Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finnish Pulla Bread

This recipe comes from the illustrious and Finnish-American Natalie Johnson of Twin City Barbell. While protein is important for building muscle, carbs are essential for powering your workout--so what better than some tasty, home-made bread? This is essentially challah, a rich egg bread, with the added deliciousness of cardamom.

Don't fret about the braiding--it will look and taste delicious no matter what. Well, except if you accidentally use salt instead of sugar, which Natalie can tell you all about ;)

The best flavor is achieved by using whole cardamom pods. Remove the green husks and save the brown, irregularly shaped seeds from inside. Crush with a mortar and pestle (or in a ziploc with something heavy).

4 ½ to 5 ½ cups unsifted flour
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
1 package active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
¼ cup water
½ cup (1 stick) butter
4 eggs (reserve the white of one egg for egg wash later)
2 Tbsp milk
2 tablespoons sugar
Slivered blanched almonds
Approximately 3 1/2 half hours

In large bowl, thoroughly mix 1 ½ cups flour, ½ cup sugar, salt, lemon peel, cardamom, and undissolved yeast. Combine 2/3 cup milk, water and butter in saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are warm (butter does not need to melt entirely). Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixture (or by hand), scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs, and ½ cup flour, or enough flour to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed for 2 minutes, scrapping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour to make dough soft (1-2 cups).

Turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead for 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Set 1 piece aside. Shape remaining 3 pieces into ropes. Braid ropes together, pinch ends to seal. Place onto a large greased baking sheet. Divide remaining dough into 2 parts. Roll into ropes. Twist together. Pinch ends to seal. Place on top of braid.  Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for 1 hour, or until  doubled. Brush loaf with 2 Tbsp. milk beaten with 1 egg white. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and almonds.

Bake in 350°F oven for 30 minutes, then in 5 minute increments, until the loaf is deep golden brown and 180-190°F internally (took 40 minutes in my oven). Remove from baking sheet and place on wire rack to cool.

Amazing with butter and honey on top. Or goat cheese and apricot jam. Or practically anything.

Tonkatsu - IMPROVED!

My original tonkatsu recipe has been tested many times, and I've learned a few things. Mainly I have improved the salad dressing. Also I include a more detailed description of how to make the cutlet.

Not pictured: mochi ice cream. Ganbatte!

Improved Salad Dressing

The key to the improved salad dressing is the miso. Hint: even if you are using the pre-packaged instant miso soup, you can repurpose one of the packets for the salad dressing.

2 Tbsp. white miso
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 dash roasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. roasted sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients and toss with lettuce and finely julienned carrots, daikon, and red onion. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds. I like to let it rest while I'm cooking the other things so that the veggies marinate a bit.

Grated Daikon

This forms the bed for the cutlet. I have found that if you grate the daikon, then squeeze out the water, sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, then in a few minutes squeeze out more water, you get the best result. The salt miraculously cancels out any bitterness. You can also use finely slivered napa cabbage.

Pork Cutlet

Could also be made with chicken or turkey. You can use any oil that tolerates heat well, but peanut gives it a nice flavor. You can use half peanut and half something else.

4-6 thin-cut pork chops
2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 c. flour
3 eggs
3/4 c. panko breading crumbs
3-4 c. peanut oil

Trim the chops so that only meat remains. Pound flat into cutlets ~1/4" thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt. Heat the oil to 350°F. Place the oven on warm and ready a platter with paper towels to drain the cooked cutlets as you work. Beat the eggs together until smooth.

Arrange 3 shallow pans (ie pie tins) in a row next to the stove for the dredging operation. Place flour in one, beaten eggs in the next, and then panko crumbs in the last. Dredge each cutlet in flour, then dip in egg, and last in panko before placing in the hot oil. Take care not to overcrowd the oil--you will likely only be able to fry one cutlet at a time. Fry each cutlet for 2-3 minutes on the first side, then 1-2 minutes on the second side, or until they are golden brown and crisp. Keep the cutlets warm and crisp in the oven. Chop into narrow strips (for easy chopsticking) just before serving. Drizzle with tonkatsu sosu or "Bulldog Fruit and Vegetable Sauce". It is essentially a sweetened, more mild Worcestershire sauce.
Made with real bulldogs!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Afghani Pumpkin Chunks

To be honest, I was inspired to make this based on a menu item I didn't actually order at an Afghani restaurant - something called a Kaddo Bouarani, sweetened pumpkin with Afghani meat sauce. Since Lillian already has a wonderful recipe for the latter, I decided to try making the pumpkin half, especially since pie pumpkins are easy to find in the store these days (and cheap - my 3# pumpkin was $1). There are various recipes online - some call for more of a candying process, but I wanted something a little faster and less indulgent, so I based my recipe on the one here.

