Monday, November 26, 2007


I know it has been a while since I posted anything new...there was traveling and then thesis work...all these things conspired to keep me from making anything noteworthy. Until Thanksgiving! Jocelyn & Nick took the train down from Philadelphia for the long weekend and we had a great time. Lots of basketball watching, 3-D movies, walks with small dog...and of course, cooking and pie-making. The turkey was made the same way I made it last year--if you are actually curious on the step-by-step or how to carve and all that, see the post from November 2006. It's a high-heat cooking method that makes the time much shorter--our 14.8 pound bird cooked up in just over 2 hours. As always, a good digital meat thermometer is essential--you want to make sure the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh is 170 degrees before you pull it out. Then it gets a resting period of 30 minutes, during which the temperature continues to rise to 175, which is perfect. Here's what we made this year that was noteworthy and different from last year:

Cranberry-port-tangerine relish! This was fantastic and remarkably easy. We only had 7 people for dinner so I just used one 12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries but you may wish to double it. Pour a healthy 1/2 cup of port wine into a large saucepan and heat it to boiling. Dump in your bag of fresh cranberries (wash and pick them over first) and stir around. When they begin to pop (maybe 3-5 minutes over medium-high heat, if that) add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar, zest from 2 tangerines and the juice of one tangerine. Stir it all up and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, then cover & turn off the heat. That's it! After it is cooled off some, pour it into a container and stick it in the fridge for whenever dinnertime is. It will get all jelly-like and awesome.

We also made butter beans. They are sort of like lima beans but I think they are more tasty. They're probably hard to find outside of the south though, so you could probably just use frozen baby limas. Wash 3 cups butter beans well and boil until soft but not mushy. Drain and set aside. In the same pot, lightly saute 1/4 cup minced shallots in 2 tablespoons of butter, but don't let them brown or anything. Add the beans back in, add salt, plenty of fresh ground pepper, 1 tablespoon minced parsley and 1 cup heavy cream. Stir occasionally over medium heat until cream has cooked down a little bit--about 5 minutes. Delicious! You could also use chives instead of shallots, if you wanted to. I also put in about 1/2 cup of frozen corn kernels to cook with the cream for added sweetness and to make Jocelyn think it was succotash.

Let's see, what else did we have? There was the turkey, of course, and gravy. We made mashed potatoes, but I have discussed those at length in the past. Also, green salad with fennel, goat cheese and pomegranate seeds that I know I mentioned a couple weeks ago. And roasted kabocha squash and roasted brussels sprouts. Those were really neat--the ones in the the bin at the market were too big so I ended up buying a whole stalk and cutting them off myself. They were much tinier and really delicious. Ryan and Betsy made cornbread. For appetizers we had roasted garlic and the goat cheese crostini with cherry preserves that I made a couple weeks ago also. Jocelyn made awesome stuffed mushrooms. She's really good at it. You clean and de-stem a bunch of largish mushrooms, then chop the stems up very fine and combine them with bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, parsley, sage (anything else, Jocelyn?) then stuff the caps , mounding the stuffing up attractively on top. Then you bake them at 350 for about 10 minutes, I think. I'm not sure how she does it but they are simple and delicious.

We also made two pies--one pumpkin and one that was chocolate-pecan pie. That one was really particularly good. I have seen recipes for it before but Gourmet ran one this month so I thought we'd give it a shot. It's really easy, especially if you are too lazy to make your own pie crust. Melt one bar of bittersweet chocolate (you can do this in a bowl over boiling water if you don't have a double boiler). Spread it into a crust that you have ready in a 9-inch pie plate. Let it harden up, then cover with 2 cups toasted pecan halves. Whisk in a bowl 3 eggs, 1/3 cup light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt. When it is all mixed up, whisk in 3/4 cup dark corn syrup. Pour this over the pecans in the pie plate and stick in the oven at 375. Keep an eye on it--ours took about 50 minutes. It gets all puffy and golden and irresistibly delicious looking. Jocelyn and I felt perhaps this recipe was a little bit too sweet--perhaps you could cut down the sugar to 1/4 cup or maybe some bourbon in the mix would temper the sweetness a little. But it is a really good pie, especially with the whiskey whipped cream that Jocelyn made to go with. We had lots of Baileys and hot chocolate, and also this cocktail called a Dark and Stormy that Melanie made--I think it was ginger beer, lime juice and rum, shaken with ice. Between that and the many sparkling wines, it was a highly successful Thanksgiving, regardless of food.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Chicken with garlic

