Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Feast…Eating It Straight Out Of The Oven

I was inspired to make some new recipes this year for Thanksgiving – with the exception of my stuffing which always turns out fantastic with a mix of sausage,fresh herbs and white wine. In fact it is so good I am always digging in with a fork the minute it comes out of the oven.

I bought a fresh turkey (, brined it overnight then washed it off the next morning. I rubbed Williams Sonoma Turkey Paste on the outside and baked it. I also took Chef Tom Colicchi of Craft restaurants in NYC and Las Vegas advice and basted the bird every 15 minutes.

MAGIC – that’s what it was. This was the best turkey I’ve ever cooked and the meat was so moist.

My favorite leftover? I love a mix of white and dark meat slathered with plenty of Mayo. In that sense, I am very traditional.

I threw a salad together with ingredients I had in the refrigerator. I never measure them. I eyeball for the number of guests that I am having. Try it. It will come easy with practice.

I topped this tasty salad with Litehouse’s Pear Gorgonzola dressing which only has 1.25 grams of fat per tablespoon and is DELICIOUS!

Cauliflower, Pear and Pomegranate Salad

Head of Lettuce, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh Cauliflower, chopped
1 Pear, thinly diced
Sprinkle with Pomegranate seeds
Sprinkle with Candied Pecans
2 slices Bacon, fried and crumbled

Apple and Cranberry Galette

I made this in our pie class last Sunday. This free form pie with cranberries and apple slices is a stunning finale for a holiday meal. You can also use pears and pears do not require precooking.

I really loved this recipe because it does not have much sugar so you really get the true taste of the fruit.

This recipe makes 2 galettes.

For the pastry:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 Tbs. white cornmeal
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
6 Tbs. sour cream
1/2 cup ice-cold water

For the filling:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 Tbs. honey
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 large Granny Smith apples, about 4 lb. total, peeled, cored and sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
Sugar for dusting (optional)
Crème fraîche for serving (optional)

To make the pastry, in a food processor, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt. Scatter the chunks of butter over the top and pulse for a few seconds until the butter pieces are the size of small peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and ice water. Drizzle the mixture over the dough and pulse until the dough is smooth and clings together. Pat the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, in a large fry pan over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the apple slices and simmer until the apples begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apple slices to a bowl.

Add the cranberries to the liquid in the fry pan and simmer until they start to pop, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cranberries to the bowl with the apples. Increase the heat to medium-high and boil the liquid until reduced slightly, then spoon over the fruit.

Position 2 racks in the middle of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each half into a round about 12 inches in diameter and transfer to separate baking sheets. Divide the fruit filling equally between the pastry rounds and spread it in an even layer, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border uncovered. Fold the border over the fruit, pleating the edges to form a rim. Lay the butter slices over the exposed fruit. Dust the pastry rims with sugar.

Bake the galettes, rotating them 180 degrees 
at the midway point, until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the galettes cool completely on the pans. Serve with crème fraîche. 

Makes two 9-inch galettes; serves 10 to 12.

Speaking of pie recipes, look at the one our instructor did last weekend and look at my sister's pie the left. 

Does that tell you who I should be taking a pie lesson from?

Bon Appetit!

Nutmeg and Black Pepper Popovers

I went in for another round of popovers. I’m a sucker for them since my mother, who didn’t really like to cook, made them with such ease.

I really liked this recipe because it’ cooks at the same temperature throughout. For some reason cooking on high heat then turning the oven down without ever looking sounds like risky business.

Next time, I may would this recipe with a little cheese in it.

Don’t give in to temptation and open the oven door. A big surprise in store if you don’t peek.

Also, I use the low end of the cooking time because of the dark popover pan. About 30 minutes was perfect.

Bon Appetit!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
3 large eggs
2 ½ cup milk
3 tablespoons + unsalted melted butter

Whisk 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Whisk 3 large eggs and 2 1/2 cups whole milk in a large bowl until well blended.

Gently whisk in flour mixture, followed by 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (do not over mix).

Preheat oven to 425°.

Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter; grease 12 standard muffin cups with 1/2 teaspoons melted butter each.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling cups three-quarters full and dividing equally.

Bake popovers until puffed, golden brown, and crispy around edges, 30-35 minutes.

Using a thin knife or an offset spatula, remove popovers from pan. Serve immediately.

