Most of my favorite summers were spent away as summer camp. Singing dorky camp songs. Canoeing. Capture the flag. That one summer where I spent four weeks doing manual labor and it was called a “learning experience.” The best times were always had in the evenings. It was great to be able to see the stars and there’s something incredibly bonding about being in the middle of the woods at night. Campfires happened at night. Ghost stories. Fireflies. Bonding chats. Listening to your cabin-mates’ hilarious sleep talking.
Music and food have always been two things tied closer to emotion than almost anything else. When you’re in a great mood you want to bop down the street to Ben Lee or The Beatles. When you’re pissed you might pull out some Aerosmith or Alkaline Trio. And especially when you’re bummed out, a pint of ice cream or chicken noodle soup, a warm blanket and some Bon Iver sound really good.
This week it’s all about comfort food and comfort tunes. Like a chef pairing your wine and entrée, I’ll be pairing each playlist with a delectable recipe perfect for when you need a pick me up. We start with a cold day classic: soup. Chicken noodle is of course the most traditional, but below check out a fantastic Rachel Ray recipe for Smoky Sweet Potato Chicken Stoup – I’ve made this one before, pretty sure I messed up somewhere, and STILL had a great dish that lasted for days. Sort of like this playlist (except I NEVER mess up, obvi) – so eat up, team.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 ribs celery
1 large onion, peeled and halved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 chipotle chili in adobo, finely chopped, plus a spoon of sauce from the can
Salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon dry thyme (eyeball it)
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine (eyeball it)
5 cups chicken stock
1 large sweet potato
3/4-1 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, a generous handful, roughly chopped
1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat with two tablespoons of EVOO, about two turns of the pan.
While soup pot heats, chop carrots in half lengthwise then slice into thin half moons. Add the carrots to the pot while it heats, stirring to coat the carrots in the EVOO. Chop and drop in celery and onion, chopping as small as you can, but don’t make yourself crazy. Add the garlic, chipotle, and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Season the veggies with salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook the veggies together for one minute. Add the wine and reduce a minute. Add the stock to the pot, cover the pot, and raise heat to high. Bring the stoup to a boil, remove the cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into quarters lengthwise, then thinly slice into bite-size pieces. Add the cut chicken and sweet potatoes and simmer five minutes until sweet potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through. Turn the heat off and add the scallions and cilantro. Serve each portion of stoup with a dollop of sour cream on top.
As I said in the last post, what people prefer to shake their booty to can be wildly different – Cher! Rihanna! Tiesto! – depending on a plethora of fickle and random variables. Putting together the perfect soundtrack for a cocktail party presents similar challenges in different ways. The music sets the tone for the evening. It needs to be relaxing but not depressing, a hint of attitude, a dash of energy, but most of all it can’t distract from conversation. In my experience, the biggest determining factor here is age, both of planner and guests. Aunt Mary may never appreciate Radiohead’s “Let Down” despite your detailed explanation of the beautiful intricacies of Thom’s voice, but chances are Mozart might be a bit stuffy for her (though ideal in grandma’s mind). The difference between 25 and 35 might be Nneka and Brian Setzer. Not that I’m saying Brian Setzer isn’t cool or that classical music isn’t timeless or fun to listen to. It just never ceases to entertain me that even with the same fairly restrictive parameters the selection can still be so different.
The xx are coming to the Fonda on June 5 and the Wiltern on June 6. Hurry up and get your tickets!
Even though the new School of Seven Bells album, Disconnect from Desire doesn’t drop until July 13, you can catch the band at The Echo on June 2. Tickets here.
And because these days no one can think of “cocktail” without immediately thinking of Mad Men (thanks to the dynamic combo brilliant composer David Carbonara with superstar supervisor Alexandra Patsavas), here’s one of the most touching and amazingly well written scenes from the show: