As a serious, dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying, hard-core, anything-made-with-creme-fraiche-addicted foodie, I have to admit that my husband has presented a serious challenge to me. How to make the food I like and prefer to cook appealing to a guy who has heretofore subsisted on frozen burritos and value menus at major fast food chains? In other words, The Pygmalion Challenge. I'm thinking of the Rex Harrison/Audrey Hepburn "My Fair Lady" version, not the darkly twisted, sexually pathological Greek mythological version.
In any event, hats off to my husband who very gamely (and sometimes naively) has ingested foods he states that he hates, or states that he can't recognize, or that he can't even spell--much less pronounce. He is a very flexible and willing gastronomical neophyte who claims that he hasn't eaten the same thing twice in our almost three years together (so not true) and brags to his golf buddies that I've only made four meals in our history together that were less than stellar (that might be true).
Asparagus. No matter what you do to it, I will always like it. My husband ate asparagus with gusto when we were first dating, and would routinely eat everything but the last two inches until recently. We had just finished a meal of Supremes de Volaille a Brun with Madiera Sauce (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol I, pp 270-271) and Puree de Pommes de Terre a L'ail (MAFC, Vol I, pp 520-521) with--you guessed it--roasted asparagus. I noticed that he was pushing his asparagus around on his plate. He looked at me sheepishly and said, "Babe. Asparagus. No matter what you do to it, I'll never like it."
Let the games begin. What to do with a meat-and-potatoes palate when the closest you've ever come to "man food" is walking by the frozen pizzas on the way to the puff pastry and phyllo dough? I've learned to serve more familiar foods; read: pork chops, but with brandy and dried cherries. Cauliflower, but with curried cream sauce. Noodles, but with brown butter and chopped fresh parsley. Perhaps you don't struggle with these challenges, but perhaps you do. The trick is to tweak the familiar without reaching for the over-the-top factor that scares off the straight-forward eater. In other words, you might think twice about offering ceviche to someone whose only experience with seafood is Mrs. Paul's fish sticks.
Buck up, it can be done. Following is a recipe for broiled chicken legs from Rocco DiSpirito that's worked wonders at dinnertime. It's a refreshing departure from the same old-same old and is wonderful with rice to soak up the sweet/salty/spicy sauce. So although my husband will never tell you he lives to eat, he will tell you that he enjoys eating. And he is always sweetly appreciative. And when he's not, he's sweetly silent.
Broiled Chicken Legs with Onions, Apples and Chunky Lemon-Pepper Sauce (based on a recipe by Rocco di Spirito)
2 1/2 lbs. chicken legs
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 large Vidalia onions (or other sweet onions), peeled
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled cored, and quartered
2 Tbs. EVOO
1 10 oz. jar pepper jelly (such as Tabasco brand)
fresh coarsely ground black pepper
1. Preheat broiler on low. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Place chicken in center of pan.
2. Cut each onion into 12 thin wedges. Scatter onions and apples around chicken. Drizzle everything with EVOO and season again with salt and pepper. Broil 10 minutes.
3. Turn chicken over and stir apples and onions to expose uncooked surfaces. Turn broiler on high. Broil until chicken is charred and cooked through, about another 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat pepper jelly in a small saucepan until melted. Peel the lemons and remove the pith. Dice the lemons, reserving juice and removing and discarding seeds. Remove jelly from heat; add diced lemons and their juice. Stir to combine; season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. To serve, spoon sauce on top of chicken, onions and apples and top with more freshly ground coarse black pepper. Serves 4.