Thursday, January 22, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Easy Sticky Buns and CEIMB: Chicken Cacciatore

The Barefoot Bloggers recipe this week is Ina's Easy Sticky Buns, chosen by Melissa of Made By Melissa. I actually posted about these Easy Sticky Buns back in December, shortly after causing a family uproar by buying myself her new book, Back to Basics, ten days before Christmas. I do crazy things like that sometimes. So if you want to read an old, stale account of these buns, click here. For fresh new perspectives, go here.


The only thing I will add to my earlier post is that these are best eaten fresh out of the oven. Let them cool a little, of course -- those sticky buns suddenly won't seem so easy anymore if you end up having to ice the roof of your mouth -- but definitely plan to eat them within a couple of hours of making them. I found that they got kind of hard as the day went on. I made a full batch (12 buns) for my family of 5. Although we have 5 people in our family, only 3 of us actually eat food -- my husband, my one year old, and myself. The 6 year old and 4 year old subsist on air, ketchup and Flinstones (but somehow miraculously manage to grow anyway). Well, out of the three eating members of my family, I am the only one with a lumberjack-sized appetite capable of eating my share (four) of these twelve buns (I did not eat four buns. But I was capable of it). Therefore, we had a lot of uneaten buns that ended up in the trash once they hardened up. So that's my tip -- calculate the number of real-time bun eaters in your house and adjust the recipe accordingly. These are not good keepers (but oh my, are they ever good out of the oven!)

The Ellie recipe this week is Chicken Cacciatore, chosen by my good friend Peggy over at Pantry Revisited. Peggy is another one of my co-workers -- I can't tell you how much fun it is to have foodie friends at work. We compare notes on the weekly recipes and share things like that pesky quarter cup of wheat germ or a tablespoon of Chambord, always being sure to say something lame like "here's that balsamic vinaigrette you asked for" when handing off hard alcohol. Since I work a part-time schedule, I had kind of gotten into a bad habit of locking myself in my office during my limited time at work, so it's been great to have foodie friends here to keep me from being completely anti-social! In my early TWD days, I emailed Peggy and my other work baking friends from Publix: "Subject: Self-rising flour and cake flour are the same thing, right?" Peggy, bless her, immediately sent me an email back, high-priority, in red and with all kinds of exclamation points that said "SELF-RISING FLOUR IS MOST DEFINITELY NOT THE SAME THING AS CAKE FLOUR, CATHY!!!!!!" Saving me from myself -- it's just part of the job description of being my friend.

Anyway, the worst part of this recipe was that Billy Joel's "Movin' Out" was stuck in my head for the better part of the week that I was thinking about making this/making this. And that just brought up other Billy Joel associations. Now, Movin' Out refers to MISTER Cacciatore, not Chicken Cacciatore, but that was close enough for me. So all week long, my inner dialogue went something like this: "I need to make that Chicken Cacciatore. Down on Sullivan Street, across from the Medical Center. Okay, grocery list, grocery list, grocery list. What do I need for that Chicken Cacciatore again? YEEEEEAAAAAHHHH and he's tradin' in his Chevy for a Cadillacacacacacac."

The Piano Man. Listen at your own risk.




And then my mind drifted to the year that Billy was a speaker at graduation for the class a couple of years ahead of me in college. One of the Jesuits protested vigorously because he didn't like the line "you Catholic girls start much too late" in Only the Good Die Young. Now that I am older, I can think of lots of even better reasons to protest Billy as a college graduation speaker, but at the time, we (the Catholic girls who start much too late) were all like "C'mon, lighten up, Father R!!!"

And THEN my brain shot over to the summer when I was 20 and cleaning out the ice cream case at the Ice Cream and Candy Bazaar on Edgartown Harbor, Martha's Vineyard, MA, and I looked up and THERE WAS BILLY. He and Christie Brinkley (now I'm dating myself) had docked their boat in the Harbor, and Billy came in for a frozen yogurt cone. He was very, very short. I handed Billy his cone, and he said "that's a small?" I tried desperately to come up with something clever, something interesting, something that would make Billy REMEMBER his stop at the Ice Cream and Candy Bazaar. Instead, I said "You should see our large! Love your music." Then he left without leaving a tip. There, now it's on the internet. Take that, Billy!

So anyway, this recipe definitely challenged my powers of focus, which had already been severely compromised since having children, but luckily I was able to pull it all together long enough to make this. Because this was a REALLY FABULOUS dish.



The prep time for this one is pretty quick, although the actual cooking time was longer than I anticipated. But it is that long cooking time that gives it such an intense flavor. Brown the chicken and remove from pan. Add onion and red pepper and cook covered until they begin to soften, then add the mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, and then the wine and cook until it is reduced by half. This will deglaze the pan, and I think this is the point at which the flavors of this dish really start to come alive. Then add the tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper flakes and simmer covered for 10 minutes.

