Archive for the ‘food’ Category


Belgian beauties. Yes, they’re worth it. (Have fun, search engines.)

September 15, 2009


For many years, I claimed to be a strict savory breakfast eater. No pancakes for me. No waffles. No French toast. No funny little Danishes. No, thank you. I’ll take eggs, I’d say. Give me an omelet any day. And more bacon. And sausage.

I stand by my love for the saltier breakfast fare, but I admit that a taste for the sweet has crept in there. And in the case of these Belgian waffles, perhaps more than crept. Maybe more like stormed in with the sound and fury of the first ten minutes of a Michael Bay movie.

It’s important to note that I included the nationality “Belgian” in the description of these waffles. I mean, an ordinary waffle is nothing to stop traffic for. A pancake, unless packed with extra love and ingredients (see the husband’s Orange Ricotta Pancakes), is tasty but not remarkable. French toast is, too often, just some eggy bread. But those Belgians were onto something. They’ve taken an ordinary breakfast bread and, er, waffled it, expanding the possible crispy delectable surface area by multiples. It’s crispy, yet fluffy and soft. It’s caramelly and yet also complex. It’s fragrant and, yes, oh so seductive. Still more fiendishly, it has these generous square cups to hold syrup or trap dainty pieces of fruit or puddles of ice cream in. Is genius too strong a word? I think not.

How did this love affair begin? When we encountered some outstanding Belgian waffles at a local restaurant one evening as a dessert item. Granted, I was nine months pregnant and out for the rare dinner without a two-year-old, so that might have made them extra delicious. But the husband’s reaction was even more mighty (and, let’s face it, predictable). He ran right out and bought himself a Belgian waffle iron (natch) and set to work trying to replicate said waffles. After several batches of subpar waffles – which I managed to force down – this recipe emerged.

Is it worth it? Is it worth wrangling with those yeastie-beasties? Waiting an hour for the batter to “develop flavors”? Worth buying a freakin’ Belgian waffle maker? I can only speak for myself. And the answer is: Yes, indeed, and please pass the waffles.


And now, the Husband’s take…

I know, you’re thinking, “Waffles are easy.” And if you just whip together commercial pancake mix, then you’re right. These waffles are something else. They’re more like a “gateway drug” to interesting culinary possibilities. You see, these waffles eschew chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder. Instead, they gain their volume and gusto from a combination of whipped egg whites and slower acting yeast.

Wait, wait… I know what you are thinking: Yeast is a microorganism that should be left in the hands of serious bakers. But, think of the potential magic to be unlocked. The yeast provides not only volume, but also delicious taste. It provides the tang of fermentation that makes these waffles serious contenders for glory. While they are a great breakfast/brunch food, they are also great for dessert with a little ice cream or even just nude as a snack.

In addition, if you get hooked on these waffles, you just might find yourself experimenting with other tasty, yeast-oriented projects… like donuts, bagels, country loaves or those crunchy, crusty French baguettes. The possibilities are really endless once you make friends with yeast. You just might become an addict.

Before I go, just a little note. These are not quick-to-make waffles from the back of the box. I typically make them for weekend brunch or as a dessert for a party. The big reason is that you need some time to let the flavor develop. So, either begin the process early in the morning or start the night before, refrigerate the batter and then let it warm back up on the counter an hour or two before you make the waffles. In any case, you will be incredibly well rewarded for a little patience.


Belgian Waffles

2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk (warm or room temperature)
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. rapid rise yeast
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt

1. Let the milk come to room temperature, or warm it. This is important because the yeast will not be getting the classic bloom you see with bread recipes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt (dry ingredients) and whisk to integrate. In another bowl, combine the milk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla and whisk until homogeneous (wet ingredients). Finally, in a third bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.

3. In the larger bowl, combine the dry and wet ingredients until they just come together. The mass should be relatively dense and very sticky.

4. Fold in the egg white in three stages. In the first stage, you can be a tad bit rougher as the moisture of the whites will make the mixture more workable. In the next two installments, simply work the whites in just enough as to bring the mixture together and ensure there are no large portions of whites. You don’t want to overdo this step. We want the air and moisture to integrate well.

