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One of the finest dishes ever to come out of The Silver Palate Cookbook, Chicken Marbella is chicken first marinated in oil, vinegar, capers, olives, prunes, and herbs, then baked with added brown sugar and white wine. Prunes are the distinctive ingredient in this famous dish. They’re actually used often in classical French cooking, and the Silver Palate recipe borrows heavily from the French traditional lapin aux pruneaux.
I find myself in the midst of strangers a lot, a lot - crammed onto buses, in line at a cafes, grabbing lunch at favorite spots, grocery shopping - and I can't tell you how many conversations I've overheard in the past week related to cleanses, detoxes, and diets. An unusually high number, even for January - month of fresh starts, clean slates, and focused intentions. And there seem to be two veins of conversation - the individuals excited about cleansing or fasting, and the debunkers (link, link). My immediate reaction is that you don't really need to be in one camp or the other. There might be something to inspire you in one of those programs, even if you're not going to get onboard entirely. It could be a single recipe you come to love, or a mantra you embrace. I like to look at lots of different cleanses and detoxes, because there tend to be so many positive aspects to them - I'm talking about the ones based in real, whole foods (versus supplements & powders). The menus and recipes often emphasize the power and promise of good, diverse, plant-centric ingredients, mindfully sourced. Participants end up shopping, eating, and cooking with intent - also important. And because they tend to last a week, or two, or four, they can help establish new habits. So, while extended detox stretches or diets tend not to be my thing, an overall commitment to treating your body well, in the best way you're able, is something I'm always trying to get/keep a handle on. That's a long way of saying, I find that wherever you fall on the spectrum of diets, cleanses, and detoxes, there is a lot of good content out there, particularly in January - and some of these programs can be a great source of recipes, reminders, and ideas. Beneficial, and health-promoting not just for January, but for the rest of the year as well. :) A few of the links that I've browsed this month:
- Moon Juice's Amanda Chantal Bacon does Nine Days Plant Based in Harper's Bazaar
-Shira Bocar Eat Clean Videos (audio alert)
-Whole Living Action Plan (from 2013)
I also tend to turn to my Pinterest boards if I'm in a bit of a creative or cooking funk - I love seeing what resonates with people, and there are so many great collections of recipes people pin. Lot's related to clean eating - like Kate Baxter's board, or Michele Janezic's board.
- Full Moon Feast: Also, (a book rec) Jessica Prentice's book takes you through an exploration of ancient and modern connections of our foodways to the seasons through the thirteen lunar cycles of the agrarian year. An inspired read as we think about our connections to food as we move through our own calendars.
Oh Beef Stroganoff—the ultimate comfort food! Tender strips of beef and mushrooms are first sautéed in butter, then swirled with sour cream to make a creamy sauce, and served over noodles, rice, or fries. It’s not diet food, but it will make you smile.
You will want to make stroganoff with a tender cut of beef, such as tenderloin or top sirloin. For a quick version you can use ground beef instead of beef strips. You can also substitute yogurt for sour cream and leave out the mushrooms entirely.
These are sticky. These are messy. These are the best darn chicken wings I’ve ever had. As in keep them away from me or I’ll eat them all. As in protect your wings or I’ll take them when you’re not looking. As in you’ll need more napkins because these wings really are finger-licking awesome.
We've all heard of the calming and transformational powers of meditation, but how exactly does it affect your body from a biological perspective? Does it really do anything?
ASAPScience investigates, AFTER THE JUMP...
Fortunately, just when I’ve resigned myself to thinking it’s going to be as beige and bleak going forward as the paragraph above, January — as if implicitly understanding that it’s going to have to sell itself harder — presents us with a luminous ray of tropical sunshine packaged as citrus fruit. I become obsessed. This ridiculous thing I bought five years ago as everyone around me tut-tutted that it would never earn its keep is put into overdrive as we conduct methodical studies of the pros and cons of cara-cara vs. blood orange vs. pink grapefruit vs. tangerine juice. (Spoiler: they’re all amazing.) Citrus is as good as everything else about a biting cold sleeting day is bad.
Caramelizing onions, by slowly cooking them in a little olive oil until they are richly browned, is a wonderful way to pull flavor out of the simplest of ingredients. Onions are naturally sweet; and as caramel comes from the simple cooking of sugar, when you slowly cook onions over an extended period of time, the natural sugars in the onions caramelize, making the result intensely and wonderfully flavorful.
When we were kids, my mother used to make this Parmesan chicken dish that was so good we would fight for drippings, every last crumb. She would start with a whole chicken, remove the skin and bones (and use them for making chicken stock), and then cut the meat into small pieces. (She made “nuggets” before anyone called them that!)
Then she she would dip the pieces into melted butter, dredge them in breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and bake them.
My god were they good.
It takes a bit of hubris to describe a recipe as “perfect”, especially for a recipe such as cheesecake, for which so many have their own personal favorite. But, this is simply the best, most wonderful cheesecake I have ever had, and have ever made. It is based on a master recipe, from the master of baking herself, Dorie Greenspan.
If there’s a case to be made for nurture versus nature, I’d have to cop to Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special playing at least a small role in my personal little gay development. The primetime special, initially aired December 1988, is some of the greatest — and gayest — holiday TV of all time. Now, as of this week, the special (along with the rest of the Pee-Wee’s Playhouse series) is available on Netflix to delight a whole new generation.
