THERE’S A SECRET INGREDIENT IN this one. It’s even pictured above. The trouble with a mystery like this though, is that if you’ve read the title of the post it’s already given away. Hmpf. Anyway, pickles.
It sounds weird at first. (When we told my mom about it on our weekly Skype video call she acted like I said I’d be serving a side of cotton candy. “Pickles?!?” ) But here’s the thing. Phoebe loves pickles. She’s not red-hot on chicken, unlike most kids it seems, so I thought the pickles would help sell it. And they did. For a few bites.
But the whole time I was making it, I kept thinking about the only other occasion when I’ve seen pickles make an appearance in a meat dish. (Hotdogs and burgers excluded.) I was a kid and my dad made it. To be clear, my dad was not the cook in our house. These were the 1970s and he worked hard labor jobs, sometimes at a gas station, mostly as a landscaper. But he got inspired one night by one of those TV magazine shows and decided he’d recreate that particular masterpiece. I have no idea what it’s really called but he said it was Beef Bourguignon. It was not. Instead, this was a piece of beef slathered in mustard and rolled around a pickle. The whole thing was held together by a toothpick and baked at a temperature that somehow managed to dry out the meat yet retain a slithery mess in the pickle zone. I still remember the weird consistency and I’m not happy about it. It was not good. But you couldn’t say so. Not to my dad and certainly not when he took the time to cook.
Fast forward thirty years and move to Italy. That’s when I saw the Chicken with Pickle Sauce recipe in a recent Food Network magazine and laughed out loud. But the combination of pickles and meat isn’t really so weird. Think about capers. Those are pickles. No one says it’s odd when you season a dish with those juicy little green balls. And since Miss P devours her pickles every chance she gets, it was a given that we’d try this one.
At first, things weren’t going well. My onions for example were a completely different color than those pictured in the magazine. Never a good sign.
Then I put in the egg yolks prematurely, bringing back another childhood memory. Did you ever see It’s the Easter Beagle Charlie Brown? Marcie and Peppermint Patty were trying to make eggs for the holiday but kept messing up. At one point they cracked all the eggs before adding them to a pot of boiling water. “Marcie! You’ve made egg soup!” I pretty much made egg sauce.
In the end, Phoebe didn’t recognize the pickles and I’d call this one a near failure. At least for Phoebe. Paul liked it. I liked it. But then again, we rarely throw ourselves on the floor over whether we’re wearing the pink sandals that day. So…
And yeah, the plate’s not totally beautiful. But that’s how it goes sometimes. My dad knew that for sure.