Closed Captioned For The Thinking Impaired

Monday, November 23, 2009

Everyday Should Be Thanksgiving Part 2

What we're really talking about is a wonderful day
set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.
I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?
~Erma Bombeck, "No One Diets on Thanksgiving," 26 November 1981

who wouldn't let me post this all as one blog

Sauteed Green Beans with Parmiggiano-Reggiano, Meyer Lemon Oil & Tarragon

easy one to make. No recipe required. I'll just write it plainly.

Green beans
Shallots, thinly sliced (or garlic, but remember that garlic burns easily, so add the thinly sliced garlic in at the last possible minute during the saute.)
Meyer lemon (or any lemon)
Extra virgin olive oil
Parmigiano-reggiano or Pecorino Romano

    Get a pound or two of green beans, snap off the stem ends, add to a large pot of boiling salted water to blanch for 3 minutes.

    Drain green beans well, towel off & stick in the freezer for 5 minutes (or you can prepare an ice bath, but frankly, these need to be prepared at the last minute & you will run out of counterspace, believe me)

    Heat some EVOO in the same pan you used to boil the green beans, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.

    Add two thinly sliced shallots.
    Saute until softened.

    Add a pinch of salt after they shallots caramelize or else they will never turn golden brown. Salt draws the moisture out of the onions & will keep the pan too wet to allow the maillard process (sorry, that's food geek for browning reaction to heating, I know, I know.. but goddammit I taught myself this so... I'm gonna teach you, too).

    Remove green beans from the freezer & add to pan in a single layer.
    Do not touch them for 90 seconds, allowing them to get a bit of color on one side.

    Then stir them until fully coated in oil & shallots.
    Douse with a squeeze from half a Meyer's lemon (any lemon will do as long as it is fresh) & a bit of the lemon zest.

    Season with freshly cracked pepper, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano if you like a sharper flavor. Serve.

Triple-Cranberry Sauce Bon Appétit | November 1993

"The Indians and English use them much," wrote one visitor to New England in 1663, "boyling them with Sugar for Sauce to eat with their Meat, and it is a delicate Sauce." Although there is little evidence that cranberry sauce was served at the first Thanksgiving, it is assumed that Indians brought it to the feast. This tangy version gets its intense flavor and color from a mixture of fresh and dried cranberries, along with frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate.
Yield: Makes about 2 1/2 cup


    1 cup frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed, drained
    1/2 cup dried cranberries (about 2 ounces)
    3 tablespoons orange marmalade
    2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
    2 teaspoons minced orange peel
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

    Combine cranberry juice concentrate and sugar in heavy medium saucepan.
    Bring to boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
    Add fresh and dried cranberries and cook until dried berries begin to soften and fresh berries begin to pop, stirring often, about 7 minutes.
    Remove from heat and stir in orange marmalade, orange juice, orange peel and allspice. Cool completely. Cover; chill until cold, about 2 hours. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie

Bon Appétit | November 1993

Pumpkin pie was introduced to the holiday table at the Pilgrim's second Thanksgiving in 1623. Decorate this American classic with some whipped cream, or serve the cream alongside. Add a little dusting of cinnamon or fresh grated nutmeg for extra oomph

Yield: Serves 8
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons whipping cream

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon packed golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

1/4 cup apricot preserves
For crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Blend first 3 ingredients in processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cream and process until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball, flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 15 minutes.

Roll out dough on floured surface to 14-inch round. Transfer dough to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1 inch. Fold overhang under. Make cut in crust edge at 1/2 inch intervals. Bend alternate edge pieces inward. Freeze 15 minutes.

Line crust with foil, pressing firmly. Bake until sides are set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil. Bake crust until pale brown, about 10 minutes more. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

Spread preserves over crust; pour in filling. Bake until filling puffs at edges and center is almost set, about 55 minutes. Cool on rack. Cover; chill until cold. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

For filling:

Using whisk, mix first 6 ingredients in bowl until no lumps remain. Blend in pumpkin, whipping cream, sour cream and eggs.

Spread preserves over crust; pour in filling. Bake until filling puffs at edges and center is almost set, about 55 minutes. Cool on rack. Cover; chill until cold. (Can be made 1 day ahead.)

I have spent​ the past 12 hours​ in a food writi​ng marat​hon.​.​.​

Now I



I must be


But here are two blogs​ becau​se MY SWEET​ LOVER​BOY TOM

(Oh Tom, when you will you fly to me, my sweet hunk of malen​ess,​ you know I await​ you with open arms.​.​.​ *​*​sigh*​*​)​

and his beer pong playi​ng BOZOS​.​.​.​

will NOT ALLOW​ me to post it as one!
Damn them!​!​!​

So do me a favor​,​ pleas​e give the damn thing​s a look,​ will ya?

I am askin​g for pity comme​nts & kudos​,​ yes.​.​.​ pathe​tic wretc​h & shame​less hussy​ that I am.

