Monday, October 25, 2010



No – I’m not trying to channel Herbert Hoover, though he did promise that and “a car in every garage” during his 1928 campaign before the roof caved in.

Well, the roof’s caved in again and the economy sucks.  We have to tighten our money belts… but we can have a chicken in every pot.  No matter how you cut it (in this case two whole chickens cut into 8 pieces), chicken can still be one of the least expensive ways to feed a family some protein, healthfully and deliciously… That’s why, in these recession times, I blog about chicken and all its incarnations more than anything else (well, except maybe cheeseburgers, but that’s another blog or two or three)…

And while you’re having a chicken in every pot – why not gourmet?  I’ve already blogged about chicken stew w/ winter veggies – why try not coq au vin?  Whether you’re counting your pennies or not – treat yourself like royalty w/ a royal recipe.  Well, a barefoot contessa’s anyway.

Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa’s
Back to Basics Cookbook
Serves 6

Good olive oil (or as good as the olive oil in your pantry)
8 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced
2 (3- to 4-pound) chickens, each cut into 8 serving pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1⁄4 cup Cognac or good brandy – (we didn’t have brandy so Richard used bourbon – scotch probably would work, too)

1 (750-ml) bottle good dry red wine such as Burgundy (if you’re on a budget like we are,’ two buck chuck’ shiraz worked great)

2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (Richard used low sodium packets from Trade Joe’s)
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs (or for budget reasons, if you don’t have fresh – use dried)
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen small whole onions
1 pound porcini or cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced (Richard used regular white mushrooms)
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. After the bacon is removed, add a few of the chicken pieces in a single layer and brown for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken pieces to the plate with the bacon and continue to add the chicken in batches until all the chicken is browned. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper to the pot and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back!, and carefully ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collect on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just no longer pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 2 tablespoons of the butter and the flour together in a small bowl and stir the paste into the stew. 

Add the frozen onions. In a medium sauté pan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

If you have a few bucks left over in your meal budget – buy a baquette and a perky, inexpensive bottle of pinot noir.  A feast for a king or a peasant.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

STEW YOU! - Chef Pierre Franey's Chicken Stew w/ Winter Vegetables

Chef Pierre Franey’s
 Chicken Stew w/ Winter Vegetables

Summer’s over and the cool/cold weather makes me think of a chilly Hallow’s Eve and the smell of pumpkin pie and homemade soups and stews.  Well, I’ve blogged about chicken soup and beef stews --- but I’ve never blogged about chicken stew.  In fact, I never heard of chicken stew until my friend, Sandy Kessler, told us about French chef Pierre Franey’s recipe.  She raved.  When she raves, we listen… then Richard made it from a $3.00 three-four pound chicken (on sale).  So good (and cheap), it’s a stew you write home about.  Or, in my case, blog about.  And, it’s even better the second night.  Really, it was!  Next time we have it (and there will be many a next time) Richard might even make it the day before and let it ‘stew’ in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

One 3 lb whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces
1 pint Brussels sprouts
16 baby carrots, trimmed & scraped
1 cup white turnips, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup parsnips, cut into ½ inch cubs
1 cup chopped leeks, white part only
12 small white onions, peeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 whole cloves
2 cups fresh or canned chicken broth or water
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh coriander

Trim the end of the sprouts and make a small gash in the bottom of each

Place chicken pieces in a Dutch oven. 

Add sprouts and all the remaining ingredients except the Worcestershire sauce and coriander.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove cloves and bay leaf.  Add Worcestershire sauce and chopped coriander.  Blend and serve.  That’s it!  How easy can you get?

A note:  Richard wanted a thicker broth (more ‘gravy’ like, than ‘soup’ like), but didn’t want to add cornstarch so he took out some of the stew’s cooked winter veggies and pureed them, then stirred the veggie puree back into the stew.  I definitely recommend doing this.  Makes the stew more stew-y.

The stew can be served w/ rice, cous cous or egg noodles – but Richard served it just as is.  Delish. 

Makes 4 servings

Monday, October 18, 2010

THE ONE THAT DIDN'T GET AWAY - Roasted Branzino w/ Lemons & Fennel

Roasted Branzino w/ Lemons & Fennel

When I was growing up my cousins and I would catch pumpkin seeds early on a summer morning at the end of our dock on Lake Boone in Massachusetts.

(I'm the 'cousin' in the yellow shirt)

I have no idea why these little fish were called pumpkin seeds, but right after we caught them my father and uncles would clean them and my mom and aunts would fry them for breakfast.  Catching those fish from a Huck Finn tree branch pole and line w/ white bread rolled into a ‘spit ball’ for bait is the only fish story I’ll ever tell.  But this was a big lake w/ far bigger fish stories… the 50 pound trout that snapped the line and swam to freedom was a favorite.  Are there really 50 pound trouts?    

