The other night, my friend commented that I couldn’t #deletefacebook because of this blog – I’ll lose my followers. It made me realize that my friends don’t understand the details of this
passion hobby diversion of mine (and most likely don’t care). I take that as a good sign I’m not blathering on and on about “my blog” every second or every day. In truth, Facebook only accounts for 3% of traffic to my site. Surprisingly, my primary source in 2017 was the lesser-known Fridgg, making up about 25% of visits followed by various search engines with 13%, Foodgawker with 10% and my WordPress readers with 6%. I’m a devoted fan of Fridgg, a site that doesn’t determine what photos are worthy and unworthy based on some intangible – if the submitter believes them worthy, Fridgg does, too. Food photo democracy.
2018 is shaping up a bit differently. My primary source in 2018 has been search engines (15%), closely followed by Foodgawker (13%), with WordPress and Fridgg both at 10%. Facebook is still about 3%.
This brings me to another insight – My recent Foodgawker acceptance rates, THE site that determines if your photos are “worthy.” I think I’ve finally managed to crack their submission code. The first few years, my submission acceptance hovered around 30% – actually not too bad for the gold-standard of food photo sharing sites. Now, I’m at 45%, with February’s at 83% and March’s acceptance at 87%.
87%??! I’ll take that. I’m still undecided about Facebook.
Creamy Tomato Chicken Stew
- 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups Gruyère cheese
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook chicken (in batches if needed) until brown on all sides. Set chicken aside. Add carrots, onions and garlic cloves to pot and sauté until soft and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste and cook until mixture forms a golden crust at the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes with juice and stock, scraping up the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan and breaking the tomatoes apart. Heat until boiling, then return chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan.
- Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 25 minutes. Stir in cheese, cream and balsamic. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and sauce over noodles, rice or polenta, sprinkled with a little more cheese, if desired.
A grey and drizzly day like today calls for a classic, satisfying and hearty stew like this French-inspired chicken version. The best part – plenty of leftovers for lunch this week.
Chicken stew with mushroom & onions
A classic combination of chicken, mushrooms and onions in a hearty sauce.
- 6 strips bacon, chopped
- 1 lb. baby portabella mushrooms, quartered
- 12 oz. frozen baby onions, thawed
- 3 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 Tablespoons tarragon, minced
- In a large pot of Dutch oven, sauté bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pot. Add mushrooms and onions and sauté until golden and beginning to brown. While cooking, add a pinch of salt to help mushrooms release their liquid. Once browned, remove from pot.
- Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Brown chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Cook chicken in batches if needed – do not overcrowd pot. Set chicken aside. Add red wine vinegar and butter to pot. Once butter has melted, sprinkle with flour. Cook about a minute until flour begins to brown. Add chicken stock and cook until bubbling, scraping up flavorful browned bits from bottom of the pot.
- Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid, add bacon, mushrooms and onions and cook uncovered for 15 minutes more.
- If needed, remove chicken, increase heat and cook sauce until reduced and thickened. Return chicken to pot and season with salt and pepper. Serve stew over egg noodles or rice, sprinkled with tarragon.
It’s late Sunday morning and fifteen of us are huddled on the street corner, cameras in hand like a gaggle of paparazzi waiting to catch a celebrity’s morning-after walk of shame. Except this isn’t Hollywood – and we’re not professionals.
This is California Center for Digital Arts and we’re practicing shutter speed priority photography – stop action, blurred action, panning. I learned this long ago – so very long ago – in the days of film and chemical processing and my trusty Canon AE-1. We’re standing on a street corner simply shooting random cars and bicycles passing by.
I’m going back to photography basics because, frankly, I’m bored with the photos I’m churning out these days – and the work of most other amateur food photographers as well. I’m having trouble finding the soul in the ubiquitous bright, side-lit, flat-laid, slightly blown out (IMHO), Foodgawker-esque photographs most amateur food photographers (including me) produce –insipid images devoid of soul.
My food photos may not get better. What I’m currently churning out may be my limit, but the class made me happy, made me remember, just for a few hours, to look at the world with a photographer’s eye.
Did it help? If this photo above is any indication, then, no, it didn’t – same bright, side-lit, flat lay, lackluster nonsense. The pork loins, conversely, were divine – flavorful and mouthwateringly succulent.
This flavorful, garlicy-citrus mojo acts as a marinade and a sauce.
- 6 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons whole cumin
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- zest from one orange
- zest from one lime
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ onion, chopped
- ¾ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ bunch cilantro
- 2 pork tenderloins
- In a blender, puree all ingredients except pork. Transfer a half cup of sauce into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate.
- Place pork tenderloins in a dish and cover with remaining mojo sauce. Cover dish and refrigerate at least 8 hours up to 24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a bit of oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Remove pork from marinade, scraping off excess. Add pork to skillet and sear until well browned on all sides. Transfer skillet with pork to oven. Roast until meat registers 145 degrees F. Remove pork from skillet, tent with foil and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Warm reserved mojo sauce in the microwave. Cut pork crosswise in ½ inch slices, drizzle with warmed mojo sauce and serve.
These last two weeks, my lovely neighbor has been providing me with a bevy of tangerines from her bountiful tree. I’ve been content to peel and devour most of them “as is,” the exception being their inclusion in this luscious roasted lamb shoulder. A slow braise results in a meltingly tender roast and bright, Mediterranean flavors ensure it’s mouthwateringly tasty. The flavor profile came from this 2013 Bon Apetit recipe, but frankly, I fell in love with the flavor pairing of orange (or in this case tangerine) peel and tomatoes during my culinary school stint…and my cooking method is much simpler, too.
This dish is definitely making a reappearance at my next gathering (Easter, perhaps?) – The brightly colored stuffing makes for a lovely presentation – plus a long braise ensures minimal fuss time for me.
Stuffed Mediterranean Lamb Roast
A stuffing of bright Mediterranean flavors and a tomato-y red wine sauce make this meltingly tender roast extra special.
- 1 3-lb. boneless lamb shoulder
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ⅓ cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh sage, plus 8-10 leaves for sauce
- 1 ½ Tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, plus additional for garnish
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tangerines, unpeeled and thinly sliced, seeds removed
- ½ bottle pinot noir
- 28 oz. can tomato puree
- Polenta (optional)
- Cut lamb horizontally without cutting all the way through so you can open it like a book. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine garlic, olives, minced sage, rosemary and salt. With lamb open, spread 2/3 of olive mixture on left side of lamb. Cover olive mixture with thinly sliced tangerines (you should have 4-6 slices left over) and cover tangerines with remaining 1/3 of olive mixture. Starting from the left side, roll up lamb, tucking in stuffing as needed. Secure roast well with kitchen twine tied at 1” intervals.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Meanwhile, over a high heat, heat 2 Tablespoons oil until smoking in an ovenproof pot or Dutch oven. Add lamb and brown well on all sides, a few minutes per side. Set lamb aside. Reduce heat to medium and deglaze pot by adding pinot noir to pan and scraping up any browned bits. Add tomato puree and heat until bubbling. Add remaining 4-6 tangerine slices and sage leaves. Return lamb to pot, ensuring liquid reaches halfway up side of roast, cover and place in oven. Roast 3 hours, turning roast over halfway through cooking time.
- Transfer lamb to cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes. With lid off, return pot to stovetop. Remove any accumulated fat from cooking liquid, if needed. Boil vigorously until sauce is thickened and reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Strain sauce through a sieve, pressing on solids. Season sauce with salt. To serve, slice roast crosswise, serve with sauce over polenta (optional) and sprinkled with remaining rosemary.