"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!