January 28, 2022

A la Carte: Count on Chicken Chili on a Cold Day!

I have four definites before I give you a recipe:

  1. I have made the recipe and it was good
  2. Someone I knew had made this recipe and gave me the recipe and I understood the intranets and trusted them
  3. The ingredients were available or that a substitute would work for you
  4. I tinkered with the recipe and felt the tinkering made the recipe even better.

This was not the case with the tourtière you read last week.

I had not made a tourtière, or French-Canadian meat pie, in decades because my husband really didn’t like the cinnamon-blend so I never made it again. But my husband is gone and I love the spice blend (like the sauce the Olney, R.I. diners serve with hot dogs in the Ocean State), so I decided to make a tourtière from a recipe on the Internet. I sent the column before I made the tourtière.

I was gob-smacked. Either my palate had changed (which can happen  to anyone) or the spice blend sucked or my taste memory was faulty.

I drove down to my friend Rich Swanson’s house. He didn’t think the pie wasn’t bad (was he just being kind?), but he gave me an individual spiced lamb pie he’d made that might give me something I’d remember. That day I thawed the pie and had it for dinner with some broccoli, and there was that tourtière-flavor I remembered. 

“Will you give me that recipe?”  I begged over the phone.

“Yes,” he said, but it might take him some time to make the right amount of seasoning for a full-sized pie. “Take your time, Rich,” I said.

Unless you are a kid and it is Christmas morning, waiting for something wonderful is easy.

So, today, I am giving you a  recipe for chicken chili that I have made many times. Because it serves 12, you can halve the ingredients for six people; whether it is for six or 12, it freezes well.

Chicken Chili

Adapted from Ina Garten’s  “Barefoot Contessa Parties!” (Clarkson Potter, New York, 2001)
Serves 12

If you call this recipe a stew, make it a day or two earlier and refrigerate, warm it up and serve over rice, everyone will love it.

8 cups chopped onions (6 onions)
One-quarter cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
One-quarter cup minced garlic (8 cloves)
4 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and large-diced
4 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and large-diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½  teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 teaspoons salt, plus more for chicken
4 28-ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained  (I used Muir Glen diced tomatoes)
½  cup minced fresh basil leaves
8 or more split breast chicken, bone in, skin on (thighs or a combination would be fine, too)

For serving: chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar cheese, sour cram

Cook onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne and salt. Cook for 1 minute.

Crush tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the meantime, rub the chicken with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generally with salt and pepper. Roast chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly.

Separate the mean from the bones and skin and cut into three-quarter chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.

Lee White

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: For Lee, Winter and Widowhood Mean it’s Time for Tourtière

Lee White

Before the holiday season, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a wonderful cookbook writer who lives mostly in Maine and visits Italy often, talked about the French-Canadian tourtière

I made it a few times for my husband but he really didn’t like the seasoning. He said the same when I made Cincinnati Five-Way Chili (chili with beans, onions, seasoning, spaghetti and cheese). Doug had pretty good catholic (small “C”) food preferences and so, after the tourtière discussion (and all the time, really), I just made food he enjoyed.

In any case, I love all those spices and I adore savory pies like chicken and beef pot pies.

But now it is winter and widowhood, so I can cook anything I like and share the bounty with friends.

The recipe looks long, but if you use a pre-made crust (preferable Oronoco frozen pie crusts), this recipe is a snap. As for the spice blend, quadruple or quintuple it and save in a tight-lidded jar for tourtière or Cincinnati Five-Way Chili for next time!

Tourtière (French-Canadian Meat Pie)
Adapted from Chef John on allrecipes.com 

Photo by Rebecca Matthews on Unsplash.

2 pre-made frozen pie crusts, thawed
Spice blend
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground thyme
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Filling
1 large russet potato, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pinch salt
4 cloves garlic, crushed
½ cup finely diced celery
1 pound each ground pork and beef
1 cup potato cooking water, plus more as needed

Egg wash
1 large egg and 1 tablespoon water, stirred

Place potato quarters in a saucepan, cover with cold water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer until cooked through. Remove potato and mash; save water.

Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and salt and stir until onions turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, celery and spice blend and stir until onions coated with spices, 30 seconds. Add meat and ladle ¾ cup of potato water into skillet. Cook until meat is browned and has an almost paste-like texture. Continue, stirring, until meat is tender and most liquid is evaporated, 45 minutes. Stir in potatoes and remove from heat. Bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill bottom crust with meat mixture and smooth out. Brush edges of bottom crust with egg wash, then place top crust on the pie and press lightly around edges to seal. Trim excess dough from crust. Crimp edges of the crust and brush entire surface of pie with egg wash. Place in preheated oven. Bake until well brown, about 1 hour. Let cool to almost room temperature before serving.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Two New (and Lucky) Soups for the New Year

Lee White

Luck can be two different sides of a coin. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I lost one very good friend, and another very good friend lost his mother.

Just three days after that, I went to a birthday party for Jacques Pepin, who is now 86. It was a small party of maybe 14 people. Most of us have known each other for 20 or more years. 

Jacques’ beautiful wife, Gloria, died just a year ago, while Marty Travis’ husband died less than a decade ago.  My husband died 12 years ago. While all three of us terribly miss our spouses, all 14 feel lucky to be together, pretty healthy, tripled vaxxed … and even smarter than when we were in college!

We also never talked about politics.

Now it is 2022 and I am hoping all my readers and friends (many are both), my children and their children, and all of yours too, have great luck, superb health and enough prosperity to share with others.

Below are two good luck soups. Both are delicious. 

Good Luck Lentil Soup

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Adapted from Italian Holiday Cooking by Michele Scicolone (William Morrow, New York, 2001)
Yield: serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped*
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small dried pepperoncini (I use a pinch of crushed red pepper instead)
1 pound lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup dried tomatoes, cut into strips (I use a 28-ounce can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes, instead)
Salt to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot, combine oil, pancetta, onion, garlic and pepperoncino (or crushed pepper) over medium heat until the onion is wilted and golden.

Add lentils then stir in the peppers and tomatoes. If using dried tomatoes, add 6 cups of water; if using canned tomatoes, add 2 to 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until lentils are almost tender.

Add salt to taste and simmer until lentils are cooked.

Serve hot or at room temperature with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

*Pancetta is unsmoked Italian bacon. Rolled into a sausage shape, pancetta is used to flavor bean dishes and sauces. Most supermarkets have it in the deli department.

Friendship Soup Mix

From Vange Chatis of Somers, Connecticut
Yield: 4 quarts

1 pound ground beef
3 quarts water
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
½ cup dry split peas
¼ cup pearl barley
¼ cup dried minced onion
½ cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
½ cup dry lentils
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
½ cup alphabet macaroni or other small macaroni

In a very large stockpot, brown beef, then drain. Add water, tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients except for the macaroni. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add macaroni, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until everything is tender.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Time to Celebrate, Time for Tiramisu!

Lee White

Christmas has become a quiet day for me.

My own daughter, Darcy, is in California with her husband. Stepchildren are all over the country and their children are, too. My stepson and his wife, whom I adore, are divorced and my daughter-in-law will spend her day with her parents, who are quite old and don’t drive the nearly two hours to get to Newburyport. 

I won’t be alone, though.

Noank friends, who are not very religious and don’t have children, have invited me with their relatives to their house for Christmas Eve dinner. This year their new tradition is go to give a book as a Secret Santa. This is may be my favorite Christmas Eve:  good conversation, excellent food, good wine and a book to read after I get home.

I will take a few bottles of wine. I used to buy three cases—two red and one white—for the year; now it is two white and one red, but it lasts for a couple of years!

I will take also take dessert. Christmas is like its cousin the month before, Thanksgiving, and is not a day for dieting so I will make a tirasmisu cheesecake. It is beyond delicious, purely hedonistic and will leave lots of extra for Judy and Dick.

Tiramisu Cheesecake
Adapted from a recipe given to me by Aimee Pezzello from New London
Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Photo by Victoria Alexandrova on Unsplash.

Crust:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or regular ground espresso)
1 cup vanilla wafer crumbs

Filling:
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese (or light or Neufchatel cheese) at room temperature
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 and 2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (or regular ground espresso)
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac
1 square (one-ounce) semisweet chocolate, grated

Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter an 8-inch spring form pan.
Stir butter and espresso powder in small bowl until combined.
Stir in crumbs until crumbs are evenly moistened.
Pat evenly over bottom of prepared pan.
Bake 10 minutes.
Cool on wire rack.
Keep oven on.
Tightly cover outside bottom and sides of spring form pan with heavy-duty foil.

Filling:

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and mascarpone in large mixer bowl at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.
Gradually beat in sugar, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, until completely smooth, 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium and beat in vanilla and salt.
Add eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
Pour 4four cups of filling over crust in prepared pan and place pan in larger roasting pan. (This will avoid extra filling messing up the oven/)
Dissolve espresso powder into hot water.
Fold into remaining filling with brandy and grated chocolate.
Pour over filling in prepared pan.
Place roasting pan into the oven and bake for around 1 and ¼ hours.
Turn oven off and let cheesecake coast in the oven with the door ajar by at least 4 to 6 inches.
Remove on a wire rack and let cool.
Serve cool or refrigerate for a day or two, bringing up to room temperature before serving. 

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Terrific (Homemade) Treats to Take to Friends

Lee White

Column #1

A year ago, a COVID vaccine was my holiday hope to family and friends (and everyone else in the world). I think all we wanted was a vaccine that this once-a-century pandemic could be handled and we wouldn’t have to watch Andrew Cuomo every single morning on television (although we didn’t know then that his final showstopper would be his last ever).  By the end of February, I got my first shot and the second three weeks later. Last August I got my booster.

So here it is:  December, 2021. Thanksgiving is behind us. Many of us spent that holiday with friends and family. And what do we talk about now? We talk about the idiots who refuse to be vaccinated. And the problems with delayed flights (although we are thrilled we can begin to fly).

