Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pork Loin Braised in Milk with Porcini Mushrooms

It is so interesting how your tastes in food change over the years. When I was growing up, I didn’t care for pork. I don’t mean sausage or bacon, I loved that…I just didn’t like the other parts of pork.. pork roasts or pork chops. My brother LOVED pork chops. His favorite was rib chops smothered in Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup and baked until they fell off the bone. I am, and always have been, diametrically opposed to Cream of Mushroom Soup. I apologize to all the people who can’t live without it in their kitchens, it’s just not something I keep around or even consider eating. Pork chops in Cream of Mushroom Soup? Ewww. Pork chops cooked in a whitish sauce for about an hour or so. Not for me.

I have become fascinated by pork. Boneless. I think it’s because I have been reading a lot of French and Italian cookbooks and I keep going back to one particular way of cooking it. Pork Loin Roast Braised in Milk. It’s interesting for two reasons. Numero uno is the fact that we don’t drink milk. We don’t keep it in the house. The other reason, those pork chops from days gone by that my brother loved. No mushrooms were involved in the recipes I had been reading, but the sauce brings back memories of our mom’s kitchen and those pork chops cooking away.

After studying this recipe for a week or so, I decided to try Anthony Bourdain’s recipe from his Les Halles Cookbook with a bit of an addition. I don’t think I’ll be disappointed. And if it works..I might call baby bro to see if he‘s hungry.

Roti de porc au lait adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook
which became
Boneless Pork Loin Roast Braised in Milk with Porcini Mushrooms

3 pound boneless pork loin roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 leek, white part only, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed and chopped
1 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Bouquet Garni…1 bay leaf, several sprigs fresh thyme, several sprigs fresh Italian parsley or 1-½ tsp Penzey’s bouquet garni and 1 bay leaf
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes, strained and patted dry, then chopped

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Season the pork with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper on all sides. Put in hot oil and brown on all sides.
This should take about 5-7 minutes total. Take pork out of pan and put on platter. Add a bit more olive oil and when hot, add carrot, onion, leek and garlic
and stir over medium high heat until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. While you are stirring, sprinkle the flour over and cook about 3 minutes and then add the milk and the bouquet garni.
Bring to boil and cook over high heat about five minutes. Put the pork back in the pan and juices from the platter. Reduce the heat to simmer and cover.
Cook over low heat for about an hour. I checked this about every 15 minutes or so, turned the pork and scraped the bottom of the pan. The sauce will start to turn a fabulous nutty color. I took my little roast’s temperature and when it reached about 125-130 I took it out and set it aside for 15 minutes.
Take out the bouquet garni and put a small strainer over a small saucepan and put the sauce into the strainer with. Squish with the back of a ladle to get the liquid into the saucepan. Add the tablespoon of butter and the mushrooms to the sauce and any juices that are lurking around the pork as it sits. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Slice that bad boy and either arrange on a platter or a plate with a bit of the sauce. All we wanted was a spicy green salad with a bit of a tarragon/champagne vinaigrette. This was an exceptional meal.
Serves 4 generously.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Night after Christmas

Wednesday night after Christmas and all through the house, the only thing moving is the Hallmark ornament on the tree because it’s plugged into a string of lights. A fire is glowing, various cats and dogs are snoring and BUS STOP is on our DVR. I don’t know why Linguini with Red Clam Sauce appealed to me tonight. But it did in a big way! Comfort food helping me through the next two days of work until the weekend. I guess that’s what it is. But what comfort this food is. I’m not sure where this recipe came from but it’s been a staple for years. No cheese on this pasta, please. This is light and fragrant and hits the spot every time you make it.

Linguini with Red Clam Sauce

3 good swirls extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
4 anchovy fillets, minced
tbsp crushed red pepper flake
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups diced canned organic tomatoes, drained
2 cans chopped clams, drain and reserve ½-¾ cup juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound linguine, cooked al dente
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Swirl the extra virgin olive oil in heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and anchovies and cook until they blend into the garlic. Add crushed red pepper and cook for a few seconds. Add white wine and reserved clam juice and cook until reduces by half, about 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 10 minutes. Add clams, parsley and basil and serve over hot linguine with lots of crusty bread.

