Monthly Archives: February 2012

Ah, Nepotism: Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches

Could life get any better than this?

When I was young my father would sometimes bring me and my brother Ben with him to work. I don’t really remember why this was the case, as we were a massive pain in the ass (insisting on photocopying our hands and making the warehouse guys give us rides on the forklift…thank you Peggy and Mark for your unending patience), but he did.

As I got older and entered middle school the occasional trips into the office continued. Here my delightful behavior progressed to printing “Remember! Recycle! (Please)!” signs and posting them on all the trash cans, complete with a Microsoft Word generated smiley face. Again…thank you Peggy and Mark for your unending patience and for leaving the signs up so I could gleefully and triumphantly see them “working” on my next visit.

Into high school and college I would sometimes work there  in the summers, often bringing a friend, and finally providing some value (albeit minimal I’m sure) as I counted inventory, organized the “Literature Room” (a closet holding vendor collateral), and perkily answering the phone, “Good! Morning! This! Is! Capco! Energy! Supply! How! May! I! Help! You!” (I was very eager then….everything was said in a massively obnoxious and bubbly manner…though I’m not sure I’m much better now.) I am forced here, yet again, to say thank you Peggy and Mark for letting me race you to the phones only to urgently declare, “Mark! It’s for You!” Line One!”

Being the boss’s daughter definitely had its perks, including a 10a trip to Starbucks where I would order a giant Frappucino with Whip (remember the days when you could do that and still be oh-so-skinny?….damn prepubescent bodies) and a 1p trip to Papa Razzi for lunch. My father and I have a similar love of food and an eerily similar palette, so each time we would both order the Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches….extra dressing on the side, bien sur. Off we would go to pick them up…he would double park, having driven there with his giant knees and likely on the phone the whole time while barking orders at Bob Iacopucci (that’s really his last name….pronounced Yack-Oh-P00-Chee) or some other guy, he’d shove the corporate card into my hands, and in I would trot grabbing a handful of the weird mints they served and flipping my hair while proudly displaying my American Express Gold card that said Tim Malarkey on it and working on the story I would give if ever they questioned my identity…which very disappointingly they never did…since I had so many witty replies ready (none of which included the truth).

I hadn’t actually thought about these sandwiches for years until this afternoon when talking to my Dad. I’m not sure why I suddenly had such a craving, perhaps it was the unexpectedly nice day we had in Seattle, or just missing my Daddy, but suddenly I had to have ’em.

And oh man, were these good. They aren’t *quite* as good as Papa Razzi’s…but they were damn close. Make them on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you want something delicious, easy, and utterly satisfying.

Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches

Oh! So! Good!

Inspired by Papa Razzi in Burlington, MA

Serves 4

4 ciabatta buns

4 cloves garlic, minced in garlic press

Olive oil

Good Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

lemon pepper seasoning

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Romaine, thinly chopped

Caesar Dressing, see below

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the ciabatta in half and brush with olive oil. Evenly spread the minced garlic on the 8 halves. Toast about 10 minutes or until bread is slightly brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

    You're basically making giant croutons here, so don't hold back.

  2. Toss the chicken in a little olive oil and lemon pepper seasoning and grill until almost cooked through. Finish by turning up the heat slightly and blackening right at the end.
  3. Toss the romaine with enough dressing to generously coat and set aside.
  4. To assemble, slather (yes, you must) the tops and bottom with the dressing, layer on some dressed lettuce, Parmesan shavings, and the chicken.

    Assembling the goodness.

  5. Enjoy with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks (coddled if you care about that kind of thing although generally not necessary if you get really good, fresh eggs)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 TB garlic cloves (more or less pending on your affinity for garlic)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste or mashed anchovy
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco® or other hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup good quality olive oil

In a food processor pulse all the ingredients, save the oil, for about 20 seconds or until well blended. Add the oil in a slow stream and blend until emulsified and creamy, about 30-40 seconds.


Filed under Lactose Free, Salads, Uncategorized

The Attainable Gourmet: Salmon Nicoise

Salmon Nicoise

My dear friend Madeline is a tremendous writer. Tremendous. She truly is one of the greats, and while the world perhaps hasn’t realized it yet, they will, and sooner rather than later I suspect. Mark my words.

(Madeline, when you became oh-so-rich and oh-so-famous you remember who gave you your first food blog shout out. That’s right.)

She lives in Brooklyn now (because where else do tremendous writers live) and is a total night owl which is dreamy for me when driving home from the barn because it means she’s one of the few East Coasters who will answer my calls. One night a few months ago we were talking and she indicated the slightest possibility that she might be able to come for a visit. Being the unrelenting honey badger that I am I immediately began a harassing campaign of emails, text messages, and phone calls to convince her that she must come visit. And it worked!

Madeline arrived with her infectious laugh and unbelievable stories (except they are totally true) for this past President’s weekend. What immediately commenced was four days of hooting and howling, dirty childish jokes, long walks on the beach, great meals, and the contagious dreaming of “what if”. We sat by the fire at my Aunt Jean and Uncle Ryan’s beach house in Cape Meares, warming our feet by the fire,  snuggling with a very happy Duke, and imagining “what if” we became famous writers and food bloggers….what if we traveled the world together…what if that good fortune that seems to strike others, struck us.

