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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Chicken Fricassée

I love Elizabeth Taylor with the heat of a thousand burning suns. I don’t mean the actress (great as she was)—I’m talking about the British author Elizabeth Taylor who wrote mostly in the 50s and 60s and travels on the same spiritual sister plane as Barbara Pym and Iris Murdoch. I’m not sure how I discovered Taylor exactly, but Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont was the first book of hers I read, probably her most well-known, before I made it a mission to read the rest of them!

Taylor writes about private domestic disasters, the little tremors that occur in our everyday interactions; turning an afternoon tea, for example, into a hollow den of restlessness or unrequited love with the stroke of a pen. “Even the humdrum becomes astonishing,” the Daily Telegraph noted even as she was being recognized as one of the greatest writers of the last century. Novelist Valerie Martin puts it perfectly: “Elizabeth Taylor is the thinking person’s dangerous housewife.” 

See how Taylor’s character Edwina fares over lunch with a chicken fricassée from In a Summer Season:

“It was surprising that she, to whom social occasions meant so much, should never have been able to master the art of being a hostess. At meal-times, even with just the family, she became as uncertain as a young bride, quite obviously checked the table to see if all was there that should be, bothered the maid, lost the thread of conversation, became absent-minded when dishes were brought in and stared anxiously and silently as Kate helped herself to some chicken fricassee.”

To find out what’s fracturing Edwina’s soul, you’ll just have to read the book. Otherwise, enjoy this marvelous chicken fricassée and see what else Elizabeth Taylor’s got cooking in her remarkable books!

Chicken Fricassée
Adapted from
(My comments in italics)

4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in (try doubling the tasty thighs, instead of using drumsticks) 
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tbsp unsalted butter

10 oz white mushrooms, halved if small, or cut in 4 to 6 if large
2 medium yellow onions, sliced (1/2 in) wide
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
3 thyme sprigs (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
3 tbsp flour, plain/all-purpose
1/2 cup white wine, preferably chardonnay
3 cups chicken stock , low sodium
1/4 tsp salt (cooking/kosher salt)
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2/3 cup thickened/heavy cream (substitute evaporated skim milk to lighten things up!)

Pat chicken dry with paper towels then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Melt butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet or heavy based pot with a lid. Add chicken thighs, skin side down, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown. Turn and cook the other side for 1 minute then remove to a plate.
Then brown the drumsticks--on 3 sides, about 2 minutes each. Then remove from skillet.
Add mushrooms, onion, bay leave and thyme. Cook for 5 minutes until mushroom is lightly golden.
Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add flour and cook for 1 minute.
Add wine and chicken stock. Stir, scraping the base of the pot to dissolve the brown residue stuck to the pan ("fond") into the sauce.
Return chicken back into the sauce with the skin side up.
Simmer covered 10 minutes: Once it comes to a simmer, medium-low. Cover with lid and simmer 10 minutes.
Remove lid and let it simmer for a further 20 minutes. Chicken will be cooked – internal temperature 75°C/167°F or slightly higher.
Remove chicken to a plate. Add cream to sauce and stir. Once it comes up to a simmer, taste sauce and add more salt if desired.
Return chicken into the sauce then remove from the stove. Sprinkle with parsley and serve!

And how about the gorgeous book cover art? I think Sarah Maycock is absolutely tremendous

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Maine Diner's Lobster Pie

Being a native New Englander, summertime has always meant lobstertime to me! And the Maine Diner in Wells, ME serves up a wondrous lobster pie that is also quite easy to recreate at home.

You can boil your own lobsters (as below) if you dont mind the fuss, but otherwise consider pre-packaged lobster already cooked and cracked open, such as from Lukes Lobster that I found at our local Whole Foods. Get started then by heating up the pre-packaged lobster (youll want about a pound of meat) in a lightly buttered skillet and then move on to the next step in the following recipe, sauteeing your Ritz cracker crumbs in margarine and more butter for your stuffing mixture. 

What a super simple and an incredibly tasty way to wow your guests!

