Tuesday, August 30, 2011

After a long break - another Last Supper: #19 Mario Batali

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Four months until Christmas and I already have one thing on my list. Melanie Dunea is publishing a sequel to My Last Supper. A few years ago, my boss gave me a copy for Christmas which inspired me to start Project Last Supper. Sadly, it went by the wayside. But recently, my husband asked me what ever happened to my little pet project. An innocent question turned into my new personal challenge: bring life back to project last supper... and maybe, just maybe, start a sequel when the new book comes out.

I flipped though my notes from what I'd done and what chefs I had left. Could it be that I had neglected to prepare the last supper of Mario Batali?? His wish list numbered 8 items - I chose 3 to make it a reasonable meal. I did his very own recipe for mozzarella en carozza, his grilled lobster with limoncello vinaigrette and this one: Flat pasta with shrimp and zucchini. It's as pretty as it is tasty. I took advantage of the season and used yellow zucchini from my local farmer's market and purple basil from my own yard. Add the green of the basil in the pasta and the gorgeous pink shrimp and this dish is a beauty.

We'll see if I can keep making progress. If I do, perhaps a copy of Dunea's new book should be my reward (smile!)



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Flat pasta with shrimp and zucchini
Adapted from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali

DOUGH
2 bunches basil
4 cups cake flour
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

CONDIMENT
Salt
10 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick half-moons (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 cups dry white wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound rock shrimp, or medium shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper


MAKE THE DOUGH
Bring a pot of water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice cubes and water. Blanch the basil in the boiling water for 10 seconds, then refresh in the ice water. Drain and chop finely; you should have 1/4 cup. Make a mound of the flour, then make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well, pour the milk over and add the basil. Using a fork, stir the egg mixture slowly into the four ingredients to form a wet dough. Add the grated cheese and, working now with your hands, bring the dough together and knead for 8 to 10 minutes to form a smooth dough. Allow to rest for 15 minutes covered with plastic wrap.

Set up a pasta rolling machine and cut off a piece of pasta dough the size of a tennis ball. Roll the pasta through the rollers on the widest setting, then fold it in thirds and run it through again on the same setting. Repeat this three times, being careful to add very little flour, as it will dry out the pasta. Run the pasta through the next two thinner settings. It should be quite thick.

Lay a sheet of pasta onto a floured cutting board and use a knife to cut crosswise into 1/3-inch strips. Lay the cut noodles on a kitchen towel and cover with another towel. Roll and cut the remaining pasta the same way.

MAKE THE CONDIMENT
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat 6 tablespoons of the oil and the garlic over medium heat until the garlic is light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini pieces and cook until just soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes, wine and butter, then bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and remove from the heat.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until tender, yet al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain and toss into the pan with the shrimp and cook over high heat until the shrimp are just done, about 1 minute, and pasta and sauce are well combined. Add the parsley and toss in the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil. Pour into a heated bowl and serve with plenty of freshly ground pepper.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rizogalo: Greek rice pudding

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I love Greek food, so I was naturally excited when our new team intern at the office instituted a monthly international lunch and the theme for the inaugural event was Greek. The concept was simple: each month we'd designate a cuisine and everyone would bring in a dish representative of that cuisine to share for a team lunch. I immediately thought of about a dozen dishes, but then cold, stark reality set in. See, many of my teammates do not share my willingness to try just about anything you set in front of me (cross off grilled baby octopus salad). In fact, we have 2 vegetarians (cross off chicken souvlaki), and some other limitations as well. Plus, the lunch was on a Friday and I had a late meeting the evening before...
Oh and perhaps the most limiting: the only means of heating food in the office is a MICROWAVE!?!

I mean, come on, spanikopita in a microwave? (Somebody's little Greek grandmother just turned over in her grave at the very mention of it.)

So I needed something new... something I could make with ingredients I already had, in a limited amount of time and that would not need reheating... Thus, my quest led me to Rizogalo, or Greek rice pudding. I made a modified version of a recipe I found on Food for the Thoughtless. I scanned the ingredients and yes, I had all of them!

I don't really like rice pudding - or at least I thought I didn't, but this is GOOD. Sprinkled with a little cinnamon and a few toasted almonds. Delish!

The lunch was a hit - we had stuffed grape leaves, lots of hummus, a couple of Greek salads, olives, cheeses... and rice pudding for dessert!

Next month we've chosen Italian... So we'll have to see what I come up with for that one... In the meantime, give this a whirl and leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Rizogalo: Greek rice pudidng

Ingredients:
4 ½ cups whole milk
3/4 cups arborio rice
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or more to taste)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Cinnamon  and toasted almonds for garnish

Preparation:
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, then let simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add rice and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently (think of it as a very loose risotto– you want to release the rice starch).

