Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

pitted medjool dates
bacon strips

Optional: Marcona almonds or toasted regular almonds

Cut bacon strips in half, width-wise.

Wrap each half slice of bacon around pitted date. [If using almonds, insert an almond into each pitted date before wrapping in bacon.]

Broil until bacon is crisp, turning halfway through to get both sides.

Drain on paper towels.

Serve warm.

These can be made in a microwave. Place bacon-wrapped dates on paper-towel-lined microwaveable plates and microwave until bacon is crisp.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Potato Pancakes with Creme Fraiche, Smoked Fish & Caviar

1/2 cup creme fraiche, preferably Bellwether Farms brand
1 T snipped chives
1/2 lemon
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/4 russet potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
3 T all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup clarified butter [Heat a stick of butter in a small pan set over medium-low heat. When it is melted, use a thin spoon to remove any foam that rises to the surface.]
6 ounces smoked fish, like lox-style smoked salmon, sturgeon, trout, sliced
1 ounce caviar of choice
chive sprigs, for garnish

Preparing the creme fraiche:
Put the creme fraiche into a small bowl and stir to loosen it. Add the chives and squeeze just a little lemon juice near the edge of the bowl. Sprinkle 4 or 5 pinches of salt into the lemon juice and agitate the bowl to dissolve the salt. Add several turns of black pepper and stir until smooth. Taste and correct for salt and lemon; there should be just the slightest bit of tartness. Cover and set aside.

* * * * * * * *

Preparing the potato pancakes:
Peel the potato, rinse and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Using the large blade of a box grater, shred the potato into a medium bowl lined with the tea towel. Toss a teaspoon of salt with the shredded potatoes, gather the towel up and squeeze the shredded potato until no more moisture is released.

Put the potato in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with flour and baking powder and toss thoroughly. Add the beaten egg and toss again.

Cooking the potato pancakes:
Set a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat, add 2 generous tablespoons of clarified butter. When the butter is completely melted and beginning to bubble, drop a 2 tablespoon mound of potato batter into it and use a spatula to press it flat. Continue until the pan is filled, being careful not to crowd the pancakes. Cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, turn and cook until crisp and golden brown on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Transfer to absorbent paper and, working quickly, make the rest of the pancakes.

Makes 12 pancakes

* * * * * * *

Assembling the dish:
Set 3 pancakes on each of 4 plates and top each with some of the smoked fish, a dollop of creme fraiche and a little caviar. Garnish with a chive sprig and serve immediately.

Serves 4


Monday, December 29, 2008

Baked Brie with Mushrooms & Thyme

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms*
2/3 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
6 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
2 tablespoons minced shallot (about 1 large)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 13- to 14-ounce Brie (about 5 inches in diameter; preferably in wooden box)
1 baguette, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Rinse dried porcini to remove any grit. Place porcini and wine in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over low heat; remove from heat. Let soak until soft, about 20 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer porcini to work surface and coarsely chop. Line strainer with damp paper towel; strain wine into small bowl and reserve.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add crimini and shiitakes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until brown, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add shallot and stir until soft, about 1 minute. Add chopped porcini and strained wine. Boil until almost dry, about 1 minute. Stir in thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.

Remove Brie from box, discarding lid and paper. Using sharp knife, cut top rind from Brie; discard. Return Brie to box. (Alternatively, stack two 12-inch rounds of foil and fold up around bottom and sides of Brie, crimping foil at edges, leaving top exposed.) Mound mushroom mixture atop Brie. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Place Brie with mushrooms on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cheese begins to melt and mushrooms are warmed through, about 15 minutes. Transfer Brie in box to plate. Serve hot with baguette slices.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Note: To cut the top off the round of Brie more easily, first place the cheese in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up slightly.


Sunday, December 28, 2008


3 eggs, separated
6 T granulated sugar
¾ cup cake flour, sifted
6 T confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then brush 2 baking sheets with softened butter and line with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites with a whisk or electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

Gradually beat in the ganulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form again; the meringue will be glossy and smooth..

Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork, and fold into the meringue with a wooden spoon.

Sift the flour over the mixture and fold in gently.

Pipe the ladyfingers: Fit the pastry bag with the large plain tip and fill with the ladyfinger batter.

Pipe strips of batter 5 in. long and ¾ in. wide diagonally onto the baking sheets, leaving 1 to 2 in. between each strip.

Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers; wait 5 minutes and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Holding the parchment paper in place with your thumb, lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess confectioner’s sugar.

Bake without opening the oven door for 10 min.

Then, rotate the baking sheet so the ladyfingers color evenly.

Cook until lightly golden, about 5 more minutes.

Remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and let cool on a rack.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tomato, Thyme & Cheese Tart

Ingredients for the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter , very cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 to 3 T nonfat milk , very cold

* * * * * *

Ingredients for the filling:
1 1/2 pounds beefsteak tomatoes , sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 T olive oil
1 small onion , peeled and sliced into thin rings
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic , minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Asiago cheese (about 4 ounces)

Preparing the crust:
In a food processor with knife blade attached, combine flour, butter, salt and sugar. Pulse 6 to 8 times, just until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add milk 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing as you go, until mixture forms a ball. Remove dough from processor and shape into a 5-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or wrap again in foil and freeze up to 6 weeks).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a floured board, allow dough to sit, unwrapped, until just pliable, about 15 minutes. With a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a large circle, moving it a quarter turn with every roll to make sure it’s not sticking underneath (dough should be 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick.)

Ease dough round into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press tightly into the sides of the pan (dough should exceed the edge by 1/2 inch). Using the rolling pin, cut excess dough against the tart pan to create a perfectly even edge. Chill 30 minutes before cooking.

