Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pluck it cake, WANT!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cornflake "Fried" Chicken

3 lbs (or so) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 cups corn flakes

4 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp chili powder or 1/4 tsp cayenne and 1/4 tsp red pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper]

2 eggs
Dash of milk
Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Crush the corn flakes and seasoning in a bag with a rolling pin. Lightly whisk the egg and milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mist a wire rack with olive oil. Coat the chicken evenly first with the egg mixture then the cornflake mixture. Arrange on the rack and lightly mist with olive oil. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour, until juices run clear.

Personal Note: Trash-simple good eats. Yum! I'm making stock with the bones (cue lotsa jokes about boning!) as we speak. Can be done with thighs too.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sour Cream Coffee Cake


1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
Confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Make the filling: in a small bowl, mix together the walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon.

Make the batter: in a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and creamy using an electric mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in two additions, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter is smooth.

Spoon one-third of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it. Sprinkle the batter with half of the walnut filling. Next, cover the filling with another third of the batter and smooth it. Top with the remaining filling. Spoon the remaining batter on top and smooth it.

Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out dry, 40 to 45 minutes. Let the cake cool slightly in the pan. Remove it from the pan by inverting it onto a wire cooling rack. When completely cool, dust with confectioners' sugar.

Personal Note: I never dust with sugar, myself. Yum yum yum. Now that I've finally, after like a decade, figured out how to properly cream butter and sugar, cakes come out better. Sheepish! This is from that Jewish cookbook I mentioned earlier. My aunt and grandma used to make sour cream coffee cakes and kuchen...makes me miss them. And it really is the perfect partner for coffee--as a treaty breakfast it's sublime.

Laurie's Pear Tart/Cake

4 or so ripe, juicy pears, peeled, cored, and cut into sixths or eighths
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray an 8-inch (important) spring form pan with Pam.

In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add the eggs one at a time.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Incorporate it into the wet mixture.

Spread the batter into the pan. Now, in a pinwheel pattern, press the slices of pear, peeled side up, into the batter. Cram in as many as you can; since the batter rises and covers the pears, there's no points given for style here. The more pears, the moister the cake will be.

Bake until a skewer comes out clean, about an hour. If you have any doubts, UNDERBAKE. This is a whole different animal if it dries out. Then it's just a cake. Correctly done, you'll love it. It's just one of those recipes that is greater than the sum of its parts. really.

Personal Note: From Chowhound Forums. Really yummy, especially when you reheat it. Light and moist and a little spongy, and delicately sweet in that wonderful pear way.

Sangkhaya Mak Eu (Coconut Squash Custard)

In this dessert, sweet coconut custard is baked inside a hollowed-out kabocha squash. It is a popular afternoon treat sold at markets in Laos. For the best results, use squash that's within the size range suggested below; otherwise the cavity won't properly accommodate the custard.

1 1/2 to 2 lb. kabocha squash
1/2 cup canned coconut cream
1/2 cup semi-moist Thai palm sugar
1/2 cup fine salt
6 egg yolks

1. Using a long, sharp knife, cut off the top of the squash, about 1" from the stem end. Discard top. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds and the fibers to make a hollow cavity. Set aside.

2. In a 1-qt saucepan, whisk together the coconut cream and 1/4 cup of the palm sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, while whisking occasionally; remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining palm sugar with the salt and egg yolks until yolks are smooth and pale yellow. While whisking the yolks, slowly drizzle in the hot coconut cream mixture. Transfer mixture to top of a double boiler set over simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 4 minutes.

3. Heat oven to 325 F. Pour custard into the reserved squash and set on rack in the bottom of an 8" x 8" baking dish. Pour 1 cup boiling water into dish. Bake until a knife inserted into center of custard comes out clean, about 2 hours. Let cool; slice into 6 wedges. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Personal Note: From Saveur.

Jessica's Spiced Pecans

These fragrant, skillet-roasted pecans—based on a version that author Harris makes—get their earthy, spicy bite from rosemary, Spanish smoked paprika, and chili powder.

Makes 2 cups.

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups pecan halves
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
2 tbsp. roughly chopped rosemary leaves
2 tsp. Worcestershire
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Heat butter in a 12" skillet over medium heat. Add pecans and cook, swirling skillet constantly, until nuts are toasted, about 5 minutes.

2. Add brown sugar, rosemary, worcestershire, paprika, chili powder, salt, Tabasco, black pepper, and cinnamon and stir until pecans are evenly coated. Continue cooking pecans, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.

3. Transfer pecans to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, spread into a single layer, and let cool, stirring pecans and breaking up sugar and spices occasionally.

Personal Note: This recipe was first published in Saveur in Issue #115.

Garlic Dumplings with Emmentaler (Käsespätzle)

Spätzle means little sparrows in German.

Serves 4.

2 heads of garlic
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup milk
1⁄4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf
parsley leaves
1⁄4 cup finely chopped basil leaves
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 cup grated emmentaler cheese

1. Heat oven to 450°. Halve garlic crosswise with a knife and brush with olive oil; wrap with foil. Roast until soft, 1 hour. Let cool and squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skins into a bowl; mash with a fork to a paste.

2. Melt 2 tbsp. of the butter and add to paste. Then add milk, parsley, basil, salt, and eggs; stir until smooth.

3. Put flour into a large bowl; form a well in center. Slowly pour in the garlic–milk mixture, stirring with a fork to form a smooth batter.

4. Bring a 5-qt. saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Set a perforated spätzle-making disk over the pot. Working in batches, scrape batter through holes into water. Cook until dumplings rise to surface, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to a baking sheet.

5. Heat remaining 4 tbsp. of butter in a 12" ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add dumplings; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 6–8 minutes. Meanwhile, heat broiler; put rack 5" from heating element. Sprinkle dumplings with cheese; broil until melted, about 2 minutes.

Personal Note: Apparently this isn't actually käsespätzle. I'm not sure I'll make my spaetzle using this recipe; I have my own, and it works pretty well. But I was interested in collecting recipes for it that include other flavors. Mine are plain, with just butter.

Potato Kugel

3 large onions
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 pounds (about 5 medium) russet potatoes, peeled
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Thinly slice 2 of the onions.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring often, until lightly caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

4. Grate the potatoes and the remaining onion in a food processor equipped with a shredding disk or by hand. Transfer them in a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 5 tablespoons of oil, the caramelized onions, eggs, and matzo meal, and season with the salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.

5. Bake until the kugel is well browned on top, about 55 minutes. Let cool slightly. Serve warm.

Personal Note: This comes from a Jewish cookbook I grabbed on a whim this summer at a blowout book sale out east. It has an entire section on kugel, including an apple kugel that stews in kirsch! It cracks me up too, because the kugel section randomly references Henry James and then out of nowhere connects a quote of his to, um, kugel. It's all so very Animal Crossing, if ya know what I mean...

But anyway. This is great, because it's so freaking easy. The key to the entire dish is well caramelized onions. Other than that, it's pretty much latkes baked into a big casserole instead of fried--which is great for me, because I love making latkes with my parents but am a wimp and won't deep fry on my own! So this is a handy substitute.

Made it for "German Potluck Part 2" at Gary and Rachel's last night. Fun.

Cranberry and Ginger Sorbet

4 cups cranberries
2 Tablespoons fresh ginger, grated or minced
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Boil everything together until tender, then let cool thoroughly in the fridge. Whiz in the (immersion) blender or run through a food mill (if you use a blender, there'll be little strings of cranberry peel, but they're not unpleasant).

Pour into container, cover, and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or (immersion) blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Chicken and Winter Vegetables

Prep: 15 Min
Cook: 1 Hr
Rready: 1 Hr 15 Min

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
3/4 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 or 5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Green beans
2 cups chicken stock
A tiny splash of vermouth or white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf


1. Season the chicken with additional salt, pepper, thyme, and cayenne. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Melt the margarine or butter in the skillet. Stir in the garlic for about 30 seconds. Stir in the onion, celery, and mushrooms, and cook until tender but firm.

3. Set vegetables aside, and cook the chicken breasts in the skillet 8 to 10 minutes on each side, until juices run clear. Set chicken aside.

4. Deglaze skillet with stock and vermouth, scraping up the fond. In a large sauce pot, mix in the potatoes and green beans and add the cooked vegetables and chicken. Pour in the deglazed liquid and fond from the skillet. Season with salt, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf, making sure the bay leaf is submerged in the liquid. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and some of the liquid has been reduced. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Personal Note: I just happened to have everything this recipe calls for in our remaining vegetable reserves for the week. It's proving an ideal supper for today--it's hearty, simple, and warms you up with heat and savory flavors. Would probably be good with crusty bread, despite having potatoes in it. No, really. I love carbs, ha.