The actual cooking of the pumpkin is easy, but skinning is kind of a PITA, so you might save this for company. However, the flavors mix fabulously well, so it is worth it to make, and I think that the pumpkin might also go well with a more Italian meaty marinara sauce.

Afghani Pumpkin

1 medium pie pumpkin
2 Tsp oil

1/3 c. sugar
A couple pinches/shakes cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.

Remove the stem of the pumpkin, then use a peeler (like for potatoes) to peel it - the Y-shaped ones probably work better, I had the normal swively kind. You'll find what works best with your peeler - I found a sort of half-moon motion peeled more quickly. 

Once peeled, cut the pumpkin in half, clean out the seeds and interior gunk, then cut it into 3-4" square chunks. In a large cast-iron skilled that you can put in the oven, brown the pumpkin chunks in oil for about five minutes. Remove the chunks from the pan, and toss with sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Return them to the pan, and cook for about thirty minutes, or until quite tender. Serve with Afghani meat sauce and yogurt dressing (make sure to add mint to the dressing, it really helps the flavor)

Pumpkin chunks

With meat sauce and yogurt

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chicken with Red Cabbage

I adapted this recipe from Hazans' "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking." I got the cookbook a couple months ago, expecting to find more warm-weather food, but she tends towards comfort foods so I've been waiting for it to get cool enough to make this recipe.

It turned out extremely well - the flavor is much deeper than you expect to be, and the chicken picks up the sweetness of the cabbage splendidly. I highly recommend serving it with something with a bit of mouth feel - it was brilliant with homemade egg noodles, and I imagine it would be good with roasted brown rice also.


1 onion, sliced very thin
2-4 cloves garlic, quartered
1/4 c. olive oil + 1 Tbsp.
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 cut up chicken
1/2 c. dry red wine
1 Tbsp. dry sherry (optional)


Combine onion, garlic and 1/4 c. olive oil in a heavy bottomed high sided pan, like a dutch oven, or in a very large saute pan, like the one your sister gave you as a wedding present. On medium, saute until the garlic becomes golden, then add the shredded cabbage and salt. Mix thoroughly, then simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes. Stir frequently enough to keep the cabbage from burning - you can add a little water to help.

When about 40 minutes has passed, brown the chicken in a skillet in 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, then add all the non-breast bits to the cabbage. Add the wine, then several grinds of pepper. Cook for another 40 minutes with the lid slightly ajar, and stirring frequently enough to prevent burning. Add the chicken breasts, and cook until they are done. 

Adjust the salt, and if you feel like something's missing, add the dry sherry, stir, and let cook a minute more. 

I was thinking about taking a picture, but I was hungry, and suddenly it was gone.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Slow-cooker Green Sauce Taco Meat

This really is essentially a variation of Lillian's recipe for green enchilada sauce, though not developed as such. Tomatillos and green peppers are simply delicious. This takes a little bit of time to prepare in the morning (or you could do it the night before and leave everything in the crockpot in the fridge)

1.5 lbs (6-7) tomatillos
1 large onion, cut into "wings"
2-4 chiles verdes (Anaheim or Hatch are good)
3 cloves garlic
1 lime, juiced
1/3-1/2 bunch cilantro
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 Tbl. sugar, or to taste

2-3 pounds meat (beef or pork roast, though chicken would probably be fine)

Remove tomatillo husks and their stems. Place them end up along with the peppers (stems trimmed to reduce burning) in the broiler. Cook until the tomatillos are getting mushy, while rotating the peppers so that they get evenly blackened. Peel the peppers and remove their stems. Remove the more burnt parts of the tomatillos. Throw everything into the crockpot, and have it cook for as long as makes sense for you (I was going to be gone all day, so I put it on the 8 hour setting).

When cooking is finished, remove meat and shred it. Add in enough of the stew back to the meat to make it moist and tasty.

Serve on warm tortillas with avocado and taco topping (below).

