Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bacon Frosting

An early stocking stuffer gift from keith. Interesting idea - there seems to be bacon flavoured everything nowadays. But I urge you, with every bit of my being, don't try this! For the love of god - it took straight whiskey to get rid of the ick!!!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hot Buttered Rum

I can only guess that this drink was created when butter was expensive and rare in many households. Surprisingly smooth and comforting! The only other time I had one it tasted like I was drinking melted butter. This one has a great balance! 1 teaspoon brown sugar, pour in 4 oz hot water to dissolve the sugar. Add 2 oz Dark Rum, place 1 Tbl pad of butter on top to melt.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cookbook Review: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

Another cute and interesting cookbook from Quirk Books. At first glance I thought "oh great - a sandwich cookbook. I can put anything between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich." But alas, the cynical voice inside my head was quickly brought to heel. And that was just because I read the introduction! Side note - I always read the introduction in a cookbook. It gives you insight you might not necessarily gleam (especially if the cookbook isn't organized properly). Susan Russo obviously loves sandwiches - but not just their construction, their history as well. Right away she tells you how this book is going to be different from the others you've seen - this will be the sandwich book to rule all other sandwich books.

What I found most fascinating about this book was that along with every recipe, the author gave us something juicy to read as well. From discussing the origins of the sandwich in question, or talking about the regional influences that helped bring about something as fascinatingly foreign to Americans as the Chip Butty (I'm not going to deny that I've secretly been craving the Chip Butty since I read about 92 - bread, butter, and hot french fries - is that enough to get your mouth watering?), the book is filled with fascinating information about sandwiches. And why are you reading a cookbook about sandwiches if you don't desperately want to know more about them?

The recipes are to the point - it's hard to screw up a sandwich (I say that, and then watch me try to make the 1950's inspired Sandwich Loaf that resembles a layer cake in sandwich form). They're also approachable, and entertaining. This book delivers on it's promise - the sandwich is "among the most democratic of foods. They're perfect day or night." I can easily remember a time when I've had a sandwich for breakfast, lunch and dinner (not all in the same day, of course). And if you don't want to make a sandwich after flipping through this book, I'll be greatly surprised. Not just because of the read, and the recipes - but because of the drool-inspiring photos of each and every sandwich described in the book (photography by Matt Armendariz). The cookbook in all is lots of fun, and even inspirational - it's time I finally learned to make my own Oyster Po'Boy at home instead of waiting for those rare moments when I see it on a menu somewhere!

Scotch, frozen stones, & GT Magazine

This was my last Friday night after work. Lovely.

Braised Rabbit

It’s funny – rabbit is a delicacy. I remember having it as a kid because people in my family hunted (we also had squirrel, lots of deer, and lots of catfish). The first time I had it again, but in a much more delicate and delicious way, was at Lucien on 1st Avenue (at 1st Street) in NYC. It’s braised and served in a delicious mustard sauce, with some huge papardelle noodles. Simply outstanding!!

A few years back I got a whole fryer rabbit from the online store D’Artagnan and attempted to make a recipe by Tyler Florence. It was okay, but I was convinced I had done something wrong. So last week, I tried it again. I picked up a rabbit from New Seasons and pulled out the same recipe for braised rabbit. Oddly enough every rabbit I’ve ever bought comes with a few of the organs still attached inside. Not sure why, not sure I need to do the research to figure out why. I just tore them out and went along my merry way. You do need to chop up the rabbit – it’s not as simple as a chicken (pre-defined sections). I did remove all 4 legs, and then I simply cut across the spine to make 4 more pieces of rabbit. The back has a lot of delicious meat on it, and it’s best to eat it right off the bone. We ended up with 2 legs each (one with a meaty thigh), and 2 pieces of the back (or loin of rabbit, if you will).

It’s an interesting recipe that calls for lots of black olives – something that truly dismayed me initially. Don’t get me wrong, I love black olives. I have fond memories of the black & green olive plate that was out at every single big family feast as a kid. But I wasn’t sure how they were going to incorporate into the braised rabbit dish. Boy was that hesitation unfounded!!

The key to the recipe is the reduction of the sauce at the end. Really, really reduce it. I mean it needs to be thick and delicious. PLUS I made a little addition to the sauce at the end – 2 Tbl butter, and salt & pepper (based on flavor – taste first to see if it actually needs it). The butter made all the freaking difference in the world. The rabbit was tender and moist, and I piled the pieces up over a mash mixture of potatoes and sweet potatoes. Then I liberally poured the sauce over top and piled up oodles of black olives. Here’s the amazing part – as the sauce reduces, the olives suck up so much flavor! They were outstanding!! Truly a decadent meal, and one that is staying in my collection of recipes!! Seriously, I could not stop gushing over the sauce - it was pure taste bliss!

Tyler Florence suggests a side dish of caramelized radicchio with a salsa verde. I didn’t care for the salsa verde – so I simply caramelized some radicchio (one head of radicchio cut in half, sautéed in some olive oil over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes – flipping often – until caramelized and delicious), and then I drizzled the halves with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.

