Bistro Salad for One

Every once in a while, Jim and his mom go out to a weeknight dinner alone. I usually spend this time relaxing in the apartment, reading quietly or watching some Food TV. I rarely cook. Sometimes all I’ll eat for dinner on these nights is a few pieces of my favorite cheese or a bowl of cereal. Cooking, for me, is best when done with an audience.

Last night, however, I felt like treating myself. Nothing grand, nothing too substantial, but something that tasted delicious and a just a little bit elegant. Realizing that salads can get the shrift during my dinners, since I mostly resort to my good (but done-before) vinagrette with mixed greens, I opted for a fancy-smanscy (yet still quite easy) creamy bistro dressing.

I’ve never made a salad dressing that involved stove-top cooking before, so I was excited to try this out. Shallots shine in this dressing; the cream masks their pungency to make the perfect subtle onion flavor. Since it’s a creamy dressing, I created a salad of crisp greens, paper-thin cucumber slices, celery that has lost some of it’s crispness in the fridge (oddly enough, that’s how I like my celery in salads) and skinny coins of carrot. The hardest part about making this dressing is allowing for it to cool before coating your salad with it (but it is a must.) If you really can’t wait for it to cool, you could use the dressing as a sauce for warm veggies, or slather it onto a good french baguette.

Creamy Bistro Dressing

makes about 3/4 cup//from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • good honey
  • 1/4 red wine vinaigrette
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add shallots and a drop or two of honey and saute until the shallots are beginning to color. Add in the red wine vinaigrette and let it boil for a few minutes. When the vinaigrette becomes a bit syrupy, whisk in the cream. Bring it just to a boil, whisking, and then lower heat and let it cook for a few more minutes, to thicken. Cool, cover, and chill for about an hour. (I actually chilled it about 30 minutes; since my greens were very cold, the slightly warm dressing helped temper the salad.)

Arroz con Pollo

Over the past year or so, I’ve learned that my favorite foods are the so-called “peasant” or “country” varieties: simple risottos, stews, braises, cheap cuts of meat, long-cooked vegetables thrown in a pot. It doesn’t matter where these dishes originate from, if a recipe says it’s a favorite of “the people,” “the farmers,” or “the lower-class,” I’m down.

Not to toot my own horn (yeah, right) but I cook these dishes pretty damn well. I have no idea if my versions are totally “authentic” or sometimes if they even resemble the dishes they are titled after. I do know, though, that they are good.

Arroz con Pollo, what I would call a Spanish Risotto, has to be my favorite food to make for a group of people. I’ve served it at parties, to friends, to myself pretending I had enough stomach to polish off 8 servings. It’s always a hit. People rave. Jim declared it my “signature dish.” I’m getting a big head.

You can find a few recipes for Arroz con Pollo on the internet but a lot of them are conventional recipes—they give you the ingredients and a step-by-step but they lack a certain style. Like, you could follow the recipe and get tasty results but they don’t tell you to let the rice burn a bit on the bottom of the pan and then to scrape it up and into the body of the rice before serving. They don’t mention that you should add in the rest of the beer that’s left in the 40 oz after you’ve drank just enough to start a kitchen-salsa (you could also substitute a regular bottle here.) And, for whatever prudish reason, no one mentioned that you have to taste, continuously, seasoning with pimento in between tastes, until you find the perfect flavor.

These are the little details that make this type of food so delicious. A dash here, a little dancing there, a few kisses blown into the pot. Most recipes don’t tell you how much love is needed. But, I swear, you cannot omit it.

Arroz con Pollo

serves 6-8

Sometimes I’m in the mood for chicken-with-the-skin-and-bones for this dish, sometimes I just want the easily shreddable skinless-boneless. If you are going that route, use chicken thighs. Dark meat is best here (or anywhere else for that matter.)

1 (3-pound) whole chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons spanish smoked pimento
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2-3/4 pound dried hot chorizo sausages, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 large Spanish onion (or two small), chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
2 bay leaves
2 cups long grain white rice
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warm
1 bottle pale beer (I like Bass here, but you could use any light-tasting beer)
1 cup pimento stuffed green olives (optional)
Pimento, Salt, and Pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. In a small bowl, blend salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, pimento and cayenne. Rub each piece of chicken with the spices and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes for the flavor to develop.

