Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Pasta and a Famous Julia Child Flip

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Pasta Recipe
Similar to the celebrated Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars, this is a meal that, for my money, didn’t kick it right out of the starting gate, but turned up the flavor factor over the next 24 hours.

I’m wary of crock pot recipes with chicken, and you should be too, because the bird tends to dry out before the cook time is done.  People are always stopping me on the street and saying, “But Gary, how do I keep my crock pot chicken from drying out?”  Actually, they more often say things like, “You’re too old to wear a t-shirt that tight.” or “Hey you psycho, put my baby down!”

But asking me how to prevent chicken from drying out is definitely in the top five.

There are a couple changes I’d make to this recipe the next time out.  Give them a shot and let me know how it goes in the comments.

1.) Don’t shred the chicken at the end.  Keep the breasts whole or, at most, slice them in half.

2.) Spill about 1/4 cup of oil over the chicken when you first put it into the crock.  This is the trick that helped me out when I made Lemon Garlic Chicken.  I used thigh bones and the meat was plenty juicy when I served it up.

3.) Thicken the sauce a bit so it adheres better to the chicken and the pasta.  I thought this mixture was too watery.  There are a lot of great ways to do this.  You can add in an equal mixture of corn starch and water.  Start by combining a teaspoon of each, and check it over the next half hour, adding more if needed. Another way to go is to add in a cup of Italian breadcrumbs.  Or if you’re really itching to sew this sucker up in record time, you can just drop in a cup of jarred pasta sauce.  As Julia Child reminds us in the video at 2:55 below, “Whoooo is going to see!?”

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Pasta Recipe

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Pasta Recipe
Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Pasta from Damn Delicious

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 pound penne
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

 

Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Place chicken into a 6-qt slow cooker.

In a large bowl, combine crushed tomatoes, onion, basil, oregano, parsley and red pepper flakes, if using. Stir into the slow cooker and gently toss to combine. Cover and cook on low heat for 4 hours.

Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred, using two forks.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.

Stir pasta and chicken into the slow cooker; top with cheeses.

Cover and cook on low heat for an additional 10-20 minutes, or until the cheeses have melted.

Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Making Martha’s Cakes – Marble Pound Cake (Cake #3)

Marble Pound Cake RecipeMarble Pound Cake Following the book, the next cake up would be Martha’s Blood Orange and Olive Oil Pound Cake.  It’s not the most winning title ever, in fact it’s right up there with clunkers like Ocean’s Twelve, Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever, A Doll’s House Part 2, and V.I. Warshawski.  Remember V.I Warshawski?  Oh, it was so bad.  But I saw it in the theatre, on opening day, no less.  That’s what a Kathleen Turner fan I was.  17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes?  Ee-gahds!

Kathleen Turner V.I. Warshawski

But before you start performing a celebrated “Mime-a-Gag” at the thought of eating something called “Blood Orange Olive Oil Pound Cake,” take a look at the picture in the book first.  It includes chocolate ganache which I think really should have made its way into the name.  Chocolate Ganache makes everything sound better.  Try saying it right after  you say, “V.I. Warshawski !” and you’ll find yourself suddenly searching for it on Netflix.  It’s not there (17 percent, remember?).

Blood Orange olive Oil Cake

Regardless how you feel about the name, I can’t make it, because blood oranges are not in season right now.  I can’t find them anywhere.  I thought we’d moved past the era of having to wait for a particular season for particular produce.  Isn’t that why we have Monsanto?  I thought they were able to grow produce year round on the spine of a living pig, but that’s not happening.  Agrochemical companies are really starting to let people down.

I went with the marble pound cake recipe instead.  It’s an easier recipe the the blood orange one, and you get to swirl.  I love to swirl.

