a good place to start


This week has been a doozy. We were able to take our very cooped-up kids out for a bit over the weekend, but the cold and snow came back with a vengeance Sunday night, and we’ve been fighting the bad weather blues ever since. My commutes have been long and frustrating, with truncated workdays and late returns home throwing us all off schedule, but the one thing we’ve been really grateful for is the promise of a good, hearty meal at the end of the day.

We were the lucky recipients of another delicious “meal train” dinner Monday night, and yesterday I put a new spin on an old favorite: Lemon Artichoke Chicken by our friend Liz. Liz’ original recipe is one of those wonderful dishes that is simple enough for a weeknight, but elegant enough for company. We usually love it served simply with salad and bread, but last night, craving something a little more rib-sticking, I decided to make a few modifications.

The first of them was unintentional, but a happy accident: instead of the skinless, boneless chicken breasts the recipe calls for, Mike had pulled some boned-out thighs from the freezer. They were thin enough that they didn’t need pounding, and in the end they lent a more robust flavor to the finished dish.


After browning the chicken well on both sides, I removed it from the pan and added some sliced crimini mushrooms I needed to use up, as well as a good amount of thyme. I deglazed the pan with the juice of a lemon, and a hefty splash of vermouth in place of the sherry since it was what we had on hand, then I added a can of drained white beans along with the artichoke hearts. I put the browned chicken right back into the pan with the beans, artichokes, mushrooms and sauce, added the panko-parmesan topping, drizzled on some olive oil and then put the whole thing into a hot oven. I ended up baking this for about 40 minutes at 400 degrees, until it was bubbly and browned on top.


While my variation of this dish isn’t going to win any beauty contests, it hit all the right notes, with its creamy beans, tender chicken and artichokes, the crunch of the panko and the brightness of lemon. The fact that it all came together in one pan was a bonus. Thank you, Liz, for your recipe and for the inspiration – it was a very good place to start.


Beef it Up

Dinner: November 30, 2010

Dinner last night was two days in the making, Craig Claiborne’s “Boeuf Bourguignon I” from Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cook Book. Mike did the honors, lovingly prepping slices of bacon and Aquidneck Farm chuck, with bits of carrots, onions, shallots, mushrooms, and garlic, layering them in our Le Creuset, then anointing them with Cognac and rich red Burgundy wine. The whole thing cooked over high heat, then low, then it cooled and sat overnight before Mike brought the pot and its contents back up to temperature while I traveled home from work, also preparing some buttered and parsley-ed egg noodles to serve as a base for the rich stew.

We’ve cooked plenty of versions of this dish, but this was pretty spectacular, the meat coming apart in shreds beneath the tines of our forks, the sauce both light and concentrated. Buy the book, go to page 516, and make this dish, preferably a day before you plan to serve it. You’ll be happy you did.

Take Comfort

Dinner: November 14, 2010

Things have been quiet in this little corner of the Internet, but there has been plenty of cooking happening in our kitchen. I’ve skewed pretty heavily toward comfort food dinners of late, despite, or perhaps because of, my long workdays and the fact that a stubborn bug I thought I’d conquered has come back with a vengeance. The dishes that appeal to me these days are the culinary equivalent of a big chunky sweater, a fleece blanket, a roaring fire sending forth the earthy aroma of woodsmoke, something to force the chill from my bones and warm me to my toes. Braises and stews, creamy starchy sides, our enameled cast iron cookware has gotten a workout.


I wrote up a spin on Mario Batali’s “cacciatore” ages ago, and with a Pat’s Pastured Poulet Rouge in our fridge, one of many goodies we brought home from Saturday’s Wintertime Farmers’ Market, I decided a do-over was in order. There’s a bit of prep involved at the start, breaking down the bird, browning it in batches, soaking dried mushrooms and sautéing fresh, building layers of flavor in your pot, but once everything is in the oven with its parchment cap in place, you can kick back with a Negroni and enjoy the aromas wafting your way. Served over a creamy parmesan polenta, this is comfort food of the highest order.

You can get my recipe at food52.

So long, September

Dinner: September 29, 2010

I’m incredibly grateful to put September behind us and move forward. Dietschtoberfest is nearly upon us after all – time to plan for happier days.


By the way, it’s National Pizza Month, too, and Mike is embarking on another round of tweaking recipes in the quest for his perfect pie. This one was pretty fabulous. Stay tuned for more.

Happy weekend, and I hope it’s full of delicious things.

