Archive for December, 2008


Sorry, Colonel Sanders: The Fricadelle takes it!

December 17, 2008


Have you seen those commercials for the KFC bowls? You know, the ones where they serve mashed potatoes, corn, fried chicken, gravy and cheese all layered together in a big old bowl. Come on, you’ve seen them. Maybe you’ve puzzled over them like I have. Admit it: You’re strangely drawn to them and yet revolted at the same time. They are a paradox… or a conundrum… or maybe even something unholy.

Why? Because all the ingredients in those bowls sound great. I love mashed potatoes. I love corn. I love fried chicken. I love gravy. I love cheese. In some circumstances, I might even combine all of these things before eating them. But there’s something about those bowls… something not quite right.

Well, folks, I have the answer to those bowls for you: Don’t do it. Skip KFC and their suspicious looking “famous bowls.” Stay home, curl up and make my husband’s fricadelle instead.

What is fricadelle, you ask? It is layered comfort food done right, friends. It is creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, topped with sweet and luxurious caramelized onions, and spotted with delicious, hearty, flavorful meatballs made from scratch. It is absolutely delightful and perfect for consuming on a dreary winter’s day. You like mashed potatoes? You like caramelized onions? You like meatballs? Have no fear — they are enhanced, not made disturbing, by being combined into a delicious, beautiful and hearty fricadelle.

I see what the colonel was trying to do… and he just falls short. I’m sorry to say it of a military man, but it’s true. The fricadelle may have been what he was hoping to achieve, but my husband actually executes it. Every bite of this fricadelle is hearty, rustic, satisfying and most important — delicious. So, stick to fried chicken, my goateed friend: My husband has the mashed potato bowl covered.


And now, the husband’s take…

There is nothing quite like cold weather and rich hearty meals. Especially given the amount of cold we’ve had here even in DC. And quite frankly, I cringe when I see what is going on back in the Midwest — did I see something about wind chills of -50F (-45C) in Montana? Terrifying… I suspect that means you have to eat in. So you might have a little extra time to make the fricadelle.

Fricadelle is just a fancy French word for meatball, or at least that is essentially what Larousse Gastronomique tells me. Typically, it is a mixture of meats (here, we use equal parts pork, veal, and beef) and in Belgium and Germany it has mostly pork.

I have a couple rules about meatballs. They tend to get dry and hard. So you need to take care in what kind of meat you buy and be gentle when you cook and shape the meatballs. Even if you grind your own, it is important to ensure your meat has enough fat. You may want to add a bit of fat back if you use lean parts such as pork shoulder. If you buy ground, I suggest buying beef that is a little on the fattier side — such as 80/20 — to compensate for what will likely be leaner pork and veal.

When handling ground meats, you want to really just mix enough to get a uniform consistency, then shape it using as little pressure as possible. I use my hamburger patty strategy, using barely enough pressure and risking the danger they might fall apart at any moment. Here, I use a large serving spoon to help form them into a football shape.

As for cooking, because they are football shaped, the meatballs tend to have three sides to brown. So I recommend browning only two and then letting the meatballs roast. The goal is to be gentle. Meatballs will easily dry up and get hard. Remember: Just because it’s hearty and rustic doesn’t mean it doesn’t take care to make.


Fricadelle over Potatoes and Caramelized Onions
Yield: 4-6 servings
3 large onions (sliced fine)
3 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes
½ cup milk
3 tbsp. butter
olive oil

½ lb. ground beef
½ lb. ground veal
½ lb. ground pork
2 tbsp. coarse ground mustard
2 tbsp. fresh thyme (leaves only)
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary (fine dice, no stems)
1 tsp. salt

1. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. Mix only enough to bring the mixture together. Make a small patty from the mixture and cook quickly on the stove top. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

2. Using a large serving spoon, press the meatballs together in a roughly egg shape. This is an aesthetic choice, feel free to make simple round balls. Place the meatballs on parchment and cover. Refrigerate until ready to use. This can be done a day in advance.

3. Add the olive oil to the pan over high heat. Once it shimmers, add the onions. Salt liberally, then turn down the heat to medium. Continue to cook until the onions are soft and golden (30 to 40 min).

4. While the onions are caramelizing, peel and cut the potatoes into even large cubes. Add to pot of cold water and place over high heat. Cook until the potatoes are soft. Drain the potatoes and then return to the heated pan. Using a masher or a food mill, combine the potatoes with milk and butter over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Do not overmix, or you risk making glue. (This is a basic recipe for mashed potatoes if you hadn’t noticed).

5. Remove the meatballs from the refrigerator. Place a large pan over high heat, add a small amount of olive oil. Gently add the meatballs and brown being careful not to over handle. Remove and place on a paper towel to wick away any excess fat.