Braised Rabbit
[NOTE: original calls for 2 rabbits, so this is my ½’d version with my own additions]
1 whole rabbit, cut into thigh sized pieces (as described above)
2 cups flour
1 Tbl minced Thyme
1 Tbl minced Oregano
4 Tbl olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh Rosemary
1 whole red hot pepper
1 ½ cups black olives
½ bottle white wine
2 – 3 cups chicken stock
Parsley for garnish (oops…I forgot to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a shallow bowl, combine flour, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Dredge the rabbit in the seasoned flour and set aside.

In a large pot (I used my dutch oven), heat the olive oil and fry the garlic, rosemary and pepper to infuse the oil with their flavors. Remove the items from the infused oil and set aside for use later. Place the seasoned rabbit pieces in the pot and cook for 5 – 7 minutes (original says 7 – 10 minutes, but as soon as you get a nice golden brown you’re good to remove the rabbit) on both sides until the meat is golden brown. Add the reserved rosemary, garlic and pepper back into the pot. Add the olives (whole), wine and chicken stock. Move things about a bit just to make sure none of the rabbit is stuck to the bottom. Place the pot in the oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes (original says 30 – I pushed it to 40, use your judgment on the done-ness of the rabbit).

Once the rabbit is cooked through and tender, remove the pieces of rabbit from the pot and set aside (big slotted spoon works best). Over relatively high heat, bring the sauce to a boil and reduce. Reduce it to the point the sauce coats the back of a pan. Another of my favorite tests is to drag your spoon or spatula along the bottom of the pan – if you can see the bottom of the pan for about a second before the sauce falls back into place, it’s thick enough! Pour the sauce over the rabbit and serve!

English Onion Soup with Sage & Cheddar

Who doesn’t love a good onion soup? I remember one specific moment with traditional French Onion Soup – after my Grandfather passed away, for a long while (before I took a job on a cruise ship out here in Portland, OR) I would pick up my Grandma once a week. I’d leave work early, come pick her up in Westerville, take her to the beauty salon to get her hair done, and then we’d have lunch. We rotated lunch spots, but one of her favorites was Max & Erma’s simply because she liked their French Onion Soup. That would be her entire meal – one crock of soup. And we’d giggle about the stringy cheese. Isn’t it wonderful how easily food ties into our memories?

Over the last few years I’ve had a new favorite onion soup adapted from a recipe by The Two Fat Ladies (seriously love them). It was English Onion Soup – and instead of having cheese melted on top, there’s a hunk of Stilton Bleu Cheese crumbled and melted into the soup. It adds amazing flavor to the dish. This time, however, I tried a different version of an English Onion Soup. I found a recipe by Jamie Oliver and thought I’d give it a go. It intrigued me with sage as a large component of the meal – but more was the fact that the melted cheese on top is cheddar…interesting!! And on top of that – a dash of Worcestershire sauce. WHAT? Insanity – I must put it in my mouth!!

The soup itself is traditional, for the most part. Although this recipe did call for the addition of leeks, which I really liked. I traditionally used 3 different types of onions in my onion soup – white, red, and shallots. So the addition of leeks was a nice touch. Yet what made this soup different from the start was the cooking process for the onions. They aren’t just cooked, they’re slow cooked over about an hour – and you need LOTS of onions because they cook down like crazy.

I’ll make the soup with Stilton at some point this winter, I’m sure. But in the meantime, enjoy this version of English Onion Soup! This recipe does say it makes 8 servings. Or 4 BIG servings – when I make a soup it typically becomes the meal.

English Onion Soup
4 Tbl butter (Jamie Oliver calls for “a good knob of butter” – that’s my best guess!)
Handful fresh sage leaves, and 8 leaves reserved for garnish
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
5 red onions, peeled and sliced
3 large white onions, peeled and sliced
3 large shallots, peeled and sliced
3 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced (original calls for 11 ounces of leeks)
8 cups good quality beef stock (could substitute chicken or vegetable, but why would you?)
8 slices good-quality stale bread, ¾ inch thick
7 ounces freshly grated Cheddar cheese
Worcestershire sauce

Put the butter and 2 glugs of olive oil into the bottom of a large, non-stick pan (I used my big stock pot). Heat them up, and add the sage (I tore the sage by hand into small pieces) and garlic. Once the oil is infused, add the onions, shallots and leeks. Season with salt and pepper, stir everything round again and place a lid over the pot that is slightly ajar to let some of the steam out. Cook slowly for 50 – 60 minutes, stirring often, without coloring the vegetables too much. [Here’s the trick – a good amount of salt added at the beginning helps to keep them from coloring. Medium low heat, and stir them every 8 – 10 minutes to keep them cooking evenly.] During the last 20 minutes of cooking, remove the lid to allow more of the moisture to cook away. The slow-cooking process for the onions gives them an “incredible sweetness and an awesome flavor, so don’t be tempted to speed this up” (says Jamie Oliver).

