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Sunday’s Vintage Chicken

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Sunday’s in France are dedicated to rest as the Boulangeries are often closed and much of the city, or village depending, lie in quietude. If you happen along a market you will see rows and rows of chickens piled high in these chicken roasters, ready to be used in a picnic or the evenings dinner. Resting aside however, the traditional Sunday meal of Roast Chicken is a less sleepy endeavor- certainly if not only by choice as there are dozens of varieties from which to choose.

After a whirlwind set of Provence tours last Fall, I spent the weekend with Laurence Bry, dear friend and proprietor of concierge based Provence Confidential, just outside Aix-en-Provence in her village of Eyguieres, her husband Jacques, his daughter Juliette, and their two hounds Ursula and Martini. Sunday morning, donning our French walking dress- ie Repetto flats and scarves- Laurence and I walked the most beautiful back roads up to the village in search of the perfect chicken for our Sunday lunch. Passing alongside fields of wildflowers, olive groves and backyard wineries we stopped on occasion to observe the wild herbs growing along the fence posts such as delicate thyme and fennel.

After briefly stopping for a cafe au lait- perhaps we had two- we meandered over to the butcher. I noticed, as we stood in the very long line, how each buyer carefully selected their bird- pointing out the exact one and proudly walking out with their treasure. Once we chose, Laurence described how she wanted it prepared and the butcher returned shortly- having removed the backbone and quartering him- with our white package tied up with string. We too left thrilled as we quickly made our way home, anxious to provide the chef with his goods-a fresh pluck of wild fennel in hand.   That afternoon we dined on { vintage } Cognac chicken with a beautiful celery root mash and roasted vegetables, washed down with a 20 year old Bordeaux that was superbe!

Certain other French traditions at play- that is keeping ones culinary secrets to oneself- I was left to imagine how Jacques might have made the base for that lovely black footed bird. I have prepared it in such a way as to come as close as I will ever come to one of the most beautiful days of my life- but more importantly I have come to realize that the experience of dining is a not merely a collection of taste- of eating exceptional ingredients- but of the sounds, conversational rhythms, and the formation and continuation of relationships that mean the most.  And that makes for a reason to celebrate our day of rest even more – giving the phrase “boring old chicken dinner” the heave ho and putting community back in its place.

 

Sundays’ Vintage Chicken

What you Need:

1 free-range chicken,  backbone removed and quartered ( you can ask your butcher to do this )

1 cup of aged cognac

2 tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

6 cups of Chicken Stock

handful of button mushrooms, sliced thinly

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

Take chicken and season liberally with salt and pepper

In a heated large heavy cast enamel pot, add olive oil and saute both sides of chicken, removing to a platter once browned but not cooked through.

Once chicken is browned and set aside, remove pan and add in cognac- the heat allowing the liquid to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Once the bits have all been scraped from the bottom of the pot, add back the chicken and being careful to hold the pot away from anything flammable, take a long lighter and light the cognac quickly. As the congnac flares and flames, shake the pot gently to coat the chicken with the flambeed liquid. Once the flames die down- seconds usually- add in the chicken stock, lower the heat some and cover for twenty minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. A few minutes before serving add in the sliced mushrooms, allowing them to wilt from the heat but not overcook. Serve with potato puree or other such as celery root or cauliflower puree, rice or pasta.

And don’t forget to enjoy the pleasures of those around your table as much as the dish itself!

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Chicken Scallopini-

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

This weeknight staple is luxurious for the family or for company and shows how even the hungriest of spirits and stomachs can be fed with food that is light and sweet. Pounding the chicken into thin cutlets makes it delicate, so mind the cooking time so as not to over cook.

Chicken Scallopini with Mushrooms & Marsala

serves 4

What you Need

4 chicken breasts pounded thinly (ask butcher or do yourself between plastic
wrap)
1 pound of white button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thinly
1 stick (1/2 cup ) unsalted butter
1 cup of sweet Marsala Wine
Salt to taste
Olive Oil

Directions

Season Chicken well with salt on each side.
Add 2-3 tbsp of Olive Oil and 2 tbsp of Butter to hot sauté pan (either stainless
steel or cast iron) and add chicken. Cook gently only turning once for 2-3 minutes
per side removing to a platter to rest when completed (*keep in warmed oven if
doing multiple batches *)
Once you have sautéed all the chicken, add marsala wine to pan and deglaze,
scraping up the bits stuck at the bottom and creating a pan sauce- Saute for
one minute before adding remaining butter and once melted add mushrooms,
cooking just until tender.

