Spoonin' some slurpy stuff about the world's drippiest drool

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Smoked Mixed Paella

My parents were always creatures of habit.  They went to the same restaurant for lunch every day (Anchor Inn, in Wheaton, MD), sat with the same friends every day and modified everything they ordered from the menu, every day.  We used to laugh, and call them the modifiers.  So did the waitresses.  Now that I am in my fifties, I understand.  Completely.  Whether it is dietary, culinary or simply a desire to control a specific facet of ones life, I get it.  At this point, wherever possible, I would like to have things (especially food) the way I like.

Same thing goes for cooking.  I started with a perfectly good recipe for Grilled Lobster Paella.  It is on Epicurious.com - very easy to find.  But this time modifications were required, for several reasons. One, it has been really cold, and grilling outside did not have much allure.  Two, Harris Teeter did not have live lobsters, and the idea of building an entire dinner around someone else's cooking made me cranky, and reasons three to infinity - one of my favorite people on the planet was visiting and was joining us for dinner. Therefore, the old standby paella recipe got a makeover.  

First of all, a bit about paella.   

  • Paella originated in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.  Typically, there are three types of paella -Valencian  (rice, green vegetables, rabbit, chicken, duck , snails beans and seasoning), seafood (no meat, snails, beans or green vegetables) and mixed (all of the above, in one combination or another).  The key seasoning is saffron.
  • March 27th is National Paella Day.  Good thing - if it was March 14th, it would get very confusing.  (Belated Happy Pi Day, by the way).
  • The name comes from Latin for Pan or dish.
  • And... A Valencian restaurateur claims to have made the world's largest paella - feeding 110,000 people.  

So, how do you improve an already excellent recipe?  One ingredient at a time.  And, one process at a time.  At the heart of this recipe is the smokiness imparted by the grill.  This was easily solved by cold smoking the seafood.  Cold smoking does not cook the meat, it simply imparts the smoke flavor.  I used applewood in my smoker, and since it is a pressure cooker/smoker, the whole process took 15 minutes per batch.

The seafood used was determined by what looked best at the supermarket.  Shrimp, baby octopus, cherrystone clams were easy choices.  The precooked whole lobsters did not overwhelm me, but they came home with us as well - their value was not as much about their meat, but the delicious little bodies and shells, flavoring the paella cooking liquid.

Finally, the original recipe called for green garlic stalks or leeks.  I did not have access to green garlic, and I did not want the subdued flavor of leeks, so breath be damned, a head of garlic was added. The final recipe is below.

Next question - dessert.  You're probably thinking, well, duh. flan.  Yeah, that's fine - a pain in the neck, but delicious.  We cheated, and bought pre-made individual flans with caramel topping in a martini "glass".  However, the coup de grace, were the chocolate mousse flavored Peeps.  Need I say more?

Here is the final recipe:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 pound Spanish chorizo, sliced into 1/2"-thick rounds
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, separated into cloves and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) of smoked paprika
  • 2 1/2 cups short-grain rice (such as bomba, Valencia, or calasparra) -I could not find any of the brands listed, did not want the starchiness of sushi rice, so arborio rice was a decent substitute. The crust did not get as crunchy as I would have liked, but otherwise, it was fine.  
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (I may have used 1/2 tsp)
  • 7 cups hot seafood stock 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 lb large shrimp
  • 1 lb baby octopus
  • 2 dozen cherrystone clams
  • 3 1 1/4lb precooked whole lobsters - if you can get live lobsters, great.  Nothing over 1 1/4 lb or the meat will be tough and not as sweet
  • 2 cups shelled peas or frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 halved lemons


Separate the lobster tails and claws from the lobster bodies.  Crack the claws and cut the tails in half. Remove the shrimp from their shells, and place the shells and lobster bodies in a saucepan.   Cover with water (about 10 cups), bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer.

Meanwhile, cold smoke the shrimp, octopus and lobster.  When done, remove the meat from the lobster tails and claws and add the shells to the simmering seafood stock - add water if necessary.  Set all of the smoked seafood aside.

Heat 1/2 cup olive oil. Add chorizo, and garlic cook until golden, 3–4 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon smoked paprika and 2 1/2 cups short-grain rice, cook, stirring often, until rice is coated, 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads to the hot seafood stock. Add 7 cups of stock to the pan and season to taste with kosher salt; stir to distribute ingredients. Let cook, undisturbed, until stock simmers and rice begins to absorb liquid, about 10 minutes. Rotate pan every 2–3 minutes to cook evenly.