Serves 3.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Wine Merchant Steak

When I was growing up, my favorite night of the weekend was the one when my parents would go out. Usually a Friday or a Saturday night. That meant my best friend, Anne, would come over to spend the night and we would cook dinner for ourselves. It was a major production. We set the table, we lit candles, we put music on the stereo or if it was Friday night, we would time it to watch Time Tunnel with James Darren. We were fork in hand when that came on!

One of the first things I learned to cook by myself was a minute steak. I thought I was the stuff cooking that poor piece of meat to death in a frying pan. I’d do it right too. Butter in the pan, lots of garlic salt on the meat..cooked to perfection once I learned that the minute in minute steak should be taken literally. My favorite topping for a minute steak was sautéed mushrooms. Again the butter and mushrooms cooking down and then splashing in a bit of Worcestershire sauce that usually instantaneously disappeared considering the fact that at that point in my life, high was the heat of choice, leaving a wonderful caramely flavor.

Needless to say, I outgrew minute steaks fairly quickly. Discovering tenderloin will do that to you. Yes, it’s expensive and no, you can’t eat it every night. But tenderloin brings on the same anticipation that the minute steak brought to me when I was ten. The table is set, the candles are lit, there’s wine to open and the weekend begins.

Wine Merchant Steak..adapted from Jacques Pepin’s Table

2 -7 ounce tenderloin filets
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 ounces baby Bella or Crimini mushrooms, sliced
2-3 large cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and finely chopped
1 cup Beaujolais
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
A little bitty dab of horseradish sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
A bit of cornstarch
Finely chopped chives

Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in cast iron pan and when hot, add the steaks and sauté for 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare.
Remove steaks to plate and set aside in warm place. To drippings in skillet add shallots, and sauté for about 10 seconds, add mushrooms and garlic and sauté for about a minutes. Stir in wine and boil down until only about 2 tbsp remain. Add stock and reduce the mixture to about ¾ cup. Add Worcestershire and Dijon mustard and mix well. Take a little bit of the hot sauce and mix with maybe ½ tsp cornstarch and dissolve then add back to pan and whisk till smooth.

Bring to boil. Season to taste.
Plate the steaks and drizzle sauce over.
Put face in plate and enjoy.
Serves 2.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Just the Two of Us

Chicken, tomatoes, Nicoise olives, garlic, French bread, bottle of Beaujolais, a bit of Law and Order - original recipe, a warm fire, candlelight and Groom.

Chicken Provencal-Style…adapted from Mark Bittmann’s
recipe in his cookbook How to Cook Everything

Couple of good swirls of extra virgin olive oil
Ziploc bag with about a cup of all purpose flour, coarse ground salt and freshly ground black pepper and a dash (not much) cayenne
4 bone in chicken thighs skin on
2 bone in chicken breasts skin on
2 sweet onions, chopped
2-3 anchovy fillets, minced
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 cups diced canned tomatoes, don’t drain
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup Nicoise olives, pitted
1 tsp dried French thyme
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Swirl extra virgin olive oil into large deep skillet. Heat to medium high. While heating, shake Ziploc baggy with flour mix well, and dredge chicken lightly in bag. Shake off excess flour and put pieces in hot pan. Do not crowd and do this in steps. Season with salt and pepper as they brown and when they’re golden brown, remove to plate and finish other pieces, removing them to plate when done.

Turn heat to medium. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of oil. Add onions and anchovies and cook till softened, takes about five minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook till it starts to thicken. Add wine and cook about five minutes. Add olives and thyme and season to taste. Add the chicken and submerge in the sauce. Cover and cook about 25 minutes or so, turning chicken until cooked through.

Add Italian parsley and stir well and serve the chicken with a mixed green salad and hot French bread.

Serves 3-4 with leftovers.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Egg and I

When I was seventeen, I got a job at a French cafe in Nashville. It was run by a wonderful cook and her family and if this seventeen year old could have had any more fun, it would have killed me. I learned a lot that summer. I was in charge of the cold area of the kitchen. The salads. The desserts. And jumping in to help when orders were flying in and out the door. I was also the one who made the omelets. I can’t remember how many eggs we went through a day, but believe me there were a lot. You could have your choice of anything to put in them. Chicken livers were a hot item. Gruyere cheese. Sautéed potatoes and onions. Roasted red peppers. Tomatoes and fresh basil. I got so good at the omelet thing my parents gave a brunch that summer and guess what they served. My omelets. Talk about bringing the job home with you.