I love to swirl.  I love to bake cakes.  I get to the theatre early for bad Kathleen Turner movies.  Is it any wonder my parents felt no need to have more children after me?
GET THE RECIPE HERE

Your Sunday Sinatra – “Autumn in New York”

Autumn in New York Frank Sinatra Billy May Vernon Duke

Autumn in New York Frank Sinatra Billy May Vernon Duke

Autumn in New York Frank Sinatra Billy May Vernon Duke

“Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so inviting
Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of first-knighting”

Thumbs Up Musical Revue 1934

“Autumn in New York” was composed by Vernon Duke in the early 1930’s for the musical revue Thumbs Up! As a revue, there wasn’t truly a plot that can be recounted, though it includes some songs that you may be able to still readily hum as we sit over eighty years since the revue’s premiere on December 27, 1934. If you’re familiar with “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” or “Merrily We Roll Along,” you have Thumbs Up! to thank. Click here for MORE

Your Sunday Sinatra: “Around the World”

Come Fly with Me Frank Sinatra

“Around the world I’ve searched for you… I traveled on… when hope was gone… to keep a rendezvous”

Sinatra takes the cameo credit of “Barbary Coast Saloon Pianist” in the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days.  It may be the best thing the movie offers.

Frank Sinatra in Around the World in 80 days

Despite taking 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, I find this film duller than an afternoon of braiding doll hair.

The movie’s politely superficial theme, music by Victor Young, is repeated to an exhausting degree throughout its 182 minute run time. Sweeping wide shot of a hot air balloon crossing the puffy white skies?  We need our theme.  Sailing the Atlantic Ocean by steamship?  Let’s use that theme again.  Approaching the Spanish bull fight scene with the 10,000 extras?  Hey… have we used our theme yet?

Around the World in 80 Days movie poster

Take a look at the trailer. You can hear the theme play at :40… and again at 1:25… and again at 3:57.  Or take my word for it and just listen to Sinatra’s version right here –>02_around_the_world.mp3


Thankfully saved from being involved in this bloated film is an actual sung version of the theme, lyrics by Harold Adamson. Bing Crosby had a hit with it in 1957. Sinatra and conductor/arranger Billy May included it in the Come Fly With Me album in 1958. My recommendation is to actively avoid the film until you give the Sinatra version a decent chance to find a permanent home in your ear. Divorcing yourself from the relentless cinematic arrangement will be difficult otherwise. You may be able to forget about it, but it will never truly leave you, like that simultaneous clapping part of the Friends theme, or those 1990s commercials for Mentos.

And despite appearances from the likes of Shirley MacLaine, Marlene Dietrich, Buster Keaton, Red Skelton, Peter Lorre, Cesar Romero, Charles Boyer, Noel Coward, Sir John Gielgud, and a circus tent full of other A-listers at the time, you’d still be better off skipping the film permanently and spending a Saturday afternoon watching The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze.

Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze movie poster

Making Martha’s Cakes: Lemon Pound Cake (Cake #2)

Martha Stewart's Lemon Pound Cake RecipeThere are over 150 recipes in the Martha Stewart Cake book. I’m on recipe number two.
Martha Stewart's Lemon Pound Cake Recipe
After the recipe for “Basic Pound Cake” comes FIFTEEN MORE VERSIONS OF LOAF CAKE: There’s Chocolate-Ginger Marble, Clementine Vanilla Bean, Pumpkin Sage, and Cornmeal Buttermilk, to name a few. And that only gets me to page 49… of 311 pages of cake recipes.

And I’ve obligated myself to make each and every one of them.

And most of these loaf recipes produce 2 cakes.

My boyfriend, everyone at my office, and all the neighbors up and down my block are going to be fat and happy by December.

Or maybe fat and angry?

Suicidal?

Oh well, who cares.  It’s not like they’ll be able to hurt me.  I’ll be able to outrun them all.

Martha Stewart's Lemon Pound Cake Recipe
You might think turning a “basic loaf cake” into a “lemon loaf cake” wouldn’t require anything more than tossing some fresh lemon zest into the batter.  That’s where Martha would slap you in the face, call you a rube and go back to watching her favorite movie, Bowfinger (I have it on good authority).

Sure, yeah… we’ll include zest in the batter.  But we’re not gonna stop there.  We’re also gonna make lemon icing for the tops of the cakes, candied lemons to top that lemon icing, and when we get the cakes out of the oven WE’RE GONNA POKE HOLES ACROSS THE TOPS AND POUR LEMON SUGAR SYRUP STRAIGHT INTO THEM!!

