I am back in London after a week in chilly Austria, which brought some highlights, but wasn't alltogether that relaxing. The most annoying thing, I guess, is that I didn't manage to get tables at the restaurants that I most wanted to visit - mostly due to the fact that it is carnival and therefore "Ballsaison" (ballroom dancing galore) and people seem to like a decent meal somewhere before hitting the dancefloor. Going to a ball certainly has many highlights, but food is usually not one of them - apart from goulash soup (an incarnation of the traditional Hungarian gulyas), a pair of Frankfurter sausages with a dry breadroll and a toasted ham & cheese sandwich, your options are limited and more often than not, you will be paying extortionate amounts for very basic food. I say this on the evening of Vienna's most famous of balls, the Opernball. If you have 215 Euros to spare for a single ticket and don't mind to be on a waiting list for years, do go and tell me about the food there. I'd like to think that it is more sophisticated than your usual fare, but it certainly won't come cheaper!
I had been planning to go to one of my favourite restaurants in Vienna (Gaumenspiel), but they were having a private event the evening I wanted to go and were closed for all the alternative dates I suggested. Angelika did manage to book a table for a leisurely Monday lunch at one of Austria's top tables (Restaurant Meinl am Graben, much coveted under the helmet of Christian Petz, but now with a new head chef), but it failed to impress. However, I made sure to have lunch at a real institution of the Viennese restaurant scene and will blog about it in due course.
And as I am doing more packing and unpacking, but am mainly occupied with dreading the move ahead, I can only unveil dishes I served up a while ago that haven't made it live yet. One of them is actually a Viennese dish, if somewhat bastardised: Backhendlsalat traditionally is a dish of potato salad with breaded chicken goujons. It's really something you're likely to encounter in any corner restaurant or coffee shop in Austria's capital and probably owes its popularity to being so predictable.
Before the advent of H5N1, I liked to play around with this dish a lot, trying different stuffings and coatings and varying the accompaniments all the time. Here, I used pear and sage for a stuffing and a crust of hazelnut breadcrumbs, which felt comfortably autumnal and refreshing at the same time. With a side of mashed potato (always a winner with me) and salad of lamb's lettuce and crispy bacon bits, this is a perfect fit for a lazy Sunday evening... I'll even turn a blind eye should you choose to down a can of beer with it!
Pear & sage-stuffed chicken breast with a hazelnut crust
4 chicken breasts (boned and skinned)
4 tbsp hazelnuts (ground)
4 tbsp breadcumbs
4 sage leaves
1 small pear (cored and cut into 8 wedges)
1 large egg (lightly beaten with a fork)
2 tbsp flour
oil for frying
Clean the chicken breasts and cut incisions horizontally to form pockets which will accomodate the stuffing. Place a sage leave and two pear wedges each in the pockets and distribute evenly. Season well. Combine the breadcrumbs and hazelnuts in a bowl.
Bread the chicken breasts by rolling them first in the flour, then the egg and finishing off with the hazelnut/crumb mixture. Make sure they are evenly coated.
Fry in some oil until browned and cooked through.
Serve with mashed potatoes drizzled with pumpkin seed oil and a salad of lamb's lettuce with some crispy bacon bits.