Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cioppino! Classic Seafood from Fisherman's Wharf : The Other San Francisco Treat!

San Francisco, the city by the bay, one of the most interesting and romantic cities in the US., and a source of history and culture. It is a storied place and the birthplace of many things cultural, social, and culinary which have spread across the nation and in some cases the world. Among it's landmarks is Fisherman's Wharf, which in the past was home to the fleet which brought in the catch to the west coast's seafood markets and supplied people all over. It is here in this storied place that the seafood preparation Cioppino was created ( or at least credited) and it is this type of seafood preparation which has become a hallmark of San Francisco's culinary heritage. A merging of Italian and Portugese traditions it provides the US with yet another traditional seafood preparation.

There are many classic seafood preparations which are basically some sort of seafood stew and have a national or regional flair to them. Bouillibaisse in France, Portugese Seafood Stew in Rhode Island, Jumbalaya in new Orleans and Frogmore Stew in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia, are all examples of this type of stew!

For Christmas entertaining this year I decided to make Cioppino, this classic seafood stew from San Francisco. It's a tomato based stew in which seafood is cooked and prepared right before serving. All in all an easy dish to make and easy to serve up with a salad and some great garlic bread. 

Cioppino for those of you who do not know is a relic of the fishing industry in the bay area. Credited to the fishermen who at the end of a long day made up a stew of whatever was avaiable and fresh in a rich tomato based broth and served it up with sour dough bread for dipping. Today's version generally has a variety of seafood including and not limited to clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and fish all cooked in a rich sauce that starts with vegetables and tomatoes and is enhanced by the additions of wine and stock and spices. Garlic being the chief culprite here. no good Cioppino is worth it's sauce without a stiff taste of garlic. 

My Cioppino started with a recipe my family had in it's cookbooks from the 1970's. One which my folks probably got in California and used whenever they made this dish. It's notated in several shades of ink and various hand writings. So I would assume this family recipe went through a variety of changes and tweaks over the years. It also has a few finger smudges and food stains from previous cooking long ago. A reminder that recipes like the stories that go with them keep us as people and families connected to each other and to our pasts.

So if you make this they will enjoy! It's actually very easy although a special occasion dish as the seafood is not exactly cheap. But nonetheless try it for your next small gathering and I am sure you hear your guests singing Che Sera Sera! Happy holidays ya'll!!

Forrest's Easy Cioppino the Other San Francisco Treat!
makes 4 portions and enough broth for 8 so you could double the seafood if you wanted or use the extra broth to dip alot of garlic bread!


1 28 can chopped tomatoes
1 4 oz can tomato paste
1 4 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups V8 vegetable juice
1 cup red wine
1 cup white vermouth
4 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks white and light green parts chopped
2 heads of fennel and some of the leaves chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped finely
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic from the jar
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoons each dried oregano, basil, tarragon
8 large shrimp in shells
8 to 12 clams
12 oz of Cod cut into 4 portions
4 to 8 diver scallops
1/2 pound bay scallops

In a large heavy bottomed stock pot
heat oil till glistening
Add vegetables and cook vegetables till soft
Add spices cook till flavors bloom
Add liquids and tomatoes and bring to a boil
Boil for 10 mins
Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 hours

To serve:

Right before you are ready to eat
Heat broth to boil then reduce to high simmer
Turn timer on for 10 mins
add fish and clams
at 5 mins at scallops and shrimp
When timer sounds check to see if clams are open and turn off the heat
Let sit 2 more mins then serve right away! ( this is critical or seafood will overcook! )
Divide seafood evenly and spoon broth to fill bowls
Serve with a caesar salad and my best ever garlic bread here on the blog! Enjoy Ya'll

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Risotto Stone! Deciphering the Art of Mushroom Risotto,

This Christmas over the holidays we are having guests at the Hedden House in Charleston SC.  I am preparing risotto! Now I suppose that risotto is a go to for me when entertaining because it is so easy and I love it. It is also a dish that folks don't always see down here in Chucktown at dinner parties unlike in New York city. And it helps that  risotto is one of my favorite dishes to make for people. I love when it is placed in front of them all creamy and delicious. I love when I am making it and it comes out perfectly complex and perfectly al dente. In short I love it!

