Champagne chicken

I had about a quarter of a bottle of leftover champagne. It makes the best sauce for chicken. Using my rockin’ Le Crueset nonstick pan on raging high, I sauteed 2 chicken breasts (salt, pepper, sage, thyme), in a little olive oil, skin side down for 4 or 5 minutes, flipped them over when they were brown, turned the burner to medium and sauteed another 4 or 5 minutes. I took them out of the pan at that point, set them aside covered, added some very thinly sliced onions and deglazed the pan with the champagne. I then added about 2 tsp of dijon mustard and let it reduce for a few minutes, swirled in a TB of butter and put the chicken in to hotten up a little. It was awesome.

Mom’s meatloaf

Meatloaf is a touchy subject and your mother’s meatloaf is either the stuff of dreams or nightmares. My own mother’s meatloaf is the best. There is none better. I have loved it all my life and when, as a child, it ended up in my lunch bag as cold meatloaf sandwiches, I was in heaven. (Cold, it must also have yellow mustard on it.) As an adult, while I rarely eat like this, occasionally I treat myself and make it. Though I make it without the bacon strips on top as she made it. Not that I don’t like that but, Jesus, it’s fattening enough without it. Horseradish, onions, green peppers and ketchup are, in and of themselves utterly delicious. My mother’s recipe adds dry mustard and sage into the mix of bread crumbs (I use soda crackers) and egg binder. I’m not sure if the egg needs to be there but I put it in. My mother nestles pepper strips in between the bacon strips that lay across the top. I prefer to put the chopped peppers right into the damn thing. Then I cover it all with ketchup.

The hard part is not eating all of it in one sitting. This time I saved half for lunch. 

Pink lemonade cake

I am a fan of the souped-up box cake. My favorite cake is my aunt Florence’s orange cake which I make as a sort of comfort food for myself from time to time. Particularly around my birthday. It’s not my birthday without Florence’s orange cake, a yellow cake with lemon pudding and orange juice. I saw this pink lemonade cake on line in a video. Paula Deen chortling her way through this simple, oddly white-trash process with her son. I really hate it when these cooking people get their kids and grandchildren involved. Lidia Bastinich’s unpleasant son gets on her show and I think, “Why???” He’s unattractive, seems like he can barely stand her, and is plain surly. And then her damn grandchildren. Who watches these shows to see grandchildren? Ugh.

Anyway. The pink lemonade cake is a concept I can get behind. White cake mix, pink lemonade granules, grated lemon. I added sour cream to make it denser and cut the sweetness. I used cream cheese, butter frosting instead of the straight-up butter frosting Paula uses.

Paula is a lot like this cake, on the edge of too sweet. But I generally enjoy her and I like her recipes. And I cannot imagine why Anthony Bourdain gets on her (or anyone’s) case. It’s TV. It’s entertainment. Who the hell cares? I met her once at the Fancy Food show in New York. She was adorable.

Indian spices

My niece, Bridget, brought me a lifetime’s worth of spices from India when she returned from her semester abroad. Cardamom pods (green), cumin, turmeric, coriander and cayenne. I am a little daunted by Indian food since I have the highly critical Ashish watching my every move when I make it. I make an awesome biryani that I love but he finds inauthentic. His comments are usually something along the lines of “it’s good, but it’s not Indian.”

Tomatoes, continued.1

Tomatoes in the winter aren’t that great. Though there are some fairly decent ones, mostly they are just on the decent side of adequate. As someone who grew up eating only tomatoes out of the garden, and who worships the ground tomatoes walk on, if they could walk, I sometimes get a fierce need for them. One way I can make them taste better is a few hours in the oven at a low temperature. I tossed small romas with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and roast them in a 250 oven for a few hours. The results are amazing and work in all sorts of situations. Here I added them to a salad of mozzarella, marinated artichoke hearts and onions.

Tomatoes, continued

This tomato has sat on my counter for weeks. I bought it to use when I was supposed to host my book club which I seem to recall was the 29th of April. I also assume I bought it well in advance of the day since I am generally well prepared to cook. But let’s just say I bought it on the 29th. Today is the 16th of May. Last night I ate the tomato. No tomato in the world lasts 3 weeks sitting on a counter. Except they do now. They are genetically modified to do so. They are also genetically modified to taste good. And it did. I don’t know what I feel about this.

Book club was cancelled. 

Pork Meatballs and mushroom gravy

I had dinner with my uncle last night in the senior retirement apartment complex he and his wife moved into a couple of months ago. We ate in their restaurant. Which isn’t so much a restaurant as a semblance of one. Someone serves you but the selections are pretty much cafeteria and it smells exactly like the hospital kitchen I worked in. I suppose the choice of “veal oscar” is something you wouldn’t find in the lunch line. On the other hand, the dried-out cooked “baby” carrots were disgusting and nothing that could vaguely approach “gourmet” as they tout their restaurant as being. The salad was small squares of iceberg (not that I have anything against iceberg lettuce), small squares of tomato and a disproportionately large amount of cold, not crisp, bacon squares as if all these were punched out with the same grid system. This theory was disproved by the 2 tiny cubes of onion. All of this was scattered lightly on the plate and drizzled with bottled dressing.

I had the pork meatballs with the smear of fake mashed potato and congealed mushroom gravy. I ate it.

The dessert was chocolate ice cream. You can’t miss with that.

Stuffed mushrooms

These were awesome. A mixture of bratwurst, bread crumbs, egg and swiss cheese. I added nutmeg, cardamum and nutmeg which makes it taste like Swedish meatballs. Stuff the meat where you took out the stems and bake at 400 for twenty minutes.

This is the raw version, ready to go in the oven. After they were roasted, I piled on additional cheese.