Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I have seen the Future and It looks pretty damn good

Son Ken and his girlfriend Allison (sp? I'm sorry) and our niece Meg came to dinner tonight. WOW! It was such a pleasure to be in the company of such learned, articulate and interesting individuals. Future Lawyers, Architects and Scientists!!  Not to mention they are all really stunning in looks! We had a grand time and great conversation. I am a little sleepy so I will post some recipes tomorrow... unfortunately I was so enthralled I took no pics. But thanks to Ken, Allison and Meg for making the trip to see the old folks and showering us with Christmas cheer!

These pics are from last Saturday:


Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah (sp? again... I know...)
See you soon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cookies changed my Life

I used to terrorize my sister. I know I don't seem like a terrorist but I was. I confess that I am now a changed woman, but I used to mount a terrorist attack every December in Lewisville NC. I would pack up half my kitchen, select 8-10 recipes, go extreme baking shopping, and arrive in NC and TAKE OVER my sister's kitchen... and her life no less. Never mind that she was raising a family, and running a business (during one of her busiest times of the year) and had an otherwise very busy life, she was always gracious and acted like she was happy to see me. These weren't just any cookies either, they were cut cookies, frosted cookies, bar cookies, fancy cookies there was drizzling involved. At our peak, I think we made 100 dozen. But like I said, I am a changed woman. Now I only take over her life and her kitchen on Thanksgiving.. and only by invitation, mind you.  We'll leave the past as history and focus on the cookie monster that lives here today. These days I make 2-3 recipes tops, and I give them to my neighbors, Doctors, Postal carrier, and various friends and associates.  This year I have two kinds of cookies : Apricot-Pistachio Oatmeal cookies and Cranberry-Macadamia Nut-White Chocolate. the links are to the recipes, one from Gourmet and one from Bon Appetit.

I had all the prep done except for the eggs etc, so it was really easy to throw these two doughs together today. Apricot Pistachio Oatmeal :

Not an appealing picture I admit, I blame my camera skills. Because I tasted it. It was delicious.
Cranberry-Macadamia-White Chocolate dough.. looks like a bowl of yum:

A short time in the oven and the magic that is cookie happens. Then you go out into the world and deliver smiles and joy. Joy to the World!

See you soon. I'm not sure what's cooking for Christmas Dinner. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Who is coming to town? Not Santa.. Cookie Monster!

Yep, getting ready for the great baking adventure that will span about 10 days. Here's the prep shot:

Pay no attention to that junk in the background.. no I haven't taken the lamps up yet, and my kitchen is littered with jackets and scarves because it's cold! I don't think you can see it in this photo but my Kitchen Aid is a Diamond edition with my name engraved on it, Thanks to WSH from years ago. I have a photo of the engraving but it has my reflection and it was late and bad lighting and I was doing Sandy Dynamis... oh ok... i'll post it, just remember all those caveats!

See? Made Exclusively for Sally Morris. I feel special. I hope my cookies are special too. This is something I want to pass on to the next or next-next generation, because I know it will last that long. Any takers?  The one known around these parts as The Professor will be the first recipient of cookies. As always, the standard rules apply, Sir. :)  (He knows what that means)

See you soon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What?? More chili? Chicken chili

What can I say, the weather has been so dreary, it's as if we've moved to Seattle. Anyway, when WSH went to get supplies for the beef chili the other day he also picked up the goods for chicken chili. I took that as a hint. This is exactly the same as the beef recipe excpt it uses chicken instead, and rather than tomatoes, canned chilis, and instead of black beans you use white, and you also use chicekn stock but other than that, it's exactly the same! Actually the onions, jalapenos, garlic and cumin are the only shared ingredients. Missing from the mise en place photo is the minced garlic, lets just pretend it's hiding under the onions.

Start by sauteeing the onions and jalapenos in some olive oil about 5 min. Add garlic during the last 40 seconds. Remove from pan and set aside. Next brown your chicken chunks in batches and once finished, set aside.

