Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Are Your Foodie New Year’s Resolutions?

Photo (c) Flickr user nImAdestiny.
I gave up on New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. Let’s face it, if you haven’t learned French by now, it’s not happening. Sure, that new elliptical machine would be a great way to get in shape, but what's more likely is you becoming the proud owner of a $1,200 coat rack that can read your pulse rate. The only people that actually keep New Year’s resolutions are the ones that don’t need to make them.

However, I do like to set a few food related goals for the upcoming year. I’m not sure when, but I will do a quinoa recipe in 2012. I’m going to make Italian sausage. I’m planning on filming a “how to turn corned beef into pastrami” video, which I’ve done for, but not on Food Wishes. I want to show you how to make perfect hash brown potatoes.

Anyway, those are a few of my New Year’s foodie resolutions – what about you? Do you have any culinary accomplishments you want to achieve in 2012? If so, please share, and we can all have a toast tonight to every one of them coming true. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year’s Day Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing – Good Luck with That!

This spinach salad with black-eyed peas is a twist on one of my favorite American culinary traditions; the custom of serving beans and greens on New Year's Day. Supposedly eating "poor" on New Year’s Day brings much wealth and good luck throughout the year.

The greens, usually braised with ham or sausage, represents paper money, and the beans, usually black-eyed peas, symbolize coins. Here, we’re presenting those ingredients in salad form, which is a great delivery system for our hot bacon dressing– the true star in this video.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is, “Eat more bacon,” then here’s another delicious way to work it into your diet. This peppery, sweet and tangy sauce is fast to make, and shines on other things besides wealth-generating spinach salads.

Wouldn’t this be great in a warm potato and mushroom salad, as well as a sauce for a grilled chicken breast or pork chop? What about spooned over poached eggs, or slathered on sweet potato fries? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

If making and eating this salad on January 1st doesn’t really bring you prosperity in 2012, it will certainly bring you some tasty memories, and other pleasures money can’t buy. Happy New Year, and enjoy!

Hot Bacon Dressing Ingredients: (makes about 1 1/3 cup – or 6 servings)
1/2 pound bacon, sliced and cooked in 1/4 cup vegetable oil (reserve bacon pieces and bacon fat drippings)
1/2 cup minced onions
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup of the bacon fat drippings
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp cold water
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
For 6 Spinach Salads:
1 pound baby spinach, washed and dried
12 white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 (15-oz) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Roast Tenderloin of Beef with Porcini-Shallot-Tarragon Pan Sauce – It’s the Heat and the Humidity!

This New Year’s Eve splurge special is dedicated to all of you who’ve used the cost as the excuse for not doing a beef tenderloin, when the real reason is the intense fear of screwing up such an expensive cut of meat.

The thought of paying all that money for such a luxury item, only to have it end up a dry, overcooked platter of corn-fed humiliation, is just too much to take. Well, I have some very good news. Using these very simple techniques, anyone can achieve a perfectly pink and juicy roast.

One secret is the slow oven, which allows for a gentle roasting, and produces an even, rosy hue throughout the muscle. The other trick is roasting the beef on top of the pan sauce, which not only flavors the meat, but also humidifies the oven for a moist, aromatic cooking environment. 

Of course, both of those are dependent on you being able to give this a serious sear before it goes in the oven, but I have complete confidence in you.

This particular cut of beef is extremely tender, but very lean, and so cooking it beyond medium-rare is not recommended. If you like your beef medium-well and beyond, you are completely wasting your money on one of these beauties. I’m usually not that militant about having to eat steaks medium-rare, but this time I really must insist.

Anyway, if you follow these pretty basic steps, and are in possession of a quality, digital meat thermometer, there is no reason why you can’t get the same results you see here. By the way, the roughly 15 minutes per pound roasting time is just a ballpark, so be sure to start checking the temp early, so you can catch it at the perfect doneness. I hope you give it a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 6):
2 1/2 to 3 lb beef tenderloin roast
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1/4 cup tarragon white wine vinegar, or plain white wine vinegar
1 cup veal stock or chicken broth
1/4 cup cream
1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked and diced
1/2 cup liquid from porcini mushrooms, more if needed
1 tbsp minced fresh tarragon

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas!

(c) 1956 Francis P. Johnson
Michele and I are heading to Windsor, CA, for Christmas with the family, and before we do, we want to wish all of you who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas! May you be surrounded by lots of loved ones, and plate after plate of great food.