Other than its affinity for living in the water, branzino is no pumpkin seed.  Branzino is described as a small Mediterranean sea bass (‘small’ is such a subjective word – compared to a pumpkin seed, a branzino is huge; compared to a tuna, it’s microscopic) w/ a “mild flavor and delicate texture.”  Not really a ‘fishy’ fish lover, Richard had me at ‘mild flavor’ when he told me he was going to roast one for dinner.  He decided on Giada de Laurentiis’ roasted branzino w/ lemons, fennel and pancetta.   

Anything w/ pancetta is OK by me.  Giada recommends cooking the whole fish to “ensure it will stay moist and flavorful” – Fine, just don’t serve it on my plate w/ a dead eye staring up into mine… nor do I want to see its lips pursed as if it wants to say something… like “help.”   So, w/ those criteria set, Richard roasted the whole branzino (sans head) he “caught” at the fish store and made as “sides” sautéed zucchini, tomato & shallots

and some cous cous… continuing the Mediterranean “theme.”

I’m happy to report that the one that didn’t get away was absolutely delicious… and that’s no fish story.

Giada de Laurentiis’
Roasted Branzino w/ Lemons & Fennel

2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces pancetta, cut into ¼ inch dice
vegetable oil cooking spray
2 whole branzino (or striped bass or red snapper) – about 1-1/2 pounds each, scaled & gutted,
     head removed (yay!!!)
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 lemons, zest grated, lemons thinly sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, fronds coarsely chopped (about ¼ cup), bulb thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
½ cup dry white wine

Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven,  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200-C)

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, about 8 – 10 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.  Set aside.

Lay a piece of heavy-duty foil on a baking sheet.  Spray the foil w/ vegetable oil cooking spray.  Lay the fish in the center of the foil and cut two 2-inch diagonal slits on each side of each fish, taking care not to cut through the bone.  Season the cavities w/ salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together half of the lemon zest, the fennel fronds, and the thyme.  

Divide the mixture among the two cavities.  Fill the cavities w/ the lemon and fennel slices, reserving 4 lemon slices to place on top of the fish.  Scatter the cooked pancetta and any fennel that didn’t fit in the cavities around the fish.  Pour the wine over the fish and arrange 2 lemon slices on top of each fish.  

Lay a piece of foil over the fish and crimp the edges of both top and bottom pieces of foil together to form a packet.

Roast the fish for 30-35 minutes, until the flesh flakes easily and is cooked through.  Let rest for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the top piece of foil and transfer the fish to a cutting board.  Remove the fennel and lemon slices from the cavity and arrange on a platter along w/ the pancetta from the baking sheet.  Pull back the skin from the fish.  Using a sharp knife, separate the top fillet from the backbone of each fish.  Using a metal spatula, transfer the fillets to the platter.  Lift the fish backbone from on top of each of the bottom fillets (it should come off easily) and discard.  Using the spatula, transfer the two remaining fillets to the platter, leaving the skin behind.  Sprinkle the fish w/ the remaining lemon zest before serving.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

GOOD FOOD FOR ALL-A Taste of LA Foodshed-Part Two

A Taste of the Los Angeles Foodshed
Part Two

As you may remember, I was in the midst of telling y’all of my October 6th uplifting experience in an 1870’s cathedral – St. Vibiana’s – now just plain Vibiana’s. A Good Food For All heavenly reception that kicked off California’s Roots of Change (ROC) Network Summit: Healthy Food and Farms. It also served to honor Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s LA Food Policy Task Force committed to bringing affordable, healthful food to all Angelenos. Some of the greatest chefs in LA (and in the country) were volunteering their time and culinary expertise to raise money toward that goal.

When last I left you, I had taken refuge from the white pillars and white marble, the rows of tables and throngs of people...

...and had found a spot in a dark wooden confessional to await the Mayor’s arrival. But, directly across from me was Sal Marino’s Il Grano table and the aroma of Tuscan tomato bread soup drew me out of my clositered refuge.

The enormous room’s side doors were open letting in the night air infused w/ the humidity of the day’s earlier storms, but that didn’t matter. Think of a balmy, slightly humid night at the beach, as you’re feasting on a delicious bowl of soup… The soup lived up to that image.

Nearby was David Myers' Comme Ca, Pizza Ortica table and his smoked pork loin Terraine de Campagnis. I grabbed one. OK, two!  Those were ‘hail Mary’ delicious. Or should I say ‘hail Myers?’

Next up – Melisse chef Josiah Citrin’s grilled Jimenez family farm rack of lamb w/ Schaner Farm zephyr squash, eggplant & basil.

The lamb was cooked perfectly – so pink & tender it melted in your mouth and the accompanying flavors made it divine.

