Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Omnivore's Hundred - Update

I originally posted this list in 2008 with the items I had tried in bold.  I have since made some inroads into trying some of the remaining items, so I figured it was time for an update.  Unfortunately (fortunately?) this list will never be complete, as there are some items, marked through with a line (cigar, roadkill???, whole insects, raw Scotch Bonnet pepper???, kaolin clay???, phaal - whew), that I have no desire to ever experience.

The Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB and J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Saveur: Cardoon Gratin

I think I have a problem.  Whenever I see some new or interesting thing at the grocery store, I just have to purchase it and cook it.  Am I a novelty addict?  Quite possibly.  It has, however, been three or four years since I first saw cardoons, and I have managed to hold off on purchasing them until now.  Cardoons (or "artichoke thistle") are a big celery-looking thing from Europe, mostly the Mediterranean area (read: Italy, Spain, and France).  It turns red when cut areas are exposed to air, so you have to work quickly.  You braise the stems in liquid, and they turn nice and tender and vaguely artichoke-y.  I decided to go with a more French preparation, because as we all know, everything tastes better covered in cheese and cream.

Note: The cream reduced itself while the cardoons were cooking, so I didn't end up needing to reduce it any further.

Cardoon Gratin
Adapted from Saveur magazine, November 2007

3 cups heavy cream
1 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds cardoons
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Place cream, stock, and bay leaf in a large saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Wash cardoons, then remove and discard tough outer stalks. Cut away thorns and pull off stringy fibers. Cut cardoons into 1½- to 2-inch pieces, placing them immediately into cream mixture as you go, to prevent them from discoloring.

Bring cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until cardoons are tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cardoon pieces to individual gratin dishes (or a 1-quart baking dish).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Reduce cream mixture to about ¾ cup over medium heat, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf, stir in nutmeg, and divide reduced sauce equally between gratin dishes, sprinkle Gruyère cheese on top, and bake until golden and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Friday, December 25, 2015

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Smoked Gouda Gratin

I love Brussels sprouts.  Love, love, love them.  And I feel like it is my calling in life to help others love them as much as I do.  I know that they're not super appealing.  And heck, they look like little cabbages.  And cabbages are hard to love.  And I know that they get this sulfurous stink if they're boiled, and that's really unappealing.  But cooked properly, and in this case smothered in cheese sauce, they are fantastic.  Roasted, they are extra fantastic.  This recipe is the best of both worlds.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Smoked Gouda Gratin

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
⅓ pound smoked Gouda, grated
½ cup panko
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Spread out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter and sprinkle in flour.  Stir mixture until flour begins to brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Pour in the milk slowly, stirring constantly, to form a smooth mixture.  Sprinkle in garlic powder, onion powder, and mustard.  Reduce heat to medium and whisk constantly until sauce thickens slightly.  Add cheese a handful at a time, whisking constantly to incorporate.  When cheese sauce is smooth and all cheese has melted, scoop the Brussels sprouts into the saucepan and stir to coat.

Reduce oven to 350°F.  Pour Brussels sprouts into a 1-quart baking dish.  Combine panko, paprika, and melted butter and sprinkle over the top.  Bake until bubbly, 20 to 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings

Monica Pegel: Apfelkuchen (Apple Cake)

In addition to a warm casserole, my sister always asks for an apple coffeecake for Christmas breakfast.  Not just any apple coffeecake.  This is a recipe my mother got from her friend in Germany back in the '70's.  The whole thing was originally written in grams and Celsius, so it's been translated into American measurements, but it's still a delicious reminder of my parents' time overseas.  And for us kids, it's a delicious addition to the Christmas morning breakfast table.  Apple + cinnamon = warmth and goodness.

Apfelkuchen (Apple Cake)
Adapted from Monica Pegel

14 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 ounces granulated sugar
7 ounces all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated rind from ½ lemon
½ teaspoon baking powder
1¾ pounds sour apples, such as Granny Smith
Granulated sugar and ground cinnamon for sprinkling
3½ ounces apricot preserves, warmed
Powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat oven to 375°C. Butter and flour a springform pan or a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, beating after each one. Add vanilla, lemon rind, and flour. Add baking powder. Spread the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan. Slice apples and place on top of batter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and put in oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and brush with apricot preserves.  If desired, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar when serving.

Makes 15 to 18 servings

Tex-Mex Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

Christmas breakfast always seems to call for some ingenuity.  It has to be something delicious and warm, but it also needs to be something that can be put together the night before.  I mean, nobody wants to interrupt the opening of gifts to put together breakfast.  Heavens, no.  So this generally leads to a breakfast casserole of some sort.  I personally tinkered with the usual hash brown casserole and came up with something a little Tex-Mexy.  A little bit spicy and a lotta bit creamy comfort food.

Tex-Mex Hash Brown Breakfast Casserole

1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or bacon fat
6 large eggs
1 (10¾-ounce) can cream of mushroom and chicken soup
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 (30-ounce) bag frozen shredded hashbrowns
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 (4-ounce) can mild diced green chiles
1 pound Mexican chorizo, cooked and drained well of fat
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Sauté onion in butter until translucent and starting to brown. Set aside. Mix together eggs, soup, milk, cumin, coriander, and salt.

Layer half of potatoes on bottom of prepared dish, then sprinkle with oregano.  Top potatoes with chiles, onions, chorizo, and half of cheese, then remaining potatoes. Pour egg mixture over top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover casserole with foil and refrigerate overnight, if desired.

Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes if baked immediately and 1 hour if coming from the refrigerator.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Meatballs and Nick Badovinus: Voodoo Sauce

A couple of months ago, I went to a restaurant near where I live called Neighborhood Services.  I didn't think much of the appetizer menu, and when my friend wanted to order meatballs, I agreed.  Out came a round platter with meatballs stuck with toothpicks in a sauce.  Didn't look particularly fascinating.  Until I put one in my mouth and realized that the sauce was fantastic.  After that meal I searched the internet from top to bottom for that sauce recipe.  I finally found it hidden in some online chef's magazine.  And I knew I had to make this as an appetizer, and soon.  My Christmas Eve appetizer party with the family was the perfect excuse.

Note: The meatballs served at the restaurant are made with brisket, but since I was not able to find that recipe, I made my own.  And they are perfectly delicious and tender.


½ pound ground chuck
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground veal
½ cup Progresso Italian breadcrumbs
½ cup half-and-half
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup minced onion
1 large egg
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
½ teaspoon dried summer savory
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  The mixture should be sticky.  Form into balls about the size of a golf ball.  Fry in oil until well-browned on all sides.

