Vive Le France!

Hi again! We’re back with our new international cooking destination courtesy of Miss A. Usually when it’s her turn we pull the big Atlas book out and she flips around to find a page she likes – more often than not it involves the color pink. This time the big book was not consulted. She was sure of her pick – France. I asked her if that was really what she wanted, and didn’t she want to look at the big book…nope, France. peeling garlic

Talk about an intimidating choice. I mean French food. It’s among the most revered cuisines around the world, there are many, many phenomenal French cooks, but perhaps most intimidating of all, my family roots can be traced back to the Rhine River area of France and I have not once made a French dish. coatofarms

I didn’t really know about my French history until Mr. N was required to research our heritage for school. We started by consulting the extensive family tree that was fortunate to be in my Grandpa’s possession. If you trace the roots on our branch through many generations we end up at Daniel and Mary Fierre in 1685. After doing a little digging we discovered the following:

Maria Warenbauer [Marie de la Warenbau, Marie de la Warrembere, Mary Warrenbur] was born about 1650 possibly in France. She died 1716 in Pequea Valley, Lancaster (then Chester) County, Penn. Maria married Daniel Feree, a Descendent of Robert Ferree who in 1265 founded noble family at Forchamps known variously as LeFerre, Ferree, Ferrie, Fuchre, Fierre, Firre and Ferie. Daniel was a wealthy silk manufacturer who located at Landau, France, along Rhine River, where some and perhaps all of his six children were born. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by French King Louis XIV, the family fled to Strasbourg, Alsace. Later, they moved to Steinwiel, Bittingheim. Daniel was born c.1650 in France and died early 1708 in Bittingheim. After the death of her husband, Maria and Matthias Schliermacher led a group of 54 Huguenot and German Calvinists from the Palatinate, where they were in danger from the soldiers of French King Louis XIV, to Holland and then London. Reaching London in the summer of 1708, she went to see William Penn about buying land in Pennsylvania. Penn arranged for her to have a private audience with Queen Anne, who then recommended the members of the group be given naturalization status. Mme. Ferree’s group bought 4,000 acres from Penn in the Pequea Valley in Lancaster County. Ferree family joined party of Rev. Joshua Kocherthal and set sail 10-15-1708 on “The Globe,” arriving in New York 12-31-1708. They then went up Hudson River valley to Esopus (Kingston) and nearby New Paltz, site of a Huguenot settlement where some of the group had relatives, including Maria’s son-in-law, Isaac Lefevre, two of whose uncles, Simon and Andries Lefevre, had been among the founders of New Paltz, N.Y. They stayed there until the spring of 1712 while their Pennsylvania land was being surveyed. That done, they moved to what became Lancaster County.

We even discovered a reunion website and a cemetery. At this point I’m wondering why I’ve never cooked any French food! Better late than never I guess, so we bring you Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine). bacon

For this particular recipe, we adapted several versions of the dish we found online, all of which were based on Julia Child’s version. We started by crisping a bit of bacon which was then removed and set aside. Next we tossed in the chicken and pearl onions to brown on both sides. We also poured in a touch of Cognac. browning chicken

Once the chicken was browned, it was time to add the Burgundy, chicken stock, garlic and herbs. chicken in wine

Now if we had read Charles’ post before cooking our coq au vin, we would have tied our thyme, rosemary and bay leaves into a little bouquet (or even made a sachet) to make it easier to discard them after cooking. C’est la vie. seasonings

After the chicken cooks in the wine for a bit it is removed, along with the pearl onions and set aside. (This is also the point the herbs are discarded.) Then the mushrooms and bacon are added to the pot and brought to a high heat. After stirring in a bit of flour, the sauce is left to reduce by 3/4’s. mushrooms

Lastly a bit of butter is melted in the sauce and the chicken and onions are once again incorporated. final dish

The final dish was then served to our hungry crowd (the aromas were killing us!). Coq au Vin

Well, I have one word for you – délicieux. The chicken was tender, full of flavor and a total crowd pleaser. Even Mike, who has often said, “It’s good, but it’s just chicken,” gave this recipe the coveted 4 spoons! (So did I.) chicken burgundy

Mr. N and Miss A were both happy with the taste of the chicken and each ate two pieces. The mushrooms were a bit too much for them to get around though. While they have been eating mushrooms hidden in ravioli or other creative dishes, it’s hard to hide the mushrooms in coq au vin. Remarkably they both still came in with a 3 spoon vote. I’d say that’s some good chicken! coq au vin

