Saturday, December 31, 2016

Chocolate at Home: Champagne Truffles

On Christmas morning we had Champagne.  Because that's just how my family rolls.  Kidding, we had sparkling wine in our mimosas because that's how my family really rolls.  But then after all the mimosa drinking was done, there was some sparkling wine left in the bottle.  And you should never throw out something so delicious.  So I took the precious liquid home and found this fantastic recipe for truffles.  The only difficulty is that the truffles are remarkably rich, so you will find it difficult to hoard them for long.  These were meant for sharing, because sharing is caring.

Note:  Yes, some of the truffles in the picture are coated in powdered sugar.  No, I don't recommend it.  If the truffles sit for any period of time, the sugar melts into the underlying chocolate, leaving you with a slightly wet, haggard-looking ball of chocolate.  However, I absolutely condone dipping these in melted chocolate to form a shell, which is then rolled in powdered sugar once it solidifies.  Trial/error.

Champagne Truffles
Adapted from Chocolate at Home by Will Torrent as seen on Leite's Culinaria

7½ ounces chopped milk or semisweet chocolate
4½ ounces chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate
⅓ cup heavy cream
Pinch salt
¼ cup good quality Champagne
2 teaspoons brandy, preferably Cognac
¾ cup good quality cocoa powder (such as Valrhona)

Combine the chopped chocolates in a bowl.

Dump the cream and salt in a small saucepan or pot over low heat and bring to a gentle boil. Immediately pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate. Stir briefly and then set aside for 3 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. Stir again to ensure the chocolate is melted and smooth. (If the chocolate is not completely melted, it can be gently rewarmed in a microwave at 50% power in 5-second increments or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water.)  Add the Champagne and brandy to the melted chocolate and stir until you have a smooth, shiny ganache. Set aside to cool at room temperature for 3 to 5 hours. (Alternately, you can cover and stash the ganache mixture overnight in the fridge.)

Gently form the ganache into 1- to 1½-inch diameter spheres and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Sift the cocoa powder into a bowl and spread half the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet or large plate. Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Gently place each truffle on the baking sheet with the cocoa and sift the remaining mixture in the bowl over the top and sides so each truffle is evenly coated. Carefully transfer the coated truffles to the lined baking sheet to set before serving. Repeat with the remaining truffles. Place the truffles on a plate, loosely cover, and refrigerate for up to several days. For the most insanely creamy Champagne truffles experience, bring to room temperature prior to indulging.

Makes 40 to 50 truffles

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Nutritionist Meets Chef: Honey Roasted Parsnips

When it's the middle of winter, you're a bit limited in your choice of vegetables, especially if you're trying to be even halfway conscious of eating according to the seasons.  Yes, that beautiful green butter lettuce and ripe red tomato look delicious, but they certainly didn't grow anywhere in the general vicinity or without lots of human intervention.  So I decided to try a root vegetable I was not entirely familiar with: the parsnip.  Looks like a big cream-colored carrot.  Tastes like...a little carrot-y, a little yucca-y, a little sweet, a little nutty.  The honey roasting in this recipe definitely helps them develop a nice, brown glaze which may help in talking small children into giving them a chance.

Honey Roasted Parsnips
From Nutritionist Meets Chef blog

2¼ pounds parsnips
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup honey
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Peel the parsnips and cut them into halves or quarters.  You want your parsnips to be even in size so that they roast evenly.  Place the cut parsnips in a bowl, add the olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper, to taste.  Mix with your hands until the parsnips are all evenly coated in honey and oil.

Place the parsnips in an ovenproof dish in one layer and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender and slightly golden.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Heston Blumenthal: Oxtail Stew

I've been secretly plotting to make this recipe for, oh, about a year now.  No, I am not crazy.  You see, Heston Blumenthal recipes require planning.  They require the acquisition of large lists of ingredients.  They require me to try and find oxtails for something approaching a reasonable price, as the butchering world has now decided that they're very fancy indeed.  They also require a day with the right temperature for optimal enjoyment.  So basically, today was a day ordained by the stars for imbibing oxtail stew.  And yes, it was everything I've always wanted in an oxtail stew.  Deep, rich flavor; fall-apart tender beef; delicious gravy.  Recommended for those who like kitchen projects or impressing people (like your parents).

Note: I used Pinot noir for the red wine, Chardonnay for the white.  I have attempted to convert the British weights into American equivalents, but honestly, just use your kitchen scale.  It can do grams.  And it's so much more accurate.

Oxtail Stew
From Heston Blumenthal

2 star anise
5 cloves
10 allspice berries
Zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
6 medium carrots
6 medium onions
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided use
Peanut oil
4 large leeks
1 head celery
1 bulb garlic
7 tablespoons tomato paste
12 ounces fresh white button mushrooms
6 to 8 ripe tomatoes, halved
¼ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup dry white wine
5½ pounds oxtail, jointed
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup port
2 (750 mL) bottles red wine
Bouquet garni consisting of thyme, bay, and rosemary (be generous with the herbs)
15g unrefined sugar (½ ounce)
150ml red-wine vinegar (5 ounces)

At least two days before serving, prepare the marinade. Place the spices, orange zest, and black pepper in muslin and tie into a little parcel. (Although this is not essential, it is not especially pleasurable to chew on a whole peppercorn.) Peel, top and tail the carrots, then quarter them lengthwise. Peel and quarter the onions (by keeping them in larger pieces, it's easier to remove them later).

Take a casserole large enough to contain all the ingredients for the stew and place it over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the butter and about the same quantity of peanut oil. Add the carrots and, when they begin to brown, add the onions and continue cooking until both the carrots and onions have turned a light golden brown.

Chop the leek and celery and add to the pan. Cut the head of garlic in half, then add this, too (there's no need to bother peeling it or anything). Cook on medium heat for another 10 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste. Cook for a further five minutes, stirring all the time, then remove from the heat and set aside.

Finely slice the mushrooms and in another pan sauté them in 5 tablespoons of butter until they have released all of their liquid and turned brown. Drain off the excess fat and add to the vegetable mix in the large pan.

Take a casserole or frying pan that is large enough to accommodate the tomatoes, flesh-side down, in one layer with a little more of the peanut oil. Place the pan on medium heat and leave until the pan side of the tomatoes turns dark brown. Add the sherry vinegar and stand back - if you do not, it will feel as if someone has just sprayed horseradish up your nose. Leave the vinegar to boil off, then add the white wine. Bring to the boil and reduce until a syrupy mush is left. The pan will need to be stirred while the wine is reducing. Scrape this mix into the pan with the other vegetables.

Pat the pieces of oxtail dry and toss them in the flour. Dust off any excess flour, then season generously. Heat a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a large casserole. Add the oxtail and brown over high heat, turning regularly. Do this in several batches, to facilitate even browning. If necessary, change the oil in the pan so that the pieces of oxtail are not being browned in burned oil. Drain the browned pieces of oxtail on kitchen paper and add them to the pot of cooked ingredients.

Place the pan in which the meat was browned on high heat and, after a few minutes, pour in the port. Bring to the boil, the whole time scraping any meat residue off the bottom and sides of the pan, and as soon as the liquid boils, flame and reduce it by half. Add the red wine and repeat the process, again reducing by half. The alcohol will be difficult to ignite unless it is boiling.