Add chicken stock to the pan and deglaze. Add cumin to taste. Add back chicken chunks and sauteed onion mixture along with the canned chilis (or pickled jalapenos and juice) and cook on a slow simmer until chicken is tender. Add beans drained or undrained depending on if your chili consistency is the desired thickness. Cook until beans are warmed through- another 15 min at least. Serve topped with any or all of these goodies: cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions.

Chicken Chili
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into spoon sized chunks, seasoned with salt and pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 jalapenos, ribs and seeds removed and diced
1 1/2 c chopped onion
2 tsp cumin
1.5 - 2 c chicken stock
1 small can green chilis  (alternatively I have used pickled sliced jalapenos, just a few, with 2 T of the liquid in the jar)
2 cans white beans, either Great Northern or Navy.
some olive oil                                                               Serves 4-5

See you soon

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chili today, hot tamale

Am I the only one who remembers that? Anyway, another cold rainy (should have been snowy) day in the ATL had me hankering for a nice warm bowl of chili. WSH braved the cold rain and went to the store for the missing ingredients.. God Bless him. We start with 2-3 jalapenos (depending on size) and cut out the ribs and seeds and dice them. Then chop up one onion and mince a few cloves of garlic.

Sautee the onions and jalapenos for about 5 minutes over medium heat in olive oil. At the last minute add garlic. Then remove from pan.

After that, brown up 2-3 lbs ground chuck ( you could use turkey i guess....) and drain off the fat. Add the onion, pepper , garlic mixture back into the browned meat and add salt, pepper, 1.5 TBL or chili powder and 1.5 TBL ground cumin. It will look like this:
Then you add the canned stuff !!! I know.. I know.. canned stuff, but it's winter.. and there are no tomatoes.

Except the beans, hold them for later.  Add the tomatoes and Rotel and simmer for a while. In the last 20 min add the beans (don't drain any canned things use all liquids). and it will look like this:
Once that has simmered for about 30-45 min add the beans. Test for seasoning and once the beans are heated through serve with your choice of toppings... cheese, sour cream, scallions, tortilla chips etc.

See you soon

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Soup Day

It was cold and windy here this morning as we walked the dog. Not Iowa cold or Michigan cold or Canada cold, but it was cold enough to make my eyes water and nose run.  When we got home I wanted something warm and steamy to take the chill off. I looked around the pantry and in the fridge and found a leek, some shallots, chicken stock and hey I have potatoes left from the Gnocchi.  I diced up a couple of carrots and shallots, trimmed the leek and sliced it, then washed the sand out. I minced 2 cloves of garlic and went out on my deck and cut some thyme sprigs. 

Thankfully I had the presence of mind to note that I usually make soup in a very large pot...which would be a very large pot for 4 people. Since it's just the two of us, I chose the smaller saucepan and now we have about 10 servings of soup. I sauteed the carrots, shallots and leeks in some clarified butter and at the last 30-45 secs added the garlic and thyme. This smelled wonderful and already I was feeling less frosty.  Then I added chicken stock and 3 small, peeled and cut russet potatoes and salt and pepper. I let all this cook until the potatoes were tender.

At the end I added a little cream and got a bowl and spoon ready.  Potato soup!  Good on a frosty day.  Heck, I love soup any day. My friend Audrey tells me "Only freaks eat soup in the summertime!"  But I am sure she would have welcomed a bowl of this soup today.

Stay warm!  See you soon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The French Laundry Warm Smoked Salmon with Potato Gnocchi

This recipe is a two day-er. I started yesterday with chicken stock and chive oil. Then I wrapped it up today in the following steps. First the Gnocchi: Bake some poatatoes and when done, scoop out the flesh and put it through a food mill or potato ricer. While hot, add flour, egg yolks and some more flour.  Then you use a bench scraper to "chop" this mixture together. This has to be done quickly and without burning your fingers off.

Once the dough comes together you pinch off a piece and roll it into a 1/2 in diameter snake.

You cut pieces off and then roll them on the back of a fork to make little grooves. Sadly, my gnocchi were decidedly un-groovy, but don't tell them because they were feeling pretty good about themselves. I couldn't get the hang of the groove thing, the gnocchi kept coming apart.

You place the little dumplings into boiling salted water until they float (about 2 minutes) and then remove them to a towel to dry. We held some out for tonight's recipe and froze the rest.

The next step is to prepare the brunoise. I didn't feel like getting the V-slicer out so I did it by hand and thus, my pieces are probably slightly larger than 1/16th cube but hey... close enough for a home cook. This mixture consisted of turnip, carrot and the green part of leeks.
These are blanched in boiling salted water for just a minute or so and then set in an ice bath to stop the cooking. These will be added to the pan that the gnocchi brown in along with some tomato diamonds, (mine looked more like triangles) and some finely minced chives. In getting ready to cook, I gathered together my arugula and minced shallot and dressed it with lemon oil. I got ready the chicken stock, a dash of white wine vinegar and some butter to make the gnocchi sauce. On to the final steps of cooking and plating.

You heat up a little canola oil in a pan leaving just enough to coat the pan and toss in the gnocchi which cook for 2-3 minutes until the bottom is golden brown. Add to the pan some chicken stock, a splash of white wine vinegar and some butter and cook until it is a sauce consistency. Then add the brunoise, tomatos, and chives, until heated through, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile you heat some milk to 115-117 degrees and add your salmon for just long enough to warm it.  Around 5 minutes.

To plate, start with the gnocchi mixture and place the salmon on top. Then add your arugula on top of the salmon. Garnish with a ring of chive oil and afew dots of balsamic glaze.

Jim said the milk bath removed some the fishiness and saltiness of the salmon, it added a touch of sweetness as well. All in all he said the textures and flavors worked well together. I had a small plate of gnocchi and loved it. The splash of vinegar was just great and jazzed it up.

So there you have it!  The French Laundry Warm Applewood Smoked Salmon with Potato Gnocchi and Balsamic Glaze.  Whew! 

See you soon.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Smoked Salmon in the works Pt 1

Well... It takes a few days to make the smoked salmon gnocchi dish. Today I made the chicken stock for the gnocchi and the chive oil which has to refrigerate for a day. BUT I found the smoked salmon and I procured all my veggies for the brunoise, so we are set to roll tomorrow.

Chive Oil requires you to rinse the chives in hot water for two minutes to remove the chlorophyll taste. I am not sure what cholorphyll tastes like.. are you? Then you mix in a blender with canola oil, taking care not to let it heat up and refrigerate overnight.

Tomorrow I will allow the chive oil to drip through a sieve and cheesecloth.. all this for plating, mind you.
The salmon will be warmed in milk at a temperature not to exceed 115. The gnocchi will be mixed and rolled and since the recipe makes 20 dozen!!! I will be halving it. And thank goodness they freeze well.
Also tomorrow I will be making the brunoise.. a 1/16th in dice of a few vegetables. It's times like this that I am grateful my main career was in banking.

Meanwhile... after our walk I bought 2 new lamps for our 2 guest rooms should anyone want to come visit,

See you soon.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


This recipe is only very slightly adapted from Orangette but it's so simple, so easy and so darn good, I wanted to share it with you.  Commercially produced flour tortillas are so... meh.  They have no flavor, the texture is kind of stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouthish, they are just plain yucky.  These are so fast and easy to make I haven't bought any supermarket tortillas since the first time I made these. 

4 c All Purpose Unbleached Flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
6 TBL shortening (Molly recommends Spectrum brand - that's what I used)
2 c water heated almost to a boil

Combine the flour and salt. (This is where the adaptation comes in) I blend my shortening in using a food processor. Molly (like most good cooks) uses her fingers. Blend until the flour mixture looks like wet sand or coarse meal.

