It was well after eight on a Saturday night. My mother-in-law was here for dinner so I wanted something fast but impressive, easy but interesting, simple but appetising. So I went to the kebab shop.
No, I didn’t. I might have wanted to, but instead I sliced a large chicken breast fillet into one-centimetre cubes, placed these in a pan with a close-fitting lid over half a tablespoon of olive oil and a sliced garlic clove, sloshed in half a glass of white wine and the cubed flesh of an avocado and set the pan on a low heat to poach the chicken and warm the avocado through.
Then I drank the other half of the glass of wine.
Fresh angel hair pasta, six little bunches from Donnini’s, was already cooking in a large pan in salted, oiled water. When the pasta was a minute away from done, I threw in ten asparagus spears I had sliced in three pieces each, and a good handful of snow peas. I shook the poaching pan and, with tongs, turned over a few cubes of reluctant chicken. It shouldn’t stick if the heat is low and there’s enough fluid. When just done, I added a tablespoon of home-made pesto and stirred it through, put the lid back on, placed the pan on the fire and gave it a good shake. Thirty seconds and that was it.
I drained the pasta and vegetables, placed them in a large serving bowl about the size of a Bentley steering wheel, and poured the chicken and avocado over the top. (Alternatively you can make a richer sauce by removing the chicken and avocado with a slotted spoon, adding cream to the pan with perhaps a little more wine, reducing this and pouring it over.)
Then a shower of flaked parmesan, chopped parsley and cracked pepper, and I placed the large dish in the middle of the table as a shared platter and served crusty bread and red wine and a simple side salad of leaves with vinaigrette.
This was easy and delicious. The avocado gave the dish a luxurious texture and the pesto ramped up the flavour. The key is not to overcook the chicken.
We ate around nine listening to some old Saturday-night type jazz on the radio; sax and double bass and clarinets, I suppose. Earlier, we had picked up my mother-in-law from Tullamarine. She spends her life playing golf and travelling. For some reason she’d flown Tiger. It’s a time warp: you stand behind a gate and watch the passengers disembark like at Essendon in the 1960s.
We would drive her home to Gippsland on the morrow.