And a new phrase has entered dictionary: supply chains. We see pictures of enormous ships hugging the coast of Long Beach, California. Will there be enough toys for the kids and, for us, every new computer gadget made in China? 

Some years ago, as I drove home after Christmas, I heard this on NPR: Here is what each child should get for Christmas [or Hanukkah]: one thing she needs, one thing she wants and one book.

To this I add: something homemade from your kitchen to take to friends at the holiday. And next week I will give you Richard Swanson’s recipe for the best granola clusters I have ever tasted, along with my daughter’s recipe for fudge. And maybe my dentist’s peanut brittle.

Photo on Unspalsh by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian

Chocolate Syrup
Recipe from my grandparents’ grocery store a century ago.

2 cups granulated sugar
4 big tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a saucepan, add whisk sugar and cocoa.

Stir in water and continue cooking the mixture until it begins to boil; bring the heat to simmer and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from the stove, add a dash of salt and the vanilla extract.

When cool, add to little Mason jars.

Caramel Sauce
From Cecina Simpatica by Johanne Killeen and George Germon, Harper Collins, New York, 1991

2 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar

In a saucepan, scald cream and reduce heat to very low;  keep warm.

Heat sugar in another saucepan over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. The sugar will slowly melt into a clear liquid and gradually darken (don’t worry if the sugar lumps; break up lumps with the wooden spoon and they will melt into the caramel as it darkens.)

When caramel has turned a medium-dark mahogany, pour it slowly into the hot cream, whisking constantly. The caramel will splatter so be careful. If the temperature is too low, you may find portions of the caramel solidify. In that case, increase the flame under the cream and stir until the bits melt and mixture becomes smooth.

The caramel sauce thickens as it cools and will solidify in the refrigerator, where it will keep for days. It may be reheated gently to pouring consistency. Pour the caramel into little Mason jars and refrigerate.

Column # 2

Wow, has my kitchen gotten a workout since the day before Thanksgiving. I made two apple pies, two pumpkin ones, a batch of corn bread and Asian-style green beans. The latter became just green beans, since the sauce I made created would have seared the mouth of anyone who tried it.

Over the weekend, I made chili and a butterflied boneless leg of lamb for three meals, and today I made a batch of the tastiest granola ever. I was also going to make the famous H.G. Sawyer peanut brittle, but it really needs weather a little colder, perhaps below 32 degrees, for it to break into chunks. But I have made it so many times that you can trust the recipe. 

Both the granola and the brittle are easy to make and are wonderful housewarming gifts when you are invited to visit over the holidays. I have even more recipes, so if you need a few more than those from last week’s column, and the ones below, e-mail me at leeawhite@aol.com and I’ll send a few more.

Amazing Peanut Brittle
From the late H.G. Sawyer, dentist from Groton, CT

4 cups sugar
1 ½  cups white and/or dark Karo syrup
1 ½ cups water
4 cups Spanish peanuts
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons baking soda

Butter two rimmed cookie sheets.

Mix sugar, syrup and water into a heavy-bottomed large pan. Stir with long wooden spoon.

Place candy thermometer into the mixture. Heat at medium-high until thermometer reaches 320 degrees (this will take a long time to hit 290 degrees and very little time to hit 320.)

Add Spanish peanuts, stir, then add butter and vanilla.

Stir, then add baking soda and stir until frothy, about 15 to 20 seconds.

Pour into cookie sheets and thin to about one-peanut high. (It is great to have a silicone spatula for this.)

Place outside at it is cold out or put sheets in refrigerator until hardened, about 20 minutes.

Break brittle apart and place in tins or zippered bags.

Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash.

Granola Cereal Clusters
from Richard Swanson of Waterford

Yield: as gifts in small boxes, perhaps 10-12

½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup honey
4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats (best not to use quick oaks)
3 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch
4 cups Honey Nut Cheerios
2 cups chopped pecan, walnuts or almond
¼ cup finely chopped coconut

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line half-sheet baking pan (17” by 13”) with parchment; spray parchment lightly with cooking spray.

Place oil, corn syrup, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt together in bowl of stand mixer with flat paddle and stir on low until fully mixed. Add oats, cereals, nuts and coconut and stir on low until thoroughly combined and cereals are somewhat crushed into smaller pieces. About 2 minutes.

Transfer mixture to prepared sheet and spread across entire surface in even layer. Using a stiff metal spatula, press down firmly on mixture until very compact. Bake until lightly brown around edges, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. 

Transfer sheet to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Mixture will be slightly soft until fully cooled. Break into chunks. Store in airtight container.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

Gardening Tips for Early December from ‘The English Lady’

Maureen Haseley-Jones is “The English Lady.”

We have been fortunate here in New England to have had the pleasure of a lovely summer not too hot with adequate rain. Followed by a warm fall with more than enough rain into November to encourage healthy root growth for a vibrant spring next year.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that this weather foretells a mild winter – we can only hope, but yet again this is New England.  

Spring Bulbs:

This year due to the warm fall, the soil is still soft and warm for digging, which brings to mind, spring bulbs.

Plant daffodil bulbs in late fall so you can enjoy blooms like these in the spring.

Wear gloves when planting Daffodil bulbs, as these bulbs cause an irritation called a ‘lily rash’. Make sure you plant the bulb at a depth of at least three times the size of the bulb with the pointed end up and add composted manure around the planting holes. Daffodil bulbs need to be at least nine inches into the soil below the frost line for optimum bloom. 

Dig a trench for the bulbs and scatter them in the trench.  Bulbs can touch one another without a problem and by planting this way you will produce full dramatic show in spring. 

Plant tulip bulbs 12 inches below the soil surface.

Tulip bulbs should be planted 12 inches down to get them out of harm’s way as tulips are the caviar of the rodent family. I offer a suggestion to avoid this problem before planting by soaking them in an organic deer repellent then allowing them to dry in the sun. This will deter critters from eating them.

Another protection is to line the planting hole with gravel.

In the spring when the bulb foliage is about 4 inches tall, sprinkle more composted manure around all the bulbs you planted. 

 I hear you saying, “Okay Maureen, I’m ready to plant the bulbs but what else is there to do in the garden?”

Folks, there are a number of things to get you out in the garden at this time of year. 

Time for Compost & Construction Projects:

The most important task is to apply a few inches of composted manure on all planted borders with a light layer of natural brown mulch on top. By doing this, you will continue to build the humus component in the soil.

Before the snow flies, any construction projects that you have in mind can be accomplished.

This includes stonework and carpentry, building decks, and mending fences. Building dry laid stonewalls, walkways, patios and digging ponds. Definitely labor-intensive work, but at this time of year you won’t be uncomfortably hot. Make sure to stretch, take breaks and drink lots of water.  

When the weather is inclement, work under a construction tent when building walls, decks or digging ponds. Or build trellises, pergolas, and arbors and fences in a shed or garage. The added advantage to the hard labor is that it keeps one in shape, especially with those fattening holiday meals looming on the horizon.  

If you are not able or do not want to do the work yourself, now is the time to call in a professional to do the work so that the project is completed before you plant in spring.  Each year, harsh winter wind damages much of the foliage of broadleaf evergreens.

Rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas:

Rhododendrons are vulnerable to moisture loss during the winter.

These are particularly vulnerable as cold wind drains them of much needed moisture. Broadleaf evergreens with their shallow root system need a good store of water going into the winter. We have had reasonable rain but need more this fall; the rain helps the broadleaves survive, as they will continue to lose water vapor through the cold months.  

Many of you have said that you notice the harsh winds of the past two winters caused the foliage on many rhododendrons to become brown and brittle. This happens when the soil freezes so that plant roots, cannot take up water to make up for moisture lost from water vapor. Dehydration is the result causing brown or wind burnt foliage.  

Evergreens:

I don’t go overboard with wrapping evergreens with burlap in winter. My white pines, Colorado blue spruce and Fraser firs are at least 50-years-old and well-established so no worries about damage. However, there are exceptions, with plants that require a burlap wrap.

Among those are evergreens planted in September including the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, so prone to wind burn. The Albertas should be covered with one layer of burlap, loosely wrapped.  

Also if the evergreens are close to a road and exposed to salt spray from snow trucks and ploughs, burlap 3 feet up from the base may help. Of course, the best idea is not to plant them close to the road or plant salt-tolerant species like Juniper.

At the base of all evergreens, spread a 3 inch layer of leaves or fine bark mulch, composted manure and peat around the base of the trunk. Following a heavy snowstorm when evergreen branches are weighed down with snow, gently brush the snow off with a broom.   

Leaf Trouble:

The leaves of the deciduous trees fell fast this fall due to the recent storms. Either you or a nimble person should climb a ladder and remove leaves from gutters and drain pipes. Water from clogged gutters and pipes falling onto foundation plantings causes damage to the plants below.  

Peonies, Perennials &Veggie Leftovers:

To keep peonies thriving, cut them down close to the ground after the first hard frost.

Now after the first hard frost, cut Peonies down to within 6 inches from the ground, adding just a small amount of composted manure around the base.

Personally, I leave up my spent perennials until next April. The soft grays browns and yellows compliment the muted hues of a winter landscape and our feathered friends enjoy the seed heads. 

Any leftover vegetables in the vegetable garden should have been turned into the soil. Add one part compost to three parts manure to the vegetable garden and plant a cover crop of buckwheat, alfalfa or white clover, to minimize erosion. In spring, turn the cover crop into the soil as green manure.     

Power Tools & Irrigation Systems:

Take any of your power tools that require repair or sharpening into the shop now.  The repair shops are less busy now than in the spring.  Clean your tools off in a bucket of sand, the roughness of the sand will help clean off soil and debris, then oil and grease wooden handles to preserve them and prevent splinters. Hang them neatly on hooks in the garage or shed and not just higgledy-piggledy in a pile   

If you have an in ground irrigation system, blow out the lines or have this done professionally. Also coil your hoses and store under cover, and shut off outdoor faucets.

