As far as arrivals to one of my dinner parties go, last night was maybe the most dramatic of all time. I was making a chicken and sausage dish from Nancy Silverton’s under-appreciated cookbook Mozza at Home (I seriously consider it one of the best cookbooks to come out in recent years) and I’d cranked the oven up to 450, despite the fact that some of the liquid had spilled on to the oven floor. Well! That liquid sent PLUMES of smoke out of the oven, so much so that two things happened: all four smoke alarms in our apartment started going off; and the air became noxious with the scents of vinegar and burning. Which is exactly when our guests arrived.
Craig’s Aunt Liz, Uncle Chris, and Cousin Katie were great sports about the whole thing. They quickly helped us open all of the windows; they carried the children out back (the children being our dog Winston and Katie’s dog Ruthie); to help fan the air around the smoke detectors so they would stop beeping.
When things calmed down, we all got to appreciate the Meyer lemon tart that Katie brought for dessert (Amanda Hesser’s recipe):
As for the dinner, it actually came out okay. Here’s the concept: you brown a bunch of sausage in a pan and then, in that sausage fat, you brown chicken thighs. (McCall’s, my butcher, only sells thighs attached to the legs, which was part of the problem. Made the pan too crowded.)
Then comes the good stuff: in the pan with all of the brown bits from the sausage and chicken, you add lots of garlic and spicy, pickled peppers (I used Peppadews), then deglaze with white wine, red wine vinegar, and some of the Peppadew liquid.
That’s when I encountered some trouble. I had to add all of the meat back in, cover the pan, and stick it in the oven. It was kind of a Noah’s Ark situation with chickens and sausages vying for space.
I also used more sausages than I was supposed to. I just wanted to make sure there was enough food for everyone! (And everyone ate everything, so I was right.)
So, yeah, that went into the oven with the lid, the liquid spilled over, and the plan to remove the sausages after an hour and finish in a 450 oven so that the chicken could get glazed and bronzed was foiled by all of the smoke.
Still: I rallied and removed the sausages and finished the chicken on the stove top, on medium high heat with the pan half-covered.
Here’s the genius part of the recipe (and it’s truly genius): when you remove the chicken, you use all of that rich, spicy, vinegar-y liquid to cook broccoli rabe.
As for plating, I cooked a bunch of polenta in a pot and doctored it with lots of butter and Parmesan.
The final plate was a well-balanced dish that would’ve been a lot prettier if, again, I hadn’t crammed so much meat into a tiny pan.
Look at all of the happy people gathered around the table.
Just goes to show you: it’s not how much you mess up, it’s how well you recover.
Still… once an amateur, always an amateur.