Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moroccan Chicken, without much Moroccan

Firstly, some housekeeping: Do not forget to enter the Garden & Gun giveaway at Blushing Hostess Entertains or the Old Bay giveaway here at Blushing Hostess Cooks. Both are worth a second to leave your name.

Perhaps the most ringing endorsement of this dish is the photo I did not show you: The two year old hand that reached on to the plate to swipe a piece of chicken as I was taking this picture. That shot is in her baby book, and privately dear to me. This chicken will be very dear also as it is officially the fourth thing my Daughter eats.

This recipe appeared in Bon Appetit's Fast, Easy, Fresh column recently and it is two of three: easy enough and fresh. One hour to put it on the table though, in a working household, though, is unfortunately not fast. And while the magazine is referring, maybe, to 25 minutes of active time in their assessment, I differ in opinion: At the very least, you need to keep an eye on the simmer rate and turn the chicken occasionally.

They call it braised. I venture to guess some cooks will disagree as it is forced which is indeed the very antithesis of a braise.

Now, calling it Moroccan is a rough approximation. Likely, to be more genuine, had you preserved a couple of lemons two weeks before and used as many fresh warm spices as you could here, it would have smacked of more authenticity. Preserved lemons are just washed, cut and jarred lemons covered in kosher salt and allowed to sit in the fridge for two weeks at least. Do a few at once and you are in better stead. As it is, the dish is merely continental - not that there's anything wrong with that.

Try it if you have a hour; hoping you are happily surprised that your children love it.

Moroccan Chicken with Green Olives and Lemon
Adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe
4 servings

2 lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, halved, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 4 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, skin removed
1/2 cup green olives
Accompaniment: Toasted garlic bread croutons and a huge spinach salad.

Cut 1 lemon into 8 wedges. Squeeze enough juice from second lemon to measure 2 tablespoons; set wedges and juice aside. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper; saute until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the next 5 ingredients; stir 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; add to skillet. Add lemon wedges. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, turning halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and debone, place on your platter in some pretty fashion.

Add olives and 2 tablespoons lemon juice to skillet. Increase heat to high and boil uncovered to thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over chicken.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Happy Anniversary Old Bay and a giveaway

It is Old Bay Seasoning's 70th anniversary and in honor of this milestone, Old Bay has generously offered to provide a Blushing Hostess reader with an Old Bay gift basket laden with seasoning, recipes, and a pile of signature gifts. I don't know about you, but I would not approach a crab or lobster without Old Bay; as you know, because I am certain you have my lobster-stuffed mushroom recipe committed to memory by now.

Here is what we'll do: One entry if you leave me a comment. Two entries if you leave me a comment linking back to this post and mentioning the Blushing Hostess blogs. The winner will be drawn at random on July 15th. Tell your friends.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009



I find it impossible to be light and charming when I desperately want a restaurant to go away. After a year and much thought about this piece I have concluded I am on the right path if only to get the restaurateurs' attention. Bear with me, maybe we will achieve improvement.

Slider's is a wood-panelled seafood place in Neptune Beach, Florida. It has a prime location right on the main street of that tiny village, one block off the ocean. Sliders enjoys a pretty dining room, an old salt's bar in the same room, and a large outdoor patio in a town that can afford to eat good food.

It is unfortunate then, that Slider's, not unlike its contemporaries in Tropical Caribe and Sun Dog, food and drinks are just absurdly miserable. I mean, appallingly bad. So poor that I guess it certainly an embarrassment even to their hopelessly middling wait staff and thoroughly clueless hostesses.

Here then, one years worth of painful thoughts on the place suffered at the hands of guests who seem to adore Slider's:

1. Grossly overcooked rubbery shrimp; an assault on the freshest local specialty.

2. Protein portions of fish in the fish taco equalling roughly two ounces of grilled fish.

3. Ever decreasing portion amounts of food not worth making any portions of.

4. Bad wines. I mean, weapons grade swill. Obviously unsuccessful attempts to poison yours truly.

5. Preposterous bench seating in the middle of the room which is often missing the cushions: Totally awesome for thinner women who have just given birth.

6. Lobster tails so overcooked they were charred to their shells.

7. Flavorless, poorly conceived dishes lacking seasoning and any consideration towards varying flavors.

8. Really the last straw: Last night I ordered a glass of "sangria," which arrived in a huge fountain soda glass. When I said to the waitress I had never seen sangria served that way, she said, "Oh, that's because they cover it with a shot of Sprite."

To which I replied, having known a few sangria's, "Excuse me? Did you say Sprite?"

"Yes." She said.

"That's disgusting." I said under my breath. And it was. What is with that anyway? I will venture to guess it a means of making the more costly ingredients go further which seems to be the cornerstone upon which this business was founded: Taste, quality, and return customers be damned.

The place it rarely packed. It does business, but given the location and clientele, it could be a world-beater. It is like an unloved child of a restaurant run by non-foodies whose care towards both ingredients and preparation lacks commitment, interest, discipline, and knowledge. Just avoid it, and the places of its ilk out there if want to have a decent experience going out to dinner in Neptune Beach. Until I see this place fold or a sign that it is under new management, this recommendation will stand: I have no interest in food cooked by the unimpassioned or cocktails made by soda jerks.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

For fathers and Brits

On this Friday evening just passed, Josh and I were lucky enough to attend a cocktail party hosted by the officers of a British Naval vessel visiting this port. Admittedly, I am a stand-away observer to my Husband's career (for a number of healthy reasons) and I was struck by the contrast evident with the officers with whom Josh serves. I dare say, and here is where it will be really great if he forgets to read a few posts, these British they are charming, social, (dare I say it?) fun, and not the least bit self-conscious regards their own social graces which are (and you could say I am a tough judge) pitch perfect anyway.

