Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Cosmo Cookery" & "Fashionable Food" - French Chicken & White Chocolate Brownies - Valentine's Day

Date I made these recipes: February 13, 2012

Cosmo Cookery – Gourmet Meals from the First Drink to the Last Kiss by Helen Gurley Brown
Published by: Cosmopolitan Books
© 1971
Recipe: French Chicken (part of Dinner [Menu] Number 39 – p. 139-141

Fashionable Food – Seven Decades of Food Fads by Sylvia Lovegren
Published by: Macmillan
ISBN: 0-02-57505-9
Recipe: White Chocolate Brownies – p. 396-397 (from the 80’s)

And I thought I was being so smart…

Today, Tuesday, is Valentine’s Day but I am usually busy on Tuesday nights so I made these dishes the night before.

So wouldn’t you know, the very thing I am “busy” with on Tuesday, my community band rehearsal, was called off for tonight. Naturally, I found this out this morning. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my husband usually goes out for dinner with his mother on Tuesday while I am at rehearsal. So I guess this last-minute change of my plans means leftovers in front of the TV while watching Glee? (All by myself). Happy Valentine’s Day!!

And in another “I thought I was being so smart moment,” I thought I locked and loaded on the perfect cookbook to use for a Valentine’s Day meal - Venus in the Kitchen. So a few weeks ago, I pulled out the book and ye gads, people. Call me crazy but I don’t think “eels” is an especially romantic dish – Valentine’s Day or no Valentine’s Day! It only got worse: "Sturgeon in Anchovy Sauce," Brains (never, never, never),Kidneys and whatnot. Even dessert didn’t impress: Marmalade of Carnations? I’m amazed I didn’t just throw the book out in the trash but what I did do was relegate it to the back of my “must cook from” list! With over 1,300 books in my collection, the odds of it seeing the light of day anytime soon are slim to none. And I plan to keep it that way!

And this is how Cosmo Cookery ended up substituting for Venus in the Kitchen, because if anyone knows about love…and sex (and sex AND sex)…it would be Cosmopolitan magazine! Cosmopolitan (“Cosmo” to those in the know) premiered in the late 60’s and set the “ladies” magazine world on its ear. My mother considered it far too racy for me to read and so I didn’t purchase an issue until I got to college. I mean talk about apples and oranges – my mother’s favorite magazines (Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal) talked about housekeeping and tips for whitening your husband’s dress shirts and ways to save household money. Cosmo, on the other hand, got caught up in the women’s movement and talked about equality (bedroom and boardroom) and women’s careers and how to feel better about your body. Is it any wonder that reading Cosmo was akin to reading porn?

One of the driving forces behind Cosmo’s popularity was editor-in-chief, Helen Gurley Brown. Helen also edited today’s featured cookbook. Although Helen’s husband, David Brown, was a pretty well-known movie producer, (Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy) it was Helen who captured the headlines. Helen got the ball rolling by publishing her first book at age 40 – Sex and the Single Girl - and after that, there was no looking back at Cosmo where she remained at the helm for 32 years. In my next life, I wouldn’t mind being Helen.

So thanks to Helen, I had tonight’s entrée – French Chicken. As to dessert, I didn’t have any concrete plans until I watched The Chew, on ABC. The Chew is a relatively new talk show/cooking show, featuring the following celebrities: host, Clinton Kelly, from TLC’s What Not to Wear, chefs Mario Battali (Food Network), Michael Symon (Food Network) and Carla Hall (Bravo's Top Chef) and health-guru, Daphne Oz, Doctor Oz’ (from the Oprah show) daughter.

All in all, the show is okay, (some days it is interesting, some days it is rather routine) but what really caught my attention was that last week’s homage to the food and fads of the decades, starting on Monday with the 50’s and ending on Friday with the 90’s. Well, I had just the book for that – Fashionable Food!

I bought this cookbook eons ago and it was a fun read. Sylvia Lovegren does a great job of combining food history with recipes (and photos); these types of “cookbooks” are my favorite because I always learn something when reading.

So here’s what I learned: White Chocolate Brownies were popular in the 90’s. I also learned (independent of the book) that white chocolate isn’t really “chocolate” in the truest sense of the word; according to Wikipedia, it’s a chocolate derivative. And when making these brownies, here’s something else I learned: never melt the butter and white chocolate chips in a Teflon pan! The mixture separated and it looked most unappealing. It never occurred to me to use a straight-up saucepan but there it is—live and learn.

I also learned that I don’t really like the taste or smell of white chocolate (and this makes sense because it’s really fake chocolate). But my husband thought the brownies were tasty and on Valentine’s Day, his is the only opinion that counts.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

French Chicken – serves 2 (as part of Dinner Number 39)

Dinner Menu Number 39 (*the French chicken recipe is the only recipe given in its entirety)
Whiskey Sour
Chilled Pate
French Chicken with Buttered Noodles, Cooked Artichoke Hearts, Tomato Salad and Butterflake Rolls
Lime Sherbet

For the chicken:

1 broiler chicken, split in half
Salt, pepper
½ stick plus 3 tbsp. butter
¼ c. brandy
½ c. heavy cream
3 tbsp. port wine
¼ lb. mushrooms, sliced

(NOTE: This dish is meant to be made the day before dinner, refrigerated and reheated. I skipped that step.)

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Saute chicken, then remove it and hot butter to serving-baking casserole. Pour brandy over, ignite and let flame die down.

Put covered casserole into 350 oven, and bake until almost tender, about ¾ hour.

Remove the chicken from casserole, add cream and port wine, stirring and cooking gently on top of stove over low heat to make a sauce. Replace chicken; allow to cool. Saute sliced mushrooms in 3 tbsp. butter for 5 minutes, then add to casserole. Cover and refrigerate.

The next day, take the chicken casserole out of the refrigerator, and let it come to room temperature. Bake, covered, in preheated 350 oven for 15-20 minutes. While it is heating, cook the noodles and the artichoke hearts.

NOTE: Since I cooked this dish and ate it all in one sitting, I baked the chicken for 75 minutes at 350. Then I removed the chicken, poured the brandy sauce into a separate saucepan along with the cream and the port, and then stirred it on low to make the sauce. I can’t say as this jelled in the way that I wanted it to but such is life. It was still tasty even though it didn’t get an “A” for eye-appealing!

White Chocolate Brownies – makes 16 squares

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces white chocolate chips
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add half the white chocolate, stirring until melted. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until frothy, then gradually add the sugar, beating until thick and pale lemon colored, about 3 minutes. Stir the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla into the eggs.

Sift the flour with the salt and mix into the egg mixture until just combined. Stir in the semisweet chocolate and remaining white chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

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