Nestle the octopus, shrimp and clams over the rice. If you used live lobsters, add the lobster meat as well.  Continue cooking, rotating the pan often, as the rice swells and absorbs the stock.  Cook until the rice is almost tender and the lobster is cooked through, about 10 more minutes.

Scatter 2 cups shelled peas or frozen peas, thawed, on top. (If the liquid evaporates before the rice is tender, add more hot stock.) Cook without stirring, allowing rice to absorb all of the liquid, so that a crust (the socarrat) develops on the bottom and the edges begin to dry out and get crusty, 5–10 minutes, for a total cooking time of about 40 minutes.  (If using precooked lobster, add towards the end to reheat).

Remove pan from grill. Cover with large clean kitchen towels and let rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and serve with 3 halved lemons, making sure to scrape some of the socarrat from the bottom of the pan onto each plate.

Whether eaten on Pi Day, National Paella Day or any other day, you just can't go wrong with a pan full of this Spanish treasure.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Vegetarian Challenge

I am a carnivore.  Scratch that.  I am an omnivore.  Except for liver.  Yuck. However, when two of my favorite people, who happen to be vegetarian, came to dinner last night, the bacon was put away, in favor of greener fare.  Interestingly, with meat off the ingredient list, the focus shifted from protein centric, to colors and textures.

The menu:

Buffalo ChickPea Dip (Thank you Becky Kirsten, I have made this three times since you sent the recipe!)

Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk, Miso, and Lime
From Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons light sesame oil
1 large onion, diced
1 heaping tablespoon peeled and chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons crushed Aleppo pepper (FYI, aleppo pepper is milder than crushed red pepper, if you plan to substitute, maybe reduce the quantity to 1 tsp)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup cilantro stems or leaves, chopped, plus cilantro sprigs to finish
Sea salt
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime (since I was not smart enough to reduce the amount of crushed red pepper I used, I used 1 1/2 limes.  I also added some coconut palm sugar at the end)
1/2 cup white or brown basmati rice (next time I will use smoked basmati)
1 to 2 teaspoons coconut butter (I could not find coconut butter, so I processed coconut flakes with unrefined coconut oil, and voila, coconut butter)
2 tablespoons white miso

Smoked Sea Salt to taste

Cut the squash crosswise into 2 pieces just where the rounded (seed) end begins. Cut the rounded end in half lengthwise and start it steaming over simmering water while you go on to deal with the neck of the squash.
Peel the neck, slice it in half crosswise, then slice each half lengthwise into slabs about 3/8 inch thick. Cut the lengths into strips and then into 1/2-inch cubes. Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, squash, and ginger, stir to coat, and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes. Add the Aleppo pepper, turmeric, chopped cilantro, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the coconut milk and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until the squash is tender, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, return to the seed end of the squash. As soon as it is tender, lift the pieces onto your counter, scrape out the seeds, and scoop out the flesh. Puree the flesh with 1 cup of the liquid from the soup, plus extra water (or coconut milk, if you have some on hand) if needed to achieve a good consistency. Stir the puree into the soup. Taste for salt and season with the lime juice, to taste.
To cook the rice, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add the rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt and bring back to a boil. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and cook until done, about 15 minutes.
Toss the rice with the coconut butter to taste.
Just before serving, dilute the miso in little of the soup liquid, mashing it until smooth, then stir it into the soup. Heat the soup, keeping it just below a boil, then ladle it into bowls. Add a little rice to each bowl, and finish with cilantro sprigs and smoked sea salt.

Brussels Sprout Petals with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pickled Cranberries
From Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine - The Inn at Little Washington

I love everything about Patrick O'Connell - self taught chef, exquisite attention to detail and writes a cookbook that normal humans can use.

