Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 in Review

Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you the 2008 Year in Review Top 5! As I mentioned when I did this last year, it's kind of like choosing your favorite child. We had a lot of great meals together this year and here are some of the highlights.

Earlier this year we moved into our house. It's been fabulous. So many great new adventures. Including grilling on our brand new Weber Grill. There were many failures before I seemed to get the swing of it, but once I was good! The chicken gets a great dry rub full of spices, then a nice grill. Towards the end, a few brushes of Sylvia's BBQ Sauce. Heaven.

Simple and delicious. These potatoes come together quickly and easily, giving you time to focus on some other delicious part of your dinner. The crispy outside with a soft, light inside. Great side.

I hadn't made this dish to the exact recipe and when I finally did, the game changed. The ante was upped! When you make this dish, please roast your own garlic! The roasted garlic brings a rich, mellow flavor to the party that will make you weep. This dinner is now a new stand-by for us.

After years and years of avoiding beans, I dove in head first this year with the classic French baked beans. Unbelievable. I got the giggles. And the addition of some bacon fat will make you want to cry in delight. So naughty you'll want to make your way to confession.

Fresh tomato sauce. Fresh. Tomato. Sauce. Taking advantage of the fresh, local ingredients available at our local farmer's market gave us many amazing opportunities, but this one was just downright perfect. This sauce can be used in so many ways, but the best has to be with some homemade pasta. Seriously. Fresh & Local. You can change the world and eat like a king; sadly it's just short time each year while the tomatoes are full and in season.

Cheers. Here's to a great new year with many awesome foodie adventures.

So Long 2008! Hello 2009!!!

Well, it's mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve. We've been without power most of the morning; up until a few minutes ago. I had grand plans for the blog today. I was going to do a year in review post and give you an update on our New Year's Eve dinner plans...but alas, we have to pack up to make out way to our New Year's Hosts, food in tow. So that post will be coming soon.

So I wish you all the best in 2009. Thank you for stopping in on a regular basis and putting up with my ramblings and occasional moments of brilliance!

2008 has been my most prolific year of blogging, more posts than the previous years. This May will be my fourth blogiversary. It's exciting. I've never kept a hobby this long.

I will do a Year-In-Review, but it will be posted sometime later this weekend. I might back date it so shows as the last post of 2008...

All that being said, please celebrate and enjoy the festivities, but please do so safely and in moderation...


Monday, December 29, 2008

Leftover, Quick Dinner

Dinner tonight was fast...maybe ten minutes and utilized two potatoes and leftover Christmas Dinner. We've been doing lots of leftovers, but this was a nice, completely different meal using mostly pre-made ingredients! Cheap & Fast.

German Hash

Cut the potatoes into cubes, about 1/4 inch square. You can peel if you like, you don't need to. I cut off about 1/2 the peel, to make it easier to cube the potato. Add the cubed potato to a large skillet with 1 TB fat. I used bacon fat that I had reserved from a previous bacon adventure (thanks Grandma for showing me to save the bacon fat!). Allow the potatoes to cook in the fat, untouched in a medium high pan (8 out of 10, 1o being full flame), four a few minutes until they start to crisp up and brown, stir/flip/move the potatoes around, continue to cook until tender and crisp all over.

When the potatoes are tender, add some shredded leftover pork. Cook until heated through.

Add some leftover sauerkraut and toss to fully incorporate. If the mix is dry add a splash of liquid. In this case I used a few splashes of a sweet Gewerztraminer wine (sweet/apple; remember the pork and sauerkraut was cooked with apples, apple juice and cider vinegar!)

Serve when hot!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Dinner

It's a few days late, but we had a great Christmas Dinner...I hope it becomes my traditional Christmas Dinner!!! Mmm, German food...I only have my grandmother to thank...

To start, I made grandma's ribs and kraut, prepared in the slow-cooker. I used country-style boneless ribs and the best sauerkraut recipe ever. The sauerkraut recipe is mine, the combo is grandma's...

I made some rosemary roasted potatoes as a side. I thought of doing fried potatoes, but didn't feel like sitting over the stove while we had guests. (Cut potatoes into uniform pieces; cubes or slices, season with olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped fresh rosemary. Place on a baking sheet in a 425 oven until tender and crispy, about 30-45 minutes.) Or, if I was super smart, I would have made the Mustard Roasted Potatoes for the most super-duper, awesome complimentary side dish!

