Risotto with Dried Porcini Mushrooms


Several years back, I posted a recipe for “Farroto.” Where has the time gone?   Back in 2014, I was very smitten with the ancient grain of farro, and substituted it in rice dishes whenever I could. I loved the crunch of it and the nutty flavor. However, recently I’ve had the desire to return to the pure, light texture of Arborio rice.   This is what the Italian cooking god intended, and perhaps she was correct.

Risotto is a northern Italian rice dish, cooked in a broth to a creamy consistency. You can keep it as simple as just adding saffron, butter and grated parmesan cheese, or you can add any vegetable of choice or seafood or even meat. It is as versatile as pasta. Anything goes well with it.

When my sister gave me this cookbook on risotto, by Judith Barett and Norma Wasserman many decades ago, it opened up a whole new world of Italian cooking to us. Arborio rice was difficult to find in New Jersey supermarkets in the 1980s and 90s, but you could always count on New York City to find most imported products. You can find it anywhere now.

While rice was often a side dish in our family growing up, my mom would sometimes make it as a “make-shift” risotto, adding peas, sautéed in olive oil with bacon and onions, to Uncle Ben’s rice. As my memory serves me, it was indeed delicious, but of course, as these simple dishes hit the mainstream, the recipes became more complicated and professional.

All of a sudden, “risotto” dishes were on the menu in every high-end Manhattan Italian restaurant, the most famous dish being “Risotto all Milanese,” a descendent of Spanish Paella. The saffron came to Italy from Spain as early as 1535. Once we had this cookbook in our hands, we went on a “risotto kick” in our kitchens, making risotto every way possible. It’s so simple (and somewhat time consuming) once you embrace the four simple steps necessary in every risotto: 1. Condimenti; 2. Brodo; 3. Soffitto; 4. Riso. I’ll explain once we get to the recipe.

All this being said, please give my recipe for “farroto” a try. Just go to the blog archives. It is absolutely delicious, even if not in the pure form intended.


Condimenti:  3/4 ounce package dried porcini

1 TBSP unsalted butter

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 to 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley

Brodo:              4 to 5 cups broth of choice…vegetable, chicken, beef….even veal

1 cup porcini liquid, strained

1/2 cup dry white wine

Soffritto:        2 TBSP unsalted butter

1 to 2 TBSP olive oil

1/3 cup finely minced onion

Riso:                 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice


  1. Condimenti: (this is the vegetable of choice).   Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl with 1 cup boiling water.  Allow them to stand for 30 minutes.  Strain the liquid and put into a saucepan.  Coarsely chop the mushrooms and set aside. * You wouldn’t soak any other vegetable, only dried mushroom.
  2. Brodo:  Put the broth in the pan with the porcini liquid and bring to a steady simmer own top of the stove.  I used beef broth here, but any broth will be fine.
  3. Soffritto:  Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4 quart pot, and add the onion.  Cook until onion begins to soften, being careful not to brown.
  4. Riso:  Add the rice and stir, coating all the grains.  Add the wine and cook (stirring)  until most of the liquid has cooked off.  Addd the chopped porcini and begin adding the broth mixture, a ladle at a time, stirring in the liquid each time, before adding the next ladleful.  After 15 to 20 minutes, the rice should be al dente, but the right consistency to eat.  All the broth should be used.   Taste and adjust seasoning.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, parsley  and Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.
  5. To serve, spoon into bowls, shave some Parmesan on top and grated parmesan on the side for those who want it.





Chocolate Bottom Coconut Macaroons


Well, I spoke too soon! All it took was being snowed in on one Saturday afternoon, and I desperately needed something sweet.   Why did I give away all those Holiday treats? I looked everywhere in my kitchen, hoping against hope that I’d find something that I’d hidden in an attempt to put it “out of sight, out of mind.” Nothing!! I’d done a very thorough job of my sugar cleanup. Darn!

So in desperation, I started rummaging through my cookie and cake recipes. It’s only natural to want to bake when the snow is falling outside, right? My guilt was diminishing, and in a matter of minutes, I found the recipe that was going to satisfy my desire. Chocolate bottom macaroons.  I looked over the ingredients, and knew I had everything I needed in the pantry. I also convinced myself that this was a healthy treat. After all, isn’t coconut the new avocado?   It’s touted as a “healthy fat.” These cookies would be delicious and healthy.

