Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving stream of consciousness


3:30pm Grate 2 sticks of butter and put in the freezer for later.

4pm Head to sushi happy hour to charge up for a long evening of cooking.

5pm Raid friend's Meyer lemon tree.

6pm Intrigued by Dave Leibowitz's recipe for whole lemons bars.

6:15pm Learn that when browning butter and it starts to foam, have a large container on hand to pour it into immediately, not all over the stove and counter like I did.

6:30pm Lemon bars in the oven, remove butter from the freezer and work in flour for the all-butter pie crust.

7pm Resist urge to mess with lemon bars before they have cooled. Make a cocktail with dry rhubarb soda and gin.

8pm Hmm, not sure this grated butter in my pie crust thing is going to work. In the oven it goes, we'll see!

8:01pm Damn, these lemon bars are freaking awesome. Make another batch.

8:32pm I still have 20 eight ounce lemons. Research recipes for preserved lemons online.

9pm Sterilizing jars, cutting lemons, sprinkling salt.

10pm Sushi was a long time ago. Hungry. Not another lemon bar. Popcorn.

10:30pm Foolishly suggest watching a movie to husband.

10:31pm Asleep.


6am Goddamnit, why am I awake at 6 on my day off?

6:15am Coffee, catching up on the internets.

7:45am Off to City Park for a run, it's a beautiful day!

8:30am Wait for the husband to wake up so I can get in the kitchen and make some noise.

8:31am Family phone calls. Missing people.

8:45am Food prep begins. Wash every dish, utensil and pot in the house.

9:15am Jesus, that's a lot of butter.

10am Peel, chop, slice, saute. Butter. Dishes.

10:30 Make stock with turkey neck.

10:45am Butter.

11am Dishes.

11:30 Dishes. Butter.

12pm People on the internets posting pictures of their mimosas. Does that mean I can open the champagne? Will do as soon as I'm done with these dishes.

12:30pm How did it get to be 12:30 already? Should probably consider putting some of this stuff in the oven. Top with butter first.

12:45 Set table. Wash wine glasses. Wash decanter. Wash champagne flutes. Where is the gravy boat? Why don't I have a cocktail yet?

1pm Ravenous. Devour the turkey neck standing over the kitchen sink.

1:15pm Change into clothes not covered in butter and flour. Comb hair and generally make self presentable.

1:20 Sweep kitchen floor. Front room too. OK, every room. Don't forget the front porch! Finish up those last dishes.

1:30 My appetizer! Not even started yet! Chop herbs! Chop garlic! Sauté with more butter!

1:55pm Cinnamon-infused cognac. Brandied cherries. Bubbly. Ahhh. Guests in 5 minutes. Let the day begin!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Let's Start With the Plane

I don't know how I got so lucky and I don't think I am likely to ever be lucky in this way again. But I sure did appreciate it. I flew to Berlin on frequent flier miles and for some reason, they put me in business class all the way to Paris. The reclining seat/bed alone was enough to make my trans-Atlantic journey pretty special but the MENU! Wow. The flight boarded at 11pm so I wasn't expecting much of anything but how wrong I was! First up, serrano ham and a terrine of poisson. I was already pretty pleased with that when the sommelier came by and poured me a glass of Henriot Brut Souverain. A sommelier on board! For my entree I had scallops in a green curry sauce with snap peas with a glass of Graves Chateau Villa Bel Air 2007. I don't really know what any of that means but it was lovely with the scallops. I finished with a dessert trio of a citron bouchee, triple chocolate cake and raspberry macarons. And a glass of tawny Port. Why not, right? After that, I knocked out and woke up refreshed and in Paris. Best flight ever.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rhubarb Bonanza