Temper the egg yolks with some of the hot milk, then add the yolk/milk mixture to the simmering rice. Stir in sugar. Continue to cook, stirring frequently (almost constantly) until you can draw a line in the custardy sauce on the back of a wooden spoon.  Add Vanilla extract. If you like your rice pudding loose and very creamy, stop cooking now. If you like it firmer and drier, continue to cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Pour out into a large bowl to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, garnish with cinnamon and toasted almonds.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Steamed Lobster in Gingered Lime and Scallion Broth with Baby Bok Choy

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My little eclair has gone mobile. No, no cell phone yet - not that kind of mobile. She started crawling (and is quickly bumping and bruising her way to walking). So when did this all begin? Oh, round about the time of my last post. (Moms reading this post are smiling right now with a note of recognition.) So instead of cooking and blogging, I've been chasing - and what fun it is. I simply adore that little tush crawling around the house - right through anything in her way.

It's taken awhile, but we're adjusting. Cabinets are locked, gates abound. She recently discovered that the handle on the oven makes a fabulous monkey bar. (Off I went to Babies R Us for an oven lock). But the kitchen's heating up as everything else settles down.

As is usually the case at this time of year in the Northeast, lobster prices are right about the same level as deli meat. So we had our share of steamed lobster and then I ventured out to try a few new recipes... This one is pretty simple to prepare and tastes great. We added more cayenne and salt and I switched the original shitake mushrooms to oyster mushrooms (hubby hates shitakes). The original calls for 6 lobsters, but I cut it down to two and kept the broth proportions about the same - that likely accounts for the lack of saltiness...

Ah and word to the wise - the veg stock used here is made from fennel, celery and onion with parsley and thyme. So don't think you can skate through with store bought stock...

Steamed Lobster in Gingered Lime and Scallion Broth with Baby Bok Choy
adapted from Fresh from the Market by Laurent Tourondel



2 live lobsters, 2 pounds each
1/2 cup Chablis or another dry white wine
3 cups Vegetable Stock (see below)
6-8 oyster mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons matchstick-size strips peeled fresh ginger
11/2 tablespoons ginger juice (see below)
6 baby bok choy
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Zest of 2 limes
Pinch of cayenne pepper

To make the ginger juice, grate a 5-inch piece of fresh, peeled ginger onto a piece of cheese cloth, then squeeze the juice into a small dish.

Vegetable stock
1 onion, thinly sliced

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
5 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bunch parsley stems
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Directions
Combine the onion, celery, fennel, thyme, parsley stems, and peppercorns in a medium pot along with 2 tablespoons water and place over medium heat. Sweat the vegetables just until they begin to wilt, making sure they do not develop any color. Add 6 cups of cold water and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming the top as necessary with a ladle or spoon.

Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl set over a bowl of ice water to cool. Discard the solids. Once the stock has cooled, transfer it to an airtight container. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or several weeks in the freezer.


Prepare the broth
Holding the lobster body in 1 hand and the tail in the other hand, twist the lobster until the body and tail separate. Repeat with the remaining lobster. Using the back of a chef’s knife, crack the claws off the lobster bodies just below the knuckles. Reserve the bodies for making lobster stock or freeze them for another use.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the lobster claws and cook until the shells become bright red and the claw meat is just barely cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer the claws to a bowl of ice water.

Once cool, remove the claw meat from the shells.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the lobster tails in half lengthwise and discard any intestines that may be clinging to the tail.

Leave the meat in the shells. Bring the Chablis to boil in a large saucepan. Add the lobster tails, flesh side down, and the vegetable stock. Cover and cook until the lobster meat is just barely cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Remove the tails from the broth.
Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the broth into a clean medium saucepan over medium heat.

Add the shitake mushrooms, ginger, and ginger juice to the broth and simmer until the ginger is soft, about 3 minutes. Strain the broth again through a fine-mesh strainer and into a large saucepan, reserving the mushrooms and ginger.

Finish the broth
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the bok choy and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
Immediately transfer the bok choy to a bowl of ice water and allow to cool.

Using an immersion blender, blend the cold butter into the strained broth until emulsified.

Return the reserved mushrooms and ginger, lobster claw meat, and blanched bok choy to the broth along with the scallions, cilantro, lime juice, lime zest, and cayenne and continue to cook over low heat for 2 minutes.

To serve
Divide the lobster tails among 6 large shallow bowls. Arrange the claw meat and 1 bok choy over each lobster tail. Spoon the sauce and vegetables over the lobster tails and claws and serve.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Halibut a la Barigoule

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Each year, we host Mother's Day dinner at our house. Last year, 7 months pregnant, I decided on a Greek menu because it's nice and easy. This year, with a 10-month-old, I picked another easy menu: steaks, grilled veggies, a couple appetizers... nothing fancy. Mom was bringing a tray of her famous manicotti. Perfect - and simple enough to let me enjoy the day with my tiny one. But instead of hosting a party, I was a mom.

A few days before Mother's Day, little one's school informed us that Coxsackie Virus was making its way around the baby room... I arrived for the Mother's Day tea to find a baby with a fever. She awoke the next day with a few of the tell-tale spots that accompany the virus so I quickly rang Grandma to cancel the festivities. Even though she was sick with little spots all over her precious face and hands, she was still the best part of Mother's Day. We had a picnic in the park and played all day. It might not have been what we'd planned, but it was perfect all the same.