6. Preheat the oven to 400F.

7. Assemble, in a large oven safe dish, adding the potatoes as the bottom layer. Smooth them out ensure they’re evenly distributed. Next, the onions in a smooth, even layer. Finally, using a spoon, make small nests for the meatballs, pressing them into the onions and mashed potatoes. If all the ingredients are properly cooled, this can be done a day in advance.

8. Place in the oven, and cook for 30 min. or until the interior temperature of the meatball is cooked.


Hurry Hurry Eat Green Curry

December 15, 2008

I love it when my husband creates a sauce so good, I’m up late thinking of other things to put it on.

So far, I’ve come up with: noodles, eggs, gnocchi… and just straight licking it out off a spoon. Seriously, I was awake past midnight.

But why am I torturing myself? This Thai Green Curry Sauce is so good on lightly fried white fish and rice, I don’t know why I bother. The verdant green sauce and its fresh, herbacious, spicy bite go perfectly with tender white fish and coconut-scented white rice. Frankly, I had no idea that green curry was so delicious.

For those new to green curry, don’t be alarmed by its vibrant green color… this is not a disturbing liquefied salad or some sort of wheat-grass-based health beverage. It is a vibrant, fresh, amazing herby concoction, complete with a hint of hot. In fact, call it pesto, if it makes you more comfortable. I don’t really understand the distinction anyway.


The point is: It’s amazing. My husband plates this dish up beautifully… a perfectly lightly golden-fried fish fillet atop a steaming mound of aromatic rice, all resting on a lake of this gorgeous green curry. What do I do? Wreck it, man. Ram my fork through all the ingredients. I break up the fish in one go. I stir the rice mound to a chaotic pile. And most important, I coat EVERYTHING in green curry. I want a mouthful in every bite. Only decorum keeps me from picking up the plate and licking the remnants off.

Hmmm… Maybe what would really go well with this dish is some bread. Yes, some delicious bread to mop up sauce with. Eureka! I have found it. Now maybe I can get some sleep.


And now for the husband’s take…

Authentic… no. Can’t claim that it is. I’ve made this with Thai basil, bird chilies, galangal (a variant of ginger), and other more rarified ingredients. Those are great when you can get them, but at some point you need to use what you have. So, I’ve tried to keep this version to my more regularly available ingredients. As a result, this sauce has become one of our staples.

It is one of our favorite combinations with white fish. Along with some rice, it is fantastic. I’ve made it with sea bass (as seen above), pompano, halibut, and hake. It’s really fantastic with any of the firmer fleshed white fishes as the sauce brings lots of acidity as well as its own deliciousness. I’ve also used the sauce to entice non-fish eaters into the fold… and had it ordered by my insistent father-in-law when he returned home from a fishing trip.

Luckily, this is also a quick recipe. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare and most of the time is spent shoving ingredients into the blender and running back and forth to the fridge. I suspect Rachael Ray’s frightening efficiency in the kitchen would transform this into a 1 minute sauce, but I’m not always well organized when I have this many ingredients. So, while my recipe may lack ‘authenticity,’ it makes up for it with deliciousness and speed.


Green Curry Sauce
Yield: 3 quarts sauce
1 cup coconut milk
2 limes (juice & zest)
1 serrano chili (can substitute jalapeño)
3 cups (100g) cilantro
3/4 cup (10g) mint
1/2 cup (8g) basil
2 (75g) shallots
3 (15g) cloves garlic
1 3’’stalk (15g) lemon grass
1 1 1/2’’ piece (35g) ginger
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)

1. Add the cilantro (stem and leaves) to a blender. Add the leaves of the basil and mint along with the kaffir lime leaves, lime zest, lime juice, and coconut juice.

2. Blend for a moment on highest setting before adding the garlic, shallots, lemon grass and ginger. Set to highest setting until smooth. Add a little bit of water or coconut milk if you want it smoother. If your blender is powerful enough, you can combine all the ingredients at once. You can also use an emersion/hand blender. (However, they’re not as  likely to give you a smooth consistency.)

3. Add the sugar, cumin, red pepper flakes and salt. Blend for a moment. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

4. Keeps well for at least 1 week in the refrigerator. To reheat, place in a pan over very low heat. If you heat too fast, it will cause the sauce to take on a shade of brown .Sauce also will heat well in the microwave for about 90 seconds.

Reminder: We are giving away copies of my wife’s and grandmother’s book. Just participate in our holiday traditions event.


Better Beers for the Party Season

December 12, 2008


Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas tree…” or perhaps, “Santa Baby, slip a sable under the tree.
..” or hopefully not, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer…”

These are some of the lyrics that will invade our subconscious in the coming days as we navigate holiday parties. We’ll all try to drink, eat and be merry as we rub elbows with friends we’ve may have seen earlier in the day shopping at the supermarket, or that acquaintance, who turns out to be your best friend’s brand new flame, that you’ve not seen since last year’s party, or just a chance to get together with your aunts, uncles, siblings, and parents with the buffer of friends and without the formal requirements of carving a roasted beast.