Lobster Pie
Adapted from Twice as Good
Yield: 4
Cooking Time: 45 Minutes

Preheat oven to 450 F.
Bring water to a boil in a stock pot. Put lobsters in boiling water. Remove lobsters after 12 minutes.
Remove tail and claws from each lobster. Cut tails in half, lengthwise. Crack claws open. Set aside to cool.
Melt 1 stick of butter and 1 stick of margarine in a saucepan. Add 3 cups finely crushed Ritz cracker crumbs. Mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Set aside.
Melt remaining stick of butter in a small saucepan. Coat the bottom of the casserole dish with the melted butter.
Remove tail meat and claw meat from the lobsters. Place picked meat in the casserole dish. Cover the lobster meat evenly with the Ritz Cracker stuffing mixture.
Place casserole dish in to the oven for 7 – 10 minutes. The Ritz Cracker topping should be a nice golden brown and you should hear the butter sizzling in the casserole dish. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Meatballs for the Family

I used to love asking my father if he’d seen some particular old movie or knew about this actress or that actor—or if he’d ever read the wonderful book I’d just finished. If he wasn’t familiar with whatever I was talking about, I’d put a DVD or book in the mail for him and we’d have a fine chat about it later. (I still have his thoughts on East of Eden in a letter he wrote to me.)

I lost my father almost two years ago. The sorrow still comes in on little feet of course, padding around me at any given moment, a reminder of his absence: right now, I wish I could talk to him about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I don’t know if he ever read it, but I bet he would have loved it.

When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher (who also happened to be my cousin Elizabeth) had us read the book, as well as several other titles not usually considered to be required reading. She chose stories that were precious to her and I always admired her for that. However, I missed out on discussing A Tree Grows in Brooklyn with my father at the time.

Chancing upon a used copy this summer (I found the same Perennial Library edition I’d read all those years ago!), I scaled the sturdy trunk once more. Search around for a plot if you must, but otherwise revel in the limbs and leaves—the keen, moving insights on human nature; its strength and frailty, as seen through the eyes of Francie Nolan, a young girl living with her family in Brooklyn at the dawn of the 20th century.

As I turned the pages, I was struck by the awful-sounding fricadellen meatballs the Nolan family threw together from butcher’s scraps probably because they reminded me of the hard scrabbled meals my father was subject to as a boy during the Depression. Then with another whiff, I suddenly remembered the delicious meatballs cousin Elizabeth used to serve at her holiday parties back in the 80s! But those were made with grape jelly and rather different from what the resourceful Nolans cooked up...

“A loaf of stale bread was made into a pulp with hot water and mixed with a dime’s worth of chopped meat into which an onion had been cleavered. Salt and a penny’s worth of minced parsley were added for flavor. This was made up into little balls, fried and served with hot ketchup. These meatballs had a name, fricadellen, which was a great joke with Francie and Neeley.”

I think it’s safe to say that Elizabeth’s meatballs were tastier. At least they were a big hit at her parties. The recipe below is very similar, according to her daughter, although Elizabeth also added horseradish. If you’d like to see what German fricadellen is all about, click here

Now go and share the meatballs—and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—with someone you love.

Adapted from
PREP 5 minutes
COOK 4 hours
TOTAL 4 hours, 5 minutes

1 ½ cups ketchup or barbecue sauce
¾ cup grape jelly or other fruit jam or preserves
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce optional
36 oz meatballs cooked (buy frozen or click here for the best meatball recipe!)
Parsley for garnish, optional

Combine Ingredients: Whisk ketchup, jelly, and Worcestershire in either the bottom of a 6-quart Crockpot or in a large pot on the stovetop until smooth.

Add Meatballs: Toss meatballs until they are all well coated. For both the slow cooker and the stovetop cooking methods you can either add frozen meatballs directly to the pot or thaw before adding them in. Frozen meatballs will take longer to cook all the way through so you'll need to add an extra hour for the Crockpot and 5-10 minutes on the stovetop.

Cook Meatballs in Crockpot: Cook on low for 3-4 hours, or on high for 1-2 hours. Stir the meatballs in the sauce during the last 30 minutes of cooking to ensure they do not burn.


Stovetop Instructions: Cover the pot with a lid and cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through. Give the meatballs a good stir a few times throughout cooking to ensure they do not burn.

Serve meatballs with a sprinkle of finely chopped parsley.

Thanks to for the meatball photo!

