Saturday, March 1, 2008

An Evening at Czehoski

A philosophical dinner at Czehoski (678 Queen St. W, Toronto) is how to cope with a snowy night -- food fuels argument and argument turns to food.

The seating was comfortable -- aside from Jennifer's squished perch in front of the chimney (though she didn't seem to hurt, see below). But since it is upstairs, we were saved from blasts of wind and snow from the front door. The service was friendly. The food is traditional fare with flare; the wine list judiciously laid out without ostentation.

Six of us opted for the three course Winterlicious, and consumed between us: green salad, beet salad, risotto, peroghies, coq au vin, black cod and various desserts. One of us had a beet salad and soup.

The perogies are -- well -- perogies; not everybody likes the heaviness of the dough. But the brisket filling was pronounced excellent. One of us cut off all the borders, and consumed the filled centres with some apparent pleasure. The black cod is, as it usually is, soft and delicious. Stephen (above) is a vegan, and ate the risotto without Parmesan.

The coq au vin was an interesting combination of textures: the chicken cooked with a crisp skin, the vegetables stewed, and the sauce rich with a rich room-filling steamy bouquet. Presumably the chicken is not cooked in the wine, but roasted and served with it. Obviously a departure from home recipes -- and it is not easy to see how to adapt it given smaller quantities and no stock pot.

Here's one suggestion I am going to try. Perhaps one could start by under-roasting a chicken in a very hot oven; let it cool, take it off the carcase carefully in serving pieces, rub with finishing salt and coarse pepper and leave to stand. Then, stew the carcase with bacon and vegetables in the traditional way. Finish by grilling the chicken until the meat is done and skin crisp, and plate it last with the stew underneath.


Yes, it works. I herbed a chicken

and roasted it at 450:

Then I cut it up, made a sauce in the usual coq au vin style (chicken broth, red wine, mushrooms, juices from the roast . . . ).

The only problem was that I couldn't bear to put the sauce on top of the chicken, for fear of ruining the crispy skin. I should have put it under, but I ended up just putting it on the side.

Quite good -- almost up to Czehoski standards, I think, though they may have had a more interesting veg. (My broccoli was finished in garlic and olive oil, and was not quite as bland as it looks here.) Next time, pearl onions.

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