Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Staying In

It is seriously sad that when I look back and try to think of really special New Year's Eves, I'm left with HIGH SCHOOL. Really pathetic when you think about it. But we had such splendid grown up bashes at a friend of mine's farmhouse, with fancy appetizers and pretty clothes and starlit gravel roads for freezing your ass off wandering down with your crush. I always hoped that when I grew up, I'd be able to throw similar parties. But I'm grown up, and I'm resolutely staying in. Our apartment is neither close enough to good friends, nor large enough for real parties, so it'll just be the two of us. I'll be making Pan Roasted Duck with Individual Potato Gratins and well, something with a butternut squash that I haven't quite figured out yet. To be honest I don't feel like it one bit. It's a bit dismal here with this morning's snow dusting having turned to icy slush. Really, I'd like something like a grilled cheese, Monte Cristo or Welsh rabbit or a fried egg sandwich which could be fancied up a bit if you used good bread, bacon, wilted greens and a drizzle of balsamic. I want comfort food and a favorite movie and good cheer. Most likely my evening will involve some pouting since I don't feel in the mood for fancy and a healthy dose of New Year's Rockin' Eve which is pretty depressing.

Wishing you the best however you're ringing in the New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I feel a bit guilty posting this on Christmas, but since it was my mother's Christmas gift and she's one of only two people who actually read this blog, I'm afraid there wasn't much of a choice. Besides. You're probably wondering what the heck to do with all those candy canes, you know, the ones people at work passed out, or attached to gift bags, the ones your children brought home from school, the ones hanging on your tree. Best part, if you make it after Christmas, you may not even have to share.

adapted from Bon Appetit

3-6 oz candy canes (gf brands listed here)
8 oz white chocolate
8 oz dark chocolate (I used ghirardelli 60% cacoa)
in theory 3/4 t peppermint extract (I forgot mine and am not particularly sorry)

Chop up the dark chocolate into smallish pieces 1" by 1/2" will do, reserving a few chunks. Use a double boiler, or its bastard cousin (a bowl balanced precariously on top of a pot). Put about 1/2" of water in the bottom and heat on medium high. Fix your candy thermometer and toss in the chocolate chunks. Stir well as the chocolate melts until it reaches around 105 -110 F. Immediately take the top/bowl off the heat, but keep on stirring. Stir, stir, stir. The temperature may rise slightly to start, but should start falling. Toss in the chunks of chocolate that you reserved earlier. Let the temperature fall to around 88 F. Add the peppermint extract. I didn't add it, so I have no idea what effect if will have on the ability of the chocolate to harden. Smear a 9" by 12" section of foil or parchment paper with the chocolate. Pop in the fridge to harden for about 15 to 20 minutes. Clean your bowl/double boiler top and candy thermometer.

Start removing the wrapping from the candy canes. Break them in medium chunks and toss in a ziplock bag. Place the bag on a cutting board and smash up the candy with a rolling pin, getting it all nice and cracked into bitty bits. Set aside.

Chop up your white chocolate (as you did the dark before). Reserve a few bits (again, just like before). Reheat that 1/2" of water on medium high and again, set up your candy thermometer and add the pieces of white chocolate to the top of whatever contraption you're using. Stir and stir until melted and the temp is around 105-110F. Immediately remove from heat. (Still familiar?) Stir, stir and stir some more. As the temp starts to drop, toss in those reserved larger chunks and let them melt in as you stir. Stir and stir until the temp is around 80-82 F. (That's where I messed up. I only went down to 88F). When you get to the magic number, quick as a bunny, grab your dark chocolate hardened rectangle out of the fridge. Smear the top of it with the white chocolate, until completely covered. Then cover the top with the candy cane bits. You can press them a bit, but don't get them coated with white chocolate or anything.

Pop it back in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. Supposedly if you only let it harden for a magic amount of time, it will be easy to cut into beautiful diamond shapes. But if you're like me, you'll end up with random sized pieces of bark no matter what you do, so just go with it. It's delicious, no matter what it looks like.