Add the spice parcel and the bouquet garni, and return to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for five minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Add this to the other pan containing the meat and vegetables, carefully combining the ingredients, and leave to marinate in a cool place for 24 hours. It is important that the meat is completely covered by the marinade, so it might be necessary to add a little cold water.

Preheat the oven to 200°F. On the top of the stove, place the casserole on high heat and bring the liquid to the boil, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to stop the contents burning. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface, remove from the heat and lay a pierced piece of parchment paper on the surface of the liquid in the pan.

Place the pan in the oven for a minimum of seven hours, checking occasionally and topping up with water if the level of liquid has dropped too much. And I mean seven hours - this is the minimum time that should be set aside to cook the oxtail; longer will be even better.

Once cooked, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. When warm, carefully remove the pieces of oxtail with a slotted spoon and place them on a tray.

Return the pan to the heat for five to 10 minutes, and then pour into a smaller pan through a double layer of dampened muslin. Reduce this liquid to somewhere between ¾ cup and 1 cup, then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little before putting back the meat.

Cook the sugar in a small pan on high heat until it caramelizes - on no account let it burn, so watch it carefully - then add the red-wine vinegar, stir, reduce to a syrup and add this to the reduced cooking liquid with the oxtail. Stir carefully to combine, then leave to stand for five to 10 minutes before serving. You may need to reduce the liquid to a sauce consistency.

Serves 6

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Farallon: Wild Hamachi Sashimi with Coconut-Green Curry Vinaigrette and Ginger

I just happened to have some leftover hamachi in my freezer.  Because I just happened to have to buy a metric crap ton of it in order to make a recipe.  Because apparently only restaurants want sushi-grade hamachi.  So being the budget conscious consumer that I am (*cough cough* not *cough cough*), I figured I should probably find another use for the remaining hamachi.  After scouring the internet intensely for 20 minutes, I came across this recipe.  Now, it's certainly not something that is going to make me drop another $30-ish to make again, but I think it made admirable use of the leftover fish in my freezer.  Plus, it just looks super fancy for guests.

Wild Hamachi Sashimi with Coconut-Green Curry Vinaigrette and Ginger
From Chef Mark Franz of Farallon restaurant, as seen on Epicurious, June 2007

Coconut–green curry vinaigrette:
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ white onion, very thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, root ends trimmed, 1 or 2 tough outer leaves discarded from stalk, and roughly chopped
1 (13½-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup white wine, preferably Sauvignon Blanc
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 medium lime)
½ teaspoon sea salt

Fried ginger:
1 cup vegetable oil
2 (2-inch) pieces fresh ginger (about 1 ounce total), peeled and very thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Scant ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces fresh sushi-grade hamachi from a reputable fishmonger, well-chilled and very thinly sliced

Make coconut curry vinaigrette:
In large skillet over low heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add onion and sauté until translucent and softened, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, curry paste, and lemongrass and continue cooking, uncovered, until aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk and wine, increase heat to moderately high, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to moderate and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Stir in heavy cream, remove from heat, and let cool about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove lemongrass and discard. Transfer mixture to blender, add lime juice, and pulse until smooth, about 30 seconds (use caution when blending hot liquids). With motor on low, add remaining ¼ cup olive oil in slow, steady stream and process until fully incorporated. Stir in salt and set aside.

Fry ginger:
In heavy medium saucepan over moderately high heat, heat vegetable oil to 300°F. Fry ginger, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer ginger to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

To serve:
Divide hamachi evenly among 8 chilled plates. Drizzle ¼ cup vinaigrette over and around fish, sprinkle with fried ginger, and serve.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Inside-Out Sweet Potatoes

Just a warning before I begin.  This recipe may include some mild language, momentary sensuality, and may not be appropriate for children under the age of 21.

Okay, holy crap guys.  If you grew up eating sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows like I did, you will recognize the genesis of this recipe.  But this ball of sweet, gooey, oozing perfection is so much more delicious, it's in a whole different ballpark.  They take some time to put together, but when the kiddos (kiddos: anyone under the age of 110) crack these open and find the sweet spot at the center, it's worth all the trouble.

Note: I added the bourbon and still served these to children.  I know, I'm a horrible person.  But I also added vanilla bean paste, and that was fantastic.  So I say go with both the bourbon and the vanilla.  Also, I found these much easier to form when my hands were clean and slightly wet.  This will involve rinsing your hands after forming each ball.  Told you it took time to put together.

Inside-Out Sweet Potatoes
From Screen Doors and Sweet Tea

6 sweet potatoes
1 cup crushed cornflakes
1 large egg
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon sherry or bourbon, or if kids will be partaking, vanilla extract
8 large marshmallows
Canola oil, for frying (1½ cups)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Pierce each sweet potato several times and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Bake for 40 minutes, or until tender and easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool in their jackets. When cool enough to handle, halve the potatoes, scoop out their flesh, and mash with a fork or potato masher until smooth.

To make the inside-out sweet potatoes, place the cornflake crumbs in a shallow dish or pie pan. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl.

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes with the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder, flour, orange juice, and sherry, bourbon, or vanilla extract.

Working with your hands, encase each marshmallow in some of the sweet potato mixture, forming a ball. If the sweet potato mixture seems too soft to hold its shape, stir in some of the crumbs to thicken it. (You can cover and refrigerate the sweet potato-smothered marshmallows for up to several hours.) Dip each ball in the egg and then roll it in the crumbs. Refrigerate just until the oil is hot.

Lower the oven temperature to 200°F. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer. Place a wire rack over newspaper or paper towels.

Fry the inside-out sweet potatoes one or two at a time for 3 to 4 minutes, turning as needed, until lightly browned. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon, and place the drained balls on the prepared rack and transfer to the oven to keep warm while frying the remaining batches. Serve warm.

Baked Variation:
If you have the oven space and want to save a few calories, you can skip the deep frying. Instead, follow steps through forming the sweet potato balls and then preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper and generously spray the inside-out sweet potatoes with nonstick cooking spray. Bake until browned.

Makes 8 servings

Daring Gourmet: Roasted Garlic, Herb, and Lemon Cornish Game Hens

I think I hate making roasted birds.  That's saying a lot, since I basically love cooking anything and everything.  I just hate the way I roast the darn things according to the recipe, and then insert required thermometer, get assured they are at temperature, and then WHAM!  Still pink when cut.  Which inevitably leads to microwaving them into submission in a panic and dry meat like a desert.  My hate is never-ending.  BUT.  That being said, this recipe actually makes fully cooked birds that are still tender.  And they were actually tasty.  They may have made a small dent in my hatred of roasting birds.  Maybe.

Note: I don't think my mom's broil function on her oven works.  I promise these will be much browner and crispier in your oven.  #ovenfail

Roasted Garlic, Herb, and Lemon Cornish Game Hens
From Daring Gourmet blog

4 Cornish game hens, patted dry with paper towels
8 thin slices unsalted butter
4 sprigs each of fresh rosemary and thyme (or herbs of choice) plus some extra leaves of each
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 lemon, scrubbed well and cut into quarters
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Pat the hens dry with a paper towel. Use your index finger to loosen the skin on the top of the hen and slip a thin slice of butter under the skin on top of each breast. Add a few rosemary and thyme leaves (or herb of choice). Repeat for each hen. Put a quarter of a lemon in the cavity of each hen along with a clove of garlic and a sprig of fresh rosemary and thyme (or herb of choice). Truss the hens by tying the wings and legs.

