I'm marrying a man with a taste for the cuisine of the 1970s. Chicken kievs, apricot chicken and spag bol are all among his favourites. I've never seen him so excited as the night a friend suggested he combine his two besties and make apricot chicken kiev. He couldn't whip the french onion soup out of the pantry quick enough. That dish was a bit of a letdown (garlic butter leeching into the apricot sauce may have had something to do with it) but it hasn't quenched his thirst (hunger?) for all things retro.
Recently on a lazy night of no cooking enthusiasm, Matty and I visited our local Chinese restaurant for a quick, cheap meal. I spied chicken and sweet corn soup on the menu and decided that I too would venture into the retro zone. It was just as good as I remembered - sweet, gelatinous and as hot as the fires of hell.
I walked away from that meal with two things: third degree burns on my tongue and an idea. A riff on that westernised Chinese food classic in tart form. Something intensely chickeny and intensely corny. Intensity squared! The celery salt was a late addition after seeing Ben Shewry's method on twitter recently - so simple.
I've been trying to think of a new hors d'oeuvre to serve for our engagement party. Fortunately there's no time pressure because we're yet to plan a single thing for the actual occasion. I keep joking we'll be having our engagement party two weeks before the wedding. Each week that joke is looking more and more like reality.
This tart is officially the first thing planned. I can make most of the components well ahead of time and either freeze or refrigerate them - fabulous for freakishly disorganised. And although it looks complex (and sounds super fancy), each process involves no more than two ingredients. Great for when you're recovering from a week of feeling lowly and still suffering from feeble-brain syndrome.
A lot of this can happen simultaneously. Corn creaming, chicken steaming, tarts baking, celery leaves grinding (I don't mean celery leaves dirty dancing with each other to some R'n'B tune with a filthy bassline. More along the mortar and pestle track). You could whip these up in under an hour. I took my sweet time and it took me about two and a half. But like I said, not complex at all.
These have it all - creamy corn flavour, an herby, salt hit from the celery and a fab crunch from the skin and the wonton. It's a tarted up version of the retro hit, but the reason the dish is still so popular these days is because it works. Here's to old favourites rescued from the depths of despair. Unfortunately I can't say the same for apricot chicken kiev.
12 wonton wrappers
leaves from 1/2 bunch celery
1 tsp sea salt
2 cobs corn
1/2 cup cream
3 chicken drumsticks (skin on)
Preheat oven to 100ºC. Peel leaves from celery, removing all stems. Place on a single layer on a baking tray and cook for 5 minutes or until crispy, but not discoloured. Grind in mortar and pestle with salt until a fine powder.
Increase heat in oven to 200ºC.
Remove all kernels from the corn cobs and combine with cream over low heat in a heavy bottom saucepan. Cook for around 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, carefully peel the skin from each drumstick. Slice in four long strips and place flat on a baking tray. Cook the skins in the oven for around 15 minutes or until golden and crispy. Put the drumsticks in a steamer and cook for around 15 minutes or until cooked through. Once drumsticks are cooked, shred the meat with a fork.
Coat wonton wrappers in peanut oil and place in a tart tin (with a flat bottom). Cook for around 15 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven and place upside down on a baking tray. Place back in oven and cook for a further 5 minutes to crisp the bottoms.
Once corn has finished cooking, place in a food processor with some salt and pepper and blend until smooth. To get a finer paste, pass through a fine sieve (I did this step, but it's not totally necessary).
To assemble, spoon the corn into the bottom of the tart shells. Top with some steamed chicken, a slice of the skin and sprinkle with the celery salt.