Put a bag of potting soil in the corner of the garage or basement, it will come in handy for repotting houseplants, bulb forcing or starting seeds in the spring.  A supply of peat, composted manure, sand and vermiculite is also useful. Also put a bag of topsoil and some mulch under cover so that you can cover the shallow roots of evergreens if they push above soil surface due to frost heave.  

Houseplants:

Water houseplants, early in the day, not in the evening. Photo by Alena Ganzhela on Unsplash.

The best time to transplant houseplants is during the growing season beginning in April. However, if you need to repot some houseplants that have outgrown their container, transplant to a clean pot only two inches larger than the original as plants like to be compact; add new potting soil and water.  

Container geraniums and begonias brought indoors should be placed in a sunny window to be enjoyed. In February, cut the plants down to about six inches from the soil surface and water them. 

Water houseplants, early in the day, not in the evening, as plants do not like to have wet feet at night.  Water them only when the top four inches of soil is dry to the touch. Once a month stand them in the bathtub or sink and spray the leaves with lukewarm water to remove any dust, dirt, white fly or aphids.  Do not get water on the leaves of African violets.  

Narcissi:

Photo by Jonathan Diemel on Unsplash.

Paper-white Narcissus bulbs are great for forcing.

I force these bulbs in pebbles but you may use potting soil if you wish and keep the pebbles or soil moist. Put the Narcissus bulbs in tall containers. I use tall clear glass vases, which help support the stems. I anchor the bulbs with pebbles, keep the pebbles moist and place the containers in a cool dark place.

As soon as you see root growth and the beginnings of leaf growth which is in about a month, bring the bowls into medium light, keeping the pebbles or soil moist at all times.

I force about a dozen at a time and the remainder I store in the vegetable keeper in the refrigerator in a brown paper bag away from food. I bring them out and pot them up a few at a time so that I have a succession of fragrant bloom throughout the winter.  

Herbs:

Grow pots of parsley, dill, basil and other herbs in a sunny window, delicious fresh herbs for cooking and salads through winter. 

Roses:

Remove any dead or diseased leaves from Roses and pick up any Rose debris off the ground. If you notice disease like black spot in the debris, do not put it in your compost pile; throw it away in the garbage.  Mound soil, composted manure and mulch around the base of the Roses. The mounding helps maintain a constant temperature around the Rose. 

If the Roses are grown in an exposed area, which makes them vulnerable to drying winter winds, cover the plant with one loose layer of burlap or use a rose cone.  Make sure all climbers Roses or other Vines are securely fastened to the fence or trellis.  

Bird Feeders:

Set up your bird feeders where you are able to enjoy the birds. Preferably place the feeders near to some low shrubs or small trees sheltered from the wind; birds like to flit from these protected spots to the feeder. Offer a varied menu for different birds.  Birds enjoy a recipe I received from my stepmother in England; a lump of suet embedded with peanuts or hollowed out pinecones filled with peanut butter.  

To prevent squirrels from raiding the feeders, set up a baffle and sprinkle cayenne pepper in the birdseed and on the suet feeders; the heat does not bother the birds and squirrels will stay clear.  I am aware that hungry squirrels can jump vertically five feet; but don’t worry if you happen to be a squirrel lover; they always manage to get food from some feeder.

This is the time of year when we gardeners can pause and with the previous season still fresh in your mind, say, “this worked”, and “that I will never try again”.  It is worthwhile to take a leisurely stroll around the garden before the snow flies in the next few weeks.

Look at the garden, squarely and soberly, making notes as you go to plan for next season. Plan as you stroll, writing down your impressions, making sketches and lists and saving them for your winter armchair gardening. 

Enjoy the holidays and I’ll see you in your garden soon.

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones, pictured left, is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, The English Lady Landscape and Home Company. Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.

A la Carte: A Delicious New Twist on Turkey Left-Overs

Lee White

If you are reading this on Wednesday with your morning coffee and you are lucky enough to have scored a Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s house tomorrow, you are like me.

I was asked to make two pies (one apple, one pumpkin), green beans and corn bread. In any case, I will be making these things this evening and all I need to do is show up an hour ahead of the dinner and find an unused counter to stash the pies.

Or maybe you are reading this on Thursday, and everyone will arrive at your house in a few hours.

Hopefully you have asked friends and family to make the pies, a vegetable and rolls or corn bread. If that is the case, this will be your last 15 minutes before you put the turkey into the oven.

All you have to worry about is what to do with the leftover 22-pound turkey since a third of the 15 people you have invited decided they are still worried about COVID and decided to stay home.

On Friday, unless my friends insisted I take home turkey, dressing, gravy, sides and pie, I might bake a 13-pound turkey from my freezer and make it so I have leftovers.

I love turkey for turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey salad and casseroles layered of the meat, potatoes, veggies and gravy. Or pieces of turkey in a skillet with onions, garlic, red curry, some boxed chicken broth and coconut milk atop a cup of basmati rice. 

Almost 15 years ago, I made the recipe below. My family and I liked it a lot, but I never made it again.  Try this entrée instead of three days of turkey sandwiches.

Chicken or Turkey Quesadilla Suiza

This recipe offers a new twist on the traditional quesadilla shown here. Photo by Lottie Griffiths on Unsplash.

Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray (November, 2007)

Yield: 2 servings

1 cup chopped roast chicken or turkey
¼  cup mild salsa verde (regular red salsa will do)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 8-inch whole wheat (or spinach or regular) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Monterey jack or queso fresca cheese
1 scallions, chopped
green olives with pimiento, chopped (a small handful)
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro

  1. Preheat the broiler. In a small bowl, combine chicken or turkey and salsa and heat in the microwave for a minute.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add a tortilla and cook for 30 minutes, then flip and cook for 30 seconds more; slide the tortilla onto a cutting board.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in the skillet, then add remaining tortilla and cook for 30 seconds. Flip the tortilla and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with the first tortilla.
  4. Slide onto a baking sheet and top with chicken mixture, remaining cheese, scallions, olives and cilantro.
  5. Place the quesadilla under broiler six inches from the heat and cook until the tortillas are crisp around the edges, about 2 minutes.
  6. Slide the quesadilla onto a cutting board, cut into four pieces and serve.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn.
Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: More About Pie, Plus a Tart for Vegetarians

Lee White

Okay, my friend, Lisa, suggested what I make for Thanksgiving: two pies—one apple and one pumpkin. Easy-peasy. Also green beans and corn bread. 

I also want to let you know that I am not going away for the holiday, just a short drive down I-95. So, if you have questions, think of me as your own Butterball Hotline. You have my e-mail below the column, so if you have a question between now and turkey day, I’m around.

So, today’s column is the last word on pies … at least for 2021. 

When it comes to apple pie, the more different kinds of apples, the better. I used to buy my apples at a little orchard in eastern Connecticut. The white paper bag said baker’s choice, or something like that. I don’t know if is still around, but I do suggest a farm market that grows a variety of apples.

You want tart and sweet and hard and soft. If you don’t have a cheat sheet, ask the cashier at the farm market. I buy at least five pounds. You don’t need all five, but you can eat the rest.

Depending on the size, peel and core the apples. Cut them into 6 to 8 wedges. Place in a bowl and toss with lemon  juice. That will keep them from browning. Here is the recipe:

Apple Pie

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a sheet pan onto the oven rack. Place bottom pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate, leaving about half an inch over the edge of the pie plate.
  2. In that bowl of apples, add ½ to 2/3 cup brown or white sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, ½ tablespoons corn starch, 1/8 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon (some people prefer vanilla instead of spices, so you can use a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract) and toss.
  3. Place the apples in the bottom crust and dot with maybe 3 tablespoons butter.
  4. Place the second crust over the apples. With your fingers, make an edge with the two crusts.
  5. Using a knife, cut a few slits over the top of the crust (for steam and to make it pretty). I cover the edge crust with pieces of foil to keep it from browning too fast. (Remove the foil about 10 or 15 minutes before pie is done.) After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
  6. Bake the pie until done, 45 minutes to an hour in all.

Photo by Dilyara Garifullina on Unsplash.

Pumpkin Pie

For a pumpkin pie, it is even easier, because it is just a one-crust pie.

  1. Buy a 15-ounce can of 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby’s). Do not buy a can of pumpkin pie mix.
  2. Follow the recipe on the can of pumpkin.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a sheet pan onto the oven rack.
  4. Place the crust in the 9-inch pie pan; with your fingers make a pretty edge.
  5. Add the pumpkin mixture.
  6. Carefully place the pie on the sheet pan in the oven.
  7. After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife blade inserted into the center comes up clean.
  8. Cool for at least 2 hours.

If you are making a chocolate cream pie (or something like that), you may be asked to blind bake a pie. One woman on the internet suggested freezing the unbaked crust (maybe for two hours or even longer), then adding foil up to the top and then pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. 

Again, as I mentioned in last week’s column, you can use a frozen pie crust. I love Oronoque. It comes two to a package. There are always a few packages in my freezer. They come in their own pie pan so you don’t have to ask your friends please to return the good one. I cannot tell you how many I have bought, and they are not inexpensive.

Again, I am here through noon on Thanksgiving. On that day, when you get my column, there will be two recipes for leftover turkey and sides.

***

Over the last week or so, I thought about friends who are somewhat, or totally, vegetarian.

A new friend is vegan; had I known that, I would not have served pasta with marinara and pepperoni. My Times editor is a vegetarian, but eats seafood and dairy. My friend Nancy is vegetarian, but eats chicken,  seafood and dairy. My other editor in Madison eats healthy, and I think she is more vegetarian than carnivorish.

My first boss at Connecticut College was a vegetarian, but didn’t like tomatoes. 

I am a carnivore, but I love animals and think people who hunt for fun, including those who like fishing for catch-and-release have a character flaw. I will cook mussels and clams and oysters, but have never boiled a lobster.

I, obviously, am a hypocrite. 

If I ask people for dinner, and do not know what they will or will not eat, I will cook for them. I was allergic to lobster and crab, but am not anymore. I have a friend who has celiac disease, and when I find a nice recipe for her, I will make it for her.

