Archived entries for Uncategorized

Thanksgiving 2011!!

Every now and then, life goes crazy, right? That’s where Shiv and I have both been for a couple months now. I’ve barely had time to put my dinner order in on Seamlessweb every night, much less actually cook for myself. Still, time stops for no chef, and we find ourselves in the middle of prep- for Thanksgiving 2011! (hooray!)

Even if we’re not live-blogging the event this go-round (at one point, we had dreams of video coverage — alas), we couldn’t let the occasion go by without wishing everyone the very happiest of holidays! And as long as I’m here, I can’t resist creating a quick record of the very best quotes from the day’s cooking. Enjoy, and I hope you all can raise a glass to the approaching end of another year, and a whole raft of things for which you can be thankful. :D


10:30 am
“Are we in the middle of hearing pie happen?”

1:30 pm
“So do you do those stretches down on your forearms?”
“Four arms? No, just the two.”

2:30 pm
“I’m in an anti-aspic phase right now.”
“Um…have you ever, EVER been in a *pro*-aspic phase?”

4:00 pm
“Mmmmmm. Ham broth.”

5:30 pm
“I…think we’re done with knives for the night?”

7:00 pm
“Why the FUCK don’t we just use the TART PAN.”
“How did we not THINK of that?!?”
“I don’t know, we’re not drunk enough to be this spacy yet!”

7:05 pm
“Ooh, an artichoke. I will nibble on you.”

10:00 pm

11:00 pm
“OK, dishwasher. You’ve made your point.”

The Manliest Dinner: Steak au Poivre and Garlic Fries

Objectively speaking, this was definitely the manliest meal I think I’ve ever cooked. Beef, potatoes, and fire. Sure, it also had a dollop of Dijon, and some cute little diced up shallots. And parsley. I will admit, the parsley lowers the manly rating a little bit. But for a guy who just wants to make some totally manly man food for a nice romantic dinner with his boyfriend, this totally takes the cake. (Also there was cake. Cake Batter ice cream. For dessert.)


I actually started with the recipe for the fries, which I came across online and instantly fell in love with. I made a few modifications (as I tend to do) and ended up with possibly the second-best taters I’ve ever had, just behind the Mascarpone and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes that are my standard for Thanksgiving. Certainly these were the best fries, and I am thinking of trying it again with home-style-cut potatoes for a really easy side dish. I added Dijon as a last minute inspiration, and I think it helped both to adhere the bits of garlic to the fries, as well as mellow out any potential oiliness. Now, for a main to go along with, my lovely dinner guest was actually the one to suggest steak au poivre.


I had never cooked a steak stovetop, and had also never had an opportunity to light a pan on fire, so this seemed like an ideal opportunity to do both. The result was epically good: a gorgeous sear on the outside, absolutely melting tender on the inside. The peppercorns were neither too…peppery, or too crunchy, like I was a little worried about. Bashing them into submission with the bottom of my mortar did the trick — which I tried after I found out that bashing them with a pestle in the mortar was, frankly, never ever ever going to work. Let’s hear it for the miracle of plastic baggies + heavy things, shall we?


I will say that lighting a pan on fire was exactly as fun as I suspected it would be. However: if you’re using a cast iron skillet like I was, remember that if the recipe tells you to “shake the pan vigorously until the flames subside,” it is significantly more difficult with a pan that weighs 20 pounds. The effort was worth it, though; cast iron is hands down my favorite surface to use if I’m trying to get a beautiful crust on something, and there is nothing that beats it for even heat. You may just want to stretch a little before all that vigorous exercise. Besides, I said this was the manliest dinner, didn’t I? Be tough! And remember that you too can have an ice cream sundae when the work is all over.

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Sunshine in a Jar: Meyer Lemon Marmalade

I”ve always been partial to the idea of canning. I’d picture a nice steel shelving unit in a cool pantry, filled top to bottom with little jars. “Oh, this?” I’d say to visitors. “This is just a little stockpile of jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys, and other assorted delicacies to tide me over when I’m feeling peckish. Homemade? Of course!” and then I’d chuckle modestly. However, in practice, I’ve never really had the space for a canning shelf, and the planning involved always seemed daunting when I actually stopped to think about it. After years of hemming and hawing about it, and, with a Costco membership card in hand, I finally promised myself that I would actually give it a try, and it turns out: dead simple. And fun!


The first challenge to overcome involved equipment. I did my homework and read enough warnings about botulism and horrible death that I decided to go for the full-on sterilizing water bath stockpot approach. I opted for a Ball canning kit and set of 8 ounce jars to get me started. Second challenge: recipe. At last count, there are approximately 9,826,437 recipes for marmalades and jams online. What follows isn’t really from anywhere, so much as it’s an amalgamation of bits and pieces from all over. Plus something extra I came up with, because I am terrible at leaving well enough alone.


I think cutting the channels out of the middles of the lemons really helped when breaking them down. It served the double duty of getting rid of all the seeds, and (with the help of my kitchen shears) it also quickly removed the most fibrous bits of of membrane from the center. I also opted not to put in additional pectin — I read conflicting advice on this count, with some people saying pectin was required, and others saying that citrus fruit has enough in their peels already. The deciding factor was pretty simple: I didn’t feel like going to a store to buy pectin, and I had faith that my pretty little Meyer gems were up to the challenge.


