Tag Archives: cooking with Alex

Blast from the Garky Past: Chicken with Bacon, Leeks, and Chives

Last week, nothing (healthy) sounded good to eat. Cheetos sounded damn fine; I’ll admit to having eaten a few peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, too. (These are a trending meal in meinem Haus.) Nothing wrong with PB&B — it features like, three food groups! — but it’s not the sort of thing I wanted to serve to Alex when he came to dinner. Necessarily, I put on my thinking cap and generated a slightly classier dinner idea.

When I’m low on ideas, I mine my personal history. During Thursday’s introspection session, I remembered a dish my parents used to make: sautéed chicken served with scallions and bacon over egg noodles. As a kid, I wasn’t much of a meat-eater, but I fiercely craved this dish; I realize now that the flavor combination of bacon and scallions pleased me greatly. Egg noodles, of course, are good in whatever form they’re presented (unless that form = “overcooked”).

I consulted the Almighty Intertron and found a similar recipe — a disconcertingly basic recipe, I should add — one that had seven ingredients (chicken, bacon, scallions, pasta, salt, pepper, white wine). Kids aren’t known for their refined palates: truth. Using the googled recipe and my Very Vivid Memories as inspiration, I began. Here’s the recipe I came up with:

Garky’s Chicken with Bacon, Leeks, and Chives (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • Eight ounces egg pasta — curlicues work best, if you’ve got ’em, but you may also use those wide, flat, yellow strips
  • Two large chicken breasts, totaling roughly one pound.
  • Four strips of bacon
  • A goodly amount of chives, minced
  • One bunch of leeks, chopped, cleaned, and patted dry
  • One bunch maitake mushrooms, cleaned and roughly cut
  • Two or three cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • About two tablespoons white wine (chicken stock may be subbed)

Method

  1. First things first: set a pot of (salted) water to boil. Clean your chicken breasts, trim them of fat, and cut them into equal-sized chunks. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until just done (between three and five minutes). Drain pasta, toss with a bit of oil, and set aside.
  2. In a rather large skillet, cook your bacon. Set bacon aside to drain and remove most (but not all!) of the fat from the pan.
  3. In the bacon-fat pan, cook your chicken. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, chives, and white wine to the chicken and cook until just browned. Remove from pan/store in separate, heatproof dish.
  4. In that selfsame pan, saute your leeks, mushrooms, and garlic. (Note: it helps to start the leeks first, then add the garlic and mushrooms after a bit.) Cook leeks until they’re soft and gently brown. Remove from pan.
  5. It’s combination time! To your pasta, add your chicken and vegetables. Crumble your bacon — which should be cooled by now — and toss that in, too. Mix thoroughly and serve right away.

Raaaaaaaaaaaah! This dish nailed it. I’m glad I didn’t follow the internetted recipe as it was — the leeks and mushrooms added a level of earthiness I might not have appreciated as a tot, but that I sure as hell appreciate now. Garlic, too, was a good call; I’m totally befuddled by recipes that don’t involve garlic. Verdict: I will be making this dish again in the near future. (Note: Alex was also a fan — he took leftovers to work for a quik-n-easy lunch.)

After dinner, we found ourselves with a mad jones for ice cream. No, I’m not using the royal we — Alex also craved sweets. So we hit up our new go-to, St. Francis Fountain, for A SUNDAE!

That there is the Buster Brown: one gooey brownie topped with Mitchell’s vanilla, raspberry sauce, cronchy slivered almonds, and enough whipped cream to topple Paula Deen herself. ALSO: our server, maybe noting our Lady-&-The Tramp-type behavior, added two maraschino cherries so neither of us would have to go without one. All together: awwwwww! Thanks, beanied hipster dude!

This week, my goals are as follows: 1) Find and prepare another leek-centric recipe, because leeks are the shit; 2) Hit up St. Francis again; 3) Eat fewer PB&B sandwiches, lest I burn out on that delicious combination. Good day.

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The Age of Arugula

It’s taken me a few weeks to realize this, but arugula has decisively replaced baby spinach as my green of choice. This shift in allegiance has benefits and drawbacks, as is only natural. Benefit: arugula is a springier green, frilly and tickly and with the sharp bite of pepper. Drawback: arugula does not have as much iron as spinach, and I need all the iron I can get.*

The takeover occurred slowly, as these things do; at breakfast yesterday, I noted with a start that it has been weeks — maybe a month? — since I’ve eaten another green.Still, I’m not concerned. I’ve got my jar of iron pills — dingy capsules that taste like dirt — and the full assortment of greens remains available, always. I actually love personal food trends (food gravitations) and what they might signify. I don’t believe, as some people do, that they hint at deficiencies that our bodies seek to correct; rather, I suspect they’re rooted in something murkier — a convergence of physical and psychological preferences, seasonal cues, social prompts, what have you. I’m not fully tempted to suss out the causes, not only because the causes might be unidentifiable, but because I’m content with this small, benign mystery.