So give it to me baby!​!​!​

I'll be your best frien​d.​.​.​.​
Hell,​ I'll inclu​de a sexy video​ for every​ click​,​ no purch​ase requi​red.​.​.​
Satis​facti​on GUARA​NTEED​!​!​!​

Remember the golden bloggy rule:


Be DIVINE, my darlings....
It feels too good not to!!!

Never a LURKER or a borrower be...

Because I'll do anything to get people to learn how to cook good food:

Here's a sexy poem about dessert, you lurkers!!

Creme Brulee, Chocolate Souffle & Other Pleasures

Click Here For Part 1 the blog that features the Turkey, the stuffing, the starters & all the other sides.
They are YUMMY YUMMY and worth a glance but I disabled comments & kudos there.
Happy Reading...

Here's the text to the poem for those of you who would like to read along...

Glisten Glow
Feel me flow
in your veins

While I guide
cerise rivers
run insane

On sinuous sails
those heavenly gales
cerulean serenity
our way.

But Hey...
I'm Chimarea, man
Take me by the hand
Let me scorch you
with my lust

Then douse those flames
with your sweet rain
so unctuous
caramel forms

Ribbons of pleasure
Come on, Nebuchadnezzar
play those dulcimer tunes
of love.

Grind me, bind me
Get inside me
Peel off
that visceral veil

Crack that shell
release your spell
into perfumed clouds.

Strip me, whip me
Don't resist me
the stiff peaks form

Then dip into me
All hot & gooey
Let's bathe in
bowls of cream

Til morning smiles
upon our child
Melt with me

Those fresh baked dreams
in chocolate streams
in transplendent
tales told.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Everyday Should Be Thanksgiving Part 1

He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part; The full, the true Thanksgiving Comes from the heart.
~J.A. Shedd

Brace yourselves, my pals, this is a loooong blog!!!

Last year at this time was a bittersweet one for me.

We sold our home.

While we were, of course, fortunate to sell it at a time when others could not sell theirs it did not make the leaving any easier. I was however bound and determined to make our last Thanksgiving in the house a memorable one, but wanted to keep the dinner a very intimate one.

So we invited our best "couple" over.
I say best couple because we happen to value both people as friends which is a rarity. You know how it is. Often you have a friend, like we do, and he changes life partners, like he did, and while you can tolerate them for your friend's sake, you don't really connect to them in a truly friendly way. But such was not the case with this couple, they are both truly our friends equally.

Well, Thanksgiving has come & gone and as the Thanksgiving card that I gave my hubby exhaustively exclaims: "Days of chopping and shredding and baking and roasting, stuffing & serving, all for a half-hour turkey binge and a week's worth of dried out leftovers!"

Yep, that just about sums it up. Add flower arranging, dusting, table-setting, and apartment-hunting then you'll have an idea of the Thanksgiving 2007 experience for moi at the old household.

It's mostly a labor of love, anyway & a gift that I give to myself maybe even more than a gift to my guests. All except for the house-hunting part which I faced & face with dread & sadness. Dread because I know there is precious little in the way of housing in the rental market that I deem livable, spoiled brat that I've been so fortunate to become, & I dread how sad the lack of real prospects makes me.

Sad, too, to leave the beautiful home that we built with great care & love over several years. A love that resonates through every room, in every window, door, hinge & fixture; lovingly selected or designed with our collaboration and carefully constructed by warm-hearted artisans who poured their souls into their work giving this house a heartbeat, a real & palpable warmth felt by every sentient being who crossed over her magnificent threshold.

Like Pygmalion with Galatea, the feeling and reverence that went into making this house miraculously brought her to life. She was our creation, our child, an extension of union. Everyday we marveled at her beauty, her elegance, her grace. Everyday we discovered another angle to her lines, another aspect of her personality to delight us.

She is charming & big-hearted, trying always to accommodate her guests and make them feel welcome and comfortable; despite her seemingly formal facade, she is the opposite of cool & forbidding with her radiant light smiling upon you & her large rooms like arms wide open held out for a warm embrace. We loved her for her accessibility; all the more because, like all nobles with her beauty, structure and breeding, she could have been haughty & autocratic and, sadly, most people would have accepted her rebuffs as the natural course of things even as they were stung by them; but our girl was an egalitarian & knew to be grateful for her many gifts and not feel superior to those who were not as blessed.

Somehow, we sold her; because a house like this deserves a large family to shelter and succor; children running around inside her playing & dreaming, laughing & crying. We wouldn't provide that. We could use the money she brought us instead & finance the rest of our barren lives. (Excuse the melodrama but it is cathartic for me to write these words even if my depiction of our situation is skewed by my ridiculously emotional over-reaction to it.)

I think she is sad, too. I hear her groanings very late in the night but she'll soon get over her loss when the new owners arrive. I hope that we can do the same.

