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50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #44 Nigella Lawson - Dragon Chicken

the "Gourmet" prompt...
44. Nigella Lawson- Nigella invented the art of suggestively licking wooden spoons on TV, but the British domestic goddess (her breakout book was How to Be a Domestic Goddess) has penetrated the food culture further than that implies. Think Rachael Ray, but more classy - or pretentious. Your call.

Ladies and gentlemen...might I present to you The Honourable Nigella Lawson?  It's true.  She actually  holds that title, though she chooses not to use it.  Her father, Nigel Lawson, is the former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher. Her mother was a beautiful socialite and heiress to the J. Lyons & Co. fortune.  Though she originally had problems in school growing up (she was quiet and subdued at home, but difficult, rude, disruptive, and high-strung in school), she did wind up finding a school she enjoyed and even wound up graduating from Lady Margaret Hall,a constituent of The University of Oxford.  Although both sides of her family are Jewish, she wasn't raised with religion and considers herself an atheist.

Nigella and John Diamond began "to share bagels at the Sunday Times in 1989 while she was the Deputy Literary Editor and he was the Deputy Travel Editor.  They married in 1992 and had two children.  He succumbed to throat cancer in 2001.  Nigella remarried (friend, Charles Saatchi) in 2003.

Nigella made her television debut in 1999 with husband John's support and guidance from behind the scenes.  Her love of food was obvious and natural - and that is what the producers counted on coming across to the audience.  And boy, did it!  What some may consider flirty, Nigella dismisses as intimate.  Her love of comfort food stems from memories of her mother's kitchen...and the legacy that food is about 'what you want to eat; and if you put yourself into what you are cooking, then it will be original' (from her column in Vogue).  Nigella remembers how she cooked, what they ate; there were no specifications and few admonishments.  Her mother would put the kids to work chopping, tasting, and blending sauces.  She thinks Hollandaise is probably one of the first things that her and her brother and sister ever made.
She has written 8 cookbooks including her second one entitled How to Be a Domestic Goddess, for which she's drawn so much undo criticism (people not realizing that it was meant to be ironic) for.  She's "bosomy and bottomy with a small waist".  She's gorgeous.  She's down-to-earth.  She cooks from her soul and loves to share with family, friends, and strangers.  She can talk about, write about, and describe food that will stir you inside.  I don't mind admitting that amongst these 50 amazing women, she is my favorite.  And has been for many years.

On a side note, can I just say that I'm posting this so late in the day today (I usually try to post my 50 Women Game-Changers posts early in the day) because I could not decide what to write.  And I think that's obvious.  I hold Nigella in very high regard.  I think people dismiss her as being all about the food-porn, when really it's mere passion.  If I can, I'd like to direct you to a biography of Nigella written by Gilly Smith (the source of the measly bit I've shared with you today).  Or just check out her books and read through them like you would a book.  Nigella pours her life into her food and cooking and I believe that is something to be admired.  Yes.  Nigella is my girl-crush.

I had a hard time choosing just one recipe to share today.  I actually cook with Nigella quite often and had four recently made recipes to choose from.  I decided to go with Dragon Chicken since it is such quintessential Nigella.  It's bold and full of flavor, yet so incredibly simple and satisfying to prepare.

Dragon Chicken
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by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: overnight
Cook Time: 30-40 minutes
Keywords: bake entree chicken chiles Super Bowl

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 5 long red chiles (hot), seeded & halved
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded & cored
  • 6" piece gingerroot, peeled & chopped
  • 2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 3 fat cloves garlic, peeled
  • ⅔ c. olive oil
  • ~4¼ lbs. chicken wings (wing-dings & drummies)
  • freshly chopped cilantro, to serve
Place chiles, red pepper, ginger, salt, vinegar, garlic, and oil in the jar of a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Place the chicken in a large zip-top bag and pour the marinade over it. Seal and massage the bag a bit to distribute the marinade evenly. Place in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 425° F.
Line two shallow sheet trays with foil and spray well with cooking spray. Tip the chicken and marinade out onto the prepared sheets. Arrange the chicken so that the pieces are not touching each other.

Slide into oven and roast/bake for ~30 minutes or until the wings are turning golden in spots and are cooked through (should register 165° F on thermometer).

Transfer wings to a serving platter and sprinkle with as much chopped cilantro as you like.

If you are unable to find any long fresh red chiles, you could rehydrate some dried chiles (such as guajillos) in the hottest tap water for ~30 minutes. Seed and stem then and then use in place of the fresh chiles. These are likely to be less fiery than fresh ones, you may want to taste and add in some hot sauce if it's not spicy enough. Either way, you'll get a fantastic color and flavor!

If your chiles aren't very hot, you can always pass a bottle of hot sauce around the table.
adapted from Nigella Kitchen

Nigella Lawson (January 6, 1960-present) 

 further info: website - cookbooks

In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?

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