Stir Fry: General Reference and Pointers

Vague Sense of Ingredients:
Sauce components (see directions below)

2 or 3 Tbsp oil (see directions below)

2 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated or minced
1 cup onions, sliced
Cauliflower or broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
2 or 3 scallions, sliced or minced
Bell peppers, sliced (I prefer orange, yellow, and red)
Carrots, julienned
Meat (or meatish component!):
Boneless chicken, beef, or pork, rinsed and patted dry, cut into chunks
Ddok, cut into chunks or slices
Barely cooked optional touches:
Water chestnuts, sliced
Bean sprouts
Bamboo shoots

Directions and Loose Tips:

Whisk a mixture in a bowl to later coat the stir fry using a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce if you're feeling adventurous, Asian sauces at your discretion (I like fermented black bean, Szechuan, garlic, hoisin, orange, etc), and sugar. Optionally, you can add 1/4 cup stock and corn starch as a thickener as well.

Swirl 1 Tbsp oil in a wok over high heat. Add half the garlic and half the ginger, stirring, and cook about 15-30 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add broccoli or cauliflower and scallions and cook over high heat until it browns and becomes tender but not at all mushy, about 5-7 minutes.

Remove vegetables from heat, add another 1 Tbsp oil if necessary, and cook the other vegetables similarly quickly at high heat, grouping them by toughness so everything has the right texture. Remove.

Turn heat to medium, swirl 1 Tbsp oil, and add remaining garlic and ginger. Stir, the add the meat and/or ddok. Raise heat to high, stir meat once, then let it sit for 1 minute before stirring again. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat has lost its pinkness, 3-6 minutes.

If you're like me and make enough that it doesn't all fit back in the wok to coat with the sauce you've made, take a huge sauce pot and stir it together under low heat that way. Toss in the cashews and other barely-cooked optional ingredients (if using) to lightly toast them, then add everything including the sauce and combine. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve over rice. I use a rice cooker for this, because stir fry is too hectic (lots of abrupt, short but crucial timing steps) to be timing white rice perfectly the normal way.

Personal Note: This is loosely based on Mark Bittman's guideline recipe, with the things my father taught me interjected. I've spent something like a decade making stir fry, both bad (I've totally flopped a bunch of times on my own) and good (Tasty! Where it makes takeout seem like paying someone to make me mac n cheese--it can be that good and easy). Now on my own I'm slowly learning how to make it open-ended but foolproof. That's why I'm finally posting some sloppy go-to reference for myself, so I don't forget what I've learned so far.

A few things:

Make sure your meat is really cut small enough and has been patted very DRY.

Keep your wok HOT and use as little oil as possible to maintain that heat.

Simplify the sauce--at first I was putting a little of every kind I had in, and the results were very underwhelming, I guess because it all cancels each other out. So now I'm not afraid to make a stir fry that is a bit more one dimensional but with big returns on actual flavor, with one sauce the major component and maybe just a dab of a couple other complementary things.

And maybe most important of all, don't be afraid to do the vegetables separately based on "toughness" class--it seems frustrating, like it defeats the purpose of stir fry (simple, quick, zap-fast cooking), but it makes a huge difference. If you're not willing to do like vegetables with like, you may well end up with soggy onions and peppers but barely cooked cauliflower and carrots.

Which reminds--the worst thing is soggy stir fried vegetables. Err on the side of "al dente"-ish, toothy crunch. Bittman talks about parboiling the cauliflower, and I just don't see it. I like it with a faint crunch though. Besides, you want things tender but firm--how else will they stand up to being microwaved as 3 a.m. leftovers? ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Roasted Curried Cauliflower Florets

1 head cauliflower, washed, dried, and cut into florets
A few whole cloves of garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, turmeric, curry powder, and salt and pepper. On a baking sheet or roasting pan, toss mixture onto cauliflower florets. Tuck cloves of garlic among florets. Roast for about 25 minutes or until golden and slightly caramelized.

Personal Note: This is a nice, slightly less typical way to use cauliflower for a super easy side dish with dinner.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thai-Style Chicken Soup

A fragrant blend of coconut milk, lemon grass, ginger and lime makes a delicious soup, with just a hint of chile.

Whenever you have a roast chicken it is worth using the carcass to make stock. Remove all the skin from the remains of the bird and put the carcass into a large pan. Add roughly chopped onion, carrot, and celery stick, and a bouquet garni. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Skim off the scum and then simmer the stock for 1 hour. Strain through muslin (cheesecloth). Skim of the fat when the stock is cold.

Serves 4.

5 ml/1 teaspoon oil
1-2 fresh red chilies, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large leek, finely sliced
550 ml/18 fl oz/2.5 cups chicken stock
450 ml/0.75 pint/scant 2 cups coconut milk
450 g/1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bitesize pieces
30 ml/2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 lemon grass stalk, split
2.5 cm/1 inch piece fresh root ginger, peeled and crushed
5 ml/1 teaspoon sugar
4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
75 g/3 oz/0.75 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)


Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chilies and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the leek and cook for 2 minutes longer. Stir in the stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Add the chicken, fish sauce, lemon grass, ginger, sugar and lime leaves, if using. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes longer. Remove the lemon grass and stir in the cilantro just before serving.

Personal Note: My mom sent me this recipe. I didn't even use proper homemade chicken stock (I know--the horror! Don't tell my parents!); I settled for Le Gout-style chicken stock base. I also fiddled a bit with measurements, since I added ddok I happened to find at the Asian grocer's. The result was a thicker, less pale soup, kind of more like porridge or Asia's spunkier/more energetically flavored answer to shepherd's pie. It had a great balance of flavors--gently hot, savory, zesty/near-citrusy (thanks to the lime, lemongrass, and fresh ginger!), and sweet. Cozy-comforting like chicken soup should be, too. And sinus clearing to boot! Robert loved it.

I'm eating a bowl of it now. Good for a rainy evening.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roast Pork Loin in Beer Sauce

Level: Easy
Yield: 6 servings
Inactive Prep: 9 hr 0 min
Cook: 1 hr 30 min
Total: 10 hr 30 min

2 tablespoons butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 (12 ounce) bottles beer (not dark)
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1 (3 1/2) pound boneless pork loin, tied
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until tender and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, cinnamon and allspice and stir 1 minute. Add beer, mustard and honey and bring to boil (sauce will foam). Remove from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Pour into baking dish.

In a large heavy resealable plastic bag combine pork, turn to coat, and marinade and seal bag, pressing our any excess air. Put bag in a baking pan and marinate pork, chilled, turning bag once or twice, at least 8 hours and up to 24. Let pork in marinade come to room temperature, about 40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove pork from marinade; pat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Reserve marinade. In a flameproof roasting pan heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown pork on all sides. Transfer to baking sheet with rim. Roast in oven for about 1 hour or until thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 155 degrees F.

Transfer pork to a work surface/cutting board, reserving juices in roasting pan and discarding string, and let stand, covered loosely with foil, about 15 minutes. While pork is standing, skim and discard fat from pan and add remaining marinade. Deglaze roasting pan over moderately high heat, scraping up brown bits.

Combine pan juices and marinade in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Mix butter and flour in small bowl until smooth paste forms. Whisk this beurre manie in, bit by bit, until sauce is combined well and thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut pork into slices and pour sauce over pork.

Personal Note: Um. This is delicious and easy! ...Just takes time. Pork loin was on sale this week, so viva fall loin! Ha. Eat it with smashed Yukon Gold potatoes--they're ideal for the tangy sauce.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata

4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Stalk or so of celery, chopped (optional)
Handful kalamata olives, chopped
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp capers
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 or 2 tbsp tomato paste
1 or 2 eggplant, peeled, cubed, dried
Salt, pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes, fresh basil and/or oregano to taste (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Dry eggplant thoroughly by salting cubes, tossing, and letting drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Squeeze and press excess moisture out with paper towel.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the dried eggplant cubes.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in another, non-reactive pan. Caramelize onions with celery for about 10 minutes over medium-high heat; add garlic in the last 1-2 minutes of caramelization. Add olives, capers, sugar and stir for another minute or so. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and vinegar; stir over heat until thickened. Add fried eggplant, combine well. Season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and fresh herbs. Top with toasted pine nuts.

Personal Note: Made this because Robert spied some eggplant at the grocery store and oohed and aahed; it was an impulse purchase (plus, it replaced the okra I wanted to make but isn't in season now for the fancy vegetable of the week). I have never made caponata before, but this looks and smells pretty good. I doubt it will be as delicious as the roasted eggplant and orzo dish I made last month, though...