Then more lamb…How could I resist Zach Pollack and Steve Samson’s grilled Niman Ranch lamb ribs w/ celery leaf salsa verde and radishes? My resistance lasted, oh – about three seconds tops.

It was fine wine time and I found some in the pour of a 2007 Wrath pinot noir (dare I say it was the grapes of wrath?) and a 2007 Praxis merlot. Both delicious.

I meandered over to the LA Food Bank table and spoke w/ Jessica, who told me about the good work the Bank is doing by distributing donated produce and food to LA’s missions, shelters and food kitchens... 

…then found the tables of the University of California Cooperation Extension Common Ground Garden Program

and the Community Garden Council – both dedicated to bringing fresh produce to people through community gardens. When I looked at the map, I was impressed to see how many little ‘Gardens of Eden’ there were in Los Angeles and was so taken w/ the achievements of these programs.
I wandered some more through the crowd and ended up at Susan Feniger & Mary Sue Milliken’s Cuidad, Border Grill & Street restaurants’ table. The menu: grilled fish tacos made w/ Alaskan halibut, roasted corn salsa & avocado on homemade corn tortillas w/ ali Amarillo aioli AND potato rajas quesadillas w/ farm grilled potatoes, roasted peppers, Oaxacan string cheese in a homemade flour tortilla w/ chipotle crema & spicy tomato salsa. Wow! This was not Taco Bell.

The Mayor’s speech was still a while away which meant more ‘tasting’ for me… and what could be better than a sumptuous offering from Suzanne Goin of AOC, Lucques & Tavern restaurants. Her manna from heaven was taleggio foccacia w/ Flora Bella Farm’s rapini, leeks & Concord grapes. Cue the choir!

And then there was Dan Mattern of Ammo with his dungeness crab creation on thinly sliced radishes. Who else would think of making a canapé on a sliced radish? Delicious and good for you. If you could serve this kind of food to kids, those golden arches and other fastfood joints would be out of business (well, maybe not – but you get my meaning).

I had one more stop before the Mayor arrived and that was at the Farmer’s Kitchen table...

part of the Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA) organization which is active in the community distributing nutritious food to low income families, promoting info on health, nutrition and agricultural issues and is committed to working w/ the local gov’t and various agencies to stimulate development and creating jobs.

One of the most innovative programs financed by SEE-LA is a program where low income Angelenos who have food stamps can shop at the farmers’ markets. For every $1.00 in stamps they use, the farmer will provide another dollar’s worth of food.

The Farmer’s Kitchen, with Chef Ernie Miller,

also a master gardener and master canner, is a community space that provides job training, cooking lessons and delivers farm fresh food to the area thru innovative programs and has a retail café which sells ‘healthy’ prepared foods using local ingredients bought at the farmer’s market. It also provides lunches to local schools.

How appropriate to find this program and the other community programs participating in this evening’s inspirational event, along w/ the ‘angel’ chefs and farmers who donated their time, talents and food in the former St. Vibiana Cathedral. Saint Vibiana, the patron saint of Los Angeles, is, after all, also known as the patron saint of ‘nobodies’ – those people without influence or power. I think she’d approve… I know she would have loved the food.

When the Mayor arrived he made his way through the crowd, stopping to thank many of the participants.

At the podium, he expressed his desire AND commitment to create a rational food policy in LA to combat our city’s high percentage of childhood obesity and to promote nutrition and sustainable farming in the many fertile areas in and around the city. Los Angeles had tried to start a food policy council a decade or so earlier, but it failed… He feels we can’t fail this time and hopes that this renewed interest by community leaders, local farmers and chefs is a wonderful kick-off to the city’s and state’s goal of ‘good food for all.’ His commitment was deeply felt and inspiring.

As the evening came to a close it was time for one last tasting. Dessert! And what better than a coconut, white creamy ball of sugar-y delight from Cake Monkey. As you can see – the desserts were works of art. And worth the wait!

All in all… good food – good policy – great event.

One final note: There were many more chefs, farms and programs involved with the evening’s event. I wish I could have gotten around to all of them.

But, to all – a sincere thank you.


To learn more about these programs and how you can help, please visit:

Roots Of Change (ROC) visit:
Good Food For All:
Los Angeles Food Bank:
LA Community Garden Council:
University of Calif. Cooperative Extension LA County Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources:


Josiah Citrin
1104 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Suzanne Goin
11648 San Vincente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049

Praxis & Wrath Wines

Cake Monkey Bakery

Steve Samson & Zach Pollack

Susan Feniger & Mary Sue Milliken
Border Grill, Cuidad, Street

David Myers

Ammo Café
Dan Mattern
1155 N. Highland
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Il Grano
Sal Marino
11359 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90025

Sunday, October 10, 2010

GOOD FOOD FOR ALL-A Taste of LA Foodshed-Part One

A Taste of the Los Angeles Foodshed
Part One

I just had the most exhilarating experience and it happened in a church. Well, a cathedral actually. A very old cathedral… 1870’s old! And it was quite fitting because it involved some divine food! It happened when I was invited to cover the October 6th “Good Food For All – A Taste of Los Angeles Foodshed” reception.