My love affair with coconut began long ago when I was 8 years old. My first bite into a coconut macaroon was at a Passover dinner I’d been invited to at a girlfriend’s house. I’ll never forget that very sweet, chewy texture that, at the time, was foreign to me. This love of coconut only grew over time with Almond Joys, Mounds bars, and Toasted Coconut Good Humor ice cream bars. Many years later, I carried this love affair over to the Pina Colada. Oh and I can’t forget coconut cream pie! I’ve tried to keep this passion for coconut under control, for as you can see, it’s a very caloric obsession.

I decided to try to alter this cookie recipe a bit in an effort to try to reduce the sugar, and perhaps make it a bit healthier. It is the New Year after all, and I did make some resolutions. I didn’t want to throw all caution to the wind. What if I used half unsweetened coconut instead of all sweetened? Surely this would cut down on the sugar. Actually, sweetened coconut doesn’t have much added sugar anyway, but what the heck, I’ll make these even better for you.   I used dark chocolate, just to make it even healthier.

I felt good about this treat, and I felt even better once I bit into one. These cookies are absolutely delicious, somewhat healthy (whom I kidding?) and taste like a Mounds bar! Honest! Oh, and they’re gluten free.

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!



1 (14 ounce) bag of shredded sweetened coconut OR 7 ounces sweetened and 7 ounces unsweetened, OR any ration of sweetened to unsweetened that you desire.

1 cup coconut milk (not lite), stirred well

1 TBSP flour or gluten free flour blend of choice

1 TBSP pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. of salt

2 large egg whites

pinch of cream of tartar

2 TBSP sugar or 1 TBSP Stevia

Chocolate Coating:

12 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate.  You can use dark or milk chocolate, and you can use chips.

1 TBSP canola oil


  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine coconut, coconut milk, flour, vanilla and salt.
  3. In a very clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed until cream of tartar dissolves and mixture is foamy.  Increase mixer speed to medium-high and continue to whisk until soft peaks form.  Slowly add sugar and continue to whisk until sugar is dissolved, at least 1 minute.
  4. With a clean rubber spatular, gently fold half the egg whites into the coconut mixture.  Then fold in the remaining egg whites.
  5. Using a 1/4 cup scoop (or a heaping Tablespoon), drop mounds of batter onto prepared baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart.
  6. Place in preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until bottoms are light brown and tips of coconut shreds on top are lightly toasted.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool completely before removing from baking sheet.
  8. To make chocolate coating, heat chocolate and oil in a double boiler until melted and smooth.  OR melt chocolate and oil in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring each time.  Set microwave at 50 percent power.
  9. Dip bottoms of cooled macaroons in melted chocolate.  Place on parchment paper to let chocolate dry.macaroons-ingredientsmacaroons-coconut-mixturemacaroons-egg-whitesmacaroons-pan1macaroons-pan-2-bakedmacaroons-bakedmacaroons-chocolatemacaroons-dipped-1mcaroons-dipped-2macaroons-close-upmacaroons-plate










Acini di Pepe (tiny pasta) with Eggs


After weeks and weeks of rich, high fat, sugary foods, my stomach called out to me for some simple, wholesome nourishment. After weeks of complicated “holiday” recipes that took hours to make, and never look like the picture anyway, I desperately desired some “simple” food.   And the simpler, the better!

I found myself alone in my kitchen recently (shocking), and I didn’t know what I wanted to eat for lunch. I was absolutely sick of all the Holiday treats. My stomach was on shut down. I was officially bored with food. Yet there was a hunger brewing, but not for anything that I saw in my kitchen. I had so much leftover food, but I was so over it all.

Then I opened the pantry door, and there it was. A bag of acini di pepe (Italian for grains of pepper) was staring me right in the face. I knew immediately that I needed to make myself a gigantic bowl of acni di pepe with eggs, butter, milk and grated cheese. You can’t get more basic than that! Four wholesome ingredients, mixed with a tiny pasta, and heaven awaits. I went from wondering if I’d ever want to eat again, to ravenously hungry. I put up a pot of boiling salted water, and began my two minute preparation. Beat some eggs and milk together; add grated cheese and some pepper and you’re ready to start tasting the pasta every minute or so, to see if it’s done! I couldn’t wait. I was salivating just remembering the velvety texture of this tasty dish from my childhood. Like so many Italian dishes, I think this one must have begun when a mother or grandmother was at a loss for what to make. So she boiled some tiny pasta and grabbed whatever was in the ice box or refrigerator. There was always milk, eggs and Italian cheese.  I did the same for my children, and now for my grandchildren.   We never lose our love for this dish, even as adults. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and warm your belly.   Now this is what I call “Holiday Food.”

