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!
1 day ago