Aside from spending time with her, I wanted a nice meal. Halibut happens to be my all-time favorite fish and this particular recipe is fantastic. Lots of basil, artichokes, beans with a hint of bacon. So this was my Mother's Day dinner. It's great for a special occasion - it would also be goosd for a dinner party: you can make the barigoule ahead of time and just stir in the basil at the end and cook the fish. Don't forget to soak the beans a day ahead!

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Halibut a la Barigoule
adapted from the Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally

2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
½ pint pearl onions, peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch half-moons
12 baby artichokes, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 cup white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup white beans (recipe follows)
6 halibut fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Prepare the Basil Purée:
Prepare an ice-water bath in a medium bowl and bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the basil and blanch for 1 minute. Strain, plunge the leaves into the ice bath, and reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water. Remove the leaves from the ice water and squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Place in the work bowl of a food processor along with the reserved ¼ cup of liquid and process until smooth, green, and bright. Refrigerate until needed.

Cook the Artichokes:
Wrap the coriander seeds, peppercorns, and bay leaf in cheesecloth to make a sachet. Set aside. Heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the onions and garlic along with 1 teaspoon of salt and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and herb sachet and cook for 5 minutes.

When the carrots have softened, add the sliced artichokes and the wine. Bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid by half, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cooked white beans, if using, and keep warm over a low flame while the halibut is cooked.
Cook the Fish:
Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Dry the halibut fillets and season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and the ¼ teaspoon white pepper.
Use 2 large sauté pans to cook the fish or, if using 1 pan, cook the fish in 2 batches. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the sauté pan until the oil smokes. Place 3 of the fillets in the pan and cook for 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven to finish cooking for 5 minutes, or until the fish just begins to flake around the edges.
Just before serving, remove the spice sachet from the broth, add the basil puree, and add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil. Stir well to combine, and spoon the warm barigoule sauce into 6 shallow bowls, with a halibut fillet in the center.

Serves 6. To adapt it for two, I made the beans as shown, but reserved some for another use. I halved everything else and used just 2 halibut filets.

White Beans
adapted from the Balthazar Cookbook by Keith McNally

1/2 pound dried white beans
1 leek
2 cups chicken stock
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thirds
1 celery stalk, cut into thirds
1 medium onion, halved
half a head of garlic, cut through the equator
1 Tbsp. coarse salt (less if your stock is salty)
3 thick slices smoked bacon, cut into lardons
Bouquet garni made with 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp. black peppercorns, 6 sprigs parsley and 3 springs thyme

Put the beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water and soak overnight.

The next day, drain the beans in a colander and rince with cold water. Transfer to a pot and cover with water. bring to a boil over high heat. When the foam subsides, drain and rinse the beans again.

Return the beans to the pot with the remaining ingredients. (Careful with the salt - your stock and bacon will also add saltiness). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the beans are cooked. Taste them often to be sure you get the right consistency.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate Pots de Creme

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For those of you wondering where I've been, I have an excuse. And I think it's a good excuse. I've been occupied with wagon rides, story time (Dr. Suess's A-B-C is our current fave), outings in our rainbow tent, and more. As a matter fact, just this evening, we had our very first dance party. Mind you, mom and dad are not exactly great dancers so I'm doubting my little one will have a future in it, but tonight, while Cookie Monster crooned away about all things cookie, my family was dancing and grooving.

Our little not-quite-10-month-old has recently figured out how to pull herself to standing. So tonight she pulled herself up and started bopping to the music, grinning from ear to ear. I tried to get a video but apparently my iPhone doesn't like to run the video camera AND Pandora at the same time... I'll be better prepared next time because the wee one was either really, really proud of herself or laughing at mom and dad's awful dance moves... I'm sure if the neighbors could see us they got quite a chuckle as well...

But more about dance parties another time. Bottom line, being a mom is just plain great and seems to get better all the time... I don't have as much time to cook, but every now and again, I get ambitious. These Pots de Creme are easy - I put them in the oven while Dad fed the baby and they were set and chilled by the time we finished dinner.

What are Pots de Creme? My husband asked me the same thing. I described it as kind of like mousse, but when he tasted it, we agreed it was denser and richer. (and yummier).

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Chocolate Pots de Creme
adapted from Good Food by Neil Perry

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 1/2 oz. good quality dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp. Caster or superfine sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Makes 4

Place the cream and milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring almost to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has completely melted.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl. Temper the eggs by adding a little of the chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk. Add the remaining chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk until well combined.

Pour evenly into 4 mugs or ramekins. Place in a roasting pan and pour boiling water around them about halfway up the sides of the dishes. Place in the lower third of the oven and bake until just set, about 25 minutes. Remove the cups to a wire rack to cool, then chill before serving.