This is an amalgam of the bevy of recipes I found scouring the internet, which explains why much of it is worded clumsily and has rough estimates for measures. It's interesting how wild the variations on this are...sometime I might try it with some anchovy, green pepper, or who knows what else. There's even a version with octopus!

I want to send it to my mom because she loves eggplant but dad hates it, so she never gets to eat it. People online claim caponata is a dish even people who dislike eggplant like. Here's hoping!

I don't really know how to eat's sort of relish-y, but also like bruschetti topping. And it seems like it'd be tasty topping and stuffing a baked pasta dish, or maybe even on top of penne. Hmm...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Carbonnade a la Flamande: Belgian Beef and Beer Stew

When the cold season begins, so does the season for hearty stews. Known as Carbonnade a la Flamande, this Belgian Beef stew is made with dark beer and lots of onions. We found this recipe in Cook's Illustrated magazine, which is filled with great tips and explanations for the aspiring cook. Of note, the editors highly recommend using a dark beer or stout with this recipe, as is typical of European beers. Lighter beers just don't quite cut it with this stew. The recommended beers? Chimay Peres Trappistes Ale-Premiere, Newcastle Brown Ale, and Anchor Steam.

Serves 6.

* 3 1/2 lbs top blade steaks, 1 inch thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 1-inch pieces. (Can use any chuck roast if blade steaks are not available.)
* Table salt and ground black pepper
* 3 Tbsp olive oil
* 2 lbs yellow onions (about 3 medium sized), halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
* 1 Tbsp tomato paste
* 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tsp)
* 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
* 3/4 cup low-sodum beef broth
* 1 1/2 cups (12 oz bottle) dark ale or stout beer
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle postion; preheat oven to 300°F. Dry beef thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. On the stove top, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke; add 1/3 of the beef to the pot. Cook without moving the pieces until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes; using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until second side is well browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer browned beef to a separate bowl. Repeat with second third of the beef and an additional 2 teaspoons of oil. (If the drippings in the bottom of the pot are very dark, add half a cup of the chicken or beef broth and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits; pour liquid into the bowl with the browned beef and continue.) Repeat again with 2 more teaspoons of oil and the remaining beef. Remove beef from the dutch oven.

2. Add 1 Tbsp oil to dutch oven; reduce heat to medium low. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and tomato paste; cook, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until onions have released some moisture, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in broths, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits; stir in beer, thyme, bay, vinegar, browned beef with any of the accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer, stirring occasionally; cover partially, then place pot in oven. Cook until fork inserted into beef meets little resistance, about 2 hours.

3. Discard thyme and bay. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Can serve plain or over egg noodles, rice, or potatoes.

Personal Note: This goes well with par-cooked and then fried egg noodles with lots of fresh cracked black pepper, or really hearty, crusty bread. I also made honey glazed carrots, which went extremely well with the flavors in the stew. For dessert, serve some rustic apple dish that bubbles in a ramekin--Brown Betty or Pandowdy or Apple Butter n' Bread Pudding. A perfect hearty fall dish to make you rub your sweatered tummy. I love fall!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Balsamic Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
¼ cup olive oil
2 long springs of fresh rosemary (about 4-inches long), picked
16 small garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
2 large red or yellow onions, peeled and cut into large chunks
16 red new potatoes, cut in half or quarters
Salt and pepper
½ cup good-quality balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Rub some of the olive oil all over the chicken breast and then season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the garlic cloves under the chicken in the roasting pan. Toss the potatoes with some of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper, placing them next to the chicken. Place the onion chunks in the baking pan, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle ¼ cup of the vinegar onto everything, sprinkle with the rosemary, and bake for 45 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes and then drizzle with the remaining vinegar before serving.
Serves: 8

How do I add a note to the bottom of this???

Monday, September 22, 2008


Just a few links, nothing more at this time.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Braised Endive with Prosciutto

Adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens, found on Orangette blog

The original version of this recipe calls for browning the endive in butter, which helps to tame its bitterness, but with a feeble nod to my arteries, I have instead substituted olive oil for two-thirds of the butter. Happily, the end result does not seem to have suffered, and so far, neither have my arteries. For best results, choose endive with sleek, tight leaves and no bruises or discolorations, and opt for smaller specimens over large ones.

2 to 3 pounds Belgian endive
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs unsalted butter
4 or so thin slices prosciutto (about 3 or 4 ounces), cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips
1 cup good-quality chicken broth or stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Coarse salt, such as Maldon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees.

Rinse the endive, dry them lightly, and remove their outermost leaves. If the root end is brown or looks dried out, trim it lightly. Cut each endive in half lengthwise.

Warm the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add as many endive as will fit in a loose layer, cut side down, and cook until the cut sides are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the endive, and cook them for a minute or two on the other side; them remove them to a large (9” by 13”) baking dish, arranging them cut side up. Add the butter to the skillet. When it has melted and is no longer foaming, add the remaining endive, and brown them as instructed above and place them in the baking dish. The endive should fit in a single layer in the dish.

There should still be a thin sheen of butter in the skillet. Still over medium heat, add the prosciutto to the skillet, and turn them gently but quickly to slick them with butter. Tuck the strips between, around, and on top of the endive in the baking dish.

Pour the chicken broth into the skillet, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the skillet to loosen any flavorful bits; then pour the hot broth over the endive and prosciutto in the baking dish.

Cover the dish snugly with foil, slide it into the oven, and braise the endive until they are very tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 35 minutes. Remove the foil, and baste the endive by spooning over any juices in the pan. If the pan is dry, add 2 Tbs of water. Braise, uncovered, for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the pan juices have turned a caramel color and have almost completely evaporated. Pour over the heavy cream, and bake until it takes on a caramel color, about 6 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature, with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 3 to 6 servings, depending on what else is on the plate.

Personal Note: This is so freaking good. I am not the biggest salad person--my favorite salads don't focus on the leafy greens and are more about the other stuff, like olives or awesome tomatoes or cheese--and like a typical Asian (even though I'm not ;) I love bitter greens braised or briefly sauteed. I know this dish is a joke health and "I'm getting my veggies!" wise, but I don't care. It's amazing, even if you don't bother with the caramelized creamy last step...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cube Steak Parmigiana

Ready in 1-2 hours
Difficulty 3/5
Serves/Makes 6

3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup saltine crackers, finely crushed
1/2 teaspoon basil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano, divided
3 slices mozzarella cheese, halved
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 (4 ounce) cube steaks

In three shallow bowls, combine flour, salt and pepper; beat egg and water; and combine parmesan, saltines and basil. Dip steaks in flour mixture and egg mixture, then roll in cheese mixture. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Brown three steaks on both sides.

Remove to a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Repeat with the remaining steaks, adding additional oil as needed. Bake, uncovered , at 375F for 25 minutes.

Drain any pan juices. Combine the tomato sauce, sugar, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the oregano. Pour over steaks. Bake 20 minutes longer. Place mozzarella cheese on steaks. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and remaining oregano. Return to the oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Personal Note: Made this tonight during Robert's band practice to get rid of the cube steaks in the fridge. I've never heard of this and have no idea if it will turn out any good, but it's something to do, right? And super easy, if a little fake...

Thursday, August 21, 2008


For loaf:
Ground beef: usually around 4 or 5 pounds
Eggs: 1 egg per pound of beef for the first 3 pounds, and usually no more than 3 or 4 eggs total for as much as 5 or 6 pounds of beef
(Fresh) breadcrumbs: totally by feel
Onion soup mix (dry): 1 package per pound of beef for the first 2 pounds, and no more than 2 or 3 packages total for as much as 5 or 6 pounds of beef
Worcestershire sauce: again, it's a whim thing mostly
Jus/beef drippings (optional), if finished mix is still a bit dry
Ketchup: enough to coat the finished loaf and add a stripe down its middle

Vegetables, as much as you like of, say:

Meatloaf's ratios are never the same each time, so you go by feel. Put the loaf ingredients except for the jus and ketchup in a huge wide washable bowl and goosh everything with your hands until it's the consistency you want. Avoid dry meat loaf--it's the easiest judgment mistake one can make, I find, and the results are nasty. If after you've worked it it seems dry and not congealed and smooth enough, add a bit of jus and re-goosh. It should look congealed and coated and smooth now--slippery like a seal, ha. Put it in a wide deep roasting pan like you would for a turkey, NOT a tight small loaf pan. You want lots of space around the meatloaf; it'll prevent it from overcooking and drying out. That extra space is also where you'll put all the vegetables you peel and cut to desired size, and the extra jus. Form the meat into a tidy loaf in the pan, coat it with a thin glaze of ketchup, put a stripe of ketchup down the center of the loaf, and surround the loaf with the veggies. Cook it for a few hours at 325 F until it seems done. It will smell great. Yum.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Oven-Roasted Fruit

From Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten
Episode: The Mediterranean Feast

6 peaches, pitted and cut into quarters or eighths
6 plums or Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered or halved
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons orange juice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the peaches and plums snugly in a single layer, cut side up, in 2 glass or porcelain oven-proof baking dishes. Sprinkle with the sugar, and then top with the raspberries. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender.

