"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes



Gourmet Magazine is no longer published, but it is certainly not forgotten. A great example of this is the new blog "Gourmet Unbound", which seeks to keep the spirit of the magazine alive by soliciting monthly posts from cooks around the world who are going through the archives month-by-month.

My friend and fellow Gourmet blogger Adam over at Gourmet, all the way tipped us off on this (Teena and me)--should be easy for those of us blogging through the Gourmet Cookbook, no? And according to the submission guidelines, all you do is an advanced search at Epicurious with your month of choice--a quick browse and I found many recipes I had already done and many more that were in the book waiting for my attention.

A side note! I found two recipes that were apparently published in a January version of the magazine that just astonished me--I would have bet all kinds of money that they would be featured in the dog days of summer. This is why I don't go to Vegas--I suck at betting. The recipes are: Cold Buttermilk and Shrimp Soup (January 1991) and Quince, Apple and Almond Jalousie (January 1998).

It's beyond me why anybody would feature a cold soup in January (unless your readership is primarily in the tropics?) and quince, at least up here, is a seasonal summer fruit. So go figure. And by the way, that soup is awesome. Make it next time it's hot.

On to the featured recipe--Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes (January 2002)! I made these to go with the Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions I talked about in my last post. If you've ever oven-roasted potatoes before this will all seem very familiar--what's unusual and most tasty about this side dish is the spice blend: coriander and fennel seeds, dried oregano and red pepper flakes ground in a spice grinder and mixed with salt. It's kind of weird but it's really good. And an excellent complement to the main course! If you've got the mid-winter blahs in the cooking dept oh and maybe you're trying to shed some of those holiday pounds, consider this one--sweet potatoes are one of those vegetables that are supposed to be super good for you.

Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions


I'm a sucker for recipes that start with this sentence: "Make this dish and forget about it..." Pre-Christmas, who doesn't want something you can slide into the oven with minimal effort and pull out hours later? Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions, you're the one for me. I made this meal at the same time that I was making about fifty kinds of candy, all of which, dear reader, I will tell you about in due time.

But more about the pork shoulder--this recipe calls for a 3- to 4- pound bone-in fresh pork shoulder half. I could only find a whole, and was too rushed to ask the butcher to cut it for me--so here I am trying to brown the whole picnic shoulder in a pot slightly too small:



After browning the pork you set it aside and add about 5-6 sliced onions to the pot, sauteeing until they're caramelized:



Then stir in 3/4 cup cider, put the pork back in, cover, and slide the whole thing into a low oven for about 3 hours.

Ready for dinner?




We loved it. Our cat did too.




If I were making it again, though, I'd trim off the skin and most of the fat. There's a LOT of fat on pork shoulder, and it all went into those caramelized onions. Notice that didn't stop me from eating it, but I felt appropriately guilty.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Green Chili Cheesecake with Papaya Salsa




When my family started Christmas planning a few weeks back (which really means "deciding about food") my mother suggested "heavy hors d'oeuvres" instead of Christmas dinner. That's the best part anyway, she said--why not just make the whole food event about the best part? Now there's the food philosophy of a true hedonist, and if you've ever wondered where my deep appreciation of both butter and chocolate comes from, look no further than Mom.

Mom is also all about "many hands make light work", and this is why pretty much every family event is potluck. My husband's Long Island family thinks this is a crazy New England tradition (ok--maybe the potluck wedding reception was a little much) but it does spread out both the work and the expense.

So--Heavy Hors D'Oeuvres Potluck! Sign me up!

Don and I picked two--the recently mentioned Clams Perce, and Green Chili Cheesecake with Papaya Salsa. Don was supposed to make the cheesecake, but with his Algebra II final looming, I stepped in and did the deed.

This is a standard cheesecake--just savory. The crust is made of crushed blue corn tortilla chips + a little butter, and the cake part is cream cheese, a bit of sour cream, eggs, and cheddar + monteray jack cheese. Roasted/peeled poblano chilies and minced dill + cilantro are folded in to the dairy base and then it's baked in a medium low oven for an hour, about.

The salsa that goes with is a fruit salsa. It's supposed to be papaya, but my husband came home with persimmons instead. No problem--they're both sweet and sort of spicy. Who can keep these fruits straight when you're wrestling with algebra?



That looks like it takes up a lot of brain space.