When the vegetables are cooked, add the stock. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn on your broiler (or oven) and toast your bread on both sides. Taste the soup – correct the seasoning as necessary. When it’s perfect, ladle it into individual serving bowls and place them on a baking dish. Tear the bread and make it fit over the soup in each bowl. Cover the bread with shredded cheddar cheese and drizzle over a little Worcestershire sauce. Into the broiler (or oven) until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What I'm craving right now - horehound candy

When I was a kid, my Grandpa was my hero (well, he still is). I remember when I began studying the gold rush and the Oregon Trail in school, he started catering experiences and gifts around that. Together we would read old newspaper articles from the time period at the library. And once we read about Horehound Candy - it was popular in those olden days. So we set out to find some.

Eventually a little country store offered up our prize - bags of horehound candy! They had a multitude of flavors, but only "original" would do for us. We opened the bag and each popped a piece in our mouths. The flavor is so distinct...bittersweet is a good enough description. Acquired taste says a lot as well. But we were happy and proud of our discovery, so between the two of us we finished off the bag that week. And from then on we'd share horehound candy together - Grandma never got a taste for it.

So for some reason today I'm craving horehound candy drops. Or maybe I'm missing my Grandpa. It's likely a combination of both. But I think a piece of horehound candy would certainly make me smile.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cook Book Review: Little Old Lady Recipes

Recently I was contacted by someone at Quirk Books and asked if I would review a few of their cookbooks on this site. I was honored, excited, and I love getting free things - especially cookbooks (just ask my friend Larry back in New Jersey who sent me 2 boxes of cookbooks before we moved!). So this is the first review - and while it's technically not something I put in my mouth, it's something that would enable me to make something that I could put in my mouth. So it fits. :)

Little Old Lady Recipes, by Meg Favreau

The concept of this book is quite cute - recipes from Grandmas, basically. The cover suggests the recipes are made with love and lots of lard - fortunately that's a big misrepresentation since there's hardly a mention of lard in the book. Admittedly my favorite part of the book is the disclaimer that is printed right in the front: "...use your common sense when you're cooking recipes from this book (or any other). If you don't like it, don't eat it. And if it smells bad, it's probably rotten. These are rules that'll serve you well in life and in the kitchen." Such truth!

At first glance the book seems homey and cute - there are photos of little old ladies next to recipes, and some fiesty comments peppered throughout (such as this beauty from Gladys, an 84 year old bridge club hostess: "If you are working in the kitchen and someone asks if you want help, immediately remove your apron, hand it to them, and go in the living room to have a drink."). However I was a bit dismayed when I realized that the photos are not necessarily of the little old ladies who created the recipes. Seems like they could have done with at least one photo of food somewhere in the book, but perhaps that's just what I like to see when I'm reading recipes. Upon reading through the book, it all made sense when I realized the author was not some little old lady, but a rather sassy-looking young woman. This isn't a list of her own recipes, but a collection of recipes she pulled from the books created by women's clubs around the country. Actually a cool concept, since those books are not likely to be made available in large quantities - or more likely they cease to exist all together after a few years. So kudos to the author, Meg Favreau, for pulling these all together.

The recipes - they're cute. They do honestly represent a simpler time of life that you can generally count on hearing about from little old ladies. Familiar ingredients with easy instructions - these are the types of recipes many people might have learned from their mothers or grandmothers. I was expecting to see my Grandma's Potato Soup recipe in there someplace. And there's something for everyone - Hot Toddy (yes, that's a drink!), desserts, Bourbon Balls and Matzoth Balls. While none of the recipes are challenging, I imagine the results would invoke some wonderful feelings of comfort. It's likely a great cookbook for a beginner in the kitchen, or someone who prefers an easy time when throwing together a meal. And it would fit perfectly in a stocking hung by the hearth!

Monday, December 5 - Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition

Talk about a reason to celebrate!! Prohibition was certainly an interesting point in this country's history. keith and I recently watched Ken Burn's documentary "Prohibition" - well worth it. It's amazing how similar things are politically to how they were at the time of Prohibition. The issues have changed, but the actions, reactions, and ignorance is still pretty much the same. But I digress...prohibition.

What an interesting concept - to place all of the evils of humanity on alcohol. In my humble opinion, the only reason things are (typically) used in excess is often because they are taboo or illegal, at least in this country. By making alcohol out to be this great sin, it ends up being glamorized and misused (much like other taboo, marijuana...but again, I digress). Our country has one of the highest rates of alcoholism in the world - and I can only believe it's mostly due to the fact that it is so restricted. Think back, wasn't that first sip of beer exotic and exciting because you were "too young" for it? Remember those college parties where you first had some box wine - you felt like so much more of an adult because you weren't supposed to be drinking it. And think back to that glorious age: 21! At that point you could already vote, die for your country, and drive...FINALLY you're now allowed to order a glass of wine with dinner!!

