The Friday 5 #2
Welcome back to the Friday 5, in a week when my brain and tastebuds have both been compromised by COVID so let’s hope it’s reasonably coherent …
As imagine you’re gearing up for Easter I thought we’d talk about chicken, champagne and no, not chocolate - we did that last week. Cheese. Plus 2022’s most improbably fashionable ingredient so far and a great place to meet mates in the West End.
1. If you’re having chicken for Easter do BUY a decent one and when I say decent I mean free-range and slow-reared. Unless you’ve got a good butcher locally I’d go to a specialist and one of the best is Fosse Meadows whose birds are raised for a minimum of 81 days - three times as long as most commercial birds. Obviously they cost more (from £15.21 a chicken) but if you haven’t shopped with them before you get 10% off your first order. (Anyone does, not just ‘cos you’re reading this.)
Your inclination might be to go for the biggest bird but here’s a thought. One of the best ways I’ve found of roasting chicken comes from the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. It’s dry-brined in the fridge for 2 days then roasted for 45 minutes to an hour which results in succulent (god, I hate that word but it’s true) meat and fabulously crisp skin*. It works better with a smaller bird so instead of one large one you might want to buy two. I wouldn’t bother with the accompanying salad tbh. A Caesar salad would be better. Or just a green one.
(*so long as you don’t put too much other stuff in the oven at the same time so maybe Jersey Royals rather than roasties)
2. ORDER darling. No I’m not being over-familiar. Not order, darling but order DARLING. It’s a cheese - a particularly lovely mellow, buttery blue cheese, with rather dramatic vertical blue veins through it. When I wrote a piece on blue cheese last year it was one of my favourites. Why the name? It’s made by the Northumberland cheesemaker Doddington who named it after lighthouse-keeper’s daughter Grace Darling, who rowed a lifeboat to rescue shipwrecked survivors from the SS Forfarshire in 1838. Great story - worth reading. She was only twenty two then died at 26. Tragic).
You can buy it from one of my favourite cheesemongers Courtyard Dairy but it’s not really worth buying just the one cheese is it? They do a brilliant Lancashire you should definitely add to the order, plus the Killeen goats gouda and the St James, a washed rind sheep cheese. You’re welcome.
3. SPLASH OUT on champagne. Not so much in the spirit of celebration - there’s not a great deal in the world to celebrate at the moment but just as a treat, maybe instead of going out to a restaurant.
Being Easter there are obviously quite quite a few special offers out there but what I’d like to encourage you to do is try a grower’s champagne which means a champagne made by the guy - or woman - who grew the grapes as opposed to big brand champagnes which are blended from grapes from all over the region. They tend to be more individual in character than the famous names.
What I’d do if my flat didn’t already resemble a wine warehouse would be to invite some friends to pitch in for a fish and chip supper and to contrast and compare these three from Champagne Heucq I tasted at London wine merchants Lea & Sandeman the other day. They might strike you as expensive, and of course they are compared to Lidl’s Comte de Senneval*, but both the Fossile and Tandem are cheaper than Moet’s basic non vintage which sells squillions of bottles. And a great deal more interesting.
4. MAKE Pangrattato. Just so you don’t think I think you’re made of money here’s a really frugal garnish. which is adorning dishes in London’s most fashionable restaurants right now. Pangrattato which was originally a poor man’s substitute for parmesan. In other words crisp fried breadcrumbs.
You need to keep a bit of texture to them so the bread - ideally sourdough - needs to be a couple of days old and not whizzed up too fine. A food processor is better than a blender for this or even tear the bread up into little pieces by hand while you listen to your favourite podcast* then fry them in olive oil or, better still, bacon fat (Fry streaky bacon until crisp, blitz and set aside. Use the bacon fat to fry the crumbs then mix with the reserved bacon.) Use them to garnish pasta, cauliflower cheese as above or add extra crunch to a salad.
*Mine is Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart’s The Rest is Politics
MEET at Jose Pizarro’s cafe at the Royal Academy. If you’re searching for the holy grail of a convenient central London meeting point the Royal Academy is right up there - not least because you can now have a drink and a snack at Jose Pizarro’s new restaurant.
Señor Pizarro is a much-loved Spanish chef with I think about four other restaurants including two in Bermondsey Street. The staples like pan con tomate are predictably good but I would also urge you to order the bunuelos de gambas aka spicy prawn fritters with lemon allioli. Maybe twice. He also does a really decent Cava - part of a terrific short Spanish wine list that’s all available by the glass.
As always, let me have your feedback, especially in these early weeks when I’m trying to make sure there’s something for everyone and get the balance right. And look out for the first of my ETDT menu planners this weekend …
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