Rub each hen all over with some extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place then hens on the rack of a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil, spacing them out so they are as far apart from each other as possible. This will enable their skins to get browned and crispy.

Place the hens in the preheated oven and roast for 25 minutes.

While the hens are roasting, combine the chicken broth and wine in a bowl.

After the hens have been roasting for 25 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Pour the broth/wine mixture over the hens and continue to roast for 30 minutes, basting the hens with the juices at the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes or less. The hens are done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F and the juices run clear. If you prefer darker skins, turn up the temperature to broil for a couple more minutes, watching closely to prevent burning.

Carefully remove the hens and pour the juices from their cavities into the roasting pan. Transfer the hens to a warmed platter, remove the trussing string, and tent with aluminum foil to week warm. Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes until the liquid is a thin sauce-like consistency. Serve the hens whole per guest or cut in half lengthwise and place cavity-down on each serving plate. Drizzle the sauce over the hens and garnish with fresh herb sprigs and a slice of lemon. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Modern Snack Bar: Crab and Shrimp Quiche

I know a lot of people aren't super fans of quiche.  I get it.  Really, I do.  I've had some bad quiche in my time.  Flavorless sponge in a crust.  But I can promise you that this quiche is NOT bad quiche.  This quiche is packed full of flavor and fabulous seafood.  And it's smothered in cheese.  Did I mention that?  You really can't go wrong on the quiche front with this one.  It was even luxurious enough to feel like a treat on Christmas morning.

Note: The egg filling is ridiculously thick (not that I mind), so it doesn't really work its way down through the shrimp and crab if you pour it on top.  Since I didn't want baked shrimp and crab with quiche on top, I gently folded the shrimp and crab into the egg mixture before dumping it all in the pie shell.

Crab and Shrimp Quiche
From Modern Snack Bar, New York, NY, as seen in Saveur magazine, Jan/Feb 2014

1¼ cups flour, plus more for dusting
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons ice-cold water
½ pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
¼ pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked of shells
2 ounces shredded Cheddar
2 ounces shredded mozzarella
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
5 large eggs
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Pulse flour, butter, and salt in a food processor until pea-size crumbles form. Add water; pulse until dough comes together. Flatten dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edges and crimp; chill 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375°F. Using a fork, prick dough all over. Line dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans; bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove paper and weights; let cool. 

Reduce oven to 325°F. Arrange shrimp over bottom of crust; sprinkle with crab. Whisk half each the cheddar and mozzarella, plus mayonnaise, sour cream, 1 teaspoon basil, the Old Bay, eggs, salt, and white pepper in a bowl; pour evenly over top of shrimp and crab. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses and basil; bake until filling is set, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let quiche cool in pan, then unmold and cut into slices.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Aaron Sanchez: Mexican Brownies

What do you have for dessert after a Tex-Mex feast?  Well, you could do flan.  Or tres leches cake.  Or sopapillas.  Or you could just make something fantastically chocolatey that makes everyone groan with delight and forget to eat their dinner.  We obviously voted for the latter.  This brownie recipe is incredibly chocolatey (if you use the Valrhona cocoa I recommend), and the cinnamon adds just the right spice.  We actually thought there wasn't enough cayenne pepper, so feel free to be a little heavy handed with that one.

Note:  The frosting recipe comes from an old Hershey's booklet, and my family honestly feels like it's a perfect chocolate icing for most occasions.  And we also felt like the only way you could make these brownies even more fantastic than they already were was to slather them in this frosting.  Your personal level of hedonism is up to your discretion.

Mexican Brownies
Adapted from Aaron Sanchez

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
⅔ cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Valrhona)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon (canela)
¼ teaspoon pequin chili powder or cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9x13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Press the paper into the corners of the pan and lightly grease the paper with butter.

Melt the butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-low heat; do not boil. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla to the saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
Add the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, chili powder, salt, and baking powder and mix until smooth. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out fudgy, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack, then use the parchment paper to lift out the brownies before slicing.

Makes 18 brownies

Chocolate Frosting
From Hershey's

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⅓ cups powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix together the butter, vanilla, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of milk until smooth. Add cocoa powder and enough milk to make the frosting spreadable.

Pillsbury: Bacon-Jalapeño Popper Pinwheels

For our Tex-Mex Christmas Eve this year, we rounded up a whole bunch of delicious little tidbits involving hot peppers, avocados, and salsa.  And somehow my sister managed to find a recipe that would please her crescent roll-loving hubby and meet the requirements of the dinner.  Jalapeños?  Check.  And you know that I never complain about the inclusion of bacon in just about anything, so these puppies are all win-win.

Bacon-Jalapeño Popper Pinwheels
From Pillsbury

6 ounces jalapeño cream cheese spread (¾ cup from an 8-ounce container)
⅓ cup chopped cooked bacon
1 (8-ounce) can Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

Heat oven to 375°F. In small bowl, mix cream cheese and bacon until well blended; set aside.

Unroll crescent dough; separate into 4 (4x6-inch) rectangles, pressing perforations to seal. Spread cream cheese mixture on each of the dough rectangles to within ½-inch of edges. Starting with 1 short side, roll up rectangle; press seam to seal. Cut roll into 6 slices, and place slices cut side down on greased large cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough rectangles.

Bake 15 to 17 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Serve warm.

Makes 24 servings

Rick Bayless: Make-Ahead Margaritas

Not being a huge fan of bottled margarita mix, but also being a resident of the great state of Texas (residency requirement: drink margaritas and eat queso), I have searched high and low for a good margarita recipe.  Funny that I should find it in a book by a white guy in Chicago who cooks the hell out of Mexican food.  Hey, I'll take what I can get.  This recipe mixes up a slightly sweet and deliciously sour margarita that is also strong enough to make you loose and breezy on one, maybe two glasses (depending on the size of those glasses).  And since it makes a whole pitcher at a time, you don't have to worry about shot of this and that per glass when you're a couple margs in.

Make-Ahead Margaritas
From Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen

1⅔ cups Sauza Hacienda Reposado tequila
¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon Patron Citronge orange liqueur
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 2 large, juicy limes)
Finely grated zest of 1½ limes, about 1½ teaspoons
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup water
Lime wedges
Coarse (or kosher) salt

Mix the tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, lime zest, sugar, and water in a glass or plastic pitcher until the sugar dissolves.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours (but no more than 24 hours).  Strain into another pitcher.

Rub the rims of 8 martini or margarita glasses with a lime wedge, then dip the rims in a dish of coarse salt.  Serve the margaritas either straight-up or on the rocks in the prepared glasses.

Makes 8 margaritas

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sous Vide Turkey Breasts

A couple of years ago I purchased a sous vide oven.  I had great plans for all the delicious things I was going to make in said oven.  And to date, I've used it twice.  Embarrassing.  Normally I would feel that I have wasted money that would have been put to better use elsewhere, but after tonight, I cannot feel that way.  Friends, I have made the juiciest, most tender turkey breast on the planet.  And that's not even hyperbole.  This recipe will turn you into a turkey lover.  It's so moist, so tender, you'll swear it couldn't possibly be related to that horrid dried-out turkey you have every Thanksgiving.  And the best part?  It requires almost no action from you.  Just let the turkey stew away in its vacuum pack, and you'll be rewarded with perfection.