Heat the broiler and place the fruit about 5 inches below the heat and broil for 5 to 8 minutes, until the berries release some of their juices.

Remove from the broiler and sprinkle with orange juice. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Personal Note: Good with pound, lemon, or sponge cake, or creme fraiche, homemade whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. Tastes a bit like compote--lush, varied mouth feel and both tart and sweet. Good with a dessert Riesling, Sauternes, or Vin Santo. Maybe even a French fruit aperitif like Mirabelle, hm...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tzatziki and Pita

From Ina Garten

4 cups plain yogurt, whole milk or low-fat
2 hothouse cucumbers, unpeeled and seeded
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place the yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined sieve and set it over a bowl. Grate the cucumber and toss it with 2 tablespoons salt; place it in another sieve and set it over another bowl. Place both bowls in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours so the yogurt and cucumber can drain.

Transfer the thickened yogurt to a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumbers as you can, and add the cucumbers to the yogurt. Mix in the sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. You can serve it immediately, but I prefer to allow the tzatziki to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavors to blend.

Personal Note: Made this for the Sunday afternoon board game party at Mosh and Jolly's. I cheated because I was super short on time though--I just used high quality true Greek yogurt and hoped it'd be dense/thick and flavorful enough without so much time straining. It probably is worth the extra time, and one day I'll try to do it properly all the way through and compare results. But people enjoyed it, even the food snobs at the gathering. So! ...Ina never steers me wrong.

Rosemary Cashews

From Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Really Make at Home by Ina Garten

Serves 8.

Here is a savory cocktail nibble that would satisfy a French host's needs. These cashews were inspired by the bar nuts served at Union Square Cafe in New York City, which is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. The cashews are best served warm, but you can prepare the rosemary mixture in advance.

1 pound roasted unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Spread the cashews out on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven until warm, about 5 minutes.

3. In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt, and butter. Thoroughly toss the warm cashews with the spiced butter and serve warm.

Personal Note: This was a hit at Mosh and Jolly's impromptu weekend Olympics/twister (ha) potluck--a super easy, super fragrant hit! I really like rosemary, and I love cayenne, so... In my (admittedly unorthodox) opinion, one could easily cut back on the salt in the recipe and it might even taste better.

Orzo With Roasted Vegetables

From Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

Serves 6.

1 2 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4 inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1 inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1 inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1 inch diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 lb orzo pasta or rice-shaped pasta

For the dressing
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

To assemble
4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted
3/4 lb good feta, 1/2 inch diced (not crumbled)
15 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade or julienne cut

*To toast pignolis, put in a small saute pan dry for 4 minutes or until golden brown, tossing frequently to prevent burning.
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan.
3. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.
4. Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender.
5. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
6. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.
7. For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables.
8. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil.
9. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

Personal Note: Wow, does this not have everything delicious imaginable in it?! This is in the "so freaking good" category for me. I mean, feta! Toasted pignolis! Fresh basil and lots of it! Scallions! Roasted, sweet seasonal veggies! Mmmm. And it's very, very easy. According to Ina, all of the vegetables are in season at the same time, and this can easily be made in advance (you can do everything ahead up to step 8 and then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and fresh basil before serving). It probably goes without saying, but this dish is really pretty, smells awesome, and is good for entertaining because it's served room temperature. It's important to add the dressing while the pasta and vegetables are hot so they absorb the flavors.

EDIT: Aw, this dish received a shout out from my cutie. Sweet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beef Chow Mein

1. 8 ounces fresh thin Chinese egg noodles* (also called Hong Kong noodles; not wonton noodles)
2. 1 (1/2 pound) piece flank steak
3. 1/4 teaspoon sugar
4. 1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
5. 2 tablespoons soy sauce
6. 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (preferably Shaoxing) or medium-dry Sherry
7. 2 tablespoons oyster sauce*
8. 2 teaspoons cornstarch
9. 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
10. 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
11. 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil, plus
12. 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
13. 1 teaspoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
14. 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
15. 3 scallions, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
16. 5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps quartered
17. 6 ounces choy sum, cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces or 1-inch-wide broccoli florets

1. Bring 8 cups unsalted water to a boil in a 6- to 8-quart pot, then add noodles, stirring to separate, and cook 15 seconds. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until noodles are cool, then shake colander briskly to drain excess water.
2. Cut steak with the grain into 1 1/2- to 2-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices and put in a medium bowl. Using your hands, toss beef with sugar, sesame oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Let beef marinate at room temperature while preparing remaining ingredients.
3. Stir together remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, 1 tablespoon oyster sauce, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch with 1/4 teaspoon white pepper in a small bowl until smooth, then stir in chicken broth.
4. Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within 1 to 2 seconds of contact, then add 1/2 cup peanut oil and heat until just smoking. Carefully add noodles all at once, flattening top to form a 9-inch cake. Cook until underside is golden, 4 to 5 minutes, rotating noodle cake with a metal spatula to brown evenly and lifting edges occasionally to check color. Carefully flip noodle cake over with spatula and tongs, then cook, rotating cake, until other side is golden, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer noodle cake to a large paper-towel-lined plate to drain excess oil. Discard any oil remaining in wok and wipe out wok with paper towels.
5. Transfer drained noodle cake to a platter and loosely cover with foil to keep warm.
6. Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Pour 1 tablespoon peanut oil down side of wok, then swirl oil, tilting wok to coat sides. Add beef, spreading pieces in 1 layer on bottom and sides as quickly as possible. Cook, undisturbed, letting beef begin to brown, 1 minute, then stir-fry until meat is just browned on all sides but still pink in center, about 1 minute. Transfer meat and any juices to a plate.
7. Add 1 tablespoon oil to wok over high heat. When oil just begins to smoke, add ginger and garlic and stir-fry 5 seconds, then add scallions and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and stir-fry until softened, about 3 minutes. Add choy sum and stir-fry until leaves are bright green and just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes (if using broccoli, cook until almost crisp-tender). Stir broth mixture, then pour into wok and stir-fry until sauce is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add beef and stir to coat. Return mixture just to a boil, then pour over noodle cake.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Potato, cumin and cider vinegar soup

40 g ground cumin
1 litre stock
250 g desiree potatoes, peeled and chopped
250 g southern gold potatoes (pink eye), peeled and chopped
50 ml cider vinegar
200 ml thick cream
pepper and Maldon sea salt

Heat a frying pan, add cumin and dry fry over low heat for 2 minutes or until aromatic.

Heat stock in a large saucepan and add the cumin and potatoes, and simmer until the potato is tender. Process the mixture, in batches, in a food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and add the cider vinegar. (The soup can stand at this stage until ready to serve.)

Add the cream, reheat gently, then season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper. Serve immediately with bread.

Note:the original recipe called for 100 ml of cider vinegar, but when I made it with that much the vinegar taste was far too strong. I'd start with 50 ml or even less, and then taste before adding more.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Leftover tacos

Skirt steak from a few days ago . . .sliced thin
1/4 onion sliced thin
1/4 tomato choppped
1/4 bell pepper chopped
1 clove of garlic
Whatever else I can find (today I found some mushrooms but leftover beans and rice would work too)

In a HOT pan with 1tsp of oil add the steak and garlic, and cook until crisp.
Add onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes and bell pepper, this will allow the peppers to remain crispy and the tomatoes do not get slimy.

Serve with avocado on a warm flour tortilla sprinkled with lime juice.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

From How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

This is the first recipe anyone hesitant about baking should try: it's fabulously easy and fills the kitchen with that aromatic fug which is the natural atmospheric setting for the domestic goddess.

There are countless recipes for banana bread: this one is adapted from one of my favourite books, the one I read lying on the sofa to recover from yet another long, modern, stressed-out day, Jim Fobel's Old-Fashioned Baking Book: Recipes from an American Childhood. If you're thinking about giving this cake to children, don't worry, the alcohol doesn't pervade: you just end up with stickily, aromatically swollen fruit.

Makes 8-10 slices.

3/4 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
6 tablespoons or 3 ounces bourbon or dark rum
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup superfine sugar
2 large eggs
4 small, very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

9 x 5 inch loaf tin, buttered and floured or with a paper insert

Put the golden raisins and rum or bourbon in a smallish saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover and leave for an hour if you can, or until the raisins have absorbed most of the liquid, then drain.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF and get started on the rest. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts, drained raisins and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.