I'll be taking a little holiday break from the blog until Tuesday, when we’ll be back with a brand new video recipe, so stay tuned for that. Have fun, play nice, travel safe, and as always, enjoy!!

No-Knead Beer Bread – My Second Favorite Use for Belgian Ale

The hardest thing about this ultra-simple, no-knead bread recipe is somehow managing not to drink that last bottle of beer. In fact, if this recipe goes viral, you may actually see a “7-Pack” introduced into the market.

My beer drinking experience far exceeds my beer bread baking experience, so I’m not entirely sure exactly what the beer does here, but anecdotal evidence suggests it does delicious and beneficial things. Besides, it just feels right. When I stirred that bubbly brew into the foamy sponge, I swear I could hear the yeast moaning.

This is adapted from a recipe that my Uncle Bill adapted from our famous no-knead ciabatta bread recipe. That dough only uses a pinch of yeast, and takes about 18 hours to rise, but my Godfather proved that you could get similar results in just a few hours with this short-cut method.

So, if you were using the rising time as an excuse for not making homemade bread, well then, now what are you going to use? This really is an easy, fun, and fast recipe, and you’ll be amazed at how great the results are, even for the most inexperienced bread maker. Enjoy!

For the sponge:
1 1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
12 oz bottled beer
18 ounces AP flour (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crispy Crusty Potato Pancakes! (Symbolic Oil Sold Separately)

There's nothing like freshly fried potato pancakes, and thanks to Hanukkah, you can't visit a food blog right now without seeing a gorgeous-looking potato latke recipe.

I'm quite proud of my version, so I decided to repost this video from last year. We garnished this with smoked salmon, but truth be told, my favorite way to enjoy them is topped with applesauce and sour cream. I hope you enjoy seeing this potato pancake recipe again, and if you’re watching this for the first time, I really hope you give it a try. A happy
Hanukkah to all those celebrating, and as always, enjoy!

Potato Pancakes – Squeeze and Be Squeezed

Click here for the original post and ingredient amounts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Glaze – A Not-So-Secret Christmas Tradition

Unlike some families, we don’t have a set-in-stone Christmas dinner menu. It really varies year to year. We’ve tried just about every holiday roast imaginable, and I don’t think we’ve even had the exact same side dishes twice, but when it comes to dessert, that’s a whole other story.

The meal must end with this gingerbread cake and it’s glistening lemon glaze. My wife Michele makes this every year, and uses a recipe she adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook, which despite being very simple, always gets rave reviews.

Of course, she adds a few secret, extra-exotic ingredients (I can’t confirm or deny that one is cardamom), which I didn’t use here, but I’ve always believed married couples should have there own unique gingerbread cake recipes, and mine features a little dash of Chinese five-spice instead.

Was it as good as Michele’s annual Christmas offering? Of course not (see why I’ve stayed happily married for 22 holidays?), but it was very delicious, and I’m sure you’d thoroughly enjoy it. So, if you’re looking for a new addition to your holiday dessert table, I hope you give this a try. Enjoy!

Gingerbread ingredients for one 8 or 9-in square cake:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (8-oz by weight)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 rounded teaspoons ground ginger (3 if you like it spicier)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water
*Bake at 350ºF or about 35 minutes.
For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It’s Crème Fraiche Season

Crème Fraiche is one of those extra special ingredients that seem to pop up in recipes this time of year. While sour cream may be fine the rest of the time, holiday menus demand something a little more luxurious. Well, instead of splurging at the grocery store, why not make your own? Follow this link to see how simple and easy homemade crème fraiche is, but don’t wait too long, as the process takes a couple days. Enjoy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Quick and Easy Cassoulet Recipe – Pork & Beans with Benefits

Of course you can’t make a real cassoulet in an hour, but you can make this very acceptable cheater version, and as long as you manage expectations, you’re in for a great, cold-weather meal.

Real cassoulet is an involved process, with several days of prep just to make the various meats served in this rustic bean casserole. Once everything is prepared, the dish bakes for hours, during which time the ritualistic crust forming and re-forming occurs.

Buttery breadcrumbs are scatted over the top, and when they form a crusty, golden brown layer, they’re pushed down into the bubbling mixture, and new crumbs applied. This is done several times, creating the dish’s signature texture. A creamy, aromatic, not-too-wet-or-too-dry bean mixture into which is suspended the chunks of succulent meat.