Sous Vide Turkey Breasts
Cooking times and temperatures from

1 large whole skin-on, bone-in turkey breast (about 5 pounds), split into two breasts3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup Lawry's seasoned salt
1 large sprig rosemary, leaves removed
6 small sprigs thyme

Loosen the skin and smear 1½ tablespoons of butter under the skin of each breast.  Sprinkle each breast with half of the seasoned salt and half of the rosemary leaves.  Slide each breast into a separate vacuum bag, and then slide three sprigs of thyme onto the top of each breast.  Seal the bags.

Preheat the sous vide machine to 145°F/63°C.  Lay the sealed bags into the machine and make sure they are fully immersed.  Lay a small plate on top of the bags to ensure they remain immersed.  Cook for 3 hours.

Remove the bags from the sous vide machine and slice each open.  Using tongs, remove the breasts to a glass dish or roasting pan, disposing of the liquids and herbs.  If desired, run the breasts under the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the skin is crisped.  Slice and serve.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Two Peas and Their Pod: Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache Sandwich Cookies

Since certain people in my family are always asking how many carbs are in the desserts that I make (a lot!  it's dessert!), I figured I would play nice and make something with ZERO FLOUR.  You heard me, no flour.  Zilch.  Yes, it still has sugar.  It is a cookie, after all.  But at least it doesn't have flour!  And these cookies are pretty darn fantastic.  If you've ever eaten and loved Girl Scout cookies called Do-Si-Dos, you will enjoy this cookie.  If you just enjoy peanut butter desserts, you will enjoy this cookie.  If your heart is beating, you will enjoy this cookie.  Did I mention it's flourless?

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Ganache Sandwich Cookies
From Two Peas and Their Pod blog

For the cookies:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt

For the chocolate ganache:
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy cream

For the peanut butter filling:
¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the peanut butter and sugars together until creamy and smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the baking soda and salt and mix until combined.

Spoon dough into balls, about 1 tablespoon of dough for each cookie. Place them on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Smash dough balls with a fork, creating a crisscross. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Don't overbake. Remove cookies from oven and let them sit on the baking sheet for 2 minutes. Move to a wire rack and cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the chocolate ganache. Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in the microwave, in an microwave safe bowl, for 30-60 seconds, or until cream is hot, but not bubbling. Pour hot cream over chocolate chips and let sit for 1 minute. Stir until the chocolate melts and you have a smooth and silky ganache. Set aside.

Next, make the peanut butter frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar. Mix until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla and mix until the frosting is creamy and smooth. If you need to add a little more powdered sugar or milk to reach your desired consistency, you can. You want the frosting to be thick.

To assemble the sandwich cookies, take one cookie and spread ganache on the inside of the cookie, about 1½ teaspoons. Next, either spread on the peanut butter frosting with a spoon or put the frosting in a pastry bag and pipe the frosting onto the ganache. Top with another cookie and gently squeeze so the ganache and frosting meet the edge of the cookies. Continue until all of your cookies are sandwiched.

Makes 14 sandwich cookies

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Michelle Rodarte/Zarela Martinez: Tamales Mexicanos de Puerco en Chile Colorado y Pollo en Chile Verde (Mexican Tamales with Red Chile Pork and Green Chile Chicken)

The holidays are a very busy time of year.  There are presents to buy and wrap, cookies to bake, and parties to attend.  But being the gastro-sadist that I am, what did I decide to do?  Cook up a batch of tamales that normally involves an entire Mexican family.  And it literally took all day.  I do not recommend this method.  I do recommend that you find all of your friends and family and make them help you.  Because these tamales are fantastic.  I keep wavering back and forth on which is better: chicken or pork.  But honestly?  It's more of a how-am-I-feeling-that-day thing.  Am I feeling spicy?  Am I feeling cheesy?  Just make both and then you're covered.

Note:  It seems like a lot of jalapeños in the sauce for the chicken.  I know.  I blanched a bit, too, and I'm a Texan.  Trust me that it's needed to spice up not only the chicken, but the masa that the whole gets wrapped in.  Pull out some of the ribs and seeds if you're still nervous.

Tamales Mexicanos de Puerco en Chile Colorado y Pollo en Chile Verde (Mexican Tamales with Red Chile Pork and Green Chile Chicken)
Adapted from Michelle Rodarte, Central Market Cooking School, and Food from My Heart by Zarela Martinez

Red Chile Pork:
2½ pounds boneless pork butt OR 3 pounds bone-in pork shoulder
1 whole head garlic, unpeeled, cut crosswise in half
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 large bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces ancho, New Mexico, or guajillo chiles, or a combination
2 garlic cloves
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon skinless roasted peanuts
¼ teaspoon toasted anise seed
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Green Chile Chicken:
4 to 8 fresh jalapeños, tops removed and halved crosswise
1 medium onion, quartered
5 garlic cloves
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
2 pounds rotisserie chicken, shredded
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 pound queso Asadero

4½ cups masa harina
4 to 5 cups warm pork or chicken stock
1 pound lard
2½ tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 to 2 bags dried cornhusks

For Red Chile Pork:
Place the pork butt in a slow cooker with the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt.  Add enough water to cover by 2 inches.  Cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours, or until the pork is tender enough to shred with a fork.  Carefully remove the pork from the liquid with a slotted spoon, shred with a fork, and set aside.  Strain the broth through a fine mesh and reserve for making the tamale dough.

Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chile.  Place them over a hot griddle or frying pan and toast until their aroma is released.  Be careful not to burn them.  Place the chiles in a bowl of hot water to re-hydrate.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Place the rehydrated chiles, garlic, onion, peanuts, anise seed, and cinnamon in a blender, adding ½ cup of the chile soaking water to start the blending process.  Slowly add additional soaking water as the mixture blends until you get a smooth puree.  With a spoon, work the puree through a medium mesh into a bowl, pushing and scraping to get all you can.  Discard any solids that will not go through.  Toss the sauce with the shredded pork meat and set aside.

For Green Chile Chicken:
Place jalapenos, onion, garlic, vegetable oil, cilantro, oregano, and chicken bouillon in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped, then process to desired consistency.  Toss with the shredded chicken.

Slice the poblano chiles into ¼-inch strips lengthwise and place in a bowl.  Repeat with the cheese.  Set aside with the chicken.

For the dough:
Place the masa harina in a large bowl and reconstitute by adding 4 cups warm stock.  Beat with a wooden spoon or mix with your hands until you have a stiff dough, like bread dough.  Add a little more stock if necessary.

Beat the lard in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until very fluffy and fully aerated, about 3 minutes.  It should be as light as butter creamed for the lightest butter cake.  Still mixing on medium speed, begin adding the masa a handful at a time.  Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.  When all the masa is incorporated, the mixture should be very light and delicate, like the texture of buttercream frosting.  Check the consistency by dropping a little piece of masa in a glass of water; it should float.  Beat in salt and cumin.

To make tamales:
Soak the cornhusks in a bowl of very hot, salty water for about 20 minutes.  When the cornhusks are pliable, rinse the cornhusks.

The ideal cornhusks for tamales are about 5 to 6 inches wide at the widest point; other cornhusks can be used as padding during cooking.  Spread the masa on the top half (the wider portion) of the smooth side of the selected cornhusk.  Scrape away the masa from the top inch of the cornhusk to keep the tamale from overflowing while cooking.  For pork tamales, lay 1 to 2 tablespoons of red chile pork in the center of the masa, then fold the sides in and the "tail" of the cornhusk up.  The tamale will be open at the top.  For chicken tamales, lay 1 to 2 tablespoons of green chile chicken in the center of the masa, then lay 1 strip of poblano chile and 1 strip on cheese on top of the chicken.  Fold as for pork tamales.

