The Maltese chicken
(Listen to the music while reading blog post.)
For me one of life’s biggest gifts is to meet with interesting people during travelling. In some cases this means only five minutes spent together, but still resonating long inside me for a reason. Meeting with Robert is just like this.
His first sentence is something like this: ‘I am an artist’. But the way he says that is neither showing-off, nor overly proud, just objective. ‘What kind of artist?’ I ask and different ideas start to come to my mind from painter and sculptor to musician and photographer. ‘Cook.’ he claims.
Suddenly, I blink twice at the unexpected answer and decide at once that I am deeply interested in this man. And this isn’t in vain, because with this short conversation something begins. Robert starts to tell tales. Tales about cooking. His eyes are sparkling and I feel, I know that to him cooking is something like photography to me. He is speaking and I feel like listening to music. He is speaking and I can see exactly how he cooks. He is speaking and I can smell it. No doubt, he is really an artist.
At a certain point of our conversation I ask him whether there is a dish he particularly likes to cook. I truly don’t know what to expect, because it seems that Robert is not the man of the ordinary. But what he says makes me feel even more surprised. Chicken breast.
Chicken breast?! Really? This dry, tasteless, not interesting thing without any fantasy? Chicken breast???
He sees the question marks gathering above my head, smiles at me and starts to tell another cooking tale. Now, if you are not interested in cooking at all, you can do two things (a) leave this post and find another one more interesting or (b) read further and be surprised as much as I was. I am quite sure I can not recall his exact words, like he told me this, but I’ll do my best.
First of all, explains Robert, chicken breast is misunderstood. Because if you make it properly, it is not at all dry and chewy. The story of the delicious chicken breast starts with cutting – it has to be cut by the long side into three parts, not vertically like usual. We put olive oil and some butter as well into the pan, but we have to be very careful not to overheat it. In the meantime we put salt on the breasts and make them a good bath in the frying pan.
We roast one side quickly on big flames while put some rosemary and thyme to their backs and then moderate heat at once not to burn the spices. According to Robert, you have to experiment with spices to find the balance, because if you can taste one of them at the end, you already put too much. They have to be in perfect harmony to make an orgy in flavours.
So the chicken breasts are frying in the pan on low heat, and we add to this company a bit of garlic and pour some lemon and white wine as well. At this stage we put the dish to big flames again to make alcohol disappear from the wine and after a while put it to low heat once again and cook the breasts with the spices and the wine for another quarter of hour. Like an exciting dance.
Then after the breasts are ready he puts one slice of tomato on the top just for the sake of colours, because, he says, it is equally important to make the dish desirable.
I am listening to them in almost religious piety and I start to feel my empty stomach after this little statement. He speaks so enthusiastically, so much passion in his voica, his eyes are sparkling so much that I feel I could listen to him for many more hours.
Then, arriving to the end of our conversation, I sheepishly confess that I don’t like to cook. And that it is possible to change after this encounter with him, because now it seems to me, cooking is like playing which results in all the good things if you are not tired to find out your own rules of play.