Chicken Agrodolce

Chicken Agrodolce

Chicken Agrodolce is a Sicilian dish. Agrodolce means sweet and sour. It would normally be served as a main course after pasta. You can use leg and thigh if you like.
Chicken AgrodolceIngredients:
  • 4 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs – about 3 -4 lbs.
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Flour for dredging
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup Italian trinity
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 2 bs. white-wine vinegar (or more according to your taste)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp. capers, rinsed
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
Pat the chicken dry, season with salt and pepper, and dredge lightly in the flour, shaking off any excess. Heat a large pot fitted with a lid over medium-high heat and add the 1/3 cup olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces (in batches, if necessary), browning them very well on both sides. When browned, remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Pour off all but about 3 tbsp.. of the fat from the pan.

Chicken AgrodolceLower the heat to medium low and add the trinity, (onion, celery, carrot). Sauté until it’s soft, about 6 or 7 minutes. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan and cook for about 1 minute. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them over in the vegetables once or twice to coat them. Increase the heat to medium and add the wine, letting it boil until almost evaporated. Add the chicken stock and bay leaf, cover the pan, and simmer on low heat until the chicken is just about tender, 30 to 35 minutes, turning the pieces once or twice during cooking.

Add the raisins, walnuts, and capers and simmer for about 5 minutes. If the sauce looks too dry, add some chicken stock or water. Taste for seasoning and a balance between sweet and sour. Add more salt, pepper, a splash of vinegar, or a pinch of sugar to balance the flavors.

Chicken Agrodolce

Arrange the chicken on a large serving platter. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the chopped mint.

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Crab Sauce

Crab Sauce

I got this recipe from an old friend. I personally think crabs are a lot of trouble to eat. It seems to me that it’s too much work cracking those shells for just a tiny bit of meat. Nevertheless, they make a delicious crab sauce.

(You can have your fish market clean the crabs or you can do it yourself.)

Crab Sauce

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic sliced
  • Salt, black, and red pepper
  • 6 crabs
  • 2 – 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound spaghetti or linguine

Slowly simmer the garlic in the oil in a pot on low eat or until it begins to color. Discard the garlic and season the oil with salt, black and red pepper. Add the crabs (broken in half) and toss in the oil for 8 minutes.

Crab Sauce

Crab Sauce


Add the crushed tomatoes and 1 tomato can full of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Crab Sauce

Cook the pasta al dente, add the sauce and crabs and serve.

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A New York Christmas Story

A New York Christmas Story

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and I was feeling very content. Our shopping was finished, my wife and I just had coffee and homemade cookies with some neighbors, and we were planning to go to a big Christmas Eve family dinner the next day. I expected work to be light on the twenty-fourth, and we might even get to go home early. Yes, I was pretty content when I went to bed.

My department cell phone rang a little after three AM. It was Carol, the night shift Watch Commander at the Office of Emergency Management.

Always polite, she said, “Sorry to wake you, but we’ve got a bad one.”

As the person in charge of emergency operations, I got the call whenever the Department of Buildings was needed at an incident. I coordinated our response and managed our activity at the site, either by phone or going to the location.

“There was a gas explosion in a small multi-family house in Brooklyn, and there may be survivors in the rubble. FD is requesting structural advice on how to go through the wreckage.”

I got the rest of the details and immediately called the engineer-on-duty to give him this information. Since he lived in the Bronx, I was concerned about how long it would take him to get to the Brooklyn site. After hanging up, I called Debra, another Department engineer who lived a few blocks from me on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. I gave her the essential information and said I’d pick her up in twenty minutes. She didn’t usually go into the field and never in the middle of the night. Realizing lives could be at stake, she immediately agreed.

When I arrived at her building, Debra was waiting for me in work shoes, jeans, field jacket, and hard hat. She was ready to get to work. I drove an emergency response vehicle, so with lights and sirens at that time of night, we quickly got to Brooklyn.

The Fire Department incident commander filled us in when we arrived. “It was a new three-family house, and only one family had moved in: two adults, one child. We haven’t had any signs of fatalities or survivors.” It wasn’t entirely negative news if we were still talking about survivors.

A verbal emergency declaration had been issued for a City contractor to come to the scene with heavy equipment. When the paperwork was done, it would say, “sift and remove debris.” “Sift” being a sensitive euphemism for “look for bodies.”

The equipment was on site with an expert operator waiting for instructions on how to proceed. The atmosphere was somber. We were standing beside a heap of rubble and felt we might be looking at a young family’s grave. Under the glare of floodlights, Debra and I climbed onto the pile around the almost completely collapsed building. She looked for structural clues for its safe removal. I watched her back since, although an excellent engineer, she wasn’t familiar with collapse sites. I’d been to incidents like this many times, but I was still a little rattled getting around the debris. We naturally expect walls to be vertical, so the whole world seems out of kilter when you’re walking on one as though it was a floor, and its windows are facing skyward. Debra and I might have been moving too quickly and looked unsteady to the Chief. He scolded us, “Watch where you step. I don’t want to have to carry anybody else out of this rubble.”