With the tines of a fork, poke holes throughout the bottom of the crust. Cover with foil; top with pie weights or uncooked beans or rice. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until edge of crust is light golden. Remove crust from oven and carefully remove weights and foil. Return to oven to bake 5 to 10 minutes more. Cool on rack. Keep oven on at 400°.

* * * * * *

Preparing the filling:
Meanwhile, place tomato slices on a paper-towel-lined surface and let sit 5 minutes, flipping once. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden brown, 7 to 12 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil to skillet and, in batches (do not crowd), sauté tomato slices until just golden, 2 to 3 minutes each side; transfer to plate with the onions. Add cream, thyme, and garlic to the remaining juices; increase heat and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper; add 3/4 cup cheese. Stir to combine.

Pour reduced liquid into prepared pie shell. Top with onions and tomatoes; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cook until tart is hot and cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Korintje Cinnamon

When the recipe absolutely, positively calls for the best:

When the bark of cinnamon trees on the Indonesian island of Sumatra is ground, you get the real deal: cinnamon that smells like you're five years old all over again. Ideal for baking, bringing a fantastically flavored sweetness to cakes, cookies, crumbles and compote.

At Zingerman's.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip . . .

. . . served with artisan breads

1/2 of a 10-ounce package of frozen spinach (thawed, drained and coarsely chopped)
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts (drained and coarsely chopped);
or 14-ounces of frozen and thawed artichoke hearts
4 ounces Philadelphia brand cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 clove minced garlic
1/4 cup grated parmigiana reggiano
1/4 cup grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together with electric beaters the cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and garlic. Fold the spinach, artichoke hearts, and cheeses into the mixture, and then pour it into a baking dish.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until bubbling and golden brown on top, about 20-40 minutes.

Serve with slices of baguette, cut-up vegetables, crackers, etc.

Note: For party service, I have served this in a boule that I've scooped out the inside (save and make bread crumbs) and warmed in the oven.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sweet Tart Dough

1 1/8 cups all purpose flour (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt (2 pinches)
2 T sugar
9 T cold butter (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon)
2 egg yolks

Into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, drop the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Process for a few seconds, to mix the dry ingredients.

Cut the butter into ½-inch pieces, drop them onto the flour, and pulse the machine ten or twelve times, in short bursts, 20 to 30 seconds in all. The mixture should be crumbly, with only a few larger bits of butter visible.

Drop the egg yolks into the processor and pulse in bursts, just until the dough starts to clump together in bigger crumbs- it won’t form a single mass. Scrape out the wet crumbs, press them together, and knead just for a few seconds, to form a smooth, tight dough. Flatten it into a disk, wrap well in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to a day before using. Freeze the dough for longer keeping.

Let the chilled dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before rolling. Thaw frozen dough completely, preferably in the refrigerator, before using.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Crostata with Chocolate, Hazelnuts & Orange

For the tart shell:
1 batch (12 ounces) sweet dough for molded tarts, chilled (see separate recipe)

For the chocolate layer:
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

For the main filling:
⅓ cup hazelnuts, toasted in the oven and skins rubbed off
a medium-size orange, for zest
⅔ cup sugar
6 T soft butter
2 eggs
1 T all-purpose flour
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped in very small pieces (about ½ cup)
2 T orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Gran Marnier

Preparing the tart filling:
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven with a baking stone on it, if you have one. Preheat the oven to 350°.

Roll and press the dough to form the tart shell, as detailed on page 000. Put the shell into the refrigerator to chill.

Put the 5 ounces of chocolate chunks in a bowl and set over a pot with very hot water (barely simmering). Stir as the chocolate begins to melt, enabling it to become molten at the lowest temperature. When completely smooth, pour the chocolate into the tart shell and spread it to cover the dough bottom completely.

Put the hazelnuts in the food processor and pulse to chop them into small bits-don’t turn them into a powder or paste. Empty the nuts into a bowl and wipe out the food processor (you don’t have to wash it).

To prepare the orange zest for the filling, rinse and dry the orange and remove only the outer colored zest in strips, about 2-inches long, with a vegetable peeler. Stack up a few strips at a time and slice them lengthwise into very thin slivers with a sharp paring knife. Then cut the slivers crosswise into tiny bits, like glitter or small confetti: you should have about 2 tablespoons.

Now you’ll blend the main filling in the processor, adding the ingredients separately; frequently scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is processed evenly. First blend the sugar and butter, processing about 30 seconds until smooth. With the machine running, drop in the eggs and process for a minute or more until smooth and slightly thickened (be sure to scrape the sides). drop in the flour and blend until smooth; scrape the bowl.

With the machine off, drop in the chopped orange peel, chocolate and hazelnuts and pulse for only a second or 2 to incorporate. Finally, whiz in the orange liqueur for just a second. Take the processor bowl off the base and scrape the filling from the sides and blade. Stir one last time and pour it into the tart shell. Smooth the surface with a spatula to form an even layer.

Filling and baking the tart:
Set the tart mold onto the hot baking stone, if you have one, or to the middle rack. Bake for 25 minutes or so and rotate the mold for even baking. As the filling sets it will start to crack around the edges (when it starts to crack in the center, it is done). Bake 35 to 40 minutes total until the filling is puffed, firm in the center and a cake tester comes out clean. The tart crust should be nicely browned as well.

Set the baked tart on a wire rack to cool. If using a tart ring with a removeable bottom, remove the ring; slide the tart off the round mold bottom onto a platter if you want.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream, if desired.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Spinach Bread Dip

1 cup mayonnaise
2 cups sour cream
1 envelope vegetable soup mix
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 1/2 packages of frozen spinach, drained and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
2 boules of pumpernickel or other artisanal bread

Mix mayonnaise, sour cream, and soup mix. Stir in water chestnuts, onions and red pepper. Squeeze water out of spinach, and stir into mixture.