Note: Brush the popover pan with melted butter. Those nonstick sprays are great but the popovers are more likely to collapse if you use them. Either the sides don't get firm or they stick to the pan.

Puttin' on the Ritz

I seldom dress up any more so when I got an invitation to the Ritz for their new holiday breakfast I jumped at the chance to dress up. It felt good after religiously living in my Nike workout gear for months on end.

The last time I was at the Ritz we found this great bar with high, white leather back chairs. It was the perfect place to catch up but you were still in the thick of the action to do the best thing to do at the Ritz…people watch. It’s almost better than the airport.

The holiday breakfast was in that same bar and the atmosphere was terrific because it was all dressed up for Christmas too.

This was not an inexpensive brunch but the superb quality of the food made it well worth the $25 price tag and if you make friends with the omelet chef, you’ll get a mega dose of your favorite recipe and wonder how you can possibly eat it all in one sitting.

And for an after-breakfast indulgence: To the Spa for a Bamboo and black sesame body indulgence…a creamy scrub with black sesame seeds (hey, don’t you eat those?), powdered bamboo and organic oils. Revealed a totally new me.

Come to think of it, I could totally get use to this puttin’ on the Ritz lifestyle!

Bon Appetit!

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

This sweet and salty pleasure is the perfect treat for anyone who thinks that Oreo cookies are the only thing worth dunking.  

Better yet, make your chips from scratch.

Bon Appetit!

Recipe Note: Do not use chocolate chips for this. Chocolate chips are not good for tempering because of added ingredients.

9 oz bag Kettle Potato Chips (or homemade chips)
8 oz good quality chocolate bar with 45%-60% cocoa, chopped
wax paper

Line multiple cookie sheets with wax paper. Set aside.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt 4 oz of the chopped chocolate. Stir with a spatula until completely melted. Once melted, continue cooking until the chocolate reaches a temperature of 115°F.

Immediately remove double boiler from on top of the heat. Begin slowly adding in the remaining 4 oz chopped chocolate, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until chocolate cools down to 90°F.

Begin dipping chips into chocolate quickly, placing the dipped chips on the wax paper. Once you have dipped all the chips, put the cookie sheets into the freezer to set up the chocolate.
You want to set it up fast because the longer the chips sit out the higher the chance of stale chips.

Homemade Potato Chips

Peanut Oil for frying
2 potatoes, thinly sliced

In a large heavy saucepan, fill oil no more than halfway and heat the oil to 350 degrees F.

Add the potato slices in batches. Fry until light golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

Valrhona Chocolate

Valrhona has been produced in the Rhone Valley of France since 1922 and creates unique chocolates with complex and balanced flavors. It is the choice of chefs from around the world so we decided to have a Saturday indulgence.

As good as it gets? We like to think so and when you’re through oohing and aahing, chase it down with this Chocolate Orgasm or use it in a cup of REAL Hot Chocolate.

Bon Appetit!

Chocolate Orgasm
1 1/2 oz Absolute Mandrin Vodka 
1 1/2 oz white creme de cacao 

1 shot Kahlua 

1 shot cherry vodka

2 shots chilled espresso 

4 - 6 oz Herhey' chocolate milk 
(or chocolate milk made with Valrhona)


REAL Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 ounces good-quality chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used 2 ½ of the Valrhona in mine and it was rich enough)

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until simmering, about 4 minutes.

Add chocolate and whisk until completely melted and well incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Serve immediately.

The Muffaletta

At Cochon Butcher in New Orleans, this butcher shop /sandwich counter/ wine bar, which is famous with locals, makes one great Muffaletta.

The secret to a good Muffaletta is the olive mixture and the bread. Experiment a little. These sandwiches can be cut in miniature and served as an appetizer for the holidays.

When you get back to New Orleans, don’t forget to try this Cochon sandwich with their Pancetta Mac-n-Cheese. 

Double trouble!

Bon Appetit!

1 loaf Muffaletta bread
1 cup olive mix 
1/4 lb sliced ham
1/4 lb sliced mortadella
1/4 lb sliced Genoa salami
1/4 lb sliced provolone
1/4 lb sliced mozzarella
Cut bread in half horizontally. Spread half with olive mix then layer on meats and cheeses.
 Cover with top. (Note: Make an hour or more in advance and then tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to let the juices to soak bread.) Slice into quarters and serve.
Olive Mixture

1/4 cup pimento-stuffed olives
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 cup giardiniera
2 large pepperoncini
3 pickled onions
2 Tbsp. capers
1 medium clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
Black pepper to taste
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Drain ingredients. Place in food processor and coarsely chop. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.