So all that being said...I suggest we all raise a glass on Monday to the anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. A cute little article in Huffington Post (IMBIBE: 5 Ways to Toast Repeal Day) suggested five old-school cocktails that could help you celebrate, including the El Presidente, the Boulevardier and the Fallen Angel. So drink up - if you're of government determined age, that is.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


For years I've bought capers in glass jars that are floating in a brine solution. For years I've read and listened to people like Mario Batali (not in person...on his shows...seriously I WISH I knew Mario Batali) tell me that I should buy salt-packed capers, because the taste is amazingly fresher. Well I finally did as I was told. I found a jar of salt-packed capers. They require a tiny bit more prep than the brine-soaked ones. At least 10 minutes before you need them you simply need to shake out your desired amount into a small bowl, and then soak them in water for 10 minutes or so. Drain them, and they're ready to go. All the salt melts away and doesn't impact the flavor. And speaking of flavor - so much more true and sharp. The brine-soaked capers often just taste like the brine they come in. So if you are wondering about capers, go for the salt-packed. It will make all the difference in the world!

Prosciutto-wrapped Shrimp (and sides)

'Inoteca on the Lower East Side of Manhattan inspired me to make this simple and delicious dish at home. So every now and again, when I walk past the seafood counter and see some AMAZING shrimp, I can't help myself. I truly wish I could find real prawns, or better yet some langoustines - but alas, those are never anywhere to be found. However the other day at New Seasons Market I was scoping out the shrimp and started hopping in delight. They had a HUGE pile of hefty shrimp that had literally been brought in from the ocean that morning. After I picked myself up off the floor (come on, I'm not overreacting - even in the best places you almost always see that the shrimp had been previously frozen), I got 20 massive shrimp for dinner. Next, a quarter pound of thinly sliced prosciutto and dinner was shaping up!

I won't even bother with a recipe, it's so darn easy. The shrimp were fresh so they needed to be cleaned. This took about 3 times longer than it did to cook the entire meal, but that's okay. I was in my happy place in the kitchen. :) If you have never cleaned your own shrimp, it's not that difficult - just a bit time-consuming. They always come without the heads, so no worries there. You simply need to peel off the shell and legs - but absolutely leave the tail on. Then with a sharp knife, slice down the back of the shrimp (not too deep, maybe 1/4 inch, if that). Your incision will reveal a dark line inside the shrimp. That's the digest tract. Simply scrape it out, or pull it out - just get rid of it. Then move on to the next shrimp. Give them a good rinse before going on to the next step. Carefully pull apart your thin slices of prosciutto and wrap one (or in most cases, 1/2 of one) piece snugly around the meat of the shrimp. Once they are all wrapped, heat a little olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Lay the shrimp in the hot pan making sure they are all in contact with the pan. 3 minutes, turn, 2 - 3 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through and the prosciutto gets a little crispy on the outside. Absolutely delicious.

I knew I'd be making a rice dish as a side - it was simply some sauteed onions and garlic with capers and black pepper mixed with the brown rice. However the other side dish was a bit more fun. Raw slices of tomato and avocado drizzled in a bit of a salsa verde of sorts. I took some gorgeous tomatillos, cut them up along with some garlic, lime, red onion, salt & pepper. This all went into the blender with some olive oil. Once blended, I simply spooned it out over the raw veggies. Scrumptious!!

A note about tomatillos if you're not familiar with them. They're delicious! That's not all I was going to say, though. Sometimes I cut them up and heat them in a pan with salt, pepper & oil and they become a great base for a salsa. They are versatile and so green in flavor. The papery substance surrounding them is not edible, so be sure to remove it. And then wash them thoroughly - there's a layer of stickiness that surrounds the flesh and you should remove it. Otherwise, cut up and enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cooking with wine

I love it because it means I'll also be drinking wine! :)

Tonight I'm braising a rabbit in white wine, stock, and black olives (among other things). Photos & recipe to come!!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Grey Goose Martini

Is there anything else I need to say?

Polish Kielbasa & Cabbage

I picked up some really nice Polish Kielbasa at the market last week. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do with it - likely something simple. keith, however, had other plans for the sausage. He found an authentic Polish recipe using the sausage, cabbage and potatoes - and then did his own twist. He used 1/2 potatoes and 1/2 yams (really nice touch that added a bit of sweetness to the dish). I know there was some horseradish in there, and some stock...but aside from that he wouldn't let me into the kitchen to see what he was doing. The end result, however, was wonderful - thick, hearty and comforting. Perfect for a fall evening! So I encouraged him to write down his own version of the recipe (he has a folder with recipes he does really well, and over the years we've been together the number of recipes - and the quality of the recipes - has greatly increased). So while I can't give you the recipe, I can tell you it was a delicious Polish meal!


