Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Happy Birthday Pasquale...Uncle Pat's Boneless Chicken Wings - Brilliant!

I found this photo on the web...cannot take
credit for the artistic creation - "beautiful, no?"

Today is my brother-in-love Pat's birthday, and in celebration of him I would like to share his recipe for boneless chicken wings.

Every summer we spend at least 1 long weekend at Pat and Nati's cottage, where we: go on a mini road trip to discover some amazing local venue - last year it was an antique shop housed in barn; swim and tube in their lake; build bonfires where we roast pink (hot) dogs and marshmallows; and have scrabble tournaments - where, for the record, no-one wants to be on my team, but somehow I manage to win anyways!

But by far, the best memories are of the amazing meals we have.  Pat and Carlo, Nati and I all love good food - both eating and preparing it,  and as far back as I can remember, the 4 of us have been cottaging and preparing mini feasts!  In the old days, before Carlo and I were married, when Nati and Pat were newlyweds, we would go up to the family cottage.  Nati and I would walk to the local antiques barn and forage for incredible finds, and the boys would make these amazing feasts.  Every pot, pan, plate and utensil was used in the process, and Nati and I would boil pots of water to wash up for what seemed to be hours each night.  (While we had running water, it was lake water, and there was no water heater).  Then we'd have a bonfire, followed by games of pictionary and euchre.  It was usually girls against the guys, and the girls usually won!

Fast forward 20 years (has it been that long?!?!?) and the family cottage is sold.  Now we join Pat and Nati at their cottage, and it is a time our family look forward to every year - we escape the rat race of our every day lives and share in their Nirvana.  And every year I take away a new, fabulous recipe that I incorporate into our own family favourites.  

This past summer was no exception.  As we were driving to the dump - yes, you heard correctly: the dump (an adventure in and of itself!) Pat was describing this dish he had seen on a cooking show (no idea which one, sorry) where the chef made boneless chicken wings.  He tried the recipe for his family, it was a hit, and he then made it for a pot luck retirement lunch at his work where every last morsel was devoured.  Needless to say, I needed this recipe...I am not a fan of eating anything off a bone, so it sounded like it was made for me!

So, here is my pictorial step-by-step (adapted from memory), of Pat's Boneless Chicken Wings, which is the ultimate example of a shitarein (throw it in) recipe.  

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food!  B'Tayavon, Buon Appetito and Happy Birthday Pat!

Place 1C flour in large bowl

Add 1tsp each: cumin, salt, onion & garlic powders.
Add 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Rinse and pat dry skinless, boneless chicken thighs.
  Unroll and cut each thigh (against the grain) into 3 strips

In separate bowl, beat 1 egg

Dip chicken pieces in beaten egg

Dredge chicken pieces through flour & spice mixture

Fry chicken pieces in hot oil,
making sure not to crowd the pan

Turn pieces when golden brown,
to fry second side (obviously!)


Serve!  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Oscar Night 2012 - Crisco's Crispy Fried Chicken

As I peruse my matriarch's many recipes, I have come across many references to Crisco, not vegetable shortening, but specifically Crisco.

I remember my mother always had a big tub of Crisco in her kitchen, and if memory serves me correctly, it was the only kosher and pareve shortening available back then.

I finally got around to reading The Help (I am always a little slow on the uptake with current movies, books etc) and instantly fell in love with the story.  As a rule, I try to read the book before I watch the movie...requiring myself to use every ounce of self control I can muster to stave off the urge for instant gratification in the form of a film.  Also, I know that there is no way a good book can be translated into a screenplay without losing much of the backstory and context - something I really enjoy.

And so it was that I waited my turn for The Help to become available at my local library, and began reading.  I got lost in the pages, and was transported back to the deep south in the 1960s.  I could smell Minnie frying up the chicken in a Crisco, and could envision my Bubbie Lou and mother making that same dish. 

In fact, I have a memory of fried chicken that was so crispy delicious on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside.  I do not know where or when I ate this meal, but I can remember the taste as clearly as if I ate it last night. 

