Thursday, December 31, 2009
I won't be online much this weekend, so I wanted to make sure that I wished all of my readers a happy new year before the parties all start.
At this time of year I always like to make my acknowledgements. My blog is about finding inspirtation. It's about my belief that every recipe is a story. Sometimes I find inspiration in an ingredient. Sometimes I find it in recipes I see out in the world that I want to adapt. Other times I'm inspired by a recipe on a blog that is just too perfect not to make.
I always love opportunities to meet other bloggers. I was thrilled that this year I had a chance to meet two. I had one really great blogger lunch, and one short encounter (and they were both in Chelsea Market).
I always acknowledge and link the blogs I use when I post them here, but I still like to give a year-end shout-out and thanks to everyone who gave me a recipe during the year.
This year I would like to thank:
Sugar Plum (Oreo Cream Cheese Brownies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, Cinnamon Hazelnut Brownies, Nutella Hazelnut Cookies)
Closet Cooking (Halibut with Dill)
My Tasty Treasures (Pierogi Lasagna)
Noble Pig (Asian Noodle Salad with Peanuts and Mint, Dinner Rolls for a Crowd)
Zen Can Cook (Cauliflower Puree with Brown Butter)
We Are Never Full (Agrodolce Sauce)
Bunny's Warm Oven (Cherry Cheese Crumb Bars)
Clumbsy Cookie (Greenies)
Baking & Beyond (Chicken Tortilla Soup)
Fun & Food (Spinach Fettucini with Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce)
Tartlette (Transatlantic Squares - my most ambitious dessert recipe all year)
Thanks for all of your inspiration folks. Many of you who weren't explicitly listed here still may have inspired my blog with your recipes ideas and ingredients, even if I didn't pilfer your recipes outright, so thanks for your friendship, your entertaining writing, and your inspiration!
Happiest of New Years to you all!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Anyway, we've now fallen into that dead zone between Christmas and New Year's Eve, so not much is going on food wise for me. We're spending a three-day weekend in NJ, in an area close to our hearts. We have reservations at a Bed & Breakfast. We are having New Year's Eve at the home of a good friend who lives nearby. We hope that on Saturday night we can have dinner at our beloved Iron Forge Inn.
So with all of that planned for the weekend, I just want to keep it simple and perhaps make something I can eat for all three nights I'll be home this week.
Chili would do that job nicely!
I made mine with turkey, pinto beans, and poblano peppers with a touch of chipotle. It's not a particularly interesting chili. I have no special familiy recipe. I just put together a few things I thought would be good in a pot of chili.
I made a little cornbread to go with it too. I'm sorry for the lack of color. I really need to get over my obsession with pinto beans. They made for a very beige chili. I just like them better than kidney beans.
Just so you know, I always like to bake a little something for the NYE party, even though I don't have to. This year I'm making Emily's Cinnamon Hazelnut Brownies. Emily is gaining celebrity status in my family. I make so many of her recipes that I no longer have to explain where I get my recipes from. I just say, "It's one of Emily's recipes," and everyone understands. Most of all when I say it, everyone is happy because everyone else loves Emily's recipes now too.
1.5 pounds ground turkey
1 large onion, diced
2 poblano peppers, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp chipotle powder
Salt to taste
1 cup chicken stock (optional)
Cook onions in a little olive oil (or use a more neutral flavored oil if you prefer). Add chopped peppers and garlic and cook until onions are transparent and everything is soft. Add turkey, breaking up as you cook it, until no longer pink.
Add tomatoes, beans, and chipotle powder to the pot. Season with salt to taste. Cook for about two hours, or until the flavors have fully developed and mellowed to your liking.
If you feel too much liquid has evaporated, feel free to add some chicken stock to the pot.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Dinner was baked ziti, sausage and peppers, beef tenderloin, and The Pioneer Woman's mashed potatoes. (Mom just can't stay away from that recipe. She loves it.) The first two items were my idea. The tenderloin was something my mother decided to add in there knowing how many people enjoy it. I'd say it came from left field because my mother is loath to eat beef tenderloin unless it's way overcooked. (My father tells me she used to love her meat bloody rare until she became pregnant with my brother.)
A very yummy plateful. Mom did a fantastic job.
I provided dinner rolls. I used the Noble Pig Dinner Rolls For a Crowd recipe. These suckers are majorly addictive. Good thing the recipe makes so many because we were all just snarfing these like popcorn. Thanks for the recipe, Cathy!