Here, we’re taking lots of short cuts. Chicken thighs replace the classic, and time-consuming, duck confit; canned beans replace dried; and bacon serves as a convenient substitute for other, more involved smoked pork options.

While it will be tempting to dig right into this as soon as the final “gratin” is formed, please follow the advice in the video, and let your cassoulet rest in the hot oven for 15 minutes. This will allow the beans and buttery crumbs to absorb the last of the excess liquid, and make for a better texture.

By the way, please adjust your seasoning depending on the sausage used. Mine was plenty garlicky, so I didn’t add any additional cloves. You’ll also have to taste and alter the salt, depending on whether your bacon and sausage shared enough with the rest of the ingredients. I hope you give this hearty, cold-weather classic a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 large portions:
4 oz bacon, sliced
8 oz spicy, garlicky, smoked pork sausage, sliced
12 oz boneless skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1 onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken broth, or as needed
2 (15-oz) can white beans, drained, rinsed
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
cayenne to taste
4 tbsp melted butter
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chocolate Mint Brownies – Behold, The Tree of Disappointment

I loved everything about these brownies, except the flavor. I love mint, I love chocolate, and I love chocolate mints, but for whatever reason, I don’t like chocolate mint brownies. It’s quite a personal mystery.

My wife Michele’s theory is that since we love the pure chocolately goodness of classic plain brownies, the addition of that extra layer of flavor, especially one as distinctive as mint, just throws everything off. That could be.

Also, I don’t like the combination of nuts and mint, and so these didn’t contain walnuts or pecans like they usually would. Maybe it’s nut denial that has me in this anti-mint mood. Anyway, enough about my problems, if you like chocolate mint brownies, which based upon all the requests I got, many of you do; you’ll probably love these.

I’ve used a very stripped-down method here that requires almost zero technique, and uses only cocoa powder to achieve a dense, chewy, very chocolatey brownie. I hope you give these a try, and if you don’t enjoy mint either, just leave them un-iced, or add another flavoring like vanilla, orange, or rum extract. Enjoy!

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/8 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp mint extract, or to taste
2 tbsp milk

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Italian Rice Croquettes aka Rice Balls aka Arancini – Back by Popular Demand… Aunt Angela and Uncle Bill D’Arduini!

I just flew back from New York, and boy, are my jokes tired (as you’ll hear). So is everything else, and there’s no rest for the weary as I pack for a quick trip to see the team at in Seattle. So, time is short, and I’m posting this incredibly delicious Italian rice croquette recipe, sans extra wordy article.

There isn’t much to add anyway; what you see is what you get. This great appetizer was filmed at a recent family dinner at my Aunt Angela and Uncle Billy D’Arduini’s, and if they sound familiar, they should! They’ve been featured on the blog numerous times; in such smash hit recipes as, Cabbage Rolls, Chicken D’Arduini, and Homemade Pasta.

You can definitely do this recipe completely vegetarian, by skipping the giblets, or switch those out for almost any other cooked meat. Sausage, prosciutto, or ham are just a few of the many options.

When it comes to the rice, we used a standard long rain, and went with a 2 parts water to 1 part rice ratio. You want fully hydrated and completely cooked grain. Al dente rice is not going to work here. Slightly overcooked is not a problem.

Anyway, I'd like to thank Aunt Angela and Uncle Bill for sharing their recipe, and I hope you can give it a try soon. It would be a great addition to any party menu. Enjoy!

*Sorry, I never found out how many this makes, but I’m guessing about 70-80
2 pounds cooked chicken giblets (gizzards and hearts)
2 cups rice cooked in 4 cups salted water
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp parsley, optional
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
1/2 cup marinara sauce
salt and pepper to taste
plain breadcrumbs, as needed
vegetable oil for frying
lemon wedges

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Heading West

I'll be flying from New York to San Francisco today, so my apologies for any delays in answering comments or emails. I will be back at it on Wednesday with what hopefully will be a fabulous new video recipe (possibly pictured below, but you'll have to wait to see for sure). Stay tuned!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Homemade Chipotle Oil - Better Red Than Dead

There’s nothing wrong with giving homemade holiday gifts, just as long as they’re something somebody would actually want and use. Thanks to things like fruitcakes so dense they have their own gravitational fields, making edible gifts has gotten a bad name, but that’s not an issue with this chipotle oil, especially if that certain someone on your gift list likes the spicy stuff.

