Graduation day, at last. As I look out over your shining faces, the shining faces of the most promising class in this institution's history, I'm compelled to deliver a few parting remarks.
In the first place, I know it hasn't been easy. Over this past year -- 52 complete meals -- you've mastered the basics of cookery. You've learned, for example, that there are appliances in a kitchen other than the refrigerator. Many of you have learned which switch turns on which burner.
All that separates you from your diploma is one little test. And here it is, the final exam . . . Chicken Kiev.
The Staples: Make sure these are all on hand: Salt, pepper, flour, cinnamon, garlic, tarragon, wine vinegar, olive oil, creme de cacao.
The Shopping List: Chicken breasts (3 pounds, boned and flattened by your butcher); asparagus (2 pounds); pearl barley; figs (1 pound, fresh or canned); 1 small container sour cream; butter; eggs; parsley; scallions; mushrooms (1/2 pound); celery; vegetable oil (1 1/2 quarts, for frying); chicken bouillon (3 cups); seasoned bread crumbs.
Prepare in Advance: The asparagus.
Rinse the asparagus carefully and cut away the tough ends of the stalks. The best way to boil asparagus is to use a tall, covered pot and to stand the stalks upright in 2 or 3 inches of boiling water. The time required: approximately 15 minutes.
As the asparagus are cooking, prepare the vinaigrette sauce. To 3/4 of a cup of olive oil, add 1/4 cup of wine vinegar. Add salt, pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves, a small handful of chopped scallions, a large pinch of chopped parsley. Coat the asparagus with the dressing and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Also Prepare in Advance: The barley casserole.
Using a large frying pan over medium heat, melt 1/2 stick of butter. Add a large handful of chopped scallions, and 4 stalks of celery also chopped. Cook until celery softens, then add the mushrooms, sliced. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes more and set the vegetables to one side in a bowl.
Using the same pan and the same amount of butter, cook 1 1/2 cups of pearl barley until it begins to turn brown. Put the barley mixture into a casserole dish. Add the vegetables and a handful of chopped parsley and set to one side.
Also Prepare in Advance: The dessert.
If figs are canned, drain away the syrup. If fresh, peel away the skin and slice the fruit. Mix the sour cream with 3 or 4 tablespoons of creme de cacao. Immerse the figs in the cream, sprinkle with cinnamon and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Also Prepare in Advance: Most of the Chicken Kiev.
Chicken Kiev is a deep-fried chicken cutlet stuffed with butter and herbs. Much of the difficult work here could be -- and should be -- done by your butcher.Ask him to bone the chicken breasts and flatten them.
Lay the cutlet flat on a piece of wax paper. Put a small finger of butter -- perhaps a tablespoon -- on the broadest part of the chicken. Add pinches of the spices. Measurements don't have to be exact but keep the pinches on the small side -- a little minced garlic, a little tarragon, a bit of parsley. Roll the chicken around the herbs like a blanket and use a toothpick to hold it all together.
Set up an assembly-line operation of 3 bowls. In the first bowl, a cup of flour. In the second, an egg beaten together with the yolks of 4 other eggs. In the final bowl, the flavored bread crumbs.
Roll the chicken in the flour, then dip it into the egg mixture. Finally, roll it into the bread crumbs so that it's completely covered. Wrap the cutlets in wax paper and keep cold until you cook them.
5:15 p.m.: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5:30 p.m.: Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken bouillon to the barley mixture in a covered casserole and put in oven. Remove barley casserole from oven and add final 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth. Remove cover and return dish to oven. Barley will be done when all liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
6 p.m.: Start the vegetable oil heating in either a deep dryer or an electric frying pan -- set temperature for 375 degrees. At 375 degrees, the Chicken Kiev will cook in 4 to 5 minutes. They should be a rich brown on the outside and the butter should be steaming hot on the inside. As cutlets finish cooking -- and cut into one to check doneness -- allow them to drain on paper towels. They should be cooked as close to serving as possible; the perfect Chicken Kiev will emit a small geyser of melted butter and herbs when you cut into it.
And that should do it, graduates. Incidentally, those of you who have written in asking where you might obtain this entire collection of recipes, "Your Husband's Cookbook," will be out later this year, courtesy of Lippincott.Thanks for your kind attention and good luck.