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Sunday, February 9, 2014

An Open Letter To Donatella Arpaia

Dear Donatella,

Hi! It’s me, Mike.  I hope everything is going well for you!

I just wanted to let you know how much fun it was meeting you at the Mohegan Sun Wine Fest. 

The evening started out great.  Typically, my wife Cathy and our friend Jan sit at a table, while Leslie and I get food and wine, and bring it back to share.  (If I can, because, as I had mentioned to you, I am gluten sensitive so I need to be REALLY careful!) 

Anyway, Leslie and I had a great time getting some fantastic food from Chefs like Kim Canteenwalla, Mary Ann Esposito, Betty Fraser, Christopher Coombs, Michele Ragussis, and so on.  There was even a table of entirely gluten free desserts.  Leslie and I love to speak to all of the Chefs, if only for a few seconds, and they are all accommodating.

But for some odd reason…I get shy whenever we go to your table.  The same thing happened last year.

While standing in line, Leslie said to me, “So what if I say…”

“No, don’t say anything.”

“But what if I just tell Donatella…”

“No, stop!”

“Okay Mike, I won’t say a word.”

I, of course, should not have trusted her, but it was still a shock when Leslie said, “Mike really likes you, but he’s scared to tell you.”  To which you replied, “Oh, really?”  The blood immediately rushed to my face, out of embarrassment, I’m sure!  I tried to make small talk by telling you that I follow you on Twitter.  Then you said, “Would you like to take a picture?”

Not thinking straight, I immediately thought a picture of you, but then I realized you had graciously offered to take a picture with me. 

I had mentioned that I probably could not try your meatball, because I am gluten free.  You then told me that you are coming out with a gluten free pizza dough.  You told me to tweet out our picture, which I did, at the same time telling those who follow me that you are coming out with the gluten free pizza dough.  And then you re-tweeted “Just For You.”  I mean, really…how cool of you to do that!

I’m not sure you knew it or not, but you also tweeted out a video, which I am right in the middle of.  Are you flirting with me?  I mean, we ARE both married!

Donatella, I don’t know if you will read this, but just in case you do, I just want to thank you.  You turned a very fun night into something extra special for me.  You are truly a very classy person, and I will always appreciate the kindness you showed me.

Thanks again!


P.S.  You don’t happen to know Paul McCartney, do you?  Because, if you could introduce me to him, my life would be complete!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gluten Free Oven Baked Fried Chicken

I wanted to eat some sort of comfort food.  I was just in the mood for…fried chicken.

Now off and on over the last few years, I have wanted fried chicken, but didn’t really like any of the recipes I saw.  The healthier versions that are baked didn’t seem all that interesting, and all of the interesting ones were…well…quite frankly, not particularly low fat.

So, with that in mind, I decided to look at different recipes, get some ideas, and then figure out if some combination would be good.  After reading…oh…a dozen recipes or so, here is what I came up with.

I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and it would be a two step dredging process.  The wet dredge was a mixture of fat free plain yogurt, two egg whites, some Dijon mustard, and some hot sauce.  We like Frank’s, but you can use whatever you prefer.  Once the chicken breasts were fully covered, I dredged them in the dry ingredients, which consisted of Aleia’s gluten free Panko bread crumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and some cayenne. 

I put the chicken breasts on a rack on a sheet pan.  Then I took some Olive Oil spray, and gave them a quick spray on both sides so the gluten free panko bread crumbs would brown.  Then into a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for about 45 min or so.

As for a side dish, I wanted to see if I could re-create the sweet potato hash I had a few weeks ago at the Highland kitchen.  I peeled two sweet potatoes, cut them into cubes, and boiled them for 4 minutes in salted water.  Then I drained them, and put them in a pan that I had put some butter/oil product in.  I then added the sweet potatoes in as well as ½ of a chopped onion.  About 3 minutes in, I added a small amount of chili powder to the pan.  I did this in an attempt to add a bit of heat to what could have been an overly sweet dish. Then, a minute or two later, I added two tablespoons of pure maple syrup.

The final dish looked like this:

Now, I must say that, although this is a simple dish, I am really proud of it.  The chicken stayed moist, the heat from the cayenne gave nice flavor, and the gluten free panko bread crumbs were nice and crunchy.  This was important because the crunchiness played well against the soft texture of the hash.  (Which technically wasn’t a hash because there was no protein in it, but I am still going to call it a hash anyway!)  The hash was really good, and the chili powder was just enough to help balance the sweetness.

I also liked the way I plated the dish, although I do wish I had remembered to get something green to put on the plate, to add a bit more color.

As for nutrition, the entire meal was 717 calories, which is a bit higher than I wanted, but only 8 grams of fat, which is pretty spectacular!

All in all, this was a very successful dish!