How was the cheesecake? "It tastes like Fire and Ice!" my sister exclaimed. Should you be wondering, this is an appetizer we were practically suckled on, down in the Deep South and back in the seventies. And do you think I can find it on the Google? I cannot. Looks like fire and ice can be applied to everything from melon soup to opera cake, but as I recall OUR Fire and Ice involved cream cheese and chilies of some kind. Help me out, Amanda! 2nd-hand algebra is taking up my brain space!

I would say this is a great choice for a party app--it can be made ahead (big bonus points for that) and feeds a lot of people. It's also unusual enough to get you some oohs and ahhs and who doesn't love that?

My one and only complaint about the dish was the crust. After about, oh, two seconds those corn chips, which absorbed moisture, were staler than stale. I'd sub in some crushed ritz crackers or something. Please note that the recipe on Epicurious calls for blue corn flour. Not sure who made the substitution, but maybe that would work better too!

Hey, and the observant amongst you might note I'm posting this the day before Christmas! That's because my mom doesn't really care what day it is--as long as the whole family can be together. Our Christmas was last Saturday. Tomorrow--another Christmas, with my husband's family--a food experience beyond your wildest imaginings. I'm going to try to get a Bearnaise sauce in there--stay tuned for that post. :-) Merry Christmas!



(Don, here's your tree!!!)





Sunday, December 20, 2009

Clams Perce


Making any kind of dish with fresh clams or oysters is a mixed blessing. You can't beat the taste, and canned clams just aren't the same, I'm sorry. Even the pre-shucked bivalves you can get at the fish counter usually have preservatives added. Nope, for the best you really need fresh.

BUT. Shucking clams and oysters is more easily said than done, and although I've had practice with both over the years, the idea of it still intimidates me. For one thing, it's incredibly messy, and for another, if you don't have the proper equipment it's dangerous, with a trip to the emergency room looming should your knife slip the wrong way. To make it more confusing, you don't shuck clams and oysters the same way--you pop an oyster at the hinge, and you do the opposite with clams, running your knife between the shells everywhere BUT the hinge, to loosen the muscle.

So it was with great interest and appreciation that I read the instructions for Clams Perce (pronounced "Percy")--you steam those bad boys until they open--no knives involved anywhere. I had even more appreciation for this recipe, the creation of Manhattan bar owner Perce Goodale, once I read it fully--clearly created by and intended for a busy commercial kitchen with no time to waste. So should you have no time to waste yourself this holiday season, but are looking for an app that will wow your guests, try this one on for size.

Once you get your clams out and have rinsed off the shells, lay them on a baking sheet. The recipe asks you to stablize them with kosher salt--I didn't bother with that. Put a clam in each shell, then sprinkle on top: dry stuffing mix, parmasan cheese, a strip of raw bacon, and a drop of Worcesterhire sauce. Broil for 2-3 minutes.

That's it! They're great little bites. Yum!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Veal Stew with Lemon and Creme Fraiche



Oh Paris!

My friend Moira and I went to see Paris last weekend at the very worthy-of-your-time Cape Ann Community Cinema.


Oh Juliette Binoche! One of my favorite lines in the movie is when a flirtatious greengrocer asks her if she did her hair with dynamite that morning. That's French seduction for you!

I was in a Paris state of mind for days after, and when browsing through the book for our next dinner, this caught my eye:

Veal Stew with Lemon and Creme Fraiche

The particulars of this recipe came to us from the novelist Diane Johnson, who wrote a piece for the magazine on how Parisian housewives cook.

Say no more! Perhaps my brother



will never perform a choreographed modern dance number at a party in his living room




but at least I could make stew like a Parisienne!

The head notes go on to explain that this is not your ordinary, throw-everything-into-a-pot-and-cook-it type of stew--first you cook the meat and take it out...then you cook the veggies in the meat water and take them out...then you reduce the stock and make an "exquisite sauce". Don't worry!! say the head notes. Not as complicated as it sounds!!

Taking these thing on faith, as I so often do, I trotted off to the market to buy my ingredients. Bone-in veal breast? Check. Boneless veal shoulder? Nuh-uh. I made do with "veal stew", which is stew meat, which for all I know might actually be cut from the shoulder.

Everything else is standard stew-y stuff if you put it in the realm of la France--a bouquet garnis, leeks, carrots, mushrooms--and non standard stew-y stuff, like lemons and creme fraiche. And egg yolks.