Nowadays, the Spanish tortilla is my egg dish of choice. . I like the look of them, I like them in sandwiches, I like them with salads…Arugula, the green of choice at our house, makes a bright foil for the flavors of this recipe.

Catalan Potato and Onion Tortilla.. adapted from a recipe by Perla Meyers

Extra virgin olive oil
2-3 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large sweet yellow onion, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-5 eggs
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Heat four to five swirls of extra virgin olive oil in a 10 inch skillet over low heat. Cast iron works best. Add the potatoes and onions, season with the salt and pepper and cook covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender.

Put the mixture in a strainer placed over a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes. Reserve the potatoes and the strained oil separately.
Beat the eggs in bowl till light and season with salt, pepper and a bit pf cayenne. Whisk till blended. Fold the potato mixture into the eggs and mix well.

Heat the reserved oil in 9-½ inch nonstick skillet over medium to low heat. Pour the mixture into the skillet and cook about 7 minutes or till the bottom is lightly browned and eggs begin to set. Take a plate that covers the top of the skillet and invert eggs onto the plate. Add some olive oil to the skillet. When hot slide eggs back into the skillet. Cook five more minutes or till completely set. Chop a little fresh Italian parsley and sprinkle on the top.
Cut into quarters and serve. Serves 4.

You can serve it at room temperature if you like. It’s great stuffed into a warmed pita with Arugula and chopped tomatoes that have been tossed with a light vinaigrette.


Thursday, December 13, 2007


Sunday nights were always special when I was growing up. That’s because it was “sketti” night. When I was nine, we spent Sunday nights at our house or the Robinsons. My brother and I loved Sunday nights. The Robinsons were childhood friends of my dad’s and had four children. Ed Sullivan was always on the tv and then Bonanza. Oh, Lordy! How we loved Little Joe. And usually we would have “sketti” for dinner. A thick, meaty, chunky, tomato-ey spaghetti sauce that had simmered for an hour or so on the back burner while we played outside, ran through the house, disrupted the parental cocktail hour ; then came in and flopped down in front of the tv. In January of 1964, the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan for the first time. And I do believe that’s the only time I ever stopped eating in order to watch a tv show. This recipe is a variation of one by Patricia Wells. It’s a grown up “sketti” that’s easy to make. Add a little Beatles on your stereo and you might be age nine again on a Sunday night surrounded by music, food, good friends and love.


1 pound ground chuck
4 oz prosciutto, chopped
4 oz pancetta, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
2 medium leeks, cleaned, white parts chopped
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ cup minced sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
2 bay leaves
Large pinch dried French thyme
Large pinch dried Turkish oregano

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil
1 14 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup red wine

In good sized Dutch oven , do about three swirls of extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat and add chopped leeks.
Sauté about 5-8 minutes, till soft and add celery, parsley, bay leaves, thyme, oregano and sauté 10 minutes

Add meats and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, wine, sun dried tomatoes and cook on low for about an hour or longer, if you like.

Serve over thick hearty noodles, or rigatoni. A bright Arugula salad with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste would be a fine accompaniment.
In Italy, this sauce probably would not be served with Parmesan cheese. But I don’t live in Italy, so I say do what feels right to you!!!
This recipe is for you, Juan.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Oven Braised Salmon with Lemon Creme Fraiche

Okay, this was one of those days that just did not turn out as planned.
And because of that, dinner turned out to be something absolutely spectacular. And easy and fast. I could spend a whole lot of time telling you why but instead I’ll just post this recipe and suggest you try it. As soon as possible. And watch what could have been a day not worth remembering turn into something you’ll think about again and again.

1 lemon, juiced
1 cup crème fraiche
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp finely minced shallots
¼ cup dry vermouth
4 wild sockeye salmon fillets, skinless about 5 oz each

Preheat oven to 350’.
Mix the crème fraiche and lemon juice in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Melt 1 tbsp butter and olive oil in flameproof baking dish over low heat. Add the shallots and vermouth and reduce to glaze. Remove from heat.
Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place in single layer in the baking dish. Pour the crème fraiche mixture over the salmon, cover with buttered foil and bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.
Put fish on plate and tent with foil. Put baking dish over medium high heat and add a bit of vermouth and the other tbsp of butter and swish around til sauce thickens a bit. Season to taste and be sure to leave a bit to put on the salmon. Serve on top of steamed asparagus with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serves 2 if small fillets 4 if large. The way today went, the recipe served 2.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tandoori-Style Grilled Chicken with Roasted Curried Cauliflower

I‘m a native Nashvillian. Growing up in Tennessee meant that Indian food was really not in my lexicon of food knowledge for a long time. I became familiar with it when I was a junior in college and Mary Herbert and I went on a six week adventure to University College in Oxford, England. We flew on Air India.

