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for December 11, 2002

Denial and Demitasse
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love has a dear friend who insists, "Mama said always know two ways out of town." Last night's Billboard Music Awards kicks off the Dear God, Not Another Awards Show season, during which one never wonders what fertilizes Hollywood greenery. Add to this the horror of VH1's Twenty Women Who Rock and a disturbingly bland season finale of the Sopranos, and it's plain our parade needs another route. How about straight down Main Street with the Deathmobile?
Italian food is all about demonstrating favoritism, displays of heroism and machismo, and a tasty gravy without lumps. This is how we know we love each other. Also, should you feel so inclined, you can add a nice white wine to the gravy without risk of offending our dead ancestors.
Plan to start cooking about an hour and a half before dinner.
Ingredients 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces 2 cups flour mushrooms, cut in big chunks big onions, diced salt pepper basil small amount of olive oil chicken stock or 1 quart can of College Inn Chicken Broth
Optional veal shanks
1 box instant polenta a LOT of water a little more salt tons of cream cheese
Heat oil in big dutch oven.
Combine flour, salt, pepper and basil in shallow dish. Dredge chicken (and veal) in flour mixture. Brown pieces all over in oil. When everything's browned, add chicken broth or stock. You will feel funny about this. Broth should more than cover chicken. The chicken should look like it would drown if it weren't already dead.
Throw in mushrooms and onions. Simmer for at least half an hour, stirring frequently. Cooking for up to an hour makes the chicken more tender, and falling-off-the-bones tender is a good thing. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little water. It should have a consistency like New England clam chowder, which comparison is practically sacrilege.
Meanwhile, in a separate pot, boil the amount of water/salt indicated on the instant polenta box. Have handy a long, sturdy, wooden thing you will hereafter refer to as your polenta stick. The person who stirs the polenta is the most manly person in the household, even if that happens to be Grandma.
Polenta must be poured into boiling water slowly to prevent lumps from forming, and stirred constantly. Once all polenta is added to water, really manly stirring begins. Polenta thickens up like crazy, and must be stirred into submission. Polenta absorbs water as it cooks and is finished when it looks like extremely viscous yellow goo, with almost no movement. Do not let it burn. Turn viscous yellow goo out onto cutting board when it looks like it will mostly stay exactly where you put it. Let cool a few minutes or you risk a trip to the emergency room.
Put cream cheese on dining room table next to the cook's favorite person. Place chicken and all related incredibly yummy gravy in big serving tureen, also next to cook's favorite person. Place polenta and big knife near person who can be trusted with hot things and sharp objects.
To serve: slice big hunk of polenta. Slather with cream cheese. Place chicken next to polenta. Drench with gravy. Eat. Die of happiness.
Optional: before dying of happiness, suck marrow out of veal shanks. Sounds disgusting. What, are you kidding? If you don't want it, I'll eat it.
Always make too much. It's better the second day.

©2002 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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