Scrape into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 to 1 and a quarter hours. When it's ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the tin on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer.

Personal Note: My favorite banana bread recipe. Makes the house smell better than sex and comes out gorgeous.

Lime Basil Sorbet

Basil and Lime Sorbet

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup (approximately 6 limes) fresh lime juice
18 to 20 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Sprig of fresh basil for each serving as a garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Stir until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat.

In a food processor or blender, puree lime juice, sugar syrup, and chopped basil leaves.

Pour into container, cover, and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time. When ready to serve, use a melon baller and place 3 scoops in a stemmed glass. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil and serve.

Can be prepared 3 days in advance. Cover and keep frozen.

Personal Note: Made this for the Mexican potluck and it was a hit. Soooo easy.

Chicken Tagine in Flat Bread

Chicken Tagine in Flat Bread

From The New York Times Jewish Cookbook edited by Linda Amster (2003).
From Sam Gugino.

Yield: 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups boneless chicken dark meat (about 4 large boneless thighs), cut/torn into 1/2-inch cubes/pieces
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads crushed into 1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup small pitted green olives, halved
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds
4 pieces pocketless pita bread or similar flat bread, each about 5-7 inches in diameter
1/2 cilantro leaves

1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with cumin and salt and pepper. Cook the chicken for 5 minutes, stirring so that it browns evenly.
2. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onion softens and turns light brown. Add the saffron stock, olives, and lemon rind and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Preheat the broiler.
4. Adjust the salt and pepper for the tagine if needed, stir in the almonds and reduce further so only a few tablespoons of liquid remain. Remove from the heat.
5. Brush one side of the bread with the remaining olive oil. Broil for a few minutes until it is lightly browned and slightly crisp.
6. Put each pita, crisp side down, on a 12-by-12-inch sheet of foil. Divide the chicken tagine among the 4 pieces of bread and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Roll into a cone and secure the bottom by twisting the foil. Fold the top back to expose the top of the roll.

Personal Note: This is the first dish from this cookbook we've tried and we tried it tonight for dinner. Good sign! I think with this dish alone the book paid for itself in spades. This may well be the hands down most delicious thing I've ever made. No lie. Eat this and have a gastronomic orgasm. Seriously. It's extremely layered, with lots of subtle flowering on your palate of different undertones. And when you make it be prepared to have an incredible smelling kitchen; between the cumin-seasoned browning of the meat to the minced ginger to the lemon zest to the toasting of the almonds to the typical wonderful smell of that always-foundational step of cooking onions, your kitchen will smell better than anything you've ever known.

Like usual, the best way to get the most flavor out of the meat while browning it--a step that makes or breaks the flavor of most recipes that require it--is to get the cast iron really sizzling hot and then to cook the meat briefly (but at a very high temperature!). So take the recipe's first step with a grain of salt and brown the chicken the best way possible--hot (but not charred) and fast.

We used oval/rectangular sheets of naan and instead of broiling them we brushed them with oil as it says to and then put them two at a time on a flat cast iron griddle pan over moderately high heat to toast them. Then we each scooped some of what was in the deeper cast iron pan used to do the full dish onto our separate plates of naan and ate it with our hands (kind of scooping the contents up with the bread). If I was serving company then the recipe's directions for foil wrapping the rolls would make sense and I'd follow it faithfully.

It was SO GOOD. Yeah, likely the best thing I've ever made. So good I want to share it with everyone I meet, ha.

Labor intensively, we used the really good green olives from the market--the ones with pits in them. Only because they were what we had available leftover in the fridge. Yes, it was a huge pain to halve and pit each one, but I didn't really mind 'cause this recipe is tons o' prep work anyway and I'm the kind of person who loves that part of cooking (much more than the actual cooking, i.e., splatters and heat source step). Oh, and we omitted the cilantro 'cause yeah, I am not a fan. And used homemade stock (the recipe cites the guidelines for homemade stock elsewhere in the book) because yeah, we always have it on hand and it does make a big difference.

Yes saffron is expensive, but we are lucky and a downtown Indian grocery sells little bottles of it for surprisingly cheap (of course, it's likely not very high grade, and it comes from Spain. But we don't care, 'cause that's better than not having any at all :).

Caramelized Shallots

Caramelized Shallots

Courtesy Ina Garten from Barefoot in Paris

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh shallots, peeled, with roots intact
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch ovenproof saute pan, add the shallots and sugar, and toss to coat. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the shallots start to brown. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss well.

Place the saute pan in the oven and roast for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the shallots, until they are tender. Season, to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve hot.

Personal Note: Um. Fucking delicious. That's all!

Bacon-Cheese Appetizers

Bacon-Cheese Appetizers

From Laurie Tarcinale (a childhood friend of Mom's)

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled crisp bacon (6-7 slices)
2 tsp. horseradish
1 tbsp. wine (Laurie recommends Sherry)

Mix ingredients. Spread on slices of party-rye bread. Broil until bubbly.

Personal Note: Strangely tasty. I put in like double the amount of horseradish 'cause it's the ingredient that seems to really make the appetizer pop. I also cut up the bacon into bits first and then crisp it up, but that's just 'cause it's more convenient to me. Also, I often use a dry white wine instead. Like most cases of broiled food, this takes almost no time in the oven; I had it in this time for 5 minutes and it was on the edge of burning. Yeah. I put the dolloped slices on a cookie sheet...I can usually get about 24 on a single sheet since I don't have to worry about expansion or edges sticking. We've had this appetizer in our repertoire for years; I remember eating it at holiday parties back when I was super young (you know, those parties that, as memories, have everything in a rosy, glassy hue and have fuzzy edges in your mind). It's on an old folded, stained yellow legal pad sheet along with a few other handwritten party appetizer recipes from Laurie. Mm.

Caramelized Upside-Down Pear Tart

Caramelized Upside-Down Pear Tart

From Gourmet (November 1997)

Makes 1 tart.

2 pounds firm-ripe Bosc pears (3 to 5)
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pastry Dough

Accompaniment: sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Peel, halve, and core pears.

In a 9- to 10-inch ovenproof non-stick skillet or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet heat butter over moderate heat until foam subsides and stir in sugar (sugar will not be dissolved). Arrange pears, cut sides up, in skillet, with side parts at rim of skillet. Sprinkle pears with cinnamon and cook without stirring until sugar mixture forms a deep golden caramel. (This can take as little as 10 minutes or as much as 25, depending on skillet and stove.) Cool pears completely in skillet.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin roll out dough into an 11-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick) and arrange over caramelized pears. Tuck edge around pears. Bake tart in middle of oven until pastry is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Have ready a rimmed serving plate slightly larger than skillet. As soon as tart has finished baking, invert plate over skillet and, wearing oven mitts and keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert tart onto plate. (This is a bit scary, but it works!)

Serve tart at room temperature or chilled with whipped cream or ice cream.

Personal Note: This is my go-to easy as anything but pretty and therefore impressive-for-a-dinner-party dessert. It's ridiculously easy, and if done right (pears soft and caramelized enough), absolutely quintessentially fall-style divine. Oh, and: don't use a cast iron; we use a large non-stick oven-safe saute pan. The cast iron is too heavy and potentially sticky (and too steadily hot really; it's more likely to burn the fruit) for the flipping step.

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

4 chicken cutlet

Saute in:
2 T. vegetable oil

Deglaze with:
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 t. garlic minced

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. capers, the drained Sauteed cutlets

Finish with:
2 T butter and lemon slices

Garnish with:
Chopped fresh parsley

1. Season cutlets with salt and pepper then dust with flour. Spray a paute pan with nonstick spray, add vegetable oil and heat over medium-high.
2. Saute cutlets 2-3 minutes on one side and then turn and sauté for 1-2 minutes with pan covered. Transfer cutlets to a warm plate; pour off fat from the pan.
3. Deglaze pan with wine and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic is slightly brown and liquid is nearly gone--about 2 minutes.
4. Add broth, lemon juice and capers. Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for 1 minute. Transfer cutlets to a warm plate.
5. Finish with butter and lemon slices. Once butter has melted pour sauce over cutlets.
6. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Personal Note: The same deal as the previous recipe for Pomodoro. Same easy-as-hell method and seemingly complex, impressive results. My mom sent me both. I think she said they came from a magazine; Cuisine At Home maybe.