Makes about 36 meatballs

Voodoo Sauce
Adapted from Chef Nick Badovinus at Neighborhood Services

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 pasilla chilies, toasted and cut into thin rings
2 arbol chilies, toasted and chopped
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup bourbon
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 cups veal demi-glace
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1⅓ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt unsalted butter. Add the garlic and chilies, stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes or until softened. Add the wine and bourbon. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomato paste, then the demi-glace, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and add the cream. Return to a boil and reduce the sauce, whisking often, for about 15 minutes or until it thickens to a creamy consistency and deepens in color.

Gourmet: Shrimp Puffs

It's become a bit of a tradition in my family that on Christmas Eve we have a bunch of appetizers instead of a true dinner.  I'm certainly a big fan because I love having little bites of lots of different things instead of one main dish.  I'm very much in favor of novelty, at least as long as that novelty is delicious.  So when I saw a recipe for scallop puffs on the internet, I knew I wanted to try them.  A few small adjustments later, and I had a tasty tray of little bites to pass around.

Note:  The original recipe called for scallops, and I think that sounds absolutely delicious, but since I was making these for family, and some members of the family do not like scallops, shrimp were used instead.

Shrimp Puffs
Adapted from Gourmet magazine, June 1992

½ pound uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup freshly grated Gruyère
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons minced chives
1 large egg white
12 mini phyllo tart shells

In a saucepan melt the butter.  Once the butter begins to sizzle, add the shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes on each side, or just until they turn pink and lightly brown on the edges. Drain the shrimp and cut them into ½-inch pieces.

In a bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, the Gruyére, the mustard, the lemon juice, the parsley, the chives, and salt and pepper to taste, add the shrimp, and toss the mixture well.  In a small bowl beat the egg white until it just holds stiff peaks and fold it into the shrimp mixture gently but thoroughly.

Fill each phyllo tart shell with a heaping tablespoon of the shrimp mixture, arrange the puffs about ½ inch apart on baking sheets, and broil them under a preheated broiler about 6 inches from the heat for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the toppings are bubbling and lightly golden (do not allow the edges of the tarts to burn).

Makes 12 tarts

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Better Homes and Gardens: Pecan Sandies

Do you know what my favorite Christmas cookies are?  Here's a hint: It's not sugar cookies or chocolate chip.  It's these little nutty balls that my mom has been making for just about ever.  I've seen them called all sorts of other names: Mexican Wedding Cookies, Snowball Cookies, Hungarian Pecan Cookies.  But to me, they've always been pecan sandies.  And no Christmas will ever be complete without them.

Pecan Sandies
From the 1974 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream the butter and sugar; add the water and vanilla; mix well. Blend in the flour and nuts; chill the dough for 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Shape the chilled dough into balls or fingers. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool slightly; roll in powdered sugar.

Makes 3 dozen

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Allrecipes: Candied Buddha's Hand Citron

Every year I see this crazy citrus fruit called Buddha's hand pop up at the grocery store.  It looks like a big yellow tentacle monster.  And I always wonder what the heck you do with something like that.  Well, I did some investigation, and this citrus fruit doesn't even have fruit pulp on the inside.  It's one giant, sweet-smelling bundle of peel and pith.  That doesn't leave many options for cooking.  So I decided to go the candy route.  Because who doesn't like tidbits of sugary-lemony goodness?

Candied Buddha's Hand Citron
From Chef John on

3 cups diced Buddha's hand citron
3 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 cups water

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add diced Buddha's hand, return to a simmer, and cook until citrus softens, about 30 minutes. Drain.

Combine Buddha's hand, 2½ cups sugar, and 2 cups water in the same pot; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrup reaches a temperature of 230°F (110°C). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Drain citrus; pour excess syrup into jars and reserve.

Spread drained citron out onto a wire rack and let dry until tacky, at least 24 hours. Pour remaining ½ cup sugar into a shallow bowl. Toss citrus in sugar until coated; transfer coated pieces to a plate to dry, at least 2 hours.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Jamie Oliver: Guinness Lamb Shanks

I only started eating lamb as an adult, mostly because it was still relatively exotic and expensive when I was a child.  And I've mostly stuck with lamb chops and the cubes in curry since then.  But a couple of years ago, I started eating at a Mediterranean restaurant that had braised lamb shanks, and my friends, those things are magical.  As in melt-like-butter-on-your-tongue magical.  So I decided to expand my little lamb kingdom and learn to make some super-tender lamb shanks.  I couldn't find a recipe for the ones I had at the restaurant, but this one looked pretty delicious.  And sure enough, these lamb shanks are incredibly tender and delicious.  Definitely worth the (3 hour) wait.

Note: Jamie seems to dislike standard measurements, and that irks me because I'm sure a man's hand is bigger than my hand. Two handfuls of raisins for me worked out to about ⅓ cup, and I used golden raisins because that's what I had in the pantry.  Oh, and a "lug" of olive oil?  I think he means "glug", but I would just go with a tablespoon or two.  I used about 4 sprigs of rosemary because mine were pretty long, like 8 or 9 inches each, and I'm convinced they don't have monster food in the UK like we do here.  I used Crosse & Blackwell orange marmalade because it's my favorite.  I went with 1 cup Guinness (close enough). I used 4 cups of Swanson Tuscan flavored chicken broth because it's been sitting in my pantry staring at me.  I added about a tablespoon of cider vinegar (a "splash") and ½ tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce at the end.  Make sure you liberally salt the whole thing - it needs it.

Guinness Lamb Shanks
Adapted from Jamie Oliver

6 quality lamb shanks, roughly 350g each (about ¾ pound each)
3 red onions, peeled
Olive oil
Sea salt
Ground pepper
2 handfuls raisins
3 heaped tablespoons thick-cut marmalade
1 heaped tablespoon tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, plus extra for serving
200 ml Guinness or smooth dark ale (approximately 1 cup)
8 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 litre organic chicken stock (approximately 4 cups)
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves
A few tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil
2 spring onions, trimmed
Cider vinegar

Put the lamb shanks into a really large casserole-type pan (roughly 26cm in diameter and 12cm deep) on a medium to high heat with a drizzle of olive oil – you can cook them in batches if needed. Turn them every few minutes; once they have some good colour, pick in the rosemary leaves and move them around in the pan to get crispy, but don’t let them burn. Use tongs to move the shanks to a dish and set aside.