This is what I did with my Memorial Day.  I’ll always remember.  I’ll never forget.

GET THE RECIPE AND MORE PICS HERE

Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken

Recipe for Slow Cooker Garlic Lemon ChickenMG will tell you that this lemon chicken falls right off the bone and melts in your mouth.  If you were in a slow cooker for eight hours surrounded by potatoes, carrots, garlic cloves and slices of lemon, the same thing would happen to you and you’d never have to go to the gym again.

Grown up crock potMy new Cuisinart slow cooker is getting a real workout.  After 8 years with the Barbie Dream House Crock Pot, I decided it was time to step it up a bit.  After all, I’m not a lonely single guy cooking for one anymore.  I’ve got a partner who counts on me to keep his belly full.  And there’s no skimping on the ingredients or flavor or portion sizes.  He’s from Georgia.
Recipe for Slow Cooker Garlic Lemon ChickenBefore inclusion of the bone-in chicken thighs.

Recipe for Slow Cooker Garlic Lemon ChickenWith thighs nestled gently into the bottom of the crock pot.  I didn’t include the word “nestled” to be all kitchen showy.  That’s exactly what the recipe says to do – nestle the chicken thighs.  So, as I slowly rocked each thigh into place, I asked it if it wanted to hold its wubby, and then gently serenaded it with twenty minutes of “Hush Thee My Rowan.”

GET THE RECIPE and MORE PICS HERE

Your Sunday Sinatra: “I Cover The Waterfront”

i_cover_the_waterfront_itunes.jpg

“I cover the waterfront… I’m watching the sea… will the one I love be coming back to me?”

“I Cover the Waterfront” was written by Johnny Green and Edward Heyman. It may have ended up in a Sinatra recording session in the spring of 1957, courtesy of the great string-master Gordon Jenkins, but its delicately handled theme of lost love has origins stretching back to the whorehouses, warehouses and nefarious characters populating the grimy San Diego wharf during the 1930s. It may go without saying that its conversion from raunch to respectability had something to do with Hollywood coming to call.

Credit given to Max Miller, a reporter for The San Diego Sun, who quite literally covered the local waterfront during the decade of the Great Depression. Max didn’t report to an office, but worked from a dank room at the docks, just above a tugboat office. If you’ve seen the Samuel Fuller movie Pickup on South Street – and I highly recommend it if you haven’t – imagine Richard Widmark’s waterfront hideout and you might have an idea of the digs Miller employed to cover stories of dockside crime, murder, mystery and general shenanigans from unsavory characters: hardly the stuff of a Frank Sinatra recording.
I Cover the Waterfront by Max Miller

Miller eventually had enough vignettes of the rough and tumble waterfront world and its equally hardened population to churn out an entire book, published in 1932, entitled I Cover the Waterfront. The book was a hit, and United Artists nabbed the rights to adapt it into a movie carrying the same name (and little else) with stars Ben Lyon and Claudette Colbert.
I Cover the Waterfront movie

Meanwhile, composer Green and lyricist Heyman wrote a song inspired by the book’s title, originally recorded by Abe Lyman’s California Ambassador Hotel Orchestra, with vocals by Gracie Barrie. The song and film had nothing do with one another except for the shared title. But the success of the recording led to the film producers re-scoring their movie to integrate the melody in an instrumental version, then claiming in advertisements that the song had actually been inspired the film.

The song was heavily covered in the years that followed: Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, John Lee Hooker all helped carry it to jazz standard framing. Annie Lennox even took a turn with it for her 2014 album, Nostalgia.

Sinatra’s pass sparkles with the lush, swelling strings that were a hallmark of conductor Jenkins. No reason I can find for why Sinatra skips the first verse and bolts straight for the chorus, but the track, as well as the album Where Are You?, certainly doesn’t seem to want for anything it doesn’t already have

Take a listen below.
03_I_Cover_The_Waterfront.mp3

Frank Sinatra

I relied on the following sources for background on the song origins:

“I Cover the Waterfront” at The Mark Steyn Club

“S.D. Reporter’s 1932 Bestseller Still Holds Water at KPBS

“Who Was Max Miller?” at The San Diego Reader