Dump your flour mixture into a bowl and add the hot water.  This is the trickiest part of the recipe.. knowing how much water to add. 1 1/4  to 1 1/2 cups should be enough to allow the dough to form. Stir with a spoon **It's HOT!!** and finish working with your hands to form a ball. Cover the dough in plastic wrap  and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Set a well seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat (if you don't have a cast iron skillet - you should!).  Unwrap your dough ball and cut it into 6 pieces, then each sixth into three making 18 little dough balls. On a lightly floured surface roll out 1 piece into as circular a shape as you can get it-- mostly mine look like amoebas but that's ok I have nothing against amoeboids as long as they come with salsa and cheese.

 See I wasn't kidding!  This one's better:

Make the tortilla as thin as you can - as thin as fabric. When the skillet is hot, toss your tortilla in and cook for 20-30 seconds ( it will puff some) and then flip and cook the other side until it is flecked with golden or brown spots roughly 20-30 seconds more.

Repeat with the remaining 17 dough balls. As Molly says, once you get into the rythm it goes quickly.
Roll, cook, flip, cook. x 18 Let them cool on a wire rack and don't stack them until they are completely cooled.

The outside has just a slight crunch and the inside is tender and chewy. They have (seriously) a really nice flavor - the magic of fat and flour and salt and heat. These are great at room temperature or you can store them in a zip bag in the fridge.. also they freeze beautifully.  Cook up some black beans with a little onion, garlic, jalapeno and cumin and roll that mixture up in one of these blankets maybe add some salsa and you've got a great vegetarian meal. Or if you are like me, and have leftover steak in the fridge, whip up some carne asada! Good eats all around.

French Laundry gnocchi is coming tomorrow.

See you soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A confession

In reading through the recipes in The French Laundry Cookbook, I am having difficulty finding recipes that I can   a) procure the ingredients without a ton of expense and   b) do without a lot of waste*    and  c) am excited about cooking.  For example the  Citrus Marinated Salmon (refer to earlier post I hate salmon) I was willing to do because Carol Blymire, who made EVERY recipe also hates salmon and said this was actually good. However, we are instructed to buy a side of salmon and we will have 2 lbs. left over. Ewwww. 

Many of the vegetable recipes are more suited for fresh summer vegetables so I can wait for the season on those. I will make a few of the meat dishes and a couple of the fish dishes, basically a sampling of everything in the book, but the "Other Tasty Bites" part of the title will be coming more and more into play. I have both the Ad Hoc and Bouchon cookbooks now, both also by Thomas Keller which I will use to fill in some spots along with other recipes I find. 

I suppose I was excited and naive when I chose the name of the blog, and I will keep working through the French Laundry but it will become less of a focus until Spring and Summer.

* the waste part has really bothered me since reading about a food blog movement that challenges people who have the means to eat pretty much whatever they want, to live on $30 for food for a week; it proved very difficult even for the most creative of cooks.  The average subsidy for food stamps is around $24 a week and still people go hungry. So wasting 2 lbs of expensive salmon seems sinful to me. We give generously to our local co-op that acts as a food bank and emergency assistance agency (they won't take perishables btw or I would give them the salmon), but I feel I also need to walk the walk by being aware in everything I do of the plights of those around me if you know what I mean. I will still make a some dishes that have expensive ingredients because that's what The French Laundry is about.. elegant  luxurious dining, but I'm looking for balance and luxurious ways to treat less expensive ingredients.

See you soon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mincemeat Interrupted

Puff Pastry to the rescue! If only I had thought of this at Liz's... sorry Sis. I used a frozen puff pastry and scooped in some warm mincemeat, made some boozy (dark rum) whipped cream and sprinkled cinnamon on the plate. This mincemeat is fabulous - so tangy and retaining some sweetness, lots of textures too. A really nice warm winter dessert. All my neighbors are getting these tomorrow.

Back to TFL, I was planning the braised breast of veal this week but the butcher may not have it in on time, so I might need Plan B. Something's ahead you can count on that!

