This has been a whirl wind week. I've been to Birmingham, Alabama, to view the National Chicken Cooking Contest. The winner, who was there for the first time, won $100,000.00, which really is a fabulous amount for a chicken recipe, when you think about it! It has Thai overtones, and may be viewed on line.
While we were there, we ate at Frank Stitt's wonderful restaurant, Bodega. Yum. I've never had such a wonderful meal served to 100 people at one time. You know, its really hard to do that -- get everything the same, perfect, out to everyone simultaneously. But Frank is a master restauranteur, and it was, indeed, all perfect. The first course was a souffle -- but perhaps a custard? -- it was deliciously, scrumptuously light, surrounded by a buerre blanc, and drizzled with fava beans, asparagus pieces and a few English (green) peas. I remembered it when I got in bed, which is a real compliment. The chicken breast, pounded thin into a paillard, and VERY difficult to do en masse, was equally delicious. It had a lovely sauce with just a bit of tomato conserve (see my book New Southern Cooking) And, finally, the dessert, a lovely cake with honeysuckles sprinkled around. It turns out that honeysuckles make a lovely flavoring for a sauce. Frank takes a handful (stripping off the leaves first) and infuses milk, cream, etc. with them.
That was not the last time I had fava beans this week. I thought they were local Alabama ones, but was a bit puzzled, as we don't normally get our butter beans until later in the summer. But there they were, in New York, at the restaurant Butter on Lafayette Street and 4th. The restaurant allowed a group of 30 Southerners -- the Southern mafia, I think of them -- to reserve the restaurant. We ate at a big long table, and were served family style. I sat next to our James Beard Nominee, Mike Lata, of Fig Restaurant. (Alas, he lost, but to a masterful chef, Scott Peacock of Atlanta.) The fava beans were a highlight, as was the baby baby baby rockette and arugula salad. There was a meltingly succulent beef dish, sliced thin, in an asian sauce. I had to leave to catch my plane so, sadly, didn't get dessert!