I love it when I see sunchokes in the store - they aren't available often, so when they are I grab a bag full! Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes, are the tuber of a type of sunflower. Amazingly I recently discovered that nearly 90% of all sunchokes in Germany go towards the production of a liquor called Topinambur. I must find Topinambur.

Sunchokes are beautifully ugly on the outside, and can be prepared in any traditional recipe calling for root vegetables. I would guess they make a great mash! They have a slightly nutty flavor that is really quite pleasing. Often I've roasted them, but this time I tried something different.

I peeled the sunchokes - I would think the skin is fine to eat if you scrub them clean. However I was going for a visual so I peeled them and sliced them. And like potatoes or artichokes, they will begin to "rust" when exposed to the air for a short time. In order to stop that, simply placed the peeled sunchokes in some acidulated water - in this case I had a bowl with 2-3 cups of cold water and I squeezed 1/2 a lemon into the bowl. Drop the sunchokes in the water and leave them there until you're ready to use them.

I decided to pan fry the sunchokes in some brown butter. 4 Tbl butter, heated over medium heat until it begins to take on a golden color - don't let it get too brown at first, since you still need to cook the sunchokes. Drop the strained sunchokes into the pan and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, or until they get tender.

I thought the finished sunchokes in brown butter looked a lot like water chestnuts. :) But they were delicious - I pulled them off the heat when they were still just a tiny bit firm in the middle - the texture is delicious. So here's to sunchokes!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Feast: Turducken, Rye Bread Stuffing, Yams stuffed with Apples

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the leftovers linger on. Secretly I always am suspicious of Thanksgiving when it rolls around. It celebrates an iconic event that likely never happened, and only became a national holiday because Lincoln needed a way to make people come together. But still, I do love the idea of the holiday - giving thanks for the wonders in our lives.

I gave thanks for my wonderful husband, who has been the most important person in my life for nearly the last 8 years. I gave thanks for my adoring dog Max who has been the biggest hairy ball of unconditional love I could have ever hoped for during the last 9 1/2 years. I gave thanks for our friends, our families, the world we've created together and the future that is laid out before us. It's been a good life all in all. :)

Now on to the food. So the theme was "stuffed" in honor of the pre-combined turducken I found at New Seasons. Typically a turducken is huge - a 4 - 5 lb chicken (boneless) inside a 10 lb duck (boneless) inside a 25 lb turkey (whole) - kind of like meat stuffing. In THIS case all three birds were boneless so it was more like a turducken roll - fine by me! Much less cooking time and easier to carve.

I needed "stuffed" things to go with the theme. Immediately I thought of apple-stuffed yams. No idea why, it's not something I've ever made before. But yams can really get along with sweet spices, so I thought this would be a natural pairing. I baked the yams until nearly done (about an hour), and pulled them out to cool. I figured the easiest thing to do was to treat them like twice-baked potatoes. So I cut each in half lengthwise and scooped out most of the yam flesh into a bowl. That got mashed with just some butter, salt & pepper and a little fresh ground nutmeg. Meanwhile, in a small pan on the stove I had 2 apples (peeled, cored, and cut up into 1/2" pieces). They were simmering in some butter (3 Tbl), brown sugar (1/2 C), fresh nutmeg (1/2 tsp), cinnamon (1/2 tsp), and allspice (1/2 tsp). I also added some salt (1 tsp) and a touch of pepper (pinch). These cooked for maybe 15 - 20 minutes, stirred often, until the apples were REALLY tender and there was some delicious juice. [Side note - this sugary, sweet juice was the perfect pre-dinner shot for my husband...if you like sweet things.]  I piled the apples into the yam shells evenly, and then covered them with the mashed yams. I made it easy on myself and put the mashed yams in a plastic bag, cut off the tip and evenly distributed the mixture over each. These went back in the oven (350 degrees) for about 1/2 hour to make sure everything was hot and delicious.

The turducken was easy - in a pan, 350 degrees, covered for 2 hours (this was nearly a 6 lb. collection of birds), then uncovered for 45 minutes or so until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. I let it rest for a bit and then just sliced it right up. It was the taste explosion I was hoping for, but what was interesting was the fat that usually drips away when you're cooking a chicken or (especially) a duck is trapped inside the turkey meat. So yeah, that was a really nice touch! And the cranberry sauce I made went wonderfully with the meat!

The stuffing - I have to say this was the star of the meal, as far as I'm concerned. I love it when I make something up and it really comes together. And for some reason I always use rye bread when I'm making a homemade stuffing. I love the earthy flavor it brings to a dish - it compliments root vegetables like celery and carrots quite nicely. The recipe for this is below - warning, there's a lot of butter in this stuffing but it is damn well worth it. :) Initially for the "stuffed" theme I wanted to make stuffing balls that had a cranberry sauce center. Yeah, that wasn't going to work. So I cheated and when I plated the stuffing I made a little well and piled some cranberry sauce in the center. It worked!

