A meal worth remembering is what I have been asked to write about as a part of Borosil My Beautiful Food contest. What makes for a beautiful meal, I kept wondering as I thought of the different experiments, successful and otherwise, I had tried out in my kitchen.
Would it be the time I tried to recreate the Pasta Carbonara i had had at a touristy restaurant long time back? Would it be the biryani I had made from scratch, following my mother in law’s recipe? Or would it be all my mom’s recipes that i have tried to recreate but never quite managed to...an important ingredient called mom’s love was missing, you see.
The realization hit me that a perfect meal becomes perfect, not just because of the food but because of the company. The interesting stories, a loving and appreciative gaze, the splutter causing ill timed jokes, gasp at the latest gossip, the sounds of gastronomic nirvana the first bite elicits...these are the herbs when sprinkled lightly brings life to a meal.
There are so many on my list of perfect meal, but I am going to go with the one I had with my friends, Rishi and Lori recently; the one where we celebrated laughter, food and friendship together before I started with my maternity leave.
Before I go on, I have to inform the reader that though the three of us enjoy good food, none of us are we can call expert cooks. We can only call ourselves survivalist cooks; we cook to survive! O when we plan for a girls’ day, we either plan to have pizza or chowmein delivered, or we step out and stop for lunch or dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.
Last time we decided to get together, I announced that we would go on and have a girls’ day in at my place, and I would cook...not just cook but make the best roasted chicken they had ever had. And not to stop at that, but to add to the menu potato salad and an orange cake too. I think I might be a closet masochist.
I am assuming that it must have been the pregnancy hormones because i wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Rishi and Lori, knowing how pigheaded I can be occasionally, finally agreed to the idea with the condition that they would pitch in and help with the cooking.
Now that the stage was set, i got my husband to pick up the ingredients the previous evening, and promised myself that i will get started first thing in the morning. Of course, the first thing I did the next morning was answer my phone and know that Lori was 45 minutes away from my home.
I went to town with the garlic, trying to de-stress myself with all the chopping. There was butter to be softened, vegetables to be chopped, a whole chicken to be marinated and potatoes to be boiled; And not to forget the cake to be baked for dessert. Let’s not forget the cleaning and dusting which I had pushed down to the end of my to-do list as well.
When my friends walked in forty five minutes later, what they saw was me running as fast as a very pregnant woman can, trying to finish everything I had on my list. Friends being friends, Rishi and Lori jumped in to help me with all the preparation work.
So together we swapped gossips as we softened the butter, we laughed as we marinated the chicken with the mix of herbs, butter and garlic and we ooh-ed and aah-ed about the latest fashion as we chopped the vegetables.
Once everything was arranged, I pulled out my Borosil microwaveable dish and had the vegetables spread out in it. The onions, potatoes and carrots gave the right mix of bright orange, pale purple and light yellow as the backdrop onto which I gently placed my chicken, coated with the smooth buttery, garlicky marinade. Once it was placed in oven, I stationed myself in front of my microwave oven, praying and even secretly bribing all the Gods I knew so that it would turn out fine.
Once done, I had the chicken taken out of the oven in between the ooh’s and aah’s the smell brought about. Rishi and Lori had dropped what they were doing to come and gather around the chicken. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that we almost looked reverent, before breaking into idiotic grins. We had made a roasted chicken....a roasted chicken, all by ourselves.
The chicken, with pale yellow lemon wedges, pale purple onion halves and herbs peeking from the cavity it had been stuffed into. The butter had made the skin brown, crisp and glistening; almost begging to be crunched into. Beneath the browned skin, was the well seasoned and plump succulence waiting to be carved and served. The cooked vegetables, orange, white and mauve of the vegetables beneath the chicken created a vibrant backdrop. The fat released from the chicken had softened the vegetables as well, paling the colour but adding flavour.
While the chicken had been cooking, we had boiled, peeled and quartered the potatoes for the salad. We had seasoned it with mayonnaise, flecks of garlic, shallot and other condiments. At end of the mixing, the bowl held a creamy combination of golden yellow potatoes mixed with flecks of white, green and mauve.
At the end of an hour and half, we had a plump, brown and succulent roasted chicken and creamy, soft as butter potato salad ready. Patience is a virtue, just not ours, you see...we had been poking and prodding the chicken for quite some time and wasn’t sure whether we could wait till the cake was made before digging in.
For the sake of a perfect facebook post, we decided that we would wait until the cake was done. Thus began the next round of mixing, whisking and tasting. We measured out the flour and got the recently snowed look pat down for the kitchen counter. We mixed flour, butter, eggs, sugar and orange juice, taking turns to blend all of it until it resembled cake batter. Rishi being the only one with any baking experience, she supervised us all the while to make sure we wouldn’t end up with an orange rock. Once again, I had to go back to my Borosil microwavable dish to bake the cake.
The house was filled with mouth watering aromas, making it a home which was reminiscent of my home from childhood. As the cake baked, we decided to start with the lunch all of us had spent so long to prepare. We got the food on the table which consisted of baguette cut into diagonal pieces, creamy potato salad resting in the blue ceramic bowl and the chicken, the jewel in the crown resting on the vegetables proudly. We had the vegetables soaked in chicken’s marinade and fat and the baguette to accompany our meal. The chicken, salad and baguette were accompanied with more gossip and laughter, and washed down with red wine. Well, red wine for them, and orange juice for me, to be precise.
Once the meal was done, we finished off with a big piece of orange cake just out of oven, its brown crust hard and the inside pale orange and soft. The warmth of the cake was offset with scoops of cold vanilla ice cream bathed in dark chocolate sauce as we watched a romantic comedy we had found while switching channels.
We cleared everything post our lunch with a smug smile which if translated would mean “oh yes, we can cook, alright!” It was the first time I had cooked with my friends, and the experience has made us decide that we will do more of such girls’ day in and try out recipes, the tasting at one another’s risk.
This post has been written as a part of Borosil My Beautiful Food (http://www.myborosil.com/)