Finely chop the onions and put them into the casserole with the rosemary and a lug of olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook over a medium to high heat, stirring as you go, until the onions start to caramelize. Add the raisins and marmalade, then add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and booze. Give it all a good stir, then leave to gently simmer.  Use tongs to move the shanks into the pan of onions, then pour in all their juices. Add the stock, put the lid on, turn down the heat and leave to blip away slowly for around 3 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone easily. Try to turn the shanks halfway through so they cook evenly.

When the lamb shanks are ready, carefully move them to a platter, making sure the meat stays intact. Whiz or liquidize the gravy with a stick blender until smooth, then allow to reduce down and thicken. Quickly bash most of the mint leaves in a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of salt and the olive or rapeseed oil, then take to the table. Finely slice up the spring onions and toss on a plate with the remaining fresh mint leaves, a drizzle of cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt.

Add a little splash of cider vinegar and a few more splashes of Worcestershire sauce to the sauce, then ladle it all over the lamb shank and pour the rest into a jug for people to help themselves. Scatter the vinegary spring onions and a few fresh mint leaves all over the top, drizzle the mint oil all around the shanks, and serve with lovely potato and celeriac mash. The plate will be clean before you know it.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, December 20, 2015

LaBelle Cuisine: Norma's Black-Bottom Sweet Potato Pie

I remember back around Thanksgiving, there was a viral video of some guy reviewing a Patti LaBelle sweet potato pie he'd bought at Walmart.  Yes, Walmart.  People flooded the stores and bought every pie in sight.  At the time I thought I must be misreading the articles.  Seriously?  Over a pie at Walmart?  All the baked goods I've ever seen there look incredibly unappealing.  But these people were serious.  Well, come to find out the recipe for the pie is in an old cookbook Patti put out around 1999.  I decided I needed to try this magical pie that was sold out everywhere, but we already had a pumpkin pie lined up for Thanksgiving festivities.  So it's a little delayed, but delayed gratification is good, right?

Note: It seems like a lot of nutmeg.  It apparently freaks some people out. (Epicurious, I'm looking at you.) I promise it's the right amount.  It makes the pie delicious.  Also, I used a Marie Callender's frozen crust instead of following the recipe because I just didn't want to deal with rolling out a crust today.  I just wanted PIE.  And I think the Marie Callender's crusts are pretty darn good for frozen.

Norma's Black-Bottom Sweet Potato Pie
From LaBelle Cuisine by Patti LaBelle

For the pie crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter-flavored vegetable shortening, chilled
⅓ cup ice water

For the filling:
3 large orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (Louisiana yams), scrubbed
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup half-and-half
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)

For the crust: Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Add the shortening. Using a fork or a pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few pea-sized bits. Stirring with the fork, gradually add enough of the water until the mixture clumps together (you may need more or less water). Gather up the dough and press into a thick disk. If desired, wrap the dough in wax paper and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 13-inch circle about ⅛-inch thick. Fold the dough in half. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan, and gently unfold the dough to fit into the pan. Using scissors or a sharp knife, trim the dough to a 1-inch overhang. Fold the dough under itself so the edge of the fold is flush with the edge of the pan. Flute the dough around the edge of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making the filling.

For the filling: Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes. Drain and run under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel the sweet potatoes and place in a medium bowl.

Mash with an electric mixer on medium speed until very smooth. Measure 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes, keeping any extra for another use, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Uncover the pie shell and brush the interior with some of the melted butter. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the brown sugar over the bottom of the pie shell. Bake until the pie dough is set and just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. If the pie shell puffs, do not prick it.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, mix the mashed sweet potatoes, the remaining melted butter and ½ cup brown sugar, the granulated sugar, eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spread into the partially baked pie shell, smoothing the top.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the filling comes out clean, about 1½ hours. Cool completely on a wire cake rack. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with whipped cream.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Bon Appétit: Irish Cream Liqueur

Somehow I've sort-of gotten in the habit of making an alcoholic concoction around the holidays.  Because there's apparently not enough alcohol going around at the moment, I need more.  But with this one I have an excuse.  One of my favorite liqueurs is Bailey's, so who can turn down the opportunity to make a Bailey's clone that will probably taste even more fantastic than the original?  Not this girl.  So that's exactly what I did.  And it does taste more fantastic.  It's pretty thick, so I may go with some added milk next time.  But for now I'm going with the idea that it's the holidays, and a little splurging is a-okay.

Note:  I used 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey because that's what the guy at the liquor store recommended.  I used Hershey's Special Dark chocolate syrup because that's what was in my fridge.  I used espresso granules because I thought that would taste better than cheap coffee crystals.  I upped my cream of coconut to ¼ cup and added 1 teaspoon coconut extract because I wanted mine to taste more like something I had at a local restaurant ("The Juice" @ III Forks).  As you can see, this recipe is pretty forgiving.  Do what makes you happy.

Irish Cream Liqueur
From Bon Appétit magazine, January 2002, originally from Atlanta's World Trade Center restaurant, The Dining Room

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup Irish whiskey
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez
Ice cubes

Combine first 5 ingredients in blender; blend until coffee crystals dissolve, about 1 minute. Add whipping cream and cream of coconut to mixture and blend 10 seconds. Transfer to pitcher; cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. (Can be prepared up to 2 weeks ahead, keep refrigerated). Fill wineglasses with ice cubes. Pour chilled mixture over ice cubes and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings

Friday, December 11, 2015

Billy Parisi: Slow Cooker Asian BBQ Country-Style Ribs

For years I've been eating country-style ribs smothered in barbecue sauce.  I mean ribs = BBQ, right?  But this week when I was looking at my package of pork, I just wasn't feeling the traditional preparation.  I wanted something interesting and different.  And something that did not involve the grocery store.  Okay, so most people don't have oyster sauce just hanging out in their pantry, but I did.  And I was sick of looking at that can of mandarin oranges, so in that went, too.  The ribs turned out tender, juicy, sweet, and tangy.  Just what I was looking for, with minimal effort.