Steam the tamales in a large pot, with the smaller tamales in the center, covered with a kitchen towel to keep water from dripping into the open tops of the tamales.  Check during cooking to be sure that the water does not run dry.  (A trick - put a quarter in the bottom of the pot while filling it.  The coin will rattle during cooking as long as there is water in the bottom.  If the pot runs dry, the coin will stop rattling.)  The tamales are done when the masa cleanly separates from the cornhusk when unfolded slightly.  This may take between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on how full the pot is and how big the tamales are.

One recipe of dough is enough for 3 dozen tamales.  You will need two batches of dough to use up all of the pork and chicken in the recipe above.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Martha Stewart: Bacon Jam

I think Facebook is going to be my downfall.  Not because of the angry political rants.  Not because of the endless pictures of people's children.  Not because of the god awful selfies.  No, it will be my downfall because of the ridiculous amount of cooking videos that regularly swarm my newsfeed.  And when that video involved a chef making a big 'ol pot of bacon jam for his fried green tomato burger, I couldn't get to the store fast enough.  I have found the ultimate perfection of the pig, and this is it.  Smear it on everything.  I did a gorgeous grilled cheese stuffed with this stuff, and based on my groans, my downstairs neighbor probably thought I was dying.

Bacon Jam
Adapted from Martha Stewart and Rocky Hill Inn, Rocky Hill, NJ (as seen on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives)

1½ pounds sliced applewood smoked bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup finely chopped white onion
4 small cloves garlic, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground mustard
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup bourbon
¼ cup maple syrup
⅓ cup sherry vinegar
⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
Sea salt, to taste (optional)

Spread bacon in a single layer in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned, 20 to 23 minutes. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, ginger, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Increase heat to high; add bourbon and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Add vinegar and brown sugar and return to a boil. Add reserved bacon; reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces to a thick glaze, about 10 minutes.  Add salt to taste if the bacon isn't very salty.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until it has the consistency of a chunky jam. Refrigerate in an airtight container at least 1 hour and up to 4 weeks.

Makes about 2¾ cups

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Averie Cooks: Glazed Orange Sweet Rolls

When I was a kid, my mom would occasionally bake up some cinnamon rolls.  You know, the ones that pop out of the paper cylinder when you peel the label?  Yeah, everyone knows what I'm talking about.  Now, those were yummy, but I was always a bit partial to the orange rolls.  Same idea, different filling, much more delicious.  While I can certainly still go grab a paper cylinder of ready-to-bake rolls, I thought I would try my hand at making them from scratch.  And these rolls bake up light as a feather, but rich and sweet.

Note: Really, this was just an excuse to make something with the Crosse & Blackwell orange marmalade that I love.  I swear, I could eat that stuff with a spoon, but I've been told that's not ladylike.  I highly recommend that particular brand for your filling, as it's perfectly puckery.

Glazed Orange Sweet Rolls
From Averie Cooks blog

3 cups all-purpose flour, or as needed
¼ cup granulated sugar
2¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast (one ¼-ounce packet)
Pinch salt, to taste
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly whisked

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft - let it sit out while dough rises
About 1 cup orange marmalade
½ cup packed light brown sugar

Orange Glaze
¼ cup orange juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
Pinch salt, optional and to taste (helps balance the sweetness)
About 3 tablespoons milk or cream, or as needed for consistency
3 teaspoons orange zest, divided

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or use a large mixing bowl and wooden spoon and your hands), add 3 cups flour, sugar, yeast, salt; set aside.

In 2-cup glass measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl, and the butter and heat to melt, about 1 minute on high power.
Add buttermilk to melted butter and warm to temperature, about 45 seconds on high power in the microwave. (Based on the type of yeast used, milk temperatures will vary. Heat the mixture according to manufacturer's recommendations on the packaging. Taking the temperature with a digital thermometer is highly recommended, but if you're not, make sure the milk is warm, not hot. Err on the cooler rather than hotter side so you don't kill the yeast.) If the milk separates or gets a little funny looking after being warmed, whisk it to smooth it out.

Add butter-buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients in mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, crack and lightly whisk the eggs, and then add eggs to mixing bowl.

Turn mixer on low speed and allow it to knead dough for about 5 to 7 minutes (about 7 to 10 minutes by hand using a wooden spoon and then switching to your hands). If after 5 minutes your dough is very sloppy, wet, and won't come together, add up to ¼ cup flour, or as needed, until it does come together. However, the more flour added, the denser and heavier the rolls will be; wetter dough is preferred to overly dry. If dough is dry or crumbly, drizzle in buttermilk until it comes together.

Remove dough from the mixing bowl, spray a large bowl with cooking spray, place the dough in the bowl, and flip it over once so it's lightly oiled on both top and bottom.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about 2 to 2½ hours, or doubled in size. (Try keeping the bowl inside an oven that was preheated for 1 minute to 400°F, then powered off. Do NOT keep the oven on. The pre-heated, warm oven creates a nice 85°F-ish environment, ideal for yeast. If your rising spot is cold, rising will likely take longer than 2½ hours.

While dough rises, line a 9x13-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.

Rolling Out the Dough:
After dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Turn dough out onto a Silpat or floured countertop. With a rolling pin, roll it out to about 26-by-13-inches. Use the 13-inch side of the 9-x13 pan to eyeball it, no need use a ruler.

Using a knife, evenly spread butter over dough, leaving a ½-inch bare margin.

Add about ¾ cup marmalade, more as needed, and smooth it with a knife. It should be a thin-ish layer; too much and you risk it leaking, but not enough and the rolls aren't orangey enough; use your judgment. The butter and marmalade get smeared together, which is okay.

Evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the top, and lightly pat it down with your fingertips to help it adhere.

Slicing the Dough:
Starting with a long edge (the 26-inch side), roll the dough into a tightly wound log, with the seam side down.

Using a knife, make small hash marks so there will be 20 evenly sized rolls (about 1- to 1½-inches wide; or make bigger rolls and yield 12 to 16). Hash marks create less guesswork once you start slicing and things get messier and harder to eyeball where to slice; the hash marks are nice place-markers.

Use plain, unwaxed dental floss to slice the rolls. I highly recommend slicing the rolls with floss, not knives. Floss does not squish or compact the log like knives do.

Arrange the rolls in the prepared pan, 5 rows of 4 rolls across. Cover with plastic wrap.

Make Straight Through:
Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the rolls have nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Or...Make as Overnight Rolls:
Don't let rolls rise after they've been sliced and placed in covered pan. Place pan in refrigerator for up to 16 hours. Before baking, let the rolls rise at room temperature until they have nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.

For either version, bake at 375°F for about 15 minutes, or until lightly golden on top and cooked through (ovens, dough, and climates vary and so will baking duration, but 1 to 2 minutes matters in this recipe). Watch rolls like a hawk and don't overbake or they won't taste nearly as good.

Orange Glaze:
In a medium bowl, add the orange juice, vanilla, confectioners' sugar, optional salt, and whisk to combine; mixture will be thick.

Drizzle in the milk as needed until mixture can be whisked smooth and is to desired consistency.
Whisk in 2 teaspoons zest; set aside remainder.

Evenly pour glaze over rolls. Evenly sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon zest.

