GC#30 – A Dose of Reality

I'm in a pickle!

It’s late Sunday night and plans are being finalized for a tentative dinner party on Wednesday.   I’ve already shopped at the Farmers Market and my CSA.  It’s the first week of teaching and I’m swamped.  But I also have high expectations for a great dinner.  I want to serve the best locally grown organic food possible.  I don’t have time to shop.  The dishes must be quick and easy to make.

I plan my menu based on what I have, what’s in the freezer and my sour brine vegetables.  

 Chicken Liver Pate and Fresh french bread

Sour brine prickles and garlic

Hot pepper and garlic sauce

Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup

Garnished with thin strips of fresh basil.

Atlantic Sea Scallops in garlic and white wine

Broiled salmon

Green salad with Roquefort dressing

Eggplant Cabin John

Pasta with fresh garden pesto


Sour Cherry Pie

Now, can I really pull this off?  Here’s the plan.

  • Monday night – make the chicken liver pate and pepper and garlic sauce.
  • Tuesday – shop at the nearby coop, prep eggplant, make pesto, prep pie dough and bread.
  • Wednesday – Prepare soup garnish, prepare salad and dressing, complete eggplant, pasta, pie and cook the scallops and salmon.  Hmm …

Red Peppers and Garlic Make a Great Sauce

Monday’s reality – all I actually got done was the pepper sauce and

poaching the chicken livers.

Tuesday’s reality – I prepped the dough for the fresh French bread and put it in a bowl to rise overnight.   I finished the chicken liver pate and made the pie dough and put them both in the refrigerator.  Finally, I broiled slices of eggplant brushed with olive oil in prep for the Eggplant Cabin John.

Wednesday – Before I left for school, I took the hot pepper sauce, the red pepper and tomato soup and sour cherries out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator. They were still partially frozen when I got home at 2:30, and I put them on the counter to continue thawing along with the pie dough, which needed to soften before I could roll it out.

Four hours left before the guests arrive. 

  • I took the bread out of the bowl, kneading it for a few moments and put it on a towel covered with cornmeal. It would rise for two hours.  About forty-five before the end, I would turn on the oven to 450° and put the enamel cast iron baking dish in the oven to heat up.
  • The two hot pepper sauces were already made so they were ready to go.
  • I was supplementing the scallops with two pieces of salmon, in case someone didn’t want to eat a mollusk.  I put the salmon to marinated in olive oil, a splash fish sauce, mirin and a tablespoon or so of garlic powder. The scallops would be tossed in a mixture of flour and garlic powder with a little salt and freshly grated white Pepper just before I sauteed them in olive oil and white wine.
  • I sliced the pickles and got out the pickled garlic and the sauerkraut.
  • I boiled the pasta and added the pesto sauce.  (This dish is best served at room temperature.)

The real challenge was scheduling the oven. I decided to get the bread done first and then bake the pie.  The bread would come out about 5:00 and the pie would go in for an hour, leaving the oven free by 6:30 at the latest to broil the salmon and finish the eggplant dish.

Next, I rolled out the pie dough, put it in a pie plate, painted the dough with egg white to seal it and put it back in the refrigerator, then mixed the sour cherries with flour, sugar and spices.

Time to finish the egg plant prep, covering each browned slice with a little intense red pepper sauce, half a cherry tomato and freshly grated parmesan cheese.  The eggplant would go under the broiler at the last minute.

I finished the pie just before the bread was done, adding the cherries and covering the pie with a top crust, crimped at the edges and sprinkled with sugar.  The pie went in at 425°, cooked for 25 minutes and for another thirty at 350 until the crust was nicely browned and the cherries were bubbling through the cracks.

I broiled the eggplant until the cheese bubbled and turned brown.  While he eggplant cooked, I prepared the salad with pre-washed salad greens and crumbled roquefort cheese, splashed with olive oil and white wine vinegar, sprinkled with a little salt and freshly ground pepper.