And let us not forget the cocktail. How to do a "stuffed" cocktail? I had lots of suggestions - three cocktails in one (in honor of the turducken); something with jello on. Instead I tried something different. I emptied one of our fantastic silicon ice cube trays and filled them with a mixture of cranberry and lime juices, and then added a spoonful pomegranate seeds in each one. When they were frozen the seeds were on top and they were quite beautiful. So for the drink - SO simple. 2 ounces of cucumber vodka (Pearl is excellent) and 2 ice cubes. That's it! The ice cubes represented the "stuffed" part of the cocktail, and they immediately begin to melt. So your drink is constantly transforming in flavor, and at the end you get to eat the seeds. Touch of brilliance in such a simple way. I'm so modest.

So all in all, great evening and wonderful food. I was so glad I was able to get out of my recent funk quick enough to pull everything together. I love experimenting with new foods on Thanksgiving, and I love trying to top myself every year. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday as well!!

Rye Bread & Leek Stuffing
1 small onion, chopped
1 large leek, cleaned & chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 slices thick rye bread, crust removed, cut into 1" pieces
1 stick butter (I KNOW!!)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 C chicken stock
Fresh ground pepper

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan (I used my dutch oven) heat 6 Tbl of butter (1 stick has 8 Tbl, reserve the other 2 for later). Once melted add the onion, leek, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and salt & pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened.

While the vegetables are cooking, spread the pieces of rye bread out on a sheet pan and bake for 10 - 15 minutes until toasted. Remove and set aside.

When the vegetables have softened, add the chicken stock and bring the mixture up to a bubble. Add the toasted bread and mix thoroughly. Transfer to a baking dish and dot the top with the remaining 2 Tbl. of butter. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes until the top is a little crusty/crunchy and delicious.

Chris' Cranberry & Hazelnut Sauce
1 package fresh cranberries
1/2 C sugar
1 C orange juice
1 C roasted hazelnuts

Quickly roast the hazelnuts in a hot, dry pan for 5 - 8 minutes stirring often. This helps release some of the oils and enhances the flavor. Pour onto a cutting board once heated through and chop.

In a pot over medium heat add the cranberries, sugar and orange juice. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and then cook the cranberries for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring often, until the cranberries have all popped open and the mixture begins to thicken. Add the chopped hazelnuts and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for another 10 - 15 minutes or until the mixture has thickened to your desired texture.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving update

The theme has been selected: Stuffed. Sounds simple, right? Here's the idea - I bought a Turducken and went from there (I've never made or eaten one before, so I'm pretty excited). A turducken is a de-boned chicken stuffed inside a de-boned duck stuffed inside a de-boned turkey. CRAZY! A FREAK OF NATURE!! :)

So with that in mind, my plans now include apple stuffed yams (or sweet potatoes...not quite sure yet); and stuffing balls "stuffed" with a center of cranberries and chestnuts. I'm working on a cocktail idea as well. Possibly something savory (cucumber or rosemary vodka) "stuffed" with a small fruit jello-shot (cranberry? apple? - floating in the middle of the drink).

Okay, I feel so much better now that I have a theme and a plan. So now, who wants to join us for my Stuffed Thanksgiving Dinner?

Food on Flickr

Here's a breakdown of food photography on Flickr - not surprising which "category" of food is represented the most:

Desserts 18.3%
Vegetables 17.8%
Poultry 13%
Meat 10.7%
Bread 8.8%
Drinks 7.8%
Dairy 7.1%
Pasta 7.1%
Other 9.4%

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old Fashioned

A sugar cube soaked in old fashioned aromatic bitters, and a twist of lemon. Yes, I'm making an Old Fashioned (using Jim Beam Rye)!

Friday, November 18, 2011's nearly here!

I've been overwhelmed with the new job. I know, it's no excuse. But I'm worried - typically by this time I've settled on a menu for Thanksgiving, tested some of the new recipes, and generated an excel spreadsheet of the day in order to make sure everything comes out all at once. NONE of that has happened so far this year and I only have one week to go!

So here are some initial thoughts:
Duck...maybe a goose?
sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping (old school - for keith)
some sort of leek soup...or maybe pumpkin?

What is everyone else having for Thanksgiving? Traditional? Non-traditional? HELP! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chicken Meatball and Cheese Tortellini Soup

I found this recipe in the book "Dinner At My Place" by Tyler Florence. I was searching for something comforting - something to soothe me to the core. This certainly hit the nail on the head.

Around this time of year, like everyone else, I begin craving soups and stews. As it begins to get colder I transition into roasts, and big, slow-cooked cuts of meat (as my friend Mary-Ellen recently said "I'd eat a unicorn if it were slow-cooked properly"). This delicious meal had the meatiness I wanted (chicken meatballs) and the warmth of a really good soup.

I made a TON of meatballs. Seriously, so many. We had some as appetizers before the meal. And for all my good intentions of saving 2 bowls of soup as leftovers...I ate out the meatballs, and never got around to finishing off the soup. :)

And truth be told - I made the meatballs the day before and put them in the refrigerator overnight. That worked just fine and gave me less to do as I was assembling the soup.