Slow Cooker Asian BBQ Country-Style Ribs
Adapted from Billy Parisi

1 (1-inch) knob ginger, peeled and grated
1 large clove garlic, minced
¾ cup ketchup
½ cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup oyster sauce
¼ cup honey
¼ cup mirin
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
½ teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 (11-ounce) can mandarin orange segments, fruit and juice
2 pounds country-style pork ribs, excess fat removed, cut into 2-inch long pieces
Sesame seeds and sliced green onions, for serving

Combine all ingredients except sesame seeds and green onions in the crock of the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 hours, or until pork is tender.  If a thicker sauce is desired, strain meat and orange sections from the sauce, and pour the sauce into a saucepan.  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until sauce is reduced and syrupy.  Serve with rice and topped with sesame seeds and green onions.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, December 07, 2015

King Arthur Flour: Persimmon Oatmeal Bread

So, I was wandering through a grocery store near me, and I happened upon a display of fruits that looked like persimmons.  And I thought, oh, I liked that persimmon ice cream I made, so maybe I'll get some more persimmons.  Only these weren't just any persimmons, they were percinnamons.  Not even kidding.  They are a persimmon that looks like a hachiya (and thus should be astringent until it's a pile of goo), but is sweet when crunchy and has a cinnamon taste.  If this isn't a model of modern genetics, I don't know what is.  So of course I had to have one.  And then I had to stick it in something this morning.  So I found this awesome recipe for applesauce oatmeal bread, which is made even more fabulous with the addition of persimmon, and I proceeded to eat the first slice slathered in butter.  Verdict on the percinnamon?  Tastes like persimmon to me.  Verdict on the bread?  I would have eaten it again for lunch, except I figured I should at least attempt to act like a normal person every once in a while.

Note: I used black walnuts instead of regular walnuts because that is what was staring at me when I went looking for nuts in my freezer.  I also used unsweetened applesauce because I think a cup of sugar is already pushing the polite boundaries of cake.

Persimmon Oatmeal Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup canola oil
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup rolled oats
¾ cup applesauce
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 Fuyu persimmon or percinnamon, peeled and cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices, and add them to the wet ingredients in the bowl.  Mix in the oats, applesauce, walnuts, and persimmon.

Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9x5-inch loaf pan, and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove the bread from the oven and cool completely.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Spicy Southern Kitchen: Slow Cooker Beef Tips with Gravy

When you get to that crazy period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sometimes cooking can be a bit of a chore.  You know what I'm talking about.  You practically trashed your kitchen making the Thanksgiving feast.  Now you're trying to fit in all your Christmas (or Hanukkah) shopping before it's time to make a mass of cookies and other goodies.  And on top of THAT, you need to eat dinner.  Normally I'm not a proponent of convenience food dinners, but you know what?  Sometimes it's okay.  Sometimes you just need to throw some stuff in a slow cooker and not think about it.  And who doesn't like tender beef with gravy, especially when it's unseasonably cold out? (Curse you, El Niño!  You're ruining my beloved extended warm Texas temperatures!)

Note:  I've doctored this recipe up with a bunch of extra herbs and seasonings, so the chances of anyone outside your immediate family actually guessing this was thrown in the slow cooker before work that day is pretty small.

Slow Cooker Beef Tips with Gravy
Adapted from Spicy Southern Kitchen

2 to 2½ pounds boneless beef chuck roast
1 (10½-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (10½-ounce) can beef consommé
1 (1-ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon dried summer savory
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Cut the beef chuck into 1 to 1½-inch cubes.  Make sure to remove as much excess fat as possible to keep the final product from being greasy.

In the crock of the slow cooker, mix together the cream of mushroom soup and consommé, then add the onion soup mix, Worcestershire sauce, and all seasonings.  Add the beef cubes and mix well to coat.  Cook the beef on LOW for 6 to 7 hours.

Drain beef and set aside, covered.  Skim the fat from the cooking liquid and set aside to use for the gravy.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle with the flour and whisk until slightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Whisk in 2 cups of the beef cooking liquid and simmer until thickened, adding any additional liquid to thin the gravy as needed.  Add the beef cubes back to the gravy, including any juices in the bottom of the dish.

Serve the beef over mashed potatoes, rice, or buttered noodles with the gravy.

Makes 6 servings

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Divine Breakfast Roll

I recently became the proud owner of a set of recipe cards and recipe booklet that belonged to my grandmother.  Some of the recipes are pretty old, and some are pretty fantastically weird.  Just flipping through them is like getting sucked into a time warp.  But it can be a delicious time warp, and it makes me feel closer to the woman who is now unreachable due to Alzheimer's disease.  I never thought she was big on cooking, but my mom tells me that simply isn't true.  That my grandmother actually threw large dinner parties when I was too young to remember.  I decided I really needed to try something ASAP, and so I chose this breakfast bread as a start.  I wasn't expecting it to melt and spread the way it did (and ruin my lovely spiral!), but it actually tastes pretty awesome.  The dough is buttery and crumbly, the filling is tart and sweet, and the sugar on top crunches in just the right way.  It may not necessarily be a photographic stunner, but it's good in the belly.

Note:  I used pecans and dried blueberries in my roll, and it really was divine.

Divine Breakfast Roll

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon milk or half-and-half

½ cup chopped nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, or almonds)
1 cup raisins, currants, dried blueberries, or dried cranberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or almond extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Milk or half-and-half
Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Sift flour with baking powder and salt.  Cut butter into flour until the mixture resembles cornmeal, then mix in sugar, lemon rind, and egg.  Add milk or half-and-half if mixture seems dry.

Toss dough on a lightly floured board and knead gently.  Roll into a rectangle about ¼-inch thick.

Mix together all filling ingredients except cinnamon and spread on the dough rectangle.  Sprinkle the filling with the cinnamon.  Roll up the dough lengthwise so that you get a long roll.  Place on a greased or Silpat-lined cookie sheet.  Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Cool and cut.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Fully Loaded Mashed Potato Pancakes

So, you've gotten through Thanksgiving, and you're slowly working your way through a mountain of leftovers.  And they're awesome leftovers!  Until about the second or third day of turkey and stuffing.  Then you start wishing you could eat something else.  But you don't want to waste food, right?  So re-purpose those leftover mashed potatoes into something delicious.  Like a fried loaded potato pancake.  I promise you don't even have to eat them with turkey if you don't want to.

Fully Loaded Mashed Potato Pancakes

3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, for frying
Sour cream, for serving

Combine first seven ingredients and mix well, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Form into 12 pancakes, about 3 inches across.  Dredge in flour and gently shake off excess.

Heat a frying pan over medium to medium-high heat.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan and add four pancakes.  Fry for about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Set pancakes aside on a paper towel while frying the remaining batches, using a tablespoon of butter to fry each batch.

Serve hot with sour cream.

Makes 6 servings

No Spoon Necessary: Croissant, Caramelized Onion, Sausage, and Pecan Dressing

Ah, the yearly debate.  Is it dressing or is it stuffing?  I think this time around I'm going to go with the definition of stuffing being a bread product stuffed inside the bird, and dressing being a bread product baked outside the bird.  So, dressing.  But honestly?  Who cares?  This stuff is delicious, with all that buttery croissanty goodness, so it doesn't really matter what you call it.  Call it "bread product" if you want.  It won't last long enough to matter anyway.