As I mention in the video, this could work with lots of different spices, and not only does it look pretty cool, but it's a tasty and versatile addition to any foodie's pantry. Just be careful to stay away from using fresh ingredients, like garlic and green herbs.

I’m too busy (lazy) to go into detail, but if you can run into some serious food born illnesses bottling fresh ingredients, so be sure to thoroughly research any potential additions to these flavored oils. Nothing wrecks that festive holiday vibe like being charged with involuntary manslaughter. Enjoy!

Ingredients to make 2 (8-oz) bottles:
2 cups vegetable oil
2 rounded tablespoons ground dry chipotle

Jamie Oliver's mince pie cookies - GUEST POST

A real treat today, Recipe Riflers. A guest post from one of my favourite readers, Emelie. We met online, like all the coolest people NOT; I had a small, sick, teething baby - she a feral toddler and a dog that looks like a polar bear. She is also Scandinavian and what with Scandis being so fashionable at the moment, (they are the new gays), I'm mostly friends with her because of that.

Anyway here you go and if you're on Twitter she is @emfrid and terrific value.

I will cheerfully defend Jamie Oliver to all and sundry. Granted, on occasion he can come across as the culinary world’s more earnest answer to Bono. And those Sainsbury ads makes my teeth hurt. But, as far as I’m concerned that is all easy to forgive. Because, his recipes? They. Always. Fucking. Work.

Like, for example, these mince pie cookies. I got the recipe from Jamie’s Christmas Special magazine, and they are rad. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of pastry, which is probably why I prefer them to actual mince pies, but I’d wager that even pastry fiends will like these. They taste like Christmas! They are also very easy to make - it took me less than half an hour to get them in the oven, and that was while I was simultaneously trying to shake off the semi-feral toddler clinging to my leg and prevent the dog from digging a hole through to the neighbours. So give them a go.

For about 30 or so cookies you will need:

250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g sugar
1 egg yolk
Grated zest of one clementine/satsuma/mandarin/whatever you prefer
300g flour
One 411g jar of fruit mincemeat (WHY do they come in 411g jars? Why not 420g? Why so specific?!)

1 Preheat your oven to 180C/gas 4 and put greaseproof baking parchment on a couple of baking trays.

2 Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the egg yolk and your citrus zest and beat to combine.

3 Sift in the flour and then fold through MOST of the mince meat (you want to hold some of it back to put on top of your cookies before they go in the oven). Stir until it all starts to come together. I used my hands here – easier.

4 Pull biscuit-sized lumps from the dough, put them evenly across the trays and then press down on each one to shape into cookies. Don’t put them too close to each other – they will run out a little while in the oven.

4 Dot some of your saved mincemeat on top of each cookie, and then put them in the oven for about ten minutes. You want them to be golden, but still a bit doughy and chewy in the middle. I found that my oven needed about 15 minutes for this, but hey, ovens are famously different.

The mince pie cookies are lovely warm – with mulled wine – but the ones you don’t eat straight away can be stored in an airtight container, or frozen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What About Lasagna?

Are you having trouble deciding what classic Christmas roast to do this holiday? Well, maybe that’s a sign you should take things in totally different, and much more Italian, direction. Follow this link to see the Christmas lasagna recipe video I originally posted last December. Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Goose Was Already Cooked

Many years ago I remember trying to cook a Christmas goose. It wasn’t a total disaster, but I do remember gamey, less-than-tender meat, and copious amounts of grease. So, despite several food wishes for this iconic holiday roast, I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to revisit.

Then, I received an offer to try a pre-cooked, smoked goose from Schiltz Foods. They’re the country’s largest goose producer, and a sponsor of this year’s Tasty Awards. They were offering their geese to select Tasty Award nominees to try out, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I’ll admit to being skeptical since reheating pre-cooked meats usually don’t produce the best results. However, this turned out amazingly well. As you’ll see, the skin roasted up perfectly crisp, and the meat was moist and flavorful. By the way, I did zero food styling in this video, and the magazine-quality final product you see in these photos was exactly what came out of the oven.

Since the bird is brined and smoked, the taste is that of a very rich, moderately salty ham. So, if you want a Christmas goose that actually tastes like goose, this may not be your best choice. But, if you’re considering a holiday ham, and want a real showstopper in the center of the table, I think this is a great choice. Think of it as a delicious ham with wings.

