Where Do You Buy Your Chickens? - מאיפה קונים עופות?
Today I walked from our neighborhood, Neve Tzedek in south Tel Aviv to the old north to go to the נמל תל אביב (Namal - Port of Tel Aviv). It is a distance of about 4.4 kilometers or close to 3 miles but I was going crazy in the house and I needed to get out so why not take a long walk on a humid and steamy day (31 C.) By the time I got there, I was sweating. My pants were sticking to my legs and it felt like the mask was permanently attached to my face. But I was so happy, I didn't really care.
It has been two and half months since I we have been out and about (Canadianism). We went to the States on February 28 and when we returned we went immediately into quarantine. Following our personal quarantine, the whole country shut down.
In the last week or so, the restrictions have been eased. Shuk HaCarmel is open again. Soon restaurants will have inside service. Students are returning to school, albeit to a rather modified schedule. It doesn't feel normal but compared to the last few months, it is a very welcome change.
On my way uptown (I will never give up my Manhattan sense of direction) I was thinking about what makes me go on long pilgrimages to buy food - not eat food - buy food. I thought about all the trips to France and Italy and Greece where the most important thing on my mind was not the museums or monuments or historical sites, but the open markets (and the supermarkets). On all those trips, it gave me such pleasure to wander in the stalls and the aisles, dazzled by the different products, the colors and the people. Perhaps I really belong in Plato's Agora.
In any event, today was special because I was able to buy chickens from Iwo. Iwo's Premium Butcher is a small stall in the Namal. It is a family business. Iwo (the father) runs a larger operation in Jerusalem and the place is known for its nearly perfect burgers. The shop in Tel Aviv is run by Iwo's son, Re'em. It is such a pleasure to go there. They have, bar none, the best chicken and the best meat.
When I moved here I thought I would never be able to recreate the feeling I had walking down the street in the West Village. I thought I would never find another specialty store like Dean and Deluca or Murray's or another butcher like Ottomanelli. While I miss my old haunts and still value the memories, I am happy to say that I have found new places - different, not better. Certainly Re'em is not one of the Ottomanelli brothers, but the feeling is the same.
After the long haul uptown and the excitement of the market I was too tired to walk back. I decided to take the bus. First time in over two months. I was a bit nervous, worried that it would be crowded and full of mask-free riders but it turned out that the first bus that came was pretty empty. The driver's seat was roped off with tape, preventing passengers from going to the front of the bus. Everyone behaved themselves.
As I sat there staring out the window I was reminded of another bus ride long ago in Moscow. We were on a tour with my in-laws and the kids. Not usually something Ken and I would do but we had a good time and we had a chance to travel with people we would never have met otherwise. We spent ten days basically going from place to place on the same coach. By the end of the tour we knew everyone. On the last day, we were driven to the airport in the same coach.
As we drove through the streets of Moscow, I could hear a group of women in the back talking about the flight home and what was waiting for each of them when they arrived. They talked about their children and grandchildren and how happy they were to be returning home. On the trip we were focused on our Russian experience. Most of the conversation were about the activities of the day. While I felt like I knew our fellow travellers, I really didn't know anything about them so I was very interested to hear about their lives stateside. Soon the conversation turned to the first meal they would have together with their families. And I was not at all surprised to hear the women talking about the menu.
Then I hear..."Where do you buy your chickens? I buy mine at Costco. They have a large kosher section." "I buy mine at Publix. Not the best, not the worst." "I like Stew Leonard's rotisserie chicken. It's kosher, it's good and the best thing is that I don't have to prepare it."
And so it went until we reached the airport.
So for all the cooks out there who appreciate a good chicken I made a spring stew to celebrate.
As with all the recipes it will be also be published later under a Creative Commons License. The attribution is important to me. If you enjoy the stew, let me know and don't forget the shout-out.
BT's Spring Chicken Stew
(NB - this is not a one pot meal. Multiple pans involved)
2 lbs. (180 grams) chicken breast cut into thin strips 8 small new carrots
1 medium leek
8 mini zucchini
10 okra pods
10 small cremeni mushrooms
1 large or 2 small low starch potatoes 1/4 cup (50 ml) fruity olive oil 1/4 cup (55 grams) butter + 1 tablespoon (15 grams) for roux 3/4 cup (165 ml) white wine
1 ounce (50 ml) ouzo
1 lemon 1 teaspoon (4 grams) harissa
4 cloves new garlic 1 large sprig fresh thyme 1 large sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon (4 grams) dried Greek thyme
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) nutmeg 3 whole cloves 2 teaspoons (8 grams) sugar 3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy (15%) cream 2 tablespoons (30 grams) flour
4 cups (900 ml) water
ground black pepper
Wash leek, zucchini and okra thoroughly to remove all dirt
Slice leek on the diagonal into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
Slice zucchini lengthwise in half
Remove stem from okra
Peel potato and cut into long thin wedges and reserve in acidulated water
Add olive oil and butter to heavy gauge pot
Turn heat on to medium
Add garlic and harissa to oil/butter
Stir for 30 seconds
Add carrots and zucchini
Sauté for 2 minutes
Add leeks and okra
Continue cooking until vegetables turn bright - approximately 2 minutes
Add salt and pepper and dried thyme
Add 1/2 cup (110 ml) wine and ouzo
Turn heat down to low
Add 2 cups (450 ml) of the water to pot
Cover with lid and simmer for 10 minutes
While vegetables are cooking, poach chicken. Place remaining 2 cups (450 ml) of water in a shallow pan. Add remaining 1/4 cup (55 ml) of wine. Add cloves, rosemary, bay leaf and fresh thyme. Bring to boil. When boiling add chicken and turn heat down to low. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place cooked chicken in a dish and reserve
Strain poaching liquid to remove herbs. Reserve.
When vegetables are tender, remove pot from heat and let cool 5 minutes
Pour heavy cream into a bowl.
With a ladle add a small amount of poaching liquid to the cream and incorporate thoroughly. Do this three times to bring cream up to temperature
Add cream mixture to vegetable stew
With your fingers rub together 1 tablespoon (15 grams) and 2 tablespoons (30 grams) flour to make roux base
Return vegetable stew to burner on medium low heat. Drop roux into stew and stir constantly until the sauce begins to thicken
Reduce heat to low
Add reserved chicken
In a separate pan, flash sear the mushrooms and add to stew before serving