When Mrs. Henry decided on a whim to hop a flight to San Diego, the Henry household was left to its own devices, that is, with Mr. Henry firmly, if temporarily, in command. Trying not to be alarmed by this sudden absence of leadership in battle, Mr. Henry swore a silent oath to provide Little Henry with first quality hot dinners each and every night.
The first night Mr. Henry bought his ultimate quick fix solution – grass-fed, organic, Australian ground sirloin at Citarella – the world’s best hamburger. Served on a toasted brioche roll alongside baked new potatoes and Ceasar salad, accompanied by a glass of Dolcetto, all was bliss.
His more serious efforts the following evening succeeded remarkably well. A whole roast chicken rubbed with butter and salt, stuffed with apple and fresh sage, and after 30 minutes basted with Madeira emerged succulent and aromatic. Plain baked yams provided a colorful accompaniment as did toasted okra and sauteed French string beans topped with chopped cilantro. A chunky apple sauce made with fresh orange juice in lieu of water won the evening. For wine Mr. Henry chose a cold, tart Vouvray.
The next night Mr. Henry bought fat lamb chops longing for a rub of herbs de provence and gray sea salt. Broiled and allowed to rest for a good 20 minutes, they were divine. A salad of Israeli cucumbers, dill, yogurt and sour cream sat up perkily on the plate. Pears poached in wine from the Languedoc were the perfect finish.
However, in the thrill of finding such perfect lamb chops, Mr. Henry over-reached and met with tragedy. He is accustomed to using canned flageolets. (Fresh ones have always been hard to find.) At Citarella he stumbled upon some dried ones. Rushing home after lunch he threw them in a pot of water to soak. After an hour they had swelled by at least one third. Mr. Henry made the fateful decision to use them that very evening.
A survivor of many an undercooked chili from his college days, he knew that dried beans need to soak overnight. Yet here were flageolets already deceptively green and seemingly compliant. Despite hours on the stove that night and the following night as well, however, they never yielded.
Beaten by a bean. Next time he’ll stick to lentils. They don’t need to soak so long.
A note on grass-fed beef: Less fatty than corn-fed, it consequently cooks more quickly. The best way to tell if it’s cooked is to poke it with your finger. When it begins to resist your touch, take it out of the skillet and let it rest. The taste improves dramatically when the juices have stopped running.
8 Israeli cucumbers, cored and coarsely grated
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
½ cup plain non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon sour cream
Mr. Henry prefers to use the food processor. It grates them coarsely but uniformly. He adds several pinches of salt, covers and refrigerate for several hours.
When ready to serve, squeeze all the water from the cucumbers and mix everything together.