Friday, September 4, 2009

- Friday Night Supper

Google “eating dinner together” with “student achievement” and you’ll come up with a raft of reasons why sitting around the table with your family every night is a sound parenting practice. But I can honestly say that Friday Night Supper was not designed to enhance anyone’s grades in school.

The original Friday Night Supper was my Mom’s way of taking a break from cooking one night a week since we rarely ate out. So, in my teen years anyway, my brother and I were on our own in the kitchen. My supper of choice was pancakes, made with Bisquick of course. Sometimes I opted for mock Crepes Suzette cribbed from an old, yellowing cookbook with its covers falling off from many years of use. I don’t remember its title, but it was thick as a New York phone book and inscribed to my mom “from your starving husband,” or words to that effect … a true relic from the early years of their marriage.

I still whip up crepes and orange sauce from time to time, using a recipe that has never before been written down and the battered Flint pancake turner that my brother Art gave me as a wedding gift. Another relic, it has been mightily used and abused in its time. On one memorable occasion, Art and I were bickering as Mom tried to fix dinner. She cautioned us to stop, which we ignored. Repeatedly. Finally fed up, she raised her voice and intoned, “Cut it!” while whacking the edge of the counter with the pancake turner. The handle shattered. Art and I stared at each other, eyes wide, then erupted in snorts as we tried to keep from laughing. Mom turned, the mangled Flint in her upraised hand and … laughed out loud. At which point we joined her, laughing until tears came to our eyes and our sides ached as we gasped for air. I don’t know if I was actually supposed to keep the Flint when Art gave it to me years later … I so wanted it that I never asked, and I’ve used it to flip hundreds, if not thousands, of pancakes since. It’s the best spatula I’ve ever used.

Fast forward to the 1990s: Friday Night Supper was my way of getting out of cooking, too. As a working mom, the end of the week marked the ebb tide of my energy and cooking ambition. I would head to the grocery store after work to do the shopping for a weekend’s worth of eating, but it was Ma Ukrops who did the actual cooking for the Friday night meal. The shopping list rarely varied: a rotisserie chicken, a loaf of crusty bread, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and avocado. Whoever packed the groceries was asked to place the bread atop the chicken nested in its plastic shell, the better to warm the bread up on the drive home.

I rationalized this abdication of my cooking responsibilities thusly: what is a recipe but an assemblage of ingredients after all? And the proof was in the pudding … my kids rarely missed being home for Friday Night Supper. In fact, they often brought friends to share the meal with us.  Heather and Jessica (shown here at Melissa's wedding) became stalwart fans. The resultant lack of leftovers was more than offset by the gift of their presence as we sat at the table talking on and on, long after the eating was done.

Friday Night Supper (Williamsburg Style)

1 warm rotisserie chicken (from Ukrops, if you have one in your own hometown)
1 fresh loaf of crusty break (Ecce Panis Neo-Tuscan Boule, if you can find it)
Fresh tomatoes (whatever variety is ripest)
Fresh basil (don’t count the cost, you’re worth it)
Fresh mozzarella (the softer the better)
Avocado (yielding ever so slightly to a discerning thumb)
Unio olive oil (you must have this on hand at home)
Kosher salt (another staple)
Fresh lemon (ditto)

Slice enough bread to serve the assembled diners, wrap in foil and put in a 350 oven
Slice tomatoes and mozzarella, top with basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil
Peel and slice avocado(s), drizzle with lemon juice
Request the services of your favorite carver to dismantle the chicken
Provide ample salt and pepper for seasoning at the table, along with olive oil for dunking the bread

Friday Night Supper (East Williston Style)
aka Crepes and Orange Sauce (serves 2)

2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
½ cup Bisquick (there I go with the Bisquick again)

Whisk the eggs and milk together, then add in just enough Bisquick to make a thin batter
Let the batter sit while making the orange sauce (see below)
Pour ¼ cup of batter into a hot, lightly oiled omelet pan
Tip pan to spread batter into a thin crepe, flip once (with a Flint, if you have one)
Batter should flow easily and set quickly … adjust as needed by adding Bisquick or milk
Roll each crepe and put on a warm plate in the oven until ready to serve

¼ cup orange juice concentrate (which now comes in re-sealable containers, very cool)
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbs. butter

Combine orange juice concentrate, water and sugar in a small saucepan
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer while the sauce thickens (five minutes or so)
Whisk in butter to finish the sauce and keep on very low heat until crepes are done
Adjust sugar to taste

Serve crepes with warm orange sauce and a sprinkling of extra sugar if you’re feeling particularly decadent (which is par for the course for me)


Deborah said...

Hi Liz,

I just read your wonderful blog! You have such an authentic writing voice, slightly wry and humorous and pragmatic, sweet and commonsensical and very smart. I look forward to reading your blog every day . . . Charlie and I miss you.
Cheers, Deborah

Liz Ackert said...

Humble thanks ...