The fact remains that everyday we have an opportunity to enjoy our lives should we elect to do so. Life in of itself is a great blessing. What does not kill us makes us stronger & we should be grateful for that strength, however difficult it is to forge the iron that helps us survive. So, I offer up a Thanksgiving Menu even though it's official day of celebration was 6 days ago. Planning and preparing this meal for my husband & friends really helped me through this difficult time. With the mantra "Everyday should be Thanksgiving!" reverberating through this beautiful house, here is the Thanksgiving menu I served on 11/22/07 (recipes to follow when I have the strength to write them P.S. I never did manage to write them... until today...):

Everyday Should Be Thanksgiving Day Menu

Hors d'oeuvresSmoked Salmon Bundles w/ Roasted Asparagus
Crudite with Mascarpone Pesto
California Nut Mix with Wasabi Peas

The Main Event

Creamy Cauliflower Apple Soup with Dungeness Crab Crouton
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Citrus Butter and Turkey Jus
Chanterelle Mushroom "Gravy" w/ Shallots & Vermouth

The Sides

Truffled Smashed Potatoes
Shitake & Sausage-Apple Stuffing
Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding with Roasted Chestnuts
Vanilla-scented Roasted Yams Gratin with Cinnamon
Sauteed Blue Lake Green Beans with Parmagiano-Reggiano, Meyer Lemon Oil & Tarragon
Triple Cranberry Sauce


The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie
with Cinnamon-dusted Vanilla Ice Cream


The Triple Cranberry Sauce and "The Ultimate Pumpkin Pie" that I usually make for dessert comes from the November 1993 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

It was my first attempt at making & shopping for a Thanksgiving Day meal. I had never really been that interested in cooking although I have always been interested in eating but the meal was a resounding success & started my long journey into the land of the culinary arts.

I still keep that copy of Bon Appetit. It is food-stained and dog-eared but it remains in my reference library; thumbing through its pages has become a fond part of my Thanksgiving Day tradition even though I have long since committed the recipes I use to memory and always improvise my own variations on them anyway. keeps a database filled with recipes from current & back-issues of Bon Appetit & Gourmet. It really is an online treasure trove for cooks; not because the recipes are so delicious or innovative but because it is a kind of archaeological record of our food & cultural trends. Fascinating stuff for geeks like me! Here is a link to it:

The theme is Cal/Italian this year.

I try to stay within a specific culinary cultural style when I make these large dinners.

Makes the whole meal more cohesive and flowing...

The entire menu should serve 4-6 people.

Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Bundles

This is super easy & courtesy of Giada Di Laurentis.
If you don't like smoked salmon, use prosciutto, or thinly
sliced ham

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed (about 20 spears)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon (1 slice per asparagus spear)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lay the asparagus on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Roast until cooked and starting to brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to another baking sheet to cool.

Once the asparagus have cooled, wrap each spear in a slice of smoked salmon. Arrange on a serving platter and serve at room temperature.

Crudite with Mascarpone Pesto

Another supereasy dish to assemble quickly while your guests pile in...
The fish sauce gives the dish a little anchovy umami essence without the messiness of mashing
them. I try to save steps whenever possible when cooking in volume.
Just be sure to buy the best pesto you can.
It's very easy to make yourself, too, if you like
You can substitute equal parts sour cream & cream cheese for the mascarpone, if you can't find it at your grocers'.

    2 zucchini sliced in half lengthwise and cut into 4 inch batons (sticks)
    6 ribs celery cut in half lengthwise and into 4 inch batons
    2 cucumber cut in half lengthwise and cut into 4 inch batons
    20 baby carrot
    1 red pepper cut into2 inch thick strips
    1 yellow pepper cut into 2 inch thick strips
    1 head broccoli cut into small florets
    1 pint cherry tomatoes
    10 crimini mushrooms sliced into quarters
    4 radishes cut into small batons
    1 package mascarpone, room temperature
    2 baguettes, brushed with olive oil, sliced into rounds & toasted in the oven until warm & crisp
    1/2 cup of fresh store-bought pesto
    1/2 teaspoon Thai Fish sauce (optional)


In a stainless steel bowl, mix pesto & mascarpone.
Add fish sauce, mix well.
Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Add to serving bowl.
Arrange raw veggies on a platter. Mangia.

California Nut Mix with Wasabi Peas

Like the others, not exactly a recipe.
But you have lots of cooking ahead so make these hors d'oeuvres mindless & easy.

    Buy 1 lb. of your favorite dried fruit & nut mix.
    Add 1 lb. of wasabi peas.
    Add 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Place ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Mix thoroughly.
Throw it in a pretty bowl.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Dungeness Crab Crouton

Another very simple but elegant dish that reflects the season. The creaminess comes from a small dollop of mascarpone at the end. There is no cream in this soup. You don't need it. The cauliflower when boiled & pureed has the creamiest texture
all on its own. It really has a velvety mouthfeel. To make this more economical & vegan friendly omit the crab crouton & substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock. It will still be yummy, I promise!

For the Crab Salad
Note: Keeping this recipe very casually written. That's how easy it is.

    Buy 3/4 - 1 pound of the freshest meat you can find, make sure it includes lots of claw meat.
    Take 1/3 cup of lowfat Best Foods mayo
    add chopped fresh tarragon, chopped fresh chives; all to taste
    the juice & zest from half a Meyers lemon
    1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce
    1 Tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
    1 sweet baguette, sliced on the bias, brushed with extra virgin olive oil & toasted in a 350 degree oven until golden brown. (about 5-7 minutes)

    Mix the dressing well.
    Fold the crabmeat in being careful not to break it up too much.
    Slice up a baguette, spoon the crab mayonnaise on top. Garnish with sprig of tarragon or chives or both. Place on top of soup. Serve, Eat. Voila!!!