I needed a vegetable, sauted green beans with crispy fried shallots. (Thinly slice your shallots and fry in 1/3 cup of olive oil until crispy, spoon out to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Blanche the green beans in salted, boiling water for 3-4 minutes, drain and put in a bowl of ice water. When ready to serve, add green beans to a frying pan over high heat with 1 TB olive oil and 1 TB butter. When heated through, add half the fried shallots, place in a serving bowl or plate, top with the remaining shallots.)

And of course the sauerkraut. Cooked with apples and onions and seasoned with caraway seeds and allspice berries.

A very nice plate of food. The potatoes were crispy. The beans were just crispy and full of fresh green flavor. The sauerkraut and ribs were a perfect complement to each other. Sweet, savory and slightly sweet. Follow with a lovely pear tart for full tummy overload.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lady Tartterly is My Lovah

We're going to make a tart. It is delicious and you will love it.

You need a perfect crust for your tart. In this instance we have flour, butter, sugar and salt.

Pulse those ingredients in your food processor until the texture of coarse corn meal. You want the butter cut into small pieces, which when placed in the hot oven will melt and release a small burst of steam, making for a light, flavorful crust.

To kick things up a bit, we add one egg yolk and...some riesling!

Continue to pulse until the dough starts to come together into clumps. Give it a minute or two, I thought it wasn't going to come together and was about to add a little more riesling, when all of a sudden, the clumps appeared. Pour the clumps out onto the counter, onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

Form the clumps into a disk. Wrap and place in the fridge for about an hour or overnight. After the dough has chilled out, you can roll out flat and make a rustic tart, or you can use a tart pan. I have a tart pan and rarely use it, so I used the tart pan.

For this tart, I used three pears, a little sugar, flour, cardamom and cinnamon. After getting mixed together, I poured into the tart shell and for giggles added two tablespoons of butter bits on the top of the pears.

The tart is baked for about 25-30 minutes, when the fruit was tender and the crust starting to turn a light brown.

Slice and serve with some fresh whipped cream. Mmmm. The crust was like a giant butter cookie. The pears were sweet and lightly flavored with the cinnamon and cardamom. Hover your plate and enjoy!

Pear Tart

adapted from

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon Riesling

3 large ripe pears, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cardamom and cinnamon

For crust:
Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor until combined. Add butter; using on/off turns, cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk and wine; using on/off turns, mix just until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 40 minutes and up to 2 days.

For filling:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F.

Press the dough into a tart pan or roll out dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to 12-inch round. Remove top sheet of parchment and transfer dough, with bottom parchment, to rimmed baking sheet.

Place pear slices, 1 tablespoon sugar, and flour in large bowl; toss to combine. Spoon pear mixture into center of tart pan or dough, If using dough, leave 1 1/2-inch border. Using parchment as aid, fold up outer edge of dough over edge of filling.

Bake until pears are tender, about 25 minutes.

If you would like to make a light glaze for the top of your tart, boil 1/2 cup of riesling and 1/4 cup of sugar until reduced and starting to thicken. Lightly brush the glaze over the top of your tart.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Festive Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officianalis) was a popular Christmas decoration in the 19th century. St. Thomas More said of it: "tis the herb sacred to remembrance and therefore to friendship.' The choirboys of Ripon carried it on Christmas morning as a sign of redemption. A number of legends link rosemary with Christmas: it is said that the herb's purple hue derives from the robes of the Virgin Mary; that it's aroma comes from the swaddling clothes of Christ; that the plant will never grown taller than Christ; and if a rosemary bush lives longer than Christ's 33 years, it will branch outwards not upwards. Because of these associations with Mary, it is said that rosemary grows best 'where the mistress is master.'

-From Schott's Almanac 2008 Page-A-Day calendar.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Want Candy...

Well, it was bound to happen. Fudge! Well, in actuality, I haven't made fudge in several years. This was a pretty good recipe.

Fantasy Fudge
(from the jar of Fluff)
Makes 3 pounds

3 cups sugar
1 1/2 stick butter (3/4 cups)
1 small (5oz) can of evaporated milk (not sweetened/condensed)
1 12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7oz jar Marshmallow fluff
1 tsp vanilla

Line a 9-inch square pan with foil, allowing the ends to hang over the side. Alternatively, line a 1/4 sheet pan with foil, allowing the ends to hang over the side. (you'll have thinner fudge, but you can cut it into slightly larger squares.)

