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The Dinner Party

hosted by Christine Potter   //   Thursday at 4p est

"I'm just a gal who likes to mix things up: music, strange cocktail ingredients, and a swanky Nick & Nora ambiance with old school free form rock and roll radio.  It's no secret that I'm a little obsessive about all things Robyn Hitchcock, but my husband's OK with it.  Besides, I end every Cocktails with Chris by standing next to one of the world's great pipe organs for a few minutes and subjecting my listeners to the sometimes-deafening results.  I promise you a tasty cocktail recipe every week, along with music that starts with The Comedian Harmonists, careens through psych and prog rock, and often smashes into the shoals of roots and jazz.  Not to mention a sprinkling of indie pop, and Brit folk. Join me high atop the Potter building, in a swanky neighborhood near you." - cp


Lamb: it's what's for dinner!

And Strata: it's what's for brunch!

Here in the swanky neighborhood near you, we had a double-header of an Easter: brunch on Sunday with the Aged but Perky Mom, and dinner Monday with the badass friends.  Owing to global warming, both meals could have been eaten outdoors, too, which is amazing in the middle of April in the NYC exurbs.  As it happened, the wind kicked up and brunch came inside.  The awning Mr. Potter and I keep over our deck (another product of global warming--you just get too damn warm out there otherwise) was flapping dangerously in the breeze. 

A good time was had nonetheless.

If you don't know about strata, you should.  I'd long heard knowledgable entertaining gals talk about the stuff for Christmas morning and Easter brunch.  Its chief benefit, from what I gleaned, seemed to be its ease of prep: you put it in the fridge the night before, and in the oven the day of.  But it didn't sound delicious.  Having made it, I see the error of my ways all these years. 

Strata is a savory bread and cheese pudding.  It is as good as its ingredients--and of course, your open hand with the cheese!  I made some with portobello shroomies, cheddar, a bit of gruyere, and mustard, with smoked paprika on top.  It was insanely good.  I followed the ratios described here.  By the way, this Epicurious series about cooking without recipes is very, very good.  I've been happy with a number of their pointers. 

But now on the the LAMB!  I've butterflied and barbequed lamb for years on Easter, standing outside in all kinds of weather so as not to heat the house up with the oven.  Too proud to turn on the AC in April, I was.  But climate change has changed me, too.  The Christmas before last, I ran the AC on December 25th!  And so I resolved to roast the lamb this year and not worry about raindrops.  Turned out I'd have had a perfect day to fire up the grill, but I'm glad I didn't.  There's something tender and delicous about roast lamb that you don't get on a grill.  You can also keep a more careful watch on the roast's temperature.  I pulled ours at about 135 degrees.  I did the NY Times recipe, subbing olive oil for the butter.  A day-after-Easter-dinner that couldn't be beat, served alongside cauliflower with a tomato-olive sauce and tumeric brown rice with currants.

Our bellies are full.  Tune in for some other platters of goodness--the musical kind--today at 4!



Fish for Friday, fish for Friday.

Yeah, it's been Lent for a while.  But I love fish whether it's Lent or not Lent.  And here's my dirty secret: I love smoked and steamed fish.  I love fish cooked in various Latin tomato sauces.  I love grilled fish.  I love sushi.

But I really love fried catfish.  Like, a lot. 

That said, I eat it really seldom.  It makes a mess of the kitchen.  It's caloric, fatty, and has few redeeming social values.  But damn, it's good, and it makes my husband incredibly happy.  There are a million ways to fry the stuff (and I've discovered you can even grill it to good effect, but I always feel just a little sad when I do that).  Mostly you want stone ground cornmeal, sea salt, a good shake of hot sauce in whatever you moisten the fish with before dipping it in the meal and frying (buttermilk or egg  yolk--both work). And hot enough oil.  If you don't have a deep fryer, use a dutch oven, and please buy a deep fry thermometer. You're aiming for about 360 degrees, and PS, don't crowd the fish in the pan. WATCH ANYTHING YOU ARE DEEP FRYING OVER AN OPEN FLAME SUPER CAREFULLY.  You really, really don't want it too hot. Hot enough for a nice crust, but nothing too much OVER 360.  Ker-blooie, for real. Seriously, and obviously. 

I've also done fried catfish in a plain old cast iron fry pan with a generous amount of oil and a little butter in, and had good results without deep frying.  Keep the flame up enough to crust the fish, but not hot enough to burn the butter.

Ah, but the point of catfish is having it with tartar sauce.  Insult to injury in terms of nutrition, but what the hell.  PUT AWAY THE JARRED STUFF FROM THE SUPERMARKET!  That is full of terrible things.  Make your own damn tartar sauce.

ALL PURPOSE TARTAR SAUCE (This is stupidly easy)

Combine 1 cup of Hellman's (or Best Foods if you're West) Mayo

and two tablespoons of any combo of the following:

sweet pickle relish--like the chopped stuff for burgers

green stuffed olives, chopped up

nasty canned black olives that you wouldn't use for anything else (actually good here), chopped up

drained capers (I think these are necessary, but if you used olives, taste for salt first)


a shake of dried dillweed or a tablespoon or so of snipped fresh

and/or a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley

a shake of hot sauce

a grind of black pepper


YOU MAY want to thin it a little with a splash of buttermilk.  Or not.

VOILA.  Eat it with your catfish.  I swear I will post a healthier recipe next week.  Meanwhile, it's Friday the 31st of March and I'm on the air at 3 PM. 





