'Butter rules'

August 28, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

Herald-Mail Circulation Manager Steve Valentini can't remember ever not cooking.

He recalls his grandfather teaching him how to make pancakes when he was kid. He got an A in his eighth-grade home economics class, irritating his friend who only got a B in the shop classes she was required to take in the school gender trade-off.

Valentini, 43, has been on the job in Hagerstown for a little more than two years, managing the circulation department's day-to-day operations, making sure all the newspapers get out to readers. He worked in insurance sales in Virginia Beach, Va., before joining the Herald-Mail team, but mostly, his career has been in newspaper circulation - The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal. Indeed, his first job was delivering newspapers as a kid growing up in Woodbridge, Va.

Valentini, who lives alone, loves to cook. "Cooking is my release," he says. He watches cooking shows on television "religiously" and checks out recipes on the World Wide Web. He enjoys chopping and dicing - just creating.


Recently, he wanted to make his place smell like Thanksgiving. "I didn't want to deal with a turkey," he says.

Valentini placed chicken breasts on a bed of stuffing mix he had personalized with sausage, celery, Vidalia onion and poultry seasoning. He slipped pats of butter under the chicken skin. "Butter rules," he says, quoting TV chef Emeril Lagasse.

Valentini also uses butter under the skin of the chicken breasts in his Tuscan-style Baked Chicken, a recipe he found on the Internet and adapted to make his own. "I've been told it's awesome," he says.

On a recent beach vacation with his daughters - Katie, 14, and Stephanie, 11 - and friends on North Carolina's Outer Banks, Valentini prepared his dish for nine. One of the teenage boys who was there already had eaten dinner, but he ate again.

'Tuna' Shrimp

5 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

Olive oil

Old Bay seasoning

Jack Daniels Black Label whisky

Thomas Sauce* (available at Food Lion on Wilson Boulevard)

*If you can't find Thomas Sauce, use any vinegar-based sauce.

Put the shrimp in a zip-lock bag and add the other ingredients in any amounts you desire. There is no rule for this, just make sure the shrimp are covered by the marinade. Allow to marinate overnight, mixing the shrimp and marinade a few times during the process.

Using a grill wok, stir-fry over medium-high heat. Serve warm.

Serves 5 hungry people or 10 mildly hungry people.

Steve Valentini does this quick recipe for the grill, adapted from a recipe he got from the Southwest Chef TV show when he lived in San Jose, Calif.

So where's the tuna?

"My last name, Valentini, has been the subject of many - uh, alterations - throughout my life," he says in an e-mail.

In college, a fraternity brother called him "Valentuna."

"It got shortened to 'Tuna,' but stuck nonetheless."

Tuscan-style Baked Chicken

3 chicken breasts (with ribs)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup minced onion

1/4 stick butter

2 teaspoons rosemary

1 cup white wine

1 cup chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the butter and place slices between the skin and the meat of the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Brown both sides of the breasts in olive oil.

Transfer chicken to baking dish with lid. Add garlic and onion to remaining oil in the same pan in which the chicken was browned; saut for a minute or until the onion is translucent. Add wine and reduce (simmer for a few minutes until the alcohol cooks off and the amount of liquid is reduced). Add broth and reduce again.

Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Then add a slurry of 1 tablespoon cornstarch and about 1 tablespoon of water as a thickener and blend into the sauce. Pour over chicken, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Remove lid and bake uncovered for 10 minutes.

During this time, make a side dish. Valentini recommends a package of olive oil and garlic flavored couscous.

Serve the chicken warm with sauce ladled over meat and couscous.

- Steve Valentini, circulation manager,

The Herald-Mail Co.

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