What a bargain!

It’s Saturday afternoon and I just dropped a completely stripped carcass of Thursday night’s Thanksgiving  turkey into the trash. There wasn’t a scrap of meat or stuffing left.  Ah, the carnivorous  joy of leftovers and picking the bones – finding a hidden shred of meat (sometimes white!) or an undiscovered spoonful of dressing.

This elation brought up a thought that has plagued me for years. Why, when a turkey is such a thrilling experience for most of us, and isn’t always that much bigger than a chicken, do we deny ourselves until Thanksgiving? It certainly isn’t expensive or difficult to cook. A very healthy protein. What’s the problem?

The only answer I could derive was that we don’t want to tarnish the “specialness” associated with Thanksgiving.  We all roast (or fry) this “giant chicken” that makes quite a show and it seems all too much for day-to-day life. Turkey is larger than life !

My dad was once the leading producer of turkeys in the U.S.  Back in the Dark Ages. He was famous for being the “turkey grower who didn’t eat turkey”. He didn’t. In those days the birds roamed free on the range – no houses. Out in the open.  They were driven like cattle from farm to farm. It was a hard business. But even in my home, I never remember the concept of “everyday turkey” ever discussed.

It’s now being worked into our diets through products like bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, but still, no one is pushing cooking the whole bird except on Thanksgiving. Perhaps it seems anti-American. Just too much of a break in tradition to handle.

I guess we do have to keep some special things special. I’m just sorry it had to be turkey. Life really is too short.

“Everyday should be Thanksgiving.”


Virginia Peanut Soup with Coconut Milk

This is an interesting take on traditional Virginia peanut soup for those who enjoy the flavor of coconut and like a slightly Oriental twist. Delicious!

Virginia Peanut Soup with Coconut Milk

Heat 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in pot, add 1 cup finely chopped celery and 1 cup finely chopped yellow onions. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until translucent and soft. Add 3 tablespoons flour to pan. Brown flour slightly to make roux. Stir in 1 cup creamy peanut butter, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or a little more if you like it spicy!) and 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth. Mix well, then transfer to a blender; add 1 additional cup broth and puree until smooth. Return mixture to pot. Pour in one 13.5 oz can unsweetened coconut milk. Use “lite” if you prefer. Grate approx 1 teaspoon fresh ginger root into soup.  Soy sauce to taste.  Bring to boil, cut off heat, then add 2 – 3 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice. 

Top with fresh scallions, chopped peanuts and cilantro (if you’re a fan). The lemon/lime really is the key to this dish. Great served with, or before, a Thai or Vietnamese dinner. Or for lunch, with a spring roll…and appropriate beverage!

(This recipe is based upon one first published by Asian Coconut Milk)

Modern Chicken Cacciatore

                                 “Chicken with Style”           

While growing up, I used to wonder why my Mom, a super cook, never made Chicken Cacciatore. Our cooking books had beautiful pictures of the dish, and while she’s a wiz with Italian cuisine, cacciatore never showed up on the plate. I mentioned it occasionally and she would always reply, “Oh, Uncle Barney used to make that all the time…,” and say little else. I figured she didn’t like it and stopped bringing up the subject. 

Fast forward 40 years. I say to Mom, “I’m going to make Chicken Cacciatore,” and finally the truth comes out. She reveals the story. It seems that Uncle Barney considered himself a cacciatore expert, frying huge amounts of chicken with skin and bones before dumping them into plain mariana sauce to simmer all afternoon. The skin became rubbery and the sauce greasy – a  real culinary turn-off, and a bad memory from Mom’s childhood.

I decided to prepare the recipe to my standards with lots of fresh vegetables and spices and it has become a hit. We have it every few weeks and it is a favorite with guests.

Although I use only white meat of chicken (dark is fine, too, if you prefer), I like serving it with Chianti or Cabernet. It’s rich and delicious, as well as skinless and boneless.  While this might be a cliche – it’s good, and good for you!

Modern Chicken Cacciatore

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, coarsely diced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 medium white or yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 cups sliced Mushrooms, (Portobello, Crimini, White Button – you pick)
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 28-oz can diced canned tomatoes, Italian-style preferred
2 teaspoons dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
2 tbls. tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup pre-pre-prepared veggie or mushroom pasta sauce, i.e., Classico, Barilla,  Newman’s Own…whatever you like – (Semi-Homemade!!!) – adds “body” to dish
1/4 cup+ of finely chopped fresh parsley
Pasta al dente (Spaghetti, Linguine or Fettucine top the list. DON’T OVERCOOK!)
1/4 cup freshly chopped Italian parsley
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Heat olive oil in large, heavy pot. Add chicken and saute until it begins to lightly brown. Add onions, peppers and mushrooms and continue cooking until veggies are done and begin caramelizing. Saute garlic into mix –  careful not to burn!

Blend in remaining ingredients and let simmer, covered,  for 3+ hrs. Stirring from time to time.  The longer it cooks, the better it gets!

Right before serving add fresh parsley.

Cook pasta of your choice. Drain throughly, but don’t rinse. (I love Linguine, but no matter what type pasta you choose, you can’t go wrong with this delicious dish.) Cover with Cacciatore sauce. Toss. Don’t forget to top generously with Parmegiano Reggiano, and maybe an extra drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Serve crusty Italian bread on the side,  along with the perfect Caesar Salad, and a glass of Chianti. Gelato for dessert is suggested…with cappuccino or Espresso, of course.  Amaretto optional! 

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