Happy New Year!


1/4 pound acini di pepe pasta or pastina

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup grated Italian cheese (I like to use Parmigiano)

1 TBSP butter

Freshly ground pepper to taste

  1.  Boil pasta in salted water.
  2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a small bowl.  Add the milk and grated cheese.  Stir together.
  3. Drain the pasta and return to the pot with the butter.  Stir to coat the pasta.
  4. Turn the heat back on to low and add the egg mixture, stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed and pulls away from the pot.  The more you make this dish, you’ll learn what consistency suits you the best.  You might like it moister, or perhaps more on the dry side.  It’s a very personal choice.
  5. Once you plate it, you can add more cheese and a fresh grind of pepperpepe-ingredienttspepe-pastapepe-eggspepe-drainedpepe-pan-1pepe-pan-2pepe-pan-3pepe-pan-5pepe-platedpepe-close-uppepe-plated






Stracciatella Soup…not just for babies


When my children were babies, this soup was a staple. I’d open a can of College Inn Chicken Broth (or my mom would give me homemade), and I’d boil pastina and tiny cut up carrots in the broth.   Then I’d add the beaten eggs and grated Parmesan cheese, and all was right with the world. My babies were happy as could be, slurping up every last drop, and I felt happy that I had served them a very nutritious meal. Sometimes I’d add baby peas or tiny pieces of cut up cooked chicken. Invariably they’d pick out the chicken, but I was still happy that they were getting protein from the eggs. I can still see their smiling faces, dripping with the broth and pastina everywhere. This is perhaps one of my happiest “kitchen memories,” and can bring tears to my eyes just remembering their smiling, content faces. There’s nothing sweeter. Not only was this a staple in my house, but most Italian American homes always made this for their young children. One of my fondest memories of my maternal grandmother was watching her vigorously beat the eggs with a fork before gently stirring it into the broth. My maternal grandmother didn’t cook much, but she could beat an egg like nobody’s business.

Over the years, as with everything else, this has evolved into much more. Stracciatella soup isn’t just for babies anymore. We all can enjoy it, no matter what age.   I’m a big fan of adding all sorts of vegetables to this basic recipe to create an extremely healthy soup. I found this particular recipe in Food and Wine Magazine many years ago, and thought it was fabulous. You can use just about any vegetable you like.  I added shitake mushrooms, which are very good for the immune system. Literally, I would add shitake mushrooms to ice cream if I could. I love them and eat them several times a week to ward off infections.

Whether you’re cooking for babies or adults, this will be a very big hit. It’s absolutely delicious, and soothes the soul. The very best part is that it couldn’t be easier. Just open up that can of broth (or use homemade)…add some vegetables and tiny pasta (if you like)…beat in the eggs and parmesan cheese, and you will be soo happy!!!

RECIPE:  serves 4

6 to 7  cups chicken broth

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 large carrot, finely shredded

2 celery ribs, cut into matchsticks

1/2 pound baby spinach, shredded

8 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms (optional)

3 TBSP minced parsley

4 TBSP grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

3 large eggs, beaten

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pastina, optional

  1.  In a large saucepan or soup pot, combine the stock and garlic and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the carrots, celery and mushrooms if using.  Cover and cook over moderately high heat until the celery is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach, and the parmesan cheese and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4.   Beat the egg in a bowl and then pour slowly into the soup.  Cook over moderately low heat for 30 seconds, gently stirring with a fork until threads appear.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

NOTE:  You can cook a small pasta, such as pastina or ditalini, on the side and add just before adding the beaten egg.




Grilled Swordfish with Mint and Balsamic

swordfish plated**.jpg
This is a favorite summertime, grilled recipe that I have also adapted to indoor cooking because I needed to enjoy this wonderful dish all year round. I have to admit that it is best when the fish is lightly charred from the grill, but this marinade can transform a broiled piece of fish in minutes. As I have admitted before, as long as we can shovel a path to our outdoor gas grill, we are outside with coats and hats on, grilling. But when we can’t, I have successfully broiled the swordfish, and it is still a fabulous meal. While we still have some beautiful weather, why not give this a try on the grill, but I feel quite certain that you’ll also want to enjoy it all year long.