I sacrificed half the wings to make a basic reduction sauce, and the subtle smokiness worked wonderfully with the red wine, balsamic vinegar, and blackberry notes. The sauce is certainly optional, as this could be served plain with just some cranberry sauce on the side. I hope you’re able to give this very easy-to-prepare, gorgeous roast goose a try. Enjoy!

1 whole pre-cooked smoked goose (mine was about 6 pounds)
For the sauce:
2 flat sections of goose’s wings
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups water
1 star anise
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup blackberry jam
2-3 tablespoons cold butter, cut in cubes
salt to taste

Disclaimer: As stated above, this post was made possible by Schiltz Foods, Inc., who provided the smoked goose free of charge. I’d like to thank them for bringing goose back into my life. If you want more information, or are interested in ordering a goose for the holidays, please follow this link to their official website.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


One very good reason for not doing a practice-run Christmas is that it leaves you in absolutely no mood for actual Christmas. I've had enough of Christmas, now. And certainly had enough of leftovers. God turkey is such nasty stuff.

It doesn't help that it was buggered and all my fault. We brined it, you see, and I bumptiously insisted that the quantity of salt doesn't matter and just poured a lot into the brine willy-nilly. Some ghastly chemical reaction must have taken place because it was dry as a bone.

brine ingredients

Although what we did learn from it, is that it doesn't matter if your turkey is dry, because once you slap it on a hot plate and cover it with a lot of gravy (which you will have) and a lot of bread sauce (ditto) it doesn't matter.

But, as my husband said, there's no point in it actually being dry, so if you are going to do a brine this year, make sure you do the exact measurements the recipe recommends. For example Nigella says 6 litres of water and 250g sea salt, like Maldon or 125g table salt, like Saxo. Then other flavours you want to add to the brine are up to you - parsley, bay leaves, allspice berries, mace blades, garlic, whatever. Nigella, again, recommends a star anise but just personally I think it makes everything taste like a Chinese takeaway.

And then beyond that, with turkey, it all just gets too mind-bending what with the Shall We Cook The Legs Separately Or Not? question. And the How Much Longer Should I Cook It If It's Got Stuffing In It? conundrum and THEN there's the thing about temperatures and whether or not you've got a fan oven. And by then, I have to confess, I feel like I am back in double History before lunch and can barely keep my eyes open.

So really the purpose of this post is to say: it's anyone's bloody guess. Have a fair crack. Try not to get bogged down in detail. Don't be scared because even if it's burnt to a crisp the gravy and bread sauce will save the day.

I told you I was bored.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let’s Get Ready to Rum Ball!

I want to thank a Twitter follower of mine, RookieKoo, for giving me the idea for today’s Michael Buffer-inspired post title. Of course, if you’re not familiar with the iconic boxing ring announcer’s catchphrase, then none of this will make any sense, and you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you it was an amusing reference.

There are hundreds of ways to make rum balls, but this one’s my favorite method. It’s very easy, especially if you have stale brownies lying around. I know, that never happens, which is why I’m linking to an all-purpose brownie recipe below the post. This will also work nicely with store-bought brownies, but stay away from anything that’s frosted. We don’t want to add any additional fat into the recipe, since that will hinder the absorption of the rum.

The amount of rum you add depends on how cakey and/or dry your brownies are, but for a half-pound, you’ll probably need between 1/4 and 1/3 of a cup to soak the crumbs sufficiently. A proper rum ball should be a fire hazard. By the way, I’m not responding to any comments asking about how to make these without using rum. In my humble opinion, you can’t.

The other issue I'm not going to be a big help with is altering the type of chocolate. I used a quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa), which worked beautifully for this, and hope you do the same. I don't have a lot of experience working with chocolate, so I'm not sure what will happen if you want to use white, milk, or other kinds of chocolate for the coating.

I realize these are more of a candy, than a cookie, but after about a half-dozen rum balls, culinary semantics will be the furthest thing from your mind. I hope you give them a try on your holiday dessert table. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 20 small rum balls:
8 ounces stale chocolate brownies, crumbled
1/4 to 1/3 cup dark rum, or as needed
4 oz dark chocolate (I used Lindt Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa)

NOTE: For a quick and easy brownie that will work well for these rum balls, check out this recipe from I recommend checking out the comments on that recipe page before starting.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hello from the Land of the Garbage Plate

I’m currently in Western New York visiting my family, so I thought I’d repost this video I shot way back in 2007, featuring my attempt to eat this region's most infamous culinary creation, the Garbage Plate.