Serve with whipped cream or berries if desired.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Burrata with speck, peas and mint

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Burrata is one of those things I've heard about and read about but had never actually tasted. It turns up again and again in cookbooks, especially my two new favorites: Harvest to Heat and Fresh from the Market. So when I was in Kings Supermarket in Garwood a couple weeks ago and saw it on the shelf, I had to have it. I bought one and decided to figure out what to with it it later... (much like the D'Artagnan rabbit I bought on the same trip - he will make his appearance here soon!)

I saw this recipe and loved its simplicity. It became the first course of a Sunday dinner Jeff and I had. The verdict on burrata: my oh my. It's rich, luxurious and one of the tastiets things I've ever had the pleasure of consuming. No kidding. We both actually felt the speck overpowered it just a tad. I'll make the same recipe again but try it with regular prosciutto... Either way, it's elegant and divine. If you can find burrata, give it a go. The rest is easy.

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Burrata with speck, peas and mint
adapted from Harvest to Heat  by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer

3/4 cup fresh peas
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, julienned
1/2 to 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 slices speck
1 8-oz. piece fresh burrata, sliced just before serving

Heat a small saucepan of water over high heat. Add the peas and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and cool under running water.

In a small bowl, combine the peas, mint, lemon juice to taste, olive oil, 2 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt and pepper. Stir well but gently to combine.

Arrange 4 slices of speck on each of two plates. Arrange half the burrata over the speck on each plate. Top with a mound of the pea mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chicken tagine with harissa, artichokes and grapes

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New combinations of foods I love are always welcome in my kitchen. I'm definitely skeptical about some (for example grilled cucumber). But for the most part, I tend to like the way things turn out. This recipe is one of those. If you've visited Ladyberd's Kitchen before, no doubt you know how I adore tagines. This one is light and healthy - it uses boneless, skinless chicken breasts, very little fat, and plenty of fresh vegetables. The grapes, though, left me a little wary. But the first bite I popped in my mouth laid my worries to rest - they're a bright little burst of sweetness against the spice of the harissa.

This is also a great recipe for weeknights - I tossed the chicken in the marinade in the morning and the dish comes togetehr in no time at all. Love those. Serve it with some simple quick-cooking couscous or flatbread and you're good to go.

Chicken tagine with harissa, artichokes and grapes
adapted from Tagine by Ghillie Basan

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 preserved lemon, thinly sliced
2 onions, sliced
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. harissa (or more to taste)
2 tsp. tomato paste
1 1/4 cups chicken stock or water
1 can artichokes hearts in water, drained and quartered
16 green grapes, halved
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground turmeric
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. olive oil

First, make the marinade. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, turmeric, lemon juice and olive oil. Toss the chicken in the mixture, then cover and leave in refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours.


Heat the oil in a tagine or heavy-based casserole dish. Stir in the onions, preserved lemon, and the sugar and saute for 2-3 minutes, until slightly caramelized. Toss in the marinated chicken, then add the harissa and tomato paste. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover with lid and cook gently for 15 minutes.

Toss in the artichokes, cover with lid again, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the grapes with some of the cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro to serve.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Crispy and sticky chicken thighs with smashed new potatoes and cherry tomatoes

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Chicken skin is an interesting thing. When it's crispy, it's oh so delectable. (Not healthy, delectable.). When it's rubbery, it's, well, rubbery and pretty gross to be perfectly honest. Sometimes I struggle to get the crispiness to stay until I serve the meal. So this particular recipe made me raise an eyebrow in my oh-so-skeptical way. Crispy... really?

Really.

The chicken is browned in a pan and then finished in the oven. If you get it good and crisp on the stovetop, the 400 degree blazing hot oven will do the rest and you will have the poultry version of bacon to crunch away on. (And if you have leftovers like we did, reheat the dish covered in foil until it's warm, then crank the broiler on to crisp it up. Worked like a charm in my countertop oven...)

Oh there's more to this dish than chicken skin. There are lush slightly squished potatoes, silky skinless tomatoes and plenty of oregano. I finished it with a drizzle of my super special Portuguese Extra Virgin Olive oil.  Jeff placed it among the top chicken dishes I've ever made. Go figure - I picked it because it sounded pretty easy, so his reaction was a pleasant bonus.

The original calls for fresh oregano. I didn't have any so I used dried Greek oregano - I find the taste milder than Italian. I'll try this one again during the summer when my oregano needs a good lesson (it keeps trying to take over my herb garden).

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Crispy and sticky chicken thighs with smashed new potatoes and cherry tomatoes
adapted from Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver

1 3/4 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed

12 chicken thighs, skin on, preferably free-range or organic
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds cherry tomatoes, different shapes and colors if you can find them
1 bunch fresh oregano, leaves picked (or about 1 tsp. dried, preferably Greek)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (optional)

Put the potatoes into a large saucepan of salted boiling water and boil until cooked.

While the potatoes are cooking, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Place chicken thighs in a bowl. Rub the meat all over with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss.