Even Dexter thinks so.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Apple Gingerbread Upside Down Cake

'Tis the season to be baking. Somehow, even with all our cookie baking, many of us still find that we're expected to produce additional seasonal baked goods. We have holiday gatherings at work, family gatherings, open houses. This cake is both seasonal and fairly easy. As an added bonus, you probably already have the ingredients in the house.

recipe adapted from SmittenKitchen


4 T butter (plus extra for greasing pan)
1/2 C dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
2 large apples cut into 1/4 inch wedges. Smitten advises 4 apples. I guess it really depends on the size of your apples. I used Northern Spies.
4 T butter and 4 T applesauce
1/2 C sugar
1 large egg
1/3 C dark molasses
1/4 C honey (I used the 1/3 C the recipe called for and felt it a bit too sweet, probably because I subbed applesauce for half the butter, and that's sweet too).
1 C buttermilk (you can just use regular milk - here's what to do. Pour a cup of milk. Remove a tablespoon of it. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar. Wait 5 minutes. You're good to go.)
2 1/4 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a 10" cake pan. (Good luck with that by the way. I don't own one. I used a regular 9" pan, had tons of leftover, some of which I mushed into a baby bundt pan). Now that I've completely got you measuring your baking's time to make the topping. In a small saucepan, melt the butter (4T). Then add the brown sugar and simmer over medium heat, stirring for 4 minutes. Then swirl in some salt. I believe what your going for here is making a carmel, but mine didn't quite pull together in that time. You might need a smidge more. Remove from heat and pour in the bottom of your cake pan. Then layer the apples, I suggest working from the outside in, making ovelapping circles around the edges towards the center. Fill in the gaps by chopping up some slices to fit.

To make the batter:
Using a mixer, combine the remaining butter with the sugar and cream until light and fluffy. In another bowl mix together the molasses, egg, honey, applesauce and milk. In yet another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Then alternate adding the molasses mixture and the flour mixture to the mixer holding your creamed butter and sugar.
When it's all thoroughly incorporated, pour your batter into your pan on top of the apple slices. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a skewer or knife poked in the middle comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then turn over onto a plate and unmold.

It's delicious served with whipped cream.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookies Episode 3: Pizzelles

One of my less endearing traits is a rather stubborn devotion to traditions, especially when it comes to holidays. I like things to stay the way they've always been and even the slightest mention of deviation from these traditions can causing a whining fit that would give a toddler a serious run for its money. But it seems that this year, I'm starting a new tradition, all thanks to a dear friend. You see, my friend is Italian. And in her world, it's not Christmas if there aren't pizzelles. Last year she talked me into joining her and her mother for their cookie baking and next thing you know I was making stacks of pizzelles. No really. I think I made 12 dozen. This year, I was supposed to join her again, but the weather had something else in mind. So I made them myself. Only 6 dozen this time. Most of which will be given away, and not even enjoyed by my family. But now it's a tradition, and I think it will stick. If only I owned my own pizzelle iron...

recipe from Laurie

2 1/4 sticks of butter
1 1/2 C sugar
6 eggs
1 to 1 1/2 1 oz bottles of vanilla (or anise, or coconut, or whatever your heart desires)
4 C flour sifted


First, melt the butter in a microwave safe container, all the better if it's a pyrex measuring cup or something else with a pour spout. Allow to cool slightly, so that it's warm not hot.

Then mix together the eggs and sugar until they are light and foamy. Slowly pour in the warm butter.

Add your vanilla (or anise, or coconut) flavoring.

Then, gradually add the sifted flour. Depending on the type of day, humid or dry, you may need less than the four full cups. Your batter should not be as thick as regular cookie dough, but should be a bit less runny than pancake batter.

Next, warm your pizzelle iron. If you have a small ice cream scooper, that works well for placing a heaping tablespoon of batter on the center of each shape on the iron. I use a combination of a soup spoon and a regular spoon. I scoop with the soup spoon and use the other spoon to get the dough off and onto the iron.

Cook until they are the right level of doneness for you. This really depends on your iron, but on the one I used today, two minutes was too long and one was too short. After you've made a few you get a sense of how long it takes and then it's much easier.

Remove and allow to cool. Enjoy!

Makes approximately 6 dozen pizzelles.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

Oh. Sorry. The above picture is very much NOT something edible. It's what happens when you take one completely adorable snow-loving dog for a walk in the midst of a winter storm. He gets so cute that he turns into a stuffed animal.

All right, enough with the thoroughly unhelpful pet photos. I assume you're here for the holiday candy-making. I began making almond bark because it's my father's favorite chocolate candy. I'd found a store near me that made it with really dark chocolate and was excited to pick some up for a present last Christmas. Not only were they out, they couldn't tell me either when or if they'd ever have it again. Very helpful. So I figured I could make my own. It's really not difficult, it's just a lot of stirring.

I strongly recommend using a candy thermometer with this recipe.

8 oz ghirardelli (or other high quality) chocolate. I use 70% because we like things very dark around here.
almonds - I completely eyeballed it, and then tossed the bag. I think I used a bit less than a cup. It kind of depends what kind of almond to chocolate ratio you prefer.