The Size of Your Wine Glass

There is a wine glass for Chardonnay, one for Burgundy, another for Rose and so on down the long list of wines.

In my house you just grab a glass. 

The size? How thirsty are you?

Bon Appetit!

Best Kitchen Tool of 2012

What's the best kitchen tool this year?

The iPad. It played a new role in my kitchen.

Bon Appetit!

Breakfast Calling

Breakfast was calling last Sunday. My neighbor was cooking his homemade sausages on the grill at 8 AM.

Love these 58 degree November birthday celebrations…especially when they include breakfast!

Bon Appetit!

Cranberry Infused Vodka

A pint of cranberries + a bottle of vodka = Best Cranberry Cosmo ever.

Bon Appetit!

1 1/2 ounces Cranberry Infused Vodka 
1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau
Ice cubes
Orange peel, for garnish
Cranberries, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, orange liqueur, and ice; shake until well combined. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Twist orange peel over cocktail and add to glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries; serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lamb Chops

This recipe is the perfect meal for anyone you are trying to impress with your cooking. 

Good thing they don’t know just how easy it is. Comes out  perfect every time.

Bon Appetit!

4 lamb chops

Soy sauce

Salt and Pepper

Marinate lamb chops in soy sauce and place in refrigerator in a covered container for 1-2 days.

Salt and pepper the chop.

Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder is one of my favorite meals.

Here are five posts of my favorite recipes that will take you through the winter.

Bon Appetit!

Puerco Asada


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gifts for Christmas 2012...Why We Love The Things We Do

Dutch Oven

Once you taste the crust you’ll be convinced that Jim Lahey’s bread is the only one worth slaving over although I don’t consider a bread that rises on your counter overnight a labor at all but you’ll need a Le Creuset dutch oven to bake it.
Yes, it is a pricy investment but like alchemy, it will give rise to a thousand magic meals and look brand new after 30 years. I know – my dutch oven just turned 30 this year and still looks as good as the day I bought it.

I have found it discounted at TJMaxx.

Cast Iron Skillet
Prime Steakhouse in Las Vegas created this recipe for the perfect steak and perfect it is. That’s why a cast iron skillet is the only tool you need to create sizzling meats that come out picture perfect every time.

At everything else.

Ice Cream Maker
I discovered great ice cream this past year when I went to San Francisco and indulged in Humphry Slocombe and Bi Rite nearly every day. I came back to recreate these recipes in my own kitchen.
Once you make ice cream from scratch, you’ll never buy it again.

This ice cream maker with 2 bowls came from Williams Sonoma.

Kitchen Aid
Now that I have a Kitchen Aid, I wonder how I ever survived without one.
Honestly, if you are going to splurge and buy one great thing for the chef in your life, this is it.

From Macy's.

The Green Egg
If you are totally into cooking outdoors and have an extra $1000 to spend, a big green egg is the ultimate buy.
I love the fact that the egg can hit temperatures over 600 degrees or you can hold it as low as 200.
Even my favorite BBQ spot – Real Urban BBQ - uses it in their smoking process.


Custom USB Drive
How cool are these pans? I want one!
USB Promos creates the perfect gift for the chef who needs to take all of his kitchen secrets portable.

Good Pots and Pans
I have a mix of Le Creuset and All Clad.
One thing I learned a long time ago is that the best cooking investment you can make is in top-quality cookware.

The surprise gift for your favorite chef can be just about anything from Mexican to Ethiopian to Italian.
I especially love Rick Bayless’s new book “Frontera…Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks. It’s all the basics covered and then some. I’ve already had two parties with rave reviews.
Here are some of my favorites food reads and the reviews from the Christian Science Monitor, another great source of intellectual food news .You can get a digital subscription to the Monitor for only $4.99 a month.

"Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris," by A.J. Liebling

New Yorker writer A.J. Liebing recounts – in a fluid and witty voice – the experiences in Paris that allowed him to dine superbly without overspending.

"Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War," by Annia Ciezadl

Annia Ciezadlo writes movingly of the traditions and rituals of eating inBaghdad, where she moved with her Lebanese husband in 2003, and how a shared pleasure in cooking and eating helps her and the community prevail in the midst of a region torn apart by fighting. 