Truly Tender Meatballs, Tweaked

Dinner:  March 13, 2010

You might recall that I recently came up with a meatball recipe that we really love, but in the interest of changing things up a bit, I decided to try a different spin. The “Swedish meatballs” I grew up on were simply meatballs browned and then simmered in canned mushroom soup, and the grey and rainy weather we had this weekend got me craving just that sort of dish.

I haven’t bought canned soup in years, so I’d have to build the mushroom sauce from scratch, and I decided to swap out a few of the seasonings in the meatballs themselves to bring them more in line with a traditional Swedish-style meatball. I rolled them smaller, ending up with 36 orbs rather than the two dozen in my original recipe. I also decided to brown them in the oven rather than on the stovetop, a method that worked really well and a great option for those of you who are averse to frying.

Creamy and comforting, served atop a pile of buttered parsleyed egg noodles, these meatballs were just the thing to chase the chill away on Saturday evening. Held in a crock pot, I’d imagine these or my original red-sauced version would be a great dish to serve at a casual party or potluck.

Truly Tender Meatballs in Creamy Mushroom Sauce

1 cup soft fresh breadcrumbs
¼ to ½ cup milk
½ cup fresh ricotta, drained if very wet
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 teaspoons Kosher salt
½ teaspoon each Colman’s mustard, ground allspice, ground white pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg
1 lb. ground beef
½ lb. ground pork

Preheat oven to 400.

Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and moisten them with just enough milk to cover them, pressing gently. Remove the breadcrumbs from the milk, squeezing out the excess liquid, and add to a large mixing bowl. Add the egg to the bowl and beat lightly. Add the ricotta, salt, mustard, allspice, white pepper, and nutmeg and mix until well combined. Add the beef and pork and, with clean hands, mix gently until the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Scoop or pinch off small amounts of the mixture and roll into meatballs, placing them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce

1 oz. dried porcini + 2 cups boiling water
¼ cup unsalted butter
8 oz. fresh crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tamari
½ cup each heavy cream + crème fraiche (or sour cream)
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Soak the porcini in the boiling water until very soft. When the mushrooms are soft, remove them from the liquid. Set the liquid aside and chop the mushrooms.

Melt the butter in a wide skillet until foaming, then add the porcini and crimini mushrooms. Season with salt and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add the flour and cook briefly until it no longer has a raw flour smell, then add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, being careful to leave any grit behind. Add the tamari and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the meatballs to the sauce, stir in the heavy cream and crème fraiche or sour cream, and cook until reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then add the parsley just before serving, reserving a bit to sprinkle on top.

Brown Plate Specials

My week so far has been hectic, both at home and at the office, and our last couple of dinners have reflected that. The weekend’s snowfall has led to bus snafus and train delays, making my long days even longer, and by the time I have gotten home at night, I’ve found myself in a mad rush to both get dinner on the table at a decent hour, and to finish cranking out edible holiday treats.


As most of our fresh food is earmarked for holiday meals, I’ve relied heavily on pantry staples for these last two dinners, and since we’ve been dialing back on meat in anticipation of the rich dishes we’ll be indulging in over the extended holiday weekend, I turned to mushrooms to lend a hearty bite.

Dinner:  December 21, 2009

On Monday, my latest incarnation of lentil soup got extra heft with a topping of roasted criminis, and brightness from a crumble of tangy fresh goat cheese.

Dinner:  December 22, 2009

The goat cheese came into play again last night, to both brighten and add a bit of creaminess to bowls of spaghetti tossed with one of my favorite old standbys, a rich mushroom ragu.

While these two meals made for a couple of very brown plates, they made for two very satisfying dinners, and this time of year, that’s good enough for me.

Getting Fresh

fresh bay leaves

I honestly thought you had to live out west to get fresh bay leaves, so imagine my surprise when I saw them at our farmers’ market on Saturday. I grabbed some, of course, and then began thinking of ways to use them.

bay, butter, cream

A few went into my Sunday ragu, of course, but the idea that kept popping into my head was to simmer them gently in cream. So that’s just what I did last night.


Melted butter, cream, a sprinkle of salt, and the bay leaves cooked together gently while I boiled a pot of water for pasta. I plucked out the leaves after dropping the pasta, then added a bit of grated cheese and let the sauce thicken. My just-cooked noodles got a bath in the bay-infused sauce, then I topped them with a scattering of roasted oyster mushrooms.

Dinner:  December 2, 2009

Not a bad dish, but I have bigger plans for this combination of flavors.