A Killer Southern Supper

7 Apr
Chicken Thigh dinner

Pan roasted chicken thighs with long simmered green beans, Lady Cream peas, and rice & gravy.

Like most true Southerners, I was raised on fresh peas and fresh beans. To this day, one of my favorite meals is a big ol’ pot of either one. (A big ol’ pot of greens, too, of course, but that’s another post altogether.) In our house growing up, a pot of peas or beans and some cornbread was all we needed for a very satisfying meal.

Given my obsession with chicken thighs, however (well documented on this blog… here and here, for instance), I figure beans and peas can only be improved upon by a genius new chicken thigh preparation. Add in maybe my favorite food in all the world, rice & gravy (yes it is a single entity), and you have a killer southern supper like no other. So I give you:

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs in a Mustard Tarragon Cream Sauce, with Long Simmered Green Beans, Lady Cream Peas and Rice & Gravy.

I must note that most cooks wouldn’t serve peas and beans on the same plate. Too much! Overdoing it!

Whatever.

I will admit that when I first starting serving this meal, it was only the chicken, peas and rice & gravy on the plate:

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A divine plate of food for sure. But a little color on the plate is nice, as is a green vegetable.  I certainly could choose broccoli or spinach or even greens of any type. But can there be too much of a good thing? In a word, no. Thus, I couldn’t resist going full bore southern and adding my long simmered green beans. 

If you’re looking for heaven on a plate, this is it.

Below you will find the recipe for the chicken thighs I’ve developed the last few months, as well as links to recipes for the Lady Cream peas and the green beans.

As for the rice & gravy, just make some white rice (yes, for this, it must be white rice) and cover it with the pan sauce from the chicken.

Did I mention this was heaven on a plate??

Oh and don’t forget the best cornbread in the world! (Courtesy of Suzanne Goin.)

Cornbread

Suzanne Goin’s Brown Butter Cornbread

PAN ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MUSTARD TARRAGON CREAM SAUCE

Note: This needs a pretty long simmer, so the total cook time can be close to an hour. But the long simmer causes the chicken to be very moist and flavorful, while also creating an incredible sauce.

Also, don’t be put off by the long directions. It’s very easy. I just want to make sure everyone understands exactly how to make this perfect.

Serves 4…. though this also is a great dinner for 2 hungry people who like two chicken thighs each…. like me.

INGREDIENTS

4 chicken thighs on the bone

2 preserved lemon wedges and 2 T of the ‘gloop’ from the jar:

(*You can use  the juice of 2 lemons in a pinch but, really, start making your own preserved lemons. They are damn easy and so damn good. Recipe here.)

9 cloves garlic: 6 smashed, 3 minced

2 shallots diced

1 cup white wine

3 cups chicken broth

2 T best quality mustard:

(* I like both smooth and course. Just make sure it’s a good mustard. You can’t beat Zatarains.)

3 T heavy cream

4 thyme sprigs

2 Italian parsley sprigs

3 tarragon sprigs

salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

The night before or morning of:

Put chicken thighs in a large ziplock bag with smashed garlic cloves, preserved lemon wedges and gloop, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs, 1 T salt and 2 T fresh cracked black pepper. Zip up and toss all around, making sure it is well mixed. Let sit in fridge overnight or at least all day.

Remove bag with chicken from fridge an hour before cooking to come to room temp.

When ready to cook:

Place cast iron skillet over high heat for 3-5 minutes. Get it HOT.

Remove chicken thighs from bag, scraping the herbs and garlic from the chicken to get a good clean sear on the skin.

Pour two glugs olive oil into skillet and let sit for a minute. You want the oil hot.

Place thighs in pan, skin side down. It will fire up! In 3-5 minutes the skin will be nice and browned and crisp. Don’t move the chicken but watch it so it doesn’t burn. When skin releases from the pan and the skin is nice and crips and brown, flip the chicken. Let the bottom side sear for 3-5 minutes as well, getting a nice brown sear on the bottom. 