I also have a few dessert recipes that are gluten-free. I pay little attention to people, who do not eat sweets, so Libby doesn’t eat my desserts.

Going through some of my old recipes, I found a vegetable tart recipe that doesn’t even require a crust and, like many of my recipes, is yellowed with age. This Thanksgiving I will be with friends who aren’t  picky. After that holiday, I will make this tart for my vegan friend. 

Harvest Vegetable Tart
Adapted from Thomas Keller in Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1996
Yield: serves 6

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons minced shallots, divided
3 teaspoons minced, garlic, divided
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon, dried, divided
¼ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
8 tablespoons chicken (or vegetable) broth, divided
1 medium eggplant, quartered lengthwise
1 large beefsteak tomato, quartered
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 tablespoon chopped nicoise (black) olive (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, peppers, 2 tablespoons shallots and 2 teaspoons garlic; cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in half the thyme plus 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Brush bottom of a 12-inch deep-dish pizza pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Combine 2 tablespoons broth, remaining shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in cup. Sprinkle over mixture in pan.

Cut eggplant, tomato, zucchini and yellow squash into 1/3  inch-thick slices. Beginning in the center of the pan, arrange vegetables in overlapping circles, equally distributing them over pan.

Sprinkle tart with onion-pepper mixture. Combining remaining broth and broth and oil in a cup and drizzle over top; sprinkle with olives, if using.

Cover tart and bake 45 minutes;  uncover and bake 35 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender; cool. 15 minutes. Drain any liquid into glass measure. Invert into a platter, drizzled with reserved liquid. Cut into six wedges. [This this would be delicious at room temperature, too.]

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

Letter From Paris: Antony Blinken Has Major Advantage Being Bilingual at Helm of US Foreign Policy  

Nicole Prévost Logan

Never before has a US Secretary of State been as utterly bilingual as Antony Blinken. 

Granted, two of the Founding Fathers of America also had special relationships with France. But Benjamin Franklin was 70 when he was appointed ambassador to Paris in 1776. For nine years, he resided in Passy and became a real Parisian.

Thomas Jefferson was 41 when he planted his roots in Paris for five years in 1784. Antony Blinken’s case was quite different since he arrived in Paris at the age of nine and remained there during his formative years before entering Harvard University.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Official State Department photo. Public Domain.

As a rule, most US Secretaries of State have enough knowledge of the French language to be able to read it or give a speech while remaining close to their prepared notes.

None of them have sounded as much at ease with the language of Molière as Blinken does. It is an enormous asset to be able to use that tool of diplomacy par excellence.

“Wow!” That was the reaction of my French-speaking daughter when she heard, for the first time, Blinken speak French. She was impressed by his impeccable, fluent use of that language with only a barely detectable trace of a foreign accent.

The quality of his spoken French and almost academic style could put many French people to shame

Being bilingual is not limited to linguistics — it also means to be bi-cultural, to have a mind shaped by the historical heritage of the other’s country, to have a thorough understanding of how the people of that country react, reason, and feel about the world.

Understanding and making jokes in the second country is the ultimate test.

In 1971, Blinken moved to the elegant Avenue Hoche in the 8th arrondissement with his mother and stepfather, an international lawyer and attended the Ecole Active Bilingue Jeanine Manuel (EABJM) located at that time near the Parc Monceau in the 17th arrondissement.

Who else knew the American student Blinken better than Jacqueline Roubinet, who was associated for 31 years with EABJM and became its headmistress? I was able to reach her through my children’s acquaintances. She was kind enough to answer my many questions in a long letter.   

She is quite passionate about the school, admired both its founder’s intelligence and her vision that the key to better international understanding was bilingualism. Jeanine Manuel was a member of the Resistance who joined the Free French living in London in 1940. When she opened the school in 1954, it had nine students. Today the school under its new name — Ecole Jeanine Manuel (EJM) — has 3,000 students from 80 countries.

Roubinet draws a sympathique (as we say in French) portrait of young Blinken, as a student, describing him as, “facetious, quickly integrated in his new environment, with many friends, gifted and modest at the same time.”

During his senior year – or terminale – he followed the curriculum in economics of the “serie B.” In 1980, he passed the French Baccalaureate. By then, the school had moved its campus to the Rue du Theatre in the 15th arrondissement. 

Blinken was quite popular in the school, Madame Roubinet recalled, and enjoyed extra curricular activities.

With a few friends, including lawyer Robert Malley, who is today part of Joe Biden’s foreign affairs team, he created the first Yearbook for the school. They gave an American format to this purely Anglo-Saxon tradition and jazzed it up with humor à la française. 

As a co-editor, he was responsible for the photographs, the interviews, and even the financing of the publication. While speaking at a conference held in EJM’s packed amphitheater on Nov. 5, 2015, he remarked, “Jeanine Manuel taught us to think like the other person, see things through the other’s eyes, and to respect differences.”  

He liked films, sports, but music most of all. One of the anecdotes told in the weekly l’Express  about Blinken as an adolescent  was that he was a fan of Pink Floyd and enjoyed singing ” We don’t need no education / Hey teachers, leave the kids alone.”

Today most of the children of the 10,000 odd American citizens  – diplomats, members of international organizations or of the business world – who live in Paris, attend one of the many bilingual or multilingual schools implanted in the French capital.  They follow in the footsteps of EJM – the pioneer .

On Oct. 4-6 of this year, the US Secretary of State was on an official visit to France to chair the ministerial meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  At the end of the month he was in Rome, accompanying US President Joe Biden to the G20 meeting in Rome prior to the opening of the COP26 in Glasgow.

Constantly in the public eye, Blinken’s face has become familiar to the general public of France .

The appointment at the head of US State Department of such a francophile and francophone personality to lead American foreign policy is particularly important today and will be even more after January 1, 2022, when France takes over the rotating presidency of Europe by heading the Council of Europe for six months.

It will be a crucial time for France, especially after the departure of Angela Merkel following the Sept. 26 elections. French President Emmanuel Macron is the champion of a strong Europe on the world scene and wants to reinforce the cohesion between himself and France’s own Secretary of States to help the US and Europe to work together on multiple geopolitical, economic and environmental issues around the globe.  

On Feb. 6, 2021, Blinken made his first official appearance as the new Secretary of State at the State Department.  President Joe Biden took this opportunity to praise the Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and their families for  being “the face of America abroad, to be trusted and empowered. ”

On a personal note, those words filled me with emotion since they echoed my own  life. I could say that, as a bilingual person myself and having spent my whole life in the world of diplomacy, I could doubly relate to Blinken.

Gerard Araud, French Ambassador to the US  from 2014 to 2019, applauded Blinken’s nomination as Secretary of State,  saying that American diplomacy was now headed by a friend of France.

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

A la Carte: Three Columns Today: Perfect Pie Crust, Shepherd’s Pie & Ginger Chicken Hash

Lee White

Is it too soon to talk about pie?

I do not think so.

Thanksgiving is just under three weeks away. For many years I made the crusts from scratch. The best recipe was given to me by Deb Jensen, who lived in Stonington and had a couple of restaurants in the borough. But before that, she had a restaurant in New York City that, if I remember correctly, was called Pie in the Sky. After she left the city and opened her first restaurant in Connecticut, she continued to take her pies to New York  That’s how good her pies were.

Over the years, I have made others,  but hers are the best. Were mine as good as Deb’s? Not really, but it was really good. I have tried boxed and refrigerated ones. None were terribly good, but if the fillings were rich and decadent (think chocolate or pecan) or loaded with fresh fruit (apple pie served with vanilla ice cream or lemon meringue), the crust might an afterthought. I do have Oronoque pie crusts (in the freezer aisle of most supermarkets). In a pinch, they are tasty.

I have to admit, too, that Rich Swanson has taught me to make a pie crust with homemade buttermilk biscuits, a bit easier than Deb’s. It is yummy. But below is the Deb’s pie crust. I use butter and Crisco (c’mon, I have two recipes that use Crisco. It was good enough for our mothers’, it is okay for us once in a while). Next week we can talk about fruit pies and blind baking. And my Aunt Anne’s creamy  lemon pie that you serve with a little whipped cream. 

Deb Jensen’s Perfect Pie Crust

Makes enough for two, two-crust, and nine-inch pies (what is not used can be frozen)

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾  cups solid shortening (1 cup very cold Crisco, 3/4 cup very cold butter)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
½ cup ice water
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients. Cut shortening into dry ingredients. Add egg to ice water, beat, then add vinegar. Stir into dry ingredients with a fork. Form into four balls, place individually in plastic wrap or small plastic bags and chill. Bring back to room temperature before rolling out. *

Dough keeps one month in refrigerator and longer in freezer.

*My biggest problem with pie crust is the rolling out. I use a well-floured pastry cloth and a well-floured mitten on my rolling pin. When it’s the right size, I roll the crust up on my rolling pin and gently “roll it out” over the pie plate. Add filling, and repeat the same for the top crust.

If you do this in a food processor (which I do): whirl dry ingredients. Add very, very cold butter and shortening in small chunks and pulse about 10 times. With machine running, add the wet mixture and process only until it just little pieces hold together. Dump it onto a floured surface, knead a little (very little), then follow directions in first paragraph.

***

I read at night in bed, sometimes hours before I am ready to go to sleep. I like to read long magazine articles, especially in the New Yorker. I don’t read all the articles but I surely remember the cartoons. On one particular night I saw a cartoon about selling food that might have been in the freezer for a long time. I promised myself that I would check the big freezer in the garage the next day

What I found were about three packages of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. They must have been on sale. I took a package and put it in the refrigerator. I found, a recipe, yellowed in age, I used to make it when we lived in Canterbury, Connecticut, maybe 25 years ago (not the chicken, just the recipe!). It is as delicious as I’d remembered. Feel free to use a bottled salsa, but the recipe below is my daughter’s recipe. 

