Friday, May 27, 2011

Apocalypse Now Dinner

It was the Ride of the Valkyrie earlier this week, you know, the music they played when Col. Kilgore destroyed the village in "Apocalypse Now."

I had 30 minutes to prepare dinner and nothing defrosted. I did have chicken breasts that I'd poached the day before. I've made a recipe with poached chicken breasts, but didn't have most of the ingredients.

It was time to innovate. I felt like a contestant on Food Network's "Chopped."

I put on some rice (21 minutes) and cut broccoli crowns. I set the broccoli to steam for four minutes, about half our usual cooking time (my wife and daughter like broccoli very soft). I then julienned carrots and a red pepper. As I did so, I heated about two tablespoons of canola oil in my big, all-purpose pan.

As the pan heated, I measured about about a quarter cup of chicken broth, a tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine (dry sherry works as well) and a tablespoon of oyster sauce. I then sliced the chicken breasts into thin, approximate one inch squares.

When the pan was very hot, I dumped in all the vegetables. I stir-fried for about four minutes. The broccoli soften too much and started shedding its tops, so I couldn't stir-fry long enough to get a deep char on the vegies.

Once the vegies were soft and a little blackened, I dumped in the liquids, brought to a boil and added the chicken. I stir-fried about a minute, added salt and pepper and served.

Not the best or worst dish I've ever made. All in all, pretty good.

If I did it again, I'd steam the broccoli for a shorter period, maybe two minutes, so I could get vegetables blacker and perhaps add some sliced or minced garlic to the vegetables.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Requiem for a Friend

I found out about a week ago that Rick Lewis, the man who taught me more about wine than anyone I've known, died in March.

Rick was an amiable South African chemist who ran the Madison Wine Shop in Madison, Ct. Every Saturday, he held court at the back of his store, a huge grin across his face and as many as a dozen bottles of wine open before him ready for tasting. His one rule, an indeed a good one, was that you had to try everything.

What I loved about Rick was his lack of pretension. He firmly believed that a good wine could be had for $15 or less. He wasn't your stereotypical wine snob, looking down his nose at those who lacked his knowledge and expertise. He was the opposite, always eager to educate, always joyful to mint a new oenophile.

My wife and I loved his Rick's Picks newsletter, which was chock-o-blocked with unusual and interesting varieties. He introduced us to Argentine Malbecs, New Zealand whites, French Roses and Austrian dessert wines.

Here is one of the first wines we sampled at a Rick's tasting and still love:

And it's only $7.99, a steal. A little fizzy, it goes great with spicy food. I recall Rick recounting how he drank it for the first time with a spicy meal in Portuguese East Africa, today Mozambique, in about 1946. The label had not changed since, he said.

I will miss Rick tremendously. Here's to you Rick. If there's an afterlife, I hope you get to spend it tasting wine.