Duke never tires of chasing the ChuckIt

And so over lots of bubbly, and buoyed by each other, we made big plans.

In talking about Shut Up & Cook, Madeline was an unfailing supporter. On and on she went with things about my writing she’d liked, recipes she was “obsessed with” (Madeline tends to fall massively in and out of love with certain food types), and ways to build up traffic. At one moment she blurted out, “I know why I like reading your blog….you’re real. You’re not a chef. You’re not professionally trained. You’re not perfect. You’re the every woman. You’re the Attainable Gourmet.”

Oh So Happy Puppy Paw Prints in the Sand

This Salmon Nicoise is almost too good to be true, very healthy, beautiful to present, and pretty easy to make. It’s an Ina Garten staple and I wouldn’t change too much because it’s just so yum. Perfect served on a winter’s night, listening to the waves crash against the shore, and the dreams grow in our heads and hearts.

Roasted Salmon Nicoise Platter

Adapted from Ina Garten with just a few tweaks

Serves 12


4 lemons, zested and juiced (lemon juice from a bottle is just fine)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 pounds skin-on fresh salmon fillets
3 pounds small red bliss potatoes
1 1/2 pounds haricots verts, stems removed
3 pounds ripe cherry tomatoes
12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in 1/2
1 bunch arugula
1/2 pound large green olives, pitted
1/2 pound artichoke hearts, quartered
1 can anchovies, optional

Vinaigrette: (I’ve doubled hers in below because it’s so good and I didn’t think it made enough)

1/2 cup champagne vinegar (red wine vinegar was fine)
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1  cup good olive oil


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

For the marinade, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, mustard, garlic, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and 1/2 tablespoon pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the salmon on a sheet pan that has been covered in aluminum foil, and drizzle the marinade over the salmon. Allow the salmon to sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot off the heat and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Leave the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but firm. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in thick slices and set aside.

Place the salmon in the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it is almost cooked through. Remove to a plate and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the skin and break into large pieces.

Blanch the haricots verts in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes only. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water. Drain again and set aside.

For the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Set aside.

Arrange the salmon, potatoes, haricots verts, tomatoes, eggs, watercress, olives and anchovies, if used, on a large flat platter. Drizzle some vinaigrette over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.


Filed under Entertaining, Health Conscious, Lactose Free, Make ahead, Personal Work, Salads, Seafood, Uncategorized

She Was One in a Million: Onca Dog

She came crashing into our lives in the Summer of 2004. We were two fools in love, living in upstate NY, in a darling apartment that was much too nice for us. We drove 2 hours to get her, to the Starlight Diner off some highway I can’t remember the name of anymore. We were meeting up with a man who delivered dogs in a horse trailer all over the country. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It was sleeting and raining, as only it can do in upstate NY, and the wipers on our Ranger didn’t work so I kept leaning out to wipe off the windshield.

We’d found her through a rescue group that dealt with “bully breeds” and hard to place dogs. She was two and had been abused and abandoned. We thought she was perfect. Upon arriving at the diner the man with the big belly lumbered out of his truck and declared with a southern accent I couldn’t place, “This is the god damn biggest dog I ever seen. She broken two of my collars already. Good luck.”

I don’t think I really was listening to him because I was too distracted by the three or so missing fingers on his hands. We loaded her up in the truck, brought her home, and so began eight years of laughter, love, tears, frustration, fierce loyalty, unwavering protection, and never-ending dedication from a dog we’d call Onca.

At the times I needed her most she was perfect. Standing by my side in a dark alley in NY, ferociously growling and barking at the man trying to cross the street to get to us. When Matt would go away she wouldn’t leave my side, spending the whole night at the foot of the bed, quietly growling at the bumps in the night. He would come home and she would turn into pure goofy maddening puppy again. And so it went.

I used to joke about what life would be like without Onca. Without having to sprint out of the house in the morning, only to realize in a big important meeting she’d gotten a full slobber on me. Without scrubbing drool off the ceiling, off the walls, off the windows. Without having to get the postman an apology Christmas gift every year and writing a “sorry I try to eat you on a daily basis note…love Onca”. But I never thought about all the other things we wouldn’t have.

The utter joy and delight of an old dog acting like a puppy each and every day when she got her peanut butter kong. The unwavering protection I would feel walking her at night. The way my heart would burst when she’d be curled up, just so, happily snoring and purring away.

Today, we lost our dear Onca, and I’m not quite sure what we do now. There’s a big hole missing that will never be filled. She was one in a million: Onca Dog.

The weekend we got her.

She was amazing with kids.

Happy Days at the polo fields in NY.

Squishiest fact I knew.

Onca in the Badlands

A striking lady.

When Gabby Came for a Weekend at Camp

Sun tanning with the best of them.


Filed under Uncategorized