Then we had dessert. Ah dessert. Few desserts are more perfect than my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. There are many delicious Choco-PB cakes out there, but this one tops them all. It's like a giant Reese's cup. It comes from Elaine Corn's brilliant book, Gooey Desserts, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I'm not sure if the book is still in print, so I'll be kind to you (if not to the author) and provide the recipe.
There were also Mom's famous Meltaway cookies (also called Russian Tea Cakes, Moon Cookies, and Mexican Wedding Cookies) and she also made Ina Garten's "Fruitcake Cookies".
Even Mom's cat Tippy wanted a piece of the action.
My fridge is full of leftovers. Life is good.
Now for the promised recipe.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
4 Tbl melted butter
For PB Layer
10 graham crackers
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted, soft butter
2 cups crunchy peanut butter
For Chocolate Layer
11 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into small bits
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the inside of a springform pan with cooking spray. Mix together cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a springform pan and bake 6 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator.
Make the peanut butter layer. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until just mixed. Spread over the crust. Chill (the cake, not you, but you can chill if you want to).
Now start on the chocolate layer. Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Place the egg yolks in a double boiler. I give them a little beating. Bring the cream to a boil and slowly add it to the yolks. Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Pour the custard over the chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Pour chocolate over peanut butter layer and chill several hours or overnight until the cake is nice and firm.
Monday, December 21, 2009
When it comes to cooking inspiration, I get it from many places. I might see a recipe on a blog or on TV and I want to use it right away. Sometimes I might want to make that recipe exactly as is. Other times I might want to tinker with the ingredients. I might start seeing a certain ingredient repeatedly on TV or in books or blogs and I find myself wanting a way to cook it for myself. There are other times I just see a new ingredient in the store or the farmer's market and I find myself compelled to cook it.
More than one of my blogs has had some complaints about how holiday meals can be a little boring for me. I've often longed to be fancy - or at the very least get out of the ham and turkey rut. It doesn't happen much. I should consider myself lucky that my family no longer feels obliged to make Christmas Eve all about fish. When I see someone serve a Christmas goose, or a standing rib roast, I imagine the day when I can prepare a totally wild and different Christmas feast.
This year I'm spending Christmas Eve at Mom's, where we will be feasting on some Italian-American favorites (more on that in future posts) and Christmas Day with Dad (going out to dinner at Istana at the NY Palace Hotel). I'll be having some very different experiences, but none of it will fulfill my seemingly failed resolution to cook something I've never cooked before.
Then one day while browsing the meat department of Whole Paycheck, I saw it.
I've eaten pheasant exactly once before. Kevin had ordered it as part of a prixe fixe menu when we had a spectacularly awful dinner at San Domenico. I remember eating an overpriced and overcooked steak, while tasting a bit of that pheasant. It was way too salty, but the meat was pretty good. I am not one to shy around from game birds. If I went through 2009 without ever making a duck, at least I could make up for it by making a pheasant.
So last night I had a pre-Christmas dinner, sitting by the twinking lights of my tree, eating the kind of meal I have fantasized about making. What a way to get the Christmas spirit going!
I had to research some pheasant cooking methods. The consensus seemed to be that a young pheasant could be roasted like a duck, but it was better to cook an older one in liquid. I had no idea how old my pheasant was, so I went with cooking it in wine.
I cut my pheasant into four pieces. I cooked some bacon in olive oil and got some nice bacon grease going. Then I salted and peppered my bird and gave it a good browing in the fat and removed it.
I didn't do too bad of a hack job cutting this thing up. I know it wasn't professional butchery, but I managed to get the thing apart without too much damage.
Onions and mushrooms got a nice cooking through. Then the pheasant went back in with some strong red wine, bay leaves, and thyme leaves.
Cook through, reduce the sauce a bit, and add just a splash of cream.
Serve with mashed potatoes* and green beans (which I sadly left in the steamer too long).
So how was it? The meat was good, but not so different from chicken as to be worth the effort. It's not nearly as delicious as duck. It was also difficult to remove the meat from the bones while eating. It was messy, and there were even some projectile moments where a dead pheasant found himself flying again (or at least bits of him). If I want to cook another small bird in the future, I may just stick to game hens.
The sauce, however, was divine. It's a keeper for future recipes. I read the pheasant stands up well to strong reds, so I used a lovely red bordeaux that really cooked into a delicious sauce.