My girlfriend loaned me the movie last week, and I watched the words I had enjoyed reading come to life on my television screen.  Again, I imagined my mother - who is roughly the same age as Skeeter , but nothing like her - sashaying in her beautiful clothes, sophisticatedly smoking a cigarette (yes kids, back then it was cool), and preparing for dinner parties, etc..  There was that fried chicken again, only this time I could actually see it,watching Minnie frying the pieces, and hear Celia take a crunchy bite out of the polka (chicken leg).

Now, I am not one to get into the Oscars.  Yes, I like to watch the red carpet show beforehand, and see everyone dressed up and beautifully put together, and I feel happy for the people that win, but I won't stay up late watching the show to the bitter end, and I tend to flip back and forth for the good parts (best actor, actress, etc.). 

The last time I actually cared about who won Best Picture was when Schindler's List won in 1993.  The movie was so powerful and, as a Jew I feel a connection to the history behind the story, so it meant something to me when it won Best Picture.  That night I stayed up to the bitter end, waiting for Best Movie.  I can still feel the anticipation building as they announced the nominees, and then Schindler's List won!  Hurray! 

This is the first time I feel passionately about a movie winning again.  I loved the story behind The Help.  I guess, in a way it is similar to Schindler's List.  It is about good winning over evil.  It is about helping your fellow man, regardless of religion, colour or gender.  It is about doing the right thing, and fighting to free and save those who are oppressed.  It is about hope.  And tonight,  I hope that they win in all categories, and if I can manage to stay up to the bitter end tonight, I will.

And I thought to myself, whatever does one make for Oscar dinner?  I know that Superbowl is chili and hot dogs, but had no clue what you do for the Oscars.  I googled it, and lo and behold, someone was writing about her Oscar Night dinner tradition - granted, this person throws all out Oscar parties, and I am only making dinner - and how she tries to make dishes that reflect or connect with the nominated movies. 

And this is how tonight's dinner menu was chosen - we started with sweet potato soup (a la Norene's Meal-Lean-I-Yumm recipe) Crisco's official recipe for Crispy Fried Chicken (like Minnie makes in The Help), with mashed potatoes, gravy, rapini (in place of okra) and a mescalin salad, with freshly baked dinner rolls...yummy!

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Happy Birthday Daddy - Nati's Bean Salad/Dip

Friday was my father's 79th birthday.  He is running an out-of-town trial (he's a lawyer) and wasn't getting back to the city until late that evening, so we decided that the family celebrations would take place the following day, when we could get together at a reasonable hour without stressing through Friday rush hour traffic and the impending snow storm that never materialized here.  Good thing, given how awful I felt on Friday...there is no way I could have managed company.

In the words of Scarlett O'Hara "Tomorrow is another day" and I felt much better yesterday.  As it was, I had to promise Sara that I would not go too close to Dad or Abby (my niece) for fear of spreading this to them!
So there I was, preparing another birthday meal, and thanking G-d for the opportunity to do so.  Sounds cheesy, I know, but my father is getting older, and Mom's EOAD has taught me not to take anything for granted.  In Judaism, we are raised to thank G-d for giving us another day - we say a prayer upon waking each morning - Modeh Ani, and another throughout the day - Shehecheyanu.  Birthday dinners are an extension of this for me, and how do I celebrate?  Yes, with food!

Meal preparation is a little more challenging these days - Carlo, Davie, Daddy and Abby are carnivores. Becca can take it or leave it.  Sara and I prefer to leave it.  Lena is a pescetarian.  Sara cannot eat seafood of any kind without having a reaction.  Becca loves sushi.  All but Lena eat poultry, but Carlo is getting sick of it.  Sara, Dad and I are going more vegetarian these days, but I need to watch Dad's and my sodium and caffeine intake.  Carlo and Becca love chocolate.  Chocolate gives Sara and me migraines.  Is your head swimming yet?  Mine used to, but now I can keep it all straight, and can make dinners everyone enjoys - at the same time!!  And then lo and behold, I discovered last night, some 38 years later, that my brother has a minor reaction to eggplant!  Nothing that stops him from eating it, but yet another thing I need to remember - oy and vey! 