Taco topping (run everything through the food processor):
1/2 onion
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves
1 lime, juiced
1 small jalapeno, seeds removed (optional)

Once you're done enjoying this as tacos, run the veggies through a strainer and then food process them to make green salsa for all of the usual delicious uses (you may wish to reserve some liquid in case the consistency isn't quite right, but I found this wasn't a problem.) I assume you can freeze it as well for the next time you make enchiladas.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Chicken and Rice

I must have been too embarrassed of its humble provenance from the Campbell's Soup Label (and website) to post this recipe yet, but I make it all the time. I've classed it up a bit, as I tend to do. Try to find Cream of Onion instead of Cream of Mushroom or's not as common, but much more delicious.

Preheat oven to 375°F

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can Campbell's Cream of Onion soup
1 c. milk or cream
3/4 c. basmati or jasmine rice
2 Tbsp. vermouth or sherry
1 Tbsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. thyme (or several fresh sprigs)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 pinch cayenne

Grease an appropriately sized baking dish. Whisk together the soup mix, milk, vermouth, and spices. If necessary, butterfly the chicken breasts so that they are uniformly thick. Place the rice on the bottom of the dish.  Pour half of the liquid over the rice. Nestle the chicken breasts among the rice. If using thyme sprigs, arrange them around the chicken. Pour the remaining liquid over the chicken, sprinkle with paprika, and cover. Bake for 45 minutes or until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Frozen Blueberry Dream

I really like ice cream. When I am trying to remain virtuous, I tend to get pretty creative. Tonight I had an inspiration: I always keep frozen blueberries on hand because they are really delicious. I also usually have one or two sliced bananas in the freezer, because they are great in protein drinks or smoothies. Here is what I came up with:

Combine in food processor or blender:

1 cup frozen blueberries
5-6 slices frozen bananas
¾ cup milk
1 TBSP maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)

Blend until smooth and consistent. Serve immediately. Makes two sensible or one awesome portion.

Another insane thing to do with frozen blueberries is this:

Put berries in deep cup or parfait glass
Drizzle with maple syrup or honey (not much)
Cover with whipping cream (not whipped) or half & half

Wait about 10 minutes (this is the hard part). The berries will freeze the syrup and cream into an unholy blast of deliciousness. Dig in. 

If this doesn't keep you from running out to Dairy Queen, then you are hopeless. 

White Bean Salad (That Doesn't Suck)

Typical potluck bean salad is an affront to the senses: bland yet pungent, mushy, tin-can-flavored filler. This recipe is none of those things. It's a simple and quick preparation that highlights fresh herbs and ever-delicious olive oil. I recommend using white wine vinegar (NOT all-purpose distilled white or cider vinegar), but you could also use lemon juice or verjuice.

1 can cannellini (white kidney) beans
1/4 c. red onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. celery, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 small handle fresh parsley, chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (optional)

Drain and rinse the beans. Rinse the onions in cold water for ~ 30 seconds to reduce their pungency. Place the beans, onions, and celery in a bowl and add the oil, vinegar, and seasonings to taste. Stir in the egg right before serving, if desired.

Also good with a pungent cheese, such as feta. Feel free to experiment with different herbs or spices (ie fresh basil leaves, mint, or cumin seeds), but above all else--keep it simple!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Barley Bake

I'm adding this by request, although it's very simple and I don't have a photo of it yet. It's great for using up whatever you have in the kitchen, and offers a wholesome, hearty, and warming meal. I like to serve a green vegetable on the side as well.


  • onion
  • mushrooms
  • pearl barley (I use about 2 cups.)
  • red pepper
  • broccoli
  • chicken broth
  • milk 
  • flour
  • cheese - cheddar, parmesan, or whatever is on hand


  1. Cook barley in chicken broth (for about an hour).
  2. Sauté diced veggies. 
  3. Add sautéed veggies to barley, and pour in some milk and a tablespoon of flour.
  4. Add some grated cheese (I use 1/2 cup or more).
  5. Grease baking dish, and pour mix into dish. Top with parmesan or other cheese.
  6. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Raspberry Muffins

These could be made with any berry, or even rhubarb. They yield a tender, moist muffin with medium sweetness and a tender crumb. I used raspberries and blackberries for the ones in the picture. Instead of lemon and vanilla you could go with a cinnamon spice approach instead, and add a streusel topping.

