Once upon a time (1997 ish) in a land far far away (Los Angeles) a young and beautiful but very unmotivated girl (me) decided that instead of working as a waitress and dancing away her life in the trendy LA clubs she would go back to college (for the 3rd time) and expand on the skills as a cook that her evil mother (not really, it just makes the story sound better) had forced on her since she was a poor underprivileged child (again, fabrication to make the story more interesting). And finally one day she would become famous and cook like Julia Child on TV. And she would live happily ever after with a fat paycheck and lots of friends and admirers who not only loved her cooking but her sparkling personality.
So off to Santa Barbara did she go with dreams of being a chef fluttering about in her brain. Chop, dice, slice and plate....stir and saute and everyone would be so amazed by her skills that the years of schooling (bad word...hate school) would fly by.
Yeah frigging right.
She did chop dice and slice....and she scrubbed pots, pans, floors and grills, took apart ovens and hoods to clean and fix them and most of all learned that she wasn't as special as she thought she was. There were in the first 6 months, 60 students with the same dream. And some of them were as good as the girl (but not very many), some were worse and some were just there to waste time and space.
For the most part, the ones that stuck bonded and became friends although there were a few in the crowd that were just no fun at all and were not invited to any of the reindeer games held at East Beach, the Ranch or the Flintstone house. (Those are the ones that do not read this blog). The ones that bonded not only learned to work together, but to cook together and became a bit of a yin/yang. (you know....you pick up where I leave off....I'll fill in where you aren't able blah blah blah).
After 12 years and a separation of many many miles (Seattle to Ventura) the girl found that the bond forged all those many many years ago had not been broken and that it was just as perfect cooking with of of her lovely friends this weekend as it was so long ago at the kitchen in the ranch house on Highway 150.
After a yummy lunch in Montecito (where lovely friends Daddy paid, bonus!) and several glasses of delicious wine, they put on their thinking caps when presented with a gift of fresh Alaska halibut from the friends brother who also happened to bring organic carrots and greens from the family ranch.
Brother requested Halibut chowder, but the recipe called for too much cream, milk and butter for the girls (they were constantly watching their girlish figures of course) so they opted to do what they do best and NOT follow the recipe.
In to the pot went 1 chopped onion and some olive oil which they stirred until it was soft and browned. They added 3 cloves of garlic (which was not nearly enough for the friends VERY Italian Daddy but oh well....), 2 large shredded carrots and 3 small russet potatoes which were peeled and diced in to 1/4 inch chunks.
In to the pot went about 10oz of chopped tomatoes (canned...but fresh would work too!) and 16oz of chicken broth (you could use fish stock if you had it). Meanwhile the girls were enjoying glasses of Daddy's wine, for he has a nice cellar and a good palate and someone has to drink it, right?
Stir, stir, stir....boil bubble toil and trouble....chop up the fresh Kale (about 1 bunch if you were to get from the grocery store) that Aunt Sandy & Uncle Roland brought in to little shreds and toss it in to the pot. They then poured another glass of wine and let the stew simmer until the potatoes were nice and tender.
More liquid was needed after while (not wine silly...they had plenty of that!) so they added about another cup or so of chicken broth to the pot and then took some liquid out and mixed it with the roux (butter + flour, cooked just a bit) on the side and blended that back in to the soup to thicken it.
About 2# of fresh halibut was trimmed and chopped with care (even though the girl was questioned by Dad to see if she knew what she was doing, Ha!!) in to 1# chunks and set aside for introduction at the last minute so as not to overcook and get rubbery.
A touch of heavy cream, salt and pepper and then the halibut which was cooked ever so gently in the chowder until it was just done.
And maybe they were happier after a bottle of Byron Pinot Noir for the girls after a very long and trying day...but who's counting????