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EVENT: Valentine’s Weekend Dinner
VENUE: Phoebe’s Parents’ Barn, Westchester
PARTY SIZE: 2
TYPE: Romantic Food Memory Recreation
MENU: Chicken Fricassée with Artichokes, Gnocchi, and Crème Fraîche; Roasted Cauliflower; Phoebe’s Classic Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
When it came time to write the dating section of our book, we decided to do a little anthropological research. And being the precise and scientific people we are, we did so by sending a 3-page survey to some of our friends. Keith, who is no stranger to the blog, applied the fervor usually reserved for stew-making and good beer, to our questions.
His comments were exactly what we wanted to hear—meaning, they echoed our hypothesis: girls don’t want to be served girl foods on a first at-home date, and they made their way into the book. Here’s what Keith made for one memorable date:
“I started with some gnocchi, which is my favorite pasta. Grilled a couple of chicken breasts. Chopped some garlic, onions, and veggies. Sautéed them in some white wine and mixed the components together with copious quantities of cream and freshly grated parmesan cheese. The concoction, while unquestionably heavy, is also too simple to mess up and quite pleasing to the taste buds. As expected, the lady in question ate daintily, drank copiously, and we had a great time.”
I was happy to hear Keith’s success story, as I had no real evidence of what made a dish seductive. That is, until my first food date with Josh, when he cooked me nearly the exact dish that Keith described above. I was convinced that the boys had secretly conferred beforehand, until I realized that they didn’t know each other. The person I do have to thank for the creamy chicken and pasta dish is Josh’s mother, Jeannie, who unknowingly passed on the recipe for wooing.
I may have had to avoid thyme stems, and bite into a few lemon seeds, but I couldn’t have asked for a better meal, or a better person with which to share all the creamy chicken and pasta dishes to come. For Valentine’s Day weekend, Josh and I escaped to my parents’ barn in Westchester, and I attempted to recreate the dish that he had cooked for me. I ended up taking the nod from Keith and using gnocchi as my “pasta” of choice, and making a chicken fricassée to go on top.
My own version of the dish fell a little flat for me, in the way that food can without the original sentiment that made the food memory so delicious in the first place. One day, perhaps Josh will make me his creamy chicken and pasta again, thyme stems, lemon seeds and all. In the meantime, I offer up my version to all the dudes out there looking for the perfect first food formula: cream, carbs, and plenty of surprises.
From my kitchen, where romance is born from carbs, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Chicken Fricassée with Artichokes, Gnocchi, and Crème Fraîche
Makes 2-4 servings
Inspired by this recipe.
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
4 chicken thighs
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup crème fraîche
One 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts
1 pound gnocchi
1 tablespoon dill (optional)
In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, place the flour in a shallow plate, and dredge the seasoned chicken on both sides, shaking off any excess.
Add the chicken to the pan in batches, making sure not to crowd the pot, and brown on both sides, adjusting the heat if the drippings start to burn. Set aside to a plate.
Add the onions, and turn the heat down to medium. Saute until translucent, scraping up any of the brown bits in the pan, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add the chicken back to the pot in one layer. Pour the stock over the top, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes. Carefully remove the chicken from the pot, and set aside on the plate. Whisk in the crème fraîche until fulling incorporated. Add the artichokes and bring to a simmer. Stir in the gnocchi, submerging them in the sauce, and return the lid to the pot. Cook until the gnocchi are tender, about 3 minutes.
To serve, spoon the gnocchi and artichokes onto a serving platter (or individual plates), and top with the chicken. Sprinkle with fresh dill and serve immediately.