Place the sugar, butter and evaporated milk in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 4 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

Add the chocolate and the marshmallow and stir until completely melted and incorporated. Add the vanilla, stir. Optional: If you want to add nuts, you can do so now. 1 cup chopped nuts.

Pour immediately into the prepared pan, spread to form an even layer. Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours or until completely cooled. Cut into one inch squares. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature.

Hope you're all having a lovely Christmas Eve. We already opened all of our presents. There have been times when we've opened them on the 23rd....oops! PS: Every time I type "fudge," I type "fudget." Wonder why?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Hey everyone. I haven't disappeared...I just haven't really had time to do regular is the silly season after all. I'm just going to throw this out there; why does everyone get snow except for me? It's just not fair. I know...the winter weather hitting the northern regions of the country are out of country and people are sick of it. But the holiday season just isn't the same when the landscape is barren and brown and gray. And with the next day or two pushing to 50's wrong.

So what have I been up to...

Over the weekend I made Pfeffernusse cookies. Dense, dark German spiced cookies. They are similiar to a chewy/cakey gingerbread, without ginger. A nice treat that's different from all the sugar cookies. And as far as cookies go, these really aren't that bad for you. Whole wheat flour, honey, molasses, only 2 TB of butter. And a little glaze to sweeten them a touch. Also, the recipes calls for ground almonds. I didn't have any, so I substituted ground pine nuts. I think they add a little more flavor than almonds. Not that you can say "hey, there are pine nuts in there." But they are a little more pleasant.

I recently made another attempt at creating a delicous Deep Dish Pizza. I'm getting better. I made a few changes this time around. One I won't do again. The other I will. The first noticeable change; instead of white flour, I used whole wheat flour. The flavor was nice, but the crust became much more tougher, almost unpleasant. Instead of the touch of sugar the recipe calls for I used honey. That was fine, not noticeable. The other major change. In the past, when I sliced the pizza, the filling poured out, my sauce was too watery. This time I used whole, peeled tomatoes that I had drained. This worked pretty well. There was still a little spillage, but nothing that bad. I love making pizza!

The other night I made a batch of Spaghetti Carbonara. Nice! Totally unhealthy. No redeeming dietary value!!! But it's pretty cheap when you consider the ingredients. You will probably have bacon and eggs on hand. Maybe cream, or milk. The fresh Parmigiana might be the one thing you need. Overall, a very tasty dish.

I also made a fat batch of Indian Butter Chicken. I love this dish. It's super easy and full of lots of great flavor. However, this time I used too much jalapeno. I couldn't quite shake the amount of spice. Woo! If you make this, do yourself a favor and make at least a double batch and freeze half of it. It holds really well and all you need to do it heat it up and throw in some cubed chicken, let it simmer and when the chicken is cooked through, you're ready! Nice option for dinner when you don't really feel like cooking.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hanukkah, Latkes & Wine!


From the Ask Karen Page-A-Day 2008 Calendar
When I lived in New York, I was “culinarily adopted” by a Jewish grandmother, a good cook who assured me it would take years to perfect latkes—the traditional dish of Hanukkah. Okay, so she was right. But it took only seconds to experience just about any latke in an out-of-this-world fashion. I’d have it with a chilled glass of Alsace riesling. One of the sheerest, most elegant, and crisp white wines, rieslings from this French region, also have the paradoxical ability to be rich and bone-dry at the same time. It’s a lusciously winning combination, since the crispness of the riesling will make the latkes seem light and airy, while the richness of the wine will underscore the richness of the fried potatoes and sour cream.

Other Ask Karen entries on Eat With Me: one, two, three

An of course, you need a great latke recipe. Check out this recipe I shared over a year ago. Yum!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beans and Lots of Fat

Certainly, the purists won't agree, but last night's dinner was suprising!!! Totally satisfying and filling. Full of wonderful flavor. Warm. Comforting. Rustic. Fantastic! And I might just have a heart attack from all the fat.

On Sunday I started reading through my cookbooks looking at recipes for cassoulet; the French baked bean dish. For every home cook and chef in France, there is another perfect recipe for cassoulet. I found one that had ingredients I could get my hands on easily and wasn't going to take three or four days worth of work. When all was said and done, I used one recipe as a guideline for the ingredients, but the process my an amalgam of the 5-8 recipes I read.


Virtually all the recipes started with Great Northern Beans. They are cheap and plentiful in the grocery stores.