In a heavy, 6 qt casserole with lid, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Fry the chorizo over medium heat until it is crispy and renders its fat. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes Remove from pan and set aside. Saute the onion, garlic, bell pepper, scraping up all the bottom scraps. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the rice in and stir until all the pieces are coated in the oil.

Add the tomatoes and broth, season with salt and pepper. Return the chorizo and chicken to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and season with pimento, salt, and pepper or anything else you like. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the beer. Stir to scrape up and browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cover again and cook until the chicken is done and the rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid, about 10-20 minutes. If the rice isn’t done, add a little water or more beer if you like the taste. If you want extra of the browned bits (taste them first), bring up the heat for the last couple minutes of cooking. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving. Taste before serving and season if needed. Scatter the olives on top if you like. Leftovers are the best past; it will get spicier with each day. Serve it to your favorite people—people who you wouldn’t mind big, sloppy kisses from.

Five Things (and an Award)

I was recently tagged by Dana of Proof of the Pudding AND Jamie of Good Eats ‘n Sweet Treats to write 5 random things about me. I usually don’t participate in these things but I just adore their blogs so much that I couldn’t resist. So, here goes.

1. I hate the sound of chewing. I know, that’s ridiculous for someone who loves food so much, and I don’t understand it myself either. It won’t be all the time. It’s a random hatred, like, if I already have a headache and then Jim and I are eating dinner, I’ve been known to actually get angry with him. For chewing. Good thing he’s a doll and just laughs at my craziness.

2. I am The Worst Person in the World when it comes to keeping up relationships. I love my friends and family dearly and I’m so happy that they will put up with me calling or seeing them about once every 3 months, acting as if I hang with them everyday and making promises to call everyday thereafter. And then never doing it. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m anti-social.

3. I watch America’s Next Top Model. Way too much.

James Salant pic

4. Jim wrote a book, Leaving Dirty Jersey, that’s about his time shooting up crystal meth and heroine and doing god-awful things that no girlfriend wants to hear about. It was reviewed in the New York Times. People ask me quite often how I handle knowing all that bad stuff, in exacting detail, about my boyfriend. Truth is, I really don’t care. I was with him during the writing (not the experiencing) of his memoir—we had just begun dating—and while I can’t say some of it wasn’t stomach-turning, it never made me look at him differently. Never would. He’s my Jimmy. People also always ask me what would I do if he started using again. I think the answer is quite simple, actually. I’d hit him on the head with a large metal bat.

5. I use one of these everyday. It works.


Also, I’m happy to say, Judy from No Fear Entertaining awarded me this:   THANK YOU JUDY!!  Judy’s blog is wonderful—she has all the kinds of dishes that I love and I’m also in love with her compost bin! 😀 Check her out!


I want to pass this award on to some awesome blogs that I read all the time, you guys are great!

Melissa at Alosha’s Kitchen is a new(ish) blogger that I’ve been reading since she started up.  Get there to check her out quick because she has the most decadent, mouthwatering V-Day dinner I’ve ever seen!

Dave at LunaPierCook is always quick to leave hilarious comments on my posts and his blog is similarly a wonderful read.  He’s also quick to help if you have any blogger problems—a real foodblog hero!

Francie at Ramblings of a Frantic Home Cook is absolutely hilarious. Her posts are laugh-out-loud funny and her pictures are as cute as can be, with lots of cartoon fonts pointing out the goodness in her dishes.  I’m also in lover with her header.

Dani from Average Cook is always there to give me great recipes, a lot of them healthy AND delicious.  She’s a fellow New Jersey-ite and, come to think of it, we better meet up for lunch someday! 😀


Simple Miso Soup

This post may be uninteresting to you, especially since Japanese food in America has been wildly popular for the past few years. It’s a simple recipe for Miso Soup. And I am so excited about it!

