Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Saucy Chicken with Pumpkin Mole Sauce

I do keep a loose flurry of recipes that I have amassed over the years. This one, in my old binder, was apparently printed in 2004 and lay there, in wait. I'm so glad I riffled through the binder and found this old chestnut for chicken with pumpkin mole sauce! I love chicken mole as you might know and was delighted with this new version. As often happens, I find there are delicious recipes to be discovered, waiting to be tailored to one's personal taste and even dietary restrictions. I, for example, am someone who does not like it spicy hot and I have an aversion to tomatoes (or rather they do to me). I substituted white cannellini beans for substance and the squeezes of fresh lime wedges made up for the acidity. My version was a smaller set-up designed for two and was all quite wonderful. The recipe is below with personal reflections and time-saving suggestions in italics. The link is here and thanks to Bon Appetit, and chef Rick Bayless for the recipe!

Chicken with Creamy Pumpkin Mole Sauce
Serves 2
4 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 3-inch-diameter slice white onion (1/2 inch thick), separated into rings
2 garlic cloves, peeled (I used a garlic ginger paste that I had on hand, to great effect! About 2 teaspoons)
1 5x3x1/2-inch-thick slice country white bread, crust trimmed (I used a single onion brioche roll, not trimmed, just easier)
3/4 cup drained canned diced tomatoes (insert cannellini beans here)
3 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 canned chipotle chiles (2! Only 2!)
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
1/3 cup whipping cream (I used fat-free sour cream, thank you)
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
8 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (I used 1 huge chicken breast, bone-in)
Fresh cilantro sprigs (nope)
Lime wedges (yes!)
(Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees)
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion rings and (garlic and ginger paste). Sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to processor, leaving oil in pot. Add bread to processor (reserve pot). Add tomatoes (or beans) to processor. Puree mixture until smooth. Transfer tomato puree (or beans) to small bowl (do not clean processor).
Place chipotle in processor. Add 1/2 cup broth and (1 ) chipotle chile. Puree until smooth.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to reserved pot. Heat over medium-high heat. Add chile puree; cook until puree thickens and darkens, stirring often, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add tomato (or bean) puree. Simmer until thick, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Whisk in pumpkin and 3 cups broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until mole thickens and reduces to 3 1/3 cups, about 30 minutes. Put chicken in oven for 25 minutes. Whisk in (sour cream) and sugar. Season to taste with salt.
Puree 2 tablespoons oil and (1 ) chipotle chile in small processor.
Cook chicken for 20 minutes more, adding sauce and covering. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt. Let rest for at least 10 minutes, cover slipped to the side to cool, before serving. Spritz with lime. Dress with chicken-flavored rice!
The link to the actual recipe is here. Thank you for the recipe!

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Festive Celebrity Chef Connection

Thanks to Barbara J. Nosek for featuring me and my book The Murdery Delicious Hamwich Gumm Mystery this year on her site! Check out her Dieter's Survival Guide, particularly the timely Holiday & Party Chapters section. With due acknowledgment to Tiny Tim, Happy Holidays to one and all, bless us! And of course, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Friend Writes...Pepper Tarragon Gravy!

My dear friend hosted Thanksgiving this year in D.C. Among everything else she served at the feast, she made several different gravies but told me she liked the pepper tarragon gravy the best. Although I was not in attendance, I am certain she is absolutely correct. Take it away, D.C.!

"...This gravy is easy. Make a good roux with the combination of butter and flour and add in white pepper. Add half beef and half vegetable stock. The roux to stock thickness is based on texture you like. Add a heaping tablespoon black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes. Add about 1/4 cup dried tarragon. Stir and turn off heat. Pepper and tarragon to taste. It's one gravy best to make early and let sit overnight in fridge and reheat. Flavors really blend. If too peppery add a teaspoon of sugar or more tarragon. If too sweet add some balsamic. I often add balsamic just for depth. It was an accident correction that's become a favorite!"

Thanks to for the photo!

Monday, December 1, 2014

DriveThru - Chicago is a Toddlin' Town!

A quick stop into where to eat with Pete!

I went to Chicago to be with a friend and her family for Thanksgiving but Baby and I also managed to hit the toddlin' town and eat out! Nothing as divinely decadent and extraordinary (or expensive) as Alinea during a previous trip. No, these ventures were considerably more conservative but still delights in their own individual ways.

