When I first met Virginia she was dressed as Mrs. Claus.She came with her friend Russell who was dressed as Santa, or Father Christmas as they call him in Australia where we were at the time. The occasion was an annual black tie dinner for a group of about ten or twelve people. But due to tradition, that started back when the men were at University, Russell came dressed as Father Christmas. So Virginia came as Mrs. Claus. I can't tell you any more about the event or they will have to kill me.
I liked Virginia the moment I met her. It might have been that she was dressed like Mrs. Claus and had a twinkle in her eye like Mrs. Claus should. But I think it was the contrast between that twinkly exterior and the realness of Virginia that I really loved. Cocktail in hand, I believe the first sentence she said to me contained expletives about how hot she was in that damned Claus suit and she would love to go outside for a cigarette. Genuine personality just burst out of Virginia. I knew we would be friends.
It took quite a while, many years of our annual dinners, before Virginia and I crossed over to friends outside the dinner group. Perhaps we got a bit closer when I presented her with a special gift one year. Taking to heart her dismay over the uncomfortable heat of her outfit, I had come across a new one for her that would alleviate the problem. It fit into a very small bag as it consisted of a red velvet g-string with fur trim and a matching hat. Her twinkle got brighter when she opened it, realizing I may have a streak of kindred mischieviousness that she had yet to see.
But I believe the crossover really came when we ended up at an after-hours gathering one night with Russell and Hubby and a few bottles of wine. After hours of stomach-clenching laughter, we had bonded. And once Virginia traveled around the globe to visit us in California, the deal was sealed that there was much fun to be had in our future.
Sadly, I don't see Virginia much since she lives in Australia and I live in California. But Facebook has come to the rescue in continuing our friendship. She posts things that make me laugh out loud and I post my blog entries which she reads and comments on faithfully. Which brings me to the chicken.
Nearly a year ago I posted Agnes' Green Chicken, one of Firstborn Daughter's favorite dishes. Virginia wrote back immediately that she wanted to make it but Australia did not have Cheez Whiz (Don't get me started on the merits of that!) She needed a substitute. I promised to follow up. Well a year isn't so bad is it Virginia? Similar to thank-you's for wedding gifts. Anything under a year is considered proper etiquette.
Firstborn Daughter was home for Labor Day Weekend and she wanted to make Green Chicken. I told her about Virginia's request and she was up for the challenge. We experimented, refined it, and presto! We created Green Chicken without Cheez Whiz and I believe it is even better than the original. It is cleaner. Has more poblano taste and less CHEEZ taste while still capturing that spicy smooth flavor. Thank you my friend Virginia for putting out the challenge. This is for you.
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." -Marcel Proust
Poblano Chicken for Virginia
2 cups cream, separated 1/4 medium white or yellow onion, chopped 1/4 tsp dry mustard 1/4 tsp salt 1/8 tsp pepper 4 T unsalted butter 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated 1/2 cup milk 7 poblano chiles, roasted and peeled, seeds and stems removed* 6-8 servings of cooked chicken, skinless, any cut you prefer
Pour 1 cup of cream into a large saucepan and add the onion. Cook on medium-high heat until bubbling. Turn heat down and continue to cook about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until reduced by about a half and slightly thick. It starts to turn a bit tan in color. But not much. Just a little. Add dry mustard, salt, pepper and butter. Stir until incorporated. Add grated cheese and continue to stir until completely melted. Add the remaining 1 cup of cream and 1/2 cup milk and heat through, continuing to stir. Cool slightly. Blend cheese sauce and roasted chiles in a blender or Vitamix until smooth. Return sauce to pan and add chicken pieces, immersing the chicken in the sauce. At this point, you can cool and refrigerate until ready to serve. Heat through before serving. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice, mashed potatoes or pureed cauliflower.
*I explain the roasted chiles in Agnes' Green Chicken. Or go on the internet for a demo. There are many methods that work including oven broil or over flame.