Age, Streams and a Break from the JTV Doldrums

“It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years” — Abraham Lincoln

I turned on the TV and ran into that show — Age of Love, tonight. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! I haven’t watched a reality TV show like that in ages, and really, the only one I ever watched before was that, My Dad Needs a Date or something like that. I know that wasn’t the actual name, but it’s close — you get the pont. This particular show is about 20 something’s and 40 something’s trying to win over Mark Philippoussi, a 31 year old Australian tennis pro that is trying to find THE woman for him among this disparate group.

Moments of humor? Yes. Moments of completely frustrating juvenile behavior that compares to some JTV chat behavior? Double YES! Being on the cusp — just 2 hours and 13 minutes — of falling into a new age bracket, I am pretty damn sensitive to age at the moment and seeing these 40 something’s battle it out with a group that could be their daughters is not helping.

The problem is that there is just not much going on in JTV land today. Sarah has had an Out for Smoothies sign up most of the day, Justin was out fishing all day and I just can’t get hooked into any of the beta channels other than Lisa’s. The other lifecasters don’t get going until afternoon usually anyway. I tuned into Lisa and she had her camera at the office — video only, playing a variety of music for us. She clarified that her office does not know she has the camera running! She said playing sound would be a breech of contract, so I guess that means video is not. She said no one knows, that it’s incognito. Wow, can you imagine the fireworks if someone finds the thing? I suppose she can just say it’s not turned on, although if it’s the one with the cobalt blue light when it’s turned on, that might be tough to refute.

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I could see something like this making the news — “Female Voyeur Punks Office Mates by Filming them All Day Without Their Knowledge.” I suppose this is an exaggeration since it looked like no one comes into her office or that maybe the way the camera is positioned if someone did enter, they would be way off camera. But still, it’s a little risky, don’t you think? She’s been there a year and a three months, hopefully JTV won’t be her demise.

I am not sure how I’d feel if I suddenly found out I was being filmed without my knowledge, but I suppose if Lifecasting takes off, it will be more and more common every day

So, without anything in JTV-land I will get on with the culinary information I promised last night. As you may recall, I noted the menu would be:

  • Chicken with Lemons and Garlic
  • Toasted Couscous
  • Ensalada Completa

I fell down on my commitment to desert however. I had planned to make something wonderful, but remembered mid-day that I have an appointment at the Dr. first thing in the morning and needed to watch the sugar, so I scratched that idea. Next week I’ll do the infamous Summer Berry pie for you. As I was preparing to get this together, I turned to the Travel Channel and there was one of my culinary idols — The irreverant, tell it like it is, Tony Bourdain. As I was listening to him in the background I realized what appeals to me so much. Aside from the fact that he travels to incredible places, some of which I’ve had he opportunity to experience as well, most of which I have never gotten to “local” with. He goes everywhere and tires everything. But the real hook for me is how he speaks/writes. I feel like we have the same “voice.” He is direct, doesn’t hold back, can spew forth venom at a moment’s notice when something ticks him off and writes/speaks with a rhythm that’s easy to follow.

So, let’s begin …


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Chicken With Lemons and Garlic

Various versions of this recipe can be found in Spain and Italy, but this particular recipe is of French origin

This recipe is my new favorite chicken dish. I, like most, go through cycles with what I crave to eat. Currently, this recipe with zucchini and feta fritters and a salad on the side is what I want to eat every night, but last night I thought I’d better say away from the fritters – that once in a week was quite enough, so I made couscous instead. We’ll chat about that in just a bit though.

For this recipe, you don’t have to be absolutely concise. A little less garlic is fine, a little more – well, that might just be too much. I would stick to the amount of lemon as specified, but less won’t be a problem and a little more will be fine.

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The recipe resembles chicken piccata, but not entirely. Steeping the garlic in the chicken broth is brilliant and slicing the lemons really thin makes them disappear into the sauce and you won’t even notice it at all once you’ve pulled it out of the oven, until you take your first bite.

So, here we go …

2 and 1/2 cups chicken stock (try like mad to get the no or low salt variety)
20 large garlic cloves, peeled (the larger, the more delicate in flavor – if that’s possible

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil — please, extra virgin only!
8 chicken thighs – now here is where you can get creative. I know many don’t like thighs and legs, but do remember that even though you are baking the chicken in a wonderful broth/sauce, white meat dries out anyway. I very what I use, but always include thighs
1 lemon peeled, pith removed and thinly sliced – I always use 2 lemons, average sized lemons
2/3 cups of dry white wine
salt and ground black pepper
chopped fresh parsley or basil to garnish I recommend flat leaf or Italian – not curley parsley. It’s just one of those personal preference things.