Serve immediately. Rolls are best warm and fresh, but will keep airtight at room temp for up to 4 days; reheat in micro for about 5 seconds to re-soften or as desired. I am comfortable keeping glazed rolls at room temp and do not recommend storing them in the fridge because they will dry out. Rolls can be made and baked to completion, and then frozen for up to 6 months; unthaw and glaze immediately prior to serving. I recommend baking them from start to finish and then freezing, rather than trying to freeze unbaked dough, if you want to make in bulk in advance.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The InterContinental at Doral, Miami: Pollo en Crema con Loroco (Aura Cameron’s Stewed Chicken with Loroco Flower)

When I toured Guatemala with a dear friend many years ago, I got to partake of the delicious dishes of that country at each family's house we visited.  It was like a parade of deliciousness.  One dish that I really enjoyed was chicken cooked in sour cream and a flower called loroco.  I had no idea what I was eating, I just knew it was good.  I figured the chances of finding this flower in the US were basically zero, so I didn't think much more about it.  Flash forward to me wandering the frozen food aisle of my local Mexican grocery and suddenly realizing I was staring at a bag of loroco.  The cashier must have thought I was some kind of crazy gringo as I grinned all the way through her line.

Pollo en Crema con Loroco (Aura Cameron’s Stewed Chicken with Loroco Flower)
Adapted from The InterContinental at Doral, Miami, as seen on South Florida Gourmet blog

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ teaspoon achiote or annatto paste
1½ cups loroco flowers, roughly chopped
2 chicken leg quarters, skinned and cut into pieces
1½ cups chicken stock
2 cups crema (sour cream)
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, plum tomato, onion, garlic, and bell peppers. Cook for approximately 10 minutes till the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft. Incorporate the achiote paste.

Add the loroco flowers, chicken, and chicken broth.  Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat for approximately 25 minutes.  Add the crema and heavy cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium low heat for approximately 20 to 30 minutes (keep checking and occasionally stir) until the chicken is cooked.

When the chicken is cooked, serve with rice.

Makes 2 servings

Friday, December 16, 2016

El Frijol Feliz: Arroz Guatemalteco (Guatemalan Rice)

I was guilty.  Guilty of thinking that rice was the same no matter what Central or South American country you visited.  I figured it would be that same tomato-ey red rice you get at Tex-Mex restaurants.  I should have known better.  Luckily I have a very sweet friend from Guatemala who has shown me the error of my ways.  Guatemalan rice is tender, savory, and full of lovely flecks of color.  And it works perfectly alongside all sorts of lovely Guatemalan entrees.  I certainly stand corrected.

Note: After sautéing the vegetables, I dumped all of this in my rice cooker.  Feel free to take the easy way out just like I did.

Arroz Guatemalteco (Guatemalan Rice)
Adapted from El Frijol Feliz cooking class, Antigua, Guatemala

1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
¼ cup frozen petite peas
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups long-grain white rice
4 cups chicken stock

Add the vegetables to a saucepan with the vegetable oil and sauté for about a minute or two until the onion is clear. Add the salt. Once the vegetables are sautéed, add the uncooked rice. Stir until any liquid is absorbed, about one minute. Then add the chicken stock. Cook the rice for about 20 minutes or for the time listed on your bag of rice. Serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Kindred: Tortellini with White Miso, Egg Yolks, Bay Scallops, and Black Truffles

Every once in a blue moon, black truffles pop up at my local grocery store.  And I always caress the containers lovingly before passing on to other, cheaper delights.  But I finally decided to grab some black gold.  A very small bit.  This pasta recipe is plenty luxurious even without the truffles, so I think you could definitely leave them off if you have something called a *coughcough* budget *coughcough*.

Note: This recipe originally called for spaghetti, but that's no fun, so I decided cheese tortellini was the way to go.  But then I figured that wasn't much more fun than spaghetti, so I got tri-colored cheese tortellini.  Basically I went wild in the pasta department.

Tortellini with White Miso, Egg Yolks, Bay Scallops, and Black Truffles
Adapted from Joe Kindred, Kindred restaurant, Davidson, NC, as seen on

1 pound tri-color cheese tortellini
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon room temperature unsalted butter, divided
½ cup white miso paste
1 pound fresh bay scallops
Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
Black summer truffles, finely chopped (optional)

Dry the scallops using a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook the pasta according to the recommended cook time on the package. When the pasta is done, remove it from the water, making sure to reserve the pasta water.

In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup butter with the miso paste until smooth.

While the pasta is cooking, add 1 tablespoon butter to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the scallops and gently cook until they are opaque, about 2 minutes. Do not brown the scallops. Add the miso–butter mixture and let the butter toast with the scallops for about 1 minute.

Add the pasta directly to the skillet with the scallops, tossing the pasta with the scallops and miso butter until the miso butter evenly coats the noodles. Add 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook the sauce down, stirring frequently until it’s reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Add the remaining butter and cook until the liquid has again reduced by half. The sauce should be thickened but not pasty. If it becomes too thick (doesn’t pool at all in the pan and all the sauce is sticking to the noodle) then add a bit more pasta water to loosen it up. Remove the pan from the heat and stir frequently to release some of the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with approximately 1 tablespoon of the hot pasta water. Stir vigorously. Slowly add the yolks to the pasta, stirring constantly so the eggs don’t scramble, until the sauce thickens and is a glossy, beautiful yellow color. Check for seasoning and add salt, if necessary. Stir in the chopped truffle.  Portion the pasta into 4 bowls and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, December 04, 2016

A Return to Cooking: Cauliflower Soup with Smoked Scallops

I know this doesn't look like much.  I really should probably invest in some more interesting bowls.  But I promise that this soup is fantastic.  It's creamy and warm and everything delicious on a cold day.  And there's something about those smoked scallops that really does something for the flavor.  I think you could probably even swing some hot smoked salmon if you can't find the scallops.  Anything smoky and fishy.  It won't be pretty, but your tongue will know the truth.

Cauliflower Soup with Smoked Scallops
From A Return to Cooking by Eric Ripert

1 large cauliflower
2½ cups chicken stock
2½ cups water
Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch chunks
2 cups heavy cream
½ pound smoked scallops, cut into ½-inch dice
1 teaspoon finely chopped Lemon Confit or jarred preserved lemons
12 small dill sprigs (tips only)

Prepare the cauliflower by removing the green leaves and the inner core. Roughly chop the florets and place in a heavy-bottomed pan. Cover with the chicken stock and water and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Puree the soup in a blender in batches, blending it to a satiny smooth consistency. Pour the soup into a clean pot and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the butter and heavy cream. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Meanwhile, divide the scallops among six soup bowls. Place on a baking sheet in the oven until the scallops are warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.

To serve, add the lemon confit and dill to the soup and stir to incorporate. Ladle the soup into the bowls and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Lemon Confit
3 cups kosher salt
6 lemons

Place a 1 quart canning jar and lid in a pot of boiling water to sterilize them.  Dry on a rack upside down.

Pour a layer of salt into the bottom of the jar.  Cut 1 inch off one end of a lemon, then quarter the lemon, starting at the cut end, but leaving the uncut end intact.  Open the lemon over a bowl and pour salt inside.  Place the lemon in the bottom of the jar.  Continue with the remaining lemons (use the remaining salt and the salt that falls into the bowl), packing them into the jar and covering each layer of lemons with salt.  Seal the jar and refrigerate.