Ginger Chicken Hash

Probably from The New York Times, possible the early 1990s

Yield: 2 servings

10 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock to poach chicken breasts
1 large baking potato
1 medium red onion (6 tablespoons grated)
1 tablespoons ginger, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons flour
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

In a saucepan, add chicken breasts and stock. Bring to a boil, drop to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Remove from the pan. You will not use the stock again.

Meanwhile, peel potato, cut into small chunks and place in food processor. Chop fine by pulsing; place potato in a dish towel and twist to squeeze out liquid; place in mixing bowl. In the same processor bowl, finely chopped onion, then stir into the potato mixture. Grate ginger and add flour, egg whites, salt and pepper into the bowl and stir. When chicken is cool, dice and stir into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat large nonstick pan until it is very hot; reduce heat to medium. Add oil; add chicken hash mixture. Cook, stirring often, until browned. Stir with salsa.

Salsa

From my daughter, Darcy White

½ onion (she uses yellow onion, I like sweet onions)
1/3 bunch cilantro
1 bunch scallions (green onions), green and white parts
4 to 5 Roma tomatoes (3 t 4 vine-ripened or 1 to 2 beefsteak tomatoes)
1 small can Rotel original canned tomatoes
1 jalapeno, seeded, or half a can El Patio Mexican hot-style tomato sauce

Coarsely chop onions, cilantro, scallions and fresh tomatoes. Place all ingredients except jalapeno or hot sauce into a food processor or blender and pulse to desired consistency. Place in a medium-sized bowl; stir in the jalapeno or hot sauce, to your own taste, and mix. Serve as a dip for chips, add ¼ cup into guacamole or use with the chicken hash recipe above.

***

My husband’s parents and my own parents had a lot in common. Doug’s dad and mine were born on the same day and year, July 1, 1905. Our mothers were born on the same year. Each of our parents had two children, a boy first then girl. They all worked full-time. They lived in New York State, Doug’s in Rochester, mine in Troy. They didn’t meet until we married. Until they died, they liked each other.. 

Our mothers had something else in common. Neither of them enjoyed cooking. When Doug and I met (he lived in New York City while I was in Rochester), I didn’t know how to cook, but I loved him so I learned to cook. He never complained about my cooking, but he didn’t eat shepherd’s pie, possibly because his Michigan grandfather was a sheep farmers and his knowledge of lamb was mutton. Now alone, I  make shepherd’s pie with leftover lamb. Today I am thawing a lamb shoulder; tonight will be lamb for dinner. Tomorrow I will make enough shepherd’s pie for a couple more nights.

Shepherd’s Pie

Yield: serves 8 to 10

Olive oil
1 medium to large onion, diced
10 to 12 small- to medium-sized carrots, diced
3 pounds lamb chunks (beef is okay)*
5 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 stick of butter
One-half cup milk (2 percent is fine)
1 14 ½  can diced tomatoes
Around 1 cup (as needed) stock (I use chicken stock)
1 pound each frozen tiny peas and corn (green beans could be nice, too)
grated cheese (optional)
paprika (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste, throughout the cooking

In a large skillet (or a Le Creuset Dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and carrots are somewhat soft. Add salt and pepper to taste; remove vegetables from the skillet onto a plate. Add a bit more olive oil and put lamb into the same skillet; cook until meat is no longer pink. You may remove some of the fat that is rendered. 

In the meantime, put potatoes into a good-sized pot, add water and cook until potatoes are very soft. Drain potato water and place potatoes back on the cooktop. Mash the potatoes with butter and milk, Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Into the cooked lamb, add back the onions and carrots, the diced tomatoes, frozen peas and corn. Bring to a summer, adding enough stock so the mixture is not too dry. Again, season to taste.

In a large oven-proof casserole (large enough to hold veggies and lamb topped with potatoes),  pour in the mixture and even it out. Toss grated cheese over mixture, if using. Add mashed potatoes and carefully cover the mixture, sealing all around. Heat the “pie” in a preheated 350 degree oven until hot,. If you want a little color, add a bit of paprika to the top before putting it in the oven. If you really like more cheese, grated some more to the top about 15 minutes before it is ready to remove from the oven. 

 Shepherd’s pie can be made beforehand and refrigerate. To serve it hot,  heat oven to 350 degrees and place casserole, covered, into oven for about 30  minutes. Remove cover, then heat for another 25 minutes, until mashed potatoes are a bit crusty.  

*I used leftover lamb. If you do, you do not have to cook the lamb again.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

The Movie Man: A Ticket to ‘Dune’ is Worth Every Penny

Kevin Ganey is ‘The Movie Man.’

There is nothing groundbreaking about Dune (think special effects or storytelling). But every technique invoked was done in the proper manner. I was beyond satisfied with every choice made in production. Cinematography, music, acting, editing … it was all done right.

I cannot emphasize enough how pleased I was with this adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel. While I had not read the book (beyond the first two chapters), friends raved about the adaptation being everything for which they could they could ask.

I also had not screened the 1984 adaptation helmed by David Lynch, but was aware of its poor reception. This is not intended to be a single film, as the novel was the first in a series, and we saw no sequel to Lynch’s version, which should tell us everything we need to know about its quality.

Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel ‘Dune’ has been made into a just-released movie.

Director Denis Villeneuve (whose previous films include Arrival and Blade Runner 2049) has now delivered a film that makes us eagerly await its next installments. I would say it is the equivalent of a perfectly-pitched TV pilot.

Perhaps what I was most impressed by was the explanations for intricate details and rules for this universe without breaking the fourth wall. It was as if we were conveniently learning everything in preparation for future events without making it obvious and cringeworthy.

There is also the establishment of Zendaya’s character. Although her formal performances are reserved for the end of the movie, she appears via interwoven vignettes throughout the film, conveying her importance.

I cannot review any further without giving away spoilers, even in the slightest manner (I know many people who would react to a minor revelation in a manner equivalent to Frank Costanza on Seinfeld: “I like to go in fresh!”)

In short, the ticket is worth every penny and the trip to the theater is worth every second spent away from home.

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment.

A la Carte: Lee Offers a New Twist on Vegetables … With a Bit of a Kick!

Lee White

A few weeks ago, my refrigerator was filled with tomato sauces and chicken. I had made that huge, seven-pound chicken, which I ate for at least five days (sandwiches, tacos, chicken salad.)

As for the tomato sauce, Judy Robertson gave me some from her garden and two other condo friends gave me her mother’s recipe for sauce with chicken while another gave me some topped with her own ricotta-filled shells. 

Then there was more chicken. For the first time since the dreaded COVID, friends and I ate dinner at our favorite-always restaurant, Sneekers, on a Friday night.

Dick had his go-to fish and chips (baked potato, no cole slaw), Judy had an enormous mac and cheese loaded with lobster while I had the chicken-fried chicken (fried boneless, skinless chicken), mashed potato and the white, black-pepper-flicked gravy, which the southern people love for their chicken-fried steak.

In any case, I am now craving vegetables, mushrooms in particular. I am not brave enough to forage, but I love them. This recipe includes just about every vegetable plus mushrooms.

Curry Vegetables
Adapted from Bon Appetit, September 2021

Photo by Roam In Color on Unsplash.

6 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
6 cups 1-inch mixed veggies (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, okra and/or mushrooms
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 2-inch piece turmeric peeled (or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric}
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
1 habanero, Fresno or jalapeno chile, finely chopped
1 13.5 ounce can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
1 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoon honey
1 15-ounce (or so) frozen green peas
Small handful chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ lime (optional)
Steamed white rice for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Transfer all to a large bowl, add veggies and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Divide vegetables between 2 rimmed baking sheet and roast until almost tender, and starting to brown in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside.

Heat remaining coconut oil in a large skillet over medium. Add seasonings and cook, stirring often, until fragrant. Add onion, garlic and ginger, season with salt and pepper and cook stirring often, until onion is translucent and spice mixture looks dry and clumpy, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add chile, coconut milk and broth to skillet and bring curry to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about one-third, enough to coat a spoon, 13 to 17 minutes. Stir in honey, taste curry and season with salt and pepper, if needed

Add peas and reserved roasted vegetables to skillet and return curry to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are fork-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in cilantro.

Let sit 5 minutes, then stir in lime juice if using. Serve with rice alongside.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A View From My Porch: Continuing the Tikka Saga — with Slides of Trips to the UK

The London skyline by night with St. Paul’s Cathedral at center left. Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

Clearly, we all need a break; this lighter essay is mine.

In August, LymeLine published a recipe for chicken tikka masala from Lee White cooked in an “Instant Pot.” We made the dish, pictured below, with her recipe and found it to be an authentic and tasty interpretation of the “British staple.”

Christina and I enjoy the aromatic spices, and have some “history” with cilantro. We added steamed celery, carrots, and peas to Lee’s dish; as we often do with curries.

Coincidentally, chicken tikka masala is my “go-to” entrée in Indian restaurants, since it can be spiced mild to medium. Christina has a much more adventurous palate, and has been known to order a curry, “India spicy”, which usually piques the interest of the restaurant staff, who may hover nearby until she tastes the dish. I’ll eat all the naan; she won’t need it.

We were introduced to tikka on our first trip to England, where we visited my daughter, Erin’s (then) home in the Roman walled city of Chester, which also served as our base for Liverpool, London, and the broader countryside. 

There is no shortage of restaurants highlighting the cuisine of the subcontinent in London. Our choice was just over the London Bridge, near the entrance to the Borough Market; which, alone, is worth a visit.

I look to Madame Editor to corroborate or correct the following: former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, described “tikka” as “the true British national dish.” Erin agreed, but not wholeheartedly; and went further and informed us that legend has it that the recipe actually originated in Glasgow, by Bangladeshi chefs, who created it to provide an alternative to their traditional, spicier dishes for the milder Scottish palate. 

I was surprised with the above, because I would have assumed that the national dish would be bangers and mash, fish and chips, or a bacon bap from a vendor in a train station.  I’ll defer to Madame Editor.

