Currant Affairs
November 7, 2005

For the first time in a long time I found myself shopping at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. Usually I'm working on Saturdays and can't get away to dip into the tempting stands before the market closes for the day, but yesterday I was happily fingering all the wares as I stocked up for The Evil Dr. Mathra's birthday dinner.

My canvas bag slowly filled up with herbs, springy escarole and frisée, heavy bulbs of garlic, and chewy bread, but I still hadn't found a very special ingredient: dried currants. One would think with the five or so dried fruit and nuts stands scattered around the farmers market that at least ONE of them would have currants. After crying no joy at one, I asked the friendly farmer if she knew of anyone who had the wrinkled little suckers. She didn't, but suggested I ask at the CUESA information booth.

The sour-faced woman there was barely friendly and even less helpful. She said she didn't know if anyone had dried currants. I'm hard put to figure out what else the CUESA information stand is for, other than to provide, you know, INFORMATION, but whatever. As a last resort, I decided to stick my head into the fabulous Boulette's Larder to see if they could help me out. I mean, they do have everything from carefully-made stocks of all kinds to braised pork belly to pre-soaked chickpeas, and I'm always happy for an excuse to check out their apothecary of endless herbs and spices.

Boulette's didn't have dried currants listed on their menu of stocked items, and they weren't obvious anywhere else in the store, so I began to lose hope. However, when I asked the very friendly chick behind the counter if she could help me out, she cheerily went to check and soon came back with my required amount. It was clear that she had dipped into their kitchen's personal store of dried currants in order to accommodate me. And it was awesome of them.

Thank you for saving my husband's birthday dinner of Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken and Bread Salad, Boulette's! I will always come back to you.

Meanwhile, cooking in my apartment kitchen has to be the eleventh circle of hell. Especially if I require heat to do it.

Soon after we moved in, the antique and basically worthless oven I fell in love with was replaced by a bright and shiny new GE gas oven. Fine and dandy. Except it doesn't have a vent or an EXHAUST FAN! I don't think the other oven had a vent either, but it had this big tube that plugged into the wall, which at least gave the illusion of being a vent. Now, whenever I try to roast anything above 375° the mere heat of the oven sets off the smoke detector. Can you imagine what happens when I roast meat that sizzles richly in its own fat? Serious anarchy erupts.

Screaming fire detector. Flap it silent with handy shirts or towels. Lock up cats in bedroom and open screenless windows to vent excess smoke. Rub streaming and stinging eyes. Open oven to brown chicken on other side. Flap quiet other detector. Answer front door and assure apartment manager that nothing is burning I'm a trained professional for chrissake but the stupid alarms are too sensitive and by the way why don't we have an oven that vents our savory yet annoying smoke. Wonder why apartment manager was suddenly called away on apartment manager business. Stick bread salad in oven. Flap detector quiet again and threaten to disconnect if detector won't keep culinary criticism to self. Pull chicken out to rest and cool on cutting board while deglazing pan. Grab 500° metal pan handle with bare hand and scream blue murder. Answer door and tell apartment manager no murder actually occurring in apartment but while here ask why kitchen windows are painted shut. Apartment manager suddenly called away on apartment manager business again. People outside gathering on sidewalk to wonder where delicious but thick smoke coming from. Wrap ice around hand and finish meal using only right hand.

Roasted Chicken and Bread Salad

Take multiple pictures of finished dish. Get so distracted by searing pan in hand that don't notice roasted chicken is upside down. Wonder why breast meat is so thin. Realize error when carving but too sweaty and tired to flip bird for more pictures. Pick out all red wine-macerated dried currants and eat them with succulent breast meat and juicy bread salad. Drink lots of Bonny Doon Angelica sherry and Bonny Doon DEWN 2004 Barbera d'Asti to kill pain in hand. Note that wine goes well with Zuni Cafe roasted chicken and bread salad. Type entire entry with right hand. Pass out.

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