Pleasant Pheasant (Pheasant Cooked In Red Wine)
1 3lb pheasant cut in four pieces
2 strips bacon, cut in pieces
1 Tbl olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced
8oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups strong red wine
3 bay leaves
1 Tbl fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream
In a large pan, cook bacon and olive oil until bacon is crisp. Brown the pheasant in the fat on both sides.
Remove pheasant pieces and keep warm. Add onions and mushrooms to the pan. Cook until the mushrooms are soft and the onions are translucent.
Mix wine with the thyme and bay. Add the pheasant halves back into the pan with the wine. Simmer until pheasant is cooked through. Remove phesant and keep warm. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce by half. Add cream and stir till thickened. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.
Serve sauce over pheasant.
*A note on the mashed potatoes
I considered just writing out a recipe for Mashed Poato Variation #78962, but I was pretty inexact with the measurments when I cooked them. I felt that the method was worth mentioning though because SPP said they were the best mashed potatoes I ever made. They are probably the most heart-attack-inducing ones as well.
I cooked 4 yukon gold potatoes. I took a big hunk of butter (less than a whole stick, but more than half) and 4 sliced shallots and cooked them together (think pierogi topping). I mashed that stuff into my 'taters with about a half a cup of warm heavy cream. Add plenty of salt and pepper.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I've been feeling uninspired as of late. My inability to come up with new recipes isn't just about perfecting old recipes for a potential future book. I just haven't had many ideas.
Well, thank goodness for other bloggers because when things seem to be at their darkest point, there is always a blogger who leads me in the right direction.
This time it was, as it often is, Amy and Jonny of We Are Never Full. They always have such interesting recipes that I either want to emulate, or at least try to
The pork roulade they featured is beautiful, but it's a little much for just me to eat, and it was also a little too much work for a Friday night. I decided to simplify it with a sausage-stuffed pork chop. It was my intention to make it as close to their recipe as possible, likely ommitting the chestnuts in the interest of time and possibly replacing them with some dried fruit. I really wanted to use the pistachios though. Unfortunately, there was not a green nut to be had in the store. I knew I had some pine nuts at home. How about some of those? Maybe some orange zest would be good with that. Then add a little of that orange flavor to the cider?
By the time I had formulated the recipe in my head, I had strayed pretty far from my original inspriation. What I ended up with was a pork chop stuffed with sausage, onion, bread crumbs, and pine nuts, and seasoned with orange zest and cinnamon. The sauce was cider also with a splash of orange juice then jazzed up with a touch of cream.
I found inspiration and I took a strange journey to two entirely new recipes!
Sausage-Stuffed Pork Chops
4 boneless center-cut pork loin chops
1/2 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (if you can't find bulk, buy links and remove from casings)
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbl pine nuts
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup apple cider
2 Tbl cider vinegar
1/4 cup cream
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix together sausage, zest, cinnamon, bread crumbs, and pine nuts. Set aside.
Using a small, sharp knife, cut a pocket in each chop. Start with a small slit and then move your knife while it's inside the chop towards the edges. Do not cut all the way through.
Fill the pockets with the sausage mixture. You will have some leakage outside, but go with it. You want these chops nice and full and the leakage shows what deliciousness hides inside. You will likely have some stuffing left over, so be happy about the sausage patty you're having for breakfast tomorrow.
Heat a little olive oil in a skillet. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper and brown them well on both sides - about 5 minutes per side.
Place chops in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Use a meat thermometer! You want to make sure that stuffing reaches 160 degrees.
While chops are in the oven, mix together OJ, cider, and vinegar. Remove chops from pan and keep warm. Add cider mixture to the pan and scrape up the brown bits. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes until reduced down. Stir in cream and let sauce thicken up. Pour over pork chops.
Scallops in Orange-Balsamic Sauce
1 Pound Sea Scallops
2 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tbl Butter
1/2 cup orange juice
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
5 sage leaves
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
Bring OJ, vinegar and herbs to a boil in a small sauce pan and reduce for a couple of minutes.
Heat olive oil and 1 Tbl of butter in a skillet. Dry the scallops with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook scallops about a minute or two on each side until no longer translucent. Remove to plate.
Put the juice mixture in the pan and deglaze. Add another tablespoon of butter. Pour mixture over scallops.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
We all climbed into the car together and set out for New Jersey. The rain was barely spitting when we left New York.
