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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!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Should Life Hand You Lemons...Make Lemon Bars (and other things)!

I recently discovered I had a near to overwhelming amount of lemons in my crisper: I bought a few not realizing I already had couple and then there was a snafu with my favorite online food delivery service Fresh Direct where they delivered even more lemons instead of the limes I had ordered. I had first bought some lemons for recipes and drink garnishes but I don't make that much lemon chicken or drink that many vodka tonics with lemon wedges. So, what to do? Helen Rosner from Saveur magazine's 2012 Cookie Advent Calendar came to the rescue, in part, with her recipe for lemon bars. The underlying shortbread was wonderful and my curd topping tasted great; it just wasn't as firm as I would have liked--next time I would have left the bars longer in the oven once the curd topped the shortbread (which is baked first), somewhere around 15 minutes longer instead of the 10 minutes Ms. Rosner suggests, and also, really do refrigerate the bars for at least several hours after they have been cooled on the counter top for a firmer lemon curd, I think.

I also made preserved lemons and at the moment, I am using the juice from the last lemon to make a Caesar dressing found here to dress my kale later for a wonderful salad!

Lemon Bars
Make 16 Bars
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
Zest and juice of 2 large lemons

12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ tbsp. sugar
2 ½ tbsp. confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting
1⅓ cup flour

1. Whisk together sugar and eggs in a 2-qt. saucepan until smooth; stir in zest and juice. Place over medium heat, and cook, stirring often, until thickened to the consistency of loose pudding. Remove from heat and add butter, a couple cubes at a time, until smooth; transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

2. Heat oven to 325°. Combine butter, both sugars, and flour in a bowl and beat on medium speed of hand mixer until smooth and evenly combined. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined 8" square baking pan, and press into the bottom. Bake until lightly golden and set, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°, pour lemon curd over crust, and continue baking until slightly loose in the center, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely, and then refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares and dust with confectioners' sugar to serve.
Thanks to for the juicy snap!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fried Chicken & Latke Waffles with Gravy

It's hardly a secret that I think Baby makes the best potato pancakes (latkes) and I love fried chicken and waffles, so we thought to combine the two to fantastic results (shown), our own fried chicken and latke waffles! Williams-Sonoma had a buttermilk brine mix once that appears to have been discontinued--but a simple brine they currently carry may work as well to make the excellent chicken. Baby even suggests just using a package of Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix found in any supermarket as the brine (it's basically the same thing and cheaper too)!

Fried Chicken & Latke Waffles
(Serves at least four with left overs)

For the Fried Chicken:
1 whole chicken cut apart into eight sections (have your butcher do this, if not found already cut up in a bag at your supermarket)
Brining mix (enough to thoroughly pat chicken to draw out the moisture from the meat)
Buttermilk (ditto)
2 cups flour, with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper each
Vegetable oil

For the Latke Waffles:
3 medium baking potatoes such as Yukon gold, grated (or even a bag of already grated potatoes, to save work--perhaps you can find this at your supermarket too)
Roughly 1 cup each chopped white or yellow onions, carrots, and celery
3 TB flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 eggs, beaten
1 pinch or two of salt and pepper

For the Dressings:
1 jar Heinz chicken gravy, or make your own ahead of time if you have a favorite
Crown syrup, or other fine maple syrup
Some fresh sage, for garnish (optional)

Rub the brine (generally a mix of lemon, garlic, thyme, and the like) onto your chicken and coat with buttermilk. Cover with plastic and place in refrigerator overnight.

While oil in fyer is heating up for the readied chicken, prepare your latke waffles. Spray interior of waffle iron with cooking spray. Mix all latke ingredients well. Ladle batter into waffle iron. Close and cook each waffle for approximately five minutes, flipping half-way through if using a flip waffle iron. We used a very friendly, Oster DuraCeramic flip Belgian waffle maker, also priced nicely and available on Amazon Prime for about $35. Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon carries them too.

Prepare a large, heavy bottomed pot with about 4-inches deep of oil on high heat or use a Cuisinart Mini Deep Fryer (boy do I love these things and they're reasonable priced too, around $50) filled with no more than a liter of vegetable oil. Set temperature according to product directions. When ready to fry chicken, remove from brine and shake off excess buttermilk. Dredge in 2 cups of flour that have been combed with with the 1 tsp and pepper each. I like to use a gallon bag to shake it up, a few pieces at a time, just like Shake n' Bake. Shake chicken in batches, shaking of extra flour and add to your fryer, no more than 3/4 pound at a time  until nicely browned. Remove to plates layered with paper towels.

Heat the gravy--using a microwave is fine.

When savory latke waffles are done, plate them and top with the most marvelous, juicy chicken. Ladle some hot gravy on each dish with a bottle of maple syrup such as Crown syrup (check out that post) on the side should your guests might wish both. I know I did. Drop some sage leaves in to the hot oil for one second and scoop them out carefully with a slotted spoon, now crisped. Top your dish and do enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shouldn't You Just...?

Place a few fork-pierced, ripe fall apples into a pot of water and simmer them gently with such things as dried orange peel zest, cinnamon, and cloves to create a warming, fragrant aroma about the house? The Spice House with shops in Chicago and Milwaukee (and online) is an extraordinary place to find fine spices. Read more about a particularly good garlicky-pepper rub from The Spice House here.

Thanks to for the--pic!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Great Pumpkin (Ravioli)!

Duly inspired by the classic Charlie Brown special, I adapted this recipe for Fusilli with Gorgonzola and Walnut Sauce (Bon Appetit, November 2006) posted on to make pumpkin ravioli with a walnut cream sauce. I suggest you do too! My version varied by using the ravioli instead of fusilli and a few leaves of sage instead of a cup of chopped basil. Dress it up with a salad of arugula and sliced Fuji apples gently tossed in a red wine vinaigrette and do enjoy!

Pumpkin Ravioli in Cream Sauce with Toasted Walnuts
Comfortably serves four as a pasta course

1 package fresh pumpkin-stuffed ravioli, about 12 large pieces
2 TBS butter
1 TB olive oil (I skipped this; wasn't necessarily needed I didn't think--or okay, I forgot)
3 garlic cloves, minced with garlic press
1 tsp thyme
3/4 cup heavy cream (definitely needed)
3/4 cup domestic crumbled gorgonzola
3/4 cup toasted walnuts (put them under the broiler until fragrant, only a few minutes)
Several sprigs of sage leaves, without stems

Cook raviolis in salted boiling water until they float, about three minutes or so. Remove with a handled strainer and reserve a cup of the pasta liquid. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat (add in a good green fruity olive oil here, if using). Toss in the garlic and saute with thyme for a few minutes. Add the ravioli, cream and gorgonzola on lower heat. Mix together and add pasta liquid slowly until sauce thickens; the whole cup might not be required. Stir in the sage and warmed nuts with lots of freshly ground black pepper and a few grinds of cracked salt.