First you put the meat, bones, bouquet garnis and onions in the stew pot and let it cook up for a while. I was a little baffled by the veal breast. For one it was really fatty, and for two I mulled over how to cut it off the bone. I finally went for the "mango" approach:






And I cut those cubes off the bone. See what I mean about the fat? All of this went into a pot with onions and a bouquet garnis, which if you don't know are "aromatics" ie herbs, pepper and a bay leaf. Traditionally you bind it up with cheesecloth and string but I couldn't find either of those things in my kitchen so they were footloose and fancy free in my pot. Cover your eyes, Thomas Keller!



Purists will also note that I'm using curly parsley, not flat leaf. Well, curly parsley is growing in my neighbor's pot outside and I'm a cheap bastard (though not a parsley thief--she told me to use what I wanted!)

This all simmers for about an hour and a half, after which the meat comes out and goes in a low-medium oven. I was sort of hoping the fat would magically cook away, but it didn't. I tried one of the veal breast cubes to see if the flavor trumped the fat content, but it didn't. Alas!

So I spent a good 30 minutes picking the meat from the fat while the leeks and carrots simmered in the broth. Here's the pile of fat I had left over:




Blech.

OK, next! The veggies come out and go to a serving dish, which for me meant in the oven with the meat. The broth is then supposed to be reduced to 2 1/2 cups, but mine was already there, so voilĂ !!

Mushrooms then get sauteed, which made me happy because I love mushrooms in soups and stews, especially if they've been sauteed first, which makes them heartier somehow. Sauteed mushroom in the oven with the leeks, carrots and meat!

To make the sauce, first one makes a roux (flour and butter, sauteed) and then whisks in the reduced stock. In a side bowl, mix 2 egg yolks with creme fraiche:



stir in a little hot broth, then whisk the tempered yolks/creme fraiche back into the big pot with the rest of the thickened stock:



Since I was making this stew at a somewhat more leisurely pace than the recipe suggests, it occurred to me just in the nick of time that the meat and veggies were probably actually COOKING in that 300 oven.



Oops! Hm. Well, the meat was a little crispy around the edges, but nothing inedible. And as with dry Thanksgiving turkey, nothing a little gravy can't cure! I mean, Lemon-Creme Fraiche Sauce.




Doesn't it look delicious? It was. But I can't really say I felt like I was eating stew, even while pretending I was Juliette Binoche, who may or may not cook her own dinners.

Would I make this exact recipe again? Perhaps not, but I certainly am interested in this technique, mostly because it makes great use of the stock to make a very sophisticated dinner out of nothing too fancy. Well, veal is pretty fancy but you could do this easily with any kind of meat or poultry. Give it a try next time you're longing for Paris!





Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cranberry Cognac Trifle, or Melissa Wins the Office Thanksgiving Dessert Bake-Off!



Readers, if you've been following along you know that I am very very close to finishing the Cakes chapter--and this multi-part dessert extravaganza was on the list of Cakes Yet to be Baked. Cranberries...Thanksgiving...seemed like the perfect dessert to bring to my parent's house for my annual dessert contribution!

And then...an interoffice email announcing that the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the company would be providing a BBQ lunch, and for employees who were so inclined there would be a dessert competition with a modest prize.

My friend Leigh asked me if I was going to compete with one arm tied behind my back? Hell no, sistah--when it comes to desserts, I bring it.

But I'm not stupid. Why not, I figured, just preview Cranberry Cognac Trifle for the company lunch? That way I can trouble-shoot the recipe if need be, and since (as I've mentioned) there are many parts to this dish I'd just double them and basically get two desserts for the time spent on one. And since many of these parts can be made in advance, I could knock them out on Sunday and assemble the night before.

This is an intimidating recipe to look at. Let me just type it here so you get an idea:

FOR CAKE LAYER
6 large eggs, separated
6 large yolks
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons salt

FOR ASSEMBLING TRIFLE
Cranberry Jam (recipe follows)
Cognac Syrup (recipe follows)
Rich Custard (recipe follows)

See what I mean? And that's not even including the Cream Topping. Or the Special Equipment. Embedded recipes are usually blockers for me, which is no doubt why this is one of the last cakes in the chapter to be made.

But I made it! Not once, but twice!

First, the Cranberry Jam. If you've made fresh cranberry sauce, you'll have the basic idea--cranberries in a pot with a little water and sugar. This one also called for a fresh vanilla bean and some orange juice.