Place Chicken back in pan to lightly reheat for a moment before serving-

Serve Alongside-

Sauteed Spinach

Potato Puree

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PP&Co and Church House Studios Introduces Classic Style Salon Sessions

Friday, November 12th, 2010

The Pianist and I have decided that either 1) we cannot be embarrassed by the other any more than we already have been after being with one another for 11 years or 2) we might actually make a lovely evening of music and dinner, but nonetheless have decided to collaborate with a new series of Classic Style Salons. Beginning next Saturday, November 20th, we are hosting our first salon- with a nod to the years that Indochina was a French Territory… The following is the menu-

Bahn Mi Salade with Pork Rillette, Cucumber and Carrot

in

Minted KaffirVinegarette

with

Fresh Baguette Croutons

Coriander & Anise Spiced Quail

with

Fresh Bib Leaves and Basil

and

Plum Sauce

Papillon of Prawn

with

Coconut Lemongrass Glaze

and

Sticky Cilantro Risotto Pancake

Chocolate Pots de Creme with Salted Peanut Crust

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Simple Life, Simple Summer Flavor

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

img_0244Divinely easy, this summer salad incorporates all the left overs from the past few evenings of grilling-. Seeing as its summer, today this included palmito or heart of palm, avocado, grilled shrimp, sausage bottoms, some corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and of course goat cheese… this being a staple in my household each and every season! For added crunch I threw in some left over croutons made a week ago and kept frozen. I am not a firm believer that lettuce must be present to make a salad, but some tender wee leaves of arugula were all but begging to be added and so they were. I tossed the salad with a balsamic syrup (in lieu of the vinegar) salt, and a some extra virgin olive oil-  Tres magnifique!!! And since Im not stuffed silly I might actually spend my afternoon pondering what to make for dinner…

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Summer School

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Summer is the perfect season for uncomplicated eating… And so I decided to try the wee Sushi A Go Go truck on Manor Rd, here in Austin.  Raw fish on a hot day is sublime and this new food destination delivers. I ordered the spicy tuna, the crunchy tuna, a fresh crab salad tempura roll, and another whose name slipped me but included a fresh mix of salmon, avocado and mango. One of the many culinary experiences I miss about living in NYC is the plethora of great cheap sushi spots… One fave of mine was just off Union Square on 18th between W Broadway and 5th ave. For 7 bucks I feasted on sushi and a roll or two, all for the same amount of time and effort as say ordering at Mc Do. No fuss, no star spotting ( thankfully ) and no house refinance necessary to pay the bill. So I was delighted to happen upon this gem on the East Side and will make myself a regular, no doubt. 

PS : Her sushi is best digested on a float in the pool. See attached example. And, No- I am not one of the examples, for any cyberstalkers…  img_0163

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a must read~

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch 

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Gypsy Kitchen: An evening in Capri

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

013Last Saturday eve, I hosted my first Austin cooking demonstrations and we delved into the basics of Italian cuisine. With inspiration coming from summers in Capri, I set to the task of Grilling Octopus, throwing together a Fresh Tomato Bruschetta and cooking up a divine version of Spaghetti alle Vongole.  The evening was set off on an even sweeter note with my dearest friend and fellow cooking companion, Sandi Reinlie, when she threw together a pine nut, vanilla bean mascarpone and balsamic glazed strawberry tart. All within 20 minutes. Needless to say, people want to feel that whatever we are demonstrating they themselves can do at home and this was a hit. There are a few differences between fast and easy even though they are used so interchangeably by everyone these days. A dish, for example, can be easy to make but take time, or be fast to put together but require great skill. What I have noticed is that most of us these days want recipes that are a combination of the two. Realizing this put me on a crash course of reworking my favorite recipes so that I can determine ways to cut time and simplify techniques without sacrificing a particular dish or menu. Its going to be a challenge, albeit one I will enjoy, but the following recipes are instant examples of such. Thanks again to my premier group of ” gypsies” . 