But it was not always so.

I was a novice risotto eater and a virgin risotto cook when I moved to New York. Oh I had had it. At friends houses in Charleston or at restaurants.  I enjoyed it every time I had it. But I did not start making it until I moved in with my old roommate the lovely and talented Miss Cristen Hubbard-Miller, star of the broadway show "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway! indeed it was she who introduced me to the making of risotto at home.  In fact it was right when we moved in together to our newly found apartment in hell's kitchen as a sort of celebration meal for our new abode. She proposed we make risotto for dinner that night. I agreed and she got out an old recipe card, hand written and covered with the patina of home cooking. "Tomato Risotto" was the title, from the "Silver Palate Cookbook" and that's exactly what we made. It came out wonderfully. And I have been making that recipe ever since. In fact when I moved out Cristen wrote me up my very own recipe card on a cute little card with some sort of culinary cartoon on it from one of those "From the recipe's of: " card sets. I have it to this day.

But as time wore on I made a host of different risottos. and of all of them, my favorite to this day is mushroom risotto! Sometimes I put some truffle oil in it, sometimes I put asparagus tips in it, but always mushrooms and always mushroom powder. And I love it.

But making a really good mushroom risotto is not hard. It does take a bit of practice to get it perfect. not to overcook the mushrooms and not to over cook the risotto. It must be served right as it is done and it must be served in a bowl. And it must be eaten with wine, good red wine. Those are my rules. Oh yeah it's also got to be cold out. Risotto for me is not a warm weather dish. It's a hearty stick to your ribs kinda meal.

Forrest's Better than Restaurant Risotto
Serves 3 as main course or 4 as Appetizer course

1 cup Arborio Rice
4 cups chicken stock held warm on stove top in a pot
1 cup light white wine ( NEVER OAKEY CHARDONNAY!! NEVER!!!) or vermouth
1 med onion finely diced
1/2 pound mushrooms sliced ( you can go as crazy as you want here with the kind of mushrooms depending on your budget but white ole button mushrooms will work I prefer to use "baby" portobella mushrooms ( better color and flavor than plain white and a good price point)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves finely chopped
3 tablespoons oilive oil
3 tablesoons butter
1 1/2 cups good parm cheese or your favorite hard salty grated cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons of dried porcini mushroom powder

Note* you can buy this or you can make it by buying dried procini mushrooms and grinding them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. ( Oh just make sure the grinder will never be used for coffee again if you use a coffee grinder, cause it will never taste the same again! It's like the old Viking addage... Rape. Pillage. THEN Burn! It can be a mess if you do it in another order! )

In a saute pan melt 1 tablespoon butter and add 1 tablespoon oil
Add mushrooms and cook till soft. Reserve liquid if any and remove from the heat and hold.
In the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot heat oil
Cook onion till almost tender then add rice
Stir to coat with the oil and cook till just begining to toast a little
Slowly add the wine and cook till almost absorbed then add rosemary and the reserved mushroom cooking liquid
At this point add the mushroom powder
Then slowly add a cup a stock and cook till almost all the liquid is absorbed
Keep adding the stock until about one cup is left in the stock holding pot
This will take the better part of up to thirty minutes.
At this point test the rice, if just tender but still a little "toothsome" aka "al dente", you are done!
If not add the last of the stock and cook till almost absorbed.
Add the Mushrooms,the cheese, the butter and the parsley and stir in to combine till rich and creamy.

Note* If you want to add white truffle oil at the end right before you serve I wouldn't blame you! If you don't like truffles I am sorry for you!

Serve warm with more cheese on the side. Enjoy Ya'll!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Le Bonne Soupe!! French Onion Soup for the Les Halles of Fame!!

