Saturday, August 05, 2006

Fire Me Up - Grilled Chicken and Hott Bread Salad

"Fire Me Up Chicken and Hott Bread Salad . . ."

On the first Tuesday of every month, general admission to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Palace of Legion of Honors and the de Young Museum is FREE.

"San Francisco bound . . ."

Early Tuesday morning, we set out for a fine day to engross ourselves in the arts, culture and enlightenment that the City had to offer. The morning traffic of Highway 101 South ran swift and smooth until we got to the Marin County border. At that point, it was bumper to bumper as we proceeded to the Golden Gate Bridge. Once we crossed the bridge, paid our $5.00 toll fee and merged into the 19th Avenue byway, we were home free. Upon arriving at the top of the hill, we were challenged with parking spaces or lack thereof. After making several dead-end turns, we opted to park in the neighborhood area just off of Clement Street. I had a bit of workout walking up the incline towards the Legion of Honors. My quads and calves are still aching from the trek.

"Monet in Normandy Exhibit . . ."

Once we arrived at the museum, we faced another challenge. Lines of people waiting to get the FREE entrance to the ”Monet in Normandy” exhibit. As many of you know by now, Ander is a talented artist. He is a “landscape impressionist” and actually makes a decent living at it. I learned years ago from another seasoned artist’s wife, that the world of art, as a career, is “Feast or Famine”. During our 20-year relationship, we’ve endured the famine, for only a few minor periods. That’s the life of an artist. Most of our married life we’ve been able to live out a considerably fair amount of feasts. We’re very privileged to have the fortitude and courage to live out our dreams.

"Garden in Giverny " ©ander.all rights reserved. Client Private Collection.

After waitng in line for a mere 1 and ½ hours, we were famished. We decided to have lunch at the Legion of Honor Café and Garden Terrace. There, we were met with yet another line to wait in. As we stood in line, we had the opportunity to peruse the menu. It had an array of selections. We decided we would share a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. But this was not any ordinary sandwich. It was described to consist of ”Korbuto Ham and Gruyere Cheese with Fig Onion Marmalade.” You know how am about Figs. I couldn’t resist. Never heard of “Korbuto” ham before, but I was willing. Anyone out there, familiar with this type of ham? Give me a shout out. I’m curious. I want to know.

Upon reaching the entrance of the café, I noticed a gorgeous, golden, mouthwatering roasted chicken being served. This was only a half chicken portion, but it was larger than the size of the head of its recipient! Poor woman, she was aghast at the sight of what was just presented in front of her. The ever-so-charming server murmured the obligatory, “Enjoy”, and walked away. Because of the location of her table, the first one facing the entrance, she was confronted with exclamations of “Oh, my God, are you gonna eat all that?”, “What is that? Looks gooooooood.” and “My word, how big was it before they cooked it?”. Poor woman, she could barely eat her meal with such interruptions. She would politely acknowledge and answer with a smile. She ended up walking away with scarcely a dent in the dish.

"Rocky Jr. Chicken . . ."

Well, as you can imagine, I was so intrigued, I had to order the “Rocky Jr. Chicken”, which was described as ”Herb Garlic Marinated Chicken, Warm Bread Salad with Caramelized Onion Broth”. When the dish was placed before me, I knew instantly what I was to expect. I recognized the meal portrayed in front of me. I articulated and said out loud, simultaneously, (Is this feat even possible?) ”OMG! This is a knock off of the Zuni Café’s Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad. It’s their signature dish!” I immediately asked our server for a second plate to divide the meal as Ander and I usually “split” the order when it becomes obvious that the portions are extensively more than we can consume individually. Suffice it to say, we were bursting with great satisfaction.

Last night’s dinner, I attempted to revisit the dish and make my own knock off. However, there were some twists and turns that I had not anticipated. First, I did not roast the chicken, but rather barbecued 4 Rocky Jr. chicken thighs. I did not use the oven, but rather fired up the unwavering, reliable Weber. There were no fat drippings to enhance the flavors of the salad, so I relied on our spice rack to make do. Ander, the self-proclaimed, ”Fire God” fueled the grill with wood-burning coals and headed out to harvest some arugula greens for our ”Hott (yes, double “T’s”, please) Salad”.

In the coolness of the kitchen, I prepared the garlic-herb marinated chicken, the vinaigrette dressing and toasted bread chunks. I tossed the bread chunks with some of the dressing, wrapped them in foil. With accoutrements in hand, I proceeded to venture out to the world of “Open Fire” cooking.

"Open Fire Cooking . . ."

"Mise en place (MEEZ-ahn-plahs) . . ."

"Hot Vinaigrette Dressing . . ."

"Hot Croutons . . ."

"Fresh Arugula . . ."

"Hott Arugula Salad . . ."

Well, it was an adventure, indeed! Ander and I thoroughly enjoyed the experiment. The meal turned out acceptable, not too bad. One thing I learned about "Open Fire" cooking, you have to have the “feel” of the fire to have the temperature control you need in cooking a decent meal. All I can say is, “Viva, al carbon!”

"Grilled Chicken and Hott Arugula . . ."

Since it was a Friday night, which we’ve traditionally designated as “Date Night”, dessert was reserved for a piece of “sweet something” and a cuppa at A’roma Roasters Coffee House where they have live performances on Friday nights.

”POST NOTE”: Although my attempt at last night’s dinner was to “revisit” the meal at the museum café, it was in NO WAY even a slight replication, nor would I even qualify it as a “Knock Off” of the Zuni Café’s well known signature dish. It was simply a “variation on the theme”.

I will, with good intentions, in some future date, make the effort of preparing the “Zuni Cafés Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad” dish, following Judy Rodgers' recipe from her own words and culinary expertise. That is, when the oven is ready to get “fired up” again.

Life is banquet, my friends.


Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

That looks excellent!

7:53 PM, September 07, 2006  

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