Grilled Baby Octopus w Lemon and Basil Aioli

1 pound of fresh baby octopus, heads removed

6 tbsp of evoo 

2 tsp of salt and a pinch of pepper

1 tsp of chopped garlic

2 egg yolks

5 basil leaves, rolled together and chopped

 

Begin by preheating your grill on high for 5 minutes, top down. Take your thawed octopus, 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt, pepper and 1/2 the garlic and toss together in a large metal bowl or ziploc. Set aside.  Can be left in marinade overnight or for a few hours, although it is also unnecessary if time doesn’t allow. 

Once your grill is smoking hot, take tongs and gently lift the octopus out one by one and lay them flattened on the grill. ( If you dump them out all together, the oil will catch fire and they will not cook evenly ) 

Leave to grill for 4 minutes on high, top open,  then turn and repeat on the other side. After 8 mintues, remove from heat to a platter.

For the Aioli, take your egg yolks, remaining salt and garlic and whisk gently in a large metal bowl. Slowly stir in remaining olive oil, whisking well to incorporate. The mixture should have the consistency of mayonnaise. Throw in the basil, stir and serve immediately . If you don’t have eggs or want to make a different version, 1 c of store bought mayo with the juice of half a lemon and the basil makes an easy and elegant sub. 

* when consuming raw eggs, the remaining mixture should be kept cold. Throw out any aioli that was served, but not eaten. 

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Spaghetti alle Vongole

2 pounds of clams, mixed or all one type – I find the smaller ones easier to manage. 

1-2 pounds of spaghetti, linguine or angel hair

2 c of white wine ( that you would actually drink )

2 tsp of minced garlic

Juice of half a lemon

3 tbsp of EVOO

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tbsp of cold butter, diced

 

Start by bringing a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. ( should taste like the sea ) Throw in your pasta with a touch of olive oil. 

In a large sided pan, add olive oil and garlic and cook until slightly opaque. 

Toss in your rinsed clams and saute for a minute or less. 

Throw in the white wine, carefully lifting the pot off the fire if you are worried it might be too hot. ( if the garlic begins to burn, add more olive oil or wine to drop the temperature in the pan )

Once the mussels begin to open, drain your cooked -al dente -pasta, which should be soft but snap a touch when pulling apart, reserving a few tbsp of pasta water. Remove your clams and begin to reduce your sauce by a third by adding in the reserved pasta water and lemon juice. Once the sauce thickens a bit, remove from heat and stir in cold butter. Toss in your pasta and clams and stir to coat. Remove to a large serving bowl and serve with herb croutons slightly crushed on the top~

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The Simple Life, Part Un

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Okay, so I might make a few enemies with the confession that I spent an entirely ripe Monday, completely horizontal. And position aside, it was by a pool. And pool, schmool, it was ALL day. I haven’t spent all day by a pool since, well, too long. It was divine. And seeing as I introduced the necessity of pool time with an earlier post of mine regarding ways to suffer through the 110 degree heat in Texas, it was the ONLY way to spend the humid day. While I was luxuriating with a few girlfriends, along for the lazy day, we began discussing my favorite of topics: FOOD. Which by the way, most consider a perfectly suitable way to shoot the breeze as well. The discussion covered the difference between French vs Italian food, using a recipe vs not and most importantly, the best season, a mon avis, for appreciating the best of the best. Which in order sounded like: Italian, no recipe, summer and SUMMER!  The conversation that stuck with me though, and one that has been a strangely recurring theme, was the notion that French food was infinitely more complicated, laborious and unhealthy as compared to the simple, fresh methods of Italian food.  Now, I agree on one point. French food CAN be unhealthy but only if you find a stick of melted butter incapable of lowering anxiety, pressure or stress. And I generally don’t wear my skinny jeans before devouring a dish of supremely divine gnocchi suspended in a lippy shallot cream sauce. A delicate sole mueniere, perhaps, but you get the point. I started questioning what exactly people liked and thought about Italian cuisine, if in fact they were seduced beyond reason into thinking it the healthier alternative to French. Or anything for that matter. The investigator in me took over and before long I was uncovering what lied beneath: Overall time spent preparing food is considered a very important factor in whether something is considered healthy. The logic is that if its fresh, its healthy. If it hasn’t been reduced, layered upon, manipulated or man-handled, its much better for you. To this is say, ummmmm, nuh ughh!!!! However I will save the explanations, expletives and examples otherwise for a much later time. The end result of this story after it itself was diced, seeded, boiled, reduced, glazed with butter and then presented, is time is supremely important nowadays whether one is cooking French, Italian, Spanish or good old American food. The simplicity of seasonal cooking makes it easy if you know how to use this handy tool. And so in the spirit of sharing as well as educating, I am providing a bevy of recipes, perfect for the season we are in, inspired by all cuisines, quick and easy to throw together,  and thus “healthy” to lend an even better hand to those striving to stay as neked as law would allow during these crazy hot days.

