In Washington from April thru October the weather tends to be tempermental and unpredictable, frequently disrupting the best planned menus. One way to keep your calm and always serve a meal that fits the weather is to prepare dishes that are equally appetizing and eye appealing hot or cold.
Cook the dishes and put them in the refrigerator. If its a scorching day, you can bring the dishes directly to the table. If it turns chilly, you can route the dishes to the table by way of the oven. Use attractive heat and cold resistant cookware, and you won't even have to transfer the food to other dishes to heat them.
In Greece and Turkey many traditional dishes are served tepid. In the old days home kitchens did not have ovens. The dishes were prepared at home and carried to the village or neighborhood ovens to bake. By the time they were carried back home they had, of course, cooled off. And, many were already at room temperature when picked up -- the baker could not time it so all the dishes came from the oven just before meal time. Greeks and Turks often still serve their mousakas, pastitsio mean ball, and vegetable combinations at room temperature.
Flavors are more pronounced when food is not piping hot or icy cold. Cold soups, with the exception of gazpacho and cucumber soup, are equally good, although different served hot. Most soups designed to be served hot, on the contrary, are not very appetizing cold. Chicken breasts ala blanche (6 servings) 6 small chicken breasts Flour for dredging 1/3 cup butter or margarine 1/3 cup sherry 1 teaspoon tomato paste 2 tablespoons flour 1 cup chicken stock or bouillon 1 1/2 cups sour cream salt and pepper 2 tablespoons currant jelly 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese.
Debone the chicken breasts. Dredge them lightly with flour and brown them in a skillet in which you have heated the butter or margarine. Pour on the sherry. sRemove chicken. Mix the tomato paste and flour, and with a wire whisk stir them into the pan juices. Gradually stir in the chicken stock. Simmer, stirring until the sauce begins to thicken. Whisk in the currant jelly and parmesan cheese. Return the chicken to the pan, cover closely and simmer over low heat for 1/2 hour. Just before serving add sour cream and mix in slowly until heated through. Do not allow to boil.
Arrange the chicken breasts on a platter, preferably an ovenproof one in case you wish to reheat. Spoon the sauce over the chicken breasts and put into the refrigerator until time to serve.
This is best if made at least a day in advance, whether it be hot or cold. CHICKEN WITH CREAM CURRY SAUCE (6 servings) 1 frying chicken (3 to 4 pounds) 2 tablespoons butter or margarine salt and pepper Cream Curry Sauce: 1 medium onion, chopped 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil 1 teaspoon curry powder 1/2 cup chicken stock Juice of 1/2 lemon 1 teaspoon tomato puree 2 tablespoons sweet mango chutney 1 cup mayonaise 1/4 cup heavy cream
Cut the chicken into quarters. Saute in butter or margarine until golden.Salt and pepper to taste. Cover the skillet and simmer over a low flame until well cooked, about 30 minutes. Cool. Debone the chicken and arrange the slices on a platter (overproof so you won't have to transfer it if you decide to serve the dish hot). Cover with the cream curry sauce and serve hot or at room temperature.
Cream curry sauce: Saute the onion in the oil until soft. Stir in the curry powder, chicken stock, tomato puree, lemon juice and chutney. Simmer for 5 minutes. Strain into a bowl and chill. Then stir in the mayonnaise and heavy cream and chill until ready to spread over the chicken.
When served cold the following cakes have a texture of a country pate. GROUND VEAL AND PORK CAKES (6 servings) 1 pound ground veal 1 pound ground lean pork 3 large tomatoes peeled 1large onion 1 1/4 cups cream 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 3 tablespoons butter or margarine 1 cup chicken stock or bouillon 2 tablespoons flour 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Run the ground veal and pork, potatoes and onion twice through a meat grinder with a fine blade or put in a blender and run as for grating until they are well blended and potatoes and onions nearly homogeous with the meat.
Stir into this mixture 1/2 cup of the cream, the parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Blend well and then shape into cakes 1 inch thick and 2 inches in diameter. Saute the cakes in butter or margarine until brown on both sides. Add 1/4 cup of cream and the chicken stock to the pan. Cover lightly and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pan and arrange on an ovenproof serving dish.
Mix the remaining 1/2 cup of cream with the flour and then stir slowly into the juices in the pan. Stir over low heat with a wire whisk until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in the lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the cakes. Chill. If the temperature drops and you prefer a hot dish, just reheat in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes. MOUSSE OF CHICKEN LIVERS (6 servings) 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter 2 tablespoons flour 1 cup milk 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 pound chicken livers 3 eggs 2 egg yolks 1/4 teaspoon salt Ground black pepper 1/2 clove garlic, pressed 1/3 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup madeira, sherry or cognac
First make a cream sauce by melting the butter in a small heavy saucepan, stirring in the flour with a wire whisk and allowing it to boil up for a minute. Gradually stir in the milk and continue to stir with the whisk until the mixture is thickened and smooth. Add salt and allow to cool.
Place the chicken livers, eggs, egg yolks, salt, pepper and pressed garlic in a blender. Blend at top speed for 1 minute. If you do not have a blender, beat the ingredients together with a rotary beater and then press through a coarse sieve. Add the cooled cream sauce, heavy cream and the madeira and blend or heat well for another minue. Strain through a sieve into a bowl. Grease a 4-cup ring or plain mold. Pour in the liver mixture, filling to 1/8 inch of top.
To cook, set the dish in a pan of boiling water and bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until it is set (a knife should come out clean). Cool and chill. If you decide to serve it hot, instead of unmolding the mousse, set the mold back in a pan of boiling water, put in a 375-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes to reheat, then unmold onto a serving plate.
The mousse or timbale may be served as is but if you wish to gild the lily serve with a mushroom sauce. Make the sauce in advance and chill. If the weather calls for a hot dish, reheat the sauce before pouring it over the mold. If served cold, serve the sauce in a separate bowl. Mushroom Sauce 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon minced shallot or green onions 2 cups sliced mushrooms 1 tablespoon flour 1/2 cup madeira or 1/3 sherry 1 cup light cream salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a skillet and saute the shallots or onions for 1 minute. Add the sliced mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes. Sprinkle on the flour. Gradually stir in the cream and wine, simmer for 2 or 3 minutes to allow to thicken slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ramekin Forestiere is excellent cool, hot or in between. If you feel the need for meat, serve with sliced ham. RAMEKIN FORESTIERE (6 servings) Filling: 2 cups finely minced mushrooms 2 talbespoons butter or margarine 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots or onion 1 tablespoon flour 1/4 cup heavy cream Salt and pepper Ramekin Mixture: 4 talbespoons butter or margarine 6 tablespoons flour 2 cups milk 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/8 teaspoon pepper Dash of nutmeg 5 eggs 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated swiss cheese
To make the filling: Saute the mushrooms and shallots in hot butter for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mushroom pieces begin to separate and to brown. Sprinkle on the flour and stir for 1 minute to cook the flour. Stir in the cream and stir until it thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To make the ramekin mixture: Melt the butter in a heavy 2 1/2-quart saucepan. Stir in the flour with a wire whisk. Allow this roux to bubble up for about a minute, then gradually stir in the milk. Continue to stir with the whisk until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, cook for 2 or 3 minutes until very thick and smooth. Remove from the heat and, one by one, beat in the eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and the cheese.
Spread half of this mixture into an au gratin dish, about 9-by-5-by-3 inches. Spread the mushrooms on top and cover with the remaining mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. To reheat if desired, put into a 400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.