Thursday, September 20, 2007

Success and Failure--Cheesy Style

I simply adore my new neighborhood. I love Philly anyway, but, I swear—this is true love. The tree-lined streets, the three-story houses, moms and dads pushing their kids on bicycles to schools…it’s simply lovely. And it really has the feel of a real neighborhood. One where you learn people’s names and recognize them on the street, instead just joining the faceless thousands of people who walk the streets of Philadelphia.

Did this all of a sudden become a different kind of blog, you ask? Are these two girls not going to discuss food anymore? Don’t worry. It’s still about food. The friendly nature of my new neighborhood got to me—that and the fact that my room is mostly put together now—and I entertained for the first time. My lovely blogging counterpart Queesy came to my house for an “oops, we’re Jewish and missed the high holidays!” dinner.

Our menu was not ambitious, not ambitious at all. My lovely counterpart brought apples and honey so we could celebrate a sweet new year as well as a cucumber and a beautiful perfectly ripe tomato for an Israeli inspired salad. I was going to do one of my favorite things: roast a chicken. I was also going to reach back to my Southern roots and make cheesy, creamy, oh-so-delightful grits. We also made a quick side trip to my neighborhood wine and spirits store and bought a bottle of Chianti. Not so much for the pairing, just because we both like red wine and wanted to explore the Chianti world.

So we had the wine, the apples, the unambitious menu. I prepared the chicken and put it into the oven, seriously tempting fate as this was the first time I had tried this oven out. We ate the salad: the cool cucumber and the juicy tomato tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper. It was heavenly—just the right fresh start after a long day. The coolness also suited us as the oven heated up the kitchen while the chicken roasted.

Everything was going great…until the grits came. Up until this time, I worried mainly about the chicken. Why would I need to worry about the grits? I’ve been eating them for years. Until I remembered that I always always used measuring cups and spoons whenever I made grits. And I don’t have any in my new apartment (believe me, they’re on my list now). Grits do not lend themselves to ‘winging it.’ Instead of being hot and creamy, tangy with pepper and sharp cheddar cheese, my grits were watery, runny, and ultimately inedible.

Thank goodness my roommate had made rice and was willing to share.

To add insult to injury (in a sulky way), there was no reason that I should have worried about the chicken. None at all! It came out beautifully. The skin was crisp and golden and melted like butter (admittedly, that’s essentially what it was) in your mouth. The meat was tender and juicy, and the whole bird was essentially divine. I wish I had time to boil it down for stock, but this week is a little busy for me. I am, however, looking forward to making chicken salad tonight for tomorrow’s lunch.

The moral of this story? Don’t trust a transplanted southern girl when she says she knows how to makes grits. Because—at least in my personal experience—she might be lying to you.

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