Chicken Pomodoro

Chicken Pomodoro

4 chicken cutlets

Saute in:
2 T. vegetable oil

Deglaze with:
1/4 cup vodka

1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 T. lemon juice
The sauteed cutlets

Finish with:
1/2 cup tomatoes chopped
2 T heavy cream

Garnish with:
1/3 cup scallions, minced

1. Season cutlets with salt and pepper then dust with flour.
2. Saute cutlets in oil. Transfer to a platter; pour off fat.
3. Deglaze pan with vodka away from the flame and cook until the vodka is nearly gone.
4. Add broth and lemon juice. Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for 1 minute. Transfer to a warm plate.
5. Finish the sauce with tomatoes and cream. Heat through, then pour over cutlets.
6. Garnish with scallions.

Personal Note: Whenever anyone on Ask Metafilter asks the standard "I'm a young hipster with my first real on-my-own-and-really-equipped kitchen and I'm ready to start really cooking so I need easy but impressive beginner recipes that'll impress my friends and hot date" etc question, people always bring up this sort of basic deglazing-to-make-sauce entry. And my mom just sent me this particular one 'cause our oven doesn't work so I'm desperately resorting to any stovetop-only recipes I can get my hands on. Actually, the challenge of this restriction has made for some rewarding and fun summer cooking. She said my dad and her love this recipe, and added that it was super easy, which is clear just from reading it. I'm a big fan of deglazing as the simple easy way to make things taste better than they should be, so I'll be trying this one tonight along with The Best Recipe for sauteed okra and tomatoes. Maybe if I'm feeling ambitious (we just got home last night at 1 a.m. from a week-long trip to Rochester and Toronto, and I always feel a bit wilted after traveling) I'll even make some Sylvia's Peach Cobbler for dessert. We'll see.

Cowboy Mashed Potatoes

Cowboy Mashed Potatoes

Submitted by Bruticus on
"Quick, easy and delicious mashed potatoes with corn and carrots."

Original recipe yield: 10 servings
Prep time: 20 Min
Cook time: 20 Min
Ready in: 40 Min

1 pound red potatoes
1 pound Yukon Gold (yellow) potatoes
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, sliced
12 ounces baby carrots
4 cloves garlic
1 (10 ounce) package frozen white corn, thawed
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place red potatoes, yellow potatoes, jalapeno pepper, carrots, and garlic cloves in a large pot. Cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Drain water from pot.
2. Stir in corn and butter. Mash the mixture with a potato masher until butter is melted and potatoes have reached desired consistency. Mix in cheese, salt, and pepper. Serve hot.

Personal Note: My default mashed potato guidelines come from Mark Bittman in How To Cook Everything, and when I read this online recently I balked at how little time it required--mashed potatoes, from my experience, are ridiculously easy, but they take a long time (all that peeling, boiling, plus the gradual incorporation of the 3 forms or whatever of creamy fat, etc). It also made me a little uneasy, as adding shredded cheddar cheese just seemed so...trashy to me. And where's the liquid component? Boiled garlic?? etc. Ha. Well, it's certainly not the fluffy pure potoato side dish to go with elegant French entrees or to impress guests. But all of the reviewers went on and on at how they were skeptical too, and yet the results were tasty. I think this recipe was featured at one point, even. So about a week ago I tried it as a spur of the moment thing to go with the steak (or was it the grilled chicken? I forget) I was making for Robert and I for dinner. I didn't even have any red potatoes, so I just used my Yukon Golds, aaand I didn't have carrots, so I ditched that part too. Actually, I'm not familiar with adding crap to mashed potatoes; my mom was a purist, so we never even had so much as bacon or chives in ours growing up. Well. These potatoes are definitely different from normal mashed potatoes, but they are indeed delicious and satisfying, albeit in a totally distinct way. Give 'em a try if you're short on time and ingredients. Personally, I always preferred somewhat clumpy, authentically mashed (as opposed to whipped/electric mixer mashed) potatoes anyway. They're pretty good, really.

Vincent Price's Chicken Curry and Baked Saffron Rice

Chicken Curry
From A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price (Grosset and Dunlap New York 1965, page 230)

Serves 6.

These curry recipes come from Reaj Ali, the Moslem chef of the Pierre's East Indian kitchen. According to him a curry is not really a curry unless you use coconut milk in it. It does improve the flavor, and we have found that with an electric blender coconut milk is easy to come by--once you have your coconut, that is! You can make a meat curry of this recipe simply by substituting three pounds diced raw beef, lamb, or veal for the chicken.

cooking oil or butter
canned tomatoes
bay leaf
salt, pepper
curry powder
coconut milk
(see index)

Remove the meat from: 2 tender frying chickens, each about 2 1/2 pounds (or use 5 pounds of chicken parts). A boning knife is a big help in cutting the raw meat from the bones, and you might ask your butcher to order the proper kind for you. Remove the chicken skin and cut meat into bite-sized pieces. The skin, bones, necks, backs, and wings may be used to make chicken stock.

1. In a heavy saucepan heat: 1/2 cup cooking oil or butter.

2. Add: 4 cloves garlic, chopped, 4 medium onions, chopped, and saute for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are golden.

3. Add: 2 whole canned tomatoes, chopped, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 6 cloves. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add the chicken meat and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, shaking pan occasionally, until most of the liquid in pan has steamed off. Reduce heat.

5. Add: 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, and 1 tablespoon paprika. Stir to mix the spices with the chicken meat, being careful not to let the spices burn.

6. Add: 3 to 4 cups water, or enough to cover chicken meat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 35 minutes.

7. Before serving add: 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk and heat gently.

The best part of curry is its presentation. It is always served with a rice, and with an assortment of condiments, each in a separate bowl or dish. This curry is served with Baked Saffron Rice, the recipe for which follows, and this suggested selection of condiments.

Curry Condiments:
chopped peanuts
Bombay duck
grated coconut
grated orange rind
candied ginger
white raisins
chopped fresh parsley
chopped hard-cooked eggs

Baked Saffron Rice

Serves 6.

garlic (optional)

1. Soak: 1/2 teaspoon saffron in 1 cup cold water for about 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to hot (400 F).

3. In a heavy casserole melt: 1/2 cup butter.

4. Add: 1 onion, chopped, 1 clove garlic, chopped (optional), and cook for 3 minutes, or until onion is soft.

5. Add: 2 cups raw rice and stir until rice is well coated with butter.

6. Add the saffron and water and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and bake in hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove cover and stir to mix thoroughly.

7. Add: 2 cups boiling water, cover, and continue to bake for 15 minutes.

8. Turn off heat, fluff rice with 2 forks, and keep warm until ready to serve.

Personal Note: How cool is it that Vincent Price was actually super-cultured and into "the finer things in life"? He collected art, traveled the world, and amassed ethnic recipes way before it was fashionable to do so. The cookbook this came from is one of the gems in my parents' library--my mom did some research online trying to find another copy for me when I moved out, and discovered it's worth like 60-1o0 dollars! Anyway, this was the standard curry recipe my mom always used while my sister and I were growing up. She's branched out since then--she found an awesome one while I was in college that involves steeping spices in a tea infuser!--but I'll always have fond memories of this one. It's kind of savory and hearty in a way most modern authentic curries aren't. In a "good ol' days of 1950s-1970s suburban America" sort of way, even. Ha. And baked saffron rice?! You better believe it.

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

From: U.S.A. Cookbook by Sheila Lukins (Workman Publishing, 1997), pp. 517-518

A visit to the Florida Keys is synonymous with eating Key lime pie. It's so smooth and refreshing, and while everyone seems to have their own delicious version, sweetened condensed milk is a universal ingredient. Key limes are grown in southern Florida and have a very thin, greenish-yellow peel; the juice is tangier and more intense than a regular lime. If you cannot find fresh Key limes, the juice is available, sold in bottles, in specialty food stores and fine supermarkets. Regular lime juice just doesn't give the same pucker, and is not a good substitute. Be sure to chill the pie thoroughly before serving so that the fill sets up nicely.

Serves 6 to 8.

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about eleven 5 x 2 1/2-inch crackers)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup Key lime juice [I tend to put more like 3/4 cup because I like it tart, but watch it; don't want to go overboard)

1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Thin lime slices, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Prepare the crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl and mix well. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake in the center of the oven for 8 minutes, then cool completely on a rack.
3. Prepare the filling: Beat the egg yolks in a medium-size bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until light. Add the sweetened condensed milk and the Key lime juice and beat until well blended. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake the pie in the center of the oven until the filling is set but still creamy, about 15 minutes. Cool the pie completely on a rack and then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
4. Prepare the topping: Before serving, whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar until it holds firm peaks. Use a rubber spatula to swirl it over the surface of the pie, or use a pastry bag to pipe it decoratively. Decorate the cream with the lime slices and return the pie to the refrigerator until serving time.