Croissant, Caramelized Onion, Sausage, and Pecan Dressing
Adapted from No Spoon Necessary blog

7 to 8 large croissants (about 6- to 8-inches long), split in half lengthwise
1 pound pork sausage, removed from casings if necessary
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 yellow onions (about 1 pound total), diced
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1¼ cups toasted pecans, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
½ cup white wine
1¼ cup chicken stock
1 large egg, beaten
¾ teaspoon sea salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 2½ quart baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

Toast the croissants: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place croissant halves on prepared baking sheet and bake until slightly crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from oven, set aside and let cool. Once cooled, roughly cut or tear croissants and place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Cook the sausage: Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes, breaking up into crumbles as you cook. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a paper towel lined plate and allow to drain and cool slightly. Transfer to mixing bowl with croissants.

Caramelize the onions: Pour off all but 1 tablespoon sausage fat, if necessary, and add butter. Once butter is melted, add the onions, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until onions are soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add in the celery and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add in the wine and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add in the sage, thyme, rosemary, and stock. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Assemble and Bake: Transfer onion mixture to the mixing bowl with sausage and croissants. Add the egg, pecans, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir until combined. Transfer stuffing to prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated throughout.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bobby Flay: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Delicata Squash with Pomegranate and Vanilla-Pecan Butter

Even though most of the dishes on my family's Thanksgiving table make year-after-year repeat appearances, I keep trying new vegetable side dishes in the hopes of finding one that sticks.  The one I tried this year was this delicious plate of squash and Brussels sprouts, but I think it may have been a little too foreign...a little too different.  Any other day this is delicious, but for Thanksgiving, it doesn't quite hit the comfort factor.  The search continues.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Delicata Squash with Pomegranate and Vanilla-Pecan Butter
Adapted from Bobby Flay

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ cup toasted pecans, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1 pound Delicata squash, deseeded, halved, and sliced into half-moons
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 lime, finely zested
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

Combine the butter and vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl. Fold in the pecans and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

Place the Brussels sprouts and Delicata squash in a medium roasting pan and toss with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, add the pomegranate molasses and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook until just tender, about 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Transfer the sprouts to a large bowl, add the pomegranate seeds and lime and orange zests. Transfer to a platter and top with some of the vanilla-pecan butter.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pioneer Woman: Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I honestly never thought I would post a recipe for mashed potatoes.  I mean, what is there to say?  "Boil potatoes until soft, drain, then add a bunch of butter and some milk/cream"?  It just seems too simple to address.  But the Pioneer Woman has solved the age-old mystery of how to make the potatoes ahead of time so you're not frantically mashing as everyone is sitting down to dinner.  And they actually still taste good when reheated.  I consider that to be a major Thanksgiving victory.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

For the topping:
1 medium sweet onions (about ½ pound), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon panko bread crumbs
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Canola oil, for frying

5 pounds russet or Yukon gold potatoes
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
½ to ¾ cup half-and-half
½ to 1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
½ to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the onions, flour, panko, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Pour about ¼-inch of oil in the bottom of a large skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the onions in batches, using a fork to toss them and keep them from sticking together.  Fry for 4 to 6 minutes per batch, or until golden brown. Once done, remove the onions from the pan and drain on a paper towel.  Set aside until ready to use.

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add 1½ sticks of butter, the package of cream cheese, and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s seasoned salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350°F oven and heat until the butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.  Top with the fried onions and bake for 2 to 3 more minutes to crisp the onions.

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.  Stir the butter into the potatoes about halfway through so that the potatoes warm evenly.

Makes 10 servings

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

500th POST!! King Arthur Flour: Best Apple Pie

I can't believe I can actually claim this.  This is my FIVE HUNDREDTH POST on this blog.  It seems like just yesterday I was starting out, annoying my family by photographing dinner.  And what a fabulous way to celebrate the 500th post!  With a delicious apple pie!

I'm a firm believer in Thanksgiving being a day to relax.  Not a day to spend in the kitchen slaving away over a hot stove.  Now, food still must be cooked, so I've basically just moved my day of kitchen slavery to the day before Thanksgiving.  I have just finished prepping all my dishes, and to top it all off, this gorgeous apple pie.  This thing smells amazing, and it is taking everything in me to not just cut into it tonight.  But that doesn't mean I can't post it on my blog so everyone else can suffer with me.  Feel free to serve this with Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce.

Update, now that I've actually tasted said pie: King Arthur Flour wins.  This IS the best apple pie.  Especially with salted caramel sauce drizzled all over the top.  And fresh whipped cream.  Or vanilla ice cream.  Heck, just have this for dinner.

Best Apple Pie
Filling adapted from King Arthur Flour

Pie Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface and crust bottom
¼ cup cake flour
½ teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 tablespoons vodka
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, divided

3¼ pounds (about 9 whole apples, 10 cups) Cortland or other baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
¾ cup granulated sugar
2½ teaspoons cornstarch
1½ teaspoons apple pie spice
¼ cup boiled cider
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice of ½ lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

To make the crust: In a large mixing bowl, whisk flours with salt and sugar. Add butter and shortening; use a pastry blender to work it in until the mixture has the consistency of fine meal. Add the vodka and then the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, stopping when the dough just holds together. Toss with a fork until dough starts to form a ball. Turn dough onto floured counter, and knead three times, until smooth. Divide dough into two balls. Flatten each ball slightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

For the filling: In a large bowl, stir together the filling ingredients, mixing till well-combined. Set aside.

Assembly: Roll one piece of pie crust into a 12-inch round, and lay it gently into a 9-inch pie plate. Spoon in the filling. Roll out the other piece (or make a lattice), lay it atop the filling, and seal and crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with milk, and sprinkle it with coarse sugar, if desired. Or, save out a bit of the crust, and cut decorative leaf designs, laying them in the center of the crust or around the edges.

Baking: Place the pie on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F, and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until the top is brown and filling is bubbly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce

Need something luxurious to go with your pies on Thanksgiving?  Boy, do I have something special for you.  A salted caramel sauce.  With vanilla bean.  Now, there are some burn hazards to making your own caramel, but if you're willing to practice good kitchen safety, this sauce is very much worth the effort.  Rich, slightly bitter, salty, and sweet, with an ethereal scent of vanilla.  This will take any old apple pie to new levels.  Heck, put it on the pumpkin pie, too.  Nobody likes a miser.