Whatever the invite list, odds are you are going to be there a while. Someone is going to have the radio or the cable music channel set to “sounds of the season,” while you try to maneuver a drink, a fork, a napkin, and full plate with two hands and try to keep your Christmas sweater from needing a trip to the dry cleaner’s before Tuesday’s office Christmas party.


Now I could make a suggestion about delicious hors d’oeuvres. We have plenty in our recipe index, but I’m actually going to speak to the bigger foul — the beer. Oh, I know some of you people don’t drink or think you don’t like beer. Heck, I didn’t like beer until a couple years ago, and the still wife looks at me funny sometimes. But, people, we can do better than Bud, Bud Light, et al.

One of the best things I learned about beer is that it is more like food then you might think. It’s got its seasons. In the spring, you drink the rich bochs developed by monks as “liquid bread” to sustain them through the fasting of lent. In the summer, you drink pilsners and lagers with their light crisp styles. In the fall, you drink harvest beers and sometimes delicious pumpkin ales. At this time of year, you drink Christmas beers. Now, some of them are bad, and tragically so. Yet there are a few really great ones, brewed with things like dried cherries, honey, cinnamon, thyme, and orange peel. The results are some delicious beers that stand up to cheese plates, fatty finger foods, and  even  some delicious sweets.


So these are my recommendations to replace your big case of Rolling Rock. The one warning is that all of these are rather ‘high test.’ They have more in common with drinking a glass of white wine than your normal beers. So, warn folks who enjoy their beer, or you might find people frisky in the coat closet.


Troeg’s Mad Elf (11% AbV)— This Pennsylvania brewer combines cherries and local honey to create this slightly sweet and medium-bodied beer. It’s got nice carbonation  that keeps it light enough to pair well with a lot of foods. But, in general, it’s a joy to drink.


St. Bernadus’ Christmas Ale (11% AbV) & N’ice Chouffe (10% AbV) — Both are classic Belgium Christmas beers. Brewed with orange peel, they are dark brown, spicy and medium bodied. Lots of good dried fruit flavor in both beers.

Brooklyn Brewery’s Dark Chocolate Stout (10% AbV) — This is on my short list of all-time favorite beers. This beer tastes so rich and full of chocolate, it’s amazing to realize this flavor is created only by the blend of roasted malts. It’s creamy and has good carbonation. This can be served across a chocolate dessert instead of coffee, or surprisingly, against a pungent cheese. I’m a huge fan and it is one of the few beers I’ve ever bought a case of.

Finally, just a reminder that we are giving away copies of my wife’s and grandmother’s book. Just participate in our holiday traditions event.


Share your traditions… Win a book!

December 10, 2008

Frequent readers and subscribers to our feed will notice we’ve taken a couple of sabbaticals since we began this blog. Occassionally people have mailed asking, “So, what are you up to?” Well, this post is an effort at both making excuses and shameless self-promotion.


Well, during one of these breaks, the wife – the funny and talented one – wrote a book: Cole Family Christmas. The tale is based on a true story told by my 88-year-old grandmother, Hazel Cole Kendle, who was the youngest of the nine Cole children.

Cole Family Christmas tells the story of a very special Christmas my family experienced in 1920 when my great-grandfather was working as a coal miner in Kentucky. That year, he had received a promotion and had a little more money, and so the nine Cole children were able to write to Santa to ask for special gifts from the “Wish Book” (AKA the Sears catalogue). But when a freak snowstorm prevented the gifts from being delivered, my great-grandparents had to scramble to save Christmas. As the Cole children remembered it, though, the results of their efforts were even more inspiring – and more meaningful – than the store-bought gifts they had wished for.


This story was passed down in the family for years, until at last my mother thought it should be memorialized in writing. Originally planned as a small pamphlet to be handed out at our annual family reunion, the project blossomed into a book geared toward families and younger readers. Cole Family Christmas is now a hardcover book, complete with beautiful illustrations, and has received broad distribution. We’ve been lucky not only to be picked up by online sources like Amazon, but also by brick and mortar places like Barnes and Noble.

It has been a thrill for us to see Cole Family Christmas sitting in the children section’s at bookstores. As I hope you can tell, I’m extremely proud of my wife. As a result, I’m going to try to capitalize on my wife’s talent even more than usual.


We are going to have a contest.

As you might be able to tell, traditions around the holidays are a big deal for my family. The one I remember most as a child is the annual cookie decorating contest. Like many families, we’d make dozens of cookies, and then a major competition would begin. Typically, the winner would be picked by the first non-participant to walk in the door — a rule that resulted in a hilarious, and controversial, choice when a teenage girlfriend of my older brother made the choice one year.

