EMOTIONS ARE FUN

Chicken-in-the-pot

Last night when I couldn't sleep I started going through pictures of myself on Facebook, which is narcissistic, but also, I guess it's in the perpetual attempt to try and figure out where I actually am, versus where I actually was, and actually how is it that anyone gets from Point A and arrives at Point NOW? 


I don't know. 

I've been thinking about the past year a lot, because years always seem to sort of roll themselves over in the summertime for me, and also I've been thinking about the future. 

I think I'm supposed to be thinking about my "career" and "the job market" and other imposing, adult, grey-sounding words that make me want to bury my head in the sand. 
Instead though, I just daydream about being home with my little brothers and making chicken-in-the-pot. 


I want to make this chicken every day for a week, because it smells like the actual smell of heaven, and I want to make it with bright sweet potatoes and fat sticks of celery and thin, translucent slices of yellow bell peppers and the rinds of pickled lemons. 

I want to make this more than almost anything else right now, but at the moment, I don't have a kitchen. 


I don't know what I'm supposed to do with all the past selves, that linger on various social media platforms, and I don't know what I'm supposed to do with the future cubicle that real adulthood sometimes appears to be. 
I'm trying to trust that even when I can't fall asleep, everything is still okay. 
I think this is what they call "faith." 
Besides, the future isn't here yet, and the past went. 
So I'm craving chicken-in-the-pot. And for the time being, I can't have it. 
It's okay. 
So I guess I'm here, at Point NOW. 
And really, it ain't so bad. 



Chicken-in-the-Pot Makes 4 servings (but you can multiply the recipe easily)
from cookbook goddess Dorie Greenspan 

Approximately 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 heads of garlic, broken into cloves, but not peeled
16 shallots, peeled and trimmed, or 4 onions, peeled, trimmed and quartered, or 4 leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise
8 carrots, peeled, trimmed and quartered
4 celery stalks, trimmed and quartered
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Grated zest of 1 lemon
16 prunes, optional (apricots or dried apples are also good in this dish)
1 chicken, whole or cut-up
1/2 small (2 lbs or less) cabbage, green or red, cut into 4 wedges (try Savoy cabbage)
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine, or another 1/2 cup chicken broth
About 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, for the seal
About 3/4 cup hot water, for the seal

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Set a large skillet over high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss in the garlic cloves and all the vegetables, EXCEPT the cabbage - you might have to do this in two batches, you don't want to crowd the skillet - season generously with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned on all sides. Spoon the vegetables into a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid - you'll need a pot that holds at least 5 quarts. Stir in the herbs, lemon zest and prunes, if you're using them.

Return the skillet to the heat and add another tablespoon or so of oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown the chicken on all sides. Put the chicken in the casserole, nestling it among the vegetables. Fit the cabbage wedges around the chicken.

Stir together the chicken broth, wine and 1/2 cup olive oil and pour the mixture over the chicken and vegetables.

Now you have a choice: you can cover the pot with a sheet of aluminum foil and the lid, or you can make a paste to seal the lid. To make the paste, stir the flour and water together, mixing until you have a soft, workable dough. Working on a floured surface, shape the dough into a long sausage, then press the sausage onto the rim of the casserole. Press the lid into the dough to seal the pot.

Slide the pot into the oven and bake for 70 minutes. If you need to keep it in the oven a little longer because you're not ready for it, don't worry - turn the heat down to 325 degrees F and you'll be good for another 30 minutes or so.

The easiest way to break the seal, is to wiggle the point of a screwdriver between the dough and the pot - being careful not to stand in the line of the escaping (and wildly aromatic) steam. If the chicken was whole, quarter it and return it to the pot, so that you can serve directly from the pot, or arrange the chicken and vegetables on a serving platter.

Chicken and rice


No one told me how much of life is just saying goodbye. 

Because I was in a plane today, and then on a bus, and somewhere in between the two, I saw the ghost of my face reflected back at me. And I thought. 

My god. 
I'm not a child anymore. 
I'm not a kid.
I'm not a even a teenager. 
I'm somewhere. 
Maybe close to being a woman, but still so, so far. 
(It is a long way, to being a woman.)

