Confession time. I am a late convert to Sweet Potato Pie. Very very late. Because for me, Pumpkin Pie always takes precedent around the holidays. I LOVE Pumpkin Pie. But this year, I noticed a flurry of Pumpkin Pie posts that included candied yams and claims of supreme silkiness. So I tried it, only instead of using a combination […]
I’ve had pudding cakes on my mind for quite a while now, so when I was leafing through old issues of Gourmet Magazine recently and saw the fabulous Blueberry Pudding Cake on the cover of the July 2005 issue, I knew the time had come. I had fresh blueberries and the other ingredients are kitchen staples. Of course I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding a good hit of lime and a caramel note to the sauce. And then my blueberry sauce didn’t sink through the batter as the original recipe said it should, so I tweaked the procedure for the sauce as well. The result was a hit with all four tasters. The only grumbling I heard was over the lack of ice cream accompaniment. Next time, I’ll make sure to have that on hand.
Roasting a perfect Thanksgiving Day turkey is a cinch—especially if you keep a few things in mind. The first and most important of these is to buy a premium, FRESH turkey. Below are some of the options available in Portland, Oregon. The biggest myth I hear from folks about roasting turkey is that it “takes all day.” I just roasted a 16-pound bird to perfection in 2¼ hours. It’s resting on the stovetop now for another 30 minutes. Then we will eat it with the best stuffing I’ve ever made: Spicy Ciabatta & Cornbread Stuffing with Italian Sausage, Wild Mushrooms & Fresh Herbs. (Posting next.) So minus the brining (48 hours) and warming to room temperature (1 hour), the bird is ready to eat in under 3 hours.
A large roast turkey is considered mandatory for many families as part of the massive meal that typifies Thanksgiving. It’s big, bold, beautiful, and definitely celebratory. When you have a large crowd to feed, there is no grander way to go. But what if your family is small, dispersed across the country, or for whatever reason, you long for a more intimate but still festive dinner with only a few close friends?
True confession. This is my first real encounter with romanesco. Tempted by it many times over the years at the Portland Farmers Market, this past weekend, I succumbed. I bought two heads without a clue what to do with them. A member of the brassica oleracea family, romanesco has an exotic, almost alien beauty and can be a little formidable to the uninitiated.
I am very fortunate that the newest member of our family, Christopher Weaver, LOVES cheesecake. Because I love to create endless variations, and can’t afford all those calories hanging out in the fridge taunting me. Chris is a workout machine, so he doesn’t worry a fig about calories. If there are a few slices of cheesecake left after a family dinner, he saves me by taking them home.
Every fall about this time, I am sitting cross-legged on the flour, surrounded by stacks of dessert cookbooks and culinary magazines. I’m looking for a cranberry tart for Thanksgiving. A UNIQUE, MEMORABLE, WOW-INDUCING tart worthy of the most spectacular meal of the year. And I’m willing (okay, eager) to try (okay, eat) several cranberry tart contenders before making the final cut.
Can you say NYOK-ee? Luckily, gnocchi are more difficult to pronounce than to actually make. And unlike the pronunciation, you have lots of latitude on how to make, shape, and sauce these delectable little dumplings. Beyond the standard ingredients of ricotta, eggs, flour, and cheese, you can go wild with additional flavors. It’s almost Halloween, so of course I added pumpkin to my time-tested gnocchi recipe. And I’m glad I did. These may be my favorite gnocchi of all time.
I knew these rolls were going to be a hit, but I didn’t anticipate the mania that ensued as I took them from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, pulled them apart, and piled them on a platter to serve. I mean, should you stop someone from eating six rolls, back-to-back, without coming up for air? Or just pass them more butter?
Never heard of sweet corn ice cream? Well then, you’re in for an ice cream flavor revelation. As my collection of American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks grew over the years, I occasionally encountered this “oddity” in one or another of the dessert chapters. Finally, I searched the web and lo and behold, the word is out.
You know the flavor contrast you get when you bite into a perfect caramel apple—first rich, creamy, sweet caramel, and then bracingly tart, juicy apple? Add half a dozen spices and that’s what this caramel sauce tastes like. At first, you think, “Oh yeah, luxuriously rich, wonderfully spiced caramel,” and then POW, the acidity of the reduced apple cider kicks in and your mouth goes, “Hey, whoa, what’s happening here?” I love this double-punch effect.
