Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chicken Marengo, In A Fashion

23 years ago, Nick and I were living in Germany. That' s the Federal Republic of Germany, aka Western Germany, as it was known back in the 80s.

I hosted an important work dinner, and I served Chicken Marengo, using a recipe from Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet. This was prior to the scandal that derailed his public TV cooking career.

At the dinner, were my boss, Major Livingston, his wife, Cheryl, my co-worker, Captain Dennis Barletta and his wife, and Elke Dressler, the Third Infantry Division Protocol Officer. Manohmanischewitz, was I a nervous wreck. I didn't know what to play for music, so I left on one of the classical Bavarian music stations (we were stationed in Wurzburg, Germany). It so happened, that the radio station was playing lots of Strauss that night. Elke, who was a worldy - or, should I say, world weary, said, with a critical edge to her voice"What, is this Strauss Rememberance Night?". At that time, I was not good with comeback repartee, so I just smiled and drank another glass of Barolo. And I was happy that everyone ate their chicken peacefully and seemingly, gratefully.

Tonight, I served another version of Chicken Marengo. This version is all mine, for sure. Using the pressure cooker!


  • Dredge 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts in flour, salt, and pepper. Brown in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Take out of the pot.
  • Brown 1 onion, chopped,and 2 cloves garlic. Add 1 16 oz. can chopped tomatoes. Put the chicken on top.
  • Add 1/2 cup dry white wine, and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Then add 5 springs parsley, some celery tops, and a bay leaf.
  • Cook at 5 pounds pressure for 10 minutes.
  • Take off the stove, and let sit for 10 minutes more.
  • Chop some parsley.
  • Put the chicken on a platter, discarding the bay leaf, the celery, and the parsley.
  • Put the newly chopped parsley on top.

Serve with mashed patatoes and steamed brocolli.

And this time, if only in my mind...When Fraulein Dressler says, "Is it Strauss Remembrance Night??", with that critical edge to her voice, I'll reply "Yepper...and next you're gonna hear Wagner. Followed by the Skorpions".

With age does come wisdom. Yeah, yeah, I'm over it. Finally. Now.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Herb Layered Foccacia

I collect cookbooks. I read cookbooks in bed before going to sleep at night. There is something comforting and relaxing about reading cookbooks. A favorite genre is baking. Nick gave me this book, Rose Levy Berenbaum's "The Bread Bible". It is one of those cookbooks that tells you now just 'how', but 'why'. It reads almost like an illustrated textbook.

Yesterday, I had the chance to bake some bread. Why I haven't featured that particular activity yet here, I have no idea. Well, it's time to correct that oversight! I cook bread because I like to eat bread. Same as sewing. I like clothes, so I sew.

For me, and I guess for most cooks - there are two types of cooking and baking. There is 'craft' cooking, and there is "utilitarian" cooking. The craft type is when I immerse myself in the process, enjoying the journey as well as the finished result. The utilitarian type is what I do most of the time. It's "get it on the table" cooking. The satisfaction of whipping something decent (and, at my best...great...) out of what we have - and doing it in 20 minutes - that's satisfying! But that said, what I did here was what I would call craft cooking. I had to pay attention to the deliberate process.

I used Berenbaum's focaccia recipe, but I tweaked her method. Her method uses a hand mixing and kneading. But I used my KitchenAid mixer. The one I have is the "professional" model. I had the artisan model, with a smaller motor, but I burned that one out a year ago, when I was using it to knead some sturdy whole wheat bread. So I bought a big boy model.

This dough is very very wet, and when making foccacia, the hardest thing for me is to let it be wet. Because it should be wet. The proportion of flour to water in this bread is 2 cups flour to 1 cup water. That's 1/3 wetter than my normal 'knock it together' pizza dough! But I was disciplined and did not add too much flour.

After a series of rises and gentle punch downs, my dough was velvety soft, full of air, and tender. So I rolled it out, so that a third of the dough was thin, and the rest was thick. In the middle, between the dough layers, before sealing it for the final rise, I put fresh herbs. Our garden still has some herbs growing in it, despite the recent frost here where I live, on the east coast of the US. The only herb that is pretty much decimated is the green basil. My purple basil, for some reason, is hardier. So, after letting my bread rise, in went the herbs.

I had an appointment, so when I came back, two hours later, this is what I had. I punched dimples in the bread, drizzled it with olive oil and salt, then baked at 400 degrees....

Bread with a hearty red wine. A classic and 'can't go wrong' combo. In this case, it was a Spanish wine. Spanish wines are a favorite of mine, because they deliver some good complexity for a reasonable price, in many cases. This bread was s0000 good that we almost finished the loaf - just the two of us, at dinner last night. And after that, I had some as a snack.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Apple Fest Continues

Nothing against Mott's, but my sauce is way better. Why? Well, it's mine, first of all. Second, the apples are hand selected, then simmered in their peels with a lemon. Zest and juice. Finally, using the old food mill that belonged to my Great Grandmother Alice, a very smooth, fine grained sauce is created. Mixed with a very small amount of vanilla and cinnamon (not discernable taste wise, but enough to make the flavors of the apples sing), then, if needed up to a 1/4 cup of sugar (for a 1/2 gallon of finished sauce). That is it, and oh, how yumilicious. I freeze it in 2 cup baggies, and it will be there, waiting for mid-winter enjoyment.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apple Pancakes

I've been busy, busy with all the apples I got recently from my parents' tree. Here is a simple example of how I've been using the apple bounty:

Apple pancakes. Use any pancake recipe, and as the pancakes cook, slip in 1/8 inch slices of peeled, cored, apples. That's it. If you're feeling adventurous, add an apple compote instead of maple syrup. More to come!