This recipe for “pesce spade alla menta e balsamico” comes out of Biba Caggiano’s cookbook, “Trattoria Cooking.” Biba Caggiano rose to fame in the 1990s as an Italian cookbook author, cooking show host and restaurateur.   My sister gave me this cookbook as she was a fan of Biba’s and had already tried many of the recipes in the book. I have tried so many over the years, and they are indeed all delicious and simple.   However, the one that we (my sister and I) constantly go back to, is this swordfish recipe. Whether it’s the light second dish, after a plate of pasta, or standing on it’s own with a vegetable and salad, it’s just perfect, time after time. When I pull this book off my shelf, it automatically opens to this page. The binding is actually broken at this page…..that’s how many times I’ve made this recipe. The pages are stained, which oddly makes me very happy.    It reminds me that this “pesce spade” dish has been enjoyed by many friends and family members, and I’m sure it will be enjoyed by many more to come.

Buon Apetito!

RECIPE:  serves 4

2 pounds of swordfish…can be 4 steaks at half pound each, or 2 larger steaks

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

7 fresh mint leaves, shredded

salt to taste

1 clove garlic, finely minced…..(I use 2 cloves)

  1.  Preheat the grill well ahead of time….preheat broiler as well.
  2. Brush the fish with a bit of olive oil and place it on the hot grill.
  3. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, of course depending on thickness of steaks.
  4. While the fish is cooking, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the balsamic vinegar and mint and season with a bit of salt.  Cook just long enough to heat up the sauce.
  5. Just before removing the sauce from the heat, stir in the garlic.
  6. Place the grilled fish on serving plates, and spoon the warm sauce over.  Serve at once.


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Fusilli with Collards (the forgotten pasta)

collards plated **

I recently was looking through my folder of pasta recipes that I’ve collected over the years, and I came across this beautifully handwritten recipe for fusilli with collard greens.   As usual, the memoires started flooding back to me. My (non- Italian) friend brought this to me one day in 1990, and said, “I made this last night, and I KNOW you’re going to love it. It’s fabulous! ” She was so excited about it. I remember being somewhat skeptical, but appreciated the time she took to write this out so beautifully for me. Collard greens and pasta? This seemed like a very unlikely combination, but I trusted her.   I thought about filing it away for some time in the future, but she was so anxious that I make this recipe, that I knew I’d better do so immediately, for the sake of our friendship. Well, not really. Our friendship was indeed secure, but I was very curious.

I made this dish the very next night, but decided I’d better not tell my family the ingredients. I knew my children would immediately turn up their noses at collard greens. Even as I prepared it, I was still questioning the possibility that this was going to be something we’d like. Surprise…surprise! It was delicious! Everyone loved it, and wanted seconds. We enjoyed it so much that it became a weekly favorite. We couldn’t get enough of it. Then, it stopped. Why? I can’t remember why. It must have been replaced with a new favorite pasta dish.

When I saw it in the folder the other day, it called to me. I had to bring it back, and see if we were still as crazy about it as we were in the 90s. Tastes change.  Would we still find it as delicious as we did then? So I invited both my son and daughter for a dinner down memory lane. They remembered it, and how much they used to love it. They still thought it was absolutely delicious, and questioned how I could have forgotten about this recipe for all these years.

Well it’s now back on the “hit list,” and will be a regular in this household again. I hope it will become a favorite in your household as well.

RECIPE:  serves 4

1 1/2 lbs collards, coarse stems discarded, leaves washed and chopped coarse

1/4 lb sliced bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces4 large garlic cloves, chopped fine

1 large onion, sliced thin

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes ( optional)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lb fusilli

1 1/2 TBP red wine vinegar

freshly grated parmigiano cheese

  1. Boil collards in large pasta pot of water for 10 minutes.
  2. Scoop collards from the pot with a slotted spoon, saving the water in the pot.
  3. In a large skillet, cook the bacon until browned, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a small bowl.
  4. Add 1/2 the olive oil and sauté the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes until the onion is soft and garlic browned.
  5. Cook fusilli in the collard cooking liquid.  Drain well.
  6. To the skillet, add the collards, bacon, remaining oil and vinegar.  Mix well.
  7. Toss with the fusilli, some freshly ground pepper and serve with the parmigiano cheese.collards recipecollards ingredientscollards baconcollards wholecollards in watercollards bacon cookingcollards onion pan2collards cookedcollards platedcollards closeup






Stuffed Squash (Zucchini or Cocuzza?)