Cut the top off one boule, and slice down around the edge (almost to the bottom) scoop out the middle to form a big bowl. Place the dip in the bowl and cut the remaining bread into thin slices for dipping.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Steak Au Poivre

Ingredients for the steak:
1 thick-cut (1½-2 inches) well-marbled New York strip steak, about 1 pound total weight
2 T mixed whole peppercorns (black, white, green, Szechuan and Jamaican whole allspice - All black works well, too)
1 tsp vegetable oil (canola)
1 T unsalted butter

Ingredients for the pan sauce:
2 T minced shallots
2 T Cognac (or bourbon or red wine)
½ cup flavorful dark stock (or water)
1 T unsalted butter, at room temperature

Garnish with parsley or watercress

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Cooking the steak:

Trim the steak of all the surrounding fat and cartilage.

Crush the peppercorns using the bottom of a heavy skillet.

Pat the steak dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle salt to taste on the top and bottom of the steaks; then press each side into the cracked peppercorns, encrusting the steaks lightly or heavily, as you prefer.

Heat a heavy sauté or frying pan over high heat (iron skillet works well). Add the oil and the butter, swirl and coat bottom of skillet (butter should melt on contact, oil should spread out and start to smoke), then lay the peppered steaks in.

Fry for about 1½ to 2 minutes, until the undersides are well seared.

Turn the meat and cook the second side for about a minute or more.

Press with a finger to test for the slight springiness that indicates rare.

Cook to desired doneness and remove to a warm platter, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 2-5 minutes before slicing.

This is cooked to a perfect medium rare on one end of the steak... rare at the wider end.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Making the pan sauce:

Add the shallots to the pan and sauté briefly, stirring with a spoon to scrape up the drippings.

Lean away from the stove (averting your face) and pour the cognac into the pan; tilt the edge of the pan slightly, over the burner flame, to ignite the alcohol.

The cognac will flame for a few seconds as the alcohol burns off; cook for a few moments more and then add the stock or water.

Bring the liquid back to the boil, and cook about 1 minute to thicken the sauce, stirring occasionally.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Finally, add the soft butter, swirling the pan until it melts and incorporates with the juices.

When blended, pour the sauce over the steaks.

Sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley and garnish each plate with sprigs of parsley or watercress.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Sliced crimini mushrooms can be added just after the shallots have wilted and before the cognac.

Sprinkle salt over mushrooms to help release their liquid (add a couple of tablespoons of water if neeeded) and saute until mushrooms wilt.

Continue cooking pan sauce as directed.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pane al Cioccolata

1¼ teaspoon bread machine yeast
2¼ cup hard wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
3 T Dutch process black or natural cocoa, unsweetened
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup + 1 T water
1 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoon sweet butter
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips, highest quality

Combine all the ingredients in the bread machine pan and process on the regular bake or the light crust cycle.

To make a hand-formed loaf:
Preheat the oven and stone to 450 degrees. Process all ingredients on dough cycle and form a boule by hand. Transfer to stone, spray oven cavity liberally during the first 5 minutes, and reduce heat to 400 degrees. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Makes a 1 pound loaf.

* * * * * * * * * *
For a 1½ pound loaf use:
2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups bread flour
⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 cups + 1 T water
1 large egg yolk
1 T butter
¾ cup chips

Add an additional 10 minutes to baking time, checking during the extended time to make sure the crust doesn’t burn.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Macaroni & Three Cheeses

6 T unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound medium pasta shells
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
4 cups whole milk
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)
4 ounces Havarti cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)
4 ounces Muenster cheese, coarsely grated (1 cup)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 slices white sandwich bread (or Struan bread)

Variation: Add 6 slices of bacon, cut into halves or thirds crosswise, to the water to boil the pasta and discard when the pasta is done.

Preparing the macaroni and three cheeses:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Butter a shallow 4-quart baking dish (oval or 9-by-13-inch rectangle); set aside.

Generously salt boiling water; add pasta. Cook, according to package instructions, until 2 minutes short of al dente. Drain pasta, and return to pot.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium. Transfer 2 tablespoons melted butter to a small bowl; set aside for topping. Add flour and mustard powder to remaining butter in saucepan. Cook, whisking, 1 minute (do not let flour darken). Whisk in milk. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until sauce is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove sauce from heat. Gradually whisk in cheeses; add Worcestershire sauce, and season generously with salt and pepper. Add sauce to pasta, and toss to combine; transfer to prepared baking dish.

Place bread in food processor; pulse until very coarse crumbs form (you should have about 3 cups). Add reserved melted butter, and pulse just to moisten. Scatter crumbs over pasta in baking dish. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.)

Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until topping is golden and sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. (If refrigerated, bake for 30 to 35 minutes.) Cool 5 minutes before serving.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pasta (Fusilli or Strozzapretti) with Pancetta, Onions, Black Pepper, (Optional) & Egg

3 T olive oil
2 large onions, sliced (about 3 cups)
1 cup julienned (1/4 x 1/4 x 1 1/2-inch) bacon or pancetta
1 cup chicken stock, canned chicken broth or pasta cooking water
1 T cracked black peppercorns
2/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
6 egg yolks (optional)

1 lb. of pasta (fusilli, strozzapretti, ridged pasta)

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. If you would like to serve an egg yolk over each serving, heat a 3-quart pot of water to a simmer.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until the onions are wilted but not brown, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and adjust the heat to simmering. Simmer 3 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot, place over medium-low heat and add the sauce and the black pepper. If you plan to serve the egg yolks over the pasta, place them in the pot of gently boiling water and cook exactly 3 minutes. The yolks with be firm enough to lift from the water, but still quite runny in the center.