Chicken Meatball and Cheese Tortellini Soup

for the meatballs:
4 links organic chicken-apple sausage (instead, I used 1 1/2 lbs ground chicken meat)
1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 C whole milk (I used half & half)
1 egg
2 Tbl chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 Tbl for sprinkling
Fresh ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil

for the soup:
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 large carrots, cut into circles
1 medium onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 quarts reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 black peppercorns
2 Tbl chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 bay leaf
1 lb. fresh refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini, thawed
1/4 C finely chopped Italian parsley
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh parsley sprigs, for garnish
1 crusty baguette, to serve with the soup

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare meatballs by combing loose ground chicken meat (discard casings if using links), bread crumbs, milk, egg, parsley, and 1/4 C grated cheese in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt & pepper, then mix until fully combined. Using a small ice cream scoop (or a large spoon), make balls and set on a roasting tray. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with 2 Tbl. grated cheese. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden brown and caramelized.

While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the soup. Set a large stockpot over medium heat. Add a 2-count of oil (about 2 Tbl), the garlic and the thyme. Gently saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add carrot, onion, and celery. Season with salt and cook for 5 - 7 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and add peppercorns, 2 Tbl. parsley, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.

Once meatballs are cooked, scrape them into the pot of chicken soup and add tortellini. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 - 3 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Remove peppercorns and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Sprinkle with parsley and grated cheese. Garnish each bowl with a parsley sprig and serve with torn pieces of crusty bread.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Any vegetarian will tell you that mushrooms cooked right give them the same mouth and tooth feel as tender meat. Why vegetarians want things to feel like meat in their mouths, I'll never understand.

But I LOVE mushrooms. One of my favorite side dishes is simply sauteed shiitake mushrooms, with some butter, olive oil and a small palm-full of crushed herbs de Provence. Cook them over medium-high heat until they get deliciously tender all the way through. In this case, all I did was remove the stems. Sometimes I leave them on (but cut off the very end - tends to get tough), and sometimes I slice them. So warm and comforting...just like meat!


One reader, John, started a conversation with me a while back about garlic - and I completely forgot to post it. Si here is our exchange about garlic:

Garlic...good topic! To be completely honest, I don't pay attention to the "organic" or "non-organic" varieties. In fact the "organic" thing has gone too far, I think, in this country. Virtually anyone who meets a VERY minimum of conditions can label their food "organic" so I'm more likely to buy fresh & local than I am organic - because I know it's probably better because it was grown/made nearby. So I don't think that makes a difference, especially in taste, with garlic. However I do always buy mine loose - not boxed or bagged. I often feel that the ones in the bags or boxes are of lesser quality. I like to pick up a bulb and feel the weight & firmness of it. I have often times bought elephant garlic (for recipes that call for 3-4 cloves) because one clove is huge and the flavor is great. And I have even taken the cheating route a few times and bought a small container of peeled garlic cloves. I hate peeling garlic, so it was out of convenience - but you get to see the cloves and the flavor is usually just as good (if you're really chopping it up). Black Garlic sounds amazing though, and I might just have to buy some. I've never seen it before in stores, so I'm guessing I might have to find it online at a specialty store.

And since we're on the topic of garlic - have you ever tried garlic scapes? I think that's a slang name - they're basically the green shoots of a garlic plant with the tiniest bulb at the end (which would eventually turn into garlic). They are available in spring and are delicious sauteed or chopped into a stir fry. And if you like garlic you should also seek out some garlic flowers - they're generally round & purple. They have a wonderfully mild garlic flavor and are delicious torn up and sprinkled over a salad or even a steak.'d think I like garlic, the way I talk.

Brunch, by Mary-Ellen

We were treated yesterday to brunch by The Lesbians (aka Mary-Ellen and Natalie) at their floating house. Both keith and I are in love with their floating house and want one of our own immediately.

Brunch was exquisite! Kahlua french toast with fresh berries, maple bacon, scrambled eggs, and slow-cooked southwestern potatoes. As usual, I left one of Mary-Ellen's meals full and happy. :)

Of course that could have also had something to do with the scintillating conversation, the homemade bloody Mary mix (a la Natalie), the flowing vodka or the bubbly prosecco. :)

It was a big, gay brunch - The Husbands, The Lesbians and The Boyfriends made sure of that!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

holiday spices

It's that time of the year again. Time to buy what I like to call the "holiday spices." And no matter how many times I heard Jamie Oliver say I should always buy whole nutmeg, for some reason I never have. Until this year. And can I just The flavor is so much more intense and robust when you grate your own nutmeg. Definitely worth the effort. Go buy some whole nutmeg and grate it yourself. Just onto the cutting board. Then smell it. Now taste it. Are you as giddy as I am?