Heat a large frying pan, big enough to hold all the chicken pieces snugly in 1 layer, and put the chicken into the pan, skin side down. If you don't have a pan that's big enough, feel free to cook the chicken in 2 batches. Toss and fry over a high heat for 10 minutes or so, until almost cooked, then remove with a slotted spoon to an ovenproof pan or dish. (I used one pan for stove and oven - I just drained the grease after cooking the chicken)

Prick the tomatoes with a sharp knife. Place them in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for a minute or so. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, pinch off their skins. You don't have to, but by doing this they will become lovely and sweet when cooked, and their intense flavor will infuse the potatoes. By now the potatoes will be cooked. Drain them in a colander and lightly crush them by pushing down on them with your thumb.

Bash up most of the oregano leaves with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar, or a Flavor Shaker if you have one. Add 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, a good splash (about 1 Tbsp.) of red wine vinegar and some pepper and give everything another bash. Add to the chicken with the potatoes, the tomatoes and the rest of the oregano leaves. Sprinkle with the garlic powder. Toss everything together carefully. Spread out in a single layer in an appropriately sized roasting pan or back in your original pan, and bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven until golden.

Finish with a drizzle of good Extra Virgin olive oil.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Leek Bread Pudding

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Every day, on my way to work, I pass by a Church in Scotch Plains that has a sign on the corner of their property. They post witty little messages on the sign… things like “Give Satan an inch and he’ll become a ruler.” For 4 years, I’ve been chuckling at whatever play on words they’ve posted that week. But at the end of a long snowy winter, their newest thought pretty much sums up the feelings of just about everyone I know: “Whoever’s praying for snow, please stop!”

I usually like winter, but I’m over it this year. Last Friday it was 65 degrees out, before the temperatures dropped again. It was a cruel tease. I saw tiny little spikes of my hyacinths poking through the soil and then it snowed again. The silver lining is that I can still crank up the oven and make lots of yummy comfort food. So that’s what you’ll be seeing here over the next week or so. Things like this lush leek bread pudding and blueberry butter cake and crispy chicken thighs…

But back to the leek bread pudding. It’s from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, a book which continues to be one of my top 5 favorite cookbooks. It's pretty simple to put together and tastes as good if not better leftover. We had it with grilled steaks, but it'd go well with ham, lamb or even pork. My adaptation is below - the original called for whole milk. I didn't miss the extra fat...

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Leek Bread Pudding
adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices leeks (white and light green parts only)
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
12 cups 1-inch cubes crustless Brioche or Pullman sandwich loaf
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
3 large eggs
3 cups reduced fat milk
3 cups heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup shredded Comté or Emmentaler

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Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the leek rounds in a large bowl of tepid water and swish so that any dirt falls to the bottom of the bowl. Set a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, lift the leeks from the water, drain, and add them to the pan. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. As the leeks begin to soften, lower the heat to medium-low. The leeks will release liquid. Stir in the butter to emulsify, and season with pepper to taste. Cover the pan with a parchment lid, and cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until the leeks are very soft, 30 to 35 minutes. If at any point the butter breaks or looks oily, stir in about a tablespoon of water to re-emulsify the sauce. Remove and discard the parchment lid.

Meanwhile, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through, until dry and pale gold. Transfer to a large bowl. Leave the oven on.
Add the leeks to the bread and toss well, then add the chives and thyme.

Lightly whisk the eggs in another large bowl. Whisk in the milk, cream, a generous pinch of salt, pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread half the leeks and croutons in the pan and sprinkle with another 1/4 cup cheese. Scatter the remaining leeks and croutons over and top with another 1/4 cup cheese. Pour in enough of the custard mixture to cover the bread and press gently on the bread so it soaks in the milk. Let soak for about 15 minutes.

Add the remaining custard, allowing some of the soaked cubes of bread to protrude. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on top and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the pudding feels set and the top is brown and bubbling.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Restaurant review: Bistro Henry, Manchester, VT

Each winter, my husband and I take at least one trip to Stratton to ski. Over the years we've tried a number of restaurants in the area. We had a few favorites but for some reason, last year most of them disappointed us. So when we went up this year, we wanted to try some new places. Good thing we did, because now we have a new favorite.

We've passed Bistro Henry a zillion times. It's right on the road to the mountain and we've looked at the menu but for some reason never went. We finally decided to give it a go on a Friday night a couple weeks ago. We made a reservation and were promptly seated by the host (who was also the sommelier). The dining room has a quaint, country look and feel - warm and cozy on a cold winter night.

The menu offers lots of classic French dishes along with a few oddities like Szechuan pork dumplings and tuna with pad Thai noodles. We stuck with the French food (but a guy at the table next to us was raving about the tuna.)

I chose the two items on the menu that they seemed very confident about, some might even say a little cocky. I started with "Our really, really, good lobster bisque, really." I wondered if it would live up to their boasting. You know what? It was better than really really good. It was the best lobster bisque I've ever had. Ever. Chunks of moist lobster in a creamy bisque that tasted like... LOBSTER!