Yikes. It's been a long time. But I got married and went to Europe for two weeks so I've had my hands quite full! Whilst in Europe, I was lucky to find myself encountering rhubarb kuchen, rhubarb cocktails and even rhubarb yogurt. I love rhubarb but it's not really a Louisiana crop, you know? Recently however, I spied some rhubarb at Rouse's. I'm embarrassed to say how expensive it was but I bought about five pounds and made rhubarb simple syrup, rhubarb crumble cake and three kinds of rhubarb compote. The rhubarb simple syrup was for a drink recipe I saw in the NY Times a while back. I have to say, I don't think the syrup really screamed rhubarb at me in this drink but I still liked it, not enough to swoon over though. It's when I made a rye whiskey-rhubarb Manhattan that I thought I really hit on something. Anyway, here's the original drink recipe, known by the intriguing name, Emperor's Garden. Ingredients 1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb 1 cup sugar 5 Thai basil leaves; more for garnish 1 teaspoon seasoned rice wine vinegar 1 1/2 ounces gin 3/4 ounce lemon juice. Preparation 1. Make rhubarb simple syrup: Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add rhubarb and sugar, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Reserve a selection of rhubarb slices as cocktail garnishes, then strain syrup and store chilled for up to 7 days. 2. In a mixing glass, muddle the Thai basil leaves with the seasoned rice wine vinegar. Add gin, 1 ounce rhubarb simple syrup and lemon juice. Fill mixing glass 2/3 full of ice and shake vigorously. Using a fine mesh strainer, pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Thai basil leaf and a slice of reserved rhubarb. YIELD 1 serving On the 4th, I made dessert for a cookout we were invited to. It was fine, don't get me wrong, but I wouldn't make it again. Too cake-y, not enough lush, tart, jammy rhubarb for my taste. I thought this recipe was better when I made it last summer, albeit with peaches but why not rhubarb? Finally, I made various compotes but the one I liked the best was the one with wine (I used white since I didn't have any red) and some citrus. I really loved the one with balsamic but in a way, I felt like it didn't let the rhubarb really shine. But the best part is with all this stewing and canning, I will have rhubarb to last me until next spring!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Product Review: Arctic Zone Cookies and Cream

Arctic Zone's line of "guilt-free" ice cream is a fat free, low calorie and sugar way to pretend you are indulging in ice cream when you're really not. Please don't be fooled by anyone who tells you that it tastes just like the real thing. No, it doesn't. Not at all. But, if you're trying to watch your sweets intake, it's not the most terrible thing in the world. The Chocolate and Mint Chocolate Chip are okay, once you get past the first, crushing taste that makes you realize that this is NOT ice cream. However, the Cookies and Cream variety has got to be the most horrible thing I've tasted thus far; it has a weird, fake flavor profile and is a sickly shade of greyish-brown. I almost threw it away, which says a lot since I hate wasting food and money. I would avoid this at all costs.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All on Mardi Gras Day

Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras. my feelings for you can be so complex. After many under my belt, I have grown more comfortable with our relationship. Years ago, my first Mardi Gras was spent behind a chain link fence at Lee Circle with a bunch of drunk tourists. My leather jacket got stolen right off my arm. Let's just say I was underwhelmed.

It's interesting how my experience is different every year, even my attitude. Some years, I am all about the Mardi Gras. other years, it's nice to get a few extra days off and relax at home while the masses clamor for cheap beads. This year, I just did the major parades, for me anyway. Next year, I might bump Muses and go see the new all-girl krewe on Wednesday night, Nyx.

-Krewe de Vieux, I like the satire but some of the raunchy stuff this year just wasn't really funny or clever. I blame myself for standing at the uninspired corner of Elysian Fields and Royal.

-Muses. Hmm, Teresa Anderson singing in a giant floating goose was pretty cool and I always like to see the all-girl marching groups. But I think this one has gotten less amusing as well, and they're getting stingy with the throws.

-Endymion. Slightly soggy but fun anyway, we just walked over in our rain boots and hung out on our old corner. Throws were plentiful and it wasn't too crowded.