For a children’s program, it was an incredibly unique world, blending retrofuturist glitz with absurdist humor, a richly diverse cast, and a touch of morality. “I’m just trying to illustrate that it's okay to be different — not that it's good, not that it's bad, but that it's all right,” Reubens told Rolling Stone about the series. “I’m trying to tell kids to have a good time and to encourage them to be creative and to question things.”
Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, written by Paul Reubens and John Paragon, follows Pee-Wee (Reubens) as he preps the playhouse for the holidays. The special doesn’t find Pee-Wee visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present or future, but it does feature more gay icons than the last three New Now Next Awards combined. There are appearances from Annette Funicello, Grace Jones, k.d. lang, Dinah Shore, Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg, Cher, and many more alongside playhouse regulars like Laurence Fishburne (Cowboy Curtis) and S. Epatha Merkerson as Reba.
Don your gay apparel and relax with some of our favorite clips, AFTER THE JUMP …
In lieu of a nativity set, more people should adorn their lawn with a figurine of Grace Jones popping out of a box in a breastplate.
Cher filmed this short cameo in only 25 minutes due to her busy schedule.
The late Joan Rivers brought her acerbic wit and a bit of Hollywood Squares style to the playhouse.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get more campy, there’s Charo.
My personal favorite scene involves Pee-Wee giving Little Richard an ice skating lesson.
For a complete list of special guests, check out the opening musical number, above.
Happy holidays! What’s your favorite holiday special?
“I’ll make cioppino,” my brother John announced as the family discussed what to make one Christmas eve a few years back. “Great!” said my father and I, relieved that someone else would do the cooking that night. “Have you ever made cioppino before?” Dad wisely asked. “Uh, no, but it can’t be that hard, just make a tomato base and throw in some fish, clams and crab.” Okay. Relief short lived.
A few years ago my father announced to his now very grown kids that he would no longer be participating in Christmas gift exchanges and encouraged us to follow his lead. As Scrooge-like as this may sound, it has turned out to be quite the blessing. Instead of racing around the week before Christmas stressing over buying presents for our grown family members, who quite frankly are in no need of additional material possessions, we focus on holiday meal planning instead. We love prime rib for Christmas dinner and seafood for Christmas eve. All the sides are open for discussion, as well as the desserts.
Cream of mushroom soup has been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. Of course when we were growing up it was Campbell’s and it came in a can. But even as an 8 year old I took great pride in heating my own soup, and discovered for myself how much better it was if you added milk instead of water, and how important it was to slowly add the milk while stirring so it wouldn’t form clumps.
Prime rib claims center stage during holiday season for a very good reason. It is the king of beef cuts. It’s called a standing rib roast because to cook it, you position the roast majestically on its rib bones in the roasting pan. Beautifully marbled with fat, this roast is rich, juicy, and tender—a feast for the eyes and the belly.
One of our most popular recipes around the holidays is this one—Swedish meatballs. They’re terrific over egg noodles for a main course, or served as individual appetizers.
But before you all gather round my canister of food-grade lye, my latex gloves and the onion goggles I really should have more shame about owning, and sit me down for a talk about where things are going, I think we need one more pretzel thing this year, and I’d like to believe I saved the best for last.
Pan dulce was made popular during the French occupation in the mid 1800s, and as Mexican President Porfirio Díaz was considered to be a Francophile, French influence on Mexico’s gastronomy was allowed to grow from the time Díaz first took control as president in 1880 and flourish into the early 1900s.
In 1911, Díaz left Mexico to live in exile in Paris when Madero became president; he would live there for four years before he died in 1915. And although Díaz died in exile, the French pastries and sweet breads adopted by Mexico morphed into uniquely Mexican creations, with a variety of shapes, textures and creative names that still exist today.
Pan dulce can encompass pastries, sweet breads and even cookies. Other popular kinds of pan dulce include conchas (circular sweet rolls with a sugary, crunchy, crumbly topping made of flour, confectioners’ sugar and butter or vegetable shortening, and shaped to resemble a seashell), sweet empanadas, mantecadas (similar to pound cake, and shaped like muffins or mini loaves), cuernitos (croissants), and puerquitos or marranitos (pig-shaped cookies). Of course, these are only a few of the most popular and common kinds of pan dulce. Some types have a directly translated name from the original French name, but others have more creative names in Spanish.
Orejas are a staple at my house and I often make a batch to enjoy with a cup of coffee throughout the week, to take to work for a breakfast meeting, or when I need to drop off something easy for a bake sale or party. Some of my other favorite variations include churros, garibaldi, and rieles (mini strudels with a fruit or cheese filling and coarse-grain sanding sugar).
Orejas are made by spreading cinnamon sugar on both sides of a sheet of puff pastry, then rolling the puff pastry with a rolling pin to press the cinnamon sugar into the pastry. Then, the pastry is folded and sliced, and baked at a high temperature so the sugar caramelizes and creates a sort of glassy sugar glaze on the pastry dough.
Although every Mexican panadería is a little different, it’s guaranteed you’ll always find orejas. But you’ll feel like a fancy pastry chef and a little bit like a rock star when you make them on your own—and you’re likely to impress people who have no idea how easy they are to make!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 9 minutes
Yield: Yields 15-16 cookies
Recipe prep and cook time does not include 45-60 minutes of inactive prep to defrost frozen puff pastry sheets.
Summer has finally decided to vacate the premises and the cool weather has set in here in Northern California. I don’t know about you, but I look forward to the cooler days, especially when they bring rain (which we desperately need right about now). Things slow down, not as much needs tending to, and I can curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket and read a book without any guilt over taking it easy.