What are your traditions? We’d love for you to share them, too! To sweeten the pot, we’ll award the top three favorites with a signed copy of the book. Below are the rules:


1. Post on your blog about your family’s food traditions for the holidays. It doesn’t need to be about Christmas.

2. Only one submission per blog.

3. Send an email to that includes your name, your blog’s name, a link to the relevant photo, and to the post in which it appears.

4. The best three (3) posts will get an autographed copy of the book.

5. The deadline is December 20, 2008 at 11:59 PM EST.

6. Round up will be posted on December 23, 2008. 

My family will choose the winners as soon as all the posts are up, and we’ll be sending out the books ASAP in hopes of getting you the book before Christmas day — unless you live outside North America, then we’ll do our best to get it there before New Years. I hope you enjoy our little competition and have a Merry Christmas!


“Peet-zah.” Or, Onion Marmalade Flatbread.

December 1, 2008


It’s disturbing that my 20-month-old son managed to say “pizza” before he finally spit out “mommy.” (A sad, but true story.)

Then again, who could blame him? Pizza is good. Pizza is real, real good.

And this Onion Marmalade Flatbread thing… it’s out-damn-standing. First, it’s a looker. Mounds of fresh green arugula, studded with specks of ruby red tomato, call to you. White, lumpy morsels of tangy goat cheese whisper your name. And a thick, sweet layer of rich brown onion marmalade makes eyes at you from its resting place on a thick, crispy crust.

That was kind of weird.

But can I help it that I have been seduced by this pizza… or flatbread… or whatever it is? It’s delicious. I’m not sure what umami is, but I think this pizza achieves something similarly zen. It’s the perfect combination of savory, sweet, tangy and salty. It’s perfectly delicious — and apparently easy to make. (Though I leave that to the husband.)

In fact, I think it could be made even easier — for us lazy cooks out there — by becoming bruschetta. That’s right: I think you could take all these fabulous pizza toppings and just mound them onto a crusty slice of French bread (that you’ve seasoned and toasted with olive oil of course).

But don’t tell the husband that I told you it needn’t be pizza. He’d think I have a bias against pizza. And so what if I do! After all, who couldn’t resent the word that came out before “mommy”? Jeesh.


And now, the husband’s take…

So, two weeks ago I was going on about the usefulness of onion marmalade. I gave you a burger and a sandwich as evidence of its true power as a pantry item. However, there are many more uses. This recipe is perhaps my favorite… though only barely because I do love the other two so much.

In this dish, you have sweetness and acidity from the marmalade. You have this great tang from the goat cheese. You have the freshness from the tomatoes and the peppery arugula (a.ka. “rocket” to my British friends). Finally, all this goodness rests on a thin, crispy crust that gives a truly satisfying crunch. In the end, sweet, savory, tangy, fresh, crunch… it is great.

Oh, as for flatbread vs. pizza, I don’t think there is a difference, really. My big distinction is that pizza is round and typically has either olive oil or tomato sauce for a base. A flatbread I can roll out quickly and throw whatever I imagine onto it.

Seriously, though, I think of flatbreads as a rhombus-square type shape. All squares are rhombuses, but not all rhombuses are squares. So, all pizzas are flatbreads, but not all flatbreads are pizza. (e.g. Indian naan is a flatbread, but not a pizza). That said, I’m welcome to be persuaded that I’m wrong!


Onion Marmalade Flatbread
Yield: 2 12’’-14’’ flatbreads
10 grape tomatoes (quartered)
3 cups baby arugula
6 tbsp. onion marmalade
2 tbsp. coarse sea salt
1 recipe pizza dough (bellow)

1. After making the dough, preheat the oven to 500F. This can be done on a cookie sheet, however, we use a pizza stone placed at the bottom of the oven.

2. Roll out the dough into two 12’’ by 5’’ rectangles. Place about 3 tbsp. of onion marmalade on each rectangle.

3. Move the dough to the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Add crumbled goat cheese (e.g. chevre) and continue to cook until the edges of the crust become a deep, golden brown. This should take approximately 5 to 8 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and top with arugula, grape tomatoes, and season liberally with coarse sea salt.

5. Wait about 2 minutes then slice and serve.


Pizza Dough
300 g bread flour (can sub. AP)
200 ml warm water
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. active yeast
vegetable oil spray (e.g. Pam)

1. Place the flour, water, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook. Turn on lowest setting and slowly add the water then extra virgin olive oil.

2. Let the dough come together, and then knead for approximately 5 minutes. The dough should be mostly smooth and glossy when you remove it from the mixer.

3. Shape the dough into a ball. Spray a large bowl and then dough with oil. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place until it doubles in size. This should take about 2 to 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

4. Gently punch down the dough and knead briefly until it comes together. Cut into 2 pieces and form into balls. Let rest for 15 to 30 min. before rolling out as needed.