The recipe calls for no-salt added plain diced tomatoes. I had some in my basement, but I had these in my pantry:


Since I had heard that a few people were underwhelmed by this recipe, I figured that I'd go crazy and try to amp up the flavor using the seasoned tomatoes. Plus, that saved me the walk to the basement, which seemed fitting given that Billy's warning that workin' too hard can give you a heart attackackackackackack was at the forefront of my mind. I can't imagine that this was enough to make the difference between a "meh" and a "wow!" dish, but I'm mentioning it anyway in case it helps us get to the bottom of why David and I loved this when others did not. Of course, adding extra spices to the plain tomatoes is always an option!

Finally, add the chicken back and simmer covered for another 20 minutes. All told, you're tending to that skillet on and off for close to an hour from the time you start browning the chicken. I think the long cooking time helps the flavors really meld together and produces a beautiful, velvety, intensely flavored sauce. Anthony, Sargeant O'Leary, Mama Leone and the rest of the gang would approve.

We LOVED this. David called it "sneaky spicy" because the crushed red pepper kind of comes at you out of the blue. I halved the recipe because I am tired of throwing leftovers away, and I really wish that I hadn't, because David got up to get seconds and there were none. My sweet Italian grandmother would not have been pleased. When I first brought David home to Connecticut to meet my family years ago, she pulled me aside at one point and said "I like him," and then she got really serious, furrowed her eyebrows and said "You make sure you feed him!" It is like she decided that I finally brought home a boy worthy enough for her to let me in on the Italian Grandmother Secret of the Universe. She would definitely call me back for a refresher course in Feeding Boys if she were here today. Sorry, Grandma. And sorry about the lack of leftovers, David. I'll make more next time now that I know how awesome this dish is.

Many thanks to Melissa and Peggy for these great picks!

31 comments:

Peggy said...

Cathy it is so nice to have an Italian point of view on this cacciatore! Great post and I'm so glad you liked it. I wish I had added a little more something something to mine. It is great fun blogging with you and chatting/sharing also! If it weren't for you, sometimes I would lose my mind over the baking stuff. Well, maybe that is a tad dramatic, but you know what I mean. Weren't those sticky buns awesome? I finished mine this morning. I thought they were ok the next day heated in the microwave, but definitely best the first day. Thanks for cooking my pick this week.

Jessica said...

I love chicken cacciatore. I also love Billy Joel and I never fail to get a few raised eyebrows when I mention that.

Also, I'm not Italian and I don't have an Italian grandmother, but my grandmother/mom/aunts *freak* out if they perceive that my boyfriend doesn't get enough to eat when he visits. And when I told my aunt that he was visiting me in DC last weekend, she said "of course you baked him cookies, right?" and when I said no she got upset. So, all this to say, I think I am barely passing the course in "feeding boys" and the women of my family are none to pleased about it. Thank goodness I have the blog world to help me out!

The sticky buns and the chicken look & sound fantastic. I like sneaky spicy things so the chicken would be right up my alley.

joanne said...

Looks great! Interesting commentary :)

Maria said...

Those sticky buns are calling my name this morning! They look fabulous! Nice job this week!

chocolatechic said...

Alas, I am capable of eating the entire pan of sticky buns, but I limited myself to 4....giggle.

MacDuff said...

LOVE THIS POST. When I was 16, my best friend Katie and I worked in an oyster bar on the water. They had this piano player who kept a huge empty fishbowl on the piano for people to write requests and drop them in. But he HATED Piano Man, and refused to play it. So Katie used to write "Piano Man" on every slip of paper she could find and put them in the fishbowl. The poor guy would announce to the whole bar "Now I'll take a request," and he'd pull out a slip of paper, toss it, pull out another, toss it, and so on for at least 10 pieces of paper. People thought he just couldn't play requests. Katie and I would stand in the kitchen and crack up!

Glad you guys loved the chicken. Yours definitely looks better than mine...

Jen said...

Great Post Cathy!!! I was there singing the Billy Joel's songs with you while I read your post! Besides...the old music is SO MUCH better than his new music. And have you seen Moving Out? While not that fabulous of a broadway production...the music is fabulous! Shocker I know!

Why is it that your food pictures always make the food look so appetizing and my pictures look like menu pictures? You know, the ones of food on the menu that make you NEVER want to order whats in the picture! Maybe someday I will figure out it!
Im glad you liked the recipe and its so much fun to have fellow food bloggers at work!

Jess said...

I've got to make those sticky buns...it's recipes like these that make me regret dropping out of BB. I'll make them as soon as I get Billy Joel out of my head. I remember my Notre Dame alum sister telling me the offended-by-Billy priest story, so either you went to ND, or Billy Joel is persona non grata at several of our Catholic universities.