For the soup

    3-4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
    2 leeks, white part only, washed well and chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 small potato, peeled and chopped
    2 large sweet (Vidalia or Maui) onions, cut in half & sliced thinly
    1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
    1 head of cauliflower, chopped roughly
    1 apple, cored , peeled & chopped roughly
    3 cups chicken stock
    1 cup apple juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
    2 tablespoons chopped chives, for garnish
    add fresh lemon to taste as a garnish, too much lemon will make soup astringent
    1 teaspoon of sugar
    1 teaspoon of low sodium soy sauce

    Heat a large saute pan. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil & 1 tablespoon of butter to the saute pan.

    When butter melts & browns lightly, add the slices onions, stirring to coat with the fat. When onions soften, add the sugar, stir to combine well & lower the heat to low setting.

    Allow the onions to cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring once every 5 minutes or so until golden brown. Add the soy sauce & stir it in. Then turn off pan & set aside.

    Heat olive oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, apples, fennel and the garlic and stir. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the cauliflower, stock, salt, and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

    Using a handheld immersion blender, or in a blender in batches*, puree the soup.

    Add the 2 tablespoons mascarpone and blend again to combine. In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/3 cup mascarpone to soften.

    Add to the mixture & blend, once again until well incorporated.

    Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Dollop the top of each of the soups with a dungeness crab crouton & sprinkle with chives.

    * When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast with Citrus Butter and Turkey Jus

I elected to use a turkey breast because there were only four of us. When choosing a size appropriate for guests, allow about 1 pound of raw turkey per person.

Sounds like a lot, I know, but you want to have leftovers, don't you? That's the best part. Frankly, hot turkey leaves me cold. I love the sandwiches later on Kaiser rolls or Dutch Crunch bread with stuffing, avocado, & cranberry sauce... Yummy, Yummy!!!

BTW, you can substitute any kind of mushroom you like for the gravy. Chanterelles are crazy expensive. I chose them because this meal is small in scale which meant I could spend more per person, but good old button mushrooms or criminis will work just fine. Hell, you don't even need any mushrooms.

The consistency of my gravy is much thinner than most. I prefer the good wholesome turkey flavor of the jus & stock not the taste of a floury pasty goopy gravy... yuk! I achieve the thickening with a minimum of starch & a maximum of reduction.

I boil the hell out of the stock to reduce it to an almost gelatinous consistency which means you must minimize the use of any salt products until the gravy is made, then add the seasoning or else it will taste way salty.

For the turkey
    1 whole bone-in turkey breast, 6 1/2 to 7 pounds
    1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
    2 teaspoons dry mustard
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
    1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons good olive oil
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 cup dry white wine
    1 onion, skin removed & cut in half
    1 leek, cleaned & sliced length-wise
    1 carrot, cut into quarters
    1 lemon, cut in quarters, juiced with juice reserved


    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack ( I use a trivet) in a roasting pan.

    Nestle the onion, leek, carrot & juiced lemon & place it inside the breast cavity. Be sure that you have cut the pieces in large enough sections so that they don't fall through your rack or trivet.

    In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a paste.

    Loosen the skin from the meat gently with your fingers and smear half of the paste directly on the meat.

    Spread the remaining paste evenly on the skin.
    Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.

    Heat up Citrus butter in small sauce pan until melted & keep warm.

    Roast turkey for 20 minutes at 450, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

    Baste with Citrus butter.

    Roast the turkey for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until the skin is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest and meatiest areas of the breast. (I test in several places.)

    If the skin is over-browning, cover the breast loosely with aluminum foil. Occasionally basting with citrus butter.

    When the turkey is done, cover with foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes while you make the gravy. Slice and serve with the jus & gravy spooned over the turkey.

For the Citrus Butter:


    1 teaspoon grated lime rind
    1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
    1 teaspoon grated orange rind
    1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
    2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
    1 shallot, finely minced


    Stir rinds into boiling water; pour through a wire-mesh strainer. Drain on paper towels.
    Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer or by hand until creamy; gradually add juices, & shallot beating until blended. Stir in rinds. Chill. Can be made 3 days ahead or more if you freeze it.

For the Chanterelle Mushroom Gravy:

About the stock: make your own if you have the time, I'll leave a link; if not buy it frozen; you can substitute canned chicken stock, but make sure it has no or low-sodium both Pacific & Wolfgang Puck make good chickeny ones. This gravy will be dark , almost mahogany in color, if you take the time to roast your turkey giblets & wings first, really worth it. It's only once a year & a lot cheaper than buying canned, plus you can make extra & freeze until Christmas to use it then!

Cornstarch & arrowroot are almost flavorless & tend to dissolve more quickly than flour which is why I am using it here, but heat destroys it's coagulating properties so you must wait to add it until the last minute or so to the gravy. Do not boil the gravy after you add them. Then serve immediately.