Public (formerly known as Ambassador East) is an historic hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood, filled with memories of legendary luminaries past and present who have visited and dined at the atmospheric, soothingly lit Pump Room restaurant, currently helmed by master chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Taking a cue from such folks, we pulled up a cozy banquette there too.

The Quick Bites:
Belvedere martini with blue cheese stuffed olives; these garnishes are quite popular in the windy city apparently. I was more than happy to follow suit several times
Salmon on a crispy rice cake; the freshest fish imaginable will quite reel you in and may possibly warrant another order
Kale salad; a managebly minty, lemony daily dose of healthy greens
Fresh tagliatelle curls of pasta; with a light Meyer lemon cream sauce and ground black pepper
Fried organic chicken; scrumptious in a buttery hot sauce with a side of greens
Thick, creamy mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts with pecans; both were wonderful sides that left no room for dessert.

The Pump Room at Public Chicago is located at 1301 N State Pkwy, Chicago, IL, 312-787-3700,

The Girl and the Goat was a real charmer. Evidently, it is quite difficult to secure a reservation as I learned from the locals--but I merely picked up the phone like the old days (instead of any of the broad online reservation sites) and spoke to an actual human being at the restaurant. Fancy that! It was a snap to request a rather exclusive table for two ringside at the bustling kitchen only a week before. Executive Chef Stephanie Izard offers a heavy menu to be sure but it is much to her credit that everything appeared so enticing and exciting that we ordered much of it. Nevertheless, the food is all carefully considered and went down the hatch with a satisfying vigor. I hardly needed to eat until much later the next day!

The Quick Bites:
Pretzel bread; with onion cream cheese and grilled, frilly enoki mushrooms, this was easily devoured
Italian sausage bread; with fennel and stout butter and a perky pickle relish
Goat liver mousse; apple butter, mushroom relish and buttery crumpets was a perfect storm
Goat carpaccio; tiny orbs of smoked trout roe and an olive-maple vinaigrette furthered the onslaught
Wood-fired Wiley Point oysters; why not? They arrived warm, served with a slight influence of horseradish aoili, bits of bacon and preserved lemon rind (seen below)
Escargot ravioli; proper, stuffed pockets, gently tempered with a tamarind-miso sauce
Fried duck tongues; presented with strips of crispy wontons and a clever pairing of cubed tuna sashimi and black beans
Miso-butterscotch budino; a winner for dessert with bacon toffee, petite cubes of glazed pineapple and candied cashews
Apple buckle; okay, we ordered this too as a conclusion to our mad flight, with oatmeal-graham cracker streusel topped off with a scoop of brown butter gelato

Until Next Time:
Something called ham frites with cheddar beer sauce
Braised beef tongue with beef vinaigrette and salsa verde
Grilled beef heart with sweet potatoes and eel!

The Girl and the Goat is located at 809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL, 312-492-6262,

Beatrix in the West Loop neighborhood was our grand finale, at least for the moment, for this particular visit. Despite the general hubbub of the crowd, our evening still managed to be intimate, even as we leaned in closer over the table to chat with an old friend and hear ourselves. The "New American" menu is solid, inventive and not overly fussed over.

The Quick Bites:
Deviled eggs; with potato salad--a must try! I ordered before the waiter even asked if we'd like something to drink (we eventually found the Californian Rickshaw pinot noir to be most supportive)
Enlightened Caesar; furthered with a Greek yogurt dressing
Chili and chocolate glazed salmon; at once curious, inspired, outrageously and unexpectedly good--my favorite dish of the year
Caramelized pork shank; a highly suitable cider reduction and a mash of sweet potatoes
Skirt steak; medium rare, with sturdy fries and green, grilled shishito peppers on the side
Pumpkin chiffon pie; a wonderful, autumnal treat
Tall, Dark & Handsome chocolate cake; the menu says "just try it" and I suggest you do too.

Until Next Time:
Pot roast with spaghetti squash
Turkey and sweet potato "neatloaf" with braised kale and vegetable gravy

Beatrix is located at 519 N Clark St, Chicago, IL, 312-284-1377,

Thanks to for The Girl and the Goat image!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sweater Stew!

I spent a wonderful Thanksgiving in Chicago with Baby and an old friend (that I met in London while were at school--in 1987!) and her family this year. I loved all of it. Baby and I also went out to dinner a few times in Chicago (more on that later) but there was a lot of delicious fun that was had with the creation of a dish I dubbed Sweater Stew.