I will have to say, airplane food has never been nor ever will be as fascinating and as good as it was in late June of 1976. We thought we were very cool ordering wine to go with our dinners. But when the curried chicken, saffron rice, chutney and spinach arrived we were stunned. We were used to overcooked Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes and that apple crumbly thing when we had meals on a plane. This was something totally different.
And it was so good.

When we got to Oxford, we discovered that University was best for breakfast. The Market was perfect for lunch ( a piece of cheese, some fruit and a baguette) and we spent a lot of time at Indian restaurants eating supper like queens for little money.
So when I have a food memory moment from that time in Oxford, I do a little time travel in the kitchen. And get out the coriander seeds and the cumin seeds and the hot curry powder and the chutney and eat like a queen with Groom.

Tandoori-Style Grilled Chicken
Adapted from Back To Square One by Joyce Goldstein

Serves 6
1 onion, cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup fresh lime or lemon juice
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp garam masala
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups plain yogurt
3 cut-up chicken pieces, about 5 pounds

Puree the onion with the garlic in Cuisinart. Process in the lime or lemon juice. Then add spices and yogurt and blend to mix. Put chicken in Pyrex pans and pour marinade over and turn to coat. cover and refrigerate overnight.
Bring the chicken to room temperature. Preheat the grill to medium-medium high heat. Grill chicken about 8-12 minutes per side, reaching a temperature of 160’ when done.

Roasted Curried Cauliflower
Adapted from

12 cups cauliflower flowerets
1 large onion, peeled and quartered and pulled into separate layers
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
3-½ tsps hot curry powder
1 tbsp hot paprika
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Preheat oven to 450. Put cauliflower and onion in large roasting pan. Heat small skillet and toast cumin seeds and coriander seeds until slightly darkened. Crush in mortar with pestle. Put in bowl with remaining ingredients except parsley. Whisk and pour over cauliflower and onion and stir well. Roast for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro and serve with chicken.


Monday, December 10, 2007

A Good Thing from Martha

You gotta love Martha. The woman can organize a closet, plant an herb garden, iron fitted sheets and fold them so they look like flat ones…and she can come up with some great recipes. I love Martha. Not to excess, but I do love her. And it has nothing to do with the fact that when Anne and I did a party years ago for a Junior League function, she attended and wrote a wonderful column about our food. Seriously, it’s not about that.

I get MARTHA STEWART LIVING magazine and have for years. I cut out all the
GOOD THINGS and save them all over the house. It probably would be a good thing if I would put them all in one beautiful linen box calligraphied with the words “good things Martha thinks I need to do.” But I haven’t done that. Probably won’t.

However, the January 2008 mag appeared in the mailbox on Saturday and perusing the pages I came across a very cool recipe for Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon and Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Herbs. And the best thing is the recipe is on those cards you can tear out and stick in a drawer somewhere for Groom to find in four years and ask me, “Honey, don’t you want to put all of these Martha things a file or a box so you can find them?” And I’ll smile and say, “Ok, Groomie, maybe I'll look through them.”

Pan Seared Scallops with Lemon…adapted from Martha Stewart Living January 2008 issue

1 pound sea scallops, tough muscles removed
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon, cut in wedges
Pat scallops dry with paper towels and season well with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Heat oil in cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add scallops to skillet and cook until golden brown and cooked through about 3 minutes to the side.
Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.
Serves 4.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Herbs..adapted from Martha Stewart Living January 2008 issue

1 large spaghetti squash halved lengthwise and seeds removed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmesan Reggiano grated
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Preheat the oven to 400’. Sprinkle olive oil over the squash and using your fingers, rub it in the cavity. Sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Place squash, cut side down on a Pam’d baking sheet and roast til tender probably about 40 minutes or so. Cool slightly.
Take a fork and scrape the squash to remove the flesh in long strands. Place in bow and all oil, parmesan, parsley and pine nuts with salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve immediately. Serves 4.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Costolette d'Agnello alla Calabrese...Oh Baby!!!

