then realizing I still had the second half of the spice mixture, dumped it in too.

When you are ready to go, simply spoon this mixture over the eggplant and wrap the dish tightly with foil. The recipe says to cook it at 375 degrees, but I put it into the oven at 425 degrees with the chicken and it was totally fine. The end result is slightly caramelized and sticky and was a perfect compliment to the chicken.

Happy new year!

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