Turn heat to medium and remove chicken from pan to plate.

Toss the shallots into the skillet and stir stir stir. You want them to cook down in the juices in the pan, yum, but not burn. When they are starting to soften, throw in the garlic and stir stir stir so the garlic also does not burn. After about 60 seconds, pour in the wine. Turn back to medium high and let the wine cook down until the wine is mostly gone. (No need to go all the way!)

Pour in 2 cups of the chicken broth. Add the mustard and stir everything around as the broth comes to a soft boil. Add the tarragon sprigs.  (I add salt and pepper again at this point but that is up to you.) Turn heat back up to medium high.

When it is all mixed and the liquid is at a nice slow boil, put the chicken back in the skillet, skin side up. The liquid should come up to the skin but not cover the skin so it doesn’t mess up the crisp skin. Cook the chicken on medium: the liquid should be at a soft bubbling boil, for 20 or so minutes, until when pierced the chicken thigh juice runs clear not pink. (Or use a thermometer to get the chicken to the temp you desire, remembering it will continue to cook when you remove it from the skillet!)

If you need to add extra broth as it cooks, use that extra broth. I usually add a little. I like this sauce more liquid than thick… better for topping the rice.

Thighs Simmering

When at your desired temperature, remove the chicken thighs to a plate. Add the cream and let the sauce thicken to your desired consistency. (You may want to turn the heat up a little at this stage.) As noted above, while I want a good sauce, I like this to be still slightly liquid, not a total thick sauce. This is “gravy” for the rice, after all.

Remove the tarragon sprigs. Serve chicken thighs with white rice and with the sauce poured over both the rice and the chicken.

WOW.

And don’t forget these as well:

Lady Cream Peas recipe

Long Simmered Green Beans recipe

  

 

 

A Food In Film Event

21 Feb

Love food? Love film? Love food in film?

For my Texas readers, I’ll be in Fredericksburg on Friday, March 3rd at the gorgeous Hoffman Haus hosting a “Food In Film” charitable event for The Hill Country Film Festival and a wonderful Film Camp for children HCFF presents every summer.

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Hoffman Haus Great Room

Food In Film Event

I’ll be showing and discussing many movie clips about food, including scenes from Annie Hall, Moonstruck, The Godfather, Big Night, Julie and Julia and Lady and the Tramp. 

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The Godfather

Executive Chef Judd Wood of Otto’s German Bistro has created a wonderful 5-course meal, aligned with the clips, that will be served as we discuss food in film.

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Big Night

The event is hosted at the beautiful Hoffman Haus Bed and Breakfast, a truly wonderful location.

If you’re in the area, please come out. This is our second year running, it’s for a good cause and it is a lot of fun.

Click here for more info and to get tickets: Food In Film Event

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Lady and the Tramp

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Lobsters in “Annie Hall”

 

Spaghetti Squash Amatriciana

3 Feb

I love me some pasta but lately I’ve fallen in love with Spaghetti Squash. A quick roast in the oven turns the insides of this amazing gourd into strands pretty close to the real thing. Depending on your diet, spaghetti squash is healthier than pasta. Once you start using it, there are an almost infinite number of ways you can use the ‘noodles’. And except for pesto, every pasta sauce I’ve tried with it sings. 

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Spaghetti Squash noodles

I fell in love with Spaghetti Squash making a marvelous Cacio e Pepe version. Cacio e Pepe, made with pecorino cheese and fresh ground black pepper, is a pasta dish I could eat every night of my life. After making the spaghetti squash version dozens of times, I decided to branch out and invented an oven roasted version of another classic pasta sauce, Amatriciana. The name comes from the Italian town Amatrice, recently in the news as the town was hit badly by a number of earthquakes in 2016.