Then boil it--not for long, just about 20 minutes. My pan was a little too small so I had to keep a close eye on it for boil-overs:



Then it says to put it through a food mill, but since I freakin hate food mills I just pushed it through a fine-mesh sieve:



Doubling the recipe, I ended up with about four cups:



Done! On to the next component--Cognac Syrup. Now here was a small problem--no cognac. Actually I have a few nips back somewhere in my liquor cabinet, but not quite enough for what I needed. I had lunch with my folks earlier and my dad was loathe to sacrifice his cognac to this baking project, but he did point me in the right direction for a nice bottle at a pretty good price--Landy. The Cognac Syrup is super easy--you combine water, sugar, orange zest and cognac--bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes.






Next, Rich Custard.

OK, confession. Custard and I do not always get along. Actually, Custard is a temperamental bitch. So I was a little apprehensive--there are just so many ways to screw custard up. The recipe says this one has just the right amount of body to be absorbed by the cake yet not be soupy, which is to say it's thickened slightly with cornstarch. OK, game on, Custard.

First a small amount of cold milk is whisked into a little sugar, cornstarch and salt:



Then add the remaining milk and orange zest:




Bring to a boil, it says, whisking frequently. For me this means bring to a boil while you're separating the eggs, and then realize that the milk on the bottom of the pan has scalded to brown and try not to stir it up. Into the aforementioned eggs (yolks, specifically) whisk sugar, then set it up near your milk:



Now, the idea with custard is that you slowly whisk hot milk into the egg yolks, which tempers them. And the recipe says to put this mix back in the pan and heat to 170, no more. But I also know that sometimes when you put the boiling milk in the eggs, it's more than 170 and so that magic number has already been reached as far as the eggs are concerned.

This was complicated by the fact that I had browned milk cooked at the bottom of the pan and wanted to wash it off. So while I was scrubbing that stuff out the eggs and hot milk sat there and lo and behold when I went to pour it back into the clean pan, it had already thickened up! But I'm a direction follower, so I heated it again, and it instantly became SUPER THIN. Like heavy cream thin. ARGH CUSTARD WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO FREAKING IRRITATING? I went ahead and strained it into a metal bowl sitting in ice water:



And it never did thicken up after that, even when chilled. Readers, I was so pissed off I MADE IT AGAIN. 10 more eggs. Do you know how many egg whites I have in my freezer? Lots.

Sigh.

On to the cake! The three cake layers (baked in jelly roll pans) are a genoise--sort of spongy and absorbent--which means the egg yolks and whites get separated. The yolks are whisked up with sugar, milk and vanilla:



Then you beat the macaroni out of the egg whites with more sugar:



And fold the latter into the former.



Pour into three pans, and bake for 10 minutes or so.



Cake part done! Now comes the assembly part--this is supposed to be done at least 8 hours before you serve it so the cake has time to absorb the booze and the custard--so for me that meant after dinner on Monday night. The idea here is to cut the cake layers in half and spread the cranberry jam on one side and kind of make a sandwich--which you then brush all ways with cognac syrup. I couldn't find a trifle dish but I got the next best thing, a glass mixing bowl:



The recipe asks you to pack the cake/jam strips along the sides very tightly:



For me this involved cutting many triangular pieces. They were really packed in there. If you ever make this yourself, try to find a trifle dish (they have straight sides) and save yourself some time in the geometry department.

Now it's all about layering the cake/jam with the custard. Here we go!





Then the whole blessed event gets covered up with saran wrap and tucked away in the fridge overnight. Here it is the next morning, after undergoing its magical absorption period.





Now for some heavy cream whipped with yet more cognac and a little confectioner's sugar...and a little cranberry jam for attitude...and we're off to the races:




Winner, winner, chicken dinner--out a field of STRONG contenders! Though I do feel bad about two of my young co-workers--Indian gals who are strict non-drinkers according to their religion but didn't know cognac was alcohol. They thought it was amazing up until that point and then all they could talk about was how their mothers were going to kill them.

And the prize? Yay, $25!!! Modest indeed, but that's ok--lord knows I'm not doing this cook-through business for the money. Best of all, I'm even closer to the Cake chapter finish line--only six cakes left. Hmm, I wonder if they'll be doing a Christmas bake-off? Maybe I can knock out that wedding cake recipe.







Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Some Conversations are Easier than Others

Readers, in this time of food prep, football, big meals and Black Friday scrums at the mall it's easy to let slip a golden opportunity to have an important conversation with your loved ones. With that in mind I'm giving over this post to the Engage With Grace team--a group of people dedicated to getting families to discuss end-of-life wishes BEFORE the end...which is so often co-opted by well-meaning hospital/nursing home policy.

So without further ado...

*************************************************************

Last Thanksgiving weekend, many of us bloggers participated in the first documented “blog rally” to promote Engage With Grace – a movement aimed at having all of us understand and communicate our end-of-life wishes.

It was a great success, with over 100 bloggers in the healthcare space and beyond participating and spreading the word. Plus, it was timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these tough conversations – our closest friends and family.

Our original mission – to get more and more people talking about their end of life wishes – hasn’t changed. But it’s been quite a year – so we thought this holiday, we’d try something different.


A bit of levity.

At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation started. We’ve included them at the end of this post. They’re not easy questions, but they are important.


To help ease us into these tough questions, and in the spirit of the season, we thought we’d start with five parallel questions that ARE pretty easy to answer:










Silly? Maybe. But it underscores how having a template like this – just five questions in plain, simple language – can deflate some of the complexity, formality and even misnomers that have sometimes surrounded the end-of-life discussion.


So with that, we’ve included the five questions from Engage With Grace below. Think about them, document them, share them.




Over the past year there’s been a lot of discussion around end of life. And we’ve been fortunate to hear a lot of the more uplifting stories, as folks have used these five questions to initiate the conversation.

One man shared how surprised he was to learn that his wife’s preferences were not what he expected. Befitting this holiday, The One Slide now stands sentry on their fridge.

Wishing you and yours a holiday that’s fulfilling in all the right ways.









To learn more please go to www.engagewithgrace.org. This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team. If you want to reproduce this post on your blog (or anywhere) you can download a ready-made html version here

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spanish-Style Oxtails Braised with Chorizo

This recipe is one of the recipes in the book that I was pretty sure I would never get to make, because really--how often do you go to the supermarket and see oxtails snuggled up next to the hamburger? Like, never. I have never ever seen them for sale and I was sure I'd have to special order them or drive into Boston to shop at one of the many Asian supermarkets.

But, there I was one evening browsing the meat department of our brand new Market Basket, and what do I see? Oxtails. Yes, this is the same store that had rabbit, and they have an offal section too so be prepared!!

It goes without saying that I've never cooked with oxtails. Perhaps you never have either. This is what they look like:



It never occurred to me that a package of oxtail would actually be one tail chopped up but that's clearly what it is. Hmm. I'm not a vegetarian anymore but it's hard not to see the source animal and feel sorry for it. Sorry cow! Thank you for being my dinner!!

There was a bit of a disconnect for me between buying the oxtails and looking at the recipe, so when I DID look at the recipe I was like, damn, this calls for 6 lb.s of oxtails and I only have one. Back to the store! And, no oxtails to be found! So I got some short ribs, figuring same basic idea (a lot of bone and some meat/cartilage). And I decided to cut the recipe in half since there were not 6 to 8 of us, just 2.

I was amused to note the amount of chorizo in the recipe. For six pounds of oxtails, the recipe calls for a mere 1/4 pound of chorizo. That ain't much, folks. There are more carrots than chorizo. But it looks good in the title, I guess!

Here is my 1/8 lb. of chorizo for my half recipe:



But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The idea here is to sear the oxtails in an oven-safe pot, then set them aside while you make the sauce. OK, back to the chorizo. Grind it up:



...and saute in some of the oxtail fat with chopped onions, carrots, garlic and a bay leaf:



Add paprika and then some dry white wine and bring to a boil, deglazing the pot. Add the seared oxtails and chopped canned tomatoes so that the liquid is about half way up the meat, put the lid on, and then pop that baby in a 350 oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

The recipe says this is best made a day or two ahead, and that's exactly what I did. I cooked this while we had something else for dinner, and the next day I was all about getting the fat out.

This is not as easy as it seems, because what you're looking at in the now-cold pot is something like meat islands in a sea of fat--it's all kind of integrated. My solution was this--I heated it up to boiling, then removed the oxtails (and ribs) and set them aside. The sauce at this point was pretty thick--not very liquidy, and I didn't want to solidify the fat and have it catch some of the tomatoes or carrots in it...so I knew I needed a) more liquid and b) a tall, narrow container to cool it down so the fat would be up high on top, far away from the veggies.