5. Let the batter rest covered on the counter for a minimum of 1 hour. If you take more than 3 hours, move the batter to the refrigerator. The batter should expand significantly (double) and may require a stir to keep form overflowing if the bowl is small.

6. Ensure your waffle maker is as hot as possible before pouring on the batter. Cook until the waffles reach a golden brown. Serve as desired.


Buy another kitchen tool? Yes, and make Peach-Brown Sugar Sorbet.

August 24, 2009


Over the years, my husband has accumulated some kitchen tools. Wait, that’s a major understatement. Over the years, my husband has accumulated mass amounts of kitchen tools. Our kitchen (and dining room and garage) is literally littered with tools. A blender hidden under here. A rice cooker over there. A mandolin tucked in there. A tagine on the floor in the dining room. A hand mixer. A stand mixer. A bigger stand mixer. A waffle maker. A Belgian waffle maker. A vacuum sealer. An immersion circulator. Need I say more? (Note that I did not make up the former list. I am not exaggerating. And it could have been a lot longer, but this post is supposed to be about peach sorbet.)

Anyway, I might roll my eyes when I step over the giant pot used for canning that sits on the dining room floor. And I might swear when I stub my toe on the tandoor. But I will never, ever curse the counter space taken up by my husband’s ice cream machine. That, my friends, is a kitchen tool worth having.

Yes, my husband’s ice cream machine churns out desserts that are absolutely divine. This blog has chronicled some masterpieces. Blueberry. Mint. Pistachio. Ginger. What could be next? I’ll tell you: Delicious, fresh, perfect peach-brown sugar sorbet.

I’m a fan of ice cream. Who doesn’t like its creamy, luscious, cold, sweet goodness? But fruit often gets lost in those creamy depths, playing  second fiddle to the sugar and milk. Not so with sorbet. And definitely not so with my husband’s peach sorbet; it preserves this season’s juicy ripe peaches in a frozen matrix of sweet sorbet-ness that transports you to the sun-drenched groves where these peaches must have grown up. It’s that good.

Nothing is better than eating a warm, fuzzy, fresh, fragrant ripe peach… the kind whose juices spill all over your mouth when you sink your teeth into its sweetly yielding orange flesh. For those times, though, when such a peach just isn’t handy, this sorbet is a suitable — and delicious — alternative. It may not be warm and fuzzy, but it is just as satisfying to wipe off your mouth.

Take it from me: Get yourself an ice cream machine — the one essential kitchen tool — and churn yourself up some peach-brown sugar sorbet.


And now, the husband’s take…

Summer is really moments from over. I know because I was driving down the street past a local elementary school… and there were kids getting off a bus. And my little Jack is just moments from starting pre-school a couple days a week. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to this summer ending. But alas, I’ll have comfort for at least a few more weeks as I stretch the last of the season’s peaches out with this sorbet.

I don’t know about most of you, but here in Northern Virginia I’ve felt we’ve had a pretty good season for peaches. Lots of truly ripe, beautiful and juicy peaches this year seemed to come my way. The result has been lots of time to experiment with them and think of ways to manipulate and extract every delicious ounce of juice from them.

This is probably one of my favorites and one of the most simple. Really, it comes down to this: Peel, blend, cool, churn, and freeze. You are done. And you have an awesome result. So, not much advice here, except to pick the sweetest and juiciest peaches you can find. When you no longer can eat them fresh, dripping, and about to be lost forever to the natural state of things, turn them into sorbet.


Peach & Brown Sugar Sorbet
800g/6 medium peaches (pitted, pealed, chopped)
200g/1 ¼ cup sugar
125g/ ½ cup dark brown sugar
125g/ ½ cup water
½ tsp. salt
juice of 1 lime

1. To peel the peaches, you can simply use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin on firmer fleshed fruit. However, if the peach is too soft, you can bring a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath. Cut an ‘X’ in the base of each peach and then drop them gently in the water for 10 seconds before moving them to an ice bath. The skins should pull up easily. The same technique can be used to peel tomatoes.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until mixture is homogeneous. Move to small container and refrigerate overnight or move to the freezer for about 2 hours.

