Ode to the Restaurant That Disappeared.
It was Shangri-La. It was an oasis from a brutally cold night in Montreal in January and it fed us well. But then it mystically disappeared from Rue Sainte-Catherine.
My husband and I were married on a cold winter's day in January, which makes our anniversary a chilly one. And because we live in northern Vermont, occasionally we will visit Montreal on our anniversary. However, apparently between the two of us we share the memory span of a toddler, because we forget what a chilly trek that can be. Walking the streets of Montreal on a winter's evening sounds romantic, until you take into account the fact that we step into the car in Vermont with wet feet, drive an hour, and then step out onto a bitterly cold street at least half a mile away from where we want to be, because parking is at a premium. Normally, that's not a problem. We just dash into a bar for a hot toddy to get warmed up and then we hit the streets with a goofy glow.
But, on our 10th anniversary, we ended up parking hell-and-away from where we wanted to be. We couldn't find our usual scenic markers and we wandered Rue Sainte-Catherine completely lost, in minus 15 degree cold weather. And then we saw a gleaming 3-story tall restaurant that looked incredibly inviting. We dashed in, stomped our feet and looked around. There was a cozy fireplace and people were chatting and laughing over plates of enticing French food. Our hopes were slightly diminished though, when a waitress informed us that the restaurant didn't have a liquor license. The upside? There was a liquor store next door. We braced ourselves for the cold and ran next door, and what we found there was amazing. A large yet intimate wine store with a huge selection of malbecs syrah/shirazs and zinfandels with prices far below what we were used to paying across the border. So, armed with 3 bottles* of Fat Bastard shiraz we went back to the restaurant and were seated by the fireplace. They quickly brought us wine glasses, a bottle opener and menus, and my husband and I toasted to ten years of marriage and (hopefully) many more.
And there I had the most amazing chicken au poivre. The cream sauce was peppery and rich with hints of wine and whiskey. The chicken was perfectly moist, and I may or may not have made happy noises while I ate that and the silky mashed potatoes on the side.
The kicker? The dinner and wine only set us back less than $50.00, including a 25% tip.
Needless to say we wanted to go back.
But we never have. Because we were so lost that night, we have no way to figure out exactly where we were. I've read reviews of restaurants in Montreal until my eyes were bleary, but I've never found one that remotely matched the description of that place.
It's like an illusive Shangri-La or Garden of Eden. Once you're foolish enough to leave, good luck getting back.
So, I've concocted my own recipe, for nights when I feel wistful about sitting around that fireplace.
Chicken au Poivre with a Whiskey and White Wine Cream Sauce Recipe
4 chicken breasts, pounded very thin
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoon of peppercorns
½ cup of whiskey
½ cup of white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
½ cup of whole cream (no substitutions)
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, until hot but not smoking. Place the peppercorns in a plastic bag and crush them for about 15 seconds with a rolling pin. Coat both sides of the chicken breasts with the pepper. Add the chicken to the frying pan and cook for about 7 minutes a side, or until chicken registers 180 degrees on a meat thermometer. Remove the chicken from the pan and tent with foil to keep warm.
Turn the heat off and add the wine and whiskey. Deglaze the pan with the liquid, making sure to get all of the browned bits up from the bottom. Add cream and turn heat back on low while stirring occasionally. When the sauce has reduced by half, serve with the chicken and mashed potatoes.
Sea Salt Mashed Potatoes
4 medium yukon gold potatoes, chopped into 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoons of sea salt + more for seasoning
3 tablespoons of butter
1/3 of a cup of heavy cream or half and half
¼ cup of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Crush the sea salt in a mortar and pestle, or grind coarsely in a spice grinder. Fill a large pot with water and add the salt and potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until fork tender. Drain the potatoes put them back into the pot. Mash together with the cream, butter, salt and pepper. When mashed to the desired consistency, fold in the parsley.
*When we find a good wine deal we like to stock up. We didn't actually drink 3 bottles of wine with dinner!