Like most of the baby boom generation, I grew up on the ubiquitous American iceberg lettuce salad with the usual assortment of dreary bottled dressings. It was only in adulthood that I discovered that fruit could be used to good effect in a salad—beyond those ghastly sweet coconut and marshmallow concoctions that sat high and proud on every family buffet of my youth.
Every fall, I look forward to the arrival of a huge variety of chile peppers at Northwest farmers markets—Poblano, Anaheim, Hatch, Cubanelle, Mesilla, Padron, New Mex Joe, Jalapeno, Crimson Lee, Serrano, Sweet Banana, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Hot Mexican to name a few–along with the gas-fired drum roaster that makes quick work of roasting them.
After last week’s post, I had a fridge full of Perfect Homemade Mayonnaise, and the super-delicious variation, Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Rouille, demanded attention.
Of course, I could have just slathered it on a heap of grilled vegetables or corn on the cob, but there was also a ½ pound of cold-smoked salmon staring at me every time I opened the fridge door. I imagined the two would taste great together but nothing came immediately to mind.
Mostarda has been showing up with some frequency on restaurant menus of late and after tasting it for the first time with a succulent grilled pork chop at Nel Centro a couple of years ago, I was smitten. It was LOVE at first bite.
Imagine fresh or dried fruit glazed in a sweet, spicy syrup with a subtle or not so subtle mustard kick. As good as that pork chop was, I could have eaten an entire plate of the mostarda.
Over the years, I have eaten this much-lauded soup in every restaurant and café I could find it. I love the concept—toasted chiles, tomatoes, garlic, corn tortillas, and cumin soup base with fried tortillas, avocado, and sour cream embellishments—but not always the execution. Restaurant renditions vary considerably, as do recipes in American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to Zuni Café culinary goddess, Judy Rodgers, for turning me on to dry salt curing. had wet brined poultry and pork for years before trying the salt curing process Chef Rodgers describes in The Zuni Café Cookbook. To compare the two methods, I conducted several tests, and to my palate, salt-curing wins. Although both methods have advantages, you just can’t beat salt-curing for ease and juiciness of the cooked meat.
I’ve been making roux since I began to cook our weekday meals in the second grade. In my family, a light golden roux was the base for pan gravy, which was the mandated accompaniment to mashed potatoes. Many years later, I learned about a darker version, which is the base for French brown sauces and traditional Creole dishes, such as Gumbo.
In my estimation, the ultimate Thanksgiving gravy depends on a properly made roux. It’s not difficult to produce and lends the gravy a roasted flavor dimension that can’t be obtained with a simple flour and water or cornstarch and water slurry.
I was walking through the Portland Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago and did a double take on a stack of orange cauliflower. I adore cauliflower (the earthy flavor, the crunchy or creamy texture), and the only nit I can pick with this lovely vegetable is its color. It gets lost on a white plate and looks pallid and unimaginative next to other basic ingredients I love, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and poultry.
This concept should have been a cinch. After all, I developed White Chocolate, Cardamom & Coconut Beignet and they’re wonderful—ethereally light, tender, moist, and beautifully flavored.
But I made a classic mistake at the onset. I tried to pattern the new beignets after the earlier success. And that, my friends, was a disaster. I threw batch after batch of beignets in the trash after just one taste.
Something different went wrong with each batch: too dry, too wet, not sweet enough, not pumpkin enough, not spicy enough, and finally, just okay but nothing special. I almost gave up. Where was I going wrong?
Northwest pumpkin season is in full swing, and I have new recipes ready to roll out in the weeks ahead. Get ready for Spiced Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignet, Pumpkin Chocolate Torte, and Caribbean Shrimp & Pumpkin Chowder. And while I get those ready for you, here are my pumpkin FAVORITES from past seasons.
There is something magically transforming about this particular combination of flavors. Wow is the only word I can think of to describe it. The buttery richness of flaky pastry, sweet tartness of apple, mellow bite of onion, deep savoriness of cheddar, and intense sharpness of blue cheese create a wondrous effect on the palate.
Every year about this time, I start craving salads. And by craving, I mean intense, must have it, primal longing. It’s as if my body, as well as my mind, knows that fresh local produce will soon be a fading memory. I find myself at the farmers markets overloading my trusty, ever ready Metro Kart with bell peppers, celery, sweet onions, corn, lettuce, fennel, chiles, and tomatoes. Plus whatever else looks amazing that day.