DECEMBER “BOOK NOOK” WITH ABBY PINARD: MANHATTAN BEACH

MANHATTAN BEACH

By Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan’s previous novel, the Pulitzer-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, was a dazzling, post-modern high-wire act. What would she do next? Too smart to try to outdo herself, she did research — lots and lots of research — mostly revolving around the mysteries of the deep. At every turn, there is water and the people who make their living and support a war on and in it: longshoremen, divers, merchant marine, sailors, the women who do the jobs left by the men who’ve gone to war, the men who stoke the boiler, and the men who know where the bodies are buried.

At heart, Manhattan Beach is a book about a girl and her father, 11-year-old Anna and Eddie Kerrigan, trying to keep his head above water and his family afloat on the fringes of the New York underworld in the 1930s. Ten years later, the country is at war, Eddie has disappeared, and Anna works in the Brooklyn Naval Yard and yearns to be the first woman to be a diver, doing underwater repairs to the great ships that she sees in the newsreels.

This is a coming-of-age novel, a crime novel, a war novel, a New York novel, and that all-too-rare phenomenon, a literary page-turner. Jennifer Egan doesn’t let her research overwhelm her literary skills and doesn’t let her story overwhelm her characters. Highly recommended.

“Book Nook” writer Abby Pinard

A lifelong book nut, Abby retired from a forty-year computer software career and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore.  A native New Yorker, she moved to Boston to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans.  She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

DECEMBER “CHEF’S CORNER” WITH JOHN RUDY: CHICKEN FRICASSEE

CHICKEN  FRICASSEE

This recipe, before changes, came from the McCall’s Cooking School.  It serves 6-8.  The dumplings are a nice touch and differentiate this recipe from others you might know.  Because of the dumplings, this is not served over noodles or rice.  The original recipe, in my opinion, had insufficient chicken, and I also switched from white to dark meat as the dark meat is more forgiving and can survive over-cooking (who would do that?).

This recipe has a lot of vegetables, and I have put in what I like.  You can certainly change them.  Some Chicken Fricassee recipes call for wine.  You can replace some of the water with red wine if you wish.  I also make it a bit spicy, and this, too, can be adjusted.

Many will toss the chicken in flour.  I prefer to use pancake mix which contains some other ingredients.  I use the same strategy when pan-frying fish.

Ingredients

4 lbs       chicken legs and thighs with skin on

4 Tbs      butter (add more if necessary)

1 tsp       salt

1/3 cup   Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix

1/8 tsp    red pepper powder  (adjust to your taste)

1 cup    chicken stock

1 cup   water

2      medium onions cut ¼ inch thick

25+   baby carrots or cut up larger carrots

1 can   artichoke hearts

6   whole cloves

15   whole peppers, crushed

8   stalks   Celery, cut thick

10  Mushrooms (large), halved

1½  cup  Bisquick

1       egg

¼ cup     milk

remaining flour

½ cup   light cream

Instructions

  • Toss the chicken in the flour, salt, pepper mixture. Dry the chicken first, and don’t put it all in the bag at the same time.  If you are very calorie conscious, you can remove the chicken skin.
  • Brown the chicken, skin side down first, in the butter in a dutch oven.  You will not be able to fit all the pieces in the pot at the same time.  Make sure that the skin is quite brown.  Remove the pieces to a side dish with paper towel to drip.
  • Put the cloves, peppers, onions, and baby carrots into the butter, and sauté about 5 mins. Stir occasionally, and deglaze the bottom of the pot with some of the water.
  • Add the soup and the remaining water; bring to a boil; and add the chicken back. Cook, covered, on low about 30 minutes.
  • Add the celery and mushrooms, and cook an additional 5 minutes. (If they are added early, they will become soggy.)
  • Mix the Bisquick, egg, and milk, and put tablespoons full (there will be about 6) onto the chicken above the liquid. Cook uncovered 10 minutes.
  • Cover, and cook an additional 10 minutes.
  • Gently remove the dumplings, and thicken with the remaining flour which has been mixed with the light cream. Remember–flour can only be mixed with cold liquid.
  • Return the dumplings to the pot for serving.
  • If this recipe is done with boneless chicken breasts, reduce cooking by ~10 minutes.
“Chef’s Corner” writer John Rudy

John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age.  (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)