My solution? A blender. I added water to the sauce, put it in a blender and threw it in the fridge. Later that day, a nice fat cap that popped right off and went in the trash.

Here's the dinner plate:



Totally worth the wait! I have to say that knives and forks really don't suffice for this dish--it sort of devolves into a finger-food experience because of the odd shape of the bones. The flavor--fantastic. The sauce is rich and complex, and complements the meat beautifully.

Stay tuned for more dishes featuring offal--I have at least three in The Gourmet Cookbook: Sliced Calf's Liver with Golden Onions; Tongue with Mustard Horseradish Sauce; and Crispy Sweetbreads with Parsnip Potato Puree, Braised Endives, and Port Sauce.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

You know, there's a certain generation (or two or three) here in the US that thinks of rabbit as an exotic meat. I certainly belong to it--my exposure to rabbit has been pretty much through pet shop windows.

But lots of folks eat rabbit on a regular basis--in fact when I was contemplating serving it to my book group a member who was raised in Australia said she would "never eat rabbit again, ever". It's also popular in the UK--and if you've ever wondered where the term "rabbit punch" came from, that's how you kill a rabbit quickly and humanely--a sharp blow to the back of the head.

There go the vegetarians, if they even read this far. Sorry, vegetarians!!

Anyway, one of the many charms of Market Basket is that they have a kick-ass butchery, and now that there's a new one in Gloucester I've been cruising their meat aisles on a regular basis. One a recent trip I saw rabbit (fresh!) and made a mental note...yesterday went back and it was nowhere to be found. I asked one of the butchers and he led me to the sort of case where you get frozen turkeys-I guess they didn't move all that quickly so he froze them. We got a 3 lb. rabbit, took it home, and I used a warm-water bath to thaw it quickly.



I know, it is a little weird. If you've cut up chicken, cutting up rabbit is kind of the same except there's this long part in the middle they call the "saddle". I've actually only cooked with rabbit one other time and it was already butchered for me so I was busting out the heavy knives and the kitchen shears. The recipe asks you to divide it into 8 parts so I split the hindquarters and the saddle, then cut the forelegs away from the breast, which I also split.

The recipe, Rabbit in Mustard Sauce, is a French bistro classic according to the head notes. And the technique is very familiar to me, not so much from my cooking experience as my eating experience--this is the way my dad cooks--cooking meat stovetop and making a pan sauce.

Here's the searing part:



After you take the meat out you deglaze the pan with a knob of butter, and saute a few chopped shallots...then add dry white wine and reduce by half. Add chicken broth and rabbit, bring to a boil, and cook for 40-45 minutes.

Then take the rabbit out, whisk in mustard (equal parts dijon and whole grain) and a cornstarch slurry. Add chopped parsley and rabbit et voila!



The potatoes are my own addition--I had cooked them on the side but they were just begging to jump into that mustard sauce so I obliged.

Minor triumph--O'Malley and his girlfriend Li ate this and loved it. You never know with teenagers which way it's going to go! They kept saying it was just like chicken, which everybody says, and that's because it's true. I was actually surprised at how much the breast meat was the same--if you had just presented it to me on a plate I would have bet vast sums that it was chicken. And just as a side note this is the sort of thing that I project onto Top Chef--me in some sort of quickfire challenge, incorrectly identifying rabbit as chicken. Please tell me I'm not the only person who does that!!!

P.S. sorry for the crappy photos. I try to do better than that!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two Cakes!



Readers, when I finished my final chicken recipe I got all excited and started looking around for other chapters I am close to finishing--and there are two where I am just a leap or two away from the finish line--Cakes, and Cookies, Bars and Confections. I guess you know where my true interests reside!

This excitement coincided with my book group--which always turns out well for them. I flipped through the cake chapter for the remaining recipes...

...Lemon Pound Cake? Too plain.
...Almond and Brown Butter Financiers? Too...muffiny.
...Passover Sponge Cake with Apples? Not big enough.
...Three-Milk Cake with Coconut and Fresh Fruit? Even more not big enough.
...Cranberry Cognac Trifle? With three embedded recipes in the recipe, too complicated.
...Nectarine Mousse Cake? Out of season.
...Lemon Blackberry Wedding Cake? Uh, no.
...Bananas Foster Cheesecake? YES!!! That's it, that's it!