This is a phenomenon I have noted in my own travels between the UK and US in more situations than just this recent gathering. But I knew it perhaps innately as well, as indeed, my own Grandfather, Harold "Red" Turnbull was a master of our spoken language in a formal way with a far more broad vocabulary than I have found conversationally in the US otherwise (but do not please, for one second, believe I lack patriotism). He was a comfortable, warm person whose voice never belied a mite of nervousness in dealing with his fellow man. He was the kind of man you wanted to know: A gentleman, yes. A friend, always. But a Brit, you see, through and through and in my experience, different than the American assumptions of both those terms. He was, as they say, comfortable in his own skin in way too many are not here and now. Why? I only wish I knew. But I hung about with Grandpa, and visited the UK with him, and I can tell you assuredly, there were more like him there. I have found none like him here.

It had something to do with being absolutely certain he was okay, right with the world. He always looked swell, and never thought very much about it because swell was his natural way. He smoked and drank a little but not with any interest or real commitment. And he sang or hummed all the live long day. I mean: He was a charming man. He smiled, even when he was burdened he never laid it on your plate with even a frown.

He was the sort unafraid to talk to a powerful person, a beautiful woman, or a scoundrel and he took the same, "Very pleased to meet you" tone with one and all. He had a British accent but beyond that, no affectation (which I have always thought was self-concious glaring terror anyhow). When you called Grandpa Turnbull and asked something of him, no horses would be spared to be at your side in a time of need. He was a good man. The kind of person who never would say he had something he had to do, wonder what was in it for him, or had to stop to change his clothes thinking maybe he could look better. He just came: With his broad, handsome smile, earnest handshake, old tweeds, and without judgement. And he lent a hand to human beings. He and my Mother have always been known for this quality, this open kindness, humanitarianism, understanding, decency.

I loved him. He was my best friend for more years that I know. When he was leaving us, I flew home from Charleston. It was a cold spring day and his exit took grace, elegance, and shimmer from my days in ways I still uncover and which causes much heart to stall in a bit of agony.

This past Friday, I had a conversation with a British officer hailing from not far away from where Harold Turnbull began his life in Hartlepool, England and I caught mesmerizing glimpses of him in the accent, the easy certain elegance, and the even-handedness of a British officer we are now lucky to know. How I miss our man and the sound of his voice. But how lucky I was to get to speak with Dave and be reminded of him. I can only hope he keeps in touch as we have asked as I thought it such a gift, especially on this Father's Day weekend.

Rather ghostly coincidence, is it not?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spicy Cuke and Apple Pickles

How is this for long, hot Southern summer in a jar?

As I went to review my photos just now, I wanted lemonade and a pimento cheese sandwich with these pickles. Now we're talking. Where is Frank Stitt when I need him? Because caring for two babies who never, ever sleep at the same time, is grueling. It is a wonder I was able to finish this four minute recipe.

To get there, you will need to start here:

Okay, you caught me gratuitously using shots of green things. And making gratuitous Frank Stitt mentions. I do love that color: What is not wrapped up in those shades?: Green fields, healthy eating, spring, summer, the smell of freshly cut grass? Sunday dinners with four vegetable dishes? Is there a better color? I think not. And I do love the man's book, not to mention his pimento cheese. You try it, then tell me I am wrong.

On to the spicy pickles which you should eat with sandwiches and meats at every hour of the day and night. If you have not had a Korean kimchi or spicy pickle before, this is a great place to start. I do not go in for extra trips to the grocery or Asian market consequently I have substituted things I have guessed can be found in many kitchens; chances are you could make these right now without much of an effort. I suggest you do and break your lunch out of the turkey on wheat mold.

And yes, I know apples are not usually pickles. But "pickle" is a term for the method, not a cuke in vinegar and therefore, apples make perfectly acceptable pickles. Come, step out there, order your roast beef with apple pickles at the deli and see what Tony says... then send him here.

Spicy Cuke and Apple Pickles
Serves 6
Adapted from this Gourmet recipe

Honestly, I sliced the cukes and called it a day and they were great. You can go through the process below, in fact, if you do, you will be my hero. Mine were great without. You can use thai chiles and ginger root but you need not worry if you work from the spice rack, they will still be ssweet and spicy all at once.

1/2 pound Japanese or Kirby cucumbers
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 pound Granny Smith apples
2 cups water
1/3 cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon very thin matchsticks of peeled ginger or 1 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of Korean hot red-pepper threads (optional) or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Slice cucumbers crosswise 1/8 inch thick and toss with sea salt. Let stand 30 minutes, then rinse well and squeeze out excess liquid with your hands.

Halve apple half lengthwise and cut out core. Slice crosswise 1/8 inch thick.

Toss apple with cucumbers and remaining ingredients and marinate, chilled, turning occasionally, at least 1 day.

Pickles keep, chilled, 3 days.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Asparagus Vichyssoise and the Meltdown

Unfortunately, there has been an operating difficulty: Namely, my hard drive was fried this past Thursday. Both the photos of my consomme cups which I was to deal with over at Blushing Hostess Entertains and the Asparagus Vichyssoise recipe I was to share with you are potential victims, I will not know until I can review the contents of the last back up whether any of this transfixing asparagus and porcelain discussion could be saved. Please don't cry. So, no pictures today, ok?

I want to give you something to appreciate in the meantime. Carol at Alinea survived quite a plane incident last week, making my hard drive issue look like an ice cream cone on a Sunday afternoon. Have a visit with my fellow food blogger and please comment to let her know you are glad she is still here. And she did finally get to have dinner at Alinea...