A spicy tomato sauce made with red and black pepper, red onions and guanciale, I first tried Pasta Amatriciana at a wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant in New York City, Lupa. That dish blew me away so much I ordered a second bowl at the same sitting. More please. In the years since I’ve made various versions at home, usually substituting pancetta for the guanciale. I still love the pasta version, made entirely on the stove top, but lately it’s this oven roasted version, tossed with spaghetti squash, I eat all the time. 

Don’t just trust me. A great friend of mine, Rob, who is Italian, says he loves the spaghetti squash version better than with regular pasta. (Don’t tell his mother he said that.) Trust me or trust Rob, you will love this version of the classic dish. It might not be the most beautiful plate you’ve ever served, but when it tastes this terrific, who cares?

And you can eat it guilt free!

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Ingredients for Spaghetti Squash Amaticiana

Click for the recipe Continue reading

Best Films of 2016

31 Dec

(With a little TV included!)

Most exciting to me about the films on this ‘best of’ list are the directors, none of whom are old guard. I should state that while I very much believe diversity of all kinds is of the utmost importance in the arts, I myself don’t think about the age, race, sexual identity or gender of an artist when I view a work. Is this a dichotomy? Some would say yes. I think not. A work of art is great or it isn’t no matter who creates or guides it, at least by my own judgement. 

A debate for another post.

Something wonderful is happening in movies, though. Only after I compiled this list did I realize all the directors were younger or less established than the directors we usually find on year-end lists. A very diverse collection of artists were involved in the movies I found worthy of note in 2016. I didn’t compile the list with this in mind, it just happened. Which fired me up.  

Agree with my list or not, the directing (and writing!) talent found here bodes well for the future of my favorite art form.

ARRIVAL

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Denis Villeneuve is my favorite director working today. As evidenced previously in two incredible thrillers, Prisoners and Sicario, Villeneuve builds tension and dread better than anyone. In Arrival he does the same, brilliantly, but for very different effect. A thought-provoking work of science fiction with a dazzling emotional payoff, I’ve seen the movie three times. It gets better and richer with each viewing.

Along with stunning cinematography by Bradford Young and an innovative score by Jóhann Jóhannsson, Villeneuve creates an atmospheric movie that somehow is simultaneously majestic and intimate. All of the actors shine, even in the smallest parts. Jeremy Renner does some of his warmest, most charming work ever. And Amy Adams is my pick for best actor of the year, male or female. Her understated performance is filled with great emotion and depth. She grounds the movie with a quiet power that makes the last twenty minutes even more thrilling and eye opening. A second viewing only elevates her work, given the final revelations. I’m not ashamed to say I wept the first time I saw ArrivalIt’s a masterpiece.

For the rest of the picks, click here to  Continue reading

Best Books of 2016

14 Dec

My annual review of my favorite books of the year. You cannot go wrong with any of these Best of the Best.

The City of Mirrors

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Justin Cronin’s finale to his magnificent ‘The Passage Trilogy’ is everything a fan of the series could want and much more. Heartfelt, suspenseful, emotionally gripping and ultimately uplifting, The City Of Mirrors devastates in the best of ways. The characters Cronin creates are rich, complex and beautifully human. I’ve rarely cared so deeply about the people I follow through a series. I loved the first two novels so much I was a little worried: as wonderful a writer as is Cronin, could he actually pull the finale off and write something that would satisfy the enormous expectations he set up? Oh my. Did he ever.

If you’ve read the first two, do not miss this book. If you haven’t read the series, get The Passage and start now.

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Scott Frank is one of the best screenwriters working today. I teach every year two of his masterworks, Out of Sight and Minority Report. This year, he published his first novel. Wow. Your first novel is this good, Scott Frank? What’s with these talented people? I’d be annoyed but damn did I love this book.

