Holy Mackerel

It’s true that sometimes things just keep getting worse, but put last night’s Mad Men meal in the fridge and it’s just going to get better. I picked out the string beans, the potatoes, cut the kernels from a fresh cob of corn and sauteed it up with a little onion, fresh thyme, a squeeze of lime and a few red pepper flakes last night for Ferd and tossed the whole thing with pasta–meal for a mad minny man. And Today for lunch–the matinee–Ferd’s pasta mixed up with some red leaf lettuce and goat cheese.

Mad Men dinner on a hot summer night

Serve with biscuits.

Grate a beet. Set it to the side.
Braise string beans, whole and long–a spill of olive oil, a few parsley leaves and a piece of shallot in the braising liquor. Drain. Set to the side.
Roast potatoes with thick slabs of onions, all tossed in olive oil with salt and a grind of pepper.
Set to the side.
Boil a few eggs, nine minutes in the boiling water and 3 minutes in an ice bath.
Set to the side.
Toast a few walnut halves just until the smell of them begins to wander.
Set to the side.
Make your best version of a classic vinaigrette. A small spoon of Dijon, a good squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of red wine vinegar, a spot of brown sugar, salt and a grind of pepper. Whisk in olive oil to taste. Rip in fresh herbs. Make a platter of everything in its place. Give a little pour of the vinaigrette over the lot.
It looks good on china. Don’t forget the napkins.

I know I promised

I had all intentions of loading the how to video for chicken nuggets on Friday and life got in front.  I made the nuggets, I taped me and the nuggets, rigging the tripod on top of a stool while Ferdinand watched any show he wanted in the other room and manned the phone in case it rang.  The only thing left to do is edit which I will do as soon as I can arm wrestle life to the side by Monday.

Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets have a bad rap. And they should. Most of them are full of about 76 ingredients that could make a person fall asleep before they even get through the list. I can’t pronounce half of it, I don’t know what the ingredients are even if I could sound out the words, and personally I don’t like to read print that small because it makes me have to think about how much longer I have before I have to buy granny glasses at the drug store. The Applegate Farms nuggets that I bought the other day for the taste test on Dinner Confidential have no antibiotics, but water is the second ingredient.

That doesn’t sit right with me. Even if the water came from a spring in Switzerland only ever seen by cows and maidens. “Here’s your nuggets Honey–I stirred a whole bunch of water in ‘em, just the way you like it.” I don’t think so.
It’s too early in the morning for me to get into talking about Perdue and Tyson.
The thing is, I would bet my bottom dollar that I could make a nugget faster than it takes to take a pack of them out of the freezer and heat them up in the oven.
Especially if you forget about breading them. Buy yourself a pack of antibiotic free chicken. Trust me.
It should be chicken breast, and to make it easier on yourself buy it with no bones or skin. Take the chicken out of the pack, put it on a clean, plastic, color coded cutting board, and cut it up with a sharp knife into one inch squares. Leaving it on the cutting board, take your clean hand and give them a fine blanket of kosher salt. Heat up a heavy frying pan with olive oil–enough to nicely cover the bottom of the pan–and add a few wide slivers of tight new onion, a clove of uncut garlic, a rosemary twig (and either a parsley sprig or a thyme sprig or if you don’t have it don’t worry about it.) Let this stuff go for a minute in the pan until they get some color, and then remove everything from the pan but the olive oil. Drop the chicken bits in there without overcrowding and DON’T TOUCH THEM. The trick is to let them sear really well on at least one side, so don’t walk away, but leave them in the pan until one side of each is a gorgeous golden brown. Now add the onion, garlic and herbs back in the pan, and shake the pan around every once in a while until they are just cooked through. Right before you think they are done, pull one apart and check to see there is no more pink. You want them to be tender; if you overcook them out of fear, they won’t be tender. Remove from the pan and give them a grind of black pepper, and a drizzle of your best olive oil. Stick two or three onto wooden skewers and serve.
The method for a more nuggety nugget: Cut up your chicken and season with salt, same as above. Get two to three bowls out depending on if you would like bread crumbs or just flour. Beat an egg and add 1 tablespoon of water. That’s one bowl. In the other, add white all purpose or pastry flour and a teeny bit of cayenne pepper. In the last bowl, panko or homemade crumbs. Set up an assembly line, keeping one hand clean and one hand for the chicken. Set up a cake rack on top of a wax paper. Dip first in flour, then egg, then rack to drip. Now either back in the flour OR in crumb, and then back on the rack. Let them sit for five minutes while you make yourself a fizzy orange with lime. Heat up the frying pan with olive oil, an uncut garlic clove and a sprig of whatever fresh herb you have, and when a piece of bread browns right away, add the chicken and brown on all sides without crowding. Serve these on a platter with a squeeze of lemon and whatever sauces you feel inspired to make–a roasted garlic and lemon mayo or roasted red pepper pureed with a tiny bit of cream, or even that parsley sauce that I posted the other day. Anyone under four feet usually takes them straight up, so you don’t even have to bother–you can enjoy the rest of your fizzy orange.