I did have a moment of hesitation because when Teena and I met a few summers ago this was one of the recipes that she had had high hopes for but ended up not being so crazy about, if you'll excuse my fractured grammer. Or in other words she wasn't sure it was worth all of the effort--because it is a lot of effort, at least more than your average cheesecake!

Why? Here's why. For one thing, you don't just have a graham cracker crust, you line the edges with crisp ladyfingers. Here's my approximation, thank you Stella D'Oro:



Then the cheesecake itself is kind of like a layer cake--a layer of cheesecake filling (your standard cream cheese/egg mix plus banana liqueur):





a layer of bananas sauteed in brown sugar, rum, more banana liqueur, cinnamon and almonds:








then cheesecake filling on top of that, which you bake in a hot water bath in a medium oven. Here's my brilliant solution to no-baking-pan-big-enough-for-my-cheesecake-pan, which is to put it in my biggest skillet instead:



Tangential cheesecake gripe--no matter how many layers of foil I put around my pan, water always gets in. Enterpreneurial-minded people, make some kind of water-tight sheath that can go on the bottom of a cheesecake pan! I will buy it!

Tangential banana liqueur gripe--I went off to the liquor store hoping against hope that they would have some kind of smallish bottle of this stuff. No such luck. I am now the proud owner of a big-ass bottle of banana liqueur. Please either a) help me with drink recipes and/or b) come over here and drink some.

The cheesecake is topped with a "praline" topping, which had me worried that I'd be doing some candy-making, but fortunately it was just pecans mixed in with melted brown sugar and butter. I actually cooked it for a while, hoping to make it more candy-ish, but it never happened, and that's fine I guess.

How was it?!? Well, I thought it was pretty damn good. My book group lurved it, but they have notoriously low standards. The one part I didn't like so much was that decorative cookie border, but keep in mind that the recipe was designed after one found in a cafe (Cafe Vermilionville in Lafayette, LA) and it's a PERFECT restaurant dessert because the edges are decorative and sturdy--easy to serve and pretty to look at. Oh and also delicious!

Here's O'Malley eating what was left the next morning for breakfast. Notice the product placement of his favorite all-time book, Lord of the Rings. Actually that's the Fellowship of the Rings, now that I look at it. Anything Tolkien is his favorite.



Teena, I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on this one--I think it's a worthy dessert!

*****************************************************

Cake #2!

It was Don's birthday last week, and I wanted to make him a birthday cake, of course. I looked first of course in The Gourmet Cookbook, but my cake list didn't hold anything that seemed birthday appropriate, especially considering that we'd be at my sister's for a pre-Thanksgiving harvest dinner (which means lots-o-people).

So I looked (with great delight) through the Cakes chapter of Gourmet Today. Oh, the new green pastures of a new green cookbook! Which cake to pick?!? Would it be Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake? Devil's Food Cake with Marshmallow Frosting? Apricot Almond Layer Cake?

I decided to go with Walnut Meringue Cake with Strawberry Sauce because it looked unusual and yummy, and the shorter Active Time of 30 mins didn't hurt either.

People with celiac disease! This is the cake for you! Why? Because it's a layer cake with absolutely no flour of any kind whatsoever. Nothing. Nada. People with nut allergies, stay away. There are many nuts here--two cups worth!

So the idea is to take 8 egg whites and whip the bejeezuss out of them for a super long time, adding 2 1/4 cups of sugar bit by bit. Add a little vanilla extract and white vinegar (not sure why the white vinegar--bears some research, methinks) and then fold in the two cups of chopped walnuts. Bake in two 9" cake pans until they're puffed and golden, after which they will alarm you by falling dramatically and making you think you're a failed baker.

But never fear! All is not lost because what happens is that the meringue in the pan, although it falls and breaks on top, kind of melts together in the pan and creates one kind-of-coherent surface that you can handle. And these two unpromising looking layers combine to spectacular effect with whipped cream and strawberry sauce (or whole strawberries if you are lazee like me):



Look at my patient birthday boy husband back there with the empty plate while I take a picture. This cake was so delicious--really tasty and somehow rich and light at the same time. That's a good trick to pull off!

Here's a bonus pic of me with my cute mom--she loves it when all of her chickies are under one roof:



Hey I'm thinking that cranberry cognac trifle would be pretty good for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!


*********************************************************************************


Gluten-Free recipe in this post (and Recipe WIN!): Walnut Meringue Cake with Strawberry Sauce