It’s hard to define Shaker. The novel is a mystery of sorts and kind of a thriller, yet it is literary in many ways and often very, very funny. I love how hard it is to describe in one word. Perhaps the best single word to use is original. Shaker also ranks with the best of narratives that explore and celebrate Los Angeles, a city I love passionately. The novel begins with an earthquake. Frank’s sharp description of the quake and its aftermath is both scary and hilarious. Perhaps most surprising to me was the emotional weight the novel had by the end. I gasped out loud a couple of times in the final pages and was appropriately shaken for days afterwards. I’ll say it again, I love this book.

(BTW, please find and watch another movie written and directed by Frank, his slam dunk adaptation of Lawrence Block’s A Walk Among The Tombstones. Few people saw this movie when it was released, which is such a shame. The movie is so rich and detailed you still feel as if you are immersed in a novel. This guy Scott Frank is going places.)

For more picks, click here to Continue reading

Drop Dead Drop Biscuits

9 Dec

Those who follow my blog regularly are well aware I don’t bake. I have no patience for precise measuring nor, even worse, weighing anything. (So ridiculous! Not gonna happen.) Which means if I post a recipe that involves dough and baking, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt the recipe is easy as can be. And near impossible to screw up. And pretty damn good!

I present to you, Drop Biscuits.

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Drop Biscuits

I stumbled across this recipe a few years ago, tried it, tweaked it and have been throwing these together ever since. While they may not be the most beautiful biscuits ever created, they are a breeze to make, they taste great and are quite fluffy inside!

Depending on how you flavor them, they are wonderful with butter and/or for mopping up delicious juices on your plate. Another plus is that they freeze beautifully. So you can make a big batch in an hour or so, freeze some and then during the holidays whenever you’d like warm biscuits with a meal just pull a few from the freezer, rewarm them in the oven and in minutes you will have what people will think are fresh biscuits. 

I served these just recently on Thanksgiving, warmed in the oven straight from the freezer, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. People had seconds. When I made them the week before, I did not have baking soda, I used the wrong amount of yogurt, and they still turned out just as intended. Once all I had on hand was crème fraîche so I tried that… again, they worked perfectly. Friends will be seeing a lot more of these in the upcoming weeks.

Give them a try. You will not be sorry.

Click for the recipe: Continue reading

Thanksgiving Sides

21 Nov

Few things make me happier than Thanksgiving side dishes. I certainly love moist turkey with crisp skin but ultimately a plate of side dishes is all I need. While I gave you some excellent sides in the Thanksgiving post, here are a few more that will wow anyone at your table .

Recipes and at the bottom of the page.

DRUNKEN  MUSHROOMS

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My good friend Elizabeth Boyd, a wonderful chef, shared this recipe a few years ago and I have been making it ever since. And not just on Thanksgiving! I make them any time I want deliriously good mushrooms.

Except for the ridiculously long cooking time, these are also very, very easy. Don’t let the cook time ward you off. You start them and then basically forget them.

Mushrooms don’t come any better.

NOTE: If you have a large pot, make a double batch. They reduce considerably and also freeze beautifully. You really can’t make too many of these mushrooms.

ST. ELMO’S CREAMED SPINACH

rfl_3658I visited Indianapolis for a film festival a few years ago and fell in love. Who knew? What an amazing city. I also fell in love with St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, a killer restaurant with a world famous Shrimp Cocktail. Seriously, this clubby restaurant with martinis and steaks to die for is worth the trip alone. And then there is the house recipe for Creamed Spinach.

creamed-spinachI love greens cooked just about any way but creamed spinach?? (Or kale, or chard or…) Life doesn’t get much better. This is an easy and particularly terrific version, one I’ve tweaked just a little.

CRAFT’S CREAMLESS CREAM CORN

mirage-heritage-steak-creamed-cornThere are a lot of great creamed corn recipes out there. I’ve even posted one before. This year, however, I went to Tom Colicchio’s CRAFT and had his version of ‘creamed corn.’ When I tasted it, I thought it might be what heaven tastes like. If you like corn, this is The Recipe of all corn recipes. And no cream! Just corn, wonderful corn. Damn.

Here come the recipes and links. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!

Click for the recipes: Continue reading