  • 12 ounces (1 bag) fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over (I couldn't find fresh cranberries, so I used dried - truthfully, after a night soaking in brine, no difference.)
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
    1/2 cup unsweetened apple cider
    1/2 cup water
    5 whole cloves
    1/4 teaspoon whole allspice
    1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
    One 3-inch cinnamon stick
    1 teaspoon peeled, coarsely chopped ginger root
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
    1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
    2 small cloves garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
    1/4 cup water
    1/2 teaspoon coriander seed (toasted)
    1/4 teaspoon fennel seed (toasted)
    1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1/4 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
    1/2 bay leaf
    1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, rinsed
    2 thickly sliced raw bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (vegetarian option - smoked, salted almonds)

For the cranberries: Combine the cranberries, sugar, vinegar, cider, water, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and ginger in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the berries to a plastic storage container. Add the cooking liquid to cover, then seal and refrigerate.

For the vinaigrette: Combine the vermouth or wine, the onion, garlic, vinegar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.

Grind the coriander and fennel seed in a spice grinder or pepper mill and add to the saucepan along with the oil, lemon juice, thyme, bay leaf, and cracked pepper. Stir to combine, and allow to cool to room temperature. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Use a paring knife to trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts and peel away the leaves (like removing the petals from a rose - only more annoying and time consuming).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Have ready a large bowl of ice water.

Add the Brussels sprout leaves to the water and cook for about 20 seconds. (They will turn bright green.) Pour the leaves into a colander and immediately plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Allow the leaves to chill completely, then drain them and refrigerate until ready to serve. The leaves can be wrapped loosely in a dish towel or several layers of paper towels, placed inside a plastic bag and refrigerated for up to 1 day.

When ready to serve, line a plate with paper towels. Cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium-high heat until it is crisp, then transfer to the paper towels to drain. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Combine the Brussels sprout leaves in a large salad bowl with the bacon, 1 cup of the pickled cranberries (avoid transferring the whole spices - biting down on a whole clove does not add to the dining experience.) and just enough of the vinaigrette to thinly coat the leaves. (Discard the bay leaf.) You may will have some leftover vinaigrette to keep for another use.

Wild Mushroom Napoleons

Also from The Inn at Little Washington cookbook


¼cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
½teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
½teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
3sheets phyllo dough
¼cup clarified butter
Mushroom Sauce:
1pound white button mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
6tablespoons cold butter
½cup water
For Sherry Vinaigrette:
2tablespoons Dijon mustard
½tablespoon chopped shallot
½teaspoon minced garlic
tablespoons dry sherry
cup sherry vinegar
1cup salad oil
cup olive oil
¼cup walnut oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
To Serve:
½cup olive oil
pounds assorted wild mushrooms (such as shiitake, chanterelle, morel or oyster), cut into bite-size pieces
2tablespoons chopped shallots
1teaspoon chopped garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼cup Sherry Vinaigrette (see above)
1head frisee lettuce, leaves separated
6sprigs fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 375°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In small bowl, combine Parmesan and chopped herbs. On cutting board, lay out 1sheet of dough, brush with butter and sprinkle half Parmesan-herb mixture evenly over top. (Keep remaining phyllo covered with damp paper towel.) Place second sheet of phyllo on top, brush with butter and sprinkle with remaining cheese-herb mixture. Place third sheet on top and brush with butter. Chill layered phyllo in refrigerator until butter is firm, about 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut phyllo into 3" squares. Place squares on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Store in airtight container at room temperature until ready to serve.
Mushroom Sauce: Place mushrooms in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. In large sauce pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add mushrooms and saute 1 minute. Add water and bring to boil. Cover saucepan, remove it from heat and steep 15 minutes. Strain through fine sieve, pressing firmly to extract as much flavor as possible; discard mushrooms. Return liquid to saucepan, reduce heat to simmer and whisk in remaining cold butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt. If desired, buzz sauce before serving with hand held blender to create cappuccino-like froth.
To Serve: Place olive oil in large saute pan over high heat. Add mushrooms, lower heat to medium and saute 2 minutes. Add shallots, garlic and season with salt and pepper; cook 3 minutes or until mushrooms are lightly browned and shallots are translucent. Place in mixing bowl and toss with half of vinaigrette. In another bowl, toss frisee with remaining vinaigrette.
Place 1/4 cup mushrooms mixture in center of each of 6 warm serving plates, sprinkle with some dressed frisee and cover with phyllo crisp. Place another 1/4 cup mushroom mixture on top of crisp on each p late. Cover each with second crisp and top with another 1/4 cup mushroom mixture. Spoon Mushroom Sauce around each plate and garnish with remaining frisee and parsley.

