Musing with Max

Musing with Max

February 13, 2014

Hunkering down


No, that is not me. To some extent though I wish it was, first off I couldn't possibly get any cuter, and second I would feel right at home and very comfortable right now in my present element.

This is what is visible of my patio furniture,

and the really big boxwood which stands next to the patio,

and my front steps; trust me they are there somewhere. I don't want to look in the direction of my car for fear that I may not see it. I look out and wonder what happened to technicolor since my outside world is all black and white,

although on occasion a hint of color pops in, as in a piece of my neighbor's yellow house

or a glimpse of my purple facade and some hints of wood. But for the most part its mountains of white; blinding bright white. Going out is no fun. First of all it takes a while to put on all the paraphernalia required to venture out in the frigid temperatures, then you have to put on the clunky snow/ice footwear so as not to slip and break your neck on the eight inches of solid ice covering the ground. Which means you have to remember to bring along a bag with your other shoes so you're not stuck wearing the big old clunky icky boots all day long. Some of us have the right idea though,

and figure out how to make the best of it. So we'll just follow suit, hunker down, and cook warm stuff.

Chicken, Potato & Artichoke Cake - adapted from Paula Wolfert
Serves 6

1 pound purple eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Coarse kosher salt
6 skinned and boned chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat, at room temperature
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup rendered duck fat or clarified butter
1 cup finely diced ventrèche or pancetta
1 cup cubed (½ inch) blanched fresh or thawed frozen artichoke bottoms
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup unsalted chicken stock 
3 tablespoon minced fresh chives
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Juice of ½ lemon
Pinch of sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
2 pounds russet potatoes
2 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse sea salt

Sprinkle the eggplant with 1½ tablespoons coarse salt and let stand for at least 2 hours. Rinse the eggplant chunks under running water; squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Do not worry about maintaining the shape; you should have about 1 cup dry clumps of eggplant.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the duck fat or clarified butter in a medium skillet, preferably nonstick, over moderate heat. Add the ventrèche and brown lightly. Raise the heat and, working in batches, add the chicken and sear 30 seconds to a side; transfer to a platter to cool. Then cut each thigh into 6 pieces.

Add the artichokes to the hot skillet and cook, stirring, with the pan juices until just golden around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer the artichokes to a bowl. Pour off the fat. Deglaze the skillet with a little white wine and stock and boil down to a syrupy glaze. Scrape into the bowl with the artichokes. Add the chicken chunks, chives, thyme, and l tablespoon of the lemon juice. Season with l teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and toss lightly to mix. Cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons duck fat in a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Add the eggplant, cover, and cook, turning the clumps from time to time, until they begin to plump up, feel tender, and turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. At this point, reduce the heat to low, add a pinch of sugar, and slowly cook, uncovered, turning the pieces of eggplant often, for 5 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and garlic and continue to cook, turning often, for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the eggplant has a glowing, bronzed, moist appearance. Set aside on paper towels to absorb any excess fat.

Peel the potatoes, halve lengthwise, and cut into long thin slices. Wash well to remove their starch and pat dry with paper towels. In the same skillet used to cook the eggplant, set the olive oil over moderate heat. Working in batches, add the potato slices and cook until just pliable, 2 to 3 minutes.

Arrange a generous third of the potatoes slices, overlapping, in the bottom of a buttered, 9-inch straight-sided cast-iron skillet, copper tart tatin pan, or 6- or 7-cup shallow ovenproof baking dish. Cover with the chicken, pancetta, artichokes, and eggplant. Arrange the remaining potatoes on top and cover with a sheet of foil. Crimp the foil against the edge of the pan to seal tightly.

Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, press the pie down, and continue baking, uncovered, for 30 minutes longer. Brush the top with the remaining duck fat and place under the broiler for a minute or two to brown. Serve in the pan with a sprinkling of sea salt.

Happy Shoveling!

February 2, 2014

Magnificent Obsessions

I am absolutely head over heels obsessed with dishware/china. Just love them. I own eight sets of dishes. Yes, I know, sounds indulgent...and maybe it is but I can't help myself. In my defense though most come from thrift stores and sales so it's not as if I'm spending copious amounts of money on them, that would just be sick. There are the everyday dishes,

shown here with one of Frank's fabulous egg breakfasts. I got these from the Ross-Simmons catalog years ago, it's a service for twelve and was very well priced. I like their lovely Greek motif and that they are white.

Frank gave me the beauties for my birthday one year.

He got them at Pottery Barn, I love them in the Spring time and early Summer when the green starts to show.

These are my "I can't afford Wedgewood but let me fake myself out" dishes. I got them at Conran's at Astor Place in NYC 30 years ago when we were newlyweds.

Here they are holding a Salmorejo soup. I love them, they are probably my favorite. They, however, seem to be quite abundant (which is fine)... a little story. My sister in law's brother who was a soul mate had the same dishes, bought at Conran's somewhere 30 years ago in NYC. When his light was extinguished his mother inherited the dishes, I then gave my brother and sister in law a set when they celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. All together we have 24 place settings. Family reunion anyone?

These I found at a thrift shop near my old house where we also found a whole bunch of fabulous furniture,

they are incredible. Shaped like leaves with a whole bunch of different colors that I have an enormous amount of fun playing with, several serving platters and bowls; they were displayed in an etagere and I asked, "how much?" he said "hm mm, $60.00" I then counted 60 pieces, sold! Perfect for Thanksgiving.

What I call the Summer outdoor dishes, I detest paper plates and paper napkins, so I bought 12 of these for buck a piece and 12 of the smaller ones for the same price

same with the matching wine glasses, how can you go wrong?

These wacky little dishes are from the local thrift/antiques store,

I call them the Amish dishes since they have this adorable farming motif with farmers and milkmaid outfits. We went to go for a look to see what was in store and the minute I saw them I couldn't see anything else. I said no, I have plenty and then we came home. I then said to Frank " I can't stop thinking about them, am I being an idiot? " He looked at me and said "I own 10,000 records" I ran out the door..they were $40.00, set of 6 with cups and soup bowls.

Then there are the dishes we got at the junk shop that was in the next town over owned by the Cuban lady who was closing down, who said if you wrap them they're yours for $30.00. So I used them for one of my other obsessions

for his birthday dinner.

My mother's china.

Don't even get me started on linens.

Oh, one more....

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!