Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Sordid Confession (Served Up with Mario Batali's Cacciatore)

So, we are going out to play on the playground yesterday and Lucy really wanted to wear this dress that she loves because her father loves her in it. And she looks just beautiful in it. Really.

And this is great, except I knew she was just going to get it filthy and I was kind of hoping it wouldn't be in rags by the time she started school in September. Not to mention that I am, in fact the world's worst housekeeper and laundress, so I have no shot of getting out a big grease/ink/grass/propane/red wine/Kool Aid/blood/mud/you-name-it stain out of said dress.

That and - here's where I make a sordid confession - I have this little disorder that I have kept a kinda-secret (Okay, I have more than one disorder. Who am I trying to kid?). David knows about it and I've worked on it with my therapist, but other than that, this is not the kind of thing you brag about at industry functions and family reunions.

Then, I passed it on to my daughter and bang! - I have to deal with it. Right out there in the open. Parenting sucks that way. I really tried not to pass it on to her. I tried doing everything the opposite or reverse or backwards, but it must be encoded into her DNA, cause she's just like Mama.

We, Lucy and I, like to save things.

And by save things, I mean we like to get things brand new and then, like, never use them. That way they can always remain in their perfect, unfettered state and never be worn-down, sullied, bruised, creased, dirtied, folded, bent, or worked into any other unseemly man-handled condition. Oh yes, we like to use things, but only if they aren't totally special or we have a back-up of the special thing, a perfect replica waiting in a drawer in the wings, or if the special thing belongs to someone else. Then, we can have at it.

Don't get me wrong, I intend to use that one gorgeous, expensive, cool-looking Williams Sonoma pot holder. But when company comes. Or I cook a dinner for Stephen King. Or Gael Greene. Or when the Food Network people come to see me cook a demo for them. Or when pigs fly. But dammit, I'm going to use that awesome potholder someday. I'll just keep it right here for safe keeping until the perfect opportunity comes.

Except the perfect opportunity never comes. And the pot holder sort of molts and discolors from years of sitting alone in a drawer. And I continue to use my cheap ugly pot holders.

This strategy has worked similarly for Lucy. At Easter, she and Edie got these big chocolate Easter bunnies in their baskets. Edie, glutton that she is (like David, of course), sat right down and power-chowed that Easter Bunny. By 9:30 in the morning that bunny was dust. Not one ounce of hesitation.

Lucy, on the other hand, held the package in her hands. Admired the beautiful box. Opened the cover just a bit to peek in at the beautiful chocolate bunny. She held it. Stroked it. Made it sing. Then, when she thought the warm room might actually make the bunny melt, she demanded that I put it in the freezer immediately.

Every day, I'd say to her, "Lucy, don't you want to eat some of your bunny?" And she would say, "No, I want to save it."

Little did she know that every night after she had gone to sleep, her father would open the freezer and snap off a piece of ear. A nose. A tiny foot. Within a week, David had eaten the entire bunny. And Lucy had forgotten all about it, never having tasted a bit of it.

In this house, Edie and David make out the best. Their motto: you snooze, you lose. They are unapologetic.

So, I've been making an effort to encourage Lucy to just use things. Trying to explain to her that the world is full of plenty, not scarcity. That there will be more Hello Kitty stickers after all the Hello Kitty Stickers in her drawer get used. That things are there to be used, not be attached to. That what is important is us, our love, our lives, our health, our joy, our time together. The things, they come and go.

And I'm explaining it to myself, as well, that there are more pot holders in this world, that perfection is not important, that enjoying things and people are, that holding onto things prevents me from embracing new things, that this is not the legacy I want to pass on to my girls. I hear all of it in my head and for the most part, it has been working. I'm using the potholder. And Lucy has been admiring less and digging in and using things more.

But occasionally, we slip into our old ways. Yesterday when I saw Lucy wearing the new dress she loves so much, I faltered. I wanted her to save that dress, keep it clean and new and perfect for that perfect up-coming occasion because as David says full of sarcasm, "You're afraid we won't be able to buy another $8 dress from Target, which is ridiculous."

Okay, I know. I'm an idiot.

But I thought I had her. Lucy was considering my arguments and my logic and considering taking off the new dress and swapping it for the older one I was holding in my hand. I had her thinking about it.

And then she put her hand up to stop me, like she was Diana Ross or something (Stop! In the name of love, before you break my heart...) and said in the most assured voice I've ever heard come out of her little body, "Mommy, you worry about yourself and I'll worry about me."

She wore the dress. The grasshopper surpasses her teacher.


I may have forgotten and given you a chicken cacciatore recipe in the past few months, but this one is my take on Mario Batali's recipe. I really like it. Wholesome. Comforting. It's lovely. You should try it. And the sauce is also very good and very simple, although I prefer mine, because well, it's mine. (I also like this old post. So, it's worth a look-back.)

Pollo alla Cacciatora
Serves 4 people and a couple kids

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 branch rosemary, leaves only, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
one 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces, rinsed and patted dry (or just the pieces you like, breasts and legs work just fine)
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
1 pound portobella mushrooms, stems removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 ribs celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
pinch of sugar
pinch of hot red pepper flakes

Night before:

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper to taste, and add enough olive oil to make a somewhat dry paste (3 to 4 tablespoons). Add the chicken and rub the paste evenly over the pieces of chicken. Cover and refrigerate.

