Nick Malgieri's Supernatural Brownies
Donna Deane's Apricot Tart Brulee

Bluestem's Torchie with Oyster Mushrooms, Braised Chicken and Tomatoes

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Eeep.

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If I have ever before complained of exhaustion, let me hereby call myself a weakling and a wimp, for I have not known exhaustion until now.

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The move is done, it is over, thank heavens, and nothing got broken and we're still in one piece and all of our stuff is here, here in our glorious new apartment that I was scared I might have ended up overestimating, but now I can happily proclaim that, if anything, I underestimated just how big and light-filled and gorgeous it is.

The past few days have been a blur of boxes and crumpled newspaper and endless loads of laundry and dishwashing and happy sighs (we have a linen closet! a whole closet just for linens!) and frustrated looks ("really? You really had to bring that damn Rothko poster to the new apartment?"). The few times we've been able to stop and smell the roses have been at dinner, when we've taken our meal out to the balcony and sat at a little weathered table and chairs, eating in silence, watching the airplanes take off.

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We've still got a long way to go, but we've found a home, dearest readers, and I am just abuzz with the glory of it all.

That pasta thing up there is the first thing I cooked in the new kitchen, after a week straight of take-out and a burning desire to get my fingers dirty with something other than packing tape. It was fine, nothing special really, and a little too complicated for such a plain, weeknight dish, but I got to use my new stove (which is actually really old - I'll show you pictures sometime) and go to the grocery store, where I promptly fell in love, both with the store and the nice people who work there (the checkout lady popped two white peaches into my bag after I paid).

The dinner might have been forgettable, but our first few nights in our new place, together, will stay with me for a long time. I'm just so happy.

Torchie with Oyster Mushrooms, Braised Chicken and Tomatoes
Serves 4

2 chicken drumsticks and 2 thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
8 ounces oyster mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 10-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (and juices), crushed by hand
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1 pound torchio, campanelle or other torch or bell-shaped pasta
Grated pecorino Sardo, for garnish
Chopped fresh oregano, for garnish.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, season liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside. Place a Dutch oven over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil shimmers, add chicken and brown well on both sides.

2. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add garlic and allow to brown slightly (15 to 30 seconds) then add carrots, onion and mushrooms. Sauté until onions are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes, bay leaf and chicken stock. Bring back to a simmer and nestle chicken leg quarters into tomato sauce, spooning some sauce on top. Cover and transfer to oven to braise until chicken pulls easily away from bone, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

4. Transfer chicken to a plate and allow to cool; keep tomato sauce warm. Meanwhile bring 6 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Pick cooled chicken meat from bone and return to tomato sauce.

5. Cook torchio in salted boiling water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain well and add to chicken mixture. Serve garnished with grated pecorino Sardo and fresh oregano.

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