1/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
3/4 c. buttermilk + 1/4 c. heavy cream
OR 1 c. sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Meyer lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2-2 c. berries or rhubarb cut into 1/4" pieces

Preheat oven to 375. Place 12 paper liners into a muffin tray. Spray the top surface with non-cook spray for easy muffin removal.

Cream together the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Mix together the buttermilk, cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Mix into the butter and sugar mixture until well combined. Stir together the flour, 1/2 c. granulated sugar, and baking soda. Fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just barely combined. Gently fold in the fruit.

Distribute equal amounts into each muffin cup. Sprinkle the top surface with sparkle sugar or other topping (ie streusel), if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and set in the middle. Allow to cool in the muffin tray. Enjoy with tea or coffee!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Date Bread

I baked this bread for a family brunch (to go with a frittata and fruit salad). It was a great success. I got the original recipe from Judy Kivi's book, Myths and Recipes of the Last Frontier: Alaska.


  • 1 pound chopped dates
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons shortening (I prefer coconut oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup nuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Sprinkle soda over dates and add boiling water. Let stand.
  2. In separate bowl, use mixer to cream shortening, sugar, and eggs.
  3. Alternate mixing in flour and salt and date mixture.
  4. Add nuts and vanilla.
  5. Bake in 2 loaf tins for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Spam Sushi (Musubi)

I take great delight in convincing people they like foods they thought they hated. Spam is one of them. I re-examined this ingredient after a trip to the Spam Museum in Albert Lea, which led me to stumble across this recipe. It is also known as spam musubi, and it is native to Hawaii, where the US military bases introduced the locals to the 'wonders' of canned luncheon meat. Since each musubi is made with a cross-section of the whole Spam loaf, they make for a very filling appetizer. You can either season the rice as for sushi or leave it plain. These are a real crowd-pleaser and I've had a number of requests to bring these to parties.

1 can Spam
2 Tbsp. oil
1/3 c. terriyaki sauce
2 sheets nori, cut into 1.5" strips
1-2 qt cooked sushi rice (season with rice vinegar, salt, and sugar if desired)

Remove the Spam from the tin--this may take some vigorous shaking. Slice into 1/4" pieces. Brush the pieces with terriyaki sauce. Fry lightly in a small amount of oil in a large non-stick pan, to crisp up the pieces a bit.

Form the rice into Spam-slice sized ovals. Make sure the rice is packed tightly enough to hold together, but not so tight it's like a rock. It helps to wet your hands with cold water. Place a slice of Spam on the rice and carefully wrap the nori around it so that the open side is down. Wet the edge with water to seal. It will take some practice to get good at this.

Serve with Sriracha sauce and a sense of humor :)

Merguez Sausage Tajine

I've been finding Moroccan style sausage at many different meat shops lately. This was made with goat merguez sausage from Clancey's, which had really good flavor. I used a spice blend, but I'm sure you could use fresh spices and add some more ingredients (like dried fruit), but it turned out tasty when made this simple way.

4 links Merguez sausage, sliced
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 carrots, in large chunks
2 c. small cauliflower florets
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 Tbsp. Moroccan spice blend (ras al-hanout)
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
1 can chickpeas
1.5 c. chicken broth
6 Tbsp. butter

Use a heavy bottomed pot to heat 4 Tbsp. of butter. Add the onions and saute until soft and starting to caramelize. Add the sausage and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes until the liquid cooks off and everything starts to sizzle. Add the tomato paste and stir so it is well distributed. Stir in the spice blend and ginger. Add the carrots and 1 c. chicken broth and cover, simmering for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, use the remaining butter to pan roast the cauliflower. It should not be cooked through, but the edges should be browned.

Alex tells me that the secret to Moroccan cuisine is mixing fresh parsley and cilantro. You could add that at the end (although I didn't and it was still delicious).

Add in the chickpeas and cauliflower, and if it needs more moisture, the remaining broth. Simmer for 10 more minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Salt to taste. Serve with couscous tossed with even more butter. I used seasoned butter on the couscous (caramelized onions and thyme), which made it even better. I recommend the medium grained couscous that's available at Holy Land (and not the fine grained style they sell at the co-op).

Strawberry Shortcake

After a recent visit to North Carolina, where strawberries are already ripe, I was inspired to make this simple but wonderful dessert. Makes six.

