Monday, January 4, 2010

Trawick visit, Nostalgia, and Arroz con Pollo

We returned from a weekend visiting our oldest friends in North Wilkesboro today. We have known them since the Beginning of Time. Well, the beginning of our time as a married couple anyway. We met them shortly after we moved to Atlanta in '89 and have remained close since. When Ben and Amy left us, Alone And Despondent In Atlanta, they were pregnant with their first child, Hannah. Who is now, appallingly, 16 years old. Someone please press the SLOW THE HELL DOWN button!

Phillip, feeding Hannah strained pears. A young gourmand.

Hannah and me, she was maybe 3. I still look JUST like this.

Did I mention she's 16 now?

Every Sunday night, before Hannahbug, and before Ben and Amy left us, Alone And Despondent In Atlanta, we would take turns hosting supper and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Oh, wait! Is my Geek showing? Too bad! I'm too old to give a damn now! You should have caught me 20 years ago. Oh wait! I didn't care then, either!  Anyway, I would cook one week, Ben would cook another week. They were really my first experiment with cooking for people.

But I digress. Terribly. They left us, Alone and Despondent in Atlanta, had Hannah, then they had Duncan. (Who I named, incidentally. I also named one of their cats, Mildew, who is also still around. Hey Duncan! Be glad Mildew came first!) We all moved from place to place, but always made an effort to get together a couple of times a year. Phillip and I would watch the kids grow in six month jumps, we'd all marvel at the fact that none of the four of us had changed one whit, laugh, talk, catch up, and eat together.

See? They look exactly the same, those mens do.

Now that it's been many, many years since Ben and Amy left us, Alone And Despondent In Atlanta, (and we subsequently left Atlanta ourselves) the kids come and see us in the summer for a few days in addition to the other visits. No Dads, and No Moms. We take them kayaking, play games with them, let them drink, smoke, play cards and cuss (I'm kiddin! I'm kidding!!) and I cook for them, and sometimes try to teach whoever is interested a recipe or two. Hannah has cooked a couple of meals for her parents after visiting, and Duncan has helped. (Here they are this year. Duncan is a foot taller already. Good lord. Did I mention Hannah's 16 now? And DRIVING?)

This weekend was one of our many trips up to see them all, and we had a wonderful time. Lots and lots of laughing, lots and lots of talking, a little comisserating, a little grieving (for you can't grow older without some of that). And lots of cooking and eating. 

The first night we were there, Ben cooked and tried a new recipe out of Bon Appetit that is on my list to try - Pork Tenderloin with Pears and Shallots. Now that he's given it a test drive for me, I can move it straight into my "to keep" folder. It was excellent.

The next night, I volunteered to cook and let Ben and Amy rest. We kind of descended on them the day after they got home from their Christmas holiday with family, which perhaps wasn't ideal timing. I made Arroz con Pollo and taught Hannah how to make my Award Winning Apple Squares. Maybe she can make them in college. (Holeee crap.)

Phillip and I loved being there, loved getting up and seeing the kids off to school, and then packed our stuff and headed home. Where we're not so Alone and Despondent anymore, but we still miss the foo out of those folks. Every day.

Arroz Con Pollo
This is one of my favorites from Fine Cooking.  I know. You're saying "Geez, Andie, why don't you just work for them?"

Serves 6

2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 lbs chicken parts, patted dry and liberally seasoned with salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 lb sweet or hot Italian sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup dry white wine or beer
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 each bay leaf
2 cups medium-grain white rice
2 1/4 cups water

1. In a deep, heavy-based pot (such as a Dutch Oven), heat the oil on medium high. Sautee the chicken, in batches if necessary, until golden on all sides, 7 - 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Sautee the sausage until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the sausage to the platter. Pour off and discard the excess oil, leaving about 1 Tbs. in the pan.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and saut√© the onion, pepper, and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken and sausage to the pot and add the cumin paprika, chili powder and turmeric, if using, stirring to distribute the spices. Cook for 1 minute and then add the tomatoes, wine (or beer) and bay leaf. Increase the heat to medium high, stir, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice and water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the rice is done and the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If the rice is done but still soupy, remove the cover and cook very gently until the liquid evaporates, taking care not to burn the rice.

Give a toss and then let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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