I guess I missed the boat on this one—when all of my friend’s were lapping up miso soup in college, when I skimmed over blog posts and recipes of it uninspired, when I chose the gyoza over it in restaurants. I never cared to even try miso soup until one day last spring, when Jim and I were in New York for a play and (more importantly) a fancy dinner. We chose a restaurant, well-received on Zagat, whose name has vanished from my memory. Every item on the menu, save for the miso soup Jim ordered, was either unremarkable or inedible. I finally gave in and tried Jim’s soup out of hungry desperation. It was delicious! I loved the salty, briny flavor of the dashi and went wild for the crunchy green onions. I mostly stayed away from the tofu, thinking that I was allergic to it after I had a reaction to a soy-gingerbread latte a few months prior.

Since then, I’ve learned that I’m not allergic to tofu and also that I just don’t care for it. So, I’ve been hunting for a comprable miso soup in sushi places and gourmet shops since last spring, hoping beyond hope to find one that focuses as much on the other ingredients as it does on the tofu and not having to break the bank for it. I was unlucky to the point of being turned off by miso soup altogether—almost to the point of forgetting about it, until my soup obsession started this winter. I don’t know why I never made miso soup myself before but I should really give myself a kick in the ass. It’s so wonderfully easy—and I can make it to my tastes! Don’t like tofu? Screw the tofu!

So, that’s why I’m so excited about this simple miso soup. I see it as a jumping off point for me—today’s post is the classic miso, tofu and all, but next week I’ll try something different. Eventually I’m sure I’ll come up with my ultimate miso soup. The combination of the sea-laced kombu dashi with salty red miso is the broth-soup jump-off point of my dreams (wow, I really am turning into a soup-nut.) And to top it all off, miso soup is healthy and beneficial to my lazy winter immune system—maybe one of the reasons I’m already feeling better!

Miso Soup

Don’t let the ingredient list scare you off—they were all stocked in my supermarket without my knowing. I asked the clerk, thinking it was hopeless, if he had kombu and bonito flakes and the wonderful man said of course! and then politely gave me a lesson on how to make the best miso soup. Also, the ingredients store easily in the pantry—a plus in my book.

For the dashi:

  • 1 strip kombu, scored a bit with the tip of your knife
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup bonito flakes (dried tuna)

For the miso soup:

  • Prepared dashi
  • 1/3 cup red miso (you can use white or yellow if you think red is too strong)
  • 2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced

To make the dashi: Combine kombu strip and water. Bring to a simmer but do not let boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove kombu with tongs and discard (or save for another use.) Add bonito flakes and simmer for a few more minutes. Drain through a fine-mesh sieve.

To make soup: Place dashi back on stove, reserving about a cup in a heatproof bowl. Whisk miso into the cup, combining well. Pour combined miso back into the dashi and stir. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Add green onions, turn off heat and let it sit for another minute. Serve.


QUESTION! QUESTION!  Do you have any interesting (or simple) miso soup recipes or tips?? I’d love to hear them!

Barbecue Beans

I have a horrible cold-slash-probably bronchitis that’s ruined my weekend. I was planning on writing a nice long post, really a love-poem, to one of my favorite dishes—Barbecue Beans. Thinking that barbecue beans never get the flattery they deserve, I was going to write a post about how remarkably delicious they are, with their notes of slight sweetness and subtle spicyness, their hint of mustardy bitterness. I was going to tell you how warmly substantial these beans are. I eat them almost every afternoon for lunch and I was going to rave that they never get “old”.

I was going to good-naturedly cajole you into making them, telling you that all the ingredients are probably in your kitchen right now. Everything you need for this recipe can be bought and then forgot about until you have time to make it. There’s no ingredient with a looming expiration date forcing you to make the beans immediately, just in case you get a horrible cold-slash-probably bronchitis and wanted to order in.

I was going to do all that but, in between hacking coughs and nose-blowings, decided against it. I need my rest you know. So, here’s the recipe. It’s wonderful. Jimmy is making me a huge pot of it tonight—to sustain us for the week. And I’m going back to bed.