Author’s Notes: For the unfamiliar, an Instant Pot (IP) is, a relatively new small kitchen appliance that houses both a pressure cooker and a slow cooker. As Lee noted in her recipe, you can also sauté or brown meats in the IP. In our household, we use it once or twice a month

Here are a few vacation slides; actually, the captions.

  • We walked the Roman Wall in Chester and watched a lacrosse match at the Queen’s School for girls, which was founded in 1878, and renamed in 1882 as the “Queen’s School”, by decree of Queen Victoria, the school’s first patron
  • We were regularly within sight of the Queen Victoria Clock Tower at Chester’s East Gate. Built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, it is said to be the most photographed clock in England (after Big Ben).
  • We strolled along the canals in Chester and were impressed with the “fleets” of narrow boats, which are canal boats serving both as cruisers and residences.  
  • We visited both Penny Lane and the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The former has a famous barber; while the latter is known as the birthplace of the Beatles.
  • We visited the Roman Baths in Somerset, constructed in 70 A.D., and now considered one of the best-preserved historic sites in Roman Britain.
  • We visited the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • We saw the Rosetta Stone and the Pompei exhibit at the British Museum.
  • We shopped in Harrods and viewed the memorial to Princesss Diana and Dodi Fayed, which has since been removed. 
  • We visited the Churchill War Rooms, including the broadcast room where the PM recorded his wartime messages to the British public.
  • We visited some magnificent gardens on country estates, and much smaller, but meticulously maintained home gardens, whose gardeners were very willing to discuss local horticulture with we yanks. 
  • On Anglesey Island, in Wales, we were surprised to see moored sailboats with their keels resting on the seabed at low tide. We visited a church on a small off-shore island accessible only at low tides.

We want to return to the UK. And spend more time in Wales with Erin and her husband, RAF Squadron Leader Rugg, and perhaps fit Scotland into the itinerary.

Editor’s Note: i) This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

ii) Growing up in England during the second half of the 20th century, there is no doubt that during my early years fish and chips, bangers and mash, or roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding were variously regarded as the national dish. Mr. Gotowka is correct that by the 70’s or 80’s curry in all its forms had become a major feature of the British culinary landscape. I am honestly not sure what would be considered the national dish at this point … I will consult with friends and family still located there and report back!

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

Reading Uncertainly? ‘Troubles’ by J. G. Farrell is a “Compelling Read”

When a world is collapsing all about us, how much are we willing to recognize?

J. G. Farrell’s description of a veteran of the World War I trenches going to Ireland to rejoin a young lady he had met only once in London during the War is an allegory on human inertia and lethargy in the face of rapid change.

In 1919, Major Brendan Archer travels from London to Kilnalough, Ireland, thinking to ask Angela Spencer to join him in marriage, even though he could not remember ever asking her outright to do so. He finds an elusive young lady and a scene of inertia and decay.

Ireland has entered the “Troubles” with Sinn Fein pushing for complete separation from the British Empire. And that Empire is collapsing just as the Majestic Hotel, owned and operated by Angela’s father, Edward, the scene of the entire novel, is doing the same.

Farrell gives us the Hotel dominated by “dust.” Every page describes dust, “mould”, gloom, creepers, grime, cobwebs, collapsing floors, “man-eating” plants, and an ever-expanding entourage of reproducing cats. One room featured “an enormous greyish-white sweater that lay in one corner like a dead sheep.”

The weather wasn’t any better: “it rained all that July,” and the hotel residents complained of the coming  “dreadful gauntlet of December, January, February.” Both the hotel and Ireland exuded “an atmosphere of change, insecurity and decay.” But the residents continued to follow life’s rituals: prayers at breakfast, afternoon teas, dressing for dinner, and whist in the evening.

Add to this mordant scene the author’s interjection of gloomy news reports from around the world: White Russians and English military supporters being trounced in Russia, victorious Boers in South Africa, a mess in Mesopotamia and Egypt, rebellion in Poland, and, finally, the Indians attempting to remove themselves from British rule.

In the face of all this, the hotel’s owner and operator, Edward Spencer aggravates the Major: “ … his overbearing manner; the way he always insisted on being right, flatly stating his opinions in a loud and abusive tone without paying any attention to what the other fellow was saying.”

Does this also describe the Brits in other sections of the world?

The Major remains always a drifter “with the tide of events,” never able to respond, dominated, it seems, by “the country’s vast and narcotic inertia.”

This is a story of the collapse of a hotel, descending at last into ashes, and an allusion to the similar collapse of the British Empire, with the Second World War being its enormous fire. It is a compelling read, one that suggests some connections to the events of the second decade of the 21st century …

Editor’s Note: ‘Troubles’ by J. G. Farrell is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London in 1970.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year former resident of Lyme, Conn., he now lives in Peabody, Mass. He writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history, but he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and served faithfully as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

The Movie Man: Craig is Captivating, Seydoux is Stunning, But ‘No Time To Die’ Fails to Live Up to Expectations

Daniel Craig at the film premiere of ‘Spectre’ in Berlin. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Special to LymeLine.com

Kevin Ganey is ‘The Movie Man.’

This is a special review for me.

My first ever published piece as a writer was a review for the previous Bond film, Spectre. Much has transpired since then, both for me and the world.

But the appreciation of the art of cinema, manifested in many forms, remains as we struggle with whatever trouble life throws our way. Paraphrasing Mel Brooks, it’s, “Just another defense against the universe,” and a defense that has a special place in my heart.

Bond films are not known for their groundbreaking, cinematic expertise, even if they do consult Stanley Kubrick for lighting (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977). Yet, they remain a necessity for the movie-going experience. Indeed, there were plenty over the years that pushed boundaries and blew us away.

But No Time to Die is not among those ranks.

Apart from being another installment in the Bond franchise made for the sake of pure entertainment, this one is necessary for screening since it is the final performance of Daniel Craig, who, I will proudly assert, is the best performer to take on the role of Ian Fleming’s iconic spy.

I will praise the movie on three separate counts. Two of them being characters and the other being a driving force for the plot.

Craig’s final run as Bond is indeed the most vulnerable of the 25 occasions the character has graced the silver screen, often portrayed as hardened man, who turns to booze, pills, and sex as a coping mechanism for years of trauma.

Then there is Léa Seydoux, who is the only actress to reprise her Bond girl character from a previous movie. For the record, yes, Maud Adams appeared in two films, but as two separate characters, namely Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun and the title character in Octopussy.)

Seydoux is, without question, the most sophisticated of all the women, who have blown the world away with their beauty alongside Bond, and she has now provided additional reasons for us to remember her contribution to the franchise.

While I can praise Craig and Seydoux, the same cannot be said for the film’s villains (Academy Award-winners Christoph Waltz and Rami Malek), who simply cannot live up to their performers’ hypes.

Then there is the plot.

Upon screening it, viewers will pick up on some hackneyed elements. But the danger is perhaps the most authentic since Goldfinger (in which the title character seeks to detonate a dirty bomb inside Fort Knox and the subsequent contamination of the gold thus wrecking the US economy.)

Why repeat the evil plans of the third film? Simply put: to remind the reader how impressive it is.

I close this review by thanking Craig for breathing new life into a character. When he took on the role, he transformed Bond from the occasionally campy figure to the gritty, no-nonsense, adrenaline-pumping performances he gave for an era dealing with new forms of international turmoil.

Will he read this? Very unlikely (unless he decides to scavenge local, online newspapers throughout the world), but I can dream, can’t I?

Again, thank you, Daniel Craig. The history of cinema will unquestionably look kindly on you.

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment.

A la Carte: Dinner in Less Than 30 Minutes? Try Sheet-pan Gnocchi

Lee White

I have always assumed that people use coupons when they go to supermarkets. I am a newspaper and magazine freak, and I always clip coupons (and try to remember to take them with me, too.)

In my much younger days, before I knew how to cook at all, I clipped newspapers coupons not only to save money (my ex-husband was a student and I was the full-time secretary/mother/bread-winner/cook) and hoped there might be recipes in the food section of the Ithaca (NY) Journal.

We only had one car and, as I remember, we only had one supermarket. Back then, there was one lettuce (iceberg), maybe no frozen vegetables and, possibly, no plastic trays of meat in the refrigerator section.

I learned to cook from friends, my first mother-in-law, and from my first cookbook, the latter of which came free with a set of encyclopedia my ex- decided to buy.

Today I visit, on a regular basis, four supermarkets within five minutes of my house. Which ones I go to first might have something to do with coupons. I don’t clip (or use an app) to try something new, unless a friend or my daughter suggests it.

I am, however, just as likely to see something new and shiny at the market, buy it and see if I like it.

Such is the case with Giovanni Rana’s “Italy’s Most Loved, Imported from Italy” Skillet Gnocchi.

Two weeks later, I found a recipe that called for shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi. So I made this recipe. The dish was delicious and the recipe so simple and quick that even a full-time worker, mother, bread-winner or cook can get this dinner done in less than half an hour.

Sheet-Pan Gnocchi
(possibly from Bon Appetit, clipped the recipe, page didn’t include magazine name)
Yield: 4 servings

½ large red onion, cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 pints cherry tomatoes
1 package shelf-stable or refrigerated potato gnocchi
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided, plus more for drizzling
1 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more
Freshly grated black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups baby arugula
1 cup basil leaves, large leaves torn
2 ounces Parmesan, shaved

Place rack in middle of oven; preheat to 425 degrees. Toss onion, garlic, tomatoes, gnocchi, 3 tablespoons oil and ¾ teaspoons salt in a rimmed baking sheet to coat. Season generously with pepper and toss again to combine.

Roast, stirring once or twice, until gnocchi are golden and start to crisp, most of the tomatoes have burst and onion is golden 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove garlic from baking sheet, peel and place in a small bowl. Mash with ¼ teaspoon of salt (garlic should be very soft.) Whisk in lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoons oil, dressing with pepper and more salt if necessary.

Add arugula, basil and parmesan to baking sheet and drizzle dressing over; toss to combine.