On 54th street in New York down the way from the impressive entrance to the Peninsula Hotel is a little shop front with white awnings and wide open windows staring into a charming eating area and bar  known as Le Bonne Soupe!

Le Bonne Soupe is a institution even by New York Standards. It's been there since the 1970's and once you pass into its dinning rooms you see that not much had changed since then either. Upon entering I was taken back to being very young and going out to eat at any of the hometown restaurants that exsisted in the 1970's. Plain white walls are bedecked with movie posters plastered right onto the walls and brightly light brown burnished wooden beams which line the corners and the roof like bad English Tudor style wall supports lend charm. It screams sort of old, but sort of new, and definitely made in the 1970's! That along with the brass pots holding green plants and a floor which reminds one of the wood veneer planks used to furnish prefab homes, scratched and used. A patina of years of dining and cooking and eating lies on every surface. In essence a place with character and charm, but bare bones about it and dated. What once was new and chic, is now used and charming.

The Menu, although my dining companions told me has changed slightly over the years, still holds to the same style of French food that it always has had. This is not bistro food. No, it is more a "ladies who lunch" meets French cafe gone "Magic Pan" rogue. French, but with a twist towards the classic American restaurant approach grown out of the 60's and 70's. Where everything comes with a salad and french fries and wine is served mostly by the carafe. All suspects were present. A salad with a "cafe" style dressing which is flavored with chicken stock according to my friends, large carafes of red wine, and french fries served in a metal canister neatly lined with parchment paper.

Now all of this sounds less than amazing I guess. But please don't think I am decrying the quality of the dining experience I had at Le Bonne Soupe, I am not! In fact I really enjoyed it. It is the namesake of the establishment however that really gets the notice for why this place is still around, the Soup!

French Onion Soup or  Le Onion Soupe Gratine'e is a classic French dish very popular all over the USA. Usually served up in a little crock it comes to the table all bubbly and cheesy and piping hot. Well at Le Bonne Soupe they make what I would describe as quite possibly the best onion soup I have ever had in a restaurant. The key, the broth. I mean this broth was so beefy it almost tasted like liquid beef. Amazing. And the cheese and the bread were perfect. The onions soft and caramel in colour and so hearty. In a word it was Yum!

French Onion Soup, it's origins are food legendary. In the cafes of the Les Halles district of Paris, countless bowls of this soup are served. Once chic Parisians stopped after parties for a nightcap and soup, and at dawn wholesalers and truckers working at the market there came in for a bowl of it. But now onion soup is not so chic, and the market is being moved out of the city. These days many who come for the soup are tourists who gawk at each other and believe that they are seeing the "real" Paris. In any event it is a great soup and it is to be enjoyed in the colder weather.

So I was inspired to make some of this soup for the holidays. I mean it's a great meal idea. A big bowl of cheesy toasty soup, some fresh salad with a cafe dressing and crusty bread and butter and you have an amazing meal. I love it anyways.

I referenced a recipe in a old cookbook I have from Sunset Magazine and tweaked it just a bit. In any event it is good and if you want a little "Good" Soup give it a try the time and effort are worth the results. Enjoy!

Les Halles Onion Soup Gratine'e!
makes abut 6 servings

For the Stock

( Note: To bump up the beefy quality of the stock I actually start with commercial Beef Stock/Broth and add to it)

2 pounds beef shank bones of marrow bones or bones with meat on them
2 quarts Beef Stock or Broth
2 cups red wine
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
In a coffee filter place the following ( fill then tie shut with twine)
2 bay leaves
4 whole pepper corns
2 cloves
1 bundle fresh thyme
2 peeled garlic cloves

Place bones in a roasting pan and roast for 1 hour
Then place everything in a pot bring to a boil then simmer on low heat for 2 hours on the stove. Strain after cooking and hold.
makes about 2 quarts.