Next morning:

In a dutch oven, heat 1/4 cup olive oil over high heat until smoking. Brush the excess rub from the bird, and sear the chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Place in fridge. Feel good your dinner for tonight is nearly prepped.

About 50 minutes before you want to eat:

Take chicken out of fridge. Bring to room temperature. Add the onions, mushrooms, pancetta, and celery to a stock pot and cook until the onions are golden brown and the pancetta has rendered its fat, about 8 minutes. Drain off the excess oil, then add the tomato sauce (use this recipe below from Mario Batali or this one, The Yummy Mummy's "Never Buy A jar Again" Marinara, or use the stuff from a jar, but please don't ever tell me about it. My head might explode) and wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to dislodge the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the stock, sugar, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil.

Put chicken to the pot, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover and cool until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a festive platter, top with the sauce, and serve.

Mario Batali's Basic Tomato Sauce
From Molto Italiano

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes

1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook until the carrot is soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, with their juice, and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer until as thick as hot cereal, about 30 minutes. Season with salt. This sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for 6 months.



Cheryl Arkison said...

So many of us moms would be less stressed if we listened to Lucy more!
And cacciatore? I haven't made that in forever.

Julie said...

I was very much the same way when I was younger... saving my "special" stickers for occasions that never came. I was also extremely protective (obsessive?) about my 120 count Crayola set, that after owning it for 18 years is still virtually in mint condition. Hmm. Think I'll go home from work early and colour.

Cath said...

Dear YummyMummy - I am also horrified at the idea of sauce in a jar... until I found one that is (really and truly!) as good as homemade. One of my fellow foodie/chef/dogmomma's gave me a jar of Rao's Marinara Sauce in March, which I promptly stuck in the back of a cabinet to forget forever. She nagged me for 5 months now, so just to shut her up I cracked open the jar and tasted the sauce. Incredibly, it is delicious! Do try it, and if you don't like it, I'll send you the money you spent on the jar. Not to say that making homemade isn't a) easy; b) economical; and c) well, just plain wonderful; but it is so nice to have something immediately available that is so good.

The Yummy Mummy said...

Hey Cath -

Thanks for the sauce recommendation. Truth is, I like making my own sauce and it's one of my "musts" as a cook, along with home-made broth and the like. But I didn't mean to come off like a snob and I'm glad you mentioned it, just in case I made someone feel bad.

I do hate that snobby "you must make everything from scratch" mentality about some food bloggers and food lovers.

Truth is, there are some great jar sauces and Rao's is one of them. I've had their vodka sauce before. It's quite good.

That said, there are plenty of people out there who do not have the patience, desire, time or inclination to make their own sauce and I certainly wouldn't begrudge them opening a jar. We all do what we can. We all have areas where we can cut corners and areas where we wouldn't.

I'm sure NTSC from Art of the Pig wonders everyday why I'm not curing my own bacon. We all have our standards. :)

But home-made sauce is just one of my "things" and I'd love to inspire people to make their own and never go back, so thanks Cath for giving me some room here to explain that. Sorry if I came off like a food snob.


SaintTigerlily said...

And this is one of those times if I wonder if we were separated at birth. I am a compulsive saver - not quite the same as you, I can use the thing when new, but, and this is where I have The Boss pulling out his hair: I can't throw things away.

We have three sets of silverware: a brand new one in a box, a medium new one in the drawer, and an old one I keep in a zip lock bag.

When I mentioned the other day that it was time for us to get a new comforter The Boss agreed and then said, teasingly "But we won't throw the old one out, right?" and I, horrified, half-screeched "NO" and mumbled something about how happy he would be when we finally are able to buy a home in the mountains somewhere and we can load up our fifteen extra comforters and silverware and potholders and tables and chairs (apartment with two people = 9 chairs. 9.) and fully furnish our cottage.

Please don't tell him. But this will be my new excuse to keep, well, EVERYTHING.

Perhaps Lucy can give us both lessons in living a little.

The Mulligan Family said...

So, are you saying I should not still be saving the hand towels we received at our wedding 22 years ago? Oh My! Must get to the linen closet immediately!

Seriously, Kim. Great story - and one that I think MANY of us can identify with.

Have a great Sunday!
Cheers, Cindy

MollyCookie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MollyCookie said...

My mom always made this for me when I was growing up, and I've been looking for a similar recipe for a long time. This one looks really great, I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

ntsc said...

I have been meaning to ask about the bacon.

For the record when I do the big country pate for Thanksgiving, I use Costco bacon for the basketweave. And I think there are a couple of pounds in the freezer.

I also prefer the Shop Rite buffalo wings to my own.

I am very persnickity about tomato sauce. Except for pizza I would not eat it, until some years after I was married. I will eat my wife's but still haven't found one I like other than hers.

You are not 'saving' things, you are merely letting the age until they are properly ripe and ready to use.

Or in the case of my wife, we don't use it much anymore, but it is far to good to throw out. Somebody might use it someday.