And I realized all over again, that my sandbox sand castle days, and the shallow end of the swimming pool, and pretend and not having hips and going to piano lessons with my brother and never doing laundry because my mom did it and dolls and falling in love with books instead of boys and not knowing about things like funerals and pain-- without knowing it, somewhere, I said goodbye. 
And maybe it's because of that very specific goodbye, that I cling so fiercely to second chances. 

Because I have to believe I will see you again. 
Because I have to believe I will come back. 
Because it's too hard otherwise. 
And because, the thought of not eating the chicken and rice I had at this little place in Portugal, the thought of never eating that again completely undoes me. 
To never eat that chicken and rice again would be tragic. 
It would be the worst. 
I cannot handle a reality which does not have a repeat of that chicken and rice. 

So I believe in second chances and third chances and returns and surprise encounters. 
I believe in circularity and the stupid/fun/funny part of life that makes for good stories and plot twists and romance and mystery. 
I have faith in this. 


I'm looking forward now.  
Looking forward towards maybe being a woman someday. Sort of. 
But more than that, I look forward to owning a long, rectangular kitchen table, that maybe I build myself. A kitchen table I build myself, with lots of candles on it. And there are all the people I love, who have come back and second-chance-miracle-surprised me, sitting at this table. 
And then we will eat chicken and rice. 


XOXOXO


Chicken and Rice
From SmittenKitchen.com who adapted from Gourmet 

This my darling, is the recipe I want to make when I get home. 


Chicken
3 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
4 chicken breast halves with bone, halved crosswise
4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs

Rice
3 ounces Spanish chorizo (cured sausage), skin discarded and sausage cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, preferably the hot stuff, plus more to taste
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 lb. tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 12-ounce. bottle beer (not dark)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups long-grain white rice (14 ounces)
1/4 cup drained rinsed bottled pimiento or roasted red pepper strips

Marinate chicken: Mince and mash garlic to a paste with 2 teaspoons salt, then transfer to a large bowl. Stir in vinegar and oregano.

Remove skin and excess fat from chicken, then toss chicken with marinade until coated and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 1 hour.

Cook chicken and rice: – Cook chorizo in olive oil in a 6- to 7-quart heavy pot (12 inches wide) over medium-high heat, stirring, until some fat is rendered, 2 to 3 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, and garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add cumin, oregano, paprika, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Add chicken with marinade to chorizo mixture and cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, 10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, beer, broth, and rice and bring to a boil, making sure rice is submerged. [Deb note: I actually had a really hard time keeping the rice underneaththe chicken so that it would cook evenly. I'd suggest that you use tongs to temporarily remove the chicken from the pot, mix the rice in with the other ingredients in the pot, and then replace the chicken, pressing it into the broth a bit before going onto the next step. I will definitely do this next time.]

Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover mixture directly with a round of parchment or wax paper and cover pot with a tight fitting lid. Cook, stirring once or twice, until rice is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Discard parchment paper and bay leaves, then scatter pimiento strips over rice.

Do ahead: Chicken can be marinated up to 2 hours in advance.


a booklist


When I was fifteen I read a book called, Are You Really Going to Eat That? by Robb Walsh. 
It detailed all the disgusting things the author had eaten and the stories behind them. 
It wasn’t the food, but the stories surrounding the food mesmerized me.
I became obsessed. 
I read cookbooks the way other people read novels. 
I read about the history of barbeque, the art of sushi, the architecture of the perfect loaf of bread. 
I read the food encyclopedia,
The Man Who Ate Everything, cover to cover. 
All five hundred and twenty-eight pages of it. 




My favorite books, however, were the food memoirs, because the lives of the authors wrapped around recipes and meals. 
Eating and love and destiny and history and romance-- in the lives of these magic people-- it was all interconnected and intertwined through food. 
These writers were the kind of people I wanted to know. 
They were all somewhat troubled, and clever, with strange childhoods. 
They had sexy lives-- slick with travel and encounters with famous chefs, rare cheeses, wine, cloud-like pastries, and sensuous lovers that entertained them in between courses. 
However, more than anything, I was fascinated that these magical people lived in pursuit of beauty. That an entire way of life could be structured around the ceaseless pursuit of flavors that lasted just long enough to be remembered and written about. 