The original Garbage Plate was created at Nick Tahou’s in Rochester, but this version was shot at my favorite local lunch spot, Charlie Riedel’s, in Canadaigua, NY. I highly encourage you to read the original post here for more information, as well as some very entertaining reader comments. Enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Merguez Sausage & Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash – Let’s Go Edible Bowling

I’ve received a few requests lately for a demo on how to do chili in an edible bread bowl. I’m not sure if these people don’t know it’s simply a round loaf with a hole dug out of it, or if they’re just into watching me teach incredibly obvious things, but that’s one food wish that may not come true. What’s next, watch Chef John make ice?

Anyway, unlike the aforementioned bread bowl, this sausage and rice stuffed acorn squash recipe is an example of an edible vessel that begs for a detailed demonstration. The stuffing is very easy, as is the cooking method, but the acorn squash prep does need to be done carefully and with precision.

As far as the ingredients go, this will work with any sausage, but please keep in mind you’ll want to adjust your seasonings depending on what you choose. I used mint because it pairs very well with the spicy lamb sausage, but basil or parsley may work better with a hot Italian sausage, for example.

This really is a recipe that’s greater than the sum of its parts. I love the way the flavors seep deep into the soft, sweet flesh of the squash. What a great cold weather meal. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Portions:
2 acorn squash, halved, seeded
8 oz spicy lamb sausage, or any raw sausage
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
3 tbsp buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 egg
1 cup cooked rice
1 tbsp plain breadcrumbs
1 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tsp olive oil
*Bake at 350 degrees F., loosely covered for 1 hour, then uncover for 30 minutes or until tender.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Deboning a Turkey by Proxy

After posting my turkey ballotine photos from Thanksgiving, I was inundated with requests (demands) for a video demonstration. Of course, that would have meant buying and eating another turkey, so I decided to take the easy way out and post this clip from one of my heroes, Jacques Pépin.

This is from pepinfan’s YouTube page, and it looks to be an episode from the venerable chef’s public television series. This was the exact same technique I used on the turkey, except I needed to use a knife for several steps that he's simply doing with his hands. Hopefully it gives you some idea how it’s done. Enjoy!

Cranberry sauce, bread sauce

So, let's dispense with the cranberry sauce first, because it's a piece of cake. There are more complicated recipes you can use, but this one is just fine and takes about ten seconds.

250g cranberries
100ml fresh orange juice
100g light brown sugar

1 Put the sugar and the orange juice in a pan and bring to a bubble. Tip in the cranberries and simmer for about 8 minutes - until some of the cranberries are still round and the rest have burst open and are all gooey.

Decant this into an airtight container, chuck it somewhere cool and forget about it until Christmas. The sauce will thicken on cooling so don't worry if it looks a bit runny.

I was all ready to make a similarly simple bread sauce but my friend Henry forced upon me a complicated one from his mother. As he was coming to dinner and gave me a magazine that the recipe was printed in I felt like I really couldn't not make it.


As it turns out, it is absolutely amazing. You could just eat it, on its own, spooned out of the tin. So I really recommend it, despite it being a bit of a faff. Do it up to three days ahead of time.

Aromatic brown bread sauce

1 large onion
150g wholemeal bread, crusts on
6 cloves
4 cardamom pods
some nutmeg
salt and pepper
75g butter
900ml milk - whole or semi
300ml double cream yikes

Preheat your oven to 130C. Did you notice that said 130C and not 180C?

1 Chop your onion up VERY small. I chopped mine up normally and it was too big, so next time I do this I will chop it up normall and then go at those chunks with a knife to bash the bits up tiny. Do not be tempted to put it in the food processor as you don't want it a sludge.

2 Tear the bread into small pieces - about the size of a 50p coin and put in an ovenproof dish with the onion

3 Put the cloves and the cardamom into a small piece of muslin or cotton, tie with string and chuck into the dish. This is an annoying instruction and I'm not sure you couldn't just throw the pods and cloves in free and then fish them out later.

4 Grate over a generous sprinkling of nutmeg, salt and pepper and dot with butter. Mix the milk and the cream together and pour over the bread and onion. Cover tightly with foil or a lid and then cook for 2 hours(!). Stir once or twice during cooking.