Debra made her assessment and gave instructions to the grappler operator. He was good at what he did, and we all had faith in him. A grappler is a powerful piece of mobile equipment designed to be used very delicately. With Debra near the grappler and watching from a different angle, she and the operator had a running conversation on how to go forward with the debris removal. He started gently removing debris from the top of the pile and then meticulously peeling away sections of walls and flooring. It was slow-going, but after a time, we saw progress. Then we noticed there was only structural debris and no personal belongings, no furniture, no food or utensils in the kitchen, and no clothing in the closets. We were all dreading the discovery of the first body but now began to have some hope that there were no occupants in the building when it exploded. At about this time, the police had finally made contact with the property owner who confirmed this. Although a family rented an apartment, they had postponed moving in until after Christmas. The building was vacant, and there would be no casualties.

The good news quickly got around, and the dreary pall lifted from the scene. The sun was starting to rise, and the mood turned festive. A Red Cross truck at the site was serving coffee and protein bars to the responders, and it began to seem like a Christmas party. I thought of the last scene of It’s a Wonderful Life. We all went home feeling as good as Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

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Sausage with Potatoes and Peppers

Sausage with Potatoes and Peppers

Sausage with Potatoes and Peppers is a simple one pan recipe with easily available ingredients. It’s a typical home cooked Italian diner.  

Sausage with Potatoes and Peppers
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. thin skinned potatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 each red & green bell pepper
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • salt and black pepper
  • 5 or 6 Italian sausages cut into thirds
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
Preheat your oven to 425o.
Sausage with Potatoes and PeppersCut the potatoes, onions, and bell peppers into bit sized pieces. Place them in a bowl with the oil, thyme and salt and pepper. Toss and coat

Sausage with Potatoes and PeppersPut the vegetables to a large roasting pan and spread evenly across the bottom. Place the sausage in the same bowl that the vegetables were in and shake to coat with any remaining olive oil and thyme. Place the sausage directly on top of the vegetables in the roasting pan.

Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss the sausage and vegetables in the cooking juices. Add the wine to the baking pan and return the pan to the oven. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until sausages are fully cooked and the potatoes are tender.
Sausage with Potatoes and Peppers

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Horse Radish Infused Vodka

Horse Radish Infused VodkaHorse Radish Infused Vodka

We had dinner at the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant on 2nd Avenue.  As usual the food, service and Ukrainian beer were great. I saw something on the menu I’d never noticed before – Horse Radish Infused Vodka. Served chilled and straight in a shot glass with a pickle garnish, it was cold and crisp and just a great opener for the meal we had. If you want to try this and can’t get to the East Village, you’re going to need fresh horse radish root. 

Horse Radish Infused Vodka

Just two simple ingredients – vodka and fresh horse radish.


Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate enough horse radish to fill 1/4 cup.Horse Radish Infused Vodka


Horse Radish Infused Vodka

Add the grated horse radish to a liter of vodka and store for 48 hours. Taste it and if it isn’t strong enough give it another 24 hours. Strain out the horse radish and serve very cold.


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Mustard Fried Pork Chops

Mustard Fried Pork Chops

Mustard Fried Pork Chops are a Southern dish. There are no eggs in this breading. You can vary the spices according to your taste but be sure to use thin pork chops and yellow mustard.
Mustard Fried Pork ChopsIngredients:
  • 2 thin cut pork chops
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ tsp. Cajun Spice
  • ½ tsp. paprika (hot or sweet)
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard
  • ½ cup flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying
Mustard Fried Pork ChopsMustard Fried Pork ChopsSeason the chops with the spices, coat with mustard and dredge in flour. Let them sit for 30 minutes. Cook until the crust is golden brown either by pan frying or deep frying.
Mustard Fried Pork Chops

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Roasted Poblano Pasta

Roasted Poblano Pasta

This recipe is adapted from Gretchen McKay | The Seattle Times.  She calls Roasted Poblano Pasta a “an Italian-meets-Mexican fusion dish,” and I agree. 
Roasted Poblano Pasta
Ingredients:
  • 5 poblano peppers
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, or more to taste
  • 12 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • ½ cup packed parsley
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • Pinch or two crushed red pepper flakes optional
Char poblano peppers on all sides over a gas flame until skin is blistered evenly all around. (If you don’t have a gas stove, char them under the broiler.) Once all of the peppers are roasted, place in plastic bag and let them sit for 5 minutes. This helps loosen the skin to make them easier to peel. When they’re cool to touch, rub the charred skin off with the back side of a knife blade. Remove stem and seeds.