Why You Should Make Cheese Fondue Now

Here are the reasons, and at the end is a link to Melissa Clark's NY Times recipe.  It's very similar to the one in the last Joy of Cooking, which is also just fine.  The Joy suggests just bread as a dipper; Melissa Clark has some more inventive ideas.

But here are the reasons why you should make the stuff:

1. It takes about fifteen minutes, really.

2. Melted cheese is the best thing ever, but it's better while the weather is still cold.

3. Some studies are actually coming to the conclusion that cheese is GOOD for you, although I am not going to pretend that this is not an indulgent meal.

4. You have to do something with that bottle of kirsch that you bought two years ago when you made the stuff for a party.  You don't need to wait for guests to make cheese fondue.

5. It will make the people who eat it happy.  If it's just you and your mate, it will make him or her happy.  You can play that game where the person who drops his or her chunk of bread (or whatever) into the fondue has to kiss everyone at the table.  Even if there's only one everyone!

6. You will drink the rest of the wine from the bottle you cooked with, and then it will make  your nightly viewing of Rachel Maddow much merrier.

Reasons enough?  Here's the link! 

See you on the air at 4!



So, last week I was all about the proto-Paleo health food that wasn't really so healthy (but wasn't really outrageously bad for you, either).  This week, I'm all about a meal that is good for you, tasty, and (if you keep whole wheat couscous in your pantry) can be on the table in twenty minutes or less.  AND is also endlessly adaptable to what you have in the fridge.  It'll feed four or five hungry people.

All Purpose Couscous

What you always need:

2 and 1/4 cups of whole wheat couscous

One big onion, chopped not too fine

a couple of tablespoons olive oil

a good tablespoon of cumin

a teaspoon or two of ground coriander

salt and pepper

one quart (one of those boxes from the market) of good vegetable or chcken broth.

One baseball-sized summer tomato, diced (or use a handful of cherry tomatoes or a ripe kumato in the winter)

A big handful of chopped fresh parsley--or sub out about half of it with cilantro if you like it.

Variations--use some or all.   You'll want at least the squash and the chickpeas if you don't use the chicken:

about a pound of chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, cut into bite-sized pieces (can use more)

a small can of chickpeas, drained

Two small summer squashes, green or yellow (or the light green Mexican ones) chopped not too small.




Start with the chicken thighs, if you're using them.  Saute in olive oil in a large, high-sided pan and when they start turning color, add the onions and cook until the onions are soft. You can put in the squash now, too, and saute until they turn color and are tender-crisp. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, cumin, & coriander.  Add the couscous and stir. Put in the chickpeas  if you are using them.  Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.  Give the dish a stir, and add the chopped tomato and herbs.  Cover tightly, and in five minutes, uncover and give it another stir to fluff up the dish.  Magic will have occured.  You will have a mostly grain-based dinner, tasty, low in fat, high in fiber, and quite filling.  Serve with a green salad, perhaps with a yogurt-based dressing. 


See  you on the air at 4 today!



Salisbury Steak--Not Just A Frozen Entree Anymore

If you are of a certain age, you ate a TV dinner, in front of the TV, and it was probably Salisbury Steak.  It was in an aluminum tray, and it tasted like aluminum, but maybe your mom had gotten the special dessert-included Salisbury Steak dinner, and there was a napalm-hot molten square of apple crumble goo up in the right hand corner, which was the pay-off for the whole experience. 

But Salisbury Steak exisisted before Swanson TV dinners.  It was actually Civil War era health food, named for Dr. JH Salisbury, not the city in England. Dr. Salisbury was a Paleo/Atkins sort of guy; he was the first to limit carbs for weight loss.  And he believed that humans should eat meat thrice a day!  In WW2 America, when we were shunning German names for things, folks used the term to mean hamburgers sometimes.

Here's a recipe from a 1950's all-steak cookbook my husband dredged up at a yard sale somewhere.  Best recipe in the book, too!  This is simple, tasty, and I like it with a little mashed butternut squash and either spinach or brussels sprouts on the side.



1 lb high quality lean ground beef.  I recommend grass-fed.  Get sirloin or round, not chuck.

1/2 to one teaspoon kosher salt

several generous grindings of fresh black pepper

2 tablespoons heavy cream  (Yes, really.  Have some faith.  This is good.)

COMBINE all of the above.  You can use a rubbermaid spatula or your cleany-clean hands.

FORM gently into four large hamburger-shaped patties.

NOW--pour a couple of handfuls of dried bread crumbs into a dinner plate.  Commercial ones are fine for this; I like Cento.  Gently coat the patties with crumbs.

HEAT a large skillet coated with a splash of olive oil.  A non-stick pan, if you have one, makes this recipe a hundred times easier.  You want the pan medium-hot throughout--but not hot enough to burn the crumbs.  Cook the patties, turning them four or five times.  You're going for a nice brown, and you do want to cook them through--but not dry them out.  REMOVE the patties to a warm platter.  Dump the fat (there will be a fair amount) out of the pan.  Pour in about a half cup of water, and let it bubble, scraping the browned bits into it.  When it has just started to reduce a bit, WHISK IN two tablespoons of butter and pour over the patties.  You should have just enough to give each of them a bit of a bath.

This takes doing it a few times to get it right, but it's worth the practicing.  A perfect weeknight dinner, and feeds three or four easy.  Or two absurdly hungry piggy folks :).

See you on the air at four PM today!