I have a policy of heeding food gravitations. If arugula appeals to me, arugula it is! I know myself, and I know that I’ll eventually tire of the gravitation food.We’re still reaping the benefits of our V-day bounty: yesterday’s breakfast drew on a few leftover ingredients and a few freestanding ones. Clockwise from top: Josey’s wonder bread, buttered (and, post photo, slathered in Donna’s jam); bacon; and eggs with two cheeses and arugula.

The toast and bacon are self-explanatory. The eggs could stand for a tiny bit of elucidation, I think. Alex beat the eggs with salt, pepper, milk, and goat cheese and cooked them in the normal fashion — low & slow. When they were mostly set, he added some sheep’s milk cheese from Bi-Rite (name escapes me = ack! Where is my cheese journal when I need it?) and some washed arugula, letting the eggs cook until the cheese melted and the greens wilted.

I don’t have to tell you how this story ended. (Answer: with two clean plates.) Arugula and eggs are my new favorite pairing; the textural contrast between the two is pleasanter at breakfast than it would be later in the day, when my mouth has adjusted to the world’s input, and arugula’s peppery flavor is pretty damn hard to beat. Arugula: it’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

***

*As I discovered several months ago, when my doc revealed that my iron levels are pretty low.

Sunday Morning

Happy Sunday, all! I’m gearing up for what promises to be an excellent day: breakfast at the Jelly Donut, a record-shopping adventure, and temperatures in the high 60s (California, I love your winters).

This weekend has already been pretty fabulous: Friday, Alex and I made a leisurely dinner of Tortilla and got a drink at the Phone Booth (where I never fail to feel as old as I am — neither here nor there: just the truth). Yesterday, Nathan and I embarked on a Retailventure, wandering the length of Berkeley’s Solano Avenue, grabbing lunch at a pseduo-Bistro, and getting scoops at iScream — the gingersnap was spicy and rich and studded with the proper amount of cookie bits: an all-around pleasure.

A & I have some exciting, bloggerly news, so STAY TUNED. (A vague statement, I know, but I don’t want to spoil any surprises.)

Finally: toast: man, is that stuff good. I ran out of homemade muesli a few days ago and have been eating Josey’s toast instead, and I’m really digging the change in routine. Not gonna abandon my cereal pattern — no way! — but toast  has been a nice shift in breakfast conduct.

And until later, that’s a wrap.

Guess What Time It Is?

If you guessed Roast Chicken O’Clock, you win an imaginary Internet prize!

Yes, it’s that time again: the time when all ladymagz run articles about mitigating holiday weight gain, shitty Xmas tunes dominate the airwaves, and we dream about roast chicken for dinner.

Funny story about this chicken: it was intended for Thanksgiving — we were worried we wouldn’t have enough turkey — but we saved it until now. Right now. (Note 1: Don’t worry, the bird was in the freezer. I don’t want you thinking we keep leftovers for weeks & weeks, Hoarders-style. Not that you have any reason to believe I’m a hoarder or anything. I’M NOT!) (Note 2: I realize now that the story isn’t that funny, but it seemed consequential to me; the chicken is a meta-leftover, or a not-yet-formed but somehow leftover leftover. GOD! There’s a reason I wasn’t a philosophy major.)

Enough pseudophilosophizing; here’s the breakdown of our dinner.

First, we cleaned and dried the chicken, and then we quartered an onion and a lemon and stuffed the cavity. We also added some bacon lardons and chopped mushrooms to the roasting pan (mmmmm, lardons!). We cooked the chicken using Mark Bittman’s method: 20 minutes at 500 and a longer time (45 minutes) at 375. This method browns the chicken skin andallows the bird to remain juicy = best of both worlds. Thanks, Mark!

This is Zuni's chicken, but guess what? Ours looked basically identical, right down to the sprigs of rosemary. Oh, yeah: we're that good.

[Image source]

The chicken (spoiler alert) was killer, but do you know what may have been more killer? Our roasted potatoes. Baked at the same time as the bird, these potatoes developed a crisp exterior and maintained their pillowy soft centers. If you’d care to replicate this Dinner of Wonder, you can probably find Bittman’s chicken instructions online (or in, you know, one of his cookbooks), and you can find our potato recipe right freaking here.