3. Churn according to your ice cream maker’s instructions, and then move to the freezer. Let set for two to four hours in the freezer before serving.


Beans, glorious beans!

August 10, 2009


I love, love, love green beans. Their snap. Their crunch. Their verdant, subtle sweetness. (The only form of green bean I can’t stand is, honestly, the canned variety. Such sadly abused beans make me sigh, not swallow.)

So when the husband concocted a salad that starred one of my favorite vegetables, I insisted that he make it again. And again. And again. This green bean salad elevates the slender green minxes to new heights. It features a tangy, sweet, light dressing that makes all the green bean’s best qualities stand out in relief. Think you’ve got some fresh, tender, delectable green beans from the grocery store? They’ll be even more mouthwatering when lightly dressed with this precocious concoction, and made lovely with a smattering of sweet, acidic grape tomatoes.

Doesn’t the humble green bean deserve some star treatment? (Especially after years of abuse at the hands of bean canners and cafeteria ladies?) I should say so.


And now, the husband’s take…

This salad was really just an idea I whipped together. Now, it’s become a staple and a frequent demand from the wife. A couple of months ago we were visiting family, and I decided to throw together a barbecue as a quick way to feed a good number of people. I found some great green beans and wanted to serve them cold, but needed a dressing. A few minutes later I put this together, and was surprised to hear the very satisfied, “Mmmms…” and “Can I have this recipe?” requests that started coming my way.

Of course, I hadn’t a clue at first what “exactly” I had done. I had made it thinking I wanted a sorta-vinagrette for the salad… but nothing too tangy, watery, or sweet so that the beans and tomatoes were still the focus. Once again, it took insistence by the wife to have me sit down, think about it, write it down and then of course make it “bloggable.”

A few notes about the recipe. First, when I originally made it, I had yellow wax beans in as well. I would have loved to have put them in this version and in the photos; I think they add a great variety in presentation and texture. However — and I don’t know why because they seemed pretty ubiquitous growing up in the Midwest — I cannot seem to find them easily in Northern Virginia. My family in North Carolina says they don’t see them much either. (So, bean farmers, what’s the deal?) Anyway, I’d recommend them if you can get them. Just use equal parts green beans and yellow wax beans.

Second — and this is crucial — you want the beans to be “al dente.” This salad is all about crunch. Better to slightly undercook the beans than overcook them. Therefore, it’s important to pull them from the boiling water and shock them in the ice bath or under cold running water. If you lose that satisfying crunch, I’m not sure even a good dressing makes it worth the effort.

Third, the recipe below produces at least twice as much dressing as you need. I simply keep the rest handy for people to add extra themselves or for a quick version later (currently, I’ve a batch sitting in the fridge in an old Dijon mustard jar). But, with all that extra dressing, use it sparingly. When I overdressed it once, I really felt the green beans and the tomatoes became lifeless and worthless. So, use a careful hand when preparing.


Green Bean Salad with Dijon Dressing
2 lbs. green beans
1 cup grape tomatoes (quartered)

¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1. Bring to a boil a large pot of well-salted water (it should taste like the ocean).

2. Prepare an ice bath of equal parts ice and water.

3. Trim the ends off the green beans and then cook them in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Transfer to the ice bath. Once the green beans are cool, drain and allow them to air dry.

4. Whisk together the ingredients in the dressing and set aside. Note: The dressing should be just slightly salty. This allows the whole salad to be well dressed.

5. In a large bowl, toss together the beans, tomatoes and dressing. Move to a serving dish and enjoy. Note: In dressing the salad, I typically put very little on the beans, but most along the sides of the bowl and toss the beans to coat. This recipe likely makes enough dressing for twice the number of the beans, but I always make extra and it keeps very well.


Perfect Fruit + Ice Cream= Perfect Blueberry Ice Cream

July 30, 2009


I know bananas have a lock on that saying: “Quite possibly the world’s perfect fruit.” But what about the blueberry? Why does it get shoved aside in favor of “perfect” bananas? Was there a competition for “world’s perfect fruit”? Did the blueberry even enter?

