Monday, November 13, 2006

Show us the food

The BBC Good Food Show 2006 was like nothing more than a thousand infomercials come to life. We strolled past booth after booth of food and wine vendors nibbling and sipping, nibbling and sipping. There were cheeses and sausages, chutneys and jellies, wines, beer and champagnes and gadgets for making easier such grueling kitchen tasks as chopping garlic, making sandwiches, toasting bread, steaming vegetables and wiping counters. Frankly, it’s amazing that any of us has managed to put a meal on the table at all over these many years without Fancy Francis’ Amazing Toaster Pockets or any number of other hilarious must-haves that were being made available by special offer and for a limited time for the low, low price of …

Actually, despite being fairly silly, the Good Food Show made for a fun time. The highlight of the afternoon was the cooking demonstration given by celebrity chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay; among London’s most famous kitchen gurus, he was certainly the star of the weekend. With the exception of England’s most popular wino, Oz Clarke, most of the presenters were former Ramsay protégés who now serve as head chefs at one of the many restaurants in his empire. None of the others, though, came close to matching his finesse as he demonstrated how to make fennel-and-watercress salad, braised chicken (see below), sautéed endive and a fig tart – all in under twenty-five minutes. We’re going to try out his menu soon and will report back, but everything looked eminently doable, practical and delicious, and his patter and little tips were fast-paced and smooth.

The air in the Olympia Grand Hall (formerly the National Agricultural Hall and, at 450 by 250 feet, once the largest building in the kingdom covered by a single span of iron and glass) was thick with the scent and haze of ambitious in-booth cooking. The actual food and drink being hocked ranged from pretty good (Cornish blue cheese, Jordanian olive oil with zaatar) to truly awful (pink Spanish cava that tasted like vinegar sweetened with sugar cubes, some horrifyingly authentic Cumberland sausage). There was a heavy emphasis on chutney and alcohol, and a considerable number of people wandering around for whom this was evidently a dangerous combination.

With our appetites sufficiently whetted, we headed for our favorite London gastropub, the Anglesea Arms, for a dinner of terrine of foie gras, wood pigeon and prune with fig chutney; daube of beef with French beans; and roasted wood pigeon on a bed of savoy cabbage with celeriac puree – all washed down with a delightful Grenache from the terre du sud - good food indeed! Other highlights of Tam's birthday weekend were the Velázquez exhibit at the National Gallery and a blistering set by Yo La Tengo...

Braised Chicken á la Gordon Ramsay
(We haven't actually tried this yet; caveat chef.)
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
2 heads garlic, halved
4 stalks fresh thyme
2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh thyme

Heat butter over medium high heat in large skillet until it stops foaming. Add garlic, thyme and chicken pieces, skin side down; season with salt and pepper and cook until deeply browned, about 7-8 minutes. Add half of wine and reduce until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add remainder of wine and reduce again until syrupy. Add stock and reduce for another 10 minutes or until chicken is done. (Mr. Ramsay was very insistent that the reducing should be done a bit at a time, as when making risotto.) Remove garlic and thyme stalks.

Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve.

Serves 4-6, we assume.

1 comment:

jan said...

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Tam,
Happy birthday to youuuuuu.....

Enjoyed celebrating in Phoenix in your honor! :-)