Carmelized Banana Tart
Yup, Patrick O'Connell again

Roasted Banana Pastry Cream

1 Tbsn of vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, unpeeled
2 1/4 C milk
2/3 C sugar
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/4 C all purpose flour
4 Tbsn unsalted butter
2 Tbsn banana liqueur (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly oil the bananas in their skins, and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the skins are blackened. Remove the bananas from the oven and peel. Puree in a food processor.

In a medium size saucepan, bring the banana puree, milk and 1/3C of sugar to a boil over medium heat and set aside.

In a stainless steel saucepan, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, flour and remaining sugar together. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and banana mixture. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Whisk in the butter and banana liqueur.

Refrigerate until ready to use.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Everyone has their own pie dough recipe - mine is to go to the store and buy Pillsbury roll out pie crusts. Whatever you use, make it, roll it out on a floured board to about 1/8" thick. At this point, you can do what I did, and make one big tart, or, be industrious, and cut out 5" round individual tarts.

Bake for 10 -12 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Cool.

To Serve

6 ripe bananas
6 Tbsn sugar
1/4 C macadamia nuts, toasted and roughly chopped (I used hazelnuts - Macadamias make my eyes swell shut)
Coconut Ice Cream

Spread about 1 1/2 Tbsn of pastry cream over each round (or evenly over large tart).

Peel and slice bananas at an angle. Arrange them in a single layer of concentric circles on top of pastry cream.

Sprinkle evenly with sugar.

If you have a blowtorch, great. Use it. Otherwise, place under the broiler, 4-6" away from the flame, for about 2 minutes, until the sugar melts and carmelizes. Let cool to allow sugar to harden. Sprinkle with macadamia nuts.

Serve with coconut ice cream.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

German Pancake

Many years ago I received a one year subscription to Taste of Home magazine. Down home cooking by down home cooks. Lots of butter, meat and casseroles. Not my usual approach to cooking, but lots of comforting, fat filled flavor. One recipe, however, has become a Christmas morning staple; the German pancake.

Not one bit pancakey, this eggy, fluffy delight, dusted with confectioners sugar and doused with a buttermilk syrup that really should be illegal, is how we have celebrated Christmas morning for more than a decade.

This year, breakfast included a tart sautéed apple dish-
(I left out the raisins), fresh squeezed orange juice (by hand, by Jacob) and Canadian bacon. And coffee. Really strong, thick coffee, made by yours truly, because for all the cooking I do, I have yet to perfect the chemical miracle that is coffee.

German Pancake

6 eggs
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar

In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour and salt; cover and process until smooth.
Pour the butter into an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish; add the batter. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the first five syrup ingredients; bring to a boil. Boil for 7 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Dust pancake with confectioners' sugar; serve immediately with the syrup. Yield: 8 servings (about 2 cups syrup).

I have no comments, none. This recipe is perfect as is.

Happy New Year!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:S Adams St,Rockville,United States

Monday, December 30, 2013

Himalayan Rock Salt Plate

As we usher in 2014 I have several new tools and toys to report on.

Salt plates, made of pink Himalayan rock salt, 1 1/2" thick, are my new obsession. The salt imparts a slightly seasoned flavor to the meat while sealing in juices. So far, I have cooked steak, potatoes and lobster tails on my plate, all with positives results.

The key to this cooking approach, is slowly heating the plate until it is at 500 degrees - plenty hot for searing and cooking meat. You do not have to season meat - the salt plate will do that - although I did add a bit of truffle butter to the steak before serving.

The meat gets beautifully carmelized, but I found the cook time to be a tad longer, and would suggest thinner cuts of meats rather than filets.

Clean up is not a major deal either - treat your salt plate like a cast iron skillet - absolutely no soap, and don't soak it in water. Let it cool, at least an hour, rinse it, scrub it then rinse it again. It will discolor, so I keep one side for cooking and leave the other side clean.

These plates are versatile and can also be refrigerated then used to serve cold foods like sushi. Lucky, special people have two, one for cooking, one for serving.