When my friend and I were in London together all those years ago, we traveled to Ireland for a long weekend, where she purchased a dark wool sweater flecked with dots of orange, yellow, green, brown, and white. The colors inspired me to compose this little song that we ended up singing the entire time we were on the Emerald Isle. I've never forgotten it:

"Carrots, corn, peas, beans and rice--I think that sweater's very nice!
Carrots, corn, peas, rice and beans--why, that's the nicest sweater I've ever seen!"

So we were together once again, as we have always remained in contact, when she hosted Thanksgiving. I thought to knit an immensely satisfying Sweater Stew! Can you just guess what was in it?

Sweater Stew
(Serves A Few Comfortable Friends)

2 bags of a microwaveable vegetable mixture (such as carrots, corn, peas, and green beans)
1 bag microwaveable white rice
2 cans pinto beans
1 cube of chicken bouillon

While melting the cube of bouillon in two cups of water, drain the pinto beans and simmer them in a separate pan or the same one used for the bouillon. Microwave the vegetable mixture and rice, each at a time. Toss all together with salt and pepper added in, to taste. Easy as pumpkin pie!

After Thanksgiving dinner, I simmered our turkey carcass for hours in a big pot of water with a few roughly chopped carrots and onions, and a parcel of dried dill with some salt and pepper for a turkey stock. Baby added a cup or so of the remaining turkey gravy pulled from the refrigerator to the mixture with stirred egg noodles. Then we poured in the leftover Sweater Stew--suddenly we had Sweater Soup! Do enjoy and happy holidays!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chicken with Lemons and Olives

After my recent, spasmodic lemon craze, I wondered what I should do with my preserved lemons. Gourmet provided a ready answer with this chicken tagine dish (a somewhat shallow Le Creuset covered skillet and I proceeded to make short work of my sour, salty friends). This was not difficult work by any means although I suspect guests might think otherwise. Such a rhapsody to serve; a marvelous balance of tart, sweet, savory, salty and buttery deliciousness, even though no actual butter was involved. Incorporating garlic and ginger paste, cilantro and cinnamon, the aromas filled the kitchen--can't you practically inhale it all, leaping off of the page? Saffron threads were first up in a small skillet, to be toasted until fragrant. Frankly, I've never really understood what saffron does (this particular batch delivered by a Belgian friend), but I use it anyway, as suggested in any recipe. It's pretty but I've never really smelled it or tasted it; I just rely on the idea that it is doing its elusive job. I used subtly sumptuous, plump Castelvetrano olives that imparted an unexpected buttery flavor--pit them yourself or apprise your guests that the pits remain as they recklessly bite in. Whatever you do, be keen when choosing your olives--overly salty won't do, add your own salt in, if you wish. The pulp of the preserved lemons slides right off the rind with a proper knife and the chopped rinds themselves melt quite away, leaving a bright tingle to the tagine, once warmed. Now, you could purchase preserved lemons at a specialty market but there is really little to do--just quarter, salt and soak the lemons in their own juices a week ahead of time before topping off with olive oil, and proudly announce that you prepared them all by yourself.

Dispatching the lemons as the olives observe...!

The vibrant mix with a flutter of cilantro, about to be simmered for roughly 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, before the olives are tossed in for another 10 or so...!

Do enjoy!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tell Them Pete Sent 'Ya


Chapter One is turning their American Tavern into a discrete watering hole for glamorous degenerates with a NYC Prohibition Dinner, as part of their Heritage Dinner Series. On Sunday, December 7th at 7pm, Executive Chef Warren Baird is whipping up an era-appropriate, three-course affair featuring Blue Point oysters, Prime Rib with creamed spinach and potatoes rissole, and a booze-soaked Brandy Alexander pie. Sip on a secret Prohibition Era cocktail while at it! Warning--may or may not contain bathtub gin. Who cares? As long as it burns!

See below for a permissible password--and pull out your knee-length pearls, find your fringe, collect your raccoon coats, and bring out your brimmers and bamboo canes to get into the swing of things.

And note the cost is hardly prohibitive: it's only forty-nine clams (plus tax and gratuity) for the whole kit and caboodle! Chapter One is located at 33 Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan. Call 212-842-9146 for the secret password and go to for more info. Remember, tell them Pete sent 'ya!