24 March 2007
In the Key of C
Sundays in our house were opera days. In the morning, deep into the thick of the Sunday paper with the coffee growing cold at our sides, the warbles of La Wally filled the air. In the afternoon, in the car running errands or at home washing windows, Texaco Opera theater broadcast live from the Met. We didn’t go to church, but I’ll be damned if listening to Maria Callas with the sun streaming in through the big glass windows wasn’t a religious experience.
My love for opera so cultivated, it’s natural I also became an opera attendee. When I moved to New York, I discovered you could get standing room tickets at the Met for only $15. I would step into the special standing room area they have, but when the lights began to go down you could usually slip out and find a seat in the orchestra section, the huge hall stretching up above you. I sang along to the chorus in Nabucco, watched real lions parade through Aida, and at intermission I chatted with ladies in fur coats who had paid $300 for their seats. Sometimes the productions were stodgy, but the whole experience, the huge sets, the great voices, were magical.
I still love to dash over to Lincoln Center early in the evening and grab a ticket at the last minute, and on my most recent trip “The Opera Lovers Cookbook” naturally drew my eye as I passed time browsing the gift shop. While the girth of many opera singers may hint at good appetites, this book seeks to marry menus with opera plots (a tapas party for Carmen), and comes up with some charming recipes along the way.
I chose to make the Madame Butterfly inspired Black Lacquer Teriyaki Wings, except I used a combination of drumsticks and wings (I don’t really get wings, I mean, where’s the meat, it’s like knawing some scrawny elbow). Anyway, I may have mentioned a slight aversion to chicken in the past, but seriously, I think you could slather this sauce on some shoe leather and it would be good. Not to mention it’s an absolute mess to eat, but I didn’t hear a single complaint, only sticky fingers and grunts of pleasure. Those fur-coated ladies may not approve of the sauce streaked across your cheek, but this one’s worth a high note of appreciation.
Black Lacquer Chicken
From the Opera Lover’s Cookbook, serves 6-8.
4 pounds chicken wings and drumsticks, wings split at the joints
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup teriyaki sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sake (I substituted tea)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup finely minced candied or fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and arrange the chicken in a single layer.
2. Stir together the garlic, teriyaki sauce, honey, sake, orange juice, and ginger in a bowl until well combined.
3. Pour the mixture over the chicken and bake for 1 hour. Raise the heat to 450 degrees, turn the pieces over, baste with sauce, and bake for an additional 30 minutes until the chicken is dark and the sauce very thick.
4. Transfer the wings to a serving platter and top with the sesame seeds.