As for tonight's meal,

Salt Plate Grilled Lobster Tail and Purple Majesty Potatoes with Cilantro Vinaigrette

4 10 oz lobster tails
2 pounds small (1 1/2- to 2 inch) Purple Majesty Potatoes
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Slowly heat salt plate for 20-30 minutes on gas stove top, increasing heat level every 5 minutes, until flame is on high. Plate is ready to cook when you feel heat holding your hand 2-3" from plate.

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, red-pepper flakes, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended, then stir in cilantro.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, and toss with olive oil. Add potatoes cut side down to salt plate, cook for 8-10 minutes then flip once and cook an additional 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette. Keep potatoes warm, covered.

Remove lobster tails from shell. Add to salt plate and cook 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with 1/4 cup vinaigrette, then keep warm, covered.

Top potatoes with lobster tail and drizzle with additional vinaigrette. Serve warm.

This vinaigrette is a definite keeper, just enough heat and a nice acid balance. This would be lovely on arugula or quite frankly any greens, starches, you name it. Even steak or poultry.


-Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:S Adams St,Rockville,United States

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgivukkah 2013

I am fairly anal when it comes to Thanksgiving.  It is my favorite holiday - family, friends, lots of cooking, and no presents required. I spend a good bit of time thinking about the meal, planning the menu and then choreographing the cooking.

This year added a twist.  Chanukah began before Thanksgiving, opening up a whole world of food possibilities to the our dinner.  How do you merge a meal centered around oil with one centered around turkey.  Ok, the obvious is to fry the turkey and be done, but that would be too easy, and I might end up burning the house down.  No, this required more thought and creativity - and for me, a lot of notepaper.

Chanukah Cooking and Traditions

When Jacob was little, we would give him clues to find his present each night.  The number of candles that night equaled the number of clues he would receive, sometimes they were math, sometimes geographic, sometimes in French, occasionally they involved friends or even making a phone call to get the next clue.  Thankfully, Jacob outgrew the treasure hunt - we were running out of ideas for clues.

Our food traditions have stayed fairly constant; latkes of some sort, jelly donuts every so often, and the heart stopping, stomach swelling crispy, deep fried spare ribs.  The recipe calls for pork ribs, but that just seemed wrong for Chanukah, so I used beef back ribs.  Braised until they are falling off the bone, coated in flour and quick fried, then coated in a thick Asian style barbecue sauce, even if they kill you, you will die with a smile on your face. It was clear to me, that this years menu had to include those ribs.

I like to start Thanksgiving with a soup - usually a thick, squash based something or another.  A recipe for pumpkin sage matzo balls intrigued me though, so a clear soup made more sense.  I opted for a simple chicken consumme - a double cooked broth, in theory perfectly clear - except when you put fluffy matzo balls in it whose molecules are held together by a few eggs and a lot of prayer. Truthfully, these did not wow me (I knew I should have added Vodka), but the consumme, rich with chicken essence and a nice splash of sherry was a worthy vessel.

Latkes were also a no brainer.  I knew we would be having lots of starch in the Thanksgiving portion of the meal, so I opted for root vegetable pancakes - carrots, parsnips, onions and potato.  And hate me if you will, I fall on the side of sour cream with my latkes, so that is what I served.  Period.

As for jelly donuts, that tradition needed a slight modification.  Many pies and cakes would be arriving with our guests, guests whose pastry skills make anything I try to bake look like it came from an Easy Bake oven.  I bowed to the master's and went the savory route instead - Cod Beignets.  Salt cod, soaked, cooked in a milk broth, then added to an herbed batter to be fried o a golden brown and served with an herbed yogurt sauce.  No grape jelly oozing onto our laps, but otherwise a nice addition.

Thanksgiving Cooking 

With the added interest of Chanukah in the mix, it made sense to keep the Thanksgiving recipes pretty traditional.  Our turkey is made on the grill, stuffed with onions, lemons and herbs.  Giblet stock, roasted garlic and pan drippings make for a succulent gravy.  Turkey selection has varied over the years.  Butterballs gave way to organic, with the somewhat ironic emphasis on the quality of life of the bird.  I prefer a bird with a pop up timer, which is stupid - those timers often fail to pop, or as happened this year, pop up prematurely (I am smiling, but will not make the obvious joke).

Grilling the turkey, frees up the oven for other uses, speeds up the cooking process, and makes for a moist, flavorful bird.  I use a poultry thermometer to double check the pop up - 180 degrees at the thigh and done.  Just make sure you have a full propane tank before you start.