The lemons can be used after 1 month, but they are best after 3 months and will keep for up to a year.

To use the confit, cut the lemon quarters apart.  Cut away all the flesh from the rind; discard the flesh.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Bluestem: hamachi, black radish, celery

Enough of all this comfort food memory lane wandering.  Ready for something fancy?  Something cutting edge?  No?  Well, too bad.  I'm feeling the need for something raw.  I'm also feeling like I should probably make this recipe since I've had it picked out roughly since the Bluestem cookbook came out in 2011.  Oops.  Well, suffice to say that this was delicious and original.  Excellent use of hamachi.  I still can't believe I found a black radish.  I think it was roughly four times the size used at the restaurant, but it was black, and that's all that matters.

Note: I used yellow mustard seeds and New Mexican ground chile.  Since the directions weren't specific, I figured I could do what I wanted.

hamachi, black radish, celery
From Bluestem

2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, crushed
¼ teaspoon ground dried chile
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces sushi-grade hamachi, cut into 4 (2-ounce pieces)
2 tablespoons peanut oil

Juice of ½ lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 black radishes, thinly shaved
2 celery hearts, thinly sliced

Make the hamachi: Combine the coriander, togarashi, paprika, mustard seeds, ground chile, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub the spices all over the pieces of fish to coat well.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over high heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, sear the fish for 5 seconds on each side.  Using a very sharp knife, slice the fish against the grain into ⅛-inch thick slices.

Make the salad: Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.  Toss the shaved radishes and celery in the dressing to coat.

To serve: Divide the slices of fish among 4 plates.  Garnish the plates with the salad.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Turkey Tetrazzini

This year I decided to work on my post-Thanksgiving food plan.  I always end up with a hunk of turkey that I nibble the edges of for multiple days before it finally makes its way into the trash.  And that seems like such a waste.  And this year I also had a container of homemade turkey stock left over.  So I finally caved and made this great cafeteria staple of yesteryear.  And it was just as comforting and creamy as I remember from the days when lunch was less than $5.

Turkey Tetrazzini

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
¾ pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup medium dry sherry
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¾ to 2 cups turkey or chicken stock
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 cups chopped turkey
½ cup frozen petite green peas
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
12 ounces linguine, cooked until al dente
¼ cup Progresso Italian breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the shallots and mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms give up their liquid, then add the garlic.  Add the sherry and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces by three-quarters, 4 to 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour all over, then stir to combine.  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the flour smells nutty.

Pour in the broth, stir and continue to cook until the sauce is nice and thick, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the mascarpone cheese and stir until it melts into the mixture.  Add the turkey, peas, and Parmesan.  Stir until everything is well combined, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the linguine and stir to combine. If the mixture is too thick, add in some additional broth.  Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish and even out the surface. Sprinkle on the breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and the casserole is bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Alton Brown: Cranberry Sauce Molds

Can you tell I was feeling nostalgic?  Come on, guys!  Wiggly cranberry jellies?  I know I'm not the only person who was eating those canned molds as a child.  Well, at least Alton and I understand.  Although I did decide not to take it quite as far as making them in actually used cans.  These half-rounds are prettier I think.  And in order to find a can, I'd have to sacrifice the gelatinous contents to the garbage disposal gods, so it worked out better this way.

Note: These turned out a bit tarter than I generally like.  But I have an insatiable sweet tooth.  So it may just be me.

Cranberry Sauce Molds
Adapted from Alton Brown

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup 100% cranberry or pomegranate juice
1 cup honey (12 ounces by weight)
1 ounce crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 pound fresh cranberries (approximately 4 cups)
Grated rind of one orange
2 tablespoons cognac

Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice, honey and ginger in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the cranberries, orange rind, and cognac and increase heat to medium, cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens. As it thickens, drop the temperature to low, to prevent splattering. Do not cook for more than 15 minutes, as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well.

Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.  Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3-cup mold. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.

Once the cranberry sauce has cooled, overturn the mold and slide out the sauce. Slice and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Shutterbean: Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Butter

You thought I was done making jams and jellies?  Well, shows what you know.  And the fact that I made a crap ton of this before I realized you can't actually seal these in a boiling water bath shows what I know.  Something about being so thick you can't kill all the bacteria.  Darn non-industrial kitchen.  But as luck would have it, you can certainly throw these non-sealed jars in the freezer (assuming you actually have any room in said freezer).  Or just eat it really fast.  That works, too.

Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Butter

2 sugar pie pumpkins, cut in half & de-seeded
1¼ cups brown sugar
¾ cup maple syrup
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 ounces bourbon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place pumpkin cut side down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until pumpkins are thoroughly cooked. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Scrape the cooked pumpkin from the skins and place in a blender. Process for about 2-3 minutes, until pumpkin in velvety smooth. Transfer puree to a large saucepan and add brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine and finish with the juice of one lemon. Heat pumpkin mixture over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let any burn at the bottom of the pan. Slowly add in the bourbon, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add additional maple syrup or lemon juice to taste, if needed.

Let mixture cool and transfer to clean jars. Pumpkin butter will last up to one month in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.

Makes 6 half-pint jars

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bon Appétit: Pumpkin Spice Icebox Cake

I absolutely got roped into making this cake after watching a Facebook video of it.  That's how Bon Appétit sucks you in.  They post this delicious looking recipe, and sure enough, you're pulling the ingredients out of your pantry before you even realize what you're doing.  And then you're eating this wonderfully sloppy mess that tastes like fall and looks like redneck cooking at its finest, and all is right with the world.

Pumpkin Spice Icebox Cake
From Bon Appétit magazine, November 2016

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, or 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt
1¼ cups pumpkin purée
½ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup mascarpone or sour cream, at room temperature
⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
12 (5x2-inch) graham crackers
2 ounces strong coffee or espresso, room temperature
Pecan brittle, pecan praline, or chocolate butter toffee bar, chopped (for topping)

Scrape seeds from vanilla beans into a large bowl; reserve pods for another use. Add cream and a pinch of salt to bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk pumpkin pureé, brown sugar, mascarpone, condensed milk, pumpkin pie spice, ginger, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fold 1½ cups whipped cream into pumpkin mixture until combined and no streaks of white remain.

Using a spatula or spoon, smear a thin layer of remaining whipped cream in the center of a large serving plate (make sure it’s big enough so 3 graham crackers can cover it). Place 3 graham crackers, side by side with the long sides touching, over cream. Lightly brush tops with coffee. Spread ¾ cup pumpkin mixture evenly over crackers. Top with ½ cup whipped cream and spread evenly to edges. Repeat with remaining layers, ending with whipped cream. Chill, uncovered, until crackers have softened, at least 3 hours and up to 6. Top with chopped brittle before serving.

Makes 8 servings

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Shockingly Delicious: Spicy Fresh Garbanzos

So I was walking through the grocery store today when this bin of fresh garbanzo beans steps right out in front of me.  And I'm like, excuse me, I've never seen you here before.  And they're like, yeah, I know, but we're a delicious alternative to edamame.  And I'm like, seriously?  And they're like, seriously.  So I grabbed a bag full, and you know what?  They weren't lying.

Spicy Fresh Garbanzos

2 teaspoons olive oil
6 ounces fresh garbanzo beans in the shell (about 2½ ounces shelled beans)
Sprinkle of chili powder
Sprinkle of ground cumin
Sprinkle of salt

Heat oil in a small frying pan. Add shelled beans and stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes, adding seasonings at the end of the time. Stir to mix everything well and coat the beans with the seasonings, and serve in a little bowl.