For the Soup

6 Medium to large yellow Spanish onions
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups beef broth
1 packet chicken bullion
1 1/2 cup red wine
1/3 cup port
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup brandy
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup diced Gruyere
3 1/2 cups croutons
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere


Slice onions into fine ribbons
In a pan melt butter and oil place onions in a saute stirring occasionally on low heat till caramelized about 20 to 40 mins.
Add 1 1/2 cups red wine then add
1/4 cup brandy and 1/4 cup sherry
deglaze the pan and cook for about 5 mins.
Pre heat oven to 375 degrees
In a pot add onions, stock chicken buliion and port wine and bring to a boil add dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste
Cook 5 mins then turn heat to medium low. Hold till ready to serve.
When ready to serve, Pour soup into earthenware soup crocks
Add divided diced cheese then top with croutons
Cover with a layer of the shredded cheese.
Place into oven for 20 mins
Then turn on broiler and brown the top.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Meatloaf Wellington meet your Waterloo!!

Beef Wellington is probably the most amazing meat dish from the British kitchen. I mean there are strange names for English food like Spotted Dick, Bubble and Squeak, and Steak and Kidney Pie. They all are parts of the British culinary heritage. But Beef Wellington is something special.

When I was about 19 my family took what we would later recall as our "Grand Tour" of Europe. It was a multi week trip where we went and saw the great cities and sites in Europe. And in each city we ate our way through the culinary heritage of each place the best we could. Now London was the last stop on this tour. And back then the English food world was not what it is today. In fact it was pretty lack luster with the exception of true haute British Cuisine.

It was there in London at one of the great dining rooms where I had Beef Wellington for the first time. Carved off a large piece of Filet which was on a rolling cart table side. It was a presentation I will not soon forget and a taste which to this day remains unrivaled.

So what is Beef Wellington you may ask? Well it's actually very simple. It's a preparation of the filet of beef which is quick seared and then cooled. Wrapped in a pastry dough which is stuffed with a mushroom duxelle ( finely diced cooked mushrooms) and foie gras! It's then baked to golden perfection and served warm in slices. Pretty simple and pretty decadent! The origin of said dish is unclear. It may have been named after the 1st Duke of Wellington who brought Napoleon down at the battle of Waterloo. Who is said to have loved beef, mushrooms cooked in Madeira wine and truffles as well as foie gras in puff pastry. Or is may just be the patriotic naming of the french dish which is similar "filet en croute". Or as the Two Fat Ladies describe, named for the shiny military boots of the same name, "Wellingtons", as the pastry's shiny exterior resembles the shine of the boots.

In any event I wanted to make a cheaper version for a dinner I have coming up during the holidays. So I came up with this. I love meatloaf. Especially when it's done right. So having seen this sort of thing on Pilsbury recipe boxes I thought why not just take it up a notch. So I did and here is the results. This recipe is actually very easy. It does take time because you have to prepare the meatloaf but if you don't want to buy filet that's your tradeoff! Other than that it's just cooking Mushrooms and assembling the dish. Give it a try and surprise your holiday revelers with how good meatloaf can be! Enjoy!

Meatloaf Wellington

For the Meatloaf

3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups sliced yellow onions
1 cup chopped celery very fine
3 tablespoons Madeira wine ( or sherry) plus more for sprinkling
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal
1/2 bunch Italian parsley finely chopped
1/2 bunch chives chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 eggs beaten well
2/3 cup milk
2 1/2 cups Japanese Panko breadcrumbs ground fine in food processor

Preheat oven to 350
Add butter to pan
Saute onions and celery slowly till very soft and caramelized
Add wine and reduce till absorbed
Place in a bowl and cool
Add meat and spices mix
Add eggs bread crumbs and milk and mix
On a lined baking sheet shape into a loaf
Sprinkle with wine
Place in oven and bake 45 to 50 mins.
Remove and allow to cool

For the Wellington

1 sheet puff pastry
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 6 oz package of foie gras mouse
1 pound baby portobello mushrooms diced in the food processor till fine but not mush
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons Madeira Wine or Sherry
1 teaspoon dried thyme
S and P to taste
1 egg yolk beaten