I actually made two batches, in order to try out two variations I had in mind. To one, I added a quarter cup of Saint Germain, the elderflower liqueur of which I am so very, very fond. To the other, the seeds from a particularly fat and juicy vanilla bean. In the picture above, you can see the lovely dark flecks of vanilla steeping through my bubbling delight of lemon pulp. You can also see that the bubbles are looking pretty syrupy — I used that, and a little test of cooling off a drop of the gel to see if it sets, to decide when I’d boiled enough. Again: I didn’t feel like going to the store for a candy thermometer. A lot of my decisions in the kitchen boil down (no pun intended) to simple laziness, more than anything else. I am glad I bought the canning kit, though! If nothing else, the funnel was an absolute necessity when filling the jars.


Both variations are pretty exceptional. The Meyer lemon-vanilla combo is the hands-down favorite, though — the vanilla lends an almost creamy flavor to the marmalade, smoothing out even the gentle bitterness from the Meyers. I want to eat it on every bread product ever invented, and it’s likely this is going to find an application on a roasted chicken in the very near future. The upshot of all of this: canning is as awesome as I thought it would be, the little jars have already made great presents to several people, and if I’m not careful I am going to need that shelving unit after all. Next up, I think I’m going to tackle berries, and secretly I want to make a mint jelly that 1) is not nuclear green and 2) contains actual fresh mint. Any other ideas? Sound off in the comments!

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Give me vitamins or give me death: Arugula salad with beets and maple-sesame dressing

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s That Time Of Year. The time of year in which I can no longer bear to even consider the existence of kale and turnips and all the rest of winter’s bounty. The time of year which every additional snowflake feels like a personal affront from Mother Nature. The time of year when I would happily cut a bitch if it meant feeling sunshine on my skin.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s February. It’s the least wonderful time of the year.


Happily, I did get to take a brief sojourn a few weeks ago to a land where the sun still occasionally shines–I headed down south to the Lone Star state for a little family time and sunshine. And, oh, what a lovely little driveby it was! Seeing the family is always so nice–and having run of that fabulous kitchen isn’t so bad, either. Especially when my father volunteers for sous-chef duties, thereby allowing me to boss him around with impunity. (Which, if you haven’t met my father…well, let’s just say it’s comical.)


Of course, it wasn’t all labors in the kitchen–I also got a brief introduction to Dallas’ burgeoning food scene at the lovely new(ish) restaurant, the R&D Kitchen. R&D stands for Research and Development, an (admittedly) rather apt title in my mind, as it gave me the idea for this salad, also known as The Antidote To The Winter Blahs. It’s a riff on the salad part of their Seared Tuna Salad, a lovely melange of peppery arugula, earthy beets, tangy goat cheese and myriad other delights. I know, it sounds simple, but it was revelatory–though that might have as much to do with my desperate need for vitamins and fresh produce as anything.

I will admit to one or two small bits of winterizing: I made a warm dressing out of maple syrup, white balsamic, and sesame oil; I also toasted up some pumpkin seeds (pepitas) to sprinkle over. These autumnal accents ended up being an excellent foil to the springy flavors of the salad–enabling two seasons to collide in perfect harmony.

If only I could pull such a trick with the end of winter and cusp of spring; does anyone out there have any great dishes for in-between seasons they want to share?

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In Which Tiny Cabbages Derail My Plans: Truffled Brussels Sprouts

Sometimes, plans change. For example, I had every expectation of using this space to tell you all about the trials, tribulations, and, dare I say it, wild successes of making Meyer lemon marmalade. Lemarmalade, if you will. However: then I made dinner tonight…and it was like, marmawhat? MarmaNOTHING. (sidenote: I don’t really mean marmanothing. I’ll do the marmalade next. It’s totally effing worth it and canning is amazing and I have been thinking of making it in bulk and selling it because it is that effing good. For serious. But tonight isn’t for marma. It’s for this.)


Tonight was one of those times where I was like, Okay. I have a salad (Mixed greens, balsamic vinagrette, toasted walnuts, blueberries, and some brilliantly smooth Stilton). I have a dessert (Jacques Torres caramel corn and brown butter pecan ice cream). And I have a main course (seared chicken with a ginger/garlic/scallion/soy/lime/cream sauce that will make you cry cry cry). But I don’t have a vegetabley sidesy thing. What to do? So I went with a standard favorite: Brussels sprouts. But then I started thinking about what else could get thrown on top. And then what could go on top of that. And on top of that. And before I knew it, I’d taken my standard roasted Brussels sprouts and elevated them into…well, into this:


The char on the outside of the sprouts is balanced by an internal, supremely tender sweetness — but that’s what you’d get with any roasted Brussels sprouts recipe. Where this really brings the wow is with 1) the smoky shards of toasted almond, 2) the salty crisp of blistered Parmigiano, and 3) the absolutely melting unctuousness and sheer sex appeal of white truffle oil. This isn’t an every day vegetable recipe, I admit. But next time you need to impress a boss, or some inlaws maybe, and you want an absolutely effortless showstopper, remember this. One eyes-rolling-into-the-back-of-my-head bite later, and I knew that I had to write this up tonight. Lemarmalade can wait another few days. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about one forkful of leftover that I can smell from here, and I’m going to go eat it up. Raarrrhh.
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