I decided to start my beans cooking on Sunday night, so Monday night I could put the rest of the recipe together and get everything in the oven. I picked through the beans to discard broken bits, shriveled bits or discolored bits. I added an onion, half a carrot (I only had one!) and a bay leaf. I also created a bouquet garni (cheesecloth filled with herbs and spices for easy remove when cooking if finished) filled with 8 whole cloves, 8 whole peppercorns, 3 inch branch of fresh rosemary, 1 smashed garlic clove and 6 sprigs of fresh thyme. Add 1 hefty teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, the lower heat to a simmer, cover slightly and cook for about an hour. I left my beans slightly al dente, a little bit to them, as they will cook for another hour in the oven. Leaving the beans slightly undercooked prevents you from getting mushy beans later. When the beans are cooked to the desired consistency, drain and continue OR cover and place in the refrigerator until you're ready to continue.

On Monday I continued with the flavors and creation of my pot of beans. I cooked 1/2 a pound of sweet Italian sausage, which I crumbled into small bits. Remove to a plate. There wasn't much fat left in the pan, the sausage was a little lean, so I added 1 tablespoon of bacon fat I saved from the weekend breakfast. In the hot fat, I seared one package of skin-on chicken thighs. Season the thighs with salt and pepper and place, skin side down. Allow to sear until the skin is crispy. The fat under the skin will render out; adding to the flavor profile of the beans. We're not cooking the chicken thru at this point, just rendering the fat and searing the skin. Remove the chicken to a plate and remove the skin and discard (the wet cooking environment later will create a soggy skin, it'll be gross). See in the photo, the dark gunk at the bottom of the pan? That is fond, the bits left after cooking. That will mix with the liquid in the upcoming steps and further develop the flavor.

To the pot, I added 1 onion; diced, 1/2 a carrot; diced, 1 shallot; diced, 2 garlic cloves; minced. Saute for a few minutes, until the onions start to become translucent. Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Stir and cook for another minute. Add 1 cup of dry white wine. Stir to incorporate and start to scrape up all bits in the pan. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh rosemary. Add your beans and reserved, cooked sausage. Add 2-3 cups of chicken broth, to just cover the beans. Add the chicken thighs back into the pot. Add a final hefty pinch of salt and fresh black pepper. If you're really naughty ( I WAS!), you will pour another 1-2 tablespoons of reserved bacon fat to the top of the pot.

So rich and delicous before the oven. Place, uncovered in a 375 degree oven for 60-75 minutes. The beans will be very tender, the liquid will condense and reduce thru evaporation, the chicken cooked thru and the house full of an amazing aroma.

Garnish with some chopped parsley.

Serve hot with a small green salad on the side and crusty bread for an amazing dinner. A full bodied red wine would be an fantastic accompaniment. Or a dry white, since you opened it to cook with.

Now, I understand that a traditional cassoulet usually includes some lamb, duck confit, maybe goose confit. Confit is cured meat that is later poached in fat. I don't enjoy lamb and didn't have any confit. But I figure the amount of fat in this dish can qualify as a very admirable substitute for confit.

I'm really pleased with this dish. I've never had cassoulet before and I'd certainly make this again. J-lo has had cassoulet at Les Halles in New York. Last night he said; "It's better than Les Halles."

That's all I need!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Quick & Easy

Last night for dinner I made a Frittata. A quick egg dish that is perfect for using up leftovers and for cleaning out the fridge. But, since I haven't been to the grocery store in over a week, I'm running out of stuff in the fridge. For this version I grabbed a potato (peeled and diced), small onion (diced), 5 slices of bacon (cut into 1/2 inch pieces), parsley (1/4 cup, chopped), 6 eggs, and a small handful of shredded cheese. Oh and butter!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

If you have leftover hashbrowns from your weekend brunch, you can use those. If not, fry up some potatoes and onions. I had one large potato and one small onion. I used 1 TB of butter. Season with salt and pepper. When the taters are tender, pull them off the heat and put on a plate or in a bowl. Then fry up your bacon until crisp. Drain on a papertowel and pour off the fat and wipe the pan clean.