At this time of year, you’ll see a plethora of extra large zucchini at your farmer’s market or even in some supermarkets. I’m always happy to see these large, green squash because I immediately think about stuffing them.   It was just about this time of year, many decades ago, when our neighbors, the Sandersons, would visit various farm markets (they were really just small stands by the roadside then,…nothing like today), and brought back what they thought looked good enough to eat. They were always nice enough to purchase some of this produce for our family. When these large zucchini came through our door, I knew my mother would stuff them with Ginny’s (our neighbor and mom’s friend for over 60 years no) delicious recipe. I still use this recipe, even though it has morphed into something a bit more Italian by adding marinara sauce or mozzarella ( why not?), but I make sure at least half of the batch is in its original form, which truly is my favorite way.

Now for the zucchini versus cocuzza question.   I always thought cucuzza was just Italian slang for zucchini, meaning “a useless person”, and pronounced (or mispronounced), “googoots.” While this indeed is true, there now is a hybrid squash called cucuzza, which really means “large squash.”   I wouldn’t have believed this, but last year, one of my husband’s customers dropped off a heavy box of cocuzza (or is the plural cocuzzi?) at our front door. Yes, some people are paid in cash for their services; my husband is paid in cocuzza! Just kidding, but I laughed as I dragged this 20 lbs box through my front door.

I went on a “stuffed squash” frenzy for days. I didn’t want them to go bad and rot. I gave several away, but I must say that the look on peoples’ faces when I arrived at their houses with this gigantic cocuzza in hand, was just a riot.

We have a friend who grows these cocuzza in his backyard garden, and he’s been kind enough to keep me supplied so I can enjoy Ginny’s recipe for stuffed squash as often as possible

 Truth be told, I prefer the taste of the smaller sized, large zucchini anyway, so don’t feel you have to go on a search for cocuzza. But don’t miss the opportunity to make this recipe or you’ll feel like a real “googoots!”


1 big squash

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 lb chopped meat

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated Italian cheese

2 eggs, beaten

salt and pepper to taste

mozzarella,sliced (optional)

marinara sauce (optional)

  1.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise and then again widthwise (into four pieces)
  2. Scoop out the insides and cut into small chunks.
  3. Put the skins in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Sauté the scooped out chunks of zucchini in the olive oil in a large skillet until soft.
  5. Add the chopped meat and brown.
  6. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the egg, breadcrumbs and grated cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Put the squash shells in a pan with a little oil on the bottom.
  8. Stuff each shell with the meat mixture.  If using sauce and mozzarella, top with these.
  9. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.s-squash-wholes-squash-boxs-squash-small




Crab Salad

crab salad plated**

I have another wonderful recipe for you to make with our meaty and delicious Jersey crabs.   I am especially fond of this recipe because not only is light and tasty, but it also brings friends and family together around the table for several hours. It takes time to break open the crabs and dig in for all the juicy meat. It’s a slow process with a tasty reward.   It’s as if life is in slow motion during these precious hours of love and food. We’ve spent many hours at the table doing just this….eating and talking. The stories abound. Memories are created. Taste buds are delighted.

Once again I recommend plenty of napkins or a roll of paper towels right on the table. You’ll be licking your fingers, trying to get every last drop of the lemon and olive oil marinade. I’m salivating as I write this! Don’t forget a bottle (or 2 or 3) of a crisp white wine, and the stories will just get funnier and funnier as the meal goes on. I guarantee a meal to remember. It’s times like these that I cherish.


crabs…allow several per person

5 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

1 cup of chopped parsley

6 or 7 lemons

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

  1.  Catch or buy the crabs….usually your fish store can order them for you.
  2. Clean the crabs or ask you fish store if they will do that for you (I’m sure for a price).
  3. After cleaning the crabs, boil for 3 – 5 minutes until they start to turn pink.
  4. Put the crabs in a bowl and add chopped garlic, chopped parsley and the juice of 4 to 5 lemons.  Add the olive oil and mix to coat well.  Salt and pepper to taste and mix again.
  5.  Cover and refrigerate until cold.
  6. Pour onto platter, pouring every last drop of the juice on top. Add more olive oil and lemons.