For dinner I chose "Duck our way." I thought it was an interesting name because what if I didn't like duck their way? What if I wanted it my way? The description of the dish is as boastful as that of the bisque: "Medium rare breast & crispy leg, green peppercorn sauce. The best. No kidding." The duck was cooked perfectly - per-fect-ly. Crispy skin, fat rendered just right. My only issue was I would have liked just a little more bite in the green peppercorn sauce.

Jeff started with scallops - his favorite. They were served with apples, apple cider beurre blanc and crunchy fried onions. I took a bite and they were excellent, even if I'm not big on scallops.

For dinner, he had grilled veal tournedos with mushroom sauce and truffle butter. Like my duck, it was perfectly cooked and it had all that delicious richness that anything with mushrooms and truffles should.

The restaurant has a nice wine list with bottles across a wide range of prices. The sommelier is friendly and knowledgeable - he recommended a bottle for us and we loved it.

During the meal only one thing really bugged me. And it happened in the bathroom (don't worry! keep reading!) In every stall and on the mirrors, there was a flyer. It talked about a bad review they'd received and how you shouldn't listen to it and how you should tell your friends if you like them. It was written by a guy named Justin... 10 years ago!

So I get that bad reviews can hurt a restaurant. Especially one that turns up high in search results. But Bistro Henry is good - really good. And most of the other reviews I've seen online say so. We will go back - probably every year when we're at Stratton. So my only comment to Bistro Henry: Forget Justin. Your food is good - really good. I'll tell my friends. I'll come back. Let the confidence you show on your menu shine through and Justin won't matter.

Bistro Henry on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Roasted veal chops with black trumpet ragu and crispy artichokes

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Artichokes are interesting little beasts. Yes, I refer to them as beasts, because for the first time, I bought whole fresh artichokes and cleaned them myself. And it was beastly. OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but there was prickly fluff all over my cutting board. And I was so awkward with them that they were turning black faster than I could clean them. Once cleaned, they're worth the effort. They have that unique taste that keeps sommeliers guessing. They don't really pair well with wines, but even so, these little beasts make plenty of appearances in my kitchen (try my artichoke pie for example).

The rest of this recipe is made up of equally yummy things: mushrooms, cream, onion and veal! Yum, yum and yum. Who could resist? I made this as an entree following our Bay scallops with smoked fingerling potato salad, endive and McIntosh apple. The cream makes it really rich. Let me repeat: really rich. It was delicious, but we thought it needed a little acid. We sprinkled a little lemon on it at the end and it helped bring out the flavors. Try it without and if you agree, add a little lemon.

I almost never broil chops. My husband doesn't mind grilling no matter the weather (he is Canadian after all). But these turned out great - I preheated the oven first then turned on the broiler. The veal was tender and juicy. I adapted the original recipe for 2 - I cut the sauce in half, used 2 chops instead of 6 and 2 artichokes instead of 3.

Roasted veal chops with black trumpet ragu and crispy artichokes
adapted from Fresh from the Market by Laurent Tourondel

For the black trumpet ragout:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, cut into medium dice
  • 4 ounces black trumpet mushrooms, trimmed and cleaned
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the veal chops:
  • 2 bone-in veal chops, frenched and cleaned, 14 ounces each
Artichokes
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 small globe artichokes, trimmed and cut into quarters 
For the black trumpet ragout:

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Once the butter begins to foam, add the onion and sauté until well caramelized, about 10 minutes.

While the onions are caramelizing, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and sauté the mushrooms until tender and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the caramelized onion and deglaze with the wine. Continue cooking until the wine has reduced to just a tablespoon of liquid, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cream is very thick, about 8 minutes. Add the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the veal chops:

While the ragout is simmering, place the broiler rack about 4 inches away from the heat source and preheat the broiler. Season the veal chops with salt and pepper. Broil the chops until they are pink when cut in the center, about 7 minutes per side for medium-rare doneness. To check for doneness, make a small cut near the bone or insert an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. The temperature should be 140–150 degrees. Remove from the heat, tent with aluminum foil and let rest.

Blanch the artichokes. Fill a deep heavy saucepan or deep fryer with 3 inches of vegetable oil. Heat the oil to 300 degrees. Blanch the artichokes in the oil until the leaves are golden brown and the artichokes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 5 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, arrange the veal chops on 6 serving plates. Spoon the ragout evenly over the veal chops and top each with some artichoke. Serve immediately.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Top food shops in central New Jersey (or Confessions of a Spice-a-holic)

I have a spice drawer. (Big deal, you’re thinking...) Well, I also have a spice cabinet… two really. They’re so crammed with blends and spices and sauces that I have to be careful when opening them… and that doesn’t include the baking stuff – that’s in another cabinet. Then there’s the top shelf in my pantry which is lined with different mustards, sauces, pastes, etc. Now you get the picture - I love buying and receiving anything that adds flavor to food. So when I come across a shop that sells good stuff, I’m like a little kid on Christmas morning. (Only more dangerous because I have a credit card.)
 
