Sunday, September 21, 2008

The way to this girl's heart...

I’ve fallen for a Chef.

Some might say this would be an inevitable move for a self-confessed food-a-holic, and yet surprisingly I had never thought of tapping the ‘boys who can cook’ market. An oversight, as I now discover.

There is, of course, a drawback to this, namely that he is an American, who lives (and, more importantly, cooks) in the states. The course of true love ne’er runs smooth.

He rapidly figured out the way to my heart, which involved him cooking many a nibble worthy of a scribble. So I thought I would share details of some of the dishes which, for any budding Romeos who might be reading, come with 100% guarantee that they’ll have a girl swooning and begging for more (food, that is, you naughty so-n-sos).

Boys, have your pen and notepads ready for some hints and tips. Girls, sit back, relax and enjoy…

Step 1: Tantalise and Tease
New England Clam Chowder

I’ll admit, before Chef actually cooked I was a skeptic. There are loads of burger-flippers out there donning the checked trousers and calling themselves a cook.

One spoonful though, and I was a true believer. This was the Holy Grail of chowders. The boy was talented. (I kept quiet, and savoured the soup in silence, not letting on just yet). Thick and filling, creamy and intensely flavoured, every mouthful took me straight to the coast. I wasn’t in a sitting room in Connecticut, I was in a sou'wester and waterproof boots, weatherbeaten and hungry, just in from the fishing! I mean, I’ve been there, done that, and tasted it before – my early childhood even included a trip to New Orleans where chowder is A Big Deal. But Chef’s topped them all. The flavour of clams was rich, meaty and intense, made all the more so by the unexpected but welcome addition of Boars head bacon, salty and satisfying, and topped off beautifully with the heady perfume of thyme. The added crunch of tiny crackers ensured that I wasn’t lost in my reveries for too long, bringing me back to reality.

Ok, sure, he was good, I’ll give him that. But I was soon to learn that this wasn’t even the half of it…

Step 2: Turn up the Heat
Mexican Style Omelette

Omelettes are a permanent source of frustration for me. I know how to whip up a few simple eggs, but for some reason, add a few crazy ingredients and attempt to make them form some sort of omelette-shaped order and it all falls to pieces.

Safe to say then that I’m a sucker for a cracking (sorry) egg feast. The Queen of Mexican Style Omelette landed on my plate. It was a thing of beauty to behold – plump, succulent, bursting with carefully combined Mex-themed ingredients, and topped off with a punchy, piquant hot sauce. The tasty eggs danced in perfect harmony with diced tomatoes, red onions, green peppers, avocado, coriander and – the final yet perfect addition – melting cheese. Flippin’ ‘Egg this boy can cook, I thought to myself.

But he was only just warming up…

Step 3: Crack out the Aphrodisiacs
Fresh Lobster & Mussel Meunnier Linguine

I think I had an inkling he liked me when I saw him loading up the shopping trolley with three generously proportioned, still snapping but very promising looking live lobsters.

I was then treated to a Lobster Preparation 101 which was fascinating – though I confess to going slightly lightheaded at the point when their heads were snapped right off. The bodies were still wriggling as they were plunged into the scalding hot water, where their shells quickly turned bright red. The world will forever be divided into ‘those who know how to deflesh a lobster’ and ‘those who don’t’, and I’m now part of that secret society.

My heart jolted.….gorgeous, perfect, it took my breath away: a steaming plate of perfectly al dente linguine was in front of me. It must truly have been match made in heaven – a feathery light sauce of mussels with a generous amount of tender lobster threaded through, flecks of garlic laden cherry tomatoes which melted in the mouth, and thinly sliced courgettes.

Love at first bite.

Step 4: Hooked, lined and Sink Her
Pan Roasted Sea Bass

I could practically hear the fanfare with this one, as Chef rolled out a restaurant-worthy piece de resistance in a mere 25 minutes. This was real, live Ready, Steady, Cook.

Feast your eyes on this…
Chorizo-encrusted Pan Roasted Sea Bass with a scallop mousse - tender white tasty flakes of bass enhanced by the scallop and offset by the slightly toasted spicy meatiness of the chorizo

all complimented by...
• Roasted purple cherokee tomato with garlic, thyme and olive oil
• Sweet melting sticks of roasted butternut squash *chickpea and rocket salad topped with a caramalised shallot sherry vinaigrette
• all the delicious juices mopped up with toasted garlic/olive oil rye

That’s it, I give up. He’s won. I’ve thrown down my apron in despair. Whereas normally I’d be able to guarantee a boy’s affections merely by whipping up a batch of my killer brownies, slamming a roast chicken in the oven, or maybe stirring up a dreamy mess of risotto, I have to admit I’ve met my match with this one. Gracious, I’ll have to rely solely on my personality to win him over.

Of course if I could just get us a table in El Bulli

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