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.



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.


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.


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!



Creamless Cream Corn: Click here


St. Elmo’s Creamed Spinach

NOTE: you can add a little bit of this or that to the recipe.. more cheese or artichoke hearts, or less, it is very forgiving. Just taste!


2 sticks butter

2 finely chopped onions

6 cloves garlic, minced

6 oz chopped artichoke hearts

1 qt heavy cream

¼ cup lemon juice

3 cups sour cream

1 cup parm

6 lbs frozen chopped spinach

Tabasco (a few good shakes)

Worcestershire Sauce (a few good shakes)

salt and pepper


Saute the onion and garlic in butter until soft.

Remove from the heat and toss in everything else. Mix well. 

You can cook it on the stove at low for an hour or put it in a baking dish and bake at 350 an hour as well.


Drunken Mushrooms


4 pounds button mushrooms

1 pound butter

1 bottle decent red wine

2 T Worcestershire Sauce

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups water

4 beef bouillon cubes

4 chicken bouillon cubes

NOTE: any combo of bouillon is fine, all beef or all chicken. I have been using BETTER THAN BOUILLON, which is, quite frankly, amazing stuff.

1 T Dill Seed

LOTS of salt and coarsely ground black pepper


Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a slow simmer and cook 5-6 hours with pot covered. Removed cover and let simmer another 5-6 hours, checking every hour or so, until liquid barely covers mushrooms.

Serve in chafing dish at cocktail buffet or as a side dish with beef. Leftovers freeze very well, but there probably won’t be any.

NOTE #1: Don’t let the long cooking time throw you. I usually start the 1st step at night and let them simmer, covered, overnight. 8 hours is fine. Just put them on your lowest setting after bringing them to a boil. A trivet is great for this, btw.

NOTE #2: Check the pictures and see how much they reduce! I always add more mushrooms to the top in the first hour to get as many mushrooms as possible.


Drunken Mushrooms at the start


Drunken Mushrooms cooked down

Thanksgiving Ideas

18 Nov

Note: This is a repeat of last year since, well, these are some of the best Thanksgiving recipes you can find and I am making them again. I will be posting new ‘side dish’ recipes on Monday for more ideas…

Below find my personal Thanksgiving favorites. This is a bit of a ‘best of’ but there are a couple of recipes new to the blog and I stand behind each, they will not do you wrong. 


Cranberry Daiquiri

I wrote about this one for Christmas but it is perfect for Thanksgiving as well. Make the cranberry syrup now, it will keep in the fridge all through the holidays. I love this because it is not too sweet. Divine.

For the recipe, click here.


Russ Parson's "Judy Bird"

Russ Parson’s dry brined turkey is justifiably famous. The ‘Judy-Bird’ is hands down the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. Perfect crisp skin, delicious moist meat. It is also the easiest recipe imaginable. NOTE: It needs to sit three days with the salt brine so get your turkey now!

For the turkey recipe, click here.


A Movie for the Political Season Vol. III

6 Nov

In June of 1979 I was in Dallas, Texas visiting one of my best friends, Lauren Linn. We were dropped off at the movies by our moms who wanted some time away from us. Lauren and I wandered into Being There and my life changed. 


Starring Peter Sellars in his penultimate performance, Shirley MacLaine and Melvyn Douglas, the Being There is about a simpleton, Chance the Gardener, who stumbles into the world of Politics in our nation’s capital.



Chance the Gardener walking the streets of D.C.


It’s a remarkable movie with a genius screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski, based on his short novel by the same name. New York magazine called the stye “deadpan slapstick” which is not far off. It’s a very subtle movie yet at the same time outrageously funny, not in a Bridesmaids / Hangover kind of way but in that the situations that develop are outrageous and then funny. Yet as ridiculous as the situations become in the second half of the movie somehow as movie spirals forward and Chance finds himself higher and higher in the political world, everything remains very down to earth believable. What happens to Chance might indeed be ridiculous yet at the same time everything makes rings true. Which is part of the deft genius of the movie.



