Recipe: Venetian Chicken

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07 Feb Recipe: Venetian Chicken

Depending on which urban legend you cite, the Inuit have between 17 and 31 distinct words for snow. I have but one. And I can’t use it here.

This weekend’s additional donation of crystallized water had me dreaming of escape. While I wouldn’t turn down an all-expense paid trip to the Caribbean, my warm-me-up fantasies tend to focus on Europe. I realize they get winter there too, but my memories revolve around steamy summers spent backpacking through Europe, drooling over intricate architecture while getting fat on frozen treats. Since I wasn’t going anywhere the snow ploughs couldn’t reach, I turned to my bookshelf for a mental vacation. And Venice was the first stop on my imaginary trip.

My copy of Tessa Kiros’s Venezia: Food & Dreams is pure escape. From the gold-edged pages with the satin ribbon bookmark to the opulent photography, this is not a book you turn to for quick dinner fixes or innovative new recipes. Instead, it’s a book you melt into as the wind howls outside your window. Kiros describes Venice as “One of those rare moments when you grasp the magnificence of this world,” and her books captures the elegance, vivacity and beauty of the Floating City.

If you’re time-strapped, be careful. The photos will lure you to the dangerously comfortable couch as surely as sirens drown unsuspecting sailors. While the cityscapes will have you checking airfares to Italy, the food shots are like a trip to a Venetian museum. Antique dishes, Venetian masks, embroidered linens, gold-plated cutlery and hand-painted furniture serve as dressing. The photography is so opulent, you almost forget you’re looking at food.

Even the typography is carefully selected. The ampersand, liberally sprinkled throughout the text, turns simple cooking instructions into a thing beauty. But I shouldn’t be surprised at such details. After all, this is one of the few cookbooks I own with an Art Director (Lisa Greenberg) credited on the title page alongside the photographer (Manos Chatzikonstantis) and Stylist (Michail Touros).

The recipes? Sheer delight. Simple, elegant, authentic, and written with charm. Not only is the text printed in gold ink, which is surprisingly readable at the right angle, Kiros’s conversational instructions make you feel she is right there at your elbow, guiding you along. Foods “bubble up”, the “essential” Bellini requires not just cold, but “cold, cold” prosecco.

So Saturday night, as yet another half foot of snow floated onto our already burdened city, I made a simple chicken in tomato sauce dish with angel hair pasta, not the suggested polenta. We dined at a dimly lit table while white flakes flocked to the ground like the unruly pigeons that inhabit Piazza San Marco. As I savoured the slow-cooked chicken, for a short while I didn’t care about the weather. I had my moment of escape.

Where do you run to mentally when the snow falls? What foods draw you there? Or are you one of those people with excellent knees and a ski pass that just can’t get enough of the white stuff?

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  • Terry
    Posted at 20:01h, 20 February Reply

    Charmian, I tried this tonight and it was great. I love that sauce on the polenta, so flavourful, and the chicken just melted off the bone. So nice. Thanks for sharing. (I used the dried chillies instead of the cheese, lol).

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:44h, 21 February Reply

      Thanks for reporting back, especially since you made the recipe as the author originally intended. This is one of those recipes that’s perfect for a blustery winter night. Glad it worked so well for you!

      Stay warm!

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