If necessary, add enough of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pasta to make a creamy sauce that lightly coats the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the grated cheese and divide the pasta among 6 serving bowls. To serve the egg yolks, lift them from the water with a small slotted spoon and place carefully crack open an egg and spoon out the yolk over the pasta. Repeat with the remaining yolks.

Serves 6


Wednesday, December 17, 2008


1/4 lb. plus 2 T (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 T granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the butter, powdered and granulated sugars into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix until smooth, creamy and warm, but not hot, about 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, salt, and mix until incorporated.

Add half the egg whites and mix until completely incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, add half the flour, and mix until completely incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and repeat with the remaining egg whites and flour. Cover and refrigerate until spreadable but not soupy, about 30 minutes.

Place 1 teaspoonful of the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and, using back of a spoon, spread into a 1-inch-wide strip. Place 2 inches apart. Repeat until the baking sheet is full. Return the remaining mixture to the refrigerator.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the cookies are dry to the touch, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately, one by one, twist the still-hot cookie around a wooden spoon handle to form a spiral. Set aside to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter. Cool and place in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 24-30 cookies


Vanilla Anglaise

2/3 cup milk
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split
1/3 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the milk, cream, and vanilla bean in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Steep off of the heat for 1 hour.

Remove the vanilla bean from the milk and cream mixture and scrape the seeds into the milk and cream. Rinse the vanilla bean, dry and reserve for another use. Add half of the sugar to the milk and cream mixture and whisk.

In another bowl, combine the remaining half of the sugar, the egg yolks and the salt, mixing well.

Put the milk and cream mixture back over the heat and bring back to a boil. Whisking constantly, add in the yolk mixture, and remove from the heat. Let rest for 3 minutes, then whisk in the vanilla extract. Put through a fine mesh strainer, discarding any solids. Place the bowl in an ice bath, stirring constantly until completely chilled (20-30 minutes. Refrigerate.

Makes 3 cups


Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup vanilla sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the milk, cream and split vanilla bean to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Steep for 1 hour off the heat. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds into the milk. Rinse and dry the vanilla bean and set aside for another use.

In a bowl, stir together the egg yolks, vanilla sugar and salt. Put the milk mixture back over the heat, bring to a boil, then slowly pour the boiling milk mixture over the yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Remove from stove and let rest for 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract, and then pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer, discarding any solids. Chill the mixture in an ice bath. When cool, transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Makes 2 quarts


Dinner Party Vanilla Bean Souffle

2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split
3/4 cup plus 2 T all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for the molds
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
powdered sugar for garnish

Butter and sugar 6 8-ounce ceramic souffle molds, all the way to the top and over the lip. Refrigerate.

Prepare an ice bath and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over high heat. Steep for 1 hour off the heat. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds into the milk. Rinse and dry the vanilla bean for another use - I keep a separate cannister for vanilla granulated sugar.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 1/3 cup of the sugar and salt. Add 1/2 cup of the vanilla bean and milk mixture and mix to a smooth paste. Return the paste to the saucepan with the rest of the vanilla beaned milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture just begins to boil, is thick, and has the consistency of oatmeal, about 5-8 minutes, making sure to stir/whisk the bottom and corners of the saucepan. If the mixture gets lumpy, turn off the heat and whisk until it becomes smooth again. Resume cooking over the heat.

Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla extract. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Place the bowl in the ice bath, and when the mixture has cooled, refrigerate.

One hour before serving, preheat oven to 375 degrees F and remove the egg yolk mixture from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

With an electric mixer, whip 5 egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl until they just begin to foam. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and gradually increase the speed until it is high. Continue whipping until the eggs whites are stiff and shiny.

Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, one third at a time.

Spoon into the prepared molds, gently tapping on the bottom. Place the molds in the middle of the oven and bake about 16-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the sides are sponge-like.

Dust powdered sugar over the top and serve immediately.

T O F I N I S H A N D A S S E M B L E:

Place individual souffles on dessert plates.

Using 2 dessert spoons back to back, open the top of the souffle and slide a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream into the crevasse.

Serve with pitcher(s) of vanilla anglaise for pouring over the souffle.

Garnish with a tuille.

Serves 6


Savoy Cabbage Potato Gratin

This is a rich side dish that is perfect alongside roasted beef or chicken.

1 head savoy cabbage, cored, cleaned, and finely shredded
1 2-inch piece slab bacon, thinly sliced, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 T unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped to 1/4 cup
2 pounds russet potatoes, unpeeled and thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch ovenproof casserole dish.

Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the bacon fat in the skillet, and add half of the garlic. Use a wooden spoon to stir for a few seconds until soft, and add the cabbage, coating with the butter. Slowly let it wilt. Add the bacon back to the skillet, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat and add most of the chives, reserve some for garnish.

Slice the potatoes, and place them in a large bowl, along with 1 1/2 cups of cream, 1 cup of parmesan, and the remaining garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using your hands, place a layer of potatoes in the casserole dish. Sprinkle with parmesan and repeat with 2 more layers. Spoon the cabbage mixture on top and spread it out evenly over the potatoes. Top it off with 2 more layers of potato and Parmesan. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream over the dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Cover dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Leave for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chives.

Serve 6-8


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sage Roasted Chicken & Sausages

I use a large Tupperware bowl with an air-tight lid to whisk the ingredients and marinade the chicken. Once the lid is clamped shut, I shake it to coat the chicken and turn it over every few hours in the refrigerator. Others might find a ziplock bag more convenient.