1 pint strawberries
1 c. heavy whipping cream, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sugar, divided
3/4 c. flour
1 egg
3 Tbsp. cold butter
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the strawberries into a bowl and sprinkle with2-3 Tbsp. sugar. Add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon, if you have it. Allow to rest for an hour. Use a fork to crush some of the strawberries.

Sift the flour together with the baking powder and salt. Stir in 3 Tbsp. of sugar. Cut the butter in with a fork until it is the size of small peas. Whisk the egg in a cup and reserve a couple spoonfuls of it for later. Add 1/4 c. of whipping cream to the cup and stir. Pour into the flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Turn onto a flour board and cut into circles or squares. Brush the remaining egg on the cakes and then sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake for ~10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool.

Whip the remaining cream together with vanilla. Add in sugar to taste until it forms soft peaks.

Carefully slice the cakes in half. Spread whipping cream on lower half. Spoon lots of strawberries on top. Dollop more whipping cream over strawberries and cover with top half of cake. Enjoy!

"Soylent Green" or Involtini with White Beans & Greens

We made these for a "fictional food" themed party. This makes 10, so you may want to scale it down. Thank you to Clancey's meats for accommodating my cutlet request. The rest I based on Roman flavors and the goal of making everything as green as possible. They turned out delicious and I didn't even get punched in the face by Charlton Heston!

10 pork or veal cutlets
2 leeks
1 head escarole or other leafy green
1 can white beans, drained
1/2 c. frozen green peas
1 handful fresh parsley
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1/4 c. shredded Romano cheese
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1-2 Tbsp. verjus or white wine vinegar
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Sprinkle the cutlets with salt and pepper and keep them cold in the refrigerator. Overall the rolls are easier to handle if they are kept cold.

Cut the leaks lengthwise and wash each leaf under running water to remove grit. Chop coarsely. Wash the escarole and parsley and chop coarsely. Defrost the peas.

Saute the leeks until softened (I used bacon fat for extra flavor). Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant.

Chop the greens and peas coarsely in a food processor. Add in the cooked leeks. Add the white beans and pulse in the cumin seeds. Season with the Romano cheese, fish sauce, verjus, and salt and pepper. Keep the texture somewhat chunky.

Spread the filling on the cutlets and roll up. Secure them with toothpicks (or just cook very carefully, starting with the seam side down). Heat cooking oil in two very large pans and place the rolls in the pans so they are not crowded. Cook gently so that they brown on the outside and the meat cooks thoroughly.

I had filling leftover, so I sauteed the remainder for a couple minutes and then spooned it on top.

Spoiler alert!

Chive Pesto

If your chive plant is anything like mine, you need to hack it back so it doesn't compete with the rest of the herb garden. Also, it's going to be months before we have an abundance of basil, so here's a yummy spring pesto!

1 large handful of chives
1 medium handful of parsley
1 small handful of oregano, mint, or other fresh herbs
4 cloves garlic
1/4 c. blanched almonds or pine nuts

1/4 c. olive oil
2 tsp. black pepper
2-3 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Wash all herbs thoroughly and remove the thickest stems. Use kitchen scissors to cut them into manageable pieces.

Lightly toast the nuts in a dry pan. Remove the nuts and then lightly toast the whole garlic cloves to remove some of their pungency.

When the nuts are cool, add them to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the herbs a small handful at a time until well chopped. Add the black pepper and salt and pulse. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture is bright green and well combined. Add the cheese and pulse a few times. Taste the pesto and adjust the seasonings and oil as needed, but take care not to over-chop (which can cause the cheese to melt).

Place the finished pesto in small containers with a layer of oil on top to prevent browning. Can also be placed in ice cubes and frozen (place frozen cubes in a baggie) for individual use.

I don't know why this is rotated 90 degrees CW
Chive pesto on gnocchi with Italian sausage and radish microgreens (aka thinning the seedlings)
 Delicious tossed on cooked pasta, Gnocchi, potatoes in Pesto and Sausage Desperation Deliciousness, stirred into Minestrone, on salads, or (my favorite) as a spread for fried egg sandwiches.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Meat Consomme with Vegetables and Egg Royales

I highly recommend making this recipe if you fulfill all of the following criteria:
1) You just got a whole mess of new kitchen equipment
2) You live a stones throw from more Asian supermarkets than you can count
3) You took Friday off and have a French-themed dinner party the next day
5) According to the DSM-IV you are at least 80% BONKERS

This is definitely food-as-art, not sustenance. Plan way, way ahead. Remember the 'bonkers' part?