Divide among plates and drizzle with more oil, if you like.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

A la Carte: Roasted Chicken Under Garlic Bread Offers Taste of Autumn, Hint of Winter Meals to Come

Lee White

Oh, no, it’s chicken again, I thought, as I looked at the last column I wrote weeks before I left to see my daughter in California.

But during the many days I spent there, I thought about all she’d cooked for me—tacos on Thursdays and nachos on Friday (both made with a roasted chicken she’s bought at Costco.) 

I guess the acorn doesn’t fall from the tree. In addition to the splash pool at her town’s pool, dips in the Pacific Ocean with her friend, Elizabeth, who lives steps from the ocean in Long Beach, a movie with Darcy starring Matt Damon (Stillwater, don’t miss it!) and a cookout on Labor Day, her food was incredible, as always.

But on the flights home (and the long drive home from Bradley), I was thinking I’d like to get a roasting chicken. While I ask the post office to hold my mail when I travel, I ask my neighbor to keep my The Day newspapers. As I read the news the next morning, the advertising pages included Perdue roasting chickens for $0.99 a pound at Stop & Shop. I bought three and froze two.

I remembered a recipe by cookbook writer Melissa Clark for roast chicken under bread. I grabbed the last frozen half baguette I’d slathered with butter, oil and garlic from last winter. So, on the first day of 2021 football, the final US Open tennis final and a Connecticut Sun game I’d DVR’d the night before, I roasted one of those chickens under the garlic bread.

My yummy dinner included three sliced local heirloom tomatoes and savored the beginning of autumn and winter meals to come.

Roasted Chicken Under Garlic Bread
Yield: Serves 4, plus leftovers

8 ounces good white dry wine (never cooking wine, of course)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) butter
1 good-sized roasting chicken (about 5 to 6 pounds), gizzards removed, chicken patted dry and salt and pepper tossed into the cavity
Garlic bread (recipe below)

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, allow butter and wine to reduce for 15 minutes.

Turn oven to 350 degrees. In a roasting pan, place garlic bread, cut-size up. Top with chicken. Place the chicken in the oven for about 20 minutes, then pour the wine/butter over the chicken. Roast the chicken until crispy (temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit, at the thickest part of the thigh, without touching a bone).

The garlic bread should be crispy and soft at the same time. Serve within 10 minutes, with bread cut into croutons around the chicken. 

Garlic Bread

Yield: A large baguette will feed at least 6 people; if using it under the bread, open the loaf and place under the chicken, cut side open; otherwise, freeze it in foil. 

1 large baguette, sliced through horizontally

In a small food processor (or processed with a small mixer), add 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted softened butter, 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 6 to 8 garlic cloves — minced, and chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Slather each half of the loaf with the garlic mixture and put the slices together if not using immediately.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at leeawhite@aol.com.

Reading Uncertainly? ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ by Carlo Rovelli

Is it really possible to describe the mysteries of physics in 81 pages?

Richard Feynman tried it in the 140 pages of Six Easy Pieces, published in 1994, but some afterwards described it as “Six Difficult Pieces.” Carlo Rovelli, the Italian theoretical physicist, has raised the ante. His work is a jewel of both brevity and clarity, especially to my curious mind that barely made it through Physics I at college.

The seven lessons begin with Einstein and the Theory of Relativity. Much has been written and expressed about this work, but Rovelli’s 11 pages are a precise summary. And he reminds us that, like Einstein, we “… don’t get anywhere by not ‘wasting’ time.”

That reminds me of the 1957 lesson offered by Robert Paul Smith’s famous Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing:” exploration and curiosity are essential to progress.

Rovelli then discusses quantum mechanics and the questions of Bohr, Planck, and Heisenberg, all summarized by the phrase “And to the very last, doubt.” And uncertainty.

From the “microcosm of elementary particles” he then moves to the cosmos, the “macrocosmic structure of the universe.” Our Sun is an, “… infinitesimal speck in a vast cloud of one hundred billion stars – our Galaxy” and our Galaxy is, “… itself a speck of dust in a huge cloud of galaxies.”

Back then to the smallest particles, including the unseen but acknowledged varieties of quarks and the confirmation of the Higgs boson.

Then Rovelli moves to the “swarming cloud of probability: quantum gravity. He acknowledges that we know more now than we did 50 years ago, “so we should be quite satisfied. But we are not.” Forever the curious species, our “ … science becomes even more beautiful – incandescent in the forge of nascent ideas, of intuitions, of attempts. Of roads taken and then abandoned, of enthusiasms. In the effort to imagine what has not yet been imagined.”

The seventh lesson concerns Black Holes. We live, we think, in a world of “sheer chance,” in which “probability is the heart of physics … I may not know something with certainty, but I can assign a lesser or greater degree of probability to something.”

And Black Swans, too? How many “dimensions” really exist?

Dr. Rovelli wraps up this engaging and challenging set of lessons with – what else? – more questions. “What are we?” and should not we be aware, “… that we can always be wrong, and therefore ready at any moment to change direction if a new track appears?”

“To be free doesn’t mean that our behavior is not determined by the laws of nature. It means that it is determined by the laws of nature acting in our brains.”

“We live in “inextricable complexity,” and this means, “… we are a species that is naturally moved by curiosity … ”

Rovelli’s brief synopsis of what we think we know about the physical world and universe challenges us to renew our study and our search.

That conclusion reinforces the haiku I wrote for myself many years ago (with apologies to Robert Frost):

Pause for a moment:
Doubt, then curiosity,
Try another path.

Editor’s Note:  ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ by Carlo Rovelli was published by Riverhead Books, New York in 2016.

A la Carte: Two Columns This Week and a ‘Nibbles’ Too! Enjoy Eggplant Parm Panini, Clam Chowder with Corn & Chorizo

A la Carte-1: Creamy Corn and Clam Chowder with Crispy Chorizo

Lee White

It was a really nice week. My oldest Troy childhood friend in the world visited for two days. (Her name is Rosalie. She is about a year older than me and, no, I was not named after her.) We ate lobster rolls at Captain Scott, I grilled steaks on the grill and we had sweet corn and a big salad, and the last night we ate not-great pizza and Coca-Cola, like we did a gazillion years ago.

I also had a nice coffee chat with David Collins at Mystic Depot and we talked for almost an hour. He suggested I stop at Sea Well on Masons Island and buy a pint of the scallop and bacon soup he thinks is incredible. I did and he is right; see the Nibbles* column below.

Best of all was I got my COVID booster shot. The day before the storm, I stopped at Stop & Shop to pick up a few things (not toilet paper or a gallon of milk). I went to the pharmacy on-site and asked if I could get the booster. I filled two forms and got my shot. Sunday I ran a fever for about 14 hours, during which I took a couple of ibuprofen. Today I am fine.

Oh, yes, Bon Appetit magazine came in the mail. There were nice ideas for autumn meals, but I saw a recipe (below) that required sweet corn. Our local sweet corn will probably be available for at least another month. I love clam chowder and this recipe uses the blended corn as a thickener. But feel free to add a soupcon of heavy cream or a pat of butter when you serve it!

Creamy Corn and Clam Chowder with Crispy Chorizo

Photo by Kevin Lanceplaine on Unsplash.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, September, 2021
Yield: 4 servings

5 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
4 ounces fresh chorizo, preferably Mexican, casings removed (any dry sausage will do)
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika or regular smoked paprika
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
24 littleneck clams (about 2 pounds), scrubbed
4 ears of corn, kernels removed (about 4 cups)
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Kosher salt (I use fine sea salt)
Cilantro leaves with tender stems (for serving, optional)

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-heat. Add chorizo and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon and stirring every minute or so, until browned and crisp. About 5 minutes. Sprinkle in paprika and stir to combine, then scrape chorizo and all into a small bowl. Wipe out pot.

Pour remaining 2 tablespoons oil into same pot . Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, and adding a splash of water if starting to brown, until softened but not browned, 10-12 minutes. Add clams and toss to combine. Cover pot and cook until clams open, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncovered and transfer opened clams to a medium bowl, leaving liquid behind. If any clams are still closed, cover pot again and cook remaining until opened, about 4 minutes more. Transfer open clams to bowl, discard any that have not opened at this point. Tent bowl with foil.

Pour 3 cups water into pot and bring to a simmer. Add corn kernels and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and puree one third of chowder in a blender until very smooth. Return puree to pot and mix well. (Or use an immersion blender, if you have one and blend directly into the pot until you have blended about one-third and chowder is partly thickened.) Stir in lime juice, taste and season with salt if needed.

Divide chowder among shallow bowls and add clams. Spoon chorizo and oil over and scatter some cilantro on top (if you are using cilantro; I know some people hate it!)

A la Carte-2: Eggplant Parm Panini

One of the many vegetables I never tasted growing up was eggplant. As I have mentioned before, the only veggies I grew up with were canned green beans, canned peas and canned corn. We didn’t have a garden, but in the summer we would have fresh sweet corn and local tomatoes. If we had salad, it was iceberg lettuce, anemic tomatoes, maybe a few chunks of cucumber and a choice of bottled dressing. 

I love everything about eggplant—its shiny exterior, its gushiness in a ratatouille, roasted in the oven or the whole eggplant charred on the grill. Eggplants are best when they are young. They do not need to be peeled. They are watery, so you can slice them, salt them a bit and allow the slices to dehydrate between paper towels. 

In my newest issue of Real Simple magazine, I cut out four recipes, one for eggplant on a panini. The next morning I looked at a shelf in my kitchen and saw my panini press. Why had I not used it during the pandemic? Or even before it?

This recipe can be made in a panini press or in a skillet pressed down by another. The recipe calls for roasting the eggplant in the oven, but you could do it on your grill. You don’t need to fry it in a lot of oil. It is particularly delicious while tomatoes are still luscious and local.

Eggplant Parm Panini

Photo by Huzeyfe Turan on Unsplash.