    2 big handfuls (handfuls is an industry term ;P) of chanterelles or your mushrooms of choice, cleaned & sliced
    2 large shallots, sliced thinly
    6 sage leaves, in chiffonade (sliced very, very thinly length-wise)
    half a handful of parsley, minced
    2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
    1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
    4 cups of fresh turkey stock
    pan drippings from turkey
    scant tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
    1/2 cup of dry vermouth or any acidy, non-oaked wine such as sauvignon blanc
    sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste
    1 Tbs. cornstarch or arrowroot


    Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbs. butter & olive oil, when butter is foamy & melted, add a tiny pinch of sea salt to the pan followed by the shallots. Saute until they just change color.

    Add the mushrooms, add the additional tablespoon of butter, if the mushrooms appear to absorb the fat in the pan. Saute until mushrooms are softened, lower heat to medium-low.

    Add the parsley and sage. Stir in & when the mushrooms appear to be slightly glazed, season lightly with salt & pepper.

    Turn off the heat & set aside in a warm place.

    Place roasting pan over medium heat on the range burners. When hot, deglaze pan with the wine or vermouth, being sure to scrape off all the pan fond (the stuck on brown bits) & incorporate into the wine.

    Add the stock to the pan & reduce by half; about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of stock & mix that into a slurry with the cornstarch. Set aside.

    When stock, is reduced add the mushroom mixture, season with soy sauce; stirring well to incorporate it. Taste for seasoning & then add salt & pepper to taste.

    When everything is to your liking, turn the heat down to very low & add cornstarch mixture, stirring really rapidly to avoid making lumps.

    Heat for another minute or two over low heat until the cornstarch flavor is gone.

    Place in gravyboat. Serve immediately.
Here's a link for Turkey stock:

Truffled Smashed Potatoes

What can I say about smashed potatoes? Don't cut them too small, in fact if you use Yukon Golds, Baby Reds or Yellow Finns leave them whole, leave the skins on, boil them with salt until soft but not mushy, remove excess water by tossing them over heat in a dry, hot pan and heat up the cream & butter before adding them to the potatoes.

Put them through a ricer or food mill if you like a smoother, lighter texture or smash them like I do with an old fashioned masher if you like them with a heartier, more rustic style.

Just add lots of white truffle butter or truffle oil to it at the end to give them a luxe flavor. Add a few chives & Yaay!!!

If you can score fresh white truffles and shave them on top, all the better but good luck; they are as rare and as expensive as an F50 Ferrari.

Shitake and Sausage-Apple Stuffing

Be sure to cut all the aromatics the same size small dice. Makes a big difference in texture.

    16 ounces Challah bread or any brioche (use white bread if you can't find an egg bread), cut into 3/4-inch cubes (about 12 cups)
    1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
    6 cups onions, about 2 large, finely chopped & 4 cloves of garlic, smashed & minced
    1 pound tart green apples, peeled, cored, diced small
    2 handfuls of shitake mushrooms (you can use oyster, button, whatever you like)
    1 large carrot, peeled & cut into small dice
    2 celery ribs with leaves, diced small
    4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
    1 cup dried cranberries (about 4 ounces, optional)
    4 sprigs of finely chopped fresh rosemary
    8 sprigs of finely chooped fresh sage
    2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
    3 eggs, beaten to blend
    1 and 1/2 cups to 2 cups (about) fresh turkey stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Divide bread cubes between 2 large baking sheets. Bake until slightly dry, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

    Sauté sausages in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, crumbling coarsely with back of spoon, about 10 minutes.

    Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl. Pour off any drippings from skillet.

    Melt butter in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrots, apples, celery, mushrooms and poultry seasoning to skillet; sauté until onions soften, about 8 minutes. Mix in dried cranberries and rosemary & sage.

    Add mixture to sausage, then mix in bread and parsley. Season stuffing to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

    Mix eggs into stuffing just before baking.
    Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 15x10x2-inch baking dish.

    Mix 1 1/3 cups broth into stuffing. Transfer to prepared dish. Cover with buttered foil and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until top is golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Wild Mushroom Bread Pudding with Roasted Chestnuts
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence

I just add roasted chestnuts to the hunky Tyler Florence's recipe for added depth of flavor, it's great for vegetarians, though not vegans.

    1 1/3 cup heavy cream
    4 eggs
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 loaf crusty Italian bread, cubed
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering baking dish
    2 shallots, sliced
    4 pounds mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
    1 package of roasted chestnuts, chopped roughly ( jarred is fine)
    3 tablespoons chopped chives
    3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
    3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
    4 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more to top


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    On a sheet pan put cubed bread. Toast it in the oven until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

    In a large saute pan melt the butter and saute the shallots until just wilted. Add the mushrooms and saute until browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

    In a large bowl make custard, whisk together the cream with the eggs and season with the salt and pepper.

    Add toasted bread cubes along with the chives, thyme and rosemary to the egg mixture.

    Stir in the sauteed mushrooms and mix in the grated Parmesan.

    Transfer the mixture to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, top with more grated Parmesan, to taste.

    Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the custard is set.

