Just like at home, there can be too many cooks in a restaurant kitchen as well. And last night given the sparse reservations and ugly weather forecast, we had too many cooks in the kitchen. So, I planned to take the night off and let the line cooks fly on their own. Honestly, they wanted their nitpicky boss out of their hair for a night and so they were dropping hints about me going home all afternoon. They're not as slick as they think they are. But I was happy to play along.
That takes care of the too many cooks bit. But what about the Barolo? Earlier in the week, I had tasted an outstanding Barolo that I just knew that Ann would love. It was delivered yesterday morning. I had been looking for an occasion to break it out for her, to let her taste it blind, and to see how she reacted to it, hoping that she would be as beguiled by the wine as was I.
|It All Started with a Bottle of Barolo|
Knowing that I was going to serve Barolo with dinner started helping me focus on what to make for dinner. Criteria: simple, flavorful, easy on the waistline, less than an hour from start to finish, and pairs well with Barolo. If we both weren't trying to shed a bunch of excess weight, I would have made a simple but mindblowing risotto ai funghi. But rice and other simple carbs are just not on our diet right now, at least not midweek. Maybe if we are splurging on the weekend.
I started by thinking about proteins, what would pair well and what I had on hand. Barolo rules out seafood. What I really wanted was a roasted guinea hen or barring that, a fat hen chicken. Of course, I had neither on hand. But I did have two spare quail which would suffice. Now what to do with them? Pan sear them and finish with a quick braise in Barolo, naturally. And what to serve with them? Two 4-ounce birds by themselves are not going to feed two hungry adults. Risotto, of course! Ugh, we are not doing risotto until we shed some blubber. So what then?
Lentils to the rescue. Complex carbs and highly satisfying to mangiafagioli such as Ann and I. And lentils are a great foil, almost as great as rice (but not quite), for wild mushrooms.
|Lentils Cooking Away|
|Barolo-Braised Quail on Porcini Lentils with Matsutake Mushrooms|
Removing the quail from the pan to a plate, I started the sauce by adding the bacon, porcini, and shallot to the pan and cooking until the bacon was starting to render and crisp, about 90 more seconds. Into the pan next went a half a cup of Barolo, a couple tablespoons of pork belly goodness, and a half a cup of porcini stock. And back into the pan with the quail. I basted the quail for a minute or so, flipping them once so that the Wondra could do its bit in thickening the sauce slightly. Out of the pan again with the quail and a final reduction of another minute or 90 seconds to finish the pan sauce.
|We Ate at the Table like Big People|