See you soon.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner

First off -- Many Thanks to Brother-in-Law and chief Turkey fryer, Byron for the pictures. I had a few but most came from him as I was busy cooking. Shown above are some of the pre-meal munchies we had.

Left is Diane's phyllo-tomato-cheese pie. It was half gone when I arrived, but I did manage to score a piece and it was very good. Next up are Diane's craveworthy deviled eggs. Very well done and so pretty~!
Jim's pimiento cheese is on the right (I know it's hard to see) which Melissa said "changed her life" It was very popular so I'll post the recipe below. For any of you folks "not from around here" (i.e. not southerners) Pimiento Cheese and Deviled eggs are required at any Important Gathering. Not pictured were Diane's turnip green dip and Liz's mushrooms and mozzarella.

Pimiento Cheese (I had to google it to find the correct spelling)
an 8 oz block of 2 of your favorite cheeses... except for Bleu - it doesn't play well with others. (For example, 8 oz of Sharp Cheddar and 8 oz of Monterey Jack.)
freeze the cheeses for a short time to make it easier to coarsely grate them.
meantime let 4 oz of cream cheese come to room temperature
after the cheese is coarsely grated add 1 small jar of pimientos and some of the pickling liquid, stir in and bond everything with the softened cream cheese, add a little salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
How to cook and serve Thanksgiving dinner:
First you must remove the cat from the table. She decided the bread basket fit her body perfectly.Then you pour some wine and get to work. Fortunately we had done most of the prep in the 2 preceeding days so it was the last minute items we worked on.. Seemed like there was a lot to do! I browned some Panko crumbs for use on top of a couple of casseroles (Thanks Neru for the tip!)
I had made the cheese sauce for the mac and cheese the day before so all I needed to do there was cook the pasta stir in and reheat the cheese (fontina, asiago, parmesan, cheddar and monterey jack) and assemble the dish. Melissa had her green bean casserole squeezed in with the Turkey in the oven and we used some bread crumbs there too.. although I think she should have used the onion rings instead.. Trust your instincts Mel. :) The Brussel Sprouts have just a few ingredients: shredded sprouts, toasted pecans, butter and maple syrup and some cider vinegar. Sautee it all up in a pan and you're done in 10 minutes! There were two cornbread dressings basically the same ingredients except for the stock used to moisten them. The vegetarian
and the chicken-turkey version:
The vegetarian option was far better this time. The pan I baked the other version in was like a pizza stone, and I've never used a baking dish like this before. I overcooked it and it was a bit dry :( but ..lessons learned! So far, I know it all looks like boring brown food. Unfortunately, I have no pics of Liz's sweet potatoes, brilliantly orange and smooth and she used a touch of garlic which was different, a nice touch, I'd say. Neither do I have a shot of her fantastic roasted corn salad that had several colors of peppers, black beans and some scallion greens. Also there was the beautiful deep red cranberry sauce so a lot of colors are underrepresented here and I apologize for that. The birds ( yes, two) were beautiful each in their own way. Roasted and deep fried: Bruce said Grace and we all gave Thanks for our many blessings. And here we are all together enjoying each other's company, interrupting each other, joking, laughing and eating.. Isn't that what it's all about? I know Norman Rockwell never painted a cat in the bread basket but this gathering felt pretty Rockwellian in spite of all our family nuttiness! 16 people 4 dogs, 2 cats a pig and a tree frog! Quite the gathering I'd say.
And we can't forget dessert! Pumpkin pie with the little Martha Stewart like pie crust leaves. What happened to the mincemeat Napoleons you ask? Darn, I was hoping you wouldn't.. OK I was out of steam, and wasn't up to the challenge of phyllo dough ( having never worked with it before) BUT I brought home the fantastic mincemeat concoction that Liz worked so hard on and I'll put together something to share with my neighbors and post.
And Ziggy the piggy awaits some leftovers: I hope everyone who reads this had a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. I know I did! Thanks again to Liz and Byron for their hospitality, we had a wonderful time. I'll be back at the book next week.
See you soon.