Life is funny. You never know where or when you’ll meet people for the first time that you have known forever. The comfortableness, if that’s a word, of the friendship; the finishing of each other’s sentences and the knowledge that you were supposed to meet and be in each other’s life is amazing, isn’t it? That’s how it is with my friend Charley. We met at least 15 years ago when she was looking for a job and I was looking for a manager for our catering/carryout shop. She wore a green suit and had a briefcase. I asked if she had a pair of jeans. She said yes. I told her to go home, put on the jeans and come back. She did and it is, without a doubt, one of the best things that ever happened to me. We’ve been through a lot of changes together over the years. The key has been the fact that we know we have each other and all we have to do is call. Or not, because the other always knows when she’s needed. Telepathic stuff. It’s great. Plus she loves to drink wine.

One of our favorite things to do is to cook. Charley’s Jimmy is an incredible cook and loves to do it. Every Christmas he does something Italian for the four of us and last night he even topped himself. His momma was Italian and as he put it…”her heritage linked to the “toe of the boot”…or Calabria, Italy. Long story longer, I look for recipes that may have come from her neck of the woods. As you may or may not know Southern Italy was historically much poorer that Northern Italy and historically very little meat was consumed in this region. Anyway…I came across a recipe from Marcella H. that I cut out long ago because she touted Costolette d’Agnello all Calabrese; don’t ask me to pronounce it; but it means Lamb Chops Calabria Style with tomatoes, peppers and olives.” Then Jimmy goes on to say “I HAVE NEVER COOKED THIS DISH BEFORE. If you and Groom like….I plan to bring the ingredients as well. This is food, you can’t hurt my feelings, you both cook with passion as do Charley and I . If you had other ideas or are on point for something else already no worries darlin’, just a suggestion. Recipe follows, Love Jimmy.“

This is what I love about him, not scared at all to try something new. And it was just splendiferous!!! But then again, that’s our friendship!

Costolette d’Agnello all Calabrese
…adapted from Marcella Hazan

Marcella says: “This is a recipe that starts out as two before becoming one. The chops and the sauce…are cooked separately. Small rib chops should be cooked very briefly to a moist, flaming pink. Cook them too long, and they will turn gray and lose all their juice.”

1 large red bell pepper, or 2 small ones
8 rib lamb chops, each about 1 “ thick
Fine sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 cups peeled ripe fresh plum tomatoes or canned San Marzano
Cut up with their juice
3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup green olives in brine, pitted and coarsely chopped,
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut each pepper lengthwise along the creases, remove the stem, seeds, and pithy core and skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut into approximately 1-½ inch squares.
Sprinkle the chops on both sides with a little salt.
Put the olive oil into a 12 inch cast iron skillet and turn on the heat to high. When hot, slide in the lamb chops. Brown them thoroughly on one side, turn them and brown them thoroughly on the other side.
Remove them from the pan to a plate.
Put the chopped onion into the pan and cook it over lively heat, stirring frequently, until it becomes colored a rich gold. Add the cut up peppers, parsley, olives, salt and generous grindings of black pepper. Turn the heat down to medium.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes until the peppers are tender but firm.
Sprinkle the chops with pepper and put them into the pan with the sauce. Turn the chops over several times to coat them well and after a minutes or so empty the full contents of the skillet onto a warm platter and promptly bring to the table.
Serves 4.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thursday Night Chicken

Groom made a comment tonight.
“Have you noticed that you drink wine from France and I drink Scotch from Scotland. You’re cooking a French recipe with Italian olive oil in a Moroccan tagine and we’re watching a BBC TV series. Ain’t life grand?”
He’s right.
And what a meal it was.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, Give or Take

4 chicken thighs with skin on, seasoned with salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
20 cloves of garlic, good sized, peeled and cut in half to get 40 pieces
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine (Vermouth)

Heat heavy saute pan and add butter and olive oil. When hot, but not smoking, add chicken thighs, skin side down.

Cook about five minutes til golden brown on one side.

Turn over and cook about five minutes more.
Watch the heat so the chicken browns evenly.
Add the garlic cloves and put the chicken on top of it.

Cook til garlic is golden brown about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and dry white wine

and cover.

Cook 15 minutes. Remove top and check the chicken to be sure juices run clear. Let sauce cook down a bit.

Serve with rice or mashed potatoes and a salad of fresh Arugula and a champagne/tarragon vinaigrette.
Serves 2-3 depending on the hunger factor!