No turkey is complete without a dollop of cranberry whatever - the 2013 version of which combined cranberries, orange and Chambord (instead or cranberry juice).

The sides were predictable; Brussell Sprouts with Bacon and Lemon (can I just give a plug for Fresh Market - their smoked bacon is ridiculously good),

Sweet Potatoes with Mini Marshmallows and Pecans

and, of course, Mashed Potatoes.  I can confirm that the key to great mashed potatoes is warming the cream and butter before adding them to the cooked potatoes.  I would also suggest using a ricer to mash the potatoes - the less stirring, the fluffier the potatoes.

And stuffing.  What a wonderful invention.  Ours was sausage, fig and chestnut.  It was flavorful, but had I to do it again, I would double the sausage.  Having fig in every bite is fine, but even better if it is accompanied by a chunk of sausage.

Cooking And Choreography

With a thick stack of recipes in hand, and stored on the computer for posterity, timing needed to be considered.  My goal, make as much as possible in advance and then reheat, leaving Thursday free for last minute cleaning, table setting and hopefully a shower.

My schedule:
Monday - Cranberry Relish
Tuesday - Soak cod, make chicken stock, braise ribs
Wednesday - Make beignet batter, make consumme and matzo balls, bake stuffing, assemble sweet potatoes
Thursday Morning - Make yogurt sauce, make latkes, make brussel sprouts, bake sweet potatoes, make mashed potatoes
Thursday Afternoon - Make turkey, fry beignets, roast garlic, make giblet stock, reheat the crap out of everything.

Let me say two things about this.  One, if John Hartranft was not an amazing human with an incredible knack for organizing and cleaning pretty much the entire house, this would not have been possible. Two, if Cheryl Hartranft was not a mind reader, anticipating my every need as the afternoon progressed as well as being a dish washing demon, I would still be asleep.

Did I mention I caught myself on fire at one point?  In a complete Bugs Bunny moment, I checked the oven to see what was burning, because it sure smelled like something was on fire.  Thank you Cheryl for pointing out that the something was me.  Thankfully, while my favorite apron was rendered useless, I was left intact.  On the plus side, the apron was from the gift shop at The Inn at Little Washington - I guess I will have to go back.

One more note - thank you to Christine Brehm for teaching me to properly carve/attack a turkey.  I must admit, I have always been tentative about grabbing drumsticks and cracking joints, but with a few deft moves, Christine had legs and wings separated, and both turkey breast sides off in one piece, ready for carving.

With the dark meat added to the platter, into the soup pot went the carcass, onions, lemons and all, with some fresh herbs to make turkey stock.  A few years ago, our dog Ginger actually dragged the carcass out of the trash can, so this is both a cost effective approach and a means of keeping the house clean.

With the Chanukah and Thanksgiving entrees and sides on the table, what a relief to turn over the reigns to those who have the patience to create pastry marvels.  Pumpkin, pecan, apple (that Jacob hid in the basement fridge and we didn't remember until too late), pumpkin cream, and peanut butter, chocolate cake.  Oh how I love other peoples desserts!

So, here are most of the recipes I worked from.  The grilled turkey recipe is not online, but is simple - wash it, rub it with oil, stuff it with a cut up onion, a cut up lemon, rosemary and thyme salt and pepper inside and out, toss it in a roasting pan (on top of a rack), and grill at 350 ish, basting every 30 minutes or so.

Basic Brown Chicken Broth
Pumpkin Sage Matzo Balls
Salt Cod Beignets With Herbed Yogurt
Root Vegetable Latkes
Crispy Deep Fried Spare Ribs
Perfect Mashed Potatoes
Candied Sweet Potatoes with Pecans
Sausage, Chestnut and Fig Stuffing
Cranberry Relish
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Bacon

I hope you all had an fun filled Thanksgiving. and I wish you a holiday season full of miracles.  As for me, I have some leftovers to reheat.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Red Lentil and Coconut Soup with Black Rice, Tumeric and Greens

Taken from Vegetable Literacy, by Deborah Madison, this is absolutely one of the tastiest lentil dishes I have made in a while. The richness of the coconut milk, the bright acidity of the limes, the creaminess of the lentils and slight chewiness of the black rice make a wonderful combination. And don't leave out the tumeric - besides giving the dish a lovely yellow backdrop, it is SO good for you. If tumeric were human, it would be Superman.