Use a double boiler or place a bowl over top of a pot. Use about 1/2 inch of water and if using a bowl, make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Chop your blocks of chocolate into smaller pieces. They don't need to be tiny or anything. Reserve a piece of chocolate that's about 1" by 1/2". Place the chocolate into the top part of the double boiler. Turn on your burner to medium. Turn on your candy thermometer. Heat the chocolate, while stirring, until the temperature reaches about 105 F. Then remove the bowl from the pot and continue to stir. The temperature may increase slightly before it starts going down. Add your piece of reserved chocolate at this point. Continue stirring constantly and keep a close eye on the temperature. When the temperature reaches 88 F add the almonds and stir until they're completely coated. Then using a spatula smear the chocolate almond mixture over a sheet of foil or parchment paper. Many recipes will tell you to premark the area you'll be covering with chocolate first (um, like before you even started melting the chocolate because when it reached 88F you don't want to be messing around) but I'm not uptight like that. You don't want it to be too thin, I think mine covered about an 8 by 8" or 9 by 9" area. Allow to harden. You can allow it to harden in the fridge. If you did the process correctly, you've tempered your chocolate which will keep it from getting to melty at room temperature and from coming off all over your hands. The refrigeration only speeds up the hardening, but you should be able to leave the bark out after that. If you mess up, no big deal. It still tastes good, you'll just have to lick your fingers more.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


We're not actually snowbound. Clearly I left the apartment to take this picture, but it has been snowing for over 12 hours with no real sign that it will let up soon. I spent the day completely delighted with the weather and making all kinds of Christmas sweets. It's a bit evil, but living here allows us to relax and maybe even gloat a bit because we don't have any outdoor snow clearing responsibilities. But this recipe is so easy that you'd be able to make it even if you're exhausted from shoveling. Don't you deserve a nice warm fresh loaf of bread after all that work?
One that would only take you 5 minutes to throw together?
Of course you do.

Ryan has declared this his new "favorite bread ever" and asks new random questions about it daily.
From not a fancy pricey box mix.

3 C self rising flour (get some, or make it - for every cup of flour add 1 1/2 t baking power and 1/2 t salt)
1/2 C sugar
1 12 oz bottle of beer
2 T melted butter

Preheat your oven to 375 F. Mix together the flour and sugar. Add the beer. Mix well. Toss in
a buttered loaf pan. Bake for 52 minutes. Brush the top with the butter. Bake 3 more minutes.

See? I told you it was easy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Drop Wasted

True confession time. I don't drink. I'm not a scary judgmental teetotaler, it simply makes me nauseated and gives me insane headaches. This is all very sad. I used to enjoy having a drink, and frankly, I think my husband would have enjoyed having someone to have a drink with. Now he occasionally will have some wine, but despite the best efforts of our wine vacuum, sometimes bottles languish, unfinished, unloved. That stops NOW. Because I have mastered Coq au Vin. Well, Coq au Vin Blanc anyway. It is unimaginably good, but it definitely requires an initial time investment before the meltingly tender chicken is yours to enjoy. No more wine induced guilt for us.

adapted from Emeril Lagasse

5 slices turkey bacon (you can use real bacon like Emeril advises if you want)
3-4 T duck fat (not needed if you use real bacon, however, turkey bacon doesn't really give off fat, and duck fat is so good, mmm)
1 chicken about 3 1/2 to 4 lbs, cut into pieces, Emeril recommends quartered, mine was in 8 pieces.
2 t salt
1 t pepper
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 shallot finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
9-10 oz button mushrooms, cleaned and halved or quartered to be bite sized
1/6 C all purpose flour (use brown rice flour to make gluten-free)
1 t tomato paste (get the tube at the store if you don't use it often)
1.5 C full-bodied dry white wine (seriously, I used whatever was in the fridge)
3/4 C rich chicken stock (I had homemade, I don't know where Emeril's going with the "rich")
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 C heavy cream

I served mine, as Emeril recommends, with egg noodles. Feel free to be creative, but it definitely needs to be served with a starch.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