Saute Mushrooms in a pan with butter till cooked add wine and dried thyme salt and pepper to taste
Let cool
Roll out pastry till 1/4 thick on floured board
Slather the meat loaf with the mustard all over
Place the meatloaf on one side of the pastry
Spread the liver mouse over the top in a thick layer
Top with the Mushroom mixture
Fold the pastry over the meat and secure in by folding it under the meat and crimping the edges under to seal.
Carefully lift the loaf onto a baking lined and oiled sheet
Brush the pastry with the egg yolk
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 mins or until the pastry is puffed and browned
Transfer to a platter and serve with a brown sauce

Brown Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm beef stock
1 tablespoon Porcini Mushroom powder (optional)
1 Tablespoons garlic powder
1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Madeira Wine
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt butter and flour and cook till browned
Slowly whisk in the stock
Add spices and wine and vinegar
Season and serve


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Swiss Miss, Alpine Cheese Fondue the Swiss Way

When I lived in Switzerland and was young and foolish I did not appreciate the culinary experiences I was having in the land where God vacations. I mean He may live everywhere, as every place loves to claim to be God's country, but true as those claims may be when God needs a respite from the work He is doing I am sure that he vacations in Switzerland.

The Swiss landscape is beyond my ability to describe. It truly is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Perfect in Summer and glorious in Winter it holds all the perfection that God's creation ever wanted to have. Mountains and lakes, high Alpine pastures and lovely valleys. Cities so old some of them feel like they sprung out of the mountain rocks they are built on. In short, it is a living postcard.

The Swiss are a funny people. Secluded and cloistered for centuries away in their mountain lairs they are not immediately the warmest of folks. But I found and with few exceptions that once you breach the outer polite yet chilly exterior the Swiss are welcoming and warm and thoughtful people. Restrained in emotive embrace yet somehow endearing.

From the high Alpine pastures comes in the summertime a quality of milk from the cows there that is exceptional. After visiting a homesteading family in the mountains once I had the opportunity to experience the ancient ways of making cheese in a barn and baking wholegrain ( Vollcornbrot) bread in a wood oven tht was the way for centuries. I met this family in the farmer's market where they sold their goods and they invited me and my companion to visit them on their farm. Because we had no car this included a trip up the Alps in his truck one day after the market. And I mean a ride in the back bed of the truck! Sitting in the back of the truck as we pulled out of the town and left the valley behind I was amazed at the views as we climbed ever higher into the mountains. The main road gave way to a byway and soon I found myself on hairpin turns on a mountain road staring hundreds of feet down into the valley we had left long behind. It was glorious.

When we arrived at the farm we were greeted by the Klaus' wife Anna and their two toe headed adorable children. We got a tour and then were shown to the barns where we sampled the sweetest milk I have ever tasted right from the cows. It was incredible. They then showed us their small but very efficient cheese making hut. That was followed by a visit to the wood fired bake shop that Klaus used for his breads for the market. They grew certain ingredients on the farm themselves and got others from local farmers. It was incredible. We had a meal with them a simple fare, Bread cheese and fruits and vegetables from the garden. In truth it was one of the freshest meals I have ever had.

Fondue would be another dish I experienced through the invitation to dinner at a family's house in town where I was staying. The wonderful thing about Fondue in Switzerland is has none of the intimate romantic notions that surround it here in the US. Somehow here fondue and fondue restaurants cater themselves as the lovers mealtime, a sexy way for two people to share a meal. Not so in the land where cheese was born. It is a communal meal meant for sharing and convivial times with family and guests. The rules traditionally are simple, if the lady drops the bread in she had to wash the pot which she used to prepared the fondue, if the gentleman drops the bread in he has to wash the pot and kiss the lady! Kinda fun and I guess romantic but when it's a family around the table it's just fun good eats and if Mama doesn't have to do dishes and gets a kiss out of it so much the better.

So Fondue, is according to Wikipedia SwissFrench, and Italian dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (réchaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese. It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s but its origins stem from an area that covers Switzerland, France (Rhone Alps) and Italy (Piedmont and Aosta valley).

