Chicken Savoy is a popular dish at many Italian restaurants in my area. How popular? There are people who call it “the unofficial state dish of New Jersey.” Mamma mia! Take that Italian hot dog! (Don’t know what an Italian hot dog is? I’ll tell you later…)
No one has ever accused me of being a sports fan. I'm the guy in the group who could care less about the game on TV, as long as the food is GREAT. Last year, when Super Bowl came around, I was working on Tommy Bahama's FLAVORS OF ALOHA cookbook, and developing recipes from the Pan-Asian repertory. These wings were a huge hit, and now they are my go-to recipe. Korean wings are often deep-fried, but I prefer this baked version, which still yields tender wings with crispy skin (yet without the hassle of hot oil). The Korean chile paste is surprising not incendiary, and gives a nice glow without torching the inside of your mouth. I usually buy it at an Asian grocery store, but I was surprised to see it at my Mom's local Safeway in the California suburbs. And the paste lasts forever! Two words: Make these.
Readers who know me as a purist may be surprised to see my version of the famous gut-buster, cassoulet. This bean and meat casserole from southwestern France is brimming with flavor (thanks to loads of fatty pork and duck confit), but it also takes a good amount of time to make. In my catering days, I made mountains of cassoulet, and at the request of clients, learned how to reduce its heft while keeping every drop of flavor. My chicken version has become one of my most reliable dishes for a holiday buffet--all you need is a green salad and some crusty bread, and you are in business. For a completely French Christmas menu with an outstanding Francophile dessert, serve the bûche de Noël. I haven't quite decided on my holiday menu yet, but the more I write about this combination, the better it sounds.
I was raised in the suburbs of Oakland, California. Growing up, the East Bay had a bit of an inferiority complex, especially when it came to comparisons with the gourmet Mecca across the bay, San Francisco. Even though we had a working farm across the street from my high school that grew such seasonal delicacies as strawberries and asparagus, the farm-to-table movement was a given then, and the luster of Fisherman's Wharf's restaurants made us feel like hicks. (Shucks, all we have is fresh artichokes and peas, and they have Steak Diane!) Now when I go home to Oakland, the dining scene is so vital that I hardly venture into "The City" (the local's nickname for San Francisco--it is NEVER called "Frisco") at all.
One of my first stops when I go home is the Merritt Bakery, right on Lake Merritt, the body of water that is surrounded by Oakland proper. It is basically an old-school bakery featuring miles of glass display cases filled with towering pastries with thick swirls of whipped topping. But the equally retro restaurant section is the compelling reason for my visit. I had many a post-movie hamburger here on high school dates, back when I could down the french fries and an accompanying vanilla shake without guilt. Now, I replace these with an equally sinful indulgence--waffles with fried chicken. Here's my version from Breakfast Comforts.