Here are three well-tested recipes that you kids — of nearly any age — can make your mom for Mother’s Day. If you are very young, and likely not reading this anyway, Dad or her partner or spouse might pitch in. Also, all three are easily portable to where she lives, if not with you. Simply prepare most steps ahead and assemble or finish each recipe at her kitchen or dining table.
The recipes are simple and straightforward and allow, in this time of sequestration cuisine and pantry cooking, for several substitutions.
For example, for the stracciatella, use any firm grating cheese or any of a number of leafy greens. Chile powders of several origins sub for the Hungarian paprika in the chicken recipe, as do differing pastas, and thick cream or sour cream for the yogurt. You even may use chicken breasts instead of whole legs, just cook for less time and at 325 degrees.
The dessert is my own mother’s recipe, dating back 60 years or so. It is a treasured family heirloom. (Thanks, Mom.)
This simple Roman soup means “little torn rags” (or shreds) and refers to the wisps or tendrils of cooked egg that float in its broth. Serves 4-6.
- 6 large whole eggs
- 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 quart good-quality chicken broth (low-sodium or regular or homemade)
- 2 cups baby spinach or greens mix
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Good-quality fruity extra-virgin olive oil
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese and black pepper. In a large saucepan, heat the chicken broth to a steady simmer. Into it, over slightly elevated heat, add the egg mixture stirring slowly, so that the eggs both set but also turn into strands, about 1 minute. Add the spinach or greens, stirring, so that they wilt.
Serve into warmed bowls, topped with the chopped parsley and more ground black pepper if desired, but certainly with swirls of the olive oil.
Only two words of caution: when browning the chicken pieces, scrape well under them so that chicken skin doesn’t stick to the skillet (even if it does, it’s no big deal). This recipe uses yogurt, instead of the traditional sour cream, for its texture and “sweetness,” but remember to temper the yogurt with some of the hot liquid for the final step. Serves 4-6.
- 4 whole chicken legs (drumstick and thigh still attached)
- Freshly ground black pepper and kosher or sea salt
- Bread flour
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, separated
- 1 large yellow or white onion, peeled and medium diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or slivered
- 3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika powder (hot or sweet or any combination to your taste)
- 1 14- to 20-ounce can or jar whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken broth (low-sodium or regular or homemade)
- 2/3 cup Greek-style plain whole milk yogurt
- 1 package frozen or dried thick or wide egg noodles
- Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
A few hours before (or overnight), salt and pepper the chicken legs and pile them into a covered container or bowl in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, bring them out an hour ahead.
To cook, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a cup (or more) of flour in a large bowl; dredge each of the chicken legs, shaking off excess flour and place aside.
In a large oven-proof skillet over a medium-high burner, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter and brown the chicken legs on both sides until nicely colored, about 5-7 minutes for each side. If necessary for space, brown in batches. Remove the chicken after it is browned, keeping back only 2 tablespoons of fat. In that, brown the onion for 5 minutes, stirring and scraping up any brown bits of chicken meat or skin. Add the garlic, stirring and cooking for 4 more minutes, watching that the garlic does not blacken. Add the paprika powder(s) and cook, stirring, until heated through and the paprika becomes fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them, or with a potato masher, or the back of a flat spatula. Add the broth and stir the mixture until it is smooth. Add back the chicken legs, skin side up, nestling them together. Bring the pan to a simmer on top of the stove, then place the pan in the oven, uncovered, and cook until the meat is well cooked through, 30-35 minutes (or more, depending on your elevation or taste in chicken), and the sauce has thickened slightly.
Pull from the oven and remove the chicken legs to a warm plate or place, shaking off the sauce on each. Off any heat, stir the yogurt in a small bowl with a couple of spoonfuls of the hot sauce, then add back all of the yogurt to the pan with the red sauce, stirring to combine. Neither reheat the sauce nor allow it to boil.
While the chicken is finishing cooking and you are making the sauce, prepare the noodles according to the package directions (if they are frozen, allow close to an entire hour for both thawing and boiling), drain them, and toss them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
Serve the chicken alongside the noodles or atop them, napped with the sauce, and garnished with the parsley. Accompany with any chosen green vegetable or salad.
Madeleine St. John’s Pot au Chocolat
I believe that my French-speaking mother called this preparation a “mousse” because that is what Americans would call it in the 1960s when she began to make it. But a mousse has air whipped into it; this is what French cooking calls a “pot” (pronounced like Edgar Allen’s last name, “Poe”), a dense, egg- and cream-enriched dessert. My siblings and I tend to eliminate her call for “1-2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or dark rum,” feeling, as my brother Marc puts it, that it “just gets in the way of the intense chocolate flavor.” We also forgo any nuts. We are half-Belgian; we like our chocolate straight.
- 6-ounce package of chocolate drops, bits, or chips
- 3/4 cup milk, scalded
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons hot espresso or strong coffee (OK to use decaffeinated)
- 2/3 cup chopped walnuts, optional
In a blender, combine the ingredients at high speed for 1 and 1/2 minutes. (Add the optional walnuts.) Blend the mixture for 30 seconds more. Pour the mousse into 6 ramekins and chill for 3 hours, or until it is set. May be served with a dollop of whipped cream. (Note: Do not make this dessert if you eschew raw eggs.)