It’s all about the green.

Sometimes you come across something that you know you are going to need for the rest of your life.  Happened when I met my husband and it happened again when I made this parsley sauce.  In French, better known as Champ Verd, or Green Field.  It is a class A, number one winner for any summer seafood you may want to serve, and by nature it encourages you to do as little with that seafood as possible, aside from making sure it is ridiculously fresh.  Start with 2 big bunches of flat leaf, good looking parsley.  Pull the leaves off, leaving as little stem as possible.  This is the perfect job for party guests or girls who are under the age of 10 and are perfectionists.  Get a pot of boiling water going with a splash of olive oil, a half a garlic clove, and a little salt.  On the side, have a bowl of ice water at the ready.  Plunge the parsley leaves into the boiling water for about 2 minutes, then lift them up with a sieve and drop them into the ice water. Remove the garlic cloves.  Leave the leaves in the ice bath for about 30 seconds. Drain really well, squeezing them in a clean tea towel.  Chop them up for a few minutes with your knife.  Once they are roughly chopped throw them in the blender, and with the blender going, gradually add about 2 tablespoons of the best olive oil you can get your hands on.  Give it a pinch of salt, a tiny grind of pepper, and now add up to, but maybe not as much as 1/4 cup of organic cream (trust me–the organic cream is worth it.)  You are looking for a bright green color, and a smooth puree, very much like the consistency of basil.  As a matter of fact, the second time you make it, if you felt like it, you could throw in a single basil leaf if you felt like it.  Start with the pure parsley just to see what it’s like in its pure form.

Now, taste for salt, pepper and lemon zest.  You don’t want to end up actually tasting any of these, or noticing them–you are using all them as a boost for the parsley.  It should knock your socks off it’s so simple and good.  Put a tiny puddle of it on a plate with a scallop, a shrimp and bit of fish, or serve alongside your melted butter for lobster, or forget the fish all together, and toss it with pasta.

What I cooked Last Night:

Start:  amuse bouche of four little handmade gnocchi in a lemon cream reduction

First:  Seared scallop on a nest of poached parsley sauce with garnish of garlicky crouton

Main:  Filet mignon w/ wild mushroom saute, oven roasted cherry tomatoes, sauted baby spinach and potato gratin

Salad:  Wild herbs and greens with dijon vinaigrette

Cheese:  St. Agur, Langres, Le Chevrot

Dessert:  Peach Tart w/ garnish of cream and rhubarb compote

What I learned:  Use the searing pan to make the sauce for filet ahead of time.  Otherwise the reduction stock, shallot, wine, thyme, takes too long, even after searing the meat ahead of time.  It takes 14 minutes for medium rare on a 2 1/2 inch piece of meat that weighs 6 ounces, basting constantly w/ butter from the pan.  Don’t ever do this menu for 10 by yourself.  I don’t know when I am ever going to learn this.

Today’s Lunch:  last night’s broccoli rabe with garlic and red pepper flakes piled up on a tortilla, a couple of parmesan shavings over that (or bits of sausage) and another tortilla on top.  Press to flatten and heat the whole thing up in a heavy saute pan with a little spill of olive oil.  And on the side a chopped salad of chopped fresh peaches, tomatoes, toasted walnuts, fresh thyme and dried currants.

Where is the golden ticket?

This month I got hit like a mac truck. Where there was once Faye there is now Old Yeller. Need some milk? I’m gonna yell at ya. Ask me what movie I want to see? I’m gonna yell. Suggest maybe I should go to bed a little early? I’m gonna cry, and then I’m gonna yell at ya.
I’m hoping that I still have a son and husband who consider me family at the end of the week.
I have eaten all the popcorn, all the ice cream, the rest of the birthday cake in frozen form and a bar of Willy Wonka chocolate with no golden ticket.

Ferdinand is 8

My mom sent Ferdinand a beautifully wrapped gift, all colored paper, squiggly colored raffia and yellow ribbon. He was incredibly impressed. This morning when he got to the breakfast table, I had my own stack of gifts waiting for him by his orange juice. “Reduce, reuse and recycle” he said. A table full of gifts and the first thing he sees is borrowed paper. It’s 007 in the mini me boy version.

For his birthday dinner he wants pizza and for drinks, fresh lemonade. My arms don’t have the squeezing strength; it was sucked out by the heat wave, so I’m buying Paul Newman pink which is nothing more than lemon juice, a little sugar, water and some grape skins for color.
Ferd designed his cake and molded a dog’s head out of plasticine and a dog bowl to go along with it for the top. It is chocolate, has 3 tiers, a whole lot of sparkles on the outside and cream on the inside.