Barbecue Beans

serves 4-6//adapted from the Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites

After you make this once, you may want to adjust the ingredient amounts. I fiddled around with it and find this version my favorite but you may want it sweeter or spicier. Also, this recipe relies heavily upon the BBQ sauce you use, so pick your favorite.

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, depending on their size, minced
  • 1 can (15 oz.) Navy beans, drained
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce, I use Bone Suckin’ Sauce Thick and Spicy (if you don’t use a spicy BBQ sauce you may want to add more hot sauce)
  • 1/4 cup mustard, I like dijon here
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • a few drops of hot sauce, or more to taste

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until tender and onions are translucent. Add beans, BBQ sauce, mustard, and maple syrup. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Uncover, add cider vinegar and hot sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings if you want. Serve with white or brown rice.

Jerk Chicken for People with Tongues of Steel

This is a recipe to spice up your life this Valentine’s Day.

I’d like to think of myself as a spicy person. I’d like to think I could handle scorching hot chiles and searing curries. I think it’d be sexy desirable kinda-cool if I could down tacos slathered in the hottest hot sauce. I’d probably even lie to someone if they asked if I could handle the hot stuff. I’d even bite my lip and handle the hot stuff, holding back tears and swallowing chiles whole—trying to keep the stuff in contact with my tongue for as short of a time as possible—and gulping down glassfuls of water whenever heads turned, cursing my bull-headedness all the while.

But seriously, I’m kind of a pansy. I mean, not a total wimp, no. I do add hot sauce to my rice and beans. But it’s like 2, maybe 3 drops of hot sauce. I enjoy spicy foods but I’ve never overloaded on the stuff. And sometimes, when I’ve gone a while since eating anything too-spicy, I can even convince myself that I am a champion of heat. I’ll look at a recipe that’s far to spicy for my taste like it’s baby food. I’ll scoff at the less-spicy (but equally delicious, I’m sure) versions of the dish. I’ll even go to extremes to make it as spicy as possible. And then I’ll only be able to have a few bites at dinner.

This jerk chicken recipe is not for the faint at heart and the sauce that accompainies it is certainly useless, as I don’t see any sane person needing it, unless, I don’t know, you are a Jamacian who eats the hearts of men who eat scotch bonnet peppers for breakfast. If you do like heat, however, this recipe is for you. The flavor combination of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and all that heat is really interesting—pungent, peppery, and zippy up the wahzoo. The molasses gave it a rounded-out sweet depth that I really enjoyed. It’s well worth making the recipe even if you can only have a bite or two. I was actually able to eat a few pieces after rubbing off the chile paste and Jim polished off the rest of it. Jim’s a hot-kind-of-guy, which is why I say forget about making the sauce—even he wouldn’t touch it.

This recipe was found on Elise’s Simply Recipes and reproduced here. Go there to see her pretty pictures and take note of the one where she wears gloves—you cannot, can not forget that step, or you’ll be weeping scorching-hot tears for the rest of your romantic Valentine’s Night.

Jerk Chicken

serves 6-8//from Simply Recipes Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros), with seeds, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 green onion tops, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons molasses

1 (5 or 6 pound) roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise
1/2 cup lime juice
Salt and pepper


Safety note. Scotch Bonnet and Habanero chile peppers are very hot and can cause extreme pain if they come in contact with your eyes. We strongly recommend wearing protective gloves while handling the chilies and the jerk paste.

Put vinegar, rum, hot peppers, onion, green onion tops, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses into a blender. Pulse until mostly smooth.

Place chicken in a large freezer bag, or in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour lime juice over the chicken and coat well. Add the jerk paste to the chicken pieces and coat well. Seal the bag or cover the chicken in the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove chicken from the marinade bag or pan. Put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to use as a basting sauce for the chicken. If you want you can reserve a little of the marinade (once boiled for 10 minutes since it has been in contact with raw chicken) to serve with the chicken or to mix with some ketchup and a dash of soy sauce for a serving sauce. (You probably won’t need to do this unless you have a death wish.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chicken halves in a rimmed baking pan, skin side up. Roast until chicken halves are cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Transfer chicken to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

Cut chicken into pieces. Serve with black beans and rice.

