"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".

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Homemade Sausage Patties

Take that, Jimmy Dean

I've finally learned how they make the sausage. 

Okay, not in the sense that they use it at work, when engineers start talking about code (I'll never learn how to make THAT sausage), but in the full-on breakfast kind of way, with eggs and bacon and maybe some sliced tomatoes on the side. 

Why don't more people make their own sausage? Maybe it's because there seems to be some technical stuff involved (grinders, sausage casing, and a big hand crank maybe?) and I suppose that's true if you want to make that kind of sausage...but Homemade Sausage Patties are just as simple as making mix-in hamburgers. 

What's involved? It's the same idea as a good meatloaf--some breadcrumbs soaked in milk, some chopped onion, some egg yolks. What makes it sausage is the spice profile--salt, white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, cloves, thyme and sage. 

Mix it up, fry it in a pan, and you've got a breakfast to be proud of.

Sausages have been around FOREVER. They show up in pretty much every country, in various guises--fresh, smoked, cured, canned. And if you've ever been to a farmer's market or butchery where they sell their own, you know they lend themselves to flavor experimentation. 

In a parallel universe, I'm a food diva extraordinaire, having mastered all artisan food and beverage groups: chocolate, cheese, wine, beer, smoked and cured meats, even salt. Sausage falls into this fantasy. But since I'm here (and not in the parallel universe...at least I don't think), I'll settle for this fairly simple hack.

Crossing this recipe off the list brings another gratification--Homemade Sausage Patties is a recipe from the Yellow Book, The Gourmet Cookbook. That means I've been flipping past it for about five years now. It's sort of like a neglected child that FINALLY got some attention for once. 

Oh, and let me give some love to Tendercrop Farm, where I got the ground pork! This place raises grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free animals, bakes a lot of good food, and grows fabulous veggies. They have a store that's open year-round and sells everything an aspiring locavore might be looking for. If you're in or around Newbury, MA, check them out. 

Thanks to Yesterday on Tuesday: Field Trip  for the great sausage pic.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Apricot Chicken with Almonds

Gone in 60 seconds

One of those days when you're feeling uninspired and don't want to go to the store for dinner food? Cheer up, you probably have the ingredients for Apricot Chicken with Almonds kicking around in your kitchen.

Continuing with my theme of quick and easy dinners for lazy but slightly ambitious people (a theme, by the way, that Gourmet Today champions), here's how to put this meal together. Start with the breast meat (thaw it out first, if frozen). Rinse tenderly, pat dry, and snuggle into a baking dish after salting and peppering both sides. Put in a preheated 400 oven for 10 minutes.

The recipe tells you at the same time to bake sliced almonds in this same 400 oven for about 8 minutes, stirring a few times. Ha! This is a recipe for burnt almonds in about 6, which is exactly what I did. Ironically, I was standing right over the stove reading a book called The Gift of Fear, which is all about how you should trust your intuition when it's telling you something bad is happening. And while I was reading this book, I was smelling the almonds burning (remember, I was standing RIGHT OVER THE STOVE) thinking, Geez, something's burning off in there. Does this mean I have to clean the oven? I hate cleaning the oven. 

So much for intuition. I can only hope I never get attacked by a tray of burning almonds.

Assuming YOU don't burn your almonds, forge onward, but if you do--hey, really any kind of nut will be tasty with this dish! I went for a Plan B of whole almonds and chopped hazelnuts.

At the same time (maybe you should put the book down at this point) in a small saucepan combine about half a cup of apricot preserves (I used peach), a tablespoon of whole grain mustard (I scraped out the tail end of a jar of brown deli mustard), one and a half tablespoons of soy sauce, and a tablespoon of butter. Let it all simmer for a bit in the pan, and when the chicken has cooked for its 10 minutes, pour the glaze over it and throw back in for another 10.

At this point I looked ahead in the recipe and saw that these little 6 oz chicken breasts were cooking for 20 minutes in a 400 oven and then another 3 minutes under the broiler. I was a little worried, I confess. But, you know, I do have a category in this blog called Stupid Recipes--if this one qualified I could always file it there.

Worry, that useless emotion! All for naught--this chicken was just fine--tasty and a smash hit with the guys. If I were doing it again, I might pay a little more attention to the broiler part--I didn't baste anything or try to get a nice browned glaze--we were too hungry and wanted to eat.

And I think I would make this again--we always seem to have chicken breasts in the freezer, and lord knows we always have mustard (we're like collectors) and odds and ends of jellies and jams. Cherry preserves would work just as well, so would red currant jelly. And don't worry this will be too sweet--the mustard provides a nice balance.


I don't know why I waited so long to read this book. For the five years I trained at the Mahaney's Karate Academy, Deb Mahaney recommended it at every women's self defense seminar. And Sensei Quimby has it on his list of recommended reading at the Authentic Karate Training Center. Gavin de Becker survived a violent and tumultuous childhood to create a firm dedicated to helping people recognize the signs and signals of the violent and potentially violent--predators, stalkers, workplace time bombs, spouses and lovers, even children.

Learn common techniques of would-be attackers: forced teaming ("We're in a tight fix, aren't we?"), loan sharking (insisting on helping or giving when nothing was wanted or requested), too many details (because their words sound false to them, they add extraneous info).

Assess the potential for a persistant lunatic to actually turn to violence: justification (they feel this is right and just); alternatives (they've exhausted all other means); consequences (violence is seen as bringing about positive consequences--love, fame, attention); ability (they've purchased or have a weapon and feel they can use it effectively).

And most importantly, learn about your tools, highly tuned after centuries of species survival. The messengers of intuition:

Nagging feelings
Persistant thoughts
Gut Feelings

This book is packed with practical advice and anecdotes from de Becker's firm. He was called in to testify at the O.J. Simpson trial, and has helped protect countless celebrities and even presidents. They fund a battered women's shelter and hotline in Los Angeles, and advise employers on HR issues.

And here's the second gift inside this book--it helps you understand the difference between fear, anxiety and worry, what's real and what isn't.

Get this book, read it, and pass it on.