Friday, June 5, 2009

Part I - Relaxing on my four-day birthday weekend

I really needed a four-day weekend, and having a birthday seemed to help justify taking one.

Thursday, after work, we kicked off the weekend Chillin' at the Il. Il Fornaio is one of our favorite hangs. The bar has the most incredible view of the bay and skyline. We come here at least once a week to visit Johnny, who always takes care of us.

The Il was offering one of its Festa Regionale menus this month, featuring the food and wine of Lombardia. We thought the Casonzai de Berghem sounded really yummy: Half-moon pasta filled with Italian sausage, amaretti crumbs, mascarpone and Grana Padano cheese; served with a brown butter and sage sauce and crispy pancetta. Very nice.

The Il is also an ideal place to meet friends and we've enjoyed many birthday drinks and dinners here over the years. Here are 'the girls' on my birthday two years ago. We met for wine and hors d'oeuvres before seeing Keith Urban in concert.

John and I stopped by the Il last Halloween, after he won best costume in the Wine Styles' contest.

The Il is the ultimate viewing spot for the Parade of Lights at Christmas and the Red Bull Air Race, which came to San Diego for its third year last month.

Friday was a day of shopping, some girlie pampering at the salon, and a little quality time with my furry boys.

On Friday night, I prepared dinner for my man - Country Captain, a curried chicken dish on the menu of Watershed, Atlanta. I found the recipe in Saveur, my new favorite cooking magazine.

A few of the ingredients...currants, bacon, garlic, curry powder and bay leaves

Instead of peanuts, we garnished with pistachios. We really enjoyed the flavors in the thick curry sauce with the chewiness of the currants and crunch of the nuts.

Country Captain
Saveur, #119

1 3–4-lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 tsp. dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄4 cup canola oil
6 slices bacon, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped (3/4 cup tomato juice reserved)
3 tbsp. curry powder
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1⁄3 cup currants, plus more for garnish
2 bay leaves
2 cups steamed white rice, for serving
Peanuts, for garnish

1. Season chicken with thyme, salt, and pepper. Heat oil in a 5-qt. dutch oven over high heat. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Using tongs, transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.

2. Discard oil and return dutch oven to medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Add the garlic, celery, peppers, and onions to the dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and their juice and cook, stirring frequently, until the juice thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, butter, currants, and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens into a chunky sauce, 30 minutes.

3. Heat oven to 325˚. Add the reserved chicken to the dutch oven, nestling it into the thick curry sauce; spoon some of the sauce over chicken. Cover and cook until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken, serve with rice, and garnish with currants and peanuts.

Notes: The recipe calls for a whole chicken, cut up, but you could easily substitute chicken breasts and thighs. I also used red and yellow bell peppers instead of green. There was plenty of extra sauce, so you could add more chicken or freeze the leftover sauce to use for a quick weeknight dinner, over chicken or fish.


Will said...

Thanks for sharing this. I am getting married in September and we will be spending our honeymoon in Coronado. I grew up coming there in the summers, and at least one other time during the year. I love it, and I can't wait to introduce it to my fiance. Are there any spots on the island that you would recommend? We definitely want to head to the farmers' markets and get some food to cook, but we also want to eat a few meals out. I'd love to know some of your favorite places. Thanks-

Denise said...

There are several good restaurants on the island, but much more variety downtown, just over the bridge. On the island, for casual dining, some of our regular hangs (in addition to Il Fornaio) include: Brigantine for fish tacos, Miguel's for Mexican food (right behind the Brig), Bistro d' Asia for sushi and Eric's Calamari/Seaweed salad, and Primavera for an intimate, romantic Italian dinner. If you're not staying there, definitely walk through the Hotel Del, which has a fairly new restaurant, called 1500 Ocean, Babcock & Story Bar, and a new wine bar, called Eno Wine Room, featuring flights of fine wine, rare cheeses and gourmet chocolate. You can also check and for entertainment and restaurant ideas. Congratulations!