-Zulu. I actually don't care about parades, although that may not seem self-evident from what I've already written in this post. I should say, I don't care about the floats so much or the throws but I LOVE the marching bands; sadly,they always seem to take a break wherever I catch them. It's my curse. So I didn't really care to catch Zulu on Mardi Gras day, that day, for me, is reserved for walking around the Quarter/Marigny and taking in all the incredible costumes. But we ended up there anyway, we went to watch the parade on N. Robertson and Basin, in the Treme. We stood just feet away from Kermit Ruffins, who kept playing riffs on his trumpet to catch the attention of the people on the floats. Cheap trick. After the parade, we bought some gumbo and yaka mein from a woman on her front porch. Ben's gumbo kicks her ass but the yaka mein broth was stupendous. Then we walked home down and took a hammock nap together in the glorious, late afternoon sunlight.

-What I missed most about MG this year: Goddamnit, I didn't eat any fried chicken from Popeye's and everyone knows that's a Mardi Gras staple.

-New tradition for MG this year: Shrimp and grits for breakfast. That's a good way to start the day off right. Just make sure you make the grits right before you serve them so they don't harden up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Kind of Valentine's Day

My sweetie had to work tonight so you know what I had for dinner? Leftover smothered turkey necks with onion gravy that I made yesterday. And it was delicious! I used John Folse's recipe, following it pretty closely. I made a delightful French 75 too so I have that recipe for you after the main event.

Smothered Turkey Necks in Onion Gravy
PREP TIME: 2 ½ Hours
SERVES: 6 - 8

Turkey neck stew or gumbo is often served at large gatherings such as Mardi Gras parties in Louisiana. The reason is simple. First, the meat is inexpensive and quite flavorful, but more important, there’s a lot of meat on those turkey necks so they’re good for a large crowd and the flavor mimics beef, veal, pork and chicken.


8 turkey necks
½ cup bacon drippings
2 cups onions, sliced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup garlic, minced
¼ cup flour
1 ½ quarts beef or chicken stock
2 tbsps Worcestershire sauce
1 cup green onions, sliced
¼ cup parsley, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce to taste
Turkey necks are normally available in packs of 6 in the poultry section of your supermarket. The necks are usually cut into 2 (6-inch) sections but if they are packaged whole, cut them in half for easier handling. Season turkey necks well using salt, pepper and pepper sauce. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large dutch oven, heat bacon drippings over medium-high heat. Add the larger ends of the turkey necks and cook until golden brown on all sides. Regulate the heat to keep the bacon fat from burning. Continue until all the neck pieces are well browned. Remove and keep warm. In the same dutch oven add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté 3 – 5 minutes stirring occasionally, or until vegetables are wilted. Sprinkle in flour and blend well into the vegetables. This will help to thicken the finished sauce. Add 1 quart of the stock and Worcestershire sauce, blend well into the vegetables and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add turkey necks, making sure that the stock covers the necks by a minimum of half way. Add additional stock if necessary. Return the mixture to a rolling boil, top with green onions and parsley. Cover, place in oven and bake for 2 hours, checking for tenderness at 1 ½ hours. It is imperative that the meat is tender enough to fall from the bones. If not, allow the necks to continue baking. Serve over steamed white rice or alongside whipped potatoes.

My changes: I used 7 turkey necks (about 2 lbs) but they were pieces, cut like osso bucco, not the whole long thing. I'm not sure what he means by 8 necks but he must mean whole ones if it is supposed to feed 6-8 people! This only made one meal for two people; 3 necks for me, 4 for Ben.

I did not use bacon fat, just olive oil. I did not use stock, just water and only about 3 cups of that. I didn't have any bell pepper but I subbed a carrot. I added a bit of sherry as the onions were cooking, maybe 1/4 cup? I wish I had some dark beer instead because I think that would be fantastic but the sherry was good too. I probably added only a tablespoon or two of flour, and I left out the green onions and parsley since I also didn't have those on hand. It was still divine! Oh yes, and I baked them about 2 hours in a 325 degree oven, Folse says 400 but that sounds very high to me.

Now, for the good part. I love French 75s but I never make them at home because I don't want to open a whole bottle of champagne. So I bought a few splits for $4.99 and now I can have them on the comfort of my couch.