With Growth Comes Change

I’ve changed! With the one-year birthday of Clumsy Cook coming up, I decided to get a new look—and a new NAME! Over this past year of cooking, studying, and blogging, I’ve learned so much about food that I simply don’t feel clumsy anymore. Now, I won’t promise that I still do get the here-and-there burned fingers or ruined recipes, but all-in-all I’ve become so confident in the kitchen that it feels like I’m misleading you with my name.

So I’d like to introduce the new name—Caviar and Codfish. To me, this name sums up me. I’m a Gemini, which means I can have dueling personality traits. One of them is my love of things fancy and my love of down-home country-casual. I feel this relates to my food—as one day I’ll be making truffled potatoes and the next will be meatballs. I love it all equally. And the name—just say it—Caaa-veee-arhh and codfish. The caviar rolls off your tongue and, well, codfish is best said gruffly, with your nose all scrunched up. So there it is, hello and welcome to caviar and codfish!!

Intensely Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés

Since Valentine’s Day is smack in the middle of the week, Jim and I decided to begin celebrating it early this year, by having a wonderful chocolate dessert on Saturday night. Silly as it seems, I was uneasy about making anything with bittersweet chocolate. You see, there’s nothing bittersweet about our relationship.

We are young twenty-somethings who have been living together for a little over a year-still feeling as if we are merely “playing house.” We live together easily, deciding, quite amiably, to decorate our apartment with beautiful photography, bookshelves, and maps–Jim agreed that I can display teacups on some shelves, I allowed for the maps. We’re in love and calmly happy together. Sweet, see, but never bitter.

So, I am a bit too superstitious (I blame it on my Italian blood) to make anything bittersweet for our Valentine’s Day dessert—not that I think cracks could form in our relationship over such a silly thing, Jimmy, but knock on wood, throw salt over your shoulder, etc.

The problem is that we don’t eat much milk chocolate anymore. Out of a screwed up sense of “healthy,” we decided that we could have chocolate daily—if it was very dark (80%)—since dark chocolate has all those antioxidants and stuff. We decided this over a year ago and since then our chocolate tastes have changed dramatically. It’s almost a bad thing—I’m not satisfied by M&Ms or Snickers bars anymore (maybe it’s not that bad of a thing) and we either have to spend a lot for boutique desserts or make them ourselves. I guess I could have gone out and bought a chocolate dessert that didn’t specifically tout being made with bittersweet chocolate—in that don’t ask, don’t tell sort of way—but not making your newly-madly-in-love with boyfriend a homemade dessert on your 2nd Valentine’s Day together would be blasphemy!

Thankfully, I came across Alice Medrich’s Intensely Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés while scouring my cookbooks for a suitable dessert. I decided I needed a little poetic license this V-Day and here’s what I came up with: Since our relationship is not bittersweet, I will lend the metaphor to the word “intense” because who doesn’t want an intense relationship? (Sane people, probably) Furthermore, since “Intense” (minus the -ly) is the first word of the dessert, it obviously means that our year will be filled with intensity and we can safely forget anything about bittersweet since second words never matter in fortune-telling (I actually have no idea if that is true, but I think we can all agree I’m full of it anyhow).

It’s a good thing I was able to concoct this excuse because the chocolate soufflé were the perfect amount of chocolate bitterness and, for a soufflé—a dessert made with more egg whites than butter—they were extremely decadent. You can prepare the soufflés in advance, allowing you to simple pop them in the oven 15 minutes before you wish to eat them. They don’t rise much, but the flavor is spectacularly rich. The first batch I made had a texture closer to mousse than soufflé, but I baked the remaining ramekins for less time than given in the recipe (I have an electric oven which is usually hotter than I intend it to be) and they had the characteristic ooey-gooey insides. Jim fell in love with the little chocolate ramekins immediately, licking them clean. If I wasn’t a stable woman, I’d be jealous.