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Monday Night with Shrimp, Zucchini and Black Beans

Having a well stocked pantry pays off on those nights when you come home and you’re starving but want something a bit more than a peanut butter and banana sandwich for supper. If you maintain the pantry, the meals are never dull. Unless, of course, you want a dull meal. There are days when dull is good. But there are more days when dull is out of the question.

So the key is the pantry.

We always have a bag of raw tail-on shrimp in the freezer. Zucchini is another thing that lives in our fridge. It’s an amazing veggie. You gotta love something that can go in a sweet bread AND a stew for soft tacos…thank you, Jennifer! Black beans are yet another staple in this house. Actually, all kinds of beans. I use canned beans, mostly, because of the convenience. If I was an organized person, I would remember to soak and cook beans. But, alas, that’s just not one of my strong points. Arborio rice is another staple.

It works wonderfully as something you stir and stir and baby…and also in this recipe, where you throw it in and let the sauce baby it.

This is a combination recipe of a quick paella from Perla Meyers and a hankering for black beans, which tends to come over me on a regular basis.

Monday Night with Shrimp, Zucchini and Black Beans

Extra virgin olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, cut in half then sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 .5 tsp smoked hot Spanish paprika
2 zucchini, diced
1 14 ounce can diced organic tomatoes
1 .5 tsp dried French thyme
1.5 cups Arborio rice
2 cups chicken stock
½ pound to pound (depending on how hungry you are) raw shrimp, tail on ('cause that’s the best type of shrimp)
1 15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed to get that gunk off of it
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Squeeze fresh lime
Heat oil in large skillet. Add the shrimp and sauté until just pink. Remove to bowl. Throw in sliced onion and let caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add a little extra oil as needed. Then add red bell pepper, garlic and herbs and let cook till soft. Add garlic, zucchini and the drained can of diced tomatoes and the black beans. Cover and let cook 10 minutes. Add rice and chicken broth. Stir well, reduce heat cover and cook about 25 minutes.
Sauté shrimp in pan with a bit of hot olive oil and when rice is done, add to pan and stir to blend. Serve with chopped Italian parsley on top and a squeeze of fresh lime. Serves 4 very generously.

Makes a righteous quesadilla the next day with a bit of goat cheese crumbled on top.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Lamb shanks turn me on. Seriously. I see a recipe for lamb shanks and I’m there. A few Christmas‘s ago, I ordered ten lamb shanks for the family from Fresh Market and each was the size of my hand and halfway down my arm. I did a Mediterranean version with olives that was to die for. It did appear rather Henry VIII’ish on the plate…there was room for nothing else on the bone china. Pretty hilarious when you looked at the table, much less everyone in various stages of gnawing on their respective bones, or digging the marrow out with my great grandmother‘s silver, smearing the plate with their fingers.

I’ve done Moroccan takes on lamb shanks. I’ve substituted them for veal shanks in Osso Buco. I can eat a steak all day long. I just can’t do the veal thing anymore. It’s a neighbor’s fault. A good friend who has enough land to have cows in the suburbs and I drive past them four times a day. The big ones standing around in the field chewing and chewing and chewing, no problem. Fire up the grill.The little brown ones with the cute faces and gamboling around the fields. No way. Not going to do it. Thank God she doesn’t raise lamb.

When Whole Foods opened, Groom and I wandered in to make our appearance and check it out and they had beautiful lamb shanks very reasonably priced. Visions of Christmas past danced in my head and I started the recipe hunt. I didn’t want to do something I’d done before. I wanted interesting and different and even go so far as to get a bottle of wine specifically to go with the meal. I rarely do this, mainly because I usually don’t know what I am going to cook ahead of time. Being a Gemini, though, I do surprise myself sometimes.
The search was on and after surrounding myself with inspiration from Patricia Wells, Julia, Perla, Jennifer Hess, Joyce Goldstein (who ran a very close second this time), my main man Bobby Flay won. I had just bought his Mesa Grill Cookbook, opened it up and there it was. The perfect lamb shank meal. Do the whole recipe…the Sweet Potato Risotto with the Roasted Chanterelles is excellent with his Lamb Shanks with Serrano Vinegar Sauce. Josh at the Wine Shoppe in Green Hills paired a wonderful Domaine les Pailleres Gigondas with this and it was incredible. Having one oven made me organize myself just a bit. I roasted the sweet potato and the chanterelle mushrooms ahead of time, so I wouldn’t have to deal with opening the oven while the lamb shanks were braising happily away. This was such a success we did it for company this past weekend. Afterwards, Orangette’s wonderful Roasted Pears and Frank’s amazing Flourless Dark Chocolate Beast, lots of dancing in the living room and a grand Saturday evening was had by all.

