Saturday, November 29, 2008


Thanksgiving this year was unusually full of people and kind of an extra big deal. I have lots of pictures but not many words to describe it (by the way, if there are any particularly good photos, it means that Brian probably took them). Marilyn and Steve came from Michigan with baby Eliana, and Jocelyn and Nick were here from Philly. This means I had tons of advance help with everything and that the work went so quickly and with so much fun that I would have been happy just standing around prepping ingredients with my girls in celebration of the holiday, even if we never had our feast at the end. This is one of those windows of time where friends can come together with more grace and simplicity than family, and it was a really lovely time. Many of my favorite people came over for dinner and to hang out all night and I felt extremely fortunate.

There was plenty of chopping to do the night before but fortunately we had just gone out for barbecue at Fox Bros so we were up for it.

We made those brown sugar bacon nuts for cocktail snacks. You gotta get that bacon really crispy. It takes teen abstinence vampire strength to resist it while it cools in all its brown sugaryness.Jocelyn made ginger maple cake. It would have been gingerbread but we forgot to get molasses. Delicious anyway.I split the skin on my turkey while I was flipping it, which was too bad. It ended up looking fine though. Katie can make some amazing stuffed mushrooms. Actually, she's a pie genius too.We are considering a Pie And Gravy business of some kind.Most were things I have made before--fennel salad and brussels sprouts from last year, succotash from this past summer.The cranberry-tangerine port sauce is from last year and I made maple-glazed tempeh for our veggie friends from a recipe at 101 Cookbooks along with spiced quinoa.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cabin apple cider tart

I spent this past weekend in a state so relaxed it was practically comatose. A bunch of us went up to Byron's family cabin up north. It's nearby Chattahoochee National Park and Tallulah Gorge, and the cabin itself is perched above a little creek. It was pretty cold, especially by Georgia standards, so mostly I sat in front of the fire, drank and read. On Friday I made pizzas and we ended up having an elaborate whiskey tasting. Whiskey also may or may not have played a role in the Feat of Strength that occured late on Saturday night when we all decided it would be a great idea to go stand barefoot in the icy mountain creek for as long as possible. Turns out the creek was extremely cold, which makes for great branch water but chilly-ass feet. Charlie made his amazing fish tacos that night, which were brilliant, as usual. A pot of cider was left to reduce on the fireplace so by dinnertime on Saturday it was a thick appley syrup. Charlie had brought his mandoline (who the hell brings a mandoline to cabin weekend? Charlie.) so I sliced a few apples that Byron had procured from the nearby Jaemor Farm Market, dragged them through the reduced cider syrup and made a pretty rustic galette with the leftover pizza dough (plus some butter and sugar). At some point Charlie and I were discussing how awesome it would be to have some mascarpone cheese to accompany it and Michelle goes "oh, I think I brought some mascarpone, it's in the fridge." (who the hell brings not-specifically-requested mascarpone cheese to cabin weekend? Michelle.) We mixed it with whiskey, lemon zest and a bit of sugar, then gave each other high fives.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Resurrection: wine in a box

This is monumental in importance. Remember how I cried bitter tears over the loss of my favorite (in truth, my only) boxed wine? I'm pretty sure I went on and on about it a couple months ago. Well, cry no more, you big baby, because it is back! Melanie called me all in a tizzy to report that she saw stacks and stacks of them at that will-o-wisp, that shady lady, the World Market. It was Sunday and blue laws forbade her from carrying away our beloved at that moment, but she let me know instantly that it was once more available. Those assholes just wanted to repackage it for fall, apparently. Now it has leaves on the box. But we all know--it's what's inside that counts. And the inside is pure love.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Potluck pineapple-cheese

This is ridiculous, but I am not completely ashamed because it is a success every time. And I thought with the holiday work party potluck season descending upon us all, why not share a little secret? I have brought this to every work potluck since I have had a grownup job. And people think it is the shit. It has the added benefit of sounding dang-nasty ("pineapple and cheeeeeese? ewwwww!") which keeps people off it long enough for you to grab a bite, but STFU, haters, because you are about to get served, literally and figuratively. It's so good that I don't even have a picture of it from after it was done cooking. It all got eaten INSTANTLY.

OK, get 2 20-ounce cans of pineapple chunks in juice (not in syrup, because, really?), and drain them, saving about 1/4 cup of the juice. Mix this 1/4 cup juice with 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Add your pineapple chunks and a package of preshredded sharp cheddar cheese, which is probably about 1 1/2 cups worth. Mix it well and tuck it into a baking dish. Melt a stick of butter and mix it with 1 cup of Ritz cracker crumbs (for real). Spread that on top of your pineapple-cheese mixture. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. And by the way, this is a SIDE DISH, not dessert. It reaches across the aisle and holds hands with dessert in the spirit of bipartisanship, but it itself is emphatically NOT dessert.

UPDATE! I broke down and made it again for a brunch potluck at Melanie's house, so I took a picture after it came out of the oven. Then I realized something--it pretty much looks exactly the same before and after baking. See?