Intensely Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés

serves 6//from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet


  • 8 ounces 70 % bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 3 large eggs, separated at room temperature
  • 1 egg white , at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar


If you are baking the soufflés right away, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 °F. Butter the ramekins and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the chocolate, butter, and milk in a large heatproof bowl in a large skillet of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the water bath and whisk in the egg yolks. (Don’t worry if the mixture stiffens slightly or is less than perfectly smooth at this point.) Set aside.

In a medium, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Gradually sprinkle in 1/3 cup of sugar and beat at high speed until the whites are stiff but not dry. Fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it ,then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins, filling each three-quarters full. (The soufflés can be prepared to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bake directly from the refrigerator.)

Place the soufflés on a cookie sheet. Bake until they rise and crack on top and a wooden skewer plunged into the center emerges very moist and gooey (but the centers should not be completely liquid), 14 to 16 minutes, perhaps a minute or so longer if the soufflés have been refrigerated. (If you want the ooey-gooey middle, however, shorten the cooking time by a few minutes.)

When they are done, remove the soufflés from the oven, and serve immediately with a little powdered sugar sifted over the top, if you like.

Superbowl Coq au Vin

There are a good many Americans who enjoy their football. I’m not one of them. I do, however, enjoy being stuffed to the gils in the name of celebration—every chance I get. And there’s always the commercials.

I agreed to watch football with Jim on Sunday (our first football-watching together—Jim’s more a basketball man.) There was no prepared guacamole, no piggies-in-a-blanket, no hot wings. It was a more of a subdued, half-hearted Superbowl party, one where the food was pretentiously “French.”

It was a spur of the moment decision to make the coq au vin, though I wish I had planned it. What great fun it would have been to invite all our friends over for a French Superbowl Dinner!!

The game turned out to be quite thrilling, though I think my coq au vin could kick any Giant ass around! The recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa and appealed to me in it’s relatively quick cooking time—maybe skipping any marinating time makes this coq au vin less “classic,” but I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! The wine-soaked chicken is succulent and falling off the bone. Seared mushrooms and baby pearl onions perform a balancing act of woodsy-sweet-savory flavors. The sauce, which I let boil down a bit to increase the flavor, was fruity yet not too tannic—I wouldn’t substitute a California pinot noir for the burgundy, unless you happen to favor the California’s bold taste. The tangy buttermilk mashed potatoes with fleur de sel were a great side dish—a bit lighter than regular butter-and-cream concoctions.

I stashed this recipe in my favorite file for Sunday night dinners; it would be divine even if there were no big, brawny men chasing each other around on your television set!

Coq Au Vin

serves 4-6//adapted from Ina Garten

While the recipe called to add the onions directly to the pan, I thought browning them along with the mushrooms would lend a brown-buttery flavor. It did and I highly recommend that step.


5 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced


Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add onions to saute pan and cook until browned (or seared really.) Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 20 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Fleur de Sel Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

serves 4-6


3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4-1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon fleur de se;, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper, or more to taste


Place potatoes in a saucepan and fill water up to about 1/8 of an inch above the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender (you can easily puncture them with a fork.) Drain and add back to pot or serving bowl.

Add in buttermilk and skim milk and butter. Mix well. Add in fleur de sel and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately, with extra fleur de sel on the side, or keep warm over a double-boiler.

Hearty Fish Soup with Cider, Leeks, and Mushrooms

I don’t know what I find so funny about fish heads but, well, I think most of the prep I did for this soup involved me holding the fish heads up in front of my face, giggling and pretending that they were speaking to me in funny voices. I was literally laughing out loud, alone in my kitchen with a fish head.

I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic to the poor fish that had to die for my soup. I really do respect him for that. I’m truly grateful. But unlike working with chicken heads or pig’s heads, which have an strikingly sad expressions, fish heads have this look on their faces, like they are half-surprised and half-tiffed that you are about to eat them. You wash them off, cut up your stock vegetables, and throw them all in the pot—and then the fish heads look up at you like “Seriously? You are seriously about to cook me?” You pour in the liquid and turn on the heat, and the heads look towards one another and say things like “Damn, man, this is it. Thought we’d fare better than our bodies, us heads being so cute and big eyed and all. But no, she’s going to actually frickin’ cook us.”

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