We reached 287 in New Jersey and suddenly traffic began to slow. It had to slow. The rain, which had been steadily increasing since we left home, was freezing onto the highway. Accidents were everywhere. Eventually everything came to a standstill. The road was closed. We sat stopped on the highway for 2 hours, seeing an exit ahead of us, but unable to drive forward to get onto it. We were hungry and frustrated. The fire trucks finally opened the exit, but there was no time at the barn for us. It was too late and too dangerous to do anything but turn around and go home.
It was still raining like crazy when we finally arrived at home and we were really super hungry. We needed to eat and we wanted something close by. I suggested Hector's Village Cafe, a Peruvian restaurant, that is one of the 9 new restaurants in my neighborhood.
For many years the corner where Hector's stands was a small "greasy spoon" type of luncheonette. About a year ago new management took over and added some improvements to the place and also added some Latin offerings to the standard coffee shop menu. Eventually they bought the empty store next door and expanded that into a small restaurant. It is conveniently across the street from my building, but we hadn't ever eaten there. With the rain coming down hard and no desire to walk very far, Hector's was a logical choice for dinner on Sunday.
You have to walk through the adjoining luncheonette to get into the restaurant portion. I didn't take a picture of the area, but it's simply and warmly decorated with terracotta walls, a few Incan tsotchkes, and some paintings on display for sale from the antique store across the street. There weren't many other customers there when we arrived, which always makes Kevin nervous, but we stayed.
Like every other new restaurant in the neighborhood, they just can't seem to get a liquor license in a timely manner (I have a pet theory about why this happens), so the sangria on the menu was out of the question. Instead we had the specialty fruit punch made with purple corn, ginger, apple juice, and grape juice. Very tasty. I have pictured it with our bread basket.
See that green stuff in the bread basket?
I don't know what it was. I thought it might be guacamole. It wasn't. It seemed to be made entirely of hot peppers with maybe a little parsley. My mouth was on fire just spreading a little of it on my bread.
We ordered our entrees. Kevin had Peruvian fried rice. That had several options for what you could have in your rice. He chose a seafood combination. He enjoyed it, despite eating it in an empty restaurant.
I had a short rib served with beans and rice. My short rib reminded me a bit of the steak I had at Roasted Peppers. Like the steak, tt was well-prepared (melt-in-the-mouth tender), but also like that steak, it lacked seasoning. The beans were kind of bland too. I tasted some kind of interesting flavoring in them, but they needed more of it. I ended up mixing some of that hot pepper stuff in them (I wondered if that was the reason they gave it to us in the first place.) I guess I expect food from any Latin American cuisine to be spicy. I don't know enough about Peruvian food to know if it's common for it to be seasoned so underwhelmingly. Is it always that way, or is this a way to keep the gringos from being scared off? It's not as if they don't offer spicy condiments (that green stuff!) Kevin didn't think his dish was underseasoned, so perhaps it was just the dish I ordered.
Service was great and food was definitely a little different from everything else in the neighborhood. Other than the lack of seasoning the food was decent and affordable. I would definitely go back and see what else they have to offer.
When I heard she published a cookbook, I thought it would be nice to get it. I put it on my Amazon wish list. My mother, the woman from whom I inherited my desire to get Christmas shopping done extra early, bought it for me right away. Although she tried to not look at it, she couldn't resist the photos. When she needed a mashed potato recipe to take to Thanksgiving dinner, she used the PW version (and it was gooooood).
I told her a few days later that I was thinking of going to the city for the booksigning, with hopes I might meet up with a few other bloggers. She had to make the confession she already bought me the book. When she told me how much she liked it, I told her to just keep it. I would have bought the book anyway.
I find it so funny that a health nut with vegetarian leanings like my mother would like the Pioneer Woman, but I guess that's a testament to the writing style and photography. I know the recipes on that blog aren't everyone's cup of tea, and not everyone likes that whole "folksy" deal either, but she does what she does very well. I have to say that folksy or not, she usually has impeccable grammar. Too many bloggers out there don't know the proper usage of lie and lay and it irks me.
I arrived at 10:40 for an 11 AM booksigning at Posman Books in Chelsea Market. The line was already out the door, going down the hallway, looping back up the hallway behind the store.
Then it was cut off across the main passageway and continued down another hall.
I always think of Pioneer Woman as having the most appeal for midwestern housewives, yet here we were in NYC and the masses were gathered. I can guarantee most of those women there weren't housewives.