Put the stock into a pan and bring to a boil. Add the garlic cloves, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

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Boiling Garlic in Stock

Heat the butter and oil in a sauté or frying pan, add the chicken and cook gently on all sides until golden. Transfer them to an ovenproof dish.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Strain the stock and reserve it. This is not a mandatory step if you want to take a shortcut. If you do strain, be sure to reserve the garlic as well as the stock. Distribute the garlic and lemon slices among the chicken pieces. Add the flour to the fat in the pan in which the chicken was browned and cook, stirring for 1 minute.

It’s important to supreme the lemons — using a very sharp knife, cut the ends off the top and bottom and “peel” the lemon by cutting right down to the flesh, removing all of the white – pith. The pith is incredibly bitter and will ruin the dish if you don’t take care to do this properly.

Alright! So I am no Tony Bordain — I am now hearing Julia Childs in my voice. My real voice — the high-pitched squeaky one! And what’s with the avant garde off center perspective? Hey JTV team! I need one of your former “producers.” Can you send one of them over here?

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It will thicken a bit, as though you are making up a roux, but not quite as thick. Add the wine, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, then add the stock.

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Cook, stirring until the sauce has thickened and is smooth (this is why you probably want to strain after you have boiled the garlic). Season with salt and pepper.


Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover and bake for 40 – 45 minutes. If you want a thicker sauce, pull out the chicken and reduce the sauce by boiling rapidly until it reaches the desired consistency. I don’t see any need for this, but some like their sauces thicker. It’s a personal preference.

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Sprinkle the chopped parsley or basil on top and serve.

Toasted Couscous
Some call couscous a grain, others a pasta, but pasta is made from a grain, right – semolina flour, so what’s all the flap about?!

I use one of two brands. Marakesh or Del Verdi. Now, here’s the thing about couscous – and it’s very important – the couscous most people purchase comes in a box. There are a few different varieties. The instructions are to boil water or broth and pour it over the couscous and voila, couccous! ICK! This is instant couscous – like instant rice or instant potatoes. ICK! If you’re going to take the time to prepare such a great meal, why take a shortcut. Take a minute and look at the couscous here.

The Del Verde Brand The Marrakesh Brand

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This is the kind that comes from a box

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Notice the size of the grains? Also, they are a composite rather than one solid ball of semolina flour. Instant rice looks similar. I think that they crush the pasta and par cook it so that it becomes an instant cooking product. The kind I am imploring you to use is not instant, but it’s hardly different from making a bowl of pasta. There is just one step I add that is optional, but you are really going to miss the depth of flavor if you don’t do it.

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This is what you want — Couscous pearls

The package or can (Marakesh is in a handy-dandy tin with a scoop included) will give you instructions for the ratio depending on the number of servings you wish to make. I will give you the amounts based on a 2 person serving. Much of the good couscous you can find in the market is called Israeli couscous – pearls. They look like little pearls, but when you get up close, you will see they are not totally round and smooth – until it is cooked.

3 scoops (heaping tablespoons) couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil – extra virgin please!
1 and 1/4 cups water
butter to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the couscous in a saucepan (1 quart is the usual size) with the olive oil. Cook on medium high to high heat until the couscous pearls begin to toast. Watch it closely at this point. They will brown quickly once started. Turn the heat down if it’s going too quickly. You don’t need all of them to brown. From the photo below, you will see that it’s varied in color.

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Add the water, lower heat to a simmer and cook until done, approximately 10 – 13 minutes. I usually take the cover off near the end to help expedite the process and to ensure that the couscous doesn’t get overcooked and soggy like pasta can so easily do.

Add salt, pepper and butter to taste, but remember, you will have all that incredible sauce from the chicken that you can pour over the couscous.

And now for the most difficult part of the meal – ok, I am full of it, but after Sarah Meyer’s “cooking lesson” last night, I felt compelled to make it sound as difficult as possible so that I would sound smarter than I actually am.

Ensalada Completa with French Dressing

This is my twist on the salad I lived on in Buenos Aires for a year and a half. They don’t love vegetables there, and when you do find veggies on the menu they are overcooked and unattractive, so I stuck with a salad salad most of the time; they just make it sound more sophisticated with the Spanish name.