1 oz lemon juice
2 oz cognac
3 oz champagne or sparkling wine

Shake the lemon juice and cognac with one ice cube. Strain and top with champagne. I also like to add a cherry, not the funky maraschino but a real one, hence the pink hue to my drink. I have also made this successfully using a bit of lime and/or orange juice, any blend of citrus will be good. You're supposed to add some simple syrup but I find it unnecessary. For cognac, I use Grand Marnier.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Buyer Beware: Thatcher's Elderflower Liquor

Do you love St. Germain? Does it elevate all of your cocktails to elegant heights and make you feel as if you are sipping on pixie dew? Yes? Me too. I love it but it's pricey. So naturally when I saw this bottle of Thatcher's Eldeflower liquor at HALF the price of St. Germain, I was intrigued. Add to that the appealing label and the word "organic" and I was sold. I'm so easy sometimes.

Well, let me save you $17.95. It's disgusting. I have tried it in several different iterations of various cocktails and it ruins them all. It tastes like it was made with aspartame. If you know me, you know I hate to waste, especially booze, but I have actually pitched drinks with this in it because it is so foul. My last attempts to salvage it for future use include;
1) Throwing some cherries in there to infuse it and hopefully mask the funk.
2) Mixing it with grain alcohol and green food coloring and selling them as half-priced hand grenades to drunken tourists on Mardi Gras Day.

Short of that, I'm afraid I'll just have to pour it down the drain. I hate alcohol abuse but so it must be.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Crab and Cauliflower Bisque

I still don't know who played in the Super Bowl, nor do I care, but I did invite a few people over that Sunday. As usual, the men sat in the living room and watched football while we sat in the dining room and drank wine and ate too much cheese. Since I'm trying to lighten things up a bit, I made a bisque using cauliflower to give the bisque some heft without adding lots of cream.

I adapted this from a John Besh recipe, it was origanally a crawfish-cauliflower soup and it contained a potato and 2 cups of heavy cream. I'm sure that version is way more delicious but this is very nice too.

6 blue crabs
water to cover
bay leaf
black peppercorns
celery and onion bits and peels

2 T. olive oil
1 head cauliflower
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 pinch crushed red pepper
2 T. butter
1 can of corn (yes, a can, that's what I had but use fresh or frozen if you like)
crab stock
1 T. crab boil

First, I made crab stock. I went to buy the crabs and was shocked that I paid just over $4 for SIX blue crabs! Louisiana is a wonderful place sometimes! Anyway, I cleaned them up, covered with water, added some bits of vegetables that would otherwise been composted, a few peppercorns and a bay leaf. I cooked this down for about an hour. Now if you don't live in a place where you can get blue crabs, you could probably use just some seafood stock later in the recipe and buy 8 ounces of the best crab meat you can find.

Once the crabs cooled, I spent the next hours extracting the meat. This is kind of a pain but I put on The Splendid Table and that occupied me pretty well. I finished with just over 7 ounces of meat, after some liberal nibbling of course, and about 3.5 cups of stock.

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat and add cauliflower and onions. Cook until cauliflower softens slightly, about 20 minutes. Then add garlic and cook one more minute. Add the stock and red pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 15 minutes to ensure all the vegetables are cooked through. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Add a bit of crab boil until the seasoning is to your taste. Do the same with the butter. I liked the soup well enough but I decided to add butter at the end to round it out a little. Add the corn and the crabmeat, sprinkle with chives or green onion to serve.

This is how Besh outlines his recipe. I think you could probably just add everything in the pot at once (except corn and crab), cover and cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree and adjust seasoning. Easy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

King Cake Showdown

Last year I made my very first king cake. It turned out well but I remember thinking it was a little dry so I wanted to try a new recipe this year. Of course, I didn't document what i did last year but I'm pretty sure it was based on Emeril's recipe so I looked elsewhere. I ended up borrowing most heavily from this blogger from Baton Rouge.