Peter Sellers in “Being There”


I called the movie life-changing. It might seem odd that a movie so quiet and deadpan could have such an effect but Being There blew me away as much or more so than any action flick that usually gets such a description.


I did something watching Being There I’ve done only once more since… during the final scene something happens that is so surprising yet so perfect I stood up from my seat in the theater and yelled out loud. I haven’t looked at life quite the same way since then. The movie still hits me the same way every time I watch it. People certainly debate the meaning of the final shot and some feel it goes too far but wow do I love the ending.



Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine and Richard Baseheart in “Being There”


Of course I love everything about it not just the ending. You might be shocked to see how little things have changed in the years since, making the movie as relevant today as it was in 1979. There are certain movies from years ago, like Being There and Network, that are stunning in their prescience. Technology is different but the inner workings of politics and the media, as well as broader insights into the human condition, are still the same. How you interprets this can be disturbing, comforting or both.

But don’t let the movie having something to say stop you from watching. It is very, very entertaining. Everything works – acting, writing, directing, production design – in a beautifully quiet, understated way that for me becomes very emotionally affecting. Sellers is of course remarkable. Melvyn Douglas is so touching in the movie, playing a decent, good man. He won his second Oscar for this movie which, like Sellers, he filmed shortly before his death.) MacClaine is terrific as always and she is incredibly beautiful in the movie. There is also wonderful supporting work from all the actors, including two of my favorites of all time, Jack Warden and Richard Dysart.


Shirley MacLaine and Peter Sellers in “Being There”

If you are as tired of this political season as am I, check out Being There. It may be a balm to your spirits and I promise you will have a wonderful time.

NOTE: this is the last of my “A Movie for the Political Season” posts. I’ve remained generally mute this year and these movies were a way I could discuss the election without mouthing off.

I was very tempted to include another Hal Ashby movie, however, the brilliant Shampoo, written by two of the greats, Robert Towne and Warren Beatty, with a remarkable cast including Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Jack Warden, Lee Grant and Princess Leia in her very first movie. Political because it takes place in 24 hours on election day 1968, the day Richard Nixon was elected for the first time, Shampoo remains as hilarious and shocking as anything released today. It also has one of the great tag lines of all time:


Though both are very, very famous, I feel like Beatty and Christie remain very underrated actors. Both are always terrific, all of the time. (It also doesn’t hurt they are two of the most beautiful people to ever walk the planet.) These two great actors starred in three movies together: Shampoo, McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Heaven Can Wait. All three movies are as good as they get, with Heaven Can Wait being one of my favorites of all time.


Julie Christie and Warren Beatty in “Shampoo”

Oh and the only other time I stood up and yelled in a movie theatre? The ending of another huge favorite, War of the Roses. Wow. Just wow.

Short Rib Stew

30 Oct

Fall has arrived. Which means in Southern California we are lucky if it gets down into the 60’s! Still, we’ve had some wonderful gray days as of late which means I don’t need to make up excuses to make food that sings of Autumn. 


Short Rib Stew

One big Fall favorite is a beef stew recipe I’ve developed over a number of years using short ribs instead of stew meat. This is an easy recipe in that any level of cook can prepare it. It takes a little time, yes, as it has a number of steps but each step is simple. The beauty of the recipe is you can make it on a day when you have some time to putter in the kitchen — I usually do this on a day when I can do emails or other work while each step is cooking or when I want to cook other things at the same time.

Making it on such a day is perfect because the stew freezes beautifully for later use or, if you are having people over for dinner or you want dinner/lunch later in the week, make the stew a day or two or few before and let it sit. It only gets better with time. Then the day you serve/eat it is a breeze.

Finally, it is difficult to mess up. This is a dish that won’t be ruined by adding a little more of this, a little less of that, excluding an ingredient you don’t like, etc. Make it as is and you will love it, but if you adapt the recipe or start just throwing things in the pot, it still will turn out well. 