Since the 1950s, the name "fondue" has been generalized to other dishes in which a food is dipped into a communal pot of hot liquid: chocolate fondue, in which pieces of fruit are dipped into a melted chocolate mixture, and fondue bourguignonne, in which pieces of meat are cooked in hot oil.
Konrad Egli of the Chalet Swiss Restaurant is credited with introducing it as a mainstay in New York in the 1950's. He also is credited with the introduction of beef Fondue at Chalet Swiss and the  invention of chocolate Fondue which made it's appearance in the 1960's. Throughout the 50's 60's and 70's home cooks entertained with Fondue pots and were the champions of preparations table side for their dining guests. Such meals made the guests feel like they were part of the "action" and certainly Fondue was one of those meals. 
So here is a simple Swiss recipe I have from my host family in Switzerland I have carried around all these years. As you entertain this holiday season think about Fondue as a wonderful way to share a meal with friends and loved ones. 

Easy and Authentic Swiss Fondue
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 clove garlic 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Emmentaler cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) Gruyère cheese
  • 1 triangle double cream (laughing cow) cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cherry brandy (Kirsch)
  • Cubed French bread, ham and vegetables 

  1. Rub garlic clove into the inside of the fondue pot. Bring wine and lemon juice to a low boil in a heavy saucepan; add cheeses, pepper, and nutmeg. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese melts.
  2. Whisk together cornstarch and cherry brandy. Stir mixture into cheese; cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until thickened. Transfer to a fondue pot, and keep warm. Serve with cubed bread, cubed ham, mushrooms, and steamed brussel sprout halves.
  3. Enjoy Ya'll!!


Friday, December 7, 2012

Easy Breezy Covergirl Eggless Caesar Salad Dressing

Ok so I already have a great Caesar salad dressing which I posted last year ( You can check it out if you want ). But I was recently asked to attend a dinner party hosted by Fred Tessler (of the Denver Tesslers ) where he made an spread worthy of Ina Garten's envy! There was a pork roast, a cauliflower gratin ( not mine), a savory bread pudding, and to start with a delicious Caesar salad. He wanted to make his dressing for me which he was very interested in me trying as he had had mine before and enjoyed it. But he had a plan.

I am a little obsessed with salad dressings especially Caesar dressing. And I love the Eggless Caesar dressing at Hillstone or Houston's restuarant. Dressing sadly are why I eat salads really. I hate to admit that, but it's really true. Salad without a good dressing is just ... well not that tasty. I have taken Fred's idea and expanded on it a little. So here is an easy and quick eggless caesar dressing for you to try this holiday season if you want to try something different. I love caesar salad, a lot of people do the Cheesecake Factory alone serves 1000's of them every month. So I hope you like this easy dressing. Enjoy!

Eggless Caesar Dressing with Fresh Herbs 

8 Anchovies
2 heaping tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup  plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice ( fresh not from the green bottle)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
3/4  to 1 cup of good olive oil


In a food processor add everything but the oil and pulse till combined
Then add oil little by little with the machine running till the dressing comes together and you get a thick yellow dressing you may not use all the oil. Done! Will keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Monday, December 3, 2012

1970's Style Cooking : Winter White Wine Chicken AKA College Chicken

I love the night life...I want to boogie....on the Disco around oh yeah! ....ah the 1970's I don't really remember them. I was so little. However, it seems nowadays people are rediscovering the better parts of the style, furniture, decor, fashions and even foods that made the 1970's what they were. As a very little boy I have fond memories of my mother in big made up hair and long flowing dresses ready for parties with bright makeup and earthen bottles of Lancers rose wine from Portugal. And my Dad in a leisure suit....OK that NEVER happened, but the Lancers wine did!

Check this out!

See! Oh yeah and speaking of food trends lets talk about crock pot dinners. All day long cooked and braised meals all in one pot! Braising without the oven. And clean up was a breeze!

