Tuesday, November 27, 2007

turkey jerky

I'm officially the worst food blogger ever. Despite making the turkey, a pie, and a loaf of bread for Thanksgiving, I have no pictures. Because I am lame. In my defense, the bread and pie weren't done until the wee hours, and I was pretty tired. I brined the turkey at my house and transported it to my brothers to be cooked. I didn't want to take pictures of the finished turkey with everyone around, that's a little goofy. Actually I admit I took a couple of pictures of the turkey floating in the brine, but they kind of turned out...obscene. You don't wanna know. But all turned out well.

The bread was the infamous No-Knead Bread recipe, which I've blogged about before. The strange thing about this bread was that it yet again didn't rise very well, which happened when I first tried it last Thanksgiving. Yet I've made the same bread 2 or 3 times since then and they've come out perfectly. I guess Thanksgiving bread is just cursed.

The pie was the Autumn Harvest Pie, which I just made a few weeks ago. I'm a big believer in going with a proven successful recipe when cooking for a large group of people. Days like Thanksgiving just aren't days for experimenting.

The turkey recipe was from Alton Brown. I had made this recipe a couple of Thanksgivings ago, and was so happy with it that I have a feeling it will become the go-to turkey recipe. The only thing I don't really like about it is having the clean the brine bucket afterwards. It's too big for the sink, I actually have to clean it in the bathtub...

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

mascarpone mess

I thought it would be so simple. Sweeten some mascarpone cheese, maybe throw in some vanilla, then throw whatever you want on top and voila! Beautiful, easy dessert. After all, the mascarpone and espresso granita dessert that we had at Del Posto last week seemed that simple, though I didn't want to bother actually making granita. I decided to just cook down some raspberries with water and sugar to top the mascarpone with a sweet berry syrup. And actually, it really wasn't terrible, but the mascarpone was deadly rich, and the raspberry syrup was not tangy enough to cut the richness, as I had supposed it would be. In the end - and after some random amount of milk and a lot of electric whisking - the fluffed up, lightened up mascarpone cream was incredibly delicious. So the bottom line is that I'm not as hardcore with the rich desserts as I thought I was, and a little air goes a long way. Also, cats really do like anything and everything dairy.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

monday supper: date with a duck

Sunday supper ended up on Monday this week, since we were out eating noodles with the family on Sunday. I don't know why I thought this dish would be doable on a Monday evening after work. It's a good thing J-Cat got home pretty late last night because it took longer than any weeknight dinner should ever take and I would have felt bad if he had to sit around waiting for a couple of hours. I do think it was more than worth the wait, though, as it was a dish that I literally dream about: Duck Ragu with Fresh Pappardelle.

What ended up taking more time than expected was the preparation of the duck legs. The simple line in Mario Batali's recipe that says "4 duck legs and thighs, skinned" seems so innocuous, until you realize how freakin fatty duck legs are. I think at least half of the weight of those duck legs was thick hard fat that had to be trimmed away along with the skin. But once that was done and the legs seared off, it was smooth sailing.

This was not an inexpensive dish. In addition to the duck, which is a pretty pricey meat, the recipe called for 2 ounces of dried porcini mushrooms. He has another version of the recipe that leaves out the mushrooms, but I think they add incredible flavor.

The interesting thing about this dish is that the aroma was rather gamey and made me worry that the duck would be overpowering, but the flavor was much more subtle than the apartment smelled as it cooked. All in all, I was more than happy with the results. This is one of those dishes that I always seem to crave on a gray, rainy day, and I'm thrilled that my homemade version can totally satisfy. Perhaps I cheated a bit by getting ready-made fresh pappardelle at the Italian market, but perhaps next time, for a real Sunday Supper, I'll do it up right. Find the recipe here.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Best. Perk. Ever.

Dinner at Del Posto...for free. (Not that I didn't pay for it in another way.) It was a promotional special highlighting the Maremma region of Tuscany, and featuring a guest chef from a highly acclaimed hotel in Maremma call Il Pellicano. I would really love to say something interesting and insightful about the experience - because it was a really great one - but the dinner featured regional wine pairings with each course. Five gigantic glasses of wine. By the time we were done with the second dessert, I really wanted to put my head on the table but Del Posto is a little fancy for that. It wasn't a pretty picture. While waiting for J-Cat to get a cab, I really really needed to sit down so I went ahead and sat down. On the sidewalk. I had the consideration to walk around the corner so I wouldn't be sitting there like a bum right in front of the restaurant, but how was I to know that I was sitting there like a bum right next to the kitchen door that Mario Batali goes in?