Personal Note: This recipe never steers me wrong, though it's ambiguous in many places. Since it is, I'll add some notes I've accumulated from making this multiple times. For one thing, I think this recipe downplays just how many machines are at work. The hands down best and (as counter-intuitive as it seems due to the hassle and mess of the parts) easiest way to crumble the graham crackers is with a standard food processor. Really mix the crust ingredients together thoroughly so the butter and sugar permeate the cracker crumbs evenly. You'll also need an electric mixer, which is mentioned in the recipe; I don't bother with the Kitchenaid and just use one of those cheapo hand-held batter beaters to beat the yolks (when they say "light," they likely mean both in color and texture--I always wait until the yolks turn pale and are almost airy, and it seems to work well) and blend the filling ingredients. For best results, you'll also need a hand-held immersion blender, like the standard Braun model, to whip the cream topping at the end. The hands down easiest mistake to make with this pie, and one severe enough to really ruin the visual and textural effect, is not letting it cool completely, both during the crust baking step and the filling step. Let it get REALLY cool on a rack (and in the case of the topping, wait indeed until the filling's been refrigerated for 4 hours), because if you don't, when you pour the filling or whipped topping on the hot baked surface, the filling or whipped topping will bubble, become watery, and run. And especially with the whipped topping, after this happens it will not right itself with chilling in the fridge, and you will have a permanently liquid, if edible, mess. The other trick to making sure the whipped topping really seems like whipped topping--not creamy water but thick and airy like Cool Whip only better--is to thoroughly use the immersion blender and be patient. Whip the hell out of it until it's thick and the immersion blender blades slow. If you can't handle the idea of messing around (fuss wise or calorie wise) with real whipped cream topping, Cool Whip is of course an option. But the real topping is out of this world, and licking the spatula is a bit of heaven.

Remember to be sanitary about raw egg--don't use the same spatula you used to scrape the raw filling from the mixing bowl to the pie crust to later scrape whipped cream, just basic reminder stuff like that.

When the pie's chilling in the fridge for the 4+ hours, I don't cover it with anything (plastic wrap or whatnot). But then, I chill it in the beverage fridge usually, so there's no risk of nasty or clashing food smells/flavors infiltrating the pie.

Key limes generally are way too expensive to waste making juice from; we buy a bottle of the juice from Wegman's in the baking aisle. A single bottle, about 2 bucks, has enough juice for about 3 or 4 pies.

As a random side note, damn do I love sweetened condensed milk. I always lick the can. It's one of my "weird/icky but oh so tasty" guilty pleasures, along with frozen bananas, unsalted pretzels, plain matzo, bisquick mix straight up, tuna fish sandwiches with potato chips crunched into them, special k flakes mixed into yoplait or crowley yogurt, coconut milk, dry breadsticks, cheap/minute rice with shredded cheese melted over it, banana slices with rice pudding, etc etc. Yes, I am kind of gross. :b I should get one of those t shirts that says "I heart CARBS" on it, har.

Scallion Lo Mein

Scallion Lo Mein

From Bon Appetit (June 1992) courtesy of Fred Mueller.

Yield: 4 Servings

7 ounces Chinese egg noodles
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
16 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

Cook the noodles in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to the bite. Drain well. Rinse under cold water, and transfer to a bowl. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and toss. (Can be made up to two hours ahead. Cover, let stand at room temperature.)

Heat vegetable oil in a wok or heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the onions; stir-fry two minutes. Add the noodles. Stir-fry to heat through and serve.

Personal Note: This is super good and we used to make it a lot but we tweaked it. It's been a long time since we did though, so I'm fuzzy on the turned into something similar to that masterwork dish in Big Night with the crispy noodle top. I think somehow we put the noodles in a big, hot, oiled cast iron pan after doing the recipe as listed and somehow toasted it so there was this layer of crispy hot browned noodle. Then we'd cut into it like slices of cake or pie or paella; it would be crispy and coherently edged (a clean slice) on the top and bottom, with a softer, moister scraggly loose noodle-and-scallion innard tumbling out between the two crisp outer layers. It was really good; once one of us remembered it after all of these years we were all hopping on it. It's a very vivid memory of a very distinct dinnertime dish.

Chuck Wagon Stew

Chuck Wagon Stew

From Better Homes and Gardens Famous Foods from Famous Places: Specialty-of-the-house recipes from America's leading restaurants cookbook (1964, Meredith Press). Recipe from the chapter on the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, Jackson.

2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fat
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 green pepper, cut in coarse pieces
1 cup beef stock, or 1 can condensed beef broth
1 cup water
6 small potatoes, pared and halved
6 small carrots, halved
6 small whole onions
3 or 4 stalks green celery, cut in large slices
1 cup fresh peas

Dust meat lightly with flour; thoroughly brown on all sides in hot fat, turning often. Add next 10 ingredients. Cover; simmer over low heat till meat is almost tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Add potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery. Cover; cook 30 minutes longer. Add peas; cook 15 minutes more or till vegetables are done. Serves 6 to 8.

Personal Note: This, like the choucroute recipe, reminds me to wonder why I even bother posting exact recipes...we deviate so much from this it's funny. Timing is always approximate; you have to respond to your specific pot and how it's doing on any given day to get the stew's components cooked and the flavors blended to your liking. So yeah. Time's approximate like always. Just keep an eye out.

For the fat component, we use butter. We omit the flour coating step.

The most important thing about stew is browning the meat correctly; it's what gives stew its essential "stewy" flavor. You heat the butter and then turn up the burner way high (and also flip on the exhaust!). Don't add meat until the butter begins to really burn a bit--you want the bottom of the pan brown. For real. Then you add the meat in parts, making sure the pieces aren't overcrowded in the pot. Brown the hell out of one side of each piece 'til it's very dark--heat needs to be high so you achieve this quickly (instead of overcooking the meat at a lukewarm temperature, thus resulting in undesirable mushy grey chunks). Then do the same to the opposite side (I use long-handled tongs to flip meat, but a wooden scraper would do too). Do some of the other sides briefly and then scrape all of the pieces around a bit, to coat them in the developing dark fond collecting at the bottom. Quickly pluck out these pieces and set them aside on a platter and repeat the process with the next small batch.

This part is the most important, and it'll be crazy steamy and hot for a bit, and you need to watch what you're doing. But it doesn't take much time, and the stew meat will be gorgeous. The gravy too. Really, this makes all the difference.

Once the meat's all browned, keep the fond at the bottom of the pan!! Turn heat down or off, but right away before the fond cools add some red wine (no, this isn't listed in the original recipe, but it helps develop your gravy's strong base flavors). It should boil and you should be able to see the alcohol rise up in steam. Now add the liquid (the stock and the water). Let it cool to a simmer, then add the spices and things mentioned in the middle list of the ingredients.

When you add the third part of the ingredients list--the vegetables--make sure you have enough liquid in the pot to cover or nearly cover them. If you don't, add more stock and water (or water plus some good brand--Le Gout, for example--beef base if you've run out of fresh stock).

Check your stew every once in a while as it simmers and cooks. If at any time you notice a component--the potatoes and the onions in particular--is getting too soft/disintegrating into the stew, consider removing it and putting it aside as the rest cooks. You can then add it back to the pot when you're ready to eat. This of course is for if you're the kind of person who likes a stew with chunky discernible components. If you don't care if you get a recognizable whole albeit softened small onion in your bowl, by all means leave it in to let it fall apart; the flavor will be in there either way.

If towards the end you find the broth too watery for your tastes as a result of having to add liquid to cover the cooking vegetables, add a little corn starch to the pot and bring the stew back up to heat. The thickening agent will turn it to gravy quite quickly.

This time around, we didn't have green peppers so we used poblanos. I was worried it'd taste off, like it was stew trying to be chili, but it didn't--it lent a nice glow without overtaking the basic stew flavor.

I always seem to make way more than it calls for--I like a stew to have lots of potatoes and onions, so I usually throw in more than they ask. I also add more of the flavor components like the chili powder and bay leaves just out a knee jerk habit I have of doing so with everything (I like strong flavors).

Also, we never use fresh peas or celery, just because they're rarely in the house this time of year and we don't bother to obtain them for the stew. And obviously you could add other vegetables you like, especially other root veggies like rutabegas, parsnips, or turnips.

If you don't like the curled up skins from the tomatoes or peppers, peel the skins off before adding them.

This is one of the first cookbooks my parents acquired as a married couple, and it's still one of their trusty favorites. It's where a bunch of our tried-and-true recipes come from, including the grasshopper pie one. It even has a section on the Watergate Hotel I believe. Ha.