I felt inspired to make a version of the classic chicken with 40 cloves of garlic after reading about someone's recipe in this week's New York Times. Mine is different--less of a crispy saute and more of a chicken pot-au-feu in texture. The garlic is super soft and not as browned. I wanted to make special dinner because Melanie was leaving to run the New York City Marathon over the weekend and Jeremy was going along to cheer her on (in fact, she is running it right now as I am writing this and she is making great time! go, Mel, go!) and I'm traveling to a conference this whole week so it was to celebrate and also because we're not going to see each other for a little while. So I figured we'd eat something particulary delicious, full of protein for a runner, and super-garlicky to keep the competition back several paces.

Before I tell you about the 40 clove chicken, I need to tell you about our appetizers because they were really tasty. Melanie had brought us some really great cherry preserves from her trip to the Bay Area last week so we made goat cheese crostini--slice a baguette into thin rounds, rub a little olive oil on them, top with a slice of goat cheese, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of parsley. Toast in the oven at 350 until the bread is slightly crispy and the goat cheese is warm--about 10 minutes. Pull them out and dab a little cherry preserve on top. We also had an entire head of roasted garlic--just to fully embrace the theme of the evening. This is an easy and delicious thing that you will want to make over and over again. Take an entire head of garlic and slice off the top 1/2" so that the cloves are exposed. Rub it all over with olive oil. Put it in a small ovenproof dish of some kind, like a ramekin. Pour in about 1/3 cup of white wine, drizzle over a little more olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper and put a healthy tablespoon of butter on top of the garlic head. Stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes-1 hour. Occasionally you can baste it or roll it around in the cooking liquid in the bottom of the baking dish. It is done when the garlic cloves are as soft as butter when you prod them with a knife. Take it out, warn everyone that the dish is hot and serve with good bread. You eat it by taking a clove off the head and squeezing out the roasted garlic onto slices of bread. The wine-butter-olive oil in the bottom of the baking dish is also completely delicious to mop up with the bread.

Now for the chicken. This is VERY easy and you will want to make it often because it is delicious. Get a large chicken--mine was about 5 pounds--and have your butcher cut it up into 10 pieces. Or just buy it cut up already, I don't care how you do it. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and set aside. In a large dutch oven (or any other big heavy pot), melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add the chicken pieces (you will probably need to do this in 2 batches) and brown them in the hot butter/olive oil, 5 minutes on each side. Remove all the chicken after this initial browning step and turn your heat down to medium. Add an unbelievable quantity of peeled garlic cloves. If you feel like actually peeling up 3 heads of garlic, be my guest, but I went ahead and bought one of those containers you find in the refrigerated part of the produce section--there's a company that sells plastic bottles of pre-peeled garlic. I think I used one that was 6 ounces of garlic--you can use even more if you want! Anyway, take your peeled garlic cloves and toss them around in the hot fat at the bottom of the pot until they get a little browned, then cover them with all your chicken pieces so it is a layer of garlic, then a chicken stack on top. Let it cook for about 10 minutes like this then add 3/4 cup of chicken stock and 3/4 cup of white wine. I wasn't measuring very accurately and I daresay it doesn't matter a whole helluva lot. Stir it around every now and then and let it cook for about 30 minutes then fish out all your chicken pieces onto a serving platter and put them in the oven to keep warm. Take a look at the cooking liquid left behind in your pot--is it thin or thick? You want it to get sort of reduced and it should be, after cooking uncovered for 30 minutes, But if it is still really liquidy, turn up the heat and stir it around until it is a bit thick. This sauce here is so delicious it will make you want to slap somebody. When it is a saucey consistency, take it off heat and pour it over your chicken pieces on their serving platter--turn the chicken pieces over so they get nice and coated in the sauce and be sure to pour more over and fish out the soft garlic cloves when you serve it. We had the usual toasted large grain couscous on the side to maximize the potential of the delicious garlic clove sauce. Rice or potatoes or anything else starchy that floats your boat would be good too.

