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.