I wonder if our French ancestors would be proud. We were for our first attempt at la cuisine. In fact I’m certain it won’t be our last French meal in this house! However, before we move on we’ll share the recipe for the side dish we enjoyed with our chicken (and of course the dessert!). French dinner

Until then, if you’d like to try your hand at a delicious French meal print the recipe: Coq au Vin

Land of Smiles

Spring has arrived! Well, at least the dandelions have.dandelions

I know they are weeds and not necessarily desirable in the front lawns of suburbia, but how can you not smile looking at a sea of beautiful yellow and green? We came upon this vacant lot near the theater where Mr. N performed his five shows this past weekend and it just made me smile. Speaking of smiles, today is our last recipe inspired by the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand. This recipe came from a good friend of mine and isn’t an authentic Thai dish, but definitely Thai-inspired. The kids and I were up north visiting my good friend and her kids (leaving Mike to his NCAA tournies) and she prepared this dish for our arrival. We hadn’t yet officially started our cooking adventures in Thailand, but I knew this would have to make it to the blog. So today we bring you Slow Cooker Spicy Peanut Thai Chicken. The ease of this dish certainly makes me smile! seasonings

The recipe is simple, mix together peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, freshly minced ginger, sweet chili sauce and sambal oelek (ground chili paste). sweet and spicy

Then simply add the chicken to the slow cooker (we used boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces) and pour the sauce over the chicken. Next add a bit of fresh cilantro and two ingredients which weren’t part of the original recipe, but that I wanted to toss in – bamboo shoots and green onions. Once everything is mixed together, cover and set your temperature. We cooked ours on low for eight hours, but you could cook this on high for four hours as well. Then go about your day… spicy chicken crockpot

While not really an authentic Thai dish, this inspired version has helped feed us and keep us sane during these busy weeks. And Miss A and I have enjoyed whipping up a very easy (again non-traditional) naan to go with the chicken. While you could also use rice, naan is a fabulous complement to the meal. We typically mix the dough in the morning, let it rest in the fridge for the day. Then we roll it out and cook it up in 15 minutes before dinner. Can you see why the Land of Smiles has us smiling?! naan

But the smiles don’t end there. This meal gets high marks from all of us! When the naan was complete and the chicken cooked through, we garnished the dish with fresh cilantro and toasted peanuts. Spicy Thai Chicken

Miss A is not a fan of the spicy chicken, but I think she’ll come around. She’s just beginning to explore spicy dishes. The naan, however, that gets 5 spoons from her (I think she may be getting closer to understanding our rating system, but I will miss her votes of 1,092.) slow cooker Thai chicken

Mike, Mr. N and I all really like this dish. It’s one we’ll make again and again. Partly for its simplicity and partly for its flavors. It’s a great weeknight flavor punch – spicy, sweet and those little crunchy bites of peanuts – yum! This easily earns 3 spoons from each of us. Thank you for the recipe Missy! Slow Cooker Spicy Peanut Chicken

Now before we sign-off for today and end our Thailand cooking adventures, Mr. N wanted to share one last fact about the Land of Smiles with you all. Did you know that Bangkok’s Thai name is the longest place name in the world? The Thai’s call Bangkok, Krung Thep, but its official name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Whew!!! There is a bit of controversy surrounding the validity of the statement as North Wales and New Zealand also lay claim to the title, but you can read more on that here. While I can’t claim to know the true title holder, I do know this is a LONG name! And I know there is one thing I wish could last longer…childhood. Ensemble

Mr. N was in his first “real” play this past weekend. This wasn’t a camp play or school play, but one at a community theater for which he auditioned and rehearsed for months. In fact, he even got to miss two days of school to perform for other schools’ field trips. To say he was proud and excited is an understatement. Uncle

He was an ensemble character in “Charlotte’s Web” in a cast of about 25 other kids aged 1st grade through high school. He made friends, had a few crushes (shhh!) and even had his first kiss. Well, sort of – he was kissed by a younger girl and quite mortified by it! In fact, he told Mike that when he becomes a famous actor someday he’s going to have to get married really fast because he can just imagine how many girls chase famous actors trying to kiss them. So his solution – he’ll need to get married quickly. Oh boy…I think I’m getting some gray hair now. take a bow

