Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What's cooking Wednesday

This is Week 2 of my dip back into The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, Rome. I realized after last week that I really didn't give an introduction to the book beyond my personal history with it. That was an oversight and one that will be corrected tonight. But I'm taking the easy way out and copying this right from Jeff Smith's introduction to his book. Bare with me, it's a lengthy paragraph but worth reading to understand this cookbook.

The necessity for giving credit to previous cuisines, thereby helping you understand your own cuisine, is the reason behind this book. The three ancient cuisines that most influenced the West were those of China, Greece, and Rome. The Chinese did it first. Everything from the first cooked meat to the first domesticated animals to the first metal cooking pot must be credited to the Chinese. And the Greeks! They taught us to make mayonnaise, baked pasta, basic white sauce (Béchamel), fancy breads, the frying pan as we know it today, the stewing pot brought to perfection, the Dutch oven [and here was me thinking it was the Dutch], and the packed lunch. They even taught us to dip our bread in wine, though the Italians and French think it is their custom. Finally, the Romans took a whole style of cuisine from the Greeks, made some wonderful improvements upon it, and then, through their wild and warring travels, took this cuisine to the rest of Europe. When Catherine de Medicis moved to Paris in 1533 to marry Henri II she brought her Florentine cooks with her. The cooking of Paris was radically changed. Credit must be given.
I'm sure you can see why I love this book. He has a way with words that few cookbook authors have. Also, it's not just about food, it's about learning and that's never bad, no matter what Alexander Pope says.

Last week I did some Chinese recipes, this week I wanted to do something Roman and I had chicken so I needed Roman Chicken. There wasn't much to choose from. Seems the ancient Romans didn't eat a lot of meat. I did finally find something that was just right for what was in the cupboard.

Chicken with Sweet Bell Peppers

1 3-pound chicken, cut into serving pieces
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, diced fine
6 flat anchovies, rinsed
4 sweet red bell peppers, cored and cut into 2-inch squares
3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped very coarsely
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp whole marjoram

Cut up the chicken. Pan-brown in 1/2 of the oil. Place in stove-top casserole. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sauté the garlic and anchovies in remaining oil. After about 2 minutes you can mash the anchovies and mix with the oil. Add peppers and sauté a bit. Put all in a casserole along with remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until tender, 40 minutes.

Recipe notes: If you're shy about anchovies, don't be. They literally melt away and no one will say "hey, I taste anchovies!". In fact, I don't think anyone will even say "hey, I taste fish!". Because you don't. It's just good and easy and the anchovies just add a little something. Watch out for that garlic. Don't burn it and it is easy to do so.

I have a bad cold so I can't really say how this tasted. It seemed pretty good. John said it was okay but not a "wow". The kids wouldn't even taste it but I don't really count their opinion lately because Hope would eat and old tire if it had ketchup on it. I thought it tasted warm. Beyond that my taste buds were a bit dead so I'll just have to rely on John's opinion. Not extraordinary but okay. It was easy, so there's that.

Next week it will be all Greek to me. And if you think that's the last time you've heard that lame joke, you are so mistaken.

1 comment:

Shan said...

Have you ever read the book Heat. I can't think of who wrote it off thh top of my head. It's about a journalist who begins working in Mario Batali's restaurant eventually travelling to Italy to learn true Italian cooking.