Makes 2 servings

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Gourmet: Roast Squabs with Porcini and Country Bread Salad

Okay, before we go any further, I will confess to being incredibly pleased with myself for actually locating squabs (aka pigeons) and making something with them.  Based on the number of annoying pests infesting every train station in the city, I'm at a loss for why we aren't eating more of these tender little birds, but hey, I'm doing my part.  And anything including the words garlic confit immediately has my attention.  Not a lot of meat here, but hey, you have a whole one to yourself.  And that's what really matters.

Note:  I added some chicken stock to the "bread salad" to make it more "stuffing".  Because that's what it should really be.  Stuffing.

Roast Squabs with Porcini and Country Bread Salad
From Gourmet magazine, October 2001

12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 (10-inch) round or oval sourdough loaf (1½ pounds), crust discarded
9 fresh porcini mushrooms (cèpes; ¾ pound), trimmed
3 (1-pound) squabs
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
3 tablespoons Garlic Confit Purée
6 tablespoons strained duck fat (from Garlic Confit Purée)
⅓ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Bring 2 cups water, garlic, and 1 teaspoon sea salt to a boil, then drain in a colander. Blanch garlic in same manner 2 more times.

Cut bread into ¼-inch-thick sticks and toast on a baking sheet in middle of oven until pale golden, about 6 minutes. Leave oven on.

Peel stems of porcini with a sharp small knife just until white flesh is exposed, then quarter mushrooms lengthwise.

Pat squabs dry and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Put a sprig of thyme in cavity of each squab and divide garlic confit among cavities. Tie legs of squabs together with kitchen string and fold wings back.

Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown squabs in 2 batches, turning, about 5 minutes, transferring to a plate and reserving skillet.

Add 1½ more tablespoons duck fat to skillet and sauté porcini in 2 batches over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes (add another 1½ tablespoons duck fat to skillet for second batch). Stir in blanched garlic, toasted bread, and salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

Put a 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan on bottom rack of oven (to catch drips) and arrange squabs, breast sides up, in a small circle (without touching) on middle rack of oven directly above baking pan. Roast squabs, carefully basting once with remaining tablespoon duck fat, 15 minutes. Replace baking pan with skillet of bread salad, positioning it directly under birds. Roast squabs and bread salad until an instant-read thermometer inserted in fleshy part of a thigh (avoid bone) registers 155°F for medium meat and mushrooms in bread salad are tender, about 5 minutes. (If mushrooms are not tender, roast bread salad 5 to 8 minutes more.) Transfer squabs to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes, then halve lengthwise with poultry shears or a sharp knife.

Toss bread salad with parsley and lemon juice and serve with squabs.

Makes 3 servings

Garlic Confit Purée
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 cup rendered duck fat

Bring 2 cups water, garlic, and 1 teaspoon sea salt to a boil in a 1½-quart saucepan, then drain in a colander. Blanch garlic in same manner 2 more times. Dry pan well with paper towels, then add garlic and cover with duck fat. Simmer, uncovered, until garlic is very tender, about 5 minutes. Drain garlic in a sieve set over a bowl, reserving fat, and purée garlic in a food processor to make confit. Cool completely before putting in cavities of squabs.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Alton Brown: Glazed Baby Beets

Does anyone else remember eating those Harvard beets (thought detour: why are they called Harvard beets?) in a glass jar?  We had them every once in a while when I was a kid.  And while at the time I wasn't in love, I've come to appreciate them in a way a child cannot.  They're sweet and sour in a really nice way.  So I'm actually pretty excited that I have managed to find a recipe that turns out a pretty fantastic fresh version.  No, I'm not being sarcastic.  These are yummy.  Give 'em a try.

Glazed Baby Beets
From Alton Brown

20 baby beets, peeled
2 cups apricot juice or nectar
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey

In a large saute pan, add the beets and the apricot juice. Cover and cook on medium high for 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and honey and cook for another 10 minutes. Pull off of the heat and keep covered for an additional 5 minutes.

Makes 4 servings

Friday, November 04, 2016

The Dallas Morning News: Awesome Baked Beans

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a flag football game to go to.  While I will not be playing thanks to my traitor of a bad back, I will certainly be cheering from the sidelines.  I will also be participating in the huge pot luck beforehand, where we stuff our faces in preparation for all the millions of calories we will expend during to the game.  And what better to accompany the brisket and sausage feast but baked beans.  Baked beans covered in bacon.  You heard me.  And stuffed with more beef.  Because I can't leave well enough alone.

Note: This lovely dish may also be assembled in a cooker of slow foods, where it should rest on low for approximately three hours, whereupon it should be sprinkled with cooked bacon batons.  Easy peasy.

Awesome Baked Beans
From The Dallas Morning News

1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup mix
2 (16-ounce) cans regular or bacon-flavored baked beans
4 strips bacon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large skillet, melt the butter.  Brown the beef with the Worcestershire sauce.  When cooked through, remove from the skillet and drain the fat.  In a large bowl, combine the meat, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, soup mix, and beans and place in an 8x8-inch baking dish.  Top with bacon strips.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.  If necessary, run the dish under the broiler to crisp the bacon before serving.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Betty Crocker: Shrimp Creole

I was just thinking the other day about how my mom was actually pretty open in trying different recipes when we were kids (hello, eggplant parmesan).  I mean, within her ability to find ingredients at the grocery store, where even fresh asparagus was unusual.  We ate shrimp creole every once in a while, probably when shrimp was on sale.  And, as a kid, I never really thought further about it.  But now that I'm all grown up, I realize that this is a creole recipe from Louisiana, and it has a surprising amount of spice for the usual dinner.  So tonight I made my mom's recipe and tweaked it a little bit for authenticity, and it was just as delicious, and adventurous, as I remembered.

Shrimp Creole
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Good and Easy Cookbook

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ large onion, minced
2 ribs celery, diced
½ green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs thyme
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 (14½-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups shrimp stock or water
2 cups frozen cooked salad shrimp
¼ cup parsley, minced
4 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)

Melt butter over low heat. Add onion, celery, green pepper, jalapeno, and garlic, and cook until onion is translucent. Blend in remaining ingredients except shrimp, parsley, and green onions. Cook slowly, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Stir in shrimp, parsley, and green onions. If desired, make a slurry with the cornstarch and liquid from the pan, and then mix into the shrimp creole.  Allow to cook for several more minutes until thickened.  Serve on hot cooked rice.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Smitten Kitchen: Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats

At a lunch last week at Nick & Sam's Grill, the table was given a specialty dessert that included blueberry ice cream, cotton candy, and browned butter Rice Krispie treats.  I know, sounds crazy, and it was...crazy good.  But I kept thinking about those Rice Krispie treats.  I had never really eaten many as a child, so I don't have any sort of attachment.  But an adult version?  With browned butter?  And maybe some vanilla bean?  That definitely happened today.  Guess who's now a fan?

Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen blog

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1 (10-ounce) bag mini marshmallows
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
¼ teaspoon sea salt
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal

Butter a 9x13-inch cake pan.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as, while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.

As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, stir in the marshmallows. Melt and cook, stirring often, until mixture turns pale brown, then stir constantly until lightly browned but not dark, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla bean paste.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan using a silicon spatula or buttered hands.  Let cool and cut into bars.

Makes 16 to 20 servings