Click here for more on tumeric.

Start to finish, this takes about an hour. No meat required, but the braised chicken I added did make a nice addition.

1 1/4 C red lentils
2 Tbsn ghee or sesame oil (I used sesame oil)
1 large onion, finely diced
1 tspn ground tumeric
1 tspn curry powder
2 tspn ground cumin (I was out of cumin, I added a tspn of coriander - I know, they are not interchangeable)
2 tspn black or yellow mustard seeds
Minced cilantro stems from one bunch of cilantro
1 (15 oz) can light coconut milk
4 C water
Sea salt
Juice of 2-3 limes
Few handfuls of tender greens (spinach, chard) (I used a bunch of chard)
3 to 4 Tbsn coconut butter (I left this out - it tasted too good without it, I saw no reason to add the extra calories on top of the coconut milk.)

To Finish
About 1 cup cooked black rice
Red pepper flakes
Ground black pepper
Yogurt (since I topped the lentils and rice with sliced, braised chicken thighs, I left this out)

Rinse the lentils, cover with cold water, and set aside while you dice the onion and sauté the onion mixture.

Heat the ghee (or oil) in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, stir, and cook gently until it begins to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the spices and cilantro stems. Stir once more, and cook for several minutes longer.

Drain the lentils and add them to the onion mixture. Stir in the coconut milk and add 4 cups water and 2 tspn salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover partially, and cook until the lentils have broken down into a purée. Give them a stir every 5 minutes or so. They should be done after 20 minutes, but they can go another 10 min if you want them smoother.

When the soup is done, stir in the lime juice to taste, then taste for salt. (I used 2 1/2 limes, and added a tspn or two of salt - make sure you taste as you add). At the last minute, drop in the greens and cook just long enough for them to turn bright green and tender. Just before serving, stir in the coconut butter. (Or not)

Ladle the soup into shallow bowls. Add a large spoonful of black rice, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a good twist of black pepper to each. Spoon yogurt around the rice and serve.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Rockville, MD

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gluten Free Rosemary Chestnut Muffins

When it comes to baking, I am a novice.  When it comes to creating baked recipes, I am two steps below a novice.  However, with a container of gluten free flour mix burning a proverbial hole in my pocket, I had the urge to experiment.

I had chestnut flour already from another recipe, so I decided to rework the cornbread recipe to a chestnut muffin.  Chestnut flour can become very dense, very fast, so a little goes a long way. Understanding the role of each ingredient is key with baking - I am trying hard to learn to balance these different chemistries to create specific textures and flavours.

The following recipe is a start, but there is lots of room for improvement (all suggestions are welcome). The result was more in the popover family than the muffin family - fairly light and airy, a little bit eggy. However, the top was a bit chewy, a little too elastic - maybe using only one egg would solve that.  It is moist - but again, to cross back over to muffindom, maybe a little less sourcream.  There are multiple leavening agents at work here too - the xanthan gum and the baking powder may be a bit too much - maybe only one tspn of baking powder is necessary.  Don't skimp on the honey, though - the chestnut flour needs that added sweetness, and I would probably add another 1/4c of the chestnut flour to get more of that flavor.

Gluten Free Rosemary Chestnut Muffins
1/4 C Crisco
3 Tbsn Honey
2 Large Eggs
3/4 C Sour Cream
1/2 C Milk
1 C Gluten Free Flour Blend
(2 C rice flour, 2/3 C Potato Starch, 1/3 C tapioca Flour, 1 tspn Xanthan Gum)
1/2 C Chestnut Flour
2 tspns Gluten Free Baking Powder (I used regular)
2 tbsn Fresh Rosemary
1 tspn salt 

Heat oven to 425 deg F.  (Next time I will start with 375 deg and go a bit longer - the bottoms were a bit dark by the time the inside was done).

Combine shortening and honey in a large bowl.  Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often until creamy.  Add eggs, mix well.  Stir in sour cream and milk.  Reduce speed to low; add all remaining ingredients.  Beat until just mixed.

Pour batter into a  greased muffin tin.  Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until golden brown and toothpick in center comes out clean.  Serve warm.  

Serve with honey butter or apple butter (an excellent suggestion from John Hartranft).