Now I love a crock pot and I love braised meat dishes in these colder days during the holiday season and on into the Winter months. Actually I love braised foods in general. They are easy and generally call for cheaper cuts of meat mostly beef, lamb or pork, which after long periods of cooking have their proteins broken down and give way to become juicy soft and delicious! Sumptuous indeed!

Virginia was the first State I lived in that had truly colder weather. I went to college in Harrisonburg, Virginia at James Madison University, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. It's a small town, well it was then. Even though it was a small rural town, with the University being there, it had a somewhat vibrant and interesting culinary scene. Well... it at least had some good bar food.  In any event, one of the things I learned as a student was that being able to cook and invite your fellow students over made you very popular! I mean who had the money to eat out and who had the time to even cook. And someone else cooking for you, forget about it!

But home cooking in the late eighties in college was not what it was today. There were no television food gurus like Ina Garten and Bobby Flay to lead you through to a successful meal. There was the Frugal Gourmet on PBS. And reruns of Julia Child, but hardly the cacophony of information available today. So what did one do? Well you relied on cook books and on lessons learned at home. And you came up with solutions and ideas on your own.

So it was in college that I conspired with my roommates to prove that braising was a delectable way to prepare roasts and stews. Chop up some meat, some veggies pour in some liquid put on the crock pot and voila! My two roommates were from rural farms in Virginia and had grown up cooking like this in the winters all their lives. I came from the slow cooker suburban world so this all made sense. Together we would pool our resources divvy up the jobs and then cook for the day.

Well all I have to say about cooking in college was it did not matter what it was but it had to be cheap! And lets face it chicken was cheap. So chicken was always being eaten. But after months and months of boring chicken breasts I thought about cooking the chicken like a stew. Hardly original, Coco Vin not withstanding, I still thought I was pretty savvy to come up with this dish back then. Of course since then I have realized that nothing I have ever tried is original. Perhaps I have made things better, but never can I lay claim to inventing a dish someone has not thought of before me. Whew!! Pressure's off!

So what is Winter White Wine Chicken. It's chicken stewed in white wine, bacon, mushrooms and onions and finished with cream and served over buttered egg noodles. Tada! Like I said hardly original but let me add in a few comments that will make you appreciate this dish a little more. Firstly, it is very 1970's Graham Kerr ( aka the Galloping Gourmet). Why you ask? Well it's French in it's essence ( mock Coco Vin) which was very popular in the 1970's in the US. Secondly, it uses white sweet wine which was popularized then in the 1970's ( "chill a cella" or "cella-brate ) Hey, You gotta know what this is. Here...

Will the fun ever end on this blog! Did you see all the famous actors in that commercial, Wow!

 And thirdly it's a one pot meal that can be served table side which was also a big trend then! So Graham Kerr and the 70's obviously were at work in my head when I made this! Well that's what I might say now!

Of course in college it was because of a need to make things easy and cheap. And remember chicken is cheap! But in any event I got out this old recipe the other day and was reminded that the things I learned in college whether in Marketing class of in the kitchen are still relevant and in this case tasty, so please enjoy Ya'll!

White Wine Chicken over Buttered Noodles ( serves 6)

3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into thirds
3 cloves garlic minced
4 leeks white and light green parts only chopped into disks ( OK in college it was 2 medium onions)
1/4 pound pancetta cubed or 6 strips of bacon chopped
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 lb white button or baby bella mushrooms halved
1 bottle riesling wine
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 bunch of fresh thyme tied as a garni
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 lb egg country style Pennsylvania Dutch noodles cooked and buttered with chopped chives


In a heavy braising pot brown the bacon then add the garlic oil and the leeks and cook till soft then add chicken cook slightly then add the bay leaf, the thyme bundle, S&P and the whole bottle of wine. Put a top on the pot and cook for about an hour at a good simmer. Then add the cream and mustard and tarragon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer till reduced slightly and the sauce is thickened which takes about another 30 mins. 15 mins before serving throw in the mushrooms. Remove the thyme and the bay leaves.

Serve over the noodles. Enjoy!