Braised beef short ribs with horseradish

Short ribs are a delicious, cheap cut that benefits from looooong cooking. I don't have a slowcooker, but I bet this would be a great candidate for that device. I make mine in my cast iron dutch oven, when I have several hours where it can cook away, more-or-less unattended. I got these ribs from the meat guy with the pretty eyes at Morningside market, and it was about 1 1/2 pounds. You'd need more if you were cooking for more people than just, say, Jeremy and Melanie. Mel also brought over small red potatoes, so those made their way into the dish at the end, which was a good addition. Meat and potatoes! Classic.

Heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil in your trusty dutch oven over medium-high heat. Get you your short ribs and pop them in, browning them well on all sides. Don't burn them, just brown them well. It took me about 10 minutes for mine, but it might take longer if you have more than a pound. Salt and pepper them as you turn them around in the pot. When they are browned, take 'em out and set aside. Back in the same pot, begin to sauté one minced onion over medium heat until soft and lightly golden, about 8-10 minutes. By the way, if you browned more ribs than I did, you may need to drain out some fat before adding in your onion. I didn't have that much meat so I didn't think it necessary, but if you are feeding a crowd, that pot might get too greasy, so take a look before tossing in your onion and proceeding. When the onion is ready, nestle your short ribs back in, turn heat up to medium-high and add 1 cup beef broth plus some of the wine you are drinking and bring it all to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer for...hours. At least 2 hours. Stir it every now and then, but mostly do other stuff like clean the kitchen or brush your furry dog. Or read the November issue of National Geographic and check out that crazy Mexican crystal palace! Poke the ribs after an hour and a half and hopefully the meat should be starting to fall off the bone. At this point, I added 4 diced red potatoes in with the meat and let them cook for another 30-40 minutes while the ribs finished up. Remove the meat and potatoes to a serving platter (preferably using a big sieve-type spatula so Melanie can enjoy watching--she loves that thing, don't know why), and crank up the heat to high. Stir in 2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish and 1 tablespoon minced parsley and continue stirring for 2 minutes to reduce the liquid left over. Pour this sauce over the ribs and potatoes and serve.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Roasted baby sweet potatoes

This is something I have been making almost every week for the last month or so--buying these teeny little sweet potatoes at the farmers market and roasting them until they are so golden, crunchy, and chewy that they actually qualify as vegetable candy. The glory of these things is that you don't peel them--just slice in half and roast. I tried to take some pictures for scale to try to show you just how tiny baby sweet potatoes are. Actually they are sold as fingerling sweet potatoes, and look like fingers they do.I was trying to get a picture of the potato next to Mason Dixon or Billie Jean so you could really appreciate how tiny they are, but Billie suddenly lunged, picked up the potato in her mouth and ran off with it. I gave up on the idea, but after that, both dogs thought the sweet potatoes were a delicious treat, so they begged for one incessantly.Anyway, you just slice them in half, no peeling needed. They are really pretty and jewel-toned inside.It's fun slicing them open just to see what color you'll get--some are dark orange, others are pale yellow. Also, they can be very strange, squiggly shapes.Split them all, put them in a baking dish and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each red pepper flakes, sugar, salt, vindaloo powder and at least 1 tablespoon olive oil. Mix it up well and roast at 400 for 25 minutes, cut side down. Stir them up and, depending on how done they look and how many you have stuffed into the pan, let them go for another 10-15 minutes. They will get beautifully toasty and caramelized. Sort of like sweet potato chips.

Just neat

Guess who was in the kitchen with me a couple days ago?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Barley with mushrooms and chicken

This is great for an early winter (if you're up north) or mid-fall (if you are down here) dinner. Especially if you have already made a chicken recently and have a lot of leftover meat to use up. Otherwise, just leave it out and it can be simply barley and mushrooms, which is also delicious. To make vegetarian, just use veggie broth instead.

Start out with a package of innocent, fresh cremini mushrooms, washed and well dried.Slice them thinly, and dice up one small onion as well.Sauté the mushrooms and onion together in a large pot in a couple tablespoons of some kind of fat. I used chicken fat because it is delicious and I had a bunch on hand, but butter is just fine to use as well--you could even combine it with olive oil for real virtue.When the onions and mushrooms are soft and browned (about 8-10 minutes over medium-high heat), turn up the heat and add about 1/2 cup white wine so that it sizzles madly. Let evaporate for about 2 minutesMeanwhile, measure out some barley. I used about 1 1/2 cups.Add the barley in with your mushrooms and onion and sauté for a minute or so until lightly toasty and well coated with wine/butter/chicken fat/what-have-you.Add 4 cups of chicken stock, stir well, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Let the barley absorb all the liquid, stirring occasionally. It will take about 35 minutes. If you're using chicken, add in about 1/2 cup, cooked, chopped meat 10 minutes before the barley is all done cooking. Before serving, remove from heat, stir in 1 tablespoon each white wine vinegar and minced parsley.