I maintain that the blueberry can slide right in there via the “possibly.” Bananas could possibly by the world’s perfect fruit… if it weren’t for the even more exceptional blueberry. Round, plump, juicy and splendidly colored as no food in nature should be. Blueberries are my perfect fruit. I can eat them by the pintful, and often do.

But how can a “perfect” fruit be improved on? Leave it to my husband to crack that nut…  er, smash that blueberry. He manages it via his fiendish ice cream machine, which churned forth this delicious, delectable, delightful blueberry ice cream. To raw blueberries’ simplistic, seductive (sometimes tartly) sweetness, my husband’s ice cream adds layers of creamy smooth complexity. It is rich, it is sweet, it is indulgent (well, not as low calorie as the blueberries themselves), it has that delightful purple-blue hue — and, bonus, it may even have antioxidents in it.

We’ve already established that blueberries are the world’s perfect fruit, now we can venture that they may also make the world’s perfect dessert. How? Ice cream, darling. Churn, baby, churn.


And now, the husband’s take…

So my wife really sounds like a fanatic for blueberries, and I hate to admit she is—a little disturbing, right? But don’t mess with the woman and her blueberries. This is why I took my life into my own hands when I came up with this recipe. But with that said, I got the job done. And really, it’s away to extend the peak season if you work it right. So she should stop the threatening looks when I talk about more blueberry recipes. If nothing else, just look at my boy Jack in the photos. That is one happy little guy eating blueberry ice cream. I think that it’s a strong testimonial in my favor.

Before leaving, a couple small technical issues. First, I strained the blueberries after blending. This is all about mouth texture.  Blueberries are almost all skins and seeds. This is hardly noticeable when you eat them raw or whole, but to me ice cream has to have that smoothness in the mouth to be good. I suspect someone will tell me I’ve dulled the flavor by taking all those elements out, but I just didn’t feel right leaving them in. I mean I know it works for red wine to leave the skins etc. to develop greater flavor, but we strive for something more than just flavor.

The big negative is that it means your yield may not be all that great. So I find this recipe is likely most cost effective using frozen or berries that are just about to be past their prime.

Second, the recipe is composed of two steps. Step 1 of the recipe is simply making a blueberry purée. You could use this resulting liquid to flavor about a million different items.  Steps 2 to 6 are simply the technique of making crème anglaise without the vanilla. This is a classic French technique of making smooth and thick custard that has multiple applications, but I almost always use for my base for ice cream.

If you want to experiment with your own ice cream flavors, I suggest taking this recipe and subtracting step 1, and then add flavors as you see fit. There are lots of great recipes out there, especially on David Lebowitz’s blog and his book Perfect Scoop, but I’m always looking for my own path and this is where I typically start.

Blueberry Ice Cream
2 cup heavy cream
2 cup milk
8 eggs yolks
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
300 g sugar (approx. 1 ½ cup)
1 tsp. salt
juice of 1/2 medium lime


1. In a blender, blend until smooth the blueberries, the lime juice and 100 grams (1/2 cup) of the sugar until very smooth. Strain the mixture using a fine sieve to remove seeds and skins. You should have about 2 cups of liquid remain. Set aside.

2. Set up a water bath by filling a large bowl with equal part of ice and water about half full. Place a smaller bowl inside.

3. In a heavy pot over medium heat, add 100 grams (1/2) cup of the sugar, the milk, the cream and the salt. Heat slowly. When the milk begins to rapidly boil at the edges, turn down the heat.

4. Whisk together the remaining sugar with the egg yolks. Temper the eggs by slowly adding several ladlefuls (totaling about third) of the hot milk to the sugar and egg mixture while whisking vigorously.

5. Add the new combined mix back to the pot and continue to stir.  Return the heat to medium and continue to stir until it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour immediately into the empty bowl in the ice bath.

6. Add the strained blueberry purée from step 1 and continue to stir until the mixture reaches slightly cooler then body temperature. (This means it should feel slightly cool if you touch the mix).

7. Move to a covered container and refrigerate overnight or freeze for approximately two hours. Once the mix is sufficiently cold, churn according to ice cream maker instructions.

Recommendation: I prefer to cool the ice cream base and the finished product and wide and shallow containers. I find it makes it quicker to cool and to harden while in those containers. Also find it makes it easier to scoop.