Must contain the feet of at least 3 animals.

2-3 lbs. pig trotters, ideally split
2-3 lbs. meaty beef stew bones OR
2-3 lbs. veal bones (if you can find them--good luck!)
2 lbs. chicken feet
2 lbs. chicken legs, wings, or backs
2-3 lbs. yellow onions
2 lbs. carrots
1 bunch celery
1 bundle parsley
handful of whole thyme stems
~20 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 c. vermouth or dry white wine

1 lb. lean ground beef
3 eggs whites AND shells
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. tarragon leaves

1 medium daikon radish or 2 large turnips
2 very large carrots
handful of chive flowers (optional)
3 egg yolks
1/4 c. half and half or cream
pinch of salt

Roasting the Bones and Veggies
Not pictured: Hansel and Gretel.

Preheat the oven to 400. Chop 4-5 carrots into very large chunks. Break the celery into large pieces. Cut 4 of the onions in half, leaving some of the outer brown skins on (this makes the soup golden brown). Coat 2 of your largest roasting pans with a thin layer of oil and place the chopped vegetables and meat pieces in a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice, until the edges begin to brown. Do not burn.

Simmering the Stock

Place the roasted meat and vegetables into the stock pot. I recommend using two, because go big or go home, right? Cut another onion in half, leaving the skin on and root end in tact so that it doesn't fall apart. Pin a bay leaf to each half using the cloves. Add the onions to the pot. Hell I probably threw in some more celery too. Cut the stems off of the parsley and save the tops for later. Tie the stems into a bundle with the thyme. Toss in some peppercorns and a healthy glug of vermouth.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for...ever. At least four hours--up to 12. Skim off any scum that rises to the top. Cool the stock overnight (or at least cool enough that it doesn't cook egg whites--I accomplished this by putting my pots in the garage with rocks on top to discourage raccoons).

Is it worth it, Escoffier?

This is the crazy part. If you really plan ahead, you can freeze the soup, then thaw it out in a colander lined with cheesecloth and the gelatin will clarify it for you. A nasty jiggly lump will remain in the colander and what drains out will be perfectly clear. Instead, this is the old-school method of clarifying, and it also adds flavor. It uses the acid of tomatoes and albumin of egg whites to trap the broth-clouding proteins. If you have a dog (or perhaps some livestock) you can feed them the 'raft' that is left over.

Chop another couple of carrots, onions, and stalks of celery in a food processor. Mix together with the ground beef, diced tomatoes, egg whites, egg shells, some parsley tops, thyme, and ground black pepper. Stir this mess into the cold stock, then bring it to a boil, stirring so it doesn't stick to the bottom. Your stock will basically look like upchuck and you will think you're doing it wrong.

Gradually, a 'raft' will form as the stock comes to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer for 1 hour and allow the raft to coalesce. If you are REALLY a rockstar, you will still have another day to spare, in which you allow the stock to cool again. Reportedly the raft will fall to the bottom. You can skim the fat off and pour off the resulting perfectly clear consommé. I have my suspicions about this, since the soup will turn into wiggly meat jell-o, so the 'pouring' part is dubious.

However, most of us do not plan ahead that far. In this case, remove the raft as best you can with a slotted spoon. If you do this in all one go, prepare for the next phase with a glass of wine. Try to skim the layer of liquid fat off the top of the broth with a spoon. Purist insist there should be no fat droplets, but seriously, who cares? 

At this point you reach a fork in the road: reduce stock with further simmering and salt later, or say "to hell with it" and call it good enough and salt now. Don't forget the salt, though.


Hopefully you saved a couple of carrots and you are willing to further destroy your kitchen. If you have adorable flower-shaped vegetable cutters, cut the carrot and daikon into 1/4" thick shapes. If not, drink at least one glass of wine and cut the veggies à la brunoise. The French are sadists, so the next step is to blanch the veggies in salted water, then shock in cold water. Do this with the optional chive flowers while you're at it.

I'm assuming that you are fully non compos mentis, and you saved the egg yolks. Whisk these with a roughly equal amount of cream and a pinch of salt. Place this in a small, oiled Pyrex dish in a saucepan with a small amount of water and simmer, covered, for a couple of minutes. Surely there is some way to do this in the microwave. Turn out the remaining custard 'royale' and slice into 1/4" layers and cut with said adorable flower-shaped cutters.