1 large onion, peeled and cut into eighths
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and crushed
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons English mustard
1 T dried sage
pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, cut in half
1 4-pound chicken, cut-up
12 short sausages, six regular (italian sweet and/or hot, kielbasa, andouille, or whatever you prefer)
2 T fresh sage leaves, chopped

Whisk the oil, mustard, dried sage, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Squeeze both halves of the lemon into a bowl and whisk to mix. Cut the squeezed lemons into eighths, and place in a large ziplock bag along with the cut-up onion and chicken.

Close the ziplock bag and massage to thoroughly coat the chicken. Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and bring the sausages and ziplock-bagged chicken to room temperature.

In a roasting pan, arrange the entire contents of the ziplocked bag with the chicken pieces skin side up. Place the sausages around the pan. Sprinkle freshly chopped sage leaves over the top and roast for 75 minutes, turning the sausages after 35 minutes to brown evenly.

Serves 6

Use a meat thermometer. Some may find that at 425 degrees F, this will cook in 45 minutes. High heat is necessary to brown the meat, but the temperature may be too hot for 75 minutes.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Not My Mom's Dinner Rolls

1 cup of water
2 T of butter, softened
1 egg (hold under warm water before breaking it)
3¼ cup of bread flour
¼ cup of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon regular active dry yeast

Place all dough ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed. Select the dough cycle and press start. Once the bread machine stops (it was one and a half hours on my machine) divide dough into 15 pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with butter then cover; let rise in a warm place 30 to 40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Seriously Good Waffles

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 egg whites

In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center.

In another bowl beat egg yolks slightly. Stir in milk and oil.

Add egg yolk mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just until moistened (should be lumpy).

In a small bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight up).

Gently fold egg whites into flour and egg yolk mixture, leaving a few fluffs of egg white, Do not overmix.

Spoon waffle batter into your waffle iron, making sure not to overfill it.

Serve with real maple syrup and unsalted butter.

Makes 3 9-inch waffles


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pastina in a Pumpkin

A savory fall dish that lends itself to improvisation.

1 large pumpkin, about 6 pounds
extra-virgin olive oil for oiling pumpkin, plus 2 tablespoons
salt and freshly ground pepper
about 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
¾ pound dried pastina or other small pasta, such as riso
1 cup roasted winter squash (butternut)
1 cup cubed cooked turkey, plain or smoked (about ¼ pound; optional)
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese + a small piece for garnishing
balsamic vinegar dressing (optional)

Variation with greens: For a colorful and nutritious addition, cut several handfuls of winter greens such as spinach or chard into a chiffonade and stir into the pastina just to wilt before serving.

Variations with proteins: In addition to or instead of the turkey, brown chicken-apple-sage sausages, slice and add to the pastina mixture before filling the pumpkin.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut the lid off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Scrape away some of the flesh, especially around the top, to form a large, smooth inner cavity. Make sure to leave the shell at least 1 inch thick all around. Oil the pumpkin inside and out and season inside with salt and pepper. Replace the lid. Place on a baking sheet and bake until about two-thirds cooked but still firm enough to stand and act as the soup container, about 40 minutes. Do not over-bake. If a good deal of liquid gathers in the bottom, spoon out and discard. Set aside; it will stay warm on its own a good while.

Bring the stock to a low simmer in a saucepan. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauti pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion and cook until soft but not brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the thyme, stir, and add 2 cups of the stock. Bring to a boil. Add the pastina, stir well, and reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer, adding the stock ½ cup at a time as the previous addition is absorbed and stirring occasionally to prevent the pastina from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the pasta is al dente, about 15 minutes. Add the roasted squash and turkey to reheat. Stir well. The consistency should be quite loose, like a thick soup. Add more stock if necessary. Add the ½ cup cheese and let melt for a moment before stirring in. Taste for seasoning.

Fill the reserved pumpkin shell with the pastina, ladle the pastina in to individual bowls and grate additional permesan cheese over each serving. Drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar or cranberry dressing if desired. (Replace the lid and take to the table immediately.)


Friday, December 12, 2008

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

½ cup of oil
4 oz. (squares) unsweeted chocolate, melted
2 cups of granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup of powdered sugar

Mix oil, melted chocolate and granulated sugar.

Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed.

Add vanilla.

Stir in flour, baking powder and salt.

Chill several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Drop teaspoonsful of dough into powdered sugar. Roll in sugar and shape into balls.

Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes.

Do not overbake!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tiropita, One Way, in a Pan

phyllo sheets
2 sticks of melted, unsalted butter
2 lbs. feta, crumbled
1 lb. ricotta
3/4 cup grated parmesan
4 eggs, gently beaten
2-3 T dried dill
fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together first six ingredients.

Brush melted butter on the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 baking pan. Layer 8 to 12 sheets of phyllo, coating each with melted butter. Spread the cheese mixture all over the phyllo sheets. Layer another dozen sheets of phyllo, coating each with melted butter.

Pre-cut into serving squares.

Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
12 T cold butter
1 cup mashed roasted sweet potatoes
½ cup ground pecans
⅓ cup half and half

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Grease a ½ sheet pan.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar together.

Add the butter, and with your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles a coarse cornmeal.

Stir in the sweet potatoes and pecans.

Add the cream, a little at a time until a soft dough is formed.

Lightly flour a surface. Place the dough onto the surface and dust the top with flour.

Lightly press the dough out to ½ inch thickness.

Using a 2 inch biscuit cutter, cut the biscuits into rounds.