Truthfully as a parent, watching him become part of a group – part of something outside of home, outside of school and larger than himself was a proud moment for Mike and I. Sometimes we have a hard time believing he’s only almost 9 when we see him reassuring other cast mates that there’s nothing to be nervous about – that this is exciting, and congratulating and hugging his other cast mates at the end of the production. Then other times we think, my goodness how is he almost 9?! Watching him perform his lines, projecting his voice, getting laughter and applause, I couldn’t help but think, “That’s the little 3 pound baby I held in my arms not that long ago.” Sigh. first play

I think it might be time for a life saver (a tasty dessert from Geni who knows all too well how fast children grow up!). Thank goodness for cameras, so we can preserve these little, and oh so brief, moments of childhood. childhood

Ehem. Now if you’ll excuse me…no, I’m not crying. It’s the heat from this spicy chicken. Okay, so I’m not fooling anyone, but I swear I’m smiling at the same time and the chicken really is quite good. Feel free to decrease the heat if you like. Print this recipe: Spicy Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

Thai Slow Cooker

From Sesame Street to Sesame Chicken

I mentioned in the last post that this was Mr. N’s special week. So for the next few posts we’ll be setting Romania aside to bring you Mr. N’s birthday meal of choice. Gone are the days of kicking back and watching Sesame Street with my favorite little boy. He’s eight now and rolls his eyes at the sight of anything Sesame Street related. Now he’s into LEGO’s, reading mystery books and running around with his friends (without his mom). While I miss the days of carrying him around everywhere with me (Man, did he love to be carried!), it’s such a joy watching him grow and develop such an active imagination, gentle nature and terrific sense of humor.

Mr. N’s 1st Birthday

So what did Mr. N request for his birthday? Sesame Chicken. Well, actually he told me he wanted some kind of Chinese chicken. When I asked what kind, he requested I pull something up on the internet. So I Googled “Chinese chicken” images and passed him the computer. He browsed through a page or two of pictures and then said, “This one. I want this one.” And so today, Mr. N — who’s writing this along side of me and rather embarrassed at the moment with his mom’s mushiness — bring you a lighter version of the popular Sesame Chicken which we adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. Incidentally it’s also a really easy recipe which gave me more time to work on the dessert that we’ll share soon. Alright…take it away Mr. N.  Continue reading

Platter of Pilaf

Now that we’ve wrapped up our Portuguese cuisine, we’re moving on to Miss A’s international pick for the next few weeks. She again got out her trusty little beach ball globe and selected the green-colored country of Uzbekistan. Both she and Mr. N have loved running around the house saying yelling “Uzbekistan!” It doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Ecuador,” but they still love saying it.

We really didn’t have any idea what to expect from Uzbek cuisine. In fact, before Miss A picked it on her globe, I wouldn’t have even known where it was. So we got out our world atlas and the kids and I did a little reading. Uzbekistan is a relatively new country having broken away from the Soviet Union in 1991, and it’s considered part of Central Asia. We also came across the website Uzbek National Cuisine from which we developed our first Uzbek recipe, Behili Palov, or Pilaf with Quinces. Continue reading

Now on to the Main Course

As we mentioned yesterday, Mr. N got to pick his whole meal for his birthday dinner. Despite his adventurous nature with food, he asked for one of his long-running favorites – chicken nuggets. This seemed a little lackluster to me, so I asked him if he wanted to try some real, authentic fried chicken. He was definitely game.

So since we’re cooking around the world and throughout different regions of the U.S., we thought we’d add some Southern soul to the night and go with Buttermilk Fried Chicken. For the recipe we turned to Kay over at Pure Complex. While Kay is  a New Yorker now, she comes from a long line of Southern soul food cooking women, including her mom and grandmother from which this recipe was inspired. While we provide a list of suggested ingredients, as Kay said – soul food is about cooking from what you feel, not from what you see; so listen to your heart and adapt the spices to fit your family and tastes. And what a better way to make our first soul food dish – than by cooking it for my little guy’s birthday. It can’t help but come from the heart! Continue reading

And to wrap it up…

Last but not least, here’s the final recipe from last week’s Egyptian meal – the Ancient Marinated Chicken. We intended to grill the chicken on dad’s new grill, but within five minutes of putting the grill together on what was a sunny afternoon, it started to pour. So the grill must wait for another day – which no doubt will be soon as dad is quite anxious to get it going. Maybe we’ll have to venture to Australia next on this cooking adventure. Shrimp on the barbie anyone?!

Now that I’m salivating over the possibilities of Down Under grilled goodies, back to Egypt. We began by cutting the chicken breast into one-inch pieces.

We then added an onion, garlic and cilantro into the food processor and created a puree. Mr. N helped me to combine the puree with the olive oil, cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper. Continue reading