So, I planned on a dairy, vegetarian meal.  We started with my sister-in-love Renate's (aka Nati) bean dip, and nacho chips.  My family gobbled  up the whole bowl!

Nati first brought this dip to Mama Bruni's this past Thanksgiving.  It was so delicious and the whole thing was devoured - in large part by my kids!  She gave me the recipe, and it sounded pretty simple, so I didn't bother writing it down.  She brought it again at Christmas time - again it was a huge hit.  Then, this past month I tried to recreate it for my family, and it was not a hit.

At the last minute yesterday I decided to serve this dish, and facebooked Nati for the recipe.  Nati is like Carlo, a busy person with interests that keep her far from the computer.  As luck would have it, she came online 1 hour before everyone was expected here and gave me the recipe, which I will share with you at the end of this post.  It was easy peasy, and I was able to whip it up in 5 minutes.  Sara came down, gave the dip a questionable glance and reluctanctly did a taste test...I stood there with bated breath, waiting for the verdict...and then...a smile: "You got it Mom, it tastes like Auntie Nati's".  Music to my ears!  Really, truly - there is a teeny tiny tupperware in the fridge with the remaining morsels for someone's snack today.

OK...onto the meal: we had Gloria's Eggplant Parmesan (recipe link is on Favourite Recipes Page), fusili in tomato sauce, Greek salad, risotto proupettes (recipe link is on Family Recipes Page), Antipasto Calabrese, Parmigiano Reggiano and crusty bread.

On Friday Dad suggested that, since I was sick, we should scrap the party plans and he'd take us all out for dinner.  NO WAY!  I told him that was not an option, in my mother's words "It's a party" and it proceed as planned. 

Yesterday, mid-way through my dinner preparations, Dad called again, asking if he could stop by Amadeus and bring dessert.  Dad is usually in charge of dessert at family occasions (especially Pesach (Passover), when I find myself overwhelmed by the changeover of kitchen, etc), and he always brings a gorgeous delicacy from Amadeus.  You can guess my answer - NO WAY!  First of all, the cakes were cooling (as I tweeted to the 18 people kind enough to follow me on twitter), and secondly, there is no way that he was bringing his own birthday cake! 

Having said that, I did need a crusty bread, and Carlo was up to his elbows in paint (he and Sara are painting her room this weekend), so I asked Dad to pick up a crusty bread.  Oy is he cute!  He stopped into Nino D'Aversa Bakery and picked up a beautiful loaf of crusty bread.  On his way out he discovered a slab of parmigiano reggiano that was calling his name, and picked it up too.  In the words of my mother "what a treat"!  They were the finishing touches on our birthday dinner.

So we had dinner, most everything was devoured, and then it was time for cake.  I admit it, I made the white cake from a box, but the icing was Buddy's, and I decorated it myself.  Before you think I posted the wrong cake photo, somewhere along the line my girls gave their Zaida (grandfather) a "handle" of Z-Dog, and it stuck.  So, it seemed fitting to put it on his birthday cake as well. 

We sang, Abby blew out the candles when Dad said he was 3 ("are you 1, are you 2, are you 3"....) and we all celebrated my father's health and another year passing.  Next year is the big 80, I guess the planning starts now.  Again, it the words of Scarlett O'Hara "Tomorrow is another day...I'll think about it tomorrow".

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon, Buon Appetito, and Happy Birthday Daddy!

Nati's Bean Salad/Dip

  • 1 can red lentils
  • 1 can black beans (I didn't have any, substituted with bean salad mix)
  • 1/4 C red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 bottle Catalina dressing

Rinse beans well & drain.  Toss with other ingredients and serve with nacho chips (scoops work well if you are serving as dip).

Friday, 10 February 2012

Hamentashen anyone?

When I was a little girl I loved Purim - it was my favourite holiday, second only to Channukah. 