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast or 1 package instant yeast
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter softened (1/2 stick)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon nutmeg
grated zest of one lemon (1 tablespoon)
2 1/2 cups flour

10 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
colored sugars (green, purple and yellow)

It turned out really lovely, I do think it was still a bit dry for me, probably would reduce the flour by 1/4 cup next time. Other changes I made were adding cinnamon and vanilla to the dough. For the cream cheese filling, I used only about 8 ounces of cream cheese and paired it with guava jelly for a really tasty twist on a classic. I also halved the amounts for the icing, I thought that was way too much. I think the icing should just be a thin glaze. I also added some lemon juice and cinnamon to it because powdered sugar sort of tastes like chalk to me, it needs a bit of dressing up.

I'm trying to be good and stay away from sugar these days but I made this cake for a king cake competition that I ended up not attending due to a torrential downpour. So I had to eat it myself, how sad. I got lots of help from Ben and assorted friends at the Super Bowl party yesterday.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Moroccan Chicken

My mother's husband made this dish a couple weeks ago and I haven't been able to get it out of my rotation. It's so good and it also works for this silly diet I'm on, even if I have to leave out the goodies like olives, apricots and/or chickpeas.

The original recipe is from Cook's Illustrated, I believe they called it Moroccan Chicken and I always find it pretty humorous to name a dish after an ENTIRE nation. As in, do I think Moroccans call this dish Moroccan chicken? Unlikely. Do Moroccans always make chicken this way when they decide to make chicken for dinner? Probably not. But nonetheless, very tasty.

Below you will find the original recipe, I made it this way and then again with my own tweaks, see my notes after the recipe.

1 1/4 t sweet paprika
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t cayenne
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t coriander
1/4 t cinnamon
3 strips lemon zest (each about 2 inches by 3/4 inch) plus 3 T juice from 1-2 lemons
5 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 chicken, 3.5-4 lbs cut into 8 pieces (4 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings), trimmed of fat
1 T olive oil
1 large onion, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices (about 3 cups)
1 3/4 c. low sodium chix broth
1 T honey
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into into 1/2 inch thick coins, very large pieces cut into half-moons, about 2 cups
1 c. Greek cracked green olives, pitted and halved
2 T chopped cilantro leaves

-combine spices, set aside
-mix 1 strip zest and 1 t garlic and mash to a paste, set aside
-season chicken with S&P. Heat oil in dutch oven until smoking, working in batches, brown chicken skin side down until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken and brown on other side, about 4 minutes. Cool, remove skin and discard all but 1 T fat.
-add onion and 2 remaining strips of zest until onions have browned at edges but retained shape, about 7 minutes. Add rest of garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add spices, stirring constantly about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in broth and honey, scraping bits off bottom of the pot. Add dark meat, reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.
-add carrots and breasts to pot, arranging chicken in a single layer on top. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 15 minutes.
-transfer chicken to bowl and tent with foil. Add olives to pot, raise heat to med-high and simmer until liquid has thickened slightly and carrots are tender, 4-6 minutes. Add chicken back to pot, add garlic-zest mixture, cilantro and lemon juice. Season with S&P and serve
-as a variation, replace 1 carrot with 1 c. dried apricots, halved and replace olives with 1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas.

First of all, I like spice, I just wanted more! So I doubled all the spice amounts, except for the paprika because I used hot and not sweet. I also just took the zest off of a whole lemon and threw it in the pot, I liked how it tasted cooked down, tender and spicy. I skipped that step with the raw garlic and mashing into a paste because I feel it didn't really add anything, I just put it all in the pot. Less fuss, that's my motto.

I threw out the honey, it didn't seem necessary and I'm not supposed to have any sugar. I didn't miss it at all. I did not do carrots, I did not create a bed upon which to lay the chicken breasts. The article that went with this recipe said they did that to avoid stringy, dry breasts but I found them to be fine if I just cooked everything low and slow. I do think you should turn them during the cooking to ensure that lovely juice gets into every part of the chicken. I also did not add chicken stock, the chicken has bones and they create a lovely stock all on their own.

This is great with olives and apricots, which I sadly am not eating right now but they really are a tasty addition.