Sara@Imafoodblog said...

Love the Billy Joel commentary. The boyfriend and I met him in a restaurant once, he was in good spirits (translate to drunk) and happily gave us an autograph. Your chicken looks good - Ellie says this freezes well so I made the full recipe and froze half for hectic night.

pinkstripes said...

Yum! The sticky buns sound wonderful.

I don't cook chicken, but love the Billy Joel stuff.

Melissa said...

I can't believe you've met Billy Joel! I also can't believe he didn't even tip you! Just an extra dollar would have been nice, Billy... sheesh! Your food looks fabulous!

Bridgett said...

You always have me craving something wonderful when I visit your site, now I can't get those sticky buns out of my mind. They look fabulous!

Pamela said...

Sigh...what can I say that hasn't already been said? Another fine post, Cathy. I can't believe the Piano Man stiffed you on the tip! And now, I am signing Movin' Out for the rest of the day.

Natashya said...

Hmmm, my high school was just up the street from the Catholic girls' high school... I don't remember them starting anything late!
Dinner looks awesome, I love chicken cacciatore. I am with you though, amp up those spices!

Heather said...

ah! a fellow billy joel fan! i love him... more than anything. i travel to see him anywhere within a few hundred miles of me, and even have a few lines from some songs in a tattoo. i loved moving out. such a fun mix of his songs :) and i love chicken cacciatori!

Cathy said...

Thanks everyone! And sorry if the song is stuck in your head now!
Jessica -- bake that boy some cookies!
MacDuff -- A seaside oyster bar piano player who won't play Piano Man? Was he at least quick with the jokes, or to light up your smoke?
Jess -- I did not go to Notre Dame, but I do think many college priests hold Billy in disdain because of Virginia.
Natashya -- Oh, you have no idea how you've made my day. Can't remember the last time I laughed this hard!
Heather -- wow, you ARE a big fan! I do love his music, and I've basically forgiven him for tip thing.

Anne said...

I agree about the sticky bun assessment and childrens eating habits. Mine will do ANYTHING for a gummy "nma nma nem" (vitamin, ahem). And he really eats only milk and the occasion carbohydrate.

n.o.e said...

I'm so glad I got to cook vicariously along with you, Billy, the gang from Moving Out, your grandmother, Peggy, and crew! Your post was good for three solid laughs, and given how things have been going lately, that's very welcome indeed. Your pictures are wonderful - love the close-ups.

To respond to your comment on my blog, I am oh-so-glad that the English Muffin bread worked for you. I'm always kinda worried when I recommend something (especially a yeasty something) that I know someone is going to bake. Wierd, right? I mean, I guess that's why I have a food blog!

Anyway, enjoyed your post!
Nancy

Girl Japan said...

Me too.. I am a huge fan of Chicken Anything... But the Sticky Bun.. YUM Oh my gosh.. The Piano man... this cracks me up...

Steph said...

Hmm.. I wonder if you could have made cinnamon bun bread pudding or something..as if we don't get enough sweets! Well, at least you didn't actually eat 4 cinnamon buns. I'm starting to feel the christmas weight piling on now. Before I was just feeling icky from all the butter and sweets, but now it's showing!

Suzie said...

Your sticky buns look scrumptious, but now I have Billy Joel rolling around in my head too!

1freshstart said...

You never fail to make me smile. Everything looks delish!
~Cat

Snooky doodle said...

oh I love this dish! its awesome

Aggie said...

I have an award waiting for you on my blog! Have a great weekend!!

bakingwiththeboys said...

Too funny and I can relate to the leftover dilemma. I have learned - the hard way - that the only two things I can prepare a full recipe for are brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Everything else is a crapshoot.

I went to catholic school for many many years and I believe we would shout that line whenever it played. ahhh...good times.

Melissa said...

Hey, I left an award for you on my blog. Happy weekend!

Summer said...

the sticky buns look divine! I fear I'll be humming Billy Joel all weekend now.

Di said...

Mmm, lots of yummy stuff today! Why is it that as they get older the kids get pickier? Gillian eats almost anything I put in front of her. Brianna is like your older ones, although I think she also eats bread and milk in addition to the air and ketchup. =)

Leslie said...

Great post! You took me back to a time in my life that I don't think about much. Your chicken looks fabulous, and I really have to make those sticky buns. Love your blog!

What's for Supper? said...

Your posts are always so entertaining! We really liked this dish too. Even though I am a few days late.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Cathy, What a smart Gramma you had!
She sounded like quite a character, you think her grandaughter took after her? I would say, Yes! I'm always up for a good cacciatore, I love how all the flavors blend together too. My hubby loves leftovers, so I never have a problem if I cook too much, which is often the case!

 
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