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Lettuce – I tend to be into chopped romaine these days, but there is no right or wrong here, it’s the chopping that’s important and romaine or iceberg chop best. For years, hell decades, perhaps centuries, chopping was verboten, taboo, a big fat no-no with lettuce. Metal knives will oxidize and cause the lettuce to turn color and it can even get a metallic taste. Don’t do it. With ceramic knives and the hard plastic “lettuce knives” that are on the market now, you can chop to your heart’s delight without a problem. It’s prettier than tearing lettuce and you can chop into more manageable bite sizes.
Tomatoes – I am pretty fond of those new-ish grape tomatoes or the baby romas or the Capri or smaller Italian tomatoes that most markets are carrying now all year ‘round.
Onions – sliced very thinly
Fennel – sliced very thinly – fennel is the root of the dill weed. It’s got a licorice-like flavor, but when sliced extremely thinly it gives a wonderful zing of taste that to most is indiscernible, a total mystery to those unfamiliar and it is perfect with this chicken dish.
Olives – I like adding black or green olives to my salads – NOT canned or jarred olives, please! Most supermarkets now have olive bars with a great variety. Choose what appeals to you.

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There is so much more you can add to make a great salad, but I’d recommend you keep it more simple since the meal has so many different, vibrant tastes.

Dressing

I don’t know where to begin to tell you measurements, but I will do my best this is also for 2 people and will make far too much for this salad. I do not like my salad overdressed. You can keep the remaining dressing in the fridge almost indefinitely but remember, oil does go rancid at some point. And I confess … I did not have French dressing with my meal. However, it will end up looking something like the photos of the broth in the chicken recipie above — just a mild mustard color depending on the quality of olive oil and the amount of mustard and balsamic vinegar you use. I also added small, sweet peppers.

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil – if you are able to splurge on a really fine bottle of oil, great. It is well worth it.
The juice of 1 large lemon – pits removed. Good way to do this is to squeeze it through your fingers – remember, don’t be like Justin, wash your hands! J
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard – this is very important in a French dressing – it’s what makes it French rather than just a vinaigrette.

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A break in topic — this is a public service announcement to remind you that it’s so much easier to clean up after the meal if you take care of it as you are working. No seriously! I’m not kidding! I know you’re used to seeing the fratboys keeping their mess around for weeks at a time, but doing it this way is really the better way to go.
A splash of balsamic vinegar (balsamico) – now, if you are lucky enough to have the real thing, the black gold from the Tuscan or Umbrian region of Italy, good for you, I am envious as hell! I ran out of mine and at $100 – $200 for a bottle containing less than a cup of the treasure when purchased in the US, my kitchen is missing one of those beautiful little bottles at the moment. The real thing is like nothing you’ve tasted in terms of vinegar. In Italy it’s drizzled over ice cream, strawberries, and even a drop on a piece of freshly cut Parmgiano Reggiano cheese is like a bite of heaven. You want to use it sparingly because of the cost of course, but also it is so rich in flavor that if used too liberally, it will overpower the dressing. I recommend it here, in any mutation – whether ridiculously expensive or one of the very affordable brands widely available in the supermarket now. If it does not have the balsamico stamp noting that it is Tradizionale from the Modena region it is simply red wine vinegar reduced with sugar to resemble the color and viscosity of the real thing. But … when there are no other options, it works. There are a few brands out now in specialty stores and places like Williams Sonoma that sell a vinegar reduction that bears a strong resemblance to the Tradizionale and will do the trick.

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Pour the vinegar(s) into a bowl and have your wisk ready – slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking feverishly to emulsify the two ingredients. Like water and oil, vinegar and oil don’t mix. J It’s sort of like Sarah Meyers and Justopia – we just don’t blend. No way, no how!

Once blended, whisk in the mustard. Sprinkle in salt (if you feel you need it) and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Do not dress the salad until you are ready to eat.

I decided not to go to the market today, so I did not buy anything for dessert, instead I thought I’d include the recipe for the pie I’ve been raving about and baking up the past few weeks.

Summer Berry Pie
There is not much to say here other than the expletive – YUM!!!!!!!!!!

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4 Responses

  1. Thank you for the recipe !! I love coming home and reading your blog.

  2. Wow, you did all that work with dinner and then did the incredibly long blog…

    Great work and thanks!

  3. This sure is exhausting work! The cooking part is not tough, chronicling it is. I think I need a better set up and I need to bite the bullet and put the camera on a tripod and let it run — with me in it. But … being on camera is not something I relish.

  4. […] make dinner and he did a kind of long distance, lower resolution FoodTV episode. He looked at the Chicken with Lemon and Garlic recipe I wrote about a few weeks ago and decided he would do a “Linus Remix” of that […]

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