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Trader Vic's Mai Tai

I was tearing through Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series when I first visited the Bay Area. The fantastic story of a group of friends loose in 1970s San Francisco evokes a sexy, thrilling era that must have seemed like a dream even while living it—and the great city certainly came alive for me during my trip as I ventured through its vibrant neighborhoods on the lookout for each beloved character I was reading about.

One of the tales concerns stodgy businessman Edgar Halcyon and the difficult relationship with his wife, Frannie—and her penchant for Mai Tais. Early on, Edgar confronts Frannie at eleven-fifteen in the morning. “She was perched on the sofa on the sun porch. Her legs were curled up under her Thai silk muumuu. Her wig was askew. She smelled of rum and Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Mix.”

Poor old Frannie, resigned to swilling some godawful mix. Surely we can do better than that! Here’s a recipe for the real deal that was originally invented at Trader Vic’s in 1944.

Trader Vic’s Mai Tai
Adapted from
Serves 1

1 cup crushed ice
1 lime
2 oz. Jamaican rum
½ oz. orgeat (almond syrup)
½ oz. orange curaçao liqueur
¼ oz. simple syrup
1 cup ice
1 sprig fresh mint

Fill a rocks glass with 1 cup crushed ice. Set aside in the freezer.
Cut lime in half. Juice both halves into a cocktail shaker. Set one rind aside for serving; discard the other.
Add rum, orgeat, curaçao, and simple syrup to the cocktail shaker. Add 1 cup ice, cover, and shake until chilled.
Place the reserved lime rind into the chilled rocks glass. Strain Mai Tai in a glass and float the mint sprig on the edge.

But why stop there? Serve the following delicious Polynesian deee-lites along with Mai Tais at your next cocktail party!

Chinese Spareribs from Tyler Florence. While the ribs cook, the aromas fill the kitchen and beyond, all gently spicy and warm like Christmas.

Chinese Roast Pork Probably my favorite of these three recipes—it’s actually red food coloring that turns the meat pink!

Coconut Shrimp Try frying with Panko bread crumbs added into the mix.

Do enjoy. Thanks to for the Mai Tai photo!

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Roasted Leg of Lamb

I was having a bar conversation with an old school pal when grappa (a grape-based pomace brandy) came up, or rather a memory of us drinking it one night in Manhattan. He said fondly, “Ah yes, our My House in Umbria days.” He was referring to our obsession over the HBO movie starring Maggie Smith, in which her character (the unreliable narrator Mrs. Delahunty) drinks tons of grappa and continually forces it upon her guests, with dubious results. 

But they do eat too, in the movie as well as in the stirring novella of the same name by the brilliant William Trevor. To wit: 

“Rosa Crevelli brought us lasagna, and lamb with rosemary, and the Vino Nobile of Montepulciano, and peaches. A stranger would have been surprised to see us...the walking wounded at table.”

Usually when I think of lamb, Easter comes to mind...but how about serving a roasted leg of lamb to your guests on a sultry summer evening, dreaming of an Italian garden surrounded by olive trees and rosemary bushes? Grappa optional. 

Roast Leg of Lamb 
Adapted from
Serves Six

4 1⁄2 lbs leg of lamb
2 garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon oil
fresh ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
With a small, sharp knife cut slits all over the lamb (top and bottom).
Insert the slivers of garlic, and the rosemary sprigs.
Brush the lamb with the oil and season with salt and pepper.
Place on a wire rack in a baking tin and pour in 3/4 cup of water.
Roast for about 2 hours basting often with the pan juices.
Remove from oven and cover loosely with foil.
Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before carving.

Enjoy with roasted vegetables, peas...and of course, mint jelly! 


Tuesday, June 25, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Coffee and Fudge Ice Cream Cake

Happy Gay Pride!

Barbra and I have become rather close over the last few months. At least it’s felt that way as I’ve been listening to her intimate 966-page autobiography My Name is Barbra on Audible. The legend herself reads to me while I’m folding my laundry. She speaks very slowly, so I recommend adjusting your settings to 1.2x speed (like mid-90s Touring Barbra, but don’t rev it up any furtherat 1.3x, you get Woody Allen). 