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramel Sauce

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fleur de sel
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Heat the sugar in a large stainless steel pan over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt and become a liquid.  Swirl the pan to make sure that the sugar melts evenly.  When the sugar has all completely melted and the syrup is a rich amber color, pour in the cream.  The sugar syrup will boil up furiously, so do this carefully and avoid getting burned!  Whisk the cream into the syrup as soon after pouring in the cream as possible without injury.  Continue whisking until the cream is completely incorporated.  Add the butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, whisking as it melts.  When butter is completely incorporated, whisk in the fleur de sel and vanilla bean paste.  Remove from the heat and pour into glass containers, such as canning jars.  Let sit until cool enough to handle, then cap the jars and refrigerate.  Remove the jars from the refrigerator a couple of hours before use so that the caramel sauce is not cold and stiff.  It can also be reheated if a hot sauce is desired.

Makes 1¾ pint jars

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Alton Brown: Best Ever Green Bean Casserole

Holy, schmoly, I think I've found the holy grail of Thanksgiving dishes.  Heck, let's just be honest, the holy grail of casseroles.  I thought I was going to be eating canned soup versions of this casserole for all eternity, but here it is, a homemade version.  A green bean casserole that is just as savory and umami and tender and crunchy and fantastic as the original, and yet, something more.  The green beans have a freshness, and the mushrooms have a texture (other than cooked-to-death). You MUST make this for your Thanksgiving dinner.  MUST.

Best Ever Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from Alton Brown

For the topping:
2 medium sweet onions (about 1¼ pounds), thinly sliced
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Canola oil, for frying

For beans and sauce:
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, trimmed and cut into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half

Combine the onions, flour, panko, salt, and cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Pour about ¼-inch of oil in the bottom of a large skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the onions in batches, using a fork to toss them and keep them from sticking together.  Fry for 4 to 6 minutes per batch, or until golden brown. Once done, remove the onions from the pan and drain on a paper towel.  Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how tender you want your beans. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin give up their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in ¼ of the onions and pour over the green beans. Mix together and pour the green bean mixture into a casserole dish.  Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes.  Remove the casserole from the oven, top with the remaining onions, and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.  Remove and serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Washington Post: Boiled Cider

I recently came across a recipe for an apple pie that I'm going to make for Thanksgiving.  It sounds amazing, but there was one ingredient I hadn't used before: boiled cider.  I think the whole point was to send off to King Arthur Flour (the author of the recipe) for a bottle of their boiled cider, but why do that when I can make it at home?  I'm almost embarrassed to post a recipe for it.  "Boil cider until syrupy."  Yup, that's about it.  It makes this fabulous syrup with this deep apple flavor that I'm sure will make this pie fantastic.  Now, I obviously didn't use a gallon's worth of cider, but if you make the full recipe, you can pour this stuff on all sorts of breads, oatmeal, ice cream...

Boiled Cider
Adapted from The Washington Post website, September 14, 2011

1 gallon fresh, preservative-free apple cider

Pour the cider into a large, heavy-bottomed nonreactive stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low, skimming off any scum that collects on the edges; cook uncovered for 4 to 5 hours or until it has reduced to a little more than 2 cups, stirring more frequently as needed in the last 30 minutes to keep the cider from scorching. The boiled cider is done when it coats the back of a spoon, with a consistency like that of maple syrup.

Transfer to sterilized jars. Cool completely. The boiled cider is ready to use right away; or, sealed tightly, it can be refrigerated indefinitely.

Makes 2½ cups

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Taste of Southern: Pork Neck Bones with Gravy

Soul food.  I always thought it was just fried chicken, collard greens, and blackeyed peas.  But then some ladies I worked with enlightened me and opened up a whole new world of soul food items.  Some good (hot water cornbread), some bad (chitterlings).  Some absolutely delicious.  Like these spicy stewed pork necks.  I know, pork necks??  Yep.  You heard me.  The meat is tender, juicy, and a little spicy.  The gravy is crazy good.  Trust Miss Cherry.  She knows what she's talking about.

Pork Neck Bones with Gravy
From Taste of Southern blog and Cherry M. of Durham, NC

2 to 3 pounds pork neck bones
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon bacon grease
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Wash the neck bones under cold running water.  Trim away any gristle, small bones, cartilage, or fat that you can see.

Place washed neck bones in a large pot.  Add onion, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Add water until the ribs are covered by 2 inches.  Place the pot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and let boil for about 15 minutes.  Skim off any foam if it forms; discard.

Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pot.  Cook until meat is tender, about 1 to 1½ hours.  The neck bones are done with the meat is falling off the bone.  Remove the neck bones from the liquid and cover; set aside.  Retain 1 cup of the liquid for the gravy.

Place butter and bacon grease in a large skillet and melt over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir constantly.  Continue to stir and let the flour brown to desired color.  Add the reserved liquid from the cooking pot while stirring constantly.  Let the mixture simmer until it thickens slightly.

Serve neck bones over rice with gravy.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mr. Wang's Chinese Buffet: Moo Goo Gai Pan (Sliced Chicken and Mushrooms)

If I had my way, I'd probably eat Chinese food several times a week.  It's almost comfort food for me, even though I'm not Chinese.  Go figure.  I remember eating Moo Goo Gai Pan a lot as a child, especially if it was cold outside or I was under the weather.  I think it's a little like chicken soup in that regard...somehow it just makes you feel better.  And I finally found a recipe that turns out just like you would get from a good Chinese restaurant.  The only problem is I can't stop eating it.

Moo Goo Gai Pan (Sliced Chicken and Mushrooms)
Adapted from Mr. Wang's Chinese Buffet, Homewood, AL

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in slices
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Put chicken in a bowl and add egg and salt. Mix. Add oil and mix again. Add cornstarch to mix. Marinate chicken for about 30 minutes.

2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon chicken broth
8 buds broccoli, blanched
15 straw mushrooms, rinsed and dried
8 snow peas
8 carrot slices, blanched
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry
1 cup chicken broth
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon sesame oil

Mix together cornstarch and broth; set aside.

Heat wok and add 1 cup oil into wok and heat. Add chicken and stir-fry until it changes color and is nearly cooked through. Add mushrooms for 30 seconds. Add snow peas, broccoli, and carrots for about 30 seconds. Remove and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil in wok and add chopped garlic and rice wine. Stir-fry. Add broth, salt, and sugar. Stir-fry. Add chicken and vegetables and stir-fry well. Add white pepper and stir-fry. Add mixed cornstarch to make gravy and stir-fry well.