You should be well blitzed at this point--after all you spent the past 36 hours making BROTH for god's sake and you fed the only food-like components to the dog.

This is what we eat in crazy town!

Arrange artfully in a bowl and pour over hot consommé. Reconsider your place in the universe.

If you really want to freak people out, make oeufs en gelée.

Next meal: cornflakes in milk.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Smoky Potato Leek Soup

Hard to believe we now have 300 posts, but no potato leek soup! This soup is almost elemental in its simplicity, and is unparalleled for winter-time comfort (and thrift). My version includes bacon and omits cream. Cream has a way of killing flavor--but you can stir in a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche at the end for contrast.

Delicious with cheesy toast!

1/2 lb. bacon, diced
1 stick butter, divided
4 leeks, washed and chopped
3 russet potatoes, peeled
1 large rutabaga, peeled
6-8 c. chicken stock or water
1/2 c. vermouth, divided
fresh ground black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp. rosemary
lots of salt
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
fresh parsley, minced

Begin by frying the bacon in half the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot (or pressure cooker) with a pinch of red pepper flakes. When it is just starting to crisp, deglaze the bottom of the pot with half of the vermouth and reduce the heat.

Meanwhile, clean the leeks by cutting off most of the dark green parts and the bottom roots. Slice them lengthwise and wash each leaf under running water to remove grit. Bundle them and slice crosswise into 1/4" pieces.

Add the chopped leeks and a pinch of salt to the fried bacon and cook, stirring, until the leeks soften. Chop the potatoes and rutabagas into large chunks and put them in the pot. Add the stock, remaining vermouth, and some black pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour (or pressure cook for 25 minutes).

When the potatoes are fall-apart soft, remove from heat and blend with an immersible blender to desired chunkiness. Season with remaining butter, more salt and pepper, and add a small dash of vinegar to taste. Garnish with minced parsley and crème fraîche.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Frosting

Gotta love Midwestern desserts: easy, delicious, and based on the magic of industrial food science. I combed the internet for a more 'scratch' version of these, but this semi-homemade version would be hard to beat. They are very soft and moist, like muffin tops.


1 box Betty Crocker spice cake mix
1 can pumpkin puree
1 egg
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temp

Preheat oven to 350° and place parchment paper on two cookie sheets.

Cream the butter until fluffy. Blend in the egg and the pumpkin until smooth. Mix in the cake mix until just combined.

Blob the dough (it is fairly runny) onto the cookie sheets at least 1" apart. Bake for 15 minutes until they are set. As soon as you can slide a spatula under half of the cookie and lift it up without it bending and breaking, they are done.


This is made extra special with fancy cinnamon. I used true cinnamon and korintje cassia with vanilla bean syrup. Go easy on the vanilla so it doesn't overtake the cinnamon.

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp
2 c. sifted powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp. half and half or milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch of salt

Cream the butter, then blend in the powdered sugar until it has a sandy texture. Gradually add the dairy until the frosting reaches the desired texture. Blend in the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.

When the cookies are fully cooled, smear them with frosting. These will disappear very quickly.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chili Relleno Casserole

This is not exactly the dish from our childhood, since it's a bit more complex than the "quick, we need some food" version that's in the Melting Pot cookbook. However, the freshly roasted poblano pepper really gives it a lot more flavor than if you use canned chilies, and roasting them really doesn't take that long. I recommend gloves for processing the pepper.  

2 poblano peppers (or if you're spiciness adverse, 1 poblano and 1 Anaheim pepper), roasted, skinned, and cut into thin 1-2" long strips
1 can black beans, drained
1/4 onion, minced finely
1 c. grated cheddar (for filling) and 1/2 c. for topping
2 Tbsp. minced cilantro
1/4-1/2 c. salsa (depending on desired juiciness)
(Optional) 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
1-2 tsp. salt

Corn tortillas

Diced tomatoes for garnish  

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Whomp together everything except 1/2 c. of cheese, which you'll use for the topping. Check the seasoning before assembling.

Grease a large loaf pan, then add the filling, followed by a layer of tortillas, followed by a layer of filling, and so on until you've used up the filling. It should be topped at the end with a layer of tortillas, with remaining cheese sprinkled on top. You can also add a bit of salsa to this layer. Bake until the cheese is quite gooey. Serve with diced tomatoes on top, and sour cream if you're into that sort of thing.