I’ve lived most of my life in central New Jersey. As a foodie, trips into New York were like trips to the promised land. I’d hit Kalustyan’s for my spices, grab bread at Amy’s, cheese at Murray’s, etc. I once hoofed it over to 1st Ave. for pierogis then carried them home on the train. Now that I’m a mom, I don’t get into the city quite as often – but I don’t need to. Plenty of specialty shops have popped up right in my area and more are appearing every day. Plus, grocery stores are carrying more gourmet and ethnic foods, so long treks are no longer necessary.
 
I know there are plenty of NJ foodies who visit my site, so I’ve decided to put together a list of my favorites. Read through it – you might find something new. More importantly, let me know what’s missing – I love finding new shops, so please share! (I’ll find a cabinet someplace with room for more goodies!)
 
Spices
Pastries, donuts, and bagels
  • The Swiss Pastry Shoppe, 1711 East Second Street, Scotch Plains (try the old-fashioned glazed – AMAZING! And at Easter, the Cheese babka has been a family tradition for years.)
  • Cranford Best Bagels & Deli, 107 South Ave, Cranford (Try a breakfast sandwich, mmmm)
Bread
  • Dom’s, 506 Grand Street, Hoboken (I haven’t gone in ages, but my brother and his family were regulars there until they moved 2 months ago… try the tomato pie.
  • Breadsmith, 32 North Ave W, Cranford (Greek Olive Ciabatta, ‘nuf said.)
Cheese
Meat
  • For Polish Kielbasa, Wawel Delicatessen, 571 Raritan Rd., Roselle
  • For German sausages (wursts), hot dogs, Merguez sausage, breakfast sausage, steaks – Barth’s Market, 41 South Street, New Providence
  • Or Wine Library for D’artagnan Chorizo and Andouille
All things Asian
All things Indian
  • Bhavani cash and Carry, 392 Route 22 West, Green Brook
South American, Jamaican
What’d I miss? Leave a comment and let me know your favorite!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bay Scallops with Smoked Fingerling Potato Salad, Endive, & McIntosh Apple

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I have previously confessed my love for Laurent Tourondel... it's no secret. But I'll tell you something new: I love him even more now. Since my little eclair was born, I've been cooking, but not those spend-all-day-in-the-kitchen meals; it's been more the toss-something-in-the-slow-cooker dinners (which are delicious, don't get me wrong). But I know I'm adapting to motherhood when I get that urge to make a fab dinner, to pick recipes that take up a full page or maybe even two, have unusual ingredients or techniques, and look darn good on a plate. Enter Laurent. For my birthday in December, my mother-in-law sent me a copy of Fresh from the Market. I've drooled over it numerous times, and I finally got around to making a meal from it.

The first course is featured below. I am personally not a scallop fan. But every now and again I'll make a first course with them because my husband loves them. This recipe calls for bay scallops which I find more palatable than the big guys. I was intrigued by smoked potatoes (amazing!) and McIntosh happen to be my favorite apples. This is one great first course. It's got lots of different textures - creamy potato salad, crisp greens, crunchy apples and bacon and lush scallops. Jeff put it in his top five first courses (his long-standing favorite is also from Laurent...)

Watch for the main course: a veal chop with black trumpet ragu and crispy artichokes... mmmm.

If you're in the market for a new cookbook (and who isn't really???) check this one out. Not that I'm partial or anything.

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Nantucket Bay Scallops with Smoked Fingerling Potato Salad, Endive, & McIntosh Apple
adapted from Fresh from the Market by Laurent Tourondel

SERVES 6

Potato Salad
2 slices thick-cut bacon
3/4 pound fingerling potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup hickory wood chips, soaked in water (or use a stovetop smoker with chips if you have one)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons store-bought barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon mustard oil, or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely diced celery
1 tablespoon finely diced red onion
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Scallops
1 tablespoon canola oil
11/2 pounds Nantucket Bay scallops

Salad
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 head endive, sliced on the bias into 1/2-inch strips
1 small McIntosh apple, peeled and cut into matchstick-size strips
1 bunch watercress, large stems removed

Make the potato salad
Cook the bacon in a small sauté pan over medium heat until crispy, about 5 minutes. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Once cool, roughly chop the bacon.

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and salt liberally with kosher salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 18 minutes. Drain the potatoes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins.

Line the bottom of a pot with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drain the hickory wood chips and place them in the pot. Heat the wood chips over a burner until they are smoking. Place the potatoes in a steamer insert and set the insert in the pot. Cover tightly with a lid, allowing no smoke to escape from the pot. Smoke the potatoes over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Alternatively, smoke them for 5 minutes in a stovetop smoker.

Whisk the mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, mustard or grapeseed oil, and sherry vinegar in a large bowl to blend.

Add half the warm potatoes to the dressing and, using a fork, crush the potatoes into the vinaigrette. Cut remaining potatoes into quarters and then fold them in.

Fold in the chopped bacon, parsley, celery, and onion, and season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Let the salad stand for 20 minutes to allow all the flavors to incorporate, stirring occasionally.

Prepare the scallops
Heat the canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. When the pan is smoking hot, add the scallops. Sear the scallops on 1 side until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Once the scallops have caramelized, swirl the pan several times and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the scallops to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.

