July 20, 2015

Here is what we cooked last week:

Monday: Caponata, Thai Red-Snapper, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and red onion balsamic reduction.
Tuesday: UFR’s birthday party – Caponata di Patate, Roasted Prosciutto and Pickles, Pan Seared (on the grill) flank steak), Grilled Chicken Chemuin, Roasted fingerlings, Biyaldi, Dessert by Mere Hanna
Wednesday: Ricotta, crostini, crudités; Vegetable Paella
Friday: Pan-Seared Branzino w/ tomato and capers
Sunday: Avocado toasts, Smoked Chicken x 2, Baked beans and coleslaw.

The keepers of the week were Mere Hanna’s Limoncello custard-berry desert and Sunday’s picnic dinner.

Smoking chicken creates the most flavorful and juiciest of birds with little more than a good rub, fire and smoke. This is our second smoked chicken of the month and we cooked two of them to see how long that would take (we have a family reunion coming up and a lot of people to cook for), but also to convince Beez and Billy that the smoked chicken is better than the excellent Argentinian-style chicken we have been grilling for years. It’s hard to believe that Joe Carroll, a PR guy from Jersey, can out-cook Francis Mallman, the Argentinian culinary genius. But he can and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a chance to taste by how much some night at our house.

Rivalling the chicken were the baked beans we concocted. Being ordered by She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed to create some baked beans in lieu of roasted potatoes (she eschews white starch), but not having time to soak the beans overnight, we fried up some bacon and chopped onions and dumped a lot of drained, already-cooked cannellini beans into the pot along with ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, Worcestershire and Tabasco. It would be nice to remember the proportions, but it’s more exciting to fiddle with it every time – makes you feel like you’re actually creating a recipe. The result, along with store bought cole-slaw mixed with Marzetti’s dressing, created a dinner that was perfect for a summer night on the porch.

Extras: There was a surfeit of good food this week, including the amazing Vietnamese Red Snapper (a Giada De Laurentis recipe), the branzino (an Amalfi knock-off) and our own version of avocado toasts – Apparently, avocado toasts are the latest thing, but we fell into this because we had some avocados we had to use and some bread that was going stale. The key to the snapper dish is marinating the fish and then building up the flavors by cooking the scallions, ginger, garlic, etc. first. And don’t forget the FISH SAUCE. If you don’t have fish sauce in your pantry or refrigerator, you are making a huge mistake – go get some immediately.

The paella was good, too, but let’s skip that and talk about the excellent pasta carbonara we (Beez and I, Hilda and Tim and Julie) had at Andorra , on the way home from the wedding party for Caroline and Sean Regan. Andorra’s outdoor space is great, but the service is spotty and the food is usually just okay. However, this carbonara, made with bits of well-cooked pork belly instead of thin bacon, was spectacular – or maybe we were all just very hungry having drunk but not eaten at the party. Still, it was a good moment for Andorra and a great time for all of us.

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