If you are a Barbra fan (I certainly am, the lady and her music have scored many of my memories), the Audible version with musical clips and ad libs is the way to go: it’s like sitting next to her during an episode of Coffee Talk with Linda Richman as she tells you frankly about her career and love lifeas well as what she wore and perhaps most importantly, what she ate. Now speaking of coffee... 

Let Barbra tell you about it herself, from My Name is Barbra:

“There’s nothing like a big, fresh scoop of McConnell’s Brazilian Coffee packed into a crisp cone and handed to you at their store in Santa Barbara. Maybe it’s the intensity of the flavor, made with real coffee beans, the smooth, rich texture…”

Music to my ears. 

In honor of Barbra and coffee ice cream (my personal favorite), I am including this outrageous recipe for Coffee and Fudge Ice Cream Cake with the suggestion that you try making it with McConnell’s ice cream! You can use fudge sauce from a jar, of course, for time’s sake or convenience. The rest is more a matter of assembly than the baking and precision required of other cakes. 

And scroll down for BONUS MATERIALBarbra’s homemade coffee ice cream. It’s like...buttah! 


Coffee and Fudge Ice Cream Cake
Adapted from
Serves 10 

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) salted buttah
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pint chocolate ice cream
1 pint coffee chip ice cream
1 pint vanilla ice cream
18-20 sheets graham crackers
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1. To make the fudge sauce: Combine the cocoa powder, cream, honey, sugar, and buttah in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, or until the buttah and chocolate are melted and the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Let cool for 10 minutes.
2. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
3. Press the chocolate ice cream into the bottom of the pan, top with a layer of graham crackers, then about 1/3 cup of fudge sauce. Freeze 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, add the coffee ice cream, another layer of graham crackers, and then 1/3 cup fudge sauce. Freeze 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, add the vanilla ice cream, and then the final layer of graham crackers. Cover and freeze for 6 hours or overnight.
4. Keep the remaining fudge sauce in the fridge.
5. When ready to serve, warm the fudge sauce for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, then invert the cake onto a platter and remove the paper. Pour the fudge sauce over cake and freeze 5 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, whip the cream and sugar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Dollop the cream over the cake. If desired dust with cocoa powder. Slice and serve immediately.

This recipe is excerpted from Roberta Ashley’s 1967 cookbook Singers & Swingers in the Kitchen-The Scene Makers Cook Book.

Barbra Streisand’s Homemade Ice Cream Recipe
for the ice cream
1 cup whole milk
24 marshmallows
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 cup heavy cream

Turn your refrigerator to the coldest point. Pour milk into a saucepan, heat, and gradually add the marshmallows. Mix until the mixture is smooth; add the instant coffee. Let it cool a bit. Whip the cream until stiff.; mix cream and marshmallow mix together and pour into an empty ice tray. Freeze.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

BOOK/A TABLE - Blueberry Cobbler


Happy Juneteenth! As I was plotting out a small tribute here to Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, NYT Cooking sent out an email for a Blueberry Cobbler recipe. I remembered the scene from Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, where sweet, tragic Pecola Breedlove encounters a cobbler bubbling with “blackish blueberries” and suddenly I had an idea for this post.

“On the counter near the stove in a silvery pan was a deep-dish berry cobbler. The purple juice bursting here and there through crust.”

I was completely bowled over by Morrison when I discovered Beloved  in 1992. Something always seems to be simmering stovetop in her novels—and certainly in her vivid, extraordinary prose. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy this summery cobbler!

Chez Panisse’s Blueberry Cobbler
Recipe from Lindsey Remolif Shere 
Adapted by Molly O'Neill

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

4½ cups fresh blueberries
⅓ cup sugar
1tablespoon all-purpose flour

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ tablespoons sugar
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
¾ cup heavy cream, plus additional for serving, if desired

Step 1
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. To prepare the berries, place in a bowl and toss with the sugar and flour. Set aside.
Step 2
To make the dough, mix the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and mix lightly, just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
Step 3
Put the blueberries in a 1½-quart gratin or baking dish. Make patties out of the dough, 2 to 2½ inches in diameter and ½-inch thick. Arrange them over the top of the berries. Bake until the topping is brown and the juices bubble thickly around it, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Step 4
Let cool slightly. Serve warm, with cream to pour on top, if desired.