Roasted Poblano Pasta

Roasted Poblano PastaWhile the peppers are sweating, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until just shy of al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about ½ to 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. Set aside.
While pasta is cooking, add 3 peppers, parsley, cumin, garlic, chicken stock and ½ cup heavy cream to a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Slice 2 remaining peppers into thin strips.
Once drained, add the poblano cream sauce to the pasta, along with the remaining heavy cream, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes. Sometimes poblanos can be very hot, so taste before adding any more pepper. Taste and add more salt or cumin, if desired. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until slightly thickened and the pasta absorbs some sauce, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the sliced peppers and cook until pasta has absorbed sauce. Stir to combine and give one final taste to see if you need more salt and/or pepper.Roasted Poblano Pasta

 

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Chicken with Apricots and Carrots

Chicken with Apricots and Carrots

Chicken with Apricots and Carrot is an interesting recipe from Eric Kin in the New York Times. You’ll notice it’s made without any additional cooking oil. The mayo in the marinade supplies enough oil. In place of the paprika you can use chili powder.
Chicken with Apricots and Carrot
Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup apricot preserves
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp mild paprika
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ cup dried apricots (about 3½ ounces)
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs and legs
  • 3 to 4 medium carrots, thinly sliced into coins (about 1 pound)
  • Parsley for topping
In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken, whisk together the apricot preserves, mayonnaise, lemon juice, fish sauce, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper until smooth. Tear each dried apricot in half at its seams, so each apricot becomes 2 flatter pieces. Add the apricots and chicken to the bowl; toss to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.Chicken with Apricots and Carrot

Heat the oven to 425o with a rack set in the center position. Line a sheet pan with parchment.

Chicken with Apricots and CarrotAdd the carrots to the chicken mixture and toss to evenly coat. Spread the chicken and carrot mixture in a single layer on the sheet pan. Roast, rotating the pan halfway through, until the chicken is light brown, and the carrots begin to shrivel, 20 to 25 minutes. Top with fresh herbs and serve with rice.Chicken with Apricots and Carrot

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Pasta with Eggplant and Breadcrumbs

Pasta with Eggplant and Breadcrumbs

Here’s another recipe adapted from Melissa Clark at the New York Times, Pasta with Eggplant and Breadcrumbs. She never lets me down. I used Progresso Plain Breadcrumbs for this dish and Melissa made her own. Make them is you have time.
Ingredients:
  • 2 large eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
  • Salt, black, and red pepper
  • ½ pound short pasta, such as shells or orecchiette
  • ½ cup olive oil plus as much as needed to fry the eggplant, plus more for drizzling
  • 12 anchovies, coarsely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, 3 grated or finely minced, 5 thinly sliced
  • 1 cup plain Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 cup torn parsley
  • Juice of ½ lemon

Pasta with Eggplant and Breadcrumbs

Place the cut eggplant on some paper towels and sprinkle all over with salt. Wait 15 minutes and blot the moisture.
Start a pot of salted water for the pasta.
Heat ¼ cup of oil in a large pan. Add about a quarter of the chopped anchovies and all of the grated garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Stir in breadcrumbs and sauté until well blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with black pepper and salt. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.
Wipe out skillet and add ¼ cup olive oil and put it back over medium-high heat until oil thins out in the pan. Add enough eggplant to fit in one layer without overlapping. Without moving them around too much, cook eggplant until brown on one side, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir and let them cook on the other side until browned and thoroughly soft, 3 to 7 minutes more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggplant to a large bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding more oil to the pan as needed.Pasta with Eggplant and Breadcrumbs
Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and stir in remaining anchovies, the sliced garlic and red-pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat and don’t let the garlic turn brown.
Stir in tomatoes and capers. Cook until tomatoes just begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggplant, pasta and ¼ cup pasta water. Toss well, adding more pasta water if it looks dry.
Stir in the parsley. Squeeze half a lemon all over the pasta and toss. Taste and add more red-pepper flakes, salt or lemon juice to taste. Generously sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of pasta and serve.

Pasta with Eggplant and Breadcrumbs

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Cubanelles

Cubanelles

Generally known as Cubanelles, some people refer to them Italian green peppers and my mother called them “frying peppers.” They’re easy to prepare and are good as a side dish, with fried eggs, and cold or room temperature in an antipasto or in a sandwich.

Cut the stem end off the peppers and remove the core and seeds. Slice them in half or quarters lengthwise.
Heat the oil and add the two crushed garlic cloves. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the garlic starts to brown.
Discard the garlic and place the sliced peppers in the pan. Weigh them down to flatten them. You can use a dish and tomato can (or whatever weight you like) and fry for a few minutes on each side.
When they’re done, place them in a container layered with the sliced garlic clove. Add a little extra oil if it’s to dry.  It’s good to let them marinate in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

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