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary, Bacon, and Smoked Paprika (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • Six small potatoes, scrubbed and dried
  • A healthy dose of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Maldon salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • Fresh rosemary, chopped to your liking
  • Lardons made from approximately three strips of bacon
  • Three cloves garlic, minced
  • Approximately 3 teaspoons smoked paprika

Method

  1. Chop your potatoes into roughly equal-sized chunks. I say chunks because I like bigger potatoes, but if you prefer doll-sized bites, chop accordingly. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl.
  2. Mince your garlic and chop your rosemary (as much or as little as you please) and bacon. Leave them on your cutting board, for the time being.
  3. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to the potatoes, coating evenly. Then add your garlic, rosemary, and bacon. Incorporate these ingredients well.
  4. Transfer potatoes to a baking dish and sprinkle with smoked paprika. (Sadly, I didn’t witness the actual sprinkling, so I’m not sure how much paprika Alex used, but my guess is 3 tsp.)
  5. Bake potatoes using the same method you use to bake your chicken: 20 minutes at 500, reduce heat to 375, and cook potatoes until they seem done. We let the taters cook for as long as the chicken cooked, and (miraculously) they didn’t burn. But, if you’re worried about such things (burned potatoes), feel free to remove them earlier.

    The secret ingredient.

[Image source]

If you do nothing else this weekend, try these potatoes. I’m a recovering potato hater, and I went back for seconds of this side. As mentioned previously, these spuds have a far better texture than their cousins. In addition, the bacon and paprika gave the dish a smoky flavor that supported the chicken (and the sesame chard: the third element of our dinner trifecta). I’d go so far as to say these were restaurant-grade potatoes — or better. Bold words, for sure, but deservedly bold words. Trust me on this.

***

NOTE: Sadly (and foolishly), I didn’t take any photos of this meal. My reasons are threefold: First, my phone was in the other room and I was just too damn lazy to get it. Second, we didn’t eat until 9:30, at which point the living room was DARK and the photos would have been mighty blurry. Finally, by the time we ate, I was so hungry that Instagram was the last thing on my mind. Sorry, dudes: you’ll have to sate yourself with the Internet Food Porn I’ve scavenged.

Brunch that Will Change Your Life: Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs

No melodrama here: today’s brunch changed my outlook on the meal. That’s saying a lot, given that brunch is already my favorite eating occasion. The seeded toast (heavily buttered), Prather Ranch maple bacon, and steamed purple kale were understandably delightful, but Alex’s Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs have srsly improved my quality of life.

Based on Bittman’s recipe for Fried Eggs with Breadcrumbs, Alex’s dish is easier to prepare for a crowd. Classy enough for guests but simple enough to be made on a whim, these eggs are going to become your favorite brunch (or lunch, or dinner) staple.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Alex’s Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs (Serves 5-6)

Ingredients

  • One loaf of high-quality, stale bread.
  • Seasonings of your choice — flavored salts, Italian seasonings, and fresh-ground pepper are all solid options.
  • Large pat of butter (2-3 tbsp.) and a generous pour of olive oil
  • One package dried porcini mushrooms, soaked
  • Three cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 eggs, beaten with milk and reserved liquid from the mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup finely shredded Manchego cheese

Method

  1. To prepare your breadcrumbs, smash a loaf of stale bread with a rolling pin until you have smallish pieces. To finish off the crumbs, place the bread chunks in a food processor, pulsing until the crumbs are fine.
  2. Transfer breadcrumbs to a large bowl and add your seasonings. We used salt, mixed Italian herbs, and pepper.
  3. In a large skillet, heat your butter and olive oil. Once the butter is mostly melted, add the crumbs to the skillet and coat evenly. Transfer crumbs to the large bowl.
  4. Set the crumbs aside for a minute and prepare your mushrooms: soak the porcinis in hot water until they’ve plumped up. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and chop finely. Sautee mushrooms with finely chopped garlic, and set aside.
  5. Now, for the eggs. Break your eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat them with milk and some of the reserved porcini liquid. Bittman recommends two teaspoons of milk per egg, but we substituted mushroom juice for some of the milk. Add salt and pepper as you beat the eggs.
  6. In another large skillet (possibly one in which bacon has been cooked), begin to scramble your eggs. Add the chopped porcinis, garlic, and Manchego.
  7. Serve the eggs topped with breadcrumbs and additional cheese, as desired. If brunch is being served family style, get your paws on the eggs before anyone to ensure that your portion is adequate. Resist the temptation to eat leftover breadcrumbs with a spoon.

Scenes from a Weekend

Lots of  food-y (and foodless) goings on this weekend. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera for many of them. The biggest event of the weekend, Pre-T Dinner, was held outside, in the late evening, on a not-so-well lit patio. Noting the absence of external lights, I didn’t even fiddle with my iPhone.

Pre-T stands for Pre-Thanksgiving, and may I just say, Wow, what a spread. Omid deep fried the turkeys, and though I wasn’t able to snag any meat, I did try a bit of the skin. Full disclosure: Alex cajoled me to try the skin, and I am very glad I did. It had a texture similar to jerky (not-quite-jerkified jerky) and a taste like buttery heaven.