A Birthday Treat for Lily: Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

March 20, 2009


We’ve been busy of late. Three weeks ago, my wife and I welcomed another addition to our family — our daughter, Lily. She was born a healthy 8 lbs and 1 oz, and since then has packed on the ounces to weigh nearly 10 lbs. Both mother and daughter have recovered nicely and look fabulous. I’m still shocked by how wonderfully they both are doing, and it isn’t just a lack of sleep leading me to say this.

To celebrate, as we did with the birth of her older brother Jack, I made Lily a cupcake. While Jack’s cupcake is all Meyer lemons, I embraced chocolate for our daughter. But I couldn’t deviate too much. Lily and Jack are siblings… so their cupcakes should have something in common — cream cheese frosting.

OK, I’m rationalizing. The truth is that I love cream cheese frosting, and I pretty much think it kicks most frostings’ butt. In addition, it’s infinitely easier to make than buttercream frosting. Cream together a stick of butter, an 8 oz. box of cream cheese, and a 1lb. box of powdered sugar, and you are 90% done. Cream cheese frosting might not have the fluffiness factor and the mouth smoothness of buttercream, but it has got a richness and flavor that just makes me happy.

To raise it up a level, I also added a personal favorite — coconut. I know we’ve all seen mounds of fresh coconut cupcakes, and I admit I was worried that people would think I was oh-so derivative and helping the cupcake craze jump the shark even faster. But, at the end of the day, I like it. So fashion be damned. This is for my little girl!


Chocolate Cupcakes
Yield: 1 dozen
1 cup (200g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (180g) sugar
¼ cup (30g) cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter(115g)
2 oz. (60g) semi-sweet chocolate (melted)
½ cup (175mL) buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Allow the buttermilk, butter and eggs to warm up to room temperature.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder.

4. Add sugar, salt and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream for 5 to 6 minutes on high, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom at least twice. When done, the butter should be smooth, light in color and fluffy.

5. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then add the whole egg while the mixer is on medium speed. Once the egg is fully integrated add the yolk and then scrape again.

6. Add the melted semi-sweet chocolate and mix on medium until integrated.

7. With the mixer on low add the dry sifted ingredients and buttermilk in alternating installments as follows: dry, buttermilk, dry, buttermilk, dry. Scrape down the sides at least once.

8. Scoop out into muffin tins lined with paper cups, and place in oven for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick almost comes out clean. Let cool completely then frost.


Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields: Approx. 1 quart
1 lb. powdered sugar (room temperature)
1 stick butter (room temperature)
8 oz. cream cheese (1 block)
2 tsp. coconut extract
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
2 cup fancy shredded coconut (topping)

1. Using a hand or stand mixer, add the cream cheese and butter to a bowl. Whip at high speed until fluffy and well integrated, approximately 4 minutes.

2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the powdered sugar and salt. To start, mix on low until most of the powdered sugar is integrated and then mix on high for about 1 minute.

3. Add the coconut and vanilla extracts then whip one last time. Taste to make sure flavor is correct. Add up to one more teaspoon of coconut to get clear coconut flavor correct.

4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Keeps well covered for over a week. If the frosting is stiff, simply let warm up to room temperature or for quicker recovery simply beat for about 30 seconds on high with your mixer.

5. Frost cupcakes and then top with a generous amount of coconut. Coconut adds both flavor and hides any flaws in frosting.

6. Tip: When frosting using just a spatula or palate knife, add all the frosting you are going to need in one dollop. Then place the spatula at an angle and turn the cupcake without lifting your knife. Scrape the excess off your spatula. The key is to add more frosting than you think at the start and not to lift your knife. If you do, you’ll start pulling up cake and it won’t be smooth.



A bit of pulled pork every day helps keep the recession at bay…

February 12, 2009


Last week I ate pulled pork every day for lunch (toasted potato roll, Mt. Olive bread and butter pickles, mayo, pork). Yes, every day. Yes, all week.

But before you start pointing fingers and calling me an uncreative glutton (jealous much?), know this… there is a recession on, and I was just eating the most awesome, economical leftovers that we had in our fridge. That, and I’m eight-plus months pregnant.