“Huh?” you might ask. Well, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has made ‘good food for all’ a priority for Los Angeles because of its high poverty rate coupled with the city’s high obesity rate. This event kicks off California’s Roots of Change (ROC) Network Summit and honors the LA Food Policy Task Force and its commitment to work toward the day when everybody will be able to eat “healthy”… and features some of the greatest chefs in Los Angeles (and the country)… and I got to ‘taste’ their food.

It had been raining all day, but as Richard (who served as my photographer) and I arrived at Vibiana’s the rain stopped and rays of sun from the heavens beamed down on the former St. Vibiana’s Cathedral. As we headed to the press desk to check in some of the wait staff seemed to have formed a reception line to greet us.

The space is simply stunning… all white pillars and what appeared to be a floor to ceiling white marble altar.

The chefs were setting up their dishes on long tables covered in white cloths and burlap – the white linen highlighting the urban atmosphere – the 'earthy' burlap (the ‘new’ fabric trend) honoring the state’s farmers. Behind each chef and his/her assistants was a prep table to keep their delicacies coming for hours. A lot of work! And there were more than 40 chefs and double as many assistant chefs from every corner of Los Angeles… downtown – Santa Monica – Beverly Hills – Hollywood – West Hollywood – doing that work to help raise money and awareness for Good Food For All.

Ian Gresik, the Chef de Cuisine at Drago’s in downtown LA was the first chef I talked to.

He prepared a celery root panna cotta w/ braised pancetta and basil crouton.  What can I say?  Does “yum” do it for you? It was definitely a ‘yum’ moment for me.

And look at this…

… like falling into oyster heaven in search of a pearl. Further down the aisle, I found the table of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza’s owner and chef, Nancy Silverton (she’s also the baker/founder of La Brea Bakery). Her ‘offering’:  melt-in-your-mouth burrata cheese w/ 2 peas in a pod fagioli alla Genovese and La Brea Bakery grilled garlic felt’unta bread. The evening had just started and I was ready to burst into a hymn!

Not far from Nancy, Chef Ray Garcia of Fig was setting up his tartare of maple leaf duck.

Jaclynn Balas, his publicist, told me that part of Ray’s commitment to LA’s “Good Food For All” program is working w/ a Los Angeles public school teaching kids how to cook and eat healthful, delicious food. LA’s own Jamie Oliver.

Just in time for a little something to sip to enhance my eating experience, I found Jim Clendenen’s Au Bon Climat wines.

First up – a pour of Au Bon Climat 2007 pinot noir. OK – this is soooo not a communion wine. Next was the 2005 Clendenen Family Vineyard syrah which was 90% syrah and 10% viognier. Delicious! As was the 2008 Tocai Friulano – an Italian varietal.

With a full wine glass, I headed out in search of more good eats…

… and found Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse prime Elkhorn Valley Farms steak tartare w/ olive crostini and crispy capers which were sooooo good, I wanted to wrap up every morsel and take them home…

… and from Joan’s On Third - a wild mushroom quesadilla w/ goat cheese and mozzarella – chanterelles, lobster, hen of the woods and shitake mushrooms in a white corn tortilla. Oh, my! So sinful I should have gone to confession…

… and actually did. I confessed, I needed a rest. I needed to extract myself from the crowd and sit down for a bit, but there was no seating. I spotted little wooden booths with little wooden benches at the side of the large room. Found an empty one and sat down. You guessed it – my confession was heard as I sat comfortably in one of the old cathedral’s confessionals. Bless me father, for I have zinned... Well, not really, it was the Italian varietal I was still sipping... before I rejoined the throngs…

There was more tasting to be done before the Mayor arrived... but I will fill you in on all that - the food and the benefit – tomorrow.


For more information on Roots Of Change (ROC) visit:

And for more information on how Good Food For All hopes to increase access to healthy, affordable and sustainable produced foods visit:

All the produce for the event was donated by local farmers and all the chefs volunteered their time, energy and their tasting creations.

525 S. Flower Street
Ste. 120
LA, Calif. 90071

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Avenue
LA, Calif. 90038

Pizzeria Mozza
641 N. Highland
LA, Calif. 90036

101 Wilshire Blvd.
(Fairmont Miramar Hotel)
Santa Monica, Calif. 90401

Au Bon Climat Winery

Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse
330 South Hope Street
LA, Calif. 90071

Joan’s On Third
8350 West Third Street
LA, Calif. 90048