Assemble the salad
Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic in a medium bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the endive, apple, and watercress in the vinaigrette to coat.

To serve
Spoon the potato salad in the center of 6 plates. Place the scallops over the potato salad and then top with the watercress salad. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Easy Indian Chicken Khadai

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I've expanded my repertoire of culinary adventures. About 5 weeks ago, I began making baby food. Things started out splendidly. My little eclair gobbled up my homemade carrots, squash and sweet potatoes. Green beans and peas caused a bit of a setback but then we got back on track with apples. But now I'm depressed. She's got a new favorite food: peaches. Given the time of year, I couldn't get fresh peaches to make homemade, so I had to buy them pre-made. And now she likes them so much she doesn't want to eat anything else. She doesn't just zip her lips for the other stuff, she blows it off the spoon. I can't help but laugh at her little lips pursed in an "O" blowing squash all over me. But now I've got a freezer full of bags of perfect little cubes of organic fruits and vegetables and she wants the store-bought stuff. Go figure! This too shall pass (and who could resist this face, even when it's covered in peas, squash or oatmeal).

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But enough about my adventures in baby food land. This next recipe isn't for the little ones, unless they like a spicy kick. The ingredients are all common, with the possible exception of garam masala, but even that can be found in the Indian section of many markets and Williams-Sonoma makes a version now too. It's an easy intro to making Indian food at home and you can adjust the heat level to suit your taste. One thing to note, don't use fat free yogurt, it just doesn't work.

Serve with naan and steamed basmati rice.

Chicken Kadhai
adapted from From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 to 1 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 Tbsp. plain yogurt (not fat free)
3/4 cup finely chopped tomato

For the final flavoring
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, cut into very fine shreds
7 to 8 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
2 to 3 fresh hot green chilies, finely chopped
2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato

Pour the oil into a well-seasoned pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the salt, cayenne and turmeric. Stir once or twice, then put in the chicken. Fry, stirring at the same time, until the chicken pieces turn opaque on the outside. Add the yogurt and tomato. Cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes until the yogurt disappears. Cover and cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes for dark meat and 6 for light. Stir in all the ingredients for the final flavoring, cover, reduce the heat as low as possible and cook for about 5 minutes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Coq au vin

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Strangely, I'd never had Coq au vin until last winter. I almost never order chicken out because I make it quite often at home, but we were in Vermont at a little French restaurant called Mistral's. They were offering a 3-course dinner special and one of the entrees was Coq au vin. It could also have been called bacon-flavored chicken - and it was yummy. The chicken was meltingly tender and they managed to get the skin crispy before serving it. I thought of the dish last weekend and decided to make it at home.

My go-to resource for French bistro food is the Balthazar cookbook and a quick look revealed a great recipe for coq au vin. The original calls for hen legs - I just used a whole cut up chicken. I halved the breasts before browning them and it was perfect for two meals for the two of us. I served it over polenta.

Next on my list of must-try French bistro food: Cassoulet. Never had it or made it but I think I'll give it a whirl. If you've made it, leave me a comment with your experience or share your favorite French food to make at home!

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Coq au vin
adapted from the Balthazar cookbook


1 whole chicken, cut up, breasts cut in half
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
1 bottle red wine
1 bouquet garni (8 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf wrapped in cheesecloth and tied)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups Veal Stock or beef stock
1 pint pearl onions, peeled
1/2 pound smoked slab bacon, diced
1 pound small white mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

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In a large bowl, combine the chicken, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, wine and bouquet garni. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.

Strain the chicken and the vegetables from the marinade, reserving the liquid and separating the poultry and vegetables. Season the legs with salt and pepper.

Cook the bacon in a large casserole or Dutch oven. Remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside, reserving fat in pan.

While bacon fat is still hot, add the chicken, in batches if necessary, being sure not to crowd the pan. Brown evenly and deeply on all sides, about 8 minutes per side. Set the finished pieces to the side. Drain the bacon fat, reserving 2 Tbsp.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan, add the chicken and the reserved vegetables to the pot. Cook until they soften and begin to brown, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the flour, stirring again for about 2 minutes. Add the reserved wine marinade and, as it bubbles up, use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot and incorporate any flavourful bits into the broth. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 20 to 25 minutes, then add the stock. As it reaches the boil, reduce the heat to low and maintain a slow and gentle simmer for 1 hour, at which point the meat should be very tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients: blanch the pearl onions in boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside. Heat the reserved bacon fat in a skillet. Add the mushrooms to the pan and  cook until brown, about 5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Add the blanched pearl onions to the pan, sauteing until they too are brown, about 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the braising liquid and strain the contents of the pot, reserving the liquid and discarding the vegetables (I kept the carrots, they were delish). Bring to a strong simmer and skim the surface of the sauce as it bubbles, removing any visible fat. When the sauce has reduced by half, return the chicken to the pot along with the bacon, onions and mushrooms and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Just prior to serving, add the chopped parsley.
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