Place the biscuits on a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Make 3 dozen


Monday, December 8, 2008

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

1½ cups brown sugar
¼ cup melted butter
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup cocoa, sifted
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon allspice
1½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease large muffin pans and line with muffin cups.

In a medium bowl mix together the sugar, butter and oil.

Beat in eggs, one at a time until well Incorporated.

Stir in vanilla, buttermilk, zucchini and chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients.

Add the liquid ingredients and mix until well combined.

Spoon batter into large muffin pans. Bake in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes. They will look almost done in the oven; don’t overcook them or they will lose their moistness. They will continue to cook for a few minutes after you pull them from the oven.

Cool on a wire rack.

Serve with or without your favorite chocolate frosting or cream cheese icing.

Makes 9 large, 20 average cupcakes


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gingerbread Cookies

4 cups white whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 T ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
11 T unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup dark natural cane sugar (i.e. muscavado), or alternately use a dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
⅔ cup organic unsulfured molasses (blackstrap)
large grain sugar (turbinado) for decoration

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl by hand (or with an electric mixer) cream the butter until it is light and fluffy.

Add the sugar and mix again until light and creamy.

Blend in the eggs one at a time and then the molasses.

Add the flour mixture in two additions either by hand or on low speed.

Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap each in plastic and chill for an hour or so.

Heat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the middle, and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Set aside.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop roughly ⅛-inch thick and cut into gingerbread men (or other desired shapes).

Transfer to baking sheets. Sprinkle with sugar (optional) and bake for 7 –10 minutes (for 3 – 4-inch cookies), less for smaller cookies, more for larger.

Decorate with royal icing when cool.

Royal Icing with Egg Whites:
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

Note: Food coloring or gel pastes (can be found at cake decorating and party stores or else on-line)

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

Royal Icing with Meringue Powder:
Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder:

4 cups confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar
3 T meringue powder
½ teaspoon extract (vanilla, lemon, almond)
½ - ¾ cup warm water

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the confectioners’ sugar and meringue powder until combined. Add the water and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. To cover or ’flood’ the entire surface of the cookie with icing, the proper consistency is when you lift the beater, the ribbon of icing that falls back into the bowl remains on the surface of the icing for a few seconds before disappearing.

The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

Makes 3 dozen 4-inch gingerbread people


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Osso Buco

4 lbs. veal shanks, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium leek (white and tender green part), well-rinsed and chopped
1 large celery rib with leaves, chopped
4 medium carrots, 1 chopped and 3 roll-cut into 3/4-inch lengths
4 medium mushrooms, chopped
5 garlic cloved, minced
1/2 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cups meat stock or rich chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
zest from 1 lemon

Trim any excess fat from the veal shanks, leaving intact all the skin and membrane that holds the meat together. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and mix with the salt and pepper. Dredge the veal shanks in the seasoned flour to coat. Reserve any flour remaining in the bowl.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderately high heat. Add the veal shanks in batches without crowding and saute, turning, until nicely browned all over, about 8 minutes per batch. As the veal is browned, remove to a plate. Reduce the heat if the flour on the bottom begin s to burn. Pour out any fat in the pan. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil until the wine is reduced to about 1 cup, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a large flameproof casserole, melt the butter in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onion and leek and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the celery, chopped carrot, mushrooms, and 2 of the minced garlic cloves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the celery and carrot are softened, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Sprinkle the reserved seasoned flour over the vegetables in the casserole and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Pour the reduced win into the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring until smooth. Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaf, thyme, and 2 tablespoons of the chopped parsley. Return the veal shanks to the casserole. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over low heat 1 hour. Add the cut carrots and continue to simmer, covered, 30 minutes longer, or until the veal is tender. Remove the veal shanks and carrots to a large serving dish.

Chop together the remaining parsley and minced garlic with the lemon zest. Stir into the sauce, season with additional salt and pepper to taste, pour over the veal shanks and serve.

Stored in a tightly covered container, this stew keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.


Friday, December 5, 2008

Vegetable Stock

2 lbs. onions, halved
1 T olive oil
1 lb. carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 lb. turnips, peeled and quartered
1/2 lb. mushrooms
2 celery ribs with leaves
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves, imported
1 sprig of fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried leaves
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely cracked
1 leek (white and all the green), split lengthwise and well-rinsed, then halved crosswise
1 parsnip, peeled and quartered
1 bunch of scallion greens (tops from about 6 scallions)
4 large sprigs of Italian flat parsley

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a shallow roasting pan, toss the onions with the oil to coat. Bake, stirring once or twice, 45 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Transfer the onions to a stockpot. Pour 2 cups of water into the roasting pan and brig to a boil on top of the stove, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the water into the stockpot.

Add all the remaining ingredients and 8 quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, 2 hours. Strain and measure the liquid. If there is more than 6 quarts, boil to reduce. Let cool, then ladle into tightly covered containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


Beef Stock

3 to 3 1/2 lbs. beef shank, center-cut
3 medium onions, quartered
2 bay leaves, imported
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Optional: 3-4 unpeeled smashed garlic cloves, two unpeeled and quartered carrots, a chopped tomato, mushroom stems

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the beef shank and onions in a shallow roasting pan and roast, turning once, 45-55 minutes, or until the meat and onions are nicely browned. Transfer to a large stockpot.

Pour off any fat from the roasting pan. Pour 2 cups of water into the pan, set over moderately high heat, and bring to a boil, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour into the stockpot.

Add 4 1/2 to 5 more quarts of water to the stockpot and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Add the bay leaves and thyme, reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer, partially covered, 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Strain the stock. If there is more than 3 1/2 to 4 quarts, boil to reduce. Skim the fat off the top. If you have time, it's easier to let it cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight; the next day, scrape the congealed fat off the top.

