Profile: Fashion Editor/Mom JoJo Fleiss
JoJo Fleiss is a very good cook. One recent Monday morning, she greeted me with three charming chickens—Hawkey, Rocky Road and Princess Chickie—busily pecking around her feet.
“We got a chicken coop as a wedding gift,” said JoJo, showing me a rustic cedar structure complete with metal roof, mesh walls, interior perch and nesting boxes, positioned in a secluded garden nook of her hillside, cul-de-sac property spread over one acre in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. “We collect three to four eggs every day.”
A former fashion editor at O, The Oprah Magazine, she is now a full-time mom to four young children: Teddy, 8, and twins Benji and Caroline, 5, all of whom JoJo adopted after her husband’s first wife died of cancer; plus an 8-month-old baby girl named Goldie. “I cook dinner every night,” she says. “We sit down at 6:30 pm, and everyone eats the same food—there are no kids’ specials.”
JoJo grew up with a Catholic, Italian-Spanish mom—a ballerina and diplomat’s daughter—and an Ashkenazy-Jewish dad, who helped produce Jimmy Carter’s inaugural ball, where the two met. That bicultural background influences JoJo’s day-to-day cooking repertoire—from Chicken Parmesan with sautéed zucchini and pesto on the side, or a bowl of pasta with vegetables (“my kids blow three kisses in the pasta pot so it doesn’t overflow; it’s an old Italian tradition”), to matzo ball soup or her Aunt Dora’s chicken salad with orange aspic.
“Pre-made pasta sauce doesn’t exist in my house, and I always have chicken stock in my fridge,” says JoJo of her approach.
Age 33 — Hometown Raised between New York and Los Angeles — Where do you live? Los Angeles — Occupation Fashion editor/stylist/mom — Signature dish Quinoa pasta Alla Van Kampen—signature pasta sauce my Nonna taught all her children and grandchildren. — Who taught you how to cook? Primarily my mother, with Italian influence from maternal Nonna, and Jewish influence from paternal great-aunt. I am a matzoh meat ball! — Favorite kitchen tool Le Creuset silicon kitchen set — Always in your pantry Almond butter and Louisiana hot sauce — Go-to snack Edamame and smoothies — Favorite cuisine Breakfast — Do you diet? No, but always portion control — Food addictions Dark chocolate covered mango — Food allergies Thank goodness none — Food fad pet peeve Carb free life is impossible for a Jewish Italian! — Who’s your sous chef? My daughter Caroline is always in the kitchen with me. — Drinking while cooking? Absolutely. My son Teddy is our sommelier and knows to pour me a glass of Pouilly-Fuisse with three ice cubes. — What’s for dinner tonight? Once a week we do a chili night! — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? Never. And I teach my kids to be the same way. Although spilled rose is another story... — Best meal you ever had This changes but recently a dinner at Jon & Vinny's was pretty amazing.
Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken With Rice)
“My husband Eric is of Sephardic Jewish heritage, and this is his favorite,” says JoJo about the classic Spanish and Latin American dish. “He begs me to make it once a week.” Her version blends her family’s old recipe with her mother-in-law’s.
Impressive-looking and remarkably good, it is a relatively easy dish to make. The chicken meat needs to marinate overnight in a pleasantly fragrant combo of 10 different spices—which you probably already have at home but don’t use that often—and the rice, before it’s cooked, is infused for a couple of hours with fresh garlic and onion.
The prep is totally worth it, though, resulting—thanks also to tomatoes, white wine and fresh herb topping—in a comforting, mildly spicy, flavor-packed dish.
If you eat only dark or white chicken meat, adjust the recipe accordingly and use whichever you like. And here is a link to how to peel tomatoes.
- Serves 4–6
- 5 whole cloves
- 5 whole black peppercorns
- 3 tablespoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground anise
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ pounds chicken breasts
- 1½ pounds boneless chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large yellow onions, peeled, roughly chopped
- 3 large tomatoes, peeled, roughly chopped
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups long-grain rice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons yellow onion, peeled, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper to taste, freshly ground
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- Herb Mixture Condiment
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
- 4 garlic cloves
- ½ cup fresh mint, leaves only
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1 serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded
- In a large skillet over high heat, dry-toast the cloves and peppercorns, stirring often, until they’re fragrant, about 2 minutes. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, process the cloves, peppercorns, coriander, cinnamon, anise, cumin, nutmeg, turmeric, curry powder and salt together until blended well.
- Place the chicken in a large bowl, and with your hands, rub the spice mixture all over the meat. Cover the bowl with plastic food wrap, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- Prepare the rice. Place the rice in a medium-size bowl, and wash it under cold running water. Continually swirl the grains with your hand until the water comes out clear. Set aside.
- In a medium-size soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the rice, salt, and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper, and mix with the garlic and onion. Cove the pot with a lid, and let sit to infuse for 2–4 hours.
- Pour the water and the wine into the pot, add the tomatoes, and stir well. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover with a lid, and simmer over low heat until the liquids are absorbed into the rice, about 20–25 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Prepare the chicken. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until slightly reduced in size, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken, mix with the onion, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the tomatoes, and add the water and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, cover with a lid, and simmer until the chicken is soft, about 25–30 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Prepare the herb mixture condiment while the rice and chicken are cooking. Combine all ingredients in a food processor bowl fitted with an S-shape blade. Pulse several times until finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
- Alternatively, you can make this mixture by hand: grate the ginger finely; mince the garlic in a garlic press; finely chop the mint and cilantro, and dice the pepper; and combine.
- Serve the chicken and sauce over the rice, and sprinkle with the herb mixture condiment.
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