In a large Dutch oven, fry the turkey bacon on high heat until crispy. Remove and set aside. Clean and trim chicken, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Add the duck fat to the Dutch oven. Brown the chicken in the duck fat, working in batches if necessary until it is golden on all sides. That last sentence there, is the absolute suckiest part of the whole thing. Wear long sleeves. The fat sputters and spits and the chicken skins stick to the bottom of the pan and you may curse loudly. It's all over pretty quickly though (I went about 3-5 minutes a side) and you'll be happy later. Transfer the beautifully browned chicken to a plate and breathe a sigh of relief. If you need to add a smidge more duck fat, do so. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, shallot and garlic cloves. Cook for 5-6 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook 7 minutes more. Stir in the flour and tomato paste. Stir constantly for a minute or two. Then add the wine and stock, continue to stir constantly until everything is incorporated. Then add the thyme, bay, chicken and bacon. Bring the liquid up to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 15 minutes until the liquid is slightly thickened. Bring the liquid up to a boil again, then cover the pot and pop it in the oven for about an hour and a half. Check after an hour to make sure it isn't drying up. Add more liquid if needed. When it's done, remove the chicken. This is the fun part. You will realize that using tongs is kind of entertaining because the chicken meat starts to fall right off the bone as you take it out of the pot. I like to debone the chicken at this point, and think if you're serving to company, you really should. Put the chicken on a platter and cover to keep warm. Heat the pot to medium low. Skim any fat off the surface (I didn't see any) and increase the heat to medium high. Add the heavy cream and cook until the sauces has thickened enough to slightly coat the back of a spoon, about 15-20 minutes. Taste, add more salt and pepper as needed. Return the chicken to the pot and heat through, then serve.

Power of Suggestion

As soon as I saw Ina Garten make this on her show, I knew I wanted it. Right now, right now. Luckily enough, it was a Saturday, so I could rush out, gather up the ingredients and make my own dreams come true. The pizza is topped with goat cheese, fontina and mozzarella and is creamy and rich and delicious. Then you top it with a lemony salad to balance all that cheesy goodness. So freakin' good. Also, major props to Ina for a pizza dough that only needs a half hour rise. That is something I can get behind.

from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

for the dough:
1 1/4 C warm water (110 to 115 F)
2 packages dry yeast
1 T honey
4 C all purpose flour
olive oil
2 t Kosher Salt
for the cheesy topping:
1/2 C olive oil (you can probably get away with a 1/3 C)
4 sliced garlic cloves
5 springs fresh thyme
1/4 t red pepper flakes
fresh black pepper
3 C grated Fontina
1 1/2 C grate fresh mozzarella
1 small package cream goat cheese crumbled
for salad:
1/2 C olive oil (again, you can probably get away with less)
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
8 oz baby arugula (I used fresh spinach, since it's what Ryan prefers. It was also delicous).

for the dough:
Combine the water, yeast, honey and 3 T olive oil in the bowl of your stand mixer with dough hook attached. When the yeast is dissolved add 3 C of flour and then 2 t of Kosher salt and mix on medium low. Add up to 1 more cup of flour, enough to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Then turn the dough out onto a cutting board and knead by hand until smooth and elastic. Put in a well-oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

for garlic oil:
In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 C olive oil, the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Watch carefully that the garlic doesn't burn. Set aside for later.

back to the dough:
Preheat your (clean) oven to 500F. Cut the dough in as many pieces as you would like pizzas. We make 6 as Ina suggests, but you could just make maybe 4? I don't know about getting a whole one on one cooking sheet. Feel free to try it and report back. Place your dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment and cover again with the towel and let rise/rest for 10 minutes. If you're not using immediately, refrigerate for up to 4 hours. If you do refrigerate, allow dough to come back to room temperature before working with it. Press and stretch your dough balls into small pizza-y shapes and place on baking sheets.

pizzamaking time:
Brush the dough of each mini pizza with the garlic oil. Sprinkle each pizza with equal amounts of mozzarella, fontina and goat cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust crips and the cheese is delicious and melty. SEE?

salad topping:
Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together with a pinch of salt and pepper. Dress only the greens you're using right away then place them on on hot pizza and enjoy!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


It's been a week, and I'm still reeling from Thanksgiving. First there's the marathon cooking sessions leading up to the big day (which thankfully, I was spared this year because my mother did just about everything herself), then there's the mad dash to eat, freeze and reinvent all the leftovers before anything spoils. And of course, the rush to post it all here before I forget what the hell it is I'm talking about.

This year my one contribution to Thanksgiving dinner (or dessert rather) was a sweet potato pie. I'd been eyeing it ever since I got my Best of the Best cookbook and the deal was sealed when my mother announced that no way no how was she making a pumpkin pie. I couldn't wait to report back. Then smittenkitchen waxed poetic about it and frankly, I lost momentum. I mean, no one cares what I have to say about the stupid pie, especially not when there are, you know, real food bloggers talking about it.