From Real Simple, September, 2021
Yield: makes 4 sandwiches

1 eggplant, cut into 8 1-inch rounds
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
¾ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1-pound ciabatta, split horizontally and quartered (8 slices total)
1 big tomato, cut into 8 thick slices
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about ½ cup)
¼ cup marinara sauce 

Place a large, rimmed baking sheet in oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss eggplant with oil in a large bowl until fully coated. Arrange eggplant evenly on preheated baking sheet; roast, flipping halfway through, until tender and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over high (or heat a panini press).

Season eggplant with ½ teaspoon salt. Place 2 eggplant slices on each of the 4 bread slices. Top eggplant with tomato slices; season with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Top with basil and mozzarella; sprinkle with Parmesan. Portion each with marinara. Top remaining 4 bread slices with marinara and form 4 sandwiches.

Place two sandwiches on grill pan and top with another heavy pan, pressing down to flatten sandwiches. Cook, flipping once, until cheese has melted and bread is crispy and browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining sandwiches. (Or cook all 4 sandwiches in a panini press.)  

*Nibbles:  Sea Well Seafood Mystic Scallops and Bacon Chowder

David Collins has written for The Day for as long as I have. Now he has a column but when he was a reporter, he did some good restaurant reviews. So he suggested I try Sea Well’s scallop and bacon chowder, I drove the few minutes to Masons Island by 9:45 a.m. but it didn’t open until 10, so I sat in my car, windows open to the sea air and read on my Kindle.

The chowder must be lots of people’s favorite because the nice clerk pointed to plastic containers in the cooler. I took one home. That night I had it with a salad. It was thick with milk or cream or butter, or all three; the scallops were chunky and really tender, and the bacon was a splendid, salty counterpoint to the excellent soup. 

There is another Sea Well in Pawcatuck at 3 Liberty St. (860-599-2082). When we lived in Canterbury, I drove 40 minutes there to buy fish. On my first visit, a chalk board said they had cod pieces. I laughed and laughed, but no one there thought it was funny. I guess you had to read about Shakespeare plays in the 15th and 16th century! 

Sea Well Seafood Mystic
106 Masons Island Road
Mystic, CT 06355
Tel: 860-415-9210

A View from My Porch: Not Your Grandma’s Community Hospital

Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash.

The healthcare landscape has changed remarkably in Connecticut.

You may have noticed some name changes, new signage, and that “opportunities” for care have increased to a level that rivals access to coffee. In this essay, I’m going to review this new landscape, and consider why it developed. My goal is to help the reader make sense of Connecticut’s new, and still evolving, hospitals roster.

I begin this review in Hartford, where healthcare system changes are really representative of the industry’s overall transformation. In addition, because I was a member of Saint Francis Hospital’s attending and management staff for 10 years in an earlier part of my life, I know the players.

In the mid-1970s, Hartford was well-served by three independent hospitals in, what appeared to be, a stable healthcare environment. The oldest, Hartford Hospital, was founded in 1854 by the local medical society, actually in response to an industrial accident — a steam boiler explosion. Saint Francis Hospital, which was established in 1897 by the “Sisters of Saint Joseph”, is now the largest Catholic hospital in New England. A third, smaller hospital, Mount Sinai, was founded in 1923 to provide a facility for Jewish doctors, who were unable to obtain staff privileges in the other two.

Then, an extraordinary makeover of that local system of independent hospitals began in1995 when Mount Sinai merged with Saint Francis, which was one of the first occasions in the United States of a formalized relationship between stand-alone Catholic and Jewish hospitals. The facilities that once housed Mount Sinai became the Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital.

By 2015, Saint Francis had already become part of Trinity Health of New England, an “integrated health care delivery system”, with five hospitals; which, in turn, is a member of Trinity Health, a Catholic health system with 93 hospitals in 22 states! 

Drivers of Mergers and Affiliations:

Such deals are growing across the United States. Some of the motivation can be attributed to the hospital industry’s response to healthcare reform and managed care, both of which often involved negotiated reimbursement schemes and utilization review programs. Clearly, larger hospital groups are in a stronger position to negotiate compensation rates with payors and regulators. 

In addition, smaller independent hospitals may also consider some sort of affiliation with a larger organization to both improve their capacity to secure capital for programs and facilities, take advantage of resultant economies of scale; and to attract and retain, or simply get access to, physicians in some of the more arcane medical specialties.

Although I had knowledge of the events discussed below, as they occurred, reviewing them as a continuum is really stunning and demonstrates the great breadth and scope of the two major Connecticut hospital groups.

The Hartford Juggernaut: 

The front entrance of Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, United States. Public Domain photo by Elipongo.

In 1994, Hartford Hospital began its transformation from local independent hospital into a “statewide, integrated health system”, when it merged the venerable Institute of Living — founded in 1822 as a private, residential psychiatric hospital — into the hospital’s Department of Psychiatry. The Institute had gained some international notoriety for its treatment of silent movie stars like Clara Bow, errant clerics, and an early adoption of a science-based model of care.

Further, in 1996, pediatric patients from Newington Children’s Hospital, the University of Connecticut Health Center, and Hartford Hospital were all relocated to the new Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, constructed contiguous to the Hartford Hospital campus. 

Planning for this new hospital had actually begun in 1986, when Newington and Hartford agreed to construct a new facility. Extraordinarily, this new alliance was designed to span care from infancy, through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood; and finally transitioning to adult care.

Last October, the Hartford Courant reported that the Hartford HealthCare system now, “… serves 185 towns and cities and is within 15 miles of every Connecticut resident.” It includes seven hospitals, roughly stretching diagonally across the state from Windham and Backus Hospitals in the northeast to St Vincent’s in the southwest.  The data are daunting: almost 30,000 employees, nearly 2,500 licensed beds, and operating revenue of $4.3 billion. 

The Yale Dreadnought:

Aerial view of the campus of Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, including Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven and Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. Photo taken in 2010 by YNHHEditor. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Development of the “grandmother of all CT hospitals” began in 1826, when the Connecticut General Assembly authorized 10 incorporators to establish the General Hospital Society of Connecticut, which was chartered as the first Connecticut hospital in New Haven, and the fourth voluntary hospital in the United States. (i.e., a private nonprofit hospital.)

A new 13-bed hospital opened in 1833; and served as the primary teaching hospital for the Yale medical school, which was founded in 1810 as the Medical Institution of Yale College.

In 1884, the hospital’s name was changed to New Haven Hospital, reflecting the name that was commonly used at the time; and then, in 1945, Grace-New Haven Hospital, to acknowledge an affiliation with neighboring Grace Hospital. And finally, in 1965, as the relationship with the University became more formalized, Yale New Haven Hospital. 

Now moving forward, perhaps Al Jolson described it best in the 1927 film “The Jazz Singer” … “you ain’t heard nothing yet”. 

In 1996, the hospital began its transformation into the “Yale New Haven Health System” (YNHHS), when it entered into a partnership with Bridgeport Hospital; and further expanded in 1998, with the addition of Greenwich Hospital. 

In 2012, they acquired the assets of the Hospital of Saint Raphael, which was founded by the “Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth” in 1907, and also located in New Haven. 

In 2016, ownership of New London’s Lawrence and Memorial Hospital was assumed by YNHHS, which also included L&M’s earlier acquisition of Westerly Hospital, consummated in 2013.

The Yale data are equally daunting: a year ago, YNHHS reported 2,681 licensed beds, 28,589 employees, and total assets of $6.5 billion. The system now includes five acute care hospitals, the Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale New Haven Children’s, and Psychiatric Hospitals, and a multispecialty medical group with more than 1,000 physicians; yielding a sphere of medical influence along the shoreline from Westchester County to Westerly, RI. 

Independent Stand-Alone:

Middlesex Health, which is centered around Middlesex Hospital and an extensive network of community-based outpatient services, remains independent. Middlesex joined the Mayo Clinic Care Network in 2015, which enables their medical staff to easily consult with and take advantage of the broad expertise of the Mayo Clinic in diagnosing complex cases. The relationship with Mayo Clinic is not an acquisition or a merger, but an intellectual partnership (my words).  They are the first hospital in CT and only the second hospital in New England to join the network. 

Satellites:

Most patient encounters with these hospital systems will occur in outpatient settings outside the hospital campus. These can include urgent care centers, blood draw and diagnostic imaging centers, group practices; and more comprehensive sites like the Pequot Health Center (L&M/YNHHS) in Groton, which provides primary care services on a walk-in basis. diagnostic imaging, blood tests, and same day surgery (e.g., cataracts).

The growth of these outpatient sites has been facilitated by electronic medical records and digital radiographs. These records can be shared across different health care settings. via secure enterprise-wide information systems. This technology would also enable the type of relationship that Middlesex has with Mayo. 

I was surprised that Hartford Healthcare has opened eighteen “Go Health” urgent care centers from Montville to Torrington. Go Health Urgent Care is a national company headquartered in Atlanta; with nearly 200 urgent care centers in AK, CA, CT, DE, MO, NY, NC, OK, OR, and WA “through partnerships with market-leading health systems”.

Author’s Notes: Hospital mergers and acquisitions show no signs of slowing down in the United States., and, as economic, regulatory, and operational challenges continue, many community hospitals will consider whether or not they should remain independent, or affiliate with another hospital or health system. 

There are a range of affiliations that a hospital’s leadership can consider, from a fairly simple cooperation agreement among hospitals for group purchasing, to an acquisition of one facility by the other, in which all control is surrendered to the acquiring entity. In the above, I used news reports from the “Hartford Courant”, “New Haven Register”, the “Providence Journal”, and information published by the hospital group, to define the type of affiliation. 

In closing, there is an additional wrinkle to hospital transformation. This morning, while watching the News, Dr. James Cardon came on and did a commercial for CarePartners of Connecticut, a Medicare supplemental insurance company formed in 2018, by two leading organizations; Hartford Healthcare and Tufts Health Plan. “When doctors and a health plan work together, it simplifies patients getting the care they need. That’s what CarePartners of Connecticut is committed to.”

For me, this addition is beyond “stunning.”

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.