Being a (Jewish) Day School student, we got to dress up for Purim, and the girls would dress up as 1 of 2 characters: Queen Esther or Queen Vashti.  Either way, I was going to get farpitzed (dressed up to the nines) like a princess and wear make-up!  It was like an emotionally-safe Toddlers and Tiaras day - Mom would make me up with eyeshadow, blush and lipstick before I went to school and I would sashay around school like this all day - proud as a peacock.   This holiday beat Halloween hands down because we celebrated indoors, and our costumes were not hidden by heavy coats, boots and mittens. 

But that was not it.  We got to bake with Mom - making the family hamentashen recipe passed down from her grandmother "Bubbie Gertie".  I have never tasted anything like them, and they are the only hamentashen I enjoy.  There is something special about the dough...it is soft and chewy but in no way soggy.  Carlo describes them as "pillowy goodness" in cookie form.  The filling is Bubbie Gertie's special recipe too.

We would assume our regular place at Mom's kitchen table, each armed with a rolling pin and a glass.  Ready, set, go!  The bake-off would begin.  We would roll the dough, cut out circles with our glasses, place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of each circle and pinch them into form.  We gingerly placed them on the baking sheets and waited anxiously for what felt like an hour, but was really just 10 minutes, while the hamentashen baked and turned a light golden brown.  The scent of sweet dough filled with honey apricot puree would spread throughout the house, and soon we'd have a full house waiting in front of the double ovens for the timer to "ding".  

After 4 or 5 dozen hamentashen we'd feel a little tired, and close up the bakery.  The best part of this recipe is that both the dough and the filling would keep in the fridge for a long time.  The dough for up to 2 weeks and the filling for double that - except that the finished product was so delicious that a quadruple batch never lasted more than a day or 2, and then it was back to table to bake some more.  This is such a fun project that the whole family can enjoy, but it loses its appeal rather quickly.  That is where Rolly Polly comes in!  When we tired of cutting, filling, pinching and placing the individual hamentash, we would change things up by rolling out a large rectangle of dough. Then we'd spread a thin layer of filling across the rectangle, leaving 1 short edge free of filling to seal the roll.  Slowly we'd roll the dough, building it into a proper roll, and then carefully transfer it onto a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Once it was done, we'd let it cool and then cut it into slices...mmm mmm good!

Not much has changed...except that I am now the Mama making the hamentashen with my kids, and I am the one who resorts to Rolly Polly when I have had my fill (excuse the pun) of hamentashen.  Mom used to make them with us, and I remember a couple of years ago, before she moved into care, she came to bake with us.  Even in her deteriorating condition, she was still teaching me how to perfect the hamentash, correcting my pinching technique.  I close my eyes and I can see her placing her long, beautiful fingers expertly along the edges of the dough circle, effortlessly pinching them into perfectly shaped and sealed triangles. 

I will add photos of my home-made hamentash once I actually whip up a batch, but for now, I am posting the recipe for Herta, a friend from Norene's Kitchen, who is looking for a recipe like her Romanian grandmother used to make.  I think this may be it!  Herta, please be sure to let us know if your search ends here.

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food! B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

PS - for a step-by-step pictorial on hamentashen making, click here.

Mom and Bubbie Lou's original handwritten recipe cards
Bubbie Gertie's Hamentashen

Dough Ingredients:
4 eggs
¾C granulated sugar
¾C oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Filling Ingredients:
2C (16 oz / 1 lb) dried apricots
1C honey
1 tbsp orange rind and juice from orange

Dough Method:
Combine ingredients, roll into a ball, cover with wax paper, place in plastic bag and refrigerate overnight. 

Filling Method: Soak dried apricots in water overnight.   Drain and blend with other ingredients. 

Preparation:  Preheat oven to 350°.  Roll dough, on floured surface, into a thin sheet.  Cut circles with cup, drop dollop of filling in centre of each circle and pinch sides to form a triangle.  Bake on greased (or parchment-lined) cookie sheet until golden (10 to 15 minutes in regular oven OR 8 to 10 minutes in convection oven)