Store in a tightly closed container. This stock will keep well for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. To make usage simple, divide it into 2- and 4-cup container so that you can defrost just what you need to use for one dish.


Rich Chicken Stock

7 lbs. chicken backs, necks, wings, gizzards, etc., but NO LIVERS
1 whole chicken breast with the bones
4 medium onions, cut in half
2 whole cloves
4 medium carrots, peeled and quartered
3 celery ribs with leaves, quartered
3 garlic cloves, smashed
10 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons black peppercorns

Optional: 1/2 cup mushroom trimmings and green leeks tops

Rinse all the chicken well under cold running water. Place in a very large stockpot and add cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, frequently skimming the foam as it rises to the top.

Add all the remaining ingredients and enough additional cold water to reach 1 inch from the top of the pot. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer 3-5 hours, skimming occasionally. Add water as necessary to keep everything covered.

Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. If you have time, let cool and refrigerate overnight; then lift off the congealed fat and discard. If not, skim the fat from the top.

Return the stock to a large pot amd boil until reduced to 6 quarts. If not using within 2 days, freeze up to 6 months in tightly covered containers.


Sarah's Brown Chicken Stock

7 pounds meat and bones (backs, necks, wings are best) of chicken, chopped into 2- to 3-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
2 carrots, scraped
2 onions, peeled
2 celery stalks
2 leeks, washed

Bouquet garni:
Into a cheesecloth tie:
4 stems thyme
1 bay leaf
6 parsley sprigs
2 unpeeled garlic cloves
5 peppercorns

Brown meat, bones and vegetables either in batches in a heated stockpot, oil added. Or place all meat, bones and vegetables on baking sheet and brown in oven and then add to stockpot. When browned, add cold water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer at medium heat.

As the liquid starts to simmer, scum will rise. Remove it with a ladle for about 20 minutes until it stops to accumulate.

Add the bouquet garni and add more water if necessary -- water should cover all ingredients by 1 inch. When liquid is simmering again, skim as necessary. Keep at a simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Skim fat and scum occasionally. Boiling water should be added if the liquid evaporates below the level of all ingredients. Never allow the liquid to boil to avoid fat and scum incorporating themselves into the liquid and making it cloudy.

Cooking may be stopped at any time and continued later. Never cover the pot totally before contents have completely cooled -- otherwise the stock will turn sour. After 4 to 5 hours of cooking, strain the stock out of the stockpot into a bowl. Press on the vegetables, to squeeze out all the liquid. Discard the vegetables.

Let stock settle for 5 minutes. Remove fat from its surface with a ladle, then draw paper towels over the surface of the stock to blot up last traces of fat. Or put the stock into the refrigerator, uncovered, until fat on top has hardened and can be scraped off.

Taste the degreased stock for taste. Boil it down to evaporate some of its water content and to concentrate its strength. Chill in ice-bath. Cover and refrigerate it, or bottle and freeze it. Stock kept in the refrigerator must be brought to the boil every 3 or 4 days to keep it from spoiling.


Brown Chicken Stock

2 1/2 lbs. chicken backs, necks, wings, gizzards (no livers)
1/2 to 3/4 pounds of chicken legs, thighs and/or breasts with the bones in
2 T duck or goose fat or olive oil
3 medium onions, halved
3/4 cup mushroom stems and trimmings
2 medium carrots, thickly sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
8 sprigs of parsley
1 bay leaf, imported
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
pinch of dried thyme leaves

In a large flameproof casserole, heat the fat or oil over moderately high heat. Add the chicken, onions and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, about 20 minutes.

Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the carrots and garlic and enough water to cover by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam as it rises to the top.

Add all the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to moderately low, and simmer 3-4 hours, adding more water as necessary to keep the liquid at about the same level.

Strain through a fine mesh sieve and either skim all the fat off the top, or let cool, refrigerate overnight, and lift off and discard the congealed fat. Return to a clean pot and boil until reduced to 3-3 1/2 quarts of rich stock.

Freeze for up to 6 months.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Roasted Butternut Squash

1½ to 2 pounds butternut squash
1 yellow onion
1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated but left in peels.
thyme, fresh sprigs
extra-virgin olive oil
3 to 4 T good quality balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Line a cookie sheet with foil.

Peel, seed and cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.

Peel and rough chop the onion (or thin quarter slice) the onion.

Place all vegetables in bowl with 3-4 sprigs of thyme, drizzle olive oil liberally over the mixture and mix to coat well.

Spread out in an even layer on the baking sheet.

Drizzle balsamic vinegar over everything, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for 45-60 minutes, or until easily pierced with knife and lightly browned.

Serve hot or at room temperature, with fresh, artisanal balsamic vinegar sprinkled at the last minute.

Alternative Preparation:
Cut the squash lengthwise in half.

Seed and cut it into 3- to 4-inch squares, with skin intact.

Score the flesh with crosshatch cuts about ½ inch deep.

Rub all over with olive oil.

Set the pieces, skin side down, on the cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with knife and lightly browned.

Serve hot or at room temperature, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Quiche Crepes

8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1 egg yolk
freshly ground black pepper
2 T chopped chives
4 T grated sharp cheddar cheese (Herkimer County)
6 strips of cooked and crumbled bacon

18 5-inch crepes

Let cream cheese stand at room temperature for an hour before starting. Then cream in gradually the cream, then the whole egg and the egg yolk until the mixture is smoth and thick. Add black pepper, chives and grated cheese, mixing well.

