I’ve never used a slow cooker, but Dina Cheney is tempting me. In “Year Round Slow Cooker: 100 Favorite Recipes,” Dina has brought slow cooking up to date, creating colorful and flavorful recipes like apricot chicken with carrots, and brisket with red wine, pomengrante sauce and caramelized onions. I’m intrigued by the brisket recipe. The ingredients include pomegrante molasses, mustard, coriander, red wine and orange juice, and I can imagine what a flavorful sauce will be created, and how it will coat the soft, slow-cooked beef. The recipe also tells how to adapt it to a regular oven. (I’m going to do that!)
The book was published by Tauton Press, which has the brisket recipe on their Fine Cooking site. And here’s a link to buy the book, a great Christmas present, on Amazon:
The Christmas cookie tradition is strong in my husband’s family. His mother and the women of her generation make many different traditional German Christmas cookies, like pfeffernuse, zimtsterne, and vanillekipferln.
To add something different to the festivities, I decided to make black walnut cookies from the nuts we’d gathered beneath our big, old tree. Black walnuts are prized for their richness and depth of flavor. But harvesting them is a bitch. Even if you let a hurricane harvest them for you, as we did two falls ago, there’s a long road to haul, husking, storing, soaking, and cracking the impossibly hard shells. And then the laborious extracting of the meat from deep cranies, using long toothpicks. It’s best looked at as meditative work, rewarded by the sight of walnut oil releasing as you impatiently pry the fresh, crumbling nutmeat from the shell. READ MORE
The other day I was looking disdainfully at a mishmash of playthings that were covering our living room floor (as they so often are) and I asked my children to pick them up and put them away (as I so often do).
If they didn’t do it, I continued, maybe I’d have to throw them away.
Child abuse? Hardly. The look of wild horror that suddenly crossed my five-year-old daughter’s face meant that just the hint of a threat was totally sufficient to get the job done. I wouldn’t have to throw anything away for real. READ MORE
Fruit de mer I wasn’t served the other night(photo courtesy of foodnut.com)
A tower of fruits de mer is a dramatic slight. An abundance of raw and cooked shellfish resting on ice and seaweed provokes the glutton in us. Pink shrimp, cracked Alaskan crab claws, lobster tails, clams-on- the-half shell and oysters, fresh and glistening. I went for an oyster first, expecting briney and mineral flavors. But what I tasted was a juiceless grey blob. It was clammy in texture and tasteless. What was going on? This is not the way a briny Bluepoint oyster is supposed to taste. How did this happen? The culprit was probably improper storage of the oysters. Oysters must not be submerged in ice or ice melt. The fresh water desalinates them and can kill them. It was not a “bad” oyster. It was a sad one. It cast a pall over the meal to come.
I have a complicated relationship with Avril Lavigne. When she burst onto the mainstream music scene in 2002, just before my high school graduation, I was glad they were marketing someone at me that it seemed possible to relate to: angry chick who dresses weird and eschews the pop starlet conventions of the Britney Spearses and Christina Aguileras (even though I loved Christina at the time). Avril was my age, wore ties for no reason, and liked general shenanigans and flipping the bird. But I quickly grew tired of the shtick, and of people assuming I was trying to be like her by participating in Tie-day Friday with the rest of my friends in marching band. Since her debut, I’ve struggled with enjoying some of her songs, because for some reason I care about these things. She’s been kind of like a continual embarrassment over the years, with her failed marriage to Deryck Whibley of Sum 41 (another high school favorite of mine) and now to that Nickelback dude. I mean, come on. Nickelback. Just the worst. READ MORE
The kitchen of Philip Johnson’s Glass House fascinates me. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps because it’s so retro and so simple. It’s just one counter, with a small sink and an electric stove. The house, located in New Canaan, was completed in 1949, and the kitchen looks like a place where little cooking was actually done. Unlike today’s large kitchen temples of marble and stainless steel and every conceivable appliance, where little cooking is actually done, the Glass House is free of pretence. The detail I like the most is the walnut counter that can be folded down to cover the sink and stove. Today there’s probably a building code that wouldn’t allow one to install a folding wood counter over a stove. READ MORE
I’m still recovering from eating way too much at Thanksgiving, and in the ensuing days, feeding house guests leftovers, reinvented. Too much food has left me wanting soup. Three days after Thanksgiving, I used left-over mashed potatoes to make a water-based leek and potato soup. A cup of warm soup and two toasted slices of baguette was enough even for the men that night. No one went back for seconds. As we took a visitor on a tour of Fairfield County’s specialty food shops, we found ourselves hungry. We stopped in to Los Poblanos in Norwalk, where I ordered the chicken tortilla soup. It was just what I needed – homemade chicken broth with thin strips of tortilla and a slice of avocado. It was loaded with chicken, as well, but I couldn’t make a dent in it. And tonight I’m making garlic soup, a water-based soup that the French rightly consider a tonic.
I used to go to an “orphans” Thanksgiving, but the following day my husband and I would find ourselves in our kitchen, cooking the dinner we’d missed cooking the day before. Now we do Thanksgiving at our house. Yesterday I started baking at 7 a.m., and finally sat down to eat with friends and family around 5. That’s my idea of a great day.
I baked a sweet potato pie this year. Riffing on Marion Cunningham’s Fanny Farmers Baking Book, I flavored the mashed, roasted potato with fresh ginger, lime zest, a bit of spicy Thai chile, and made the custard with a combination of coconut milk, heavy cream and farm-fresh eggs. I also made an apple tart, which I glazed after baking with homemade wine berry jelly. READ MORE
Looking through photos of Thanksgiving brings back great memories. One year we made “cranbellinis” from homemade cranberry syrup and Cristolino cava.
Roasted rutabagas and turnips were on the menu that same year. Bread stuffing is on the menu every year. Here it is, topped with butter, ready for baking. READ MORE
I don’t often cook a whole duck. It’s easier to buy legs, and that’s what I usually cook at home, a recipe I picked up from the Chez Panisse cookbook, braised duck legs over cabbage. I’ve adapted it over the years – adding spices like ginger, cardamom and fresh turmeric, and getting rid of the sulfurous cabbage. The other day my husband thought we should celebrate and he brought home a whole duck. Whole duck challenges the cook not to overcook the breast (it will not be rare, and you don’t want stringy), while cooking the legs and crisping the skin. Years ago I made Julia Child’s special “Designer Duck” from The Way to Cook, in which you cut up the duck, and roast the legs and wings separately from the breast. It was laborious. Julia may say, “Just go at it,” but most of us don’t carve up raw poultry frequently. READ MORE