Turn off heat. Add sesame oil and mix. Remove from heat and serve.

Makes 2 servings if this is the main dish or 4 servings if you're serving another stir fry alongside

Sunday, November 08, 2015

La Petite Brioche: Cream Cheese Stuffed 'Shrooms

Back when I was a regular happy hour attendee, one of my favorite places to visit was Houlihan's.  They had some pretty fantastic happy hour deals on appetizers and drinks, and you could pretty much have your dinner off their small plates.  One of the amazing things they offer, besides the chipotle chicken nachos, is an herbed cream cheese stuffed mushroom.  This thing is a work of art.  Fried mushroom, but with a creamy herb center.  It's mushroom taken to the next level.  And now I can make them at home instead of stalking people for their bar tables.

Cream Cheese Stuffed 'Shrooms
Adapted from La Petite Brioche blog and Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur

¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dried summer savory
⅛ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
⅛ teaspoon dried tarragon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces chive and onion cream cheese
20 large button mushrooms (about 2 inches across)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large eggs, beaten
1 (8-ounce) package panko breadcrumbs
Oil, for frying
Dipping Sauce

Combine dried herbs and cream cheese. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Use a spoon to fill mushroom caps with filling.

Combine flour, salt, and cayenne pepper in small bowl. Dredge the mushroom cap in the flour mixture and shake off the excess. Next, dip the mushroom in the beaten egg, making sure the entire mushroom is coated. Last, coat it with the panko.  Finish coating all the mushrooms and then let them sit for 10 minutes to set the coating. Put the coated mushrooms on a sheet pan in the freezer for at least 3 hours.

Heat oil to 350°F, using enough to completely cover mushrooms. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Dipping Sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons horseradish
½ teaspoon granulated sugar

Whisk all ingredients together and keep chilled.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Daisy's World: Persimmon Honey Ice Cream with Candied Pecans

I went persimmon picking a couple of weeks ago.  Rounded up a nice big bag of mushy Hachiya persimmons.  Granted, they were about thumb-size instead of the monstrous apple-sized ones at the grocery store, but these were free, so I'll take them.  I did some research online about these orange fruits, since I had never eaten them.  Astringent, it said.  What is astringent?  I'll tell you.  Astringent is when you get a large, lovely Hachiya persimmon at the store (because they're out of Fuyu), and you wait until it's mostly soft, but not a pile of goo, and you cut it into cubes, and put a cube in your mouth, and it instantly sucks up every drop of saliva in your entire mouth and gives you the worst case of dry mouth you've ever had.  That's astringent.  So use a Fuyu for the mix-in.  Your mouth will thank you.

Persimmon Honey Ice Cream with Candied Pecans
Adapted from Daisy's World blog

1½ cups heavy cream
½ cup crème fraîche
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole milk
2 cups Hachiya persimmon, puréed
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup Fuyu persimmon, cut into small cubes, for mixing in
½ cup chopped candied pecans, for mixing in

Pour the cream into a medium saucepan and add the crème fraîche, sugar, honey, and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the crème fraîche, sugar, and honey are dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from heat and add the milk, persimmon purée, vanilla bean paste, and lemon juice. Chill mixture for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Pour chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add cubed persimmon and pecans during the last few minutes of churning to distribute evenly.

Store ice cream in an airtight container.

Makes 1 quart

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Emeril Lagasse: Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

I'm not really one for making cookies that look like witch fingers or hot dogs that look like mummies.  But that certainly doesn't mean that I'm not in tune with the spirit of the season.  What season is that, you ask?  Pumpkin season, of course.  And here is another lovely contribution, what is basically the filling of a pumpkin pie with a crunchy sugar topping.  Doesn't get better than that.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar, plus 4 teaspoons
8 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Arrange 8 (½-cup) ramekins or custard cups in a large metal baking pan.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, brown sugar, and ¼ cup granulated sugar. Bring to a bare simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy and lemon-colored. Slowly add ¾ cup of the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture to the remaining hot cream, and whisk. Add the vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin, and whisk until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Divide among the prepared custard cups.

Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake until the custards are just set in the center but not stiff, 45 minutes to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle each custard with ½ teaspoon of the remaining sugar. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar. (Alternately, preheat the broiler, and broil until the sugar melts and caramelizes, watching closely to avoid burning and rotating the cups, about 1 to 2 minutes.) Place on small dessert plates and serve.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Giada de Laurentiis: Mini Frittatas

I absolutely love breakfast, but I'm really bad about planning ahead for the week.  On the weekend you can have a lovely relaxed repast, but during the week you're lucky to grab something on your way out the door.  So I figured I would nip that problem in the bud and make something super easy to take me through a week of breakfasts.  These little frittatas are pretty much perfect for that, as they have all that lovely protein and reheat easily.  Problem solved.

Mini Frittatas
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Nonstick cooking spray
5 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 ounces thinly sliced ham, chopped
⅓ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Spray a mini muffin tin (with 24 cups) with nonstick spray. Whisk the eggs, milk, pepper, salt, and parsley in a large bowl to blend well. Sprinkle the ham evenly in the muffin cups. Fill prepared muffin cups almost to the top with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until the egg mixture puffs and is just set in the center, about 8 to 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittatas from the muffin cups and slide the frittatas onto a platter. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Feasting at Home: Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Sage

It's that time of year.  The time when the squashes take over the grocery store, spilling out of crates all over the sidewalks.  You literally have to step over them.  So I figured why not do my part for the sake of the squashes and take one home with me?  And then sauté it in butter and garlic and truffle oil?  We do the deluxe treatment in this house.  And then you can still feel good about yourself because you just had a meatless dinner.  Claps all around.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms, Garlic, and Sage
Adapted from Feasting at Home blog

1 small spaghetti squash (about 2½ pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ red onion, chopped
12 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh torn sage
1¼ teaspoons sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch nutmeg
¼ cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Drizzle truffle oil (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut spaghetti squash in half and place open side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 40 to 50 minutes.