Crack your eggs into a large bowl and whip them until frothy with a wisk. Add salt and pepper and chopped herbs. A drizzle of water or cream. Return your cleaned pan to high heat and add one TB of butter. Add the potatoes and bacon back to the pan. When the pan is searing hot, pour in the eggs. Carefully tilt the pan to allow the egg to surround all the filling. Don't stir. Let it sit. Sprinkle cheese over the top if you like. Watch the pan, you want to see the egg setting around the edges. Place in the oven for 8 minutes (remember, I had 6 eggs, if you use more, you may need more time). Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a minute. With a rubber spatula, carefully work your way around the pan to losen the frittata. Slide it out onto a cutting board.

This is great served hot or even room temperature for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Serve with a salad for a light lunch. Use any filling you have!

Also. I need to note, this is a thin frittata. In addition to using just six eggs, I also used a large (14 inch) non-stick pan. If your pan is smaller, the frittata will be thicker and require additional time to cook properly in the oven. And the non-stick great for this dish as you want the frittata to slide out without tearing or sticking!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wine Swirling-Snobs or Necessary?

Should you swirl your wine or is that something only wine snobs do?

Here's a little info about swirling, from the wine master herself, Karen MacNeil.

Dear Karen: Should all wines be swirled before you drink them?

Dear Reader: The short answer is yes. Red, white, and rosé wines should all be swirled. And not just before you drink them, but also a few times while you’re enjoying them. One varietal—syrah—especially benefits from a lot of swirling. Winemakers point out, for example, that syrahs need oxygen to taste right. In fact, a glass of syrah that isn’t swirled vigorously will often smell skunky for a few minutes, until you do swirl it. Perhaps the only wines that should not be swirled vigorously are red Burgundies or pinot noirs that are quite old—say, 25 years or more. Pinot noir is a notoriously fragile grape, and aggressively swirling an old pinot could actually cause it to “collapse” and taste like virtually nothing.

Previous Ask Karen posts on Eat With Me: One, Two.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Carmelly Goodness

The other day I hinted at the carmelly goodness I had made. Mmmm, Caramel. This was a pretty easy recipe to work with. At one point I thought I messed up, but things worked out well in the end. And in the end...delicious caramel sauce. The extras hold up well in the fridge, in fact, the caramel sets up to a soft chewy caramel. Muscle out a fat spoonful and chew on it like it were a piece of wrapped caramel.

Deep, Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce
Makes 1 1/3 cup

1 cup sugar
6 TB butter (salted or unsalted)
1/2 tsp butter (if using unsalted butter)
1/2 cup plus 2 TB heavy cream at room temperature

Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in a larger pot than you think you'll need-at least two or three quarts, whisking or stirring the sugar as it melts to ensure it heats evenly. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice, dark copper color. Add the butter all at once and stir it in. Before turning off the stove, pour in the heavy cream. The sauce will foam up and bubble quite a bit when you add it; this is why you want a larger pot), whisking it until you get a smooth sauce.

Pour into a heat proof container to cool a bit. Caramel sauce/liquid sugar are very hot!!! When the sauce cools, put it in the fridge for up to two weeks. When you take it out, it will be set up. Microwave it for 60 seconds to bring it back to pouring consistency.

(recipe source: I can't remember, if you saw it last week somewhere in the blogosphere, can you let me know)

Here's the sugar starting to melt. As I stirred it, I thought it was crystalizing too much and clumping up. No worries, keep going, it will melt.

Turning golden. You can see what looks like melted ice cubs in the caramel. That's the crystallized pieces melting.

Butter and bubbles!

Creamy bubbles. I just remembered while working on this post that I forgot the "plus 2 TB" of cream. Ooops. Maybe that's why it settled up pretty solidily when chilled. That's ok, it's a great snack.

Smoth and hot.

Chillin out and coolin down. Enjoy on bread pudding, on ice cream or...!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Garlic Lovers Stand Up!

This really is a favorite of mine. Easy, fast and full of great flavor. Of course, Garlic is the predominate flavor, but there is also wine, olive oil, some red pepper and grated Parm. The only note is to roast your garlic in advance, so you don't have to wait an hour to make dinner.

We need to fry some garlic slivers.

Until they are golden, brown and crispy. Garlic Flavor 1.

Then we chop some garlic and saute in the same olive oil as the fried slivers. Toss in some red pepper for a little heat. Garlic Flavor 2.

As the garlic softens and starts to just barely get brown, pour in some wine.

Then we add some soft, gooey, sticky, awesome, roasted garlic. Let it dissolve in the wine and simmer for a minute. Garlic Flavor 3.

Add some chopped parsley, toss with spaghetti and garnish with crispy garlic slivers and freshly grated Parm.