But it was heavenly and delicious and something I very cheerfully continued to eat in the days after Thanksgiving when turkey was becoming my sworn enemy. It is light and yet cheesecakey. It's really amazing I didn't just eat the whole thing in one sitting.

courtesy of the Lee Brothers, as featured in Best of the Best

1.5 C sifted all purpose flour
1 T sugar
8 T butter
1/4 cup(ish) ice water

*original recipe called for 4 T of lard and 4 t of butter. I don't do lard, so I used all butter. I use salted butter. The original recipe also called for 1 t of salt. That in combination with the salted butter makes the crust nasty like a salt lick. Then you have to make another crust. Don't do that. If you use unsalted butter you can add a small pinch of salt, but I'd stay away from anything so large as a teaspoon.


Preheat your oven to 325 F. Sift the dry ingredients together. Cut the butter into small chunks and cut it in using a pastry cutter or two knives. When the mixture gets a sandy texture like coarse crumbs you can add the water a tablespoon at a time. Make sure it's ice water. Toss with a fork to combine after each addition of water. When the dough holds together, form a round disk, wrap tightly and refrigerate for 15 minutes or until ready to use.

Roll out the dough (use flour as needed) until large enough for a 9" pie plate. Transfer the dough to a pie plate, trim the edges and crimp as desired. Again, refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Prebake the crust. First lay a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the dough and use pie weights (or beans or pennies) to weight it down. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Then remove the weights, use a fork to prick the bottom all over and then bake for 10 more minutes.


1. 5 lbs sweet potatoes (about 2 medium sweet potatoes), peeled and chopped to a 1/2 inch dice
4 T unsalted butter, melted
1 T lemon juice *
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t kosher salt
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 C sugar
2 T flour
1/4 C buttermilk

*the lemon juice is pretty strong in the pie, the Lee brothers ask for 2 T, and even being a lemon lover that seemed a bit much. I do like how it cuts the richness, so I hesitate to eliminate it entirely.


Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Pour 1.5 inches of water into a large pot. Insert a strainer and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and steam until tender about 20 minutes. Drain them, place them in a large bowl and allow to cool. Then mash until smooth. You'll want 1 and 1/4 C puree, so you can just eat the excess (or make another pie). Add the butter, lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Separate the eggs. The whites can go in the base of your mixer (or another bowl, but I like to do egg whites in the stand mixer), the yolks go in a small bowl. Whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until creamy and pale yellow. Then add to the sweet potato mixture. Add the flour and mix until thoroughly blended. Then add the buttermilk and mix that in.

In your mixer, whisk your egg whites to soft peaks. Then with a spatula fold the egg whites into the sweet potatoes and buttermilk. When well combined, pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool completely on a rack and serve at room temperature or chilled from the fridge. Whipped cream is fabulous on top.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers: White Turkey Chili

Sometimes the week following Thanksgiving can fill you with a growing sense of dread. It seems like ages ago that you were lobbying for a huge ass turkey so that you'd have enough leftovers. Now the thought of choking down another plate of turkey+gravy+stuffing is enough to make you queasy. What you need is something completely different. Something that does NOT remind you of Thanksgiving. This chili is perfect. It also freezes well, so you can even just make it and toss it in the freezer for a cold December night. Like all good leftovers recipes it is very flexible. You can use leftover chicken or turkey depending on what you have available.

adapted from Epicurious

2 T veggie oil
1/2 C onion
1 1/2 T garlic (about 2 cloves)
4 t cumin
between 1/2 lb and 1 lb ground turkey - I adjust this based on how much leftover turkey I have
I'd use 1lb of ground with 1 C of leftovers or 1/2 lb ground with 2 C leftovers.
around 1 C leftover turkey chopped into bite sized bits
3 C stock (you can use homemade from your turkey, or use store bought chicken stock)
1/4 C barley
2 t chopped jalepeno
1 can cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can small white beans (rinsed and drained)
optional - 1 t marjoram, 1 t summer savory - I own neither so have never added either.

For topping as you wish:
hot sauce
chopped scallions
grated cheddar
sour cream

In a very large skillet or a regular stockpot or Dutch oven, add the veggie oil, the garlic and the onion. Saute on medium low for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Stir in the cumin and then add the raw ground turkey. Cook stirring often until the ground turkey is browned.

Add the stock, barley, jalapenos and the marjoram and savory (if you're using them). Cook for 20-30 minutes. You need to watch it. The barley should be cooked but don't let all the liquid evaporate. Even with the pot covered all my liquid evaporated in about 25 minutes. If the barley seems raw and your chili is too liquidy cook a bit longer.

Add the beans and chicken and cook about 15 minutes more. Add the hot sauce.

When it's finished, you can top with any normal chili toppings, but we usually eat it pretty plain, with just the hot sauce.


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