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Italian Tomato, Basil, Goat Cheese and Herb Crouton Panzanella

What you Need:

Ciabatta or Focaccia bread, diced into 1/2 inch bites

1/2 c of Olive Oil 

3 c diced fresh tomatoes, any color or type

5 basil leaves rolled tightly together, then chopped.

2 tsp of fresh garlic, diced 

1/4 c goat cheese, crumbled in hand

To Assemble:

Combine all ingredients except the bread and half the olive oil, in a large bowl. 

Place the diced bread in a shallow roasting pan, toss in remaining olive oil, salt and pepper and toss with hands to coat. If you desire, add parmesan or any other italian herb to the pan. Place under broiler and remain nearby, tossing a few times until the bread has hardened into little croutons. Remove and throw into the salad. Toss just before serving.

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The Cooking Depot : Modern Mexican

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

 img_0135

Last week, I made the enjoyable pilgrimage to Cuero, Texas where I have frequently taught cooking classes at the Cooking Depot over the past 4 years. I was searching for a creative but appropriate menu and came up with a Modern Mexican set. I took traditional mexican flavors and punctuated them with inventive plating and more approachable, healthy techniques. The next few recipes are from the lively stage from which I thoroughly enjoy cooking.

 

 

 

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My ultimate guacamole has been, until now, a family secret~ I hope you enjoy this cool and creamy and oh so good for you appetizer, or enjoy it as I often do- for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

What you Need

2 large hass avocados

1 tsp of kosher salt

1/2 tsp of garlic salt ( or fresh if you prefer )

1 tsp of fresh cilantro

1 tbsp of mexican style creme ( sour cream ) 

Slice your avocados and stabbing the pit with the blade of your knife, carefully twist and discard. Gently slice the avocado in your hand, within the shell and then scoop out the flesh with a spoon or your knife if preferred. Once in a bowl, add your 2 salts and mash. I like a rough mash although its also great super creamy as well. Once finished, add to a serving bowl and top with the cilantro. For added pleasure, a spoonful of mexican crema goes a long way in pleasing the crowds!

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Mexican Rice Pilaf w Toasted Pepita Seeds

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

A great side to accompany any Mexican meal, this easy pilaf is a weekday staple of mine. Interchange the seeds and the spices for other fabulous pilafs to incorporate what you have on hand. 

For the Rice

2 c of medium or long grained rice, rinsed

one small sweet onion, diced 

1 tbsp of butter

salt and pepper

1 tsp of ground cumin

3 1/2 c chicken stock, preheated

1 c of pumpkin or pepita seeds, lightly toasted

2 tbsp of grapeseed or canola oil

 

Take a large sided skillet and heat to med high, adding the oil just before your onions. Once the onions begin to turn pale, add in your rice and cook until opaque. Add salt, pepper and cumin and stir. Adding in your chicken stock slowly stir to break up any rice that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the butter and then cover, allowing 10-12 minutes to cook. Once the rice has cooked, remove from heat and toss in the toasted pepitas and even some fresh chopped cilantro, or sweet peas for color.

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