That “White” chicken…
Hello Bulgaria….blimy, people can eat here! Every time I come back home, be it for a day, a week or a month, all I seem to do is eat…or go see people that eat (and join them, of course)….That did sound like a complaint, didn’t it….well, it surely is not! The problem – mainly for my waistline – is that there are so many tastes around that I adore and so many ingredients and dishes I don’t come across easily while back in the UK, that, the glutton that I am, I always end up indulging plenty. Can’t help it…
The story this weeks takes me to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria (not one of my fav places about…) My parents happened to be enlisted in a yearly nationwide doctor’s seminar for a 5 days and they enticed me to go along. “It’s gonna be great!-my mom said – “We all get to stay in the same floor of some nice hotel, will put you’s in a room next to ours! Will be such fun!” Now where have I heard that before…..but still, I went along with it, not only because she was so keen but because I’ve been to my fair share of seminars in the UK and the accommodation and food is usually up to a good standard…
As it happened, that’s not “exactly” how things work in Bulgaria… The country’s hospital administration have dumped 150 highly qualified medics from 25 different towns in a horrid old style communist hotel. The “Grand” Park Hotel Moskva (Moscow) – the name spoke volume before we even pulled up and oh, my, what a dump it was! Neither grand nor near a park, as the title suggested, it was nested at the edge of acres of scary, dark, unkempt woodlands. Going through the revolving glass doors was like passing through a wormhole that took you at least 45 years back in time…My eyes were painfully met by a grandiose black and white chequered marble floored lobby, half taken by a massive, imposing reception desk.
Behind it, two very unwelcoming aunties with sour faces were making themselves look important and very busy so they don’t have to attend to any customers. A que of people must have made them feel well in control…Petty authoritarians do get me, I have to say….and there’s nothing like a low level clerk giving you needless grief!
After a while of throat clearing and point blank staring, we got some room keys thrown at us. One of the old crows pointed with a bright red polished long nail towards the elevators: “14th floor. All of you. Don’t crowd the elevators.”…So UP we went to sheer Hell! I thought Heaven was meant to be high up but noooo….not in the Grand! Mind you, the right hand side of the hotel must have been refurbished recently and that’s where the “paying” customers got put in. It had clean-ish red carpets and new-ish wooden doors with brass room numbers on them. “Our” side was waaaay different. A far cry from what was advertised on their website…(yeah, I sneakily checked before I agreed to go, that’s how big-a-princess I am, haha)
But what this country puts its doctors and nurses up in is a disgrace and a total wind up….The “actual” rooms had filthy, sealed shut windows that dimmed the already not-so-great, smoggy view. The 50 years old beds with legs that gave in underneath you had old, stone hard mattresses thrown over a loose metal springy mesh, leaving you in a “elbows-touching-knees-arse-on-the-floor-position” every time you laid down. Sheets were starched to death, giving a feel (and burn marks) of sleeping on sand paper (and only changed weekly, of course! Ready for the next poor unsuspecting group..just the same as the cleaning – got none of that either…it was a sweep urself jobbie). The filthy floors, walls, bathroom and fall apart, thrown together fixtures, with bare cables sticking out from the walls completed the picture….it’s was like being caught in a warped house of horrors…Health and safety? What’s that? And to topple it up even further, heating was permanently turned to 35C, making in not only look like Hell, but AS HOT as one!
However….I am about to get to the good point. Hah…yes, I did manage to find one. But just HAD to share that with you – it shook me to the core.
The good point was that in most old fashioned places like that, you somehow always have a 100 years old dinosaur in the kitchen that just knows the art of good food. This one was no different, thankfully! You don’t get fancy stuff, but you get wholesome, proper home made food. Food that tastes like it should and like it had tasted all those years ago, back in your gran’s and your mom’s kitchen.
Going down for dinner that night I ended up with a plate of chicken in white sauce that was one of my most favourite childhood dishes – Frikasse! I remember pleading to my mom forever to make me it at home. And she always used to dismiss me with: “That “white” chicken? No chance, it’s hard work…the sauce always goes lumpy…” Gran wasn’t keen to do it either, so the only time I got to indulge was if it appeared on the school dinner table. I haven’t tasted it since high school, let alone try my hand at it…
Needless to say, I didn’t last long in the “Moskva”….not even the “white” chicken could keep me there! I took off with my daughter the following morning and let my parents and the rest of the crew get on with it… Back in the house, my first job was to check my mom’s hand written recipe books and buy a chicken. It actually doesn’t look as hard as everyone makes it out to be….I have a little trick up my sleeve for making smooth sauces of any kind, savoury and sweet alike – use a metal egg beater when stirring instead of a wooden spoon and you will never end up with a lumpy one again! Proven and absolutely fool proof!
Here is a fresh chicken which I’m gonna “dismantle” and put in a large pot to boil. With it will go an onion, 3 garlic cloves, 2 green peppers, a few sprigs of thyme, sea salt and pepper, which will give me a lovely, tasty stock for my “white” sauce later. Bring all to a boil and don’t forget to skim the foam off the top as soon as it starts forming. That will keep the stock crystal clear and fresh. Turn the heat down to a medium and cover half way with a lid. Cook until the chicken literally falls off the bone. Put the pot to the side (but close by as you will soon need the stock)
Now lets make the sauce:
Start with heating a good splash of vegetable/sunflower oil (about 50 ml) with 50 gr of butter.
When the butter foams, turn the heat down to medium and stir in about a cup of plain white flour
Start whisking vigorously, until it all comes together in crumbly lumpsAt that point add a ladleful of the hot stock, still whisking rapidly. It all starts coming together now. Wisk and keep on adding stock, ladleful at a time, until you end up with a smooth batter with a similar consistency to mash potatoes.Another few get you to a smooth batter like concistency.Half a glass of white wine goes in to elevate the flavour and give it a bit of acidity
There you have it! Eaaaaasy peasy, so tasty and fragrant! I’m salivating at the smell alone!
To put the dish together, put some chicken meat in a deep set dish. It comes off the bone so easily, it’s absolutely delightful…..
Full now…about to explode actually, this is addictive!
I’m taking that tiny pot of leftovers to my grandfather at the allotment to show off – I bet he hasn’t had Frikasse in years!