And so eating and drinking, became for me, about the story. 

This year is almost over. 
I'm trying to comprehend all the stories, all the meals, all the drinks. 
Maybe it doesn't matter. 
But I can't help it. 
Do you remember? 
I want to say. 
Do you remember? 

Remember the butterscotch budino? 
Remember the time I cried, and he gave me the cookies for free?
Remember when I dropped the bowl of whipped cream?
Remember when we sat in Central Park and I gave you the rest of the pastries? 
Remember the rum, and the beach, and the lobster pasta?
Remember the Halloween samosas at 2am, and you were too drunk and I was too sober and everyone came and sat on the sidewalk, all in costume-- just to eat doughnuts? 
Remember the time I asked for “a pink drink please” and you touched my hand across the table?  
Remember the gelato and cheese and grapes, and rescuing a dog in the rain and I was barefoot? 
I didn't want an entree, but you insisted. 
You ate all the pizza, asshole. 
We only ever ate breakfast tacos. 

Do you remember? 

So it's been a hungry year. 
Very hungry. 
I have been learning that it is impossible to hold too tightly onto people. 
However, it is possible to love the memories and collect the recipes. 
And to remember this bitter and sweet year, with gratitude. 
Because if nothing else, at least we ate. 
And at least I got a story. 

XOXO
mary 


Some Food Memoirs You Might Read If You Are So Inclined 

* My favorites are italicized. 

The Man Who Ate Everything -- Jeffrey Steingarten

Are You Really Going to Eat That? -- Robb Walsh

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food -- Judith Jones

Garlic and Sapphires -- Ruth Riechl 

Comfort Me With Apples -- Ruth Riechl 

How to Cook a Wolf -- MFK Fisher 

A Homemade Life -- Molly Wizenberg 

My Berlin Kitchen -- Luisa Weiss 

Blood, Bones and Butter -- Gabrielle Hamilton 

Toast -- Nigel Slater 

My Life in France -- Julia Child

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen -- Laurie Colwin 

The Sweet Life in Paris -- David Lebovitz

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti -- Giulia Melucci

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating Food in China -- Fushia Dunlop 

Climbing the Mango Tree: A Memoir of Childhood in India -- Madhur Jaffrey 

My Life from Scratch -- Gesine Bullock-Prado 

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle -- Barbara Kingsolver 



Tortilla Soup


There is a book I love that I have never read. 
It is called What It Is.
I love it for the title.
What It Is


Right now-- all this-- it’s just what it is.

My mother tells me I need to be more patient, and I guess that’s how you get through the days when the blues and the mean reds come-- by clinging to the belief that tomorrow will be better.
And frequently tomorrow is better. 
It’s almost always better. 
But frankly, I feel like I’ve got this stack of tomorrow promises that I waste a lot of time thinking about, when really, I simply need to be present for right now, for whatever this what it is happens to be. 

But on those days, when the blues arrive, and the mean reds threaten to swallow and swamp me in memories of the past or promises of the future-- I go to Central Market, my favorite grocery store. 
I go to Central Market, and I take one of the plastic salad dressing containers from the salad bar and I use it as a cup to sample all the soups at the soup bar. 
I always try the tortilla soup. 
It is my favorite. 
And somehow, even though soup sampling with salad dressing cups in undoubtably pathetic, somehow, this also cheers me up. 
Because like kittens and grass and trees and hot cups of coffee-- soup just is. It’s just what it is. And thinking about what it is scares the blues and the mean reds away. 


And sometimes that’s all that can be done. 
So I finally made some tortilla soup for myself this past week, because I got tired of driving to Central Market. 
And the flavor of something so simple and so good. 
I don’t know. 
It reminded me that no matter how unsettled things might feel-- everything is just what it is. 
And that is more than enough. 

love, 

m


Chicken Tortilla Soup
via allrecipes.com 

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup whole corn kernels, cooked
1 cup white hominy
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile pepper
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained 
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and cut into bite sized pieces
crushed tortilla chips
sliced avocado
shredded Monterey Jack cheese

- In a medium stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, broth and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. 
-Stir in corn, hominy, chiles, beans, cilantro and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes. 
-Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, and top with crushed tortilla chips, avocado slices, and cheese.