Rose Martini

I'm really trying to experiment with flavors and smells (I'm talking cocktails, but that applies to food as well). I found some rose water and it immediately flashed me back to Dove Bar in NYC. keith and I used to stop in there for happy hour after work when we first moved to the city. They served a delicious rose martini - they even floated rose petals on top. So I gave it a go - ice cold grey goose and a touch of rose water. The rose water can be VERY over-powering, but it was quite nice.

3 milk cheese & sweet Soppressata

Seriously...this snack kicks ass!

Chicken Corn Tortilla Soup

I know I've mentioned it before...but this soup is so darn comforting I can't help myself. I start in a very old-school way - boil an entire chicken. That's right, I chop up an entire chicken and it goes into a pot. I also throw in some savories: thyme, peppercorn, salt, onion, carrot, celery. And I boil it until the chicken is cooked completely through. The result - cooked chicken, and a stock I can use for the soup. I know, you're thinking the chicken won't have any flavor because it's been boiled. Wrong-o, my friend. :)

Next step is to shred the chicken - you want it nicely shredded and make sure to discard all skin and bones. In a new pot, heat up some olive oil and start cooking the vegetables: onions, carrots & celery with a little salt until they begin to soften. Add chopped thyme, chopped garlic, and 1 - 2 chopped jalapenos.

Here's the fun part - in the past I would often use a couple of cans of creamed corn. This time, I DID use one small can of creamed corn (mostly to add some sweetness and for some texture), but I also cut kernels off of 3 fresh cobs of corn. Holy crap I love fresh corn. Once the vegetables have begun to soften, throw in the corn, creamed corn, and the chicken. Mix this through and then add enough of the reserved stock to cover everything by 1 - 2 inches (depending on how big of a pot you have). Season with salt & pepper to taste, and bring to a bubble. At that point, reduce the heat so that it stays at a simmer for about 1/2 hour.

In the meantime, heat up some oil in a pan (I used peanut oil) and fry small strips of corn tortillas, turning once. They will darken a bit, and get crispy. I make a big pile of these because halfway through cooking of the soup, I like to throw in a big handful. They get really soft, almost like noodles, and add a really nice texture to the soup.

Once the soup is finished, ladle it out into big soup bowls (make sure you tasted it for seasoning first). Add a pile of fried corn tortilla strips to the top and you're ready to eat!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spicy Spag

Or rather what's left of it. Comforting, easy and delicious. Heat 2Tbl olive oil in a large pan. Add 1 large can chunky tomato sauce. When it begins to bubble, add 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp oregano, salt, pepper, and 2 Tbl red pepper flakes. Once the flavors are combined, add 1 pound of al dente cooked spaghetti to the pan. Turn the heat off and mix thoroughly. Pile into a pasta dish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, more red pepper flakes (if you're like me) and drizzle with olive oil. It warms you to your soul! And goes great with homemade garlic bread!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Beer me

I've been so quiet! I'm sorry. Starting a new job has consumed my life. I have been cooking - even found some great slow-cooker recipes! I hope to do some catching up this weekend. In the meantime...cheers. Here's a nice Belgian style ale from Colorado. I'm gulping it down as I make some bangers & mash for dinner!

Monday, November 7, 2011


We wandered over to Pope House Whiskey bar last Friday night, after dinner with The Lesbians. Greedy little me got a flight of whiskey. YUM!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Grilled Ham, Turkey & Cheese - late night snack

Perfect after a few (maybe more than a few) drinks out with friends. Ham, turkey, Swiss & Provolone on sourdough bread. And instead of butter to brown the bread, I always spread a little mayo on the outside. Delicious!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Parsley...not just a garnish anymore

I remember parsley growing up. It was the curly, little green sprig that came on the plate of every meal I ordered out at restaurants. And I also remember being told not to eat it because it was a "garnish," and could even take root and grow in my stomach (apparently along with the watermelon seeds, I could have had a garden in my tummy growing next to the gum that stayed for seven years). I always ate - much to the disgust of my mom and sister. Partly because I wanted to see if parsley would start growing out of my ears. But I also think somewhere I realized that if something was delivered on my dinner plate, it was to be eaten. Looking back, it wasn't a great garnish anyway (certainly not in the way it was presented at, say, Bob Evans...I wonder if they still use curly parsley in the same way today?). It was often accompanied with a slice of orange, which I also always ate. And now I almost always have parsley in the house. Admittedly I do cook more Italian and American comfort food than other types, and if it makes it onto a plate raw, it's usually chopped & sprinkled overtop, or made into a refreshing parsley salad with lemon juice & olive oil.

You've come a long way, parsley. At least for me you have! And look, you're not even curly! :)

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My new favorite Gin

It's an old standard, but I've just reacquainted myself with the simple & delicious Gin & Tonic. Hendrick's has "traditional botanicals such as juniper,
coriander, and citrus peel." And the addition of the "unexpected of cucumber and rose petals" takes this gin a step above the others! I'm totally a commercial for Hendrick's Gin!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone