Wrapping up 2012

After Thomas Demand

Mayan Calendar Mayhem and hurricane Sandy have come and gone like a meteor, and fall 2012 went by at the speed of light.  I can’t believe it’s holiday time already!  Highlights of November and December…….Paula Wolfert’s, Stuffed Young Turkey Auvergne Style, Included in her World of Food book. IMG_1845 It has been several years since I’ve cooked a turkey but this is my “go to” recipe for Thanksgiving.  The stuffing consists of mushrooms, chestnuts, walnuts, thyme, boudin blanc, shallots and prosciutto.  I’m a believer in the cheesecloth soaked in butter and herbs draped turkey, as it keeps the breast meat moist and browns beautifully.  Most of the ingredients in the stuffing are gathered in the Auvergne countryside in the autumn.  I love the onion cups that are stuffed with the liver and gizzard with swiss chard and roast alongside the Turkey for a short time creating a carmalized stuffed onion goody.  This year the onion cups didn’t make the cut, requires much attention.


The dessert showstopper, an authentic red velvet cake compliments of artist and photographer  Dana Kane.  What a pleasure to bite into a “real” slice of layered cake in these cupcake crazed times.  Red Velvet cake has many imitators but the real thing is actually a cocoa cake with red food coloring, or beet juice which adds a distinctive flavor and cream cheese frosting.  A true southern classic.


December started with a Burgundy dinner party, cheese, pates, remoulade and pickles from Jacob’s pickles and onto the main course, mushroom truffle lasagna with roasted brussel sprouts.IMG_1877 IMG_1870

The line-up of mostly reds was impressive but the Hospice de Nuit 2005, Cuvee Jacques Duret, compliments of Michael Eigen at Premier Cru wine shop, stood tall above the others……Hospices de Nuits,  is a charitable organization begun in 1692 in the Nuits-Saint-George region of Burgundy comprising 22 acres of premier cru vineyards where the wine is auctioned off each year to raise money for the hospice.

Chocolate pot-o-creme with pistachio

………. And now it’s time for the Christmas spice cake.

Here is a delicious one-skillet recipe for the busy holiday season.  This is a take on the French pork and prune combination.  I use chicken thighs for their juiciness but breasts would also work. My local store carries packages of cut up squash which is a great time saver.  In addition the butternut squash could be replaced with parsnips.

Browning Chicken

Carlita’s Chicken saute with butternut squash and prunes– serves 2-3

6 chicken thighs or 3 chicken breasts

2 cups butternut squash cut in approximately 1 inch cubes

¼ cup small dice pancetta or bacon

3 cloves garlic crushed

12-15 dried prunes

10 sage leaves

¼ cup white wine

1 cup chicken broth

salt and pepper

Salt chicken, pat dry and heat 1 T butter and 1T grape seed oil in a sauté pan, when hot add chicken and brown on both sides.  When brown, pour off excess oil and add sage leaves, 3 cloves crushed garlic, pancetta and prunes to pan, tucked under the chicken.  Cook until the pancetta is browned and then add the white wine.  Add cubed butternut squash, and salt.  Reduce the wine by half and add the chicken Carlita's Chicken Saute with squash and prunesstock.  Turn to low and simmer uncovered until chicken is done, around 20 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan  and let the sauce reduce.  At this point add the chicken back to the pan, warm everything through.  This is great with a bitter green, broccoli rabe, kale or mustard greens.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and joyous cooking in 2013!