It was the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the end of an era.
This year I celebrated Rosh Hashanah with Regena Thomashauer and her family and friends. Hollywood hottie Heather Graham was there too, and I cooked Chicken Marbella to honor my long-time friend Sheila Lukins, who recently passed away. Sheila was my boss for two years in the early 80’s the Silver Palate.
When I opened Flavors Catering and Carry-out in the early 90’s on West 18th Street, Sheila came to my store opening and blessed it. She wasn’t my boss any longer, and we were good friends. She came to many of my “Chef and Foodie” Pot Luck dinners in the Hamptons and invited me to her home as well.
Her dinners were truly memorable. One time Sheila threw a small dinner for 10 people in her newly renovated and totally charming home in Sag Harbor. It happened to be one of the hottest nights of the summer, and there was no air conditioning in her home, but that didn’t stop her! She sweat her way through the preparations and made the most incredible meal! We all ate well and drank like fish. The meal was Provencal Fish Stew with Aioli and a platter of the most gorgeous summer vegetables. We had a lot of laughs and forever joked about that hot summer night.
Then there was the dinner she gave in her gorgeous apartment in the Dakota. I sat next to Ted Allen and Dana Cowin was there. Sheila served meatloaf that night and she showed us her collection of photos. She was so proud of her two daughters and her grandchildren.
I will always remember my dear friend Sheila. Her deep, magical voice and her wonderful warped sense of humor and, of course, her passion for the recipes she created for all of us to enjoy.
When I worked at the Silver Palate, we dished out Chicken Marbella every single day. I would always take the leftovers home. But I don’t think I ever cooked it or ate it again until I dusted off the recipe and made it for Regena and her guests.
It’s such a perfect party dish; the combination of sweet and salty. The prunes, olives, and capers combined with the vinegar, garlic, and red wine. It’s full of flavor and great hot or cold. It was racy when she first created it, but today it’s become a household name!
I served it with the brisket recipe from my cookbook, Pamela Morgan’s Flavors, and the side dishes were roasted mushrooms, string beans and quinoa with toasted pine nuts. Dessert was chocolate angel food cake with whipped cream, fresh berries, and coconut gelato. Pure pleasure!
*The original blog was called Flavors in Love. All material has been transferred and some has been edited for easier reading, and archiving.