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Crab Sauce over Spaghetti

crab sauce plated*

Some of my fondest food memories are from the Jersey Shore. “Down the shore” is where you’ll find some of the best fast food in our country. I’m sure you’re salivating right now just thinking about the sausage and peppers sandwiches, pizza, zeppole, clams on the half, Kohl’s custard…and the list goes on and on. Along with all this boardwalk food, I’m sure that we all have memories of the food cooked by our mom’s, grandma’s and aunts.   The food that we ate, after a hard day of sun and fun, was simply amazing. While we children were playing on the beach, our mom’s and grandma’s were cooking up a storm for their families.   When I reminisce with friends ( you might have to be Italian for this), the dish that always seems to come up as an all time favorite, is crab sauce over pasta. The crabs were right out of the bay, cleaned and made into a sauce that most of us still dream about.

All these decades later, I still dream about this sauce, but I’m lucky enough to have a husband who enjoys catching the crabs, cleaning them, and then turning them into a sauce that will linger with you forever.   It’s hard to get it out of your mind once you’ve had this crab sauce dripping from your mouth and fingers. Half the fun is breaking apart the sauce-covered crabs with your hands, and digging in to get every morsel of crabmeat. We spend hours at the table making memories to last a lifetime.

I’ll show you the entire process, bay to table, but most fish stores ( at least in New Jersey), will order bushels of jersey crabs for you, if you ask.

In the words of Bruce Springsteen, “down the shore everything’s alright,” especially the crab sauce.  Well, he didn’t mention the crab sauce.


  1. Please see recipe for marinara sauce in the “pasta archives.”
  2. Add fresh or dried rosemary to the sauce.
  3. Add as many cleaned crabs as your pot can hold.  Cook for 45 minutes.
  4. Cook spaghetti al dente, drain, and cover in sauce.
  5. Serve crabs on the side.
  6. You’ll need a roll of paper towels on the tablecrab sauce baycrab sauce trapcrab sauce cleaningcrab sauce watercrab sauce strainercrab sauce pot 1crab sauce pot closeupcrab sauce pan 1crab sauce bowlcrab sauce plated*


Mustard Chicken (Nancy’s or Ina’s?)

mustard chicken plated 2**

I was watching an episode of the “Barefoot Contessa” recently, and she was making a chicken dish that looked rather familiar.   The ingredients were reminiscent of a dish that I was first introduced to in the late 1970’s.   When Ina Garten presented the perfectly cooked chicken on a platter, I immediately recognized it. She had made Nancy’s “mustard chicken.” But as only Ina Garten can do, she stepped it up a notch, and added a few different ingredients, and twists and turns to the recipe. Now I’m not saying that she took the recipe from my friend. I’m sure she didn’t, but I think that perhaps she took an old recipe and perfected it.   I couldn’t wait to find my old recipe, and see what exactly the changes were.

I had filed this recipe away ages ago, but after much searching, I did find it. I compared the two recipes and found that they were somewhat different. There were breadcrumbs in both recipes, but of course, Ina made her own seasoned breadcrumb mixture with fancy Japanese panko breadcrumbs, which didn’t even exist in the USA in 1979. We used old reliable Progresso seasoned breadcrumbs. Ina combined the Dijon mustard with white wine. We used any mustard, combined with vinegar. There were a few differences in method as well, but I knew that the taste was probably similar.

This was a favorite dish of mine, so I was eager to try Ina’s recipe and compare. It had to be delicious. She’s the “Barefoot Contessa” after all.   At the very least, I was delighted to resurrect this old recipe. And of course, the memories flooded back to me, and I started remembering all the recipes my friend and I had shared during a very precious time in life……new babies, new friends, new recipes.

Recipe: serves 3 

4 garlic cloves

1 TBSP minced fresh thyme leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups panko bread flakes (crumbs)

1 TBSP grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

2 TBSP good olive oil

2 TBSP unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup Dijon Mustard

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken, cut in eighths

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the garlic, thyme, 2 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper into a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the garlic is finely minced.  Add the panko, lemon zest, olive oil and butter and pulse a few times to moisten the bread flakes. Pour the mixture onto a large plate.
  3. In a shallow bowl, whisk the mustard and wine.
  4. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper.
  5. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat on all sides, and then place skin-side only into the crumb mixture, pressing gently to make the crumbs adhere (and get the sides too).
  6. Place the chicken on a sheet pan, crumb-side up.  Press any remaining crumbs on the  chicken pieces.
  7. Bake the chicken for 40 minutes.  Then raise the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the crumbs are browned and the chicken is cooked through.
  8. Serve hot or at room temperature.

NOTE:  While the chicken is in the oven, I roast some vegetables in the oven as well, so you have a quick, easy meal. Any vegetable will do, but I love to roast small, sweet peppers and asparagus (see archives).

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