Lamb Shanks with Serrano-Vinegar Sauce and Sweet Potato Risotto with Roasted Chanterelles from Mesa Grill Cookbook by Bobby Flay

This serves 2, so adjust accordingly.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 one pound lamb shanks
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ large red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup dry red wine ( I used Vigneti del Sole Montepulciano d‘Abruzzo 2006 a great dry red that is EASY on the pocketbook)
Fresh thyme
2 cups chicken stock
1 Serrano chili, finely diced
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.
Heat oil in large Dutch oven and season shanks on both sides with the salt and pepper. When oil is almost smoking, sear lamb on all sides for about 10 minutes till nicely browned. Remove from pan and add onion, carrot, celery and season with salt and pepper and cook about five minutes. Add wine and cook till reduced by half, three minutes. Add several sprigs of fresh thyme, stock and bring to boil. Cover it up, stick in oven and let cook till meat is very tender 2-2.5 hours.
Remove shanks and tent to keep warm with foil. Strain sauce into medium saucepan and put on high heat. Add Serrano chili and sugar and cook till reduced to sauce consistency (coats spoon) takes about 20 minutes. Add vinegar and cook one minute and season.

Sweet Potato Risotto with Roasted Chanterelles
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed
8 ounces chanterelle mushrooms (I couldn’t find fresh this weekend and substituted dried, reconstituted in hot water for 30 minutes)
Olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
The other half of the red onion you used in the lamb, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
A couple of tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted.

Preheat oven 425. Roast sweet potato till soft about 45 minutes.
When cool enough to handle peel it and smash it up.
While sweet potato is roasting, toss mushrooms small baking dish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper . Roast till golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Bring six cups water to boil heat remaining olive oil and 2 tbs butter in medium pot over medium high heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper and cook till soft. About four minutes. Add rice and toss to coat in the mixture and cook for two minutes. Add wine and boil until completely reduced, takes about three minutes. Add two cups of the boiling water and cook, stirring until its’ absorbed. Keep adding one cup of water at a time and cook, stirring until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed. Rice should be al dente in about 30 minutes. Stir in sweet potato puree and add 2 tablespoons butter and parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper and fold in the pine nuts and the roasted chanterelles..plenty of leftovers if you do this recipe and serve 2.
Thanks, Bobby! You Rock!!!


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chicken Salad

Southerners take food to people for many reasons. Funerals, pot luck, illness, parties, to show off. It’s always good to have something that will fit the above situations and if it’s one thing that works, more the better. When a dear friend was recently in an accident, I asked her if I could do anything for her. She said, "Would you please make some chicken salad ?" When Anne Clayton and I owned our catering company/carryout, we made vats of chicken salad every day. The chicken man was a fixture at our kitchen and pots of chicken breast pieces bubbled away on the stove. Beautiful “poison green” Granny Smith apples waited to be diced and put in the mix.
People bought it by the pound, the sandwich, the half sandwich, the pint. It flew out the door.

I think knowing how to make a good chicken salad is very important. It’s easy to do these days thanks to the availability of roasted chickens at the grocery store. You can make it low fat, high fat, with nuts without nuts with grapes without grapes … you name it. Here is one we sold at Clayton Blackmon for years. It will make a couple of pounds of chicken salad. Enough to keep and to give away in the best Southern tradition

Chicken Salad

1 -1/2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, boiled til cooked, cooled and diced(you can also use a roasted chicken from the grocery, if you wonderfully)
2 large Granny Smith apples, cut up in small dice, and let sit in water with lemon juice in it
1 head celery, washed and cut in dice
15 oz Hellmann’s can use lowfat or regular but it must be Hellmann's
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Coarse salt to taste (or Lawry's seasoned salt)
Coarsely ground black pepper
1 whole lemon
1 cup chopped pecans

Put meat in large bowl. Shred with your fingers. Drain the apples, pat dry and add to the chicken along with celery, mayonnaise, pecans and season with salt or Lawry’s and pepper. Squeeze lemon over top and mix well.

You will love it!