“Pulled pork every day? Really?” you gasp in wonder. “Can it be true? Can it be healthy? Can it really be that good? And can I please, please have some?”

Yes, you can have some. If you make this recipe, there will be plenty to go around — and trust me, you won’t get tired of eating delicious, fork-tender and succulent pulled pork until it is all finger-lickin’ gone.

My husband has made pulled pork before, but it’s never turned out so damn tasty. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always devoured it — it’s just the speed and duration of my consumption of it that changes.) This pork, lovingly coated with sugar, salt and spices, and sunning itself in a warm oven for nine hours… it just comes out happy. And it spreads its happy joyfulness when you fork in each delicious bite. I knew it was the real deal when I saw my husband brandishing two forks, and I saw the long, pink strands of wonderful porkiness just falling off the bone into a fragrant heap of steaming awesomeness. Yes, it’s that good.

The first night I had it, it was scrumptious in warm flour tortillas, dolloped with fresh salsa and sour cream and sprinkled with cheese. But that’s a bit complex to replicate for lunch. So for its remaining time in our fridge, it got tossed down sandwich style… and sometimes just forked right into the maw.

In any case, I’m eager for you to make it, friends, so you can tell me what other wonderful leftover concoctions can be had from delicious pulled pork. (In fact, I saw a recipe recently for pulled pork served on pitas with tsatsiki sauce…. any takers?)

So now I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. Pulled pork is delicious. This pulled pork is fabulous. Won’t you eat it every day too?


And now, the husband’s take…

I’m not sure there is anything better than meat cooked for a long time. Two of my favorite recent recipes are a previous pork shoulder braised in Belgian ale and beef short ribs braised in red wine and beef stock. The flavors created by those intense periods spent at low temperatures makes me think my foot probably good after about 5 hours at between 250F-275F. But, I like my foot so that is just silly… right?

Anyway I digress. This recipe is another Sunday stay-at-home special. In my mind, this is the perfect recipe for just a lazy day. The kind where you don’t get out of your pajamas until mid-afternoon, and that’s only to take a shower and put on another set of pajamas — not that I would ever have a day like that.

The best part is that it isn’t a lot of work. Yes, it is a huge time commitment, but not work. Each step takes about ten to fifteen minutes if you work slowly. As a result, you can spend most of your time doing anything else. Even if you don’t baste the shoulder like I suggest in the recipe, it’s not that big of an issue — so you could even do cook this overnight while you sleep. That way it’s great for a noon tip-off or party. In addition, this makes the ultimate leftovers. While we show it with salsa on a tortilla, you pretty much can do anything with it — for example, great, great sandwiches.

This is also a relatively inexpensive cut of meat. If you buy a typical supermarket shoulder, you can get this for about $15 dollars here in DC. You can easily serve a party of eight or more with it. Or have a tremendous amount of leftovers if you make it for your family. This means awesome packed lunches the rest of the week. So this is your very own recession special.

So with time and a little bit of money, you get a truly awesome result… if I don’t say so myself. Now, what about that foot thing?


Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder
7 lbs. pork shoulder (bone in)
1 cup dark brown sugar
¾ cup salt
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. cayenne

1. To make the rub, thoroughly mix together the brown sugar, salt, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes and cayenne.

2. Pat dry the pork shoulder and then liberally apply the rub to all sides. Place in a leak-proof container. Cover and refrigerate for as long as 24 hours, or as little as overnight. It will give up a cup or more of liquid so make sure your container is big enough to prevent spillage.

3. Remove the shoulder from refrigerator, brush off any excess or caked on rub. Move to a clean roasting pan with the fat side up.

4. Heat the oven to 275F. Place in the oven and let roast for 9 to 10 hours. Yes, I’m serious about it taking that long. After about 3 hours, there will be enough fat rendered to allow you to baste the shoulder every 1 to 2 hours. With a large spoon simply pour the rendered fat over the shoulder.

5. You will know it’s ready because the outside of the shoulder is extremely dark, nearly burned looking. The pork should pull easily from the bone and the fat/skin on the top should be nearly crispy.

6. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 30 min. Using a pair of forks or very clean hands pull the pork away from the bone. This should be very easy to do.

7. Serve one of several ways. Here we served it on a tortilla and topped with fresh salsa (recipe below). Another favorite for us is on a toasted potato roll and with a couple sweet pickles. This serves great leftovers.

Simple Fresh Salsa
1 pint grape tomatoes (diced)
1 cup cilantro (diced)
1 jalapeno (diced very fine)
1 lime (juice)
½ large onion (diced)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine the  tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and jalapeno in a bowl and mix thoroughly. You can de-seed the jalapeno if you are heat adverse, or substitute a serrano pepper if you like a little more kick.

2. Add the lime juice and olive oil and mix. Salt to taste.


No, it’s not voodoo: It’s roasted curried leg of lamb

February 4, 2009



Don’t let the husband fool you. He likes to claim that this recipe was an attempt at some “weather voodoo” — meaning, if he roasted a big hunk of meat on our grill, he would convince the weather gods to raise the mercury a notch or two.


The husband likes to grill. The husband likes meat. The weather has nothing to do with it.

In fact, if anything, he angered the weather gods by roasting a spring lamb on a day when the DC area received three inches of snow — and through his meat-searing antics inspired them to drop a one-inch layer of ice that very evening. So much for weather voodoo — or at least my husband’s credentials as a warlock.

But about that lamb… that is another story.

Lovingly tending that big hunk of meat on that snowy day, my husband coaxed from our grill quite a tender piece of eating. Subtly spiced, rosy pink and moist, for a moment I might have imagined spring — if the cold gust of air from the open door leading to the grill hadn’t snapped me out of it. Now, as a woman about eight months pregnant, I appreciate a good piece of red meat… and I am always hungry. And I warn you one other thing may have clouded my judgment: The delicious cool, creamy and tangy yogurt/sour cream sauce that my husband whipped up to accompany the lamb. Let me advise you: Don’t eat lamb without it.

That said, however, I think that, pregnant or not, yogurt sauce or not, this lamb will satisfy those meat cravings you’ve been fighting. It is so, so good.

So, go ahead, attempt this recipe. Maybe you’ll have better luck altering the weather in your region with a meat sacrifice to the weather gods. And, if not, at least you’ll have a full belly to placate you while you burrow down into your blankets.


And now, the husband’s take…

So, it’s winter. And believe me, I’ve noticed. Here in our nation’s capitol, we saw a historic new president and watched people freeze as they celebrated. Indeed, we’ve seen what I feel is an unusual string of below freezing weather. The Potomac has consistently had a sheen of ice over it. In other words, it has been too cold, too often.

Now, you folks who live in more northern parallels — you are tougher than me. I don’t care. I am already ready for spring and it’s just now February. So, my solution is to find a big hunk of meat and roast it outside. Forget Groundhog Day, this is willing spring through the sheer force of meat. Hasn’t worked yet, but the results are a very delicious roast with lots of spices and the strong red meat flavor of  lamb.

If you are not quite as daring as me (because your grill isn’t three feet from your back door), then you can just as easily do this in the oven. This is another one of my favorite kinds of recipes too because you prep it, forget it and do other things.

Roasted Curried Leg of Lamb
7 to 5 lbs leg of lamb (bone-in)

Dry ingredients:
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic
2 inch piece ginger (chopped)
1 serrano pepper
1 cup cilantro (30 g)
2 limes (juice and zest)

Wet Ingredients:
¼ cup coconut milk
¼ cup olive oil

Spice Mix:
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. salt

1. Add all the dry ingredients and the spice mix into a blender or food processor. Slowly add both the wet ingredients until a paste is formed. You may need to modify the amount of liquid suggested.
2. Coat the leg of lamb in the paste.
3. Preheat oven to 325.
4. Roast for approximately 90 minutes or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 135-140F at the thickest point. This is medium and you can safely eat it at cooler temperature, but this is our suggested temperature.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 min.
6. Slice and serve.

Yogurt-Mint Sauce
1 cup plain yogurt (can substitute sour cream)
½ cup mint leaves (chopped)
¼ tsp. salt
juice of ½ lime

1. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasoning to taste.


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.