Vanilla -scented Roasted Yam Gratin with Cinnamon

This is pretty damn easy & super tasty. An Alsatian Riesling or Gewurtztraminer is the best bet for this entire meal. Just thought I'd mention it now before I forget. A ripe California Pinot Noir from Sonoma might work, too. I love the Central Valley Coast ones like Ambullneo, too.


    4 large garnet yams or Jewell sweet potatoes, roasted in a 450 degree oven for 1 hour, peeled , cooled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
    1/2 cup of heavy cream
    1 vanilla bean, split in half with seeds scraped & reserved or 1 teapsoon of good quality vanilla extract
    ground cinnamon to taste
    2 Tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for topping gratin
    sea salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Place yam slices in a gratin dish large enough to hold them all in a single layer, but do make sure they are overlapping slightly. Squash them together a bit, if necessary.

    In a medium sauce pan, heat the remaining ingredients over low heat; allowing them to steep for 15 minutes.

    Pour cream mixture over yams.

    Dot with additional butter.

    Bake for 25-30 minutes until top is caramelized & golden brown.

This is a repost from last year.
I am making this menu again.
It is classic.
Click HERE for Part 2

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fresh From The Market, Lazy Gourmet-Style: Wild Alaskan Halibut "En Papillote" with Truffled Tarragon Butter, Roasted Asparagus, Yam "Gratin"

“The quality of life is determined by its activities.” ~ Aristotle

Far too often I hear friends say they never have the time or energy to cook for themselves or their families which I think is a terrible shame.

Eating is something we do everyday.
The fact is we must eat to survive.

The London Times once did a few quick calculations and reported that the average person spends 6 years and ten months eating in his or her 70 year life time.

That's approximately
3 681 641.36 minutes (YEP, over 3 MILLION minutes) or 1/10 of the average lifespan spent in this activity, why fill it up with foods generated by ConAgra and increase their already huge coffers?

At the risk of sounding like a Stepford Wife (remember them? *shudders*), cooking can be F-U-N!!! You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to luxuriate in a good meal shared, even if only once a millennium.

And yes, I know... I know.... in this go, Go, GO day & age, spending such time together seems to have become so rare that it is a luxury. However, nothing is more convivial than sitting around the dinner table, eating a delicious meal and enjoying each other's company.

Folks, it doesn't get any easier than this for a light, simple, elegant meal. Seriously, in the time it takes to order in a meal, you could have something fresh & delicious that will impress anyone for a special occasion or just a nice treat for yourself.
You deserve a break today & it sure as shit should NOT be from McDonalds!

For those of you less inclined to using those little heat-emitting appliances known as ovens, this meal (sans aluminum foil, unless you are looking to rival the Large Hadron Collider in generating a possible worldwide cataclysmic event horizon, ending all life on earth as we know it) could also be easily adapted for the microwave by wrapping the ingredients in paper towels, Glad plastic sandwich bags or microwave safe plastic wrap.

I am going to make it even easier by providing nothing more than a basic outline in pics.

You get to color between the lines or outside the lines of this "recipe" yourself.

In 60 minutes with only about 20 minutes of active cooking time, you will have a meal that is delicious, nutritious and looks pretty on your plate! Now THAT is what I mean by quality of life & I bet good old Aristotle would agree.

Cooking "en papillote" is a method in which you seal the food in a pouch and bake. The food essentially steams in the oven in its own juices, though you can add ingredients to flavor the food as I will here with just a few splashes of flavored liquids, herbs and aromatics. The keys to the technique are: 1) use fresh ingredients; and 2) preparation or mise en place which is very simple.

Instead of parchment paper which is the traditional method, I will use aluminum foil to wrap the fish, not as pretty, but very easy to do.

Wild Alaskan Halibut "En Papillote" with Truffled Tarragon Butter, Roasted Asparagus, Yam "Gratin"

I have given directions for microwaving everything, but really nothing brings out the sweet caramelized goodness of veggies like roasting them in the oven & it really takes very little effort, plus you can cook everything into a regular oven at the same time. Not so when microwaving.

Here are the ingredients, you can determine the quantity of each depending on how many people you wish two serve. I am assuming two people in this "recipe".

  • Vegetable broth, a couple of splashes
  • Dry white wine (or beer), a couple of splashes from your own glass
  • Fresh Tarragon, chopped
  • Halibut fillets (any firm-fleshed white fish will do. Salmon & chicken also works nicely here. Times need to be adjusted for thickness of fillets. Generally if you can smell it, it's done, but allow about 15 minutes for a 1-1/2 inch tick fish fillet & 20 minutes for a chicken breast.)
  • Truffle salt (plain sea salt is fine) and freshly cracked pepper, to taste.
  • One large shallot, finely diced ( finely diced red onion & a minced garlic clove can be substituted for the shallot)
  • One fresh lemon, a couple of squeezes per fillet for seasoning the fish.
  • One bunch of fresh asparagus, tough ends snapped off (you can substitute any veggie you like obviously. Though for roasting nothing beats asparagus, seasoned with a bit of truffle salt, black pepper & olive oil)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, enough to drizzle over the fillets & asparagus
  • Butter, half a stick; unsalted
  • 1/4 cup of half & half or heavy cream with a 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract added and well combined
  • Sweet potato, cooked (one per person), roasted for an hour in a hot oven or microwaved and sliced into coins
  • Parmigiano reggiano, for grating over asparagus & yams.
  • Aluminum foil, if using oven; Plastic wrap or baggies, if using the microwave
  • Preheated oven, 450 degrees
  • Hungry people you love


