Retirement, Chicken Soup and Irish Soda Bread

October 8 – October 14, 2018

Turkey Burger

Monday:               Turkey Burgers with Grilled Avocado-Mango Salsa, Steamed Cauliflower with Parsley and Vinegar

spaghetti al Tonno

Tuesday:               Spaghetti al Tonno, Salad


Asparagus with Parmigiano and Poached Eggs – Monday, this week

Wednesday:          Poulet Bleu – Beez’s Birthday

chicken soup 2

Thursday:             Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill


Friday:                 Fried Fish with Pickled Vegetables, Roast Potatoes


Saturday:              French Moussaka, Salad


Sunday:                Brunch and Steelers Game – Chorizo, Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata

Irish Soda Bread with whipped Orange Butter

The lovely, hard-working Beez retired on Friday.

It’s been a lovely month with tributes to Beez at meetings in D.C. and Chicago, as well as Pittsburgh.  We celebrated her birthday on Wednesday with an excellent dinner at Poulet Bleu.  On Thursday, her staff at AACI took her to lunch at Lucca (I tagged along – she has a hired a bright, funny, pleasant crew) and then she and I went back to her office and moved several boxes of mementoes, letters, etc. to my car.  I drove home and around 5:30 Beez arrived and enjoyed a glass of wine with, for the first time in 44 years, no work on Monday.

To top it off, Billy and Emily came out for brunch on Sunday, and the Steelers came from behind to beat the Bengals in the last minute of the game.  And yes, I know it’s a food blog, but there is more to life than fleur de sel, cacio e pepe, and a perfectly grilled steak – though they go a long way toward making 44 years in the trenches tolerable.

But not to worry, last week we had some wonderful food to share with you.  The highlight was our dinner at Poulet Bleu, a restaurant in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh that is, well, charming.  (Please don’t let Tommy W know that I used that word – in fact, don’t let any of my friends know.)  From the wall paper to the lighting and the seating, you can imagine yourself in some one’s dining room in France, except that there are too many small tables of people you don’t know, and you can actually see the chefs working in the kitchen.  The service is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, perfectly timed – like a good European restaurant – and polite.  And the food (most of it – I’d skip the escargot) is out of this world.  They also make great cocktails and will help you pick out a wine you will really like (at least our waiter, Glen, would do that).

We had a world-class chicken liver paté on a thin sliver of toast with a thinner sliver of apple atop it – if you go there, order that.  The fricassee of crisp chicken leg, Beef Bourguignon and Steak avec pommes frites (we shared) were the kind of plates you just can’t stop eating.

And at Casa Stuarti we had another superior week.  Beez’s turkey burgers are now more than palatable, stuffed with Monterey Jack and served with a grilled avocado-mango salsa.  The Cauliflower with Parsley and Vinegar was spectacular – and I don’t like cauliflower.  We’re cooking a lot of vegetables these days, since I’m still working my way through Alice Waters’s In the Green Kitchen.  And so, even though Richard Olney’s French Moussaka was the dish of the week, I’m going to share the excellent chicken noodle soup from the Green Kitchen.  With the noodles and shredded chicken, this is a substantial soup, but the broth spiked with lemon juice and a major addition of chopped dill make it light enough for a runway model to eat and maintain her virtue.  And I’m going to toss in a new recipe for Irish Soda Bread and some orange butter just to put some meat on the bones of that model.  And what is a runway model doing at your house, anyway?  Have you been hanging out with the President or Tom Brady?

Chicken Soup


(from In the Green Kitchen:  Techniques to Learn by Heart, Alice Waters)

You can use this technique to cook different soups with different vegetables and different meats.  In no time, you can whip up a substantial meal.  Toss in the soda bread – recipe below – and you will go to bed happy.

Timing:                                    50 minutes

Ingredients:                                Serves 4

1 Chicken Breast, skin removed (we used bone-in to add more flavor to the broth)
4 Cups Chicken Stock (Alice has her own recipe for stock – we use College Inn)
4 ounces dried fettuccine
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peel and diced
1 small celery stalk, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (we used 1)
1 leek, white part only, diced and rinsed (optional)
1 parsnip, peeled and diced (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped dill
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
Olive oil


Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (we used a Dutch Oven) over medium and then add a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the vegetables, salt, and cook gently for 10-15 minutes.

Now add the stock and bring to a simmer and then poach the chicken breast in the soup for 10-15 minutes.  (If you’re using the typical supermarket giant chicken breasts, you’ll want to cook for 15 minutes – until they’re just cooked.)

Remove the chicken breast and let sit and then shred it into bite-sized pieces.

Now cook the fettuccine – but first break it up 2 or 3 times into shorter lengths.  Cook it in a separate pot of salted, boiling water.

When the fettuccine is drained, add it to the soup, along with the chicken and the dill just before serving.  Taste and add salt or more lemon juice to brighten the flavors, if needed.

soda bread and butter

Irish Soda Bread and Whipped Orange Butter

(adapted from Ina Garten)

I’ve shared Jacques Pépin’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread in past posts – and it is still a fine version.  But Ina’s version has a little more sugar and calls for Orange Zest and currants and is a lot tastier.  By adding in some bread flour (I ran out of all- purpose flour and using a smaller amount of raisins than the currants, we’ve improved it further.)

Timing:                                       75 minutes


4 cups all-purpose flour (we suggest 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup of bread flour.  You will need to bake it slightly longer with the bread flour, but you’ll get a sturdier crumb and a deeper flavor.

4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into ½-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest – we grated about ½ of a large navel orange
1 cup dried currants (we used maybe 1/3 cups of raisins – the raisins are tastier and the currants made it difficult for the bread to firm up.)

Mix and Bake:

Preheat oven to 375 F

Line a cooking sheet with parchment paper

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix on low until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg and orange zest together in a measuring cup.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour.

Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough.  (Instead, we threw in 1/3 cup of raisins.)

The dough will be very wet.  Dump it onto a well-floured board and knead a few times into a round loaf.

Place the loaf on the prepared sheet and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  The loaf should sound hollow when you tap it.  If it’s still too wet in the center for the toothpick to come out clean, bake longer.

Cool on a baking rack and serve warm or at room temperature.  We made a flavored whipped butter – just add some orange zest and some honey or powdered sugar and whip the butter – to serve with the bread.

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