Happy Thanksgiving!

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Here are a few visuals from my Brooklyn Thanksgiving.  A warm celebration with friends, and a great mix of Italian/American/veggie/carnivorous/Philippino/Queens Hungarian Babka!Welcome to the Holiday Season 2013………

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Carlita’s 2011 favorites…

A few highlights from 2011!

San Antonio Tex Mex- In March I headed south to San Antonio, birthplace of tex-mex, for my niece Amy’s wedding.  We stayed on the river walk but the best food was at the catered wedding and rehearsal dinners.  The groom’s family, native’s of San Antonio,  treated us to an awesome brunch the following day at La Fonda on Main, the oldest Mexican restaurant in San Antonio opened 1932.

Jura wine dinner-chicken with morels, etc, etc…thanks Beth Baye for the most memorable dinner party, what a line up! Dom Berthet-Bondet, Puffeney, Bourdy, Dom Montborgeau…….

Favorite recipe: Poblanos stuffed with herbed goat cheese with a fresh corn sauce and sliced heirloom tomatoes.  An impromtu summer dinner party with the best of the August farmer’s market…

Meg’s bread-she has been perfecting this recipe for years and swears by the bread bible.  Made with a combination of flours and starter and baked in a regular oven, these loaves come out crusty and rustic.

Book:  Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones and Butter – She came in through the back door, one chef who has not sold out to the cult of celebrity.

Cookbook:  Ron Suhanosky, The Italian Table-from the former chef of Sfoglia and now of Nonna’s Table, a small take out establishment in upper Manhattan.  A refreshing update on rustic Italian.

Restaurant: Turkish Kitchen – My friend and fellow Turkeyphile Stacy Greene treated me to a birthday celebration at the Turkish Kitchen.  Haven’t been in years and the joint has gone white tablecloth, French service.  It’s nice to see a NYC Turkish restaurant go beyond Kabobs and play up the elegance of this under-rated cuisine.

Wine:  Anything from Louis Dressner Selections.   Sadly, founder Joe Dressner passed away this year and will be celebrated for his irreverence and herculean efforts to alter the wine landscape .  Thanks for paving the way Joe, now there are many small companies focusing on naturally made terroir driven wines.

Art:  Metropolitan Museum of Art – the met is on a roll with newly designed galleries and excellent shows from Alexander McQueen, Indian miniatures to Italian portraits.  A great way to spend a Friday night with wine, music and art….

July 4th-Grill-o-Rama, Brooklyn

Chuck Yuen, friend, extraordinary painter and host to the stars, threw an impromptu Independence Day grill party.  Something about men and grills……sourcing inspiration from Mark Bittman’s 101 list and a CSA share, Chuck seemed to grill anything that wasn’t bolted down in his groovy Brooklyn pad.  He has the coveted artist space, two floors, balcony and patio complete with a turtle pond to house his 15 year old tortoise friends.   A Hawaii native, Chuck held court in the grill pit with a picnic table of mise en place and sauces.  On the menu, grilled beets with feta, grilled tomatoes with mozzarella, oregano and olive oil, grilled eggplant with Thai peanut sauce, teriyaki chicken, shrimp, brussel sprouts and grilled peaches and plums with yogurt and honey. Oh, and I forgot to mention the corn grilled in the husk served with coconut milk and cilantro dressing and kolorabi with dry spice rub and zucchini grilled with a yogurt lemon dill sauce, tandoori style.

We washed it all down with a variety of beer, rose and white wine.  The bold fruit and spicy notes of the Tavel rose worked especially well.  Who needs fireworks when you have a prolific, jovial, weber wizard!

………………a most enjoyable 4th!

Summer 2010

It has been a hot and sticky summer in the big apple, one of the hottest on record.   My beverage of choice this summer is beer.  In fact, anything light and refreshing, pilsners, wheaten ales with the occasional campari and soda.  New food discovery, hagen-daz tart frozen yogurt with Boylans root beer makes an awesome root-beer float.   Yes, this summer is all about simplicity.

June rolled in with two weddings to celebrate.  The first in Texas, my niece/goddaughter tied the knot with a handsome fellow nurse from Seattle.  A big, opulent brisket, tex-mex, margarita, Texas style shin-dig.  We feasted and danced the night away to the sun setting on a 100 degree day.  Of course she was beyond stunning in her lacy strapless gown, tan and golden.

Wedding number two my friend Rebecca who is an artist/teacher at a private school in Boston.  She married the math teacher and the ceremony took place at the high school where they work.  She is an art and craft maniac and made everything from the flowers, table cloths to the groom’s bow-tie.  You can read about the process on her amazing blog…….

I just returned from Gastronmeg’s Vermont homestead.  She has a big garden and over a dozen chickens roaming in a moveable pen in their yard.  We cooked some simple delicious meals with the multitudes of produce from her garden.   Summer in Vermont defines the word “green” in every way.  Charlotte is growing and scouching everywhere, next time I see her I’m sure she’ll be bipedal.  Lucky for me the eggs made it home on the bus in one piece.

Stay tuned for some recipes………………………