When I began to take cooking seriously, one of the first books that I added to my library was Dornenburg & Page’s Culinary Artistry. The genius of this book is that it articulates the intuition behind effective menu planning. You should definitely buy the book, but here’s the punchline: CONTRAST. The most effective menus — from picnics to luncheons to multi-course tasting menus — consciously feature contrasting flavor profiles, contrasting colors, contrasting textures, and contrasting temperatures to keep diners’ senses fully engaged. This pairing of chilled pea soup with curry fried chicken, drawn from a recent smorgasbord party menu, checks all the boxes. Sweet, vegetal, bright green, velvety, and chilled…versus spicy, rich, golden, crunchy, and hot. Contrast! Remember it, and take no prisoners.
CHILLED PEA SOUP & CURRY FRIED CHICKEN
for 8 generous servings of pea soup:
6 cups of water
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 handful of fresh mint leaves
3 pounds of frozen peas
juice from 1 lemon
kosher salt and white pepper powder
plain yogurt for garnish
cornflowers (“Bacherlor’s Button”) for garnish
Fill a stockpot with water and bring to a simmer. Prepare a large ice bath by filling a large bowl with iced water. Add the peas to the simmering water until they are tender and bright green. Pour out the hot water and immerse the peas in the ice bath (this will “lock in” the green color). When the peas are no longer warm, drain them. In batches, puree the peas, water, garlic, and mint in a blender or food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt, and white pepper. The soup should taste bright and well-seasoned. Ladle the soup into small bowls or cups, add a dollop of yogurt, and garnish with mint or blue cornflowers.
for about 8 servings of curry fried chicken:
8-12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup of Madras curry powder, plus 2 tbsps.
1 quart buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
canola oil for frying
Cut each chicken thigh into two strips. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the curry powder. Cover the chicken and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl. Prepare a wire rack or paper towel-lined platter for draining the fried chicken. Heat about 3-4 inches of oil in a large, heavy cast iron pot on medium-high flame. Press the chicken strips into the flour mixture, then into the buttermilk, and again into the flour mixture. Fry the chicken in the oil in batches, being careful not to overcrowd. Turn them over once in the oil. When the chicken is deep golden brown, remove them and drain on a wire rack. Season with salt, skewer them, and serve immediately.