"An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace," by Tamar Adler

In "An Everlasting Meal," Tamar Adler shows how to make use of every last thing in your kitchen. Scraps become flavoring when you use bones in soups and orange peels can help to zest up marmalade. A pot, water, and flame are seen as the mainstays of any meal

"The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food," by Jennifer 8 Lee

Does the fortune cookie actually come from China? Absolutely not. That's just one tidbit Jennifer 8 Lee learns as she travels across the U.S. to discover what most of us already suspected: American Chinese food is not Chinese. But Lee goes on to delve deeper here, exploring the history of Chinese food in the US and its impact on American life and the immigrant experience.

"The Man Who Ate Everything," Jeffrey Steingarten

A food critic for Vogue and a judge on " Iron Chef " , Jeffrey Steingarten knows his food. His humorous accounts of traveling the globe and sampling its array of culinary offerings will entertain even those readers who never set foot in a kitchen.  

 English tarragon and other fresh herbs make a huge difference when you cook.
I swear with my brown thumb, this is an art form worth chasing.

The cutest kitchen finds are at Anthropologie including enough aprons to dress your best friends, your four sisters and the entire neighborhood.

Kitchen Scale
I learned the art of baking this past year and that nothing can match the accuracy of weighing your ingredients.

Tortilla Press
Seriously, if you haven’t made your tortillas from scratch yet, try it. All you need is four ingredients: flour, salt, water and oil and 30 minutes.
Like anything, perfect with Margaritas.


Beautiful jars can be pulled out of antique shops, garage sales or second-hand resale shops.
Fill them with your best homemade food and jams or infused liquors.
My current favorite: Pepper Infued Tequila.

Salt and Pepper
I’ve discovered that if you buy good meat, a little salt and pepper is all it takes to cook it perfect every time.
From Trader Joe’s to Sur La Table, salts and peppers are the perfect stocking stuffer.

Vintage… or Not So Vintage Glasses
Northwest Airlines may be gone, but the memorabilia is hot.
I found these glasses, that were served to frequent flyers in first class section of NW Airlines, at P.O.S.H Chicago, 613 North State Street.
This tiny European store boasts unique finds that leave you thinking you just crawled out of your great grandmother's attic.

Food Art
Nothing makes a cook happier than a picture perfect work of art in the kitchen.
Mine? A cow hangs proudly over my chefs table and reminds me every day that whatever indulgence you need to buy to inspire your cooking is well worth the price tag.

From Z Gallerie.

Liquor is a great gift…especially if it is local.
Few Spirits of Evanston is my local and with gold and silver metals as a measure of quality, you’ll win friends and influence everyone including your parish priest.

Magazine Subscriptions
Food magazines are my rescue. They are my way of connecting with a recipe especially when there is a photo involved. Visuals for me always seal the deal. In fact, if there is not a photo with the recipe, I seldom pay attention.

Here are 5 sources of inspiration and a solid study of what may be your next flawless meal.


When it comes to food and travel, Saveur is it. Magnificent photos will take you on a culinary adventure you simply don’t want to come back from.

Bon Appetit

Engaging menus and absolutely beautiful style. This would be one of my last cancellations.

Food and Wine

Emerging trends and the sophistication behind the food. The best way to keep up with new chefs and up-and-coming trends.

Cooks Illustrated

Nobody has techniques down like Cooks Illustrated. Truly the magazine for serious chefs.

Fine Cooking

A real surprise in every issue and the recipes are simply amazing. When I get a new issue in I am out-of-touch for at least 3 hours.

After a lot of free cooking classes at Williams Sonoma this past year, I’ve become a gadget queen. These three made my life so much easier in the kitchen and are the tools I simply cannot live without!
Microplane® Ultimate Citrus Tool $12.95
Microplane® Herb Mill $19.95
Chef'n Citrus Juicer $19.95

Lucero Meyer Lemon Crushed Olive Oil $20
You can drizzle this on seafood with a mix of honey and it is divine. From Sur La Table.

Fabbri Amarena Cherries in Syrup $10.99

This is so worth the price for the best cherry I’ve ever had. Especially good over homemade ice cream.

From WISMA in Lake Bluff, Libertyville and Chicago's French Market.

Norpro Meat Grinder $25
I have learned this past year that if you want top quality ground meat, you’ve got to do it yourself.
If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid, this is a great option. From Target.

Bon Appetit and Happy Holiday Shopping!