I managed to do some chatting on line with folks. I had been hoping to meet some bloggers I actually knew, which didn't happen. I did talk to a couple of people who were familiar with my blog! Wow! It's hard to believe I have any renknown with strangers.
Sometime around 1PM I got my book signed. I had no idea what to say to her. I didn't want to just stand there and be silent, but I didn't want to be a gushing fan who would tell her for the 1000th time, "OMG. I love your blog!" I gave her the anecdote about my mother. She told me to send Mom her regards.
Was it worth the trek to the city on one of the coldest days in December during the worst time of year for crowds (Oh how I hate Christmas in NYC with the throngs of tourists crowds gawking everywhere)?
I'm glad I bought the autographed book, but I can tell you I will never do this again. (Well, maybe when Emily publishes her cookbook and becomes famous, but not for anyone else.) If this is the kind of crowd a popular blogger gets, I can't even imagine what it would be like for a real celebrity chef. Heaven help the folks who stand on long lines for a book by Giada DeLaurentis or Tyler Florence!
This bookstore was right below the Food Network studios. I can't help but wonder if Tuschie has his eye on her.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Well, I suppose it's because I haven't been making new recipes lately. I just haven't had the creative juices flowing. I'm too busy working on holiday stuff.
There is one other reason I haven't been creating new recipes. My husband wants me to start in on a new project. He is obsessed with his new camera. He wants to do more wildlife photography, but he also wants to help boost my food photography. He thinks we should do a project together and self-publish a cookbook using Blurb for us and our family. I write the recipes, and he takes the picture. He's even looking at light boxes.
The idea of making a book of my best recipes means I'm going back and re-doing old ones rather than making new ones. I want to make sure they are the best they can be and all measurements and cooking times are correct. This week alone I made both my chipotle chicken tacos and my chicken in tarragon-mustard cream sauce. I need to perfect them and make sure I have all of the details of the recipes correct.
Anyway, with my blog being so stangnant I really feel like I have to make something new. On a Friday night, I want it simple, so it's time to do something with one of husband's favorite things - eggs.
I came late to the Julie and Julia party. Never read the blog. Never saw the movie. The movie had mixed reviews and I almost never go to movies anyway (no time to go out to a theater). I never remember to put anything on the Netflix queue, so I haven't gotten around to it on DVD.
A few weeks ago my mother finished reading the book and handed her copy off to me. I really should give it a try, she told me. Fine. I might as well see what the fuss was about.
When I reached the chapter about egg poaching, I found myself very drawn to the idea of eggs poached in wine. I am not good at poaching eggs (some people have the knack and some don't) and Powell seemed to go through more failures with her eggs than successes, so it really didn't seem like something I should try. Still, I found myself really wanting to try it.
I couldn't follow Julia's recipe of course. My mother has a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so I could have used that recipe if I wanted to, but I wasn't going to. Julia and Julie poached their eggs in red wine. Sir Pickypants says all red wine, "tastes like furniture polish". This was going to be an egg dish of my own invention.
Am I a little obsessed with mushrooms and shallots? Probably. Makes me think I shouldn't publish a cookbook even for my own use because I never seem to stray from certain ingredients. This is like classic Short (dis)Order Cook accompaniments. "Saute mushrooms and shallots and add cream. "
Egg in wine. Can I really do this? They may not look pretty, but they're holding some semblance of shape.
Fry some bread squares in a little butter. I never said this dish was low fat.
Mix the reduced wine with mushroom cream mixture, eggs on bread, musrhoom sauce on eggs. All in all, not bad. In fact, it was a really good dish. The eggs poached very nicely in the wine and the overall dish was quite tasty.
Eggs Poached in White Wine
2 cups of white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 shallots, finely diced
1 tsp white pepper
4 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil
4 slices of hearty bread
Heat 2 Tbl of butter and 1 Tbl of olive oil in a pan. Add shallots and cook until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and cook till all is soft and they give off their juices. Sprinkle with a little salt.
In another pan, melt the last 2 Tbl of butter and remaining Tbl of oil and gently fry the bread slices until browned. Keep warm. (I put them in the oven at 200 degrees.
Bring 2 cups of wine to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and gently slide the eggs into the wine. When they are set removed with a slotted spoon.
Bring wine back to a boil and allow to reduce by half. Stir in the cream and the mushrooms.
Place eggs on top of bread slices and top with the mushroom cream sauce.