Anyway, needless to say, I'm really inarticulate today, so I'm just going to give a quick rundown of what we got to eat, because I want to be sure to remember it for posterity.

The meal was a five course tasting menu, but really it was six courses because the amuse bouche was huge:

Amuse bouche: Polenta with shaved white truffles
Antipasti: Bacala Cake with two types of mussels and potato puree
Pasta: Veal tortelli with cream sauce
Entree: Braised veal cheeks over polenta
Dessert 1: Mascarpone with espresso granita
Dessert 2: Semifreddo with strawberry soup, rosemary, balsamic syrup and madeleines

It was all really fantastic, though the pasta was not surprisingly the standout dish. I wish I remembered the more detailed descriptions of the dishes from the menu but I don't. I also wish I remembered the wines we drank, but there were too many to remember. They were all from Maremma, that's all I really know. The first was a delicious white, slightly sweet, very floral and with a hint of pear. The next four were reds. In giant glasses. I was lost already by then...

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

sunday supper: apple dumplings

If you've ever been too lazy to make a homemade dessert, yet the craving for hot fresh pie is haunting you, this is quite literally the easiest apple pie imaginable. Once upon a time, I discovered that those Pillsbury Just Unroll Pie Crusts are actually really really good, and I've managed to refrain from reading the ingredients, which I have no doubt would ruin the whole thing for me. But sometimes on a lazy cold Sunday, you don't want to make pie crust, even though Sundays don't seem complete without pie. Enter the apple dumpling. Some apples, some butter, some sugar, some spices, and a box of pre-made pie crust. Combine it all into cute, single serving packages, and proceed to eat three of them, hot out of the oven. As much as my more elaborate pies are loved, this dessert may just take the prize.

Recipe after the jump:


4 medium baking apples, peeled, cored and cut in half (or use 8 small apples and keep them whole)
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 box unrollable pie crusts (2 crusts per box)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, combine butter, sugar and spices to make a thick paste. Roll out the first crust, evening out with a rolling pin and stretching slightly into a rectangular shape. Slice the pie crust into 4 quadrants. Take one apple half and spread about a teaspoonful of the butter mixture into the hole left by the core. Place the apple half flat side down in the middle of a crust quadrant. Brush the edges of the crust with beaten egg and bring up the sides to a point, sealing all edges well. Repeat with the remaining apple halves and the second crust. Place dumplings in a baking pan with at least 1 inch deep sides (I used 2 pie plates for 8 dumplings). Brush the top of the dumplings with the egg, then sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon and sugar on top. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 for another 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool before serving.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

sunday supper: pub style

I think the primary lesson learned last night is that when you are making something that is by definition rustic, you shouldn't try to get all fancypants. Last night I made a fake version of one of my all time favorite pub foods -- Bangers & Mash with Onion Gravy. I say fake because I had neither the right type of sausage for true Bangers & Mash, nor an actual recipe for the gravy. Also, somewhere in my strange head, I wanted something that is probably incapable of looking pretty to look a little pretty. The result was somewhat cool-looking, but a total pain in the ass to serve up.

Two types of sausage, coiled into a giant sausage frisbee. Why? I have no idea. I skewered the coil to keep things contained, then realized that it really wasn't about to go anywhere so all that accomplished was making it annoying to take the skewers out and cut the sausage up evenly.

The gravy turned out to be the easy part, despite my longstanding assumption that good gravy was a tricky thing. I don't think my gravy was remotely authentic, but it tasted damn good, so I don't care. As for the mashed potatoes, that is my classic non-recipe dish; just keep adding stuff until it tastes good.

In the end, the attempt at prettiness was utterly dumb since I had to slice up the sausage to serve anyway. The finished product was not pretty, but it was pretty damn tasty.

Recipe after the jump:


2 pounds pork sausage
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions sliced thick
1 tsp flour
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, to taste
1 cup chicken stock
fresh herbs
2 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in a preheated roasting pan or casserole. Add onions and stir to saute until they just begin to turn translucent. Lay sausages on top of the onions, sprinkle with herbs, and lay the bay leaves on top. Roast for 40 minutes or until sausages are well browned.

Remove from oven and set sausages aside. Place pan with onions on a burner over high heat. Sprinkle flour over onions and stir well to eliminate lumps. Pour balsamic vinegar and stock and simmer until thickened. Serve sausages and gravy over mashed potatoes.

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