Assemble all of your ingredients, like so:

  • Preheat your oven at 450 degrees
  • Roast or microwave your sweet potatoes or yams (or other tuberous veggie) until done. (Can be roasted well ahead of time up until the day before).
  • Slice into 1/2 inch thick rounds and arrange them in either a roasting pan or heavy skillet.
  • Season with truffle salt & pepper, pour half & half/vanilla mixture over it & a couple of tablespoons of butter, cut into small dice & dabbed evenly over the potatoes.
  • Then set aside, while you prepare the fish & roast the asparagus.
Like so:

  • Place the fillets in a little pouch of their own, using either aluminum foil for baking or plastic wrap (or baggies) if you plan to microwave your fish or poultry.
  • Season the protein with truffle salt & freshly ground pepper to taste.
  • Add the aromatics: shallots, splashes of lemon juice, wine, fresh tarragon, a drizzle of olive & a 1/2 TBSP of butter per packet
Like so:

  • Then wrap the little bundle up & pop into the middle rack of your preheated oven for about 15 minutes for a 1-1/2 inch thick fillet (Or about 3 minutes if microwaving.
  • Remember to seal the baggie but leave a little room for air to escape; venting the baggie by poking a little slit through the top & placing the fish packet on a microwave-safe dish.
  • Here's a great article on microwaving fish:

  • Then prepare the asparagus by lining a shallow baking sheet with aluminum foil & seasoning with salt, pepper, fresh juice quickly squeezed from a lemon & tossing it all with extra virgin olive oil using your hands which are the best tool for tossing veggies and salads ever invented!
  • Add the asparagus & the yams to the top rack of the oven. Roasting the asparagus for about 7 minutes & the yams for about 15 minutes. (Or microwave them instead on a microwave-safe dish for 2 minutes after the fish is done).
  • The asparagus will be done before the fish. Remove them when you can smell them then grate a little parmigiano reggiano over them, dusting them lightly.

When the fish is done, remove it from the oven, set the oven on broil, dust the yams with a little bit of the parmigiano reggiano and cook the yams under the broiler for a minute until they are nicely browned.

Arrange on a plate & eat it!

Truffle Salt can be found in specialty markets that purvey yummy grub or "upscale" supermarkets like Whole Foods.

Yes, it is expensive, but a little goes a long way and it will last you for a year. It's unbelievable in mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, macaroni & cheese or just a little cappellini, parmigiano reggiano (parmesan cheese) & olive oil.
Pure decadence was never so affordable.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Soul Soothing Soup

When the world seems headed to hell in a hand-basket and life feels like some hopeless, crazy exercise in futility, we all need to turn to someone or something that we can depend on to make us feel safe and secure ( a laughable though laudable desire, life being the crapshoot that it is).

For some, it is religion or belief in a god who ultimately rewards the good and punishes the evil that gives them solace.

For others, it is the news networks and broadcasts whose "round the clock", "up to the minute" presence at the latest tragedy assures them that life in our society presses onward, forward despite the horrific and catastrophic nature of the networks' latest exploitation -- oops, I mean, what has befallen. Yes, somehow, with Oprah, Brian Williams, and Matt Lauer there endlessly probing every victim's and perpetrator's family & friends; and, repeatedly plying every crackpot psychiatrist, theorist, "expert panelist", lawyer, & politician they can use to fill the airwaves with inane often unanswerable questions for days on end, some people feel comforted.

Many others, seek the warmth and wordless reassurance of their nearest's arms whether that person be a spouse, parent or sibling. There is always something about the seeming sanctity and inviolability of one's home and family that offers asylum from an increasingly chaotic world.

I tend to fall more inline with the latter group's thinking. Hearth and home are the ultimate sanctuary for me during restless times, especially the hearth, or the modern day hearth--- the kitchen.

There is something about the preparation of a labor- intensive but simple meal that is therapeutic and relaxing. It could just be a purely visceral reflexive response to the familiar scents and repetitive nature of cooking: the sense-memories of happier times stirred up: memories of christmas in grandma's house, the chicken soup mom gave you to make you feel better, the fragrance worn by your first love.

It is said by those who make a study of neurotransmissions that the sense of smell activates more areas in the brain than any other of our senses. The memory centers of the cerebral cortex are instantaneously activated when we smell, well before other centers of the brain.

Some experts theorize that this occurs as an evolutionary autonomic defense mechanism, most likely to prevent us from ingesting poisonous substances by stirring our memories of other "bad" smells that we have experienced allowing us to compare and associate them as things to be avoided.

Whatever the reason the brain is the ultimate database & smell is the most efficient way to trigger it.

