A) Readers, I am on cloud nine. My smile is Joker-wide. I've got an even larger spring in my step than usual. Not only have so many of you voted in yesterday's Future of Em-i-lis Poll but also you have left such thoughtful comments and are full of support. Thank you for the notes, emails, feedback and suggestions. I am flattered, humbled and newly energized. Nearly 80% of you like the way things are; the rest want more in the way of cooking, recipe development, kids and eating, and so forth. I love it! If you haven't already, keep voting and let me know what you think about direction as I commence year 4 of this wonderful journey. Share Em-i-lis with friends, comment when something strikes you, makes you laugh, looks good. I always love to connect with you and hear what's resonating and drawing you back for more.
Thank you! Gracias! Grazie! Merci beaucoup! Danke! Mahalo!
B) Smoking chicken! Two days back, one of my dearest friends, C (mom of the two little girls; we often cry/laugh together; we both love wine; she hates clothes and shopping but I can get past it!), texted to say that I must come over and shop. She and her hubs are renovating their kitchen, and she was in the midst of a serious purge. It all had to go. C is not overly excited about the process of renovating -not least because her interim kitchen will be in her bedroom- and it seemed like the best way I could support her in the short term was to go over, bring her the double burner and microwave we used during our renovation and take as much of her old crap as possible.
People, it was an absolute delight. It was like hitting the gold mine at a flea market but then you find your bill is $0. I got a silpat, (yet another) Microplane, this ridiculously cool soup pot, random pottery, other odds and ends AND a stovetop smoker box. She had two of these puppies (despite the fact that a) she doesn't like smoked foods and b) is a vegetarian; not that you can only smoke meats but that is a common object of smoking), and I chose the smaller, unsure if I'd use it regularly or watch it collect dust at my house rather than hers.
I used it last night to smoke a chicken breast, and suffice it to say that after one bite, I texted C and asked if the larger box was still up for grabs. Happily, it is now mine.
This is such a great contraption. Made by Cameron's, it's a stainless, multi-part box with a sliding lid and one of those cool folding handles. You simply place some finely chopped woodchips (Cameron's sells these too though I'm sure you could use any woodchips that you might already have for your grill) into the bottom of the box, place the drip tray directly on top of those, put whatever food you're smoking on the wire rack (C no longer had this so I simply put the chicken on a piece of foil directly on to the drip tray), slide the lid shut and place over medium heat on the stove.
Thirty minutes later, voila! I carefully opened the box, and a languid stream of hickory-infused smoke seemed to wind directly into my nose. I loooove smoked meats, love the smell of smokiness (when food-related) and so was utterly entranced. I like the the color smoked meat becomes; a perfect golden pinky-salmon that looks as lovely as it should and likely will taste.
While the chicken was smoking, I rummaged through my crisper drawers (my spring cleaning buzz has most definitely extended into the fridge, and I've been tossing or using everything I see) and found a small bulb of fennel and a half-head of Savoy cabbage. I thought a warm slaw-like salad would be a lovely base for sliced smoked chicken, so heated a little butter (2T) in a large skillet set over medium heat, added one thinly sliced clove of garlic and the fennel and cabbage (both thinly sliced), a half-teaspoon each of fennel and caraway seeds, drizzled some oil over the top and sprinkled generously with kosher salt and some fresh pepper.
Using my trusty olivewood spoon, I gently tossed all that together until the oil and butter were pretty evenly coating the veggies. Then I covered the skillet, turned the heat down just a hair, and steamed everything until it started melting together; not mushy but with a lovely softness balancing the residual crunch of the fennel and cabbage. When the chicken was done, I thinly sliced and placed it over the veggie sauté.
Honestly, it was delicious. Absolutely delicious. Simple, healthy, bright and just all-around comforting. I'll write up the recipe soon.
Since there is none left, I'm off to pull together some lunch. Having just remembered that there is pumpkin ravioli in the fridge and a small bunch of sage, I think I know just what I'll enjoy.
Thank you again everyone. I am really, really thankful!