Have read 3 muffin tins each with 6 muffin cups (2 1/2 inches in diameter). Do not grease. Place a crepe over one opening; then put a few bits of cooked bacon and a large spoonful of the cheese mixture in the center and push down carefully with the bowl of a spoon. Repeat with the rest of the crepes. The crepes will make a pastrylike shell around the edge of the filling. Bake for 30 minutes in a 375 degree F oven. These may be half-baked, frozen and re-baked after defrosting.

Optional: You can add 4 ounces of crab meat or lobster to the filling


Basic Crepes

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 T butter or oil, melted and cooled
butter for cooking

Sift flour, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Add eggs and mix together thoroughly -- mixture will form a thick paste. Add milk gradually, beating thoroughly. Add melted and cooled butter. At this time add whatever flavoring you wish and, if possible, allow batter to stand for at least 1 hour.

Mixing Crepes in a Blender:
The liquids and eggs should go in first in a blender, including butter and seasonings, then the dry ingredients. Blend for 1 minute, then turn off motor and with a rubber spatula push down flour that has not been blended and blend again for a minute. If necessary, repeat until the mixture is well blended. Cover and set aside for 1 to 6 hours at room temperature; can be held overnight in the refrigerator.

Cooking the Crepes:
Heat a small crepe pan, 5 or 6 inches across the bottom. Brush butter or oil and when fat is hot but not smoking life pan off heat and pour in 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of batter, depending on the size of the pan. Swirl quickly to cover bottom of pan. Return pan to heat. When crepe is golden brown (about a minute) turn it and cook on reverse side for about half a minute. Continue cooking crepes, adding butter to pan as needed. Turn crepes out on a clean towel or paper towels.

If the batter is too thick, add a little liquid until the batter is the consistency of heavy cream.

If they are to be used immediately, stack on a plate and keep warm in a low oven. If they are to be held, stack with waxed paper between each after they have cooled and cover. If they are to be frozen, wrap stack in foil, freezer paper or freezer bags and freeze immediately.

Makes 28-32 5-inch crepes or 16-20 6-inch crepes.


French Onion Soup

4 T unsalted butter
2 pounds yellow onions, sliced ¼-inch into half circles
1 teaspoon sugar
1 T all-purpose flour
½ cup dry sherry
3 cups homemade beef stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small French baguette, sliced crosswise into ½-inch pieces
8 ounces gruyere cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 3 cups)

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot on medium-low heat. Add onions. Spread them out in as thin a layer as possible. Sprinkle with sugar, and cook, stirring just as needed to keep onions from sticking, until they are melting and soft, golden brown, and beginning to caramelize, about 1 hour.

Sprinkle flour over onions, and stir to coat. Add sherry, stock, and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, lightly toast bread under a broiler; set aside. Ladle hot soup into six ovenproof bowls. Arrange the bowls on a baking pan. Place 1 or 2 slices of toasted bread over each bowl of soup. Sprinkle ½ cup grated cheese over bread in each bowl, and place under the broiler until cheese is melted and crusty brown around the edges. Watch carefully that bread doesn’t burn. Serve immediately.

Shorter caramelization of onions:
Place the onions, butter and salt into a heavy stockpot over medium heat as instructed in the original recipe, but place a lid on the pot and allow the onions to cook for about 30 minutes, stirring about ever 10 minutes, until the onions are very soft and have released a lot of liquid. Remove the lid and raise the heat to medium high. Add about 1 tbsp sugar (to initiate carmelization). Cook until almost all of the liquid has been reduced, then stir constantly until you see and smell caramelization beginning. Turn heat to low and stir constantly until onions are a nice deep brown caramel. Be very careful to not burn the onions, and keep some water nearby to arrest caramelization if necessary.

Serves 6


Tuesday, December 2, 2008


2 avocados, very ripe
3 T fresh lime juice
2-3 T finely minced red onion
1 tomato, chopped
3-4 dashes Tabasco sauce, depending on taste
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
dollop of sour cream
scallions, including tops, finely minced
fresh cracked black pepper
sliced black olives
fresh tortilla chips (see below), crackers, raw vegetables

In a molcajete, grind the red onion, the jalapeno pepper, salt, into a thick, rough paste. Dice the avocados in their skins and scoop out into the molcajete, add the chopped cilantro, lime juice, Tabasco, and fold together. Spoon a dollop of sour cream over the top, the scallions, tomatoes, sliced olives on top of the sour cream, Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To prevent discoloration, place the avocado seeds in the guacamole and cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the guacamole, squeezing out any air pockets. Refrigerate until serving.

Fresh Tortilla Chips:

corn (yellow and blue) and flour tortillas, cut into wedges
oil (peanut, canola, grape seed oil, any light oil that you can heat to high temperatures without smoking)
ground cumin

Heat oil and when hot, add tortilla wedges, a small batch at a time (don't crowd) until lightly browned. Remove with a spider wand to paper towels, salt while hot and sprinkle with ground cumin.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Chicken Breasts in Ginger Cream

1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
4 large chicken breasts, split, washed and dried
6 T butter
3 T flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup light cream
2 T finely minced crystallized ginger

Place 1/4 cup flour, ginger, salt and pepper in a paper bag. Shake the chicken breasts in the bag, a few pieces at a time, and shake off any excess flour.

In a 10-12-inch enameled skillet or casserole, heat the butter until frothy and brown the chicken breasts skin side down over moderate heat for about 10 minutes. Turn the chicken and brown for 10 more minutes. Cover the pan and simmer until done, about 20 minutes more. Remove the chicken to a heated platter and keep warm in the oven. Add 3 tablespoons flour to the juice in the skillet and stir over low heat about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and cream. Stir until smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper and additional ground ginger if necessary. Pour the sauce over the chicken breasts on the platter and garnish with crystallized ginger and parsley. Serve with chutney and curried rice.

Serves 8


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