We also had a good salad--mixed greens tossed with a thinly sliced head of fennel. Topped this with sliced goat cheese, pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds. Tossed all together with a dressing made with equal parts olive oil to champagne vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, salt and pepper. It was delicious.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Root soup

For many years in Milwaukee, the root soup at County Clare was one of my favorite things. I would go there with Jocelyn, or any number of other people, and we would get that and maybe a salad (Waitron: "How is everything?" Jocelyn: "This is the best fucking salad I have ever had.") and I would definitely drink beer and there were some good times. I had a birthday party there once, years ago, that's where we met Brent for the first time, if you can believe that there was a time when we didn't know Brent. And my going-away party, when I left Milwaukee for Atlanta, was there, in the Saint's Snug, which is in the corner by the fireplace and a prime location if you can snag it early on a weekend night. Our roommate, Not-Gay-Jonathan, his father used to run the giftshop (now there's a soccer watching room where the giftshop used to be) and they always decorated really really well for the holidays. And they would put a little shamrock into the foam atop your Guinness. Anyway, there's some other great Irish bars in Milwaukee (I also can wax profoundly upon the merits of Paddy's), but County Clare has a special place in my heart. I didn't realize until writing this just how how much time we spent there--I think we must have wound up there a lot more often than I thought. I remember us walking past the building in the daylight once and I said "what? it's PINK?" Apparently it is, I had just never noticed. Their root soup is that fantastic. Here's my version of it; not as good, but when you are 800 miles from home, beggars simply can't be choosers.

Peeled and chopped into smallish chunks 1 large sweet potato. Dumped it in a roasting pan along with a ton of peeled, chopped carrots--probably at least 2 pounds worth. I just had a ton of extra carrots in the fridge for some reason. Put the pan with the veggies into the oven at 400 and roasted them until soft and lightly browned, tossing often, for about 25-30 minutes. Heated 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in my large cast iron dutch oven pot. Added 1 small onion, chopped and stirred around until it started to get a little bit soft, then added in the roasted sweet potato and carrots from the oven. Also put in about 8 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped. I don't think the original version uses parsnips, but I would have added it if I had had one around the house. I also added one small peeled and chopped up potato because I felt like I had a lot of carrot and needed to balance it out. You don't need to do that if you don't want. After the vegetables were all getting soft, added in about 5 cups of chicken stock and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and covered to simmer for 25 minutes or so. The cream thickens up everything as it simmers. Took the pot off heat and poured the soup through a food mill and cranked it into a clean container. I actually ended up putting it through the food mill twice to smooth it out. If you have a good blender that might work better, but make sure you don't burn yourself. Pour the smooth soup back into your original cooking pot to reheat if necessary and taste for seasoning--I ended up adding a bit of black pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and some salt. By the way, since you had the oven going anyway to roast the carrots and sweet potatoes, dump some cubes of bread (I had pumpernickel and mulitgrain) into the now-empty roasting pan and cover them with olive oil, salt and pepper, toss them around and return them to the oven to crisp up into croutons. Keep a good eye on them, they can burn up, so probably no more than 10 minutes or so. County Clare never put croutons in their soup--but they did drizzle a little crème fraîche shamrock shape on top.