Really worth doing if you can be arsed. Everyone said how nice it was at our practice dinner, even a French girl who is normally rude about everything. Henry said it was a pretty good imitation of his mother's sauce but then ruined it by asking if my stuffing was out of a packet.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Easy as Chocolate Pecan Pie

Despite the colloquial idiom, pies are not that easy, and in my opinion, it’s not the dough that separates the good from the great, it’s the fillings. With fresh fruit pies, you have to worry about too much or too little liquid. Custard-based fillings are texturally tricky; and don’t even get me started on lemon meringue.

However, there’s one category of pie whose fillings are so easy, they’re nearly impossible to mess up. That would be the seasonally appropriate nut pie. If you can work a whisk, and set a timer, you have what it takes to excel in this genre.

We added a handful of chocolate chips, but the recipe is based on this one from, which I came across looking for corn syrup free versions. By the way, it’s not that I think corn syrup is a “bad” ingredient, I just know that most people don’t have it on hand, and I’d hate for them to buy a whole bottle when a perfectly wonderful pie can be made without it.

In fact, the filling is so deliciously decadent the crust is almost an afterthought. If you ever want to rationalize buying a frozen pie shell, this is your chance. Of course, if you want real “homemade,” you can check out this video recipe for making pie dough, but the point is, either way your chocolate pecan pie is going to rock. Enjoy!

1 9-inch pie shell
2 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (I didn't add in this recipe, but suggest you do. Add with the sugars.)
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Jamie Oliver's get-ahead gravy

We had our trial-run Christmas lunch yesterday. Except we did it a dinnertime. And I'll tell you this about Christmas: it is a fucking hassle. I can't quite believe I've got to do all that all over again in 3 weeks' time. And I was only on pudding, sauces, relishes and decorations - my husband had the real sweat on doing the turkey and all the rest.

But what are you going to do? It's just life, innit. Like I was complaning on and on and on to my single Hot Career friends J- and E- the other week about how I thought I'd be a wife and mother as a bit of a retro-laugh and now I'm right in it and marvelling what a hilarious joke I seem to have played on myself. I was expecting a tidalwave of sympathy, because I am a moaney old cow, but they both just looked at me blanky and boredly and said "Yeah, life is vile."

Since then I've tried to complain a bit less about everything.

Anyway look, for god's sake, if this isn't already in your repertoire, do Jamie Oliver's get-ahead gravy if you're lumbered with Christmas this year. It's a ruddy life-saver. Do it this weekend and freeze it.

This is not Jamie's exact recipe. The real thing is easily sourced on the internet.

Jamie Oliver's get-ahead gravy
Makes 1 litre, enough for about 8 people

8 chicken wings or wings or stock bones or whatever
2 carrots, quartered
1 small onions, quartered
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and, you guessed it: quartered
fresh sage leaves - about 5?
fresh rosemary - two sticks?
3 bay leaves
1 star anise IF YOU WANT. I, personally, didn't think the Chinesey flavour this imparted was very appropriate, although it's nice
4 rashers streaky bacon, snipped
4 tbs plain flour
1 tbs cranberry sauce
some olive oil

1 Tip everything except the flour and the cranberry sauce into a roasting tin, slosh some olive oil over it, salt and pepper, turn it all around to coat and put in a 180C oven for 1 hour

2 Take it out and bash everything up in the pan. Jamie recommends using a potato masher but I found stabbing everything with an assortment of wooden items, such as a spoon and then a rolling pin, was easier

although I took this photo at the masher stage

3 Put the pan on the hob on a low heat and sprinkle over the flour a spoonful at a time, mixing well in to the mixture after each snowfull

4 Now pour over two litres of water, just cold from the tap, mix together and boil briskly for ten minutes and then simmer for 25. It will reduce by roughly half

5 Strain the gravy. I found this easier to do once through a colander and then once again through a sieve - although this does create more washing up.

6 Now put in tupperware and forget about it until Christmas Eve. Don't bother skimming the fat now because there's something about the freezing/thawing process that draws out the fat from the gravy more effectively.

7 On the day, either just heat this up and finish off with some cranberry sauce and serve OR add the juices from the turkey roasting tin. You are supposed to add the turkey juices, but you will probaby be feeling utterly mental and a bit tearful by this stage and won't be arsed to be adding no damn juices to sauces. So I'm just telling you now that if you want to serve this gravy straight up without turkey juices no-one will notice.