So on this and every other bad news day, let's turn the olfactory systems on, get our juices flowing, fill our homes with delicious aromas and remember happier days with a little dose of comfort from the people who live life so well: the Italians.

Italy has none of the arrogance and all of the zest of France. It is a cuisine that could make you devoutly religious because it is so pure and so divine that it could only have come from a higher being. Italian cuisine is the ultimate comfort food.

Each region (and there are many) with its own specialty of culinary artistry. I submit my own humble offering inspired by zuppa di minestre ; something warm and familiar to soothe the soul. Time has erased the class distinctions between the two categories of Italian soupszuppa and minestra , but their respective names and characteristics reflect their markedly contrasting pedigrees. Zuppa refers to a broth which, with a few exceptions, has slices of bread in it but never rice or pasta. The Italian word - along with the French soupe , Portuguese and Spanish sopa and German suppe - derives from the Gothic suppa , meaning "soaked bread". 
That slice of 
bread indicates the less exalted origins of this soup. In medieval times, the plates on the tables of the nobility took the form of trenchers of sliced bread. These "plates", which ended up saturated with the juices of meats and other foods placed on them, were subsequently cooked by the servants, in water or stock, for their own meal. Given its beginnings essentially as cooked dishwater, zuppa was obviously never seen on the tables of the rich. It was a dish eaten by their servants.

precedes zuppa by a few centuries. A derivation of the Latin ministrare , meaning "to administer", the word reflects the fact that minestra was served out from a central bowl or pot by the figure of authority in the household. Minestra was traditionally the principal - and for the poor, the only- course of the meal.
 The word minestrone connotes a thick vegetable soup the augmentative form of minestra. We can also think of it as "that which is served," and serve it does.

It never lets me down.


The pancetta can easily be replaced with bacon, italian sausage, prosciutto, ham or eliminated altogether if you're vegetarian-inclined. Same goes for the swiss chard: you can substitute any hearty green leafy vegetable. If you decide to use spinach or other tender green use it toward the end or it may disintegrate into the soup which, or course, wouldn't hurt the soup anyway. Also, use any small-shaped pasta if you don't have orecchiette ( my husband likes penne) or break larger pasta into pieces. I think by now I have made it clear: this recipe is like all recipes that don't involve pastry making (which is like chemistry, an exact science): it is just a guideline. You can freely substitute anything you don't like; consider it a clean-out the fridge soup!!! While it may subtly change the texture or flavor of my soup, it will be the perfect soup for you!!! Isn't that a comforting thought?

Minestrone w/ Pancetta and Orecchiette

  • 1 slice of 1" thick pancetta ( about 4 ounces), cut into large dice
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, well rinsed & chopped, white part only
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed & minced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 red potatoes, cut into small dice
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard, discard tough ends & roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed italian- style tomatoes (preferably from San Marzano in Italy)
  • 8 cups of low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can fagioli bianchi di spagna (butter beans) or cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de provence
  • handful of fresh italian parsley, chopped
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • handful of fresh basil, in chiffonade
  • the rind of 1 wedge of parmigiano-reggiano
  • 4 oz. dry orecchiette, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano


Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Place dried porcinis in a small bowl, cover with the hot water & place kitchen towel over bowl to assist steeping. Set aside for 15 minutes.

Meantime, heat a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add pancetta & saute until brown (about 3 minutes) & the fat is rendered from the meat.

Next add half the olive oil to the pan, give a quick stir then add the next five vegetables ( leeks, onions, carrots, celery, & garlic) to the pan to form your "sofrito". Add a pinch of salt & a couple of grinds of black pepper & "sweat" the sofrito mixture stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost translucent (about 5 minutes).

When ready, stir oregano, herbes de provence, red pepper flakes & bay leaf into mixture & saute until the dried herbs release their volatile oils and are fragrant. Then add tomato paste, stirring well to incorporate it into the mixture. Add potatoes. Let mixture cook together for 2 minutes more.

While sauce cooks, carefully remove porcinis from bowl, giving them a quick brush with wet towel to remove any dirt. Chop porcinis & add to sauce, stirring briefly. Reserve steeping liquid.

Add wine to pot. Stir well, scraping any brown bits that may have stuck to bottom of pot (deglaze the pan). When wine has boiled down, add swiss chard & stir well. Then add beans, gently folding them in.

Next, completely cover small strainer with a paper towel; take reserved porcini liquid and pour liquid through strainer directly into soup. Stir mixture.

Add tomatoes & half the parsley. Stirring in & tasting. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Add chicken stock & parmagiano rind. Stir, bring to a simmer, lower heat to lowest setting & let cook 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add pasta, stir it in, & let cook over low heat 30 minutes more; stirring occasionally.

Heat soup bowls in microwave or oven. Add remaining parsley & basil to the pot.

Serve soup topping each bowl with drizzle of olive oil & tablespoon of grated parmigiano-reggiano.
A simple green salad and a side of warm grilled italian bread brushed with olive oil rounds out the meal nicely.
This is a dish that improves with age. So store leftovers in the refrigerator and enjoy another time. Buon Appetito!!