A. & I brought two dishes to Pre-T — well, three. We made two Tortillas, which turned out beautifully: potatoey, symmetric, and just golden brown. In the buffet line, I heard murmurs of “Is that Tortilla? Who made Tortilla?” And I experienced swells of pride, even though I had nothing to do with the slicing of vegetables.

Joey and Pat’s Italian Bakery & Cafe, a quick two blocks from my house, opened last week. The few times I’ve walked past, I’ve given a curious eye to the pastry trays: croissants sprinkled with delicate almonds, crumb cakes, danishes. On a whim, I picked up a pound of assorted cookies to bring to Pre-T. The woman who took my order (Pat, is that you?) was supremely friendly; we talked bus routes and intersections. The cookies were dynamite; I say this because I ate six or seven yesterday, the turkey having been devoured before I could get to it. The Mexican wedding cookies had a beautiful crumb, teetering between crumbly and sticky. Soft & almondy biscotti, sugar-encrusted rugelach, sugar cookies dashed with candy-colored sprinkles. Oh, yes: I’ll be back. Saturday afternoon, pre-Pre-T, Alex and I strolled through the Ferry Building Farmers Market. I could not resist the grapes, purple-black and dusted with yeast, or the dinosaur kale. A. & I each got a bunch of organic carrots, knobbier than their city cousins, and shorter. They’re built like peasants. I can’t wait to try them in tomorrow’s dinner.

We stopped by Prather Ranch, where Stu was working. Bought some bacon from Stu (because Prather Ranch’s bacon is BEYOND ALL OTHER BACONS) and learned about the shop’s heritage turkeys, raised by one Frank Reese. “Frank saved heritage turkeys from extinction,” Stu told us, leaning against the bacon cooler. “It’s a great story — too long for Saturday afternoon at the Ferry Building, but there was a great piece on NPR about it.”

And so there was: the story is here, if you care to listen to it.Though muesli has reigned supreme for months as my top breakfast choice, peanut butter toast is gaining favor. Saturday morning, when I woke up after the deepest, most prehistoric sleep, I made two slices, to which I added cinnamon. Cinnamon sugar would have been better, but cinnamon was good. I find myself lately making my coffee a little too strong — on purpose, though. I’ve gotten my milk-to-coffee ratio down pat. Strong coffee with more milk tastes better than moderate coffee with moderate milk. Extremes in all circumstances, as they say.

Brunchday

I thought of writing about brunch when I wrote about the Persimmon Pasta of Heaven, but that would have been a misstep: brunch deserves a post all its own.

As I mentioned, Alex & I picked up some charcuterie; I did not mention what we bought (namely, Jamon Iberico and Lomo, pictured above). For reasons of aesthetics and taste, I prefer the Jamon, its deep pink striped with creamy fat. The lomo, though, sliced to translucence, reminded me of stained glass; in the photograph it makes little Venn diagrams of meat. I’m getting dreamy here, but don’t fault me — wouldn’t you feel the same in the presence of such beautiful meats?

***

We woke late on Saturday, having stayed up ’til the wee hours hanging out and snacking: on leftover pasta, bread cuttings, and cardamom ice cream (Three Twins) with cookies crumbled right into the carton. I’ve never done that — added cookies right into the ice cream — and it was novel in a way that much of my snacking isn’t.

All this is to say that, on Sunday, when we did wake up, we woke late. Launched into a cleaning frenzy, wiping all the surfaces and hiding the jars of bacon grease. (Note: how does one dispose of all that grease?) While I made the waffles, Alex made a strawberry-persimmon compote. His plan was to inject the waffles with said compote, which, though an admirable idea, didn’t pan out — the waffles were too thin.

Slender waffles aside, brunch was a roaring success. On the menu were the waffles (made using the Joy of Cooking recipe) + compote and fresh whipped cream; stacks of smoky bacon and the aforementioned charcuterie; truffle-topped goat cheese and triple-cream brie; banana-nut muffins, made by NDW himself, and pastries Nathan brought from the Marina farmers market; beautiful, late-season strawberries; and coffee and mimosas, of course. Brunch without mimosas is a semblance of its namesake. Brunching at home has many perks: you can sleep later; you can avoid the lines of Ritual-fueled hipsters; you can choose exactly what you want to eat in exactly what quantities. Most importantly, perhaps, you can linger over your meal for as long as you’d like without fear of being rushed. We sat down to brunch around noon, and when we pushed ourselves from the table it was well past two. Mildly sleepy and fully sated, I’d had the chance to really savor my meal and the time with my friends. I was ready for the day.