Slow Braised Chicory with Orange & Juniper (Happy Birthday to Me! And dark kitchen secrets)

I have these oven gloves.  They came free with Easy Living magazine (which I don’t normally read you understand, it was just that one time….).  They were obviously, cheap and thin (even though the tag optimistically announced they were Laura Ashley).  There was one novel thing about them: they were my size.  I wear a size 36 shoe, accordingly, my hands are little and finding oven gloves that fit is challenging.  In fact I’ve never managed to do it.  Which is why the Easy Living, Laura Ashley gloves survived and even thrived in my kitchen for many years, too many.  Plenty of essential kitchen items got culled but not these gloves.  They didn’t age well, their dubious quality ensured that I routinely sustained minor burns.  I did go out and try to find a replacement.  I even considered splashing out and buying myself a pair of Marimekko gloves and they don’t sell those babies as a pair, no, it’s per glove.  They were enormous though, I could have worn them on my head like some kind of a statement hat.All this to say that I have these gloves which are the kitchen equivalent to the gray granny underwear we all have, the one with the broken elastic, that look hideous but you can rely on never to ride up your bum, or leave imprints on your body (how could they with their malfunctioning elastic?).  You wouldn’t part with those for good money at the same time, you would never let anyone see them!  Same deal with these gloves, when I have friends over, I tuck them away in a corner and rely on kitchen towels.  Except last week, when I threw a dinner party for a few girlfriends and had enlisted the help of my friend Luisa.  I was off schedule to the point that the cold starter that was supposed to be served from the fridge, thereby allowing me to natter on with my guests, was not even started.  Luisa caught me off guard when she asked for the oven gloves, I nonchalantly surrendered their hiding place.  Then I realized and froze.Her eyes crinkled as she smiled and held them up to the light. “What are these?”
“My oven gloves.”
“Sooooo when you serve people, they get crumbled bits of oven glove in their food?” she teased.
“Umm, ya well, you see, I have small…” blah blah blah, all the stuff I said before but really in that moment I was BUSTED.She knew.
I knew.
She knew, I knew, she knew. (Say that fast 5 times)
“Well that’s what you can buy me for my birthday.” I tried to recover. But let’s be honest, there really is no way to recover from that.  All I could do was hope that she would find it endearing, a little like Daniel Cleaver when confronted with Bridget Jones’s ‘stomach holding underpants’.

Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. But she turned up to my birthday dinner at Peking Ente yesterday and brought a most delicious chocolate cake (Molly from Orangette’s recipe) with H-A-P-P-Y  B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y candles which is an ingenious way to sidestep the issue of how many candles to put on the cake.  And oven gloves, that fit.  And these nifty silicone tongs from Roesle that magically open when you hold them one way and stay locked when you up-end them. My friends Sylee and Margue came too, on a Monday night, sorted out babysitters for their kids and trekked over to my part of town to celebrate me!  Then they stole my wallet and paid for my dinner.

Which when I think that I didn’t even know them on my last birthday is crazy and marvelous and kind of the best gift ever.

Oh and…

Braised chicory with orange and juniper from Today’s Special by Anthony Demetre (Serves 4)

I served this as a side dish at my dinner party and I daresay it was the most popular dish that night.  (That and the apple jelly with caramel custard I served for dessert)  Nobody ever really knows what to do with chicory. But this guy does. They become succulent and moreish with their bitter tones muted by the orange, juniper and scandalous amount of butter. Be warned, it’s still a grown up dish, meaning, there will still be some bitterness to it.   Key steps are to brown them really well at the beginning, braise them until they are fork tender, avoid reducing the amount of butter and essential sprinkle with cracked peppers and generous amounts of Maldon salt before serving. Goes well with grilled chicken or meat.

75g butter
splash of olive oil
4 heads chicory, split lengthways
pared slices of 1 orange skin
juice of 2 oranges
10 juniper berries, crushed
sprig of thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 130ºC
2. In a gratin dish or deep roasting pan, heat 50g of the butter and olive oil, colour the chicory all over in this until nicely golden brown. Add 100ml water and all the remaining ingredients except teh 25g of butter and bring to the boil. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until the chicory is soft.
3. When cooked, take the chicory out of the liquid using a slotted spoon and set aside. Boil the stock until syrupy, enrich with the remaining butter, add the chicory back and serve.

11 Responses to Slow Braised Chicory with Orange & Juniper (Happy Birthday to Me! And dark kitchen secrets)

  1. LDN Eats NYC says:

    Great post, and obviously Happy Birthday, I am sure nearly all households have a pair of gnarly oven gloves somewhere, I know we do….

  2. ceciliag says:

    Wow, what a great birthday pressie. I can see how you get attached to dear old raggedy things though.. c PS happy birthday, i loved the shot of the badly damaged cake.. c

  3. 生日快乐 Shēngrì kuàilè

  4. Luisa says:

    Ha!! Your secret would have been totally safe with me!! :) Happy happy birthday, again. xoxoxoxoxoxo

  5. Petra Z Malovrh says:

    Happy Belated!

  6. Happy belated birthday greetings. I loved that oven glove story! My hands are average size but my oven gloves need replacement too, if I think about it… :-)

  7. Happy belated birthday! Such a funny post! I am suddenly acutely aware of the whole lotta grotty that is my oven gloves…X

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