Melon Wrapped In Prosciutto

Melon Wrapped In Prosciutto

Ina Garten (2003)
Show: Barefoot Contessa
Episode: A Barefoot Contessa Holiday

Recipe Summary:
User Rating: No Rating
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 5 to 8 servings

1 gala melon
10 to 15 slices prosciutto

Peel and slice the gala melon into 1/2-inch semi-circle slices. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each wedge and arrange on a platter.

Personal Note: Don't you love luxurious fancy schmancy nonrecipes? Ha.

Rochester-Style Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

From The Democrat and Chronicle/Times-Union's Food/Living Section column "Ask-It Basket." Sorry, don't know the date; it isn't on the old clipping we've kept.

1 large onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped fine
1/4 tsp. garlic salt or powder
1 lb. ground beef
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. marjoram
1 qt. water

Brown beef. Saute onions and celery in small amount of butter or margarine. Add garlic and browned ground beef. Put all ingredients in kettle and simmer for two hours or until desired thickness.

Personal Note: This is my hometown's local specialty, the hot sauce that tops all of the small lakeside greasy-food establishments' Rochester-trademarked burgers and hot dogs and defines them as local chow (in Rochester, the burger is not defined by massive amounts of soft and thick ground beef; the patty is relatively small and more charred, and you heap hot sauce, cheese, caramelized ONIONS, extra hot sauce, relish, ketchup, and whatever the hell else over it and put it on a special bun and voila, local burger). It also goes on the infamous garbage plate (why the hell hasn't this caught on elsewhere? There's surely a market for it in trucker-friendly Memphis as well as Primanti-Brothers-and-greasy-diner-loving Pittsburgh). As I mentioned to Ryan over the summer, the secret is the cloves--my parents and my aunt and uncle tried for years to figure out how to replicate the sauce and then it leaked on this column somehow and they quickly realized the missing X component was cloves. However, don't use too many; a little goes a long way (I made the batch I brought to Joe's party too strong clove-wise and it suffered as a result). It's spicy and savory, and cinnamon-y. Mm, it's good and always makes me think of Bill Gray's and Vic n' Irv's, and Don's Original and Mark's Texas Hots and Nick Tahou's and Gitsi's and Sea Breeze and Tom's off the highway and the summer and mm.

Latkes or Jewish Potato Pancakes


Recipe courtesy of Marc Silverstein for Food Network Kitchens (December 1999).

2 pounds russet potatoes, grated fine
1 medium to large onion, grated fine
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil, for frying
Sour cream and apple sauce, as accompaniments

Personal Note: The ingredients list is from Silverstein, but the rest of the recipe was for some reason never retrieved (read: printed fully out) and the online version is long gone. So the method below might be his, but might not be; it works well for us. The part salvaged from the incomplete recipe that is vital is the drying part. A relatively dry potato-onion "batter" makes all the difference (we've made latkes for years but they only really became joygasmic at our house once we found Silverstein's version).

Peel the potatoes and rough chop (into thirds or so) so they're in chunks large enough to feed through the food processor. Do the same for the onion. Grate both into the food processor using the rough-grate blade disc (not the fine one) and feeding the chunks into the processor (empty the processor bowl as needed and continue until everything is grated into rough short strings, kind of like homemade pasta). Using a kitchen towel, dry the grated potatoes and onions thoroughly (this is important). Put them in a large bowl (we use the largest widest mouthed one we have; a silver salad tossing bowl). Add the beaten eggs and matzo meal and mix with your hands until it's the correct consistency. Add the salt and pepper and mix a bit more. We then heat up just enough vegetable oil in the large fryer-sized cast iron skillet. Using a spatula and a spoon, we place a lump of the potato mixture onto the spatula, flatten it with the spoon, and slide it into the oil (we do 3 pancakes at a time). When the edges begin to get crispy and golden brown, check to flip sides. As each pancake finishes cooking (we like them golden brown, not too dark but crispy through the whole exterior) place them on a rack above an old cookie sheet. If you wish to keep them warm as you fry, place this rack/sheet in a semi-warm oven (we had ours at about 145 F) and keep taking it out and in as more pancakes finish and become ready to place on the rack.

I cooked all of dinner tonight kind of on a casual whim and I was surprised at how easy and good it turned out. I made some ad-libbed apple sauce with leftover empire apples (some of our older apples were too soft to be enticing as eating apples but fine for other purposes), freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon, a little bit of brown sugar (I don't normally add this but tonight the apples seemed a bit too tart even for my taste) and a bit of lemon juice (spruces up apples always) and water. Just stuck it all in a deep saucepan and cooked it down at medium heat. Turned out well. As it was cooking I prepared the latke mixture (something I've done before). I'd say tonight I used 2 1/2 pounds of russets, 2 1/2 large onions (they were huge onions, and one was one of those that you find after peeling has a small side onion attached to it)--I always make ours a little more onion-y than called for--and the rest of the ingredients. I wasn't sure at first that there was enough binding agent, but the latkes came out just fine. And the applesauce was still tart and warm when we began eating. Yum.

Apple Crostata (Baked Apple Volcano)

Apple Crostata

Show: Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
Episode: Cucina Simpatica
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Inspired by George Germon and Johanne Killeen.

For the pastry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 lb. (1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoon ice water

For the filling:
1 1/2 pounds McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples (3 large)
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough becomes a solid mass. Turn the dough onto a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Flour a rolling pin and roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to a baking sheet.

For the filling, peel, core, and cut the apples into 8ths. Cut each wedge into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Cover the tart dough with the apple chunks leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Allow to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Personal Note: This is yummy; it's pretty much a more novel (and hence strangely impressive) and rustic version of apple pie, and it looks so cool. I don't know where Ina learned how to do baked crusts, but every recipe she writes with one always has an amazing crust that comes out perfectly no matter what (and this is saying a lot, coming from me who usually sucks at delicate baking components such as crusts from scratch). If you're interested in what it looks like in its pre-baked form, here's a picture from here. That was last Christmas I think... As you can see, it's basically like a tidy crispy little spiced apple volcano. Hee.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pasta with Butter, Sage, and Parmesan

Pasta with Butter, Sage, and Parmesan

If you eliminate the sage, kids will love this dish. (There are homes in Italy where pasta with butter and Parmesan is the equivalent of pabulum.) But most grown-ups prefer the sharper edge that sage provides. Like many others, this sauce can be prepared in the time it takes water to boil.

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
20 or 30 fresh sage leaves or about 1 tablespoon dried whole sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound cut pasta, such as ziti or penne, or long pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the sage,salt, and pepper. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 10 minutes.

3. Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta until it is tender but firm. Spoon 2 or 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water into a warm serving bowl. Drain the pasta and toss in the serving bowl with the butter, more pepper, and half the Parmesan. Pass the remaining Parmesan at the table.

Personal Note: If you make this with the dried sage, either cut back on the amount or use more butter and let it cook slowly for a bit will be bitter otherwise. You can use less bitter herbs anyway, if you have fresh ones on hand to get rid of--I've used rosemary, thyme, and basil and they all worked fine for me. It's important to lightly brown the butter--it'll give the non-sauce some dimension, a sort of nutty almost "sausage-y" flavor and aroma. Robert walked in when I made it thinking I was cooking up breakfast sausage! Some days I just want a bowl of buttery pasta with no complicated other flavors. It's like comfort food.


I really want to keep things casual on the blog. Pleas when copying a recipe be sure that it is in << blockquote >>. This way we know the difference between a proper recipe and someones comments about the recipe.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit

Seen on Food Network Television
Show: Tamales World Tour
Episode: #WT1A28: Working Man's Supper

Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup ale
10 ounces extrasharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon English mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 drops Tabasco pepper sauce
12 English muffin halves, toasted
6 slices bacon, cooked to crispy
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, add the flour and whisk to make a roux. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the ale and boil the mixture for 3 minutes while whisking. Reduce heat to low, add the cheddar cheese, mustard, Worcestershire, and Tabasco pepper sauce, and cook, stirring, until hot but not boiling.

Spoon the cheddar mixture over the toasted muffins, garnish with parsley, and serve with crispy bacon.

Personal Note: This I can take or leave, personally, but for some reason it's quite popular among friends (Justin loved it and asked for it whenever he visited, and Michelle's vegetarian friends had seconds and thirds when they came over for dinner once). We don't do the formal thing with the individual plating with English muffins and garnish. We also never do the bacon thing, mostly out of laziness. Believe me, it's still plenty rich (too rich for me!). Instead we toast up--either in the oven or in the toaster, depending--leftover homemade bread, leftover crusty bakery bread, Texas toast, or whatever other bread's available/desirable. We put the cheesy beer sauce in individual ramekins or bowls and heap a large plate with the toast and let people take the toasted bread as they like for dipping. It's a lot like fondue only richer and smoother in taste (to me, that reads as "fatty and bland tasting" :).