As my oldest sibling Liz will attest, she reads and comments on this blog frequently, my mother was a gourmet cook. We ate things as kids that I am fairly assured none of the other kids in El Paso ever ate.
Some of the weirder fare included eggs and brain breakfasts and tripe. She made quiche when no one else had ever even heard of it. I am talking early to mid 1960's.
She was a passionate cookbook collector and instilled in her children a great love of food. She loved Joy of Cooking and Adele Davis and James Beard and later Claiborne. My younger brother Buzz followed in her footsteps and became a great restaurateur in Toronto.
Barbara was also always a very good cook. I bet she still is. I remember her Chicken Kiev and Chicken Paprika. My mother could cook practically any cuisine but excelled at French and Italian. I miss her veal scallopine and mussels in white wine sauce, her stroganoff, her German chocolate cakes. She made a mean chili.
She was a great baker, had three or four different kinds of scratch biscuits, a masterful baker of bread, I think she was very talented. And we were lucky. I don't give her enough credit. Even when we were broke, which was often, she kept our big family fed.
She was a master of casseroles, a forgotten art I think, turning an entree into three different meals with the leftovers by the end of the week.
I believe that early on, I associated love with food. Perhaps that is why I am such a passionate eater with a rather round physique.
Later when we moved to New York City and she became an important editor, writer, diplomat and agent, she had a regular table on Thursdays at lunch at Le Veau d'or with Magritte's lawyer, Henri Tavernier. She took me there and to the Russian Tea Room and all sorts of magic places to eat. Her midtown office was right by a wonderful french bakery. Duma? She was a regular at Elaines.
I never learned to cook, I'm not sure why? Intimidated I suppose. But I always knew how food was supposed to taste and would like to believe that I have a fine palette. I think that is a big part of the game. So I am getting a bit of a late start.
I made chicken marsala tonight, something my mom usually made with veal. Veal is too expensive and chicken, properly prepared, is every bit as good and maybe better for you. I think I made piccata last time, my dad's favorite, but was craving marsala today and went for it.
I told Leslie I felt like cooking tonight.
I put the salt and pepper and flour in a zip lock bag with the pounded cutlets and gave it a big shake. Fully dredged, I seared and cooked them to a nice, velvety golden brown. Removed them from the pan and cooked the mushrooms, which Leslie had sliced, in the oil and butter. Added cream, chicken broth, thyme, garlic and marsala, which is a wine from Italy that has been supercharged with a little brandy. I love it. But dry or semi sweet, never the sweet.
Just long enough for Leslie to cook the orzo.
Threw a little parsley on top.
It is hard to beat.