While squash is baking, heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté onions until just tender about 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, turn heat down to medium, and sauté until they begin to release their liquid, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and sage and continue cooking until mushrooms brown, about 4 minutes. Season generously with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Check squash by piercing with the tip of a sharp knife to see if it's done. When tender, take out of the oven, turn over, and let it cool slightly until cool enough to handle, then scoop out seeds. Scoop out the spaghetti squash into the sauté pan with the mushrooms and stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in most of grated cheese, saving some for garnish. Place in a serving bowl, top with remaining cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil and sprinkling of pine nuts.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, October 19, 2015

Wolfgang Puck: Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage)

I think I missed all of the Oktoberfest parties in my area.  I'm not sure how I managed that. It's probably for the best though, as the food at these fests is more American and much, much less German. (Although I could do with some kaese spaetzle).  So when I saw a pretty red cabbage at the grocery store, my German heritage insisted that I do something to celebrate.

Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage)
Adapted from Wolfgang Puck

2 tablespoons peanut oil
½ medium red onion, sliced
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 cup red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 cup orange juice
Grated rind from 1 orange
½ cinnamon stick
1½ teaspoons ginger powder
Salt and pepper
2 pounds red cabbage, cut into julienne

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat a heavy casserole. Add peanut oil. Sauté red onion until translucent. Sprinkle in brown sugar and cook for a few minutes until it starts to caramelize.

Add sliced apples and deglaze with the red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil. Add red wine and orange juice, orange rind, cinnamon stick, ginger powder, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add red cabbage and continue to cook for about 10 minutes on top of the stove.

Cover cabbage with foil and bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Remove. taste, and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pork Chops with Apples and Calvados Cream Sauce

I'm not normally such a big apple fan.  Sure, I like some homemade applesauce, but if there's a choice of pies, apple is not number one.  Or two.  Apples are just so...pedestrian.  But for some reason, this fall I've been all over the apples.  First with my Bourbon Hasselback Apples, now with some scrumptious porky apple goodness.  I put these on mashed potatoes, but if you're feeling uber-motivated, you could definitely rock some mashed butternut squash.

Pork Chops with Apples and Calvados Cream Sauce

4 (1-inch thick) loin pork chops (about 1½ pounds total)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot (about 2 ounces), finely chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and cut into 16 slices per apple
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup Calvados (French apple brandy)
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon celery salt
6 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, minced

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle the pork chops liberally with salt and pepper, and then place them in the hot pan. Cook until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove the chops to a plate.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the butter to the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add the apple and the brown sugar. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the Calvados, scraping up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the cream, celery salt, sage, and parsley. Add the chops back to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated on the plate.

Cover and simmer over medium to medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Serve each chop topped with some apple slices and cream sauce.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread with Pecan Streusel

Everywhere I go, there are pumpkins.  It's just that time of year.  But instead of wanting to carve them, all I want to do is cook them.  Hollow out their insides and make them into something really yummy.  Okay, just kidding.  I would open a can and make them into something really yummy.  I would definitely jump all over some pumpkin pie, but I feel like I might be pushing that particular envelope.  I think a beautiful pumpkin loaf studded with little chocolate chips is an acceptable compromise.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread with Pecan Streusel

1 large egg
1 cup pumpkin puree
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Streusel Topping

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray or grease and flour.

In a large bowl, combine egg, pumpkin, both sugars, oil, yogurt, vanilla bean paste, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add mini chocolate chips and toss to coat.

Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and stir just to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle with streusel topping.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to rest on a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan. Cool completely.

Makes 12 servings

Streusel Topping
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bourbon Hasselback Apples

Well, it's the first official recipe of fall!  I wanted it to be pumpkin, but there's plenty of time for that yet.  I saw a very simple version of this recipe in Cooking Light magazine in September, but I knew the apples could be so much...more.  And none of this chintziness with the ingredients.  This is dessert, people.  Eat your salad for dinner, but when you're talking sweets, go big or go home.  I say it makes 8 servings, so that's half an apple per person.  Your mileage may vary.

Bourbon Hasselback Apples

4 large, firm Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and halved vertically
Cooking spray
1 cup packed dark brown sugar, divided
10 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
⅜ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅜ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Maker’s Mark bourbon
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream or heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Starting at the outermost edges, cut most (but not all) of the way through each apple half at ⅛-inch intervals. Place apple halves, cut sides down, in a 9x13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine ¼ cup brown sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, and bourbon; brush mixture evenly over apples.

Cover baking dish with foil; bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until apples are tender. Remove dish from oven and cool for 10 minutes.

Combine the remaining ¾ cup brown sugar, remaining 6 tablespoons butter, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, oats, flour, and salt. Carefully fan open apple halves. Spoon oat mixture evenly over apples. Bake for 10 more minutes. Turn broiler to high (with dish still in oven) and broil 2 minutes. Serve hot with ice cream or whipped cream or with cream just poured over top.

Makes 8 servings

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wild Blueberry Pie

Ever since I had the blueberry pie at Bartley's Dockside in Kennebunkport, Maine, one summer, I have been trying to find a recipe that will yield something just as delicious.  Especially now that summer is slowly exiting the building.  Now, I don't know if Mrs. B uses fresh wild blueberries that she picks on the weekends, but somehow I doubt it, so I didn't worry about using frozen organic berries.  And I made sure to include the hint of cinnamon.  This pie was fantastic; not too sweet, but still a rich treat.  It doesn't run all over your plate.  And it's best warm with vanilla bean ice cream.

Wild Blueberry Pie

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon sea salt
5 cups frozen wild blueberries
1½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 8 small cubes
Pie Crust

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a mixing bowl, prepare the filling. Whisk together sugars, flour, tapioca starch, and spices. Toss the berries in the dry mixture. Sprinkle with lemon juice and toss to combine. Set aside.

On a floured surface, roll out one ball of dough to a 13-inch circle and transfer into a 9-inch deep-dish pie dish. Trim any excess dough that is draping over the edges of the pie plate, and set aside.

Pour the berries gradually into crust, making sure to scrape all of the juices and sugar into the pie with a spatula. Dot the berries with butter.

Roll out top crust into a 10-inch circle and set atop pie. Fold bottom crust up over top crust; crimp to seal. Cut slits in the top. Set a pie crust shield on top to keep the edges from getting too brown. Bake 50-60 minutes, turning once or twice, until juices bubble up out of the vents and the top is golden brown. You can remove the pie crust shield during the last 5 to 10 minutes if the edges have not browned.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Pie Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface and crust bottom
¼ cup cake flour
½ teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 tablespoons vodka
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, divided

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flours with salt and sugar. Add butter and shortening; use a pastry blender to work it in until the mixture has the consistency of fine meal. Add the vodka and then the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, stopping when the dough just holds together. Toss with a fork until dough starts to form a ball. Turn dough onto floured counter, and knead three times, until smooth. Divide dough into two balls. Flatten each ball slightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.