This stew is perfect for the Paleo/carb free crowd as well. Eliminate the already small amount of flour (a substitution is included), then serve it a way I love which is over sautéed spinach rather than potatoes or pasta. Voila.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.
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A Movie for the Political Season Vol. II

7 Oct

Spellbound, a 2002 documentary about kids competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, is hands down one of the most entertaining movies ever made. You may not think a movie on this topic could ever be enjoyable but damn! Alternately hilarious, joyous, spellbinding (had to go there) and heartbreaking, the second half of the movie also becomes as riveting and suspenseful as The Fugitive or Die Hard. 


Beautiful in its narrative simplicity, the first half of Spellbound introduces us to eight different teens. We meet each contestant, one after the other, in short vignettes. We find out about their families, their interests, their various quirks. Then all arrive at the National Spelling Bee and, given the wonderful emotional work done by the filmmakers in the first half, the spelling bee itself is an absolute nail biter. When I saw it in the theatre, people were audibly reacting in the second half as if it was the original screening of Rocky. As Ann Hornaday wrote in the Washington Post, “This just might be the most action-packed suspense thriller of the summer.” 

Please don’t let the title of my post put you off. Spellbound is not an outwardly political movie. It truly is wildly entertaining and is one of my personal favorite movies of all time. (I’ve seen it many, many times, it is that much fun to watch.) Yet given everything that is currently going on in our country — and world —  Spellbound, without trying to do so, has a subtle yet very powerful message, much more so than when it was released almost 15 years ago. Given the broad range of families depicted in the movie, Spellbound will make anyone who watches it, whatever their own background and political belief, proud to be an American. At the same time, it might challenge some beliefs on what exactly our nation of immigrants means.

For a few years, Spellbound was unfortunately difficult to find. It’s such a good movie and was so popular, at times even used copies on Amazon were going for over $50 dollars. While I still can’t find it streaming anywhere, a bunch of very cheap used copies have turned up on Amazon:

This is worth the few dollars the DVD copies cost! So stop what you are doing and watch this movie!

Antipasto, Please

30 Sep

Antipasto is a bit if a catch-all. Literally defined as ‘before the meal’ antipasto can and does include almost anything, depending on who is preparing it, and it can be served in a variety of ways… as a platter of unmixed items, as single items on a buffet or as hors d’oeuvre, or, my favorite way, combined all together for a mixture of divine goodness.

antipasto-ingredientsOlives, meats, cheeses, marinated vegetables, pickles, peppers… these are wonderful ingredients all that when combined create not only a terrific appetizer but a fast and delicious lunch or light supper.

Antipasto is also practical as you can also prepare it in a few minutes on a Sunday and then use it in a variety of ways during the week. This is a perfect excuse to use mostly jarred items so I almost always have in the pantry the ingredients I need.

It may not be the most attractive dish you’ve ever made but did I mention how incredible it tastes?

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A Movie for the Political Season Vol. I

10 Sep

As I noted a few weeks ago, when it comes to politics I tend to keep my big fat mouth shut. I’m not going to change my current habit. Instead, over the next eight weeks or so, in line with my previous posts about Great Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen (Volumes I, II and III), I’ll feature a few outstanding movies many haven’t seen that everyone should encounter. These films also have eye-opening parallels to our current season.

The first is the groundbreaking masterpiece, Children Of Men.


Released at Christmas in 2006, Children Of Men is a dazzling thriller loosely based on a novel by the great P. D. James. James’ idea was a not too distant future where humankind has gone infertile. The movie takes place in 2027, 18 years after the birth of the last baby, Diego Ricardo. Opening with the death of Diego, which causes worldwide grief, Children of Men thrusts us into a dystopian society that is immediately unsettling given how similar much of this crumbling civilization is to our current world. Britain, where the movie takes place, is the only stable government remaining in the world though it too seems on the verge of collapse. The movie explores what happens when the first woman in 18 years becomes pregnant.

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