The guests arrived and while they munched on fresh bread and pate, we served the soup.  I had time for a few convivial spoonfuls, and then retreated to the kitchen to broil the salmon and finish up the scallops, about twelve minutes away from the table, and the entrées were piping hot.

A note on food sources:

Chicken Livers – from Ecofriendly Foods, founded by Bev Eggleston – they farm and distribute pasture grown meat out of Moneta, Virginia.

Cucumbers, garlic and dill for the pickles from Redbud Farm, Inwood, West Virginia.

Peppers from my CSA Even’Star Farm in Lexington Park, Maryland.

Fresh Basil – from my garden.

Salad Greens – 

Scallops – from the coast of North Carolina.  The Atlantic sea scallop is at historically high levels of abundance after recovery from overfishing.


Chicken Liver Pate Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup rendered chicken fat
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 medium onion grated

Chicken liver pâté preparation

  • Put the chicken livers in boiling water and simmer for 15 or 20 min.
  • Chop the chicken livers in a food grinder.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. Make sure the chicken livers are thoroughly blended.
  • Check the seasoning pack the mixture into a crock and chill in the refrigerator.
  • This is a real favorite with people, and closely resembles the French pâté foie gras, made with enlarged goose livers, illegal in the United States.

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup – See Blog #28 – Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes.

Fresh French Bread – See Blog #8 – Bread

Sour Brine Pickles and Garlic – See Blog #27 – Sour Brine Pickles

Sea Scallops in Garlic and White Wine Ingredients

  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds sea scallops.
  • A quarter of a cup white flour.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder.
  • A 3rd of a cup of white wine.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

See scallops in garlic and white wine preparation

  • Take the scallops out of the refrigerator in time to bring them to room temperature.
  • On a large plate or in a bowl mix the white flour the garlic powder and salt and black pepper.
  • Drench the scallops and the flowering garlic mix. Some cooks dip the scallops in milk 1st, but I leave that step out.
  • Heat the olive oil in a saucepan until it is very hot but not smoking.
  • Add the scallops and sauté as quickly as possible ideally until the scouts begin to brown. But don’t over cook them. Scallops cook very quickly.
  • Just before they’re done pour in the wine and cook quickly to reduce by about half.
  • Serve immediately.

Sour Cherry Pie – You’ll find a recipe for the dough in Blog #20 – Strawberry Rhubarb pie.  Another one of the great pies in my view, and in no way hurt by using frozen sour cherries. My only regret is that I didn’t freeze a lot more.

Sour Cherry Pie Filling Ingredients.

  • ¼ cup +2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mace
  • 5 cups sour cherries, tested
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into bits

 Sour cherry pie filling preparation

  • Mix the dry ingredients 1st and add the sour cherries
  • Pour the filling into the pie shell.
  • Dot the top with 2 tablespoons of butter.
  • Cover with the top crust, crimp the edges, paint the crust lightly with milk and sprinkle on a thin coating of sugar.
  • Bake the pie in a preheated 420° of and for 25 min. Then reduce the temperature to 350 and continue baking for about 25 to 30 min. Until the top is golden.
  • For double decadence, served with vanilla ice cream.

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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5 Responses to GC#30 – A Dose of Reality

  1. Galen says:

    Simply amazing! Way to take it up several notches!

  2. Georgia says:

    You make it pretty close to IMPOSSIBLE to live up to your amazing standards!

  3. George Koch says:

    Chris, Amazing, have you thought of setting up in business as a professional menu advisor for retaaurents? George

  4. Hi! impressive! I love the “plan v reality” story..I do that so often- planning a meal that’s way beyond the time I have got. Lovely blog. I found it whilst looking for a picture of “peppers and garlic” to illustrate the start of my blog post on “chicken leftover recycled into chicken Hola!”. If I credit the image to you with a link to your site, would you mind if I use it? (the pic at the top of this post)? let me know. Thanks.

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